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Today's quote:

Thursday, February 26, 2009

It's a dog's world

Our front door bears the following message:


  1. They live here. You don't.
  2. If you don't want their hair on your clothes, stay off the furniture. That's why they call it 'fur'-niture.
  3. We like our dogs a lot better than we like most people.
  4. To you, they are dogs. To us, they are adopted sons who are short, hairy, walk on all fours and don't speak clearly.
  5. Remember, dogs are better than kids because they:
    1. eat less,
    2. don't ask for money all the time,
    3. are easier to train,
    4. normally come when called,
    5. never ask to drive the car,
    6. don't hang out with drug-using people;
    7. don't smoke or drink,
    8. don't want to wear your clothes,
    9. don't have to buy the latest fashions,
    10. don't need a gazillion dollars for college and
    11. if they get pregnant, you can sell their children ...

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

... and they call it progress!

Once upon a time there was a sleepy hollow called Sproxton Lane and its very end, "Riverbend", was a piece of Paradise where time stood still. Then came the real estate boom of 2006 when the price of everything but in particular waterfront properties went into the stratosphere. Along the lane, tiny 1500 square metre blocks of land changed hands for $700,000-plus and it wasn't long before the first new owner began to build his McMansion. Six months of building-noise followed. And just when it seems the worst is over, another new owner has called in the bulldozers and the concrete trucks! The sleepy hollow has become a hollowed-out building site!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Misty morning

Do you find these notes boring? They've just been approved by the AMA as a sedative.

It has been a misty morning on the river which usually means that a hot day is coming up. And right on cue it did. I took Padma to her work in town, filled up with petrol, bought bird and duck feed, and called in at Vinnies where I found a Foster & Allen video and a Daniel O'Donnell CD as well as two study notes on Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath" and Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby". All for half the price of a new book! Nearly drove past a scooter place but stopped and looked at their scooters for sale. Owning a Vespa was every young man's dream in my days in Germany! Should it now become an old man's folly?

Sunday, February 22, 2009

It has happened!

Accordion Player

is musical discovery
of the century

I am on the cover of TIME Magazine! All that Do Re Mi Fa-rting-about and exercising the scales has paid off! I am now the hot property in the music market! Welcome to my world!

P.S. Buy the latest copy of TIME and read all about it!

Thursday, February 19, 2009


The turmoil in the world's financial markets has led to a redefinition of much of the business jargon.

A CEO now stands for the Chief Embezzlement Officer and the CFO is the Corporate Fraud Officer. A Bull Market is a random market movement causing an investor to mistake himself for a financial genius while a Bear Market is the 6-to-18-month period when the kids get no allowance, the wife gets no jewelry, and the husband gets no sex.

The old idea of 'Value Investing' has been redefined as the art of buying low and selling lower and the constantly monitored P/E Ratio is the percentage of investors wetting their pants as the market keeps crashing. Broker is what my broker has made me and Standard & Poor is my life in a nutshell.

A Financial Planner is the guy whose phone has been disconnected and a Market Correction is what happens the day after you buy a stock. And Institutional Investors are those who are now locked up in a nuthouse.

As for profit, that's an archaic word no longer in use except by Muslims.

Happy "Investing'!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


We went for a drive yesterday to recharge both the car's and our own batteries! Just 50 km up the highway towards Sydney is the small town of Ulladulla which isn't much of a town but it has a beautiful harbour (indeed, the name Ulladulla is believed to be derived from an Aboriginal word Nulladulla which means "safe harbour"). We stopped at the local bowling club for a delicious meatloaf-lunch which I washed down with a cool glass of riesling (I wasn't driving!) Afterwards we foraged through the two local op-shops, Vinnies and Uniting Church, for any interesting books. It's the luck of the draw, really, as one never knows what one may find. We found nothing this time but on a previous visit I picked up what has since become one of my favourite books, AN ISLAND TO ONESELF.

The eagle has landed

Those were the words used by the real estate agent who just rang. He had told me some months earlier that there was a prospective buyer all the way up there in Belgium who would like to have a look at "Riverbend". Apparently, he has now "landed" and is looking at property and may want to inspect "Riverbend" as well and am I still interested in selling and at what price?

I gave him my price and referred him to my website but I won't lose any sleep over it as I've been through all this before back in 2006 when it seemed a buyer had been lined up only for the whole thing to fall through at the last minute.

If it happens, it happens; if it doesn't, it doesn't!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

My favourite poem

Road Less Traveled

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth

Then took the other as just as fair
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear
Though as for that, the passing there
Had worn them really about the same

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet, knowing how way leads onto way
I doubted if I should ever come back

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence
Two roads diverged in a wood
And I took the one less traveled by
And that has made all the difference

Robert Frost

And what a difference it has made to my life! It sums it up rather beautifully, doesn't it?

Monday, February 16, 2009

Need I say more?

Oyster Farmer

We live on the Clyde River which is famous for its fantastic oysters. More fantastic even than the oysters on the Hawkesbury River. They haven't made a film about it yet but they made one about the life of the oyster farmers on the Hawkesbury. I've just watched it and it's a great Australian romantic comedy - with typical Australian black humour - about love and life on the Hawkesbury River. The little river communities, the oyster farmers with their long-held traditions, and the Vietnam vets who have formed a kind of isolated commune are beautifully evoked in an affectionate examination of unusual lifestyles.
The movie is wonderfully relaxing and visually appealing, even with the shots of the very sub-standard accommodation that many of the oyster farmers endure. Some of the images are just so peaceful and moving that it's a shame some of them have to end to make way for the next scene - early morning on the river is a classic example of this.

"Oyster Farmer" is a revelation. It is warm, humourous, engaging and most of all, totally believable and very rewarding. Bring on the oysters!


If, like me, you've worked hard and, even after all the drinking, managed to put some money away for your old age, you don't want it gobbled up by those "experts" who charge you a king's ransom (and still lose you money!) for the "management" of your hard-earned cash. I started my own Self-Managed Superannuation Fund several years ago which costs me no more than the annual fee to have the books drawn up and audited once a year. And even that needn't cost you an arm and a leg if you stick with the people who specialise in this service and do it expertly and fast at a fraction of the cost of some of the other accountants around. I have my work done by SuperHelp who have been SuperHelpful and offer a great service at a very low fee. They're located in Sydney but you don't have to live there as all the work is done through the mail. (No, there's nothing in it for me; it's just that we live in such a sh*@@# dog-eat-dog world (remember how it used to be the other way around? :-) that when you come across a really helpful bunch of people, they deserve to be recommended - and you deserve to know about them.) Another plug must go to Trish Power and her free consumer website www.superguide.com.au. Trish has written several books on superannuation.

Retirement? I've often been asked, "what do you old folks do now that you're retired?" Well...I'm fortunate to have a few friends who have chemical engineering backgrounds, and one of the things we enjoy most is turning beer, wine, bourbon, and martinis into urine. And, we're pretty damn good at it too!

Of course, all things financial have been rather gloomy in recent months. Maybe in years to come psychologists will look back on this moment when the concept of being happy became separated from money and the stock market. When asked whether or not they were happy, people may simply say “yes” or “no” without first consulting stock prices. Fear, like euphoria, is a transient emotion. The difference between fear and euphoria is that people in the midst of a euphoric event know that it’s likely their joy will eventually become tempered. But, people who are filled with fear think it’s a permanent state – a world without end – a place utterly desolate. Not so! Things will get better even though there is little to be gained from trying to predict the future. You might as well read horoscopes, tealeaves, tarot cards, or crystal balls. Collectively, these methods are known as ‘nutty methods.’ Or you can put well-researched facts into sophisticated computer models, more commonly referred to as ‘a complete waste of time.' Don't believe everything you read and hear! It was none other than the chairman of IBM who declared in 1943, “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.” Yeah, right, and I own two of them! (not counting the two broken-down ones in the attic) So stop living in fear. Trust your common sense! The world will not end! Life as we know it will continue! With some small adjustments! Here at "Riverbend" we have already taken appropriate measures to cope with the new situation as you can see from the above picture.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Don't Worry, Be Ha'apai!


In September 2006, I visited the Kingdom of Tonga in the South Pacific where on the remote island of Lifuka in the Ha'apai Group I met Horst Berger from Austria (not Australia but Austria, that little country in Central Europe where they speak German with a funny accent), who had settled there some twelve years earlier.

My little webpage gives you some idea of the remoteness of Lifuka whose main settlement (town would be too grand a word) Pangai consists of little more than a few shops, a post office, the local airline office, and the Mariner's Café, operated by another expat. It seems that Lifuka's remoteness was not remote enough for Horst who has just relocated to the even remoter island of Uiha where he's renting a house in the village of Felemea (brings to mind D.H. Lawrence's story "The Man Who Loved Islands").

Uiha is a tiny island, three miles long and half a mile wide at its widest point, with two villages, neighboured by the even smaller Tatafa Island, which is uninhabited and accessible by foot at low tide (if you are feeling brave; ask a local for the best route).

Uiha's resort

Uiha has 'Esi 'O Ma'afu - phone 60605 which is a small 'resort' - well, really a house, which belongs to 'Esi and his wife Kaloni and family, and a group of fales, or huts. There is a toilet and shower room (cold, dribbling and shared) and ... well, thats it! Meals can be provided at extra cost, up to $15 (Tongan) for the lobster (if they catch any), but considering the lack of world-class restaurants on the island, you're pretty much a captive audience. The fales have mattresses and sometimes mosquito nets, but no electricity or anything else for that matter.

Drinks can be bought, there is a kiosk shop nearby, and with some notice, your hosts can nip in the boat to Lifuka Island to pick up some Royal Tongan beer (quite possibly the finest beer in the world... well, it certainly tastes like it at the time). For entertainment there's 'Esi and his family ... other than that it's the conversation of the other guests that keeps you amused.

So why go? Well, the beauty of the island is indescribable. The blues and greens of the water, the leaning palms, the distant volcano and the endless coral formations all make the island a surreal South Seas Island paradise. Peace and quiet, lazy days in hammocks reading books, isolated and deserted beaches, private lagoons, no phones, no tv, no kids (except the locals), beautiful forest, spending a few hours on deserted Tatafa Island, tasty seafood and amusing breakfasts such as an omelette with chocolate cake on top. There is something indescribably great about waking up, crawling out of bed through a plywood door onto the beach, drinking out of a freshly opened coconut, washing in a bucket of cold water, then settling down in your hammock to watch the sun dance over the Pacific Ocean, while discussing the merits of fly-fishing with another guest. All your senses tell you, "STAY LONGA IN TONGA".

Uiha Island's 600-or-so inhabitants survive mainly on fishing and financial assistance from overseas relatives. Its children eventually have to attend school elsewhere because there are only elementary level classes on the island. The lack of education available to those children perpetuates the cycle of poverty and the community wants to build a kindergarten. If you can help, please contact them via this webpage.

If you want to give Uiha's newest resident a thrill, send a postcard to
Horst Berger
Felemea, Uiha Island
Kingdom of Tonga
South Pacific

Felemea Village

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Heinz Helfgen

I listed as one of my favourite books "Ich radle um die Welt", written by Heinz Helfgen who in September 1951 at the age of 41 left Germany with a borrowed bicycle and DM 3.80 in his pockets. His aim: to cycle around the world! Which he did in 800 days at the end of which he wrote a two-volume book that sold 600,000 copies and captured the imagination of every German schoolboy at the time, myself included.

According to his biography, Heinz Helfgen died, aged 70, in 1990, and today he's all but forgotten and not one of my fellow-bloggers lists his book as their favourite. His original two-volume book and the one-volume "Neuausgabe" re-printed in 1988 have pride of place on my bookshelf to this day!

(Another German, Oskar Speck, paddled a kayak all the way from Germany to Australia. He never got around to writing a book about it so that his remarkable feat remains almost unknown, something which I tried to change by publishing a website about him.)

Basic English

A chap I know will spend his six-month long-service leave teaching English in Cambodia. Having heard about it, I emailed to tell him about a rather ingenious and all-but-forgotten teaching method known as Basic English. An English linguist, Charles K. Ogden, had compiled a vocabulary of 850 words that covered everything necessary for day-to-day purposes, and the Australian immigration department used it in the 1960s to teach us a rudimentary knowledge of English aboard the migrant-ship.

This Basic English course and my trusty old Langenscheidt Englisch-Deutsch/Deutsch-Englisch dictionary (32. Auflage 1964 - and I still have it today!) together with the later acquired Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary saw me through those early days when every Australian was allowed to feel superior to everyone else who spoke with a non-English accent which in their eyes was equal to some sort of mental deficiency.

Well, the Cambodia-bound chap picked me up on my use of the contraction "you're" in my email and ruminated, "I must compliment you on your English. I know a number of Australians who don't know how to use the words 'your' and 'you're' in the correct context." What did he expect? That I oughtn't be able to speak or write proper English - or possibly do so even better than a native speaker - because I was born in Germany? I wasn't born with any accounting knowledge either and finished up as a Chartered Accountant!

It makes me wonder if he knows how to spell "patronising".

Royal Volunteer Coastal Patrol

I joined the Royal Volunteer Coastal Patrol last year and am now going through some basic training to become an active member of the team. I have done my First Aid course and my survival training at sea and have yet to sit for my Radio Operator's Licence and Boat Licence.

At the moment I am also understudying the treasurer to do their books on the MYOB-package while he is away on leave in May.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Bali Hai!

It has been some time since my last trip away from "Riverbend" but I have now booked my flight out to Indonesia.
Apart from spending some time in Surabaya with Padma's parents, I'll be for most of my three weeks away in North Bali, which is as far away as one can get from the tourist hordes at Kuta.

Not being one to sit aimlessly at bars or on beaches, I hope to do some volunteer work at the Kupu-Kupu Foundation at Ubud which supports mentally and physically handicapped children.

I have already set up their website at www.kupukupufoundation.org to help the Foundation with the raising of funds through donations and sales from their handicraft-shop at Ubud.

The Chicken Dance

The "Chicken Dance" is a real oom-pah-pah tune originally composed by the Swiss accordion player Werner Thomas. It was hugely popular when I lived in Greece in the early 80s and I remember the Brindisi ferry rocking from side to side as the passengers started flapping their arms and breaking out in song.

Here are my numeric notations:
(which are explained in a previous post )
5 5 5 5 4 4 5
5 5 5 5 4 4 5
5 5 5 5 6 6 6 6 5 5 4
4 4 5 5 3 3 4
4 4 5 5 3 3 4
4 4 5 5 6 6 5 5 5 4 4
5 5 4 4 5 7 7 7 6
5 5 4 4 5 7 6 6
5 5 4 4 5 7 6 6 6
7 7 6 6 6
6 6 7 6

The gorgeous GIORDY

My accordion-addiction is growing and I ordered a new and much smaller and lighter accordion some months ago from Italy. It's a hand-made CASTAGNARI Giordy which weighs a mere 1 kg and measures 14 x 9.5 centimetres! I ordered it in the same scales of G and C as my second-hand HOHNER accordion to allow me to play the same tunes on both. As it is hand-made, the delivery time is around three to four months and I expect delivery of it sometime in late February or early March. Don't even ask me how much this little beauty costs. All I am prepared to say is that it is very, very expensive!

You see me here trying a demo model. It's a truly small button accordion that packs the power of a larger model melodeon (the "proper" name for a button box!) into a tiny, tiny package.

My new (old) accordion

I have been busy learning my new button accordion. Not being able to read music hasn't helped. It means I have to have the melody in my head before I try to play it on the instrument. Then, as I find the right notes, I write them down as numbers. Number "1" is the first button from the top, number "2" the second button from the top, and so on. As a button accordion has two notes on every button, one on PULLING the bellows, the other on PUSHING, I am using regular numbers to indicate PUSH, and bold numbers to indicate PULL.

5 6 5 4 5 6 6 6
7 7 6 6 6 7
5 6 5 4 3 5 5 5
7 7 6 6 5 5
5 5 6 6 5 5 4 4
5 5 6 8 7 7
5 5 6 6 5 5 6 6
7 7 6 7 6 6
7 8 7 7 6 6 5 5
6 7 6 7 6 6

I still have a big problem playing the chords with my left hand as I need to move the fingers on my left hand independently of what the fingers on my right hand are doing and somehow both hands always insist on doing everything in unison. Having a split personality would probably help! (but I'm in two minds about it)

Sunday, February 1, 2009

In Memoriam

25 years ago to this day my father passed away. I lived and worked in Athens in Greece at the time and had visited him in Germany five months earlier. I had spent a week at his bedside and while we were never very close and found few words even on that occasion, I like to think that my visit had meant something to him. Far too soon, on the 31st of January 1984, he passed away and I flew back one last time to Braunschweig to attend his funeral.

Do not stand at my grave and weep;
I am not there. I do not sleep.

I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn's rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush
of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.

Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there. I did not die.

Rest in peace, Vati! Your picture is on my mantelpiece and I look at it often and wonder why we had so little to say to each other when in fact we were so much alike.