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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Bmag Oct 9th 2012 - Rolf forgets, Canberra remembered

Rolf Harris knew he’d stuffed up but it would be 20 years before he fully understood the consequences! This week 9 October marks the 30th anniversary of the Queen closing the Commonwealth Games in Brisbane.

My favourite 1982 story comes not from the closing ceremony but from the opening, where thousands of school students formed a map of Australia with red, white and blue placards. One of them was Katherine, now a Taringa hairdresser, who (about 10 years ago) let me in on a little secret. It seems the children were getting their cues from Rolf Harris as he sang Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport. Trouble was, Katherine told me, Rolf forgot the words: “Good old Rolf missed out a whole verse!”

Years later, I surprised both Katherine and Rolf by introducing them to each other on radio. He confessed: “I’d written a special verse about when the Games are over with that final hurrah, don’t go rushing home, stay and have a look around Australia. That was the gist of the idea, and I forgot all about it. I’d sung the song for 20 years and you go into automatic mode. I just left out the last verse.”

Katherine chimed in, laughing: “That was the cue to turn the placard over and pick up another one.”

Rolf replied: “Oh Lord! I mucked your bit up. I’m terribly sorry. Can I apologise in retrospect?!” Now, whenever Katherine cuts my hair, she talks about the day Rolf Harris personally apologised to her!

School trip a hit

In the last issue (bmag, 18 September), I told you how much I’d been looking forward to accompanying Jack’s year 7 school trip to Canberra. I’m pleased to report the week was everything I had hoped for and more. Children at that age (11 or 12) are great company. On the one hand, they’re cheeky and fun. On the other, they have a real thirst for information.

At the National Gallery, they were fascinated by the painting technique and story behind Jackson Pollock’s Blue Poles (controversially bought by the Whitlam government for over $1million and now worth more than $40million). At the Australian Electoral Commission, one girl challenged the law that says anyone given a three-year (or more) prison sentence cannot vote. Our guide was stumped! And at Parliament House, when Australia’s young MP Wyatt Roy asked the students for the main issues facing Australia in 2012, hands went up straight away, with climate change and same-sex marriage topping the list.

In the bus there was much singing and laughter, and Gangnam Style (look up Psy on YouTube if you don’t know what that is) was the dance routine du jour at lunchtime (yes, I may have been the one who started that!)

The teachers were pretty good company too! And hard-working! They were on the job from 7am till 9pm every day. I saw how being a teacher is as much about emotional wellbeing as helping children to learn, not to mention ensuring you don’t lose anyone along the way! I also realise now how challenging it must be for male teachers in this “all men are paedophiles” society. They have to be oh-so-careful.

There were several times that I thought about this (and I know the other six parents did too). For example, as we left Brisbane, Jack asked me to take lots of photos. It took me a few days to be comfortable doing so if other children were going to be in them. (Thankfully I did, as one of Jack’s friends lost his camera and we were able to send him photos I had taken). I always sat myself next to the boys on the bus, never a girl. I know, I was probably overthinking it. But then on the last morning, when one of the boys gave me a big hug before turning to a male teacher, he was told kindly but plainly, “we don’t hug teachers”. It’s a shame that it’s come to that, but you can understand why.

That aside, I would strongly encourage any parents who are given the opportunity to join a school trip or camp to do so. You’ll enjoy observing your child in learning situations, interacting with others and having to be independent, and you will come away knowing so much more about your own son or daughter.

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