Can We Afford Not To Act?

A report issued this week and conducted on behalf of the World Wildlife Fund by the University of Newcastle states that the average person globally could be ingesting five grams of microplastics weekly.

Five grams, the report suggests, is the equivalent to the consumption of one credit card.

Without really wanting to detract from the gravity of this situation, yet being unable to suppress the urge, I quipped to Tiki: “I wonder what the rate of interest is on fifty-two cards per year?!”

Flippancy aside, Tiki and I view this situation extremely seriously and while we believe that as there are already an estimated one hundred and fifty million tonnes of plastic and other rubbish in our oceans, and that the proverbial horse in regard to this has already bolted, each morning we, without fail, manage to fill a plastic bag with litter during our daily walk.

In the years that we have been doing this we have only witnessed one other couple bothering to do the same.

We used to exercise two of our dogs at a communally designated area where they could run freely with other people’s breeds. One day, to pass the time, I took a plastic scoop with me and busied myself by picking up the ubiquitous droppings of others’ animals.

Tiki was standing on a rise some distance from me when a gentleman came up to her and started a conversation. When he noticed me in the distance, he remarked in words similar to these: “Look at that bloke down there. He can’t have much in his life!”

“That’s my husband!”, she responded.

Without the utterance of another word, he walked away.

The School Cadets

It was in my early years of high school that I joined the army’s unit of cadets. My mate, Peter, who was a year ahead of me and lived some six doors down the street was keen to join and my mother believed that to do so would be to my benefit.

Once a week we would dress in our military uniforms and not only carry our cases to school, but our ‘303’ rifles — minus their respective bolts and magazines — in order to practice our marching and drills, after classes had officially finished, for a period of about an hour.

One lad, whose surname was that of West, could not tell his left from his right and so we would urge him to be at the front of the march where he would invariably hesitate and cause confusion when the order was given to turn, especially when his decision was the incorrect one.

Each year, in mid-winter, we were sent on a camp that was situated out in the country. The initial one marked the first time that I had been away from home of my own volition.

Upon our arrival at the camp one of the first things we were ordered to do was to strip naked, don nothing more than a greatcoat, and join a long queue for what ostensibly was a physical inspection. When it was my turn to be perused by the seated gentleman I was asked the question that I imagine no teenage boy should or would want to hear, and certainly one I have not forgotten: “Has it always been that small?”

Mind you! It was so cold, that even the proverbial brass monkeys were in hiding.

At least I didn’t desire the need of one poor fellow who wore his swimming costume into the shower only to have a group of eager youths suspect that he possessed something that he did not want others to see and once the covering was involuntarily removed and he was taunted mercilessly, my personal feeling of inadequacy did dissipate somewhat.

The toilets provided for use were an absolute disgrace. They appeared to have never been cleaned as dried faeces were encrusted to the wooden seats. In fact, for the entire two weeks of that first camp I refrained from passing a motion.

A year later, I found them to be in the same shameful state and, therefore, attempted to do the same only to fall ill and lie to the doctor when he asked if I had been using the facilities.

We were housed, six to a tent, on stretchers and each day began at 6.00 a.m. to the sound of reveille. At which time we would immediately have to present ourselves outside our respective tents.

One boy, in his wisdom, had brought a hunting knife to the camp and in our spare time we would play a game that involved its usage. Making sure that our boots and gaiters were worn, two of us would stand facing each other, about a yard and a half apart and with our feet placed together.

The idea was to throw the knife so that its point either entered the ground or left its mark on its surface, but not more than a foot from either of one’s opponent’s feet. A successful throw would mean that the opponent would then move that foot out to the mark. The procedure would continue, in this vein, until one person could no longer keep their balance or extend a foot to the most recent mark.

We were transported into the bush en masse where a bivouac was to be staged, however, it was a day when rain fell heavily and the whole exercise was abandoned, for we were drenched to the skin before our makeshift tents could be erected.

Another day found us at the range where we were to shoot at a target of paper that had been pinned to a construction of hessian twenty-five yard distant from where we were each ordered to lay down on a bag of sand. We had been warned that the 303 possessed ninety-three pounds of ‘kick’ and after we had ceased firing the smallest boy in our unit was no longer positioned on his bag.

Beyond the targets was a sloping earthen mound topped by a wall of concrete. Somehow, one of the lads had managed to fire and hit this wall and I distinctly recall hearing the bullet ricochet back over our heads.

I was chuffed that one of my bullets had, indeed, scored a bullseye! However, Peter, who had been firing from a couple of yards to my left, poured cold water on this by claiming that I had been aiming at his target and he, mine.

We had also been told not to ‘palm’ the rifle’s bolt for to do so could damage a sensitive nerve in one’s hand. There was also the instruction to make sure that the rifle’s butt was firmly placed in the fleshy part of one’s shoulder, just below the collar bone.

I must say that seeing the size of the rifle’s bullet really surprised me as I had expected one to be more akin to that used in my father’s former ’22’ rifle that he had owned several years before.

Presumably, as no one had been injured in this foray into the firing of live bullets, it was decided that we should be conveyed into the countryside for some animated shooting practice. There, we were under the orders and watchful eye of a Regimental Sergeant Major (R.M.S.).

He informed us that the ‘big tree’, perhaps four or five hundred yards distant, was in his words ‘twelve o’clock’ and, keeping that in mind, we could expect targets to suddenly spring up before our eyes at ‘eleven o’clock’, ‘two o’clock’, ‘one o’clock’…

The targets were cut-outs of large game animals and were to be as distant as the large tree. We were given en masse just five seconds in which to fire as many bullets as we could at each specified target.

This was where I struggled and began to feel that I was letting my fellow cadets down. Therefore, after we had fired at perhaps two of the targets I made a conscious effort to re-cock the rifle and fire a second round. However, before I had the time to properly aim this second round at the target the R.S.M. bellowed, ‘Cease fire!’.

My finger almost involuntarily squeezed the trigger, nevertheless, and the bullet buried itself in the damp soil perhaps thirty yards in front of us. Sods and clods flew some twenty feet into the air as a deftly silence immediately ensued.

‘Who fired that?’, the R.S.M. roared. A short period of silence followed before I hesitatingly admitted to my guilt. Fortunately, for me, his bark was worse than his bite and no action was taken.

A few days later, Peter told me that he had heard that our school had achieved the lowest score of all of the schools that were involved in the so-called ‘field-shoot’.

It must have been during the camp in that second year, for I have no recollection of Peter being there, that we were again transported out into the countryside, only this time, in the dead of night. We were told that we were there to partake in something known as a ‘Lantern Stalk’.

Our unit was classified to be the stalkers and it was our job to progress several hundred yards down the hillside and take those down at the camp in the valley as our prisoners. Meanwhile, it was the job of those in the camp to fire brightly coloured flares into the air so as to silhouette our figures and thereby capture us.

I decided to adopt as low a profile as I could and as I lay on my stomach and literally crawled along I detected that those not far from me were in the process of being captured. Everything was progressing quite well until I realised that I had crawled into a coil of barbed wire, that had been left in the field.

While I was not personally injured in any way, it did take me quite some time to extricate my uniform from its clutches. When I eventually did, it dawned on me that not only was there no more firing of flares, there was no lantern burning in the camp below!

The ‘Lantern Stalk’ had certainly been held on an appropriate night, for it was totally devoid of moonlight. Despite the realisation that I had been totally deserted, I did not panic, in fact, I thought it all to be somewhat amusing.

All I could do was about turn and walk back up the hill, in the hope that I could flag down a passing vehicle. This came in the form of a truck which was conveying another school’s cadets back to camp, after their evening’s activity. They and their leader also found what had happened to me to be of amusement, too.

That second camp for cadets also included the dismantling and rebuilding of a Bren machine gun — something that did not inspire me — practice the throwing of hand grenades, the learning of the international phonetic alphabet, as well as, the learning of the art of speaking on a military radio, and the ability to read topographical maps.

Having watched Vic Morrow’s character, Sergeant Saunders, in the military series, ‘Combat!’, throw hand grenades over considerable distances with an apparent minimum of effort, it came as a genuine surprise to me how short a distance I could throw a grenade that weighed one and a half pounds, especially as we had been ordered to do so with a straight arm.

We were also forbidden from attempting to remove a grenade’s pin with our teeth, but in using my forefinger I could not imagine that being as readily achievable as it appeared to be on television, either!


Footnote: Peter was killed in 1976 whilst hang-gliding. The bar of his craft came down across the nape of his neck.


In The ‘Poo’

This morning, as we were preparing to depart on our walk, I decided to use the toilet at the last minute. Aware that Tiki had already done likewise, I went about my business as per usual and was just about to employ the flush when I noticed that my deposit was not only resting in a copious amount of bubbles, it was separated by the toilet brush!

Not wishing to be figuratively in the dreaded ‘poo’, I called out to Tiki to attend to the situation; exclaiming that the brush was in the toilet.

I can’t say that I was surprised, when I was chided for not having checked that the bowl was clear before I had actually sat down.

Articulate English: Pronouns And Singular Verbs

Many pronouns such as she, he, it… require singular verbs. Others such as no-one, everyone, everybody, nobody, none, each… also do.

No-one was injured in the crash.

Everyone was there.

Nobody saw the incident occur.

Everybody is safe!

None of them had heard of him.

Each of them has a raincoat.

One hundred and twenty-four people were aboard the aeroplane, however, none was injured.

The ‘Population Bomb’

There is scarcely a day that goes by when we do not here about the threat and perils of global warming. Tiki regularly reads to me editorials and readers’ comments from the newspaper and it was on such an occasion, in the later half of last year, that I was read one that really caught my attention.

The person of eighty years of age told of when he or she was born, the world’s human population was approximately that of two billion and of how in their eighty-first year it was approaching that of eight billion. This quadrupling in the population was referred to as the ‘population bomb’.

The writer went on to explain that the greater the population, the more food that needs to be supplied. This, of course, means that more land has to be cleared to grow crops and supply meat, dairy products et cetera. It also means that our seas and oceans are in ever increasing danger of being fished out. Already, countries’ territorial rights are being infringed upon, in regard to this!

The more people there are the more manufacturing is required and the more refuse is created. The carcasses of whales have begun to appear on shorelines, the victims of having ingested large amounts of plastic. Recently, I heard that the global population of insects will be extinct in a century. I also was informed by an expert on television that anyone who eats fish three times per week is ingesting eleven thousand microbeads in that short period of time. These are contained in shampoos and the like.

Surely, in order to combat climatic change, we must firstly address the core issue, namely, the ‘Population Bomb’?

The Top 40 Fantasies: No.7

1. I Can See Clearly Now (1972)                                                                                                                                                                                            Johnny Nash

2. Last Date (1960)                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Floyd Cramer

3. I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry (1949)                                                                                                                                                                                Hank Williams

4. I Can’t Control Myself (1966)                                                                                                                                                                                             The Troggs

5. Where Does Love Go (1965)                                                                                                                                                                                                Charles Boyet

6. She Drives Me Crazy (1988)                                                                                                                                                                                                The Fine Young Cannibals

7. Rock Me, Mama (1945)                                                                                                                                                                                                         Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup

8. Black Night (1970)                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Deep Purple

9. A Lover’s Question (1958)                                                                                                                                                                                                    Clyde McPhatter

10. You’re A Friend Of Mine (1985)                                                                                                                                                                                        Clarence Clemons and Jackson Browne

11. It Must Be Him (Sen Sur Son Etoile) (1967)                                                                                                                                                                    Vikki Carr

12. No, Not Much! (1956)                                                                                                                                                                                                           The Four Lads

13. Who Threw The Whiskey In The Well? (1945)                                                                                                                                                                Lucky Millinder: vocalist, Wynonie Harris

14. Without You (1961)                                                                                                                                                                                                                Johnny Tillotson

15. The Prisoner’s Song (1925)                                                                                                                                                                                                    Vernon Dalhart

16. The Wild One (1958)                                                                                                                                                                                                              Johnny O’ Keefe and The Dee Jays

17. Return Of Django (1969)                                                                                                                                                                                                        The Upsetters

18. I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry (1966)                                                                                                                                                                                   B.J. Thomas

19. Heaven (1985)                                                                                                                                                                                                                           Bryan Adams

20. The Fugitive (1966)                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Merle Haggard

21. Two Sleepy People (1938)                                                                                                                                                                                                       Fats Waller

22.The One That You Love (1981)                                                                                                                                                                                                Air Supply

23. A Whole Lotta Woman (1957)                                                                                                                                                                                                Marvin Rainwater

24. Oh, Babe! (1950)                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Kay Starr

25. Get Away (1966)                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Georgie Fame

26. Flowers In Her Hair (2014)                                                                                                                                                                                                     Derek Ryan

27. Too Old To Cut The Mustard (1952)                                                                                                                                                                                      Rosemary Clooney and Marlene Dietrich

28. Love’s Standin’ (2006)                                                                                                                                                                                                              Vince Gill

29. Bet Yer Life I Do (1970)                                                                                                                                                                                                            Herman’s Hermits

30. Gangsta’s Paradise (1995)                                                                                                                                                                                                          Coolio

31. Transfusion (1956)                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Nervous Norvus

32. The Kissing Tree (1959)                                                                                                                                                                                                               Billy Grammer

33. Hot Rod Shotgun Boogie No.2 (1951)                                                                                                                                                                                        Tillman Franks

34. A Hole In The Bucket (1961)                                                                                                                                                                                                       Harry Belafonte and Odetta

35. The Last Train To San Fernando (1957)                                                                                                                                                                                    Johnny Duncan and The Blue Grass Boys

36. To Be Or Not To Be (1983)                                                                                                                                                                                                           Mel Brookes

37. Can I Change My Mind (1968)                                                                                                                                                                                                     Tyrone Davis

38. The Icing On The Cake (1985)                                                                                                                                                                                                      Stephen Duffy

39. The Look Of Love (1982)                                                                                                                                                                                                                ABC

40. You Better Not Do That (1954)                                                                                                                                                                                                     Tommy Collins






A Democracy No More

As an atheist, I am not at all offended by Israel Folau’s post of last Wednesday on Instagram. What really offends me is that there was a time in this country when an individual had a right to free speech.

The people who are lamenting over the notable loss he will be to Australia’s chances in the forthcoming World Cup of rugby have simply missed this point.

An Advertisement That Does Not ‘Ad’ Up

There is a televised advertisement on behalf of McDonald’s screening in Australia. It features an Australian octogenarian couple, seated together in a park. The lady produces a slip of paper and asks of the gentleman if he remembers having handed it to her when she was sixteen. The handwritten admission reads: “IOU $6”. Without having received a verbal response, the lady informs the elderly man that it’s time to, as she puts it, ‘cough up’ — with the intent being of then spending it at ‘Maccas’. So far, so good!

However, I wasn’t born yesterday (my birthday was on the day before!) and having seen the advertisement twice or thrice I remarked to Tiki that its producers hadn’t done their homework, for if the lady is, indeed, in her eighties, or even her seventies, the IOU would have been expressed in pounds, shillings and pence.

Australia did not change to decimal currency until February of 1966.


A Rule Of Spelling: Delete The ‘E’ And Add A ‘Y’

When we write words such as shine, smoke, scale, bone, ice, shake, stone, brine, slime, grime, wire… in their adjectival form, the above rule of spelling is applicable.

Hence: shiny ribbon, smoky sky, scaly skin, bony leg, icy waters, shaky hands, stony path, briny liquid, slimy pond, grimy surface, wiry figure.

Therefore, shouldn’t we spell the colloquial adjectives pricy and dicy, as such? Although I must admit that I prefer the usage of dear, expensive or exorbitant and risky, perilous, hazardous, dangerous or unsafe, respectively.

It would appear that the rule applies when the noun’s penultimate letter is a consonant.

Not On The Menu!

I recall one lunchtime, and how a colleague suddenly exclaimed: “This tastes like s—!”

“I’ve never eaten excrement, so I wouldn’t know!”, I quipped.

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