Health 4 of 4


I was questioned by an old friend about my current medical condition and how I felt about it. The answer was “philosophical and not depressed, but a little saddened by my change in status”.  Equally “Optimistic” as I know I could not be in better hands.  There is no fear of being robbed of the Golden years of my life as I have had them!  With a dear wife and three fine offspring, what more could I ask?

quantam 3Further, the enquirer asked about the treatment I had had and what was to come.  To date I’ve had Trans Urethra Resection of Bladder Tumours (TURBT).  I did request a full anaesthetic, as I hate needles and a spinal block spooked me.  Telescope inspection of the internal walls of my bladder and excision of tumours, was done, which I liken to removal of a wart from a finger or a sun spot from the  face.

This procedure resulted in burgundy coloured, but presumably not tasting, urine for ten days following, and small complications like blood clots obstructing the flow, causing extreme pain, and requiring a return to hospital for relief.

What next? I was asked.  Answer, well a pair of clever medical investigators discovered that BCG bacillus inserted into the bladder kills the remaining tumours and reduces risk of further intrusion. This will be done six weeks from initial resection and will follow for two years on a weekly basis.

quantam 4The procedure requires the patient to be prone on a bed which is rocked sideways and rolled back and forth for a two hour period.  (One can only imagine how much use such a contrivance as this could be in Endette Hall! Perhaps it was invented there.)  After the BCG application and the rock and roll it is necessary to flush out the bacillus and neutralise the effluent. Milton’s Solution is recommended. Fortunately it is not taken by mouth, but after drinking copious quantities of water the bladder becomes flushed, by natural causes. It is not recommended for septic tanks nor worm farm effluent treatment systems, so a bucket of the remaining fluids will be transported to the local public toilet and flushed away.

Did I have any concerns?  Well yes I said. I hope it will not be excruciatingly painful having TB germs inside me, and also the passing of the resulting debris and fluids disturbs me, should this too be painful. However as my brother, used to say, if he had a painful treatment for anything  e.g. Tonsils out, or dreaded wart removal by dry ice, “If it hurts me, it must be hurting the wart more, so bear the pain”

One pain I will not have to bear is the cost, because Peter MacCallum absorbs it. I thank the Lord that this scenario did not occur in “The Land of the Free”, where medical activities are anything but.

Racism, Apes and King Kong

“Racism will never be eradicated until there is the reconciliation of the heart, until we really acknowledge the history of hurt, the history of displacement, the history of hypocrisy, usurpation and arrogance.

It is no good repeating that we are not racist. We are, and perhaps the recognition and acceptance may help to dissolve the characteristic. We will have to work at it. If we don’t, then we will not enter this soil in a good shape.”  Peter Gebhardt, The Age 28 May 2013

Passive Complicity endorses this view.

AND PLEASE CHECK OUT THIS as a not so passive response to racism!

Weekly Wrap 28 May 2013

Here at Passive Complicity we have had great pleasure in bringing you a week focussing on Mothers. But first a word from Errol: I know I am contradiction inside contradiction.  I know that truth is sometimes an octagon and that I am one.  I can love women and hate them and this may seem a contradiction.  Contradiction is a cardinal element of life and of itself it may be no contradiction. You can love every instant of living and still want to be dead. I know this feeling often.  Don’t tell me that contradiction is wrong.  Some people say “That is a contradiction,” as if something defies logic or understanding and is therefore not true.”  From My Wicked Wicked Ways, by Errol Flynn 1959.

Our first post was a piece by Ira Maine who argued, quite persuasively, that “Mothers are Essential”.  He goes on to postulate that “by inventing Mothers, (God) only just avoided (by the skin of His teeth) setting back humanity’s progress by some millions of years.”  Read this piece here

Award winning Nunga poet, Ali Cobby Eckermann brought us her wonderful poem “Mum said”.  Read it here

We learnt more of Quentin Cockburn’s family, where he tells of the regular pilgrimage he and his mother make.  His piece, “Mother’s Pilgrimage” can be read here

Restorative Sherry was the first of two posts by Cecil Poole on his mother.  This talks of the stresses on motherhood and running a household in the fifties, and a surprising outcome.  His second piece, Mum and her BMW, deals with living and dying with emphysema, sadness and laughter.

This week’s Musical Dispatch from the Front discusses colonialism and the lessons learnt in Kerala and Ireland.

We finished the week with Poetry Sunday, edited by Ira Maine.  Despite being asked to give other poets a go, and him placing two ancient poems, he managed to get his own rhyme in.

Happy reading.
Cecil and Quentin.


Health 1 of 4

Health Care in the US;  a personal perspective.

One thousand, one hundred and twenty seven dollars.  Three Stitches.  That is Three hundred and seventy five dollars and sixty seven cents per stitch.  In my lip, in America.

Let me tell you what happened.  I fell whilst roller skating.  Tripped or pushed.  By an American.  Face plant on the wooden floor.  Instantly I knew what had happened.  Hadn’t split my lip since my teenage years, yet the sensation was familiar.  No great pain, no tooth damage, just a tooth through the upper lip.  And quite a bit of blood.

The Emergency Department of the major teaching Hospital in this small University Town, I walk in at 9.09 pm.  Efficient staff take my details, do the necessary paperwork.  Sit and wait, I am told, you will be seen soon.  How soon I ask.  Should be within three hours at the maximum I am told.  I tell my son to go home, that I’ll return by taxi.  He presses to stay, but leaves with what I think is relief.

Looking around at the others waiting I am quite shocked. Not only do many of them appear quite ill, and/or appear in some discomfort, they are not the people I see at faculty, around the University nor around town.  I sit and ponder, trying to work out where these people come from, what their story is.   They are generally fat, many are obese, they are coloured, they are poor.  They are the cleaners, the kitchen hands, the labourers, the unemployed.  And the thing that strikes me most is that these people are here now for two reasons that would rarely apply in Australia.  Firstly it is not work time, so they can get attention without putting either their job or this weeks pay packet at risk,  and secondly they get no preventative medicine.  I imagine this is because they have no health insurance, thus do not go for regular checkups, nor do they follow up when they have had a check.

Just after 2 am a nurse takes me to a bed in the surgery and asks me to lie down.  This is the first contact in over four hours.  There are a few other beds in the surgery, all occupied.  An hour later a doctor comes, cleans up my lip, gives me a local and stitches the laceration.  A senior doctor comes by and approves the work.  This takes perhaps twenty minutes all up.  I am back home and in bed by 4 am.

The lip has healed well, I have no lasting scar.

Four weeks later I get a letter from the hospital with a bill for $780, in two parts. The first is for use of the facilities.  The second is for professional services and materials.  Good god, I think that is quite expensive.  I call a Bush Nursing service in Victoria, Australia and ask the cost of this sort of thing.  No more than a couple of hundred bucks is the laconic reply from the centre manager.  Oh well, I thought, health care in the US is reputedly expensive, and I do have insurance.

A day or two later I get another bill.  From the doctors.  $347. Now a total of $1127! I faint.  I think of asking my family to call a doctor.  I think better of that.  I am flabbergasted.  I finally telephone the hospital.  Agreement is reached to pay something less than $700 total.   (I understand that the US Health Insurance Companies never pay full fee.)

Next time I split my lip I hope it is in Australia.

Cecil Poole, May 2013

Ford Australia

Here at Passive Complicity we have been inundated with comment regarding the scheduled closure of the manufacturing arm of Ford Australia.  Two of the more interesting comments are published below, the first by our resident motoring expert, Quantum Dumpster, and doesn’t he ever go the dump?  The second is by an unidentified public relations expert.  Read, enjoy and send comments to us.

Cats and Dogs – Holden and Ford? by Quantum Dumpster

I like the title, as it relates to both a successful football team and also the products of their sponsor, the departing manufacturer.

Rather, one has to liken our American owned Multinational motor manufacturers to, dare I say the Melbourne “Demons” and the Geelong “Cats”.  But the comparison is best served by comparison between Geelong and Collingwood.

The magpies are Ford.  I know you may howl, they actually sponsor the “Cats”.   But, for the sake of literary blasphemy, the truth has to be compromised. (Is that not “Life”?)

Now, who has three Premierships from the past 5 seasons?  Who are continual “Losers”?

Who has had a flashy coach – like a Rat with a gold tooth? , and the ubiquitous “Mister Popular” (in an ironic way from Broadmeadows – the home of Ford manufacturing), as Club president?

Which team had a long serving coach, who developed young players and had a stable succession plan which has enabled a continuing winning streak?  The successful combatant has had a stream of quiet, unassuming managers, all being developed themselves for more senior roles, elsewhere in the world – beyond the parochial local cess pool. It is of course the Cats!

The irony is that the remaining American Multinational with home grown middle management, has had its heart set for thirty years on sponsoring the Magpies.

That goal has finally been achieved.  Holden now sponsor Collingwood.  The sponsor of the more successful “Cats” has “Given Up the Ghost” and is retreating.

If only the lessons available and applied by the team they do sponsor had been applied to Ford’s business plan they might still be here.

Is this another example of life’s mysterious ironies?  Q E D

And from our PR Consultant

This is how Ford announced its decision to cease all local manufacturing and lay off most of its workforce…

“Ford Accelerates Australian Business Transformation
Ford is transforming its Australian business by accelerating the introduction of new products for Australian customers, enhancing the sales and service experience, and improving its business efficiency and profitability….”

Reading the waffle-laden, upbeat opening of this press release, one would suppose they were announcing a major expansion – a welcome good-news story for a struggling industry.  But no, it was the wind-up of 88 years as a local manufacturer.

As a one-time PR consultant, this press release breaks the first rule: don’t treat your public like idiots –  they really don’t like it!  And it blows back on you very badly.
Secondly, if you have bad news to announce, do so honestly and directly, be upfront.
Thirdly, explain why the decision was unavoidable.
Fourthly, then go on to credibly show how you plan to ameliorate the consequences.

I wonder what sort of overpaid Comms Manager allowed that corporate-speak blather through?  I can tell you I would have very definitely argued down Ford’s weaseling CEO!

With this kind of approach, no wonder Ford Australia’s gone down the tube…

Poetry Sunday 26 May 2013

Dear Reader,
You may remember that, as publisher, I charged Mr Ira Maine with the task of editing the Poetry section of this blog.  He used his office as a shameless vehicle for self promotion.  Admittedly his poems were ok.  (In fact we have been deluged with appeals for more of him including request for samples of his underwear.  Please do not tell him.)  I asked that he include other poets.  He has chosen to promote only long dead poets thus to limit his competition.  Here is the note he attached to the two poems sent for this week:
As promised; two Roman rhymes to suit the times and if you read between the lines, well neither is a rhyme of mine, though mine are equally divine, and so you know, I think you’ll find, these Romans all were filthy swine!
(Blast, he’s done it again!)

“In love with young Elaine”  MARCUS ARGENTARIUS (1st Cent.)

In love with young Elaine, at last
I talked her into it!  We played
Together,breathless in my room;
Our hearts were thumping and, afraid
That someone might surprise our love,
We talked in whispers; but we had
Been overheard-her Mother’s face
Poked round the bedroom door and said
‘No cheating now! Remember Dear,
We share and share alike round here!’


At sixty, Juliette’s mass of hair
Is black as it has ever been;
She needs no brassiere to uplift
And firm her marble breasts;her skin
Is still unwrinkled, perfumed, quick
To welcome and provoke desire;
So, if you’re bold enough to face
Love’s fiercest, most enduring fire,
Call Juliette, and have no fears-
You’ll soon forget those sixty years!


MDFF 25 May 2013

Publisher’s note:  We start this post with the conclusion of the Dispatch of December 15,  2010, then move an extract from the Musical Dispatch From the Front, of February 2011.  

Next month we are privileged to have been invited to a wedding in Kerala Province (Southern India). Where the wedding will take place the language they speak is a palindrome: Malayalam. We’ll be able (however inadequately) to compare the incomparable: a society that has shaken off the shackles of a colonial power with a society where respect and independence from a colonial authority is but a far off dream.
We’ll be visiting the land of The God of Small Things!
अगली बार (शायद अगले साल) तक
(Decode Google Translate from Hindi)
सिर्फ एक बोनस गाना:

On 22nd. January Dilip and Priji  “tied the knot” (quite literally, in that part of the ceremony at the Temple consisted of Dilip placing a string around Priji’s neck and tying it behind her- which makes me suspect that that is the origin of the expression).

The generosity of Dilip and Priji’s families to us was unbounded. Seldom in our lives have we been made to feel so unconditionally welcome.

Our long sojourn in Yuendumu being a notable exception. The Warlpiri people have uncritically accepted our presence in their midst, and made us feel welcome, despite them having been subjected to a sustained and continuing neo-colonial assimilationist attack. Many societies would not be so tolerant and forgiving and lacking in bitterness.

Do Indians have a sense of humour? We went to the Thrissur Museum (attached to the Thrissur Zoo). A jar of formaldehyde in which a Tarantula had been drowned was labelled “Big Hairy Spider”, it was next to the equally submerged “green frog” and “house lizard” (gecko).

Our visit to Kerala Province reminded me once again of Martin Flanagan’s poetic paragraph in an article he wrote years ago for the Melbourne Age : “To visit Yuendumu is to have the glass tower of your preconceptions shattered into countless brilliant fragments”.

Visiting “foreign” places un-blinkered seems to invariably debunk stereotypes. Some years ago we travelled to Ireland. From a preconceived “uptight Catholic” country, it metamorphosed into a land were all taxi drivers were philosophers and comedians. To stand in the Long Room (Library) of Trinity College is a quasi-religious experience.

What Ireland and India have in common is that they are both proud of having won their independence from the English and are able to be themselves. In Kerala many things are labelled MG, such as the MG Road in Ernakulam. It took us a while to realise that MG is Mahatma Gandhi. Hopefully the times will change, and the day will come for Warlpiri to once again be proud and free to be themselves.

Assimilationists and Interventionists take note: “…and don’t criticise what you don’t understand…”

Mothers 5 of 5

Mum and her BMW

Mum had emphysema when she died.   So did Dad.  They didn’t share oxygen bottles.  That would have been quite sweet (and economical).  Sweet rather than romantic.    What a miserable affliction.  Both of them lived for a decade or more where they struggled for breath.  Every morning there would be this extraordinary heavy coughing, finally resulting in a slight loosening of the nights deposit of phlegm.  The rest of the day was a constant struggle for breath.  Is there a more ordinary, disgusting and humiliating way to die?  Self inflicted – or was it?  Everyone smoked back then, everyone.  First they had “cork tips” then filter tips.  Not that they did any good, except they did stop the strands of tobacco entering the mouth.  Mum and Dad loved smoking, chain smoking all day.

None of their six children smoke.  Maybe smokers should sit with emphysema suffers for an hour each week, watching them ever so gradually weaken.  At first they seem not too bad, just a bit more coughing than normal.  But get them to walk up hill – then the lack of a decent lung full of air really begins to tell.  Then push them around in their wheel chair, with oxygen cylinder and air hoses.  Embarrassing for everyone.

Mum nursed Dad through most of his illness.   Watched him failing.  He was such a big and strong man.  And here he was unable to take more than a few steps without stopping to regain his breath.  Mum, knowing she was going to go through something very similar.  Dad died in 1988.

They both loved the outdoors, sport, the beach.  Mum loved to ride horses, to party, to be with lots of friends.  Gradually friends withdrew, I guess embarrassed by her illness.  Perhaps a suspicion that, like TB, it may have been contagious.  This drawing back by so many close friends really floored Mum.  The invitations ceased.  I could still go, she’d say, the wheel chair and oxygen make it fine.

Gradually Mum was forced to spend more and more time in bed.  Her bed looked out through French doors over the veranda past oak trees, across the valley to the hills and forest beyond.  She loved the view; in fact she had grown up with it.  Often we, the family, would sit on that veranda eating, chatting, drinking.  It was a more important space than the dining room or the sitting room.  We almost lived out there.   As mum’s illness progressed she had her end of the veranda glassed in to form a wee east facing sunroom.  She called it the BMW.

Why do you call it that I asked?  Well said Mum, sucking up the oxygen, well, there was this matron in Toorak who took pity on a down and out sort of chap and asked him what he used to do.   A house painter was his reply.  Well, she said, I really need my front door painted, I’ve got all the materials, if you come around now you can do that and I’ll pay you cash.  The job was expertly done in super quick time, so the matron, after a brief inspection asked would you have time to go around the back and paint the porch?  No worries said the painter.  After an hour or so there was a knock on the front door, the matron answered and saw the painter.  So you’ve finished the porch she asked?  No, he replied, I couldn’t find the porsche so I painted the BMW.

Cecil Poole, May 2013

motherhood 3

Mothers 4 of 5

comprox-gate 1 Mum and her restorative sherry

Mum just had to drink.  She had no alternative. Six children, numerous miscarriages.  Some said she had rhythm  – one full term, one miscarriage over and over until the six of us were born.  But that wasn’t the half of it.  She had “station”.  Well bred.  Standards to maintain.  With little money.  Staff to lead.  When I say lead, I really mean boss.  But in the nicest way, with the nicest smile.  But staff must know their place.  And that was not at our dining table.  Nor in anyone else’s bed.  The house was big, old, and poorly maintained.  32 volt power from a Ronaldson Tippet diesel engine and a bank of batteries.  The batteries could keep a few very dull lights going but not the washing machine.  And Mum could not start the generator.  Another stress.  And she had to feed the men – those that worked the property – not a farm mind you, we were Graziers, not farmers.

Yes, it was important to keep up the standards.

Mum was out of bed before anyone, and was last to retire at night.  She had so much energy.  She always appeared cheerful, happy, talking, talking.  So important to look on the bright side.  “If you can’t find something good to say then say nothing” was her mantra.

Our’s was not a wealthy house.  We didn’t want for much, but Mum helped make ends meet by buying in bulk.  Detergent, flour, sugar, salt, tea, sherry and a host of other necessities.  These were decanted into various tins, boxes, jars and flagons and stored in the pantry.

Every now and then things would threaten to get on top of Mum.  It was then that she turned to a restorative sherry – dry, of course.  Now Mum’s problem was that she could not let her guard down, no-one must know that she was under stress.  So she’d glance around to make sure the coast was clear then dash into the pantry, pull a cheese glass from the shelf and pour a sherry and down it in one gulp before anyone could catch her out.   Oh, the shame would have been unbearable.  She’d quickly fill the glass with water and carry it out to the kitchen with her as cover.  The system worked well.

Until she mixed up the flagons.  Until she mistook the detergent – BP Compox it was – with the sherry.  Similar colour, similar viscosity, different taste, no restorative benefit.  Poor Mum.  Her face clearly portrayed the shock, the taste, the disgust, and the fear.  So ill, so very ill.  It was more than a decade before Mum could even say the word sherry without trembling.  And we didn’t get detergent in bulk any more.

Dear Mum, it still makes me laugh.

by Cecil Poole May 2013

comprox-gate 2


Mothers 3 of 5

Mother’s Pilgrimage by Quentin CockburnQuentin fireside chat

It’s a pilgrimage of sorts, I count the empties, Mum and I assess the damage, and then methodically compile a list.  The making of lists is very important, we cannot forget a thing.  The route is familiar, just a short hop from the old paper mill at Alphington.  A left hand turn and we park the car.

mothers day 2There is something profoundly ecclesiastical in the design.  The first thing you notice inside is the sound, it’s that lofty cathedral resonance, of muffled voices, the absence of music, and the soft clink of bottles being stacked, and cartons lifted.  At the portal we are greeted by a man collecting boxes upon a trolley, he smiles, we make a short greeting and then walk with practiced steps towards the far end of the building.

‘Which one’? I inquire pointing to the assembled objects, arrayed sarcophagus like in their respective niches, like statuettes.  ‘I think this one has the best value, it’s on special, only $41.95 for the whole litre’, she says.  We turn it over, feeling the satisfying weight, and noting its promise within.  ‘Excellent value’ I exclaim, and cradling its fragile shape with reverential awe, place it carefully into the little basket.  ‘Let’s have a look over here’ says Mum, and in the ensuing fifteen minutes a wonderment of delights is revealed and, according to principles of procedure and procurement, the basket is safely filled..

Later, warmed by the crackling fire, we savor our purchase, the deep richness of Johnie Walker, cleansing the soul, mellowing the hard edges of a worn out day, and the knowledge that life, just for the moment, is stayed.  ‘I suppose we should try one of those reds’ I suggest, ‘they looked pretty good’.  She replies matter of factly…’Let’s try some now and have the rest with dinner’ , … ‘Good idea, and what do you think we should do for dinner’.  Not moving, the reply is measured, ‘That’s alright, there’s something in the fridge’.  I examine the contents of the fridge, a faint odour of putrefaction assails me.  ‘I think, I’ll get some rolls from the bakery, and make something up’…Still immobile savouring the calming effect of her drink she replies,  ‘Alright then’, and ‘this wine is good’…‘yes’ I mutter, whilst filling the rubbish bin with off cheese, left over renderings from last christmas, and the vegemite stamped, use by Feb 1996,  ‘It is, isn’t it.’mothers day 1