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Monday, October 11, 2010

Getting Caned at Six [Part 1], Report to Oncologist

More Stories from my Wicked Past: Getting Caned at Six [Part 1]
The Indians don’t do things by halves. In the spectacular Indian epic, the Mahabharata, the story starts with the beginning of the universe and even the storyteller gets in to the action, because if he needs another character, he invents a gorgeous Indian lady, dallies with her as part of the plot, and they produce the required cast member, tailormade as it were. 
   While this must have had wonderful advantages for the storyteller in all sorts of ways, my history is populated entirely by characters with the genes of their proper mothers and fathers. [Well, not always proper in the societal sense, for even Calliope had its scandals, but let’s not muddy the waters with those now.] Although Calliope had a population of only 321.5 when this story begins, I am not going to complicate things by adding imaginary characters. I already have too many real ones, even if, on occasions, one or two are a little larger than life. So sue me. 
   But I mention this because I do need to start at one particular beginning anyway, or you won’t appreciate the evolution of how I came to have my first caning at school, at the age of 6. Stick with me – I think the ride will be worth it.
   When I started school, Calliope State School had about 40-50 kids scattered over eight grades. Yes, eight! Primary school ended at Grade 8, finishing with the Scholarship public examination. The year I started school [1952 I think] was the one they dropped the kindergarten year in Queensland. I'm not sure why, and it was all a bit vague. I suspect the powers-that-be in the Dept of Education in Brisbane thought kinder was a bit wimpy for Queensland kids and made it disappear. Anyway, schoolbag containing one lunch strapped to back, I was sent off with my sisters Jan and Lyn to school at age 4 [when kids might have started kinder] and began Grade 1 instead.
   By the time it was realised that starting real Grade 1 at four years of age might have been a bit early, the die was more or less cast. He’s managing OK, said Miss Turner, the teacher of Grades 1, 2 and 3. Better than most, in fact. Leave him here and we’ll see how it goes.
   Miss Turner taught these three grades in the smaller room of the two in the school, and the headmaster, Mr Curtis, taught Grades 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 in the Big Room. There was an interconnecting door between them, with glass panes so the Headmaster could keep an eye on what was happening in the other room. There were of course no Headmistresses, for in the early 1950s only a man could be entrusted with the heavy responsibility of managing a multi-teacher school. As well, the status of Headmaster also carried a little financial bonus, and no way was that going to be dangled before women. Women had already made way too many inroads into the national economy during the War for the likes of our State politicians, so such male rights in Education were carefully secured for those whose claim to them needed patriarchal protection.
   In the tropics, the wide verandahs of the school acted as teaching areas for specified purposes, such as rote learning of spelling and tables. Often big girls from Grade 7 or 8 were co-opted to supervise the younger ones in these activities. In fact, with 8 grades in two rooms, the entire school worked on a cooperative basis, with older kids teaching the younger ones parts of the curriculum. There were not many transfers of staff in those times either, so by the time I got to Grade 8, I’d had only two teachers in my entire school career, which is pretty amazing when you think about it. Kids these days might have 3 teachers in the first month!
   In Grades 7 and 8, pupils were bussed to the High School in Gladstone every Friday for the whole day, where girls learnt cooking and sewing [called Domestic Science - great title!], and boys were taught woodwork, metalwork, and trade drawing. 
   This meant that on Fridays, at Calliope, there were two fewer classes for the two teachers to cope with, and Mr Curtis took the Grade 3s into his room so Miss Turner could focus on Grades 1 and 2 for the day.
   This explains why, at the age of 6, on a Friday, I was in the Big Room, in the front row of desks, with seven or eight other Grade 3s a year or two older than me, and I can at last tell the story of my crime and punishment.
   Mr Curtis, better known by generations of Calliope kids as Old Jim [because he seemed to us, and actually was, ancient, and had always been so] had left us Grade 3s with a task, while he supervised some activity on the back verandah with the Grade 6s. The task was the hateful Sum Cards. Each of us had a printed set of mathematical problems on our own card, such a ‘Divide 5 pounds 11 shillings and 6 pence into 12 equal shares.’ These we laboriously worked out to the fraction of a penny on our slates. I loathed them and I don’t think anyone else in Grade 3 was too keen on them either. Old Jim had told us specifically that they had to be finished by the time he came back inside, and there was to be No Talking. 
[continued] [Back to Index]

Diary Update
Here's what I'll tell the oncologist today. A written summary like this can save time in the surgery.

[From top down…]
  • Hair – sparse but hanging in where it can!
  • Cognitive brain function – normal  - occasional minor headaches
  • NO SEIZURES FOR MORE THAN 1 MONTH! This doubles the longest period without seizures since the beginning.  No feeling that seizures may be imminent. Sleep patterns acceptable.
  • Lungs – normal
  • Heart/circulation – sudden increase in blood pressure – Avastin/weight increase? treated by doubling Karvea dosage. BP at worst 160/90 – currently ranges between 130-140/80. Clearly room for improvement....
  • Plumbing – recovered well from last chemotherapy – about to go under attack again with chemo this week
  • Right arm – responding slowly to physiotherapy and perhaps Avastin – more control and less palsy. Still a long way to go, but heading in right direction. Occasional shoulder pain but corrected by manipulation of shoulder joint and/or wearing of sling.
  • Groin clot – detected 4 Oct – treated with twice daily injections each of 80 mm Clexane. Caused swelling and soreness to right calf and frequent ache behind right knee. Usual mild allergic reaction [itch] to Clexane.
  • Still some lack of control over right hip and knee that affects gait and mobility, but the joints are free.
  • Increase in weight about 4 kg over 2 months – blaming steroid use but some indiscipline! Diet generally balanced and good.
  • Would love to know how much and what sort of safe exercise can be done while clot is being treated by Clexane.


  1. A serial! Didn't Charles Dickens begin this way? Are we going to have stories within stories, Mahabharata fashion, too? So far, yes, a bit :) Any photos of a 4 year old Denxis? Oh you were still Denis then..

    Report (from me) on oncologist report: Looking good!!! That is not particularly high for BP. Hope the man has suggestions as to clot and exercise. Hair-wise, to me you look great. I quite like that minimalist look you have just now. Weight wise,the steroids would certainly have had an effect. You didn't look 'fatter' when I saw you last week, but slightly 'puffy'.Actually, maybe that's the avastin? I recognise that look from when I was on tamoxifen.So what! it's a small price to pay, and you look so well generally, oh handsome smiley clever one. Good luck tomorrow. xx

  2. Dickens was the supreme serialist, except perhaps for Scheherazade, and she had more riding on it I guess.... Do you mean a 6 yr old Denxis and not 4?

    The reason I am breaking the story up is simply that it looks too long in one hit. The rest of the story I think you will enjoy, but an awful lot of people don't read Dickens because a novel like Martin Chuzzlewit simply looks too daunting in sheer size. So I thought if it were in bite sized pieces instead of a whole plum pudding, it might be more acceptable.

    True, the oncologist wasn't unduly perturbed about the increased BP and if it stays too high we'll treat it with another hypertension drug in tandem and that should do the trick. Generally he's pleased with progress and thinks the clot should be soon under reasonable control. That's good. The idea of waking up dead one morning doesn't have much appeal....

    Puffy? Yes, it seems everyone gets that way on steroids - these aren't the type that build huge muscles, sadly, these just make you look like a bit of a pig. You get hungry and undisciplined - and of course people bring you things that are nice but you shouldn't eat!


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