If it quacks like a chicken…

As I said to my grandson, if it waddles like a chicken and quacks like a chicken, it’s probably a duck.


Ian Short:
What I actually said was “…it’s probably a small-billed waterfowl of the Anatinae family”.

Doug Jacquier to Ian Short:
While you’re educating him: What’s the difference between a duck? Nothing. One of its feets is both the same.

Ian Short to Doug Jacquier
Or, as per my version of an old Birmingham riddle: Q. Why a duck when it spins? A. The higher the faster.

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How I Met Your Mother.

Fifty-three years ago today, 6 October started off as just another Tuesday. The last thing I felt like doing on a week-day evening after a hard day’s teaching in a north London school was going out and meeting a random group of people I didn’t know.

“Come on, it’ll be fun,” said my colleague, “there’ll be some interesting people.” He had a wide, eclectic range of friends and acquaintances picked up during his extensive travels and his holiday job as a ski instructor in Scotland.

“Oh, all right, I be there,” I said, not knowing that it would turn out to be one of those ‘sliding doors’ moments.

After work, I headed into town and managed to find a parking spot near the rendezvous at Notting Hill Gate Tube station. Waiting on the platform, I was none-too-subtly checking out an attractive, classy and trendily-dressed woman standing near-by.

Just then my teaching buddy arrived and as I walked up to him, so did she. She was part of the get-together that he had arranged.

We headed off up the Portobello Road where we met the rest of the group in Shannon’s, a pub long since gone.

During a lull in my conversation with another teacher, I heard someone talking about Tolkien and ‘Lord of the Rings’. I’d clocked this guy earlier, some sort of smooth-talking salesman from Manchester, a few years older than most of the group, on the pull but obviously married – you could see the pale band of skin where he’d taken off his ring. He was chatting up the woman I’d first seen at the Tube station.

Now this was 1970; hardly anyone outside of academia, the Eng. Lit. scene and a small bunch of aficionados had even heard of ‘Lord of the Rings’, let alone read it. It was 30 years before Peter Jackson’s film trilogy would introduce it to a wider audience. I had studied it at university alongside Anglo-Saxon in the School of English that Prof Tolkien had established before he moved to Oxford. I was now on my 10th or 11th reading.

The salesman was trying to impress as part of his chat-up routine. I could stand by no longer, especially as he was getting some things wrong. So, jumping on my metaphorical white horse, I rode into the fray wielding sword of knowledge and shield of rhetoric and saved the fair lady from the evil intentions of the Northern lordling.

We got chatting, had a couple of drinks and I offered her a lift home. As I dropped her off at her place, I said, bluntly and completely out-of-character, “Do you want a date?”
Surprising both of us, she said yes.

And that, kids, is how I met your mother.

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Marching for Yes

At the Adelaide “Yes” rally, marching along King William Street, meeting the head of the column on its way back.


Roy Birch
“Yes” to what, exactly ?

Ian Short to Roy Birch. Yes to the recognition of Indigenous Australians in the Constitution and giving them a right and method of providing formal advice to Government.
We’re having a Referendum to change the Constitution to provide for an Indigenous Voice to Parliament. You would think it a no-brainer but it is being bitterly opposed by conservative and right-wing forces.

Roy Birch
Ian Short and you think Aussies have problems !

Ian Short
Roy Birch Every country has its particular economic, social and political problems, but at least Australia has a centre-left government, compulsory voting and now an independent Commission against corruption to help deal with them.

Elaine Golding
Wonderful! Sorry I couldn’t be there as in Qld. All it takes is a generous and courageous heart to do the right thing. We can do this! 💖❤️

Clive Cønway
Leftist rabble! With all your compassion, caring, and basic decency. What good has social justice ever done for anyone, hmmm? You’ll be wanting the right to vote next.

Ian Short
Clive Cønway Yes, sir. Please sir, may I have some more?

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“Da Capo” – a novel by Burt Surmon

As I finished Burt Surmon’s latest book ‘Da Capo’ while sitting in glorious Spring sunshine in my garden in Adelaide, I asked myself the question that I have asked other people from time to time: What was the defining moment, the key inflection point that set you on the path that ultimately led to your being right here, right now, in this specific place at this particular moment in time?

What was your “road not taken” or “sliding doors” moment, your Donna Noble decision when she turned left instead of right, met The Doctor and changed the course of history?

I tell my grown-up kids that my first such moment was deciding to learn German instead of Latin at secondary school in England where I grew up. If I had chosen Latin, I’d have gone to Oxford instead of Leeds and so wouldn’t have worked in a foundry or gone to London. If I hadn’t gone to London I wouldn’t have met the woman who would become my wife and their mom, wouldn’t have come with her to Australia and they wouldn’t exist.
Like Burt Surmon’s narrative, it’s a complicated story with many unexpected twists and turns. And thank goodness for that.

A fictionalised biography in the form of a novel, ‘Da Capo’ is an engaging story which recounts the life, loves, travels and adventures of Australian Toby Hill from the 1930s to the present day. It reads like a thinly-disguised autobiography written in the third person.
Mr Surmon uses the metaphor of ‘black swan’ events to describe those times when fate or the universe throws Toby a curve ball that knocks his life in an unexpected direction.
It resonates with many of the responses I received when I asked people about their turning points, their fork-in-the-road moments. Like Mr Surmon’s story, many people have had several such experiences along the way which set their lives off in new, unpredictable directions. Toby seems to have had a rather large share of them!

I like the way Mr Surmon’s style has developed from his two previous books: ‘On a Clare Day’ which recounts his and his wife’s experiences in giving up city life to start a vineyard in the Clare Valley, and ‘Damned Murder?’, a contemporary murder mystery set in and around Clare.

The writing in ‘Da Capo’ is more pared back and streamlined, more minimalist, which complements the intensity of the narrative. Because a lot happens in Toby’s life. The events and incidents come thick and fast. The entire vineyard experience recounted in detail in ‘On a Clare Day’ is covered in a dozen pages in ‘Da Capo’.

Toby’s story is quite a roller-coaster ride, a bit like an express train that you can’t get off, very event-driven and packing a lot of material into a breakneck narrative. And there is a huge amount of stuff in there to which readers can relate – growing up and coming of age in Australia, overseas travel and adventures, first job and subsequent career and lifestyle changes both planned and unplanned, new and lost loves.

As the narrative draws to a close, you can see that the protagonist has come to terms with the circumstances of his life. He is able to forgive himself and others for past mistakes and occasional failures and to appreciate his and their achievements. It makes me want to describe it as “The Redemption of Toby Hill”.

Da Capo is published by Wakefield Press

Yvonne Dumsday
Interesting you should ask that question Ian Short. I had a choice to make in my life path when I was 21 and have often wished we got a chance to come back again to that actual point in time so I could make the other decision to see how my life would have panned out. I am not wanting that “ instead” ( as I might never have met Jim) but would like to have it “as well”. As that could only happen in a book or in a film, I am happy (on the whole) with the way things have panned out.

Ian Short to Yvonne Dumsday
If I had chosen Latin, I would never have met Jim.

Marg Bonnar
I’m curious you use “mom” and not “mum”…and my moment is too painful to go into right now but always love your writings.

Ian Short to Marg Bonnar
West Midlands, Black Country and Birmingham dialect.

Mum or Mom?

Marg Bonnar
And I chose Latin…

Brenton Westell
I remember you teaching Robert Frost… 😉

Ian Short to Brenton Westell
Thank you, you have made my day. PS. It’s “your teaching”; “teaching” is a gerund and takes the possessive. 😉

Brenton Westell to Ian Short
I was only ever a “B” student 😂

Ian Short to Brenton Westell
Every few years, someone feeds me a line in a perfect context that allows me to do a tongue-in-cheek gerund joke. It’s an antiquated and obsolescent “rule” which few people know and even fewer care about. It makes no difference to our communicating or understanding. I only ever refer to it for the sake of irony and gentle self-deprecation.

Ian Short to Brenton Westell
I remember one of my teachers cracking a weak joke and laughing. I joked back, “You shouldn’t laugh at your own jokes.” He came straight back with, “I can’t help it, I’ve never heard them before.” When he got his breath back after laughing at that, he gasped, “Thank you, thank you. I’ve waited twenty years to use that line.”
I only had to wait another twelve years before I could use it.

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Birthday Thought

Thank you all for your kind comments on my birthday. It reinforces my belief in George Bernard Shaw’s philosophy: “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”


Ian Short:    …so I’ll keep on keeping on.



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Club Cool August 2023

Here we go again – Rock ‘n’ Roll on a Sunday morning 20 August at The Gov in the big Venue. Three bands from 10.30am.

Our band – 6RPM – is on second at 11.30am.

Club Cool is a concert and dance for people with disabilities, their families, friends and carers. Small donation for admission, all proceeds support Club Cool.

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Garden in Winter

First day of winter in Adelaide, and our ginkgo tree still has plenty more leaves to drop.

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Winter toms

It’s the last day of autumn; tomorrow is the official start of winter but our triffid-like tomato plants just keep giving.

Today’s haul…

…and the starts of tomorrow’s.

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Voice to Parliament

Keen crowd queueing to hear Prime Minister Anthony Albanese deliver the 2023 Lowitja O’Donoghue Oration tonight.

He spoke passionately and persuasively about the Indigenous Voice to Parliament.

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It’s beginning to look like autumn in the garden.

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