2012 January

Tuesday 31st: As always the qustion middle-aged and elderly people ask themselves a dozen times a year: Where has this month gone? This evening I watched a professional navy perform a ceremonial sunset with guard and band, an event always guaranteed to bring a tear to the eye of an old sailor. Two ‘bon mots’ heard today to end the month with: “You dont notice oxygen until its missing” and  to be relevant you have to be present”.

Sunday 29th: When will someone satisfactorily explain how ‘growth’ can be so good and why it is so essential in a world of finite resources? It makes no  sense to me.

Saturday 28th: What a farce our tertiary education systems have become when universities are simply cash cows with no thought of the benefits to society nor the origins of universities and desirability of research.  My solution is simple.  Limit the number of university places to the top 5% of secondary school’s students. Ensure high school tests are also limited so that the top 5, 10, 20% etc of academic achievers can be identified by prospective employers and ensure there are enough apprenticeship places to provide a future skilled work. Strangely enough this was what life used to be like before American parents became obsessed with a college education and the colleges identified how much money could be made.

Friday 27th: How long do we have to say ‘sorry’ to 2.5% of the population? In a modern 21st century, possibly the most democratic society in the world  where everyone has the opportunity to progress, it is surely time to stop apologising for events that happened hundreds of years ago, to stop inculcating children with hate and make the best of living together in harmony. Human history has been forged by one group conquering another all over the world not just ‘down under’. It is time to look only forward and not backwards.

Thursday 26th: Happy Australia Day! How lucky am I to be a citizen of the ‘lucky country’?  Geoffrey Rush is the Australian of the Year – what an excellent choice and what a great actor.

Wednesday 25th: The State of the Union address, a decade after 911 and the war is against economic issues and not terrorism. Since listening live in 2000, I have found the State of the Union address an educational experience. How unified television can make an audience appear when almost every year there exists so much division and hypocrisy. It will be interesting to see if President Obama suffers the same fate as President Carter or will he match Clinton, perhaps with a Vice President for a second term named Clinton?

Tuesday 24th: I had a wonderful demonstration on the water today  of the saying “a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing”. When a passenger is made aware of the depth readings it is easy to worry without knowing the full facts. Wouldn’t it have been great though if a passenger had been on the bridge of the Costa Concordia and been able to alert the on watch personnel to the fateful echo sounder display.  Assuming of course they even had their echo sounder switched on…

Monday 23rd: Another beautiful morning in sunny Tassie. It is a bizarre world, some people have no shame. An elderly politician who conspired to bring a Great nation to its knees, economically and culturally, who used his office to have an affair with a secretary, used public funds to pay personal taxes and has several speeding tickets is considering becoming an elected police commissioner!

Sunday 24th: Thanks to the UK’s Daily Telegraph for publishing my letter.

Thursday 18th: It seems strange that in amateur one one sports if you play a weak opponent your own game suffers. I wonder if for most of us there is a psychological easing up. On a different subject, a society’s assets – economic, cultural, population are finite. Although you can increase population numbers you still have to find food for everyone unless you are in North Korea. As such just how much will Eurozone nations be allowed to borrow that they will never be able to repay?

Tuesday 17th: A great start to the day. I disturbed a large skate while paddling along. I think I woke him/her up as the weed resting on one of its wing got carried off as well. Such truly graceful creatures. Not a particularly productive day after completing the short story Lionheart yesterday but I did get to see Mr Clooney’s latest film ‘The Dependents’, a beautifully crafted film but not one I could really get into. 

Monday 16th: I wonder if scientists will ever be able to pin down what makes time seems to go by quicker the older you get? Over half of the first month of 2012 gone in an instant. The last week here has been forgettable from a weather perspective with a cold snap and mostly Southerly winds keeping me off the river. The papers report the water has been unseasonably warm though – warmer in fact than at Bondi Beach.  Thankfully, today Summer has returned.

Sunday 15th: The power of the sea should never be underestimated but this weekend it seems thousands have been most fortunate to witness a calm Mediterranean. Unfortunately neither should one underestimate the ability of humans to err. My thoughts are with those remaining in COSTA CONCORDIA, no doubt the ship’s ‘black box’ will reveal all but it is unimaginable that no one had ‘found’ the rock it went aground on before now.

Friday 13th: It is difficult to be superstitious on a day when France loses its AAA credit rating. How much longer can the Euro survive and why should so many millions of Europeans suffer for this ill conceived Orwellian experiment called the European Union? I suspect the only reason the United States prospered is that the original 13 all had a common enemy and the other other 37 were gradually populated and subsumed. As the Soviets finally had to recognise, corralling sovereign nation states into a single union with many different ethnicities and religions thrown in is not a long term recipe for success.

Wednesday 11th: Reading Conor O’Clery’s excellent book about the last day of the Soviet Union: “Moscow December 25 1991”. Having lived in Moscow in the Gorbachev era through some of the early events described it certainly brings back a few memories. It also makes me think that the struggle for Russian independence is not unlike the power struggle between Westminster and Edinburgh at the moment. It strikes me that if you create any institution it will want to expand its powers and often in unpredictable ways.  O’Clery has certainly opened my eyes about Gorbachev, not that I had any sympathy for the man responsible for expelling me from the USSR.

Tuesday 10th: Spent this afternoon watching Meryl Streep’s Oscar-worthy performance as Margaret Thatcher in the Iron Lady. Quite a strange feeling in the cinema as fifty or sixty-plus ‘Aussies’ (most I suspect were Brit expats) watched in total silence this moving story of elderly decline and human frailty interspersed with scenes of political executions by handbag.

Monday 9th: One of those days we refer to in our family as a Winnie the Pooh blustery day with white horses on the river being whipped up by strong nor’westerlies and spectacular hues of blues. I thought it was interesting when my neighbour put his boat away the previous day but the wind combined with the high tides made it a very seamanlike decision. I have decided to give make my hero in ‘Toad’ a rather unsightly chap. It is interesting how characters develop almost by themselves as you write more about them.

Friday 6th: The party is over now, time for the decorations to come down, 12th day of Christmas and all that. I dont get to decorate the tree but I do get to take it down.

The Elephant in the Tree

Please dont ask why we had a turquoise elephant on the tree – I was asking myself the same question. Every year we buy one new decoration and this year we obviously needed an ‘elephant in the room’.

Speaking of an elephant in the room when writing ‘Toad in a hole’ I have been made aware that political correctness in the form of avoiding sexism is a must in a children’s book. Yet do I  really believe that young boys are equally as romantic as girls? That men are as naturally inclined to romance as women? If we are all the same then where are the women’s sheds in Australia? I have seen so many PC enforced changes in society but I bet  if you put a row of dolls and toy cars in front of a group of boys and girls then the boys will gravitate to the cars and the girls to the dolls. Is it really sexist to acknowledge there are natural differences between the sexes and their tastes in general? Must I really grow ovaries or can I say here its all a load of balls?

Thursday 5th: Fresh North Westerlies blew through here yesterday after a few days when the air conditioning got an hour or two of running and we got into the high 80s outdoors. As a result today was much cooler and more pleasant for my morning paddle. Unfortunately the wind has not blown away those annoying online Ugg sellers who still love this site without (obviously) reading it first. I may even allow a comment from  the first one who acknowledges they know I hate their marketing messages!  Writing will be interrupted briefly by annual injections and grooming.  Not for me I hasten to add but for Monty and Sadie.  Sadie has had her jabs previously in Canberra, Malaysia (from an excellent Indian Malaysian vet in Sitiawan) and an American Army veterinarian in Japan (also excellent). Monty is a relative novice being so young and both are easily bribed by their present vet by his liver treats.

Wednesday 4th: And so back to work.  So far so good on the personal discipline front. Whilst paddling out on the river early this morning I saw a skate and flounder.  Today was spent developing an alien royal wedding for ‘Toad In A Hole’.  I am reminded of my poem ‘Two’ as yet again we have said good bye to our cherished offspring after a family Christmas spent together.  Besides completing Toad I am conscious I need to get cracking on the synopsis of Automatic Adversary.  Adversary is due for completion by the end of September.
Sunday January 1st. A happy and prosperous New Year to anyone out there who doesn’t sell Ugg boots online. Normally I wouldn’t make a NY resolution but this year I have and my resolutions centre around self-discipline. Working for an institution for nearly forty years provides one not only with a security blanket but necessarily imposes a degree of discipline in lifestyle and in particular daily routines. The first six months of my ‘retirement’ to a new life of writing has been incredibly busy but the daily discipline has vanished. I am determined it will return throughout 2012.

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