Monthly Archives: February 2012

‘Evicted’ – A painting for our times?

Last week I visited the Brisbane Art Gallery, and was delighted to learn that you can now take photos inside the gallery, as long as you remove the flash.  Great!

And in the various collections on display was this one by Blandford Fletcher, painted in 1887:  Evicted

(Double click on the painting to enlarge)

I first saw this painting in the Gladstone Art Gallery a couple of years ago, and it really made an impact on me.  Possibly because the little girl is staring straight at you as she walks away from her home.  It’s a look of bewilderment and sadness, and you would have to have a heart of stone not to be affected by it.  Unfortunately scenes like this were not uncommon.  Usually when the man of the house died, or left, the bailiff would arrive and evict the woman and children as there was no pension, or hardship payments, available in those days to help make ends meet.

What was most likely to happen was that both the mother, and her little girl, would be taken to the Workhouse where they would be seperated, and made to work long hours in dangerous and unhealthy conditions for many years.  There was little time for rest, very minimal health care, and no schooling.  A most joyless and unhappy future.

Funnily enough, there was a Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, but nothing to help poor women and children.

And now in Gladstone, we are seeing a modern version of this each week as many of our elderly, poor and sick are forced to find cheaper places to live outside our region.  Big wages being paid by competing companies have forced up the price of rents in our city, and some unscrupulous landlords are pushing for weekly payments far beyond the earning capacity of many low income renters.  And it’s distressing to see online comments, and letters to the editor of the Gladstone Observer, drily stating that those affected have only themselves to blame, and that they need to ‘get off their backsides and earn big $ to keep up’.

If only it were so easy…

Personally, I’d like to see this portrait bought back to our gallery, as a stark reminder of why we need a safety net for the poor, the sick, the elderly and the frail.  And anyone wanting to make a super-profit from society’s less fortunate, will hopefully stare into that little girls eyes, take in her ragged clothing, the broken toy, and the look of desolation on her mothers’ face, and with a bit of luck, will think twice before putting personal greed ahead of our community’s human needs.

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OCCUPYing Gladstone

Here in Gladstone we must have missed the email to participate in the global OCCUPY movement.  Mind you, if the lack of vacancies in our hotels, motels, spare rooms, sheds, and dog kennels are anything to go by, Gladstone couldn’t possibly get anymore occupied at the moment.

Perhaps this is why we weren’t too keen to join the Occupy protesters.  Because the last thing you want to find after occupying a public space for a few days is that someone has decided to occupy your home while your back was turned.

And where in Gladstone could you hold a protest?  The Kin Kora shopping district is out for starters.  Passers-by won’t know if you’re actually protesting, or just angry at being trapped in the now 24/7 traffic jam.

Goondoon Street plaza is probably your best choice, but it can be a little quiet.  Which was why I was surprised to see a large group of people gathered there recently.  I couldn’t tell if they were Occupiers, or just regular folk mooching about shouting into their mobile phones, because from what I’ve seen on tele, it’s pretty much the same thing.

I never found out who they were, because while I was shackling Pubtruck, my faithful pushie, to a ‘No Parking’ sign, the group shuffled off.  Like a herd answering some secret signal, they silently disappeared into the nearby shops, offices and meeting rooms, leaving me standing alone on the main drag, surrounded by some freshly flattened cigarette butts and a passing tumbleweed.

At this point my common sense wandered off as well, because I marched straight into the Council Chambers and applied for a permit to hold a public demonstration.  That’s the sort of action man I am folks.

So as soon as the Council approves my application, I’ll start my one man Occupy protest.  I’ve already packed my tent, a fistful of muesli bars and a cricket box (just in case any security guards decide to test drive their boots on my crotch).

My demands are fairly simple; so simple in fact, that I actually have no idea what I want, which will make it fairly difficult for our civic leaders to meet my vague demands.  Hopefully I’ll think up something during my protest.  Plus I’m also planning to use the event to make a little cash on the side; leasing out the spare space in my tent to homeless workers. (Italics were edited out)

Vive la Revolution!

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Column Ritin’ Return

The people of Gladstone have enjoyed a 5 month break from my scribblings… well, the party’s over folks, I’m baaack.

The aim of this column is not to inform, educate, or motivate you into becoming a slightly better person.  Nor am I here to blow the lid off City Hall, expose Gladstone’s seedy underbelly, or tell you who is on the take, on the make, or which accessories will be fashionable with cheap rubber thongs this year.

If that’s what you are looking for, then boy, have you come to the wrong place!

The Editors, who I’ll refer to as ‘they’ from this point on, (handily providing me with another useful four letter word) had initially titled this column ‘The Lighter Side’, and I’m still unsure if this was a reference to how it should make you feel, or a direct insult to me.

And having kindly provided me with some space in their paper, they are now watching on in horror as the monster they’ve created rampages towards the unsuspecting villagers.

The funny thing is, when I tell people I write a humorous column for the paper, their first reaction is to fold their arms and say, “Yeah?  Well, go on then, make me laugh.”  At this point I’ll rattle out the one joke I keep memorised for such occasions, only to see it fall flatter than my wheelbarrow tyre.

For some reason I tend to get a lot more laughs from strangers just by leaving my house wearing, what I think, is a pretty snazzy outfit.

But there is something magical about humour, be it a witty one liner, a well told joke, a political cartoon, or a little column whose main aim is to help an overweight, middle-aged man, who lives a daily delusion that he is much younger, fitter, smarter, and funnier than he really is, deal with everyday life here in Gladstone.

In other words, this column is my therapy.

And if by some miracle you do happen to find something funny, insightful, wise, or shrewd in my scribblings, then please share it with me, because it will be nice to know that I’ve brightened your day.  Even if it was unintentional.

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