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Monday, January 22, 2018

I cried all morning

 

If you're hungry, make THIS your new screen saver!

 

What Mark Anthony in Shakespeare's Cleopatra referred to as "the tears that live in the onion" were in full flow this morning as I chopped several of them to put into the cucumber salad.

Add oil and vinegar, a squeezed lemon, pepper and salt, and a finely sliced carrot for a touch of colour (I was fresh out of red capsicum), and today's harvest from the vegie garden was turned into a deliciously refreshing cucumber salad to go with a couple of chicken drumsticks, not to mention the glass of red.

I've never been a foodie and always regarded eating as the equivalent human function to putting petrol in a car, but it's amazing what retire-ment can do to you, as retiring on an empty stomach leaves a lot of time with nothing else to do.

To think what I could've been with my latent and too-late-discovered culinary skills! With a bowl of freshly prepared cucumber salad in one hand and a copy of "Mein Kampf" in the other, I would've been the perfect "mein host".


www.tiny.cc/riverbendmap

 

What arrogance!

 

Quite some time ago, this septuagenarian sat down with an octogenarian who shared his migrant experience with me. Like me, he had come out to Australia but ten years earlier and from Austria, that little country next to mine. He confided in me that he was going to burn it all and leave nothing to charity. As he put it, "No one ever did me a favour!

What arrogance! I mean, we all live in this web of interdependence of family and friends, neighbours, teachers, and employers who exerted influence over us and did us favours for which we owe them gratitude.

There was "Herr Sapper", my primary school teacher, who expressed his regrets at my parents' financial inability to let me go on to higher edu-cation in a glowing reference which convinced "Herr Weber", then direc-tor of one of Germany's largest insurance companies, to sign me on as articled clerk which ordinarily would've required tertiary qualifications.

I'll never forget the name of the Australian immigration officer who gave my "Auswanderungsantrag nach Australien mit Fahrtunterstützung" the big tick. He signed my character assessment - "Appears good type. Neatly dressed. Should settle without difficulties" - with a great flour-ishing "Accepted. Schultz" (pipe down, all you Hogan's Heroes fans!)

There was Mr Robert Reid, ANZ Bank's Canberra manager, who gave me my first real job in a new country, even though he couldn't read a word of was written in my German references. And it was Mr Reid again who rehired me after my sojourn to Germany and South Africa, despite the bank's rule never to rehire anyone who had left.

Then there is that 'Good Samaritan' in the ANZ Bank who helped me get into chartered accountancy after I had applied for a position in Hancock Woodward & Neill's Rabaul office. Their branch manager in Canberra started the interview by saying, "I don't really need to see you as some-one in the ANZ Bank I play golf with has already praised you highly. I just wanted to shake hands with you and welcome you to the firm."

There was the Czech-American Sid Lhotka who in less time than it took to exchange pleasantries hired me for the Bougainville Copper Project; and my next boss, Merv Nightingale, who, at the end of a very tough six months during which we successfully started one of the world's biggest industrial catering contracts, gave me a reference so full of praise that the Frenchies hired me sight unseen as their chief accountant in Burma.

And what about Hong Kong-based Robert Bell of Price Waterhouse Associates who looked me up in Burma? He later hired me for a job in Malaysia, thus giving me an introduction to the smoke and mirrors of management consulting and the confidence to start my own firm later.

I think I got the lucrative job in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia solely on the strength of my knowledge that the Spanish Muslims in Cordoba already had paved roads and street lighting when the rest of Europe was still living in smoke-filled hovels, so here's thanks to my history teacher.

In 1985, having created my very own annus horribilis by recklessly turning my back on an expatriate lifestyle and returning to Australia without a job and a home, the owner of a multi-million-dollar mail order business hired me to computerise his business and for a year I wrote software in PICK. He fell victim to the taxman and still earns an occasional dollar "doing casual character work in stores", i.e. Santa Claus at Christmas time, whereas I've gone from strength to strength.

But don't get me wrong: some of all that good fortune had to do with the fact that I didn't fit the stereotype of your average married-with-two-kids-and-a-mortgage accountant and was willing to go where others feared to tread; also, none of those people hired me for the express purpose of doing me a favour but to do a job for them - and I like to think that I repaid them in spades and gave them many times their money's worth - but I still think they did me a favour. To think otherwise would be the height of German arrogance - or Austrian for that matter!


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P.S. 'Septuagenarian' as in September - or seventh month ('octogenarian' as in October - or eighth month). September the seventh month? Yes, in the original Roman republican calendar, September was the seventh month of the year rather than the ninth. The Roman calendar was only ten months long and included the following months — Martius, Aprilis, Maius, Junius, Quintilis, Sextilis, September, October, November, and December. The last six months were assigned names according to their ordinal numbers — Quintilis is the fifth month, Sextilis is the sixth month, and so on. It wasn’t until 45 BC, when Julius Caesar introduced the Julian calendar (named after Caesar, himself), that the year grew to include two more months, January and February. Quintilis and Sextilis were later renamed to July and August in honor of Julius Caesar and Augustus Caesar, but despite repeated attempts to change them, the names for September, October, November, and December not only stuck, but spread to other languages. I'm still trying to educate you, Des!

 

Happy Birthday, liebe Bärbel!

 

Heute - oder erst morgen in Deinem Falle - ist Dein Geburtstag und ich wünsche Dir alles, alles Gute. Und ich möchte mich auch noch einmal für die schönen Erinnerungen bedanken die Du mir gegeben hast.

Also, mach Dir ein paar schöne Stunden, geh' nicht ins Kino sondern feiere Deinen Geburtstag denn man wird ja nicht jeden Tag wieder 21 Jahre alt, oder?  ☺

 

Sunday, January 21, 2018

The Grande Dame of the Far East

 

They say the French do things in style, so when in late 1974 Compagnie Française des Pétroles - better known as TOTAL - flew me from Port Moresby to Rangoon, with stop-overs in Hong Kong and New Delhi, they'd booked me, in keeping with my high-sounding title of Chief Accountant, into The Peninsula in Kowloon.

There I was, in a pair of Aussie stubbies and t-shirt, being met at Chek Lap Kok Airport by an inscrutable white-gloved Chinese driver decked out in a livery tailored to absolute perfection, who held up a sign which must have taken them weeks to engrave with my name.

Without a second look at my knobbly knees, this benign-looking Fu Manchu opened the door to a luxurious green machine which was a Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud whose loudest noise came from its electric clock. And there wasn't much of it either as I was ushered into the hushed gilt-rococo splendour of the Peninsula's lobby.

Everything had been prepaid and so, without further ado, I was escorted, with a deference usually given to royalty, to my suite overlooking Kowloon Harbour. Miraculously, my humble duffel bag had escaped fumigation and possible incineration and was already atop a rosewood luggage rack normally reserved for personally monogrammed Louis Vuitton leather luggage sets.

I won't bother you with all the other luxuries this Grande Dame of the Far East bestowed on me and which I thoroughly enjoyed and made full use of. Had it been my own money, I would've just as happily put up at the YMCA around the corner in Salisbury Road but, hey, my new employ-ers were France's national oil company and they were footing the bill. Profite de la vie, suis tes envies, vis sans regrets, ..... tu sais pas où tu seras demain.


www.tiny.cc/riverbendmap

 

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Whatever gets you through the night

 

"My" corner in my room at the Al-Harithy Hotel

 

The story of my life reads like a fairy tale - GRIMM!   And there was no grimmer time than my years in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia! Being paid extremely well and living in a five-star hotel was small compensation for living in the world's largest sandbox.

The Four Pillars of Prohibition in Saudi Arabia are No Piss, No Pork, No Pornography and No Prostitution but it was the sheer loneliness of the place that could reduce even the most hardened men to tears. Some of us resident expats would meet at lunchtime around the wind- and sand-blown swimming pool of the Al-Harithy Hotel on Medina Road in Jeddah for a swim and a game of chess.

Then came the long night and the lack of entertainment and the lack of companionship until perhaps some time after midnight, just when I had conquered my insomnia, there was a hesitant tap on the door. Outside stood one of the expats I had met at the swimming pool at lunchtime, with a chess-board under his arm, asking in a timid voice, "Feel like a game of chess?"

FEEL LIKE A GAME OF CHESS??? AT 2 O'CLOCK IN THE MORNING???

But, of course, I didn't say that. Instead, I switched on the coffee kettle, set up the chess-board, and made the appropriate moves. Literally! Because it wasn't about chess but about the choking isolation, or about a "Dear John" letter from home, or, worse, no letter at all.

And so I played the game because it might be my turn next to stand outside someone's door and ask, "Feel like a game of chess?"

 

Friday, January 19, 2018

Not giving a stuff

 

There was a time in my life when I used to read too much into people's behaviour towards me. Did he just walk past me without saying hello? Why is she turning her back on me?

These days, apart from that woman up the lane with the ghastly afflic-tion of a rheumatic middle finger who, despite my waning sex drive, still calls me "that fuckin' German", I no longer meet many people.

And I no longer worry about the behaviour of the few I meet. If they say hello, I compliment them on their memory. If they don't, I put it down to dementia.

I no longer read anything into people's behaviour towards me which is the one good thing about old age: not giving a stuff.


www.tiny.cc/riverbendmap

 

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Padma goes to the gym twice a week

Click on image to enlarge

 

Not me! I have my gym right here, complete with wheel-barrow, tree saw, shovel, rake, a pair of secateurs, and my trusty ol' L-plated Husqvarna mower (don't even ask me how to spell that - although I think I just did).

This week's workout was in the small corner by the pond which resulted in a good-sized pile of vines and leaves and broken branches which you can see just past the much-easier-to-spell ride-on, and which I'll burn off as soon as the total fire ban is lifted.

Now it's back onto the Husqvarna which, in case you want to know, is named after the Swedish city of Huskvarna. Why couldn't they just call it ABBA?


www.tiny.cc/riverbendmap

 

The Rise and Fall of Milkshake Duck

Cartoon by Ben Ward

 

Our very own Gumleaf Dictionary (aka Macquarie Dictionary) has a new entry: 'milkshake duck'. Originally defined as "a person who is initially viewed positively by the media but is then discovered to have something questionable about them", it didn't take the lactose-loving mallard long to lose its capital letters and become both a noun and a verb.

"Will Jacinda Ardern get milkshake ducked?" one person asked in a Twitter poll. "Keanu Reeves better not milkshake duck," another wrote menacingly. "When Jeff Goldblum milkshake ducks, the crater will be visible from the moon," wrote one punter, after the actor received a glowing magazine profile.

I still don't know who Jacinda Ardern, Keanu Reeves, and Jeff Goldblum are, but I now know the meaning of 'milkshake duck' - and so do you!


www.tiny.cc/riverbendmap

 

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Where the hell is Karragarra Island?

 

That's what we asked ourselves when many years ago a yachting couple, whom we had befriended while they lay at anchor off "Riverbend", sent us a postcard from Karragarra Island with the words, "We're settled here now!"

What is it about islands that has captivated millions of people around the world and through the centuries? Is it because the smallness of an island invites the illusion that here the complexities of continental societies can be avoided?

I think it's all of that, but also because they inspire feelings of great passion and serenity, because they give people the opportunity to find themselves, because they are revered as paradise, and because they provide a real, friendly community, as we found out when we visited Max and Judy in their island paradise a few months later.

We found it very much to our liking, so much so that we inspected several island properties that were for sale at the time. If the truth be known, had there been a ready buyer for "Riverbend" at the time, I'd probably be blogging this from Karragarra Island right now, but there wasn't and I'm not.

And neither are Max and Judy who left Karragarra Island again a long time ago. Reality always intervenes.


www.tiny.cc/riverbendmap  . .

 

Pass the cucumber sandwiches, please

 

Oscar Wilde's 1895 play 'The Importance of Being Earnest' opens in a glamorous West London bachelor's pad belong-ing to the dandy Algernon. “Algy" asks his butler to prepare cucumber sandwiches for his aristocratic aunt, Lady Bracknell.

So why are cucumber sandwiches considered extravagant? Although cucumbers originated in India over 4,000 ago, it was not until Queen Victoria's appointment as Empress of India in 1877 that the influence of the national products, such as the cucumber, fully entered the British culture. Once the sandwiches hit the royal table for the first time, the upper and middle classes caught wind of it and made them their after-noon tea snack. Following the very Victorian tradition of imitating everything the Queen did, these once-dubbed "beautiful" people solidi-fied the connection between the cucumber sandwich and “poshness".

 

Recognise that faded red plastic chair, Des? I brought it down from Bougainville
to make you feel at home at "Riverbend" should you ever visit ☺

 

But getting back to Lady Bracknell, before she arrives, Jack Worthing turns up and eats all the sandwiches. When Lady Bracknell complains, Algie’s manservant comes to the rescue and says there were no cucum-bers at the market that day, “not even for ready money” - see here.

Well, he could've come to "Riverbend" where we're absolutely flush with cucumbers. After all, we've given up trying to grow any other vegetable since they only get eaten by birds or bugs. No birds or bugs seem to like cucumbers except us. And so it's cucumber salad and cucumber sand-wiches which should be slim, elegant, and deceptively inconsequential. A bit like an Oscar Wilde play, come to think of it.


www.tiny.cc/riverbendmap

 

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Ignore the red arrow

The village of Nelligen

 

Which points to a house for sale that I'm not interested in - although it's very nice and since you may be interested, here is its link to www.realestate.com.au.

What I'm interested in are the aerial photographs of Nelligen Village and the sweeping views up and down the river all the way to "Riverbend":

 

Looking upriver ...

... then turning right and facing the bridge ...

... before looking downriver and straight at "Riverbend" inside the bend on the other side

 

In fact, the last one would make a good postcard, don't you think?

 

 

Thank you, Raine & Horne, and I hope I haven't broken any copyright laws; after all, all this additional publicity might get you an early sale. How about it, Colleen? ☺ (Dionne is still fixated on "Riverbend", so I won't even ask her.)


www.tiny.cc/riverbendmap

 

Written in stone

 

Well, in red scoria really. I carry a handful in my pocket and each time I pass the bench, I plonk a piece down. Each piece represents one full circumambulation of my imaginary tennis court.

At a width of 23.77m and a length of 10.97m plus a couple of metres thrown in along its imaginary edges, that makes each walk around the court 100 metres. According to which I've just walked 2.5 kilometres!

No, I haven't become a fitness freak who's suddenly going to have a coronary and drop dead in his tracks. I just read that sitting is the new smoking, and since I sit a lot because I read a lot, I thought I give my creaky old knees a bit of a 'walk-out' before I start on my next book (which isn't 'How to get fit by walking round an imaginary tennis court').

I'll report back to you as soon as I use a new bench(-mark).


www.tiny.cc/riverbendmap

 

Here's your new screen saver

Click on the image to fill up the whole screen

 

It's another early morning in Paradise, which is the best time of the day when everyone is still asleep except for yours truly who's just starting on his first cup of tea and debating with himself how much of nothing he's going to do today.

Walking along the river and talking to the trees, I wonder what I'd do somewhere else. I'd have to whisper, wouldn't I, or else they'd put me away. Here the only one who might hear me is the odd wallaby, and he won't mind as long as I let him graze in peace.

My best friend Noel told me just weeks before his untimely death, "Don't sell Riverbend; that would be the ultimate sin!" Did he know something that I still grapple with, namely that this is Journey's End, which Julian Barnes described so aptly as "the end of any likelihood of change"? The thought is both comforting and scary at the same time.


www.tiny.cc/riverbendmap

 

Monday, January 15, 2018

Michael Moore's 'Slacker Uprising'

 

Slacker Uprising traces Michael Moore's 62-city tour of the swing states during the 2004 Presidential election. To get the slackers to attend, they were offered a clean change of under-wear and a promise that no event would start before noon.

Watching this DVD I felt like the chap who'd brought home "Big Jugs" from the local video shop because, instead of Moore attempting "to save John Kerry and the Democrats from themselves", we get Moore the film-maker following Moore the public speaker from venue to venue as he is cheered by adoring crowds, hailed by the likes of Joan Baez, Michael Stipe and Viggo Mortensen, and showcasing his witty way with hecklers.

Slacker Uprising offers neither analysis of nor lessons from Kerry's defeat. In fact, it offers no argument whatsoever, just a lot of shots of Moore's name on digital marquees and his face preaching to the choir.

Watch it at your own peril.


www.tiny.cc/riverbendmap

 

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Every second Sunday

 

We've just come back from Nelligen. Although we live in Nelligen, we live across the river on what they call "the dark side" for reasons unknown to us as we live safely tucked away on our seven acres and hear nothing of the sinister side of life farther up the lane.

Every second Sunday of the month the local hall hosts a market which sells homemade and homegrown as well as outgrown and unwanted things. Padma picked up two dozen "homelaid" eggs and I an unwanted book by Julian Barnes, "The Sense of an Ending", which I already have but which I thought would make a nice present to someone still stuck in the Wilbur Smith/Hammond Innes/Jack Higgins reading phase.

“How often do we tell our own life story? How often do we adjust, embellish, make sly cuts? And the longer life goes on, the fewer are those around to challenge our account, to remind us that our life is not our life, merely the story we have told about our life. Told to others, but mainly to ourselves.” from 'The Sense of an Ending'

 

 

'The Sense of an Ending' is a short, sharp novel about a man who tells his own story and then comes to doubt it. It was also made into a movie which is far from a straight film conversion but beautiful in its own right. It's Barnes at his usual contemplative; it's about the fallibility of memory; it's about the cycle of life and this urge for what we describe now by the ugly word 'closure', to loop back to a moment in the past.

"You get towards the end of life - no, not life itself, but of something else: the end of any likelihood of change in that life. You are allowed a long moment of pause, time enough to ask the question: what else have I done wrong?" from 'The Sense of an Ending'

I think I read the book one more time before I give it away as a present.


www.tiny.cc/riverbendmap

 

Smooth and satisfying

 

I knew this header would get your attention. Smooth and satisfying "International Roast", offered up in industrial catering-size cans, was an institution in every boarding-house in Australia in the 60s.

And so, on the odd occasion when I do take down that small 100g-sized tin and have another look at its 'Best before end July 2016' use-by date before scraping another blop of solidified instant coffee powder into a cup, I think of Barton House in Canberra, the grand old mansion at the bottom of Blues Point with its views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Oriental Private Hotel at Cremorne, and the Majestic Hotel in St Kilda.

And I remember the best cup of coffee I've ever tasted when I was sailing way offshore from Port Moresby back in 1974. I was the internal auditor for AIR NIUGINI, and when I wasn't flying to one of the country's remote airstrips, I would take my sixteen-foot Corsair out for a spin on Fairfax Harbour (it's a three-handed racer but since my days in Honiara where I owned my first Corsair, I'd been sailing it single-handedly).

On this particular occasion I must've dozed off because, before I realised it, I was well past Gemo and Lolorua Island. And then it happened! My dinghy capsized! Now, it's normal procedure in such a case to climb onto the upturned hull, grab the centreboard and, with your body acting as a counter-weight, ever so slowly pull the dinghy upright again before the sails have become too water-logged to make this almost impossible.

Trouble was there was no centreboard! It had slipped through the slot and was dangling from its halyard somewhere deep below the upturned boat. I'm no diver but when the only option is to dive, I dive! And so I dived into the tiny airspace of the upturned cockpit, and somehow managed to push the centreboard back up through the slot and wedge it in place just long enough for me to climb back onto the slippery hull and do the counter-weight bit. I don't remember how I did it but I did because otherwise you wouldn't be reading this now.

So where does "International Roast" come into all this, I hear you ask? Well, I had lost all my provisions, I was hot and thirsty, and extremely exhausted, and all I could see through my saltwatery eyes was another island some distance and even farther away from my point of departure. I promptly headed for it, sluggishly because the dinghy was still water-logged, and by the time I pulled up on the beach of what turned out to be Daugo Island, I was totally knackered and very, very thirsty.

Then I saw a group of locals sitting by a camp fire brewing what smelled like coffee. I asked for a cup of it and, although it wasn't "International Roast", it was the smoothest and most satisfying cup of coffee I've ever tasted. Amazing what memories a simple cup of coffee can bring back.


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