Thursday, December 25, 2008

Eucharist with the Prime Minister

Well, Christmas is now over for me for another year. I was on the 6.50am train as on a usual Sunday although the combined service was an hour later but I wanted to make sure of my usual pew so found a coffee stand open and filled in 40 minutes in the city. That was wise as the church was packed and the congregation included the Prime Minister of Australia. As the news services stated.
Mr Rudd, his wife Therese Rein, and their three children - Jessica, 24, Nicholas, 22 and Marcus, 15 - attended a Christmas service at St James Anglican church in Sydney's CBD this morning.
The photo shows him with his wife and our Assistant priest Father John Stewart.
It was good to see him queued up in the aisle with everyone else for communion although I was coming back along the side aisle at the time and between looking to see his wife and being a bit disconcerted by the security guys coming towards me (the wrong way) I went at first to the wrong pew. My sister thinks it is sad that the family have to be followed by security officers but that is the way of the modern world.

The Prime Minister has now attended our church several times this year. His main home is in Canberra but there is a house reserved for him in Sydney which has a prime location on the harbour for watching the start of the yacht race today and the fireworks on New Year's Eve. My sister thought he would attend the cathedral but he grew up in the Diocese of Brisbane so would obviously prefer the real Anglican services at St James rather than the Calvinist hotch potch of the cathedral. And who would want to listen to a sermon by one of the Jensens on Christmas day?

The choir sang the Kyries, Gloria, Sanctus & Benedictus from Mozart's Spatzenmesse K220 which, while beautiful, I found a bit long to stand.
I much prefer exercising my own lungs in the processional hymn 'O Come All Ye Faithful', the offertory hymn 'Christians Awake, Salute the Happy Morn' and the final hymn 'Hark the Herald Angels Sing' but this year was particularly moved by the Gradual Hymn 'It Came Upon the Midnight Clear' ( music below) especially finding the third verse apt:
Yet with the woes of sin and strife
The world has suffered long;
Beneath the angel - strain have rolled
Two thousand years of wrong;
And man, at war with man, hears not
The love-song which they bring;
O hush the noise, ye men of strife,
And hear the angels sing.

I seem to be very melancholy this Christmas

We did not arrive at my sister's home until nearly 1pm and we did have hot turkey and ham with salad for main with salmon for entree and plum pudding as dessert. Just as well the temperature did not go above 23'C (73'F) and the morning was cloudy but this can be a trap for the unwary as the UV was high so there could be some sunburnt European tourists today. Brut and New Zealand sauvignon blanc meant I felt quite strange for the more than 2 hours train trip home arriving just in time to see the news with the Prime Minister leaving my church and to watch something I never miss, The Queen's Christmas Message.

Christmas Greeting

The following has already been snail mailed to some, emailed to others but now posted for those of you whom I cannot contact directly.

Christmas 2008
Dear Friends
I guess my working days are now over. The only employment this year was as a polling official at the council elections. I cannot say I miss it but watching my superannuation funds empty due to the Global Financial Mess makes me wonder. I certainly will not be planning any more extensive trips until things improve.
As I took my laptop to Europe, many of you already know of my 2 months wandering first through Bavaria, Austria and Switzerland before travelling north to Berlin, Warsaw, the Baltic States, Stockholm, Helsinki and even the Arctic Circle before returning to Munich via Leipzig and Frankfurt. I had a wonderful time helped by staying with friends in Munich, Berlin and Helsinki and meeting other contacts in Bangkok, Vienna and Stockholm.
It was a mixture of train and ship travel, walking in the Alps ( I lost weight, sadly only temporary), attending operas (Der Rosenkavalier and Land of Smiles in Vienna and The Magic Flute in Berlin) and a concert (Stockholm), visiting museums, castles and churches as well as just wandering in cities and navigating their public transport. I know that I often waste time doing this but prefer that to guided tours.Above is beautiful Hallstatt in Austria which has gone to the top of my list of favorite places and below is the medieval town of Tallinn in EstoniaAt the beginning of November, Bev and I used our frequent flyer points to fly to Dunedin for 10 nights. I am now determined to move there during 2009 as long as I am able to sell my present house for a satisfactory price.
While we spent most of the time in Dunedin and my sister agrees with me that it is a lovely city but wishes it was not so far away, we also went south to Lake Manapouri and Doubtful Sound (the Road to Doubtful Sound is below) where we experienced the heaviest November snowfall in 30 years. I was pleased to see snow fell in the suburbs I have chosen to look for a home.I have continued my U3A activities of Monday walks and Tuesday music. I will miss the friends I have made there. I have also continued to worship at St James, King Street as well as attend various courses it provides during the week. While I love the church, I do not love the 2 hour train trip each way. I have made contact with the Vicar of a church in Dunedin and we worshipped there one Sunday and went to the Cathedral the next. I am finding the garden difficult to maintain and have employed a landscaper to repair the walls and paving I completed more than 20 years ago but have now collapsed. Hopefully this will be finished before Christmas
Internet Blogging has brought me many friends world-wide and at least they can be taken with me. Perhaps if the world economy improves I can visit them one day. I still have enough points for two round trips between Sydney and Dunedin so should not be marooned.
This year I have been the furthest North in my life, when in May I visited the Arctic Circle (66 deg 32’ 35’’N) and yes, I had an interview with Santa . In November I went the furthest south to the port of Bluff in New Zealand (46 deg 36’ 54”S). I have not yet forgotten all my Geography.

Best wishes for Christmas and 2009


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Aussie Christmas 3

Quoting from our city newspaper.
No other country in the world has so many reasons to lie back and enjoy the break: Christmas, cricket, a yacht race, days of heat and a long twilight, New Year's Eve, four weeks holiday - six weeks for the kids - and Big Day Out. It just drifts on and on, like an endless summer. Meanwhile on another part of the planet, it's cold, it's grey, it's raining, it's snowing - they dream of summertime, some place else, like Australia.

Sadly I beg to differ. Reading about the snow and cold in North America, it does seem to be a bit extreme but to me summer is unbearable heat, waiting for the sun to set so the house might cool down, nothing on television except the boring cricket and although I enjoy watching the yachts sail down the harbour (on TV) the interest disappears once they are out the heads with more than a day before the leaders reach Hobart. I go to bed as usual on New Year's Eve but may set my alarm to get up and watch the fireworks on TV at midnight. Big Day Out is definitely for teenagers, not my type of music so summer goes on and on, the plants growing faster than I can weed or prune, the insect bites covering my arms after an hour or so of gardening and itching for days and the beach is a no go zone for me with my skin cancer. January seems endless as I miss seeing my friends and cannot wait for all the senior's activities to begin again in February. Thankfully there has been quite a bit or rain this year so it is very unlikely that bushfires will occur in our area. I am suffering from a summer cold. I cannot remember ever having a cold in winter but always get one in Spring (so have had 2 this year so far).

Australians have largely given up on roast dinners for Christmas, seafood is all the go and the news is already about huge crowds at the seafood markets on Christmas Eve. If the church was to emphasise Leviticus 11:10-11 rather than Leviticus 18:22 I would be supremely happy. I do not see anything to rave about in prawns, oysters, crabmeat etc. My sister is aware of this and had a seafood lunch with her husband's family a few days ago. While we will probably have salmon entree (first course) which I do like, we will have cold turkey and ham with salads for the main course and it is compulsory that we have hot Christmas Pudding with brandy and white sauce which I love.
We are returning to having Christmas at her place this year. After Mum's death we started going to a club for lunch as my sister did not like the empty dining table (My sister, brother-in-law and me make up the whole of our family now). However after 2 years at the club I have convinced her to have lunch at home again as I did not enjoy sitting in a room full of strangers. It will be rather late as we will attend Eucharist at St James at 10 am first so not reach her home until about 1pm.

The forecast this year is for early showers and moderate temperatures (mid 20's C 75F) which is not perfect for those who prefer to have Christmas at the beach especially tourists from Europe but will be just nice for the rest of us.

I remember Christmas 2001 when the temperature was in the high 30'sC (over 100'F) and we ate under the air conditioner in my sister's home with blinds drawn unaware that in parts of the city people were fleeing from bushfires. I had needed to take a detour to reach my sister's the night before due to bushfires in the lower mountains. The next day I took Mum to my place as normal in those days and passed near the fires to the east of my home (Fires generally come from the west). However I then received notice that a fire started by lightning way to the south-west was headed my way so rang my sister to come and take Mum back home along with my most valuable and portable possessions. The fire finally arrived on January 4 and passed through my garden about 6 in the morning with fire engines in every driveway. The waiting had been far worse than the actual fire experience.

New Year's day in 2006 I spent at my mother's place (her need for oxygen meant she could no longer holiday with me) with the air conditioner we had bought for her a few days earlier as the temperature reached 46'C (115'F). It was then that I determined to emigrate to New Zealand but thankfully the summers since have not been as bad.

Many Australians will leave for their vacations on Boxing Day (December 26) so the roads and airlines will be packed. I will settle down to gardening and reading both books and internet.

Another Australian custom is Carols by Candlelight. Our weather allows us to sit out in parks after sunset (8pm) and listen to Christmas songs. The big one in Sydney was last Saturday and the big one in Melbourne will be tonight. Other smaller versions are held in towns throughout the country. While I love carols, I am not so keen on many of the sugary Christmas songs. I prefer the services of Lessons and Carols and one is being broadcast on TV from the Melbourne Catholic Cathedral tonight. Our own church held one last Sunday night. I went last year but had to leave early to catch the hourly train which got me home at 11pm. With my cold I decided to miss it this year.
Many people go overboard with lights outside their houses. Some areas have traffic jams as people try to see the lights. I did buy some over the years and string them through the trees at the front but have not had the energy to do so the last few years.

To avoid being too negative I will conclude with another comment from the newspaper.
Christmas is above all a time of hope. It holds a special hopefulness for Christians but in Australia, where the holiday feeling is all pervasive and the new year beckons with its evergreen promises of change and renewal, optimism wells up for everyone. We may be in the midst of a global financial crisis, we may be facing an uncertain future, but few of us want to think about that right now.

Seething with anger

Not a good feeling for Christmas Eve but the report has finally been issued on the Arrest and Detention of Dr Mohamed Haneef. It shows just how hopeless and lacking in objectivity is the Australian Federal Police. I have previously called them Kelty's Keystone Kops but there is nothing funny about it. Apparently some of them have been demoted but Kelty should be put out to pasture.

As for the two Ministers, Kevin Andrews and Philip Ruddock, involved, thankfully they are now backbenchers but as I have written to both of them, they should resign as members of parliament as they bring shame to our whole nation. Both of these humbugs have said they are not sorry for protecting Australians. It is Australia that needs protection from them and their disgraceful laws and bigotry. One good thing about the report is that the Howard security laws rushed in after September 11 are to be revised. They were a disgrace to any democratic country. I read Howard refused to give evidence and forbad his staff from doing so. To me that is an indication of guilt. At least we are rid of him.

Sadly Philip Ruddock occasionally worships at St James and my appreciation of the Gospel is ruined as we sit in pews which mean I am looking directly at him during the Gospel reading. I have suggested he join the other right wing bigots in the cathedral. He is a complete hypocrite as shown that, while a member of Amnesty International, he happily imprisoned women and children refugees for years.

I am also very annoyed that the present government has said they do not need to apologise to Dr Haneef as they were not in government at the time. This was also true when the indigenous people of Australia were being abused but thankfully this did not stop the present government from making that wonderful apology. Why is it that liberal (small l) governments seem to be unwilling to upset the conservatives? Our new government, while doing much that is good, has been very disappointing in regards to climate change action and while it has worked for gay rights, these are kept low key in case the conservatives are upset. The same seems to be apparent in some of the early actions of Barack Obama.

Dr Haneef says he holds no grudges against Australia and may even return to live here. The man is a candidate for sainthood in my opinion.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Ho Ho Ho

I cannot believe I was conned into paying 25 Euros for this photo back in May at the Arctic Circle. The joke was on me. I give permission to laugh. Merry Christmas

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Aussie Christmas 2

On a more serious level. I have always loved the Australian Christmas Carols written in 1948 by John Wheeler and William G. James. I remember first singing them when I was in the junior church choir in the 50's. It is hard to find the music online due to copyright.
I have found the wonderful Australian soprano Yvonne Kenny singing the five best known but embedding is not allowed.
My favourite is the third one she sings.
The fourth one sung is known as Carol of the Birds
  1. Out on the plains the brolgas are dancing
    Lifting their feet like warhorses prancing
    Up to the sun the woodlarks go winging
    Faint in the dawn light echoes their singing
    Orana! Orana! Orana to Christmas Day.

  2. Down where the tree ferns grow by the river
    There where the waters sparkle and quiver
    Deep in the gullies bell-birds are chiming
    Softly and sweetly their lyric notes rhyming
    Orana! Orana! Orana to Christmas Day.

  3. Friar birds sip the nectar of flowers
    Currawongs chant in wattle tree bowers
    In the blue ranges lorikeets calling
    Carols of bush birds rising and falling
    Orana! Orana! Orana to Christmas Day.

Brolga :
A red-headed grey crane (Grus rubicunda) of north eastern Australia, noted for its graceful courtship dances.
Currawong :
A large black bird (Strepera graculina) of eastern Australia, with an attractive call including the sounds "curra – wong".
Friar Bird :
A large brown honeyeater(Philemon corniculatis & spp), of eastern Australia, with the head bare of feathers, to allow access deep into flowers.
Lorikeet :
Any of a number of small, arboreal parrots found in different parts of Australia.
Orana :
Aboriginal word for dawn ... or, in this sense, greetings or perhaps welcome!.
So next Thursday you can imagine me calling Orana to you all on Christmas Day

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Aussie Christmas 1

Some education about Christmas in Australia
First some terms: Esky, Swaggy and Rusty Holden Ute.

Now enjoy and let me know if any other translations are needed (Oh, boot = trunk)

Friday, December 19, 2008

Bishop Spong

I have pinched this from Episcopal Padre. I have discussed elsewhere my confusion over Bishop Spong. I have never heard him preach (not possible in Sydney) but have heard him interviewed on our local radio. I have been impressed. I cannot agree with all his writings and they are certainly not those of an orthodox Episcopal (Anglican) bishop. He was allowed to preach in the Brisbane Cathedral by the Primate of Australia much to the disgust of the bishops and the rest of the gang who run the Diocese of Sydney. My beliefs and theology are probably closer to theirs but they do not preach a gospel of Love like Bishop Spong. I believe Truth can be found in many areas and God speaks through all sorts of people not just those who can sign up to the orthodox line. I would rather listen to Bishop Spong than the hate filled exclusionist ravings of Jensen et al. I find this sermon excerpt comforting and uplifting. Please listen and enjoy.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Another link passes

My sister has just rung to tell me that one of Mum's closest friends, Jean, has been called home by God. She was a year or two younger than Mum (who would have been 99 now).
In Mum's last years they would ring each other regularly but both being very deaf would speak across each other which often had me chuckling (Mum had a loud speaker on her phone so I could hear every word). Jean had 3 daughters, the youngest died in a car accident while a teenager, the eldest died of cancer about 10 years ago. So she had sadness in life but did have many grandchildren while Mum had none. The middle daughter came to Mum's memorial service and has had the difficult task of visiting a mother who did not know her in the last few months. Thankfully Mum's mental capacities were good until the last day or two. My sister and I will attend the service next Monday. While a blessed relief, it is still a sad Christmas for the family. My prayers are with them.
I like to think that Mum and her are now chatting and catching up and can both hear each other perfectly.
Eternal rest grant unto them O Lord
And let perpetual light shine upon them.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Priscilla the Musical

My blog about La Cage Aux Folles led me to buy the CD. While playing it I remembered that I had considered seeing Priscilla, Queen of the Desert - The Musical. I saw the film many years ago (1994) and one of the ladies I walk with told me rather sheepishly last year that her son is a dancer and a member of the cast. I do not know if my frequent asking how he is going has caused her to put two and two together yet. She is very proud of him and has travelled to Melbourne and Auckland to see the show.

It has returned to Sydney where it started and I thought may have finished but found it had 2 more weeks to run and this week there were specials of two for the price of one. I thought I would ask my sister to go to the Wednesday matinee but she had something else on and so we ended up at the Wednesday evening show. Not the best for me with a train home only every hour and Priscilla is on at the Casino quite a distance from the station. Fortunately my brother-in-law came to the rescue. He was going to meet my sister at her local station but decided to drive into the city and pick us up. The show ran overtime but a quick dash got me to the train with 5 minutes to spare, the next and last train of the night was 70 minutes later. As it was I arrived home at 1am, waaay past my usual bedtime.

We both enjoyed it although I was a little embarrassed, being with my sister, at the language. Her comment to her husband was: it was great music and costumes but very crude. I enjoyed the disco hits from the early 80's when I use to dance the night away.

It is opening in London next year, I am not sure how the comedy will translate, some changes were made for New Zealand. I think much of it would be unintelligible in the USA. For example as the bus travels west from Sydney to Alice Springs it passes through Top Ryde, Rooty Hill, Bumbaldry and Cockburn. These are real places. I worked at a school in Rooty Hill for 8 years which my mother found embarrassing.
I did like when one drag queen announced they were going to Alice Springs, the other said he had always wanted to sing on top of Ayers Rock. The reply was "Oh Great, just what the country needs, A cock in a frock on the rock"
I found a copy of the finale on Youtube. I thought the frilled neck lizards were amazing.

I hinted when discussing La Cage Aux Folles that I found drag shows embarrassing.
When growing up and trying to come to terms with my gay orientation I was very uncomfortable at any allusion that I might be a woman. The very first time I went to a Gay Rights meeting I was mortified when the MC kept referring to us as 'girls'. As a High School teacher I have always had to try and maintain a masculine persona. In my amateur stage activity I have been happy to be the cowboy, pirate, man about town.
From another angle, I have found the straight world is happy to see drag shows and laugh at female impersonators but have a very different attitude to a masculine guy 'coming out'. So La Cage and Priscilla were acceptable but not Brokeback Mountain.

Anyway I have managed to suppress these feelings and enjoy the shows.

Monday, December 08, 2008

School Reunion

Some of you kindly asked for a report so here it is.

The reunion was of my class of 1988 so they would now be about 36-37 years of age. I believe there were about 100 there including 10 members of staff. It was a senior boys Catholic college which was a unique school. When I started there in 1976 it had about 250 boys in years 11 and 12 collecting students from 5 feeder schools. It was hard to get a place so the standard was high and I thought it was nirvana. By the time I left in 1991, it had 500 boys, still just years 11 and 12 (16 & 17 yrs old) , coming from just 2 feeder schools so the standards had fallen greatly and I was not sorry to leave. They closed the school in the late 90's as the Diocese now prefers colleges to include the full years 7 to 12. Strangely the State school system is now creating these senior colleges.

The reunion was held in a large Sports Club near to the school but about 80 km from my home so I decided to book into the Travelodge Hotel which is above the club for the night and to travel each way by train. Not being willing to leave my car at the railway station on a Saturday night (vandalism is rife) I had to walk the kilometre to and from the station, unfortunately up hill and down both ways.

Almost exactly 4 years ago there was a reunion of my class of 1979. This was when the school was smaller, I knew most of the students and although I was not 'out' until a year or so later, a small group of gay students quickly took me into their group (outing me to the staff of that time by telling me to come and join the photo being taken of the gays) and I had a wonderful night.

Last night's year group came from the time of larger cohorts when everyone knew my sexuality and I only taught about one third of them so last night I spent more time with my fellow teachers.

The Principal of the time was present for about 1 hour. He is a religious brother, now in his late 70's and still teaching full time. I felt a bit guilty saying I had retired in my early 60's. I know he had a hard time having to defend my continued employment to several groups of parents at the time but has always remained friendly to me. The principal who followed was less supportive although much younger.

I will use initials for the students as I know too well the power of google.

I was disappointed that I did not meet up with DF who sent me the email in the earlier post. His name was on the list but I did not teach him and only had a grainy class photo to go by, so may have missed him. I think I will email him this week.

Most conversations on these nights are about what they have done since school, usually how they loved my subject and my teaching although they rarely used Geography in later life but like to tell me little bits they still remember and are sorry for all the trouble they caused (which I have usually forgotten).

I approached SD myself. He is very tall so stood out and although he had a completely shaved head, I recognised him easily. He was in my Student Advisor group (we kept these groups for the 2 years and saw them daily, following their general progress through the school). Shall I say he was a sensitive boy and was obviously delighted last night that I recognised and approached him. After general discussion as above, I took the opportunity when some of the others standing in the group were discussing their children to ask SD if he had any family. He said no but was very attached to his sister's children. He went no further but I will always wonder.

LS approached me and I recognised him immediately. He spent most of his time in class tormenting me. He readily admitted he had been a handful but he was the type of student who would mock my idiosyncrasies, drive me crazy as he prevented me finishing the lesson but usually have me end up laughing despite myself. He had the most avant garde haircut of the night and told me he was a hairdresser (hmmm) but soon described his children (ohh). He now owns a chain of shops with over 80 employees many of them apprentices so says he now understands some of the responsibilities of a teacher.

My night was made by PD. He was also in my student advisor group as had been his brother GD 7 years earlier. GD had been in a group of very religious and very bright boys with whom I had developed a special bond as they took the top level in Geography. They were at the school when the local television station's news program kindly outed me by zooming in on me while sitting in a gay rights meeting. It was all over the school the next day and I remember their shocked looks.

I asked PD how his brother G was going and he replied that he was living happily with his male partner. Then he added. Can I speak seriously for a moment. I want to thank you for being so open and honest about being gay. It taught us a lot as we respected you so much as a teacher. It made it so much easier when my brother G came out many years later. We use to stand up for you in the playground when the other guys knocked you for being gay. You were our teacher and our student advisor and we told them we loved you (yes he used the word love).

I was overwhelmed, Thank You God for PD and his words to me. They made my night.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

I am What I am

Thanks to Doorman-Priest for reminding me of this. Sometime in the 1980's I was taken to see 'La Cage Aux Folles'. I usually avoid Drag shows, they make me uncomfortable (probably connected to my upbringing) so would have been unlikely to attend of my own volition. I saw the show 3 times (only Les Miserables have I seen that many times) and the last time I took my mother and my sister. As I commented on D-P, each time Albin sang 'I am what I am' at the conclusion of Act 1, I had tears streaming down my face. No wonder it became a gay anthem. It was only when I discovered that God truly loved me as I am that I was able to find true happiness.
I know the song became famous as sung by Gloria Gaynor but for me it has more meaning sung by an openly gay man, John Barrowman, who is great eye candy. I chose this version as it explains the setting in case you are unaware. Only problem, it still causes tears.

It has just hit me I am going to a reunion next Saturday night of my class of '88. About the same time. I was completely 'out' at that time and it was difficult, some of the students had difficulty accepting me. A bit nervous about how I will be treated. I had an email a few years ago from one of the students of that year who wrote "although not apparent as a young guy it was important to have people like you in the school. Made life a little easier."
He is on the list of attendees so am looking forward to meeting him. I usually find some other 'family' at such reunions, not always the ones I would have expected when I was their teacher.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

More on Opera House (musings)

The Opera House was opened in October, 1973. I went to the city that day but was more interested in taking photos of my idol, the Queen. I ran several kilometres through the city snapping photos of her ( I was not yet 30). I was very busy preparing for my long planned world tour at the time. I left in May 1974 intending to take 9 months touring Asia and Europe and flew first to Bangkok. Americans I met were continually asking me about the Opera house and surprised that I had never been inside. Sadly my father died 3 days into my 9 months trip and I flew home. After seeing Mum settled I left again at the end of June now intending 6 months (but it only lasted 4). I thought I should attend a performance at the Opera House. They were playing Macbeth. I studied Macbeth for my final school exams which meant spending the whole year going through it line by line. By that time I hated Macbeth (the years have mellowed and I can now enjoy it again). I left at interval but now I had visited the Opera House. As I have said I cannot count the number of visits (mainly operas and symphonies not shakespeare) in the years since. And in March 2006, I sat on the steps to again see the Queen (sadly probably for the last time).

Advent Blogging

I read Pluralist Speaks and felt very depressed. I must admit I have trouble understanding his blogs. My university degrees are in mundane subjects of Economics, Geography, Education and Librarianship and I do not easily follow philosophical discussions. However Adrian indicated he does not believe in a supernatural being yet he attends Anglican services twice on Sunday and I think 2 or 3 times per week. Any comment I feel like making would sound like it comes from the fundamentalists both he and I dislike. I rarely attend actual services more than once per week although I do go to courses which are run by the church mid-week from time to time. I attend the Eucharist to come closer to God. I rarely do more than nod to anyone else in the Church and have no idea of the names of the people with whom I exchange the peace greeting every week nor anything about them. I have gone down to coffee afterwards but stood there without speaking to a soul. I prefer to go to a nearby coffee shop where the coffee is better, though more expensive and the barista does say hullo. I cannot imagine going to Church if I did not believe in God. My sister joins me in church about once per month and we go to coffee together afterwards. After 3 years as a parishioner , the Rector still says "Nice to see you" and nothing more each week. I have had some brief discussions with the Assistant Priest and he is much more friendly and approachable and does indicate that he recognises me as a regular. This is partly my fault, I have always been a bit of a wallflower until I get to know people and I have learned to keep apart from church people because of the general attitude to gays in the Sydney Diocese.
Anyway I feel sad that someone goes to church several times per week yet apparently believes none of it.

Much happier blog reading came from Telling Secrets. Again our rector's sermon on Advent Sunday was hard to follow, he preaches at top speed. What I understood was good but I have forgotten it now. It was delightful to read such a meaningful and down to earth sermon by Elizabeth Keaton who had such a wise Grandmother. Then I enjoyed the very meaningful "Interview with God" posted by Robert at musings with an episcopal padre. A lot to think about there and beautiful pictures.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Thank you

Jørn Utzon, AC (9 April 1918 – 29 November 2008)
A son of Denmark , honoured by Australia

"Joern Utzon was a visionary architect whose legacy includes one of the world's most spectacular and inspiring buildings, the Sydney Opera House.

Standing proudly on the edge of Sydney Harbour the opera house is one of the most internationally recognised symbols of our nation.

Today I honour him and his creation and know that all Australians will join me in celebrating his legacy."

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd

New Zealand Part 2 -Manapouri & Doubtful Sound

After 4 nights in Dunedin, we drove south towards Fiordland and the little town of Manapouri. To the left is a photo looking over Lake Manapouri from our Motel.
However it commenced to rain so after lunch in the tavern next to the Motel we went to the wharf to book a tour of Doubtful Sound. The only way to reach Doubtful Sound is to take a tour which is very expensive. I had 2 possible days and, with the weather forecast being poor for the Wednesday, I chose Thursday which proved to be one of the best decisions I have made. We spent the rest of the afternoon reading before driving the 20 km to the bigger town of Te Anau for dinner and the supermarket. It continued to rain.
Wednesday morning I looked out the window and saw a few patches of white and told my sister it was snow. She replied, no it is frost, but then the snow came pouring down. We drove back to Te Anau and walked beside the lake in the snow then decided to drive towards Milford Sound. I have been there 4 times and stayed overnight after driving in 2 years ago but my sister has never been in this area of NZ. The warnings were for snow chains but we decided to take the risk .
Although the photo indicates otherwise, we actually drank our coffee sitting in the car.

We continued to the Cascades and the Divide but as it began to snow quite heavily, I thought it would be best to turn back after looking at the view down into the Holyford valley. Here we met some Keas. I had an altercation with Keas on my previous trip when I stopped to wait for the lights at the Homer Tunnel (one way) and foolishly left my door open. The Keas attacked the rubber on the brand new Avis car. This time I was more careful and kept the door closed. They have no fear.

As the snow kept falling, we returned to Te Anau for lunch and then back to Manapouri and our hotel for an afternoon watching the US Presidential results on TV.
At 5.30pm the station stopped coverage in the middle of McCain's concession speech, much to my sister's disgust. We saw Obama's acceptance speech during the evening news.
Disappointing my sister did not see Milford Sound but hopefully I can drive her there in my own car when she visits me after I have relocated. I was glad to see on TV that snow was covering the suburbs in Dunedin where I hope to live. This was the heaviest snowfall of the year and the heaviest November fall for 30 years.

However Thursday dawned bright and sunny and we had glorious weather to travel to Doubtful Sound. This begins with a launch trip across Lake Manapouri on the right.

Then you transfer to coaches to drive over the Divide. We had a wonderful trip as although the skies were largely blue, the snow from the day before was covering the trees. Finally there is a cruise on Doubtful Sound and we went right to the entrance but did not go out as there was quite a swell running.

A short movie shows the Sound and some of the commentary.

We toured the underground power station on the way back. The road we had travelled was really built for the power station not the tourists that now take advantage of it. It is the most expensive to build piece of road in New Zealand.

On the Friday we drove back to Dunedin but first went south to the city of Invercargill and even further to the port of Bluff. Here I was able to stand at the most southerly point of the South Island (Smaller Stewart Island lies further south) I have a photo of my standing at the most northerly point of the North Island back in 2004.

This is the furthest south that I have ever been. Just last May I reached the furthest north I have ever been at the Arctic Circle in Finland.

Friday, November 28, 2008

New Zealand Part 1 - To Dunedin

I have been home from my visit to New Zealand for nearly 3 weeks but I did promise to post some of my photos. My main reason for going was to show my sister the city where I want to live. I think she now agrees it is a nice city but is still not happy at my moving so far away. I was, however, very sad to leave and am getting very frustrated at all the delays in preparing my house for sale.
We flew from Sydney to Dunedin (about 3 hours) on October 31 which is Halloween. This is almost ignored in Australia but quite important in New Zealand. As we had dinner that night at a pavement restaurant in the Octagon (the main centre of the city) we were passed by many dressed as ghosts, witches and ghoulies heading for parties. Dunedin has a population of 120,000 but has about 25,000 studying at the University of Otago so this would account for the rather lively night scene.

Saturday we visited the city centre again and The Anglican cathedral of St Paul plus the imposing Railway Station (on right) then drove up through the suburbs where I want to live. I can only make general surveys until I sell my home here in Australia.

Then after lunch we went to Baldwin Street which is the steepest street in the world. My sister was not willing to walk up it and I had done so before so we just drove which is scary enough. Then we drove out over the hills to the port.

On Sunday we attended Eucharist at St John's Roslyn which is the parish in which I hope to live. It was crowded but there was an adult baptism which may have increased numbers. I made myself known to the Vicar, Archdeacon Kelvin Wright whose blog I have been reading. Good to see many families but I did wish one mother would control her little girl who ran all around the altar during the consecration.
It was a beautiful day and we spent most of it at the Botanical gardens where the Rhododendron festival was in full swing

On Monday morning we went to Lanarch castle in the morning and on the afternoon we took a wildlife tour on the Otago Peninsula where we saw albatrosses flying overhead then down to a beach with sea lions, penguins and a headland with seals.

The Albatross video below is my first attempt at connecting 3 clips into one movie so please do not laugh at the amateur

Monday, November 24, 2008

Two Dioceses, Missouri and Sydney

I have been reading on the blogs that the Diocese of Missouri has passed resolutions to affirm same-sex-blessings, and to re-open the door to LBGT candidates to the episcopate. Apparently this is very unexpected for a Diocese like Missouri. However I note they have women priests and at least one is openly Lesbian.

They sound rather liberal to someone who must live in Sydney. I have just received the latest newsletter from Anglicans Together which is a very small organisation promoting inclusive Anglicanism within the Diocese of Sydney. Some of its members were at the recent Sydney Synod and have reported.
On the humorous side one Rector recommends appropriate preparation with intensive therapy, including grief counselling plus a balanced diet and lots of exercise. Meal breaks are terribly important: good food with a little wine for the stomach's sake, consumed in the company of friends is a wonderful remedy to the well known syndrome of post synod depression.

The whole Anglican world has heard that Synod found there were no legal barriers to Lay and Diaconal Administration and encouraged the Archbishop to include in the licences of deacons and suitable lay persons authorisation to assist the presbyter in administering the sacraments of baptism and the Lord's Supper. However the Archbishop is not minded to follow this request at this time. (He is not stupid and knows how it will be accepted by many of his GAFCON mates).

However the rest of the world would not be so aware of other motions and motions lost.
Rev Chris Albany presented a motion calling on the Archbishop to explore ways in which the different views on the ministry of women "could be creatively lived out in the life and practice of the diocese" The motion was well supported by a number of speakers and there was vigorous debate but sadly creative resolution of difference of opinion is not something the Sydney diocese is famous for and the motion was defeated. Despite the number of new members in the synod this year the mind of synod remains closed on the issue of the ordination of women to the priesthood.

There was a report from the Doctine Commission on the Theology of Christian Assembly. This arose due to the number of prayer book-less services now being held in many parishes. The report was remarkable in that it managed to avoid all traditional liturgical language: words such as church, worship, sacrament, Holy Communion, Baptism, etc. are obviously no longer in favour.
Even 'praise and thanksgiving' had to wait for paragraph 53 in a document of 71 paragraphs before rating a mention. Paragraph 48 did make reference to 'the Lord's meal' but gave no recommendation as to how often or in what manner this was to be observed today.
The motion was to welcome the report. Bishop Glenn Davies rather courageously moved an amendment that it not be welcomed but received and pointed out its deficiencies particularly its failure to discuss the importance and place of sacraments in worship. The majority of synod voted in favour of the report.

The motion 'that Synod congratulates our Archbishop and Assistant Bishops on their attendance at Gafcon and their move to coninue our development as a truly Bible based Anglican Church' was passed. Not surprisingly Fr Gwilym Henry-Edwards amendment 'Notes with sadness their inability to attend the Lambeth Conference and encourages them in their support of the unity and diversity of the Anglican Communion' was resoundingly rejected.

From what I read the Diocese of Missouri is in a conservative part of the USA so the resolutions passed are surprising.

The city of Sydney is very progressive socially but its Anglican Diocese is hardly representative of the city.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Flags of New Zealand and Australia

In a previous post, I commented that many of my readers would not know the difference between the flags of Australia and New Zealand. As an educator I am now going to enlighten you.

New Zealand
The New Zealand Flag features, on a royal blue background, a Union Jack in the first quarter and four five-pointed red stars of the Southern Cross on the fly. The stars have white borders. It has been the National flag since 1902.
The New Zealand Flag is the symbol of the realm, government and people of New Zealand. Its royal blue background is reminiscent of the blue sea and clear sky surrounding the country. The stars of the Southern Cross emphasise the country's location in the South Pacific Ocean. The Union Flag gives recognition to the historical foundations and the fact that New Zealand was once a British colony and dominion.

The Australian Flag came into being after the federation of the Australian States into the Commonwealth of Australia on 1 January, 1901. Although selected in 1901 and gazetted in 1903, it was not given Royal assent and adopted as the definitive Australian flag until 1954.

The present Australian flag can be considered to consist of three main elements:

The Union Jack in the upper hoist quadrant or first quarter , denoting Australia's historical links with Great Britain.

The Southern Cross in the second and fourth quarters. It consists of five stars in a more or less kite-like pattern - Alpha Crucis (7-point), Beta Crucis (7-point), Gamma Crucis (7-point), Delta Crucis (7-point) and the smaller Epsilon Crucis (5-point). The constellation of the Southern Cross is a significant navigational feature of the southern hemisphere, strongly places Australia geographically and has been associated with the continent since its earliest days.

The Commonwealth Star or Star of Federation, central in the third quarter or lower hoist, has seven points to denote the six states and the combined territories of the Commonwealth of Australia. The seventh point was added in 1909.

So to sum up the main differences. The New Zealand Flag has 4 red stars (with white borders) to denote the Southern Cross while the Australian Flag has 5 white stars and also has the large white star under the Union Jack.

Finally I must also describe the Australian Aboriginal Flag which was adopted as the symbol of Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people when it was first flown in 1971. It is a strident 3-colour flag composed of a large central yellow circle imposed on a background of a red lower half and a black upper half; the black represents the Aboriginal people, the yellow the sun as a life force, the red the earth and the blood of the Aboriginal people. It has no official government standing but is becoming widely recognized and acknowledged by the community and is perhaps the only symbol commonly accepted by the diversity of Aboriginal people.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Church and Politics

Yesterday I attended the first of 2 discussions on "God in Australia"
We were first asked which of the following four options we would choose in order for our church to take a more active public role in political life.
1. Identify certain principles and seek to have them incorporated into public life, that is become a lobby group.
2. Form a new Christian political party and seek to control the balance of power in the upper house.
3. Do nothing. Decide that politics and religion are two separate entities.
4. Train our people to identify important issues in public life and act in accordance with what they discover.

I came down definitely for option 4.

It was interesting to learn that Option 1 is the Roman Catholic view as seen in the pressure unsuccessfully applied to our State parliament last year over stem cell legislation ( and I would add abortion in the USA)

Option 2 is the Calvinist view as seen in the Family First party which currently hold the balance (along with the Greens and another 1 person party) in the Senate of our Commonwealth Parliament and was established by the Assemblies of God and also Fred Nile's Christian Democratic party which has long had members in our own NSW State parliament and is strongly anti-homosexual.
It was questioned why our own Calvinist Diocese has not done this (although probably many of its members do support the Christian Democratic party) and were told it is probably due to the pre-millenial views of the diocese which sees little to be gained by trying to improve society before the 2nd coming.

Option 3 I was surprised to learn is Lutheran and one of the reasons why the majority of the Lutheran church with some notable exceptions did not stand up to Hitler until it was too late.

Finally Option 4 is Anglican deriving from Archbishop Temple so I felt vindicated in my choice.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Obama Inauguration

Australia held an election on November 24th, 2007. By the end of the night it was clear Labor had won and that Kevin Rudd was the new Prime Minister. The next day he was making pronouncements and the previous Prime Minister handed over the keys to the residence in Canberra (The Lodge) on November 29th. The polls for the lower house were all declared by mid December. The Senate for which the voting is complicated took longer to finalise but it does not determine who governs. Rudd famously told his cabinet ministers they could have Christmas day off but had to be back at work on December 26 (also a public holiday). In Australia, Christmas of course falls in mid-summer and for many the holidays last well into January and schools do not return until after Australia Day (Jan 26). However the Labor Government and Rudd were clearly running the country.

New Zealand had an election on Nov 8 this year. The new Prime Minister asked the Governor General to allow the declaration of the polls to be speeded up so that he could attend APEC in Peru as Prime Minister this week. Apparently he got his wish.

All this leads to my inability to understand the US situation where the new President is elected on November 4 but does not take office until January 20.

Normally that would not interest me but the Global Financial Crisis has meant the World leaders of the G20 have met in Washington this week without the presence of the man who will be the most powerful person in the world in 2 months time. The meeting has been chaired by a person who is now almost irrelevant. Many of the world leaders would have naturally liked to meet with Obama but he has properly refused such meetings. Instead they have met with a go-between, Madeleine Albright.
I have just listened to Obama's speech on the financial situation delivered by Youtube and provided at Wounded Bird. As I have said, it is very confusing and frustrating.

There has been a stir here in Australia because apparently President Bush rang Kevin Rudd last week while Rudd was hosting a dinner. He is supposed to have taken the call in another room. However at the dinner was the editor of one of our newspapers who later reported that Bush asked Rudd "What is the G20?"
Both Bush and Rudd deny this now but who knows. Did the editor overhear? Was Rudd so exasperated he unwisely let his feelings slip?
Our Television services played over and over the rather muted welcome (compared to the warm greeting of other leaders and not the photo above) by Bush to Rudd when he arrived in Washington on Friday and the warmer greeting the next day.
I, of course, could not care less if Bush and Rudd are not the bosom buddies that Bush and Howard were. Rudd has met with Obama before his election and spoken by phone with him since. I hope they have a warm working relationship. But it goes to show further this strange situation of the transfer of power in the US.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Opera House, Sydney Symphony & Elgar

On Thursday I went with my sister to the last of our 2008 subscription to the Sydney Symphony Orchestra in the Concert Hall of the Sydney Opera House. We subscribe each year but now go on Thursday afternoons rather than Friday nights as before when I use to stay the night with my mother. The Thursday afternoon series is a sea of grey hair.unhappy smileys The hall which seats over 2,500 was packed.
We have subscribed again for 2009 but do not know if I will still be living in Australia by the end.
This concert was one in a series on Elgar conducted by Vladimir Ashkenazy who will be the Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor of the Orchestra for the 3 years commencing January 2009.
The first half was the Violin Concerto in B minor with the Canadian James Ehnes playing the violin. I am afraid the solo violin is not my favourite instrument by a long shot but it received lots of applause and good reviews.

The second half was more to my liking with Pomp and Circumstance Marches Nos 1 & 2 followed by the Enigma Variations. It was great to hear the organ being played. This is the world's largest known mechanical action organ but does not seem to be played very often. It seems to throb through the whole building. Now, the organ is my favourite instrument.

I have been able to find Daniel Barenboim with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra playing the 9th and I guess most popular of the 14 variations - the Nimrod. The organ is only played in the Finale of the Variations as well as in the first P&C March.