Posts Tagged ‘Dostoevsky’

The story of Bookshelves and Yassmin Abdel Magied’s demise.

July 12, 2017

Image result for yassmin abdel-magied

 

Apart from Dad’s struggling with the Victa lawnmower and keeping the kerosene-heater’s wick trimmed, he also bravely accepted the lack of books. He once asked in his usual contemplative tone; ‘Gerard, have you seen any books about in our neighbourhood?’ I must admit that at the age of enjoying my first hormonal drives at sixteen, I hadn’t thought much about books. I was a keen admirer of Jules Verne in Holland, but he slipped away after arrival in Sunny Australia. I had to make and work over-time, save money for the future. My Father followed his previous remark up by his observation that, at Mrs Murphy next door, he hadn’t seen any books at all. ‘Mind you, we have only seen the kitchen so far,’ he added optimistically.

It was mainly through my Mother’s persistent and holtz-hammer method that we had even achieved this penetration into neighbour’s next door’s kitchen. It were those minor achievements that made life bearable after our arrival. My parents keenly trying to make a home in what turned out for me to be a most dismal suburban few years. If ever a far flung Sydney suburb shone in neatness and pride with its occupants soaked up in total fenced-off privacy it was Revesby’s McGirr Street in 1957.

We had involuntary chosen to live in the epicentre of  lives , that can only be described, as being agonisingly slow, lived in extreme political ‘niceness.’ It was out of ignorance more than choice. One had to settle down and own home was a fever that still sweeps through Australia as I write.

It was painfully normal and desirable but I could not understand its bleakness. The struggle after arrival was to quickly buy a home, and if possible this home had to be close to a railway-station.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-07-11/yassmin-abdel-magied-says-she-feels-betrayed-by-australia/8699138

The lack of book issues that Dad grappled with did not really get resolved. I suppose it must have faded in his memory after their return to Holland in 1974. Like salmons flopping upstream to return to their spawning grounds, Mum found again the familiarity of her Dutch neighbourly cosiness and Dad his bespectacled friends peopled by books while questioning Dostoevsky or the bitter Holland weather. In his old age, he once reflected that it just wasn’t the lack of books but that the available book-shelving that he finally spotted in the New Country were used to store garden herbicides or rat poison, with tools for keeping the grass short , all ready for the next assault on unruly weeds which were kept for the ready on the back-veranda.

And now in 2017, decades later, has Australia  grown wiser more inclusive and accepting of differences? Have the kitchens of ‘give and take’ opened up? No one certainly needs to feel deprived of garlic, and the kebab has taken a strong hold at country fairs, even as far away as Coonabarabran. The meat pie however is under threat and in our town of Bowral it was felt by the Municipal Council to hold a week in which to praise and celebrate the meat pie in order to re-invigorate its proper culinary position at the head of the dinky-dye Australian dining table. Time will tell, but some fear the worst and are nervous.

Our PM certainly tells us we are the most tolerant and most culturally diverse nation in the world. Most of us have foreign blood surging through our veins, but, he does also direct us to not go all funny and foreign after arrival. We do need to genuflect and hold to the True and long held Australian values. We must not allow too much foreignness. Foreign blood ought to be directed and channelled to follow well proven roads and he urges us maintain certain ‘values.’ One of those values that must not be tangled with is the Anzac Value. The value of war and battle fought during the world wars. The battle that defines us most as a people and a country must never be forgotten. This is the battle of Gallipoli in Turkey.

History tells us coldly, this battle was a disaster and Churchill should never have given this order. Today it would most likely be seen as a war-crime. Australians were massacred by the thousands… and it was totally avoidable. Of course, it is argued that those thousands that died on those salty Turkish beaches should never be forgotten, hence, ‘Lest we forget.’ One of our true Australians, Yassmin Abdel Magied agreed, but  thought as a considerate and passionate believer in justice for all, that we should also include in remembering the plight of those in Syria, Iraq, Palestine, and  Manus and Nauru. This was seen as a breach of being good and true ‘Australian’. It was heresy. You don’t muck about with Anzac day, it seems.

After weeks of bullying and pestering, with posters being plastered about for her to be ‘taken-out’  and that she should be deported or at least sacked, her address, phone and Facebook taken away, she finally had enough and plans to go and live in England. She claims that Australia is only tolerant if one ‘toes the line.’ It seems that the extreme semi- literate racists Pauline Hansons,  and Jacqui Lambie are the really nice Australians.

Yassmin is a trained engineer, female, a Muslim Australian, well educated and speaks better English than the previously mentioned racist politicians. She is an asset to Australia and a beacon for tolerance and inclusiveness.

What a great pity and loss for Australia.

The question is; Where does this hatred come from?

Advertisements

Moscow and overnight train to St Petersburg.( valley of Lily)

April 6, 2015
The red square with queue from l/r to see Lenin in his mausoleum.

The red square with queue from l/r to see Lenin in his mausoleum.

( About 1985) After a week or so in Moscow with the obligatory viewing of Red Square with the mile long queue at the Lenin Mausoleum,  the Stalin built but magnificent underground railway  with marbled statues and chandeliers,  an evening at the theatre watching ‘An American in Paris’ by American composer of Russian parentage, George Gershwin, we all took a late evening overnight train to St Petersburg. It was in July, very hot and days were interspersed with short but violent lightning storms. I was surprised that the giant  down pipes of those large buildings jettisoned the pelting rain straight onto the footpath whereby pedestrians had to perform large leaps into the air not get washed into the kerbs. I was astonished how high the Russians could leap but it did give me a better perspective on The Bolshoi Ballet phenomenon.

The overnight trip to St Petersburg has been covered earlier but is now buried at the bottom of this pile and in any case, my memory might well have shifted to even greater heights.  Here another retell. After getting on-board we were given the seats as shown on the pre-booked tickets. My compartment had a couple and a woman of typical generous Russian proportion and spirit. The two compartments behind me were taken up by an American group of singers who had performed in Moscow and now on their way to St Petersburg.

The Winter Palace (Hermitage)

The Winter Palace (Hermitage)

We soon settled and when I took a walk around my wagon I noticed the Americans who after introduction told me they were part of a choir. As I told them I was Australian they were keen for me to give an impromptu performance of  a Paul Hogan ‘Crocodile Dundee’ and several versions of   ‘Goodyaj, howszego’en maitey?’. I obliged but quickly escaped back to my cabin.  I can only perform on my own without an audience or mirror.The woman and couple introduced themselves and so did I. The Russian woman’s name was Lily and she could speak some German.

IMG_20150406_0009

One has to understand we were all going to sleep together so a kind of bonhomie and familiarity might ensure a reasonable and peaceful slumber later on. Russian trains do not segregate and at least in USSR sleeper trains, sleeping is not fraught with fear of an opportunistic sex maniac creeping in. That seems to be more the domain of those cultures that believe men and women are  so entirely different they ought to be separated from birth whenever possible.  For some, to attack remains the only option to get together.

Lily became instantly the epitome of what their race is known for. A socially, inclusive and talkative person. Friendly and keen to exchange talk on almost anything and everything. It was easy for me when we could also talk in German, but I am sure that even without a common language she would have seen that as a minor obstacle, easily overcome by gesture and body language, facial expressions. It was a hot and somewhat brooding thunderstorm threatening train journey. We were all sweating profusely and while talking Lily would pat and dab in between her generously forthcoming bosom with a crocheted hanky. ( I remember it well) that she kept sprinkling with  Eau de Cologne number 4711.

The Hermitage.

The Hermitage.

We exchanged small talk the best we could of which I have forgotten most but not all. What I did not forget is what ensued after she asked me what I did. “Ich bin ein Kunstler (..) und Lehrer. I answered”. I am an artist and teacher. Well, it was instant pandemonium.  You would know that teachers in Eastern Europe and especially Finland and former USSR countries are regarded and revered like lawyers and doctors, if not a new Dostoevsky or a burgeoning Tolstoy as well.   To be an artist and teacher is like being 2 doctors in one. She took out a small bottle of a greenish colour and poured some of the liquid in a metal beaker. The cabin immediately smelt strongly of aniseed.  She also had a packet of sugar cubes which she had opened earlier and given me some.

She went around the wagon telling all that here was, an Australian artist on board, while sharing the aniseed dipped sugar cubes all round. They all came and wanted to inspect this Australian ‘teacher – artist’. It was my moment of fame. When things calmed down we retired back to our cabin while she kept up the talk while  dabbing and giving  absinthe laced sugar. Around midnight we had enough and  as the aniseed euphoria and drowsiness was starting to wear off, all decided to go to sleep. The couple and Lily promptly pulled the beds of the wall.  We all took turns going to the corridor allowing ablutions and getting ready for bed. I took the top bunk and Lily the bottom one.

We were woken up early by the train lady conductor and given tea and sweet bread which famously gets served in a large very ornate silver  teapot with drinking glasses held in equally ornate silver holders with swan-necked ears.

We had arrived at St Petersburg.

St Petersburg Fortress which had held some very famous people including Trotsky.

St Petersburg Fortress which had held some very famous people including Trotsky.