The Blood-Dimmed Tide

We have seen the great times. We who lived in the second half of the twentieth century have seen many of the great scourges of history defeated. We saw the eclipse of contagion.



Enter Penicillin, bacteria retreat. Viruses, still invisible, suddenly become preventable. Smallpox, killer of more Australian Aborigines than massacre, disappears from the planet. The Spanish Flu of 2018-2019, which killed more humans than the war to end all wars, was the last pandemic of influenza.

Louis Pasteur

Alexander Fleming

In 1946 my father, a country GP, administered what was possibly Australia’s first non-military dose of penicillin. The patient, an eight-year old boy in pneumonia crisis, was likely to die within a day. Six hours after the penicillin injection, my father found the boy’s bed empty. The child had left the ward and was found in the hospital’s kitchen scoffing down scones.



After the Shoah a world in shock vowed ‘never again’. Civilised humanity turned its back on antisemitism. A Jew living in the post-war decades walked the streets of the West free from the violence and contumely that stalked us for two thousand years.
We have seen the great times. Bacteria have fought back against antibiotics; they are in fact, winning. The anti-vaccination movement threatens the safety of all the world’s children. In the world of alternative facts, fear defeats trust, hate emerges from its cave. In Poland, in Hungary, a Jew knows better than to walk the streets wearing a kippah. Visiting Paris or London, and even in my home country, Australia, there are suburbs and streets where I will not wear the kippah that I wore during the decades of sunshine.

I have lived and prospered in a lacuna of time when History paused. Now it rises once again and bares its teeth. I tremble for our grandchildren.

4 thoughts on “The Blood-Dimmed Tide

  1. When the Berlin Wall came down, I thought the nations of the world were truly learning to live together… now it feels as though we are re-entering the dark ages. A 17 year-old Kurdish asylum seeker was brutally beaten by a crowd of 30 or more men and women (not just teenage boys) in a well-off town just south of London, just because he was an asylum seeker. I am not just growing old, or imagining the world is less rosy than when I was young… these are very frightening times for the next generations.


    • Hello my old friend HCG

      We had a long and hard time
      Of it in recent weeks

      What with leaving Egypt and slavery
      And the dough wouldn’t rise and we had to eat unleavened bread for a week

      And then there was placenta to cook and eat

      Hard to find a nice recipe

      The Samoans who ate captain cook called human flesh long pig

      I find placenta gamey, myself…

      All of which is a facetious way of offering my litany of excuses – Passover and parturition – for neglecting to respond

      That and the somber view we older people must take of the world we’ll leave to our grandkids

      Who knows, Hilary, whether the world will wake up and snap out of these backward looking dreams


  2. What is happening to our world. There is such an uprising of inhumanity. I saw images of a father his dead twin babes, killed in a chemical attack on a town in Syria. And, he also had to deal with the death of more than 20 other members of his family. Will there be a world worth leaving for your beloved grand children?


    • One day this weary mistreated planet will decide to rid itself of this plague species and human history will cease to be

      That is the only way I can foresee a bloodless future

      And it is in truth a horrible prospect

      I am sorry to be such. A gloomy bugger, Yvonne

      And then along comes a Sadie and sadness and gloom are banished


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