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Thursday, October 31, 2013

From left to right ...

Books ...

... and books ...

... and books ...

... and more books ...




and there are still books on the floor but I also still have a wall and a half left to build more shelves against and so the work goes on.


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

America, America ...


I never took much interest in Bob Ellis until I read his article America, America ... :

"The twelve-year war in Afghanistan and the ten-year bugging of Merkel make us ask the question of what the fuck the Americans think they are doing.

Are they defending democracy in a Muslim land? No, they are propping up drug lords, and arming fanatics. Will women be freer and more fulfilled when they leave there? No, and some will be killed for their presumptuous new literacy and published essays. Are women better off in Iraq than they were? No, Saddam gave them university educations, and Christians religious freedom, and the present pious mobsters do not, and every marketplace is a war zone, and twenty million Iraqis are sorry America came. What the fuck do they think they are doing? And by what right do they tell other countries how to live?

It is not as though their country is a good example. It has, per capita, more encarcerated prisoners than any other nation. It kills, by gunfire, twenty-eight thousand of its citizens every year. It sold warplanes and cluster-bombs to Assad. It mutated with Agent Orange ten million foetuses who had done no wrong. It denied health care to thirty million Americans, including Obama’s mother, who needed it, and died for want of it.

By what right then does it kill with drones other people of different opinions? It is hard to see how that right is automatic. Fifty thousand children killed at Nagasaki and Hiroshima did not confer it. Twenty thousand children dying a day of global capitalism do not affirm it.

It is time America got out of other countries’ affairs. It’s time they stopped listening to their leaders’ phone calls. They look madder and madder every day. Since Clinton left office, they have been bombing to shit other countries they have no business in, and losing wars right and left. Trillions that could have been spent cleaning up their own act, paying good schoolteachers to do good work in the inner cities, giving Blacks good reasons not to shoot each other, were spent blowing up instead sleeping children in Kandahar, and cows in Uruzguan, and it was money evilly spent.

Until Americans get into their thick skulls that death is a serious penalty for wayward thought there will be no good done by their agents anywhere. Bombs and bullets make no-one change the way they think. The Blitz did not convert Londoners to Nazism. Pearl Harbour did not convert Americans to Shinto. Flat-screen televisions showing CNN and BBC might change a few young minds. But why bother? Why bother? Iran and Afghanistan were adequate emerging social democracies before Americans stuck their bib in, and so was Chile. They should get the fuck out of everywhere.

I watch each night of late Jed Bartlet deciding what to do with other countries’ internal affairs. And I wonder why he bothers. Denmark doesn’t do this. Sweden doesn’t do this. Austria doesn’t do this. New Zealand doesn’t do this. Bhutan doesn’t do this. Why does he? Is his advisors’ expertise better than, say, Hans Blix’s or Kim Beazley’s or Bob Carr’s? Why do they presume to know how to sort things in other countries, when twenty-eight thousand of their own people die of gunfire every year, and half a million are traumatised by it, every year? And thousands of black men await for decades their lethal injection?

Why don’t they clean up their own house first, with money they’re wasting on the trashing of others’?

Just asking."

I don't agree with everything Bob Ellis has ever written or said but America, America ... hits the nail on the head.


Books R Me


Some blokes collect stamps, others matchboxes or even motor bikes (I once met a crazy Pom on Karragarra Island in Moreton Bay who had a motor bike in every room of his four-bedroom house - which was a highset Queenslander!).

I collect books. I read them and I keep them! Which means that over the years I have accumulated several thousand books and my "Library" is overflowing.

So I have started rebuilding my bookshelves, higher and sturdier than the previous ready-made shelves, and covering all the four walls of my 6x6-metre library. I have almost completed the first wall and it may take me a full week to do the rest.

Let this be a warning to the unwary about the perils of obsessive book-collecting: bibliomania is a fatal disease for which there is no cure!

card-carrying member of Bookaholics Anonymous
"Where books come first and our lives come second"


Friday, October 25, 2013

Another day in Paradise


The sun is out and so am I, sitting on the balcony high above the peaceful river. It's too early for a glass of wine but never too early for yet another book, this one being "Forgotten Islands of the South Seas" by Bengt Danielsson who was a member of the 1947 Kon-Tiki Expedition.


I don't know about bare-breasted maidens but I still remember
a time when a good book cost just 2 shillings and 6 pence


After the Kon-Tiki expedition, Danielsson married a French woman, Marie-Thérèse, and they settled in Raroia, the atoll on which the raft had made landfall. They stayed there from 1949 to 1952, and in 1953 moved to Tahiti where he wrote many books and scripted many films, becoming one of the world's foremost students of Polynesia.

In his 1952 book "Raroia: Happy Island of the South Seas", Danielsson observed, "The Raroian peace stems from the fact that the people have no material anxieties and no other object in life than just to live".

Remind me to drink to that when the sun is over the yardarm!


Monday, October 21, 2013

Walk through a blackened forest

Click on image


New South Wales authorities are aggressively back-burning in an attempt to avoid two major bushfires in the Blue Mountains joining up amid soaring temperatures.

The NSW Rural Fire Service has called the bushfire threat an "unparalleled" emergency, and warned a potential mega-fire could stretch across hundreds of kilometres. At least 200 homes have already been lost and fire crews are warning the worst is yet to come, with weather conditions expected to deteriorate over the next few days.

Luckily, we have only had a few isolated fires in our region. We took a walk along Runnyford Road which is the ridge road running through the forests directly opposite us on the other side of the river. The local fire brigade had a controlled burn-off through that area some time ago and there isn't much undergrowth left to ignite another fire.

Anyway, I keep a long snorkel handy to jump into the river at the first sign of fire. Living by the river has its advantages. ☺


Sydney or the bush


It's been three years since I attended my first (and last) Christmas Cocktail Party held by the ANZ Banking Group Retired Officers' Club (NSW) - click here.

I have since started and maintained their blog and the president, Mike Cuneen, wants to catch up with me again. So I have decided to return to "the foetid air and gritty of the dusty, dirty city" and attend this year's Christmas Cocktail Party on the 2nd December 2013.

The Blues Point Hotel, my 'watering-hole' in 1985
when I lived in Sydney for a few months - see here

I've booked myself into the Blues Point Hotel for two nights, not only to attend the party but also to meet up with long-forgotten friends at the Blues Point Yacht Club, to inspect my small rental unit up the road, and to catch up with old friends in the city - if they're willing to have a beer (or two) with me at the hotel.


P.S. By the way, a South American scientist from Argentina, after a lengthy study, has discovered that people with insufficient brain and sexual activity read their websites with their hand on the mouse. DON'T BOTHER TAKING IT OFF NOW, IT'S TOO LATE!!!

Beachcombing at Miramar


While "beachcombing" the local op-shops, I found this wonderful little volume filled with unforgettable moments: a funeral for drowned fishermen, birds at dusk, and constellations in the night. And with each word picture, painted with the passion and clarity that Gauguin sought in Tahiti, the author Richard Bode shows us how to see with new eyes the choices we make - from relationships we choose to relationships we flee, from careers we pursue to the ones that consume us.

Beachcoming at Miramar has the power, like the sea itself, to reshape your life. In the words of Richard Bode: "Gradually, if I go with courage and wisdom, I arrive at my destination, a place called paradise. It is not a land free of struggle, a realm devoid of pain or grief. But it is the place where I feel at home, where I am supposed to be."

It's the sort of book, a mere 195 pages in A5-format, which I will re-read many times. And I have already ordered Richard Bode's earlier book First You Have to Row a Little Boat in which he writes about what learning to sail taught him about life: making choices, adapting to change, and becoming his own person.


Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Beach


I watched this movie starring Leonardo Dicaprio long before I had heard of the book which I recently found in one of my favourite second-hand bookshops.

Having all the makings of a cult classic, it's a different literary adrenalin rush from the one I usually enjoy but it is the kind of imaginative travel writing I find hard to put down. It's Lord of the Flies and The Magus rolled into one.


Travels with Epicurus


Unsurprisingly, Epicurus's laid-back legacy survives more thoroughly in Greece's rural areas than in its cities. Aegean islanders like to tell a joke about a prosperous Greek American who visits one of the islands on vacation. Out on a walk, the affluent Greek American comes upon an old Greek man sitting on a rock, sipping a glass of ouzo, and lazily staring at the sun setting into the sea. The American notices there are olive trees growing on the hills behind the old Greek but that they are untended, with olives just dropping here and there onto the ground. He asks the old man who the trees belong to.

'They're mine,' the Greek replies.

'Don't you gather the olives?' the American asks.

'I just pick one when I want one,' the old man says.

'But don't you realise that if you pruned the trees and picked the olives at their peak, you could sell them? In America everybody is crazy about virgin olive oil, and they pay a damned good price for it.'

'What would I do with the money?' the old Greek asks.

'Why, you could build yourself a big house and hire servants to do everything for you.'

'And then what would I do?'

'You could do anything you want!'

'You mean, like sit outside and sip ouzo at sunset?'

This is just one of the many episodes in this charming little book which is a travel book, a witty and accessible meditation, and an optimistic guide to living well, all in one.

I started reading some of the ancient Greek philosophers while surrounded by the rocky, sunlit landscape where their ideas first flourished. Those were my 'SPA Years' of 1983 and 1984 - see here - which was my mnemonic to get the chronology right: Socrates came first; Plato was a devoted follower of Socrates; and Aristostle was a student of Plato.

Sitting in my favourite cafenion while playing with my kombolói, a loop of thirty-three amber beads that are known in English as worry beads, I was well on my way to becoming a Greek when I had learned that those kombolói had nothing to do with worrying but were all about time, about spacing it out, about making it last.

My time in Greece lasted for two happy years until that fateful day in April 1985 when I suffered from what I wrongly diagnosed as homesickness which brought me back to Australia.

All I have left now are my memories, my kombolói - and plenty of time to twirl them.


Sunday, October 13, 2013

Laskar Pelangi


THAT morning , when I was just a boy, I sat on a long bench outside of a school. The branch of an old filicium tree shaded me. My father sat beside me, hugging my shoulders with both of his arms as he nodded and smiled to each parent and child sitting side by side on the bench in front of us.

It was an important day: the first day of elementary school. At the end of those long benches was an open door, and inside was an empty classroom. The door frame was crooked. The entire school, in fact, leaned as if it would collapse at any moment. In the doorway stood two teachers, like hosts welcoming guests to a party. There was an old man with a patient face, Bapak K.A. Harfan Efendy Noor, or Pak Harfan—the school principal—and a young woman wearing a jilbab, or headscarf, Ibu N.A. Muslimah Hafsari, or Bu Mus for short. Like my father, they also were smiling. Yet Bu Mus’ smile was a forced smile: she was apprehensive. Her face was tense and twitching nervously. She kept counting the number of children sitting on the long benches, so worried that she didn’t even care about the sweat pouring down onto her eyelids. The sweat beading around her nose smudged her powder makeup, streaking her face and making her look like the queen’s servant in Dul Muluk, an ancient play in our village. “Nine people, just nine people, Pamanda Guru, still short one,” she said anxiously to the principal. Pak Harfan stared at her with an empty look in his eyes.

I too felt anxious. Anxious because of the restless Bu Mus, and because of the sensation of my father’s burden spreading over my entire body. Although he seemed friendly and at ease this morning, his rough arm hanging around my neck gave away his quick heartbeat. I knew he was nervous, and I was aware that it wasn’t easy for a 47-year-old miner with a lot of children and a small salary to send his son to school. It would have been much easier to send me to work as a helper for a Chinese grocery stall owner at the morning market, or to the coast to work as a coolie to help ease the family’s financial burdens. Sending a child to school meant tying oneself to years of costs, and that was no easy matter for our family.

My poor father. I didn’t have the heart to look him in the eye. It would probably be better if I just went home, forgot about school, followed in the footsteps of some of my older brothers and cousins, and became a coolie … My father wasn’t the only one trembling. The face of each parent showed that they weren’t really sitting on those long benches. Their thoughts, like my father’s, were drifting off to the morning market as they imagined their sons better off as workers. These parents weren’t convinced that their children’s education, which they could only afford up to junior high, would brighten their families’ futures. This morning they were forced to be at this school, either to avoid reproach from government officials for not sending their children to school, or to submit to modern demands to free their children from illiteracy."

The author Andrea Hirata was born on Belitong Island, received a scholarship to study a master’s degree at Sheffield Hallam University, UK, and majored in economic theory and graduated with honours. After finishing his studies, he returned to Indonesia and worked for Indonesia’s biggest telecommunication company, TELKOM but then in 2004, volunteered for tsunami disaster relief in Aceh. Whilst there, he saw ruined schools that reminded him of his old promise to his elementary school teacher, Muslimah. Back then, when Hirata was in the fifth grade, he made a promise that one day he would write a book for his teacher. Thus his first novel, Laskar Pelangi, was born which has since been published in several dozen languages - see here.

I've only read as far as chapter 8 but I've already fallen in love with this charming, funny, moving story about growing up and going to school on the island of Belitong in Indonesia. Laskar Pelangi, or The Rainbow Troops, are students in a poor, beleaguered village school, run by a pair of courageous and generous teachers who protect and champion their tiny class.

It was also made into an Indonesian movie with English sub-titles which I have, of course, already ordered.

Part 2 *** Part 3

We root for Ikal and his friends as they defy the island's powerful tin mine officials (the very mine, incidentally, where the Billiton-half in the world's largest mining company BHP-Billiton had its origin back in 1860, when this Dutch company acquired the mineral rights to the tin-rich Billiton (Belitung) and Bangka Islands in the then Netherlands Indies archipelago, off the eastern coast of Sumatra.) We cheer for Lintang, the class's barefoot math genius, as he bests the students of the mining corporation's school in an academic challenge. And, above all, we gain an intimate acquaintance with the customs and people of the world's largest Muslim society.

Click here to go to Andrea Hirata's official website.


Saturday, October 12, 2013

Happy Birthday, Renate!


We thought you might celebrate your birthday this year in Australia - with a stopover in Bali perhaps - but it seems you couldn't make it. Maybe next year?


Friday, October 11, 2013

My latest marketing ploy


I've trained my very own "Captain Flint" to sit on the gate and screech "It's a bargain; it's a bargain" at any car that finds its way this far down the lane.

The results so far: three bids for the parrot; none for the property!
If you want to make a bid, click here.


Thursday, October 10, 2013

Great Expectations for Bougainville


You cannot pretend to read a book. Your eyes will give you away. So will your breathing. A person entranced by a book simply forgets to breathe. The house can catch alight and a reader deep in a book will not look up until the wallpaper is in flames."

Which is what Mr Watts says to Matilda in "Mister Pip" and which is how I felt when I read this beautiful and fablelike book set in the war-shattered but copper-rich island of Bougainville. I learned more about the people of Bougainville in the 250 pages of this books than I did during the three years I lived and worked there.


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Why do Australian dentists wear masks?


For the same reason bank robbers do! Which is why we fly to Bali not only for the wonderful scenery, the wonderful people, and the wonderful food, but also to get our teeth checked. The money we save on the Australian dentist bill pays for the rest of the holiday.

If you want to get your teeth done, or just have a lovely Bali holiday, email us at riverbend[AT]batemansbay.com.

We'll put you in touch with all the right people, from the person who'll meet you at the airport to the friendly owner of the exclusive but inexpensive hotel far away from the tourist traps to the tour guide who'll show you the real Bali (and, of course, the all-important dentist who'll make you smile all the way back to the Bank! ☺).

In the meantime and to whet your appetite, here is our blog of past Bali visits.


Riverbend's déjà views

Click on image for full panoramic view


Fancy waking up to views like these in the morning? Simply go to our website at www.riverbendnelligen.com and book yourself into "Riverbend" Cottage for the rest of your life!