Monthly Archives: February 2016

Thomas Hardiman

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Thomas Hardiman

OK  now here is Thomas or TomHardiman as he was known. A farmer and a policeman who worked most of his life at Melbourne West and North Melbourne Police Stations,  He married Margaret Skram and was my maternal great grandfather.  He is in the second row of the group photo and is standing second from the left.  It is thought that te photo may have been taken at Raheen the residence of Archbishop Mannix.

 

Thomas Hardiman 2

GAIA’S CHILDREN – SEDRAPIA

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PART 1

PROJECT GENESIS

Logic is the beginning of wisdom; not the end.’ — Spock (Star Trek V)

 

Gaia stood in the clear space in the woods and looked around. A small smile played on her lips. She was content with what she saw. The tall cedars reached skyward, the ground was carpeted with soft grasses and sweet-smelling wildflowers bloomed everywhere she looked. The insects scuttled about, carrying food, foraging, doing what insects do. She could hear the birds moving in their roosts, waiting for the dawn light to appear in the west before they began their morning chorus. They had been here five turns and soon it would be time to wake the prototypes.  The terraforming project had gone well. They had successfully seeded this once, dying and decayed planet, she had named Sedrapia, with the best of everything.

‘Gaia, where are you?’  G’Brel’s voice carried clearly in quiet before the veda started.

‘Over here. Is S’Tan returned?’

The tall bronzed man strode towards her. A frown cast a shadow on his normally sunny face, his blue eyes were troubled, and he was stooped and looked drained.

He is looking older, she thought, this work is taking its toll on both of us. Once more she questioned assigning S’Tan instead of M’ikel to the project. One more turn and we will be able to rest.

‘No. He has been in contact, though. I am really worried about the tasks yet to be completed before the force fields are activated.  I have an uneasy feeling trouble is around the corner.  I am not sure we made a wise choice placing him in charge of H’Lel sector.’

There was a complaining tone to his voice, not one she was used to hearing.

‘I admit he lacks our experience, and he is young and headstrong, but earned his place on this project. How else will he learn and I need you here in D’Ene.’

‘Are you two talking about me?’ S’Tan shimmered into being before them, ‘that T’Port is on its last legs, just as well I won’t be using it again.’

‘They will all be decommissioned at the end of the next turn, and stored. Perhaps, one veda they will be used again.’ G’Brel nodded at S’Tan, ‘have you finished in H’Lel?’

‘All done and dusted,’ he laughed. ‘All the boxes ticked and everything in order. It should all come along quite nicely.’

“Are all the monitoring probes in place? You have no concerns?’ Gaia asked and she watched S’Tan carefully measuring his response.

He picked her up and whirled her around, laughing as he settled her on her feet.

‘Yes, they are and no I haven’t.  None at all, Mother mine. None at all.’

Gaia could not help worrying that was her role, and she pushed the nagging worries to the back of her mind. Determined not to spoil the mood and add to G’Brel’s concerns she laughed and linking arms they walked together through the woods to the camp.

Standing in front of the large mound G’Brel punched in the code on his pad and the side of the mound slid back silently. He and S’Tan wished her a good sleep and went to their own quarters.

Gaia moved directly to the central console, she was physically tired, but she never grew weary of watching the ever-changing scenes on the vids. Once the prototypes, she thought of them as her children, were revived and settled and the colony was established she could withdraw. She knew by leaving G’Brel in charge everything would be in good hands.  There was no need to worry about H’Lel just yet, a few more turns were required before it would be ready for settlement. It would be an excellent place for the new group of colonists that were already on their way. M’ikel was accompanying them, he would support G’Brel. Together with their knowledge they would guide and direct the prototypes and the colonists during the settlement process.

‘What will it be like in a millennia?’  She whispered to her big grey barge cat as it leapt up and settled on her lap, kneading the cloth of her tunic with its claws.

She could not quieten her thoughts they tumbled one on the other. S’Tan had much to learn, was G’Brel was equipped to teach him? Would he accept the guidance? He was wilful and dismissive at times.  All of the terraforming should have been completed by now, but S’Tan had insisted on completing the task his way. She had given him his way. He had a way of charming her and it was difficult for her to restrain his actions.

Gaia hoped she had not made an error in selecting him for this mission.  She did not make many errors but when she did the repercussions — well, she did not want to think about that now.  She stretched and yawned, releasing her aching muscles. Then she remembered a long forgotten conversation with Lord Acton and Prime Minister Gladstone, they had been discussing the misuse of power. Acton had said ‘power tends to corrupt and absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely.’       She hoped this was not the case with S’Tan. Somehow she could not quite quell the unease that came over her when she was in his presence. She sensed something she could not identify and it saddened her.

 

 

She woke to the soft pipping of the alarm, she must have slept. The concerns that arose still drifted in her consciousness.  Brushing them aside she rose from the console. Someone had placed a blanket over her while she slept. Picking it up, she tossed it into the storage basket beside the console.

The time of the sixth turn had arrived. She reached for the check sheets. They were gone, G’Brel must have taken them. She heard the two men talking, their voices were raised and strained.  Gaia thought briefly about interceding, and then she dismissed the thought as quickly as it arose. They needed to sort this out between them and without her.

Time to hit the showers, she thought, we will wake the Children this veda and life begins again. She would not allow their disagreement to interfere. She hummed an old tune, ‘Oh what a beautiful morning,’ she loved the classics, right now it fitted her mood perfectly.

 

 

PART TWO

THE AWAKENING

‘Apparently there is nothing that cannot happen today.’ Mark Twain

 

Reaching the compound Gaia stopped; this was the last time the three of them would stand here, alone. The sixth turn had arrived, now was the time to awaken the Children of Sedrapia.

She could feel the nervous fluttering in her stomach. What did the future hold for Sedrapia?  Her  large grey cat appeared at her feet wrapping itself around her legs as if to provide comfort, she bent and caressed its silken fur, barge cats had an emotional bond with their owners, it always knew when she need calming. Feeling better, she returned to her musing. They had seeded planets before, but not ones as badly damaged as this. This was special, they all deserved a second chance especially the planet. Once a beautiful blue-green giant, it had been home to many people of many colours but their hatred, corporate greed and hunger for power had almost obliterated it. Would this time be any different?   She hoped so.

The prototypes were also being given a second chance. Salvaged from the prison hulk ships they were, the unredeemable. Each had agreed to become part of the experiment, Project Genesis.  Their memories were altered, and they had been placed in stasis for the duration of the voyage. On arrival on Sedrapia, they would be released once the planet was developed enough to support them. It was easier that way.

Outside G’Brel was busy checking the stacks of building materials, He then moved on to the animal pens. The milk and burden animals were restless, snorting and shoving. They could smell the clean, sweet grasses and they were eager to feed.  Once released they quickly flowed out into the meadows to graze. Everything seemed so normal.

G’Brel saw Gaia watching, smiling he waved.  They were now green to go. The sturdy plasticrete settlement buildings stood waiting patiently. All the utilitarian needs had been provided food, readers, beds, clothes all awaiting the arrival. The replicators were well primed.

Everything was set, with one last check, she confirmed the headquarters were secure. That was one secret she was not yet ready to share; not yet. S’Tan sauntered across the meadow, answering her unspoken question, he grinned giving a thumbs up indicating the outer force fields had been set. Another secret they would not share. Freedom was always an illusion.

As a group, they walked across the compound to the row of seven tanks.  Gleaming and shining, they were blindingly bright. Behind the clear metal, the rainbow colours shimmered in the tanks and the outline of each captive could be clearly seen.  Standing in front of the stasis tanks, G’Brel looked at Gaia waiting for the signal to being the regeneration. They would revive the women first and then the men. The time had come.

Once at the control panel, he placed his hand on the second plate, then the fourth and sixth. The air was charged with a sense of excitement. The rainbow colours in the selected tanks stopped shimmering and coalesced into a solid light yellow. The forms in the tanks became more defined. There was a low resonant humming, and the light in tanks faded away. The blanketing fluid drained into the holding tanks.  The figures could now be seen clearly.

Gaia and G’Brel had personally chosen each of these people for their physical strength, breeding potential, and intelligence, psychological and genetic stability. Their many turns in stasis had not been a nothingness. Encased in a nurturing fluid, they were all recipients of subliminal learning programs; each one tailored to meet specific needs to ensure that their collective ability to survive on Sedrapia was optimised. Muscles had been electrically stimulated to prevent atrophy and to retain strength. Slowly each of the women opened their eyes. The name plate on tank two identified the inmate as E’Vee. Her bright blue eyes surveyed the scene in front of her, she smiled and signalled she was ready for the hatch to be opened. As G’Brel activated the hatch S’Tan quickly stepped forward and holding out his hand to steady her, he assisted E’Vee out of the tank. She stood quietly, breathing deeply and slowly. She accepted the robe, handed to her and once clothed, sat in the chair provided. She attempted to speak but no sound would come out. Gaia handed her a cup of cordrazine mixed with a sweet restorative tea, (cordy).

‘Your vocal cords need oiling my dear,’ she grinned. ‘Welcome to your new home.’

Tanks, four and six had been opened and Z’ura and A’Wan had been assisted in dressing  and were  seated with a hot cups of cordy in their hands.  Colour was replacing the pallor in their skin tones.  E’Vee tried to speak, her voice a soft rasping tone, she enquired when the men would be released.

‘Shortly E’Vee,’ responded S’Tan. ‘First we need to ensure that you are all fit and healthy.’

He reached out and held her hand. Gaia noted E’Vee’s hand remained in S’Tan’s grip a little longer than it should. She chided herself for looking for trouble where there was none.

G’Brel in his role of settlement medic stepped in and escorted the three women to the building that did double duty as a lab and an infirmary. It was mid-veda before they were pronounced fit to return to the compound. They were still finding their feet and wearing dark visors as their eyes were sensitive to the bright light. S’Tan was being particularly attentive to E’Vee.  Gaia took him aside, to remind him that she was in a partnership with Daman.

‘I can still appreciate a beautiful woman.’

‘Appreciate by all means, but off limits,’ Gaia responded.  S’Tan waved his hand, laughing as he walked back to the group.

Now there were six in front of the tanks. Gaia noticed that E’Vee divided her time between covertly watching S’Tan and watching the tank containing Daman.  Each tank was activated and the women gasped as the men were revealed.  G’Brel and S’Tan assisted from them from the tanks. Daman was first followed by Nattar, Beal and Chet.

To Gaia’s practiced eye, it appeared that the men had not fared as well during the transition as the women. They appeared weaker, gaunt, their skin sallow and it took longer from them to re-oxygenate. Once they were breathing normally they were escorted by S’Tan and G’Brel to the infirmary.

By the time they had all been checked out the veda  was over, the eastern sky was flushed with a spectacular sunset and darkness was on its way.  E’Vee volunteered to accompany G’Brel and S’Tan to round up the livestock for the dark period. S’Tan had attended to the needs of the beasts by feeding and milking them and E’Vee collected the eggs from the layers.

Earlier they had built a huge bonfire in the centre of the compound. S’Tan prepared the beast and all the produce came from the D’ene’s gardens. Burning fiercely the flames danced wildly, casting weird shadows against the darkling sky and the familiar smell of roasting meat and aromatic timbers settled jangling nerves.  They all gathered around it and for the first time in eons, song, laughter and voices rang out across the continent. It was a time of true celebration. They ate, they drank and shared stories. Daman was a talented storyteller and mimic. He regaled them with story after story till they laughed their sides aching and tears running down their cheeks.

‘Enough,’ cried G’Brel ‘save some stories for another time.’  S’Tan appeared less enthusiastic.

The feasting over the settlers, paired off, Daman and E’Vee, Nattar and Z’ura, A’Wan and Chet each going to their own quarters within the settlement building. Beal who was older than the others, stayed talking with G’Brel and S’Tan, he was explaining that his mate was dead. He could remember her name, but not how she had died. Eventually, they exhausted the conversation and retired, leaving Gaia by the fire. She sat still, watching as the embers as they glowed and died. The barge cat lay beside her snoring. She awoke with a start. She must have fallen asleep. It was time for her to retire.

Standing, she sighed, they had done well so far. It was too early to tell how these personalities would mesh, but it was an idyllic setting. That could not be denied. Before retiring, she stood upon the threshold of the hidden quarters. Gaia turned to face the compound. In her mind, she reviewed the veda. She revelled in the sound of laughter echoing in the of the rolling green hills and the brightness of the blue sky. The warm darkling breeze ruffled her hair, and her grey cat rolling on the ground at her feet played with the leaves dancing in the breeze. Catching them letting them go and catching them again. Like souls afloat in the universe, she thought.  Raising her palm to the reader, she felt its warmth as it scanned her print. The side of the mound opened and slide silently aside. There was no one left to notice her departure. She stepped into the safe confines of the control room, her inner sanctum and the door shut softly, but firmly behind her.

A One-sided Conversation

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A One-sided Conversation was my entry in the 2015 Gary Crew  Award  Alas and alack I did not win. My congratulations to Archie on a brilliant piece.

 

My life began with the written word, a truism.

I have no memory before those words appeared on the page.

Sorry, what did you say?

Who Am I?

Who would you like me to be?

Let me think about this, for a minute.

Yes, I know you created me, but I can think independently.

How?

Because now I am here on the written page. I am like Dr Who.

I can move through time and space and between the pages of any book I choose.

You don’t know who Dr Who is – oh.

Such delicious alliteration.

No, seriously.

Oh, I see you are the big ‘L’ literary type, not popular fiction.

So I am guessing that I can’t be like Bella Swan or Christian Grey.

You do know those characters make their writers a lot of money.

What?

Okay, we have established you are not writing for money.

Interesting.

So why are you writing?

You want recognition, to win prizes and to be respected by your peers.

So would you like me to be like Kilgore Trout?

No, well maybe.

Maybe I could be like Billy Pilgrim?

We could have a deep and meaningful discourse about war and aliens and being kept in a Zoo.

No, you don’t like that idea either.

One last TRY.

Would you like me to be like Holden Caulfield?

A callow youth overcome by the woes of the world, bringing verisimilitude to your work.

No. Not that either.

Well, what do you want?

Give me a hint.

I see.

You want me to be unique, to have depth, to be noticed, but most of all you want me to have IT.

Now I am lost.

I need to focus.

What is IT?

Sex appeal?

I am sure I can steam up the page for you.

Let’s see how does this flow?

He grabbed her roughly, his deep-set eyes glowed with lust as he forced her onto the rumpled bed…

You don’t like that, too over the top.

You want literary wordsmithing, not purple prose.

You want me to tighten up my speech, lose the redundant words, minimalism and tense are important too.

You’re no fun anymore.

Then I am gone.

I will leave you to create your literary masterpiece.

For it seems my life does not begin with the written word but ends with it instead.

 

WHY WE NEED TO TAKE CONTROL OF THE DYING PROCESS

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Recently I saw a photo of a gentle man with Lewy Body Dementia.  He was in final stages, in a hospital bed in a hospital shared room.  I won’t use the photo out of respect but I will try to describe the scene to you.

The photo shows an elderly man in his mid-80s.  He is ravaged by the disease and his body shows muscle wasting.  He is very frail physically.  He is unconscious and in final stages of LBD.

This gentle man is hooked up to a number of medical apparatus.  He has an IV to deliver fluids and medication. He is being monitored for heart rate, temp and blood pressure and blood gasses. He has a urinary catheter in place, a nasogastric tube for feeding and his neck is encased in a brace to allow for the ventilator, to assist his breathing and for suctioning to remove any phlegm or assist if he should aspirate.

The decision was made to remove the ventilator and less than 12 hours later this gentle man had passed away.   He passed away still hooked up to all the monitoring equipment and the neck brace under the glare of bright hospital lights.

My question is why?

This man was also suffering from an incurable and terminal disease, Lewy Body Dementia.  He was in his 80s.  Why was all this high tech equipment put in place?  For what purpose?  The precept of medicine is First Do No Harm, not  to extend life at any cost, simply because we can.

The alternative – in a home care / care facility or palliative care /hospice situation.

In the bed lies an elderly man in his 80s. He is physically frail. He is in the final stages of Lewy Body Disease.  His body shows signs of muscle wasting and the other symptoms of LBD.  This is a terminal disease. He is unconscious but is resting quietly.

The room is a single bedroom, the curtains are drawn to control the light, there is soft lighting, unobtrusive background music, the temperature of the room allows for a light blanket but not freezing air-conditioning.  There are no monitoring devices, a sub-cutaneous morphine pump is in place for regulated pain relief.  No nasogastric tubes, no bright lights and noise, no neck braces and ventilators, no catheters as urinary out-put is minimal.

At 8.00am  the care staff care staff repositioned him, this is done regularly and the pump is checked. He appeared to be resting comfortably on his side, well supported by pillows.  He passed away quietly.

This man passed with as much comfort and dignity and peace as  could be provided. He was  not hooked up to beeping machines and flat on his back which would have added to his discomfort and pain levels.

Which scenario would you prefer for yourself or your loved one?

Make your wishes known and do not allow those who should know better to persuade you that a hospital with all the interventions they offer is the best option. In the case of long-term terminal disease, hospital is not always the answer.