Posts Tagged ‘Finland’

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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Helvi from Finland has passed away.

October 30, 2019

It’s with a heavy heart that am now telling you that my dearest Helvi has passed away on the 29th of October at 6pm. The next day was going to be our wedding anniversary! We married in 1965.

She blew her last breaths on our bed and at home. A few day before she was begging me to get her out of the hospital. We shared our most loving moments declaring our undying love for each other.

Those last few days will for sure sustain me for the rest of my life.  They are now a a beautiful garden of memories. Helvi was always good at gardening.

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Gerard

The Magnificent and Defiant Helvi.

July 10, 2019

Gerard & Helvi B&W

Helvi and Gerard at earlier times

So sorry for not having written about Helvi’s plight a bit earlier. No one would want to go through this ever. Helvi doesn’t want me to be negative but I am straining at the leash not to. Whatever have we done? She broke two arms falling over a raised driveway that should never have been approved by the local Shire/Council.  This all happened 0n the 26th of June which now seems years ago. Helvi was discharged last Friday after spending 9 nights at the local State Government Hospital. The service and care was done by caring staff who are doing their utmost to do the impossible. Too many patients and never enough staff. The room where Helvi stayed was full of add-on in the way of pipes, plumbing, air condition outlets for condensation, a hand basin on brackets sticking out, a gurgling waste system and buttons on the end of a lead that kept falling on the floor. But somehow the system kept miraculously kept on working. Helvi was on ‘full-care’ but it was not full, so I stayed with her from 7.30 am to 9pm when the hospital locked doors. I fed her and pushed the button for her toilet care and if that wasn’t forthcoming I would somehow cradle her and walk her to the nearest toilet.

Enfin; it is now past history but a new phase of misery started to arrive. After three nights and days at our home I noticed her left arm was oozing a smelly substance on her bedding which alarmed me, and Helvi to a lesser extend. I wasn’t so sanguine about her positivity that all would be OK. After all, she argued, it was all pinned together and bandaged by an orthopaedic surgeon with qualified staff. I took Helvi back to the ward where she was discharged from. However, ‘no go’, they told us. ‘You have to go back to casualty or emergency and get it fixed from there. We walked back to casualty, not an easy thing to do with two arms broken. There we were told the waiting time was 2/3 hours. So, decided to go to local doctor. The doctor confirmed the elbow was infected and prescribed ant-biotics but also told us he would not touch the oozing mess around her taped and bandaged elbow. This was now starting to look like something out of a Kafka’n nightmare.

I did not want to let this go for another night so back to the hospital casualty ward and put up with the queue. We sat there between 5.30 pm and at 8.45 pm when a kind nurse took us in and unpacked poor Helvi’s arm, cleaned it up, retaped and bandaged it up and promised she would send the swab to pathology for identification of the infection.

So, you can see what a time Helvi has had. Yet…she keeps on smiling but is furious with Australia. and its broken down public health systems. ‘It would not have happened in Finland,’ she said. I dare say, ‘neither in Holland’. A system whereby tax is given back to lure voters in a system that will perpetuate the cracking up of public welfare will only continue and get worse.

We are now employing a cleaner for three hours a week so that Helvi and I can get some kind of routine going for her needs to be met day and night. We are both knackered but at least I can use my hands. I am sure I have more time to help Helvi than those overworked, underpaid nurses at the local Hospital.

But…never again.

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.

National jealousy Day in Finland.

May 9, 2019

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National Jealousy Day, Finland.

 

It’s a well-known fact that through the decades the social democratic nations of the world consistently outperform most other democracies. And this outperformance is not just based on money only but includes social cohesion, societal levels of fairness and equality, empathy for others, acceptance and tolerance of differences, lower incarceration rates. Those social democratic nations are mainly concentrated in Northern Europe and the Scandinavian countries, including Finland.

Each year on the 1st of November, Finland publishes the names of all taxpayers and lists  all their earnings and the amount of tax they have paid. On that day, very early in the morning many people have spend hours queued up to get their first glimpse of those that have paid the highest amounts of taxation. It s seen almost like an honour to have paid the highest taxation therefore helping paying for the things that Finland strives for  to improve the country. Under the freedom of information Finland decided to lists those details in order to inform people of how much, where and by whom the taxation is paid for.

Have a look; https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/11/finland-has-just-published-everyone-s-taxes-on-national-jealousy-day/

In Australia we don’t publish a list of taxpayers but instead we have the annual list of the richest which seems to be shamelessly published each year. We seem to tolerate with a nudge and wink how most of those very rich are happy to evade taxation and there is a  sense of admiration on how in Australia we treat taxation as an evil best avoided and lowered as much as possible. Apart from the US I know of no other country where taxation is held with such contempt, all richly manured and egged on by our shallow lot of politicians.

Indeed, with the present race for a national election of Government, it seems essential by most parties to lower taxation and give back taxation to the people and seen by many as a Trump card to win Government.  At the same time we witness almost on a nightly basis, TV footage of the brutalisation of our elderly in our underfunded understaffed and undertrained ‘Aged Care’. Each time the Australian Government gives a tax cut, your mum and dad will suffer the consequences in Aged Care. Your son and daughter will suffer in education, and the pensioner will eat Spam and Gruel.

Think about it! Look how in the US, Donald Trump is twisting and turning in order to avoid making his financial records public. Is that true democracy or is this a disgrace? Look at how in Australia many private hospitals are now listed in the tax havens of the Cayman Islands. How is this allowed to happen?

We used to be a fair nation!

A sad state of affairs on looming Australia Day.

January 19, 2019
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Australia 2019

With an overall very low performance, Australia ranks 55th in this year’s CCPI. The country continues to receive very low ratings in the categories GHG Emissions, Energy Use and Climate Policy. The country ranks at the bottom of low performers in the Renewable Energy category with national experts criticising the government for not putting forward any plans for renewable energy beyond 2020. Experts argue that national climate policy has continued to worsen – the government has no comprehensive emission reduction policy, no regulation of transport emissions and no plans to phase out coal. Experts observe that the government has become an increasingly regressive force in international negotiations, attempting to weaken climate finance obligations and dismissing the IPCC 1.5°C report.

Holland ranks 28th while Finland has a ranking of  9th

https://www.climate-change-performance-index.org/country/australia-2019

I am desperate and keen to have a positive something to say about Australia, the country my parents chose to migrate to back in 1956. With Australia day coming up on the 26th of January, can some of you please, guide me to a distinctly positive item that Australia excels in. Lately we have been inundated with bad things. We have a Royal Commission on aged care. Last week we watched how elderly are being strapped down in a chair for up to 14 hours and no toilet breaks. A man suffering from dementia was seen reduced to a vegetable, all bent double over, strapped on his chair. This was hard on the heels of video footage by combat troops with assault weapons at the ready, trained on children at a juvenile detention centre.

It just doesn’t seem to stop. The best thing that Australia almost achieved, but not quite, was allowing a Saudi girl in Australia. Sadly this did not happen either.

We will now see how all those dead fish in our largest river will survive. I don’t like their chances either.

I suppose a good thing that has happened is that the weather is now a lot cooler. For the moment we can turn off our air-conditioning. So…Aussi, aussi…oi oi oi.

Solving homelessness the Finnish way.

December 30, 2018

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With the value of housing now plummeting with probably a long way down to go yet, no better an opportunity than to get away from housing mainly seen as an investment rather than a human right. A roof above our head wasn’t always seen as having to own it. It came about when the granting of ‘titles’ was invented. From then on it a became a thing of monetary value rather than a necessity for humans to have shelter away from the elements.   So, it was and the world of ‘real estate’ was born.  The last few years the whole of the Australian home ownership went on a bender with exploiting, speculations  and an explosion of the cost of real estate. I am just writing this when coming across an article about the growing problem of homelessness and how it is being solved in Finland.

“The Finns have turned the traditional approach to homelessness on its head.

There can be a number of reasons as to why someone ends up homeless, including sudden job loss or family breakdown, severe substance abuse or mental health problems. But most homelessness policies work on the premise that the homeless person has to sort those problems out first before they can get permanent accommodation.

Finland does the opposite – it gives them a home first.

The scheme, introduced in 2007, is called Housing First. It is built on the principle that having a permanent home can make solving health and social problems much easier.

The homeless are given permanent housing on a normal lease. That can range from a self-contained apartment to a housing block with round-the-clock support. Tenants pay rent and are entitled to receive housing benefits. Depending on their income, they may contribute to the cost of the support services they receive. The rest is covered by local government.”

https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/02/how-finland-solved-homelessness/

Australia now has a golden opportunity to get back to social housing and solve the thousands of those that miss out on a roof above their head. It has been clear that most couples now find it impossible to get into the housing ‘market.’ The Government can try and get people to move to smaller and cheaper towns but the past has shown that sooner or later most are drawn to the large cities. Australia is one of the world’s most urbanised countries. Housing is a social right for a civilised country. It is shameful that now more and more people end up sleeping on the streets or in their cars. The answer seems so simple.

Provide decent shelter. The alternative is much more expensive.!

Scandinavia and the Sami people.

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

 

the right to decide

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

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

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

Finland and Sweden

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

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

 

 

The King Parrot is happy too.

October 18, 2018

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Jeffrey Sachs spelled it out on one of our Q&A TV programmes a couple of weeks ago. Good social conditions and support makes all the difference. Paying liveable incomes to the unemployed, pensioners or the disabled does not cause cultural collapse as is often touted by extreme capitalist leaders. The list of ‘happy countries’ proves that. Our PM and cohorts often cite that giving ‘free’ money makes people avoid work and lazy, encourages decadence as seen by SSM community now demanding wedding cakes. Unbelievable!

Countries that seem to be on top of the happiness scale each year, by and large, are also enjoying social democratic Governments. Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Holland, Iceland  Finland. They prove that good social conditions improve employment, reduces crime and homelessness. It makes for ‘happiness.’

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“Based on a global ranking of happiness levels across 156 countries, Finland has claimed the No. 1 spot in this year’s World Happiness Report.

Now in its sixth year, the World Happiness Report is produced by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network.

The organization, along with three economists from Columbia University, the University of British Columbia and the London School of Economics’ Center for Economic Performance, created the report using data from the Gallup World Poll to reveal which countries are happy and why.

The report was released on March 14, less than a week before the United Nations celebrates World Happiness Day on March 20.

This year, the United States ranked No. 18 — falling four spots from last year and five from two years ago — “in part because of the ongoing epidemics of obesity, substance abuse and untreated depression,” according to World Happiness Report co-editor and Columbia University professor Jeffrey Sachs.

Over the past two years, the world’s top 10 happiest countries have remained the same, but have slightly shuffled positions. Through a measurement of happiness and well-being called the “Cantril ladder,” Gallup asked nationally representative populations to value their lives on a scale from 0 to 10, with the worst possible life valued at 0 and the best valued at 10.

The top countries frequently have high values for all six of the key variables that contribute to overall well-being: income (GDP per capita), healthy life expectancy, social support, freedom, trust (absence of corruption) and generosity.”

Is the end Nigh for Real Estate and Education?

September 19, 2017

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The news that the clearance rates at Real Estate auctions in the major Australian cities are dropping might well be welcomed by many. All bubbles burst and why not in housing? What should be of greater concern is that our education system keeps on failing our children. Language and numeracy results are lagging badly behind most developed nations.

Eminent educational expert keep on popping up on our TV screens  urging yet more tests. They go to American or UK  educational institutions trying to get inspiration in devising plots that will make a difference to the way we educate our young. At the same time our Government is twisting and turning in making permanent citizenship harder to obtain by devising English language tests for migrants and extending  years of waiting. We should really test our politicians instead of our school children or migrants.

Australia has this conundrum of many professional positions being unable to get filled by our own (badly) educated, and rely on Syrians , Iraqis, Indian, and many other well educated foreign professional experts to fill those positions. We often get experts on so many fields appearing on our TV with foreign accents. There are a dearth of highly professional positions that can only get filled by trying to attract overseas educated people. It seems the Government’s contempt for lack of migrant’s language skills ought to be sheeted home to themselves. It is embarrassing watching our deputy Prime Minister, Barnaby Joyce painfully searching for the words to express himself. Take out the verb ‘ensuring’ from our Prime Minister (A mere lawyer) and he too would have trouble getting his message across. Talk about painting the kettle black! Do your own English testing in Canberra!

 

Please, take the time and read this link which shows how education works:

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/innovation/why-are-finlands-schools-successful-49859555/

“There are no mandated standardized tests in Finland, apart from one exam at the end of students’ senior year in high school. There are no rankings, no comparisons or competition between students, schools or regions. Finland’s schools are publicly funded. The people in the government agencies running them, from national officials to local authorities, are educators, not business people, military leaders or career politicians. Every school has the same national goals and draws from the same pool of university-trained educators. The result is that a Finnish child has a good shot at getting the same quality education no matter whether he or she lives in a rural village or a university town.”

I don’t think that the apocalyptical predictions associated with ‘the end is nigh’ will eventuate but,  isn’t it about time we do things better?