Who am I? (2022 edition)
By John Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.)
At age 78, the most salient thing about me for many people will be my age. So I think I should start out with a note that although my energy levels are what you would expect of someone that age (low), I am in fact in exceptionally good health. Scans and tests show that I have high levels of good functioning in my heart, liver, kidneys and bones. Unusually for my age, I take no pills at all for my health. And I still have a fair bit of hair (Not bald). My BP is usually around 140/80 (normal). I have however shrunk a bit in height -- from an original 5'10" to 5'8" (173 cm). I do suffer from recurrent skin cancer, which makes me look a bit blotchy. I get the cancers removed regularly so it is only a minor problem
Aside from that I am a jocular former High School and university teacher. I am Australian born of working class origins and British ancestry. My doctorate is in psychology but I taught mainly sociology. I also made significant money in real estate so retired when I was 39. I live in a big house in central Brisbane but I am not flash in any way. My style is Bohemian. My main interests are blogging, classical music, history, current affairs and languages. I have been married four times to four fine women with whom I am still on amicable terms. I have one son born in 1987. I am totally non-sporting
Contacts: Ph 07 33914168; 0434154418 or 0448285691
Email: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org
Blogs: dissectleft.blogspot.com or awesternheart.blogspot.com
A brief photographic history
Aged 4 with sister jacqueline
Did that boy go on to have a good life? I think he did.
I actually remember what I was thinking in that photo. I was thinking how odd it was that the photographer was doing -- with false backgrounds etc
Soapbox orator in 1966. Age 23
A brief clean shaven interlude in 1980 -- with a lovely lady, 2nd wife Joy. I was aged 37
A photo of me in my early 50s
In my late 50s
In 2009 when I was 66
A photo from my 70th birthday. I get spottier as time goes by.
My 2020 report
I find myself rather surprised to be still alive in 2020. I had never imagined getting this far but I am still alive and feebly kicking at age 77. So I thought some record of my aged self would be appropriate.
In my late '50s and early '60s, I had a number of good and memorable relationships but none of them lasted. So by 2005 I was really hopeful of a lasting relationship
And I got my wish. In late 2005 I met Anne, beginning a long and happy relationship that lasted until early this year.
In the last couple of years I have had a couple of operations to remove cancers in my neck and that seems to have triggered a general decline in my fitness. So, by 2020, 77 years of sedentary living had really caught up with me. I had experienced a substantial loss of vigour and fitness, leaving me as a shadow of my former self. That contributed to Anne leaving me for a much fitter man.
The friendship between us endures, however, so we still see one another at least once a week. Tomorrow is the 15th anniversary of us meeting so we will be celebrating that with a lunch at our favourite dining spot tomorrow
Many men die in their 60s. It is a great age of dying for men. So those of us who survive into our late 70s are rarely in perfect health.
My greatest age-related difficulty is my low level of strength and vigour. I was very strong for most off my life -- something my son Joe inherits -- but, after 77 years of a sedentary life, most of that is lost. I usually use my hands to help me out of a chair, for instance.
So you might conclude from that that I am in generally poor health. Surprisingly, the truth is the reverse. I am basically in perfect health. When blood tests results come in, my liver function, kidney function and blood sugar come in dead centre. And when doctors see my electrocardiograms they just nod and walk away. There is nothing to discuss. And my BP is still around 140/70.
And while your heart is beating you are alive. When it stops you are dead. And mine seems destined to beat for a while yet. There are a lot of long lives in my family. One relative made it to 100.
And that fits with something else: As a former Mensa member I am a certified high IQ person. And high IQ persons commonly live into their 90s
And there are still some faint positives in my appearance. Most people of my age are pretty wrinkly by now but I have hardly any wrinkles at all. But I do look rather blotchy and that goes back to something else:
I had lots of coughs and colds in my childhood and the local doctor always gave me his "pink mixture" to deal with that. It contained arsenic. I think it goes back to Paracelsus who observed that the toxicity is in the dose and small doses of arsenic probably are on balance helpful. But I got a lot of it and from my late teens the results came out in the form of skin cancer. I get outbreaks very frequently now. But it has become routine for me to get them chopped out so they hardly bother me. The little blotches are however low-priority cancers. I get bigger ones that demand first attention.
Alcohol: I was a heavy drinker once but drink little these days. I often have a glass of wine with dinner but rarely finish it.
My interests and activities have contracted in line with my fitness. I spend less time blogging now (about 4 hours per day) and my chief leisure activity is dining out. I don't even watch TV now. My mind is still sharp, however, so I feel that I still have something to contribute.
I hope to have new companionship while I do so but am not optimistic about that. I am probably too old and feeble to initiate a new relationship. Though there are some interesting possibilities at the moment.
And last night I had for dinner that great family favourite: Egg rolled pork. Most readers here will have no trouble guessing the exceptionally kind person who made that for me
I got into my best gear for my anniversary celebration with Anne. See below:
Fuller annual reports are available here and running reports of my doings are available here
I was born in 1943 (i.e. during the Second World War) at the Innisfail hospital by the Johnstone river in far North Queensland, Australia. Innisfail is mainly famous for very high rainfall, sugar-cane and bananas. I was baptized into the Innisfail congregation of the Presbyterian Church of Australia on 30.1.44. We lived in Innisfail until the family moved to Stratford in Cairns when I was 13
My father was for a time a cane-cutter but mostly a timber contractor during my stay in Innisfail. In American parlance he was a "lumberjack". He had tried to enlist in the Army during the Second World War but was rejected as unfit on medical grounds because he had a slight limp. The limp was a legacy of his falling off a hotel verandah in Townsville when he was a toddler. He fell off when he thought he was being chased by a koala! Apparently his hip was the main part damaged and he spent a year or so of his childhood in irons to get it right again.
My father Frank Ray in retirement
My mother was born Margaret (but was always called "Peg", in the Irish way). My mother had been employed as a domestic servant prior to marriage but never worked again during marriage. She just did not want to. She would rather read books and have afternoon naps. I think I must have got my own love of afternoon naps off her.
She was a great talker, however: always ready with her tongue. She was one of those women of whom it is sometimes said that "She would talk under wet cement". She even used to talk back to the TV in her latter years. I have always been much more a listener than a talker so that could well be because I was brought up to be such. I grew up thinking that women talked and men listened.
A more detailed self-description:
PHYSICAL: For most of my life I was about 178cm tall (just over 5'10") but in old age I have shrunk to 173 (5'8"). My weight is a bit above average for my height (perhaps average for my age!) and I have very fair skin, very blue eyes and grey (formerly dark brown) hair. I have no handicaps or serious health problems and even have a full covering (just) of hair. I am no Clark Gable in looks but have usually been described as "presentable", I am clean shaven these days but wore a short beard for most of my life.
ATTITUDES: I am more a listener than a talker but am often quietly jocular when I do talk. I see the funny side of a lot of things. I can get on well socially with most people but am not a big partygoer. I am a complete atheist now but was once religious so get on well with most religious people as well as with unbelievers. I find many political issues interesting, lean towards the Right (i.e. I find the idea that governments can do anything well to be contrary to all experience) but am more a political skeptic than anything. I suppose I have mostly old-fashioned values but I am also at ease with most modern ways. I try to follow Christian values even though I am an atheist! My chief passion is for rationality.
INTERESTS: I used to have a lot of the recreational interests that most people have -- i.e. reading, swimming, going for walks and drives, having picnics and occasionally watching TV (mostly non-commercial in my case) but I do all those things seldom now. I just enjoy a quiet life these days. I do however still eat out (mostly at ethnic restaurants) rather a lot. I have never been a big movie-goer and I absolutely refuse to go to violent movies. Perhaps because of my interest in history, the few movies I have seen seem usually to be set in the past. Other less common interests that I have are listening to classical music (Bach is my favourite composer) and going very occasionally to theatre, classical concerts, talks etc. I am also a great fan of Viennese operettas, which I watch at home off DVDs. I have no pets at the moment but was once a registered dog-breeder. I am NOT interested in any form of sport or in dancing. I neither do any sport nor watch it on TV.
I do a lot of reading and things that I like to read and occasionally talk about include philosophy, politics, medicine, psychology, sociology, theology, history, economics, business, poetry, computers, current affairs and science generally. For fun I have in the past read science-fiction and whodunits. I also like languages. I matriculated in both German and Italian but I also have dabbled in Latin and Classical Greek. To most people I seem very inactive but that is only partly true. What I do now is mainly in the life of the mind. I enjoy looking at the big questions.
I have travelled quite a lot -- with 3 trips each to India, Britain and the U.S.A. plus other trips to South Africa, The Philippines, Hong Kong, China, Mexico, Thailand, Singapore, Fiji and Canada. I particularly like London. I spent a year there in 1977. I have no plans to travel again, however, as I saw in my youth all that I wanted to see. In some of my earlier years I went overseas twice in one year. So I am one of those pesky "been there; done that" people. When I was in London, I did once go down to Glyndebourne, for those who know what that is all about.
HISTORY: I am Queensland-born of English, Scottish and Irish ancestry and have in fact two convict ancestors! I inherited strong Scottish traditions so on special occasions sometimes wear full Highland dress (kilt etc.)! I came to Brisbane from my home in Cairns when I was 19, spent 5 years here and then went to Sydney for 15 years. I have now been back in Brisbane for over 20 years.
EDUCATION: I am just about as educated as it is possible to be. I hold the university degrees of Master of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy. Unfortunately, this does tend to freak some people out a bit but it doesn't really mean much in everyday life. The Doctorate of Philosophy is the degree that scientists normally get and that is what I am basically. I am a social scientist. So I understand more about people than some do but there is also an awful lot about them that I don't understand. I give some of the history of my education below.
WORK: I taught in the School of Sociology at the University of NSW in Sydney from 1971 to 1983. I was very good at my job by most criteria but by 1983 (when I was 39 and a Senior Lecturer), I had made a lot of money out of various real estate investments (doing up properties etc.) so no longer had to work for my living. I therefore retired to Queensland at that time. For the last 20 years and more I have mostly lived on my private income. I do however like to keep a low profile and am not very materialistic. I do however enjoy tracking my stockmarket investments. I seem to be very good at picking growth stocks so enjoy seeing myself getting richer all the time. It is basically just a game to me, however. I mostly just let the money sit there and laugh as I watch it grow. So I am one of the rare academics who is good in business too.
MARITAL: I have had two long-term relationships (of 7 and 10 years) which resulted in marriages. The second lady of those is below.
Jenny and I in 1985
She left me in the early '90s -- so I am well past my upset over that. (I have felt on top of the world for most of the subsequent time, in fact). I was helped to readjust by the fact that while the marriage failed, good will between us continued. We still see one another frequently -- a quarter of a century after the divorce
I have one son born in 1987 who did well at university and who now has a good job in IT. He has his own home now -- a nicely renovated '50s house. I saw him regularly during his childhood and still see a lot of him. I have always liked children and tend to get on well with them. I even got on well with my three stepchildren when I had them. And I still think marriage is great for those who are lucky enough to fall in love!
As well as the two long-term marriages, I had two that lasted only a short while (my first and my fourth).
Marrying Dawn, my first wife
Out of respect for the ladies concerned I mention very little here of my relationships life but I don't think it will be amiss for me to put up below a photo from my most recent (4th) wedding (in 1995) and a photo of me with my first girlfriend, many years ago:
Over 50 years later I am still in contact with her -- by email. She no longer lives in Australia
HOME: I live in a large "Old Queenslander" (timber) house. It has polished timber floors -- which I particularly like -- and is very centrally located in the heart of Brisbane.
VICES: In times past I always used to have a bottle of wine with dinner and was something of a wine-buff but I am now a very light drinker. I do like a good cup of tea, however! In fact, I don't smoke, drink much, gamble, take drugs or buy much chocolate so what are my vices? The main one is spending too much time on the internet and my second vice is a tendency towards impatience.
In 2021 I realized that I am autistic -- a high-functioning autistic but clearly autistic nevertheless
As a psychologist I have taken some interest in autism. I even took part in the big debates of a few years back about what it is and what causes it. It had however never occurred to me that I might be one myself. Recently, however two ladies who know me well assured me that I am "on the spectrum". And it makes perfect sense. I am fortunately at the better end of the spectrum. I am a high-functioning autistic in most waysAutism is always disabling. Its key symptoms are communication difficulty and stimulus avoidance. A lot of autistics don't even speak. There is however a minority of autistics who have special "gifts" -- special abilities at a very high level -- most often in mathematics and music. Math and music are both very orderly and that can suit the autistic brain very well. The first thing that people usually notice about autistics is that they often have those freakish "gifts"
I too have an unusual "gift" but in a different sphere: I am eerily good at academic tasks. I wrote my Ph.D. dissertation in 6 weeks for instance. The average is about 3 years. But academic gifts are not usually immediately obvious, so I think that a brief catalog of my unusual academic achievements might be in order to establish that I have been a lifelong autistic.It all started in Grade 2. Our "English" lessons consisted of the class repeatedly reading a story out of our school reading book until every pupil knew and understood every word in it. And we could eventually all do that. One kid would read one sentence and the next kid would follow with the next sentence and so on.Then one day the teacher did a dastardly thing. She asked us to close our reading books and tell the story as usual. And all the kids could do that -- except for me. I had no idea what the next sentence was. To the slack-jawed amazement of the other pupils, I was mightily praised for that. The teacher realized that I was the only one who had actually been reading. All the other pupils had simply been memorizing the story.And I won't tell again here the story of the little boy blue. A bit too emotional for present purposes, I think.
And some time along the line my my nickname became "the walking dictionary". I unfailingly got 10 out of 10 in spelling tests.Another amusement from primary school days resulted from the fact that we were taught parsing. I don't think you learn parsing at all in some curricula these days. Anyway, at the end of a parsing lesson the teacher thought he would amuse himself by asking the class to parse "Please". I thought for about two seconds and popped my hand up. "Yes, John", the teacher rather wearily said. He knew that I would get it and spoil his puzzle. I replied: "Verb in the imperative mood with subject understood". The rest of the class were slack-jawed at that but I was of course right.Then in high school I was known as "the walking encylopedia" -- because I always had the answer to anything the teacher might ask -- even in work we had not yet studied.A one stage we were studying a poem by Conrad that referred to the "throbbing" of a ship's engine. The teacher asked what would be the cause of the throbbing. I replied "Probably a triple-expansion marine steam engine". "Yes, Yes", the teacher said and moved on hastily. Steam engine cycles were obviously not his thing.And something at the end of junior school was particularly striking. I arrived at the Junior German exam half way through the 3 hour period allotted to it. I still finished it with 30 minutes to spare and got an A.And for Senior High School I was unimpressed with the syllabus and decided to teach myself. I did so in one year and got good marks in my Senior certificate.In my first degree, my thesis was marked down by staff whom I knew did not like me but it eventually got published in one of the academic journals so I had the last laugh there. Published bachelor's dissertations are rareFor my Masters degree at USyd I had a full-time job but enrolled as a full-time student anyway and got through with honours in one year (normal minimum 2 years).And my Ph.D. was no flash in the pan despite the rapidity of its writing. One of the markers said it was the most substantial body of work he had ever seen in a Ph.D. And it did lead to ten disparate academic journal articles so it was an exceptionally distinguished Ph.D. Just getting one journal article out of a Ph.D. is generally considered creditable. So my autism took me right to the top of the academic tree. My previous achievements pale into insignificance compared with itAnd in later years I had nearly 300 learned papers published in the journals. At one stage I was getting papers published at the rate of one a fortnight (normal output one a year). So I had an autistic "gift" at the highest level
So what about the disabling aspects of autism?
What were they in my case?The first emerged while I was still a toddler. On a few occasions I simply fell over in a heap in a blackout -- to the great alarm of my poor mother. I actually remember my last episode when I was about 6. I was home from school talking to my very verbose mother and was doing chin-ups at the same time. I suddenly fell on the floor blacked out. She of course took me to the doctor early on in my episodes who quite reasonably diagnosed petit mal epilepsy.But was it epilepsy I had? In my late teens I consulted a specialist physician about it. He said: "If you have had no episodes in the last 15 yrs, you did not have it in the first place", which is reasonable.So I think that what I had were autistic episodes. To explain that however, I need to make a brief foray into the neurology of autism. It is mainly caused by an overdeveloped cerebral cortex, one amusing side-effect of which is that autistic people tend to take rather large hat sizes!So the large cortex admits and handles a large variety of stimuli. But sometimes the rest of the brain cannot cope with all the stimuli and registers distress. And that is where autistic stimulus-avoidance comes in. The autistic brain protects itself from the stimulus flood in various ways, not always very adaptively. Mostly the autistic simply leaves the field for a less stimulating environment but if that is not possible the brain will simply protect itself by blacking out. Blackouts are not terribly uncommon so one does not always lead to a diagnosis of autism. There is however some folk wisdom which usually leads bystanders to move the blacked out person to a quieter place and that is exactly what is needed.And that is what happened to my toddler brain. Being very young, all its capabilities were limited so if there was a lot going on around it it, it would simply black out.My limitations also came to the fore early in my schooling. Right from early primary school I hated sport. Almost all males have some interest in sport. But to me chasing around in circles after a ball seemed simply foolish. It seemed like needless and prolonged complexity. It does to this day. So I was and am clearly quite abnormal there.Another problem area was when my parents took me to the local agricultural show. All the barkers and raucous music were soon too much for me and I would tell my mother "Mum, my head is going funny". Given my record of blackouts that got me taken straight home, to my relief. What had happened was that at some point all stimuli started coming to me as if from far away. It was an autistic filter and the preliminary to a blackoutI handled the uncongenial world about me while growing up by withdrawal: While other kids were doing active things, I was a "bookworm". I spent most of my waking hours at home reading, mostly fiction but some non-fiction. That was unoubtedly bad for my social development but I eventually caught up with that well enough for most purposesAs I grew up, however, my ability to handle chaotic stimuli improved. I could tolerate it for relatively long periods -- about two hours to be precise.And that limited capacity to handle a lot of sensory stimulus is with me to this day. In going to parties over the years I was notorious for leaving early. Two hours was and is about my limit. And the noisier the party the sooner I leave. I was often told that by leaving early I missed good opportunities with women. But I had other ways around that. I don't need parties to find congenial womenAnd that is what high-functioning autistics do. They find ways around their limitations and usually do so with some success -- so that the limitations are usually barely noticed and are no problem. There are only certain situations that are diagnosticEPILOGUE: I sent my special friend Anne the above essay and asked how it fitted in to her observations of me. She made one very good point. She said that in the early years of our relationship I would not normally look at her when I spoke to her. I do remember that and it is of course classical autistic stimulus avoidance. Fortunately in more recent years I have stopped doing thatI suppose in conclusion, I should note that although I do have a social deficit, it is not of a crippling kind. The large number of lovely ladies I have had as girlfriends (including 4 wives!) over the years must indicate a substantial degree of social skill
And at the very beginning of 2022, at age 78, I acquired a new "lover" -- a fellow high-functioning autistic!
EARLIEST TIMES: I must have been about 9 when the King died. I remember crying on that occasion. King George VI was held in great affection by many of his subjects and I felt the tragedy of the occasion. Everything we had in the house at that time seemed to be labelled "Made in England", knitting-needles, sewing machine, you name it. In other words, I actually remember when England was the workshop of the world. Nowadays, of course, everything seems to be made somewhere in Asia.
At that time my father was cutting sugar-cane for a living. They did it by hand in those days. He used to ride to work on a bike and get back home in the evening as black as the Ace of Spades from cane soot. They used to burn the sugar-cane before harvesting in those days, to get rid of pests (rats, snakes and centipedes, mainly), disease (including leptospirosis aka Weil's disease) and the characteristic great clumps of dead leaves. Cane fires are so fierce that even the green leaves are consumed. Anyone who has noted how badly green cane leaves can cut you will know how desirable that would be to the men cutting the cane. We lived in Innisfail at the time
Perhaps partly because my father was away from home a lot (He cut cane for a while but usually spent the week in "the bush" cutting timber and came home only on weekends), I used to do a lot of handyman jobs about the house. I would always fix the electric jug when the element blew and also the (pre pop-up) toaster. I also fixed power fuses when they blew. There were no circuit-breakers then. I think I used to fix locks too. I do at least remember taking rimlocks apart. I never however managed to fix clocks. All I used to end up with was a collection of parts. My Meccano set was a favourite toy. I obviously had some mechanical aptitude -- but mechanical aptitude does correlate highly with general intelligence so that is not really of any significance. Details of my secondary schooling are given below.
INNISFAIL GENERALLY: It was while we were living at Campbell St that we had a cyclone. I loved it! The house over the road was not destroyed by the cyclone but it did develop a noticeable lean. I enjoyed walking about in the high winds and having to lean over at 45% or thereabouts in order to walk forwards at all. In retrospect I am slightly surprised that my parents let me out in it. But children generally were less protected (less mollycoddled?) in that era.
Another memory from Campbell St days is of Augie Sorensen, the milkman. Augie had a farmlet not far from us on which he ran dairy-cattle. He used to supply unpasteurized milk (probably illegally) to quite a few Innisfail households -- including ours for a while. People would leave out a container and Augie would come along and fill it with very fresh milk. The memorable thing about him however was his milk delivery vehicle -- a white horse-drawn cart that looked rather like a Roman chariot. It did however have pneumatic tyres. The milk was stored under cover at the front of the cart and Augie stood up at the back to "drive". I can still see Augie, tall and thin with his typically Scandinavian golden-brown skin and wearing his white pith helmet while standing up proudly in the back of his white cart guiding it along with his long reins. His big chestnut horse always used to have blinkers on -- probably needed if it was to be driven among motor vehicles. My mother did not patronize Augie for long. She went back to bottled milk -- probably because of health concerns. I think Augie's cattle were eventually found to have TB or brucellosis and he was shut down.
Another early memory is of the Innisfail railway station -- which I always liked. It is a very old timber structure. It was great when the big black steam trains used to come in: Hissing steam, gleaming pistons and an engine sound like panting. I remember my Grandmother arriving on one and can still almost smell the coal smoke.
I also remember the Chinese Joss house. It was a small temple with a couple of old Chinese men as custodians who lived out the back of it. Once when I was about 9 (I suppose) I went in there and banged the big ceremonial drum they had there. One of the old Chinese men popped out and, far from scolding me for misusing the drum gave me a mango. I guess he thought that little blond-haired kids were cute. The drum is still there but these days is out of the reach of kids.
Other memories of Innisfail at that time are the Greek Orthodox church down the road where all the Greek kids used to go after school for "Greek School", Lee Long, the Chinese grocer where my mother shopped, and the old cable-driven ferry that used to take cars across the Johnstone river. I spent a lot of some weekends riding to and fro on the ferry. My parents knew but did not care. Seeing I was only inches from the water most of the time I find this in retrospect rather surprising. They certainly must not have been worriers. Or perhaps I just seemed competent enough around age 8 and 9.
EARLY POLITICS: While the family were in Innisfail I remember there being an election (presumably Federal). I found all the posters and leaflets around the Town Hall rather exciting and remember my mother explaining that the Labor Party stood for the worker and the Liberals stood for the nation as a whole. The latter has of course remained a Liberal theme (it goes back at least as far as Disraeli) and was in fact being voiced with undimmed vehemence by John Howard in his victory speech after the 1996 Federal election. In Australia, the Liberal party really still is liberal, in a broadly 19th century sense.
CAIRNS: The family moved to Cairns when I was 13. It was just after my father's father (Jack Ray) had died and we went to live in the house formerly rented by him. As a result I inherited a store of old children's books which I promptly set out to read. I remember a nursery rhyme in one of them: "Our greatest battleship the Hood is made of iron, steel and wood". No wonder the sinking of H.M.S. Hood by one salvo from the Bismarck in the early phases of World War Two made such an impression. (H.M.S. Hood was actually a battle cruiser, of course -- which explains why it was sunk so easily, doesn't it?).
Some of the books even predated World War I. They were mostly books given as presents or won at Sunday school to the children of my father's family. After I left home, my mother gave them all away! All the maps of the world in them did of course show vast splashes of red. I wonder how many people in future will know what that signified? So I got strong doses of Victorian ideas from those books. When they were written such ideas were still current. I still to this day agree with most of them (such as the distinction between the deserving and undeserving poor). Luckily for Britain Mrs Thatcher did something towards reviving them.
I do remember Jack Ray (my father's father) from a visit we made to Cairns before he died. He was fairly tall (perhaps 5'9"), his nose was a Roman one like mine and he never said much.
He had a squint in later life because he got a bit of steel in his eye at work and would not see a doctor to have it removed. He didn't trust them. So he squinted for the rest of his life. He had been a bullock-driver in his early life so he was just a tough old bushman. His daughter Lucy was still alive in the late 1980s when I visited her in Innisfail and she said that Jack was a lovely father to her.
EARLY EDUCATION: I first went to school at Innisfail State Rural School. I remember being plagued during my primary school years with the fact that my name was the same as that of a popular American "crooner" of the day -- Johnny Ray. I was called the "little white cloud that cries" and suchlike by teachers and students alike from time to time but I just ignored it. A "Rural" school meant a school that offered both primary and secondary classes. It was only after my time there that a separate High School was built at Innisfail.
That I was "different" first came to the fore in grade 2. Our "English" lessons consisted of the class repeatedly reading a story out of our school reading book until every pupil knew and understood every word in it. And we could eventually all do that. One kid would read one sentence and the next kid would follow with the next sentence and so on.
Then one day the teacher did a dastardly thing. She asked us to close our reading books and tell the story as usual. And all the kids could do that -- except for me. I had no idea what the next sentence was. To the slack-jawed amazement of the other pupils, I was mightily praised for that. The teacher realized that I was the only one who had actually been reading. All the other pupils had simply been memorizing the story.
I was treated very warily by the other pupils from that point on. They clearly saw me as some sort of alien and mostly avoided me. But I had never known anything else so it bothered me not a whit. I was after all having a lot of fun reading. For many years I used to borrow and read 2 to 3 novels a week from the local library.
Then there was Grade 3. An episode there that lingers is when the teacher read out the "Little boy blue" poem. I burst into tears at such a sad poem -- again to the slack-jawed amazement of the other pupils. I was the only kid that had understood the poem. The teacher was much upset at my upset and we heard no more of that poem thereafter.
Something that occurred throughout primary school at that time were frequent spelling tests. The teacher would read out words and we would have to write them down in correct spelling. I of course always got 10 out of 10 for that, which again saw me looked at askance by the other pupils. And when a new word popped up in our reading, I always knew what it meant -- which led to my primary school nickname of "The Walking Dictionary"
Another memory of those days was when we were doing parsing. Yes: Grade school kids at that time learnt grammatical parsing. It is not even taught in High School these days I gather. Anyway there came a day when the teacher (Mr. Madden) had a trick question for us. He asked us to parse the word "Please!". Slack jaws all round of course and even I had to think about it for a few seconds. I promptly popped my hand up and said: "Verb with subject and object understood". I remember the teacher looking at me with some disgust. No-one was supposed to be able to answer that. But he gave me an early mark anyway.
Something that only I knew about at the time concerned our school reading books. At the beginning of each year we were all issued with a book that formed the basis for all that year's English lessons. We would spend the whole year ploughing though about a quarter of the stories and poems in the book, trying to make sure that each pupil understood them.
I enjoyed the stories in our reading books and to this day consider them well-chosen. They were mostly moral and sentimental stories and I still think well of morality and sentiment.
So from about Grade 4 on I would sit down and read right through the reading book from cover to cover as soon as it was issued. I would do four times the year's work in one day, in other words. Quite disgusting, of course. I would even read through the prefaces and introductions, a strange habit I have to this day.
That did make lessons rather boring but I would amuse myself by always knowing the answers to the teachers' questions. It would get to the point where the teacher would say: "Yes, John. We know that you know but does anyone else know?" He would then look around hopefully but often find all the other pupils with heads down. So then he would call on me. So I entertained myself in my own way.
I started borrowing boy's yarns from both the school library and the School of Arts library in Innisfail when I was about 8 and generally read 2 or 3 books a week --- Enid Blyton, Capt. W.E. Johns, Percy F. Westerman etc. I also read a lot of non-fiction -- Ion Idriess and the like. My parents had a lot of trouble getting me to go to bed at night. I used to sit up in my bed reading.
While I was at school in Innisfail I usually went home for lunch -- though I was sometimes given sixpence to buy a meat pie from one of the two pie carts that pulled up outside the school every lunch hour. That was the only fast food at the time. Where we lived (Campbell St) was quite close to the school. I always made my own way to and from school. At first I walked and later I rode a bike. I was never driven as my mother never learned to drive.
One of my few memories from primary school time is picnics at Etty Bay (outside Innisfail). Whether they were school picnics or Sunday School picnics I cannot remember but suspect the latter. I loved Etty Bay even then. I remember that a popular softdrink on such occasions was Hanush's "Cherry Cheer" -- a sweet red drink. I preferred Sarsaparilla. Icecream used to be served on such occasions in small cardboard "buckets" out of a big stiff green canvas bag otherwise filled with dry ice (Frozen carbon dioxide -- itself something of a wonder). Much watermelon was also eaten. There were also eggİandİspoon races and suchlike that I used to avoid as far as possible.
SECONDARY SCHOOL: When I moved to Cairns I got on the bus from Stratford one morning and found my new school by myself. My mother or father did not go along to help enrol me. I did not think much of it at the time but in retrospect I see it as another example of my mother's indolence. Though I suppose I was an independent little bugger. At Cairns State High School my nickname changed. I was now "The walking dictionary" instead of "the walking encyclopaedia". I read a bit of the works of Karl Marx at the local Cairns library around this time and occasionally talked about what I had read. For this reason I was sometimes at that time called "Commo John". I was never however subjected to any significant bullying and abuse. Although I did not have any really close friends at school I got on well with several other kids and don't think I really stood out in any way that would have made me a target -- though my total lack of interest in sport was a bit isolating, of course. I used to refuse to salute the flag on parade (for religious reasons) but I think that mainly earned me respect from the other kids.
The teachers I had for years 9 and 10 were in my recollection of them generally very good. The fact that Cairns was a very pleasant resort area may have had something to do with that. I liked several of them and learnt lots from all of them. My English teacher was one Murray Fastiere, of partly French ancestry, I believe. He was a very cultured man and a former pupil of organist Marcel Dupre and one day invited his class to an organ recital he was giving at St Andrew's Presbyterian church (where I normally went for Sunday School). I went along by myself to the recital. It must have been Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor he played because I was entranced and the name Bach rang in my head for years so that when I first got myself a record-player about 5 years later, about the first 20 records I bought were of Bach. All I had ever heard at home was the Top 40. The only songs I ever heard at home that I liked as a child were "Lady of Spain" and "Granada". An instrumental work that I liked was "That Happy Feeling".
As well as Murray Fastiere, I also remember my German teacher and Latin teachers. In sub-Junior (year 9) we were taught Latin by "Mr. O'Sullivan" -- who was, however, universally referred to as "Deadbeat". He was a tall, thin, rather hesitant man who taught Latin in an old-fashioned grammar-oriented way. In Junior (year 10) we had for Latin a Mr Kuskey, a young and rather untidy man who also started an after-hours music appreciation group for the students. It was there that I first heard Dvorak's "New World" symphony -- something that again left a lasting impression. Our German teacher was Leonard Gavrishchuk -- a Ukrainian, I gather from the terminal "uk" in the surname. He died without issue some time in the '80s but when I knew him he was a small, dark-haired, unassertive young man but with bright twinkling dark eyes. His favourite saying seemed to be: "You must be precise" -- generally accompanied by an upraised thumb. As a teacher, he had a bit of trouble keeping order but I was one of his favourite pupils because of my instant memory for what I was taught. He and I used to chat about things after hours too, but I cannot remember what the topics were.
I was an occasional pesky question-answerer in High school too.
One one occasion we were looking at an excerpt from Joseph Conrad that mentioned the "throbbing" of a ship's engine. Our English teacher (Fastiere) asked what was meant by that. I popped my hand up and said (approximately): "That would be the triple expansion steam cycle at work". Fastiere responded hastily: "Yes, yes, reciprocating engines". The marine triple expansion cycle probably used by the engines at that time was apparently well beyond his ken so he rapidly changed the subject.
In High School, a much wider range of subjects was covered than in primary school. So my general knowledge came more to the fore there. Again I always seemed to have all the answers and again it was noticed, so that my High School nickname was "The Walking Encyclopedia".
Throughout my schooling I encountered IQ tests fairly often. We seemed to get one about once a year. They were as fashionable then as they are unfashionable now. The most predictive part of a IQ test is the vocabulary scale: A list of words in increasing order of rarity -- where you have to pick the correct meaning for each one. The last word on the list is so rare that only oddballs are expected to know it. But I always got all of them right without effort.
Then one day I got a shock. The final word on the list was one I had never seen before: "Inchoate". And the derivation wasn't obvious either. But I knew how English compounds are formed and I knew the use and meaning of the common English prefixes and suffixes. So after a minute or two under my gaze the word emerged as meaning something like "unformed". So I ticked the answer "just beginning", which was of course right.
Note that I got the answer not from luck or a guess but as a deduction from a prior body of knowledge. That is how a clever clogs works. He doesn't know everything. Nobody does. But he has a set of strategies that enable him to figure out the right answer from the knowledge that he does have.
I was pretty solitary throughout my schooldays. I was just not like the others and I and everybody else knew it. I would be at home reading books when most other kids were outdoors. I played no sport of my own accord and when I was forced to play something I made a hash of it because of my natural clumsiness. Being excessively bright and non-sporting must have been as good barrier to social life as you can get in a small country town. In country towns "everyone" follows some sport. It meant that my social skills were slow in developing but they became generally pretty good eventually anyway. Intelligence can overcome all sorts of obstacles, including lack of social skills.
When my Junior German examination came around, I got mixed up about the date and forgot to attend -- my "professorial" memory again. Mr. Gavrishchuk, my German teacher, noticed my absence and sent another student around on a pushbike to my home at 308 Mulgrave Rd. to remind me. I arrived 1.5 hrs late for a 3 hour exam but still completed all questions with half an hour to spare and was awarded an "A" (the top category of marks) anyway. Doing academic things in much less time than anybody else has always been a forte of mine. I can never really understand why so many things take so many people so long. I guess my nervous system just runs much faster than most. To be a bit cybernetic about it, my brain must have a high "clock-speed".
Only two report cards from my Cairns schooldays have survived. The 1956 report shows that in form 1C, my position in class for the term 3 examination was 3rd for English, 7th for Maths and 9th for Social Studies. There were 43 in the class.
My 1958 report for Form IIIA2, the Term ended 9th August, shows that my position in the class was 1st for English, 6th for Latin, 7th for German, 15th for Geography, 14th for Maths A, 13th for Maths B (Geometry), 6th for Chemistry and 5th for Physics. There were 26 in the class. The teacher comments were: "Has a remarkable command of English" and "Academic interest should be encouraged. Examination results and the attitude towards study indicate good prospects for the Senior". I suspect that that particular report card survived only because it was the only one where I ever came first in anything. My results in the Junior examination were: English, Geography & German -- As; Latin, Maths & Geometry -- Bs; Chemistry & Physics -- Cs.
It was at Cairns State High School in Sheridan St. that I first wore shoes! Up until I was about 15 or 16 I had never worn shoes at all. I lived in a country area and, like lots of other kids around, went everywhere in bare feet. The soles of my feet were as a result so thick that I could even walk over sensitive plant ("mimosa pudica") without being bothered by the prickles. The school laid down the law, however, so, most reluctantly, I eventually had to wear shoes to school, at least for my Junior year. I have never got to like wearing shoes, however, and mostly now wear the next best thing to bare feet -- thongs (or "flip-flops", as the English call them). Because I did not wear shoes during my childhood I have to this day ten fairly evenly spaced toes that point straight ahead -- efficient toes. Kids who grew up in shoes tend to have toes that are all crammed together towards a point.
Partly because my father felt that it was time for me to go out and get a job and partly for religious reasons, I did not go on with school after year 10 -- although my teachers were of course rather aghast at that. I went and got a job as a junior clerk in the State Public Service instead. After a few years, however, I realized that my vocation was academic and picked up the remainder of my secondary schooling in short order. See below under the heading "MATRICULATING".
EARLY READING: I became a great reader of books as soon as I learnt how to and while I was in Cairns during my teenage years I read a great deal of what most people would encounter only in University courses. Of the ancient Greeks, I read all of Homer, Herodotus and Thucydides plus lots of Aeschylus, Euripedes, Xenophon, Sophocles and Plato. I loved the Greek Gods as presented in Homer; after I read Thucydides I felt I understood politics. And I still marvel at how modern Socrates (as recorded in Plato) sounds. I had my own paperback copies of all of the works I have so far mentioned (in translation, of course). Of English literature I read around the same time lots of Oscar Wilde, Ruskin, Thackeray, Fielding, Sterne, Congreve, Sheridan, Pope, Dryden, Shakespeare, Dickens, G.B. Shaw, Austen, Steinbeck, Sinclair Lewis, Tennessee Williams, Shelley, Keats, Milton etc etc. In other literatures I read Ibsen, Goethe, Schiller, Strindberg, Turgenev, Chekhov, Tolstoy, St. Augustine etc. I even seem to remember reading a bit of St Thomas Aquinas and I certainly acquired a smattering of Biblical Greek and Hebrew. I also read many other things -- such as Peale's "The power of positive thinking", Dale Carnegie's "How to win friends and influence people", Packard's "The status seekers" and Galbraith's "The affluent society".
So I had a rather busy little mind for a small-town teenager. From my point of view reading was about all there was to do in Cairns. So I was a good customer of the local bookshop and the local School of Arts library. I also patronized a secondhand book exchange -- where I got my copy of the Platonic dialogues (Crito, Phaedo, Symposium etc.).
I have always been aware of being different but at that stage I did not realize how very different I really was. I would not be surprised if I was the ONLY small-town teenager in the whole country who had read almost the entire Greek canon of his own volition at that time. And I did it with an educational background of Intermediate High School only and no-one to guide or encourage me in it!
FOOD: Basically, I grew up on British food -- the dreaded "meat and 3 vegetables" The British call it "plain food" and plain it certainly is. Tasteless would be another word. To the British, main-course cooking simply means to heat things up. Boil up some vegetables and fry up some meat and that is supposed to be a cooked meal. For flavouring you put salt in with the vegetables and onions in with the steak. I lived on that most nights for 16 years until I left home -- though my mother did usually make quite a good dish of spaghetti once a week and we did have the odd roast. The whole point of eating your meal was to get to the desserts at the end. British deserts are brilliant. No other culture has such a variety of such good desserts, to my knowledge. When compared to trifle, rhubarb and tapioca, lemon-meringue pie, flummery, plum pudding, apple pie etc., I find that profiteroles, gulab jamuns and the rest pale into insignificance. British dessert cooking is as brilliant as British main-course cooking is moronic.
Growing up in the tropics had some gastronomic advantages. Pawpaws fresh off the tree (practically every house had pawpaw and banana trees) are light years away from the poor things that are picked green and freighted to non-tropical areas. There should be no bitterness at all in a good pawpaw. And Granadillas (Passiflora quadrangularis) are probably the best dessert fruit there is but they seem to be totally untransportable and are known only in the Innisfail/Babinda area. Granadilla and ice-cream is as good a dessert as there is. We also had guava trees growing wild all over the place at Innisfail but the fruit was said to be generally infested with worms so only the bolder kids ate guavas. I ate them a few times. They have a very delicate flavour and are popular as a source of fruit-juice in South Africa, Singapore and Fiji. That must be the Indian influence, I guess. As kids, our main use for guavas was to make shanghais out of the branches of the tree. The branches had a lot of forks that made ideal shanghais (a shanghai is a sort of rubber-powered catapult). There were also mango trees everywhere and kids would often climb them and eat the fruit while they were up there. I ate so many mangoes fresh off the tree like that as a kid that I never bother much with mangoes now -- delicious though they are. I simply had my fill of them as a kid. Ditto for coconuts. I ate quite a lot of fresh coconut as a kid too. There were always coconut trees at the beach and you mostly didn't even have to knock coconuts off the tree. They would just fall off. And a coconut is not damaged by falling, of course. (The beach I mostly have in mind from childhood is still my ideal beach -- Etty Bay outside Innisfail. The tropical rainforest grows right down to the sand there).
GARDENING: When I was about 14 my father bought a house at 308 Mulgrave Rd in what is now called Westcourt, Cairns. It was there, I think, that I had my first and only experience of gardening. I had -- no doubt in conjunction with my parents -- a garden bed with carrots and cabbages in it. Lettuces too, I think. The carrots turned out very stunted but the cabbages were OK. Very leafy! And Mum had Rosella bushes (for jam-making). My father had a long-bean vine which produced for most of the year for several years.
IN THE NEWS: It was while I was living at Mulgrave Rd that I got my first mention (as an "unknown boy"!) in the media. I quote what appeared in the Cairns Post when I was aged 15:
GAS MAIN STRUCK BY BULLDOZER
Boy's Remedial Action Praised
A small area in Lyons street, affecting only four houses, was without gas for almost two hours yesterday evening when a bulldozer crossing a gully tore a length of three-inch low pressure main off at a socket.
The Gas Co. manager (Mr. D. de Jarlais) last night commended the action of an unknown boy of about 12 years. The boy stuffed some rag into the end of the pipe, saving the wastage of a lot of gas and reducing the risk in case of a match being thrown nearby.
Mr. de Jarlais said: "The boy showed good judgment and sound common sense by his action. Only a small amount of gas was lost."
The bulldozer struck the pipe about 4.30 p.m. and it took workmen until almost 6.30 p.m. to get the main reconnected.
The first time my name appeared in print was the year after. The following appeared in the Cairns Post:
GERMAN VERSE SPEAKING COMPETITION
A verse speaking competition in German, which will be conducted for the first time outside a university centre, will be held on Tuesday evening at the C.W.A. hall. The competition is open to secondary school students , and about 24 children have entered the three sections, sub-Junior, Junior and Open (for competitors over 16 years).
Some of the students have reached a very high standard and John Ray, a Junior student at the High School, has translated a deeply complicated and very lengthy poem in blank verse from German into English.
The judges will be Messrs. Faldt, Goebels and Gutfrucht, and the winners will be presented with books about Germany or German people.
For the record, the poem mentioned was "Prometheus" by Goethe and I got second prize in the competition. I was beaten by a female student who had been "elocuted" -- Jocelyn Andrews was her name if I remember rightly.
FAMILY: Because they are much younger than I am, I remember the childhoods of my siblings Christopher and Roxanne quite well. My most amusing memory of Roxanne is of her at about age 3 waving her little arm at our father and telling him off over something. He of course was just listening and smiling at her. I also remember that if she was ever going anywhere and my father was in the way he would always step aside for her. He just doted on her of course. Another memory along similar lines is of my mother trying to get the 3 or 4 year old Roxanne to do various things -- to which Roxanne would reply loudly: "but I don't wanna". That generally seemed to be taken as a fairly decisive objection.
Just for fun, here are the heights of three family members:
Roxanne was always the good-looking one in our family and her three delightful daughters certainly carry that on. Below is a picture of Roxanne as a little girl:
BRISBANE: In my late teens I moved from Cairns to Brisbane to further my education. Not long after I arrived I joined a nearby Presbyterian church. I usually went to the evening service as there was a good supper in the Church Hall afterwards. I got on quite well with old Percy Pearson, the minister. I was the only one there who knew anything about theology -- which he appreciated. He often seemed to preach his sermons directly to me as I was probably the only one in his congregation who understood much of what he was going on about. He did once say to me: "I wonder where you get your knowledge".
I did become a communicant member of the Ann St. church so when Percy Pearson died, I attended a congregational meeting called to discuss finding his successor. Very Presbyterian! I remember someone asking, "Have enquiries been made in Scotland?" and hearing the reply, "Yes, Mr Ralph is over there looking into it now." Mr Ralph was one of the senior elders (Presbyters) of the church -- the Clerk of Session, if I remember rightly. It did show that the Scottish connection was still strong among Australian Presbyterians at that time (in the 1960s). See also here
WORKING IN BRISBANE: My first job in Brisbane was as a clerk at Abraham's bag factory at Rocklea. I bought an old Army B.S.A. 500cc motorbike (for ten pounds) to get to and from work. I loved that bike: Manual advance/retard and all. It was a couple of months before I discovered that it had a fourth gear. Brisbane had trams on its roads in those days and tram tracks are very dangerous to bikes. I once slipped on them and came off the bike in the middle of Ipswich Rd. I was lucky not to be run over. I eventually wrote the bike off in another accident in which I broke my leg. Where I came from that was almost a rite of passage for young men. I went back to my parents' home in Cairns while I recuperated.
I stayed at the bag factory for only a few months. I then went to work for Harry Beanham (usually resident in Sydney but he visited his interstate shops occasionally) at Gearco in Brisbane city. The job was to run a business selling second hand factory machinery and some new machinery: Mostly to do with lathes and other machine tools. I found it interesting and became something of an expert on diehead chasers -- if anybody knows what they are. Harry was in partnership with another man (Bob Naesmith) selling new and secondhand photographic gear. I ran my side of the shop and the other side of the shop was run by George Smith the photographer.
CULTURE VULTURE: It was while I was working at Gearco that I met Alex Barnes (now deceased). I was about 19 and he was in his 30s so he did seem very "old" to me at the time but we got on well nonetheless. Alex was interested in photography and originally came in to buy photographic supplies and talk to George Smith. He and George were in some sort of photographic club together.
Alec with his trusty Leica in 1969
One place where I saw Alex out of working hours was on Sunday afternoons at Centennial Place -- where I went to heckle the soapbox orators and he went to get candid photographs. On various other weekend afternoons I would also drive out to his place in my little blue VW sedan and we would listen to old records together and drink coffee. Alex invited me to call on him after I expressed an appreciation of Caruso. Alex had a collection of old Caruso 78s (78 r.p.m. records). So we would spend very enjoyable afternoons together listening to old records and chatting. Some years later he ended up marrying Joyce, a very attractive ex-girlfriend of mine.
Quite early on in Brisbane I got involved with a group of would-be poets who rather plagiaristically called themselves PEN (Poets Essayists and Novelists) after the New York original. Most were just out of High School and we used to meet outside the Brisbane GPO on a Sunday afternoon at 3-weekly intervals. From the GPO we would go to some home or meeting room and read out our recent productions to one-another. I remember we used to club together to buy a flagon (a glass bottle containing about a gallon) of "natural champagne" (cheap still white dry wine) to lubricate the proceedings. We "published" a magazine called "Aleph" to record our works. A dozen or more would attend and I became something of a leading light in the club. I don't think any of us were up to much as poets but it was fun.
Here is one of the sonnets I wrote at the time. As you will see from the rhyming scheme, it was mainly a bit of fun:
Fine was the knight of old with fatal mace.
That fighting breed has left a lasting trace
On our ancient, ever nascent British race
Expressed in business, battle or the chase.
When pressed we know we'll always set the pace,
Be commerce, fighting or any endeavour the race.
Our heritage we never could debase
By any act that e'er could bring disgrace
So let us present crises far outface
Try not our steps long past now to retrace
With glories past, "Alertness now" replace.
For a fighting future minds and hearts strong brace
That we may turn to all a happy face
Successful still and pressing on apace.
MATRICULATING: I had left High School after year 10 in Cairns and gone to work for a couple of years -- as was normal in Cairns at that time. So one of the first things I did when I arrived In Brisbane was to set about getting my Senior Certificate so I could matriculate. Being both impatient and confident, I wanted to do my Senior (Year 12) in one year instead of the usual three it takes an evening student. I found all sorts of official barriers to this so concluded that I would have to teach myself. This seemed easy enough except for the sciences. I solved the science problem when I found that I could study Botany at the George St. technical college in a one-year course. English, German and Ancient History I studied by buying the syllabus and just learning what it said you had to learn. Half way through the year I decided that I should really have five Senior subjects rather than the minimum four so I decided that I would like to study Italian too, even though I had not done it for Junior. So as far as Italian is concerned, therefore, I did four years work in four months. Italian, is, however, the easiest language for an English-speaker to learn and I did do Junior Latin. I think I still have a copy of my Italian textbook called "Sotto un cielo azurro" (meaning: "Under a blue sky". It sounds so much nicer in Italian).
At any event my heavy study program for Senior was the sort of challenge I enjoyed. I had virtually every spare hour of every day and night allocated to some form of study -- though I did not plan so tightly that I could not miss the occasional evening of study if I wanted to. I think that it was one of the few occasions when my potentially formidable energies were really used. I actually enjoyed fitting so much in and even had time for a social life.
I passed in all subjects and matriculated. I even got two "A"s (in English and German) and two "B"s (in Ancient History and Italian). The only subject I got a "C" in was the one I did not teach myself. A pity in a way: I liked Botany and had rather wanted to become a botanist. Details of my university studies are given below.
LANGUAGES: I find that I can read scientific text in most European languages well enough to get by even if I have never studied the language concerned. Most scientific vocabulary is lifted from English and for the rest a knowledge of Latin/Italian and German suggests the meanings of most words. Languages that use alphabets other than the Latin one are a bit of a problem, however. At one stage I knew all of the Greek, Cyrillic and Hebrew alphabets but by my 50s I had forgotten most of that -- though I still knew enough to look up Greek words in a Greek lexicon. Latin, Cyrillic and Greek are quite closely related alphabets so are not hard to learn. I studied a bit of Biblical Greek and Hebrew in my religious teens. I just taught myself. I also at a later date spent a bit of time teaching myself Russian but never got very far. Russian is as difficult as Italian is easy. So much grammar!
I seem to remember that someone of political ill-will towards me once questioned fact that my two matriculation languages were Italian and German rather than the more usual (at that time) French. They said that I was attracted to the languages of Fascism. That does rather overlook the fact that I am a great devotee of classical music and that the same two languages are also the great languages of music. Tempi notations are to this day mostly given in Italian. In fact there is a third language that is important to music if you like early music as I do and that is Latin. Even German composers (such as Bach) sometimes used Latin texts -- particularly for sacred works. And I get by in Latin too! I have a certificate showing I passed Junior Latin.
CUSTOMS OFFICER: Considering that I was mainly self-taught, it was not surprising that my marks in the Senior exam were not high enough to earn me a Commonwealth Scholarship so I had to do the first two years of University part-time. I therefore used my Senior pass to get into the 3rd (tenured) division of the Commonwealth Public Service. I became a Customs Clerk. One of my jobs was to send off seized pornography for censorship. I saw so much pornography then that it has never again been of great interest to me. I also worked at the mail exchange searching incoming mail for items of interest to Customs and Excise. I became quite good at detecting prohibited imports and dutiable items.
UNIVERSITY STUDENT: After my first two years at University part-time, my marks were good enough to get me a Commonwealth scholarship. That meant I could go to University full-time from the beginning of 1966. Curiously, the one subject that I did badly in during those first two years was English I --generally my best subject. A breakdown of the marks is informative, however. I actually got the highest mark awarded that year for the poetry paper but bombed in the drama paper -- 38% or some-such. I should by rights have failed but they could not bring themselves to fail their best poetry student. I had at that time never seen a live play so maybe that had a bit to do with my poor showing in drama. I still suspect idiosyncratic marking, however.
I could easily have made a career as an academic in English as English has always been my best subject but I just could not see the point of studying something that should essentially be a recreation. Literature is written to entertain. If it does not do that it is a failure. So if you have to study it to get its message, you are not treating as it was meant to be treated and are in any case studying something that is irrelevant by its own standards. It is true that literature may sometimes embody useful philosophical insights but that is essentially incidental and also rare. Anyway, I put my money where my mouth was and specialized instead in a topic I took at the time to be more practically useful -- psychology.
When I became a full-timer I began to do a bit in student politics. It was the Vietnam era when most students were shit-scared of being conscripted. So everybody was very Leftist. When conscription stopped so did most student activism. I however could never be dishonest enough to be Leftist (Many years later Mikhail Gorbachev showed that the old Soviet system literally floated on a sea of lies) so became virtually the only student to support the conservative cause in public debates. This put a bit of a dent in my social life. I had no real friends in psychology as psychologists are pretty uniformly Leftist but I did have friends among the Engineers (students in the Faculty of Engineering -- traditionally Rightist. They deal with real things). I must have been the only psychology student who did. Surprisingly enough, even at that time there were some of the far-Right on campus. I joined with some of them to help found the Australia-Rhodesia Society. That was great fun. It really caused the Left to show themselves for what they are. Provoking pomposity from Leftists is of course the favourite game of the extreme Right. On this occasion the Left tried to stack and disrupt our inaugural meeting and also managed to get us banned from using any further university facilities (rooms etc). And they claim to believe in free speech! They don't. I know. "By their fruits shall ye know them". Anyway we had our fun with them. We knew them for what they were. Stalin's remark that there was complete freedom of speech in Russia for anyone who agreed with him just about sums up what all Leftists aspire to. The "Australia-Rhodesia Society" was of course never meant seriously. It was just a bait that the Leftists swallowed hook, line and sinker. It is rather frightening how easily Stalinism emerges. The fascism of student "anti-Fascists" has to be seen to be believed. Hans Eysenck could have told you that -- also from experience of having his public lectures disrupted and being personally attacked.
Eysenck, now deceased
The "Leftists" could as well be Hitler's brownshirts. The behaviour is the same. It all convinces me that Leftism is for many, if not most, the cloak needed by people who want to push others around. Their real program is violent and forcible exercise of power. Their "good intentions" or "championing the underdog" rationale is simply flim-flam -- the most successful way of justifying such a violent program (or of getting people to accept it). If the good intentions were real they would not be such liars or so vicious (remember Pol Pot, Stalin, or the Socialist Hitler?).
THE 1967 FEDERAL ELECTION: In the 1967 Federal election campaign (mainly fought on the issue of Australia's involvement in Vietnam) I, as a member of the Young Liberals (The Liberals are Australia's major conservative party), was invited to be in the audience for the launch of the Liberal campaign in Queensland. This was a speech by Prime Minister Harold Holt. The Leftists forged passes and infiltrated it, however. They made such a din that poor old Harold was just about inaudible. They virtually broke up the meeting. No respect for freedom of speech there! Lance W. and I saw this and organized with a few others to give the Left a bit of their own back. About a week later the Labor Party had its Queensland launch in the old Roma St Trades Hall. We attended. As soon as Labor leader Arthur Calwell had been introduced and got up to speak there was rapturous applause. Arthur let the applause die down and opened his mouth to speak. At that point I stood up and in my best soapbox voice shouted out: "All at sea with the A.L.P.!" (A slogan invented by my fellow-demonstrator Lance W. to complement "All the way with L.B.J.". Lyndon Baines Johnson was President of The United States at the time.) I also held up a poster to similar effect. You should have seen the response at this "disrespect". Half the people in the hall got up to look at who the scoundrel was. Our posters were ripped from us but the Police Special Branch had been forewarned and formed a protective circle around us. One of the police (Bob W.) said to the Leftists, quite rightly, "You did the same to Harold Holt last week". Anyway we kept up sporadic shouts. When we did, members of the audience would stand up, shake fists at us and return the abuse with a vengeance. Out of their anger and hostility they broke up their own meeting much more effectively than we could ever have done alone. The headline in The Courier Mail next day was "Calwell has noisy meeting". Brisbane was the only capital city where he got that reception. We were menaced by elements of the crowd as we were leaving the Trades Hall after the meeting and the Special Branch escorted us over the road to the old Roma St Police station. A crowd waited outside for us to come out again so they could get us. Real thugs! Anyway there was a little-known back entrance to the cop-shop through which we escaped in due course. Those were certainly interesting times for me. I felt that what I was doing was making a difference. Anyway, Harold Holt had a landslide win in that election. I think the Australian people did not much like what they saw of Leftist mobs either.
THE ARMY: Another thing I did when I became a full-time student was to join the Army Reserves (the C.M.F.). I joined the Psychology Corps. Since the head of the Psychology Dept. (Prof. McElwain) was a Colonel in it, this was probably the one good political move I ever made. I actually did it for the experience, however. I was above conscription age so also had no need to do it to get out of conscription. In my honours year every male student but one was in the Psychology Corps. The exception was a Methodist minister (Henry Law) who obviously had other duties on Sunday. I greatly enjoyed my time in 21 Psychology Unit -- particularly the one camp I went to (at Tin Can Bay). It was like being paid to go on a camping holiday. I learnt a fair few things in the Army too. I reached the rank of Sergeant but I am sure Rod Hardaker (my former Sergeant Major) will tell you that in military skills I must have been just about the most inefficient Sergeant in the Australian Army at that time. That clumsiness again. Rod is the only ex-Army mate I have kept in touch with to some degree. As a unit in a professional corps, 21 Psych was however very much unlike an infantry unit. Both the O.C. and the Sergeant Major were keen on Palestrina, for instance, so my devotion to Bach was completely understood!
POLICE SPY: Although I was identifiably to the Right at University, I actually got on fairly well at the personal level with many of the leading Left activists. I think it was because I was always fairly good-humoured in argument and because I was interested in the same issues that they were -- even if we came to different conclusions on them. I was accepted so well that I was even allowed to attend most of their private meetings. The Police Special Branch found out about that and asked me to report to them what went on. This I willingly did on a regular basis. I was pleased to do whatever I could to scupper the young Stalinists (not that they called themselves that. They called themselves Students for Democratic Action). The Police Special Branch at that time were all D.L.P. men (Catholic anti-Communists). The only exception was a Liberal -- Don Lane, later a minister in the very conservative Bjelke-Petersen government who was unlucky enough to be one of the few to be prosecuted for cheating on his expense account. As far as I know everybody in Australia who has one exploits his expense account. I suppose Don overdid it a bit.
As part of getting to know the extreme Left quite well, I also used to attend meetings in Brisbane of the Australia-Soviet friendship society. I was rather fascinated by their wharfie-style of voting. When a resolution was proposed they would not say, "All in favour raise their right hand". No way. It was, "Any objections?" All very much in character. Stalin would have approved.
I also gathered information about the local neo-Nazis which I passed on to the police. See here for details about that activity.
FORTRAN: During vacation time after my third year at the University of Queensland I took a four-day course (mornings only) in the computer language FORTRAN. It was taught to us by a young Finnish woman called Gail Sonkkila. At that time SILLIAC (only the third computer ever built -- depending to some extent on how you define "computer") was still running at the University of Sydney. That was the only course I ever did in any computer language.
Below is a picture released by the Univerity of Qld. in 2012 which depicts what I believe to be the computer I used there -- a GE 225. And if I mistake not that is also Gail Sonnkila in the photo.
I did become very proficient in using FORTRAN to write my own survey and data analysis programs. In those days virtually the only software you got with any computer was a FORTRAN compiler. Any programs you wanted you had to write yourself. My B.A. thesis contains a listing of my first program (to do partial correlations). FORTRAN has been much expanded since then but I have kept up with a lot of the new features. I was still using FORTRAN to produce some of my own software many years later.
Why is FORTRAN always named in all-capitals? Because, like MS-DOS, it is case-insensitive. Any letters you type while using it are automatically transformed into all-capitals. So in FORTRAN itself you can only refer to it as FORTRAN, not Fortran. I suppose that it is really just an instance of the native-speaker rule (i.e. the rule that the correct way to pronounce a placename or family name is the way the people who live in the place or bear the name pronounce it) to spell FORTRAN the way FORTRAN would have to refer to itself.
SYDNEY, 1968: Anyway I got my honours degree from the University of Qld. in the minimum time of 4 years even though the first 2 of those 4 years were part-time.
Immediately thereafter (November 1967) I moved to Sydney for a change of scene. My first job there was actually full-time duties with the regular Army Psychology corps in the Sydney recruiting office (technically C.M.F. full-time duties)! I just went in soon after my arrival and found they had a lot of work so offered my services. They were very glad to grab a qualified extra hand. I think it was while I was working there that a vacancy in the Chieu Hoi program came to my notice -- a "psychological warfare" operation in Vietnam. I of course volunteered for it but someone better qualified than I got the slot. After about a month, however, I got a job as a graduate clerk in the N.S.W. Dept. of Technical Education so I took my discharge from the Army at that point. I would have stayed on in the CMF (Reserves) but the local Sydney unit (12 Psych) was up to establishment. I suppose it is slightly ironical that I could have worked as long as I liked in the regular army but could not get a slot in the militia!
The graduate clerk job was work that made no use of my degree at all and was a bit of a farce generally. It was no different to what I had been doing as a junior clerk in the Qld. Dept. of Public Works years before -- filing and the like. Typical government waste of resources. Anyway the pay was good ($60 per week!) and that suited me for a time.
As soon as I arrived in Sydney I went along to the University of Sydney and was told that part-time students needed to take 2 or preferably 3 years to do a Masters Degree. That suited me not at all so, even though I in fact had a full-time job, I enrolled as a day student and did the M.A. in the bare minimum of one year. I just took time off my work in the Dept. of Technical Education to attend whatever lectures I had to. There weren't many lectures and tutorials and the Public Service encouraged time off for education anyway. "Further study" was greatly facilitated as a matter of general policy. I actually got the highest marks awarded in the M.A. exams but the Psychology Department would not give me the degree with first-class honours because (I imagine) they suspected I was really part-time and didn't want to look fools. So the cowards sent me a special letter saying that I only got second class honours but would probably have done better had I taken the "normal" two years. I still have the letter somewhere.
My supervisor for my M.A. dissertation was an American -- Alan Bordow -- who was totally useless. I have an idea he felt out of his depth with me. I am a bit vague now on the coursework part of the degree but I remember three seminars -- one with David Ivison (of "Sydney Push" fame) on clinical psychology, one with John Berry and Dicky Thompson on social psychology and one with John Maze on philosophical psychology. There was also a lecture course on "general psychology" which was mainly taught by Bill O'Neil and John Maze if I remember rightly. It was really a course on philosophical psychology and I was rather surprised at the numbers attending: 30 - 40 students. The most distinguished academic I encountered at the University of Sydney was probably John Berry -- a very Leftist Canadian: very smart, very sure of himself but with a typically Leftist unconcern about the facts. See here
While I was doing the M.A. I also enrolled at the University of N.S.W. as an evening student and studied economics. Economics was a major intellectual discovery for me and Economics I was probably the most valuable course I ever did (in my opinion). I did a bit of accounting too just to find out what it was like but didn't persevere with it. So that was a busy year for me: A full-time job plus a complete higher degree plus a new undergraduate subject. I enjoyed meeting the demands that placed on me. For once I had to use my time fairly efficiently. I was living with a busty redhead for part of that time too.
MACQUARIE UNIVERSITY: After I did my M.A. I went to the School of Behavioural Sciences at Macquarie University to do my Ph.D. I supported myself initially by part-time tutoring in Social Psychology at Macquarie and later by teaching (part-time) Higher School Certificate Economics at a local Catholic secondary school (Cerdon College at Merrylands). Australia was so short of teachers in those "baby boom" years that my one year of Economics at the University of N.S.W. counted as sufficient qualification for teaching the subject at High School level. All my students eventually did well in their H.S.C. examinations (one came 4th in the State!) so the idea wasn't as silly as it might at first seem.
I started at Macquarie in early 1969. My M.A. had not been formally awarded at the time so I could not use it as a basis to apply for a Commonwealth Postgraduate award. That came in 1970. I moved from University to University for each degree as a way of broadening the influences I was exposed to. Almost immediately after I got to Macquarie, I started writing articles for the academic journals. Two actually appeared in 1970 so had to have been written in 1969, the first year of my Ph.D. studies. That is the well-known "publication lag" for you.
While I was at the University of Sydney I started on a research program that simply continued when I got to Macquarie and I very soon accumulated a lot of survey research data. After about a year therefore I had plenty of data on which to base my Ph.D. dissertation so I sat down and wrote the dissertation over a period of only six weeks. Under university rules, however, it could not be submitted until I had been in the Ph.D. programme for two years. When I did submit it at the end of 1970, however, the university took over 3 years to get it marked! So the degree was not awarded until 1974. The reason for the slow marking was a combination of bureaucratic inertia with two pretty unethical markers. One of the markers -- a Fred Emery from the Australian National University in Canberra -- rejected the thesis on the ground that it used parametric statistics. Since most psychologists do use parametric statistics, this was rightly seen as eccentric and a replacement marker had to be found. The other recalcitrant was Seymour Martin Lipset -- a fairly prominent Amnerican social scientist. He agreed to mark my dissertation but when he received it failed to do so and ignored all follow-up correspondence completely. He even failed to return his copy of the dissertation when asked to. I guess the fact that its conclusions were not totally supportive of his own findings miffed him.
THE BAROQUE MUSIC CLUB: I founded the Baroque Music club shortly after I moved to Sydney. It was a very informal thing that consisted of Sunday afternoon meetings at somebody's place where we would drink cheap flagon wine and listen to recorded Baroque (pre 1750) music. Denis Ryan was our most frequent host and his wife, Fay, used to put on a whopper afternoon tea to aid the deliberations. It was a good way to make congenial social contacts.
All that aside, however, my chief memories of the Baroque Music Club still are musical. I still feel the lonely eminence of Bach, the circular-saw-like power of the Vivaldi oboe and bassoon concerti and the elegance of Albinoni, Pescetti and Gabrielli. I also now like the music of Phillip Glass and consider it a great privilege to have heard him conduct his own music live. The composer who has the greatest effect on me, however, has to be Bach. The only way I can describe it is to say that his music "transforms" me. He somehow seems to take me into a different and better world. He is a religious composer and I was once religious so maybe that has something to do with it.
My first wife, Dawn, and I met at a Baroque Music Club meeting. Around the time we married, we bought together and subsequently lived in a small home unit (condo) at Bondi. We had a tabby cat there called "Purrfur". I remember Dawn once asking me why it was that children always smile at me. "Do they?", was my response. I was unaware of it. I eventually figured out why, however. It was because I was smiling at them! I have always liked children.
Dawn also pointed out to me something else I did not know about myself -- that I changed my accent and way of speaking according to whom I am talking to. Among my University friends, I speak in an Educated Australian way but when talking to more working-class people such as petrol pump attendants I speak in a more Broad Australian way. My tendencies of that kind are probably even more extensive than Dawn noted. In 1977 when I was living in England, the English were always saying to me what a "soft" accent I had. I spoke so much like them that they could hardly tell that I was an Australian, in other words.
MENSA: Another great recreational interest at that time was Mensa -- an international social club requiring an IQ in the top 2% for admittance. I had joined Mensa not long before I left Brisbane so started going to their meetings as soon as I arrived in Sydney also. Mensa formed an important part of my social life during my entire sojourn in Sydney. As well as being highly intelligent, Mensans tend to be eccentric. This suited me as such people are more interesting and they certainly don't threaten me in any way. Social skills, however, tended to be in short supply so I ended up running Sydney Mensa for quite a few years. Organizing meetings seemed to be beyond most of them. My third wife Jenny went to a Mensa barbecue with me in Sydney once and was much amused by one of the members (old Ted H.) turning up fully equipped but having forgotten to bring any meat! My favourite meetings were the dinner meetings. These I organized at local restaurants (usually cheap ethnics) and on one occasion had over 40 people attend. 20 was however more typical. One of the stalwarts of the dinner meetings was a tall and very good looking Dutchman called John G.. Unfortunately for the women he was a homosexual (though not obviously "camp"). Despite that he and I got on well and co-operated on many things. At dinner meetings, however, I would often make bigoted remarks about "poofters". He knew however that I love to tease so wisely didn't rise to the bait and just accepted it as normal banter. The other Mensans didn't know what to make of it often, I suspect. It livened things up anyway. His boyfriend used to take my antics in particularly good part. John was always a bit doubtful about me at heart, I suspect, but Terry (his mate) was so secure in what he was that he seemed to find it all just as amusing as I did. We always seemed to have first-class rapport anyway. I suspect he liked me needling John as John was a fairly dominant character in a typically Dutch sort of way.
TEACHING SOCIOLOGY: After I finished my Doctoral thesis at Macquarie University I got a job teaching Sociology at the University of N.S.W. That was in early 1971. The reasons why I got the job were threefold: 1). Already having publications so early in my career was no doubt impressive; 2). They wanted someone to teach the Sociology of Religion and I had done a paper on that subject the year before; 3). Nobody told them I was of the political Right. There just was no concern with ideology at Macquarie so it never arose. I was however appointed with tenure so they could not get rid of me until I was ready.
I did research projects at a great rate while I was at Uni NSW. I did up to half a dozen surveys in a year and got a lot of articles out of each survey. The record speaks for itself. I had over 20 articles published in some years compared to the single one that most psychology and sociology academics battle to get out. I doubt that I am all that much smarter than my fellow academics. It is just that I see things in ways rather different from others (often because I am not a Leftist) and this makes me full of ideas to test. Being very efficient and energetic as well I get to test a lot of those ideas. So it is creativity and hard work that gives me the big edge. On the other hand, the unusually high speed at which I can learn things is diagnostic of high intelligence so maybe I just got it all at birth. Doing an M.A. (honours) in a third of the normal time and then topping the year should mean something -- particularly with a course in Economics and a full-time job to fill in my spare time during that same year. I have always attributed my learning ability to my good memory, however.
Anyway, my articles are there to be read by anyone that wants to so they are the final testament to what I was thinking and doing more or less month by month at that time. Though it should also be said that what I got published was very much limited to what the academic culture of the time allowed. I would have spoken much more boldly on some things if I could have got it published.
Sociology at the University of New South Wales at that time was heavily Marxist and counter-cultural so I didn't like it one bit. The compliment was returned. The Sociology staff were always personally pleasant to me and even invited me to many of their parties but we just did not see eye to eye. To them I was a "Fascist". To me they were Stalinists, bludgers, hypocrites and frauds. There were of course some exceptions who were not so Leftist and I did spend a bit of time with them but mostly I just did my teaching and research with only a very rare foray into the coffee room. Sociology did improve a bit over the years but not much. I did really rather hate it there.
I did of course have no prospect of any sort of academic career once the ideological gap between myself and the rest of the School of Sociology became known. Even getting the normally fairly automatic advancement was a battle when it came up. It took three applications for me to get the promotion even though my academic record was an exceedingly distinguished one by conventional standards. I of course realized the problem very early on -- which was why I set out to establish an alternative future for myself by way of Real Estate investments. As a born academic I would have preferred to spend all my time in academic pursuits but I saw that I could not really do that if I wanted a life in which I had some options.
In my early years at Uni. N.S.W. I got permission to do outside work part-time and was thus able to return to Secondary School teaching (I again taught Higher School Certificate Economics -- this time at a now defunct "progressive" school at Birchgrove called "Chiron College") and do some taxi-driving. The extra money from such jobs helped me to get started in buying Real Estate.
PARTY ANIMAL: In my first year teaching at the Uni. N.S.W. I rented a small house which I shared with two male friends of around my own age. We had quite a few parties there. And if ever we got sick of our guests, we would put on Janacek's Sinfonietta. We all liked classical music but not very many other people do and Janacek is a bit much for even some classical music lovers. The Sinfonietta would clear the house within minutes. They would even leave their beer behind! It didn't work for our friend Denis R. however. I think he introduced us to Janacek in the first place. He would say "This is good" and settle in. Not that we minded. Denis was always good fun. He had that Irish roguishness and was a great raconteur. He had been a shearer for most of his life and later moved to Sydney to manufacture shearer's clothing. For quite a while he used to drop in at our place after work for a few beers with us: The real Australian male thing (except for the classical music in the background). We enjoyed it greatly. He liked Resch's D.A. but we drank Flag Ale. We used to buy D.A. especially for him. We called it Denis's Ale, though D.A. really means Dinner Ale. All four of us were quite Right-wing. Denis had been a Communist in his youth (not uncommon among shearers, I believe) and knew an awful lot about politics. He had not had much education but was quite intellectual and cultured for all that. Apparently you do sometimes find that among shearers, according to Denis. He was in his late 30's at the time.
The fact that I did a bit of part-time taxi-driving (cab-driving) in my early teaching career was useful in more ways than one. If I went to a party around that time, I always found the standard party question ("What do you do for a living") to be a bit of a peril. If I answered frankly and said, "I am a University Lecturer" (What Americans call a "Professor" is mostly called a "Lecturer" in Australia and Britain), that would really clear the space around me. No-one would want to talk to me. My occupation seemed to overawe people. If however I instead said (also with some truth), "I am a taxi-driver", I would be an immediate hit. Everyone would want to talk to me. I immediately became a familiar and friendly figure. Strange! Being in a high-status occupation is far from being an unalloyed good. Generally speaking, being a university lecturer may be even more socially disastrous than being a policeman!
Another party event I remember from that time was meeting a young woman at a party who seemed a little foreign. I asked her where she was from and she said: "Mauritius". I replied, "Ah, Mauritius. Isn't Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Prime Minister over there?". "You've heard of Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam!", she said. Since most people look blank at the very name of Mauritius, to find someone who actually knew something about it was very pleasing to her. So my general knowledge can in fact be very useful socially. It almost (but not quite) won me a heart on that occasion.
LONDON: In 1977 I had a Sabbatical year in London. I carried out a doorknock survey there doing all my own doorknocking. I was given an office at the Institute of Psychiatry by Hans Eysenck but I did not see a great deal of him. He was a very quiet sort of a person. Not what one expects of the (then) world's most quoted living psychologist.
Another thing I did in London was to look up the local libertarians. Chris Tame at the alternative bookshop was the one I saw most of but I also saw a bit of Arthur Seldon at The Institute of Economic Affairs.
Chris Tame -- now deceased
There were very few libertarians in Britain at that time but they had enormous influence for rationality. I became a libertarian the first time I ever heard such ideas. A lot of the ideas are just economic rationality, anyway. Much of the rest is an extension of the traditionally high value that conservatives put on individual freedom. I first heard the ideas on the Domain in Sydney from a soapbox orator. It was just after I had done Economics I so I was well prepared for such thinking. In fact, many of the leading libertarians (e.g. Milton Freedman, Hayek, Von Mises) are or were economists. I had myself been a soapbox orator in the Conservative cause both in Brisbane and Sydney. The fact that I have a loud voice if I want to did help with that. I suppose the fact that I am a strong supporter of the Monarchy is a bit at variance with being a Libertarian. It depends how far you go. Extreme Anarcho-Capitalists want no State at all whereas Minimal Statists acknowledge the need for a State in just a few areas -- e.g. defence. Being the ardent Victorian that I am, I suppose what I want is a very minimal State led by a constitutional Monarch and defended by citizen-soldiers. I don't expect to see it in my lifetime but it is pretty much how England once was.
LOCKED IN! While I was a lecturer in Sociology at the University of N.S.W. I always used to carry my toolbox in my car -- mainly because I often had to do small repair jobs at my various rental properties that I owned. This was in Sydney around 1980. At that time I often used to go in to the University of NSW out of normal working hours to do my writing for the academic journals. This required various permissions and I was often a bit hassled by university security men checking up on whether I was entitled to be there or not (I always was and felt that they should know it without needing to ask me so I was often a bit curt in responding to their enquiries. I was there to concentrate on my work and didn't need any interruptions). Late one Sunday afternoon my car was the only one left in the carpark and the security men obviously thought they would show me a thing or two by locking the gates to the carpark. So when I came to go home I was locked in. I therefore got out my junior hacksaw from my toolbox and sawed the padlock off the gate and obtained my exit that way. The padlock was a good one that a hacksaw just bounced off but the gate itself was only of common mild steel so I simply sawed off that part of the gate to which the padlock was attached! It only took a few minutes. What a dilemma it must have been for the security men! They knew I did it but they couldn't say as much because then they would have had to explain why they locked me in without first warning me! So I never heard a word about the matter. I won that one, I think. From that time on, however, I always made a point of carrying a hacksaw in my car. The big chain they used to put around the gates thereafter always amused me though.
CATS: At one stage around that same time, we had a bit of trouble with cats yowling at night and keeping us awake. I therefore bought a Daisy air-rifle of the sort that were in my childhood often given to children as toys.
I practiced shooting from the hip with it and became quite accurate after only about half an hour of trying. I then started to use it to ping any suspicious-looking cats I saw around the place. It did not injure them but stung them enough to cause them to decamp with great alacrity. The pellets for an air-rifle are however stored loose in a compartment around the barrel and you have to lift the barrel up vertically to load them. So air-rifles rattle the minute you touch them. And the cats soon developed good conditioned reflexes in that connection. As soon as they heard a rattle they knew that a sting was coming so decamped immediately without me needing to fire a shot! So soon if I heard cats yowling I did not even have to get out of bed. I just rattled the air-rifle to win immediate silence. Great stuff, that conditioning.
EATING OUT: During my first two marriages we used to eat out a great deal. Neither lady was keen on cooking. My many years of dining out did mean that I got to try a much wider range of food than would normally be the case. I was never much impressed by "French and International" food. I preferred "ethnic" food -- i.e. food with real tradition behind it. "French and International" is generally a warning that you will get small servings of overpriced, lukewarm and generally tasteless food served after a long wait by pretentious, tired and inflexible waiters. If it is also said to be "innovative" food, it just means that they give you jam or some such with your main course and are really full of themselves for being so "clever": Tedious in the extreme!
So I soon learned to avoid such restaurants and go to the many small "ethnic" restaurants that offered real value. I thus became something of a connoisseur of "ethnic" food. Such restaurants generally serve dishes that have been in the culture concerned for hundreds of years and such dishes can hence be truly said to have survived the test of time. It is a real warranty that you will get something pretty acceptable.
Dishes I have discovered that I particularly like include Larb Moo (Thai), Egg-rolled pork (Korean), Bul Gogi (Korean), Cevapcici (Yugoslav), Kassler Rippenspeeren (German), Dhansak (Parsee), Roghan Josh (N.Indian), Cha Gio (Vietnamese), Ton Katsu (Japanese), Moussaka (Greek), Saltimbocca (Italian), Paella (Spanish) and Chicken Kiev (Russian/French) but what is good depends very much on the restaurant concerned. I always found that you could at the most expect any given restaurant to do only one dish really well and the key is to find that one dish. In traditional Australian (British) food the best to me is Roast Pork with crackling. In a restaurant staffed by Australians, it will take you a long time to get a menu, longer to get your order taken and longest of all (at least an hour) to get your food. In almost any Chinese restaurant, by contrast, you get a menu within one minute of sitting down, get a waiter at your table to take your order as soon as you have finished looking at the menu and seldom have to wait more than 15 minutes for your food. I never could figure out why others cannot be like the Chinese. They do show what can be done by staff who are interested in their job.
You might be forgiven for thinking that if you pay more for your dinner you will get better food and better service. The truth is very much the reverse. The service in particular is often atrocious in more expensive restaurants. You can never "catch the waiter's eye" and the idiot waiters may even be patronising to you if there is something about you that they do not like. Being no conformist, I give all such moron acts short shrift. If I am not getting reasonable attention I generally put out my arm to physically stop a passing waiter or I get up and walk out into the kitchen and ask if anybody is serving. The latter in particular usually stirs things up! Going to an expensive restaurants is a sort of masochism. You pay to be served strange food after a long wait by airhead waiters who are full of themselves and treat you with contempt. I suppose they think that if you are silly enough to dine there you need to be treated like a moron. There may sometimes be something in that
OVERSEAS AGAIN: By 1983 I had made enough money out of Real estate to retire so did so. I moved from Sydney back to Brisbane in my home State of Queensland. Shortly after that, however, I went overseas again.
In 1984 I was away for five months -- partly spent in New York and partly spent in London. I remember the whole trip cost me $14,000: Rather too much in retrospect. I first spent the first month living in an old hotel just off Broadway on the upper West side of New York city. Boy, it was really summer there at the time! The hotel had no air-conditioning so I bought a small electric fan to help out.
After about a month I flew up to the Political Psychology conference in Toronto. It was intellectually a very incestuous affair with pervasive Leftist and psychoanalytic assumptions. No wonder it was the last one I attended!
After that I flew to London and spent some more months there. I again saw a lot of people such as the local Mensans and Libertarians so I had a good time and went to a lot of parties.
While I was at parties in London I would sometimes get a jocular comment about Australia's very male "mateship" culture to the effect that Australians must all be latent homosexuals. I always encouraged any allusion in that direction as I had a very good reply to it (borrowed from Barry Humphries). I would say, "No, that is just a rumour put around by Australia House to encourage all the English immigrants".
I also had a couple of little sayings I had made up myself that generally seemed well received. The first I used if there were any disparaging remarks about Australian wine. I would say: "Australians are much like the French; Both produce lots of wine and most of it is rough; And the stuff that is too rough even for them to drink they sell to the English". And if national characteristics in general were under discussion I would say: "The characteristic Australian emotion is apathy; The characteristic American emotion is greed; And the characteristic English emotion is embarrassment".
That these "jokes" were always well received is another instance of something often remarked: That the English are good at laughing at themselves. It is a great national virtue. Both jokes have a considerable element of truth, of course -- as jokes often do.
I am pretty sure that it was in 1984 that I went to two conferences organized by various Libertarian groups. One was just outside London where I gave a rather controversial talk based on sociobiology and the other was at Cambridge where I took part in a (semi-jocular) debate on whether the United Kingdom is truly united. Being in Cambridge was fascinating. It really is a beautiful mediaeval town. I would have loved my son to go to University there. It seems a great place for student fun. In the event, he went to ANU, which is also pretty good.
When I think of it, all my male friends in England are not really English. Chris Tame (now deceased) is the most English but he doesn't look very English. Adrian F. has a most fruity upper class English accent and the tall elegance to go with it but he is in fact from Natal (the most English part of South Africa). Glenn Wilson is a Kiwi and Hans Eysenck was a German. But we all are Anglophiles. We admire the English for their restraint and decency but the English who are still left in England are too grey (in all ways) for us actually to see ourselves as being one of them. So one might say that London Anglophiles actually prefer one-another's company to the company of the English themselves!
I returned from England to Australia via New York so that I could make a side-trip up to the conference on authoritarianism arranged by Dave Hanson at Potsdam in upstate New York (i.e. in Northern New York State -- about 8 hours drive from New York city). I there was able to put faces to many of the authors I had been citing in my publications over the years. They were generally a disappointing lot. They probably felt the same about me. It was Fall (Autumn, October) at the time and the drive with Ray Krukowski through the forests of Upstate New York was itself enough to make the trip worthwhile. It really was breathtakingly beautiful. I drove up with Ray K. in his car.
After the conference I flew straight back to Australia but I did stop over for a day or two in Hawaii and bought two things: Sees Candy and a "Reagan for President" badge. I wore the badge until I got back to Australia so in a very minor way I did help campaign for Ronald Reagan! I loved him as President so I am pretty pleased about that.
DOGS: When I was a boy living in Innisfail, I had a cattle-dog cross called "Bluey" (Funnily enough! Queensland Cattle-dogs are just about the only blue-coated dogs there are). I liked the way he would look at you out of the side of his eyes as a warning if you were irritating him. If you disregarded the warning he would snap at you. He got hit by a car and killed and I remember being upset at losing him.
The next dog I got was when my third wife Jenny and I were living at Queen Bess St and decided we needed a watchdog to deter prowlers. We were given a Rottweiler cross that I named "Canis" (which is both the Latin word and the generic name for a dog. Only an academic would have a dog called "Canis"). He was only about six weeks old at the time and had been on puppy food until we got him. We found it difficult to get him to eat anything at all but eventually found things he liked. We had him vaccinated against canine parvo-virus but it seemed we were too late. He sickened and died after a few weeks. I was deeply upset when he died. He was a lovable little pup with some cheeky and intelligent ways and I felt I had failed him in allowing him to die. In his last hours he looked at me so reproachfully.
After that Jenny and I decided that a Bull-Terrier would be best for our purposes because of their rather fearsome looks. We bought a rather insane pure-bred bitch called "Pepper" for $300. She had a coat that was mostly black but suffered from sun exposure on the white parts of her muzzle. I therefore became a registered Bull-Terrier breeder (kennel-name "Canis Niger" -- meaning "black dog" in Latin) with the aim of breeding heavily coloured Bull-Terriers that would not suffer from the sun so much. We mated her with a brindle sire and had two litters of very pretty pups with all sorts of attractive coats.
Dogs rather tie you down when you want to travel so we eventually sold Pepper when we moved next. We sold her to a bikie who wanted her to sleep with him in his bed every night so she went to Bull-Terrier heaven. Bullies like to be VERY close to their families and we wouldn't even let her in the house so I am sure she was glad to have her new owner. She rode off in his "shaggin' wagon" (he didn't have his bike with him that day) without a backward glance at Jenny and me.
FAMILY: An interesting thing is that many of my relatives are quite Right-wing -- The late Keith Smith being something of an extreme example. Keith was not blood kin -- He married my cousin, Shirley. Keith was a great bloke. He spoke the broadest Australian you have ever heard: Both in accent and in vocabulary. He would describe something easy as "a piece of piss", for instance. People enjoyed listening to him because of the colourfulness of his delivery, though I doubt that he realized it. He was, however, a very kind and unpretentious person and suited Shirley well. She is so nice she is almost a saint. She would do anything for you. Keith was also quite smart. He fixed up radios and T.V.s and at one time had a business renting them out.
Anyway Keith was so far Right he was almost out of sight (as they used to say of Syngman Rhee. Who was Syngman Rhee?). I understood what he was going on about and supported some things that he said so I was pretty popular with him. He was also unashamed to voice his conclusions about Aborigines (Australian native blacks). At family gatherings (mostly held at his place) he loudly referred to them as "scum". I could see that this pained some of the more proper women present on one occasion so I had to bail him out by saying "But you are talking from experience, Keith, aren't you? You have had them as customers." He agreed and went on to relate how they had tried to steal his T.V.s that he rented out etc. That set things straight. There seems to be a strange myth about that all racial dislikes are prejudice. I simply showed that sometimes it is postjudice too: In other words the fruits of experience rather than of preconception.
Whether Shirley is Rightist in opinions one would never know but I imagine that by being married to Keith she would have to be. Her son Jeff is certainly Right-leaning too. I get on well with Jeff. Another relative who I never really thought to be Right-wing is Alan M. He is the son of Maude, my mother's younger sister. Alan is a businessman so I suppose I should not have been surprised but he is so unassuming at family gatherings that nothing had ever come out. I had him and Suzy (his late wife) over to dinner at one time, however, and with a bit of drink in him it all came out. He is in fact nearly as extreme as Keith. His brother Don has always been towards the Right too. Most of my relatives are not very political however, like the great majority of Australians. At least I know of no Leftists among them.
Even my brother has turned out quite Right-wing, in fact. He really gets into a lot of the League of Rights stuff and is often the spokesman on TV etc for Brisbane gun-owners. I have to hose him down a bit at times to try to inject a more moderate note.
My brother Christopher
VIEWS ON ASSORTED TOPICS
I myself no longer believe in anything metaphysical but I am happy for people to believe in anything they like -- Christianity, Buddhism or nothing at all. I may not have mentioned that I sent my son to a Catholic school for his first four years of schooling. Although I am personally an atheist, I liked the school because it was small and should thus give Joey more personal attention. And the religion that they are taught these days adds up to little more than Bible stories and such stories are a basic part of our culture in my view. So I think it shows that I have no religious prejudices anyway. I have in fact often found that I get on well with Catholic Priests -- probably because they are generally pretty intelligent (though I can think of exceptions to that too).
Some philosophical writers whom I find helpful (though they can be hard to follow) are Wittgenstein, Popper, Russell, Ayer, and their ilk. They are probably the wisest philosophical writers available today but you usually have to do a course in philosophy at University in order to understand them. Among the more popular writers the main one I like is Dale Carnegie. I think his book "How to Win Friends and Influence People" is one of the wisest book ever written. I also like the writings of Desmond Morris -- such as "The Naked Ape" and "The Human Zoo". Among the writers on psychology, I probably like the writings of H.J. Eysenck best. He writes very scientifically.
I am not a Greenie. I note such a lot of chronic dishonesty among Greenies that I am very wary of anything they say. They mostly seem to be into self-promotion, as far as I can see. I am however a greenie in the sense that most intelligent farmers are greenies --i.e. I am concerned about soil degradation, erosion etc. Environmentalism even strikes me as often having the character of a religion and religious I am not. I question things too much and too many environmental claims seem to me to be either quite dishonest or at the least badly misinformed. The Zero Population Growth advocates, for instance, overlook the fact that the population growth rate is in fact already NEGATIVE in most rich countries (even in Italy) so there is no global population problem at all. There is however a problem of poverty (with population growth as a side-effect) in non-industrial countries. If you were facing a future without the old age pension, you would probably want to have lots of kids too! But how many ZPG devotees are advocating the old age pension as the most effective contraceptive there is? Even Italians --for all their tradition of valuing the family above all --are actually quite good at controlling their fertility if the right incentives are there (particularly horrible capitalistic incentives like money). So to advocate biologically sensible policies that impinge on human beings you also need a fair grasp of that most complex of subjects --economics! Life can get tedious for sincere reformers can't it? To be sure that the difference you make is a good one, however, you do need to take an awful lot into account.
Anyway, all such problems are surely best discussed in the light of the evidence and evidence is all I personally care about in the matter. I will go wherever the evidence takes me. I do however always (and no doubt boringly) insist on taking account of ALL the available evidence. For instance, the apparent geological fact that we are at the moment living at the very end of an interglacial (warm) period within an Ice Age does tend to put a new perspective on the present controversies about global warming!
I still spend quite a bit of every day reading about developments in knowledge and what is happening in the world. I have plenty of time for that, of course, as I do not have to go to work. One thing I can assure everybody though is that I do NOT have all the answers. The more you get to know the more you realize there is still to be known.
I am unfortunately not much moved when it comes to the visual arts (painting, sculpture, ballet etc) but I get a lot out of music and literature. My favourite composer is Bach and my favourite poet is Chaucer. Chaucer is a bit inaccessible these days as he wrote in Middle English -- which is very hard to understand today. And poetry generally cannot really be translated, of course. I like Chaucer because he is so cynical and so timeless. He sounds as if he were a man of modern times despite the fact that he lived 600 years ago. Socrates and King Solomon are like that too. Solomon is my favourite Biblical writer --particularly the book of Ecclesiastes. I don't spend a lot of time on my cultural interests but they are something that I enjoy nonetheless. I occasionally go to classical concerts and I go to ballet and opera if I like the composer of the music.
I think that the only great misfortune I have had in my life is that I have never been able to stand crude music. I don't put on music a lot at home but I cannot abide to listen to anything that is not "classical". It is either classical music or silence for me. It's just a sensitivity I have.
Sociologists are generally very pro-feminist but I find a lot of women's liberation talk to be nonsense -- though I do of course agree with equal pay for equal work. I think that men and women can treat one-another as equals without men and women being the same. It seems to me that men and women will always be different and "Vive la difference". I don't want women to be like men. I like them to be feminine. And the idea that men should be more like women I find equally silly. In my experience, women like a man to be a man.
I myself am a normal human omnivore and know of no solid evidence that anything else would be beneficial to me. The epidemiological studies seem to suggest that the only dietary restriction that is generally beneficial is to restrict one's intake of animal fats. I do however tend to eat anything that is put in front of me (as long as it is tasty).
I am not an "alternative" type of person. I am a mainstream scientist. Scientists are concerned about what the evidence shows and alternative people are concerned about what feels good to them. The path scientists take is much harder and more demanding but we generally feel that the effort is well worthwhile.
I have a great interest in both ancient and modern history. I think that you have to know history if you want to understand the modern world. My last big lot of reading in history was about Byzantium. It was a Greek empire that lasted over a thousand years and was even Christian but somehow seems to be little known to most people. I also have an interest in a rather esoteric topic in modern history: Prince Otto von Bismarck's Germany. Bismarck united Germany and gave it thereafter an amazing 40 years of peace and it was only some years after his death that the Kaiser initiated the great folly World War I in which so many Australians (and others) died..
Politics and social issues
I have been a member of both the Queensland National Party and the British Conservative party. And I have never voted for any Leftist party. And I LOVED Ronald Reagan when he was President of the USA. I even voted for John Howard (A notable former Australian conservative Prime Minister) and think the controversial Pauline Hanson's idea of abolishing the Department of Aboriginal Affairs (i.e. affirmative action) is long overdue. And despite his undoubted crude style, I think Donald Trump did a lot of good for America. Under him 95% of American blacks had jobs. Hearing all that is probably enough for do-gooders to want to go out and chuck.
But anybody who has lived outside the capital cities of the Australian States will have found that views like mine are common there. I grew up in Far North Queensland and my views would generally be applauded there. Perhaps I am just too much of a typical North Queenslander, despite all my world travel and social psychological research background. I have probably had more papers on race relations published in the learned journals than anyone else but I still think that race differences are real and important and that all men are unequal (despite what is says in the American Declaration of Independence). I much prefer Torres Strait Islander people to Aborigines, for instance, though both are equally black.
Clarifying the meaning of "Right-wing"
It does not always imply racial hostility
My son and I recently had a discussion about being "Right-wing". We agreed that I am. But in what sense?
I mentioned that Syngman Rhee was in his day notably called "so far Right he was almost out of sight". He was a South Korean politician who served as the first President of South Korea from 1948 to 1960. But there were no racial issues in his term in office so how was he Rightist?
Although they themselves -- from Karl Marx on -- are often antisemitic, Leftists today use the terms "Rightist", Right-wing", racist", white supremacist" for anyone they disagree with who has any group-denominated views. To the Left you can be a racist even if you express no views about any race. Opponents of vaccination mandates are, for instance, sometimes called racists even by mainstream voices of Leftism. See for instance here
So if Rightist implies racism, I am very clearly a Tory rather than a Rightist, as the term "Rightist" is commonly understood. By Tory I mean traditional conservatism as seen in the British Conservative party prior to WWII and as seen in the more traditional stream in the current U.S. Republican party. In line with that, I think the individual is much more important than any group that he/she belongs to. But, insofar as generalizations have some value, I think highly of both the Chinese and the Jews. And I have a very low opinion of Muslims and blacks.That latter opinion will produce immediate howls of rage from Leftists, but, in their usual way, that is bereft of context. Am I a racist if I approve of some minorities and disapprove of other minorities? The Left in their simplistic way do not even consider that matter. To them it is just another opportunity for abuse and attack. They act as if all thoughts about race are fundamentally evil. Though if you speak well of one of their favoured minorities that is fine, of courseI would say that I am only a racist insofar as I think that group identity can sometimes make a difference. I don't think that the astronomical rate of violent crime among blacks is coincidence, for instance. It does NOT mean that I approve of bad treatment of someone solely on the basis of their race. I actually agree with the statement in the United Nations charter that says each case should be judged on its individual merits. The conservative whom I have quoted most in my writings is in fact a black man -- Thomas SowellAnd that non-hostile view is a Tory position, not a specifically Rightist one. There are indeed Rightists who wish to persecute all members of some race, usually Jews, but I am not one of them.So let me allude to some famous Tories and their opinion of Jews. In the 19th century, the British Conservative party (Tories) made a proud Jew their Prime minister -- Benjamin Disraeli.And the British Prime Minister who declared war on Hitler -- Neville Chamberlain -- had some antisemitic views. So conservatives can have some views about a particular group -- in this case Jews -- without wishing them ill. You can even promote their cause -- as the Conservative Party did in the 19th century and as Neville Chamberlain did in the 20th.ChamberlainAnd the greatest Tory of all, Winston Churchill, voiced some very negative views of Muslims but pitied them rather than being hostile to them. See hereSo my position on racial questions is in fact a Tory or conservative one, not a Rightist one. Leftists will of course be uninterested in that distinction. It does not give them enough opportunity for abuseThe great irony of course is that the old Soviet view of Hitler as a Rightist is now generally accepted. He was indeed to the Right of the Soviets in that he allowed more individual liberty than they did but that is not saying much. The truth of the matter is that Hitler called himself a socialist and had a broad range of socialist policies -- including comprehensive party control of industry. His deeds have lasting relevance but they are relevant to Leftism, not conservatism. He is another example of the generalization that hostile racial obsessions are mostly Leftist, not conservative.So the grossly inaccurate view of Hitler as "Rightist" has thoroughly muddied the waters. People understand the meaning of the term "Rightist" to mean conservatism plus racial ideas. But the misattribution of Hitler causes people assume that all racial ideas must be hostile, including racial views among conservatives.As we have seen, however, this is wrong. People with conservative views may see racial differences as significant without being at all hostile to the races they take an interest in. They may even favour and think well of some races.I see myself as wishing no-one ill on account of their race and as having many conservative views. I in fact usually describe myself as a libertarian conservative.Another huge irony, however, is that libertarian ideas are often described by the Left as "Right wing", when they are not. They are thoroughly opposed to both traditional conservatism and racial awareness. Conservatives who are sympathetic to libertarian ideas represent, in fact, a major stream in modern-day conservative thought.The most loved and most influential conservative leader of the 20th century knew what conservatism was about, of course. He said: "If you analyze it I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism..... The basis of conservatism is a desire for less government interference or less centralized authority or more individual freedom" And if Ronald Reagan did not know what conservatism was all about, who would?
Reagan also conveyed the patriotic, pro-Christian message that Trump later used to such strong effect. I align with both those orientations. I am pleased to be born a 5th generation Australian and even more pleased to be a product of the Anglosphere. And I was a strong Christian fundamentalist in my teens. Subsequent to that, however, I have been a thoughgoing atheist (in the Carnap manner) for the whole of my adult life. Nonetheless I still have the warmest memories of my Christian days and still try to live by Christian principles. And I find that whenever I do the Christian thing I get a reward, often very rapidly. And when I allow the Devil to dominate I stumble. And there is a Devil. Whether you conceive of him as a man in a red suit with horns and a tail, or as a fallen angel or the destructive side of human nature, there is clearly much evil in human life. Freud called it "Thanatos", the death instinct.
And I still go to church on some (rare) occasions
So I do have many traditional conservative views -- also including the view that the justice system often goes too easy on criminals, that homosexual "marriage" is a travesty and that traditional sex roles are largely inborn. I even practice "ladies first" and open car doors for women. And such attitudes in combination with some libertarian views make me seen as extremely Right-wing. I readily accept that ascription as long as it is understood that my thinking about other races is of a conservative or Tory kind -- i.e. not hostile towards any individual solely on account of his/her race.
I say more about the relationship between libertarianism and conservatism here
My Doctorate (Ph.D.) is in psychology. I taught sociology for many years at Uni. NSW but I suppose I am more a social psychologist than a sociologist. In Australia and Britain (but not the USA) you seem to need to be a Marxist of some sort to be a sociologist. To me Marxism has always been the hallmark of the intellectually second-rate. Fancy thinking that governments are good at doing things! It is what intellectuals used to turn to when they wanted to seem original but in fact had nothing original to say at all. One reason why Marxism has had some popularity is its environmental determinism. It gives people the feeling that they can change most things, if not everything. If you look at the scientific evidence, however -- particularly the most recent evidence --an awful lot about human beings is genetically determined and hence relatively fixed and unchangeable. This gives people a feeling of impotence that they hate. Hence the popularity of nostrums which give them the illusion of control.
I travelled so much in my earlier years (3 times to India, 3 times to the UK, 3 times to the USA etc.) that I now no longer have travel ambitions. I think that travel can easily be a vain attempt to run away from oneself and from the real world. People and places are much the same wherever you go in my experience. I was born and bred in Far North Queensland, which is scenically very beautiful so I suppose I am a bit blase about scenery. I grew up amid great scenery so now do not need to seek it out. Of all the places I have been, in fact, the most scenic to me would have to be the Cairns to Port Douglas road. So why go overseas? To get diarrhoea in Asia? Been there, done that. To try the foods of different lands? You can do that very well right here in Brisbane with all our ethnic restaurants. I have had Indian food in Sydney, Indian food in London and Indian food in India and I can assure you that there are restaurants here in Brisbane that give you Indian food that is as good as Indian food anywhere. (You might gather that I like Indian food). I have, however, been to Fiji and South Africa in recent years so I am not a total write-off in the travel department.
"Vanity of vanities. All is vanity" (Ecclesiastes 1:2). In my well-spent youth, I was on one occasion interviewed by a women's magazine about my lifestyle. Although I find it a bit embarrassing now, I have decided to put the interview on the net. See here. Note that the report is not totally accurate. I was NOT, for instance, divorced at the time. It is broadly representative of my thoughts then, however, so I am putting it on the net for the record's sake
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