A potpourri of pre-Christmas events.

December 20, 2018

Last week we drove to Sydney to visit our daughter who was meant to visit us. Due to storm damage  the trains were delayed and the buses were not running, we thought it easier to drive to Sydney instead. Trains are often risky and even a rogue wombat can derail trains. I bet the old ‘fast-train’ service will be raised again now that an election is due soon, together with the perennial second Sydney airport.  It keeps us nice and docile. Gee, the French sure know how to get things moving. I like their spirit.

IMG_0215

This is our daughter and her youngest son, Max, who has reached that stage of being a teenager very drawn to languorousness.  This means he likes to adopt a seating arrangement between sitting and lying. He is Tom’s brother who is almost at the end of his Indonesian adventure and at present in Bali’s Ubud. Tom is 18 and now taken to sitting upright again.

The lunch was beautiful and included as a dessert a nice chunk of water melon ‘infused’ with mango gelato. This coming Christmas day she and both our Grandsons will be visiting us for a Christmas lunch with a possible stay over-night. Of course, that has the proviso the trains are running and that the wombats stay away from the rails.

The latest new’s item that really stunned me that for over 150 years a Tattersall club in Brisbane, Queensland, prohibiting women becoming members. They excluded women. Can you believe this? A vote was taken on the issue and the ban was lifted. Oh, Australia; where is your Santa list for moving forward?

https://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/national/queensland/brisbane-s-exclusive-tattersall-s-club-votes-to-allow-female-members-20181219-p50na1.html

The vote in favour of allowing women wasn’t all that overwhelming. It was mainly for financial reasons and not because it was so outrageously  misogynistic.

I wonder if the Republican issue will be dealt with soon? I suppose, we are waiting for the English queen to pass away. Another terrible sad bit of news is that the issue of refugees on Manus and Nauru will not be resolved before Christmas. When, oh when, will Australia be dragged in front of some court to face charges of crimes against humanity?

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-12-20/boy-raped-on-nauru-asylum-seeker-lawyers-claim/10632882

But, there is also good news. It seems that keeping pets helps to keep children healthy and possibly avoid getting infections. And…the more pets, the better!

A baby lying on the ground beside a small dog.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/science/2018-12-20/pets-allergies-asthma-dogs-cats-immune-system-microbes/10630174

We are both now fitting in some more medical appointments as well. The medications we now ingest are keeping us alive as much as possible. This morning at 9am I was ordered to get in my underpants and take my valuables to the medical room and submit myself to a bone-density test. It was a remarkable experience. My feet were strapped in while laying on a hard surface in the horizontal position. ‘Just relax’, I was told by a female technician operating a sliding monitor taking images of my totally prostrated body. You know, when it was all over, I had trouble getting vertical again. The woman had to actually lift me up and prop me up a bit. The ignominy of ageing. It seems only yesterday we were skating and somersaulting about.

And now, look at it!

 

 

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The Hydrangeas are coming.

December 17, 2018

IMG_0225The Hydrangia

The Hydrangea.

It always seems that when Christmas gets closer the days give up less of their time for the normal things to do. This morning at 8.45 we had an another appointment at the local hospital. Just a routine visit but the waiting room was already crowded. The oncologist who saw us said; ‘Christmas is a crazy time’, the sooner it gets past, the better’. This was wholeheartedly agreed. Helvi said a few weeks ago; ‘oh dear, Christmas is coming. We so much like normal times.’ The waiting room was so full, we stood upright, no empty chair, and the TV was on some commercial channel espousing the benefits of a face-cream, guaranteed to take wrinkles away. Most of the patients were glued to it, I suppose, any promise is better than none, even though no cream has ever taken away a single wrinkle. We believe in magic as we believe in a jolly Christmas. The doctor told us he read somewhere that thirty days of food are bought for just one single day when the shops are closed. I enthusiastically added; ‘. We have seen people buying complete trays of mangoes and 5kilo hams.’

So when we got home, we took Milo for a walk hoping he would do his ‘business’ under the bushes. He is very hygienic normally and have no need to take a plastic bag with us in case he does it on the food-path. He did it once in front of a kitchen shop and people were hopping about, while Helvi quick as a flash distanced herself from me and Milo. However, he again happened to do it on the street in front of some pedestrians, but I pretended not to have noticed and bravely walked on. ‘ Hey, someone shouted, look at this,’ pointing to the still steaming little tart. I joked, ‘I did not do it.’ The woman looked totally perplexed but lacked humour. ‘Of course, you did not do it, your dog did. Go and do the right thing.’

Helvi was furious with me, especially when it was added, ‘finders keepers’ to the humourless woman. All social graces seem to have gone. Where are the good old day when there was laughter about? Is this the Christmas spirit so many bang on about?Surely, no one could have taken my remarks seriously?

When we got home  and things cooled down, Milo looked me in the eye. He winked. What do you feel about the above Hydrangea? Isn’t it a beauty?.

 

Thomas’ university entrance score.

December 14, 2018
photo Thomas without tablet

without tablet (de)vice

The magic of the internet showed up again when our grandson, Thomas, managed to receive his HSC scores through the manipulation of his iPhone. The magic isn’t so remarkable while within range of civilisation, but in the middle of Sulawesi jungle? Mind you, once tourism rolls in, the www’s follows. We have both been able to ‘message’ each other which, as I have been told, is different from texting. I can never get my head around all that technical stuff. It is a penalty I am glad to pay. You won’t see the likes of us, old fogeys, heads bend over iPhones in one hand and cappuccino in the other, while crossing the street with giant semi-trailers roaring past, missing us by mere inches.

Thomas worked very hard. He is not a practical boy with two left hands unable to clean up or acknowledge a laundry basket even remotely. He used to visit us when things got too much back at home. His teenage years weren’t spared and as his grandparents we used to counsel him assiduously with pearls of wisdom coming from his mother more than me.  I still get admonished for not putting the butter back in the fridge in its predetermined space. I have watched Thomas doing the dishes at our place and had to smile at his awkwardness. I actually had to restrain myself in not encouraging his clumsiness. He put plates and cups standing up and would at times just walk away. He is somewhat of a dreamer and easily distracted by his own thoughts, whatever they might be. Thoughts are the stuff of life, and to be encouraged even if it doesn’t fit in with domestic chores or logic. Of course, our daughter does get fed up with her son’s chaotic habits and domestic clutter. Not that she is all that organised. Perhaps the reason of her annoyance! Thomas got his mother’s genes.

When Thomas was small around 5 or 6 years of age he used to wander around our farm’ paddock just reading. Helvi used to do the same when she was young, she told me.  His younger brother raced around the house on his bike which Thomas had difficulty mastering. He thought that by pushing the handlebars this would somehow propel the bike forward. It wasn’t till I took the trouble explaining the mechanics of pedalling with his feet activating  a chain for a wheel to turn that he finally got going on his bike. While his younger brother plays and watches sport, including soccer at 3am in the morning, Thomas could not get quick enough away from any sporting activity. It is amazing how the two grandsons are so different. You should see how organized his younger brother is. His room always spotless!

Thomas was over the moon and so were his mother and us. He scored 93 out of a top score of 99. For a complicated reason the top score is not 100.  The world of further study is now open. He tells us he might want to get a job for a years or so, save up, and see more of the world. His mum would have been happy with a score of 75 or so. You can just imagine her joy. (And ours) All credit to him though, he worked so hard.

 

 

The yearly friends party.

December 11, 2018

As I wrote earlier, last Sunday Helvi and I went to a party in Balmain, Sydney. We have been going there for a few decades now. It’s almost an institute except it is not a formal gettogether at all. Most of us have known each other through all sorts of possible combinations. Either through work, or living in same area, through our children or by sheer chance. You could say we are closely knitted. We generally know our life’s travails including the ups and downs. Lately, or perhaps over the last five years or more we now are steeped in each other’s medical journeys as well. A kind of bonus aiding intimacy. A common question last Sunday might well have been; how is your knee or is your hip holding up well? One inescapable fact is that of the 26 people at this party, there were just 6 men including myself.

We all bring own drinks and food. There was a delicious potato bake, which is always baked by the same person. The red cabbage salad was there as well, my favourite. Then salmon, different cheeses, and all sorts of olives, some hand stuffed with anchovies mixed with chili. It was a very enjoyable day.

Of course parties are held in all parts of the world. I thought I might share with you how in a certain part of Indonesian Sulawesi parties are held when someone passes away. The culture is totally different and one has to allow for that difference. Not just allow, but stand in awe of that difference. I am writing this because one of our grandsons as part of doing his HSC this year was treated to a schoolie trip with a group of other students to Sulawesi. We were glad he went there instead of Bali which is on the verge of becoming a kind of tropical Venice with millions crawling around looking for Star-bucks or KFC’s.

One of our grandson’s friends is from Indonesia so that helps a lot. They flew to Sulawesi’s Capital Makassar, and after an 8 hr bus-trip arrived at Taroja. You might know that in that area many mummified bodies of relatives long gone, are kept preserved and put up a mountain cliff. The Indonesian student told my son, that his grandfather was also treated with that respect, and that 50 buffaloes were sacrificed during the process of his funeral.

National Geographic put out a video on these cultural  rites and here it is;

 

I am so glad our grandson experienced this on his schoolie holiday. I find the video fascinating.

From Wiki; “For the Toraja people, life very much revolves around death, but not in a morbid sense. For them, a funeral is a great celebration of life.”

How about us, will our funerals be celebrations of lives well lived?

And now for the good news!

December 10, 2018
https://www.sbs.com.au/news/torture-crimes-against-humanity-class-action-for-nauru-manus-asylum-seekers-launched
It could not get any better. A bumper Christmas coming your way.The polls have deepened the gap between the LNP and Labor, with the opposition now polishing their victory speeches after the election.  On top of all that my feverish hope that one day this dreadful government would be taken to court for having committed crimes against humanity, now a reality. It has come to it. Our prayers answered.
True, it will not be on the scale of the Nuremberg trials but at least it will show the world that no matter how pretentious a government is, you can’t get away with committing crimes against people that have done no more than asking for asylum.
At this point it might be worthwhile pointing out that the alleged crimes against humanity (refugee’s children and their parents) would never have happened if only Australia had a ‘Bill of Rights.’
I am perplexed that Australia is the only country without a Bill of Rights.

“A non-profit law firm has launched two class actions in the High Court on behalf of the roughly 1,200 remaining refugees and asylum seekers in offshore processing centres on Manus Island and Nauru.

 

The case will be brought against the Commonwealth of Australia, rather than the Home Affairs Department or the minister specifically.

 

The group will claim they have been subjected to “torture, crimes against humanity and the intentional infliction of harm by the Australian government,”

 

 

Next time you buy ‘fashion’, look at how and where it is made.

December 7, 2018

 

Most Fashion items are made in third world countries. I have also been guilty of buying items and not looking at where they are made. Worse is, often we buy goods made using child labour. To add to the misery we end up choosing a Prime Minister who delights in locking up those that are trying to escape the misery. Even when Australia is finally turning a corner and most of us want the refugees freed from detention, Scott Morrison our PM, is going nuts and will do ‘Anything’ to prevent the legislation from changing that would alleviate their misery. He is a true hater of compassion and a fervent believer in his brand of Christianity!

Scandinavia and the Sami people.

December 6, 2018
Image result for sami people
https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-12-06/sami-parliament-example-for-australia-of-indigenous-voice/10586566
“How might an Indigenous voice to Parliament work? Here’s some ideas from Nordic nations.”
      By Joey Watson and Annabelle Quince for Rear Vision
The Sametinget sits

 

the right to decide

The aim of the Sami Parliament is to strengthen the political position of the Sami people, paving the way for them to develop their language, culture and society.

The plenary, the highest body in the Sami Parliament, has 39 representatives elected by direct vote from seven constituencies across Norway.

The representatives from the largest Sami party form a governing council and select a president.

Finland and Sweden

While the Norwegian Sami Parliament is the most prominent in Scandinavia, it was not the first.

The Sami political movement was born in Finland after World War Two.

 

 

The walk.

December 2, 2018

 

 

IMG_0178our garden

 

” There was no possibility of taking a walk today”. The wind was howling and the sky yellow with dust and smoke. The trees giving clear warning signs by twisting and bending with stoic acceptance. What can they do about it? At best resist but surrender some branches if necessary. It must be painful to be a tree at times. But, all things pass. Even big storms.

We were not really given an option not to walk with the yelping of Milo. He knows how to bend and twist us to what he wants. He stands inside looking at the closed door and gives those sad little yelps before looking pleadingly at us. How do they learn that? I mean, people can easily make one and another feel guilty, but a dog?

After packing Milo in the car where he sits on the console between me and Helvi, you can tell he achieved his wish. No wagging of tails or joyful acknowledgement. He is so confident in his control there is no need for civility or gratefulness. He stares straight ahead and waits for us to take off. With the howling storm we thought of just driving to the next town and taking a short walk. During week-ends we keep walks with Milo short.

Motor-bikes and Milo don’t mix and we haven’t been successful in him making amends with noisy motor-bikes. He goes wild and just about performs self-strangulation straining manically on his leash till I am purple in the face trying to hold him. After parking the car we went for a walk. Helvi holding onto me and I holding onto an arrogant Milo. The storm was so fierce even I was scared of blowing over. At our age a fall could be nasty. One of the good things of dying is that it is much easier done lying down. It helps to stay positive.

Did you know that Charlotte Bronte after submitting some of her best poems to a possible publisher was told, that even though her poetry was very good, ‘a woman best fulfils her life within domesticity and family. Creative writing was best left to men!’

As for our walk, we managed to do a short one and only one motor-bike passed us. It is still storming outside. Tomorrow, I’ll be back for a check-up by the cardiologist after a month of medications for an unreliable and restless heart. I take 6 different tablets and some of them are giving me intestinal storm and freezing cold hands. The tree of life, for sure. It is summer and I sit around wearing heavy gloves. But, what can you do?

All things pass.

 

Shopping at Costco.

November 28, 2018

Some time ago I heard of a new shopping phenomenon. It is called ‘Costco shopping’. A bowling friend spoke how he went there and bought new hearing aids. Costco, he explained, is a huge shopping experience and one can buy everything from toilet paper to TVs, nicely crafted funeral caskets to embellished urns, everything for those alive and the dearly departed. The dead are as welcome as the living. This is apart from food, groceries, tyres and petrol. All direct from the pallets or bowsers at vastly reduced prices.

We have an American friend who already some time ago promised us the ‘the full Costco experience’. Last Sunday we arranged to meet up in Sydney’s Balmain where he would then take and drive us to the nearest Costco Emporium for a guided tour.  We are not really in for new shopping experiences but were curious enough to at least go and see it. Getting old doesn’t mean avoiding new experiences. I often regale our expeditions to Aldi. Why stop there? In any case, our friend had promised us to drive; so what the heck?

After arrival we noticed people walking with giant shopping trolleys. The trolleys were huge which, even though most shoppers looked normal sized, made people look smaller in what they actually were. A clever architect could conceivably convert those trolleys in mini-houses. The parking station alone was so large one expected traffic lights,  landings of light aeroplanes, border guards.  And everywhere those giant trolleys with small people pulling them along, all glazed eyed, and hyperventilating with over- excitement.

One needs to be a member for the privilege of shopping at Costco. It costs $50.-. Our friend had a membership card on which we could enter as well. After retrieving a large trolley we walked up several levels to get to the entrance. There were queues entering as well as at the exits. An infectious hurry is what seemed to drive most shoppers. In fact, the whole Costco event is finely tuned to spending and impulse buying . Impulse buying is what it seems to be about. The goods are portrayed at eye level and a kind of mass hysteria is honed to perfection. I would say that it is unhappiness and anxiety in most Costco shoppers which is cleverly taken advantage of and exploited by expert psychologists that try and maximise that manner of shopping. Shopping might well fill an otherwise empty life.

Cooked hot chickens were for sale at $3.90. I watched people putting 10 to 20 hot chickens in their trolleys together with towering packs of croissants. What does one do with all those hot chickens and dozens of croissants? Can you imagine going home with complete sides of sheep or pork? I watched someone taking a large pack of chicken breasts out of their trolley and exchanging it for a battery driven drone. What feverish thinking is going on with the shopper during those instant changes of choices?

The coffins looked nice and were temptingly displayed with white sheets tucked around the chrome handles with white plastic lilies poked in for good measure. I saw an elderly man fondling an upmarket nicely embellished urn ready for an impromptu ashes to ashes event. It was right next to a display of car tyres.

Helvi and I ended up buying some baby beetroots, a box of nectarines. Also a box of smoked German sausages and a kilo of sliced Swiss Cheese. (manufactured in Holland.) Our friend drove us to Bar Italia in Norton Str, Leichhardt. It was heaven and the Spaghetti Bolognaise was superb…as always.

All I all, an interesting day.

 

For the week-end. ( A Willy Willy)

November 23, 2018
Image result for A Willy Willy

The journey of acquiring my first car, the trip to learn in a rhythmic tempo of moving thighs, the Fox trot and the tempestuous Austrian Waltz aided by with Phyllis Bates dance lessons, would now surely also include a first date? It was on the cards long before any of that. Growing genes and rocking hormones does all that for us, irrespective of will and choice. The world is full of people now as sure proof of this.

The Vic’s cabaret at Strathfield was a large hall that had a raised podium on top of which to house a small orchestra. The ceiling was high and made of weatherboards painted a stark white as were the walls. There was seating on both sides with ample wooden benches. On the opposite side of the entrance the benches were occupied by the girls but on both sides of the entrance and opposite the dance floor all the boys. It provided a clear view of both sexes to study each other. The boys were much more blatant, the girls much more coy but also darting quick looks across assessing possible dancing partners.

In the middle of the ceiling was a large rotating ball which held little mirrors that threw fascinating effects around the walls and floor adding excitement and an atmosphere of expectation. I mean those flickering images and the music added to a letting go of inhibitions which of course is a requirement of daring to dance with another body, let alone another body of the opposite sex.

All boys and girls on entering were looked over and sniffed for any hint of alcohol. They were strict on that and that was good. All were stone sober so all initiatives to a dance were of free will and cold choice, no chemical help of any kind. My brylcreme with artificial little Kookie hair-wave and the Pelaco shirt was about the only external aid I could use. It must be remembered that at the late fifties and sixties Australia was swamped with young man and this created a shortage of women.

However, if a man had car it would give him a bit of ‘a leg-up.’   I had a car; what’s more a Ford V8 single spinner. But, I could hardly go up to a girl and say,” Hello, my name is Gerard and I have a big V8, would you like to dance?” With the abundance of men and shortage of girls on the dance floor, many a refusal had to be lived with. The “no thank you”, had to be overcome time and time again. It was also true that at that time the girls were more attracted to the true blue Aussie male. The foreigners had strange accents and eating habits, often far too polite and formal, shaking hands and all that stuff, taking the girls back to their seat after the dance.

However, there was one sure way of getting to dance. It was the ‘Pride of Erin’. This was a dance were a kind of circle or Conga line of boys and girls was formed in equal numbers. It took some time to organise but the excitement was at fever pitch. Everyone loved the Pride of Erin. Many a boy was straining at the leash. This was the time to strike out and get a date. The music started and I remember well the tune. It was ‘ What’s the matter with kids today?’ I soon got in my stride and swirled like the best of them. I tried an air of utter nonchalance and even practised the Australian ‘could not care less’ bravado. You only had seconds to strike out for a date but with the second round and same girl one could get a rapport going that hopefully would result in a date and exchange of addresses afterwards. (Of course texting was decades off let alone sexting or incriminating selfies. Now people have amazing sex through vibrating IPhones or Tweets.)

To cut the story short and after many a visit to Vic’s and endless Prides of Erin, I did manage a date. I took her to Woy Woy which the week before had been struck by a Willy Willy or tornado. It was the best I could come up with. I could have gone to the Blue Mountains but to stare at a mountain-view sitting inside a car might be fraught with some aspects of awkwardness. I felt touring around the devastation of roofs having been blown off and boats blown out of the water could offer a distraction and something to talk about. There was also a very famous artist living in the area and I thought it might be worthwhile to drive past his house and possibly have something to talk about.

The day wasn’t a great success. The talk wasn’t flowing. I tried history and Dresden with WW2, the state of neglect of our cemeteries, ( we drove past one)nothing worked and she kept saying ” oh, that is lovely, and oh, thank you’ over and over. It was difficult. We stopped on the way back when she finally said something; “I would like a malted milkshake”, she said. I think we stopped at Hornsby after the Ford V8 blew a lot of smoke going up a very steep hill when crossing the Hawkesbury river. We sat in the milk-bar and slurped the milkshake. She was really sweet and very shy. Perhaps it was her first date as well. I did not want to ask because it might indicate a kind of unpopularity with boys. It is such a delicate time. I drove her back to Coogee where she lived. The door was opened by her dad. He was a huge tree of a man, and looked me over. She fled inside after another ‘thank you’.

It was my first date.