Opinion

Spotlight on old fire plugs

by
March 29, 2018

What’s this a picture of?

Maybe the tombstone of Freddy Pimperknuckle? Well, no, it’s an old-time Harold St locational indicator for an under-road fire plug.

Where is the plug then? C’mon, are you only in your 20s or early 30s? We old cobbers know precisely — it’s 11ft away, in the road, level with this tombstone.

What’s 11ft you ask?

It’s 3.352m of course — the old imperial length measurement that was in vogue until metrication in the mid-70s.

Nowadays fire plugs are located generally by white red-capped fire hydrant marker posts usually along the kerb with blur reflectors.

The plugs have ‘‘cat’s eye’’ blue reflectors next to them protruding from the bitumen. Don’t you like the few remaining old ‘‘tombstones’’? They’re quaint.

Cricket shame

Devotees of Paul Kelly, familiar with his tribute to Don Bradman, will recognise verse four of his lyric, in part, Now, Bill Woodfull was as fine a man as ever went to wicket

And the bruises on his body that day showed that he could stick it

But to this day he’s still quoted, and only he could wear it:

There’s two sides out there today

And only one of ’em’s playing cricket.

How appropriate those words applied also to the recent Third Test in South Africa — a quote that flooded into my mind when I first heard of the Australian team’s disgusting contrived ball-tampering antics. I’m really surprised that former Australian skipper Bill Woodfull’s apt quote from that infamous 1932-33 Bodyline series touring England, coincidently the Third Test also, to English manager Plum Warner hasn’t seemed to have had a run in this week’s media.

William Maldon Woodfull OBE (1897-1965), who captained both Victoria and Australia, was a generally quiet and dignified man who scored 1200 Test runs at an average of 46, including seven centuries and 13 50s. He was a schoolteacher by ‘‘trade’’.

In fact he was the headmaster at my high school in 1954 and 1955 and we cricket-mad kids were in awe of his very presence — not that he ever spoke of his sporting career.

Always complete with his academic black gown, he seemed to us somewhat aloof and dour — as anyone would that had been felled over the heart, in those pre-helmet days, by a thunderbolt from Harold Larwood.

My favourite memories of Bill Woodfull are twofold, the first is tangible — my secondary school report-book with six fountain pen ink signatures (probably worth a quid or so).

The second is a short conversation in the dressing-room of the Box Hill City Oval when he’d crossed Whitehorse Rd, replete with gown, to see the conclusion of our school’s First Xl’s win over Northcote High School — when I, a lucky 16-year-old, had snared a few opposition wickets with some out-the-front offies.

The short convo went like this: ‘‘Do you play on turf on Saturdays, Gray?’’

‘‘No Sir. I play Eastern Suburban Churches, on matting.’’

‘‘Time you played on turf, son.’’

End of pow wow. I felt good, not knowing of any other student having had such an — albeit brief — interlude.

‘‘There’s two sides out there today, and only one of them is playing cricket’’ should never be said again — cricket’s too good a game, as are the memories of real men who have loved the game before us.

Petition

What is a petition? Basically it’s a formally drawn request, often bearing the names of a number of those making the request, that is addressed to a person or an organised body in authority or power, soliciting some favour, right, mercy, or other benefit.

More specifically, if the Greater Shepparton City Council is the ‘‘organised body’’, it means, according to council’s current Local Law No.2, that ‘‘every petition or joint letter must clearly state the full name and address of every signatory; and be signed by the persons whose names and addresses are appended to it with their signatures’’ — among other conditions.

How then do online petitions fit the bill, you ask — the sort that generate via Facebook?

So far as our council is concerned, at least for the time being, they simply don’t comply — unmitigated waste of time.

How can they have unchallengeable credibility?

How can clicking your mouse or phone confirm your identity and your residential status — Dawn Hobbs, Greater Shepparton or Outer Mongolia?

Currently there’s a ‘‘petition’’ of the electronic type circulating calling a halt to the Shepparton Art Museum project.

Two realities: first, the project is beyond recall; and second, that 500-odd followers (as against signatories) is not worth a cold pie for reasons mentioned above.

Council review

So that’s not an issue, but what is an issue is that the council, in currently reviewing its meeting local law, is proposing to accommodate ‘‘electronic’’ petitions.

Never mind about authenticity and credibility, where you live, what you know about the topic or whether you are who you say you are. What rot.

At last week’s council meeting, one councillor seemed peeved that draft changes to the meeting local laws has to be on public exhibition, intimating that as it affects councillors it should only need to be reviewed by councillors.

More bunkum. To her credit, Cr Fern Summer then voted to have the new draft put on public exhibition — go to council’s website to comment with three weeks to go.

Shepparton’s John Gray has vast experience in local government, urban water reform and natural resource management.

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