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Friday, June 29, 2012

Birthday Reminder

P.S. I've received several emails from readers who'd be hard pressed to remember that in 1973 the Watergate hearings began in the US, that US troops withdrew from Vietnam, or that the Sydney Opera House opened in that year, but who could tell me that Monica Lewinsky was born on the 23rd of July 1973. Good onya, mates! Keep up the sperm count!


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

You gotta laugh!


Welcome home, Chris!


... and I hope you had a win on the chocolate wheel last week!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Battle of the Bailout


Ninety minutes for the paymaster Germany to give the profligate state Greece a drubbing. Ninety minutes to show who is in control. Ninety minutes to get even for political headache after headache, crisis after crisis.

"Bye-bye Greeks, we can't rescue you today!" the top-selling BILD-Zeitung proclaimed on its front page. And so it turned out: Germany 4, Greece 2.

Testing ... testing ... testing

The living room downstairs

If a picture is worth a thousand words, how many words is a video clip worth? Here are a few stammered words to liven up my FOR SALE pages at www.thisisaprivatesale.com.
Come back for my next Amateur Hour at this space!


The hallway downstairs and walking upstairs

The upstairs living room

View from the water

You know you're getting old when everything hurts, and what doesn't hurt, doesn't work.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Winter at "Riverbend"


The origin of tea began, it is said, when Daruma, a Buddhist saint, irresponsibly fell asleep over his devotions, and, upon awakening, was so distraught that he cut off his eyelids and threw them to the ground where they took root and grew up as a bush, the leaves of which, when dried and infused in hot water, produced a beverage that would banish sleep.

It would take a lot more than the thought of cut-off eyelids to put me off my first hot cup of tea of the day taken by the window overlooking the river when it is shrouded in early-morning mist. A Chinese watercolour in motion! Last night was the longest night of the year which we spent, as so many nights before, sleeping in front of the fireplace which is the nicest possible thing to do. I can't image that somebody could go through life without ever having roasted chestnuts or prodded glowing coal or made dream pictures in flames or listened to the fire sounds - the crackling and the hissing and the sighing and strange whimpering of a knotted log - or just dozed off in front of a fire.

Winter at "Riverbend" is a time of hibernation, of introspection. Of watching videos, reading books, playing chess - a time for every purpose under heaven, according to Ecclesiastes. I seem to remember a saying from my days in Greece, "Nothing worth knowing ever happens beyond the distance of a mule ride." On our occasional excursions we haven't gone much farther than Moruya to the south and Ulladulla in the north, both a comfortable mule ride away!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

This is where we live ...


... although not on a houseboat and nor do we fish. This video clip isn't ours either but it was just too good not to include in this blog.

You know you're getting old when you can't go into an antique shop without someone trying to buy you.

A "Riverbend" Morning

As I dangle my feet over the side of the bed on this cold and frosty morning, I discover another reason for wanting to relocate to warmer climes: to not have to put on socks.

It's no longer just the boredom, déjà vu and ennui, the wondering how life might be different here or there, of recalling Dante's lines in The Inferno, "In the middle of our life's journey, I found myself lost in a dark wood"; it's the simple fact that it's getting harder every morning to reach the tip of my toes to slip into those (un-)darned socks!

In the meantime, the routine continues: besocked, I walk into the kitchen, switch on the kettle, and make my first cup of tea for the day.

Cup of tea in hand and my sock-clad feet inside a pair of wellies, I wander down to the horseshed to get a large helping of feed pellets to scatter amongst the wild ducks by the pond.

Then another scoop of wild-bird-mix to take to the large flock of galahs, cockatoos, and parrots waiting by the birdhouse.

And then it's already time again for another cup of tea ...

Many nappy returns to my Canadian friend!

THE (Canadian) INVISIBLE MAN, not by H.G. Wells

...and here's your song, Chris:

May you live to be a hundred years with one extra to repent!

P.S. This is one day early to catch you before you depart for your week away with "no computers, no phones, no electricity, no running water; just fire, earth and air", also known as gross grouse-shooting.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Nothing worth knowing ever happens beyond the distance of a mule ride

Remembering this saying from my Greek days, we drove no more than 25 kilometres to spend a day at the Moruya Markets and have a lunch of grilled fish at the Moruya Bowling & Recreation Club.

At the open-air markets we bought some pretzels and 'Lebkuchen' from a Swiss baker with a heavy German accent and baklava and Turkish bread from an Eqyptian with an Australian accent, and Malty and Rover sniffed and barked at a dozen different dogs before we visited our favourite second-hand shop.

At 10 cents a tape, I couldn't help myself to add to my huge library of video tapes with a copy of The Last Husky, the story of the final journey of Antarctica's sledge dogs; Riverboats Remembered, a documentary of the Murray River's paddlesteamers; and Windtalkers about the Navajo Code, the one wartime code never broken by the enemy.

My book collection got a few additions as well: Empire of Sand about T.E. Lawrence; Russia: Which Way Paradise?, an insight into the old and the new Russia; The World from Islam, a journey of discovery through the Muslim heartland; Islam in our Backyard, a part-novel, part-essay in which the author explores the conflict between the 'Islamic' East and the 'Christian' West; and Goodbye, Mr Chips, the story made famous through the film of he same name, too short for a book and uncomfortably long for a short story. However, whether book or not, it was, as the cover suggests, too good to be borrowed - it should be bought. And so I did.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

A touch of home

We went to Ulladulla for lunch at the bowling club and then had some more aqua-therapy at the heated swimming pool. We really got our money's worth this time: several laps in the large pool followed by an hour in the 33-degree therapeutic pool followed by half an hour in the hot-tub spa. Wunderbar!

Then we headed to ALDI to buy a soft-close toilet seat. Question: why, after all the preceding noise, would you want to silence the drop of the toilet lid? However, at $19.95, who am I to argue? Anyway, it was manufactured by Leinss GmbH in Göppingen in Germany which means it'll be the first time in several decades that I sit on 'home soil'!

Our final visit to a second-hand bookshop turned up some interesting books:

Lucky For Me by Frank Robson

At eighteen months of age, Lucky, a cream-coloured terrier, was dropped off at a vet′s clinic in Queensland, abandoned by his owners and suffering from ticks and other terrors. A week from being put down he was adopted by Frank Robson and his partner, Leisa. From the start, the fluffy new member of the household proved an enigma, displaying a twelve-snort vocabulary, an ability to climb trees (the better to chase parrots) and a disdain for suburbia. In this full-blooded account of a friendship between man and dog, Robson puzzles on the sentient being who trotted into his life and taught him about survival, mateship and the joys of an independent spirit.

The Constant Gardener by John le Carré

The wife of a minor British diplomat in Nairobi, Tessa is an active campaigner for human rights. When she is murdered, her husband Justin rouses himself from his careful indifference and, unravelling the threads that led to her death, sets off in her footsteps. His journey will take him around the world, to a village retreat in Italy, a non-government organisation in Germany, an ostracised scientist in Canada, a food distribution area in southern Sudan, and in the end back to Kenya and the scene of Tessa's death. The book takes hard look at a specific issue — the abuse of power by pharmaceutical companies, touching on the testing of defective drugs in Third World countries, the corruption of governments and corporations, and the twisting of scientific research agendas.

The Hills Is Lonely by Lillian Beckwith

When Lillian Beckwith advertised for a secluded place in the country, she received a letter with the following unusual description of an isolated Hebridean croft: 'Surely it's that quiet even the sheeps themselves on the hills is lonely and as to the sea it's that near as I use it myself everyday for the refusals ...' Her curiosity aroused, Beckwith took up the invitation which results in this comic and enchanting story of the strange rest-cure that followed and her efforts to adapt to a completely different way of life.

Not a bad day all round!

P.S. As soon as I have finished reading The Constant Gardener, I may buy the DVD of the movie based on the book:

We're getting closer to the next election

P.S. Manfred, here's a surefire way to make some quick money while you're in Sydney. See you down at Circular Quay!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Ve haf our vays you know!

My next building project

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, there were 1,751,400 public servants in Australia as at June 2008. That's approximately 16% of the entire Australian workforce. With most of the essential services already outsourced or privatised, the vast majority of those one-and-three-quarter-million are desk jockeys who are quick to tell you that whatever you want to do is covered by some paragraph in some sub-section of some section of some arcane law which makes it illegal.

For example, if I want to build a second house at "Riverbend", I'd have to jump through more hoops than I am willing and able to do at my age. And the construction of the house itself is governed by even more rules and regulations.

You live on the banks of the river so why not have a houseboat as a second home, I hear you ask. Well, NSW Maritime will take a fiendish delight in telling you that it is illegal to spend more than three consecutive nights on board or more than 21 nights in a given year.

So here is my wicked Plan B: build a houseboat which requires no building permit or approval, and anchor it on my pond which is not a public waterway and therefore not covered by NSW Maritime's rules.

Ve haf our vays you know!

You know you're getting older when you try to straighten out the wrinkles in your socks and discover you're not wearing any.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Bridge On The River Kwai

I'm just making an archival copy from video tape to DVD of the film The Bridge On The River Kwai.

To think that more than fifty years ago as teenage boys in Germany we used to whistle the Colonel Bogey March after having seen the German version of the movie, Die Brücke am Kwai.

It's still a great movie and a great tune today - Listen!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

The Removalists


Until the 1970s, Australians flocked to see the products of Hollywood, with perhaps the notable exceptions of They're A Weird Mob and Age of Consent. However, during the 1970s the Australian film industry expanded greatly, and produced a number of films which won international acclaim. Films such as Wake in Fright, The Adventures of Barry McKenzie, Sunday Too Far Away, and Breaker Morant.

The Removalists is a savage microcosm of Australia, rather than just a look at the then-topical issue of police hypocrisy and brutality. Written in 1971, it was David Williamson's first large-scale success and premiered in the same month in Melbourne as his equally successful Don's Party. Apparently based on a story told to Williamson in a pub by a removalist, the play coincides with the birth of the feminist movement. The development of the contraceptive pill around the same time also empowered women, and the women in The Removalists react to the power of choice in very different ways.

Filmed mostly in two locations - a police station and a flat - the story may sound dreary; anything but intriguing. It may also sound dark and violent. The truth is it is utterly compelling.

I was always taught to respect my elders and I've now reached the age when I don't have to respect anybody.

George Burns

Dogs Walks Man

People and dogs have been hanging around together for a long time. Scientists keep moving the date of the association further and further back in time. Currently the relationship is said to be more than 100,000 years old. That's older than the written language, older than the wheel, older than farming, older than art. At some point - and no-one can say quite when - dogs and humans formed a genuine partnership. That partnership invariably involved going out in the world together - whether to hunt, to herd, to patrol borders, to fight, to go after vermin, or to move sleds.

Most dogs today no longer have any serious jobs. Nor do most people have the sorts of jobs in which dogs can be of assistance. What remains is the walk. And this delightful book, Dog Walks Man, of which I found a slightly dog-eared copy in a second-hand bookshop, is a touching, witty and thought-provoking tale of how ome man found meaning in the humble dog walk.

Dirty deeds over dirty heads




I'm a fan of Somerset W. Maugham's Short Stories. In the 1950s, Gainsborough Pictures produced the three films QUARTET, TRIO, and ENCORE from his short stories THE FACTS OF LIFE, THE ALIEN CORN, THE KITE, THE COLONEL'S LADY, THE VERGER, MR. KNOWALL, SANITORIUM, THE ANT AND THE GRASSHOPPER, WINTER CRUISE, and GIGOLO AND GIGOLETTE. They're a treat to watch!

I have them all on video tape and made archival copies onto DVD when my recently acquired LG RC689D DVD Recorder / VCR Player Combo began to show 'snowy' images. I suspected dirty heads but not quite so soon. When I phoned LG's excellent support line, they suggested I contact their local repairers L & S TV & Video Service in Ulladulla.

L & S TV & Video Service also suggested dirty heads but warned me not to use a commercial video cleaning kit as this would void the warranty. Instead, they asked me to bring it in and they would clean it for me but as such service was not covered by the warranty, it would cost me $66. CATCH 22: if I clean the heads myself, I void the warranty; if I have them cleaned by them, it's not covered by the warranty.

Like the good chap I am, I took the recorder/player to them and had it cleaned and paid $66. I would have left it at that except that the image is still turning 'snowy' at times. Would I be up for $66 every time it needed a clean-up? So I emailed LG's support centre to ask if it was true that I cannot use an ordinary video cleaning kit during the warranty period without voiding the warranty cover.

Here is their reply: "Using a head/lens cleaner in your DVD player does not void your warranty. LG recommends the use of a head/lens cleaner before taking the unit into a service centre for any sort of repair. If you feel that you have been mislead by the service centre please contact the service centre and ask to speak to a manager."

I shall speak with the manager after this the long Queen's Birthday weekend is over. Stay tuned!

Friday, June 8, 2012

An old schoolmate from the 1950s ...

Joachim Stut and his wife Christel

... emailed me this photo of our last day at school in 1960 and by post several other photos of the old hometown Braunschweig and our primary school and this old picture of our Class of 1956:

Class of 1956 - 4th Grade, with Teacher Albert Rümenapf

from left to right:
Last row: Klaus Langeheine / Waltraud Häupler / Karin Öhlstöter / Ursula Hotopp / Heidi Werner / Heidi Nabert / Brigitte Wippermann / Helga Himrich / Heidrun Träger / Margret Brandenburg / Karin Greczik (?) / ? / Eckehardt Mohr
Middle row: Peter Görmann / Ursula Vespermann / Carola Michaelsen / Dagmar Kroll / Jutta Rohde / ? / Bianka Glathe / Regina Hubbes / Rosemarie Schmalowski / Franzi Giehrs / Horst Siems
Front row: Uwe Caje / Wolfgang Hercht / Jürgen Kreul / Henning Rasche / Klaus-Henning Kramer / Wolfgang Silber / Lehrer Albert Rümenapf / Fritz Korte / Helmut Ullrich / Wolfgang Weise / Jürgen Laue / Joachim Stut / H.J. Lätzsch / Hendrik Heinemenn

Our teacher Albert Rümenapf; he passed away in 2014

As a malnourished and underprivileged child in post-war Germany, I was once sent to a 'holiday camp' on the Frisian island of Langeoog to get some decent food and gain some weight - in the depth of winter, of course, when nobody else would have wanted to go there. I had totally forgotten that my schoolmate had also been in the same group. He sent me pictures of it:

"Uncle Max" ran the camp. I think he was paid by the weight we gained because we were put on the scales as soon as we had arrived and regularly thereafter until the day of our departure

The island of Langeoog in winter was not much better than my hometown except that it was surrounded by water

Nearby was the "Sonnenhof", the home of the then famous singer Lale Andersen

This is a picture taken during the High Season. When we were there, we always wore long johns - two pairs if we could manage - because it was always freezing cold

Thanks again for the photos and the memories, Joachim!

Another aid to longevity is that only the good die young.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The stupid country

An ABC Four Corners investigation, aired last night, revealed that Captain Emad, also known as Abu Khalid, posed as an asylum seeker to smuggle himself into Australia in 2010.

Emad captained an asylum boat from Indonesia which sailed to Christmas Island, where he then set off flares to attract the Australian Navy and posed as an ordinary asylum seeker when the sailors arrived.

The authorities did not uncover his deception and the boat was listed as having 43 passengers and no crew.

He was taken into detention on Christmas Island and was given a protection visa and Australian residency on April 20, 2010, only three months after the boat arrived.

Emad and other smugglers passed ASIO security checks and went on to set up lucrative people smuggling deals in Australia.

He now lives just a few kilometres from the Australian Federal Police's headquarters in Canberra.

At least six agents on board the boat Captain Emad came to Australia on also received refugee status and were released from detention.

After arriving in Australia, Emad set up base in Canberra, where he has been working as a trolley collector at Gungahlin shopping centre.

His wife, three adult children and their dependents all got refugee status as well - using different names from those they used in transit in Malaysia and Indonesia.

Emad's wife lives in Kaleen, while his daughters live in Lyneham and Dunlop. His son lives in Hawker. The adults were all provided with public housing. According to members of the family, they claimed their father had died in Iraq.

STOP PRESS: Australian Federal Police have revealed an alleged people smuggling kingpin known as Captain Emad has fled Australia, despite being the focus of a long-running police investigation. On Monday night, the ABC's Four Corners program aired claims that Captain Emad had passed himself off as a refugee to gain entry to Australia, and was now operating his business from a Canberra suburb. AFP Commissioner Tony Negus has confirmed Captain Emad fled Australia on Tuesday night, the day after the program aired.

Welcome to Australia!

Some home remedies that REALLY work!








Monday, June 4, 2012

Anti-freckle cream - Don't leave home without it!

I'd just been watching the movie AMELIA, when I read the following news:

Anti-freckle cream could hold key to Earhart mystery

A new study has found that dozens of previously dismissed radio signals and a jar of anti-freckle cream could hold clues to one of the great aviation mysteries of the twentieth century.

Pilot Amelia Earhart set off in 1937 from Papua New Guinea in a Lockheed Electra aircraft to circumnavigate the globe over the equator, its longest route.

But she and her navigator Fred Noonan were never seen again, despite a massive search mounted by United States authorities in the midst of the Great Depression.

Historians have long hoped to answer the question of whether Earhart and Noonan died quickly or - as generations of history buffs have imagined - they lived as castaways.

Now, the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery says transmissions were picked up for days after she sent her last inflight message.

At the time, the radio distress calls were dismissed as fakes, but the experts say the transmissions prove Earhart did not die in a plane crash.

The researchers also say a jar of anti-freckle cream found in pieces on Nikumaroro Island in the South Pacific - near where Earhart disappeared in 1937 - could provide clues.

The late pilot was known to conceal her freckles, and two years ago researchers on the same island found buttons and a zip.

The research group say it is determined to prove Earhart and her navigator eventually died as castaways on a remote island.

In March, the US vowed to help solve the 75-year-old mystery, with secretary of state Hillary Clinton at the time describing the trailblazing female pilot as a personal and national heroine and offered moral support for an upcoming expedition.

Divers will start looking for Earhart's plane next month.

Map of probable crash site, Nikumaroro Island, Kiribati, formerly Gilbert Islands

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Firewood for sale

My trusty helper Troy had just rewelded the slasher on my tractor, when I promptly bogged it in a ditch. Who could I call on and who pulled me out again: my trusty helper Troy, that's who!

One favour deserves another and so I decided to order him a box of fridge magnets which he can give to his firewood customers (and would-be customers) to stick on their fridge doors.

Should you live in the Batemans Bay area and need a trailerload of firewood this winter, remember: TROY'S THE BOY!

And he'll give you a magnet to stick on your fridge door as well!