Athenapallas's Blog

April 25, 2010

Athena and the Anzacs

Athena the warrior Goddess did not fight in the Gallipoli campaign of 1915  but her grandfather did.

Three thousand  years earlier, however, she had  fought beside the Greek heroes in the ten year Trojan war not far from the Gallipoli peninsula so she knew the impossible terrain of this wasteland, she’d witnessed the dubious politics of such wars, and had admired the determination of the Trojans and now the Turks to defend their homeland.  She decided that unlike the Greeks who had the help of the whole lexicon of the  Olympian gods, this modern army faced a Troy  that could not be taken.

She also knew that unlike the Bronze age soldiers,  these modern ones had not been trained from birth in the art and skills of war.  Even though they were armed with guns and explosives she realised that hand to hand combat would  also be needed. And this was not the work of 20th century farmers, drovers, carpenters, clerks and teachers. 

However she had not counted on the peculiar ingenuity, character and dogged courage of so many Australian men, some hardly more than boys, when confronted with impossible odds. She watched and marvelled how in the midst of brutal chaos men held each other as they died, kissed photos of  their loved ones, dragged their mates to safety, railed  against the stupidity of their superiors, and played two up or football in no-man’s land, taunting death which often took them even at play.

How these men kept their humanity and became gods seemed miraculous even to her. It was a Turkish captain who told an English officer as they went to collect their dead in no-man’s land,  ‘At this spectacle even the most gentle must feel savage, and the most savage must weep.’*

Athena, through her most recent mortal manifestation as a modern woman in 2010, had access to the written account of her grandfather’s experience of the landing and the first few days afterwards. In it he tells of the savage killing  that took him to the brink of insanity. He wrote: 

 A melee took place between us and the enemy on Tuesday  morning and it was a shocking affair, yells and groans and curses mingled with the crack of rifles and revolvers and men stabbing and clubbing each other to death. Might was right in that “do” and we hacked our way through them and back again, no time to see to the wounded, it was kill or be killed and we killed. This was however just a minor “scrap” only about 150 men were laid out and……..

He wrote to his sweetheart the following:

Imagine a ridge sloping towards the enemy(who were close) covered with shrubs about 2ft high on the  top of this Ridge, the remains of as brave a lot of men as ever stepped. Billy was dead, Steen was dead, dead men lying in grotesque attitudes covered  with reddish black blood which was oozing from them. Heads, arms, and legs to be picked up or one would kick a hand or face as one moved. These poor devils were raving mad (badly wounded) singing songs and cursing the Turks. When I saw Bill and  Steen I swore and cursed long and badly for the first time. It relieved some of the devil in me that was making me madder every second.

Later he came to the end to his Gallipoli campaign:

I seemed to have a charmed life as on my right and on my left next to me men fell but I was just about to take cover as they were machine gunning us when a shell burst near me and I was done. I am indebted to the signaller who was with me for saving my life, he dragging me back out of the “Scrap” and seeing with the assistance of my Sergeant that I was taken to the beach.

A final letter to his soon to be wife Alma said:

We have had love’s young dream to the fullest sense while we were together. But I’m afraid you will find me changed, not in my love for you, never! but I don’t care to joke. I’ve been through hell and it’s left an impression, a lasting one…pray for me, I need it.

He then concluded with a sobering final sentence:

The Colonel had the Battalion mustered 3 days after the landing; 98 men I am told answered the call out of  960. I think the First Battalion has done its bit.

*caption to  photo in Les Carlyon’s  classic book Gallipoli 2001

Other quotes in the above post are from the personal papers and letters of E.V. Timms, some of which were also published in 1996  in The Distaff Side by Jessica Scotford his daughter. 

E. V. Timms came back at the age of 20 to his  mother and his stepfather the Rev. Angus King, minister of St David’s church in Haberfield, to be feted as a hero. He could not bear such attention so he fled the manse (the house next to the church where his family lived) and went to stay with the family of his fiance Alma McRobert, in Summer Hill until they were married.

He suffered from hearing loss, periods of  deep depression and  bouts of  rage, no doubt the result of the neurological and psychological trauma he’d experienced. With the love and help of his wife and family and his own courage and determination he became a  writer of  short stories, radio and film scripts and 20  books including the Australian saga of 11 bestselling romantic historical novels. He served in the Second World War as the Officer in charge of the Italian section of the notorious POW camp at Cowra. (And that’s another story). After his death at the age of 60,  his wife Alma completed the 12th novel in the saga and went on to write another novel of her own.

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April 20, 2010

Modern Hermes or How Twitter saved Australian Literature

Filed under: Athena's musings — athenapallas @ 2:20 pm
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Just when I thought I was the only one that mattered another god has manifested  in the modern world. He is an old mate of mine from way back,  but we’ve been out of touch for many centuries.  

There was a time when he was a bit too irritating as the messenger of my father Zeus  to the mortals. This was usually my job particularly if they were gorgeous looking heroes.

Some of you may know this modern messenger,

 William Kostakis, particularly if  you are a tween who twitters.

Modern Athenas now know him because the NSW  Writers Centre had the foresight to include  his  Blogging For Beginners course  in its program. 

Now I’m not one to give praise lightly particularly to members of the not-so-fair sex, but  William is as easy on the eye as Adonis, and he has all the skills of Hermes, also a handsome youth if you forget about his strange winged feet.  

 Hermes was  also the god of writing, wit, and language. So no surprise that William presented a course that was not only entertaining but also full of the relevant information, great ideas and specific tasks.

And he did this in a way that  even the most nervous cyberentrants could grasp without  having to bear a heavy load or take to the wine as if we were in the  temple of Dionysus.

William  is an excellent  messenger, receiving and answering 250 emails from eager class particpants in the week between his two teaching sessions. And he demonstrated his power to us during the course with his open letter to the TV program Sunrise where he gave them heaps on behalf of living Australian writers.

But hey, I don’t have to sing his praises, other people will do it for me.

Follow the links on my site to all the Modern Anthenas who were in his course.

Their blogs are proof of his teaching and mentoring skills.

One more thing about Hermes, he accompanied dead people to the underworld.

Not sure what that means for William.

Maybe he can enlighten us. 

Perhaps making sure that all the dead forms of writing  go to where they belong?

April 16, 2010

Ancient Virtue or How a Bikie Taught Me a Hard Lesson

Filed under: Athena's musings — athenapallas @ 6:04 pm
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I have been searching for ancient beauty and virtue where ever I find myself and yet the essence of it eludes me.  I was leaving Temple of Zeus in despair  when I saw a chariot, with a silver helmet casually hanging on its post. Then  he was standing beside me, his face and stature like a Renaissance copy of one of our ancient sculptures. I thought  I knew this young man well, and many a nymph and goddess had recognised his beauty and talent.It was only in this moment that I knew who he truly was-  a  modern Adonis- conceived and born in love but raised in turmoil, he’d wandered the planet questioning and searching in the nether regions between Elysium and Erebus.

I’d been on journeys of my own through the decades since my own famous temple was built and a city was named after me. And in this time I’d lost him. I didn’t know him as a man or as a god. To me he was mine and mine alone and I was the one to counsel him and tell him what to do.. Now it was his turn:

‘Stop your ragings and your musings and listen to me, show me the respect that I show you.

Do not take advantage of my devotion to you because of who you are and what you have done for me.’

These stern words hurt me and pricked my pride.

Athena, the Warrior Goddess, the daughter of the mighty Zeus, Athena who was supposed to have the best of her father’s wisdom. I wanted to rage around the Universe and tell all its gods, beings and spirits how unfair it was.

I stood there with tears springing from my eyes and I knew he was right.

I needed to recognise his power, to see him clearly as he really was, the man I had raised and championed,

and who was not only my protege but so much more. A wise and compassionate man, a  god to be reckoned with, respected and consulted.

Ancient beauty and virtue,  I have found you at last.

April 15, 2010

Adonis is not in Delphi but on the corner of my street.

Filed under: Athena's musings — athenapallas @ 9:13 am
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In my most recent mortal manifestation as an unobtrusive,

pleasant looking woman of middle years,

I was walking my dog along the track to Parramatta  filled with noisy chariots,

 A man was suddenly beside me,

in a blur I noticed only his spreading body,

his curly fair hair and a face that was marred by whatever ailed him.

He slurred at me: ‘Are you taking the dog for a walk or is he taking you?’

As he asked this cliched rhetorical question,he lunged at me managing to poke the soft part of  my chest 

 with his outstretched index finger.Hardly a brutal attack but his leery physical contact was most unwelcome.

I moved away as he tried to grab my arm. A kick to his belly, so swift it was invisible to the naked eye,had him doubling in pain on the ground.

‘What’s wrong? ‘ I asked innocently.

‘My ulcer’s giving me hell today,’ he answered. A wave of my hand had him standing up.

‘Ah that’s better.’ He looked at me and I stared back until he lowered his eyes and shuffled away.

Where was my nostalgic compassion of yesterday? Fortunately it returned later in my walk.

I was nearing home passing the local Asian shop at the corner of my street.

 On impulse I entered. The cook was inside the kitchen. I eyed the menu and noticed a Burmese curry. The cook emerged to take my order. Dark hair and skin, round face and fine features, and one eye. One eye, that is, that could look at you. This eye was alive and intelligent. The other eye struggled to keep in synch with its mate.

He smiled at me and spoke politely as he took my order.

As he did the damaged eye disapeared into its socket while the other lengthened and twinkled at me.

Waiting for my Burmese curry with my dog sitting quietly beside me, I wondered what his good eye had witnessed back home in his benighted country. 

Then I saw him standing on a hillside watching his village burning.He was a handsome youth with beautiful black eyes then filled with tears. Later I saw him again. His  gouged eye hidden behind a makeshift  blood stained bandage, while his other eye told the story of his torture.

He was calling me to the counter. ‘Your curry is ready.’  My dog and I went over to get it.

 ‘He’s a good dog,  he follows you everywhere,’ he said smiling again and nodded in approval.

 I smiled back at this Burmese Adonis and  turned away so he wouldn’t see the tears in my eyes.

April 14, 2010

WHEN WATER IS YOUR ONLY FRIEND

Filed under: Athena's musings — athenapallas @ 12:13 am
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I was back  swimming at Bronte,  my helmet, aegis and spear

safely stashed away and there was no sign of the Adonis

who had hovered so beautifully before me the last time I was here.

An ageing Adonis so thin he looked like a giant stick insect

slowly descended the steps into the pool,

his eyes masked with tiny round black glasses.

He fell thankfully into the water and looked back at two near naked shapely nymphs who were behind him squealing about the cold.

‘It’s wonderful,’ he said in a shaky voice. And so was he.

For I saw him as he used to be. Champion runner,  mighty oracle, someone whose opinion was once sought.

Now the water is his only friend, and as he stood in the sun before he submerged himself 

I had a glimpse of the god he once was.

April 12, 2010

Warrior Goddess ready to do battle

Last night after watching 4Corners on the ABC I went over to the Bronte Surf club to retrieve my helmet, spear, and shield (aegis) because I’m going to to need them. I’m going to have leave my musings behind for a while and get dirty. Dirt is what the ABC  program was all about. Dirt from the 14 Open cut coal mines in the Upper Hunter Valley that make the lives of its 40,000 inhabitents like living in  Hades.

A truck driver encounters an orange cloud of toxic  gas and is so overcome with its poison he nearly  loses control of his truck;  families have all their children suffering from coughs,  asthma, bronchitis, hideous skin allergies which all disappear within days of holidaying on the coast.

In one small town 100 of the 150 people who have lived through this enormous expansion of King Coal in the area, have left to protect their families’ health. For some interviewed it’s already too late as they have inoperable cancers which they attribute to living so close to the  toxic dust and gases from the area’s mines and two power stations, and there is mounting research, overseas and here ,to support this claim.  

some stats:

14 mines in the Upper Hunter pump out 99 million tonnes of coal a year for the furnaces of Japan, India and China.

100 kilometres to the south the port of Newcastle has become the biggest black coal exporter in the world and the mines are going to get bigger in the next 6 years maybe doubling their output. 

At any one time 20 to 30 coal ships are lined up all the way to the central coast waiting to swallow their loads of black gold.

For the 40,000 people who live in the Upper Hunter, some of whom have been there for 5  or 6 generations,

there is no escape.

Latest yearly stats show a total of 108 tonnes of toxic metals including arsenic, cadmium, chromium, cobalt and lead soaking the air of the upper Hunter along with 122,000 tonnes of sulphur dioxide.

If Mt Olympus was an active volcano and if  my father Zeus got really angry and ignited it,  it could not produce a cloud of poison as bad as this.

You may ask why this makes me so angry. I’m the narrator in a  factional fantastical story Digging Up the Dead  being written  about  the effects of coal mining on a  town and its people in Queensland in 1972 and 1992.

The local mine is  small compared the ones of the Hunter and the Bowen Basin in 2010. But even back then people who lived near or worked in the mines were dying from underground explosions, fire, blasting accidents, toxic dust and gas.  In my story, when the coal company decided to go underground again and mine the area in which 12 men were entombed in 1972, the town calls on me in my mortal manifestation as an unusual sort  of diviner to help… more  about this later

I was  so moved by what  the local GP  in Singleton is doing

 to try to get the government to even acknowledge there could be a problem

that I wondered if I should be going there to help him.

This man, who has been living and working there for years, is one helluva god.

After no response to a well written and researched submission from the town

for some sort of study into what might be happening,

with the help of volunteers he started a study of his own, 

 testing the lung capacity of 900  local children  to see if they had asthma related problems.

 One in six had significantly lowered lung function compared to the national average of one in nine. 

 He would like to test the lung capacities of a  matched group  on the coast

or in some other rural community away from mines. 

But this surely is  a job for the government.

I’m going to let him have the last word on this post.

Dr Tuan An said ,’ I’ve been here for 14 years, I have a good family and wonderful community and friends.

I can’t just pack up and leave. I hope every body working together, we can change the community.

 I think the community’s not against the mining company or power station, they just want change.

The would like the goverment to listen to their…what they request

and because it’s their life and their family

and if we do not do anything else, the one we lose is our family…..’

Sorry, he can’t have the last word.

 Unlike him I’m angry and

when Athena the Warrior Goddess is angry the whole universe shakes

I don’t want to have to use the full strength of my powers, not yet anyway,

but I’m aiming my spear of Pallas and woe betide if it’s aimed at you: 

 irresponsible mining moguls, greedy consumers,

dumb governments, and dumber media

who think all we want to know about is Britney’s latest disaster.

What about a disaster that’s happening to  40,000 people

who live in what was once the most beautiful valley in the world.

and one more stat:

the  NSW government earns 1.5 billion from coal royalties

and earnings from power stations and coal transport,

that’s a lot of reasons to ignore the people of the Upper Hunter.

Much of what I’ve written is based on the transcript of the  excellent 4corners program of last night.

Any errors of stats, facts etc are my own as are the opinions expressed.

Adonis at Bronte

Filed under: Athena's musings — athenapallas @ 4:50 am
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I  left my spear, robe and aegis(shield) on the seat above the pool at Bronte this morning and then realised that I’d forgotten to wear a swimsuit.

No matter, Aphrodite had made me invisible until I assumed my mortal form wearing a very boring black speedo, less boring pink cap, and very useful googles with lenses that enable me to see really well both above and below the water.

I dived in and started my swim. After a few laps avoiding the bobbers I hung on the side of the pool watching the surf and looking out towards the horizon. And then as I turned I saw him.

Adonis was at Bronte 11.32 am Monday 12 April 2010! 

His face was a sculpture, his nose long and straight, his skin a perfect golden brown and his limbs lithe but strong.

I couldn’t see his eyes behind his mask but I could tell they were the bluest of blue.

In case you don’t know it Adonis was not only the most beautiful boy ever to live on earth or in heaven 

but  he also has an unusual family background at least you may think so. 

He was the product of an incestuous relationship between the King of Assyria and his daughter Smyrna.

The gods in their wisdom transformed Smyrna into a tree to save her from her father

and it was from the trunk of this tree that Adonis was born.

Now I’m not saying that our Bronte Adonis has such a family history but I could tell he was no ordinary mortal when he rose slowly from the concrete surround and hovered while I gasped at the full picture of his gorgousness.

No one else at Bronte this morning saw him do this or if they did they showed no reaction. Maybe all the Adoni of Bronte can do this and it a  commonplace occurence.

I was so moved by his presence I had to dive deep into the pool to cool my passion.

 You know of course that I’ve been a virgin for  over 2500 years so I should not have any difficulty withstanding the charms of the Bronte Adonis. However lately I’ve been noticing a few chinks in my aegis and so I needed to escape quickly.

I could see lots of seaweed on the bottum of the pool and it was then that I remembered how Persophone and Aphrodite fought over Adonis and how  my father, the Boss God, ruled that Adonis had to live with Persophone in the underworld for a third of  each year.

I was pleased about this because Aphrodite and I go way back.

She cheated me in a beauty contest.

I should have beaten her.

Of course Helen of Troy won and we all know what a disaster that was 10 years of  War until….

I surfaced eventually in the pool and noticed a few people looking at me strangely.

I had been down there rather a long time ,

so long in fact that Adonis had gone as well as my helmet, robe and shield.

No doubt adorning the Surf club by now along with the trophies and surfboards.

April 11, 2010

Sunset

Filed under: Athena's musings — athenapallas @ 10:10 pm
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Just when I thought I might let my dear old Dad  Zeus re-name the TV program Sunrise it seems they have realised  how silly they’ve been about the their book club.

 Good idea to have one.

Bad idea to start it off with a  Swedish book hat’s already been read by 26 million people and is now also a movie.

Hey the  author is a already a shade in Hades ….

he just doesn’t need our help here on earth.

 His estate is doing very very well as are his publishers.

Blogging guru and  emerging young writer and media commentator William Kostakis  has highlighted this issue and now it seems channel 7 has taken note. Well done.

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