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Today's quote:

Saturday, April 30, 2016

My trip to Samoa


Few men who come to the islands leave them; they grow grey where they alighted; the palm shades and the trade-wind fans them till they die, perhaps cherishing to the last the fancy of a visit home, which is rarely made, more rarely enjoyed, and yet more rarely repeated. No part of the world exerts the same attractive power upon the visitor ..."

So begins Chapter I of Robert Louis Stevenson's "In the South Seas" and his name has been forever linked with Samoa where he spent the last few years of his life and where he died and was buried on the 3rd of December 1894 on Mt Vaea.

I did leave the islands several times and I returned several times. One of the island nations I had lived and worked in was Samoa where in 1978 I had assisted with the formation of the Pacific Forum Line.

The Errol-Flynn look-alike on the far right is moi

In more recent years I flew back there to assist a local business in the setting up of their accounting system and to train them in the use of the MYOB computerised accounting package.

Traders from Samoa
noticed profits getting lower
they sent out a cry
for a sharp-minded guy
Now their problems are just about over

Courtesy of Ian Grindrod, Nelligen's Poet Laureate

It was very much a trip down memory lane. The house I had lived in was still there ...

... but, of course, the old neighbours ...

... and old friends had departed long ago ...

... as had so much else.

Sad, really. Quite sad!



Friday, April 29, 2016

Pioneering Paradise?


In an age of anxiety men seek a refuge. Because of some deep urge, constant throughout history, troubled men traditionally dream of islands, possibly because the smallness of an island invites the illusion that here the complexities of continental societies can be avoided, or at least controlled. This is a permanent, world-wide dream."

This prologue from James Michener's book Rascals in Paradise describes perfectly what makes seemingly intelligent people like Betsy Stringham and her partner Philippe Sunnen - to say nothing of baby Klaire - "... sell our old life to live a new, self-sustainable life on a small plot of land in the South Pacific Islands. 10 months of savings & hard work has provided us with the means to purchase a 700sq/m plot of land on a small island in the South Pacific. We will be able to generate our own electricity, collect clear & clean (and free!) freshwater and grow our own fruits & vegetables every season, all year-round. We go full-risk and bare all, though in order to realise our dream, we need to find a way to get there! Our final hurdle is the purchase of airline tickets for Mr. P & Mrs. B - luckily baby K flies "free" as she is under 2 years old!"

They tried to raise funds and must've succeeded because their next video already shows them on Hunga Island in the Kingdom of Tonga:

I wrote about Hunga Island - see here, here, here, here, and here - after I had visited it in 2006 and a more godforsaken place I cannot imagine.

I guess Betsy & Philippe's earth-bag home on Lot 44 will now never be built

Betsy Stringham and her partner Philippe Sunnen - to say nothing of baby Klaire - must've come to the same conclusion because less than twelve months later they've already departed for Uruguay (why Uruguay?) and another dreamer by the name of Nico Siegfriedssohn or Neubauer (or is his real name Paul Patzig?) has taken their place - see here.

left to right: Philippe, baby Klaire, Betsy, Nico

Nico spent his last bit of money to fly out from Berlin to join Betsy and Philippe's Management LTD Tonga (which no longer exists) which was supposed to earn money managing the Cocomo Sea Breeze Residential Community (which, of course, never existed - and never will).

Betsy and Philippe came to their senses and cut their losses but Nico is stuck there. Thankfully, unlike them, he did not pay for his block of land which Lord Fulivai, one of the men behind the scheme, has allowed him to live on. This makes Nico the sum total of the 'Cocomo Sea Breeze Residential Community' which ought to be called 'Port Breton' as it has all the hallmarks of that infamous venture - see here. (For the full story of this biggest fraud ever perpetrated in the South Pacific, click here)

No doubt, eventually Nico will also depart, totally broke (he already depends on donations now; if you wish to help, click here), possibly sick, and certainly disillusioned; the question is when and will he jump or will he be pushed?

In the meantime, Robert Bryce will continue to sell his non-existing Cocomo Sea Breeze Residential Community to any dreamer willing to pay him US$5,970 upfront plus a monthly fee of US$35. Seventy-four of them have already parted with well over US$600,000 - see here.



You can send a donation to Nico
via PayPal at https://www.paypal.me/NicoNeubauer
or per bank transfer to
Nico Neubauer
IBAN DE32 5123 0800 2624 5492 20



Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Kingdom Come or Kingdom Gone?


Last night's ABC Foreign Correspondent program "Saudi Arabia Uncovered" was a real eye-opener to me despite having lived and worked in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for some years and thinking that I knew enough about it.

Mind you, I knew almost nothing about the Arab world when I first went there in 1982. I had heard about the Alhambra and that there had already been street lighting in Cordoba one thousand years ago. I had also watched the epic movie Lawrence of Arabia and could whistle a passable rendition of its theme music.

But I had yet to come face to face with Saudi Arabia's religious police run by the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice who hit my legs with wooden sticks and chased me back inside the hotel the first time I emerged wearing my regulation PNG attire of shorts and long white socks.

And it was not for another year that I had fully read (and barely half-understood) T. E. Lawrence's Seven Pillars of Wisdom which ought to be required reading for anybody who wants to know about Arabs and their dogmatic black-and-white religion - see here - which, like any other religion, is used by those in power to stay in power.

Click here to watch last night's ABC program on iview (although it may be barred from being viewed outside Australia.

P.S. As a special treat for all Lawrence of Arabia devoutees, here's a full-length documentary:

(and here is another potted history)


Das Boot


The Germans produced Das Boot, one of the greatest war films ever made, but it wasn't quite enough to win them the $50-billion contract to build Australia's next fleet of submarines.

The French company DCNS has beaten competitors from Germany and Japan to build twelve sous-marins to replace the Royal Australian Navy's ageing Collins Class fleet.

Evidence now mounting shows that the submarine tender was one of the most irregular ever conducted in Australia. Defence officials in the US, Japan and Germany believe that the French tender was priced at approximately double that of rival tenders from Japan and Germany. So Australia will pay at least $40 billion and more likely $50bn for 12 submarines, when both the Japanese and German tenders were for around $20bn. Taking the highest tender makes a complete mockery of the tender process and makes us look like a third-world laughing stock. Read more here.

I can almost hear the unsuccessful German bidders mumble, "Oui are not amused!"


Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Some mornings are diamonds, some mornings are stones


Especially those misty and coolish mornings which are becoming more frequent as winter approaches, although "Riverbend" still works its magic on me as I walk, cup of tea in hand, to the bottom of the property and hear a fish jump or see a fisherman quietly drift by in his boat.

After my many years in the tropics, winter for me is something to be endured whereas most locals consider this the Goldilocks time of the year - not too hot and not too cold but just right.

For me at least during the next four months some mornings will be diamonds and some mornings stones, and sometimes a cold wind will blow a chill in my bones.


Monday, April 25, 2016

ANZAC Day 2016

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Making peace with your past


Those dear ladies at the op-shop always have something interesting in store. This time I picked up a small book by H. Norman Wright, Making Peace with Your Past.

The blurb says, "Are you hampered by baggage from your past? Much of who you are, what you do, and how you feel is determined by your past. The memories of painful experiences and harmful early influences can come back to haunt you, causing negative behaviour patters that interfere with your life and relationships." More here.

The first few pages are promising. Anyway, it cost me a dollar so if the Lord-Jesus-stuff gets a bit too heavy, I can always chuck it in the bin.

Mind you, if they ever start charging for emotional baggage, I'd never be able to afford another flight ☺


Saturday, April 23, 2016

Is this the finger of God?

Idyllic Riverside Location - Wow!

Nelligen, New South Wales, Australia
We want you to go wow! Your own studio with everything a traveller needs. From Nespresso to free wifi. Modern bathroom. Separate bedroom. Queen bed. Relax by the private jetty on the banks of the C...


Is that God's right arm stretched out to impart the spark of life into Sproxton Lane? No, it's our neighbour Peter in his ultralite whose finger is breathing life into their new airbnb listing. Great shot, Peter! Not even Michelangelo could've done it better.

Of course, no sign from above is needed to know that to the right of the red rectangle is our own piece of paradise known as "Riverbend".


Friday, April 22, 2016

More maintenance


Yesterday it was below the house; today it's above it: the flue belonging to the old woodstove which is no longer in the kitchen still sticks out of the roof, and the flashing around it is letting the rain come in.

I'm not much of a climber, social or otherwise, but the job has to be done, so with lots of vim and vertigo, I'll be on the roof next week to pull out the flue and cover up the opening with roof tiles.

Mind you, with all that maintenance coming up, I'm beginning to wonder if it isn't cheaper to build a completely new house. I did put in a building application with the local council for a 30m tall and 120m wide structure, with 12 gun turrets at various heights, and windows all over the place and an outside entertainment sound system.

I was going to paint it green with a pink trim and it would have parking for two hundred cars. And there was going to be some idiot standing on top of it and scream as loud as he could three or four times a day from dawn to dusk.

Council told me, "Forget it! We won't allow it!"

So I sent in the same application again, but this time I called it a 'Mosque'.

Council says I can start building any time.


Thursday, April 21, 2016

Gone underground

Two wooden supports 700mm high
to be replaced by something less 'termite-friendly'


I've just come up for air after inspecting the underside of the house.

Neil Thompson from Ezy Pest Control was here last week and gave me the all-clear after his annual inspection but suggested I remove these two wooden supports which are an open invitation for termites.

Looks like I'm in the market for two 700mm-long steel supports.


Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Autumn at Riverbend

Sitting under a tree in the autumn sun and reading a chapter in my biography "A Burnt-Out Case", written for me by Graham Greene.

Monday, April 18, 2016

What a great idea! Poland's foreign minister proposes forming army out of the Syrian men arriving in Europe


Poland’s new foreign minister has proposed forming an army out of the Syrian men arriving in Europe which could then return to their homeland to fight for freedom.

Witold Waszczykowski said it would be better to send them rather than for Poland to send troops to the Middle East that were needed to “guard the borders” at home.

“If there are hundreds of thousands of young Syrians coming to Europe then we can create an army,” said Mr Waszczykowski during an interview for TVP, Poland’s public broadcaster. “Can you imagine a situation when we send an army to fight in Syria while hundreds of thousands of Syrians sit and drink coffee on Berlin’s Unter den Linden and watch us fight for their safety?

“They can go to fight to liberate their country with our help,” continued the minister, who took office on Monday following the victory of his conservative Law and Justice party in last month’s Polish general election.

Taking a sceptical stance on the motives behind Syrians coming to Europe Mr Waszczykowski also added that the “young men disembark from their rubber dinghies with iPad in hand and instead of asking for drink or food, they ask where they can charge their cell-phones.”

Read the full article here.


Sunday, April 17, 2016

Albert Einstein was right!

Planning their honeymoon

A day at the beach

Having dinner out with your friends

Out on an intimate date

Having a conversation with your bestie

A visit to the museum

He was right!