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Monday, March 1, 2010

1. Moments: We live our lives in moments, in little crevices in time ...

Tia Rose Carozzi. born January 2, 2009 Barry William Carozzi and Arthur Nigal (Joey) Burton

We live our lives in moments, in little crevices in time ...

The words were written by the Australian writer David Ireland in his novel Archimedes and the Seagle, published in the 1980s. I was taken by them by when I first read them and they still resonate. It is for that reason that I chose these words as the title for my blog: crevices in time ...
We live our lives in rhythmic pattern of moments, and our lives can turn on every breath. Each posting will be an exploration of one moment, one crevice ...
This year I will teach around 800 classes. Twenty classes a week, forty weeks in the year. So far I've taught around 80 of these classes, in this my 46th year of being a teacher. And dare I say this? I'm loving it. I returned to secondary teaching at the start of 2009 after fifteen years of teaching Professional Writing and Editing in the TAFE system.
It was a momentous year for me. It began well, with the birth of my grand daughter, Tia Rose, on January 2nd.

There was considerable pain in leaving the Writing course at NMIT, a passion that had engulfed me for ten years, but there was no alternative. And then there was the return to the secondary classroom. I had last taught full time in a secondary school in 1985, when I was teaching English at Preston East Technical School. After that I had two stints as a school principal - at Broadmeadows Tech (1985-88) and at Alphington Grammar (1992-94).

Garth Boomer once described teaching adolescents as rather like being pecked to death by ducks. It was a pretty accurate account of my return to secondary teaching; it was pretty tough going. Many times I wondered whether I would be able to survive back in the secondary setting.
My two year 10s were the toughest. I had my small victories, but the battle seemed endless.
Teaching adults to write, as I'd done for 15 years, was a breeze by comparison. The adults chose to be there. They wanted to write; if I asked for at least 500 words, some would bring in 5000! And many were eager for advice and guidance. We'd done some amazing things at NMIT Greensborough. The monthly readings, which started in August 2000 were still going strong in 2008, with average monthly attenfdances of 70 - 80 people. They were probably the longest running, most successful public readings in Victoria - perhaps in Australia. We set up Flat Chat Press - a publishing house in which students could learn, at first hand, every aspect of the publishing industry. We had some fantastic writing camps. And our quarterly publication, INfusion, had grown from a pretty ordinary photocopied magazine to a professional-looking publication.

I went from eager adult learners to resistant adolescents. Such is life.

Then, on July 28, at 5.38 pm, my house was suddenly picked up in an emotional whirlwind and swirled about. In my 67th year I discovered that the stories I had constructed around my childhood and my past and parents and my families were, at best, partial truths. Linda and Herbie, the caring, doting parents who had reared me, were not in fact my biological parents.

I had been adopted at the age of 4 months. My biological mother was Gwendoline Esther Bertram. She had given birth to me at The Haven, a Salvation Army home for unmarried mothers in North Fitzroy, on June 8, 1943. [That much of my history - my birth date - was true.] She had signed me over for adoption, and had then returned to Heyfield, to her parents and her other son - my brother. Later she would bear two more children - two girls: Lynette (born in 1945) and Glenda (born in 1947). She was 16 when she fell pregnant with my brother, and 19 when she fell pregnant with me.
So: 2009 was a tough year, but also a year of new beginnings: a new job, a new grand daughter, a new family, and the discovery of the brother I had always longer to have. He and I met for the first time in September 2009.
At that first meeting we spent a long time just looking at each other. We have much in common. To begin with: our mother. Then there's the dimple we each have in our chins. We were both adopted. My brother's birth name was Arthur Nigal Bertram, but everyone calls him 'Joey'. He lived with our mother till he was 13, at which point he was adopted by the Burton family. I was named Richard Charles Bertram. I was given up for adoption at birth. Born on June 8, 1943, I lived in The Haven until my adoptive parents took me home, in the October of that year. In the legal documents approving my adoption the court ruled that I be henceforth known by the name chosen by my adoptive parents: Barry William Carozzi.


  1. Ah Barry, the delights of discovering ones own history are fraught indeed. I noticed you loved Cloudstreet, I have just finished "Breath" by him, a wonderfuly sculpted nove/ story of a man/boy writing his own history up so close and personal it hurts. Its different to Cloudstreet but intensely and ominously honest, I wonder what you would think of it. Linzi B

  2. Barry,

    Greetings from far flung Gippsland. Congrats on your blog. Every good wish, and I look forward to reading your worldly views and insightful sharings.

    After all: life wasn't meant to be easy. I need my escapism -- I'll find it here.