Sunday, June 30, 2013
Thursday, June 27, 2013
So how is the Labor Party doing?
Average, I'd say: worse than last year, but better than next!
Canberra's new knitwit
Back to the same old Rudd! But perhaps not for long; click here to read about an interesting Machiavellian twist to recent events.
Wednesday, June 26, 2013
In 1975 I worked in Burma and lived, for the first six months at least, in Rangoon's Inya Lake Hotel which, together with the Strand Hotel, was one of Rangoon's two luxury hotels. However, Burma, being then the most isolated country in South-East Asia, allowed us no access to Western goods, Western food or Western books, and so my employers, TOTAL-Compagnie Française des Pétroles, sent me on a shopping trip to Singapore.
Knowing nothing about Singapore, I had booked myself into a hotel also called the Strand which I assumed to be of a similar standard to Rangoon's. Today's website certainly suggests that it has received a major make-over but back then it was a real dive in what was a very unsanitary Bencoolen Street.
I spent my evenings along Singapore's famous (or infamous) Bugis Street which was just around the corner, and my days inside the MPH Bookshop where I became acquainted with W. Somerset Maugham's Short Stories, Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, and the large collection of James A. Michener's novels.
James Michener's novel The Drifters became my much-loved and much-read 'Bible' during those footloose and fancy-free years and it has stayed with me to this day. It is a fairly epic tale, following the lives of eight principal characters thrown together in a great journey from Torremolinos, Spain, through Algarve, Portugal; Pamplona, Spain; and Mozambique; to Marrakech, Morocco in turbulent 1969. Joe is escaping the draft; Britta the dark winters of Norway; Monica the shadow of her father, a failed English diplomat to Vwarda (a fictional African nation); Cato a seemingly losing battle for racial equality in Philadelphia; Yigal the tug-of-war in the choice between American or Israeli citizenship; and Gretchen the psychological scars of sexual abuse at the hands of police officers following the Democratic National Convention in Chicago.
Britta is the daughter of a radio operator whose mission it was to alert the Allies to the arrival of German ships in Norway, and who dreams of going to Ceylon (modern-day Sri Lanka) once the war is over. As Britta grows up she watches her father endlessly listening to Georges Bizet's The Pearl Fishers during the endless arctic nights while his dream slowly fades into a distant vision never to be realised.
All flee to the resort town Torremolinos where they meet each other and, by chance, sixty-one-year-old George Fairbanks, the story's narrator and one- or many-time acquaintance of most of the six drifters. Through what can only be described as fanciful fiction, these seventeen- to twenty-one-year-olds allow George to join them on their ensuing adventure and even let him be their guide around the world.
In the ninth chapter, a new character is introduced by the name of Harvey Holt. He works as a technical representative on radars in remote locations. He is an old friend of Mr. Fairbanks, and has been everywhere from Afghanistan to Sumatra to Thailand. He is very old-fashioned and a fan of old music and movies.
I strongly identified with the book and its characters, such as when Britta says, "... I believe that men ought to inspect their dreams. And know them for what they are." I was already too old then to be Joe and not quite old enough to be Harvey Holt and I dread to think that today I should identify with Britta's father. I don't even like Georges Bizet's The Pearl Fishers! Carmen yes; The Pearl Fishers no!
The permanent temptation of life is to confuse dreams with reality. The permanent defeat of life comes when dreams are surrendered to reality. What dreams do we have today for ourselves and for the world in which we live? Let us search them out and discover where the journey takes us while we're still young at heart. Because once we have ceased to dream, Michener seems to say, it is simply time for us to die.
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Before our beloved unlelected Prime Minister returns to her rightful place in history which is total oblivion, I thought I had better save this shot of her practicing the only thing she might possibly be good at.
I don’t knit, but I do vote.
It's almost exactly eighteen years to the day when my best friend from my New Guinea days, Noel Butler, sent me this funny "Childers by Night" card and wrote,
I had no idea how prescient and indeed deadly serious his message was until a couple of months later I received a phone call from a woman. She introduced herself as Noel's sister and told me that Noel had just passed away! The only death we experience is other people's.
It may seem that Noel had never achieved much in his life except get through it. And after his life had come to an end, he left no more trace of his sojourn on earth than a stone thrown into a river leaves on the surface of the water. But the way of life that he had chosen for himself and the peculiar strength and self-reliance of his character left a great influence on me so that, long after his death, I still remember him as a very remarkable man.
Noel and I first met aboard the liner PATRIS in 1967 when he was going on a European holiday and I was returning to Germany. The PATRIS had been scheduled to call at Port Moresby in New Guinea but, following the Six-Day War between Egypt and Israel, the Suez Canal closed and the ship was re-routed around the Cape of Good Hope.
However, the many New Guinea expats who had already booked, Noel amongst them, still joined the ship in Sydney. As did Graeme Bell's All Stars Band. And so for the next four weeks I would sit in the ship's Midnight Club and listen to the many yarns of high adventure told by those larger-than-life New Guinea expats while Graeme Bell's All Stars played their ragtime music.
During the day, Noel and I would sit on deck for hours, hunched over a chessboard. Our mutual love of chess and my interest in New Guinea started a friendship which lasted until his death almost thirty years later!
We kept up a regular correspondence during all those years which Noel spent mostly in Wewak in the Sepik District, before PNG's Independence in 1975 and old age forced him to return to his homestate Queensland.
I had come up to PNG in late 1969 and worked there for several years. During this time I visited Noel on his small country estate outside Wewak and Noel came to spent Christmas 1973 and Christmas 1974 with me. Or at least he tried because by the time he arrived on Bougainville in 1973, I was in Arawa Hospital being prepared for an urgent appendectomy; and when he came to see me in Lae in 1974 I was already packed up and ready to fly out to my next assignment in Burma.
Our paths crossed more frequently after I had temporarily come back to Australia in 1979. I visited him several times and observed with some concern his struggle to make himself at home again in Australia, first at Caboolture, then at Mt Perry, and finally at Childers. He never quite succeeded since, as he put it, after a lifetime spent in PNG, "my spiritual home will always be New Guinea".
Perhaps this struggle is something else that we shared. I, too, still think almost every day about those many farway places in which I lived and worked. The years spent there have left me unsuited in many respects for life in the deep south. I feel suspended between my past life in the islands and my present life in mainstream Australia, and I still seek a place where I can feel truly content.
"Über den Himmel Wolken ziehen, über die Felder geht der Wind, ... irgendwo über den Bergen muss meine ferne Heimat sein." Hermann Hesse
Sunday, June 23, 2013
It's a miserable and wintry day at "Riverbend". Huddled up by the fireplace, I begin to ponder:
I used to eat a lot of natural foods until I learned that most people die of natural causes.
There are two kinds of pedestrians . . . The quick and the dead.
Life is sexually transmitted.
Healthy is merely the slowest possible rate at which one can die.
The only difference between a rut and a grave is the depth.
Health nuts are going to feel stupid someday, lying in hospitals dying of nothing.
Have you noticed since everyone has a cell phone these days no one talks about seeing UFOs like they used to?
Whenever I feel blue, I start breathing again.
All of us could take a lesson from the weather. It pays no attention to criticism.
In the 60s, people took acid to make the world weird. Now the world is weird and people take Prozac to make it normal.
How is it one careless match can start a forest fire, but it takes a whole box to start a campfire?
Who was the first person to look at a cow and say, 'I think I'll squeeze these dangly things and drink whatever comes out'? Hmmmmm, How about eggs ? . . .
If Jimmy cracks corn and no one cares, why is there a song about him?
Why does your OB-GYN leave the room when you get undressed if they are going to look up there anyway?
If corn oil is made from corn, and vegetable oil is made from vegetables, then what is baby oil made from?
Do illiterate people get the full effect of Alphabet Soup?
Does pushing the elevator button more than once make it arrive faster?
Why doesn't glue stick to the inside of the bottle?
Do you ever wonder why you gave me your email address?
The wife pulled me out of my reverie and told me to fix the bathroom sink.
It's fixed now!
Can you believe that? 2:30 am?
Luckily for him I was still up playing my bagpipes.
Saturday, June 22, 2013
Or rather, it was when we were young and building the Bougainville Copper Mine!
It was when one's "home" was a 6x9ft donga tastefully decorated with PLAYBOY centrefolds of girls waxed to the point of martyrdom, when one's wordly possessions easily fitted into a 2ft-wide metal locker, and when one's needs for comfort were satisfied by a red plastic chair on the porch.
Click on image to enter Bougainville Copper Project website
Life was so simple then; we were so innocent!
Or, at least, some of us were. The old saying that New Guinea attracted three types of men, namely missionaries, moneymakers, and misfits, had to be rewritten for the Bougainville Copper Project to include those running away from their wives, the police, or themselves.
"Really?" says Mick, "have you seen how many of their owners go blind?"
Have a good one, Chris, and remember: Ageing is the only available way to live a long life!
By the way, my neighbour's name in Canberra was Chris and when his wife called him 'Christopher' we all knew there was trouble brewing. So have a Happy Birthday, Christopher! ☺
Police said to prepare for the worst.
So I have been to the charity shop
Friday, June 21, 2013
Wednesday, June 19, 2013
A young couple from Germany who want to remain nameless spent almost a year 'house-sitting' the breathtakingly beautiful boutique hotel VILLA MAMANA on the tiny island of Telekivava'u in the Kingdom of Tonga.
From there they filed articles with some small-town German papers in which they described how they 'lived like Robinson Crusoe for a whole year', tried their hand at 'generating their own solar power' - instead of using the island's two generators - and sweated it out 'growing their own food'.
It makes for great copy but couldn't be further from the truth. The truth is they lived in the lap of luxury in a white villa facing a white sandy beach ...
... spent their days reclining on a shady verandah ...
... gazing out to the blue South Pacific ...
... and their evenings curled up on a soft lounge watching DVDs ...
... or surrounded by imported marble during their quiet moments ...
... before retiring to their four-poster bed.
Needless to say, none of these photos appear in their newspaper reports nor on their blog. Perhaps they realised, having read Daniel Defoe's famous book, that the original Robinson Crusoe did without marble bathrooms and four-poster beds ☺
So were they Robinson Crusoes or Baron Münchhausens?
P.S. The island's owners are again looking for a 'house-sitter' - click here. Wannabe Robinson Crusoes need not apply!
Tuesday, June 18, 2013
I discovered C.S. Lewis's writing too late to help me in my own grieving but now that I have many of his books in my library, I gladly mailed my copy of A Grief Observed to a friend who's trying to deal with a personal tragedy.
“It is hard to have patience with people who say, ‘There is no death’ or ‘Death doesn’t matter.’ There is death. And it matters. And whatever happens has consequences, and it and they are irrevocable and irreversible. You might as well say that birth doesn’t matter.” ― C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed
"Part of every misery is, so to speak, the misery’s shadow or reflection: the fact that you don’t merely suffer but have to keep on thinking about the fact that you suffer.” ― C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed
"We were promised sufferings. They were part of the program. We were even told, 'Blessed are they that mourn,' and I accept it. I've got nothing that I hadn't bargained for. Of course it is different when the thing happens to oneself, not to others, and in reality, not imagination." ― C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed
“It doesn't really matter whether you grip the arms of the dentist's chair or let your hands lie in your lap. The drill drills on.”
Monday, June 17, 2013
An American friend, who owns an island in the Kingdom of Tonga, is looking for someone to island-sit the place for the next six months. It's a breathtakingly beautiful place with a breathtakingly beautiful residence.
The successful 'island-sitter', apart from being self-reliant, reliable and responsible, ought to have some 'hands-on' skills to be able to carry out some maintenance and make improvements to the place.
Ongoing maintenance includes, but is not limited to, cleaning of watertanks, looking after the boats, servicing the generators, grass-cutting and keeping pathways free of weeds, and shutting down the place in case of a storm warning.
As my friend says, "We can't offer any pay but consider all the benefits of staying on the island at no cost and access to all houses and boats."
Here are some more enchanting images.
Interested? Email me at riverbendnelligen[AT]mail.com.
Interested but unable to get away? There is no harm in daydreaming a little - click here.
The lady starts taking off her underwear but is interrupted by the doctor.
"No! No! Don't take off your clothes. Just stick out your tongue!"