Poems by James Irvine

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Short stories, 3DPoetry, Poetpics, Photopoetry & philosophy by James Irvine

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Ch.11- Inventioneering and inevitability.

January 10, 2019



Chapter 11

Inventioneering and inevitability.


Following that memorable road trip, Harvey broke the news of his plans to his family. Mr & Mrs Stewart had other plans for their son; they were not expecting the possibility of seeing Harvey leave for the Air Force. Farm machinery orders were on the rise for their engineering business, so without any family discussion or debate,  Harvey’s father took him aside.

“I have a proposition for you laddie; your mother and I have decided you should forget this nonsense about flying planes, we need you here working in our family business full time. We want you to leave school and become an Apprentice Boilermaker!”

There was a long uncomfortable silence. Harvey was speechless, feeling shocked and angry, as his plans of joining the Air Force had just been shattered. He felt the weight of disappointment on his heart and mind. His High School dream was about to be crushed; it was a decision he wanted to make, and not to be made for him; he could not restrain his emotions any longer;

“So that’s that then! No discussion or nothing like…Well let’s sit down son, why don’t we talk about it; shall we? Oh no, it’s just a dumb knee jerk reaction to drag me into your family business.”

Harvey’s father looked him between his eyes and calmly said

“It’s your destiny lad! Its aboot time you stopped flying high with this Air Force nonsense. Your gift is simply makin and creatin! These farmers need your talents and your mother and I need you here, not flying around the flippin world.” Harvey wished he could run next door to Rose and vent his anger with someone other than his tree.


Reluctantly on the eve of his sixteenth birthday, Harvey grudgingly agreed to join the family’s machinery repair business. He did just as his parents asked, leaving school to begin his trade as Ship Builder / Boilermaker Welder first class. The classification amused Harvey, shipbuilding was still an important industry in the Yalawhy shipyards some 600 kilometres away but here in Illawonga a small farming community 50 kilometres inland from the coast, the nearest thing to a ship would be the aluminium dingy on the old swamp near Illawonga station. Regardless, it was still a highly regarded trade.

Harvey travelled to Adelaide for Apprentice training every eight weeks for a fortnight, staying at Pendleton Hostel in the northern suburbs. It was at Pandora’s technical education college near the southern foothills of the city, where Harvey learnt more about life’s lessons from a sly, slightly mad old Scotsman; who Tradespeople referred to as ‘The Mad Old Scot.’ Harvey’s first day at college was indeed a revelation. Mr Grant introduced himself as their worst nightmare. He scanned his new class. . .

“What, do ye peer wee laddies think yee are then?” he asked in a broad stern accent. Then he pointed to Harvey, expecting an answer; but with a slightly sheepish tone, Harvey answered,

“Err . . .  umm . . .  an Apprentice Boilermaker welder; first class sir!” . . . Harvey and the rest of the class could have heard a fly land on the windowsill, outside. The silence made Harvey’s heart palpitate and then race as Mr Grant walked slowly towards him.

“You, Laddie, are just a peer wee excuse for a human being! You’re nothin more than the lowest form of scum, on this mother of an earth.” . . . Harvey’s jaw dropped.

“As for the rest of ye miserable scrawny high and mighty Apprentices, stroke, self-proclaimed Boilermaker welders - bla, bla, bla. . . You are all nothin more than vermin! Far from ready for the real world, soon some of ye good-for-nothins’ will be swallowed up and spat out! Expect instructions to sweep floors, clean toilets or wipe the bums of real tradesmen; but will ye complain? . . . Nae, never! . . . Not if ya want to succeed!”

To get to the top you must first conquer the bottom.

Not literally speakin laddies, but you may be bullied and your miserable butts shall be kicked from here to eternity. You may well think that you’re a wee bit better than us old dog tradesmen, but nothin, I repeat, nothin, beats experience. . . Do ya get it lads? ”

There was silence, as Mr Grant with his face the colour of a chilly pepper yelled at the top of his lungs  . . .

“Have ye got it yet?” . . .

“Yes Sir,” was the united response from the class of twenty boys. Mr Grant again singled out Harvey.

“Rumour has it you think your better than the rest Master Stewart.”

“NO Sir!” was Harvey’s immediate answer.

“It’s aboot time ye had a real test in the man’s world laddie. I will bet this $20.00 note that I can race ya to the end of the car park, 200 metres away and we start right on the 1st lunch bell.”

Harvey’s fear suddenly disappeared as he considered the race,

“How could this very old, way overweight and mad Scotsman think he would be any chance to beat me?”

Harvey was a very fit 15 year old who often ran flat-out with Hamish his terrier in the scrubland chasing rabbits. Adrenalin filled his mind and soon he was feeling rather confident. The rest of the class were encouraging him to take Grant on. Tony, a tall Italian apprentice, sitting at the back, yelled out,

 “Come on mate you can beat him! Do it for us; the lowest form of scum on earth!” The class burst out laughing and Harvey stood up;

“OK Mr Grant, I will race you for twenty dollars.”

Harvey pulled out his last twenty-dollar note. It was his lunch money for the rest of the week, but he was very confident of doubling his money.

“Any other bets boys?” asked Mr Grant, as half a dozen began reaching for their pocket money.

“Sure thing, I’m in! This should be a walk in the park! You must get paid way too much as a lecturer,” said Tony from Yalawhy shipyards, as he handed over his twenty-dollar bill. No sooner had Mr Grant collected $100.00, the bell rang for the beginning of lunch. Harvey knew it was time to run as fast as he could.

“Quick! Hurry Harvey! Run mate,” yelled some of his classmates as Mr Grant started moving eagerly towards the door. Harvey pushed his way past Mr Grant, then sprinted as fast as he could to reach the end of the car park. Mr Grant just plodded off in the direction of the finish line. The other boys stood staring at him from the doorstep of the old pre-fabricated building; they were all puzzled by the lack of intent shown by Mr Grant.

“Why are you not racing to beat Harvey? He will beat you easily!”

Mr Grant turned to the boys who had gathered on the step and replied in a very clear, but smug voice,

“Nae, I said nothin aboot beating young Mr Stewart! I only bet you that I would race him! And that is exactly what I am doing.”

Suddenly the boys realised they had been taken for a ride by the old Scotsman. Reluctantly, they followed Mr Grant to the end of the car park to see a very pumped and excited Harvey holding out his hand in anticipation of his winnings, and the thought of doubling his money to $40.00.

“Young Mr Stewart! . . . I said race you, not beat you! . . . You bet on something you could never win! You and your scrawny mates have just learnt your first lesson of this trade school term.”


“You need more than just a diploma and muscle to win in this world. You need street smarts! Your brain develops better through trial and error, but comprehension of these life skills’ are acquired from the wisdom of those who erred before. You must learn to listen and listen to learn.”


 . . .  “Thanks for the lunch money lads, and a totally enjoyable first lesson.”

As he recounted his money, Mr Grant walked off to the canteen singing,

“Well you tak the high road, and I’ll tak the low road, and I’ll be in Richland afore ye . . .  Ha, Ha, Ha.”

Harvey and the other boys just stood there speechless.

“We’ve been had! Damn . . . Bugger,” spurted a red-faced Harvey.

“All of us have been had.”

Later that night as Harvey lay in his dormitory bed he reflected on his first day’s events. He took out his journal and wrote . . .  


Wisdom can be your best friend


Life lessons are for losers, who did not listen early on,

venture into the unknown, and we always walk alone.


Do we know the truth about, all things great and tall?

When I analyse the lot, my knowledge is quite small.


The more I learn the more I know, how little I have learnt,

hard work instead of working smart, leaves me very burnt.


Can I avoid these hard lessons, that life must often serve,

my desire after all, is to have just as much as I deserve.


Wisdom is not a scholarship, but the apprenticeship of life,

it helps you make right choices, and keeps you out of strife.


Before we learn by attrition, without any outside help,

old age consumes wisdom, to erase what we may have felt.


So listen very carefully, to wiser heads who erred before;

wisdom is your best friend, if wise words are kept in store.



That week of trade school passed quickly, and on the eve before Harvey’s return to Illawonga, he decided to catch a tram down to the popular Glenelg beach, to relax. The Tram’s clatter of steel wheels synchronised with constant regularity, as the eucalypt trees flashed passed the window. The swaying of the old Tram along with his hunger, compounded his growing feelings of loneliness and being homesick. Trying to refocus, he thought of the mad old Scotsman and the lessons he taught.

Harvey soon found himself at the waters edge, mumbling to himself, as he watched his feet sinking into the bone coloured sand.



What counts?


It’s not how much we know,

or how others see us in this life,

more so, it is important that we grow,

with knowledge, it will keep us out of strife.

Worry little of he who keeps count of you all day,

think only of kind thoughts, and caring words to say.




Unaware of the setting sun, he trudged through the shallows of the outgoing tide. Harvey looked down at his feet as the surging water raced around his ankles, forcing its way back out to the ocean. He looked out to the horizon, stunned by the fluffy lavender clouds, just as orange and crimson rays of light suddenly shone through a gap in the cloud.

“Wow! What a stunning sunset. . . It's nearly as beautiful as a Rose. . . My Rose! I do miss her touch so much.” 

Despondent, Harvey threw a small rock into the clear shallow water. He watched, as the small ripple began spreading; radiating far out to sea.

“My ripple of lost love. . . Send her this message. . . ‘Please, please come back to me!”

Harvey picked up a piece of driftwood and began etching a poem into the smooth sand.



Longing love


Each sunset reminds me of your splendour,

crimson rays, peek through lavender cloud.

memories of your smile seem to linger,

as my heart once again starts to pound.


I long for your touch across this ocean,

both hearts began a ripple in seas so blue.

My aim is to dry your tears with affection,

only then will our waves meet and be true.



As Harvey memorised his poem in the sand, he noticed the beach turning a soft crimson orange. He looked up to see the final stages of the most beautiful sunset he had ever seen.

“Wow. . . I do wish my Rose was here to capture this moment with me. I must try to etch this stunning sunset in my mind, and share it with her when we are together again.”

Amazed by nature’s captivating beauty, Harvey began thinking about his thought process and the dozens of descriptive verses to capture this moment.

“As the Earth revolves, my thoughts evolve.”

Harvey continued muttering to himself,



The evolution of a thought


Crimson  clouds and setting sun,

every thought aligned to grasp.

Horizon shimmers hypnotically,

As I etch these memories to last.


What’s that?

A view shattered!

An intrusion from stage right!

The ultimate sunset under threat,

by an untimely feathered flight.

A Bird!

What type?

It distracts my perfect view.

Its flapping wings disrupting,

my thought-filled orange brew.

My thought!

Which one was that?

Yet another focus lesson taught.

and this?..........A single feather!

Or a gift, I need not have sought!

That Bird!

Where has it gone?

with my picture, I should have caught.

That perfect scene just disappeared,

as it flew off with my final thought.



Many weeks later, back at Illawonga, Harvey’s popularity was growing with the local farmers. They grew confidant in his ability, believing there were few jobs he could not handle. Farmers were often breaking something; usually through not servicing machinery, pushing it to its limits or taking shortcuts. It‘s what Farmers do best. It often amused Harvey, listening to the farmer describe how they broke the part back on their farm. During Harvey’s long Apprenticeship, along with his previous trade skills and guidance from his father Charlie, (the great problem solver) it all added up to a reputation that Harvey was the farmer’s fix-it mate. One day, his favourite and most humorous farmer, Andy, wandered into the workshop. Andy was a very prosperous, well-dressed man with shining RM Williams boots.

“Got another job for you Son!” This was his all too familiar line, each week when he visited Harvey with a new challenge.

“Hi there Andy, how’s the wife and kids today?”  Harvey would ask. “Bloody expensive!” would be his usual reply.

“And what challenge will it be today Andy? Maybe some rusty pig feeder troughs to repair, or do you have a broken windmill head or perhaps another whacky invention?”

“No my cheeky engineer, nothing that boring. I want you to combine my old 1967 Land Cruiser chassis with a WW2 stationary pump to make a mobile farm pump so that I can move the Cruiser around to my water bores and flood irrigate my Lucerne paddocks. One mobile pump and five bores.”

“Yeah right!” replied Harvey.

Within minutes they were both sitting down at the large round retro table in the office and began sketching plans; calculating pump speeds and working out drive connections to join the light truck to the large pump unit. Finally, after 30 minutes they had agreed on a plan and an approximate budget. This always excited Harvey. It was an opportunity to help struggling farmers in these difficult and trying times.

“Thanks Harvey! You’re the Fix it Man!”

After he said goodbye to Andy he began thinking about the concept of being the Fix it Man. He picked up his next job for repair, which was a broken seat from a grain harvester. Then he started jotting down a poem in his journal with his drafting pencil.



The Fix it Man


Fix this, fix that, build this thing from a master plan!

Make me a thingamajig or two, as quickly as you can.


The Farmer squawks frenetically, fabricators jump,

repair work must be quick! We are under the pump.


My Whatsit is broken, and you are the Fix it Man!

So please, repair it in a hurry, just as fast as you can!


The harvester has broken in the middle of this heat,

blame it on a broken mounting bush, under his seat.


Mill a piece of steel and cut thread inside the hole,

bend that solid bar and weld it firmly to the pole.


Machine the round brass bushes, to fit so very neat,

solder every joint, with just the right amount of heat!


Finally, repaired, a happy farmer, quickly on his way,

thanks to the repairman, who again has saved the day!



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Ch. 13 - Dark shadows disappear

January 12, 2019

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