Tuesday 15 October 2013

A funny man with a dirty surfboard

The title of this post was said by one of two six-year-old, or thereabouts, girls as I walked home from my surf on Friday, through the Clarke's Beach camping area.
I longed to go back ad ask why she had said "funny" man.
I'm guessing she meant funny-peculiar, not funny-ha-ha, as I hadn't stopped and told them the one about the traveling salesman and the farmer's wife.
The dirty surfboard part was accurate though, as can be seen in the pic, and so I was curious to find out about the other descriptive term.
However, we will never know because although these two kiddies were playing at their mothers' feet, even I knew that a half-naked man walking up and saying "can I have a word with your six-year-old daughter" would have gone over like a lead zeppelin.
I might add, that is where the name of the band came from, one of the Beatles, when he heard them for the first time, said "these guys will go over like a Lead Zeppelin".
So Robert and Jimmy decided to use it as an eternal finger-up to the Beatles.
What this little girl said though reminded me of something I used to hear as a teacher, and so I guess this is a tip for new teachers out there.
I would regularly here teachers say "the kids think this of me, or the kids think that of me".
Wrong, wrong, wrong.
What these teachers were really saying was "I HOPE the kids think this of of me", or "I'd LIKE it if the kids think that of me."
And sadly the only way to really know what the kids think of you is to overhear them by accident.
As I did, coming round the corner of a building at Freshwater High School to do playground duty.
Completely by chance I overheard some kids around the corner say, "Barker thinks he is so cool, but he's just a fucking dick."
Lesson learned all right.
Supremely painful though it was, it was sadly true.
I did think I was cool, and like all Gen Xers, I was in a constant rebellion against authority and so was fighting my own war against the senior staff.
I thought this made me cool in the eyes of the students, but no, no, no.
But then Art Linklater famously said at the end of his show, in which he interviewed young kids, that "kids really say the damnedest things", and this is true now as then.
I remember a story I read somewhere about a woman with a Ph.D working as a supervising academic at a uni.
Ph.Ds are known as Doctor, it stands for Doctor of Philosophy, though the accolade spans the faculties, so you could have a Ph.D in Chemistry, Maths or Geography.
Anyway, one of the academic's students came to the door of her home, it was his first visit, he knocked and the academic's six-year-old son answered the door.
The student said, "Is Dr Childers here?", to which the son replied, "Yes, but she's not the sort of doctor that's any use to anyone."
So kids are brutally honest, though they don't mean to be hurtful I'm sure.
This likewise reminded me of a cracker released by my nephew Adam, aged six or seven.
He was at school and asked his teacher for something, she said, "What's the magic word?"
To which Adam replied, "Abra Cadabra".
The teacher laughed and it even got printed in the school newsletter.
Then again this same nephew did another one that was received with less enthusiasm.
One of his dad's mates came over,this guy liked a beer or twenty, and as he stepped through the door Adam said, "are you having a baby?"
Oh dear.
  And in an "Only-in-Byron" moment, I went around to the smallest business in town, Barefoot Roasters,  to get coffees for the office and while Rosie was brewing those up, I had a learned discussion with the proprietor Rodney, about the biggest business on Earth, the American debt ceiling, so I think I'll take this opportunity to give you my inexpert view.
Essentially, if the US reps and senate agree, then they vote to increase the debt ceiling, and life goes on as usual.
The problem is that the US has a new party who can be accurately thought of as the American Taliban, the Tea Party.
The people in this party are nuts, their beliefs make the flat Earthers seem like lucid thinkers.
What they want is to remove the new health care package brought in President Obama, or at least to water it down.
So they are waving this huge financial stick over the president.
Members of the Tea Party, making sure
their wallets are safe from Obama.
Obama, to his credit, in my view at least, is standing firm.
His health care reform has already been voted upon and written into law and his point, which only nut jobs like the Tea Party can't seem to see, is that you can't have a situation where a law is declared then every time the houses of parliament change, you dig up that law and change it, or get rid of it.
What's more, as Barack has pointed out, the Tea Party can't seem to understand that, if they achieve their ends in this case, next time there is a republican president in the White House, the democrats in the lower house will use the same weapon to remove or water down something the republican president has done.
The Tea Party basically think that no one can be president unless they're further to the right of Hitler, and if, as the Tea Party would see it, by some collective death wish of the American voter, there is a democrat in the White House, they will use fair means or foul to stop democracy at work.
But then health care in America has always been a mystery to the rest of us.
I remember a terrible case of a Hispanic woman whose son had an impacted molar.
She was an illegal immigrant, but her son had been born in the US and was therefore entitled to health care, even if she wasn't.
She searched and searched and eventually found a dentist on the other side of LA, who would see her son on medicare.
But sadly, by the time she found the dentist and made plans for the three hour trip across town, he had died of infection in his throat.
This I thought terribly sad, and Obama's health care package is designed to stop appalling situations like this occurring again.
Another case, not as bad, but a real warning about travel to the States came up when I was working in Canada.
I was collecting money door to door with Greenpeace, I knocked on the door of a comfortable house in the suburbs, and a tired looking woman came to greet me.
I gave her my spiel and she replied, "Sorry, I love what you guys do, but I cannot afford to donate."
This was a common, probably our commonest reply, but she seemed genuine, and so I asked "why?"
She then told me a truly frightening story.
She had taken a trip to California with her husband and child, but picked up lung infection on the aircraft.
By the time the wheels hit LAX she was having trouble breathing and was rushed to hospital direct from the plane.
She then spent the next four weeks in ITU, then six more weeks in a sterile ward.
Sadly, they hadn't taken out travel insurance, and came home with a $250,000 debt to the hospital, which they were now paying off at $1000 a month.
If you go, go insured.

So to finish on a lighter note, but no less accurate for that, I was greatly amused by an episode of 30rock, which highlighted things nicely.
Alec Baldwin plays the president of NBC and is an arch republican.
He refers to President Clinton as the "inter-Bush" president.
He takes his pregnant partner with him on a trip to Canada and then she starts contracting and he has to rush her to hospital.
She gives birth and they are in the post-delivery ward catching their breath, when the hospital's administrator comes in and says, "It's Ok Mr Donaghy, due to the emergency nature of your visit, the birth is completely free of charge. You don't owe anything."
To which he is horrified and replies, "THAT CAN"T BE RIGHT!!!", and the episode ends with him roaming the hospital looking for someone to pay.
See you next week for more moaning and inexpert political commentary. 




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