2012 March

Saturday 31st: Some of the best homespun philosophy I’ve ever heard today from a Melbourne taxi driver who hails from Southern India: every time you stop at a red light is 30 seconds of your life. Don’t waste it, those 30 seconds soon mount up. Use them to think of ways you can improve yourself, your family and society to bring more peace into the world and if you cannot do that at least look and admire what you see around you. He talks to a lot of people in his cab and many are intellectually able. None want to go into politics. So he asks: if the best and brightest will not go into politics,  just who are we left with to make the laws and guide society?  He also compared driving conditions between India and Australia to describe the balance between individual freedoms in society and rules that benefit us all. Top bloke!

Friday 30th: Some people find it easy to apologise when they are in the wrong, others nigh on impossible. Without wishing to tar all Jetstar pilots with the same brush I wonder if they all are in the latter camp? When a service runs more than two hours late its amazing you still are expected to buy a bottle of water – Jetstar seem to want to give the impression that they are Qantas’ trailertrash cousins .

Tuesday 27th: There is something about a pond. Water, whether it is an oasis in a desert or a garden pond, attracts life in a multitude of forms.  Now I have a constantly changing estuary to watch but in the past have derived as much joy from creating then observing and sitting by a healthy pond. This was my last one:

Monday 26th: Thirty years ago a British politician, John Nott, announced the end of  the Royal Navy’s carrier force, such as it was, with only the Harrier VSTOL capability.  The Falklands War intervened and saved fixed wing maritime aviation for another generation. Today Britain has no Sea Harriers and no aircraft carriers not to mention no RAF Maritime Patrol Aircraft but it still has Sir John Nott.  Believe it or not he is still banging on in print against the future generation of carriers under construction and yet is pro-the UK’s independent nucear deterrent.  Sir John – consistency is only meritorious if you are consistently right. Sir Robin Day once suggested you were a ‘here today, gone tomorrow’ politician. If only you’d been a ‘never heard from, never heard of’ politician the British Armed Forces would have been a damn sight better off come April 1982.

Friday 23rd: I cannot say I enjoy DIY jobs but there is a certain satisfaction to a job done well or even a fudged job, once it is complete.  If you have a lot of repetitive painting work to do I would strongly recommend listening to Pavarotti. I had no idea how much an opera tenor could help when wielding a paintbrush!

Thursday 22nd: When there is a relationship between a journalist and someone they report on regularly and with affection in the public eye it must be very difficult to remain neutral and objective.  Certainly that seems to be the case reading the notable football correspondent Henry Winter this week in the UK’s Daily Telegraph.  Reporting on Fabrice Muamba’s manager Owen Coyle, Winter writes as though Coyle is up for Sainthood: “the way he has tended his distressed flock”; “in times of darkness, football needs beacons of hope”; Coyle has lit them across the land”; it needs chronicling for all time”; “His critics have been scattered”. Winter could have been  writing an old testament book – ‘Winter’s letter to the Notlobians’: “the game will resume its journey through the valley of the vile”; “the memory of when peace broke out will seem distant”. In all this one phrase stands out to those who once loved the prophet Coyle: “This is a man of principle, a figure who inspires trust amongst his players”.  Tell that to any Burnley FC fan who remembers 5th January 2010 and immediately rewarded Owen Coyle with the name of another disciple, Judas.

Tuesday 20th: Often heard on TV News: “The following images may be disturbing” – then why show them? If I want to see disturbing I’ll look in the mirror! Or, “these images cannot be independently verified” – then wait until they can be or do not show them at all.

Monday 19th March: In a modern information age we are almost daily ‘toughened up’ by often horrific images of war, famine and flood on TV news. A society that only a couple of hundred years ago watched public hangings and floggings for entertainment is immunised now to much larger scale devastation of humanity. So what is it that causes so much sadness when an overpaid young athlete collapses from a heart attack on a sports field in front of thousands of fans? The human spirit, provoked also perhaps by our tribal loyalty for the love of the game, no-one wants to see a soccer gladiator die even if you dont support his club and for some, hate his manager. Around the world prayers are being offered for Fabrice Muamba to recover by people many of whom will not have prayed for victims in Syria, Sudan and the Japanese or Indonesian tsunamis. As one Bolton fan put it: “he cant shoot, he cant pass but I love him”. Get well soon Fabrice.

Sunday 18th March: Has any journalist ever lost credibility with a knowledgeable readership as quickly as ‘Penbo’ (David Penberthy) did in the Sunday Tasmanian today? Poor supervision allowed him to get away with describing a senior Royal Australian Navy officer as an “army boss” and one who is “trained to kill for a living and can live for weeks in the jungle on a single shard of beef jerky”. Pleeeease!

Saturday 17th March: It struck me today that while I have read autobiographies, unofficial, ghosted and genuine, I doubt I have ever read a complete autobiography. I wonder if anyone ever died quill in hand as they were penning their life story up to date to the week in which they expired.

Friday 16th March: What an anti-climax the football season is when it becomes obvious one’s team is condemned to mid-table mediocrity for another season.   No cups to be won, no glory to be gained.  Free, thank God, from the relegation dogfight for another year (that is of course an alien concept to American major league sports)  yet weighted down by the expectation of future success.  My only consolation is that we Burnley fans are well trained to expect disappointment, frustration andforlorn hope.

Thursday 15th March: One of the least civil of all human endeavours is a so-called ‘civil’ war. Millions died or were displaced by civil wars in the last century and this century hasn’t begun well in that respect. The UN and its Security Council often appears like a modern day Nero, fiddling away while thousands suffer. Civil Wars though are difficult to corrall.  Some media still, after a year, refer to the Syrian ‘crisis’ as ‘violent unrest’. In countries like Libya the people may or may not benefit from external intervention. I am by inclination isolationist and I suspect the most permanent solutions to civil wars are those where outside interests do not or are not allowed to interfere. Please note I didn’t say ‘the best solutions’…

Wednesday 14th March: Sadly, 28 people died in a coach crash in a Swiss road tunnel today. Tunnels dont move but tunnel walls are unforgiving. I am not claustrophobic but I’ll never travel through the channel tunnel and I never enjoy driving through road tunnels. In a way going underground voluntarily is as alien as going up in an aeroplane. However as Costa Concordia proved no form of transport is entirely safe and even sitting at home you could be hit by a meteorite….pessimistic, moi?!

Monday 12th March: There has been much made recently in the Australian press of a lack of mutual admiration between the Minister for Defence and the uniformed personnel of the defence force. One letter I read today said the Minister of Defence was elected and should be respected. However the Minister is appointed, not elected (although elected a member of parliament) and respect in the military sphere has to be earned. There is no question that senior military officers will continue to obey the Minister’s direction but there is no law that requires them to approve of the Prime Minister’s choice. It is most unlikely the current incumbent will be able to regain their respect and confidence. While those officers have a career’s worth of experience in Defence the weakness of our present system is that rarely is that the case with their political masters. Too often the donkeys are now politicians and the lions are all those in uniform, including the ‘senior sirs’. Unfortunately it is not only in Defence where fools are expected to be suffered gladly.

Sunday 11th March: One year ago we were living in Japan.  My wife and dogs were experiencing the earthquake, hundreds of aftershocks and fallout fears while I was initially in Singapore before sailing north with aid supplies. Today over 3,ooo people are still missing and Japan is still recovering. We have nothing but the greatest of respect for the people of Japan and their ability to come to terms with and meet the challenges of such devastating events.

Friday 9th March: While most of us may be Mr or Mrs Average, what is it that separates the average from a genius and from the stupid. Is it genetic, astrological or something else? To be a Messi on the football pitch or a Bradman at the wicket, Bach composing or Da Vinci inventing, or Michelangelo decorating ceilings is a gift, but how is it given? To watch someone make something which everyone else struggles with look easy is inspiring and humbling but I suspect for every genius in their profession there is someone at the opposite end of the spectrum who never stood a chance. Perhaps Barcelona’s Messi made some Germans feel like that this week!

Thursday 8th March: More dreadful news from Afghanistan with six British soldiers losing their lives, bringing their total of ‘killed in action’ to more than four hundred. Their sacrifice, like the hundreds of thousands who have gone before them, occurred in the belief that their service was protecting ‘their’ society and loved ones from danger. Yet the society young service personnel defend today is a very different one from even forty years ago when I joined.  Pre- the Federalist undemocratic EU (even pre-the ‘Common Market’ but lets not go there) pre-politically inspired ‘multiculturalism’ pre-educational policy follies which have so devalued young people’s aspirations and academic achievements. I could fill this page with the changes that have been made by our political lords and masters but my point is simple: If society and a nation can change so dramatically how can there be any sort of military covenant worthy of the title? Even a covenant between politicians and civilian citizens when promises in Manifestos are so easily ignored? Witness the fall of the Soviet Union and the poverty inflicted on a generation of its servicemen and their families as well as society, exempt the Russian mafia. Western democracy is I fear in need of repair and that can give little solace to the families in mourning today.

Wednesday 7th March: According to the UK’s Daily Telegraph:Madhouse, a nationwide chain of discount men’s clothing stores, was branded “shameful” and “outrageous” by hundreds of Twitter users yesterday, because of the label’s washing instructions to ‘Give it to your woman’. ” Wow! but wait a minute is this really newsworthy? The exact same washing instructions are at least 5 years old. Here they are and obviously this proves I am an MCP as I kept the photo from a joke e-mail in March 06. Twitter users can go mad – I aint getting an account…


Tuesday 6th March: Just how much has education failed our children?  On the same day academics are complaining that even the brightest Cambridge University entrants cannot adequately construct an essay comes the news that the preacher J.John has updated the Ten Commandments, inspired apparently by last year’s riots in the UK.  Talk about lost in translation.  When we adapt and interpret do we improve and add quality or have we reached the point in our society’s development where we are dumbing down to the lowest common denominator?  I suspect the latter but remain optimistic.  I am convinced life is cyclical and that at some point we will see attainments, standards and expectations on the rise again. In the meantime thank God that there are people with the drive and initiative to make that happen.

Monday 5th March: Added ‘Soldier’s Last Love’ at the Poems tag.

Sunday 4th March: I watched a 1980s Rowan Atkinson vicar sketch on ‘gay’ marriage today. Coincidentally the issue is topical both in Sydney’s Mardi Gras (last night) and  with the Roman Catholic primate of Scotland who is expressing angst regarding the British Coalition’s intention to legalise same-sex marriage. What is striking is the disproportionate influence that a vociferous minority is capable of wielding in a western democracy, an influence so much less evident in less liberal societies. Putin Rules OK!

Saturday 3rd March: Rome wasn’t built in a day but it bloody well ought to have been!

Friday 2nd March: There is real irony regarding the net and privacy. In one country you cannot name an ex-wife of the Sultan of Brunei because of a super-injunction yet in another it has been all over the front pages.  More irony today from  the UK where police seem more concerned about the dangers of witchcraft to children than the dangers posed by the tyranny of the family courts.  Anyone wanting to learn how dire life can be as a parent in England should read Christopher Booker’s articles in the Daily Telegraph.  I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that the social services aren’t rounding up children at risk from witchcraft – that would be racist.  Irony heaped upon irony.

Thursday 1st March: Its not everyday I invent a new word. Corporatism grew from lessons learnt by capitalists as a result of the last great depression when banks were, unlike today, allowed to fail. Alongside commercial corporatism has grown up CORPOLATISM (my word fromcor-rupt/pol-iticians/corporatism). Corpolatism is the combined action of more than two nation states in unelected suprational organisations established to protect elites (political, social and economic) by improving their situation or if that is not feasible, by maintaining the status quo. Examples: UN, EU, ASEAN,  etc etc.