CHRISTINE M. KNIGHT

An Australian author who provides insight into the human condition.

Poetry

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Digital Education Revolution (D.E.R.)

Monday, April 22, 2013

Government Spokesperson:
We’re on the cutting edge of the revolution digital.
Taxation dollars have been spent on laptops that are minuscule.
They are lightweight, robust, and designed for school.
Everything a student needs, that’s been the rule!
Goodbye to tattered, old-fashioned books
And to frustrated teachers’ dirty looks.
These laptops provide opportunities on the road of life.
Innovation and focused learning mean an end to classroom strife.
We’re on the cutting edge of the revolution digital
Schools are committed to education evolution continual.

Students:
Takes too long to
Log on!
System crashes -
Overload.
Speed and band width -
Overlooked.
Lessons end with
Little done!

Government Spokesperson:
As in any venture into a new frontier
There are hiccups, so you will hear
Of tribulations technological.
We discount them as problematical.
You can’t have progress without teething pains.
A first world economy is our ultimate aim.
I’m shocked that you say the political has shaped our vision.
The benefits to the electorate were assessed with considerable precision.
The nature of teaching has been revolutionised
By targeted spending on this government’s side.
We’re on the cutting edge of the revolution digital
We are committed to education evolution continual.

Teachers:
Laptops in bags -
kicked around.
Batteries go flat -
Can’t charge.
Instructions in use?
Not enough!
School desks and chairs -
out-of-date!
DER claims are grand,
Aspirational.
School life?
It’s much the same.

Students and Teachers: Doh!
© Christine M Knight (2009)

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Monday, April 22, 2013

The Meeting

Monday, April 22, 2013

The room fills slowly.
Staff trudge in, mugs in hand.
The uninitiated carry note pads and pens.
The experienced smuggle in magazines
Stowed inside the covers of departmental folders.
Jostling for the back seats,
They perch in clutches.
Latecomers, distance denied them,
Reluctantly fill front rows.
Speakers misfire enthusiastically, unknowingly,
Pumped with their status in the brooding room.
Somnolence spreads its protective wings.
Staff roost:
Eyes open and glazed.
Minds asleep,
Bodies numb.
The drone lathes against the collective consciousness.
Information:
Photocopied,
Collated,
Stapled,
Distributed,
Dams the stream of discourse,
Replacing communication.
The meeting closes with a gavel jarring knock.
Like birds in a sun shower,
Staff shake themselves.
Caffeine -craving induces a hasty departure.
© Christine M Knight

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Monday, April 22, 2013

Turning Point

Monday, April 22, 2013

A teacher and his students
Stand before a portrait of a child
The style reminiscent of Johannes Vermeer.
She stands in a darkened doorway,
Looking back over her shoulder at the viewer,
Handkerchief in hand,
A single tear balanced
On her lower eyelid.
The teacher analyses the composition,
Deconstructs its elements,
Instructs on the artist’s technique.
Discusses the context of the painting.
He appears blind to what the artist captured …
The arresting of grief and the realisation of hope.
©Christine M Knight

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Monday, April 22, 2013

Whistle Blower

Monday, April 22, 2013

In a world at war,
An ordinary man (so his neighbours said)
Balanced 'small crimes' against moments of goodness
On his life's ledger.
Faced with the fascist principle of absolute obedience,
He kept his job and his life,
Fed his family,
Earned their future,
Closed his eyes to the truth.
Standing mute, he salved his conscience with the lie:
The unthinking respect given to authority makes it unassailable.
Compromised,
Emasculated,
He survived,
A Schindler without the redemptive list.

Over the ensuing decades, he sought escape
From memories and accusers.
Hunted, at the close of each labyrinth path,
Ghosts haunted and fingered him.
He stood judged,
Condemned – a war criminal.
Newsprint of the modern day constructed a reality that ignored
The fear of retribution,
The horror of reprisals
When living in a world ruled by the ruthless self-serving.
Labelled a war criminal,
His defence,
“I was a silent witness and nothing more,”
Was without meaning in the time vortex.
He had, after all, knowingly profited at the expense of others' lives.
In a world at peace,

I face demands for compromise on matters of principle.
Management, secure in the status that gives them credibility,
Excuse the abuses, justify their inaction,
Spin the facts into an 'alternative truth’.
Colleagues, afraid and demoralised,
Coax the swallowing of the old lie.
Bills paid,
Kids fed,
School fees met,
Prosperity,
Weigh against the blowing of the whistle.

Searching for a maze exit,
In a world compromised by the Robin Hood philosophy
That excuses:
opportunism at tax time
travel expense embellishments
honest lies
I wonder
If the scale of a corruption matters rather than the corruption.

Haunted, the question spirals, echoes in my dreamscape.
The answer
Taps, knocks, pounds
Until I jolt into wakefulness.
Skinned in sweat,
In the darkness,
Without the distraction of material glitter,
One thing is inescapable.
Chilling slowly,
I know that silence
Classes me with those who stood mute
When faced with greater crimes.

©Christine M Knight

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Monday, April 22, 2013

Clerical Rites

Monday, April 22, 2013

Daily, ritually,
The office photocopier churns out documents.
Periodically, it protests
With an unceremonious stop work.
Denied initiation into the mysteries of its service

We channel a call to a higher power,
The priestess of photocopiers.
Productivity stalls.
The congregation waits.
Time passes.
Slowly, belatedly,
The priestess comes.
She approaches the altar,
Offerings in hand,
Disgruntled by the interruption
To her valued clerical rites.
Dispensing the symbols of communion:
Intoning, filling paper trays,
Manipulating mechanisms,
She unravels the mystery.
We return to our devotion
Until the next inevitable
Dispensing of rites.

© Christine M Knight

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    Thursday, March 16, 2017

    An era, a show and a legendary album

    Thursday, March 16, 2017

    John Shortis and Moya Simpson’s playful sense of humour was evident from the moment I entered their Bungendore property. Their next-door neighbour’s gates featured a sign that read 'Ironing done here'. The wall plaque near Shortis and Simpson’s front door read 'Irony done here'.

    Over a steaming mug of coffee, we discussed the inspiration behind their current cabaret show Fifty Years Ago Today.

    Cobargo Folk Festival commissioned the cabaret after Shortis and Simpson’s acclaimed festival performance about Eurovision and the context out of which it evolved.

    John said, ‘That show was really an entertaining look at the history of Europe post World War 2 linked by bad songs.’

    Fifty Years Ago Today
    marks the anniversary of the launch of the Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album in June 1967 in the northern hemisphere.

    Apparently, the album’s release date in Australia was delayed until July 1967 because the British producers did not trust Australian printers to faithfully reproduce the elaborate artwork of the Sgt Peppers album cover. The covers were produced and printed in England and shipped here via the Suez Canal. Regrettably, the six-day Arab Israeli war broke out and so the shipment was detoured around the South African cape. The album was launched in Australia at the end of July.

    The cabaret’s story line positions the Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album in the context of what was happening globally at the time. It also provides fascinating insights into the backstory of the album’s creation, dating back to the early 1960s when the Beatles were mop tops, in the heyday of swinging London.

    John said, ‘You can’t tell the story of the Sgt Peppers album without showing the Beatles’ evolution from catchy pop rock songs to complex artful experiments in music.’

    Sgt Peppers
    is the first Beatles’ album after they gave up touring.  The album marks The Beatles’ arrival as recording artists instead or touring musicians. For instance, ‘Ringo’s drumming is more orchestral in its approach. McCartney’s bass work transitioned from simple bass lines that filled out the pop rock sound to complex, intricate bass countermelodies that actually featured on the Sgt Peppers album rather than being fill.’

    Shortis and Simpson’s Fifty Years Ago Today incorporates humour and poignant stories as well as songs of different tempos and styles from that Beatles’ milestone album as well as songs by other famous musicians from that era.

    I was fascinated to learn that the Beatles’ celebrated producer, George Martin, used his background in producing Peter Sellers’ Indian characters on comedy records to bring together Indian and orchestral musicians to produce George Harrison’s Within You Without You.

    John said, ‘While the lyrics are hippy trippy, the music is quite extraordinary because it follows the traditional rhythms and scales of Indian music.’ 

    Moya said, ‘It was a nightmare to learn!’

    John admits to scoring the music into a computer software program and practicing to it every day for ages so that he could synchronize his keyboard part with the rhythms.

    Another interesting aside is that, in celebration of the link between the Beatles and Peter Sellers, Moya sings the Sophia Loren and Peter Sellers’ hit Goodness Gracious Me in the cabaret as part of the side story to the Sgt Peppers album.

    Fifty Years Ago Today was not designed as a nostalgic trip down memory lane, although people who lived through that era may relish the show as such. It provides insight into a seminal moment in music and world history when world music influenced the Beatles music not only in composition but also in performance.

    As we talked, it struck me that the show was very much like a great meal: lavish, prepared with great care, nutritious and good for the soul, and an experience not easily forgotten. The cabaret utilises the rich harmonies of a large choir, the vocal skills of its musicians, and the rocking talent of a hot backing band. It has appeal for all ages.  I also realised that Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album prepared audiences for the emergence of another musical phenomenon, Queen, masters of pomp-rock with its diverse rock styles and intricate vocal harmonies.

    This cabaret should not be missed when the show comes to  your part of the country.

    © Christine M Knight



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    Friday, November 25, 2016

    Acknowledging Indigenous Heritage in the Palerang region

    Friday, November 25, 2016

    Recently, I wrote a blog about the restoration of The Carrington Inn. My article about the inn also appears in the District Bulletin's December issue. The District Bulletin reports on country living in the Palerang region. I feel it would be remiss if I did not also acknowledge the importance of Indigenous heritage as a side bar to the Carrington article.

    Heritage places are a visible reminder of Australia’s history and identity. If they are neglected or demolished, then part of our history and identity is lost. When they are protected and restored, they add value and dimension to our community. This applies equally to the heritage represented by the traditional owners of the land. It is important to acknowledge that Indigenous heritage when promoting awareness of colonial heritage as it shows respect for Indigenous culture.

    Before European settlement, Indigenous people represented an unbroken culture that was inextricably linked to the land and history of the continent. That relationship and life as Indigenous people knew it changed drastically as a consequence of Dr Charles Throsby and Hamilton Hume's exploration of the region in 1820.

    By the end of 1821, Europeans had settled the region. The provision of a mail service in 1837 formally made the settlement a town while the arrival of train services in 1885 resulted in the town becoming the hub of the region. Cobb and Co coaches transported travellers to far flung settlements. 

    During this period and into the twentieth century, Indigenous people experienced a history of exclusion, denial, and were silenced. Many Indigenous people many died as a result of white settlement (disease and conflict). Indigenous heritage is in the land, in sacred places, lore and values. By contrast, colonial heritage is in buildings and property and its laws.

    To better appreciate the impact of the European arrival in Australia and related issues, click on  The Dispossessed.

     

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    Sunday, November 20, 2016

    The Restoration of the Carrington Inn, Bungendore

    Sunday, November 20, 2016

    Late October, I met Innkeeper, Richard Graham in the motel carpark of The Carrington Inn a few weeks after it had reopened.

    Originally known as The Lord Carrington Hotel, the property was built between 1884-85. It was named after the newly appointed governor of NSW. When the governor retired, the inn became The Carrington Hotel.

    In the 20th century, descendants of the Winters sold the property to Toni Dale who reverted the property to its original function from a domestic residence. It later changed hands until Richard bought it eight years ago.

    As we walked through the half acre of man-made gardens' entrance to the Wintergarden complex, I was struck by their intrinsic naturalness and the patterns of dappled light. Richard said they are ‘one of the largest publicly accessible private gardens in the region.’ He credits the illusion of a much larger space to the use of meandering sinuous paths.

    There are three distinct themed locations within the Wintergarden complex: The Tom Wills Tavern, The Empire Hall and Salons – fine dining, and Myee’s Tearoom. Myee is pronounced my. The tavern’s namesake and a local, Tom Wills was a leading Australian cricketer from 1856 and is said to be the founder of Australian Rules football. Heavy drinking was apparently part of the sport's culture at that time and purportedly played a role in his tragic death in 1880.


     

    Maria Myee Gallagher, 1889-1967, was the granddaughter of the original owner, William Daniel Winter. ‘An educated woman of many talents, Maria Myee never married and lived in the hotel throughout her life.’ She was a skilled pianist and taught the piano as well as the sewing arts and painting to locals. She was also well-known for her charitable work in the town.

    The interview and tour began in Myee’s tearoom. Its décor, like the rest of the complex, ‘pays deference to the 19th century colonial Victorian nature of the Carrington Inn.’ An airy and serene space, the tearoom’s authentic hand-painted stencilled wallpaper, pale green wainscoting, slate floor, furnishings, and hanging baskets suggest a Victorian garden conservatory.

    When I asked about the ideas underpinning the renovation process, Richard explained the choice before him. Restore the inn to look like the property as it had been in 1885 or restore it to reflect the Victorian era from 1885 but have modern restaurant equipment. For commercial reasons, he opted for the latter.

    After much research, Richard and his team distilled the Victorian period to a single restoration intention: ‘allow modern-day patrons to appreciate the aspirational nature of the Victorian era’ and witness a different lifestyle.

    The aspirational mood of the period is clearly visible in the style of ceilings in the tavern and the Empire Hall and Salons. The tavern’s patterned copper ceiling is reminiscent of Tudor ceilings and represents the revival of British styles during the Victorian era. The decorative tin ceiling in one of the salons is another popular architectural element from that period as are the subtly lit, rounded vaulted plaster ceilings in the Empire Hall.


     

    The Victorian theme is evident in the use of decoratively etched glass mirrors, beautiful period-styled drapery, luxurious furnishings, dining settings, and décor accents. Thirty-three hand-painted artwork reproductions tell the colonial story, including artwork by Tom Roberts. In the tradition of the time, a picture of Queen Victoria dominates the Empire Hall.

    The attention to authentic detail is also seen in the use of deeply embossed wall covering (Lincrusta) in  the Empire Hall. Lincrusta was invented in Britain in 1877 by the same man who invented linoleum floor covering some years before.

     

     Having visited many famous historic sites, I found The Carrington Inn as striking as places like Chatsworth House and Hampton Court in UK. Of course, The Carrington's pristine interior décor  and the inn are much smaller in scale than those other historic UK properties.

    As Richard told the stories behind each room’s décor, I realised that he is more than the owner and operator of an enterprise that happens to exist in a heritage property. He is keenly aware of his custodial role in restoring, documenting, and protecting heritage.

    As I left that afternoon, I realised that heritage places not only add dimension to the character of a community and its diversity but to its unique features of streetscapes as well.

     

    Left to right: Mark Summers, General Manager; Edwina Fitzgerald, Accommodation Manager; Me, Innkeeper; Merili Pihlamäe, Venues Manager; and Andrew Stansbie, Executive Chef.

     

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