The quest to find what’s happening to PNG’s children
Sangumas Poisoning Democracy

Those were the days my friend. They ended & this is where we are


TUMBY BAY - During my high school years I hung out with friends who were interested in art and literature. A few of those with longer and hairier arms also had an interest in sport but culture was the main thing. And the opposite sex was also of interest. Of course.

We were all going to dedicate our lives to pursuing the finer things in life. We also intended to be millionaires by the time we were 30.

It was only in later years that we came to realise that art and literature were not necessarily compatible with wealth.

When this reality dawned, most of us compromised our ambitions and opted for wealth over art and literature and set out to achieve financial success.

Now that I’m in my seventies I’ve got enough spare time to contemplate how this worked out.

One of my friends wanted to be a painter. He was reasonably talented but not good enough to make a living out of it. Instead he became an art teacher.

That worked out for a while but he always had a nagging suspicion that he had somehow sold out. Finally, after his marriage hit the rocks and he had developed a serious drinking problem, he took the plunge, bought an old house in a small country town and began to paint seriously.

I used to visit him but after a while his drinking and slovenly existence drove me away. It’s only recently I caught up with him again.

He’s still boozing and smoking like a haystack, he’s got some serious health problems and he’s not selling many paintings. But he’s as happy as a pig in mud.

Another of those teenage friends wanted to be a writer. He was constantly scribbling poems and assailing us with his rambling creations.

I don’t know how it happened but he ended up writing stories for a newspaper and scripts for television advertising. He’s now worth a lot of money. He was the one I least expected to sell his soul to Mammon but he seems to be extremely happy with the way life has turned out.

Whenever I see him he shows me the latest technological gadget he’s bought and explains how it is going to make money for him.

I must admit have a great deal of trouble staying in the same room with him for more than an hour but I’m happy he has had a good life.

Both of these friends know each other and whenever I see one of them they devote a great deal of time telling me what a terrible person the other is.

The painter thinks the writer is a money-grubbing parasite who made himself rich by selling people things they didn’t need or could afford.

The writer thinks the painter is a pathetic slob who has wasted his entire life and deserves everything that happened to him.

Suffice to say neither sees the other very often and when they do there is none of the old teenage rapport or camaraderie apparent, just an uncomfortable display of fake manners.

I think, on balance, that I respect the painter more than the erstwhile writer. I’m not sure why this is but I suspect it’s because he stayed reasonably true to himself.

They are two extremes and when I hold up my own life to theirs I can see how I’ve more or less navigated somewhere in between.

I’ve managed not to get too carried away in my relationship with Mammon and I’ve maintained some semblance to the ideals we all espoused when we were young and naïve.

Like them, I am happy with the outcome and I guess that’s all we can expect of life.


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Ed Brumby

As Douglas Adams said: 'I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.’

And/or Arthur Miller: 'Maybe all one can do is hope to end up with the right regrets.'

Hope these apply to you, Phil ... and Richard

Richard Jones

If I'm still around in mid-July next year I'll turn 79, Keitheee.

So you're right. Pushing right up to 80. But it'll be in the depths of mid-winter so not much sun-shade around. Just black skies and freezing southerly winds.

Wonder how many from our 1962-63 cadet education officers course are still above ground?

One who will hit 80 next year is your recent correspondent with a string of sports yarns based on PNG - mainly Mosbi - connections, Allyn 'Hicklinger' Hicks.

Philip Fitzpatrick

It's an interesting occupation - watching those dropping off the perch around us and wondering who will be next and hoping it's not too close to home.

The kiap fraternity lost Geoff Littler about a week ago. He was Tom Ellis' Deputy District Commissioner in Western Highlands and followed Tom to Mosbi.

He was also the guy who gave me my first assignment in PNG, rebuilding a battered Bailey Bridge that has been crunched in the Nebilyer.

Richard Jones

I daresay you've noticed now you're in your 70s like the rest of us - KJ included - how the ranks are thinning.

Since last Easter I've penned six eulogies for central Victorian sports identities for the Bendigo Footy League website, the weekly Footy Record or the Bendigo Advertiser daily.

Sometimes for all three for the one person. Tomorrow I'm heading to the funeral of a co-host who fronted a weekly radio sports show with me on a local community radio station.

Like your writer friend who has clearly surpassed the sort of freelance writing we used to engage in at the Post Courier three (or was it four) toea a line for the yarns we sweated over on old typewriters I suppose we keep on doing our own thing (s).

Not to get too centred or focused on Mammon, eh Phil!

I'm well into my mid seventies, Rycharde, so you must be pushing up to 80 in the shade? - KJ

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