I hope your culture is normal.

March 28, 2015
grandsons.

grandsons.

I thought I knew culture, or at least the average ‘normal’ person’s understanding of its meaning. But nothing surprised me more than when I got acquainted with a different, totally new form of culture, never experienced before. I also know that many people take rests on chairs, chaise lounges, settees, fauteuils or even the simple piano stool. There is nothing odd about man’s need for the occasional rest, even on a stool. But.., I am getting ahead of myself; This tale of surprise and  discovery of a new kind of culture needs time to ripen and mature. Ecoutez svp and get a little closer to your screen.

Over the last week or so I have been busy with domestic things, paying bills, emptying the dish-washer, putting bins on the street and even doing a thorough vacuum with the hand held one instead of the robovac. As readers might remember,  some weeks ago I gave in, relented,  bought an  automatic vacuum cleaner that roams the rooms and ferrets around corners and underneath book shelves in between beds and saucepans.  I find it fascinating to watch, seeing how it sends signals out to avoid obstacles and dead corners. The Robovac does a fair job but with rough coated Milo one needs to do a hand-held in between. On top of that I had to prepare myself for working this Saturday handing out ‘how to vote cards’ for the Green party of which I have been a member for just a few months. The state of NSW is having an election with everyone at fever pitch. The dogs are howling and swallows are flying erratically. They know it too. I also fitted in a quick visit to the Moss Vale medical centre  to check on a persistent pesky stomach bug.

Here it comes!

The good doctor from Indian background, whom I had not met before, did a good job, asking me all the relevant questions. History if any, of stomach problems, family background, dodgy genes, fainting spells, giddiness, what job I did, smoke, drink etc.? He finally prodded around my stomach a bit, but nothing painful or abnormal, and suggested I do some kind of what I understood a ‘culture test’. I agreed and thought any culture in Australia will do me, even if it is just the usual blood test. He wrote out the pathology note and as the pathologist outfit is next to the medical centre he suggested I do it straight away. The sooner the better, he smiled and shook my hand.

Helvi and I always go together to doctors as we do to shops or just walking around with Milo. In fact, we are probably noticed on our walks as a couple who are inseparable. Helvi glanced over to the lady behind the pathology counter and smiled. I too smiled and handed over the pathology request form. She read the doctor’s  note and smiled encouragingly. “Have you done a ‘stool culture’ before, she asked”? The penny dropped. I knew this culture were no ordinary culture, let alone a B’s ninth symphony or viewing of the pyramids of Cheops. Of all of life’s foibles, how did it come to this? I used to play in a sandpit and dreamt of castles.

h464B99F8 stool sample

No, I haven’t done ‘that’ before I answered.”I’ll get you the necessary kit”, still smiling by nurse! I wasn’t smiling. The horror of what was to now come became clear. I looked back and Helvi was smiling broadly. For some reason women seem to find this a really amusing procedure for men to undergo. Nurse said: “There are ‘just’ two small containers you need to fill with a small scoop fitted on the back of each lid”, ” you fill the two small ones from the ‘big’ container, she added. I sunk below vision, and meekly said something like ‘far-out’ or ‘can’t wait. Nurse’s eyes met mine and a moment of some embarrassment  was acknowledged and with a smile she winked. It helped.  She had seen all this before and she understood.

By now, nurse was really being encouraged by Helvi having to keep her mouth covered hiding her mirth and smile, and yet nurse had the nous to further explain; “the large bowel is for putting it in the toilet bowl to catch your stool”. This last remark should have reached its zenith of  relevant stool culture information. It did not.  More was yet to come.  “You can use the scoop on the back of the smaller containers’ lids to fill each of them them”, she said. “You must also give details of date and time of each time of your ‘stool production’ on the label, and number them as a 1 or  a 2″. “Don’t forget to wash the big container or use a new one each time. “AN ICE- CREAM container will do”, she said. By this time nurse was openly smiling and I was beyond caring. It would have been far worse if it had all been done in all seriousness. I mean, how could this possibly be a serious issue?

Even so, I hope that the future doesn’t hold anymore  medical cultural events like this one. I would much prefer to see Wagner’s ‘ring cycle’.

Ps. I played along  wanting to be seen as suffering the ultimate crestfallen male with his fragile ego, hitting the very lows of the absurdity of his idea of masculinity. The very idea of a ‘real’ man scooping his own faeces is unlimited material for comedy and laughter.  It was very funny and a bit of a show for the other patients sitting in chairs waiting their turn while listening in.

Life gets complicated but you have to face up to it, even when it includes strange cultures.

This fallacy of being ‘normal’.

March 27, 2015
Milo is 'normal'.

Milo is ‘normal’.

Here it is again. The co- pilot Andreas Lubitz  that now seems to have caused the Lufthansa tragedy was considered by many to be ‘normal’. He is described as being ‘a normal guy, a very friendly man. He was well liked, had a girl friend, was part of a group of friends, did jogging and was very friendly. There was nothing in his background that seemed to suggest he would ever do what he finally is alleged to have done; Murder 150 innocent people.

Perhaps we should be more weary when we hear people say that they think that there are ‘normal’ people. Yes, normal, but so was Churchill who gave a command during WW 1, sending thousands to their death on the coast of Turkey in the battle known as Gallipoli . We now have elevated this event to an almost unbelievable act of heroism. It was heroic but it was also  very foolish, well known to be doomed from the start.  It was a preventable tragedy.Gallipoli would fall to become the seventh bloodiest campaign of the war but at the time it had no peer in casualties. That was ‘normal’ too. Thousands of Australians will go to Turkey this Anzac day to commemorate that tragedy. They will stand there holding candles and remember ‘lest we forget’. Yet is was a foregone conclusion it would be a massacre on a terrible scale. Within a month of it Churchill was sacked from the war ministry.It is regarded as one of the biggest stains on the career of Churchill. Yet, the event is now elevated to a level that will surely excite Hollywood movie makers yet again.

And then there was Bush. Perfectly normal too. Thousands being send to death in the first war of Iraq all based on a known lie, there were no weapons of mass destruction. Bush knew that and so did our PM John Howard. Bush was ‘normal’. John Howard, sickeningly ‘normal’.

Look at how refugees are treated by our respectable government. Thousands of refugees locked up for years on end. This government has said ‘you will never end up living in Australia’. You can rot for ever, jump of roofs, go raving mad, but, no matter what you do, we will never allow you your human-ness or any dignity.

Yet, our government are peopled by very ‘normal’ people.

Perhaps even ‘normal’ people are very capable of doing abnormal abysmal deeds!

History seems to bear this out.

Thorn amongst roses.

March 25, 2015
The humble Kalanchoe

The humble Kalanchoe

Lately there seems to be always more women around than men. It shows up especially at birthday parties. Of course in the age group of people in the range of 65 to 85, many men have carked it.  It is a known fact, which some women, who might not have rowed quite as well in the gondola of happy marriages, seem to think it ‘fair justice!’  As soon as one enters the room, and provided one arrives about half an hour later than the agreed time, one gets lots of beseeching female eyes  concentrating instinctively on scanning another solitary male, albeit even when accompanied by a female.

The reason could also be that men, instead of calmly dying, don’t like social gatherings anymore and prefer being at home in the recliner watching sport or some pseudo documentary of bearded Vikings on horseback shooting arrows at random into a stone-walled Yorkshire dale below. Anyway, whatever the reason, in our limited social events experiences, women often outnumber men at least five to one. This was the occasion last night. It was our neighbours 82 birthday to which we were invited.

She is a very busy  neighbour who knows everybody, having lived in this green spruce& conifer town for most of her life. To be fair there were four men and about twelve women. The men were all huddled in a group and the women spread in a semi circle around the table of food and drinks. I noticed an empty chair between two women and quickly headed for that one.

My other choice would have been to join the men who seemed to know each other. I did not wish to impose on whatever they were so keenly talking about. They often talk about success and achievements. I am more into failures, far more interesting.

After settling in and given a drink I just sat there cross legged with a smile and feeling confident my denture was firmly into place. The woman on my right made the initiative. She asked where I lived. The woman on the other side joined in and in no time were we talking about what we had done so far in life. I had made a fortunate choice. The woman on my right who was born before the war, started talking about an experience decades ago. The laws in Australia at the time were still Dickensian. A woman could not get served alcohol in a pub except when seated in ‘the Ladies Parlour.’ Most times, the favoured drink at that time for ‘ladies’ in the ‘ladies parlour’ was either a sweet sherry or a shandy which is a beer watered down with lemonade.

Anyway, I soon steered the subject over to the different toilet cultures experienced in overseas countries. This is were the party really got swinging. Fortunately both women had travelled a lot and knew the subject of overseas toilets even better than me (I). I regaled how in those early Australian times the word ‘toilet’ was never used for women. It was as if women were so delicate and nice, that they never had a need for ablutions. They just did not go. That’s why a toilet for women were referred to as ‘ ladies rest rooms, ladies powder rooms, even …in Hyde Park, Sydney…ladies reserves’, as if women were rounded up in some kind of South African style Paul Kruger Park behind wire fences.

The woman on my right,  Helen,  told the story of having driven during the fifties,through one of the most isolated parts of Australia, behind Broken hill, the ‘never never’ country  of hundreds of miles of dirt road. It was driving straight into the blinding western sun. For hours on end. She  finally arrived at Ivanhoe and headed for the only pub in town and wanted a cool beer. The bartender said he would not serve a woman in a public bar. In those times it was just not done, especially not in an outback town ‘beyond the black stump’. She said; I went outside and bawled my eyes out. The bartender relented and said she could have a shandy on the veranda outside, provided she would also eat a meat pie.

Can you imagine? We laughed heartily and it was a great night.

By popular request (Strong woman)

March 24, 2015

 

Here it is again for those that found the previous clip had been discontinued.We all know that the stronger sex are female. Just watch this video, absolutely brilliant in showing up what is wrong with man. (some man) The lack of respect, let alone of understanding, by this misogynous sheik is breathtaking.

The sadness of a page left unwritten.

March 22, 2015

 

Facing an empty page

Facing an empty page

I have read of writers worst fears. The fears of settling down in front of an empty page. The page doesn’t beckon nor ever shows signs of life no matter how keen the aspiring writer casts his eyes on the empty sheet. A nightmare to behold. It is much the same with the painter facing an empty canvas. At least with canvas one could give it another coat of primer. The writer might in the same manner change the sheet of paper or turn it over. Some say it is best to have an idea, others would urge to make a start anyway, the idea might come along later. Write a single word or smear some paint. It is better than nothing. Get rid of the whiteness, the blankness. Anything to make a start.

It is the same with the composer. He gets up, has his or her coffee, saunters over to the desk and needs to write his first note or strike the first chord. Will it be a boring middle C?  What key ? He desperately needs the first few notes, a tune or phrase, anything to make a start. The sculptor,  facing a cold unyielding block of stone or marble. Where shall he make his first blow, start hewing away? It is not easy to be an artist (or dentist, bricklayer, statistician  for that matter.

The irony is that some of the best works get created when the artist hardly knows what he is doing. You can read this in auto-biographies. And listening to Mozart one gets the impression he would not ponder too much about what to compose next. He just could not, would not have had the time. Without hesitation he just jacked on producing voluminous beautiful  music, almost in disregard of the outcome.  He just did.

When I was teaching adults wanting to create something from nothing I used to urge them to just make a start, do a doodle. Kids have no trouble doing that. What happened to you growing up into adults? Where are you now? Remember you used to draw a house with a smoking chimney at a crazy angle to the roof? Your mum put it up on the wall to be admired by everyone. Some adults would often start by saying “I can’t do it, I was never any good.”

Where did that come from?  Who told you  can’t do something. Go on, overcome your fear. Push the charcoal on the paper and draw a line for starters, it won’t kill you.  Nothing becomes art on its own accord.

Just be a Mozart,  a Rembrandt, Sibelius, Henri Moore or a J.Verne and do it.

 

Australian Human Rights.

March 21, 2015
Nauru refugee camp

Nauru refugee camp

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-03-21/australian-bid-for-un-human-rights-council-under/6337616

Australian bid for UN Human Rights Council under scrutiny over asylum seeker policyLawyers are urging the UN Human Rights Council to consider Australia’s current performance on human rights issues as the nation bids for a council seat in 2018. The Human Rights Law Centre delivered a statement to the Council in Geneva overnight raising concerns about the Federal Government’s policies on asylum seekers and its attitude to the UN, claiming the Government’s stance on human rights at home is incompatible with its pronouncements on the world stage.

Moss review heard evidence of sexual abuse

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-03-21/moss-review-confirms-forgotten-children-report/6337576

The Moss review heard evidence of rape, sexual assault of minors and guards trading marijuana for sexual favours.

Former integrity commissioner Phillip Moss detailed allegations that at least three women had been raped inside the centre and he raised concerns that assault was likely to be under-reported because detainees were worried about their refugee status.

Mr Moss detailed one allegation that a female asylum seeker was asked to expose herself in return for longer showers.

 Morrison and Abbott. Alleged  perpetrators of  crimes against humanity.

FRTL Morrison and Abbott. Alleged perpetrators of crimes against humanity.

Japanese Windflower.

March 20, 2015
Japanese Windflower

Japanese Windflower

The Japanese Windflower’s time has arrived and together with Salvia are now reclaiming our garden. I got up this morning brimming with confidence and after a quick coffee with toast, decided on teaching the struggling bit of our lawn a lesson. We already spoke about it yesterday while sipping a red together with Milo who uses the time to create havoc and cruel deaths amongst the lizards that are scurrying around the pine chips and chards of pottery that we allow the garden to reclaim. The lawn of just a few square metres will have to go. Lawns and us were never meant for each other and I have often written about this in a querulous, contemptuous and impertinent way. It dates back to childhood, as almost everything in our lives does. Even if it doesn’t, it comes in handy when getting therapy or  in the confessional. Use it!

Soon after our arrival in 1956, and moving into our own fibro- asbestos sheeted home on own block of land in a suburb so far flung from anything, especially from people walking  along boulevards, or  sightings of a  book, hearing music played, or wild tempestuous dancing,  that growing lawns was about the only activity left for people to get excited and stimulated by.  We all had to be so strong and resist losing the will to keep going.

Of course at week-ends, when reading, music or wild dancing could be engaged in, many a bum would be sticking up above the sacred lawn. I thought then that it might have been a form of doing praying to a God. No, not at all, we were living in the thick of a hedonistic lot, no robed Evangelical homage or Islamic obeisance to anything here. It was plucking out unwanted foreign- imported grasses. It was revered as a national monument;  “A must suffer, do the lawn at the week-end.”

photoJapanese windflowers

You can see ,  grass and I hit it off badly, right from that early start. So, I finally went out early this morning;  roosters were crowing, eggs being laid and the garbage man doing the rounds. I bought eleven large bags of chipped hardwood mulch. Helvi and I spread it  ( with glee) over that little struggling bit of lawn which despite lawn fertilizers and lime, all sorts of different grass runners, refused to do much except being a source of annoyance and bad memories revivals all those years ago. I know many love lawns but this ardour of growing grass remained unrequited.

Those few square metres of ex-lawn now look just right, it ties and unites both sides of the garden. We sat there and it has good ‘feng shui’. The colour is a muted brown grey, a bit like the forest floor at late autumn when all colour has been leached out of the fallen leaves in preparation for a winter. The cheer of the lovely dancing Japanese Winter flower became even better…

Goodbye lawn.

Post 655. Methuselah.

March 19, 2015
My paternal grandparents

My paternal grandparents

 

One of my granddad's art works.

One of my granddad’s art works.

One of granddad's (Jan Oosterman) artworks.

One of granddad’s (Jan Oosterman) artworks.

 

I haven’t a clue as what to say next. Perhaps just start with a word out of the dictionary opened at random; ‘Ohm’s law.’   ‘The principle that the electric current passing through a conductor is directly proportional to the potential difference. across it.’   Well, that’s that cleared up then. It is amazing though how the world of science is so clever to come up with definitions such as Ohm’s law.

My father knew about electricity and I still remember how he tried to explain to us, ohms, volts, amps and other terms relating to electric current.  I still don’t understand it thoroughly and am forever stunned by those who do. I can change light bulbs but even that is getting tricky with those two pinned ceiling light bulbs. They are supposed to last 6000 hours or more but I am sure that that is a commercial honey lure.  I don’t know how changing those modern light bulbs are experienced by those over ninety. It is frightening how old age is going through the roof. In ten years time most of us will be over ninety and thousands over one hundred. Has there been a survey or poll on how many of us actually want to get that old? Or has this endless obsession with longevity more to do with getting more money and more consumers over longer periods. Perhaps there are those that want to keep going. I am not sure but am happy for everyday that passes without bouts of intestinal hurry or too spontaneous outbursts of unwarranted optimism.

I see more and more battery operated carts zooming around with the options of shopping bags in front and underneath the occupant. Isles in shops are now wider allowing not only for bigger people to shop but also  accommodating the over hundred to shop in electrically driven  carts. Fork out the mullah will never stop.

We went for a walk but a heatwave made it shorter than normal. We took a break midway in one of those golden- amber stained timber slatted seats overlooking the vivid green of a local cricket field.  The seats have been carefully planned underneath giant oak and eucalypts surrounding the pitch. Cricket is like Ohms to me, forever doomed to inaccessibility but the lovely shade is crystal clear and instantly acceptable.  A lady all dressed in a loose white cotton dress walking with a same breed of dog as our Milo stopped and chatted while patting both dogs. Her dog Molly, was eleven and getting less energetic she told us, also one eye is drooping. A dog is the main lubricant for social interaction, far more so than just us.  Without Milo we could be sitting there till Methuselah got home before anyone would come and chat. I suppose, that’s why people have pets, not just for own pleasure but for others as well. There are those who will take the initiative and just about talk to anyone without waiting to be approached first. I am always in awe of that skill and have thought how it is that some can do that without any effort. Fortunately my Helvi has that and it comes naturally even though she is also somewhat shy. There is a laughter as well that comes without any intent or effort. Perhaps it is confidence!

I was lucky. Never mind the Ohms. I mean the definition ” is directly proportional to the potential difference, across it.”  I don’t get it!

Shopping (again)

March 18, 2015

imagesLoaves and fishes

It seems that the large super markets are getting less popular. None too late. By the time the car has found a parking spot, their owners are almost ready to give up an lie down somewhere behind a solid concrete column, between fading windswept catalogues and screaming shopping enticements. ‘Free this and Free that.’ Mothers  are wrenching giant triple story Syrian tank like prams out of the car, sobbing in tune with  children choking on  lollypops and angst inducing vibrating IPhone. A calamity waiting for a jovial funeral director! It is no wonder they are in decline. It was too much, too large and all too spread out. Too much choice, too little service and exhaustingly depressive.

A couple of German billionaires took on the huge super market domination of shopping and are now reaping the benefits. They call their shops ‘Aldi’. They are to be found all over the world but they remain in the hands of private owners and are not publicly listed. They generally are all of a modest size and do not provide, (the enemy of our ecology but much loved by the capitalist word,)   plastic shopping bags, nor do they allow their shopping trolleys to be skated around suburbia only to end up around telegraph poles or in the local creek. They ask for a deposit before being released. They had that system back in Holland decades ago when I was still a young man , brimming with optimism and joy de vivre but also with some early burgeoning signs of a clear-sighted despair as well. ( not totally unfounded.)

Most of their products are Aldi brands and have simple direct exterior packaging doubling as display as well as being the product. The stores themselves are small to walk around and one doesn’t have to go on a day-long hike, risking dehydration, to find the elusively shy toothpaste or the brazen Spanish salami.

The giant supermarkets in Australia, Woolworth and Coles are now rapidly losing market share with a sagging share price. Aldi is becoming the popular way of shopping. At least 20% cheaper on everything especially groceries.

Here an extract of the philosophy of Aldi, by Der Spiegel.

“It took until the end of the 1990s for the product lines to change, in line with society, gradually and subtly, but with remarkable consequences. Smoked salmon replaced broad beans, Montepulciano wine lined shelves previously crammed with standard German Schnapps. And even middle-class consumers or good earners felt pleased with themselves when they wheeled an Aldi PC out of the store.

Aldi’s firmly established presence in everyday German laugh contrasts with a dearth of information about its founders. The secrecy they shrouded themselves in at times seemed ridiculous. Questions to the management had to be submitted by fax. They rarely elicited an answer. This was generally attributed to the traumatic kidnapping of Theo Albrecht in 1971.

No entrepreneur and no company celebrated its own reclusiveness as rigidly as Aldi. The company would say that its founders had nothing to say because they were concentrating on the business. The company had grown because it did not feed a curious public with news, a close confidante once said, describing Theo’s creed.

Enthusiasm, Perfectionism and Absolute Thrift

In Aldi’s world, open communication was regarded as a mistake, or at least as a waste of time. Anyone who broke that code was a traitor. Almost everyone who provides information on the family or the company does so on condition of anonymity.

Enthusiasm for the product, perfectionism and absolute thrift — those were the secrets of success for the Albrecht brothers. High-ranking executives would dig old pencils out of their desk drawers whenever one of the brothers paid them a visit, just to avoid causing any suspicion that they were wasting office supplies.

For decades, the brothers have focused on what they consider to be the essentials: the best quality product at the lowest possible price.

In the process, Aldi’s product range has always remained relatively limited. The supermarket chain sells around 1,000 different articles. By comparison, the US retail giant Wal-Mart stocks up to 50,000 different products. But anyone who has ever stood looking at a supermarket shelf featuring 28 different kinds of fruit yogurt knows that sometimes less is more.

“From the beginning, Aldi has always focused on two, or a maximum three, varieties of a product, thereby helping the customer by making a useful pre-selection,” says Thomas Roeb, a retail expert and former Aldi manager.”

This blight of being normal.

March 17, 2015

 

The grandsons Jan, 2013

The grandsons Jan, 2013

If you are ever told that you are mad, rest assured you’re on the right track. No greater praise can ever be given. I generally try and avoid normal people. They often listen to  radio’s shock jocks, look at commercial TV and put on re-runs of ‘I love Lucy’. The jury is still out on those wearing knee socks, especially when combined with sandals but  is ok with raglan sleeved jumper. Only this morning I noticed a man sitting on a park bench reading The Daily Telegraph. Now, there was a normal man if ever there was. Milo sorted him out though, walked up to the bench and cocked his leg resolutely while trying to catch the man’s eye. I felt that my contempt for that newspaper was well warranted when I noticed car stickers with ‘ Do you think that is true or did you read it in the Daily Telegraph?

 

The country is getting excited again. The normal state of torpor is rapidly vanishing. Neighbours are smiling to each other and saying ‘gooddayehowsitgoing?’ again. In another eleven days the NSW state is having an election. The greens have just announced preferences ,bar a few seats they could win on their own, will be given to the Labor

More Salvia

More Salvia

Party above that of the conservatives. Both the Greens and the Labor party are opposed (vehemently) to selling off the Poles and Wires. Things are looking up and H and I will be glued to the screen watching how the previously safe seats of the liberal- national party will fall into the warm, soft and welcoming bosom of Labor.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-03-17/nsw-election-2015-labor-greens-preference-deal/6324726

You can tell that the Liberal-National party are run by very, very normal people. They had hoped that passing legislation with a matching budget that lowered prosperity, especially for the impoverished end of town, would be received with great enthusiasm and  given standing ovations by all. The pension would be lowered from 25% of average wage to 17%. They would introduce a lovely co-payment for each visit to the doctor of $ 7.-, each time. As icing on the cake, deregulating and making university independent from government funding would also be introduced. Universities would be allowed to compete and charge according to what they see fit. Students would be paying off the fees for many, many years, but only if they got a job. All very normal.

It is almost time for the next budget and last year’s budget is still hanging in there. They blame an obstinate senate not passing those lovely bills. And, even now at this late stage, no one of the normal LNP club dares to look in the mirror of reality. They should know that selling public assets is now truly on the nose but with their persistence in trying flogging off the power grid, they seem to have exceeded all forms of normality.

Thank goodness for all those ‘normal people’ who will put Labor back in the seat again. ( We hope)

 

 

 

 


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