Due to the closure of Lowbottom High in preparation for bushfires on Friday Crikey was forced to delay publication of the Lowbottom Diaries til today. Apologies.

If the kids had their way there would be a National Year of Mourning. A pall hung over the classroom that first week as our charges came to terms with the fact that there is more to existence than MSN and Facebook. A fact they no doubt remarked upon at great length on their Facebook page.

The mystery of it for the staff was the almost instantaneous appearance of yellow ribbons. Those of us with long memories (which means of course we’re just plain old) a yellow ribbon entered the consciousness through the agency of one Tony Orlando and Dawn. (The latter turned out to be a collective and not the one, in the old joke, Rosy fingered.) A yellow ribbon was something you tied around “an old oak tree”. Kind of odd and ironic in the present circumstances.

So yellow ribbons have resurfaced rather like the native flora which depends on flame to germinate. Is there a ribbon manufacturer out there orchestrating this? “Chartreuse I haven’t got but I can do you a lovely daffodil.” Have ribbon colours been reserved for future tragedies? A fetching aquamarine for tsunamis, burnt sienna for the day Vesuvius next blows.

My question (possibly mischievous) to the children was, given the holocaust, why not black?

Because it wouldn’t show up on a politician’s lapel, the class cynic declared. He was instantly ostracised by the armies of the altruistic who next embarked upon a fever of fundraising.

Buckets circulated through the corridors of Lowbottom and while the heart beat wonderfully warm at the generosity of the kids a natural suspicion was aroused by certain well-known miscreants manning, with what could only be called menace, a bucket that looked distinctly unauthorised. You had a sudden vision of Student Underbelly and rave-ups down the 7-Eleven.

Since that first sweep of the school, there have been sausage sizzles, cake stalls, raffles, auctions of crappy ceramics (rejects from the art class) and, in the case of the staff opium-eater, a garage sale in the carpark of useless and frankly unhygienic junk. Used Huggies, anyone?

Clearly, cracks are beginning to show in the old superstructure as a result of sympathy fatigue. Can we please get on with being self-absorbed and acquisitive? Apart from anything else, some of us are running out of the readies. If I see another collecting bucket I might just vomit into it.

Peter Fray

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