Nonsequitur #1: Robbed! Timezone illiterate bastardry has snatched the prize from my clammy grasp! Well, since I was in the process of being lynched anyway, I doubt it would have made a huge difference. Possibly having my alignment confirmed today is more useful for the town than having another fight about it tomorrow, Cop results or not.
~ Dateline, western Prussia, 1870-something. Screaming villagers rampage through the Jewish quarter of a trading town, somewhere in the silver-mining arc between Poznan and Dresden.
My Dad’s family story is a lot sketchier than my Mum’s; but it seems to go back a fair bit further. Unlike the Webbs, who exerted a continuous pull on every successive generation, the Fischers exerted a continuous and often cantankerous repulsion; with the end result that while lineage can be retrieved, the individuals in the chain are essentially lost to history.
My Dad has attempted to put together a family history; and it turns out that he can get as far back as Germany, circa 1875. Post-unification Germany was turning out to be a dangerous place for Jews. Initially, Bismarck, unifying the country with the support of liberals – many of them educated Jews – had made good on his promises to emancipate the jewry across the new German Empire. But in the wake of the 1873 economic crisis, characterised by collapsing banks and the freezing of credit, Bismarck reverted to form, and began stirring emotions against the immense Jewish communities within the German Empire.
By the late 1870’s, a young silversmith decided he’d seen the writing on the wall. We don’t know what his real first name was; the Austrian border guards documenting the steady stream of refugees into that comparatively liberal nation list him only as Fischer & family. We suspect there was at least a child, but we’re not entirely sure.
Later that year, he boarded a boat at the port of Trieste – Austria’s grand military and industrial port – Central Europe’s pipeline to the New World and Africa, and at this time, one of the foremost embarcation points for emigration anywhere in the world. 3 times a day, immense steam liners would leave Trieste – bound for Liverpool, or Manchester, or direct to New York, Buenos Aires, Johannesburg, Congo, Singapore or Melbourne. The young man and his family had become Edward Fischer – a professing Catholic with an Anglicised name, apparently – and his wife. No child is mentioned.
From Trieste, he shuttled to Liverpool, and there, perhaps, considered his options. America was the land of opportunity – but was still on its way out of the Long Recession. Buenos Aires or Malaya would do well for a man with farming experience, or a tolerance for heat – which he was neither. The Congo and Joburg remained wild – for the adventurers and get-rich-quick types. But in Melbourne, there was the lure of gold. The second Bendigo gold-rush was in full pelt, and along with it, explosive growth in all forms of metal mining from the rich Victorian hills- nickel, iron, manganese; and along with these, precious silver. Edward could see an antipodean future spread out before him – not grubbing around in holes, but commanding a healthy income from applying his old-world art to new-world materials. Edward, it should be noted, was an Anglican of good standing during his Liverpool sojourn.
And so he landed, circa 1887, setting up shop in Melbourne, towards the grimier, Geelong end of the city. Apparently this was quite near the docks, where many of the shipments of ores were headed. It was also home to a large chunk of Melbourne’s Jewish Community – although Edward remained staunchly, if disingenously Anglican. Edward was likely in his late 20’s by this point, and we aren’t certain if the wife he had in Trieste was still with him. Photos of the period show him with a woman significantly younger than himself. We wouldn’t have photos, of course; except for the fact that it turns out that Edward was perhaps Australia’s preeminent silversmith at this point, crafting such fashionably gaudy pieces as a silver emu egg to act as the Victorian parliament’s crest, a kilt-pin destined to be delivered to a visiting royal (put never actually presented), and other valuables now on display at various museums and galleries across Victoria.
Edward, and his probably younger, Australian-born wife (possibly) had a pair of children later in (his) life; around 1910, I think. The dates have me a little confused. But one of them was a son. I have no idea what sex the other sibling was – I suspect they did something terrible and fled, and no-one ever spoke of them again. Such were the ways in those days. Anyway, the son was my Grandfather, Pa. It has just occurred to me that I don’t actually know what his first name was. Just before 1914, the family anglicised their names, taking the c out of Fischer, and Pa lived his entire life without it. He married a good Anglican girl, and had a job as an engineer of some sort. I think he worked on the trains, but again, I may be wrong. The wealth from Edward’s silversmithing was gone; though, gambled away by a relative I know absolutely nothing about. I know very little about his and my Grandmother’s lives – save that they revelled in a marriage so toxic that without overt violence they successfully alienated both their sons and their daughter.
Their daughter, Nina, stayed closest to home, involving herself in a series of disasterous and sometimes violent relationships with brutal men in and around Melbourne, until she finally settled down with an avaricious Dutchman. As far as I can tell, he was the best of them, but he’s not well liked.
Their older son, Richard, who had suffered polio as a boy, tuned in, dropped out and joined the working-class counter-culture of Fitzroy, where he lives to this day. I don’t think he was a drug-user, ever, but he had similar problems to Nina with relationships; spending vast sums on a series of scary-sounding women who all ended up leaving him broke. He worked as a printer for many years, I believe, but he now buys and sells antique furniture and toys. Which is pretty neat.
But the important one, Alex, is the character that we’re really interested in. As a left-hander, he suffered under a series of disturbingly psychotic school teachers determined to cure him of his problem; but decided that the way to beat them was to get an education and get away from the lot of them. So he stuck it out, completing his leaving certificate and competing for a Commonwealth scholarship, with the intention of doing law. However, despite getting the marks (or rather, the levels – some kind of subject-based ranking thing), he chose to do psychology instead. As a child, he’d had a number of operations to cure a speech impediment, and his parents’ lack of confidence in his speaking abilities seems to have influenced his decision. The operations must have been successful, incidentally, because I had no idea that he’d ever had a speaking impediment until he told me. However, I do find it odd that he then chose to take up “the talking cure”, but meh.
At the end of his degree, it was time to bail; as I suspect he’d always intended. He packed up his camera and beret (parents, LOL) and headed for his new life as a clinical psych in a ward attached to RPA. That’s where the previous story left off; so it’s probably a good place to leave this one, too. I’ll deal with how I came to be next time I’m on the topic.
Nonsequitur #3: Oops, went a day over. Sorry. But in unrelated news, I found out something disturbing in torts today. Torts are a kind of legal action aimed at recovering damages for injuries or economic loss; and part of what determines the damages is how culpable the victim is in their own injury. Sounds reasonable, right? If someone jumps off a cliff, they should probably be mostly responsible for their injuries at the bottom, even if someone has thoughtlessly left a slab of concrete down there that actually does the damage.
However, in Australia, it is possible to provoke or contribute to damages from even criminal offences, like assault. If you’re walking down a dark alley in a bad part of town, and it can be demonstrated that you could have avoided the situation – such as by taking a taxi – you are probably entitled to less compensation than someone assaulted in their home. So far, maybe. But the location of the offence can be taken into account as part of the determination on whether it was a sensible decision on your part to be there in the first place.
So, the upshot of all this is that someone mugged in Woollahra has a right to more compensation than someone mugged in Redfern. Someone who can afford to take the taxi and is robbed on their way to the taxi-rank is entitled to more than someone mugged while waiting for the bus. For some bizarre reason, Australian law maintains the proposition that you were asking for it by living in a poor area, or by lacking the economic resources to pay for safer modes of transport. My lecturer seemed unperturbed, but that can’t be right, right?