Our ‘own’ home.

May 26, 2017

When we say we own our own home it means just that. We own the title to our home. This means we can sell it, and profit/lose from it. We too bought our own home with our own earned money. Years ago, it used to mean that you had a roof over your head and ‘owning’ had a different meaning. Many people would probably add that owning own home is one of their best investments. I remember being swept up in Australia after our arrival, whereby ownership of home was seen as a main goal. A dream.  It is still looked upon as a major achievement in life. During the nineteen fifties till now,  urgings by many to strife for home ownership reached almost religious proportions. Halve the newspapers used to consist of advertisements for buying and selling homes.

People gathered around the garlic- prawns getting grilled on wood- barbeques and spoke of magic real estate deals. Legendary tales were told by jolly men about unimaginable profits  made on selling properties that had sky-rocketed to much higher prices. Parties would rocket as well by  tales of real estate with empty two litre casks of Coolabah-chardonnay littering next morning  with redolent empty prawn shells. If you let it be known you were an ‘own homer’ your status gained enormous. Women would flock around, easy to date. They too were drawn to Homer.

My dad had much trouble understanding this. In Holland at that time ( 1956) owning own home was unheard of and totally unnecessary. Housing was supplied by Councils or Governments and generally leased for life. Even today home ownership in Holland is about 50% of the adult population. There was a period, compliments of WW2 and carpet-bombings, that an acute shortage existed of available housing. Thanks to the US generous Marshall Plan that Europe was given after the war the housing shortage was soon overcome.  Even so, tens of thousands were drawn to migrate to other shores, especially Canada and Australia. One of the attractions that were being dangled before future migrants’ eyes was the prospect of own home on own block with own bathroom in far away countries. Australia was magic. Colour footage was shown of ‘home owners standing on own lawn in front of own house.’ Those white picket fences, the gloriousness of it all.

IMG_20150518_0001

My parents with ‘own home.’

My mother was especially attracted to own bathroom. Back in Holland we had a galvanised tub with handles to bath in. My mother would boil water on a gas stove. I was lucky  being the second eldest and by and large enjoyed a nice warm bath. However my brother Adrian who was nr 5 in the line of ascendency had tepid and scungy greasy well used water. That’s how it was.

Now the real estate has been so magically successful that hardly anyone can afford it. Many flock to the major cities. That’s why cities are formed. The majority like living in close proximity of each other. The prices are astronomical. A million dollars gets you a bare two bedroom un-renovated almost derelict cottage or a liveable home-unit. Most young couples have given up.

The dream is now a nightmare.

i

Frantz

May 24, 2017

IMG_1097virginea creeper

Our Virginia Creeper.

To have gone though life without ever seeing this film would be too silly for words. It doesn’t matter if you are a lofty-left socialist eyes cast to heaven, a right wing progressive dodging tax fanatic, or a rabid capitalist in terminal decline, Frantz is a must see film. I would put it on the same level as Casablanca, Bicycle thieves, the Last Picture show or even the Coen brothers’ No Country for Old Men.

The dialogue is in German and French with English sub-titles. It is filmed mainly in black and white but occasionally changes to a muted autumnal colouring. The story weaves its magic between Germany and France during post WW1 in 1919.

The film begins showing a young woman putting flowers on a German soldier’s grave.  This soldier was never found and the grave is put there out of respect like so many other soldiers killed in action never to be found. The girl turns out to be the ex-fiancée of this soldier killed in France. She is taken in by a German family who are the parents of this soldier killed in action.

A mysterious Frenchman turns up in their lives. I don’t want to give the plot away but suffice to say that the similarity between both sides of this dreadful war shows up in the grieving of the dead sons by parents irrespective of being French or German. Both sides love the same music, the same family get togethers. Why did they kill each others’ sons?

It is a mesmerizing film. The audience from the first opening shot to the end were totally mute. Not a single crunch of popcorn, nor Coke laded belching. This was serious watching. At on stage a woman two seats next to me crunched on something but one side-long glance killed that one. She might have dropped whatever she was trying to munch on. It was just the seriousness of this movie whereby eating or drinking would  be sacrilege.

The last shots shows you a couple sitting on a bench viewing a painting by Edouard Manet’s “Le Suicidé,” –  in Le Louvre museum.

At the end of the film no one moved. The audience was frozen. No coughing or murmurings.  The credits rolled by, hundreds of them. Still no one moved. Finally a man stood up and slowly everyone filed out hardly daring to look at each other. Outside the cinema, and strolling back, the last of the Autumn leaves whirled by. It was windy again.

Go and see Frantz.

 

Always look a gift horse in the mouth from ‘Twiggy’ Forrest.

May 23, 2017

“A truly magnificent gift!” “A gift of love!” “It cannot get any better than this!”  Our Prime Minister was besides himself, drooling with lofty praise for Andrew Forrest’s pledge to give $ 400 million ( tax deductable) to Australia. Our TV almost exploded with Mr Turnbull’s hyperbole but instead decided to just turn a shade of red.

One mustn’t get too churlish when somebody is willing to donate $400 million. But don’t count the chickens before the eggs have hatched. Mr Forrest is much more known for his grandstanding and complicated business misadventures than genuine generosity. He certainly proved his money making ability as a stock-market rookie when still young. His salesmanship was honed during that period. This was followed up by his alpaca importation from Chile and Peru. He bought alpacas from the poorest of the indigenous Indians for peanuts and sold them on in Australia for huge amounts. The alpaca fibre was the ‘new golden fleece’ and this was pitched to the high-end of town’s legal fraternity as a handy tax dodge when hobby farms were at their peak.

The law on hobby farms was changed and losses on alpacas could no longer be used to offset income from other areas of earnings. The golden fleece of the alpaca lost its lustre when histograms ( frequency of measurements) came in at 30 microns or more. It was unsalable and the sheep farmers could not be happier and had trouble keeping in their laughter. It was just a huge scam. This adventure landed Twiggy in Courts as most of his subsequent business ventures did. Twiggy Forrest is master salesman but he also loves grandstanding especially being photographed with the luminaries of the time.

People might remember he was photographed with the Iranian Ayatollah and  Pope Francis in 2015.  He was criticised for  overstepping his mark. That never worried him though. He is full of enthusiasm and bluster. It took considerable cunning and diplomacy to get that photograph. Some saw it as a blatent exploitation of the Pope. His idea was to stop slavery! The Vatican has since removed Mt Forrest and his phoney pledge about fighting slavery and felt that the iron ore business man had used the Vatican.

 

 

Going to the movies

May 22, 2017

new cover 1704 front big Book cover 18april

Over the last week or so we have seen an Opera and two movies. We plan to see another film tomorrow. It is a good way to spend surplus time. Some people tell me they are always short of time. That is admirable. Wasn’t there a play  written about a man that had lost his job but pretended to be still employed by catching the same bus he normally did when still working? Was it ‘The Death of a Salesman’ by Arthur Miller?

I spend a fair amount of time behind the computer, mainly writing stuff. I do so mainly out of pleasure. I do have time. You know how it is with writing words down in a sensible order. Retirement for some bring out a long held desire to play golf or bending down to bowl at a club with likewise elderly bowlers all in white pants and white shoes. I am not in that league. Not yet. I prefer writing to sport. I do like walking and walk a lot.

The movie that really digs into the subject of retirement and resulting curmudgeonly is ‘A man called Ove.’ (By the way, Rotten Tomatoes gave it four and half stars.) It is a Swedish movie about a cranky old man who dominates, out of pure chagrin, the housing estate where he lives. He has recently lost his good wife and feels lost and angry. He is plain nasty and gets gratification out of making life miserable for others. He is not really all that bad though.

It rang a bell for me, if only because we too experienced some of the disadvantages of living on a joint-owned development with a Stasi like ‘committee’ in charge of communal parking,  gardening etc. Out of sheer revenge and spite we had our cyclamen stolen not once but twice by one of the committee members. We have since installed CCTV and a solar-alarm.

The movie too has this wonderful mixture of pathos and humour. Go and see it.

The next movie we enjoyed was yesterday’s  ‘Viceroy’s House.’ A real cracker of a movie. Again, Rotten Tomatoes gave it  four and half stars. This is a totally different movie. A spectacular event with just about everything thrown into it. It has India at the feet of Mother England, but not  for long. In 1947 it gained independence, alas with the formation of Muslim Pakistan which was cut off from India. The last Viceroy Mountbatten was give the task to arrange it in a very short time-frame. Ghandi and all that came with it features it this film. The love between a Hindu man and a Muslim girl spins throughout this movie giving it a strong romantic and humane touch. It could easily have turned schmaltz but it did not. The resulting re-settlement of millions of people to and fro  newly formed Pakistan was something I wasn’t aware of.

A great movie.

Carmen at Gosford

May 19, 2017

It’s been a long time since we watched an opera. A good friend suggested we join up and see Carmen. Of course Carmen was the one we used to tap our feet with many years ago. I could never get enough of ‘Oh Toreador’ which is one of its main operatic attractions. Off we went a couple of days ago in our Peugeot. The car our daughter returned when her stolen car was finally able to get re-registered in her own name again. There is an opera waiting to be written just about that saga alone.

The last time we watched a real-life opera was Wagner’s ‘The dance of the Valkyries’ whose whole opera, the ambitious Ring Cycle takes a complete week-end to watch. I think that takes a lot of operatic keenness which I am still working towards. Some people find Wagner a bit moody and heavy but we loved the dance of the Valkyries. Perhaps sunny Australia isn’t the place for moodiness in music. I am sure Bizet’s Carmen would fall on better and more eager ears.

The Carmen production was held at a small 400 seat theatre in Gosford’s Laycock theatre.  Gosford used to be a small sleepy village in the fifties when I used to drive my parents there in my first car. This first car was a light blue Ford V8. A single spinner. It had brown leather seats. The front seat had a build-in ashtray and held three adults. People would buy a block of land around Gosford and work towards building a nice week-end retreat. Retirees would flock from Sydney to Gosford. It had a milk bar and its own railway station. On a quiet day you could hear sheep bleat.

Gosford isn’t a sleepy village anymore. It is huge. There are more traffic round-a-bouts than people or New York City.  The theatre itself is surrounded by so much traffic chaos we felt like giving up. Helvi even suggested we might have to go home. No bleating sheep anymore in Gosford. It wasn’t just the traffic and round-a-bouts. The visual assault with so much signage, a blur of gaping car sales yards. Big McDonalds. How can people even think of eating ?  It was next to a white severe looking building which had ‘Endoscopy’ written on it. Do people have a Big Mack and then go for a colonoscopy next door? What an amazing world we live in!

The theatre remained a distant prospect. We could see it as we drove around and around. Screaming tyres. Huge exhausts belching out smoke from road trains gone berserk. My hand gripping the steering wheel of the Peugeot as if  at any moment I would be dragged to the hangman’s scaffolding. I needed a good Carmen. We finally hurled ourselves from the round-about and parked next to the Endoscopy building. It felt safe.

The theatre itself an oasis of calm and serenity. Peaceful retirees. Lots of grey hair and muffled sounds. It was packed and the performance ready to start. An electronic buzzing indicating we should take our pre-booked seats. The theatre was fully booked. Amazing when you think this was Wednesday at 11 am. The Carmen production was just brilliant. A huge cast with the orchestra well hidden below the stage. Rousing responses from the audience after each song or performance. We enjoyed it thoroughly and it was well worth the drive and manic traffic and chaos. Isn’t it wonderful that despite the spiritual barrenness of the surroundings with all that blatant exposure of crass commercialism one also get those jewels of art and creativity?

The world isn’t as bad as we might sometimes believe.

Thank you Bizet.

A Euro party and a stolen car

May 16, 2017

0041

More people watched the Eurovision song contest than at the coronation of Donald Trump. What does that say about US politics? On top of it all, China overtook America as the biggest economy at about 12.33 am last Sunday. It was almost at the same time the Ransomware attack was being plotted.

The Eurovision champion Portugal won on keeping it simple without wind storms or thunderous noises.  No jigging about or manic acrobatics on stage, still as a thought. He just sang. As for China. Watch the Silk Road. They’ll have it built in less time it takes Trump to get impeached. Usually a drawn out affair taking years. It just can’t go on. A drunken sailor comes to mind, lashing out left right and centre but more to the right than left. How did it ever get to this in the US? Is democracy at fault?

In Australia we have a discussion about Sydney’s second airport every four years or so. I was told it has been brought up since the 1940’s at every election. Our government is twisting and turning to stay in power. It is running deficits, yet promises tax cuts. They too have their coterie of drunken sailors. The big-end of town are getting another tax cut costing 50 billion a few weeks ago but has now gone up to 64 billion Aus dollars. To pay for this, they are cutting pensions, and add more water to their soup allocations as dished out by the salvation army. The queues at soup kitchen are lengthening as I write.

The good news is that the stolen car belonging to my daughter has finally been sorted out. It took a year. The car was discovered soon enough and returned to my daughter by police. She drove happily around till she found out the registration could not be renewed cause it was transferred in the thief’s name. He had forged her signature. Can you believe it took another 7 months of Court appearances, jailing and subsequent appeal by the thief and final sentence before she could register her car again. Who was the victim here? I lent her our car in the meantime, but…how come all this misery?

Unbelievable!

May 11, 2017
IMG_20150516_0008

Etching

This Government in all its stupendous and magnificent stupidity has decided to blind- test welfare recipients for alcohol and drugs. It will do so through compulsory blood tests. Can you believe this? Anyone tested positive will be black-listed and only receive half their welfare entitlement. Subsequent further positive results will deny them 100% of their welfare payments.

They will try and enhance their chances of catching those addicts by testing sewer effluence. It is hoped that the Government’s welfare officers (police) get greater accuracy in pin-pointing the residential areas where those unfortunate souls might be living.

Our treasurer, Mr Scott Morrison was salivating when announcing this latest compulsory random blood-testing  ‘innovation’ as part of his latest budget. His face all religious and with devout evil intent.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/story-streams/federal-budget-2017/2017-05-11/budget-2017-live-blog-bank-tax-bill-shorten-reply/8516160

It is hoped this will bolster a much needed revenue bonus for the Government who are desperately finding ways to give the promised 50 Billion tax cuts to the big Australian  businesses.

Can you believe this? Despite all that’s known about addiction, this government is ignoring the world’s best advice; punishing is never the answer. It will make things a lot worse. Experts know that it is help that is needed, not punishment. Punishment only works in making it reverse and worse. Has this Australian Government ever heard the word ‘rehabilitation?’

Yet it is rehabilitation that is in such short supply. The few re-habs that are available do this by charging enormous fees and are run on profit first and rehabilitation last. They take advantage of desperate parents forking out thousands in the hope the children will come back. This story rings a bell, doesn’t it? So it is with most Government ‘services’ all run for profit. The few free facilities’ are run by well meaning but totally untrained personnel. It relies on outdated methods, are woefully underfunded. They are so few in numbers with so many in a queue that it requires for addicts to hang on for months and months, just waiting. Many give up even trying. It is a misconception that help is available. By and large it is not.

But when it gets to punishing, oh there is plenty and more in the pipe-line, much more. You just watch! The dreaded inspector is snooping under beds and around sewage and toilets now. Sniffer dogs well trained. Catching addicts in the hollow of the night, screaming, muffled sounds, strapped down for compulsory blood test. No more welfare. Thrown on the heap. The desperation thickening.

The crowbar taken out. Your place is next!

A normal day with a solid ‘like.’

May 9, 2017

nr two

Has anyone had a normal day lately? It seems to me that we are forever being whipped up by news. Yet, newspapers are going broke. When is the last time you bought a newspaper? I find it almost impossible to get to the news. My computer’s home page offers a constant stream of fake News. The latest ‘News’ offering was the promise of pictures of the Australian woman being held in Colombia’s Bogota jail accused of cocaine smuggling. It promised to be  pictures of her living in that jail. However, when I clicked on the item the only news-item shown were advertisements for shoes and perfume. You see,  the photo is just a lure to entice one buying things.  I suppose, if one persists the promised pictures might eventually appear. But by then I had lost interest.

We watch the National Broadcaster (ABC) for news. Even there, one has to trawl through a constant stream of advertisements before arriving at the news. The SBS channel is still watchable but only just and mainly because it does give you a wider range of international news and above all,  much less cricket and football. So, in summing up; with all the electronic instant-ness about everything, true news is lacking. Commerce has taken over news and perhaps it was always thus.

There is CNN, The Guardian and a few others where one can find some reliable news. It is getting harder though. There are wild allegations that Putin is throwing the spanner amongst countries’ elections for new heads of state. Hackers are stealing megabytes and distributing millions of e-mails everywhere. I too sometimes get mysterious e-mails that don’t make sense. Some that are putting ‘likes’ on my blog turn out to be selling something, or worse, allure to dalliances of which I am not keen. I have heard sad stories of  people getting involved in IT romantics that cost  them their live savings.  A while ago an experienced and savvy bank manager was interviewed on TV. A sad story unfolded whereby he got caught being fleeced by a Nigerian scam on the internet.  He thought it was true love. He told his story as a warning to others.

I very much doubt though that nerdy looking Russian hackers will ever feverishly go over my blog or trawl through my e-mails. No one seems to want to capitalise or exploit me. It makes one think of the insignificance of it all. I don’t even get the chance in saying; “I am deeply humbled by this occasion.” It seems to be the latest most popular answer from people in the lime-light or from those on a stage clutching a trophy or an award.

I was astonished to be offered a batch of three hundred ‘likes’ for a mere $490.-US. That’s right. One can buy blog ‘likes’ now the same as butter or a herring. A while ago, I read a post by someone I knew some years ago. He was always a bit Hollywood and very fond of driving around in expensive  cars with personalized car number plates. He planned a new job by charging people to help improve their ‘status.’  He set up a web-site and asked shamelessly for possible readers to put a ‘like’ on his web-site. He hoped this would help setting up the business.

I do appreciate likes on my own blog but I am pretty sure they are mainly genuine.  I would not remotely consider asking for a ‘like’. I know that people give ‘likes’ and hope for a return ‘like’ on own blogs. Perhaps, we should have a ‘dislike’ symbol as well. It is all so flimsy and silly. Even so, it would be less than honest to admit that I don’t enjoy getting a nice solid ‘like’.

It does perk one up during the day after all the fake ‘news.’

Plain Packaging of McDonalds and Coke!

May 4, 2017
IMG_0815

Grapes, strawberries and figs.

It’s not often that good news greets one on awakening. I was still rubbing my eyes expecting the usual diet of slaughter of innocents or Trump tweets news on my IPhone when I read this article;http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-05-05/australia-wins-landmark-wto-tobacco-packaging-case/8498750

I nearly broke out in a celebratory waltz. Sorry for the link but let me give you the more salient bits saving you to click on the link.

“Australia’s tobacco plain packaging laws are a legitimate public health measure, according to a World Trade Organisation dispute panel ruling reported by Bloomberg.It cited two people close to the situation as saying the panel had rejected a case made by Cuba, Honduras, Dominican Republic and Indonesia, which argued the laws constituted illegal barriers to trade.Such a ruling from the WTO has been widely anticipated as giving a green light for other countries to roll out similar laws, not only on tobacco but also on alcohol and UNHEALTHY FOODS.”

The higher-case my own.

The plain packaging on tobacco products has been in place for a number of years with enormous success. The poor die-hard addicts are now forced to go to the counter and whisper their brand to the sale girl, furtively looking around for any witness to their evil habit.

With Australia’s enormous obesity problems having overtaken the tobacco scourge, I hope to have enough years left to see a similar approach to unhealthy foods. The experts are pointing out that poverty and obesity are linked. Social disadvantaged rural communities having the largest proportion of overweight people. In cities it is the same, with suburbs far flung from the city-centre and cheaper to buy into, showing the same problems.

It might also be that educational differences play a role than just levels of wealth differences. I disagree that the obesity is just a matter of the poor not able to afford healthy food. A family of four eating at McDonalds with a ‘ Big Mac’ at $6.95 each, could easily buy them a bagful of  nutritious foods. But, at the local supermarkets awaits unhealthy food traps as well. It is not for nothing that the lay-outs at the supermarket usually puts the healthy choices well past the stacks of more profitable Coke cases, sugar laden rubbish with simmering sauces, instant foods, pre-digested microwave snacks etc. before the shopper gets to the vegetables and fruit section. Row after row of breakfast choco-pops, corn flakes, sugar muesli, soft drinks. Even babies are now corrupted readied to obesity when mothers can squeeze a kind of sugar laden ‘health’ pop-in tube inside its squealing little mouth.   All those tempting instant foods has to be trudged past in order to arrive at the apples and cauliflowers.

It is just as criminal as tobacco before the plain packaging came into place. Will it come to  killer foods being treated the same? Just imagine McDonald addicts huddling under railway bridges  secretly munching out of plain grey paper bags on their sugar and fat hits. The shy KFC merchants plying their pernicious wares from behind the counter all hidden and in plain packages from cupboards like cigarettes. Dietary advisers inside super-markets steering shoppers to good healthy foods. Clear simple labelling and according to their nutritional values. People can still buy sugar and fat laden foods but at their own well informed peril.

I am not so sure about those Strasbourg knobs or Salamis, Brat-worst and Black Pudding. Perhaps they ought to be excluded or given a neutral rating. I would definitely give 5 stars to Butter Milk.

What do you reckon?

From the Dentist Chair

May 3, 2017
IMG_20150516_0001

Rain

The second of May with the 2pm meeting with Craig was getting nearer. I kept looking at the Dental appointment reminder stuck on the fridge held by a magnet. There was no need really. The friendly secretary reminded me of this looming meeting by phone the day earlier. No escape! My internal mouth machinations had already been investigated a few weeks before. The dentist then (Craig) tried to keep up a cheerful demeanour but there was just that split second furrowed brow on his face that hinted at a serious dental journey ahead. At least, there wasn’t a; ‘dear oh dear,’ or a sudden catch of breath from him. The verdict was that all could be saved and an itemised quote would be mailed. It came promptly within a few days. I divided the amount by the number of years I had not visited the dentist. It softened the blow. After checking my savings account I bravely decided to go and front up with the remainder of my mouth, tormented teeth and savings account.

Has anyone noticed that doctors’ waiting rooms have chairs, yet dentists’ rooms have couches or settees? Craig’s waiting room has soft carpet, a kind of grey-beige colour, not unlike the colour of my teeth. It is nicely furnished with three and two seater settees. Not only that! The secretary is also in the same room, cosily seated behind a desk. You can hear her talking demurely in the phone or clicking on the computer. She occasionally threw a reassuring glance over the patient. I was the only patient, so it was nice to know I wasn’t alone. I would not want a stern secretary with all that is awaiting. No, you’ve got to give it to Craig. There is calm and serenity. But, is it before the oral storm yet to unleash its fury?

I have fainted only twice in my life. The first time was in church. Where else?  I was about eleven or twelve and hungry. I had not eaten because this church laid down a law that if you were to receive communion you could not eat. The church had lots of laws that forbade almost anything that was joyful or gave pleasure. Gloom and doom was installed at a very young age. It was winter and standing room only. The church was coal heated with the hot air welling up through steel grates on the floor at the back of the church. I was standing at the back of the church on top of this grate, ready to bolt as soon I received this wafer that promised I would be with angels in case I carked it. ( but only if I had not sinned in the meantime.) I fainted and remember coming around with a woman holding me up telling me to go home. I got hot chips with pickles instead from money mum had given me to put in the collection bag. It used to do the rounds in the church attached to a long wooden stick held by a sickly looking man. A bit like a fishing-rod. Since then I put buttons in and keep the money! A wise move.

While waiting to be called into the dentist’s surgery I was mulling over the fainting history of many years ago. My worst fear was that in my heightened state of a grinding dental infused anxiety, I would not be able to get up from the settee, and instead crumble and fall prostrate in front of the dentist. It would not be a good look in front of the nice reassuring secretary that I had previously given a list answering many questions including an answer to the question about my level of nervousness. I filled in that I had no nervousness at all.

Readers will be happy to know I made it to the dentist chair without much drama.