Posts Tagged ‘Australia’

Are our lives driven by toilet paper?

June 29, 2021

IMG_2064knitting

It is on again, the rush to hoard toilet paper. Of all the things that we hold dear in Australia, the country of sun and sandy beaches, nothing seems as precious than to own the soft rolls and total freedom to wipe the remnants of our bowels and bladders.  Last night the TV news showed us supermarket shelves stripped bare of toilet paper. Within minutes of the Governments announcements of a Lockdown and the puckered-up hordes of the anally constricted descended upon shops stocking up on toilet paper. Not a shadow of guilt or shame passed over their faces. I know because I took some time off to look at the spectacle. As I was walking around the Supermarkets Woolworth’s carpark I was amazed at he exuberance and shared bonhomie. Laughter and banter were almost like a post war victory celebration.  A shared kind of intimacy rarely observed between Anglo Saxons. No words were used but; we know what you all end up doing with those endless hoards of white sheets, AND WE APPROVE was the message.!

I read that in Italy it is the  olive oil with shoe polish that gets hoarded. In the Scandinavian countries, libraries and books are being hoarded, in The Netherlands, herrings!  But Australia and possibly the US it are the gleaming white toilet rolls that beckons us.

Friedrich Nietzsche was one of those philosophers that held high the notion that wretchedness and despair ought be held high and that every sort of difficulty be welcomed by those that sought fulfillment. What is it that those toilet roll hunters are so keenly finding when gazing upon those shelves at the supermarket? Are they Nietzsche followers?

Friedrich wasn’t always so enlightened by the gloom and doom but he was encouraged when opening the Schopenhauer book that really gave him the impetus to follow the path of wretchedness.  He wrote and I quote “Back at the house I threw myself into the corner of a sofa with my new treasure, and began to let that dynamic, dismal genius work on me. Each line cried out with renunciation, negation, resignation.”   Unquote.

There are people much better qualified to find reasons why in Australia it are the toilet rolls during crisis that people buy while in Italy the olive oil is bought up. Is it the cooking with oil instead of butter and the swimming in the warm Mediterranean? “These little things- nutriment, place, mount Vesuvius, Capri, recreation, all of greater importance than the dryness, the seriousness of life lived in suburban shadows amongst the wilting gladioli with curtains closed, tempers hosed and maligned ambitions, the week-end at Coffs and The big banana?  

I don’t know but am open to your sage advice and opinions.

 

Forced vaccinations?

June 8, 2021

There seems to be a rather unfriendly attitude towards China of late. Where does this come from? In Australia, which has done very well in its fight against the Covid-19, the suggestion has been raised to make the Covid vaccinations obligatory. And out of nowhere (or out of the blue) cries came about; ‘Oh are we going to be like Communist China now?’ To my mind to make Vaccinations obligatory by law makes a lot of sense. Don’t we have to have a license to drive a car? Air lines are hinting that travel will only be allowed on planes by people having proof of vaccinations. No jab no plane! It seems a fair exchange. I remember after being born and becoming a toddler my mum knew that no vaccination no kindergarten or pre-school. 

I think China did an amazing job of not only pulling hundreds of millions out of poverty at an amazing short time, but now also having beaten the Covid 19 pandemic.  I don’t understand this antagonism towards China. We would do well to look at the map and see how much closer we geographically are towards China than the US. We also trade very nicely with China. Let’s be realistic and be good neighbors, make friends! As for the accusation of human rights by China. Let’s look at the treatment of the Australian indigenous and our locked up refugees on Manus and Nauru!

The kettle calling the pot black!

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At the Rocks, Sydney.

Quotes by Ai Weiwei

Read moreAi Weiwei’s presents his ‘Manifesto without Borders’

“You can see in the film that young people, nurses and doctors and other health professionals came to Wuhan within days on buses. China is probably the only nation that could achieve that with such speed and spirit. You can see how the state built the infrastructure, including the emergency field hospitals, and equipped those on the frontlines with the necessary rescue equipment. Those details surprised me and are a profound revelation of human behavior under authoritarian control.” 

“China, as an authoritarian state, has been the most efficient in taking on a situation as challenging as a pandemic. In doing so, China’s suppression of human rights, individual rights, privacy, and personal will has been heavy. Basically, China has consumed everyone’s liberty into its own power. That is the basic character of this nation’s fast development and how it has closed the gap between itself and the West. It has worked very well over the last 30 years.”

Man with a Coke and 5 KM a day

May 11, 2021

 

IMG_1711Onion soup

Onion soup (almost)

To try and make the day as fruitful as possible I usually go and shop daily. If not to Aldi’s Supermarket then to a Food-mall. Today’s visit to Aldi delivered the usual reward which often goes together with being alert.  I had filled my bag with some smoked sliced Tuna, two bananas, two boxes of paper tissues and a packet of green snappy beans. Today, I also went to the food hall and treated myself on a take away garlic, soya beef with rice.

But sticking to the Aldi shop and the satisfying experience. As I queued up near the shopping conveyer belt, I noticed a strange event involving a rather forbidden looking male. Most ‘forbidden’ looking people are often males. He was wearing a helmet, a scarf around his neck, sunglasses and a face mask. He was obvious very worried about getting contaminated by other shoppers. One could not see much of his face. He was tall and of normal build and carrying a backpack. If anything he looked almost athletic. So far so good, all is normal and still within the range of acceptance! However his total purchase was a medium bottle of Coke for which he was queuing. To my overt critical mind it looked a bit odd.

Why does a man so cloaked and in obvious deliberate incognito garb go through the trouble just to buy a Coke? He looked fit. Do fit people drink Coke? Anyway, as he reached the end of the queue the cashier asked him to open his backpack. The masked man obliged and there was nothing to worry about. No stolen goods nor a hand grenade. He paid by card! As I finished paying for my goods, I went outside and noticed the incognito male jump on a bicycle. Normal! Still, a bottle of Coke? Fitness. It doesn’t add up.

After that experience I walked to the food court to get a lunch which I often buy from a Chinese take away. His food includes a very generous supply of half raw pan fried vegetables. I chose beef with fried rice with the vegetables. So, really a good deal. I eat half and refrigerate the rest for next day or sometimes have it for dinner. Sadly, as the years go by, I notice the stealthy rise of bigger and large people and alarmingly, including now young overweight people, even children in those food halls. Fat shaming doesn’t do much but neither does ignoring. Many countries more progressive than Australia at least try and tackle the problem by education and taxing sugar, ban TV advertisements promoting unhealthy foods. Those food malls give a good idea of where we are heading when nothing gets done. More and more end up in wheelchairs. Diabetes and amputations. Not a cheerful prospect. Coke has a lot to answer for!

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Mussels

Any possible adverse results from my habit of take away Chinese food I alleviate by aiming to walk at least 5 Kms daily. If by about 9 PM I haven’t made the 5 Km I just walk around my generously sized lounge, dining and kitchen areas which gives me 48  meters each round. I keep walking till I have reached a bit over 5 kms recognizing that a step might be somewhat less than a meter.

My Jack Russell, ‘Milo’ looks worried.

  

 

Required; Photocopy of the front and back of your concession card.

January 18, 2021

My morning rituals include a walk to the letterbox, just in case something gets delivered inside. I have a notice stuck on its lid ‘no junk” but at times I feel like taking it off.  It is so rare that personal posts get delivered, even a catalogue on detergents would make a bit of a surprise. I suppose email has won out over personal letters. This morning though I was pleasantly surprised to get two letters. 

One was from the bank and the other from my local Shire Council who now wants proof that I am still the recipient of an old age pension.  Faithful followers of my blog know I have a quirky attitude to concessions including social benefits, especially pensions, sickness benefits, free medical services, education or anything that makes life more pleasurable and equitable for all.  Countries should at least strive for those benefits and raise enough revenue to pay for these.

Readers might also remember my pension card was torn in front of me at the Government  Office by a diligent but hard hearted bureaucrat whose eyes were reflecting a glee when she did that. I felt miffed at the time but did not show it. Anyway. with the letter in my pocket I drove to the Shire Council to tell them I was no longer a pensioner entitled to a pension because my wife had died and I was now ‘deemed’ to have enough income not to need a pension.  All our assets that were previously in two names, now were in one name.

It is no big deal, and all it means is that my rates that include water, garbage collection, nature strip grass cutting, Shire library, swimming pool and so much more now incurs the full charge and no pensioner discount. Fair enough. That’s how it is here in Australia. It seems The Netherlands too have become more frugal (mean) and they too had some kind of Robo debt scandal and now the whole government had no option but to resign.

This is an interesting graph relating to the situation in the US and not related to my pensioner concession card at all.

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

IMG_0440 In Fance

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.

IMG_0443 Helvi in France

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.