Today I snapped this one of two men in Bakers Delight not looking at a poster on their right of a woman hiding her breasts with two pink buns, part of a campaign for the Breast Cancer Network of Australia.
Coincidence: I just saw the news on TV about Facebook banning these posters.
This was one of many social media controversies in Australia today. Some will be thanking God it’s Friday.
It’s because of the advent of digitised records – birth, death, marriage and war service records – and family tree web sites, particularly Ancestry, that I know now what I didn’t know a short time ago. I’d heard about my father’s time in Egypt as a WW2 soldier and I’d heard about his own father’s time in France as a WW1 soldier.
But I’d never heard of the family members who were killed in action.
My grandmother had two cousins, the Burley brothers, James and Frederick, who were killed in Northern France.
Can you imagine losing two sons who voluntarily went to war?
Now imagine losing three sons.
My grandfather had three cousins, the Shaw brothers, George, D’arcey and Frank, who were also killed in Northern France.
But because their cousin, my grandfather Ernest Bruce, survived gassing and a concrete wall falling on top of him, he returned to Australia to produce my father, who in turn produced me.
I’ve discovered most of this information through online records and family history websites. Many many family historians are using these resources now. This means that the great numbers of people commemorating the centenary of the armistice today, 11th November 2018, have learnt, like me, that they are the descendants of the ones who returned.
I have three sons. I feel absolute anguish for the parents who lost two or three of their children in war.
And I now have a greater appreciation of the struggles of Australians trying to build our nation a hundred years ago when the total population was 5 million, and 62,000 of their young people had been killed, and 156,000 were wounded, and many like my grandfather were unable to work again.
This building in the photo below, the Australian War Memorial, is ten minutes from my home. I’ve visited it countless times, and in the past few weeks as the crocheted and knitted poppies were displayed, and as I’ve read and heard so many stories from descendants of soldiers like me, I realise how fortunate I am that I have a comfortable home, enough food to keep me healthy, and a family that is gainfully employed. And I realise that WW1 was not the war to end all wars, there have been many wars since then, and I must not take my fortune for granted.
This new knowledge is greatly due to the digitisation of historical records, a technology I’m very grateful for.
In Laurence Binyon’s poem ‘For the Fallen’, which adorns numerous war memorials around Australia, there is a verse that every Australian knows:
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old…
Opening line of the Author’s Note, Desert Boys, Peter Rees, 2012
I’ve heard the line ‘They shall grow not old…’ every year of my life, yet it still catches me out. Wars need poets.
When I look at the photo above from my father’s World War Two album, taken during his time in North Africa in 1941/42, I wonder whether these soldiers fell or grew old. Unfortunately the photo is uncaptioned and I have no names for them. They seem to be posing, demonstrating a lesson in warfare.
I’m struck by its similarity to the image on the cover of Desert Boys by Peter Rees, a book about Australian soldiers who fought in the desert in both world wars. In each photo there are five young Australian men in helmets, focusing on something to their left. Perhaps these cover men are also posing. In any case, their photos remind us that they went to the desert to fight, and may not have returned to grow old.
On an exceptionally hot evening early in July a young man came out of the garret in which he lodged in S. Place and walked slowly, as though in hesitation, towards K. bridge.
Opening line, Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, translated by Constance Garnett
Last night I could have written:
On an exceptionally hot evening early in January a middle-aged couple came out of the house in which they lodged in H. Street and walked slowly, as though in hesitation, towards C. bridge.
Yesterday evening and this evening are the endings of exceptionally hot days in Canberra. Today, 39 degrees.
Perhaps you didn’t imagine Dostoyevsky’s character walking towards a bridge like this one. Rather, since I don’t have any photos of Russian bridges, you might have seen him heading for a bridge resembling this old one in Cairo, where the evenings are undoubtedly hot:
I confess I haven’t read Crime and Punishment though I have read other Dostoyevsky works. But when I compared the opening line translated into English by three different translators, I thought it was worth writing about. My favourite is Constance Garnett’s 33 words in a succinct sentence, quoted above. Compare it with the 46 words of Katz’s translation:
In the beginning of July, during an extremely hot spell, toward evening, a young man left his tiny room, which he sublet from some tenants who lived in Stolyarnyi Lane, stepped out onto the street, and slowly, as if indecisively, set off towards the Kokushkin Bridge. (Translated by Michael Katz)
Plenty of detail, but I was lost after ‘sublet’. In my humble opinion there are 13 words too many. That said, I can’t read Russian and therefore can’t really say if there are omissions or additions. Now look at this one by Oliver Ready:
In early July, in exceptional heat, towards evening, a young man left the garret he was renting in S–y Lane, stepped outside, and slowly, as if in two minds, set off towards K–n Bridge. (Translated by Oliver Ready)
The number of words is similar to Garnett’s, but what it loses (for me) is the immediacy in her first words, “On an exceptionally hot evening…”. The other two translators tell us first off what month it is, but that’s not as good a beginning for a great opening line.
Perhaps I’m presently susceptible to Garnett’s first words since it’s about 10 pm and the temperature in my house is still 30 degrees.