Thursday, December 31, 2009

My Decade

My dear Mother always hated the television programs that at this time of the year go over all the events of the year. She was only interested in the latest news, what had passed had passed in her opinion. So she would not like this post of mine. I guess I am posting it mainly as a record for myself.

We watched the new century arrive at Mum's apartment from where we could see some of the fireworks on the harbour.  Mum had only moved into this apartment a month earlier which was next to my sister who was to spend the next few years caring for her.  The next morning I dropped in at the school where I worked to make sure the library computers had not been hit by the millennium bug. I had worked all year to transfer the catalogue from an aged program to a more up to date one and there were no glitches on January 1.

The city was eagerly awaiting the opening of the Sydney Olympics but I took advantage of the 3 weeks holidays in September to return to Europe. I did see the Olympic torch pass through my little mountain village but flew to Vienna a few days later.  I had not been to Europe since 1980 although I had visited the States and Canada  for Conferences in 1997 and 1999.
From Vienna I took a day boat trip to Bratislava then by train to Budapest (where I watched the opening of the Olympics on TV). I went on to Cracow including Auschwitz, Berlin, Dresden, Prague - all places off limits when I had wandered through Europe in the 70's. Finally to Munich for Oktoberfest and to Innsbruck from where I flew home. As we drove home from the airport, my sister was far more interested in telling me how great the Olympics had been rather than hear about my travels.

A conference saw me in Auckland, NZ, again returning after nearly 30 years when I spent three month-long camping holidays there in 67, 70 and 73.
I caught the train down to Wellington before flying home.
Of course like everyone I was transfixed and devastated by 9/11 but then another conference saw me driving to Queensland and the Sunshine Coast where I had owned land and spent many holidays in the late 60's and early 70's. Again it was a return after 25 years.

Began with bushfire passing through my garden on January 4, a frightening experience but thankfully no lasting damage.
Easter saw me taking leave to fly with a friend back to Europe, spending 2 days in Singapore then 13 days in Paris before visiting the Somme and my uncle's grave and then Ypres, Antwerp and Brussels. Alone I flew to Istanbul and went by bus to Cannakale and attended the Anzac Day Service at Gallipoli.
In October I resigned from full time work but was to have plenty of casual and temporary work for the next few years.

Again teaching in the State system after an absence of 28 years mainly working in Catholic schools.
I injured my back while gardening in late January which led to my first operation and stay in hospital in June. However it was successful and I was able to drive to Tasmania (okay involved taking the car on the overnight ferry from Melbourne to Devonport) for a conference in Hobart but I also visited the West Coast.

Work varied from very little in term 1 to full time in terms 2 and 3 until I took time off and flew back to New Zealand. However, hiring a large van was not a good idea and my dislike of driving plus Mum's increasing illness meant I only stayed 2 of the 4 planned weeks in the Northern parts of the North Island.

After working most of term 1, I decided to access my superannuation so then needed far less work for the rest of the year. A lot of time I was assisting my sister to care for Mum but I also joined the U3A walking group so widening my friends here in the Mountains.

The first half of the year was taken up with Mum although new interests in life began with seeing the film 'Brokeback Mountain' which led to new friends in Australia but even far more overseas. Somewhat linked, I fled the local evangelical church and began to worship in the inclusive St James, King Street despite the long journey each Sunday.
Mum's passing at the beginning of June was the most important moment of this year.
This blog was started in a fairly tentative fashion.

I flew to Christchurch in November and spent 2 weeks in train and bus over to the West Coast, up to Nelson and Picton, day ferry to Wellington and train back the East Coast. Then the next 2 weeks I drove to Queenstown, Te Anau, Milford and Dunedin. While most meant I was returning to places I had visited in the the 60's and 70's, it was my first visit to the city of Dunedin where I now plan to be living within a month.

I fulfilled a dream of taking my sister round the world to show my appreciation for those many years in which her life was constrained by caring for Mum.   Los Angeles, New Orleans (she is a jazz lover), Charleston, Washington, Philadelphia and New York before spending 11 days in Paris and surrounds (similar to my visit of 2002) and then our Uncle's grave on the Somme, Ypres, Brugges and a night in Bangkok.

Later in the year I was on the train back to Queensland and the outback towns of Longreach, Winton and Charleville as well as the more coastal cities of Rockhampton, Maryborough, Toowoomba and Brisbane.

I did not work at all this year but spent 2 months travelling in Europe. This has all been covered by my blog posts as I visited Munich and other Bavarian towns, Berlin and Leipzig in Germany, Vienna, Salzburg and Hallstatt in Austria, North-east Switzerland, the Baltic countries, Sweden and Finland.
In November I took my sister to Dunedin to show her where I intend to live and we also visited Doubtful Sound, Lake Te Anau and Oamaru.

Some days working back in schools and no travel as I, like most people, was buffetted by the Financial Crisis and I also prepared my home for sale. Now after almost 3 decades (28 years next Monday) in my mountain home, I prepare to move not just to a new home but a new country.

Happy New Year and hopefully a happy decade to all my cyber friends.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Thoughts on Christmas

I am very conscious that my Christmas Greetings in the previous post were not in the least religious. While not at first intentional, I do not find Christmas a particularly deep spiritual experience, unlike Good Friday and Easter.

Society has made it into a time of feasting, drinking and present giving, often to excess, with only lip service to its real meaning.  Most of my acquaintances, other of course than those I know from church,  did not go near a church on Christmas day. Those who did, mostly Catholic, probably went to midnight mass so as to leave time on the day for all the other activities.  There are carols by candlelight held in most towns and cities but traditional carols are only a small part and Jingle Bells and much worse predominate. Santa is far more recognisable than Jesus. Houses decorated with lights have a large Santa but a small Nativity scene (if there is one at all).

This may be more obvious here in Australia where it is the start of the summer holidays. As a boy, our family usually spent Christmas in a beach side cottage. We went to church but in a small church bulging at the seams with its once a year Christmas surge. I remember several occasions in which my father and I stayed outside. Dad was a Methodist and at first did not take communion in an Anglican church and was not very interested either. Thankfully this changed and he was a regular communicant in the years leading to his death. In the Sydney Diocese young people do not take communion until confirmation, and in those days they did not even go to the rail for a blessing. So if the church was packed, it seemed best for Dad and me to wait outside while Mum and my sister attended.
Even when I grew older, Christmas services were nearly always in a strange church. After Dad's death, Mum and I worshipped in different parishes but my sister and I always went to Mum's church for Christmas.

Yesterday, although St James was packed, I recognised very few people. Probably the regulars were either away on holidays or had attended at Midnight. Most people attending were likely to be visitors to Sydney, such as the Prime Minister and his family, who wanted to attend an Anglican service such as they would experience in their home diocese and not the Happy Clappy service found in the Cathedral and most other so-called Anglican churches round the city.

Actually the choir sang Haydn's Missa Sancti Nicolai which must be one of the longest Eucharistic settings imaginable. Most of us oldies had to sit down before it was finished. A particularly poor choice for a packed service in which, although communion was distributed from the chancel steps, it still took close to 30 minutes. The whole service took over 2 hours so we sat down to Christmas lunch at 2pm. Probably a reason for many of the regulars to be absent.

Our family stopped giving presents at Christmas probably 30 years ago so I do not need to go near the shops in the lead up to Christmas. My sister served up a delicious dinner - Salmon and mango, Turkey, Ham and salad with baked potato and, most essential, Christmas Pudding with brandy sauce and/or cream. My brother-in-law plied me with a beer on arrival then champagne and West Australian sauvignan blanc so my two and a half hour train journey home felt a little strange but I was home in time to see the Queen's Christmas message and even to see on the news the Prime Minister leaving our church and, if I had used a magnifying glass, I would have been able to point out my sister and me on the steps in the background.

Back to the dinner, there are only 3 of us left in our family. My brother-in-law had his family over the previous Sunday. With Mum gone, I do not see much point but I have promised my sister that, if possible, I will return to Sydney for Christmas in the future. Perhaps it will be more significant when I live so far away,

Finally, I use to wonder why the Gospel for Christmas Day was John Chapter 1 which does not cover the usual nativity, shepherds, wise men etc. There is so much hype around the story and argument. There were messages in the newspaper last week knocking the likelihood that Augustus woud have held a census and, if so, it would not have been necessary for Joseph to go to Bethlehem.  I now consider many of the stories around Christmas to be nice but unimportant but the essential message that God came into the World to be the most significant fact on which I can focus and for which I can give thanks.

And I have included the Kyries from Haydn's Missa Sancti Nicolai.
They are quite beautiful sitting here at home and not standing in a packed, hot and humid church wondering when you are going to get home for dinner.

Thursday, December 24, 2009


This says it all really

Monday, December 21, 2009

Mother Mary Mackillop

The news has been full of the declaration that a second miracle has been attributed to Mary Mackillop and so she will be canonised a Saint in the new year. She will be Australia's first saint.
I am afraid my evangelical upbringing means I do not feel the need for any intermediaries between me and God but if praying to a Saint helps other people, I have no objection.  I certainly believe Saints can be used to inspire and teach us.

It does annoy me that it took 100 years after her death and a lot of kerfuffle over the existence or not of two miracles before this was achieved. I think it was the previous pope who declared the first miracle ages ago. I believe Saints should be recognised for the good they did on earth and Mary Mackillop was certainly a saintly person. 

Unlike the two popes,  Pius XII who made some very doubtful decisions during WWII and progressing him towards sainthood is hardly a diplomatic move in maintaining good relations with the Jews.  I thought John Paul II was a silly old man. No doubt he did some good but he also seemed to move the Roman Catholic church back from the enlightenment of Vatican 11 which the present idiot is furthering.  Sorry to my Roman Catholic friends but during the 20 years I taught in Catholic schools, I often considered converting as I admired much in the priests, brothers and sisters with whom I worked and I found much more acceptance than from those in the Sydney Anglican Diocese. They led me back to the God of Love. However whenever these thoughts came into my mind, it was the position of the Pope which deterred me from taking that step.

Mary Mackillop has been described as a tough-minded, astute political operator, struggling against patriarchal city-based church authorities to assist the poorest of the poor in Australia's most remote corners.
She was no passive bystander in her fate. After being briefly excommunicated by her bishop, she begged passage to gain papal approval for her order above the heads of her bishops, battled a split among her own sisters, and then drove an expansion of missions across eastern Australia.

A Jesuit priest, James Martin, author of My Life with the Saints, suggests that the excommunicated nun's imminent canonisation should give heart not only to religious women in the United States undergoing a ''visitation'' by the Vatican but for divorcees and gay women disenfranchised from the church. He playfully suggests MacKillop might be regarded as the patron saint of troublemakers, a reminder that being in trouble with the church hierarchy is no barrier for holiness and a lesson to contemporary Catholics that holiness should not be conflated with unthinking, uncritical or blind obedience.
In Australia, supporters of women priests see in MacKillop a woman who - despite restraints on her by the church - lived out the gospel message by her conscience to do great things.

Now that is what I call a saint. 

I note Fr Bosco says that Mary Mackillop is already on the lectionary for the NZ Anglican church.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Detritus of Life

I feel very sad as I have just watched a very important part of my life disappear into the Recycling truck.
When I was still in primary school, my parents probably sacrificed a lot to buy me a set of encyclopedias. I learnt so much from them and even in more recent years I would still read volumes 5 & 6 on the history of Europe up to WW11. The internet means I have not opened even these volumes in recent years.  The science volumes have obviously been of no use for many years. There was one small volume on sex which my parents kept from me until I was an adult and by that time it was of no use to me. I think I threw it out several years ago after looking up its references to homosexuality, but it was written in the early 50's.
That red set of books has taken up a full shelf of my bookcase nearly all my life and yesterday I put it into the recycling bin along with a lot of other treasured but dated books.

My lounge room floor (the photo is just a section) is covered with dishes, ornaments, tea sets, mugs, vases, pans, etc etc for a garage sale tomorrow. Many of the items were my mother's or my step grandmother's and I have never used them. I spent yesterday's extreme heat sticking coloured labels on them according to the price I am asking. Blue $1, Red $2, Green $5 Yellow $10.  There are some items priced higher including a small TV which was my mother's, all my dining chairs and 2 lounge chairs.  Two hiking friends have offered to come early and help me take the lounge chairs out. If all the chairs sell, I will be left with one high kitchen chair/stool, a night/day bed settee and my desk chair on which to sit for another month.

As mentioned, yesterday was another day of extreme heat. 42'C in the town on the plain and 36'C in the nearby mountain town. There were bushfires across the state and 9 houses were lost down south. A cool change came through about 4am and it has just begun to rain at 7am.
It is forecast to be fine tomorrow. I hope so as I only have a small carport for my garage sale.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Soaring Impulse

Maithri has excelled even his usual wonderful posts.
"Don't try to be a 'Christian' Christ-like"

Saturday, December 12, 2009

American born Premier

The new premier of New South Wales, Kristina Keneally, was born in Las Vegas and grew up in Toledo. Her Grandmother was a war bride from Australia and apparently her mother was born here but Kristina only arrived after meeting and marrying an Australian man she met at World Youth Day in Poland in 1991. She has only lived in Australia for about 10 years. Kristina is the third Premier since the last elections in 2007 as the Labor party struggles to try and win the next election in March 2011. This is very unlikely, whoever is Premier, as they have been in power too long and the State is a mess.

However I thought my readers might be interested in an article about her accent.

WE SAY "tomarto", she says "tomayto", but Kristina Keneally is not about to call the whole thing off.
Piqued by suggestions that voters find her American accent hard to accept, NSW's new Premier has fundamentally changed the ways she speaks, according to Isobel Kirk, one of Australia's top voice coaches.
"She has really changed what she's doing but not in the way you might think," said Ms Kirk,

Ms Kirk studied recordings of Ms Keneally speaking last year, in mid-2009 and after her appointment as Premier. "Strangely enough, the Premier's accent has actually become more American over that time," she said.
"In 2008, she was trying to do an Aussie accent. The 'a' in 'plan' was a short 'a'. She said 'new', not 'noo', and she was sounding out the 'g' on the end of words … which is more Australian."
The pronunciation was Australian but the vocal qualities - the pitch, tone, rhythm and speed - were American. "She spoke fast, with more words to the breath, as Americans often do, and her voice was thinner. The result was a dog's breakfast."

Ms Kirk believes the Premier has since been advised to "lean" on her accent, "to celebrate it, if anything" but change her vocal quality. In later clips, ''You'll find she is actually dragging her 'a' out: it's longer than it was and more American. And she keeps dropping the 'g' off 'openin' and 'good mornin'. But she has also started to speak slower, with more warmth and resonance, which is what Australian women typically do."

Ms Kirk believes voters have "been fooled" into thinking she sounds more Australian but she has relaxed back into her American accent while appropriating quintessential Australian inflections and intonations.

Friday, December 11, 2009

I am finally going

I accepted an offer for my house nearly 2 weeks ago which was at the top level of my expectations and they are buying both the house and adjoining block but contracts were only exchanged yesterday.  Therefore I will be moving out of my home of 28 years on January 15 and have booked a flight to Dunedin, New Zealand on January 22.

It is something I have wanted to do for a long time and believe it is right for me but also know there will be times of loneliness until I get settled.
I also suffer from nerves (not the best for a person who spent their career teaching adolescents) so need to pray for calmness as I pack up, hold garage sales and get rid of rubbish.

Photo shows Dunedin. The suburbs where I hope to live are in the hills above the city - a little to the left of centre.

Thursday, December 10, 2009


It is do as I say not do as I do for the Jensenites in Sydney.
I am indebted to Unthinking Anglicans for the following links. I really have more to do with my time than seek out the latest shenanigans of the Sydney Diocese.

I discovered that Dean Philip Jensen has been given another 5 years at the Cathedral which will take him to age 70 in 2015. Other priests in the diocese have to retire at age 65. His brother, Archbishop Peter Jensen, has also had his tenure extended past the usual date until he turns 70 in 2013.

Even more irritating is the announcement that the Reverend Peter Hayward  has been endorsed by the diocese of Sydney's standing committee to be the sixth Bishop of Wollongong.  This is a region within the diocese of Sydney. 

Now the bishops of Sydney are going apoplectic about  the election of Canon Mary Glasspool by the Diocese of Los Angeles as suffragan bishop elect. They are probably not over the moon about the election of Rev Diane Jardine Bruce either.  (I was at a dinner last month in which the speaker was Bishop Barbara Darling of the Diocese of Melbourne who pointed out that although she was born in Sydney, she is not recognised as either a bishop or a priest when she flies into her home city.)

The bishops- elect of Los Angeles were elected by the Diocesan convention of priests and lay people representing the parishes. They will not become bishops until they receive the necessary consents from a majority of the bishops and standing committees of TEC.

Peter Hayward was chosen by the standing committee of Sydney probably on the recommendation of ++Peter Jensen. The rest of the diocese had no say in it. Certainly the decision will not need approval  by the rest of the Anglican  Church of Australia.

Even when Archbishop Peter Jensen eventually retires, his successor will be chosen by Synod but whether the rest of the Australian church approves or not will not matter. 

From what I read Bishop - elect Mary Glasspool will make an excellent bishop just as Bishop Gene Robinson is.  I hold him in much higher regard than the bishops within the Diocese of Sydney. I hold them all in utter contempt.


Just checked who are the members of the Standing Committee, very interesting.

There are 23 clergy, naturally all male except Archdeacon Narelle Jarrett who is not a priest and like the other archdeacon on the committee does not have a vote unless delegated by a bishop.

There are 33 lay persons and 7 are women. 
2 were elected from the whole synod, the other 5 were elected from the 5 regions (4 reps each)  but not evenly.  
3 come from South Sydney which probably has the greatest concentration of non-evangelical churches.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

How dare they (we)?

In the Sydney Morning Herald a Canberra Anglican parish priest writes:

''My church is hosting some community carols in the local shopping centre in a week or so. To my great amusement the manager of the centre objected, because she thinks the '[expletive] Christians want to take over Christmas.' I'd always assumed that the 'Christ' bit in both words might serve as a clue.''

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Goodbye Greens

My natural sympathies lie with the Greens party but they have shown themselves to be impractical and unable to work in the political system.

In Australia we have preferential voting for the House of Representatives and proportional voting for the Senate.
I could vote for the Greens in the House and while the chance of them being elected is almost zilch, my second preference counted and the member who was elected knew that some of his/her support came from Green preferences. 
In the Senate, while complicated,  my vote could result in the election of Green senators who can hold the balance of power.

At the Local level, the Green councillors opposed the demolition of a row of dilapidated shops built in the 1920's and so helped delay the widening of the highway which was promised over 20 years ago. They lost my vote. Finally the shops are being demolished and the highway widened. Next year we can expect the Sunday afternoon traffic jams to be lessened considerably.

At the State level, the Green members opposed the removal of Moreton Bay Fig Trees in the Domain. While beautiful, they had a habit of suddenly dropping mighty branches. I have often sat under them to listen to the summer concerts. People have to be realistic, they needed replacing. The State Greens lost my vote.

At the Federal level the leader in the Senate is a partnered gay man and I was glad to give them my vote.
They have just voted against an Emissions Trading Scheme which would help in the fight against Global Warming. I acknowledge the scheme was inadequate but it was a start. It would have shown that Australia was willing to play a role in the fight against climate change. We have suffered the shame of not signing onto Kyoto for far too long (We signed in 2008).

The Government does not have a majority in the Senate. To pass legislation opposed by the Liberal/National Parties it needs the votes of the 5 Greens and the 2 independents.

A deal was struck with the Liberals which gave more concessions to the polluters. However  yesterday the Liberals  threw out their leader who acknowledges Climate Change and wanted to at least commence to reduce CO2 emissions. They have elected a right wing conservative (opposed to abortion, IVF, gay rights etc) Tony Abbott.

The vote was finally taken in the last hour. If all the Liberals and the Nationals (neanderthals) had voted against the bill, the Government needed the votes of the 5 Greens and the 2 independents (one is an evangelical, climate change denyer twit).

2 Liberals followed their conscience and crossed the floor to vote with the Government so only the 5 Greens were needed to pass the bill. The vote was lost.

As the bill was passed twice in the House but knocked back twice in the Senate, the Government can now call an early election. We do not know what Prime Minister Rudd (currently flying home from a meeting with President Obama) will do.

For the first time in about 30 years my first preferences at the Federal level will go to the Australian Labor Party. The Greens can go to hell along with the Liberals and Nationals.

If Tony Abbott were to be elected Prime Minister I would not just apply for dual citizenship in New Zealand but would happily renounce my Australian citizenship.