Having trouble remembering the name of this blog?
Simply type into your browser tiny.cc/riverbend


If you find the text too small to read on this website, press the CTRL button and,
without taking your finger off, press the + button, which will enlarge the text.
Keep doing it until you have a comfortable reading size.
(Use the - button to reduce the size)

Today's quote:

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Hunga is hell with palm trees


They could've filmed "Papillon" there, except that they didn't know about Hunga. Nor does anyone else for that matter, other than a few locals who live there because they're either too old or too young to leave, and the 75+ expats who became shareholders in Hunga Island Estate Limited --- and I bet they wished they hadn't.


Abseiling for a swim anybody?


Think tropical island; think tropical beaches? Think again! Hunga has just a tiny sliver of sand which is already occupied by Ika Lahi Lodge, the One'atea holiday cottage, and Hunga Haven.

For "Cocomo Villagers" who bought shares in Hunga Island Estate, it's a steep walk up the local 'ski jump' to Hunga village ...

... followed by an hour-long scramble through the dense jungle ...

... before arriving at the euphemistically called "Cocomo Village" which is simply more dense jungle but, in the absence of any human habitation, thoughtfully marked with a yellow cross on this map.

Red cross: 'ski jump' and only access to the top of the island;
yellow cross: the Potemkin village of Cocomo


Cocomo Village simply does not exist, except in the minds of the promoters who have so far collected well over US$600,000 from "investors" from all over the world who did what you never do in real estate: buy (or, in this case, lease a dubious lease) sight unseen (for a good hard look at this not-government-registered but privately concocted quasi-legally-sounding but probably totally worthless socalled "Investor Agreement" or "lease" which seems to have been drawn up during a boozy afternoon on the beach, click here).

The few who did come and see, are trying to sell again. And, having been duped themselves, they don't mind doing the same to others.

For example, there are Betsy and Philippe who are trying to offload their 'ultimate affordable land+yacht+off-grid package deal' for a 'mere' US$39,630 - "Reduced Pricing - Please Inquire for Info!"

I did inquire, pointing out that the "10x40kg Portland cement", which is part of the deal, would by now have gone off. It would seem they themselves have gone off selling, as I'm still waiting for a reply ☺



Monday, January 30, 2017

Does Lüderitz need a helping hand from the Apostrophe Protection Society?


These days I am more of a mental armchair traveller - especially on days like today when temperatures are reaching into the 40s -, so when I was looking for my old office in Lüderitz on GOOGLE Map, I also found the facebook page of the Lüderitz Yacht Club which seems to be right next door to the Helping Hand's Place for Senior Citizens.

My first reaction was, "Oh boy, these guys need a helping hand from the Apostrophe Protection Society", but then I thought, "Maybe there is only one helping hand?"

My old office highlighted in yellow at the bottom of the picture - see also here

Anyway, I stretched out a helping hand to the Yacht Club by offering them reciprocal rights with the Nelligen Yacht Club.



Sunday, January 29, 2017

It's not what is said but who said it


When Bill Clinton talked about illegal immigration in the 1995 State of the Union address, he received a standing ovation.

When call-a-spade-a-spade Trump said virtually the same, a tsunami of vicious criticism and calls of racism erupted all over the media.

Go figure!



'Nuff said?



Saturday, January 28, 2017

... and then there were none


The Bay used to have two bookshops: the Bay Bookshop, which closed its doors in late 2014, and Hooked on Books, which has done so just now. I guess running a bookshop has always been a labour of love but there's still the rent to pay.

Although patronising at the best of times, I hadn't patronised Hooked on Books for a while, which I hope didn't contribute to their demise.

It's a sad day for the Bay's book-lovers, now that the last bookshop has closed its doors, but it's been nice knowing you, Fliss, Mark and the Girls.



Handle every stressful situation like a dog: if you can't eat it or play with it, piss on it and walk way


The beauty and elegance of Rudyard Kipling's famous poem 'If' contrasts starkly with his largely tragic and unhappy life. Perhaps he should've kept a dog.


If you can always be cheerful, ignoring aches and pains,
If you can resist complaining and boring people with your troubles,
If you can eat the same food every day and be grateful for it,
If you can understand when your loved ones are too busy to give you any time,
If you can take criticism and blame without resentment,
If you can conquer tension without medical help,
If you can relax without alcohol,
If you can sleep without the aid of drugs,
Then You Are Probably The Family Dog!




Friday, January 27, 2017

Just say lah!


Our friends Bill and Rosie in the Bay are, like us, a multi-cultural couple: he's a dinky-di whereas she's a Chinese from Singapore who still lives in lah-lah land and ends every sentence in 'lah'.

As I sat here, watching today's steady decline of the stock market, the phone rang and a female Chinese voice said, I'm calling up about the property at Riverbend. Is it still for sale, lah?"

I was just about to say, "Cut the crap, Rosie!", when I remembered that Rosie and Bill had gone on yet another ocean cruise, this time to New Caledonia (such is life for impoverished old age pensioners in this wonderful country of ours; I just wished they'd all stop whinging).

Instead I said, "Yes, indeed, it's still for sale. How can I help you?", which was the start of a long conversation with, well, let's call her Lee; after all, that is her name.

She and her husband, both from Singapore and now living in Sydney, want somewhere quiet with plenty of space. Just like Riverbend, lah?

I emailed them my website, some price comparisons, and a GOOGLE map. Now it's up to them. Ah, and, by the way, BHP finished 37 cents down for the day. No good, lah!



I can count the number of my friends on the thumb of one hand

Sorry, Chasers, but Peter Roget - despite his 'Frenchie' surname - was a proper Englishman


If you suffer from monologophobia – the obsessive fear of using the same word twice – you reach for Roget's Thesaurus, published in 1852 by Dr Peter Roget who longed for order in his chaotic world and so, from the age of eight, began his quest to put everything in its rightful place, one word at a time.

Roget was not just a doctor. He was also a polymath whose work influenced the discovery of laughing gas as an anaesthetic, the creation of the London sewage system, the invention of the slide rule and the development of the cinema industry – as well as being a chess master and an expert on bees, Dante and the kaleidoscope. All of which showed up in the work that he christened a "thesaurus", borrowing the Greek word for "treasure house".

His Thesaurus was constructed as a crystal palace of abstraction, each of whose 1,000 lists pushes a reader, often antonymically, to the next, “certainty” leading to “uncertainty” leading to “reasoning” leading to “sophistry.” I've never made head nor tail of the system and always go straight to the index — added by Roget almost as an afterthought — to use it as a book of synonyms even though Roget thought there “really was no such thing,” given the unique meaning of every word.

I've always thought that people who claim to have lots of friends probably couldn't spell the word 'acquantance' ... 'aquantence' ... 'acquaintenance' ... well, you know, 'friends'. Having just now joined up with facebook, I was amazed at the number of friends some of my acquaintances have and promptly reached for Roget's Thesaurus to see if the words 'friend' and 'acquaintance' are synonymous. According to the good doctor, they are!

So go ahead, Hengky Tambayong - who is, incidentally, a real nice guy and Bali's best hotel manager! - , and enjoy your 2,354 friends! I shall keep counting the number of my friends on the thumb of one hand.



Thursday, January 26, 2017

Happy Australia Daze


Australia Day is the official National Day of Australia. Last year it fell on a Tuesday which meant millions of Ockers considered it their birthright to chuck a sickie to score themselves a four-day weekend.

The cost of absenteeism to the Australian economy is now more than $32.5 billion a year in payroll and lost productivity costs but that doesn't stop your full-blown Ocker to come up with ever more ridiculous excuses to use when chucking a sickie.


Celebrated annually on 26 January (which this year falls on a Thursday; another four-day weekend?), Australia Day marks the anniversary of the 1788 arrival of the First Fleet of British Ships at Port Jackson, New South Wales, and the raising of the Flag of Great Britain at Sydney Cove by Governor Arthur Phillip.

On 13 May 1787 a fleet of 11 ships, which came to be known as the First Fleet, was sent by the British Admiralty from England to Australia. Under the command of Captain Arthur Phillip, the fleet sought to establish a penal colony at Botany Bay on the coast of New South Wales, which had been explored and claimed by Lieutenant James Cook in 1770. The settlement was seen as necessary because of the loss of the Thirteen Colonies in North America. The Fleet arrived between 18 and 20 January 1788, but it was immediately apparent that Botany Bay was unsuitable.

On 21 January, Phillip and a few officers travelled to Port Jackson, 12 kilometres to the north, to see if it would be a better location for a settlement. They stayed there until 23 January; Phillip named the site of their landing Sydney Cove, after the Home Secretary, Thomas Townshend, 1st Viscount Sydney.

They returned to Botany Bay on the evening of 23 January, when Phillip gave orders to move the fleet to Sydney Cove the next morning, 24 January. That day, there was a huge gale blowing, making it impossible to leave Botany Bay, so they decided to wait till the next day, 25 January. However, during 24 January, they spotted the ships Astrolabe and Boussole, flying the French flag, at the entrance to Botany Bay; they were having as much trouble getting into the bay as the First Fleet was having getting out.

On 25 January the gale was still blowing; the fleet tried to leave Botany Bay, but only HMS Supply made it out, carrying Arthur Phillip, Philip Gidley King, some marines and about 40 convicts; they anchored in Sydney Cove in the afternoon. On 26 January, early in the morning, Phillip along with a few dozen marines, officers and oarsmen, rowed ashore and took possession of the land in the name of King George III. The remainder of the ship's company and the convicts watched from on board Supply.

The formal establishment of the Colony of New South Wales did not occur on 26 January as is commonly assumed. It did not occur until 7 February 1788, when the formal proclamation of the colony and of Arthur Phillip's governorship were read out. The vesting of all land in the reigning monarch King George III also dates from 7 February 1788.

We are one, but we are many, and from all the lands on earth we come; we share a dream and sing with one voice: I am, you are, we are Australian! Happy Australia Daze!


Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Linga longa in Tonga


Take one part sun-soaked, palm-lined beach, add hammock stretched between two palm trees, dash of ice-cold beer, and a pinch of gentle tradewinds, and finish with a twist of tropical sunset. It's easy to lose track of time in the land where time begins. Welcome to the South Sea Island Paradise of Ha'apai in the tiny Kingdom of Tonga!

The peace and tranquility of Ha'apai (in a South Pacific travel poster setting) is an experience not to be missed! If relaxing was an Olympic Games event, this is where you'd come to train! These are the islands where the famous mutiny on the Bounty occurred (could you blame them?), the Port-au-Prince was ransacked, and where Captain James Cook who found Ha'apai to be the perfect place for rest and relaxation and made long stopovers at Nomuka in 1774 and 1777 and Lifuka in 1783, dubbed Tonga "The Friendly Islands."

The low coral islands lined by coconut palms along colourful lagoons and reefs, offer miles of deserted white sandy beaches where you can explore and linger as long as you like. Towering volcanoes can be found here too. In all there are 60 small islands in the Ha'apai Group, 17 of which are inhabited, and all are uniquely special.

The traditional lifestyle of the locals is supported by fishing, agriculture and handicrafts. The friendliest people you can meet are here in Ha'apai. Caesar is to have said, "Let me have men about me that are fat". Well, he would have loved Tonga because the people of Tonga, by and large, are fat. They are proud to be fat. They want to stay fat. If they aren't fat enough by Tongan standards, they want to get fatter. Perhaps that's why "Fakalahi Me'akai" which means "Grow more food", is inscribed on every Tongan coin. And "The Complete Book of Running" would never make the bestseller list in Tonga. The only joggers here are foreigners while bulky Tongans sit in the shade and follow them with uncomprehending stares.

The centre of Ha'apai, Pangai, is located on the island of Lifuka. Just a short trip from the airport, Pangai offers a great deal, from churches, to a royal palace, tombs, fortresses, monuments, shipwrecks, shops and banking services. There's a range of accommodation here, all just moments from the beaches. My favourite is Billy's Place.

And check out the Mariner's Café. It's THE (only) meeting place in Pangai. It was started in 1998 by the taciturn Trevor Gregory (he's a Kiwi - enough said?), who had been wandering about in his yacht "Tranquillo" since leaving Tauranga in August 1997 - "Just liked the place" he said, sold his boat in September 1998, and stayed on. He sold the café to the 40-something South African Craig Airey who arrived on the island in his Endurance 37 yacht "Gwendolyn" in mid-2007.

The new Café-owner Craig has already succumbed to the siren song of these remote and soporific islands which is that on this small and human-sized stage your life will count for more and even your smallest accomplishments will be remembered. Of those who do remain, few are ever struck by homesickness. Why would they want to leave? They echo closely Louis Becke's sentiments - of whom they know nothing - who once wrote about life in the South Seas, "Return? not they! Why should they go back? Here they had all things which are wont to satisfy man here below. A paradise of Eden-like beauty, amid which they wandered day by day all unheeding of the morrow. Why - why, indeed, should they leave the land of magical delights for the cold climate and still more glacial moral atmosphere of their native land, miscalled home?" (Mind you, Saint Ignatious of Loyola's observation on donkeys could be equally applied to many expatriates living in Tonga, "Content to chew the simplest of foods he is free from ambition, untouched by the need to improve himself and even unaware of his pitiful plight. He spends his days as idly as possible and works only when beaten...")

There are so many romantic beaches to wander at sunrise and sunset, or in fact, all day long! You can explore on foot or mountain-bike too - just bring along a change of clothes, beach towel, and snorkel and mask. As you stay in a traditional fale on a deserted beach or uninhabited island, you may think for a moment you have died and gone to heaven. But this paradise is real. And you can live this dream lifestyle for a fraction of what it costs to live anywhere else.

Avid explorers may be tempted to visit the large volcanic islands of Tofua and adjacent Kao in the west part of the group. It was 30 nautical miles from Tofua that the mutiny on the Bounty actually occurred on April 28, 1789. Captain Bligh navigated his 23-foot open launch first to Tofua where he spent four days and where the only casualty of his epic 3,618 nautical mile long voyage occurred: a crewman named John Norton was stoned to death by natives when they tried to seek refuge in a cave while trying to augment their meagre provisions. Tofua is the most active volcano in Tonga and often bellows smoke. The island has virgin rain forest, lots of pumice, is rich in bird life and has a stunning lake in its crater. It's possible to walk to the summit in under 2 hours from landing on the coast, and it's much faster coming back down. Kao is considerably smaller in size but its towering perfectly cylindrical peak is the highest point in Tonga at 1109 metres. On a clear day, you can see Kao on the horizon from Lifuka, 70 kilometres away.

In 2004 a German television producer asked for two volunteer families to live for three months on the tiny island of Ha'ano in Ha'apai which is just six kilometres long and has 400 inhabitants spread over four villages. Some 400 families volunteered from which the producer picked Steffen Kinder's and Uwe Armbruster's families, with altogether five children and even a grand-dad. They lived on the island in primitive conditions, cooking on an open fire, working in a neighbour's plantation, and, of course, there was no fridge, no TV, no supermarket. Constant rain for the first three weeks, in the constant humidity the smallest cut becoming a festering sore, and an invasion of lice and fleas and cockroaches were some of the downsides of living in a South Sea Paradise. Their experiences were documented in the film "Traumfischer" which ran on German television and is also available on DVD.

Gabriela Kinder's final comments, "Wir wären gerne länger geblieben, aber dorthin auszuwandern stand und steht nicht zur Debatte. Ich würde viele Dinge, die ich sehr schätze, vermissen, zum Beispiel klassische Musik, Konzerte, Theater, Museen und auch Kneipen. Deswegen würde es uns auch eher nach Italien ziehen, falls wir einmal aus Deutschland weggehen sollten." ["We would have liked to stay longer but to permanently settle there was out of the question. There are too many things I would have missed, for instance, classical music, concerts, theatre, museums, even our corner-pub. Should we ever consider leaving Germany, it'd be to some place such as Italy."]

Another film that deals sympathetically with Tonga and its incredible natural beauty is "The Other Side of Heaven" which is about John H. Groberg's experience as a Mormon missionary in the Tongan islands in the 1950s. It is based on the book that he wrote about his experiences, "In the Eye of the Storm." The movie focuses on Groberg's adventurous experiences and trials while serving as a missionary in the South Pacific. While portraying these events, the film refrains from being preachy and discusses little theology, instead portraying what missionaries used to have to deal with during their missions.

If you're visiting Tonga, be sure to visit Ha'apai: one of the most beautiful groups of islands to be found in the South Pacific. With so many highlights, attractions and history, one cannot visit Tonga without visiting Ha'apai!



How many times can one watch 'Casablanca'?


Retirement would be a lot harder, were it not for Radio National, my large collection of books, and my equally large collection of movies, but how many times can one watch even as good a film as 'Casablanca'?

Radio National gets me through the night when sleep won't come, and my growing number of unread books give me something to look forward to, while those timeless movies of yesteryears are a welcome relief from TV's tedious cooking shows and home renovation programs (not to mention 'Midsomer Murders' with its endless supply of dead bodies).

It's the beginning of another beautiful day in retirement and I might watch 'Casablanca" for just one more time.


Tuesday, January 24, 2017

What's the time?

Never having climbed the corporate ladder, this is the only retirement watch I ever got


What is it with people who come up to you in the street and ask, "Do you happen to know the time?" and then point to their wrists as though to say, "This is roughly where you might find the information I require".

Will those same people point to their crotches when asking, "Do you know where the nearest toilet is?" It's almost as bad as making a phone shape with the hand when asking someone to ring you. What next? Miming the act of typing when asking to send an email?

With a bit of luck, these gestures will go out of fashion just as those 'quotation marks in the air' did, which made the perpetrator look as though they were doing rabbit impressions.


Monday, January 23, 2017

The libraries of famous writers

Charles Dickens in his purpose-built Swiss Chalet, the garden shed to crown all garden sheds

Rudyard Kipling was likewise not a struggling writer

Henry Miller did not even use his study much, other than for posing

Ernest Hemingway's colourful study in Key West

Pablo Neruda looked out on a beautiful view

You-know-who's library at "Riverbend"



Age of Consent


There are few good viceo clips on YouTube of the 1969 Australian movie "Age of Consent" other than the above opening sequence featuring Peter Sculthorpe's music score.

The location for Norman Lindsay's semi-autobiographical book is somewhere around Bermagui on New South Wales' South Coast which may not been been 'sexy' enough for the movie which, other than that, follows the book quite closely.

The movie's location is the Great Barrier Reef's pin-up island Dunk. Now well known for its luxurious holiday resorts, it was already made famous in the early 1900s when Australia's own Robert Louis Stevenson - he once took the pen-name 'Rob Krusoe'! - E.J. Banfield left Towns-ville in 1897 to pursue a simpler existence on Dunk Island.

Banfield was one of the early seekers of an alternative lifestyle when, accompanied by his wife, he settled 'far from the haunts of men' on this then uninhabited island off the coast of northern Queensland.

His legacy are two Australian classics, The Confessions of a Beachcomber, and his posthumous book, Last Leaves from Dunk Island, which starts with the following introduction:

"On the 5th of June, 1923, the small steamer Innisfail was passing between Dunk Island and the coast of northern Queensland, when the captain noticed a figure waving from the island beach. Interpreting the signal as a greeting, he merely waved a response. Then, as the vessel proceeded, the figure on the beach collapsed. At once the Innisfail was stopped and a party went to investigate.

It was in this manner that the world learned of the death of E. J. Banfield, self-styled "Beachcomber" of Dunk Island, the most renowned literary man of his kind in Australian history, and, perhaps, the most striking naturalist-recluse of modern times. The signaller on the beach was Mrs. Banfield, who had been alone with her dead for three days. So ended a tropic idyll of twenty-five years' duration."

"An odd little book that appears out of nowhere ... and once you have read it, you will never go completely back to where you were before. The kind of book you may hesitate to lend for fear you might miss its company."

Which is how I feel about Norman Lindsay's whimsical Age of Consent and, in a more profound way, Edmund J. Banfield's The Confessions of a Beachcomber and Last Leaves from Dunk Island, so don't even ask me to lend them to you.

They've become my own 'age of consent', the life I would've consented to, had I been born into a different world at a different time. All I can do now is read "the kind of book that echoes from the heart of some ancient knowing, and whispers from time's forgotten cave that life may be more than it seems, and less".


Sunday, January 22, 2017

The blessedness of being little


The childhood years are the best years of your life ..." Whoever said that didn't grow up in post-war Germany where the war had humpty-dumptied all our childhoods, never to be put back together again.

I never had a childhood. For me it was nothing more than a starting point from which I have never stopped running. Of course, I went through the usual stages: imp, rascal, scalawag, whippersnapper, but despite having had what would now be called a deprived childhood, I stopped well short of becoming a full-blown sociopath as I never felt the urge to smash windows or bash up old ladies to steal their hand-bags. Simply growing up fast seemed to be the best revenge.

Mind you, I wonder if any childhood is ever really happy. Just as well, perhaps. To be blissfully happy so young would leave one seeking to recapture the unobtainable. To my mind, people who don't live at least a little bit in fear, have nothing left to live for.

Good or bad, we can't leave the past in the past because the past is who we are. Anyway, what else is there to talk about while standing in line at the liquor store? Childhood trauma seems the natural choice since it’s the reason why most of us stand in line there to begin with.

Until we have nothing left to remember, nothing left to regret, with our whole life laid out in front of us, and our whole life left behind.