Having trouble remembering the name of this blog?
Simply type into your browser tiny.cc/riverbend


If you find the text too small to read on this website, press the CTRL button and,
without taking your finger off, press the + button, which will enlarge the text.
Keep doing it until you have a comfortable reading size.
(Use the - button to reduce the size)

Today's quote:

Sunday, May 31, 2009

I'm going into hospital tomorrow ...

... and I hope they won't cut off more than is absolutely necessary!

Click here for larger display

Of my ear, that is!

It all started with a small wound on my right ear about the size of a nail head that wouldn’t heal. I didn’t know where it had come from. I couldn’t remember injuring myself there. It was a mystery wound.

I decided the prudent thing would be to ignore it and hope it went away. But it didn't! So I went to see a doctor.

He told me it was probably a blood vessel too close to the skin that needed cauterizing, and set me up an appointment with a dermatologist.

After the dermatologist had examined my ear, I asked, "Well, Doc, what is it?”

“Let me put it like this, what’s your star sign?”


“Close. Cancer.”


“We can all have our little jokes, Mr Goerman. Don’t worry, it won’t spread, but it is a form of skin cancer – what we call a rodent ulcer, or a basal cell carcinoma. It’s caused by excessive exposure to sun in earlier life. Have you ever spent a lot of time in the sun?”

I certainly had, back in the days when sunshine was good for you and we soaked up as much of it as we could get, little dreaming that one day it would be as dangerous as coffee, alcohol, food, water and air.

Anyway, I’ve seen all the medical dramas, so I was straight in with the pointed questions.

“So er… er… what are my options?”

“Well, you could simply leave it there until your whole ear rots, which might work as a conversation starter, or you could do what most people do and have it removed.”


“With a knife?”

“That’s right.”

“Couldn’t you do it with a laser, or a damp cloth or something?”

“Don’t worry, it’s nothing. Chop chop, couple of stitches, ten minutes tops.”

“Chop chop?”

“Technical term. Do you have private insurance?"

With my good ear, I could hear a cash-register ringing somewhere in the background as I answered, "Yes."

"Good. Because it needs to be done by a plastic surgeon.”

"Thank you, Dr Schweitzer!"

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Not the 1st of MAYDAY

I sat for my Marine Radio Operator's License today! And it was all a lot of - well, French, actually!

Did you know that the distress call MAYDAY (spoken three times) is from the French pronunciation for "m'aider", which means "help me" ? And an urgent signal (also spoken three times) is PAN which is French for "panne", which means "mishap" or "accident." A signal concerning general safety is preceded by the call SAY-CURE-E-TAY which corresponds to the French pronunciation for "sécurité", which means "safety." And to impose silence on other radio traffic, the call SEELONCE is used which corresponds to the French pronounciation for "silence."

Despite Trafalgar, the French seem to have well and truly put their oars in when it comes to marine safety!

N.B. The Mayday call-sign was originated in 1923 by a Frederick Stanley Mockford who was a senior radio officer at Croydon Airport in London. Mockford was asked to think of a word that would indicate distress and would easily be understood by all pilots and ground staff in an emergency. Since much of the traffic at the time was between Croydon and Le Bourget Airport in Paris, he proposed the word "Mayday" from the French m’aider. "Venez m'aider" means "(you) come help me."

Friday, May 29, 2009

Mens sana in corpore sano

Little Rover is not getting enough exercise! I have therefore decided to take him with me when I go on my exercise bike! Go, Rover, go!

A message for Jerôme Stubert in Korea:

Jerôme, it was good talking to you on the 'phone. Take some time off from soulless Seoul and come to "Riverbend Nelligen" which we have renamed "Club Med Nelligen" to make you feel instantly at home!

As Rick said to Louis in CASABLANCA's unforgettable closing scene:

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Always on Sunday

Click here for larger display
A collection of Piraeus scenes accompanied by the theme music of NEVER ON SUNDAY
As the videoclip bar moves over the 'o' in the word 'accompanied', you can see my office behind the sailing-ship and to the left of the Greek Orthodox church Agios Nikolaos

At this late stage in my life, everything is loaded with memories. When I listen to Peter, Paul & Mary, I am reminded of my early days in Australia in the mid-60s; Neil Diamond makes me think of Bougainville Island in the early 70s; when I listen to LOBO, my thoughts return to Rangoon in 1975.

And so it is with books! Just now I had reason to be reminded of W. Somerset Maugham's short story "The Door of Opportunity" and, to refresh my mind, I opened Volume Two of his Collected Short Stories. As I turned the book over, I detected on its backcover a price-sticker of 625.-- Drachmas.

Immediately I was taken back to Piraeus in Greece where I had bought the four volumes in 1983. In Greece, and in my previous assignment in Jeddah, I had had my first longer-term employment after having been "condemned by nature and fortune to an active and restless life" for many years. It gave me time to think about things other than work. And so I spent many rained-out Sundays sitting in small kafenions by the harbour, with a drink and mezze by my elbow, reading voraciously - Greene, Conrad, Kipling, Maugham - while at a table next to me they were playing a game of tavli.

Think of the opening scene in "Zorba the Greek" where, just before dawn on a gusty autumn morning, the rain-soaked Dionysian Zorba seeks refuge in a Piraeus pub and meets the bookish Basil and you've got the atmosphere in one!

Bring me a fresh beaker of retzina while I have another λουκούμι !

Breakfast time

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Guy Fawkes, where are you?

The MP expenses scandal in the U.K. is unravelling faster than a ball of string in the paws of a kitten.

By no means the largest but certainly the cutest claim is by Sir Peter Viggers who was reimbursed, amongst other things, £1,645 for a duck house. Apparently, this is a sort of kennel, 1.5 metres high, that floats on the lake of this Tory Grandee's estate to keep ducks out of foxes and other harm’s way. Absolutelely essential stuff for the good governance of the British Isles!

Their arrogance in this matter is absolutely breath-taking. The "Honourable" Anthony Steen gives an example:

Incidentally, on the matter of ducks, the Guardian recently reported that the University of Oxford got £300,000 to research ducks’ preference for water. They gave ducks access to a pond, water trough and shower. “They discovered that the ducks spent an awful lot of time under the shower, sometimes just standing there, others drinking from it." So perhaps the next duck house claimed by Sir Peter will come with a duck shower. Or will he duck for cover?

And here's the shortest speech in history to cover an event which is the first in over 300 years:

The Hair Cut

One day a florist goes to a barber for a haircut. After the cut he asked about his bill and the barber replies, 'I cannot accept money from you. I'm doing community service this week.' The florist was pleased and left the shop.

When the barber goes to open his shop the next morning there is a 'thank you' card and a dozen roses waiting for him at his door.

Later, a cop comes in for a haircut, and when he tries to pay his bill, the barber again replies, 'I cannot accept money from you. I'm doing community service this week.' The cop is happy and leaves the shop.

The next morning when the barber goes to open up there is a 'thank you' card and a dozen donuts waiting for him at his door.

Later that day, a college professor comes in for a haircut, and when he tries to pay his bill, the barber again replies, 'I cannot accept money from you. I'm doing community service this week.' The professor is very happy and leaves the shop.

The next morning when the barber opens his shop, there is a 'thank you' card and a dozen different books, such as 'How to Improve Your Business' and 'Becoming More Successful.'

Then, a Member of Parliament comes in for a haircut , and when he goes to pay his bill the barber again replies, 'I cannot accept money from you. I'm doing community service this week.' The Member of Parliament is very happy and leaves the shop.

The next morning when the barber goes to open up, there are a dozen Members of Parliament lined up waiting for a free haircut.

And that, my friends, illustrates the fundamental difference between the citizens of our country and the Members of Parliament.

100 Years "Fahrende Gesellen"

In my school days in Germany I was a "Fahrender Gesell'" and spent many weekends and, during school holidays, many weeks away on hiking trips. The comraderie and the adventures of those early days shaped much of my later life.

The "Fahrende Gesellen" celebrate their 100th anniversary this year and, while not there in body, I will be there in spirit.

Es lebe der Bund!

"Billy the Hunted One" has just been caught

First there were T-shirts, then came the song, and now New Zealand's favourite fugitive has inspired internet updates to track his police-dodging ways.

William Stewart is New Zealand's most wanted man, on the run now for 107 days across small towns of the South Island, popping up regularly to steal meat pies or trade up his stolen vehicle.

His antics have captivated the nation, with Kiwis apparently fascinated by the slippery crim who first hit headlines in March after stealing dinner from a farm kitchen and carving "thanks from Billy the Hunted One" into the table.

The cat-and-mouse game has rolled on since, with Stewart shifting from town to town at night, shotguns at his side, slipping through police cordons and thieving from shops to eat and support his methamphetamine addiction.

All the while, embarrassed police have warned Stewart is armed, dangerous and "a pain in the neck".

But the public can't seem to get enough of him, buying up scores of "Where's Billy" T-shirts sold online by an opportunistic property developer.

"It was never done to make money, but people just keep on buying them up," said Barry Toneycliffe, who gets as much as $60 each for the shirts.

A South Island freezer worker was also inspired by "Billy", penning a song in his name after hearing the tale at his small-town pub.

Now at least two Facebook pages have appeared to update his whereabouts and display the many police photos of a dishevelled long-haired Stewart, who has a history of theft and violence.

Many taunt the police for failing to catch him, urging on the fugitive with posts like: "Go for it, Billy!"

"The cops down here couldn't catch a cold, and as far as I am concerned, you are going to be a legend for a long time."

Police, for their part, say Stewart has just been lucky to date, "and his luck will run out", said Sergeant Stu Munro.

Stewart's escapades have seen him compared to New Zealand's legendary prison escapee George Wilder, who became a Kiwi folk hero after breaking out of prison three times in the 1960s.

On one occasion he was free for 172 days, during which time he travelled more than 2,500km and committed 40 crimes.

Latest addition to CLUB MED:

Click on the above image to meet the 'Chef de Village'
Open for bookings now!
A free jumper each, hand-knitted, to the first ten bookings!
(you'll need it!)

The Merauke Five

On September 12 last year, pilot William Scott-Bloxam, his wife and co-pilot Vera, and passengers Keith Mortimer, Hubert Hofer and Ms Burke, landed in Mr Scott-Bloxam's light plane at Mopah airport in Merauke in Indonesian Papua, where a sporadic separatist insurgency has led to tight military control.

The Australians, who say they only wanted to visit for a long weekend to investigate tourism opportunities, did not obtain visas, flight approval or security clearance before they landed.

They were arrested and convicted of immigration offences. Mr Scott-Bloxam was sentenced to three years in jail, while the other four were given two-year sentences. These sentences have since been quashed and the "Merauke Five" are no longer in jail although still in Merauke on a holiday longer than originally planned but not as bad as one might envisage.

As Forrest Gump would have said, "Stupid is as stupid does."

The Teutonic TITANIC

Click here for larger display

It is said that "History is written by the victor" which perhaps explains why so little is known about the Wilhelm Gustloff which was deliberately sunk with three torpedoes by a Russian submarine in the icy waters of the Baltic Sea on the 30th of January 1945. Almost 10,000 civilian refugees, of which more than half were infants and childen, perished in this deadliest of all single-ship disasters.

You can read more about it on the Wilhelm Gustloff website.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The latest report from Iraq

Click here for larger screen

This brings back memories!!!


If you got strung up before completing the word, press F5 to refresh the page.
Or click here to refresh yourself!

Well before the advent of personal computers, when I was working on main-frame computers the size of a small room, I used to relieve the tedium with the HANGMAN game.

Here I am playing HANGMAN on MORGAN EQUIPMENT's mainframe at Camp 5 on Bougainville Island at Christmas 1980. I was never able to spell PERMANENT EMPLOYMENT and was off to another assignment soon afterwards!

Monday, May 25, 2009

A difference of approx. 20,000 well-chosen words

Click on the AFTER picture to see the BEFORE

Mt Perry, a hundred kilometres west of Bundaberg, is the proverbial one-horse town.

I first heard of it when my long-time friend Noel Butler moved there sometime in 1983 or 1984. He had bought a 5-acre piece of dirt across the track from what was grandiously described as the Mt Perry Golfcourse - a collection of cowpads drying in the hot Queensland sun - at a price which would've been an absolute bargain anywhere else in Australia but still outrageously expensive in this town which was slowly disintegrating: the local mechanic had moved away to Gin Gin, the local store sold little more than bread and milk and newspapers, and the local picture show had run its last reel in 1967.

I went up to Mt Perry in late 1985 when I was on my way from Townsville to Sydney, having, after many years overseas, totally failed to make a new beginning in the former and hoping that the latter would be kinder to me. I stopped over with Noel for a couple of days in his newly-built one-bedroom prefab, cranking up the generator at night to watch television and lighting the PRIMUS-stove in the morning to cook our cowboy-breakfast of baked-beans-on-toast. It was all very forgettable and I was soon back on the highway heading towards Sydney (which didn't work out too well either, at which point Noel invited me back to Mt Perry because my company would give him, as he put it, "a new lease on life" - but that's another story for another time).

Owing to failing health and eyesight, Noel sold his Mt Perry hide-away the following year and settled in Childers where he passed away in 1995. For old times' sake, I kept an eye on Mt Perry and even revisited it in 2003 and in 2005 was surprised to read of the reopening of the old Mt Perry picture show (originally known as the Federal Theatre) as the refurbished Federal Inn. Who were those people that would be coming to Mt Perry to fill the $130-a-night rooms and eat those à-la-carte dinners? The History page describes how "Bob & Helen Gilbert purchased the delightful building in 2003" but the front page mentions only Bob as owning and running the place now and - another surprise! - it is up for sale again - at a cool, or crazy, $697,000 !

What had gone wrong with Bob and Helen's dream? There's a story there somewhere and old Somerset W. Maugham would have turned it into a good one. The difference between his and mine is approximately 20,000 well-chosen words!

Are you living in sin?

When the great English poet Wordsworth wrote in The Prelude that he must become a poet "else be sinning greatly", he used the word "sin" in its ancient Greek sense in which it came to us through the Bible. It was taken from the sport of archery and literally meant "to miss the mark", as in an arrow missing the target.

How close is your life to the "bull's eye"? As for myself, I am an old sinner from way back!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Old TI My Beautiful Home

Click here for larger screen

Heck, has it been four years already since my last trip to Thursday Island? And 32 years since I lived and worked there? Time I made some plans again!

‘Old TI’

Why are you looking so sad my dear?
Why are you looking so blue?
Are you thinking of someone so far away
    in a beautiful place called TI?

Old TI my beautiful home
It’s the place where I was born
Where the moon and stars that shine
    makes me longing for home

Old TI my beautiful home
Take me across the sea, over the deep blue sea
Darling won’t you take me back to my home TI

Old TI my beautiful home
TI my home sweet home
I’ll be there forever, the sun is sinking, farewell.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

A bit of quackery

I'll be off to Canberra for two days, staying at the Canberra South Motor Park, to undergo surgery at the National Capital Private Hospital on two melanomas: one on my right ear, the other on my right leg (I've always been a bit right-wing).

Don't tell me I won't have a leg to stand on because I won't be able to hear you!

Thursday, May 21, 2009


"We come to the South and East full of longing, driven by a dark and grateful premonition of home, and we find here a paradise, the abundance and rich voluptuousness of all natural gifts. We find the pure, simple, childlike people of paradise. But we ourselves are different; we are alien here and without any rights of citizenship; we lost our paradise long ago, and the new one that we wish to build is not to be found along the equator and on the warm seas of the East. It lies within us and in our own northern future." Hermann Hesse

"Siddhartha", a bildungsroman by Herman Hesse, first published in 1922, is simply one of the greatest books ever written. Even though Hesse’s book is fiction, and its lead is not based upon the real Siddhartha Gautama (the original Buddha), Hesse employs a pseudo-historical approach to the tale.

A wonderful book which was also made into a beautiful film.

Look out for this Kiwi couple!

From today's ABC News Service:

"New Zealand police are searching for a couple believed to have fled the country with millions of dollars they received in a banking error.

Police will not reveal who the accidental millionaires are, but it is believed they ran a service station in the North Island city of Rotorua.

The couple applied to Westpac for a loan of about $8,000 and instead around $8 million was put into their account.

Police believe they may have fled New Zealand with most of the money and Interpol has been called in to help track them down.

Westpac is trying to work out what went wrong.

The bank is not saying much, only that this incident is a timely reminder that any money accidentally transferred into an account does not actually belong to the owner of the account."

"Death at a Funeral"

We're attending a funeral today. Not one of my favourite activities and we could excuse ourselves as no dead persons have ever got nasty with us for not attending their funerals but I'd better put on my T-shirt and go!

Afterwards I will hire this movie to cheer me up:

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Seven Years in Tibet

Heinrich Harrer, traveller, explorer and mountaineer, led one of the most extraordinary lives of the twentieth century. He famously spent Seven Years in Tibet (made into the film starring Brad Pitt) and was tutor, mentor and a lifelong friend of the Dalai Lama. He made the first ascent of the notorious North Face of the Eiger (told in his book 'The White Spider') and summited unclimbed peaks in Alaska, the Himalaya and South America. Heinrich Harrer died Jan. 7, 2006 in Friesach, Austria. He was 93.

Watch the movie or read the book.

Bonjour Tristesse

There is something both sad and reassuring about autumn: sadness that another summer has passed and reassurance that this is all part of the predictable cycle of nature and that summer will return.

Autumn invites us to reflect on life and reminds us that time is not standing still. It's a muffled cry of 'CARPE DIEM'.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

I've just anal-ysed my life ...

... and have come up with the following pie-chart:

Meditation is not what you think

Click here for larger image

But don't think too hard about it! Focus on your breathing instead as if your life depended on it - which, of course, it does!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Don't you just love Sheriff Joe ?

Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Arizona U.S.A. created the first "tent city jail". He has jail meals down to 40 cents a serving and charges the inmates for them. He stopped smoking and porno magazines in the jails. Took away their weights. Cut off all but "G" movies. He started chain gangs so the inmates could do free work on county and city projects. Then he started chain gangs for women so he wouldn't get sued for discrimination. He took away cable TV until he found out there was a federal court order that required cable TV for jails. So he hooked up the cable TV again but only let in the Disney channel and the weather channel. When asked why the weather channel he replied, "So they will know how hot it's gonna be while they are working on my chain gangs." He cut off coffee since it has zero nutritional value. When the inmates complained, he told them, "This isn't the Ritz/Carlton. If you don't like it, don't come back."

Joe Arpaio, the tough-guy sheriff who created the tent city and long ago started making his prisoners wear pink, and eat bologna sandwiches, is not one bit sympathetic. He told the inmates: "It's 120 degrees in Iraq and our soldiers are living in tents too, and they have to wear full battle gear, but they didn't commit any crimes, so shut your damned mouths!"

Sheriff Joe was re-elected for the fourth time in 2008 as Sheriff in Maricopa County, Arizona.

Up, up and away with AMWAY ?


Padma was "recruited" into attending an AMWAY convention in Sydney and, predictably, came back all hyped up. I told her to have a BEX and a good lie-down after which she should GOOGLE for some the information AMWAY doesn't want her to see.

(Breakfast) Food for Thought

SANITARIUM has good reason to be patriotic: the Australian taxation office exempts it from company tax as it is owned by the Seventh-Day Adventists (during my days in New Guinea better known as the Seven-Day Alcoholics). My advice to you, "Start a church before you start a business." To which you might reply, "Is there a difference?"   "Touché!"

Australia with a population of some 21 million people has over 700,000 not-for-profit organisations or charities, all of which are tax-exempt. That's one charity for every 30 people. I know some 30-odd people (should I have written this without the hyphen?) none of whom run a charity so it must be my turn. What sort of charity (tax-exempt, of course!) could I start? The Society of Old Bloggers - SOB for short - perhaps? With me as Chairman aka Big SOB!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

My favourite French movie

"Les enfants du marais"

"Les enfants du marais" is the kind of French film which appeals to international film audiences. It depicts a way of life which accords with a non-French person’s idealised view of life in France – a way of life which certainly exists no longer and probably never really existed.

Whilst the film is unashamedly simplistic and shows nothing of the real hardship of living in a marshland community in the 1930s, it is totally charming and makes for a pleasant cinematic experience. The acting is generally of a high calibre, which is perhaps what most makes this a satisfying film. Every character in the film is a three-dimensional human being, marred by some eccentricity or personality disorder, and the way they interact and discover enough commonality to form friendships is both fascinating and genuine. An attractive and poignant film.

A version subtitled in English is available under the name "Children of the Marshlands" but I have been unable to find it.

That "LORD JIM" moment


We've all had them: those moments when we made decisions, or had them forced upon us, that would haunt us for a long time.

The eponymous Jim is a young, good-looking, genial, and naive water-clerk on the Patna, a cargo ship plying Asian waters. He is, we are told, "the kind of fellow you would, on the strength of his looks, leave in charge of the deck." He also harbours romantic fantasies of adventure and heroism--which are promptly scuttled one night when the ship collides with an obstacle and begins to sink. Acting on impulse, Jim jumps overboard and lands in a lifeboat, which happens to be bearing the unscrupulous captain and his cohorts away from the disaster. The Patna, however, manages to stay afloat. The foundering vessel is towed into port and, since the officers have strategically vanished, Jim is left to stand trial for abandoning the ship and its 800 passengers. Stripped of his seaman's license, convinced of his own cowardice, Jim sets out on a tragic and transcendent search for redemption.

Jim eventually atones himself for the Patna at Patusan. To learn about this timeless exploration of morality, read Josef Conrad's book.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

"The Riddle of the Sands"

Anyone who has read "The Riddle of the Sands" by Erskine Childers, described as "one of the greatest spy stories ever written", will have read, in detail, about the sailing of such a yacht.

The "Dulcibella" in the story was a rebuilt lifeboat which has been brought back to life beautifully in the movie of the same name.

Watch the movie (in German, OF COURSE!) or read the book.

P.S. For more on-line books, browse here.