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Thursday, March 27, 2014

... and here's a quick update on the situation in the Crimea

Water, water, everywhere


We've had a downpour of tropical proportions. I checked my 'raingauge' by the jetty and, yes, it's full! I then checked my other 'raingauge' in the pond and, yes, it's half-full.

The two 'official' raingauges confirmed it: we have had over 140 mm in less than two days!

Give or take a millimetre!

It feels like Bougainville-upon-Clyde.


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Two tin cans and a piece of string


Remember the days when we used to tie two cans together and from about 10 meters away talk into a can and the other person would listen intently as he waited his turn to switch roles?

Well, I sometimes wished that communication was still as simple as two cans and a piece of string because our phone line has been down for almost three days (strangely enough, the broadband connection still works!)

As we have no mobile reception down here by the river either, I drove up to the highway and rang the phone company, "How long will it take to get my service back?"

"How long is a piece of string?" she replied.



Wadjda know?


Wadjda is a movie of firsts. This first feature film shot entirely in Saudi Arabia is the story of a young girl living in a suburb of Riyadh determined to raise enough money to buy a bike in a society that sees bicycles as dangerous to a girl's virtue. Even more impressive, WADJDA is the first feature film made by a female Saudi filmmaker. In a country where cinemas are banned and women cannot drive or vote, writer-director Haifaa Al Mansour has broken many barriers with her new film.

I've just bought the DVD and it is well worth watching.


Red Green would love this!


I've been a Red Green fan ever since my Canadian friend introduced me to him and I'm sure this WiFi booster would be a dead ringer for one of his stunts.

Go to www.freeantennas.com for the template.

Of course, if you're a dinky di, you may prefer this beer can variation ☺


Wet dreams


Make that plural: rainy dayS because it hasn't stopped since I was going to set out for Sydney. So rather than packing my snorkel and water-wings as well, I cancelled my bookings altogether and returned to equally wet but warm and cosy "Riverbend".

However, you won't get rid of me that easily: I have rebooked for next week when I hope the sun will shine again.


Monday, March 24, 2014

Just in case


Just in case you've become addicted to reading this blog and are wondering why there are no updates: I've gone away on a short mini-holiday to blow away the cobwebs.

I'll be taking the bus to Bomaderry, and from there the train into Central Station in Sydney. After another short train ride down to Circular Quay, I'll board the ferry to Manly Beach, my "home-away-from-home" for the next few days.

Manly is split into two areas: the harbour side and the ocean side. The harbour side is known for its swimming and wading areas with calm water as well as a ferry wharf. This wharf is the disembarkation point for visitors catching the Manly Ferry from Sydney. A must-do on its own, the Manly Ferry gives a half-hour tour of the areas surrounding Manly, including scenic views of Sydney Harbour and icons such as the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge. The harbour side is also home to the Manly Sea Life Sanctuary, which has some of the ocean’s most incredible animals including seahorses, lionfish and a colony of adorable penguins. Feeling brave? You can even dive with sharks!

The ocean side is the area famed for its spectacular beaches, with a long stretch of sand that runs from Queenscliff Beach to Shelley Beach, with Manly Beach and Fairy Bower in the middle. You can bring your surfboard and catch some waves, or hire a kayak or scuba gear to make the most of the beautiful, clear water. There’s also plenty to do in the area if you’d rather stay dry. Sink your toes into the sand and join a game of beach volleyball or cycle, stroll or roller blade down the promenade lined with Norfolk pine trees. When you’re finished having a dip or working up a sweat, relax by the seaside and enjoy an ice cream or freshly caught and cooked fish and chips. The ocean side is especially popular from May to November, with tourists and locals hoping to catch a glimpse of migrating whales and their calves. If you want to get even closer, hop on a whale watching cruise!

The ocean and harbour sides are joined by the Corso, which serves as Manly’s commercial district. A plaza dotted with palm trees and pale, sandstone brickwork, the Corso lends itself well to the beachside atmosphere. As far as dining in Manly goes, this is where you want to be. The Corso has dozens of al fresco cafes, fine restaurants and bars to sate any appetite. Have a craving for some retail therapy? The Corso has you covered too, with popular local brands and international boutiques setting up shop in the area. Pick up some new beachwear or something for everyday use.

I shall be staying right there on the Corso at the Hotel Steyne, formerly known as "The Drain" (possibly because of its proud ranking as the number one most dangerous pub in New South Wales - what an achievement!) It's not everyone's cup of tea but it is a Manly institution, and is always busy on a Friday and a Saturday night.

I hope to be able to regale you with plenty of stories and photos after my return.

P.S. While checking out suitable accommodation, I came across this interesting B&B website. Something to keep in mind for another time!


What a good idea!

Testing the springs in the worn-out old armchairs at the Treehouse Cafe


We walked past The Treehouse Cafe Ulladulla for months. Today we actually walked inside - and we are so pleased we did!

It was like something out of the Mad Hatter's Party with all the furnishings, decorations, even the crockery and cutlery, straight out of the nearest op-shop. The chairs were comfortable and deep, mainly because the springs were so worn out, the cutlery holder a left-over from last night's dinner, and the table number as vinyl as the table cloth.

While others may have spent half a million dollars for a Coffee Club franchise and another hundred thousand for an all-chrome-and-glass fit-out which takes them years to recover, the Treehouse Cafe has created a unique ambience for less than the first day's takings.

If you want to study a good business model, come to the Treehouse Cafe in Ulladulla!


For they're jolly good fellows

From left to right the left and the right of May, Merti, Lanny, Flora, Komang and Padma


Even Dave-with-the-peg-leg attended the Indonesian birthday party at Surfside.

It was a happy gathering with plenty of good food in good company. Thanks for a good time, Lanny and Oliver!

P.S. For those who are not into foot fetishism ☺ , here are two more photos taken after I had picked myself up off the floor:

Oliver (middle) discussing God (or a leaky roof?) with Todd (left)
and Dave-with-the-peg-leg (right)


Sunday, March 23, 2014

Berlin Days 1946-1947 by George Clare

George Clare left for Britain before the war and returned to Berlin as an intelligence officer after the war. In what was then the most harrowing place on earth, the utterly destroyed Berlin, he searched for an answer to the question of how the homeland of poets and thinkers, Dichters und Denkers, could have become the Reich of Richter und Henker, blood-judges and hangmen.

I love this little book which reveals with wit and charm the absurd side of allied life in Berlin as well as the serious side of which, although I lived through it, I remember little, if anything.

The book has long been out of print but I was lucky to find it in my favourite op-shop.


Thursday, March 20, 2014

No, it's not a Dutch auction


Don't be misled by the red-white-and-blue: this is not a Dutch auction but my latest - desperate? - attempt to 'flag down' prospective buyers.

Now every boatie on the river will know that "Riverbend" is for sale. I am hoping for a stiff breeze to keep the flag unfurled so they can read the FOR SALE inscription. Clever, huh? ☺


International Day of Happiness


I didn't want to spoil your whole day so I've waited until now before telling you that today is the International Day of Happiness as proclaimed by that useless bunch of bureaucrats who sit around and do nothing, the United Nations.

Well, I wished they would come here and fix my broken-down lawnmower, find out why my motorsailer's inboard engine won't start, and cut down that big tree that's about to topple - that would make me happy!

Oh, and they should do something about those Russians in the Crimea. Maybe they aren't old enough to know about these kinds of things but Russians don't fool around. Russians don't surrender. Russians don't retreat. Not without a fight. All of which is hurting my share portfolio!


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

They've found it!


Well, no, they haven't but I am confident, in time, the mystery will be solved. I'm even more confident that, in an even shorter period of time, the story will move off the front pages and the tragedy will be largely forgotten ... except of course for the friends and families of the passengers and crew.

Flight 370 disappeared on Saturday 8th March with 239 people aboard. Using annual averages, in the week that followed, 10,500 people around the world have likely died from malaria since then. 4,000 have died from traumatic injuries, and 16,500 from tuberculosis. In America alone, 9,900 people have died of heart disease since Saturday, 600 have died in car accidents, while 250 were likely murdered. Yet virtually none of these stories have made the news anywhere in the world, nor generating anywhere near the attention that Flight 370 has.

Most of us have a flaw when reacting to risk: Threats like plane crashes, which are statistically insignificant but rare, grab our attention and scare us more than those that are deadly serious but common, like heart attacks and car accidents.

The disappearance of Amelia Earhart's Lockheed Model 10 Electra in 1937 is still a mystery today. Let's hope the disappearance of Flight 370 will not remain a mystery for that long.

P.S. This is an ad which ran a couple of years ago. How prescient!


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Пожежа починається з іскри


It's an old Ukrainian proverb which means, "Fire begins with sparks" (but, of course, you knew that already). And so we wait for things to get nasty after last weekend's referendum whose "Yes" vote was a foregone conclusion.

I mean, it's not very likely that a Russian mobster/bunch is going to back down to some decadent Western imperialists, is it? And a little armed conflict might be just the thing to rally the troops behind a leader or two. It's happened before, many times. Just not recently (well, unless you include Afghanistan, Iraq, or Afghanistan again).

The Russians have the vital flow of gas into Europe as their primary leverage in this power struggle, and they have shown in quarrels past that they are not afraid to turn the taps off if they feel it is in their best interests to do so. Here, in one simple map, is the crux of the struggle over Ukraine:

Russian gas enters Europe largely through Ukraine's pipelines; and, as you can see in yet another map (this time courtesy of the Wall Street Journal), most of Europe is somewhat reliant upon its continuing to do so, and some of Europe is totally dependent upon its doing so. Score so far: Russia 1, the West 0.

So what happens next? Does Putin once again run rings around the West, or is he forced to back down? Will somebody, somewhere miscalculate and overplay their hand? Is this just a flashpoint for trouble that's been brewing for a while? Is there a wider picture here that Ukraine is just a small part of?

We live in interesting times!


You are the same today
as you will be in five years
except for two things,
the people you meet
and the books you read.