Posts Tagged ‘Australia’

Of earlier times and now.

November 10, 2019

While walking through my house (or should that still be our house?) I am struck how everything is still so much Helvi. They say that in grieving it is best to be busy and sustain from sitting too much. Walking around the place I sometimes just go in circles ( to while the time, achingly passing so slow)around one of the old tables that was part of the very old furniture from the farm in Holland. We lived there with our three children from 1973-76. This table through travel between continents and daily wear became a bit battered and some years ago, Helvi urged me to paint the top of this table white. At first the idea of painting an old semi-antique table at all seemed a bit questionable but Helvi never really attached much monetary value to things that we owned. It’s not as if one can take it with you, is it?

And that’s how it is. This place is the embodiment of so much that is still Helvi. Her sense of form and aesthetics would exclude any other consideration. Some tell me I should move somewhere else, but I now need time to pass. I go bowling tonight and in an effort not to fall in a heap I keep walking with Milo and shop at the slightest pretence. I haven’t as yet dealt with anything much at all, and am surrounded by flower arrangements and cards of condolences. The house is tidy and I wash up regularly, even if it is just a single cup and single plate. It is not easy.

I leave you with an early photo of us soon after arrival in Australia from Finland in 1965/66. We moved into a small apartment in Pott’s Point ,Sydney, which I had bought a year or so before. We were just married. The photo must have been taken with a self timer but it doesn’t look posed. We had such a lovely time there.

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Out of sight but not out of mind.

September 7, 2019

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The plight of the family  threatened by being deported to Shri-Lanka is now reaching its final stage. No matter the outcome, the way this has been dealt with is just symptomatic of our Government’s decline in being humane. I am talking about why it was felt necessary to remove this family to Christmas Island while their case is being dealt with in an Australian Court.  Surely they could have been given a right to remain on the mainland with friends and neighbours with whom they have been living for a number of years. They have two Australian born children and have not committed any crime.

It is just sheer bastardy by the Australian government. How can one see it any other way as inflicting the maximum of punishment on people who have done no wrong? A last minute injunction stopped the plane in mid-air from flying them back to Shri-Lanka. A Court has ruled their case will be heard in due course and it seems likely this might take several weeks.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-49519805

Seeing the case will be heard on the mainland why was it thought necessary to go to the extend in flying this family as far as possible from their friends and supporters to Christmas Island. Christmas Island is part of the Asian Continent and thousands of kilometres form the major cities of Australia. It was formerly used as an Australian detention centre for refugees but is now closed.

https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2019/sep/05/biloela-tamil-family-our-daughters-are-scared-on-christmas-island-mother-says

I always thought that the Christian way was pro humane and compassionate. Our PM Scott Morrison  is a fervent Christian who doesn’t shy away from being filmed swaying his arms and jigging about inside his Mormon church. Here is a good opportunity for Scott to practise what he preaches and allow that family to stay in Australia.

Image result for Scott morrison and his church

 

A peculiar economy and Otto.

August 19, 2019

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“In the past two weeks the proliferation of negative-yielding bonds has erupted — 30 per cent of the global, tradeable bond universe is being sold with a guaranteed loss attached to the coupon.”

I understand the basics of adding and subtracting of numbers but in that little sentence above, a whole new world is threatening our survival. We know that when it rains and we stand outside we will get wet. Perhaps our survival will be enhanced when standing in the rain. Who knows?

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-08-19/forget-inverted-yield-curve-time-for-negative-yielding-debt/11425960

We are faced with negative yields on our savings. It means that instead of earning interest from the banks on our money we might have to pay the bank in holding our money. We will be borrowing money that promises us that we not only don’t have to pay interest  over the term we borrow money, but that we actually owe less money than the original amount, at the end of the term. To put it simply; we borrow let’s say $10 000.- over ten years. We do not pay any interest on the borrowing, and at the end of the ten years we pay back less than the $10 000.-

We are getting a miniscule pension from the Australian Government as a result of having some savings which are ‘deemed’ to earn some interest. However, try as I might, at the moment long term interests is almost zero. This results in us eating up our savings. So far, no problem. You can’t take it with you to that place beyond our final journey. The difficulty is figuring out the number of years one might still have ahead and then divide the savings by the number of years that one can still breath upon ahead with some dignity, and hopefully without getting bashed-up in some ‘Aged-Care’ home by one’s own slippers or shoes.

This might entail a risk whereby an underestimation of the number of years ahead could involve a rather financial painful end. If one figures, lets say another ten years or less, and divvy the savings by ten, no problem. But what about the other way, and one languishes for another fifteen years? What then? The financial plan was spread over ten years and not fifteen.

I have a good example by my good friend Otto. Otto is now ninety. I never expected him to reach that age. He wasn’t interested in exercise or strenuous physical activities. He never kicked a ball, did summersaults or hung from crossbars. He walked slowly and deliberately, and with care. Otto liked his food but ate well, avoided fat, sugar and salty food. He was Dutch, born in Indonesia which gave him his dietary habits and a love for vegetables. He also had a rather eccentric habit of drinking lots of water mixed with some cider vinegar.

Two months ago, Otto caught a bad flu and was hospitalised. After he fought off the virus and became reasonably well, it was apparent that Otto could not live independent anymore. He owned his own place but wasn’t mobile enough to look after himself.  His younger sister who looked after him during Otto’s times of need, told the hospital she no longer could. Otto now lives in a retirement home. He had to pay $200.000.- upfront for a space and his pension is just short of $75 weekly which pays for his main keep. This money will be deducted when his place gets sold. He shares his room with another inmate.

I spoke to his brother, Roderick, and in conversation I marvelled how Otto managed to get to his 90th year despite his seemingly corpulent figure and his dislike for any physical activity. His answer left me somewhat flummoxed. ‘ Yes, Gerard, Roderick said;” “but he never married like we all did’! ‘We brought up children,  had a marriage, a wife and all, and Otto never had that kind of worry.’ No wonder Otto lived so long. he seemed to imply!

Anyway, that’s how it goes, does it not? My worry is not the future for our grandchildren of negative monetary returns, but a world with a change of climate making the world uninhabitable.

That would be a much worse outcome.

The conservative fear of the implications of ‘socialism’.

August 10, 2019

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American Conservative Union chair, Matt Schlapp was featured on the ABC ‘The Drum’. He certainly knew how to articulate his points of view, especially those held on his hero Donald Trump and in general his Republican Party. The arguments put against him by fellow participants on this program did come across somewhat paltry and weak. It just struck me that he came well prepared and seemingly knew all the answers. He said he was open to all points of view but vehemently opposed anything to do or associated with the idea of ‘Social’. I have noticed before that the word ‘social’ seems to bring out a kind of fear of a murderous Stalinist communism in some people. Mr. Schlapp and I believe his wife, Mercedes, are both of the firm belief that only Trump and his Party will bring happiness back again to the people of America.  His final words on the program was that when things are left to free market forces, problems will resolve themselves for the good of America if not mankind as well.

In Australia we have a move that seems to try and wedge people against China with some politicians barracking for the US to be allowed to install medium range missiles on Australian soil. The implication was that our choice in any conflict anywhere, ought to always be wedded to whatever the US might want to do.

We cannot change our geographical situation and are much closer to the Asian world than the West. Indonesia is rapidly growing and holds almost 300 million people which all live closer to Darwin than Darwin is to our biggest cities in Australia. With the present trade war between China with 1400 million people and the US with 325 million people, I doubt that China’s economic might will knuckle down before the diminishing US economy. Would it not make much more sense to try and stay friends with China? They are a growing nation with its own unique culture and history. But again, in Australia too, we seem to still have a fear of the ‘Social’ ideology. You know’ sharing and caring’ for people less well off, or less fortunate. I just don’t like that  we are being wedged towards choosing one against the other. We ought to stay friends with all.

With Helvi, things are improving. The infection in het left arm has healed and the plaster in her right arm should come off with a week or two. It will involve a lot of physiotherapy for another 6 months or so. We are both in need of a good break and are waiting for a period without appointments or chemo. It is amazing how we managed to get through it all which is more due to Helvi’s Finnish ‘Sisu’ than my own rather cranky demeanor.

 

Forget me not.

July 25, 2019

IMG_0226 Forget me not

Another little flower that has just arrived over the last few days is the ‘Forget me not’. Perhaps, through all the events over the last 4 weeks I just ignored everything but this little flower is not to be ignored, hence its name. It’s funny how a flower as little as this one can still command attention even when surrounded by so much  activities as has been the case since Helvi’s fall. I found time to take her photo, even when not in focus, still it’s splendour is there to see.

Helvi tells me that this one comes around every year and in the same pot. The drought is now taking its toll, and farmers are now being counselled and billions are now taken from somewhere to help them through. Some are arguing that traditional farming is just not viable inland of Australia. Not enough rain and pumping water from elsewhere is not cost effective.

Our Prime minister is promising to bring suicide in Australia back to zero. A lofty promise, and one could advice him to  start at the prevention of that by looking at the refugees in Manus and Nauru, if he is to be taken serious. I don’t really want to wander off in the political arena but sometimes I get drawn to making certain conclusions bordering on the political. It is foolish of me. I know.

It is better to stick to the ‘forget-me-not.

Schizophrenia; Care or jail-time?

June 11, 2019

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Left to Right; Frank and Gerard about 1942!

Last night’s 4 Corners program on the ABC featured the story of a young man who after many years of abhorrent behaviour ended up killing 6 people. It traced his days as a young boy who went through school whereby according to the friends and teachers he already showed up as a boy who was different, with strange behaviours who was increasingly becoming more and more erratic and dangerous. At 14 years of age the school went into lock-down as he had taken detonators to school. He gave as reason;  to blow up the school and get even with his fellow students for picking on him.

https://www.abc.net.au/4corners/time-bomb/11196092

James Gargasoulas was a troubled young man. The ABC decided to spend seven months on the story in order to point out that the tragedy not only could have been, but should have been avoided. It was clear that his spree of crime and violence was well known to the police and for some years. Nothing was done about him and one wonders why when the signs were so overwhelming and his behaviour so unpredictable that nothing was done to try and find out why his behaviour was so unpredictable. Why did it not get picked up that his mental state was in need of serious diagnoses and given some kind of mental examination and care? The only thing sure was the continuation and repeat of his unpredictable behaviour. He was diagnosed with Schizophrenia but none-the- less sent to life-time jail. He killed 6 people. It seems that the only place for mentally ill people who commit violence in Australia is jail.

This whole episode brought back the story of my own brother, Frank. He too was unpredictable and given to bouts of rage and violence. His behaviour too started well before adulthood. He too stood out and was different. His behaviour became unmanageable for my parents and at one stage after have stabbed one of my brothers with scissors was taken in and put in a mental hospital. This was back around 1958 or so, when Frank was just 19, and I was one year younger. His stay in that mental institution was something out of the middle ages or Bedlam. He would be wrapped in wet blankets to try and subdue him! Wardens would walk around with keys dangling from belts. I am just regaling memories of a period when I too was still a young man.

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(Right) My dear brother Frank in Holland, a few month before he passed away.

It was a horrible situation.  Our family suffered badly during that period. There was (as so often) a Royal Commission in the affairs of that Mental Hospital, Callan Park, but nothing improved. I am not sure if mental health has improved in the intervening decades! I doubt it. The episode of James  Gargasoulas is proof that mentally ill people remain undiagnosed and not given due care, no matter what happens, and what terrible deeds result from their unpredictable nature due to that illness.

At one stage my brother Frank jumped from a bridge and badly mangled his foot. After many years of bureaucratic battles my parents managed to get him back to Holland where conditions for mentally sick people already then were much better. For the rest of his life he was given good care and was no danger to others or himself. He spent a lifetime in a care institution where he would be managed  and looked after as well as possible. He would be given good care for his physical well being. He had an income for his cigarettes, clothes, or whatever he wanted. He had his own room with TV and suitable mobility equipment towards his latter years. He died almost two years ago aged 79. Below is a photo taken a few moths before he passed away. His life was not wonderful but he was given good care.

Frank could easily have ended up like the poor boy from Coober Pedy, James Gargasoulas now in jail. He killed six innocent people. It could have been avoided!

The dreaded mid-night knock on the door.

June 7, 2019

Image result for Midnight knock on the Door by the Gestapo

https://www.sbs.com.au/yourlanguage/turkish/en/audiotrack/sbs-turkish-news-25

Australia and its secrecy laws are now acted upon without regards for the freedom of its citizens.  The raids by the Australian Federal Police on the private home of a Journalist, Annika Smethurst, and a day later in the offices of our National Broadcaster, the ABC, ought to set off the alarms for those that believe in the freedom of the press to report truthfully, responsibly and without fear or favour. … its responsibility to those who elect and have faith in the government.

The raids by the AFP on the newsmedia in Australia have been reported worldwide. Australia is now looked upon with aghast and consternation, a country where anything goes to install fear by intimidation. Australia is the only country in the Western world without a Bill of Rights. This was pointed out as a possible reason why Australia has so willingly accepted and is still going through some very dark places. The Governments have seen fit over a number of years to pass laws that enable them to virtually do anything to shut down any criticisms of its actions. They do this by including almost anything the Government wishes to obtain or achieve as  being ‘secret’, and make them by law, excluded from thorough scrutiny. This might be why the exclusion of A Bill of Rights might well serve Governments very well and under that exclusion, gets a handy protection from nosy scrutiny. It’s strange how we ended up being the only country without a Bill of Rights!

Michael Kirby, a prominent judge, has questioned why Australia is so reluctant to have a Bill of Rights. Have a look at this.https://www.sbs.com.au/news/a-lot-of-wrongs-to-repair-justice-michael-kirby-calls-for-national-bill-of-rights_2

Look at our reluctance to accept equal marriage laws, the jailing of refugees who have done no wrong. Then, at earlier times, the horrible ‘White Australia Policy’ banning coloureds from migrating to Australia, the treatment of our indigenous Australians. The ‘Children over-board’ lies. The naming of all crimes in Melbourne invariably blamed on ‘Sudanese gangs’,and the calling of refugees on Nauru and Manus, rapists, killers and wife murderers.

Allegedly, Australia has been getting away with murderous behaviour by its soldiers in Afghanistan. This is being touted as the possible reason for the raids on the ABC offices by the AFP. The Government doesn’t want a light shone on any unwanted or unsavoury consequences of their chosen actions during that stupid war. This Government wants to get at the ‘whistle blowers’ who most often are the ones to dig around for truth. All journalists work with whistle blowers whose job it is to get to the bottom of dirty deeds and deals. As it stands now, they could end up being charged with breeching secrecy laws and jailed. This is scary stuff.

We have to be vigilant.

Australia, right now is in a dark place. We need the lights on, not off.

A matter of contrast.

May 28, 2019

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An Irish family who have lived and worked in Australia for over ten years now faces deportation because their 4 year old son has a disability which the government deems to be too much of a ‘burden.’ Unbelievable, and how does Australia keep getting away with these deplorable cruel acts? https://www.sbs.com.au/news/this-irish-family-is-facing-deportation-because-of-their-son-s-cystic-fibrosis

If it wasn’t for our retreat into our garden with daily sun and nightly stars we would have left this barren and morally depleted country years ago. To be honest it’s not the country’s fault really, and perhaps the idealisation of perceived better places elsewhere on this earth might be totally wrong. I happen to read up on Iceland and was astonished to read they have a law that prohibits women earning less than men. They also do not have an army and at one stage had a government with women only. They also jailed corrupt banking moguls. Those sort of facts about a country gladden the heart, don’t they?

In fact, we did leave many years ago and lived with our three children back in Holland for just over three years. That first summer was glorious with everlasting evenings. The sun did not go down till 10pm and woke us up at 5am. We bought bicycles for all of us and rode around without a worry with weeping willows bowing to the wind and in our faces. We made the move back to Australia because my family were living there and I was missing my brothers and sister. We also had Whitlam,  Bob Hawke and Paul Keating as Prime ministers who moved Australia into the twentieth century.

But, let me just look at the positive. A few days ago I happen to take the above photo. As I walked out of the door I noticed this isolated daisy having risen from the garden during the night. I took out my iPhone and took this picture. Isn’t it lovely? A shy golden nugget daisy nestling against the coarse bark of the Manchurian pear tree. They seem symbiotic. The softness and colour of the flower gives sustenance and beauty to the coarse barked tree which in return gives shelter and support to the daisy.  The flower is raising its head in gratitude to the tree and the trunk seems to answer with ‘no worries’, mate.

If you look carefully at the picture you might see a cane basket at the back of the flower. It was used as a laundry basket for decades but was past it’s use and started to break. Helvi put it in the garden and filled it with leaves and some soil. No doubt the basket will be reclaimed by the garden in time and more daisies will come up. It is a give and take, isn’t?

 

The Virginia Creeper will just have to sustain us now.

May 19, 2019

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Virginia creeper.

All our communal town-houses were originally planted with gardens which included the Virginia-Creeper shown in the above photo. This creeper grows very fast, mainly at night when everyone is sound asleep or if not sleeping, at least inside their dormitories. Originally, our townhouses had a united garden which included the Virginia Creeper. Sadly though, all Virginia creepers were taken out with the excuse that they are known to be destructive. A falsehood was spread that those fast growing climbers would by assaulting and climbing over everything, strangle brick walls and block our much revered and beloved guttering. We, against all advice and scorn of neighbours, held onto our Virginia for dear life, and even if it succeeds in strangling us and our town-house, so be it. It is amazing how gardening is so often seen as OK or mere tolerable as long as it doesn’t take over or threatens our own homes and ‘investment’ as one of our neighbours once uttered.

With last night’s defeat in Australia of the Labor Party to the Liberals against all odds, and the best of News Polls, and predictions, this contemplation of the Virginia-creeper might just have to sustain us for the near future. The near future is not to be taken in vain or too lightly. Perhaps a better phrase might be ‘our twilight years’ as both of us are nearing the eighties and for some things, time is becoming more of the essence. It would have been so nice to  have witnessed an Australia finally coming of an age where change for the better, would override the endless ennui of more of the same. How much longer can we look forward each morning to an Australia where Taxation cuts, Border Controls, sticking to contemplating the past, and Queen Victorian Gun boat diplomacy has to sustain us?

Just think how it now must feel to have for another three years a Scott Morrison as Prime Minister. A man who has on numerous occasions highlighted his belief in Christian faith but at the same time was almost manically keen on locking up for indefinite detention thousands of people who have done no wrong except for trying to escape from wars and bloodshed and look for a safe refuge in Australia. I wonder how those refugees on Manus and Nauru, now well into their sixth year of detention, are feeling today, hearing how their tormenter has been chosen as leader of Australia for another three years?

So much hope was invested in a change of leadership that would finally allow Australia to progress to a more just and fairer society. A society that would be leading in climate change and care for the environment. Today is a day where we celebrate the standing still of Australia. When will we ever learn, that change ought to be embraced even if change might at times fail? It is always better to have tried than not at all. Why is Australia often celebrating the fondness for looking back and clinging to the past? My parents who came here from Holland in 1956 would not be proud today of Australia. They wanted a better future for their children. My wife,  from a very progressive Finland and I with Dutch genes, are almost tempted to book a return to Holland.

We don’t have to look at Holland or Finland for examples of progressive countries. Just look a bit to the side and look to New Zealand. They have a leader that seems to thrive on progress, especially on a social level. Why don’t we look to our Eastern neighbours instead of our much beloved Western US, a nation that is being headed by a morally bereft President man heading his country knee-deep in a moral morass?

It has been New Zealand who offered  several times to take the refugees from Nauru and Manus. Our Australian Prime Minister with his Christian Faith held high on Pharisees  sullied sleeve, heartlessly refused each time. We will just go outside and look at our Virginia creeper. It will have to sustain us till the next time!

My poor country, Australia.

The earnestness of an anti electric-car Prime Minister.

April 22, 2019
The Dementia                               Village

 

With the compulsory voting by punishment in Australia, it forces people to vote who haven’t got a clue. Or, if they possess any clues, they are most likely to have been spouted by the commercial world, especially the Rupert Murdoch world of inanities and plastic bubbles rolling around the sun-baked deserts of our suburban wastelands. You know how it goes; insincere policies are being uttered with as much sincerity as the shifty politicians can muster, this is of course then followed by an earnestness that can only result in becoming so boring that even  good sleep can’t make better or give relief to, it stifles all. We all know where the earnestness of politicians can lead to.

With Easter almost behind us, I can’t wait for normalcy to return, and with that a well-earned rest from chocolate bunnies and the proliferation of  multi-coloured aluminium foil wrapped chocolate eggs, row upon rows, and the kids are getting fatter. I wonder if the art of hand painting of real eggs is still being practiced? When I grew up our parents encouraged the colour-dyeing of real  eggs and hand painting them afterwards. I believe that the people from Eastern European countries were masters of that art.

We are still rummaging through the political scene that no doubt will return tomorrow together with the opening of all sorts of Royal Commissions of Enquiries with scandal after scandal renting the autumnal sky. The latest is the scheme of ‘water buy-backs’ where someone in the government has made a quick buck out of denying drought stricken farmers their entitlement to water that in rapid driven rivers flow past their properties. Farmer’s tear stained wives regaling on TV, husbands’ decisions to sell up the farm. Oh, this Australia ‘the best country in the world.’ We all know that Royal Commissions are guarantees for  non-action.

And then we have a Prime Minister warning us of the disasters to befall us if anyone would be as foolish and progressive as to buy an electric car. He said; ‘It will be the end of our Aussie week-end.’ ‘We will not drive our ute anymore and the price of electricity will go sky-high, he said.’ And to think we left Holland where the Government will not allow new petrol and diesel driven cars to be sold after 2030. In Norway fifty % of cars are now electric and China is starting up world’s biggest electric car manufacturers.

As for Helvi and I with those verging on their final years, getting concerned about ‘Aged-Care’, let me leave you with how CARE for the elderly is being tackled in Holland.

The Dementia Village

If I ever end up with severe dementia I hope I am fortunate enough to live in a village like this.