A Little Chafing Is A Dangerous Thing

I’ll bet you a penny to a quid that if you line twenty people up and show them a photo of a coat hanger bridge with the sails of an opera house behind it they’d tell you it’s Sydney, Australia. Most people know about Sydney because of it’s harbour and famous landmarks; not to mention it’s world famous beaches, bronzed Aussie lifesavers with zinc slathered noses, and beach goers wearing pocket size Speedos. Now I’d be one of the first to admit the iconic Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge, and the sheltered beaches and eye catching surf beaches, make Sydney one of the most visually stunning cities in the world. But if you live in one of Sydney’s sprawling suburbs instead of one that lines the harbour or beaches, then it’s no different than living in any other ho hum city.

image source:jmcadam

Sydney’s a crowded, sprawling, congested city. It’s jammed narrow CBD streets follow the blueprint of the lane ways and roads of the convict era; most of the main thoroughfares still funnel down to Circular Quay and the harbour. The harbour seems to have a life that’s a far cry from the frenzied hustle and bustle of the narrow, crowded, overflowing city streets; the jam packed city streets have been replaced with the easygoing waters of the harbour. The grid lock of footpath walkers on auto pilot, staring into their smart phone, has become a meandering flotilla of yachts, power boats, runabouts, and green and yellow harbour ferries.

Sydney’s thirty two green and yellow ferries are in constant motion. They’re forever slipping away from Circular Quay to bustle around eight different harbour routes and twenty nine wharves. If you don’t ride a ferry as part of your daily commute, then deciding which harbour trip to enjoy can be a challenge. I think the thirty minute ride across the Sydney heads to Manly Beach is a must for everybody; and it’s been a classic Sydney adventure for over 100 years.

image source:nsw.gov.au

As I ambled towards Circular Quay’s No 3 wharf and the Manly Ferry I felt a slight tingling in my groin. Once onboard I sat on an outside lower deck, wood slatted, bench that ran the length of the ferry and waited with anticipation to feel the vibration of the engine. The smooth chug of the engine propeled my noble green and yellow craft away from Circular Quay, past the Opera House and Sydney’s waterfront mansions, and across the harbour toward the Heads. Whenever I squirmed or moved on the wood slatted bench the tingling in my groin became more that slight.

As my ferry dipped and swayed through, and across, the sparkling harbour waters I began to softly sing:

Farewell to old England forever
Farewell to you numb-skulls as well
And farewell to the well-known Old Bailey
Where I always did look such a swell
Singing too-ra-li oo-ra-li ad-dy
Singing too-ra-li oo-ra-li ay
Singing too-ra-li oo-ra-li ad-dy
And I’ll see you in Botany Bay
Now there’s the Captain, he’s our commander
There’s the bosun and all of the crew
There’s the first and second class passengers
Know what we poor convicts go through
Singing too-ra-li oo-ra-li ad-dy
Singing too-ra-li oo-ra-li ay
Singing too-ra-li oo-ra-li ad-dy
And I’ll see you in Botany Bay

My singing grew louder with every too-ra-li oo-ra-li ay, and I was soon swaying back and forth on the wood slatted seat in time to my boisterous singing. Every sway I took caused the tingling in my groin to become a sharp irritation. As my green and yellow ferry passed the Heads and started to approach Manly Wharf I put all I had into one last too-ra-li oo-ra-li ad-dy.

image source:jmcadam

The tingling between my legs became unrelenting the closer the ferry got to Manly Wharf. I looked back at the two headlands that formed the Sydney Heads, and pondered. What could be causing the sharp groin tingling? Could it be salty sea spray inflaming an irritation? My thinking immediately travelled back to the mid seventies and Bangkok, and a severe case of chaffing in my groin caused by sweat drenched undies. I asked myself; Could I possibly have chaffing in the groin? I started to mentally check off what causes friction when skin rubs against skin.

    • Clothing that’s too tight or too loose
    • Long distance exercise activities like prolonged walking
    • Excess moisture from sweat
    • Fabrics that don’t wick moisture away
    • Sensitive skin
    • Heat and hot weather
    • Extra body weight
    • Salt residue on skin from sweat or ocean water

Without doubt I had chaffing. The day before riding the Manly Ferry I’d spent a warm summer morning walking throughout Barangaroo Reserve wearing loose walking shorts; there were times when I manufactured a generous sweat. It was Bangkok all over again. I quickly put two and two together. The chaffing would’ve been aggravated by the salty sea spray when the ferry was buffeted by the waves and swells caused by the Bass Straight waters colliding with the waters of the Harbour. When the spray evaporated it would’ve left crystals of sea salt on my skin; the crystals would then cause micro abrasions to the chaffing.

image source:sydneycoastwalks.com.au

The green and yellow ferry glided into Manly Cove and nestled itself alongside the Manly Jetty. I got slowly up from the wood slatted outside deck seating and shuffled along the Jetty concourse. I tried to keep pace with the sightseers and tourists heading to the Corso; the wide open pedestrian mall lined with shops, cafes and pubs that guides people from the ferry to the surf beach. Each step I took along the concourse was as if I was wearing 80 grit sheets of sandpaper on my inner thighs.

The burning in my groin caused me to once again think back to Bangkok and my sweat drenched undies. The streets were crowded, overflowing, and clogged with people, motorcycles, tut tuts, and buses, and the temperature always nudged the nineties, with the humidity matching the air temperature. Every mid afternoon a brief thunderstorm topped up the humidity. My undies were constantly moist from crotch sweat, and the rivulets of sweat trickling down my back. I didn’t know that my cotton Chesty Bond undies had very poor moisture wicking properties, and once they became wet they stayed wet for as long as you wore them. I soon discovered that Thailand’s own, Snake Brand Prickly Heat Powder was the unsurpassed remedy for extreme chaffing; but you had to show a little courage to get used to the lengthy after burn.

image source:bangkoknightlife.com

As I hobbled down the concourse the memories of the soothing power of Prickly Heat caused my mind to work overtime. Baby Powder had to be Australia’s Prickly Heat; it’s clinically proven mildness was guaranteed to help your skin feel comfortable. Just as a shimmering lake of water appears in the desert to a thirsty explorer an ALDI supermarket appeared at the end of the concourse. I saw supermarket shelves groaning under the weight of endless containers of baby powder and I smiled with relief; as soon as I emptied six ounces of baby powder down the front of my grundies I’d be bounding down the Corso, onto the white sands of Manly Beach, and into the world famous turquoise waters.

I shuffled down the ALDI aisles, dodging young bikini wearing wanna be trendsetters, vagabond surfers, and European backpacking travellers without backpacks, searching for the lost endless containers of baby powder. Without thinking I quickened my step down the aisles, only to be humbled by a burning ring of fire in my grundies. I tottered to the check out, and in a desperate, pleading, voice sought the baby powder

Me: G’day; where’s your baby powder
Aldi Associate: We don’t have any; ya best bet is Coles
Me: Where’s Coles
Aldi Associate: Down the Corso
Me: How far down the Corso
Aldi Associate: Within cooee
Me: Cheers

And so I shuffled off down the Corso, as if my knees were shackled, in urgent search of the Coles’ supermarket.

image source:jmcadam

Before I knew it I was holding a small paper bag with a container of baby powder, and frantically scanning the Corso for a public toilet; I needed a safe haven to be able to empty the container of baby powder into my grundies. The Corso is lined with restaurants, souvenirs shops and a great assortment of other shops, lots of tourists, but no safe havens to feel the soothing power of baby powder. After a painful eternity of hobbled shuffling I arrived at the tree lined promenade, the long stretch of fine soft white sand and turquoise waters, of Manly Beach; but all I could see of the world famous beach was a men’s changing shed and toilet. I staggered into the changing shed, whipped down my shorts, and in a deft movement of my right arm had the baby powder out of it’s small brown paper bag, and into my grundies. I squeezed and shook the baby powder. I don’t exactly know how much powder went into the gusset of my grundies but my groin was emitting clouds of white powder with every step I took. I sat at a picnic table on the promenade gently rubbing my knees and thighs together to press and pat the baby powder into the chaffing.

image source:jmcadam

After several minutes I stood and started out toward the beach. The burning in my groin had vanished. I stood gazing at the fine soft white sand and turquoise water, and was about to slip off my Teva sandals and charge across the sand to walk knee deep into the breaking waves, and along the length of the world famous beach. As I reached for the velco strap of my Teva I realised that my chaffing, and search for the chaffing elixir, had left no time to experience the unique charm of Manly Beach. In a little over an hour I’d be on a guided walking tour of the Sydney Opera House.

It was a speedy rush down the Corso to catch the four o’clock ferry to Circular Quay. As the green and yellow ferry passed the Heads and started to be buffeted by the waves and swells, I reached for my container of baby powder. I was sitting on an outside lower deck, wood slatted, bench that ran the length of the ferry so I turned towards the Heads and emptied a little baby powder into my grundies.


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Fair Suck Of The Sauce Bottle Mate

I was overcome by both relief and joy when I read that the remains of explorer Matthew Flinders, who went sailing on the big ocean in the sky 200 plus years ago, was discovered in the graveyard being excavated at Euston station to make way for the new high-speed London and Birmingham railway line. Flinders was the first explorer to circumnavigate the island he would called Terra Australis; to be abbreviated latter to Australia. Mathew Flinders is held in high esteem in Australia; it’s hard to find a place where his name doesn’t appear. Mountain ranges, national parks, islands, rivers, schools, and even one of Melbourne’s main city streets, together with Australia’s oldest train station, are named after him. Outside of St Paul’s Cathedral, just down from Flinders street, is a statute of Flinders standing on the prow of a boat, braced against the wind, being brought to shore by two seamen.

image source:jmcadam

The statue is a resting spot for Melbourne’s seagulls; perhaps they enjoy watching the bustle of the trams, and commuters hurrying into Flinders Street Station. The statue always seems to be stained with seagull droppings. I wonder if the splashes are caused by the seagulls excitement at seeing the blur of the number eight tram on it’s journey to the beach alongside Beaconsfield Parade; or maybe they’re fulfilling a promise made to their ancestors. It’s without question that fish and sea birds would have fallen into the hands of the HMS Investigator’s cook during the circumnavigation of Terra Australis. It seems that the seagulls will never forget those that passed before them.

In the seventies I wandered along the unmapped hippie trail through Europe and the Middle East. A few years later I wandered on a similar journey of exploration through South East Asia; still searching for inspiration and idealism in the ordinary. There were times on both journeys when I was overcome by bouts of homesickness, depression, withdrawal, anxiety, and anger. As I look back and remember the heartaches, joy, and hardships of the journeys, I can understand my smorgasbord of feelings; I was experiencing culture shock. I stood in front of the sea gull stained bronze statue, looking up at Mathew Flinders, and wondered if he experienced culture shock on his long journeys of exploration. He had to think of the mother country when he looked out at the distant horizon across the vast and desolate sea. I wonder if he saw in the glow of the sun reflecting off the blue sea the, bucolic, rolling green and brown pastures dotted with animals and farmhouses, and separated by thick tangled hedgerows, of his homeland.

image source:jmcadam

I’ve learnt there are several strategies to combat culture shock. One of the best is to find a healthy distraction. Mathew Flinders certainly found a spot-on distraction; he never set sail on his epic voyages of discovery and exploration without his cat Trim. Another sure-fire strategy to minimise the symptoms of culture shock is to learn about the culture, customs, and foods of a foreign country. Before travelling to that country it’s good to slowly integrate the differences, and variances in cultures and practices into your daily routine.

Before Flinders sailed down to the southern continent he would have known that Australians put tomato sauce on anything that doesn’t move. To avoid culture shock he’d have insisted that tomato sauce was put on everything served at the captain’s table during the voyage down under; even on the seagulls that had been lightly sautéd, and simmered in broth for three hours. Australians have a love affair with tomato sauce; they call it sauce, or dead horse. Most Australians will tell you there isn’t a food that doesn’t taste better with a squirt of sauce. Sauce elevates the taste of a bacon and egg roll, a meat pie, a steak sandwich, mashed potatoes, a sanger sandwich, and chips, and makes them an even more succulent and moreish experience.

image source:jmcadam

When you ask for sauce with your pie at a cafe or cake shop you’ll get a single serve, squeeze on dispenser; a squeeze-mate to Aussies. The squeeze-mate is another great Australian invention. It’ll be spoken of in the same proud, revered way the Hills clothes hoist and the Vicar lawn mower is. The squeeze-mate will take it’s place in Aussie history as the thingamajig that did away with sauce getting all over your fingers, instead of your pie, when you’re messing around trying to tear open one of those small sachets of sauce. On a recent sojourn back to the Lucky Country I experienced my first squeeze-mate. It happened in a Puckle Street, Moonee Ponds, cake shop; there were a couple of squeeze-mates on the plate with my pie. At the time I didn’t know it was a squeeze mate. I laboured for several minutes trying to peel the top off from the corner and then sheepishly confessed to the serving lady I couldn’t peel the top off of the sauce packet. I asked if I could I have another one, suggesting there was something wrong with the packet of sauce she gave me. She took the squeeze-mate from my plate and squeezed it backwards between her thumb and index finger. Instantly there was sauce on my pie. A squeeze-mate’s simple and easy to use once you get the hang of it; it’s all in the squeeze.

image source:jmcadam

You could bet there was as much fresh caught seafood served to the crew of the HMS Investigator each day as you’d find in a Melbourne fish ‘n chip shop window. Nothing beats an order of a piece of flake and chips; except a barramundi fillet, or whiting with chips. Aussies love their seafood; a perfect summers day is downing a few cold ones while throwing some flathead and prawns on the barbie. No ones going to be throwing a few shrimp on the barbie. Shrimp don’t exist Down Under; shrimp are prawns. Some might say it’s disrespectful to an Aussie to call a prawn a shrimp. To avoid culture shock, and to be mindful of an Aussie’s feelings, Flinders probably had his crew practice using the word prawn as they do in Terra Australis.

Don’t come the raw prawn with me, mate
Bruce was a real prawn when he drank too much
Graham went off like a bucket of prawns in the sun

image source:jmcadam

Flinders would have know that Aussies love their Vegemite; that iconic thick, dark brown, concentrated yeast extract made from leftover brewer’s yeast. The spread of dreams is an Australian lunchtime favourite. A basic Vegemite sandwich is two slices of white buttered bread, spread with Vegemite, and then folded onto each other; sometimes it’s jazzed up by adding either cheese, lettuce, avocado, or slices of tomato or apple. Australians will add a tablespoon or more of Vegemite to soup stocks, stews, and gravies to make them taste just right. And let’s not forget Vegemite Soldiers; when Vegemite toast is cut into small fingers to dip into a soft boiled egg.

Vegemite would have been included in the HMS Investigator’s provisions. To reduce the effect of culture shock Flinders would have insisted his crew have, every now and then, a ration of Vegemite on their ship’s biscuit. Imagine the joy when he approved a ration of Vegemite for each sailor and their biscuit. Ship’s biscuits are a hard, dry piece of bread; made simply by mixing together flour, water and salt.

Ship’s Biscuit
Servings: As many biscuits as are cut out
Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes
1lb wholemeal flour
¼ oz salt
Preheat oven
Combine salt and flour on a work surface
Add the water slowly
Mix until a thick dough
Beat with mallet or rolling pin until ½ inch thick
Fold and repeat several times
Cut into 2 inch circles
Stab each circle with a fork a few times to let steam escape as they bake
Place on a greased tray and bake for about 30 minutes

The biscuits were sometimes called hardtack. Before the hardtack’s could be eaten, the rock hard discs had to be soaked in the cook’s stew, or water, to soften them. Sometimes the only way to eat the biscuits was to wait until they became stale and soft. As the crew savoured the rich taste of Vegemite I imagine there was lots of drinking mugs being banged on the table to set the tempo for singing a rousing rendition of

We’re happy little Vegemites
As bright as bright can be
We all enjoy our Vegemite
For Breakfast, Lunch and Tea
Our mummies say we’re growing stronger
Every single week
Because we love our Vegemite
We all adore our Vegemite
It puts a rose in every cheek

image source:excelle.monster.com

It’s a penny to a quid there was no eating with the hands when the HMS Investigator approached the coast of Terra Australis. Flinders would have required that the dinner table be set with a knife and fork. Even though the fork was still a novelty in England he would have insisted that the cutlery be used just as Aussies do. Australian dining etiquette emphasises keeping the knife and fork in each hand. The knife is used to cut food into bite size pieces, move food around the plate, and coax food onto the fork. You won’t see an Aussie using a fork to cut their food. I’m sure the crew of the HMS Investigator practised the Aussie cutlery technique, and were eager to set ashore to hunt kangaroo and trawl for prawns; impatient to prepare a banquet and to show off their new cutlery skills to the indigenous people of the Australian mainland.

You’ll need to excuse me. I’ve got a few people coming over for a small backyard soiree and I’m trying something new with spaghetti. It’s genius; I’m combining Vegemite with spaghetti, Parmesan and butter and then throwing in a pound of steamed king prawns. The spaghetti should be al dente by now.


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A Flip Flop In The Hand Is Worth Two On The Feet

The saga of the complex tear of the posterior horn and body medial meniscus, in my right knee has at last come to an end. It seems so long ago since the incident, that sometimes when I think back the mental pictures show up a little fuzzy. It was a late spring morning, and the long grass on the incline in the backyard was damp and moist. My thongs were sliding and slipping on the moist grass as I pulled and pushed the motor mower across the incline. And then the inevitable; a foot sliding out of it’s thong. My leg speared forward. It was as if I was well oiled machine on the dance floor improvising an intimate Argentine Tango; leg forward with pointed toe, leg to the right with a flexed calf muscle, and leg to the back with a dramatic rhythmic move. The medial meniscus incident ended six months later: with X-Rays, MRI’s, and an anarthroscopic medial meniscectomy.

image source:jmcadam

I was in post operative recovery after the meniscectomy and slowly drifting out of the anaesthetic mental fog; I saw my foot slip out of it’s thong and other fuzzy images of the incident. Anaesthetic logic told me that if I could work out what caused my foot to slide out of it’s thong then I would have worry free, incline motor mowing. Even though my brain wasn’t fully alert it built a highlight list of the incident: spring morning, bright sunshine, blue skies, grass moist and damp, random mowing pattern, no sunglasses, mowing up and down incline,thongs. I’m like most Aussies; I love wearing thongs. When I’m talking thongs I’m not talking underwear; I’m talking about what the US and Europeans call flip flops, and Kiwis call jandals.

In 1956, Melbourne, Australia, hosted the Olympic Games. It was the first time the Olympics were covered on television. I remember standing on the footpath watching some of the Olympic events, on a small black and white television propped up in a housewares shop window. We all wondered how it was possible to watch Dawn Fraser, and Murray Rose from a footpath in Williamstown’s Ferguson Street, at the same they were competing at the new Swimming and Diving Stadium; the first enclosed swimming and diving stadium used in the Olympic Games. We watched spellbound as the Japanese swimming team came to the poolside wearing getas. Every footpath television watcher was hypnotised by the spectacle of the ceremonial procession; as were the rest of the world. All Australians wanted to wear the casual sandals they had seen on television. Some bright spark took advantage of the national yearning and started to import plastic, rubber soled sandals from Japan.

image source:jmcadam

And so a flat rubber sole sandal with a strap passing between the first and second toes and anchored to the sole to form a Y, became known as a thong. The thong is now as Australian as Vegemite, meat pies, and pavlovas. There are two styles of thongs in Australia. If the thong strap is held into each side of the sole with one plug it’s called a single plugger. Most Aussies will tell you that single pluggers are a hazard and should be banned; that they’re only good for wearing in a caravan park shower, or a camping ground toilet block. When the strap is held into each side of the thong’s sole with two plugs the thong is known as a double plugger. Double pluggers are the highest standard of thongs; they’re the thong that you’d wear out to dinner, to the pub, a wedding, or a funeral.

As my mental fog was lifting I started to reason through each fact on my incident list, and weighed up wether it would cause an acute medial meniscus tear. I dismissed late spring morning, bright sunshine, blue skies, grass moist and damp, random mowing pattern, no sunglasses, and mowing up and down an incline. I thought hard about thongs and slowly remembered I had on single pluggers. That’ll do it every time. It goes without saying. If you’re wrestling with a motor mower on a damp and moist, grassy incline you’d better be wearing double pluggers. And then I appeared in my mental fog fuzzy images, wearing a pair of low riding jeans, a diamond necklace, and double pluggers; I heard myself free styling to a rap beat

So get up get up and get down: Get your flip flops off the ground: You gotta get your flip flops off the ground: Get your flip flops off the ground

image source:jmcadam

The discharge nurse brushed aside the curtain surrounding my post operative recovery bed, and handed me an oxycodone, an aspirin, and a senna-docusate tablet. The narcotics immediately caused my mental fog to become a little thicker. I thought I heard the nurse detailing my Discharge Activity Instructions. Each one punctuated with; do you have any questions

Rest today. Activity as tolerated
Have a responsible adult present to help you for the next 24 hours
Do not make important decisions for the remainder of the day
Apply ice to the surgical area as instructed by your nurse
No tub bath, soaking or swimming
Do not drive or operate machinery for 24 hours while taking narcotic medications

Maybe it was opioid induced confusion that caused my bafflement about the last activity. I asked; is it OK to wear double pluggers and sit on heavy machinery while taking oxycodone?

image source:jmcadam

As I was removing the hospital gown, and fiddling around putting my just operated on knee into the leg of my shorts, I mulled over the Discharge Activity caution of not driving and operating heavy machinery, or performing any dangerous tasks if you’re taking narcotic medication. I had to be experiencing opioid induced distraction, because my brain was coming up with more questions than answers. I sat and pondered about four unexceptional, average jobs, and I wondered if they could be compromised, or improved, by narcotic medication.

The official corsetiere to Her Royal Majesty has to be a hazardous job even if you’re not on narcotic medication; whenever you’re pulling, carrying, or moving a vibrating regal something you’d have to be treading on dangerous grounds. I seem to remember that most members of the British Royal family, including Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, and Princess Margaret, had somewhat over large breasts. I thought about the inherent dangers for the royal bra fitter if they were experiencing opioid induced disorientation and were requested by the Queen to fit her with a cone or bullet shaped bra.

image source:vogue.com

Body painters are becoming a mainstay at fairs, festivals, and parties; and face painters are replacing magicians and clowns at most little one’s birthday parties. What if a face painter was on narcotic medication and in their mixed up confusion didn’t stop painting a little ones face but went all out with a full body paint. The paint would cover the little one’s pores and stop them sweating; their bodies cooling mechanisms wouldn’t be able to work and they’d be overcome with heatstroke. And what if the face painter’s narcotic haze caused them to grab an acrylic latex paint that contained ammonia, formaldehyde and heavy metals. Say no more.

Feng Shui is the ancient Chinese art and science that manages energy; thus ensuring wealth, wellness, and good fortune. Feng Shui consultants blend colour, light, and arrangement to encourage positive energy flow. I experienced positive energy flow in the early seventies when travelling the hippie trail to Kabul. I walked across the Iranian border into Afghanistan and headed toward a collection of buses. As soon as the small, crumbled bus started to slowly move, several Afghan passengers began sharing their homemade cigarettes; a blend of tobacco and the best Afghan narcotic. The outside clouds formed amorphic beasts in the sky; shapeless creatures appeared and transformed into other creations, and the mountains in the distance became living shapes venting their energy fields. All I know is that there was a lot of Feng Shui on the road to Kabul.

image source:bigzad.wordpress.com

I was first introduced to queue standers at Calcutta’s Howrah Railway Station. I remember thinking that all of Calcutta had to be at the station; half inside and half outside. The chaotic confusion was a blur of motion; and noise, smells, accents, travellers, porters, vendors, wandering cows, and tea sellers. I looked at the crowd at the ticket counters; it’d be more than an hour to reach the ticket windows. I felt a nudge and turned. The queue stander said he’d wait in the ticket queue for me. And now years later, line standing has become an occupation in the US. Long lines, and long wait times, are now the norm for the release of the latest tech gadgets, retro Nike Air Jordan shoes, Black Friday shopping specials, ABBA concert tickets, and celebrity meet and greets. The most common complaints among people whose job requires prolonged standing are: sore feet, swelling of the legs, varicose veins, general muscular fatigue, low back pain, and stiffness in the neck and shoulders. As line standing demands increase, the number of queue professionals being prescribed oxycodone and aspirin medication for their common complaints will increase. Because Discharge Activity Instructions include: rest and activity as tolerated, have a responsible adult present to help you for the next 24 hours, and do not make important decisions for the remainder of the day a queue professional will end up in a confused state sitting, or laying, for hours on end on the footpath. It goes without saying that Queue professionals will be arrested as homeless people.

And now you’ll need to excuse me. Even though the grass in the back is still a little damp from last night’s rain I need to start mowing before the morning is done. I’ll need to find my double pluggers to wear because I’ve come to the conclusion that pushing a motor mower around an incline isn’t something that can be done wearing flimsy sandals, runners, or single pluggers.


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Arthroscopic Meniscus Repair

Have We No Rubbish Bins

I was aghast when I read that a Melbourne school is getting rid of all its bins and asking students to take home their chip packets, juice boxes, and other left over rubbish from their lunches. I started to wonder if this would be the end of the yard duty I once knew. This would take a few ice colds to think through; would yard duty be replaced by random inspections of student’s lunches to check if they’re zero waste.

image source:jmcadam

I went to a Technical School in a working class suburb of Melbourne. My five years as a student at Williamstown Technical School was defined by rules. There were rules for the classroom, rules for the school grounds, and rules for when you went on a school excursion or outing. One of the rules was you couldn’t leave the school premises without permission; so to leave school at lunchtime you needed a lunch pass. Boys living close to school usually had a permanent lunch pass so they could go home for lunch. If there were special circumstances and you needed to go home at lunch time it had to be planned in advance. Your mum would send a note to the headmaster requesting a temporary lunch pass. At random lunchtimes teachers would perform lunch pass checks at the school gates, and patrol the fence perimeter to catch any miscreant who left, or tried to leave, the school grounds without a lunch pass. For some boys the temptation of sixpence worth of chips and a few potato cakes from the nearby fish and chip shop, or an egg and lettuce roll, a vanilla slice, or a bag of mixed lollies from the close by milk bar was overpowering, and they foolishly left the school grounds without a lunch pass. When the transgressors were caught they were offered yard duty or the cuts. As well as copping yard duty, or the cuts, for leaving the school grounds at lunch time without a lunch pass you could also receive yard duty or the cuts for: dropping any paper or food scraps on the school yard, being excessively rowdy or running in the corridors, wagging on sports afternoon, or any behavior a teacher deemed as reckless. Most boys chose a single hander instead of a week of yard duty; but a week of yard duty was always chosen over a double hander, back hander, or six of the best. And a day of yard duty was always chosen over any type of the cuts.

image source:shutterstock

The cuts was being hit across the hand with a two inch wide, two foot long, leather strap. Yard duty was picking up grease proof paper, paper bags and canteen lunch bags, or anything a lunch had been wrapped in, half eaten sandwiches, sausage rolls, pies, the scattered left overs of food fights, or any rubbish that had been dropped, or thrown, on the ground instead of into a rubbish bin. Yard duty was done during lunchtime. When the first lunch bell rang to signal eating time had officially ended you were free to wander around with your hands in your pockets as boys do, play a game of footie, cricket, British Bulldog or bat tennis, and head off behind the shelter sheds and the far end of the oval to smoke; it was also when the yard duty boys reported to the head yard duty teacher to be assigned an area of the yard. The size and location of a yard duty area seemed to be decided on by the whim of the yard duty teacher, and they were inspected just before the afternoon locker bell rang. If an area was judged as unclean the boys assigned to that area would receive an extra day of yard duty. The rule breakers never saw yard duty as an experience to understand the importance of proper waste disposal or the opportunity to appreciate the effects of littering on the environment; it was seen only as a punishment, not as a chance to participate in the upkeep of the school yard and to develop a sense of school pride.

image source:irishpost.com

My lunch sandwiches were the standard sandwiches of the day; nothing fancy, just school lunch sandwiches that you’d find in every boy’s brown paper lunch bag. Mum made my school lunch sandwiches each morning; she’d butter two slices of white bread and then add the fillings. I always knew what day of the week it was by the sandwich filling; Monday was cold lamb left over from Sunday’s roast, Tuesday was salad, and then jam, tomato, and cheese to finish off the week. Mum never made beetroot sandwiches because she didn’t like the way beetroot juice soaked into the bread. She’d wrap the cut in two sandwich, and a piece of fruit cake, in grease proof paper and put both packets of goodness into a brown paper bag. The paper bag sat on the kitchen table, waiting to be taken to school. Each day when I finished lunch I folded the grease proof paper along it’s creases and put it into the empty paper bag, and then folded the paper bag into a small packet to put into my trouser pocket. We had to bring our lunch paper bag back and wrappings home so mum could reuse them the next day. Mum kept all the brown paper bags from her Friday afternoon shopping at the fruit and grocer’s shop and used them for school lunch bags; every week I had a new brown paper bag to fold and put into my pocket.

image source:youtube

I learnt the hard way that mum knew best when it came to school lunch sandwiches. Whenever she made banana sandwiches she’d butter two slices of bread and wrap them in grease proof paper. I’d take a bread and butter sandwich with an unpeeled banana for lunch; lunch was a mouthful of bread and butter sandwich and a bite of fresh peeled banana. I must have been picked on, and the target of jokes whenever I took banana sandwiches for lunch; I remember coming home from school one day and telling mum that from now on I must have my banana mashed onto the bread.

The long main school corridor was lined with air tight, three tier, metal box lockers. When the locker bell rang the corridor became crowded with students; it was perfect chaos. You’d put your lunch in your locker in the morning when you collected your books for your morning classes; there it stayed until the lunchtime locker bell three hours later. No sandwich was safe inside a small, air tight, metal locker; jam, and tomato sandwiches were turned into a limp bathroom flannel as their juices soaked into the bread, and cheese sandwiches were transformed into cardboard as the bread and cheese dehydrated. My banana mashed onto the bread sandwich was soggy, and moist, and filled with pulpy, brown, mushy banana; my locker was filled with a bouquet of very ripe bananas. That was my last school lunch banana sandwich.

image source:pixabay

The migrant boys had different sandwich than us. At the end of the second world war the Australian government started an ambitious immigration plan that first targeted British citizens, but then expanded to accept immigrants from continental Europe. A migrant hostel was established at the old Williamstown Racecourse; it was a couple of miles further down Kororoit Creek road from Williamstown Tech. Yugoslav, Cypriot, and Maltese boys were bused to school each day. We looked at the migrant sandwiches with askance and never thought of swapping lunches with them; their sandwiches were an assortment of crusty wedges of bread, slabs of pungent smelling cheeses, and strange looking dried sausages. Today those cured meats, artisan breads and cheeses are the foundation of gourmet sandwiches.

Most of my full time working life in Australia was spent with the Victorian Education Department as a Mathematics and Science teacher. I started teaching in the early seventies and was at at three different inner suburban Technical Schools. It was the seventies so I thought of myself more as a conduit than a teacher. I was in the classroom to create an aesthetic sensitivity for scientific discovery and to share the beauty, and logic, of mathematics with preadolescence boys. I soon learnt that being a conduit was more than creating a circle of learning and curiosity; it also meant student supervision. Because students had to be supervised during recess and lunch, teachers were assigned yard duty responsibilities. As a teacher at Williamstown Technical School I walked the same corridors, wrote on the same blackboards as Mr Baldwin did, and enlightened young boys in the same rooms I sat in as a student. And as a yard duty teacher I walked the same area where I ate a mouthful of bread and butter sandwich with a bite of fresh peeled banana.

image source:victoriancollections.net.au

As a teacher I loathed yard duty with the same intensity I did as a student. I’d wander out of the staff room still with a cup of tea in hand five or more minutes after the first lunch bell so I’d reach the school yard after the wrongdoers had been assigned their area to pick up the left over scraps from food fights, pieces of grease proof paper, shreds of paper and canteen lunch bags, half eaten sandwiches, and remnants of sausage rolls and pies. I knew to avoid the back of the shelter sheds because the smokers still smoked there; discipline procedures were still in place for students caught smoking and I would’ve had to assign a week of yard duty or a couple of double handers to the smokers. I loitered in front of the trade rooms, and strolled the area where the boys had to sit to eat their lunches. Not meany students stayed in the lunch area after the first lunch belt so there was very little chance of a fight, or any other questionable behavior needing a discipline punishment starting. Sometimes I wandered over and watched the migrant boys play soccer.

And now you’ll need to excuse me. Tomorrow is rubbish day and I need to start sorting the polystyrene green, blue, yellow, red, and grey bins in the basement to prepare my rubbish for collection. And I need to call the Solid Waste Helpline to check if it’s the collection day for the green and blue, the red and blue, the red and yellow, the blue and grey, the red and blue, or the blue and yellow bins.


Laverton College P-12 Yard Duty And Supervision Policy

Remember School Lunches? 1974 Tuckshop Menu Shows Classic Food We Used To Love

Photos Give Insight Into Life In Australia’s Migrant Hostels

Everything You See I Owe To Fairy Bread

My second last visit to my health provider caused a nostalgic spell of thinking about doctor visits of my childhood. These back to the future memories were caused by the sign that greeted you as you stepped out of the lift. After I finished my conversation, and check in with the Check You In Human I looked back at the sign; even though it was a standard 21st Century white, corrugated cardboard on a stand sign it invoked nostalgia and longing. I stared blankly at the Self Service Check In sign and thought back to when family doctors made house calls. I wonder if I’ll think back to my first Self Service Check In experience with the same nostalgia.

image source:jmcadam

When dad was quarantined to the house and the bed in the front room with hepatitis, our family doctor came to the house to see him a couple of times a week. Mum would let him in through the front door. I remember him coming into the passage carrying his Gladstone doctor’s bag. The first thing he did when he got into the front room was put his Gladstone bag on the bed next to dad. He seemed to know where everything in the bag was without looking; he’d pull out his stethoscope, a thermometer, a metal tongue depressor, and a torch to shine down dad’s throat.

When dad was first diagnosed with hepatitis mum took my brother and I down to the doctors clinic to get vaccinated. The clinic was a house in Electra Street, just down from Ferguson Street. The waiting room was one of the front rooms, and the doctor’s room was another room in the house. There wasn’t a Self Service Check In computer in sight; just the lady to tell you to take a seat and that the doctor will be with you shortly We all reacted to the vaccine, and in a couple of days our necks, backs, and armpits were dotted with a collection of weeping and suppurating, boils and carbuncles. Mum changed our puss stained bandages once a day, and drained the boils and carbuncles by gently squeezing around the inflamed puss filled bumps; she’d give us a couple of Aspro’s so we’d get a good nights sleep.

image source:pixabay

Mum was our home nurse when I came home from the Williamstown Hospital after having my tonsils out. She put a spoon in a glass, and put her nurse’s call system on a small table beside my bed. Whenever I needed anything I’d rattle the spoon against the side of the glass. Because of my inflamed tender throat she fed me different flavours of Cottees jellies throughout the day. It seemed that whenever I rattled the spoon a bowl of jiggling jelly would appear; without knowing it I started behaving like one of Skinner’s rats. The jelly kept appearing until the doctor, on what was a fateful house visit, declared that my throat was sufficiently healed and I could swallow solid foods.

Cottees jelly was always something special in our childhood; if it wasn’t nursing you back to good health then it was the jewel in the crown on a birthday party food table. If you stripped away the glitter and excitement of a birthday party what really mattered was the food on the table; as youngsters we judged the success of a party by the food. The must have foods were bowls of cut up lime or orange jelly, plates of chocolate crackles and fairy bread, and a couple of jugs of Kia-Ora cordial.

image source:mashable.com

If you’re fortunate enough to have grown up in Australia, then you’re no stranger to fairy bread; deliciousness disguised as slices of white bread covered with butter and smothered with hundreds and thousands, and cut into two equal triangles. If you’re talking fair dinkum fairy bread then forget about the artisan sourdough bread and cultured Danish butter, and start thinking slices of Tip Top smeared with Western Star butter, and sprinkled with hundreds and thousands.

Fairy Bread
Servings: 4
Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 10 minutes
8 slices white bread
1 packet Western Star butter
1 packet of hundreds and thousands; known in the US as sprinkles
Empty the packet of hundreds and thousands onto a plate
Lay out the 8 bread slices and trim crusts if desired. I prefer to leave the crust on the bread so I can pick it up holding the crust.
Lavishly spread each slice of bread all the way to the crusts with butter. Use 25 percent more butter than you think is enough to ensure that the hundreds and thousands will stick to the butter
Cover bread with hundreds and thousands by placing each slice butter side down into plate of hundreds and thousands. Push gently on top of bread
Remove bread from plate and cut diagonally into two equal triangular halves

I suppose smearing butter on a slice of white bread and covering it with tiny coloured pieces of sugar is outdated and unfashionable in today’s world that demands you need to create a nutritional home so the little ones will develop a positive relationship with healthy food; it’s all about loading up the table with kohlrabi salads, vegetables cut into fun shapes, fruit sticks, and carafes of kale smoothies.

image source:jmcadam

There’s no surer sign you’ve left your childhood behind than when the fairy bread, and chocolate crackles, disappear from the birthday food table; adolescence is announced by a table laden with party pies, sausage rolls, cocktail frankfurts, and bowls of tomato sauce. You’re initiated into your teenage years by your best mate whispering in your ear; there’s Little Boys on the table. Cocktail frankfurts are a shorter version of a saveloy; hence the name Little Boys. And from that time on a large bowl of Little Boys, and a bottle of tomato sauce, will be on every one of your Aussie party food tables. It’s a well known fact that beautifully presented food looks appetising and appealing. Little Boys should never be served with a split skin. Little Boys should only be warmed; they should never be cooked. Little Boys should be put in a saucepan of cold water straight from the fridge, heated slowly on a stove, and as soon as they boil taken off the heat.

I don’t know an Aussie who doesn’t worship and respect the little saveloy. Fair suck of the saveloy is a commonly used phrase Down Under; often shortened to fair suck of the sav. Kevin Rudd, a former Australian Prime Minister is famous for using his own variant of the phrase: “Fair shake of the sauce bottle mate, if you were to compare what this government has done in terms of the promotion of women of talent and ability compared with our predecessors, it’s chalk and cheese: fair shake of the sauce bottle mate”

image source:skmcadam

Aussies use fair suck of the sav in everyday speech. It’s an all encompassing phrase that’s used to express awe, wonder, exasperation, or frustration. It can also be used to convey disbelief.

Me: G’day; pie and sauce thanks mate
Cake shop Assistant: What type? Steak and Curry, Caramelised Pork and Pepper, or a Chicken and Asparagus.
Me: A meat pie; a pie filled with minced meat and gravy
Cake shop Assistant: Sure you wouldn’t like to try one of our gourmet pies? A Thai vegetable curry, or a vegan Chili Con Carne
Me: I’ll have meat pie thanks mate; an Adams or a Four’n Twenty
Cake shop Assistant: That’ll be twelve dollars mate
Me: Fair suck of the sav mate! I’m not buying a carton of them

The shop window should should have given me a clue as to what to expect; I should have asked the hipster Cake Shop Assistant with the big glasses and a bushranger beard if the gourmet pies were served in a mason jar and a glass of Kombucha tea.

image source:jmcadam

I remember Mum making meat pies. She had a set of six, small oval metal pie tins that she used to make her meat pies. She’d cut a up pound of gravy beef from the butcher into extra small pieces, dredge them in flour, brown them, and then simmer the browned pieces with some chopped onion and water. Mum lined the small pans with her home made pie crust; she’d spoon in the meat mixture and seal the top crust by crimping it with her fingers. And into the oven the meat pies went. If mum was making her meat pies today you’d probably hear in a cackling singing voice from the kitchen

It’s nothing but crusting!
Here drink this, you’ll need it.
The worst pies in London
And no wonder with the price of meat
What it is
When you get it.
Never thought I’d live to see the day.
Men’d think it was a treat findin’ poor animals
What are dyin’ in the street.
Mrs. Mooney has a pie shop.
Does a business, but I notice something weird.
Lately, all her neighbours cats have disappeared.

I never had the heart to tell mum that her pies never came close to an Adam’s or Four’n Twenty; if I’d had to choose I would have been up the street in a flash to Mr’s Worms Milk Bar in Melbourne road for a Herbert Adam’s.

I don’t recall the exact time mum got her Sunbeam electric fry pan. It ended up spending most of it’s life on the kitchen table. It cooked sausages and rissoles for our breakfasts, and grilled lamb cutlets and chops for our tea. The Sunbeam sat triumph on the kitchen table and reheated mum’s home made meat pies and sausage rolls. And it heated water to carefully warm cocktail frankfurts; and we never ate a cocktail frankfurt with a split skin again.

image source:jmcadam

You’ll have to excuse me. I need to take the lamingtons out of the fridge and coat them with chocolate icing. But maybe I should make Fairy Lamingtons for my little afternoon soiree. Instead of sprinkling the lamingtons with coconut I’ll use hundreds and thousands; I should also have a jug of Pimm’s No 1 mixed with with lemonade and chopped strawberries, a few slices of orange, a mint leave, slices of cucumber, and loads of ice.


What is Fairy Bread?

18 Best Meat Pies in Melbourne

10 frankfurt recipes for your next party | Australia’s Best Recipes

Sometimes Alternatives Choose Themselves

I was sitting alone in the large empty dining room with a solitary fried testicle and was trying to put on my happy smile. A weekend earlier was the 26th annual Round The Bend Steakhouse Testicle Festival and the room was packed wall to wall with farmers, mechanics, attorneys, and accountants; weekend bikers in studded leather jackets and red bandannas were spilling outside into the just set up beer garden. It’s claimed that about twenty two hundred pounds of testicles are shipped in from around the country for the festival. Years ago there were beef, pork, lamb, and turkey testicles to feast on; all you get now are thinly sliced, breaded, deep fried bull testicles. The testicles come ten or twelve on a paper tray with a pickle and a little dipping sauce. I had decided to spend a little time at the Round the Bend Steakhouse’s annual testicle festival and so I stood at the testicle fork in the road.

image source:jmcadam

The longer I sat alone in the large empty dining room the more I thought about the Testicle Festival. I could faintly hear the band playing, taste the ice cold beers, and feel the gristle of a testicle between my teeth. As I waited for the Ranch Dressing, so I could dip my battered fried testicle, I thought about some of the other forks in the road I could have taken and the two parallel lives I would have had.

Several years ago I spent a little time on holidays in the Finger Lakes region of central New York state; it’s known as Finger Lakes because of the eleven lakes running parallel to each other. According to Native American legend the lakes were formed when the great Spirit laid his hands on the land to bless it; his fingers left imprints that then filled with water. Most people who visit the area marvel at the lush vineyards and small wineries, the scenic rolling hills, and the natural beauty of Watkins Glen State Park; I was more in awe hearing about the area’s salt production and the salt refining process. But then I became aware of the The Watkins Glen International raceway; it’s annual calendar includes NASCAR, an Indy Racing Series, and Vintage Cups. Visitors to The Glen can drive their own cars for three laps around this storied road course. And for me that far surpasses the history of salt mining and refining; I was In like Flynn. My money, voice, and hand were shaking as I asked for tomorrow’s ticket; the reply came unexpected.

image source:jmcadam

As I laboured two miles climbing up the rock steps and trudging over the wet stones of Watkins Glen State Park Gorge Trail, I thought of what could have been. The trail snakes over, under, and past 19 waterfalls; you climb 800 plus stone steps. The rental car sat low to the ground and it’s wheel base was wide for stability; it sat like an animal waiting to run. Taking it to the track was the right thing to do. As I pressed down on the accelerator the motor went from purring to revving. It was engineered to be powerful and untamed. I started off slowly at the bottom of the trail and the stone stairs were an easy climb. The trail meandered past creeks and through waterfalls, and I was walking with a rhythmic free style motion. Before long my shirt was damp with sweat and clinging to my back, and there was a sting to my eyes; the stone path was damp with the spray of the water cascading over the cliffs. My legs were now moving with a slow robotic precision, and the muscles that once worked so smoothly were now struggling to hold my weight. It hugged the turns on the track as if it’s wheels where glued down, and I felt my face being tugged backward by the g-force. It was all about the journey, the feel, the momentum.

image source:jmcadam

In the early seventies when I set off searching for inspiration and idealism in the ordinary I used London as my starting point. During that first long hot London summer I worked as a life guard at an outdoor swimming pool; Brockwell Lido was nestled in the corner of south London’s Brockwell Park. I was one of five lads hired as life guards. Peter the university student, and John the part time Herne Hill criminal were the experienced life guards returning from last year; Mick the Irishman, sympathetic to the troubles and a supporter of the Provisional Irish Republican Army, and the young London lad whose name I can’t remember and I, were the newbies. During the long hot summer we plucked quite a few little ones from the shallow three foot end of the pool, and dragged a few teenagers and adults from the deep end after they’d jumped off the high diving board, and discovered they couldn’t swim.

As the end of summer approached I started to wonder if it was time to wander through Europe, or if I needed to ferret out some other short term work in London. John the part time Herne Hill criminal helped with my decision; he asked if I wanted to join him, and some other lads who were training and practising to become a wrestling troupe to tour small European towns. The first stop of the tour was Italy.

image source:pixabay

The room could have been in any small Italian town. It was crowded with loud wrestling fans and the air was thick with cigarette smoke. I took a deep breath; all I could taste was the salt from sweat. My heart was pounding as I approached the centre of the ring, and my opponent. The crowd grew louder as we came together. He stood as a colossus but I knew he was my equal; we had practised the story line and plot, and the moves and holds, so many times in the South London make shift gym. A few months earlier I decided on the type of wrestler I would become; I knew that no one wanted a baby face emotionally complex character; I became the mischievous Flying Kangaroo. My finisher was the flying drop kick followed up with an elbow drop from the top rope; I’d enter the ring wrapped in an Australian kangaroo design beach towel and wearing a pair of Australian boardies. I’d resort to every trick in the book to gain an advantage. Most of the matches were scripted so before I applied the finisher I’d deliver a scoop slam, and an inverted atomic drop, and then look out into the screaming faces. I was confused when I woke. I looked out through the frosted back windows of the Ford Anglia panel van and saw the soft, out of focus, German country side.

In the late sixties and early seventies Khatmandu was an untouched city in the Nepalese Himalayas. It promised enlightenment and cheap plentiful drugs. Durbar Square, Freak Street, and the narrow roads of old Kathmandu became the haven for the back packing travellers of the seventies. In the mid to late seventies Khatmandu was transforming from a hippie mecca to a tourist destination; express tourist coaches with reclining seats were beginning to replace public buses, and the Khatmandu international airport terminal was the new bus station. It was a long bus ride across the Terai plains from Darjeeling to Kathmandu. The plains are nestled against the foothills of the Himalayas so the 20 plus hours bus journey is mostly over flat fertile land. The bus was slow, noisy, crowded, and uncomfortable; most males preferred to ride on the roof with the luggage. Toilet and food breaks seemed to be unplanned; sometimes they happened when the bus stopped in a town. And food could be bought when a food seller jumped on and off the bus. I think I remember the bus climbing the mountain road before it began it’s descent into Khatmandu; it lurched and swayed around sharp bends, passed trucks and other buses when there was no room to pass, and balanced itself on the edge of the road to avoid the sharp drop offs. The ride reminded me of Luna Park’s scenic railway.

image source:anon

Then came the time to leave Khatmandu. I walked the worn paving slabs of Freak Street, sat casually in Temple Square smoking local cigarettes, and stared at the home of the little goddess; all the time pondering how to leave Khatmandu. Would a lurching, swaying ride in a crowded bus wandering close to a drop off of hundreds of feet on a pot holed gravel road, be better than riding in a Nepal Airlines, or Air India plane, being buffeted by turbulence and up drafts as it tries to fly over the high peaks and mountains of the Himalayas. The pilot took the plane to the end of the runway and swung it around. The engines were racing and the plane began to shudder, and strain against the brakes; I wondered how much stress could the engines handle before they’d break off their joints. The pilot released the brakes and the plane bounced down the runway. As soon as we were in the air the plane headed for the mountains on the side of the valley. A twisting road clung to the mountain side, and a colourful small bus was bouncing recklessly close to the edge of the road and the drop off into the valley below.

If you’ll excuse me. I think it’s time to open the fridge door and bide my time waiting until a cold one chooses me; but then again I could choose the beer. That would be an interesting premise for a film. The juxtaposition and adjacency of what happens when an everyday occurrence, or decision, is split in two and we see it both ways.


The Very Strange Life Of Nepal’s Child Goddess

Racing: Tourism Information for Watkins Glen and Schuyler County

Testicle Festival: Round the Bend Steakhouse

Who Wants To Get Sick And Go To Hospital

A few weeks back I was pushing the lawn mower for the first time this summer around the back yard. The backyard has two areas; the back section is separated from the lower front area by a raked, sloping incline. The late spring morning had ushered in bright sunshine and blue skies, and grass moist and damp with condensation. I was wearing my thongs, as I’m known to do through spring, summer, and autumn; the rubber sole footwear with a strip of rubber anchored in a Y formation at three places to the sole. In the US and Europe they’re called flip flops, but Australians insist on calling them thongs; they’re as much a part of everyday life to an Aussie as Vegemite, meat pies, and beetroot. And you’re not a true blue Aussie unless you’ve put your foot on the back of your mate’s thong when they’re walking in front of you.

image source:jmcadam

I knew the raked, sloping incline was going to be a test of motor mower handling, balance, and precision thong placement. I angled the mower down the incline, and pulled back on the handle with both hands in an attempt to have some control over the careening, belching, machine; with every step my thongs slid and slipped on the moist grass of the incline. My legs twisted and contorted at the knees as I pulled and pushed the mower across, and down the incline; and then I was sitting on a leg on the moist incline. My foot had slid out of it’s thong, and my leg had arched up and under and behind me. I sat on my knee wondering if a needed a stretcher; or maybe I could limp off over the boundary without any help. I decided that when the trainers came out with a wet towel to wipe my face down, and said a few encouraging words to me, I’d just get up and pretend I’m OK. The longer I sat there the more I started to think about how I ended up sitting on my leg; did I come down the wrong way on my knee after taking a specky, or did my foot really slip out of it’s thong. I thought I heard the roar of the crowd; I shook off the ache in my knee, grabbed the mower and tackled what was left of the long grass on the moist, raked, sloping incline.

image source:thesaturdaypaper.com.au

Over the next few days I found it painful to put any type of pressure on my knee and so I started to wear a brace; the ache didn’t subside. I gave into the knee discomfort and contacted my health provider’s orthopaedic clinic; the earliest they could schedule an appointment was in six weeks. I already had a previously scheduled visit with my doctor so I thought he could check out my knee for any serious damage. Maybe the remedy the footie trainers used in the seventies had some merit; wrap it in a wet towel and pretend it’s OK.

My general doctor practices at a teaching hospital so whenever I have an appointment a medical student gets to practice their interview and basic examination skills with me. The examination room has a small institutional desk in one corner with a computer monitor and keyboard on it; two uncomfortable plastic chairs sit alongside the desk. In another corner there’s an examination table covered with a white paper sheet. It has a fold out step at one end that becomes a foot rest when the doctor feels around your ankles. The room could be taken straight from a hospital examination room design catalogue. Every time I’m left alone in the examination room waiting for a light knock on the door I think back to my time in Springfield Illinois.

image source:jmcadam

After arriving in the US, and living just short of five years in Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska, I moved to Springfield, Illinois. I thought Springfield was going to be similar to Lincoln; both being state capitals and college towns. Springfield was smaller than Lincoln, and had none of the attributes of a college town; but it have a lot of Lincoln in it. It was hard to walk two minutes without reading something about, or seeing somewhere Abe Lincoln had been.

Springfield didn’t offer many opportunities for an Instructional Designer. I suppose I could have waited tables at the nearby Big Boy restaurant, or been a shelf stocker at the neighbourhood grocery and deli. But I was an Instructional Designer, committed to advancing the latest strategies for infusing technology into the redesign and delivery of learning. It’s said that one person alone can’t make a difference, and that you should accept the course you’re on; but I believed in America being the land of opportunity, where everyone can go and do anything, be anything, and make any dreams come true. I would come to be the best Instructional Designer in Springfield, Illinois. Within a few months I was collecting food stamps and unemployment benefits. If only Abe Lincoln had decided on a career in Instructional Design instead of law.

I think one of the best ways to introduce yourself to a new place is to join a community club, a special interest group, or and an organisation; it introduces you to a communities resources and surrounds you with persons with shared interests.

image source:jmcadam

I auditioned for an upcoming production at the Springfield Community Theatre and was offered a role; the start of my involvement in the Springfield theatre scene. Before long an acquaintance from the theatre asked if I was interested in part time work. Was this the end of the empty endless days of searching for an Instructional Designer position, and a goodbye to the anguish of collecting food stamps? And so I became a patient simulator.

The University of Illinois had a residency program at one of Springfield’s hospitals. Back then an innovative component of the program was first and final year medical students having proctored interviews and examinations with simulated patients. You became a patient by role playing scenarios based on actual patient cases. You were given a medical history, personality, emotional temperament, response patterns during interviews and examinations, and symptoms for a condition such as depression, a common cold, appendix about to burst, anxiety, irritability. The students were given the results from test that could include X Rays, blood tests, or Diabetes screening. A flair for improvisational acting was a plus.

image source:medicaldaily.com

Most of my simulations were considered as moderately invasive; and included looking into my eyes, ear, nose, and throat, taking my blood pressure and pulse, listening with a stethoscope to my heart and lungs, testing reflexes, and an abdomen examination. Simulations that included a breast exam, pelvic exam, or a rectal exam were considered invasive and if you volunteered for these you were handsomely rewarded. Some might say that being a patient simulator is only a part time acting job. But an Instructional Designer knows simulations as instructional scenarios; a learner is placed in a world defined by a teacher, and the experience is a student centred constructivist experiential learning activity. I was a patient simulator Instructional Designer. Food stamps were becoming a fading memory.

I’d finished reading Good Housekeeping and was still waiting in the design catalogue hospital examination room. My doctor, instead of a medical student, walked in from the light knock on the door; summer had given the students a breather from learning. He dutifully reviewed my past colonoscopy results, and reminded me of my upcoming colonoscopy appointment. I gestured to my knee and recounted the saga of the mower. He pushed and poked at my knee, suggested a possible sprained ligament or tendon, and ordered an X Ray and appointment with the orthopaedic clinic. Maybe the remedy the footie trainers used in the seventies had some merit; wrap it in a wet towel and pretend it’s OK.

image source:jmcadam

When I went to check in for my knee X-Ray I was stopped dead in my tracks by the sign between me and the check in desk; “Self Service Check In” with an arrow pointing to three computers set up on a table to the side, and away from the check you in humans. I waited for a check you in human.

Me: (with a smile on my voice) G’day, certainly a brilliant decision to have self service check in at an orthopaedic clinic; I would have thought a lot of people may have sprained and broken wrists and limited mobility of their arms.
Check You In Human: Good morning; name?
Me: (with an insightful tone) Sort of like getting your boarding pass at the airport; must save a lot of queuing
Check You In Human: And you’re here to see Doctor?
Me: (with a knowing what’s what inflection)There’s been a lot of interest lately in autonomous intelligent control and robotic technology
Check You In Human: Are you still at the same address?
Me: (with a sense of wonder) Every time I come for an appointment there’s something new; technology is transforming the health care experience. Before you know it we’ll be getting digital health care coupons with our self service check in
Check You In Human: And you still have the same health care plans?
Me: (in an approving manner) Sometimes I get really annoyed standing in queues; I think I’ll use self check in for my next colonoscopy procedure.
Check You In Human: If you would just take a seat; we’ll call you soon

With the way things are going the next time I go for my twice a year check up I’ll probably check in at a photo collection and signature capture kiosk and then have to use an interactive navigation app to get step by step directions to my assigned examination room. I wonder if I should take my doctor’s visit back to a human experience and roll play a patient with a psychedelic optimism about new medical technologies when the medical student comes into the room to practice their interview and basic examination skills.

Medical Student: And how are we feeling today?
Me:(in a low and articulate voice) Computer cybernetics, are going to take us to interesting places and may work the way psychedelics do without the idea of substance. And I think I’ve swallowed a small brass key, a bottle cap, a pipe screen, and a mascara brush


Jerry Garcia – Autopsy

Standardized Patient Program – Johns Hopkins Medicine

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