Posts Tagged ‘Stalin’

The conservative fear of the implications of ‘socialism’.

August 10, 2019

IMG_0118 Clivia.JPG

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

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

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

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


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.


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.

Rosaria from Gozo ( A descendant from Hebron)

September 12, 2011

With the pulling on of clothes and winching up of anchor, the voyage to Messina continued on. The morning was calm and the sun just skimming over the surface. It would be a perfect day. After just a few hours they arrived and were picked up by the gallery owner whom they had phoned just prior to arrival.

Their boat was berthed next to a flotilla of much larger and more luxurious vessels. The power was connected to the boat and fridge and batteries re-charged. Rosaria’s dolls were taken into the boot of the gallery owner’s car which then drove to a cafe for late breakfast and a coffee.
To their surprise they were introduced to Sir Frank Bovims and his wife Wendy at the cafe. Wendy had a strong English accent but Frank had a thick middle European accent which Rosaria recognized from the many tourists from central Europe visiting Malta with many filtering over to her island of Gozo. Some of those from Slovakia, Slovenia and Chechnya had accents very similar to Sir Frank.

Many seemed to have a fondness for nude bathing, which on Gozo was accepted in some hidden coves facing the Mediterranean. The cultural fondness by many Europeans to go naked when swimming or sunbaking wasn’t necessarily based on anything deliberately flaunting a kind of sexual naughtiness, but more based on taking clothes off and then putting them back on afterwards as a more practical solution than putting on swimming gear.

Of course, many from mainland Malta, especially English tourists would be seen motoring past those nudist coves hoping for a glance at a pubic bush of which many amongst the “Mittel Europa Menschen” were well endowed and renowned for. For some reason, the English fondness for perving on huge pubes seemed to go hand in hand with the consumption of vast quantities of beer of which the empty cans floated on-shore. One wondered if those pubic triangles could even be male or female discernable when viewed from some distance away. Perhaps the Brit’s’ lives were so dull, that anything with hair on it would make them break out in riotous behaviour, especially when away from their much loved ‘privacy’ of their homes. Many of the English male tourists had shaven heads, wore nose rings and, according to their blue arm and leg markings, could possibly have spent more time in tattoo dens than at schools.

The nudists would first clear the sandy coves of those beer cans and bottles, a kind of symbiosis in tourism whereby Malta encouraged the tourists to come and spend their money which in turn made other tourists clean their much loved Maltese environment of the detritus caused by that same tourism.

After the introduction at the Sicilian cafe to Sir Frank and Lady Wendy Bovims, it turned out that Wendy had spent many years living in Australia. She knew about Rockdale, in fact she used to go to clubs and play the pokies. This was before she met Frank Bovims. The subject of Australia certainly was an ice-breaker and the little group soon got on very well. It turned out they had flown to Sicily the night before and had chartered their own plane. The Bovims were rumoured to be very well off. He had spent his life building up a world- wide conglomerate of shipping and construction businesses which were floated on the UK stock-market many years ago. Recently there had been a bitter struggle between Sir Frank’s company and a hostile takeover by one of Australia’s largest construction companies. The final offer for the take-over was just too much to resist and Frank could not but recommend the take-over to his loyal shareholders by the Australian company. All this Wendy explained smilingly to Rosaria and Joe.

Rosaria’s English was very good she had gone through high school and had studied art and design at Malta’s university, while Joe’s English was a bit more a result of having taken foreign tourists around on fishing expeditions. Even so, he got most of the gist of the conversation which meandered between Australia, art, and central Europe. Wendy explained that she only recently married Frank. They had been going together for some years. His first wife had recently died. Rosaria was curious about the title ‘Sir and Lady’.

Wendy explained that like so many descendants of Hebron who had the misfortune to live in Europe during Hitler’s time, teen-age Frank and his parents’ family were simply rounded up and after a while told to undress, given a piece of soap and were walked towards the doors of hell. Frank, being a strong teenage boy, was spared, survived and after the war went back to Brno’s university. The communist takeover with the denouncement of anything ‘bourgeois’, Frank was again imprisoned and made to work in uranium mines.

After gaining a pardon on Stalin’s birthday he was given the choice to work in construction or mining. When, for the third time another oppressive regime and the Russian tanks rolled into Prague, Frank and his wife had enough, fled with one suitcase to England to join their son who was studying at Oxford University.

Frank resumed his career in construction and one of his biggest jobs was the construction of The Canary Wharf and many even other large construction jobs in the Middle East, including the PETRONAS Towers in Kuala Lumpur, a huge shopping complex under the Red Square in Moscow. He was duly awarded the Queen’s Award for Exports. He had also joined the Board of a shipping line P&O. Wendy seemed to know so much.

Frank, in the meantime seemed more interested in Joe and his fishing boat, wanted to know how he was going and how he sold the fish. Did the fish get sold through a Co-Op or through private marketing? Joe told him that on a good day he would catch enough to see him out for the rest of the week. He would then take tourists around on fishing expeditions and that’s how he managed to learn his English. Frank seemed genuinely impressed.

Rosaria was agog, nothing whatsoever had prepared her to sit with Wendy and Frank at a cafe in Messina not really knowing much about the couple who might buy her dolls with her lace. What, she wondered, had destined her to meet up with such an extraordinary couple, Sir Frank and Lady Wendy?