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The Velveteen Brumby
In 1989, I bought a little utility,
a Subaru Brumby. I have only bought two new cars in my life. One was a Leyland Lemon, t'other was the Brumby. Some of my former friends have called it a girlie ute. But we were together from 1989 to just the other day, a relationship lasting longer than many marriages. As a small child, I read, or had read to me, a book called The Velveteen Rabbit. It's about
a child who leaves his favourite toy carelessly out in the rain. It is a story of loss and redemption. More than an entire litany of adult do's and don'ts, it informed my attitude towards possessions all my life, including the experience of having things taken away from me in the wartime period of my life between the Velveteen Rabbit years through to the edge of adolescence. I cared for things, as well as for sentient beings, including a litter of children, many dogs and the occasional kitten.
So I came to love the little Subaru. She was a utility, not a flat tray, and anything larger than a small washing machine wouldn't fit in the 'tub', which had a volume only slightly in excess of the average bath. But loaded and tied down carefully. Totally submerging the driver, she would carry 12 bales of straw, oats, barley, or pea, essential materials for keen gardeners, which we still are. As a four-wheel drive, she was, actually, a toy, compared with the ugly behemoths of today, which are employed largely for transporting small children (large ones too) to suburban schools via made roads. She was a lightweight, which was an asset in really rough hill country. She could dance across the slope, where overweight four-wheel-drive pantechnicons would slide helplessly down it, sideways. She would carry in one morning, ten times her own weight of firewood, cut and split in the smoke of a fire under a simmering billy of hot water for tea, the taste of which is unforgettable. But we have moved down from the hills, and four-wheel drive is no longer essential.
She was indomitable. With 323,000km on the clock, she still had an original head gasket. I am no mechanic, but I could tell the good from the bad. She was carefully maintained and serviced, and leaked not a drop of oil, ever. There was the occasional mini-drama with coolant, but nothing else stained her garage floor.
But it had to come to an end, or a pause, at least, while I found
a new owner and a good home. I hoped to acquire a small reimbursement as a warrant of the good intentions of the new owner, as well as a small contribution towards a replacement. Dealing in
used cars can be a tricky business – selling, particularly. It seems to attract shonks, trolls, and every kind of tyre-kicking weirdo.
Dealers make appallingly low offers in search of the ignorant widow with a brand-new Audi, seldom out of the garage. But I spent what seemed like too much money at the time, gave her to a detailer for a day, who was able to reveal the beauty under a third of a million kilometres of country road grime. I parked her for a day or two in that great Australian car yard, the roadside verge, with a one-page notice extolling all her virtues.
She really did look good, and almost immediately I had a breathless text from what turned out to be my ideal buyer, a lovely Mum whose 19-year-old son was about to go adventuring overseas, but who had been yearning for a good little Brumby, as many people do. She lived close by and came round at once. She told us what she could afford, and we took her at her word. It was to be a surprise for a dear son, and after we had shaken hands she brought him round.
As a last resort I had resolved to give the car away 'to a good home', and here it was, sitting on my verandah and being utterly charming. And I had my deposit for the next soon-to-be-loved, purchase. Which is a story still to come.
John Fleming II

Expectations placed on teachers
Poor teachers. They have so many expectations placed on them, from so many different directions.
Every time a deplorable event occurs in our society, somehow the call goes up, saying that teachers have to “do something”. With the increased pressure, more and more blame is sheeted home to teachers. Teachers and the education system are expected to make up for what isn’t taught in the home and the community.
Whatever they do, whatever system is in place, teachers will be blamed. They can’t win.
More and more time is spent on behaviour management, eroding
teaching time.
As the world becomes more globalised, and as the cultural imperialism of behaviours from America creeps further into our lives, we see more and more pressures
on teachers.
In other parts of the world, the school has become a battleground. Who wasn’t shocked by the massacre of students and staff by a former student in a school in Florida? These incidents are becoming so commonplace, it has been claimed the media is not giving the problem the attention it deserves in the US.
To compound the atrocity President Donald Trump suggested that teachers should be armed and trained to protect their students. What? Are we all crazy?
No, of course this will never happen here, of course it won't, but the idea that teachers are expected to do everything, including tote guns, is a dreadful suggestion, from a dreadfully dysfunctional society. The reason the suggestion is alarming, and may influence Australia, is that social media spreads like wildfire, and the trend towards solving every dispute with violence is becoming normalised. Copycats get their ideas from somewhere. The latest developments from America may auger badly for the expectations  the community  places on those who choose teaching as a profession. Let’s hope not.
Frontline teaching
Being a teacher is a responsible and highly valuable job.
Being in the frontline, delivering
a curriculum, with the pressures of managing behaviours from a wide and complex cohort, is a task that requires support, including from the education hierarchy and from principals and the community.
As if the teaching profession wasn’t already complicated, the increase in expectations often goes hand in hand with a reduction in resources.
Frontline teaching has its challenges, but the job of education management, including being a principal, is not an easy ride. According to a report from the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER), principals are “stretched to the limit”.
A recent ACER survey commissioned by the Australian Education Union (AEU) Tasmania Branch found that Tasmanian public school principals are working 60-hour weeks, and excessive workloads are affecting principals’ health. This data confirms issues raised in the recently released national Principal Health and Wellbeing Survey, by Associate Professor Phil Riley.
AEU president Helen Richardson said: “Our survey matches key findings by Professor Riley’s research on principals’ health nationally, and shows that excessive workload is taking a huge toll on Tasmanian principals.
“Principals are working 60 hours
a week, and have spent on average 28 hours per week working during school holidays. They are working these long hours just to keep up with growing administrative tasks.”
The report makes interesting reading. It highlights problems with under-resourcing and staff shortages, and a need for principals to be available to support staff by being taken off the staffing quota, in order to alleviate principals’ workloads.
Principals should have more time to focus on their core job of teaching and managing the school, more time to spend on mentoring, leading teaching staff, pastoral care of students, and building relationships with parents and the school community.
With the changes to school systems whenever there is a change to education policy, often following an election, schools are called upon to do more with less resources, fewer staff, and less support. We should be more respectful of our educators. And we don’t want to have our gun laws weakened.
Merlene Abbott

500 words... Jasmine Smith-Browne holds forth on matters close to her heart
I often hear from mainland visitors that Tasmania has the best roadside stalls. Because we are more trustworthy here and rely on the honesty box system, this is also seen as a bit quirky. On any given weekend, there is always an abundance of stalls whenever we drive out of the city.
I travel a good half an hour sometimes when I want flowers because I know where there are really fresh, cheap flowers for sale on a roadside stall. I know they are just picked, and will gladly go out of my way to get them.
Recently, I was driving down the Tasman highway and came across an apricot and cherry farm. Both fruits are my weakness, so I drove in to buy a kilo of each. The cherries were huge and succulent, and the apricots were the best I have tasted in recent years. When I bit into the first one and felt the juices ooze down my chin, I closed my eyes and took in a memory of my childhood. Fruit of today never compares to the fruit of years ago, and backyard trees seemed to bear the tastiest crops. Today’s younger generation has no idea how different fruit now tastes. The chemicals that get pumped into them, or perhaps the change in soil, has made a vast difference.
Anyone over the age of 40 might remember the wonderful taste and texture of watermelons. We would sit on the back step on a warm night and spit black seeds out onto the lawn as we bit into the most glorious-tasting watermelons. But today’s variety is tasteless, seedless and anaemic. My father would throw dried watermelon and pumpkin seeds into a messy compost pile and leave it to thrive, occasionally throwing food scraps on the top.It yielded the best pumpkins and watermelons, and we would gather round on harvest day eager to sample them. I look back now and realise how excited we were about fruit in those days.
Fruit and vegies that were homegrown were mostly swapped with neighbours and friends back then, and occasionally a small market garden made some pocket money. A good blackberry-bush walk was always a fun pastime. Whatever we didn’t eat straight from the bush was brought home in buckets and made into delectable blackberry pies. Today blackberries are recognised as a weed and often poisoned.
Now, we see most of our good fruit leave the country. In return, we are sometimes left with poorer quality or interstate fruit that does not seem to have the same taste. I recently learnt that those lovely little lolly bananas that everyone likes were made to replicate the taste of the bananas we used to have years ago. Bananas today are lucky to survive two days at most. Strawberries start growing fungus before you get them home from the supermarket.
If only we could turn back time and become more self-sufficient with our fruit and vegies. Of course, we have many people who grow things to sell at market stalls. Kingborough Council has made it possible to access fresh stock thanks to the Kingston Produce Market, but what of the joy of growing vegies in our own backyard? I am not the world’s best gardener, and every year will try my hand at growing something. Sometimes my plants thrive, while others wilt before they grow, so obviously I do not have a green vegie thumb. But I can grow the best sweet cherry tomatoes, which sprout around my clothes line. I didn’t plant them, but some time in the past the plant has taken root there. I nurture it like a baby and leave it to grow where it wants. In return, it gives me enough tomatoes for endless summer salads.
Sometimes I wonder if the taste of fresh food is changing significantly for scientific reasons. In the future, we will no doubt eat meals in a tablet form which will have all the nutrients we need. The more bland the fruit and vegetables become in the future, the more we will adapt to the tablets. At some point, we will not really miss the succulent taste of good homegrown food, and therefore find the tablet quite palatable.
That’s my silly theory anyway. I am sure hydroponics will still be popular, but they do not come anywhere close to what the fruit tasted like in my childhood.

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