Saturday, June 27, 2009

Family or Lack Thereof

Just reading Franiam's post on a baby cousin, whether 2nd, 3rd or what she does not know, has me musing on my lack of family.

On my Father's side my Grandfather had a brother and sister.

The brother had children and there was occasional contact when I was young. However the last was a reunion someone arranged in 1997. I was on a trip to the US at the time so did not attend and while I heard about grand plans nothing more has ever eventuated. One of the women exchanged Christmas cards with Mum but both have now died. We have no known addresses.

The sister had two sons, one had no children, the other married my father's only sister narrowing the circle.
They were all very much part of my childhood scene but, of course, have now died. My Aunt (married to her cousin) had one daughter. She married an older man who died leaving her with 3 teenage sons. Shortly after, they went on a holiday to New Zealand and there was an accident killing her and leaving my aunt and uncle with 3 teenage boys to raise while in their 70's.
The boys all married and there was some contact over my grandfather's will which went on forever and they were at the reunion in 1997 but finally contact was reduced to just a Christmas card between the eldest and my mother. We wrote to tell him of our mother's death but received no reply so there has been no contact for 3 years.
Consequently I now have no contact with relatives on my father's side.

On my mother's side, her mother died when Mum was only 7 so any contacts there are lost. My grandfather was born out of wedlock and we are not certain of the relationships there.
They had 3 sons and 2 daughters.
The other daughter never married but was very much a part of my life as a child. A lot older than Mum, she was like a grandmother to me.
One son died as a child, one was killed on the Somme. The other had 6 girls and one son.
Daughter number 1 (now 85) was close to Mum and rang regularly but she now has early dementia and lives in Queensland. I visited her 2 years ago and my sister occasionally rings. She had 2 daughters. The eldest was about my age and had one son, killed a few years ago in a diving accident. She lives in Queensland and I have not seen her since we were teenagers but my sister occasionally contacts regarding the health of her mother.
The other, much younger than me, does live about 100km north of here and occasionally contacts my sister. She has one adopted son whom I met (along with her) at a funeral about 3 years ago. He is Aboriginal and in the army.

Daughter number 2 (now 83) wrote regularly to Mum but also lives in Queensland and there has been no contact except a Christmas card since Mum's death. Her children are about my age but I have had no contact since we were teenagers.

Daughter number 3 (probably 80) lives near me but, let's say, is a little strange and to be avoided if possible. My sister occasionally contacts her by phone. She has one daughter (see below)

Daughters numbers 4,5 & 6 are never heard from. I did meet number 6 for the first time at the funeral mentioned above. It was only a month before my mother's death and I went to represent our side of the family as Mum was very poorly and therefore my sister could not attend. It was about 100km north. No-one knew who I was until I introduced myself after the service. They were asking each other who the strange man was.

Finally the son who, although nearly 20 years younger than his eldest sister, is about my age. I met him several times as a teenager but he moved to the US. He is now divorced and back home, except his children are still in the US with their mother. He has occasionally emailed my sister but I would not know him if I passed him in the street.

So the result of all this boring material is that the only relatives I ever see are my sister and brother-in-law who are childless. The only relative at Mum's funeral was the daughter of Daughter number 3 above who kindly came, although we had never met before or since.

Sunday, June 21, 2009


At St James today, the preacher was The Most Revd Stephen Than Myint Oo, Archbishop of Myanmar.
He preached on the Gospel, Mark 4.35-41, Jesus stilling the storm. He described how until 1940 the Anglican Church in Myanmar largely prospered as it was the time before the storm. However much of the time since has been one of facing the storm when Jesus appears to be sleeping. Many faithful servants were martyred during the Japanese occupation. The Church of the Province of Myanmar (CPM) has around seventy thousand members who are spread across the country in 6 dioceses and became independent in 1970.
The archbishop listed each of the dioceses and its problems. HIV was a major problem in one while in another it was the longest civil war in the world. Of course the southern dioceses were affected by Cyclone Nargis last year with the death of nearly 200,000 people.
While Jesus appears to be sleeping, the disciples in that country are not paralysed by fear but ministering to the people.
The Archbishop is in Australia and visiting Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra and Brisbane to launch the disaster appeal for the Anglican Board of Missions.
One of our associate priests at St James, the Rev'd John Deane is the executive director of ABM.
Episcopal Relief and Development is also working in Myanmar

Friday, June 19, 2009

Black Eyed

I am not a happy chappy.
Last Tuesday my dermatologist operated to remove a basal skin cancer from my forehead. The result is that under the bandages there is a huge inverted T cut made to prevent creating a permanently raised eyebrow.
At first I had pressure bandages on top and wrapped right around my head. They made sleep near impossible. I removed them as directed on Wednesday morning and went to work. However as the doctor advised I now have a huge black eye. (This is not mine, I have brown eyes, but you get the picture).
The stitches come out next Tuesday,

Working in a library of adolescents, I fielded lots of questions and tried to advise them to slip, slap, slop as I had sunbaked too much when their age. One obnoxious child told me that sunbaking was girly and gay. Perhaps I should have stressed the surfing rather than lying on the beach part of those days of my youth.
Now that my two days of work are over, I am just sitting at home feeling sorry for myself.

I am working one day next week then my current stint will be over, I will have worked 13 days in 7 weeks. I have been asked back for 4 days over 2 weeks at the end of August. The women I work with are very nice, most of the students (above example excepted) are reasonable but the drive each way is long, meaning I am away from home for 9 and half hours. However the money is too good to refuse.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Dunedin today

A view in the local paper today taken in one of the suburbs where I hope to live. In fact this is one of the lower suburbs near the church I hope to attend. Snow fell in the sea level suburbs and the city.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Brand Australia

I cannot resist posting this, considering the occasional comments about marmite and vegemite on OCICBW.

And perhaps, to be fair, this should also be posted. Had to be scanned out of newpaper so apologies for poor resolution.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Finances and Gambling

Last Sunday there was a message from the Archbishop in the handouts as we arrived at church. I must admit that I am prejudiced in reading any missives from that man but, most unusually, the service started 5 minutes late so I read it but left it at church.

Not to worry as, since then, the information has been in all our news services and on various blogs I read. (Gafcon, Father David Herron, and great to see back again Caliban's Dream). At the moment, working 2 days per week, I find it almost impossible to keep up with reading blogs let alone write anything so I am rather late to the conversation.

THE world's richest and largest Anglican diocese has lost more than $100 million on the sharemarket and is investigating ways to cut programs and ministries across Sydney.

When Sydney was founded as a convict settlement, the Church of England was in a privileged position and received large land grants. A whole inner suburb of Sydney is called Glebe and the land was once owned by the church. I am not sure that the other dioceses were so endowed but it certainly was the start for Sydney to become by far the wealthiest Anglican diocese in Australia and some say the World. I fully acknowledge that wise investments since have maintained and increased this endowment.

My own family has a much smaller but similar history however much less happy. My Great Grandfather was the mayor of one of the inner city suburbs not far from Glebe and actually was a VIP on the first train to run back in 1855.
As a result my Grandfather owned a large number of residences in this area and they were divided between my Father, my Aunt and their Step-mother on my Grandfather's death in the late 1950's.

Unfortunately most of the properties were under rent control so they were costing more to maintain than they brought in. My father did not have sufficient other income to hold onto them until the rent controls were later removed when he could have made a killing. Instead he sold them and invested in shares. Within a few years (probably the recession of 1961, my economics major was still to come) the shares became largely worthless. They continued to dribble a few dollars ever couple of years. In fact I received the princely sum of $14 last year, having now inherited the shares, and believe there may be one more similar payment to come.

Although I was only a teenager, my parent's experience gave me a distinct suspicion of investing in shares which still remains today. Friends have often advised me I should realise the capital invested in my house and land and borrow to buy shares but my mother always told me that to own one's house outright is a great blessing. I have not become wealthy but have not suffered any great loss either.

It was therefore a shock to learn that the Diocese had borrowed money to invest during the recent stock boom.

The letters to the editor have been highly critical, some gloating over the losses.
For example:

With millions of dollars in property, shares and other interests, and with one diocese alone investing hundreds of millions of dollars, it all prompts the question: why are such profitable institutions tax-free?

And of course some of the pious replies for example from the hypocritical and frequent letter writer, Rev Nigel Fortescue, who has the hide to criticise others for creating division, something the Diocese of Sydney is very good at doing.

surely creating scapegoats is not the key to our future. Working together to serve Jesus might be better than embedding division.

The main supporters point to the losses nearly all investors have suffered in the past year but as the following letter points out, not everyone borrowed to invest and this is the grievous error the Diocesan leaders and their financial advisers made.

Clearly Finance 101 is not on the Moore College syllabus. The sin of the Sydney Anglican diocese was not that it invested and suffered the same losses as other investors. It was borrowing money to invest with a higher level of return - and therefore a higher level of risk than lenders were willing to take.

Those who lent money to the diocese got a lower return in the good times, but with less risk of losing their capital when the boom turned into a bust. Taking risks prudent people are not willing to bear is gambling.

My favourite comment however is:

Ah, the House of Jensen crippled by a bad gambling habit. God works in mysterious ways, doesn't she?

Apparently the average parish will not suffer, the main areas mentioned as taking hits are Moore College, Youth Works and the expenses of regional offices including those of bishops. Might keep at least one gentleman at home in dreary old Australia.

So I am not crying too much. If it reduces the funds flowing to certain notorious GAFCON bishops in Africa and other meddlings by the Sydney Diocese in the Australian and worldwide Anglican communion, it can be seen as 'a good thing'.

My own parish is finding things difficult because a lot of our parishioners are lawyers and business people who would have seen their incomes decline so offerings are down. And the Diocese of Melbourne has reported a loss of $1.6 million (a far cry from Sydney's $100 million). However this is not the same as borrowing to invest which even respected financial commentators are describing as 'gambling' - a heinous sin in evangelical circles.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Vale Professor Christopher O'Brien

It has been announced that Professor Christopher O'Brien has passed away after his nearly 3 year fight with his own cancer. This follows a career of treating cancer in so many patients. It was to be announced on Monday in the Queen's Birthday honours list that he had been made an officer in the Order of Australia.

Diagnosed with a brain tumour in November 2006, he refused to bow to his grim prognosis. He had five major operations before succumbing to the disease in Royal Prince Alfred Hospital.

In his final interview two days ago, Professor O'Brien said what mattered most to him was his standing in the eyes of his three adult children: "I just want my children to really know they knew their father well and they loved and admired him as a person. That's my only wish really."

He stated there were three things he wanted to get across: "The first is that I'm honoured to be recognised. Second is that, in my 30 years as a doctor and more than 20 years working as a specialist cancer surgeon, I really haven't achieved anything that was worthwhile by myself. I've been supported and assisted by many unselfish, dedicated people, the most important of whom has been my wife Gail.

"Thirdly, there are thousands of people in Australia who work quietly and humbly and who are very dedicated, who don't get recognised."

He said his work had prepared him for the disease and for death: "I think inevitably I'll die of this, and I'm not frightened of dying. I'm at peace with my situation, I'm not willing it to come quick but it will come soon enough."

Gail and his children were with him at the end.

Professor O'Brien, who was 57, led research into head and neck cancer in Australia and operated on hundreds of patients, including the Test cricketer Norman O'Neill and the Dragon lead singer Marc Hunter.

In that list I include my own dear mother who went to him in 1996 at the age of 87 with a tumour in her neck. Professor O'Brien operated twice on her aggressive cancer and then guided the radiotherapy, eventually telling her she was clear. He gave her another 10 years of life but most importantly he was a gentle, sensitive man in his caring for an elderly lady .

After the diagnosis he was unable to continue operating but instead worked for the establishment of Lifehouse, an integrated cancer centre, although he did not live to see construction begin.

Thank you Professor, you have left the world too early but you have left the world a much better place for your being here. I am sure you are admired, not just by your children, but by the Australian people and many others throughout the world. Enter gently into your rest.


Tributes are flowing in from colleagues, nurses with whom he worked, students he taught and, of course, patients as well as politicians.

This morning Prime Minister Mr Rudd, who became a close friend of Professor O'Brien during his work on Lifehouse, said he had made a "huge contribution to the Australian community" and would be "greatly missed".

"Chris transformed his personal adversity into a national opportunity, using his experience to fight so much harder for cancer patients and their families," he said.

"The Australian Government has offered the O'Brien family a state funeral in honour of Chris O'Brien's contribution to the nation. The O'Brien family advised me this morning that they would be pleased to accept this offer."

"It is only in exceptional circumstances that Governments offer state funerals; I believe Chris O'Brien has been a truly exceptional Australian."