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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

BOSTON: "Mr Watson, answer the ferkin phone!!! You can stick your ferkin 'press one' for 'paying your account'… give me a person before I shove the…"

Be all that as it may, meanwhile:
'In other news…'
10th March 2010

Wednesday: Back into the legendary heat of Perth, but with the silver lining of a touch of March gladness: the days are shorter, the nights are longer, the sun is a tad weaker (you'll fry in three minutes rather than one), and the heat is often a tad drier.

The dame of my life and I dragged ourselves up – as usual feeling like death whiffing in a poorly insulated thermos, loose screw top lid, a week after the chicken soup was poured in – not long before midday, to prepare ourselves for a major highlight in our entire lives coming up this evening.

Although the forecast was a mere 34 Celsius, it still meant I had quite a bit of hand watering to attend to of the bamboos, lawn, and such, to safely leave it all, given the patchy and infrequent waterings I've been giving the garden for weeks. Before we knew where we were, it was off to the University of Western Australia a trifle after 4, in better traffic than we dared hope for, in our finery. Despite the heat, I was wearing a tie, and a suit, although the jacket was not going to be donned until it had to be, in the interests of it not becoming an efficient funeral garb for the then turn of events centre of attention: moi.

So to our pleasant surprise, we arrived at carpark one at UWA before The Babies Ink&Peggletter, who shortly thereafter phoned us from the nearby Crawley riverfront and gave us directions on how to walk there to find them. Then we began a half hour of taking photos of Baby Inkletter in her robes with every known permutation of the three of us, until we were certain that the 'antechambral' glory of the occasion to come was captured to our satisfaction.

However, in this recently new age of affordable quality digital cameras, we began the whole process over again in the shadow of the beautiful and grand Winthrop Hall at the entrance to UWA, among hundreds of others doing the same with their golden boys and girls. And eventually, well into the gloaming, the oven-like conditions mercifully moderating by now, came the call for the undergraduates et alia to make their way into Winthrop Hall, twenty minutes ahead of we hoi polloi milling around in a tastefully restrained celebratory mood.

Our call came, and in we assembled, to find, thank God, that the huge cathedrally proportioned Winthrop Hall was airconditioned, but there was to be no concern for frostbite by a very long shot; a thousand or so people in a cavernous building like that on a hot early autumn's evening definitely would have Western Power's executives purring over their café lattes and lobster hors d'oeuvres.

And so began a long but fascinating ceremony of graduation for so many hundreds of former students of the university, rich with pomp, circumstance, tradition, colour, abstrusity, and 'esotericity', and having run out of impressive sounding words, I'll enlighten the billions of my edge-of-their-seat readers now in hopefully simpler 'linguisticons' of the what, the how, and the why of tonight's proceedings as it relates to the Inkletters.

We began our marriage dirt poor, and to be blunt, this has never changed. Baby Inkletter arrived cradled in a nappy slung from a kindly and wise stork's beak a tad after two years of marriage, and we had hopes and visions for her life to come as noble as any parents' dreams. At seven years of age, we with considerable difficulty began contributing to a scholarship fund designed to mature at Baby Inkletter's commencement of tertiary education, but forfeitable if she did not embark on such.

She was keen on the idea from her early primary school years, and of course the parental encouragement element at this stage would be the driver, but she excelled in both primary school and high school, and finished her year 12 with the qualifications and unequivocal desire to attend UWA.

She began her first year at the university in 2002, and she was able to buy books with her scholarship redemption, but of course racked up a substantial Higher Education Contribution Scheme debt to pay her fees. Her choice of study was a double degree in Economics and Arts.

She completed her Arts Degree first, and complex life circumstances meant time off from finishing the Economics Degree, but she finally completed this part time last year.

And so, it was a most meaningful experience for Missus Inkletter and me, with Baby Peggletter beside us, to watch Baby Inkletter, bedecked in an academic gown hired courtesy of her grandfather's generosity, walk to receive her double degree from Chancellor Dr Michael Chaney, this auspicious evening.

It was the culmination of a relatively tremendous effort by our daughter, given the ill health she fought against throughout her school lifetime, missing perhaps a quarter to a third of her school time, and the economic struggle we all had, causing more strain for her having to wrest a great deal academically from the smell of an oily rag. Family circumstances were also far from ideal, and this latter fact multiplied the stresses very considerably.

And so as we witnessed her taking her turn in a very long line to accept her degrees, the scale of her achievement compared with many of her coevals was not lost on us; Western Australia's top university is host to thousands of very economically well assisted students who would want for little of anything that would assist their success.

The significance of the event for us is compounded exponentially for more personal reasons: it would not be overstating the case to us the qualifier 'terrible' to describe fractures which occurred in our family life during the decade and more from about our daughter's 12th or 13th year to her 22nd or 23rd year or so, and I had resigned myself to never being a part of any such celebrations the likes of which I took part in tonight. The pain to me of these years mounted to an excruciating and oppressive burden, and to be honest, has left deep painful wounds. And very simplistically explained, all this hurt could be put down to misunderstandings; so much of human misery arises from such, and so we would all do well to examine, and help one another in this process, the multifarious drivers for misunderstanding.

So to witness our daughter's graduation was a salve for my soul.

Delving for a moment into a politically incorrect realm, which regulars to this blog will have noticed I do from time to time, a few things of concern struck me from this event. We were informed that the university's annual budget is about $750 million, and this fact will help inform some of my following observations.

Firstly, the business degrees handed out were a massive proportion of the total. Not that I have anything against having people trained well in the science of business, in fact I'm all for it; the proportion is my concern. For example, the degrees given tonight for anything resembling a humanitarian endeavour could be counted on the fingers of one hand. I not sure that there was a single purely science degree among tonight's batch, but then perhaps they are handed out in their hundreds at other ceremonies during the year? [Back from the future update: As a celebration for having graduated, Missus Inkletter and I took Baby Inkletter and Baby Peggletter out to dinner on Monday evening the 15th March at Siena's in Leederville – inexpensive beautiful tasting food and very nice service by the way, and we warmly recommend it to anyone – and during our chat Baby Inkletter informed me that this ceremony was one of but 14 or so this year for UWA, and these were just for Economics and Arts. My concern at the very high business proportion still remains, but is rather lessened now that I'm in possession of some pertinent facts: a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.]

Secondly, the non-Australian percentage of the graduands was huge. Do I have anything against other nationalities? No, not at all. However, the fact is not lost on me that full fee paying students from overseas are taking positions that poorer Australians, who could be being educated at UWA due to their merit, are missing out due to their inability to pay and/or their unwillingness to take on the HECS debt required, not to mention the many potential students whose life circumstances militated heavily against them even developing their talents to the point of meeting university entrance requirements. I would be surprised to learn of any academics and administrators high up the UWA echelons complaining of the full-fee paying overseas students, given the virile and surging power of the ruddy vapours of filthy lucre.

Thirdly, the doctorates awarded had us privy to a collection including some rather precious sounding theses; this just reminded me of the arguably decadent or limply insular state of so much of academia nowadays.

We joined the crowd after the ceremony for refreshments on the courtyard in front of Winthrop Hall after 9 p.m., and the temperature now was pure balm, and not a ripple from a single leaf, the air was so still. This catered event was beautiful, and of high quality, and better still, the self control of the participants was of a high standard. We eventually parted company with The Babies, and headed the short distance down to the Nedlands foreshore for a walk along the river about half ten, armed with nothing more lethal than our goodwill. We parked near JoJo's Café, situated as it is on a jetty over the river, and walked hand in hand along the riverfront through Beaton Park, on this dark night, so still you could hear the blades of grass calling out for water during this driest ever summer in Perth.

It was a magic time, the lights of the suburbs across the river along Canning Highway reflecting off an almost glass smooth river surface, warm and tired water, waiting for an influx pushed by welcome winter rains from the hinterland. We sat and soaked up the ambience, aware of a boat with fishermen some few hundred metres out, no lights, their muffled voices travelling further than they probably realised, maybe they didn't care.

In half an hour we saw but one human being, a very keen and overweight fellow, who gave us a friendly humorous greeting, jogging by and possibly flirting with death. How wonderful, really, that you can live in a city of two million people, and find solitude along the river front but stone throws from the crowded suburban streets of the well-heeled, at but half ten in the evening.

Reluctantly we headed for home after our stroll back to the car, and chatted about this wonderful day when we shared our daughter's graduation from our State's top university. And thank you to Baby Peggletter, her wonderful partner, who strongly encouraged her to partake in the ceremony, for she was planning not to. We all got to take part in an evening we'll all treasure.

Better late than never, a day late in fact, I have a bit I want to say regarding last night's Lateline: The (Leigh) Sales Graph: Ms Sales went super simple and casual, with a dark shirt-blouse being the beginning and end of it all, her hair style and minimalist jewellery complementing her subtle-effect make-up. Her interview was with Foreign Minister Stephen Smith, who looked immaculate in a dark suit white shirt combo with a broadly and vividly striped tie, which flirted dangerously with the camera.

The subject matter was varied, but began with our relationship with Indonesia. My observations however simply will focus on the manner of the interview which Ms Sales conducted: it is obvious that she doesn't like Mr Smith, and this considerable dislike is not hard to notice if one observes attentively.

Mr Smith, to his credit, displays more warmth by far towards Ms Sales in each of his encounters on air with her than is returned. I happen to like the manner of Mr Smith, having pointed out here before that a sober and measured Foreign Minister is considerably more preferable than a rock star type, a Gareth Gareth Evans, or a prima donna type like Alexander Downer.

As the interview progressed the winter easterly coldness emanating from Ms Sales increased, revealed in both the conduct of the questions and interjections, and the detail in them.

This issue of personal likes and dislikes of our journalists towards their interlocutors is nowhere better illustrated by the bad blood displayed by Kerry O'Brien towards the likes of John Howard and Malcolm Turnbull. It would be very difficult to conceal it, and I'm sure I would likely be unable to do it, but what a superlative professional we'd be treated to who could interview people who he or she had a unambiguous veridical dislike for, yet left the audience none the wiser regarding such professional relationship foibles.

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