Posts Tagged ‘Australia’

The compulsion to vote or the freedom not to?

July 21, 2020

Civic Culture Coalition: Entertainment Industry-Backed ...

On my morning’s coffee, tête-à-têtes (some with masks) with friends at Bowral Cricket Stumps cafe I was surprised to hear that many thought the law on compulsory voting was normal and mainly world-wide. I pointed out that the list of countries with compulsory voting on punishment made Australia mixed with some strange company.

Here a list of countries with compulsory voting enforceable by punishment.

Australia, Argentina, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, Lichtenstein, Luxembourg, Nauru, NORTH KOREA, Samoa, Singapore, Uruguay.

The rest of he world is free to vote or not. Some have compulsory voting but not enforced s a Egypt, Albania, Turkey, Thailand, Mexico.

While one of the freedoms of democracy is that we can eat and drink what we like, including copious Cokes, and kilos of sugar, fat, apples and much more. We have total freedom to take or leave it. We also have freedom of speech, press and so much more again. We are loaded with freedoms. Yet it strikes me as odd that we do not have that freedom when it comes to voting. We are not free not to vote.  Most of the world’s democratic countries leave voting to, hopefully a well informed population. America does not have compulsory voting , they have a ‘right’ to vote but also the freedom not to vote. They also have a ‘right’ to bear arms but no one is forced to use those arms. ( sometimes it seem like it with 40 000 killed annually by this ‘right’.)

Disgruntled Voter (@jasondulak) | Twitter

An argument against voluntary voting is that it makes people politically lazy and uninterested. That does not bear out either.

Here copied from ‘The Advocate’. During the (second) last federal election.

“New polling by Essential absolutely belled the cat on this phenomenon.

It asked respondents if they knew who the federal treasurer was, without looking it up.

More than one third (36 per cent) did not know it was Scott Morrison.

Thirteen per cent thought it was ex-treasurer Joe Hockey, 3 per cent thought it was Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen and 20 per cent said they did not know.

With no disrespect to the 36 per cent, why should they be forced to the polling booth if they don’t  take enough interest to know who holds the second most important role in the government?”

I was surprised that at my café group most thought that compulsory voting was normal and all over the world, and fiercely opposed the idea that it perhaps ought to be choice. Patriotic feathers were ruffled. When asked if I thought it essential to have compulsory voting I said I did not believe it. My backgrounds and that of my dearest late Helvi, ( The Netherlands and Finland) are from very staunch democratic and liberal countries. We grew up with the freedom to vote or not.

To punish people for not voting strikes me as odd.

Of course, a disclaimer; I vote with passion at every possible election. Gerard.

 

Of isolating and the Smart TV

May 2, 2020

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Etching by G. Oosterman

The longer our self isolating is going on the more the question arises; what about the victims of this isolating? In my case, I find it reasonably alright as I have rarely been much of a social roustabout, never really learned the skills on attracting much of an audience at social gatherings. I suppose also, that much depends on an audience as well.

At my indoor bowling adventure the social intercourse that I was hoping for did not come to much fruition. A peculiar and firmly ingrained habit of that sport seems to be that even though women and men bowled together, in between the bowling while having a cup of tea, the men and women strictly did their sipping at separate tables.

On the other side of the scales, the latest attempt at meeting people I was invited and met an extraordinary group of people who one feels totally at ease with. Both men and women embrace the sipping in total unison. We sip different beverages to the bowlers and enjoy coffees instead of tea, but I don’t think it is just the difference in the liquid. On second thoughts, perhaps there is a tie that links the differences.

Going back to 1956 when my family arrived in Australia we noticed that coffee drinking was mainly the domain of the reffos. Reffo was the name given to European refugees known for the same obnoxious xenophobic stupidity as now falling on the Iranians and other Middle Eastern refugees’ ears. Funny enough they too seem to prefer coffee. But, I am drifting off subject. In those early days my mum had to travel to Sydney by train to get ‘real’ coffee in the form of beans. The brave Australian born and bred thought coffee always came in powder form and each cup had 43 beans. So, what is your problem they used to tell my mum who kept insisting that coffee has to be freshly brewed from ground coffee beans.

Tea drinking is a British institution. The Queen would not dream of ever be seen drinking a latte. Can you imagine the horror of the British if it became known? A filthy European habit will never do in between the Beefeaters.  Now, is the link between the bowling club people the reason for the separation of the sexes caused by their ingrained tea habit? Is my new found group of the most friendly egalitarian people and their open ended welcome caused by the Euro linked latte? The link might be a trifle tenuous, some might even thing tedious!

Who knows?

As for my opening line of ‘Isolating and the Smart TV. It is difficult, and yesterday I did not talk to a human being. However, the good news is that I managed to get my Smart TV working and…more than that. On the SBS ‘on demand’ classic movie channel I discovered Wim Wenders’ ‘Wings of Desire’, a black and white masterpiece of a movie Helvi and I watched years ago.

 

What a find and there are a lot more good movies to watch. Of course, meeting up with friends and share the latte will also happen again and there is a lot to look forward to.

Gerard

Keep Clinging to the Wreckage.

March 26, 2020

https://assets.boxdice.com.au/duncan_hill_property/listings/2792/14d201c6.jpg?crop=400x250

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FOR SALE

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Lifestyle Advantages Galore!

 

Amazing how much has happened in just a week. We in Australia now have a virtual lockdown in the effort to try and contain this Corona virus to manageable levels. All sorts of laws have been passed whereby we are lucky to still be allowed to marry or bury. Funerals no more than ten people are allowed not including the deceased and in marriage, just the couple, the celebrant and two witnesses.

I heard on the grape-vine, that this Government is now thinking of strongly recommending newly wed couples to not consummate their conjugal forays or coupling until the end of May or to each do it separated by a one and a half metre space, (with recommended mechanical aids available at hardware shops), with thorough hand cleansing afterwards.  They are tough measures, this Government understands, but absolutely necessary if we want to get on top of this pandemic. Already there are rumours for the long (lost) married to be recommended, to sleep in separate beds and forego sex, (as if that would be so difficult.) with all the gloomy attention on the media on Corona virus and the number of deaths, night and day. Hardly an aphrodisiac.

Of course, none of the above, bar the possibility of a  inopportune funeral, apply to me. I have space all around me and all day. I sometimes startle myself with a cough or a sneeze and look around if it was a stranger who has entered my house. As for the  conjugal joys, I have just myself now, but I was pleasantly surprised to discover that a very nice female friend offered to stay with me during the planned cataract operation. Of course, nothing inappropriate is allured at nor to happen. Still, it is nice to think it.

I was phoned up last week by the hospital whereby they wanted to know who would pick me up from the hospital and if I had someone staying overnight in case the coming down with the anaesthetic would play up. I am not sure what would be playing up! However, all category three medical procedures including cataracts, are now cancelled as the masks and other protective equipment used is needed for the victims of this virus. This applies to both public and private hospitals.

As if it can’t get any worse. The second buyer of my place in Bowral pulled out the day after it was announced that no real estate auctions or open in-house inspections will be allowed anymore. So, now the agents ( Duncan Hill) are putting it up for sale again and for those interested, here it is. Of course, I am still moving to my place in Mittagong and very happily so!

https://duncanhill.com.au/listing-detail?listing_id=25868

A memoir in progress( Farm house)

February 13, 2020

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Helvi on a  French terrace.

After numerous inspections and having driven both the French and the English Estate agents around the bend with our ceaseless requests to see even more farms, we ran out of steam and decided to return to Australia. We drove the ;leased Citroen back to Marseille airport and, after the obligatory custom check-outs with many s’il vous plaits to see our passports, we ‘hopped’ on the plane, totally Frenched out. Why do we not walk onto the plane, why is it hopping? We have never hopped at all, let alone onto a plane. Perhaps it is a deliberate ploy by the large multinational airline companies to make light of the sheer torture of long flights. You can just see the advertising moguls at board meetings trying to get a handle on making flying  joyful again. Someone uttered; ‘ the hopping kangaroo.’ worked well, didn’t it? And so it was that the ‘hopping on board’ was coined. A eureka moment for the flight industry. The whole world now uses the term and one can imagine the hopping of tens of thousands of cheerful air travellers hopping about at international airports all over the world, and at any given time.

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Searching for a French farm.

Of course, coming back and land at Mascot, Sydney, and then the dreary ride to the city along the notoriously ugly Botany Road with its peppering of large advertising hoardings, doesn’t make for much of a hopping back home. I clearly remember an enormous sign, all in a gaudy yellow, advertising a medication to cure sexual dysfunction. How anyone can get enthusiastic about their levels of tumescence after twenty one hours on a plane escaped us entirely. We badly needed our own very soft and kind mattress giving us a twenty-four hour uninterrupted deep sleep. But, before any thoughts of a good sleep we had the melancholic task of emptying our luggage, chuck our underwear and socks in the washing machine.

At a previous trip to Holland and France we decided to follow the advice of a seasoned traveller who had written books about travel. He had travelled the world just carrying overhead luggage, stored on board above the seat. He suggested it could easily be done by simply buying a shirt or singlet if such a need came about. I had no trouble with that. My wife was a bit reluctant at first but nevertheless followed suit.

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Carcassonne.

( to be continued.)

 

French Farmhouse checking.

February 6, 2020

The ladder to the loft.

IMG_0421 French farm house checking

The ladder to the loft.

 

I can still see the ladders leading to the lofts of old farm-houses in the South of France. Anyone who has ever been to France might know and acknowledge the lure of old farmhouses. They were being advertised over the world and in the eighties and nineties, it wasn’t unusual to meet people that in conversation around the fondue set, would casually drop, ‘we have bought an old French farmhouse, and we are going there each year now for our holiday’. ‘We are getting a bit tired of holidays at Coffs’s Harbour and its Big Banana!

Old farmhouses with lofts are littered over the whole of the French country like confetti at nuptials. Mouth-watering ancient villages usually have a crop of those old places on cobble stoned lane ways where horses and cladded hooves have carved through the centuries little gutters which during gentle rains directs its water to a bubbling stream. The picture perfect would be the local church.

Of course, those old farmhouses were often riddled with woodworm hence the first task was to inspect the lofts and attics. In modern Australia most houses have internal man-holes to clamber through into the roof space. French farm- houses had access through a little door outside at the very top just below the pitch of the roof.

After several visits to France and numerous clambering on top of ladders inspecting lofts we were so badly infected with French farm-houses we could only think of buying one. Talk about getting a bean in the bonnet!

You know when life has reached a stage when a total change might just give a much needed and restorative impetus to keep plodding and have a go at a fresh start, try something a bit different. There is a term for it that lingers forever once you have absorbed the meaning. Is it called ‘mid-life crisis? The year of the sixty fifth birthday would soon be nigh and with that ‘The Senior Card’ with getting old, so often the banana skin on the doorsteps of the retired.

Of course, change involves risks but so does not doing anything. The risk of middle age ennui and bitter regrets of things we wanted to do but never did, nor tried. What can be more exciting than trying to live in another country? We could not think of a more glorious way of warding off retirement than making this change and move to France and learn the Franco lingo as an extra bonus.

We had already tasted the magic of rural France, the poetry of the potted geraniums on ancient window sills, the endless lanes of plane trees winding around the grape vines of the coming vintage, and the village squares all alive with men playing boule with women around the water-wells gossiping about the newly born or the recently departed.

France is contagious like that, and as mentioned previously, we knew a few couples already who had taken this brave step, and had escaped the dreariness of routine with those predictable daily habits. Marital whiplash with boring squabbles are often relieved by making changes well before the onset of mindless routine with silent evenings before the TV with morbid partner and Dr Phil.

 

(A work in progress.)

 

After we decided to go to France, my wife suggested to stay calm and not rush hastily into something we might regret. She reminded me that I often questioned the wisdom of my parents migrating to Australia from The Netherlands back in 1956. “Do you really want to give up on all your friends and acquaintances made through the years? We are living in quite a lively inner city suburb, within walking distance of so many amenities, shops, libraries, a stately Court-House and with a handy police station for extra measure”. We were living in cosmopolitan Balmain at the time of the birth of footpath dining and cafes.

All that was true. I tended to go on a bit about our first few years after arrival In Australia during the mid-fifties. We, after a short stint in the Nissan-hut Migrant camp, which was a horror on its own after the joy of a five week cruise on the boat between Holland and Sydney ended up living in an outer suburb of Sydney.,

We had moved to Balmain when the apartment in Pott’s Point became too small with the birth of our two daughters, Susanna in 1968 and Natasha in 1970.

We already tried moving back to Europe during a stint as an artist between 1973-1976, but after a while the lure of my large family of brothers and sister with their spouses and children, the Australian bush, and above all, to have the freedom of having rusted corrugated iron roofs and weedy footpaths, the chaotic or total lack of town planning attracted me back a again. Those Fatal Shores by Robert Hughes, spring to mind.

To be followed!

 

 

The incorrigible Jack.

January 21, 2020

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Milo.

You can tell that the above Jack Russell dog is one of the most intelligent breeds of mammals around. This particular one is our dog Milo, so that explains my prejudice, but just have a good look at him. He exudes wisdom and a certain clear-sightedness of the world that he, together with billons of other creatures, shares with lesser mammals, the human variety. It has been known for a long time by some scientists the truth that the humans are now belonging to an inferior placenta mammal whose lack of intelligence made them introduce bows and arrows, nuclear bombs and endless wars with an innate desire to kill their own species. Some of those mammals belong to a special sub-species named poli-tic-ions, some of whom eat lumps of coal, are now busy resisting climate change of which most normal intelligent mammals are now acutely aware of and indeed have been trying to point the verity of climate change to the less intelligence endowed mammals for years…

The recent bushfires in Australia are responsible that over a billion animals have now perished. The cause of those fires are now well known to have been part of ignoring what the world of the more advanced mammals (phylum chordata) have been pointing out to the lower human mammals for years. Thus on a worldview, human mammals are just shown to be much lower on the evolutionary scale than the much more evolved mammals such as the koala, the kangaroo and of course the Jack Russell. Humans are not fundamentally different from mammals according to an evolutionary worldview, but certainly less evolved…

“The world’s species and habitats are under more severe pressure than at any time in human history. Over 10,000 tree species are threatened with extinction, as are almost 8,000 species of bird, mammal, reptile, amphibian and fish. The number one contributor to this alarming state of affairs is habitat loss, all of it driven by human activities, but the problem is compounded by unsustainable exploitation in all its forms. This collective mismanagement of our planet’s resources is leading to widespread declines in biodiversity and driving increasing numbers of species to the brink.”

https://www.fauna-flora.org/approaches/species-and-habitats

 

This is what the  human mammal is thriving for unless it changes course!

This morning while having a coffee with friends I took this photo of Milo and his girlfriend. You can tell they are a good couple. Milo is now almost sixteen years and Helvi and I used to wager who would go first. Sadly, Helvi did, and my morning coffees at the Bradman cricket Café named suitably ‘The Stumps’ are a real treat with good friends and they help to get used to the new situation of my quiet house, silent mornings and single plate at the sink.

 

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Milo and girlfriend. They are both great companions.

Herrings

January 7, 2020

IMG_0377 Herrings from Scandinavia

Please consider during these difficult times of  smoke and fire, brimstones and calamitous weather conditions, the eating of a simple herring. I know that lots of people’s lives have been upset and thrown about because of those raging fires and acrid smoke. Things are now quiet again and in some parts of Australia even a few drops of water have been recorded; time to repose and regain our momentum for the ongoing battle we might call ‘life’.

This is where the herring comes onto its own giving us the sustenance and tools to struggle on. Of course, coming from Holland I was practically brought up on a bicycle and fed daily herrings. My father told me when I was still very young (and during a stormy night) that I was born a week or two before my mother was due to eject me. It was, he told conspiratorially, that a fish bone stuck in my mother’s throat that brought on a coughing fit, et voila, there I was born of my mother’s gluttonous herring eating and I already screaming  for one myself. The doctor smacked my mother instead of me.

There are some interesting facts about herrings. Herrings generally spawn in shallows and coastal waters where they lay in levels on top of each other, millions of them. The female herring lays up to 70 000 eggs. So, herring experts inform us, which if it wasn’t for humans to catch and eat the herring and left to breed uninterrupted, they would within a short time and according to Buffon’s  calculations, produce a volume of fish twenty times the size of the earth. It would be easy to understand that that sort of volume would also mean the end of the herring mating and cavorting in the shallows. They would suffer their own demise by those tumultuous watery sexual congress without humans eating them.( post coitus)

Image result for The Dutch herring boats

Even so, in the past there have been such large shoals of herrings and so easily caught that entire fisheries were threatened by closure because of the sheer catastrophic glut of herrings. This is also why we should not forego eating herrings, especially now during stress and deep-seated gloom. A herring lightens the mood and give us the spring back in out steps. Try it, please.

The expert fishing trawlers and their skippers knew, born of legend and evening tavern talk, when the shoals of herrings were running.  They knew by the glow of their shimmering bodies and the fact they swim in strict wedge shaped formations with a pulsating glow skywards reflecting the sun falling at a certain angle. The fishermen, all peaked capped and storm coat wearing threw out their nets and lowered their sails.

Of course we don’t truly know what a herring feels. They communicate not like we do but no doubt been told that we eat them. Not a nice thing to contemplate when as young herring in puberty and growing, looking forward to an honest mating in the shallows of the Dogger Bank…only to be eaten afterwards!  When life has fled, the herring begins to glow and that’s also a reason why people buy them. They hold a fascination that other fish, like the mackerel or flat-head species don’t have.

Image result for The Dutch herring boats

Queuing for herrings in The Netherlands.

A pity that one cannot buy a fresh herring here in the southern hemisphere. The bottled or vacuum packet ones are  not the same but I intend to go to Holland (The Netherlands now, sorry)soon to catch up.

You just wait and see!

Some of this information came from ‘The rings of Saturn’ by W.G. Sebald.

 

The Bushfires keep on burning.

December 18, 2019

 

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Bushfire smoke hiding the sun. 2.30pm on a ‘sunny day’.

The above photo shows how bad the smoke haze can be. The sun has trouble cutting through the smoke. I wonder now many millions of tons of greenhouse gases including carbon dioxide, those fires are adding to the atmosphere? How much wildlife is being lost. Koalas, kangaroos?

Yesterday, Australia recorded its hottest overall day ever.

Over three million ha of bushland has been destroyed by fire so far. Near us a fire of over 150 000 ha is burning out of control threatening a power station and a coal mine.

 

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-12-18/australia-heatwave-registers-new-hottest-day-on-record-bom-says/11810632

Our Prime minister is on holiday in Hawaii. No one would want to deny the PM a holiday but right now he should be here and watch the heatwave coming over the next few days. The bushfires have linked up and now form a front of almost 3000kms.

 

our PM, Scott Morrison, (Scomo) soaking up a pleasant sun in Hawaii. Not a care in the world.

 

Photo: Scott Morrison has faced online criticism over a holiday, speculated to be in Hawaii. (AAP: Mick Tsikas)
In my state of NSW there are over a hundred fires burning and many of them are out of control.
At 5:30pm there are 100 bush & grass fires burning, 54 uncontained. Gospers Mountain remains at Emergency Warning. Dangerous conditions are forecast for tomorrow. With school holidays starting check your travel plans &current fire conditions along your route and your destination. pic.twitter.com/hb7LHuC
EMERGENCY WARNING – Gospers Mtn (Lithgow & Hawkesbury LGA) Fire increasing Dargan & Clarence area. Fire in Valley View Rd, crossed Chifley Rd. If you’re in Dargan & Clarence area, it’s too late to leave. Seek shelter. Protect yourself from heat of fire. #nswrfs #nswfires #alert pic.twitter.com/BkVC1b6…
Twitter · 2 hours ago
Are you ready for the heat in NSW? The next three days will see very hot temps in most of the state. Have a plan to Beat the Heat: ow.ly/vcyK50xCNEe Smoke will combine with the heat in some areas, so know how to also cope with the smoke: www.health.nsw.gov.au/e… pic.twitter.com/QeARU44…
Twitter · 2 hours ago

The short stay in a Cabin.

December 3, 2019

IMG_4523gerard

Me on the veranda.

Last week my brother, his wife and I decided to take a few days off and return to a camping spot we all visited many years ago. We all had young families and the Oosterman clan all lived in the inner Sydney suburb of Balmain. They were the years often considered to be the best years. I often thought that the best years are right now and at the present. Of late, that view is on rocky grounds. Together but now not together. Never. I miss Helvi.

The area that we so often camped at, first in tents, and as we grew older and perhaps more affluent, we camped in caravans with annexes but still stuck to open fires and rough wine in those 4 litres plastic bladders that Australia became world famous for. Such a ground-breaking invention! The area is still tree bound but with many semi-permanent caravans with fibro sheeted annexes a bit uglier with the beauty of trees still managing a modest win. But for how long?  It seems some retired and perhaps increasingly impoverishing elderlies try and live permanently in those vans, no doubt making their meagre pension stretch a bit further. The area is about 200km south of Sydney on the coast. Pounding waves and miles of semi-deserted beaches are the main lure for many campers.

After arrival and making ourselves comfortable I noticed that my sleeping quarter was in a tiny room just able to hold a bunk bed with a space of about 40cm between bed and window. The room had a low ceiling but even so this bunk bed’s design had a layer of three beds stacked above each other with perhaps about 50 cm between them. The design was obviously made with punishing the inhabitants of the bed because to limit the entree into the bed was a FIXED steel ladder in between the foot and the head of the bed limiting access and egress.  I immediately decided to try and visualise getting into the bed and out of the bed, without the need to call an ambulance or an Emergency Rescue Van with bolt cutters.

My brother and his wife had the comfort of a double bed and soft matrass, so that was satisfactory. The cabin also had a good stove, fridge and TV and…air-con to boot. The best part was the large veranda outside which gave us a view of the ocean, the parakeets, parrots and lorikeets with the hopping Kangaroos as a bonus. But as the evening announced itself and I had, as a pre-caution for the looming bunk bed’s trial, had a few glasses of Shiraz. One has to visualise that the entrance to the middle bunk and top bunk was totally out of the question. One would have to be a tiny Houdini and I am, even shrunk in my elderly personage, still 6 ft tall and stiffly lanky. So, the bunk bed at the near floor level was the only choice. The steel ladder in the middle was fixed which left me an opening of about 40 x50cm to get in.

I survived but had an uncomfortable couple of nights. My brother and his wife on the other hand looked remarkably refreshed each morning. All in all it was a good break and I enjoyed it but was very happy to jump in my own bed the third night.

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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