Day 69: 5 July 2017
Thursday, 05 July 2018 15:55

Overheard this morning in the foyer of Tasmania’s Supreme Court:

 1st defendant: ‘Have they chosen the jury yet?’

2nd defendant: ‘Just pay ’em five hundred dollars each and say nothin’.

* * *

My interest in trials piqued when I read Helen Garner’s account of the Farquharson murder trials; a father driving his three young sons into a dam west of Geelong. In House of Grief, Helen studiously describes the captivating theatre that is a courtroom, its actors and audience. Today is day one of what His Honour says will be a five-week trial for three men accused of bringing drugs into Tasmania. Later, the judge will say he’s actually ruled out thirteen weeks in his diary, in case. The accused duly plead not guilty, which allows the empanelling of the jury to proceed. It’s a long process, taking over an hour. The defence and prosecution teams between them reject all but three of the first twelve prospective jurors. Finally, after more challenges and pleas to be let off – and a number of self-disqualifications, one because the man knows one of the staggering 153 witnesses who will be called to give evidence – we have seven men and five women jurors. His Honour lists the rules pertaining to jurors; he then gives them thirty minutes to call family or work, and to feed parking metres. Immediately after the break, and before the jurors are brought back in, defence counsel informs His Honour that his client, defendant No.1 – who has an ongoing cardiac condition – is not well. The judge calls for an ambulance; he then reluctantly adjourns proceedings until next Tuesday, at 10am. Bail for each of the accused is extended until then. I’m left with two thoughts. First is the cost of justice. Here we have eight men and women wearing wigs, plus numerous operations and security staff. Think of the salaries, and the rent. The other is the politeness with which proceedings are conducted. Horror with dignity!

To be continued (23 trial instalments in total -- it gets more interesting each day, then the verdict)

Day 67: 3 July 2017
Tuesday, 03 July 2018 10:00

Cadets was compulsory at boarding school, and the worst day to be in cadets was ANZAC Day. It was always really hot, and boys who were made to stand in the oppressive heat while speeches were read, dropped like flies (told to fall down at attention). On my first ANZAC Day parade, I looked around for an alternative. And there, seated in the shade of the chapel cloisters, with no doubt a cool breeze blowing through, was the cadet band. ‘Next year, Thornton!’ I whispered to myself. On our first day back at school the following February, I put my name down for Band – specifically drums. The next day, the band master made me do a drum roll. It was anything but, and he asked what else I could do. I chose a curly brass instrument called a baritone. Within a week I’d taught myself to play Three Blind Mice, followed by Colonel Bogey and Waltzing Matilda. My grandfather, who paid my school fees, previously had banned Music on the grounds that it wasn’t something boys did. So, I forged Mum’s signature on the permission slip. ANZAC Day came and went, and I stayed cool. Music exams were held in October, with the same examiner coming from Melbourne each year. ‘I haven’t seen you before,’ he said. ‘No, Sir,’ I replied. ‘I haven’t done an exam before.’ ‘And you want to sit a Grade Five exam using the trumpet syllabus?’ ‘Yes, please Sir,’ I said. ‘You won’t pass,’ he said. My face went bright red. I proceeded to play my set and chosen pieces, although he stopped me half way through Jesu, Joy Of Man’s Desiring, to tell me to cut the pace by half. No one had taught me about speed! The following Saturday, I caught the train into Geelong, where I bought a second-hand trombone. Eight days later, the band marched through Geelong for a charity event, and I played the marches on my shiny, silver trombone. Neither my mother nor my grandparents commented on my report card, which arrived home the following week. I guess my score kind of made it hard for them to be angry with me.

Day 68: 4 July 2017
Thursday, 05 July 2018 15:46

Scene No.1 of JACKAROO screenplay

INTERIOR. DINING ROOM AT ‘YARRUM PARK’STUD FARM, DUNKELD - NIGHT. Camera freezes on exquisite, illuminated chandelier; pans down to a huge portrait of a prize Hereford bull; continues down to heavily-acned yet strong-looking teen sitting at a mahogany dining table, chewing! Camera then pans past four more of Geelong Grammar’s 1st XVIII footballers all wearing School’s light blue sweater over white shirt; pans to end chair and radiant Mrs Baillieu who smiles at her beloved jocks. Only sound is chewing! Pans down other side of table: five more revolting footballers chewing rudely. Camera stops on angelic, olive-skinned Michael at far end. He sips his glass of wine while he stares at the row of jocks, winces, disgusted, revolted.

 MICHAEL (Voice Over). 'That’s me! Michael. I’m not a footballer like these morons. I’m the team’s time-keeper. It gets me out of having to play a winter sport. My mother tells everyone I’m a huge disappointment because she played at Wimbledon and she can’t understand why I’m so fucking useless at sport. I sing, which is more than these idiots can do. Funny how God never makes boys who can sing AND play football!' Camera pans back along first row of boys to Mrs Baillieu at the far end for her reaction; camera freezes on her cool aristocratic poise.

MICHAEL (V.O.) 'That’s Mrs Baillieu, one of the footballer’s mothers. Mum and she went to school together. They still play tennis together. We’re like Family -- except they’re RICH and we’re NOT!' We see a jock stuffing his face with food; camera to Mrs Baillieu.

MRS BAILLIEU (looks down table to Michael). 'So, Michael. What are YOUR plans for next year?' The footballers turn, give Michael a big glare. They hate him.

MICHAEL (close-up, smiles). ' I’ll be spending the year as a jackaroo for Dick Webb at Habbies Howe.' As one, all eyes turn to Mrs Baillieu to get her reaction.

 MRS BAILLIEU (her smile hardens; LONG pause). ' I’ll be surprised if YOU last a year THERE!' Michael’s face turns scarlet with embarrassment, while all of the footballers smirk and snigger. One gives him the finger!

Day 66: 2 July 2017
Tuesday, 03 July 2018 09:56

We have on Solarus a drawer full of instruction manuals. It’s complicated operating a yacht. Yet the manuals rarely see the light of day. I learned something very important about instruction manuals when I was a student at agricultural college. It was after lunch one Friday when a guest speaker, a sales representative from Sunbeam, turned up to flog his product line to the sons and daughters of farmers and graziers, eager young ‘rurals’ who were present with me in the lecture room. The introduction was boring, but the salesman brought us all to life when he placed his box of goodies on the desk, and proceeded to rip the lid off. He took out the hundred-page instruction manual (in eleven languages), and declared, ‘The first thing you do is this…’ Whereupon, with one almighty heave, he flung the said manual over the heads of us students and out through an open window mid-way down the lecture room, which he must have opened while we were at lunch. Anyway, his was a perfect throw! Of course, if his aim had not been good, the hefty booklet would have decapitated at least one future grazier. The most radical student in our cohort, Warren (Wocca) Moore, led the slow handclap, which very quickly became full-on applause from the entire class. So it has been that, throughout my life, whenever I purchase a product that comes with an instruction manual – which I have no intention whatsoever of reading before trying the product – I think of the guy from Sunbeam heaving his manual out through the lecture room window. He made his point well. Men are not good at referring to instruction manuals. Shortly after graduation, Wocca, who had married but not long after separated, perished in a suspicious homestead fire, his kelpie sheepdog dutifully by his side. Many of our class attended the funeral, but few, if any, as I recall were moved to shed a tear.


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