Monday, July 25, 2022

 


This is the second article on our recent Bali trip which I wrote for the U3A Photography Group newsletter in June 2022.

Bali Photography, Menjangan snorkelling, a poem excerpt and some pics plus links.

To recap on camera gear for the trip to Bali, I decided to travel light and took my Fuji XT30 with the XF18-55 and XC55-230 lenses, both providing excellent images. Also my Oppo phone has taken many a fine shot. For the snorkelling trip our daughter Cara lent me her Olympus ToughTG6 which proved to be very effective.



The interior of Bali is quite mountainous and with persistent rain it slows up a journey. So we had to stop for lunch at a fine sheltered restaurant somewhere on the side of a mountain - delicious barbecued whole fish for each of us with accompanying spicy aromatic side dishes; a welcome break. The cost was AUD40 all up (3 fish, rice, side dishes and two beers, two coffees).



Our daughter had organised a snorkelling trip and resort accommodation on the NW Bali Coast, close to Java. All went well until we arrived at the resort. The booking couldn't be found. What?? And the place was chokkers, Ocker with o/s tourists. But... 'perhaps the spare accommodation might be available?' suggested The Manager to his minions. And thankfully it was and it turned out to be an upgrade, three houses plus swimming pool and gazebo inside a walled garden. 'Stick with me...' Cara said.

The resort had its own beach, and offshore was what looked like a hut on a raft. The area in front and around the raft is adorned with underwater sculptures, temples, Buddhas, bicycles etc. as part of a successful coral reef regeneration project. It's ideal for snorkelling over, so Cara informed us. Great, we'll do that in a couple of days. Bad decision. Once a year a large swell stirs the sand...


The boat trip to Menjangan Island and its reefs from Pemuteran took about 45 minutes, The west coast of Java with its primitive, mysterious volcanos loomed closer. We were fortunate, the coral had rejuvenated because tourism had dropped off since Covid asserted itself.


The Olympus TG6 is a 'tough' camera, well suited to rugged use, inclement weather and underwater shots. There are a number of settings which provide photographic control. The daughter said to use the fish symbol, which I did. As a wise person once noted, the 'P' in PASM stands for Professional. This is my 12 year old grand daughter Eloise in yoga lotus position alongside the cliff face drop to the depths.




                                                 Snorkelling on the reef of Menjangan Island,

40 minutes off shore. Java is close

with its primitive mysterious mist

shrouded volcanos. Fish and reef, the absolute

splendour of this other universe.


The variety of shape and colour,

the shift of motion. You are astounded

as you float with the current over reef

gardens then out over the shelf with its

vertical cliff and cold flow from below.

You drift into a shoal of electric

blue sparks and suddenly they are spooked

into a comet trail. You wish you could

speak fish and understand the murmurings

and coughing of coral.


Our guide dives down and assumes a yoga

position then blows a perfect circle

of bubbles which rises, widening.




On the return journey we visit Penestanan outside Ubud, an artistic area where our son in law has built an eco village. All houses are now sold both here and in the second eco village at Sibang, but anyone interested in seeing what has been achieved can click here:

https://www.desaalamindah.com/

Covid has hit tourism heavily in Bali which is now gradually returning to some semblance of normal. Artistic Penestanan villagers used their time well in this quiet period by carving the rock face in a ravine behind the village. The amazing thing is that the atmosphere has created moss covered sculptures which now look as though they've been there for hundreds of years.



Daughter Cara was interviewed for an online Bali magazine. It's interesting for her family's experience and insights. There are photos here too.


https://ouryearinbali.com/australian-family-building-an-inspiring-eco-village-in-ubud/









Thursday, July 21, 2022

Bali, Photography and Equipment

 

This is an article written for the Canberra U3A Photography Group newsletter in June 2022.

I've published it here to add an appropriate number of photos. 



                                            Bali, Photography and Equipment

In early May we visited our family in Bali, our daughter Cara, her husband Greg and our two gorgeous grand daughters Safia and Eloise. Greg has built/managed two eco villages and is now in the process of building individual houses. This was our fifth visit, Cara and Greg have resided in Ubud, an artistic town in the higher midlands close to Greg's work and now his work has taken them to the coast in Canggu, about 1.5 hours from Denpassar Airport.

The holiday was varied and rich in experience, locals and airport staff welcomed us back with typically friendly smiling faces. It was lovely to be there and experiencing again the soul of a place we have loved for many years. Overseas trips are great for photographic pursuits in fact I travel for that, and our cultural/ epicurean adventures. So, what equipment to take?

I decided to travel light, while recognising that landscape, portrait, sports and macro needed to be covered. I have previously taken Canon, but I find that my D80 and lenses are too bulky now.

I mulled over taking the Olympus EM5 mk 2 with the excellent 12-40 pro and the very capable 75-300, plus the mighty Oly 60mm macro, or the Fuji XT30.

This time I chose the Fuji which I bought in December 2020. The XT30 uses the same 26mp sensor as the more expensive XT3 and XT4 and is far more wallet friendly, as is the XC50-230 mk11 zoom (75-345 equiv.) with OIS which provides 3.5 stops and can produce good macro images. I also took the XF18-55 OIS for general purpose shots, and the Oppo phone which has a pretty good camera. Our daughter Cara had booked a boat to take us 40 minutes off the North West coast to Menjangan Island, adjacent to the mysterious imposing volcanos of Java, to snorkle the reefs. Did she have an underwater camera? Yes the renowned Olympus TG6, and I could borrow it. Perfect!

First morning an early Bali coffee at Echo Beach with the daughter to view surfboard riders.






Bali attracts many skilled surfers from around the world and locals are also getting into this sport.

I noticed at least six photographers, many with serious looking equipment, tripods and big bazooka lenses but I thought that a combination of OIS and a fast speed should suffice, it was a sunny day.

The surf was running at about 2-3 metres breaking around 150/200 metres off shore. So, my XC50-230 zoom should do it. I've been encouraged by bird shots, the SOOC 'straight out of the camera' JPEGS large/fine have been very good. So, snap a couple, magnify them in the LCD, looking good. I set the speed at 1000, and let the camera determine ISO and the aperture. Checking the data later, the aperture varied between 6.4 and 6.7, and the ISO between 160 and 320, but around 200 for most. My focal length was between 120 and the max 230 (350 equivalent), most were close to the maximum due to the distance.


I prefer to take single shots using a small focus point. The Fuji has three convenient dials on top, retro style, one of which provides rapid burst continuous at two speeds as well as various other functions including video, the other dials are shutter speed and exposure compensation. I remember meeting an American couple in the ANBG and he'd spied a Tawny Frogmouth sitting stationary in a tree hole up above. He blasted it with machine gun fire from his camera, quite loud, and he was obviously proud of it. I drily commented 'well, there'd have to be a good one somewhere in that lot...' We left on amiable terms, my irony flew up in the tree and the Frogmouth had a chuckle.




Continuous shooting can be advantageous, particularly in sports' photography but I didn't use it with the surfing. However I did come away with almost all successful images, so it was an excellent result. On a previous trip I'd used my Olympus with the 75-300 (150-600mm equivalent) and also had many successful images but the Fuji was better – I'd had to denoise a couple of the RAW Oly images, not so the Fuji JPEGs. Also, Fuji's 26MP allows you to drill in and maintain excellent definition, as can be seen above. There's no imperative to use RAW files for standard goals, although the camera provides both. I did tweak images slightly in post processing. I use ON1, check the effect separately of each of the two 'auto' buttons and adjust if needed, back to manual adjustment perhaps, plus add a bit of 'structure' and 'haze' which are ON1's equivalent of Adobe's 'Clarity and 'Vibrance'.


This is the first of a two part article. Next month we check out the colourful reefs and fish at Menjangan Island, the trip over the mountains, the Covid project of the Penestanan villagers,

and son-in-law Greg's village creations.








Saturday, April 02, 2022

Curse of the Ukrainian Woman


This is the Ukrainian National Choir. They start singing just prior to the 25th minute. These people are us,

they are you. It is heartbreaking.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lAUhxD4eQLs




Curse of the Ukrainian Woman


I shall rain curses on all of Russia

mothers, fathers, sons and daughters

on babies forming in womb and crib

on its lands, its skies, its crops and rivers

never to be raised until the debt

to Ukraine is paid, in full.


I shriek and I shriek the sacred

maledictions to the impassive eye.

I will wake You. I will wake You.

You shall listen.


My people are no less than Russians.

Would you inflict these horrors upon yourselves?

Your humanity dangles in this web

of affliction, silver with bloody dew

it drips and sinks into our sweet land.


Our song will swell in tides of blood

our harmonies will surge and flow

alive, alive - one mute can hum melody,

and the song shall survive.


Putin, damn him, is the neighbourhood

bully. He slits your lover's throat

and now jackboots this dying body.

Have you forgotten the Nazi assault

just yesterday? The tragic slaughter?

You do the same to us.

In Mariupol a wife reaches for her man.

In Kiev a mother searches for her child.


Putin, you putrid black Deceiver

this is no religious war

there is no such speck in the eye

of Eternity. Where is compassion

empathy, love and forgiveness?


There shall be no forgiveness for you.

You shall die by your own hand

the relentless whispers of the dead

in your head, following you.


God hides not in buildings

nor in missile warheads

delivering hate, fear, death

and destruction and the billowing

black smoke of dismay.


I shriek and I shriek the sacred

maledictions to the impassive eye

I will wake You. I will wake You.

You shall listen.



On Putin's religious affiliation/affliction check Tim Costello's article in The Guardian. Quite fascinating.

Link below.


https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/mar/06/vladimir-putin-a-miracle-defender-of-christianity-or-the-most-evil-man


Saturday, July 17, 2021

 


Asylum Island Video

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oQ0LmxSh1I8


Our country Australia was a welcoming country when our family arrived

decades ago. Aussies were happy to greet you and have you belong.

These poor boat people sought to escape inhumane political regimes in their own country

yet have been greeted by similar treatment here ie. inhumane. Many are now certified refugees

yet have been placed in detention, some in excess of 7 years, and for what?

Seeking solace. Seeking humanity's embrace. And love.

You wouldn't treat a rabid dog like this.

They have become political footballs.

Is this who we are?


The song, based upon an old Irish rebel song which my cousin Chris McGloin and I performed

many years back, I rewrote about seven years ago. Sadly it remains true today.

Many thanks to Oblique Productions, The Big O for a magnificent job.


Pacific Solution Revisited - Asylum Island

To the tune of the Irish rebel song,  “Join The British Army” (Trad. ArrBarry McGloin)

AM

Well I was young and proud and free

G

They took my home and family

AM

And now you see a refugee

C G AM

Searching for asylum


Too ra loo ra loo ra loo

They’re looking for monkeys up in the zoo

Said one if I had a face like you

I’d stick you on an island


Australians all let us rejoice

We have a hope we have a choice

We have a vote we have a voice

Not searching for asylum

 

Too ra loo ra loo ra lee

We'll process youse eventually

We'll stamp your bum and test your pee

While checking on your history…


Ah don’t complain this ain’t the Ritz

It’s Alcatraz not St Moritz

If you can swim out to the ships

The sharks can be relied on

 

Too ra loo ra loo ra lie

A pat on the back and a poke in the eye

They're looking for monkeys in disguise

Out upon the island


The privileged and the disposed

One is cursed and one is blessed

Which one are you, I bet you've guessed

Out upon the island


Too ra loo ra loo ra loo

Not Sanctuary Point, nor Woolloomooloo

They’re looking for monkeys up in the zoo

To stick upon an island


The privileged and the disposed

One is cursed and one is blessed

You have fuck all, well now it’s less

Out upon the island


Too ra loo ra loo ra loo

This government will do for you

They'll scrub your face and change you to

A number on an island


Well I was young and proud and free

I loved my home and family

But now you see a refugee

Searching for asylum


Too ra loo ra loo ra loo

They’re looking for monkeys up in the zoo

Said one if I had a face like you

I’d stick you on an island



Saturday, May 15, 2021

Autumn

 


The old chap, he stood in the laneway on this side of the gate listening to the young girl say ' I'm on an adventure' and his eyes, bright and alight said Can I, can I? But he couldn't say it. 

She knew, she reached up and took his hand, and they slowly walked down the laneway, the old chap and the young girl. 'Adventure,' said the old chap.

It was an Autumn mid morning, crisp and bright with a clear blue sky, and trees festooned with magical colours hung over the laneway and dropped a carpet of leaves in yellow, orange, gold and various shades of red.

The smell of bacon and eggs came from behind a fence.

'Yum' said the young girl, 'but we're on an adventure...'

'An adventure', repeated the old chap with a chuckle, 'yes, an adventure.'


Loud voices came from a house.

' And if you think you will ever make an idiot of yourself and a fool of me again...'

'I swear on my mother's grave that I'm off it for good from now on, you'll see... I'm reformed...'

'You are a prime fool, there are times I regret marrying you.'

'Bad boy' said the old chap.


They rounded a corner and a dog barked and tried to leap

the fence. It jumped a number of times scrabbling for a footing, and finally

managed to haul itself over, fall on its back and grogily came to an upright

stance. It made as though to bark.


'Oh my!' said the young girl 'Good boy. And such a good guard dog!'

The old chap had frozen. The dog barked once, half heartedly, then again.

'Such a good boy' said the young girl. The dog wagged its tail.

'Wife' said the old chap. 'Annie.'


A voice yelled 'Rufus! Rufus! Where's that bloody dog?'

A gate opened. 'There you are. Come here you useless mutt.'

Rufus put his tail between his legs and cowered.

'Get your arse back in here. Now!'

'We're on an adventure,' said the young girl.

'Not with my bloody dog. Come here, I won't tell you again.' And he went to

grab the dog collar but the dog bit him.

'Bloody bastard, it's bleeding! It's all your fault!' he yelled at the girl.

And suddenly he dropped to the ground.

The young girl and the old chap peered over him. The dog whimpered and backed away.

'You shouldn't yell at people,' she said.

'Bad boy!' said the old chap.

'Can't move...' replied the man.

'You'll be fine in a while,' she said.

'Adventure' the old chap chuckled. And the young girl and the old chap hand in hand again walked on, followed by the dog and warmed by the sun in the crisp Autumn air.


'Rufus' said the old chap. And the dog nudged his hand, looked up and smiled, as dogs do.

And the old chap smiled back.

An elderly woman scurried along the laneway and came to the prostrate man.

'Oh dear, oh dear are you well?'

'Can't move.'

'Oh dear what to do? Have you seen an old man, I've lost my husband?'

'Can't move.'

'I can't stay here, I must find my husband. I told him not to open the gate...

Not the river, not now, not the river.'


The young girl, the old chap and the dog walked slowly down to the willows

on the banks of the wide river. The flowing water sparkled its warm welcome

and the dog barked twice in excitement.


'Ah, here we are,' said the young girl, walking towards a boat on the bank under a willow tree.

Between the two of them they managed to ease the boat into the river, leaving the grass flattened at that spot. Once aboard, the current pulled them out and the dancing light lit their eyes and reflected on their faces. The young girl slipped a coin into the water.

'Adventure, Annie.' said the old chap 'Adventure Rufus.' And the dog barked again.





Friday, January 08, 2021

And now I live, and now my life is done.

 

From my previous Blog:

Another poetry collection I bought is Poems That Make Grown Men Cry by Anthony and Ben Holden. The second one of the 100 listed was 'Elegy' by Chidiock Tichborne which was written in 1586 on the eve of the poet's execution. I was astounded. The poem is perfect, and I wondered how he could produce such a gem and be so reflective in the face of the morrow's coming brutality? More than that, it opened so many questions, but principally how a person who was surrounded by the love of his wife and his five sisters and the love for his young child could risk everything to murder another woman, his monarch?  The poem also appears in the Paul Kelly poetry compilation of favourite poems Love Is Strong As Death, and in both of Seamus Heaney and Ted Hughes's excellent poetry anthologies, The School Bag and The Rattle Bag.

On 20 September 1586 fourteen of the Babington Plotters were executed. They had sought to assassinate Queen Elizabeth and replace her with the Catholic, Mary Queen of Scots. The plan had been foiled by a double agent.




On the night prior to his execution for his part in the plot, the 24 year old Chidiock Tichborne composed his own perfect elegy, to be sent to Agnes his wife together with a letter of loving farewell to her, and to his five sisters and his child.


Thou shalt not kill, the sixth commandment was not a consideration in the assassination plan. It was given papal imprimatur, the affirmation to rid the nation of the wicked heretical Queen, to damn her recusant Protestant soul straight to hell to weep and moan and be tormented forever in eternal fire; of this Catholics were certain. The Pope, Sextus V was chosen by the Almighty, and those who died in attempted regicide were assured a swift lift to those Heavenly gates.


By crikey there was hatred and fear back then. Blood and guts literally spilled over English Christendom and the fate of the treasonous was to be dragged on a tray by horse to the place of execution, then hung and while still alive, eviscerated, that is disembowelled, the bits to be thrown on a fire. Then they were quartered, each quarter to be placed as a warning in a strategic location. Those Tudors did execution with a flourish. And sometimes they lopped off other bits too, reproductive organs, that sort of thing. I wasn't going to mention it in case anyone is squeamish, but we need to reveal the full picture.


So, to return to the condemned Chidiock Tichborne at night in the Tower of London. He somehow found the strength to write his own elegy knowing full well that he would suffer the most brutal of deaths on the morrow alongside thirteen accomplices. How did he do it? Well religion, aside from causing his predicament could also bring solace. Maybe that was it? When all is lost gimmie that old tyme religion. The Bible holding Trump in front of the church knows it.


Back then in 1586 the Christians were at each others throats as they had been since the reign of King Henry V111 and his imposition of the Church of England. Bloody Mary (Queen Mary 1 of England) had reclaimed Catholicism with gibbets and the sword, then Elizabeth 1 had reinstated the Church of England and Protestantism, and more was to come. In the name of power, wealth and the True Faith, the heads of aristocrat and commoner fell to the axe, bones cracked, blood flowed and live flesh fed the faggots.


It was indeed a bloody brutal age. Religious wars in Europe, Holy Roman Empire vs the Islamic Ottoman Empire, torture, trial and executions at various inquisitions to unearth heresy, and then witchcraft.


Witchcraft trials alone were 80,000. At least 35,000 were executed in Europe between 1450 and 1750, mostly women. It was a dangerous time to be out plucking a few herbs for the pot, la la la.

I know... but sometimes a little black humour helps with the horrific. Besides it was so long ago, and we're different folk now. Or are we? Are we? A thin veneer of civilisation?



You know... sometimes I think that humans just need a banner to rally behind. Its a fault in the design. Robert Graves' book Count Belisarius, about a sixth century Roman general recounts how

Rome had two factions, the Green and the Blue. Non political, non religious. They became religious later but initially they followed charioteers and slaughtered each other in the thousands.


My wife Denise and I visited the Great Uncle and Great Aunt in Glasgow in the early 70s. On the way we had to stop for the (Protestant) Orange Day parade. Fife and drums, hard faced slit eyed skinheads, and I suddenly became conscious of my green jumper, our green car... We departed. Later that night the Great Uncle Hughie stopped my Aussie song, The Wild Colonial Boy. 'You'll nae be singing that in this hoose laddie.' He was tall, imposing with a sharp fine nose, bristling eyebrows and flashing eyes. You wouldn't cross him. I didn't. The Great Aunt explained in the morning that it is regarded as a 'Party' song ie. Catholic, and there had been a recent stabbing close by of someone singing a similar 'Party' song. The Irish 'Troubles' which killed 3600 fortunately did not spread to Scotland, apart from minor outbreaks, but the sectarian divide was strong, you were either green or orange.



My Dad told me that his three uncles, Hughie, Harry and Tiny, all well over six foot, would go down to the fine Proddie house on the corner each Orange Day while the Orangeman was out marching, and snip the heads off his roses. Aye, they were tall and feisty with a brutal sense of humour.



Back to Chidiock Tichborne, our condemned poet. Sir Thomas More, the great Catholic humanist (and Protestant persecutor?), now saint and martyr was beheaded for treason 51 years prior, in 1535. He refused to recognise the supremacy of Henry V111 over the Pope. He comforted his executioner with the words 'You will give me this day a greater benefit than ever any mortal man can give me. Pluck up thy spirits man. And be not afraid to do thine office.'


And Chidiock Tichborne, he too had that faith, that he would soon be with God, his purpose in life completed. The True Faith. At the least, he believed so. And we can only hope that it served him well at the end.


The Babington plotters were executed in two groups. Chidiock was in the first group. The Queen, Elizabeth 1 was informed that the public were starting to sympathise with the plotters, due to the barbarity of the execution stages. Her Majesty then pronounced that the second group should be hung until they were 'quite dead' (prior to evisceration and quartering...).



Tychbornes Elegie, written with his owne hand in the Tower

before his execution


My prime of youth is but a frost of cares,
My feast of joy is but a dish of paine,
My Crop of corne is but a field of tares, [weeds]
And al my good is but vaine hope of gaine.
The day is past, and yet I saw no sunne,
And now I live, and now my life is done.


My tale was heard, and yet it was not told,
My fruite is falne, & yet my leaves are greene:
My youth is spent, and yet I am not old,
I saw the world, and yet I was not seene.
My thred is cut, and yet it is not spunne,
And now I live, and now my life is done.


I sought my death, and found it in my wombe,
I lookt for life, and saw it was a shade:
I trod the earth, and knew it was my Tombe,
And now I die, and now I was but made.
My glasse is full, and now my glasse is runne,
And now I live, and now my life is done.



To the most loving wife alive, I commend me unto her, and desire God to bless her with all happiness, pray for her dead husband, and be of good comfort, for I hope in Jesus Christ this morning to see the face of my Maker and Redeemer in the most joyful throne of His glorious kingdom. Commend me to all my friends, and desire them to pray for me, and in all charity to pardon me, if I have offended them. Commend me to my six sisters, poor desolate souls, advise them to serve God, for without Him no goodness is to be expected. Were it possible, my little sister Bab, the darling of my race, might be bred by her, God would reward her; but I do her wrong I confess, that hath by my desolate negligence too little for herself, to add a further charge unto her. Dear wife forgive me, that have by these means so much impoverished her fortunes; patience and pardon, good wife I crave—make of these our necessities a virtue, and lay no further burthen on my neck than hath already been. There be certain debts that I owe, and because I know not the order of the law, piteous it hath taken from me all, forfeited by my course of offence to Her Majesty, I cannot advise thee to benefit me herein, but if there fall out wherewithal, let them be discharged for God's sake. I will not that you trouble yourself with the performance of these matters, my own heart, but make it known to my uncles, and desire them, for the honour of God and ease of their soul, to take care of them as they may, and especially care of my sisters' bringing up the burthen is now laid on them. Now, Sweet-cheek, what is left to bestow on thee? A small jointure, a small recompense for thy deserving, these legacies following to be thine own. God of His infinite goodness give thee grace always to remain His true and faithful servant, that through the merits of His bitter and blessed passion thou mayst become in good time of His kingdom with the blessed women in heaven. May the Holy Ghost comfort thee with all necessaries for the wealth of thy soul in the world to come, where until it shall please Almighty God I meet thee, farewell loving wife, farewell the dearest to me on all the earth, farewell!

By the hand from the heart of thy most faithful loving husband.








Monday, August 31, 2020

A Proper Blog September 2020 - Neighbour Gatherings, Books, Music, Politics.

 



Ok. The standard Blog, because I want to remember these rains when the fires come later in the year.    I want to remember a week of rain filled windy nights, trees soughing like a mad sea. Dams on Cooleman Ridge are full. Brilliant. The last time they were full was in 2014. Beanies, gloves and thermal for my morning walk against the snow sharp winds. Exhilarating!

Meanwhile Aussie fire fighters are off to California to assist with the fight over there. A reciprocal arrangement which sadly resulted in the death of two from the USA earlier this year when their water bomber crashed.

How are we coping with the pandemic? So far ok. It's very frustrating not to able to visit our daughter and family in Bali or our son and partner in Melbourne. But hopefully things will change once a vaccine is available. Well the Catholic Archbishop of Sydney has 'ethical concerns' with the Oxford vaccine because of its development using an aborted fetus. You think a new 'enlightened' Pope might make a difference, but nope, it's the same old Middle Age's hidebound beliefs. You might think the Archbishop would have ethical concerns about putting so many Catholics at risk. This is an organisation which enjoys tax free status, which is worth at least 30 BILLION dollars HERE in Australia. An organisation which fought tooth and nail by paying for the best legal bazookas, in order to minimise sexual abuse compensation payments. Ethical concerns?? Business is booming. https://www.smh.com.au/national/catholic-church-s-massive-wealth-revealed-20180209-p4yzus.html#:~:text=The%20Catholic%20Church%20owns%20property,taxation%2C%20and%20minimal%20public%20accountability.



Here in Upper Holder aka Number 9 Place we have been having regular gatherings of our neighbours which has helped us cope with the restrictions of COVID 19. On average it has been about one night every three weeks. Some nights have been chilly mid Winter weather but this has been alleviated by a converted heater shell belonging to good neighbour Geordie in which the wood burns like a cracker. A wine or two further insulates against the elements. Another wine or two and you don't feel anything really except love for your neighbour. Yes, we've become biblical. May the chat and laughter continue, it has brought the neighbourhood closer.

At last night's meeting we had a new heater courtesy of good neighbour Bryn who converted an old heater provided by Denise and I. Denise spotted it outside a house in Heysen St and we zoomed over and relieved them of it. Midnight Heaters. Oh, also last night we enjoyed Bryn's slow roasted pork, pork knuckle and chicken. Beautiful. Denise provided rolls and a salad of cabbage, mint, apple, shallot with a dressing of sour cream, lemon and olive oil. A perfect accompaniment.

Reading


I just finished Dissolution by C.J. Sansome, the first in his Shardlake series. A hunchback lawyer who solves crimes in Tudor times, the time of dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII and Thomas Cromwell. It was engrossing and of course begs comparison with the Cromwell books by Hilary Mantel, particularly as one reviewer rated Sansome as the better writer. He isn't, Mantel is poetic, she bedazzles and draws you into her warmth, but he is very good. I'm just about to start The Mirror and The Light, the third and final in the series.

Also by Sansome was his reconstruction of WW2 whereby England surrendered to Hitler. Called Dominion I found it a fascinating and compelling read.


Haruki Murakami is a Japanese novelist who is an institution in his own country. He is described by The Times as 'one of the most important contemporary novelists.' All of his books have been translated and are readily available – Harry Hartog's in Woden has a selection, or your local library. I have found some at Canty's in Fyshwick.


The novels are compelling in plot, well written and almost casual in style, but allegorical perhaps, existential questions loom. He uses magic realism in some, and things may not be as they seem.  Aphorisms pop up here and there, hidden truths to assist you in your journey. Delving into Murakami will take you on a unique journey quite unlike anything you have read previously.


My introduction was his 2014 Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, which followed Tsukuru in his quest to find the reason for his friends' dismissal of his friendship. A good place to start but if you want to dive full on into prime Murakami, the novels IQ84, or The Wind Up Bird Chronicle will get you there. The three books of IQ84 are available in a single volume at Harry Hartog for $20. The library has the separate books.






I bought Paul Kelly's Love Is Strong As Death, his choice of poetry. I just love compilations. You can always find a gem in there. Paul Kelly is very well read, as you'd expect for such a prolific song writer. Almost everyone is within, from The Bible, Sappho, Homer, Shakespeare to Blake, Whitman, Plath, Hughes, but no D.H. Lawrence. All the major Aussies. Everyone you might expect. No Lawrence! He did live a couple of months at Thirroul down in The Gong and we've claimed him, as you do. D.H. Lawrence from The Gong.

I found Sharon Olds, now 77, ripper. Very good, sexual and sensuous with humour and bite. And Hera Lindsay Bird, the young New Zealand poet with her raunchy 'Keats Is Dead So Fuck Me From Behind.' Seize the day indeed...



Another poetry collection I bought is Poems That Make Grown Men Cry by Anthony and Ben Holden. The second one of the 100 listed was 'Elegy' by Chidiock Tichborne which was written in 1586 on the eve of the poet's execution. I was astounded. The poem is perfect, and I wondered how he could produce such a gem and be so reflective in the face of the morrow's coming brutality? More than that, it opened so many questions, but principally how a person who was surrounded by the love of his wife and his five sisters and the love for his young child could risk everything to murder another woman, his monarch? I will put up a blog about this soon. The poem also appears in the Paul Kelly book.

Our U3A short story group has been tasked with compiling a list of our ten most memorable books. Now that is a task I will enjoy! I'll add them to this post once I've worked it out. Or maybe the following one.

Music on the speakers.



A variety, it depends on the mood and whether listening in the car or on the home speakers. At home I enjoy classical and jazz, Bach's violin concertos with their deep cello sounds, Miles Davis – I found a remastered version of Bitches Brew recently, such a mighty album. Any of Patricia Barber's albums. I'm surprised she's not more well known. A great composer, pianist and vocalist who uses poetic lyrics and a fusion of jazz and rock, and chooses the best accompanists – she deserves more acclaim.



I've always admired Malian Rokia Traore and found her album Beautiful Africa at the last Lifeline bookfair – a happy find, it's up with her best. Great composer, sublime singer and good guitarist who incorporates Malian sounds with rock - though note that there are many styles in Mali.




Nick Cave's recent Ghosteen follows on from Skeleton Tree as a meditation on the tragic death of his son. An amazing album and is possibly to rock music what Ulysses was to literature. Achingly beautiful, it's not background music. I'm hoping for a return to raw rock, maybe a stripped down Seeds in the form of a third Grinderman album.

Simple raw rock is what you get with the now finally released Creedence Clearwater Rivival Live At Woodstock. John Fogarty initially opposed the release – he wasn't happy with it for some reason, but it's prime CCR with tracks from the first three albums including fabulous extended versions of I Put A Spell On You, Chooglin' and Suzie Q.

https://music.youtube.com/watch?v=Av6x1RpN_TE&list=OLAK5uy_kl1reP0m6NAeTo4iFqc1aMudUcJMLM00w

The tragic death of Justin Townes Earle last week lead me to check out his last album, The Saint Of Lost Causes. It is a knockout for my taste. He has eight albums I think of which I've heard maybe three others. I need to check out more. He was here at the Byron Bay Bluesfest in 2010 and 2012. 

There's a photo in the 2012 blog of old pal Len with Justin.

http://barrymcgloin.blogspot.com/2010/05/byron-bay-bluesfest-2010-so-here-we-are.html

http://barrymcgloin.blogspot.com/2012/05/

Politics

We're stuffed.

We have a government that has no real climate change policy, that discourages alternative energy, that even now is proposing to build coal fired power stations, that has done nothing to encourage electric vehicles, that supports fossil fuel to the hilt, all this despite the recent fires which are of course a state responsibility... oh yes, blame it on the states, along with Corona virus health care, aged care, the Murray Darling etc.

LNP government is responsible to a large extent for the aged care crisis and associated deaths, the careless, irresponsible and inhumane robo debt recovery with its associated grief and deaths, the under powered NBN, the cuts to our national broadcaster, work choices and associated breakdown of salaries and conditions, the sports rort corruption, the wreck that is the Murray Darling river system, among other incompetencies.

When our family arrived in this country we were welcomed. Australia was known as a friendly, welcoming country. Not so much now. We lock up bone fide refugees in concentration camps for years. Lately Commandant Dutton has sought to take away their mobile phones, lifelines to their families. It is cruel and inhumane. Like his treatment of the Sri Lankan family who lived in Biloela, Queensland and were supported by that community. Their two girls were born in Australia. They have been moved to Christmas Island, the sole detainees.

The LNP, principally Dutton supported by Morrison, reopened Christmas Island at a cost of tens of millions. One estimation was 130 million. Then 30 million since reopening. They put 130 Serco employees on the island initially, now down to 104, in expectation of an influx, but in reality to guard the family of four.

https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2020/feb/09/biloela-family-wait-in-christmas-island-limbo-as-wuhan-evacuees-see-out-quarantine

This is a bloody minded mean spirited vindictive government. The ex ASIS whistle blower Witness K has pleaded guilty to spilling the beans on a deed which was illegal, unethical and an act of pure bastardy on a poor, friendly neighbour. His lawyer Bernard Collaery is to be prosecuted. These two are regarded as heroes in Timor-Leste. Howard and Downer should hang their heads in shame for approving the bugging of the offices of the Timor-Leste government. They should be prosecuted for bringing the reputation of Australia into disrepute.

https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2019/aug/10/witness-k-and-the-outrageous-spy-scandal-that-failed-to-shame-australia

Recently PM Morrison blindly acceded to a request from the US President Trump to blame the Chinese for the virus. Note that the virus could have started anywhere, the Chinese didn't manufacture it, and they put in immediate measures to contain it which have worked well domestically. Regardless, it is not Australia's place to criticise, nor to blindly follow a faulty wired President who may be ousted soon. I mean seriously, why would you criticise  when so much of our economy relies on Chinese trade? It shows an appalling lack of foresight. It was amazingly ill judged, even for the LNP. And where are the National Party, champions of the farmers? You'd think they would be honking like the geese they are. Too busy dining with mining giants you think?

Australia was one of the first friends of China thanks to Gough Whitlam. Both Morrison and Trump will soon be gone, sluiced down the 'S' bend of history where they belong. Gough Whitlam is, and will continue to be remembered as a PM with vision, courage and integrity, both here and in China. 





  This is the second article on our recent Bali trip which I wrote for the U3A Photography Group newsletter in June 2022. Bali Photog...