Those very PRIVATE schools and The Netherlands

September 23, 2020

Sydney’s Shore School threatens to expel students over ‘appalling’ muck-up day scavenger hunt – ABC News

Backs of school students in uniform

A while ago when visiting some friends, someone asked me what I knew about the political system in The Netherlands including their judicial system. The question threw me as I know very little about most things and even less about specifics. I mumbled something, in an attempt to answer, that I thought the Dutch did not have the  English Westminster system.  I also know that the English system is based on being adversarial and outright cranky.

It has always been a bee in my bonnet that my parents decided to migrate to a country whose legal system and form of Government is based to a large degree on causing conflict and antagonism. Yet, many of my local friends who grew up with this system will defend it to the hilt. They say it is good to question and oppose things, just in case it will all go wrong! Fair enough. Who am I to interfere as a stranger. ‘Go back where you come from’, at times was suggested to me. However, with age I have considerably softened and mellowed.

Even so, sometimes my doubts about the British Westminster system flares up again, and no more so when it involves Australian Education. Decade after decade we fall further behind. My solution is to take a middle path, a softer approach than totally ditching the much hallowed Westminster caboodle.  

Just have a gander at this. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-09-23/sydney-shore-school-threatens-expulsion-for-muck-up-challenges/12691756

Spitting on the homeless and defecating in public a form of fun and achievement?

Of course, it is a bit of a leap to join the Westminster System with Australian education, but very much part of this is that education is bitterly divided between Private and Public education. There again, a division, a conflict, a form of antagonism. The solution to improve Australian sub-standard education has been to have the one single system funded by the government, the same as most other countries have. Many experts have suggested just that. But again, it all becomes an area of conflict and opposition. If there is one other thing that really annoys too, is the silly adherence to School identifiable uniforms. Why on earth do we insist on uniformity at all when surely part of education is to foster the unfolding of all student to their own individuality in harmony within our community and society we live in. Let them dress they feel they want to.  

Any way, here a bit about the Dutch form of Government and judiciary.

The politics of the Netherlands take place within the framework of a parliamentary representative democracy, a constitutional monarchy, and a decentralised unitary state.[1] The Netherlands is described as a consociational state.[2] Dutch politics and governance are characterised by a common striving for broad consensus on important issues, within both of the political community and society as a whole.[1]

The Koala.

September 19, 2020

In Australia there is no better example of a much revered native animal than the koala. It seems the world too has become its friend as well. No sooner do tourists arrive and within a day or so, they are seen holding up cameras on the end of an extendable stick at koala parks. The koala isn’t shy of tourists and generally behave well. They don’t bite or scratch even though they have sharp claws made to good use when climbing trees. I am always amazed but secretly wished that a native animal would finally defecate on a politician when they try and curry favors with the electorate by holding a Joey kangaroo or koala. 

There is indeed no cuddlier animal ( apart from my Jack Russell, Milo) than the koala. The National Party of Australia is trying to fight new legislation to strengthen protection of native animals making it harder for farmers to clear land, and reduce the habitat of the koala. The Koala is already under threat of extinction because of deforestation. The Honest Government  Ads company has put hard hitting ads on the media. They are filmed in Melbourne and specialise in contemporary political and social satire. They are also known for internet Ads series under The Juice Media. I do hope the ad will make life for the koala more certain.

eb347-aussiemap

The sowing of Dichondra

September 16, 2020

The day arrived whereby I could finally sow my dichondra seeds. The seed packets showed to wait for warm weather and to first rake and work the soil to a fine tilth. Spring has arrived with unusual warm weather and the local garden centers are now filled with red-faced people pushing large trolleys full of topsoil, potting mixes, mulches, composts, chicken, cow and even turkey manure.

Australia has a very large hardware and garden center called ‘Bunnings’. Fortunately and much to the credit of the Australian government, Bunnings was allowed to stay open even during the tightest of Covid lockdowns. Pubs, cafes and hairdressers were closed or severely limited but no Government Minister irrespective of any party keen on staying employed, would dare close the Mecca for domestic peace and serenity; Bunnings.

Of course, the lockdown and its resulting isolation did not just drive residents into cryptic crosswords, watch repeats on TV or engage in domestic squabbling but the more innovative went to look at improving homes and hearths. Bunnings was chock-a-block each time I was there. There were people who had taken stacking chairs and started picnicking at the large parking areas, taking sandwiches, soft drinks with some even uncapping thermoses. Such is the popularity of this large hardware and garden center. Here is a very amusing bit of Australia folk poetry based on the ‘Stacking chair’.

Of course, after a rather long and dry winter with this sudden warmth and spring rain the morning’s petrichor emanating from fresh soils made the entire nation wake up and do the garden. I will now look at my garden each day in anticipation of the seeds germinating. Of course, it is not really a true grass, more of a small ground cover but I am hopeful it will thrive soon and make my garden even more beautiful   

We are solar ready, almost!

September 10, 2020
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Milo

 
We have had twenty solar panels installed on our roof and all we have to do now is getting the energy provider to connect it to the grid via our meter box. Oddly enough the company that is supplying  me the electricity now wants me to supply them with the number of the meter box, so that they can make the connection.

Fair enough, you would not want the connection and the benefits of solar energy go to some other meter box and customer. It still begs why they are asking me for the number when they are the ones sending me the quarterly bill, and they obviously do that by reading the meter box in order to bill me for the usage of the electricity.

This is what the energy company sent me and I quote;”

AGL has received your request for the solar meter alteration at the above address, however, the following amended documents are required for the work to proceed:
 
             
  •     Kindly provide us NMI number for further process your request.” unquote.

For a lay person to make sense of this is asking a bit much. For a start; they don’t explain what NMI is. I sleuthed the AGL website and to their credit they do have a ‘chat’  facility in which you get the opportunity to ask questions. ‘The NMI is the number of the meter box specific to your account’ I was chatted to. Hallelujah. I was given my meter box number which I gave back to my AGL service provider who gave me the number in the first place. And yet they asked me to give them the number!

The world often is a lot of fun and even though it doesn’t at times pass the logic test, at least it amuses us.

Here is a serious bit of satire. Adult language!

 
             
 
 

How to apply for garbage bins.

September 4, 2020

IMG_0933garbage binsIn the past before modernity took hold, society had no garbage. Everything was used and the words of ‘rubbish’ and ‘garbage’ were yet to be invented. The closest words to describe those items were perhaps ‘left-overs, or too much yarn or cloth, manure, sand, water and so more’. There was no plastic during the era of Siberian mammoths or indeed the Chinese clay warriors.

Plastic came about during the cultures of MacDonald’s quarter pounds, Coca Cola and many  Peter Duttons. Even the salami slices, and simple sausages are now vacuum packed or, as is the case of screws or hardware, packed in such sturdy plastic one risks cutting fingers trying to free those items from plastic.

In any case, no matter how we turn towards trying to minimise rubbish, most households now depend on a weekly garbage collection. I had to apply to council for my bins. No simple matter. You can’t just amber up go to the Shire Chambers and apply to get bins. No, it took four pages to arduously fill in to give  information. This is then given to Domestic Waste Services to mull over.

I hope I get approved and receive the bins. Please keep fingers crossed.

May I touch your yarn?

August 27, 2020

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My yarn and needles

As you can now observe in the above picture, much wool has passed through my fingers since I wrote first about my entree into the creative arts of handknitting a yarn more than a week ago now.  How the time flies when one knits!

The proof of my initial lack of dexterity clearly show in the bottom rows that are uneven and a bit shaky, unsure of the needle actually going under the thread and still having to remember pulling the wool with my right hand over the left needle, and than pulling in down between both needles before inserting the right needle again under the next stitch to be transferred to the same needle, thereby transferring the whole knitted yarn to the other needle.

The indefinite repeat of the same action will finally make perfect my knitting skills and this is what I fervently hope for, keeping in mind my creeping elderly with increasing age and at the same time mindfulness of maintaining clear sight and finger gymnastic manipulations of the yarn. There is a lot in knitting that a casual observer might well not be aware of when watching women knitting.

I mention ‘women knitting’ because as it turned out, men came, through their rampant and aggressive hormones ( not their fault)  to drive locomotives, work in abattoirs cutting carcases, create domestic violence, or bomb cities while women with such flowing all roundness and softness, turned the carers who knit, feed men, and by and large do so many good things, including running Governments like in Finland (Voted the happiest country).

The idea of my doing knitting came about because I so often watched Helvi knit but rarely stood still wondering what it felt like. As I said, we were taught to knit when at school and by my mother. So, I thought, nothing lost and everything to gain, to try it out. I am very happy I did, and nothing is more helpful making friends than knitting in public which I tried two days ago inside a large shopping centre close by.

‘ Milo’ my Jack Russell too was instrumental in getting friends as, especially women, thought he was so adorable and often asked me if they could pat him. It struck me then that no one ever thought I was also cute and open for patting but that is for an other article to explore. There is so much still to make sense off and so little time…

As I sat down with my knitting it did not take long when people stopped and looked at my knitting. I tried to act as normal as possible as if it was something I did to while away the time. I had gone and bought before settling down with my bag of wool and knitting, a carton of chicken nuggets from KFC, something I did for the first time ever. I wanted to appear as normal and average as possible. I had reconnoitred the site before and found a seat in full view of shoppers leaving a big Woollies supermarket not far from a busy butcher shop. Soon, a woman stopped, and asked me how long I had been knitting. I told her that I had just started as I knew that an expert’s eye could soon see that my knitting was not top knot. It was nice to be able to chat. Soon she reached out and felt my yarn and asked what size needles I was using. It felt normal and who would have thought it so easy to make contact with the opposite sex. I mean, what a discovery to get to have contact with people.

No men stopped and asked!

Who would have thought to get such friendly experiences?  And all those years I wanted to become a burly rugby (with funny oblong ball) player to be seen as a real man.

What next? Learn dancing again?

Real men do knit.

August 20, 2020
IMG_0900 knitting

There used to be a popular show on TV featuring men wrestling. It wasn’t real wrestling but more a show made especially for those that seem to get satisfaction watching glistening muscled men beating the s..t out of each other,  extolling cruelty to the point of whereby the audience at home, in the comfort of their armchairs, would ask themselves if the intention was to kill each other. The oiled wrestlers would end standing high on the ring wires and hurl themselves on each other with such force one expected entrails to fly about. But no, not a single death ever shown on TV. In the life audience there would be almighty booing and egging on the wrestlers to even greater heights of murderous intent.

The odd thing was the surveys showing that it were women who seemed to get the most joy out of this pantomime wrestling. My friend’s mother was proof of it. Of all the shows I found her watching on TV, it was the wrestling that she would not miss out for all the money in the world. Perhaps there is contained within this TV cruelty, watched by some women a nefarious delight that men get what they deserved all along; are men not the war mongers, the wife beaters, the unfaithful animals often ruled by their one eyed, hooded but rampant genital? Perhaps men beating up men added an extra poignancy for the lady watchers seeing they did not have to do it.

As the days of the Covid-19 keep on passing, the demand on relationship counselling is at a peak. Hundreds of callers are queueing up on the Beyond Blue mental health line, suicides are up. Many women live in fear what will come next. Husbands are out of work, cooped up with families, unable to relieve their anxiety, hopelessness seeps in and with their often superior muscles, lash out. But it are the women, many of whom are rearing children doing the domestic work, spending most of their lives being ‘cooped’ up willingly and often happily. What is that men so easily let fly? Is it proof that women are stronger and much more resilient?

The picture below shows the period in France during the reign of Maximillian Robespierre with his penchant for executing hundreds of fellow citizens during the Reign of Terror 1793/1794. His excuse was to free France of its monarchy but in doing so he had to take drastic measures and heads would roll in the cane baskets. In those days there was no TV but that did not stop keen viewers from watching the procedures.

Une Exécution capitale, place de la Révolution, painting by Pierre-Antoine Demachy

History tells us, often in gory details, that Robespierre fought for the common man against the iron fisted monarchy whose Kings enlisted men for armies and wars. It were the women that Robespierre really wanted to liberate from this Royal tyranny. He did become the favourite leader who would take France to freedom and a republic. During the revolution, it was no wonder that during the beheadings of Robespierre’s enemies, the women were lining up in front rows watching the rolling of heads into the baskets. Many would queue early to get the best seats and take the knitting with them. At the height of the guillotine’s work it was rumoured a head would roll for every 6 rows of straight knitting. ( 50 stitches on the 5 mill needle)

The French word for a female knitter is tricoteuse. It is often used as a historical nickname for women knitters sitting beside the executioner working the guillotine  flat out separating heads from the prisoners, supposedly knitting during public executions in the French revolution.

We all know that Robespierre himself would fall victim to the guillotine the year after. So, is there a link between the tricoteuses of the 1790’s in France and preferences of females watching male wrestling on TV?

As an aside, I have taken the decision to start up my knitting again. The last time I did it was when about 12 years of age. I find it surprisingly interesting and very soothing. I just straight knit, so no pearling yet, but that might still come. I use 4 millimetres needles and a mixture of yarn 50/50 nylon to wool. The lockdown does force one to come up with solutions to pass time, and I suppose the knitting is one pastime that is fairly easy to do and one makes something at the same time.

I intend to make a throw rug.

 

The words just keep on moving.

August 14, 2020

IMG_0856French Sardines

French sardines and my birthday cards

There has been a spell between the last time I wrote down some words in a certain order. The times just keep on going and for every intention to get back to write, something came between the intention and the words. The birthday was a main event but reaching 80 has now passed and it feels the same. I keep a keen alert on moments of forgetfulness or lack of instant recall on names.  Many people of my age I noticed now are doing crosswords and even cryptograms to remain sharp and alert. In my Bradman Cricket café group called Stumps, we help each other out onto remaining alert by recalling movies we might have watched with details of actors’ names, or special events that were shared in times gone by.

We all nod in pleasurable contentment we still know the details of war battles or the Queen’s birthday, the capital of former Rhodesia or what it means to have fallen down a ha ha. When I go through my garden I try remember the names of the different plants that were put in, and at times I do struggle with the instant re-call, but when I let it go, through the sheer magic of my brain, the name will suddenly pop up. So, all is good and still in order.

However, a serious slip-up came to the fore this morning. My usual wake up routine, (as if this is of any importance to you, my dearest and most faithful followers), is to go downstairs and ignite the heating systems, before hopping back into bed to wait for the comfort of a warm and pre-heated wave of air to greet my face. This usually takes about half an hour which is spend, while still in-situ under the blankets, by checking any dire messages or the latest Covid-19 fatalities on my iPhone. It’s not exactly reassuring knowing that those of advanced years are by and large most likely to be locked within the latest fatalities.

So, to keep this short and reverting to the slip-up. As I finally got up, had a shower and got dressed, I noticed after carefully ambling downstairs, that I had left the milk outside the fridge. Can you believe this? I might have told you that instead of sipping Shiraz I now have taken to drinking warm milk with honey. I take one in the morning and one before going to bed. I hope it is not a sign of slipping. Perhaps giving up the Shiraz was not such a good thing. Mind you, I buy the top label of milk named A2, and is twice as expensive as normal milk. It is the best milk money can buy but of course it is not Shiraz. I don’t get a buzz out of this top-milk no matter how much honey is in it. (12%)

Was it a mistake and should I go back to Shiraz?

Jam berapa? ( what time) and the Mexican Fuchsia.

August 5, 2020

IMG_0848 fuchsias

Fuchsia Splendens

There is nothing like the expiration date on food labels that makes one focus on the possibility of getting oneself a bit expired or stale, let alone going off altogether. One really ought to consider going for a practice run to the funeral parlour, lay across the counter and yell ‘shop’! Perhaps glance through the casket catalogue, pick a suitable comfy softly lined coffin. These are terrible times!

Of course, the other alternative to this gloomy and somewhat negative reflection on this otherwise sunny morning is the thought of yet a lifetime of years beckoning ahead. There is nothing unusual of centenarians still whooping it up. I watched a short video of an elderly couple in their nineties jiving around the place. It doesn’t do me much good and I generally stay clear of those kind of depressing prompts to go and jig around the place. There is nothing more discouraging than old people pretending to be younger. People should be their age and I love the sound of tapping sticks and whirring by of mobility scooters. I am on the cusp of turning eighty and now too part of this brave lot of people. I always though old was someone being fifteen years older than me. Now am  fifteen years older than me and have arrived!

Also, have reached the age when people might start saying,  ‘you are looking well today’! The emphasis on ‘today’ would be a worry but they mean well. I certainly don’t think of any age but that might be a common refrain used by those sad men who cling to the wish of taut midriffs and bulging biceps. Getting out of the shower with open eyes is really as good as going to those earlier confession with Father Murphy, but not advisable for any octogenarian irrespective of spiritual bends, unless one takes the mirror down. Any idea of romance or dalliance gets instantly a drooping down and was a waste of the previous caressing, encouraging and soothing warm waters.  I must re-read Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Picture of Dorian Grey’.

It is no good reflecting on time or years. Remembering a wise Balinese man telling us that time (jam) is of little use in Bali. Indeed, at the many  times we were there, it baffled me that the Balinese were totally free of time constrictions. They had no clocks, or wore watches. Tourists were running about all tense, tapping their watches, with faces contorted in case they were missing out on something. Festivals are a big part of daily life in Bali. In fact their life is celebrated without apparent time constraints. When asked what time?  (berapa jam) a Balinese dance performance would start, the inevitable answer would be ‘perhaps soon’.

As for the Mexican Fuchsias. (Fuchsia Splendens). A frost had decimated a lot of plants at one of Australia’s major hardware stores named ‘Bunnings’. I love this store and could easily spend whole week-ends there. It is a treasure trove of tools, gadgets, shelves of locks and wooden things, including rolls of totally unrecognisable materials and many over-excited customers.  I saw a woman once with a large spanner wearing a T-shirt with, ‘I’ll do you’. Going through Bunnings is as good a mental aphrodisiac as a  stroll around Amsterdam. Bunnings is a Nirvana for the insatiable curious. On top of that they have barbequed sausages on Saturdays to raise funds for Police clubs or the Elderly (That’s us).

Well, through the frost and plant damaged stock, I managed to rescue the half frozen Mexican Fuchsias that are not only very beautiful when fully grown, but also provide the worlds best tasting and most desirable berries. I was so lucky to get them and the above photo shows how well they have fared since I bought and nursed them back to robust health. It is also nice and reassuring that the flowers are bi-sexual and with axillary, pendulous armpits in the distal armpits.

I’ll think of that next time I eat their berries.

The fascinating tale of the apprentice teetotaller.

August 1, 2020

Teetotallers on the rise: Why are young people drinking less than ...

The uncorking of the Shiraz usually heralded the end of long noontides for me and perhaps many of us. The beginning of the late afternoon arrived with a predictable ritual that stood the test of time over many decades. The comfortable chair beckons in perfect sync with the sun lowering its burnished lashes in a final blaze of golden amber. Wine- time had made its much cherished entree in my household over many decades. I can’t think of a time when an afternoon and evening would pass without this delightful airing of the bottled nectar for saints and sinners alike.

It doesn’t discriminate or pretend, and is totally moral to its faithful imbibers in its almost childlike innocence. My own choice was for a drink made from grapes. Others, I believe, get this same pleasure from the fermentations of wheat and flowing waters of the Scottish Highlands or anything that through the art of experts who studied alchemy, and conjured up fermented liquids that seemed to temporarily heighten the pleasures of  dull moments that fill most of our lives. I have yet to enjoy vacuuming, eat vegemite or pay gas bills.

If the reader noticed the past tense of the above yet to be written opus on my decision to an apprenticeship in teetotalling together, and at the same time, admit my admiration for alcohol and its glorious history of joy and its polished and burnished pleasures derived from the fruit of the land, it is due to my decision to break this ritual and start another one.

There is no reasonable logical explanation how this decision was reached. Perhaps the closest I can justify it might be that the ritual was becoming somewhat sated and as predictable as  paying gas bills or vacuuming. There was no flash of insight or a harping angel beckoning me to stop. There was this ritual of getting up to get the bottle, uncap it and then pour the drink in a glass. As I said, mine was a Shiraz and my late wife Helvi, a dry white. We both loved it and had decades together of happy sipping and quaffing.  Those sweet memories are so sustaining now.

After I became a single and widowed man I continued this habit and made sure I never was without. Day in day out, the afternoon would arrive and I would sit and sip, sit and sip, till four nights ago I had the epiphany. It struck me as odd for someone who prided himself on making life as interesting as possible accepting this ritual of drinking red liquid every day. Of course, I also take my pyjamas off every day, not a pretty sight, shower solemnly, and make my breakfast on whole seeded bread (every day). One slice with cheese and one slice with berry jam from Aldi.

I broke the habit this morning with keeping my pyjamas on while having breakfast. I also defied the bread with cheese and jam. Out of the blue I had two boiled eggs, just like that! I wanted to make the start of the day a bit more interesting.  A bit more verve really. Of course, I took my pyjamas off after the egg episode and the day progressed normally. I had my coffee at the local cricket café with friends and without cricket talk. A habit that I will continue hopefully for years to come.

And that breaking of habits is the closest reason I can come to. No other that I can think off. I am baffled myself, but there you are. One has to make a life as good as possible. I am now facing the fifth afternoon without the lure of the crimson nectar. I sleep soundly, and if anything with less toilet breaks during the night, which is a blessing. The garden is starting to respond to longer days and I will soon be able to show you the flowering grape hyacinths and irises.

I gave up smoking too, when in 1994 the time had come to chuck the habit. I only managed to do this by making the promise to smoke again when turning 65. Of course, after turning 65 I had lost the urge to smoke. I sometimes think how it would be to light up again. Would I like it or get addicted again? I sure was hooked to that one. I remember well that first puff of a new cigarette. It too was ritualistic, fingering the ciggy, holding it, delaying the lighting and then finally, that first glorious puff and holding it for a few seconds. And then the delight of blowing the smoke skywards. It was so lovely.