The Navigator’s Course.

 

The archives of destroyed empires have demonstrated and collated the series of steps and procedures that have brought about their decline and downfall. There is no surer evidence of pattern or personalities that could be laid upon the table of possibility of failure of present governance that this readily available historical record.

The mechanical technology , that is ; weaponry/ physical techniques, that is used may change with society, the time-line that brings on sudden action may be hastened or delayed, depending on population demographics and transport, but the organics of peoples patience and rising anger, coupled with opposition to their wants and needs by a despotic political party persistent in frustrating social urgencies or aggravating political expediency remain fairly constant through the course of history, regardless of ethnicity or location.

The commencement of proceedings usually begins with a strategically favoured group using the existing laws to bring accusation and vexation against their political opponents. But this in itself can have no effect except to create controversy unless the accusations can be brought to convict or dismiss from office those accused…and such can only successfully be done if one party has the law enforcement agency “on-side”..”Rule must needs authority…Authority must needs men-at-arms”..the first law in authoritarian control . The subtle takeover of strategic departments that would frustrate a controlling party is a priority..This takes money for favours.

The second priority for control is ; Partners. Most preferably those who have or who value what is most treasured in the community..; wealth..those who have wealth , treasure it above all other things and would do anything to protect it. Those who value wealth aspire to have it and so would do anything to get an opportunity to gain it..these latter are your “moral” foot-soldiers, “moral” because they so believe in the accumulation of riches that they see no ethical barrier in doing “whatever it takes” to get there. They will argue your point, no matter how invalid or pusillanimous because they “so believe in it as every individual’s right and freedom”.

The third necessity and perhaps the most important is the means of spreading the “word” and “promoting” the ideal. In ancient times notices or edits were distributed over the empire to be read out to a gathering at markets or by a “crier” in the square. These days we have a transmitted media that is relentless in it’s broadcast of propaganda…by radio, television and internet. The ownership of these broadcasters is of utmost interest to the controlling government..without favour from those who control these media outlets, a govt’ cannot hope to stand for long…we have seen most recently good governance brought to it’s knees by a mischievous and sometimes downright lying mainstream-media.

The interplay of back-scratching between media moguls and those who wish to govern has never before plumbed the overt depths of these times..the interplay of groveling obsequious and outright cowardice between employer and employees in both private and public broadcasters has never before been so clearly marked. There was a time when shame and dishonour would see a lowering of eyes at the mere mention of the deed, and the family name shaming would bring certain banishment upon the individual in acting so cravenly..but now, the open disdain for honest reporting or decency and integrity in investigation, has seen callous individuals proudly shout their fool’s message and their bumptious buffoonery for what could only be the equivalent payment of a “Judas purse”. That such self-debasing could come at so cheap a price as mere money is a telling of the low character of the players in the modern mainstream media.

The final playing out of this inevitable scenario is the “validating” of authoritarian policy by incriminating those who would protest with public defiance and marches against the what is now known as “Fascist Principles” of governance. If there is no challenge by high-ranking figures in the judiciary or bureaucracy of such fascist principles (keeping in mind the recent removal of such bearers of office), then who can challenge them?..and if the method of armed civil control is already in the hands of the govt’, who will be able to forcefully evict them? And if the current govt’ curries favour with foreign powers who prefer their form of control, who can come to help the people?…..

No-one.

And then , given the usual amount of passage of time while each member of a corrupt regime attempts to out-do the other and the vested interests who back them in plundering the treasury and common-wealth of the nation, leaving it bankrupt and it’s people in poverty.. the same corrupt members will quietly slip away to leave a destitute, broken nation open to whom-ever has the where-with-all and the might to seize control..followed by the usual purges and pogroms against the remaining citizens…for details of THAT chaos..go to the appropriate histories..there are dozens and dozens of them.

And if you are one of the deluded fools that entertain the belief that it wouldn’t, couldn’t happen to good old Oz..well..what can one say..except ; “we’ll read about you in the history books one day”.

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The True Story of Artini the Woodsman and Tess, his Aboriginal lover.

Swan Reach Mission

The United Aborigines Mission, using the shelter of a gum tree initially as their church, began the mission at Swan Reach in 1925. A crude hut, built from kerosene tins and a floor of reeds, rapidly replaced this. The location of the mission on low lying land adjacent to the town, was prone to flooding and was considered unsuitable from the beginning. Small houses eventually replaced the temporary wurlies. Eventually problems over fishing licences and then sanitation with insufficient toilets, led to the replacement of the Swan Reach Mission with Gerard Mission near Loxton.

The true story of Artini the woodsman and Tess his aboriginal lover.

This is a story untold, indeed not even recorded or admitted in the war records of the Italian internees sent to camps in the mallee to cut wood for the charcoal pits during the second world war. You can still see the pits and camps both in the Brookfields Conservation Park and at a secluded location I know of over the other side of the Sturt Highway.

I had heard bits and pieces of Artini and Tess from my mother who worked at a station near Swan Reach during the war years and it was there she met my father..an Italian internee at one of the wood-cutting camps nearby. The young woman, of aboriginal descent worked on some days alongside my mother at the station . She lived at the mission over the river…many times, my mother told me, some men and women from the mission would cross the river using a secret ford only the aborigines knew of and would collect supplies from the station (Punyelroo) to carry back a night across the river..no-one ever saw the ford they took, they being too clever to let them be seen.

Artini was the name of the young man (in his twenties) who fell in love with the girl..I first heard his name when my sister, who visited last summer, translated some letters between my father and his relatives back in the dolomites village where both he and the young man came from. He told of the tragedy of how Artini drowned in the Murray River whilst crossing the ford on instruction of his love, who whilst on curfew and not permitted to be across that side of the river after dusk, sent a message that she would sing a song for Artini to follow and to use as a direction to cross the river and escape the internment camp.

He would be hidden in one of the many caves along the cliffs of the Murray..a secret cave again known only to the indigenous people there..my mother told of these caves and today some are open to the public to view..My father wrote that they tried to dissuade Artini from following through with his reckless plan and pointed out the difficulty he would meet being the lover of a native woman..But the more they tried, the angrier he got and finally he said angrily to them ;

“So what if she is of another people..am not I , are not WE despised only for our blood?…and if she is “native” of this land, am I not also “native”of my land?..And I am a son of the Dolomites ..I am a man of the mountains of Italy and I..Artini, while I am yet a man, will decide who I will love, not the guards of this camp nor anyone else.”…and that was the last he would hear of it..he was decided..

During the second world war, all Italians and other “enemy alien” males over a certain age were rounded up by the military and put in internment camps..there were several camps in South Australia along the Murray River..Some of these men were sent in working parties to other camps amongst the mallee in the vicinity of the Murray River to cut the trees to be made into charcoal. There is not much detail about those men’s lives in the war years..but it couldn’t have been easy. This is the heroic story of one of those men and an aborigine girl who befriended him.

The conspiracy was going to plan..Artini had crept away from the makeshift woodcutters camp in the mallee..These camps were temporal things and so isolated that the guards saw no great need to be severe in their habits..indeed, the Italians, using the grapes from the Loveday area near Loxton made their own wine which they smuggled along with them whenever they were sent to the wood-cutting camps..On the night of Artini’s escape, Some other Italian men conspired to distract the guards with wine and song..they sang their songs to the accompaniment of home-made instruments…in this case a ukulele, made from tea-chest plywood, mallee stem and some fine piano wire .

The tragedy happened with Artini disobeying the request of the young Tess, distressed at the wanton cutting down of so many trees, to leave his mighty axe on the other side and cross the river by himself..but he decided he would need the axe to cut and build a humpy for themselves after he crossed..so he secretly strapped it to his back under his coat so as not to offend her and he would reveal it once across when it would be too late for Tess to protest.

Unfortunately, on that very night of his crossing, the sluices-gates of Lock 1 just up-river at Blanchetown were opened and a surge of water came down the river to catch him whilst in the middle of the ford..He was swept away as he cried that it was his axe, his mighty axe dragging him down and he could not swim…Tess cried for him to throw the axe away, but it was tied too tight and he could not get it off…and he consequently drowned that night in the river..His body was later found and it was recorded as “death by drowning..an unfortunate accident “…But my father’s letters tell a different story.

But here is the mythological songline that has grown around the story..It goes like this :

“ Artini was the biggest, best, strongest Italian woodcutter in the Swan Reach district during the war years..The ‘ring’ of his mighty axe could be heard miles away through the mallee!  His axe was of the hardest steel special made from his own instructions by the blacksmith in the camp…the handle he cut and shaped himself from the hardest mallee wood..and it was so heavy, it could not be used by any of the other woodcutters in the camp. Artini was an “enemy alien” internee from the Italian Alps; The Dolomites, who used to cut wood for the charcoal burning camps in the mallee.

Artini could often be heard singing an alpine song “Ill tuo fazzolettino”(“Give me your bandana, my darling…”) in his dialect as he swung his mighty axe at the mallee trees ..His voice was so strong it would carry for a great distance through the tops of the mallee trees and it was heard by Tess one day as she fetched water from the river.

Tess was a young aboriginal woman who lived at the mission over the river at Swan Reach. She would also get some work at a station just up the Murray a bit from the mission. The trees were a part of her life and of important tribal significance..and every tree that Artini cut down was as a wound to her heart. She set about to lure Artini with affection to stop cutting the trees, throw away his mighty axe and escape the internment camp to cross the river and be her lover. He could be hidden in a secret cave known only to the aborigines of the river.… Artini agrees, but he cannot swim , so Tess says she will “sing” him a song one night to guide him across a secret ford in the river known only to the aboriginal people there, but on one condition…; he must leave his mighty axe behind and cross without it..

Her “song “ she disguised as a lyrical call similar to the call of the Bush Stone Curlew..

He agrees , but at the last moment secretly straps his mighty axe to his back under his coat .. but when he sets out to cross the river…The river spirit , seeing his duplicity and intent sends a torrent of water down and he is threatened to be swept off the ford..Tess, on hearing his cry, realizes he is weighed down by his mighty axe and tells him to throw it into the waters..but he cannot untie it from under his coat and so he is swept away ….

And to this day, his cry of despair and her intermingled lament can still sometimes be heard as the call of the Bush Stone-Curlew blown in the wind through the mallee trees…”

There is a song that accompanies this story-line, to the strumming of the ukulele.

(Song to be accompanied by a Ukulele )

Tess and the Woodsman.

I wake in the morning under spreading gum trees,

I wake to the murmur of the mighty Murray.

To the call of the cockeys in the leaves of the trees….

But the sweetest sound is my Tess of the Mallee.

Chorus:

Olay , Olay!..Oh sing a song for me,

Oh Tess of the mallee oh how I love thee.

Olay, Olay.. Oh how sad it can beeee,

Far ‘cross the river , yet so close to me.

xxx

I am a woodcutter, an axe man by trade.

My song that I sing is sung with the blade

And did draw sweet Tess to my accolade,

Sweet Tess of the mallee is my pretty maid.

Across the river I hear her sweet voice,

She sings as the curlew to come and be close

But the river is wide and swim I cannot

With my mighty axe hidden under my coat.

Chorus…; ( Olay, olay..etc.)

To swim I am not able but I must try

To reach my dear Tess on the far side

(Pause to change “person” and “talk” these last two lines )

But the stones they slip away from his feet

And the river takes him from her sweet embrace.

“My axe it drags me down” he cries,

“Cast it away my love!” Tess did advise.

But tight under his coat it was tied,

So too late to undo and there he did die.

Chorus : ( Olay, olay..etc )

The river it takes him and there he will lie,

So come to the river Tess to sing by its side

To sing him awake and sing him at night

Sing me dear Tess oh my mallee delight.

(only the next stanza ; slowly, softly)

Now in the dusk you can hear her sweet lullaby

As she sings to her woodsman the bush-curlew’s cry.

But in the early dawn she’ll sing him this song

And the ring of his axe follow in harmony along..

Chorus..

Olay , Olay!..Oh sing a song for me,

Oh Tess of the mallee oh how I love thee.

Olay, Olay.. Oh how sad it can beeee,

Far ‘cross the river , yet so close to me.

The Girl in the Blue Dress.

 

Finally!…lunch time..I squeezed our basket shopping trolley between the seats to a table in the crowded café there at the Central market. We come to this café for lunch every time we come to the market, which is about once a month..it is always crowded at lunchtime..a popular spot…lots of noise..lots of noise…

Michael, the tall Greek bloke who owns it, has a habit of looking around while he is talking to you..like he cannot stop keeping an eye on the running of the place..

“That girl in the blue dress” I button-hole him “ Is she crying or laughing or just shielding her eyes?”

Michael looks about as he answers..

“Oh she’s crying alright..” he nonchalantly answers…somehow , his dead-certain banality annoys me.

“You seem pretty certain of that”.. I frown.

“Yeah..cause it’s written on the back of the photograph … (he makes quotation marks with his fingers) ; “ London…Girl crying”….he wrote what and where it is on every one of the photographs…”

“He?”

“Yeah..old bloke a couple of houses down from me…I knew him just to say hello every now and then…well..he died and his daughter was cleaning out the garage…she was carrying this heavy box and I saw her and I went to help her…it was full of  these small , empty  picture frames..these ones here on the wall..and I suddenly got the idea to put some sort of pictures in them and hang them on that wall…so I asked her if I could have them to do just that…and she pointed to another box and asked if I wanted some pictures to put in them , because she was going to throw those out too..”

“Throw out his pictures?” I couldn’t understand that.

“Yeah..you see , they weren’t family pics or anything…just as you see here on the wall..The old bloke wandered aimlessly around Europe back in the sixties with a camera taking these random, candid pictures of people, places and things..anything..with no apparent theme in mind…just click, click, click!..and he wrote a name and location on every one…hundreds of them!”

I gazed along the wall of framed photos…buses, streetscapes..random people..strange little people with quirky dress and sometimes doing strange things..pictures from upstairs rooms of dark or lighted corners of streets outside..cars going past…abstracts of anonymity..

“That one with the young man on the stairs fiddling with the model building?”..I ask.

“Rome..; Architectural student making finishing touches to his exam model.” Michael quoted from memory. “That interested me” he added.

“…and that one?” I continue..

“…er..can’t remember..I think ; “Leeds…; Lady waiting for bus”..

“Of course she’s waiting for a bus…it’s a bus stop!” I protest..but I see he’s tired of the game and is taking the mick.. We changed subject and he told me about his holiday to Portugal…

We ordered lunch..and from where I sat , I would look up from my meal and I would see the girl in the blue dress….The picture is obviously from the mid-sixties, as she is wearing a mini-skirt of modest proportions, while the older folk around are still dressed in the gloomy, frumpy style of the fifties..There is a fountain in the background and thousands of pigeons milling around on the ground ..a man stands behind a stall of a kind with a hand drawn sign on the counter requesting : “Please return these”..I cannot quite make out what “these” are, but I would guess from all the pigeons they may be small containers for grains to feed to the birds…

The girl in the blue dress has her head bent down, with one arm crooked across her waist and the other with her hand cupped over her mouth and partly over her eyes…she looks like she is crying because of something..I can’t stop stealing glances at her..I try not to look too obvious..

I think I may be falling in love with the girl in the blue dress.

 

The Dromenom Labyrinth.

 

” One set comes from the Gnostic tradition of the Chartres School, and the other from Sufi beliefs.”..

Well, there you go !..and I had in mind ‘Greeks bearing gifts’..Many years ago I was “involved” with a lady deeply immersed in the psychic..hey! I don’t make these things up , you know !! And so I was taken on the trip with the Full Monty..I still have a couple of pics somewhere with myself and a couple of the faithful holding a stick with some loosely tied chook or crow feathers on it as a kind of symbolic “connection” to “our” spiritual ancestors…..and why not?…my grandfather did breed chooks after all..and granny had her turkeys !…but it was at one of those workshops where people go back into their past lives and discover their tribal roots….strange how many American Indian princes there are in the anglo-saxon gene pool!….Of course, one wouldn’t like to discover a spiritual ancestor who was ..say ; Outer Mongolia prince…the image of “horde”, “massacre” and Genghis Khan springs to mind…the same with Germanic princes…: Attila and all that!…no, no…safer to wander the ancient forests of Seattle with Pocahontas or Running Bear on ‘the shores of Gichigoomie’ (spelling ?)..after all ..all they did was hunt buffalo and make jokes about two dogs!

But I had to give that relationship away when it got to joining in public performances of full-moon circle-dancing on the suburban beaches….I mean..fair go eh?…there’s only so far a young bloke can be expected travel for some things..eh?…I’m a great believer in the spiritual myself..why..I’m almost a Buddhist, y’ know? There was this moment at one of the monthly meetings of “The Dromenom Circle”, where we were all expected to bring some example from our jobs that would show the spiritual connection between our everyday working life and our inner soul…As you know, I was in the building trade….heavy then…full on!….I thought of Ron th’ brickie…my mind went blank on spiritual connection somewhere between sweating and swearing..after all..the “thing” in building for the tradie, is the finishing of the product….or as James Joyce said to his portrait painter wtte ;… “Don’t worry about the spirit of the thing, just get the tie right!” ..Then I made three different wooden cabinet-makers joints as an example of the advance of the human vanity from the ancient Egyptians with a heavy-beam “scarf-joint” spanning the roofs of temples, to a early concealed “fox-joint mortice and tenon” used in high-class chair manufacturing to the creme-della-creme ; “three way concealed dovetail” joint for use in display cabinets…I thought they were symbolic of the innate desire in humans to conceal the structure of a thing, yet contain the strength of construction of a thing….that sort of stuff….jeez!..they took some time and effort to make..esp’ the three-way-dovetail…but, you see…they were too ‘industrial” to be given much more than a curious glance..nothing spiritual in the actual working structure of things, so much more in the finished facade…the gargoyle gets more attention than the corbel supporting it.

So that was my experience with labyrinths…I walked them, I talked them…I did a lot of listening about them…them and Joseph Campbell on mythology…jeez! he put out a lot of books and tapes….that’s it..; Cosmology…there’s a science there somewhere, I’m sure of it….Though I’m buggered if I know…one can only travel so far down someone else’s road..and then it seems that while they are spiritually walking a “field of wild-flowers and buttercups”, all  you are seeing is brambles and thorns….there comes a time to walk another path less travelled….if you get my drift!

 

 

A Blue Balloon.

My pet pussy-cat died yesterday…I liked her…pets form a confederacy of mute adoration with their owners that is singular and different to our human relationships..hard to explain…I write this little testament to her passing..forgive me this simple indulgence.

A Balloon.

A bright blue balloon
Am I,
As blue as blue as an azure sky.
Catched for a moment
By an Hibiscus flower.
Wind buffeted,
Held for an hour
Of fragile kind-ship,
We were.
Now..
The delicate thread broke free..
Now, can you see me anymore
As I drift away
Shape and colour
Lost against a vast array
Of blue as blue as an azure sky.
My bright blue balloon
And I..
She is gone…
Goodbye my sweet..goodbye..