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Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The River at the Centre of the World


No, not the Clyde! That's at the centre of my little world down here at Nelligen. This is China's mighty Yangtze River and Simon Winchester's journey up it and back.

He's the same Winchester who wrote The Surgeon of Crawthorne, The Meaning of Everything, Krakatoa, Atlantic, The Map that Changed Everything, and many others. His writing is lively, informative, and thoroughly enchanting.

His most recent book, Pacific: Silicon Chips and Surfboards, Coral Reefs and Atom Bombs, Brutal Dictators, Fading Empires, and the Coming Collision of the World's Superpowers, is a must-read for anybody interested in world politics and China's ambitions to become the world's next superpower.

I picked up The River at the Centre of the World on my way to yesterday's appointment with my dermatologist who keeps checking me for skin cancers every six months. His waiting room was packed with people and I was almost halfway up the Yangtze before he gave me a blast of liquid nitrogen.

I've been seeing him for a decade and yet I still need a new referral from a GP every twelve months which costs me another consultation fee. Jobs for the boys? Anyway, this time I thought I might as well get it from a bulk-billing GP and was amazed at the lack of checks and balances: I simply had to flash my Medicare card and sign absolutely nothing and yet, I am sure, the GP is still getting his juicy fee for five minutes' work. So what's stopping him from 'bulk-billing' my Medicare card again if he falls behind with the repayments on his new BMW? Call me a cynic but I am sure there are as many doctors who are in it only for the money as in any other profession and last time I looked the Hippocratic oath said nothing about fiscal rectitude.

Of course, there's nothing new about rorting Government-administered and -funded schemes. Just think back to the 'Pink Batts' disaster, the school hall building program, and just quite recently the private colleges rip-offs. I mean, what 'Public Servants' would waste their time asking probing questions when they are already faced with decisions such as what kind of doughnut to order for their next coffee break?

This country is well and truly up the creek without a paddle. Maybe Simon Winchester should journey up it and write a book about it.