Monday, October 29, 2012


I will be glad when the USA elections are over and we can return to normal for a few years at least.   It is a bit bizarre the way the whole world becomes interested in who is President of the USA although we have no say in the process.   Elections in other powerful countries - for example Russia, UK and France are just of mild interest in comparison.
I am glad I do not have a vote as I would consider President Obama as right wing and believe First Past the Post voting (as also used in the UK) to be quite undemocratic. It usually means that there is little point in having 3rd parties and independents as they just split the vote.  Of course the current situation in the UK disproves my point.

Some of the statements made by US politicians also have me shaking my head.  They would only come from the looney right in Australia or NZ, ridiculed by the majority, with little chance of election.  Occasionally such people are elected by some strange twist (eg Pauline Hansen) but they are usually ignored by the major parties unless it suits their purpose for a brief time. They are unlikely to gain a second term.

I also see that US citizens retain the right to vote even after they have migrated elsewhere. I no longer have the right to vote in Australia as I have declared my intention to remain away for more than 6 years.  I could have hidden the fact, I still maintain my address at my sister's home for financial matters but, as voting in Australia is compulsory, I would have had to request absentees ballots to be posted to me or send an explanation for not voting.  While I would be interested in Commonwealth elections, and did vote last time in 2010 as I was in Sydney the week before the elcction, I have little interest in the State election and none in the local council.

I do, however, have the right to vote in New Zealand.  I would not have had that right if I had gone the other way.  In fact, as a permanent resident, it was compulsory to register in NZ but not to vote.

The main point of my post is to share the wonderful news that a married gay man has just been elected to the parliament of the state of NSW.  I was a little confused to read he was married then discovered he and his partner were married in Argentina. Not sure I agree ith that if neither he nor his partner are citizens or residents of Argentina.  However that is beside the point.

The election was only held because the Liberal Government brought in a law to prevent people from holding office in both the state government and local council.  The previous member Clover Moore has been the independent member for Sydney since 1988.  In 2004 she became Lord Mayor of Sydney and was recently elected for the 3rd time.  The new law meant she had to resign as State member.  She has always given one of her salaries to charity.  Clover has always championed gay rights and endorsed independent Alex Greenwich.  He gained 48.5% of the first preference votes. The Liberal candidate gained 29.8%, the Greens 17.7%, another independent 2.1% and the Christian Democrats (anti gay rights) a whopping 1.9%.
So, with Green  preferences, Alex Greenwich has won with a two party preferred vote of just under 65%. A slap in the face for the Liberal Government.
Wonderful result

Friday, October 26, 2012

Across Australia 7 Derby and Kimberley Gorges

We based ourselves in Derby for 3 nights and took another trip on a 4WD bus. It was along the first section of the Gibb River Road which takes a more scenic route 700 km back to the town of Wyndham. However this is the description.
The Derby Visitor Centre recommends use of high clearance robust vehicles, preferably 4WD, for DRY season (May to October) travel. Towing of any type is not recommended. However, well constructed off road trailers may survive the often corrugated conditions in the DRY. Caravans are definitely NOT recommended.
Wet season (November to April) travel can be severely restricted by flooding and road closures as the countryside can become very waterlogged. Access to the gorges is very often not possible and, if travel occurs, is restricted to the Gibb River Road itself and not to the sidetracks into the gorges. A 4WD vehicle equipped with a snorkel is essential once the rains have started.

Certainly not allowed in the rented motor home.

First we stopped at a very old boab tree and were told all about them.

 It is a deciduous tree that grows from 29 to 39 feet tall, and has been known to grow to 16 feet in width. In the spring, it grows large, white flowers. The boab doesn't develop annual growth rings, and stores water inside its trunk. Some are 1500 years old, so are the oldest living things in Australia.
Aboriginal Australian peoples used the hollows of the boab to collect water, the leaves for medicine, and the fruit for food and in art. We were given some fruit to taste. I am afraid I spat it out, uggh.

We went on to Windjana Gorge which was very spectacular and saw more freshwater crocodiles. These were smaller so we went within a few feet of them .
We were told the story of Jandamarra who led an armed rebellion against the whites in the late 1890's and hid in the caves in this area.

After lunch we went to Tunnel Creek Cave where Jandamarra was killed. This involved wading through the stream which can be above your waist but thankfully was only up to my lower thighs. I had to buy a pair of shorts in Derby in preparation. I never wear shorts.

The following day back in Derby we checked out the very high tides at the wharf.

Derby has Australia’s highest tides and one of the highest in the world.

We went to the Mowanjum Art and Cultural Centre.  Finally yet another sunset across the tidal flats.

Thursday, October 25, 2012


Last Sunday I attended Evensong in St Paul's Cathedral, Dunedin.

Time was, in the dim dark distant past, when Evensong or rather Evening Prayer but there was just as much if not more singing than in the Cathedral on Sunday was my main weekly time of worship.  Yet last Sunday was probably only the third time I have attended in the past 20 or more years.  I attended at St James King Street, after a lecture on the Wesleys,  I think in 2007.  Then I attended midweek at St Paul's Cathedral, London in 2010, mainly I must admit as a way of getting in for free.

Back in the 1960's, first at St Phillips Eastwood then at Holy Trinity, Concord West the church was packed. It was the main service on Sunday when the main choir sang. It was preceded by Youth Fellowship.  Generally if you were Anglican and a teenager, you went to Youth Fellowship.  There has been discussion on Liturgy regarding the stats that show Christianity is declining in the Western churches.  In the 60's most shops were closed on Sunday, so were movie houses and there was no organised sport. TV had arrived 10 years earlier but it had not yet completely taken over.  I organised the building of a coffee shop in the church hall which had real percolated coffee and was open after Evening Prayer. Also, at the request of the Rector, we began dances with live bands in the hall one Saturday each month.  There was some opposition to these from within the parish and I sometimes had to call the police to remove troublemakers.  I wonder if they were the cause of my tinnitus today.  It was much easier to attract young people to church and church activities as there was not a lot else available.

Those young people in the 1960s would now be between 55 and 65.  They are hardly crowding into the church today so in most cases their attendance back when they were young has not produced lasting results.

I attended last Sunday because our vicar was preaching and our choir was singing with the cathedral choir.  The sermon is here.   I was disappointed at how few did attend.   I guess it is much nicer to stay home with heater and TV on a cool showery night.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Across Australia 6 Bungle Bungles to Derby

We continued across the North West, generally called the Kimberleys.

The small town of Halls Creek (pop.1200, 70% indigenous) is the only town for 600km. We just stopped for petrol and continued on to Fitzroy Crossing, altogether driving 470km that day. Fitzroy Crossing is a bit bigger with 1,500 people in the town (60% indigenous) and another 2,000 in nearby aboriginal communities.  It, however, has a very nice camping ground so we spent the afternoon relaxing and stayed the night.

The next morning we went to the nearby Geike Gorge for a boat cruise.

Yet more freshies

A shy kangaroo.
and bird

Then we drove the 300 km to the town of Derby on the coast. It seemed quite big with over 3,000 people.  Derby is known for the Boab trees and this one is the most famous.  It is known as the prison tree. I use to think Aboriginal prisoners were kept inside but they were just chained to it.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Vatican II

I read it is 50 years since the Vatican II council opened.  I do not write much about the Roman Catholic church as I have a number of Catholic friends both online and in real life who I greatly admire and I respect their faith.

Growing up in the late 40's and 50's Catholics and Protestants mixed very little.  I played with Catholic children in the street but they went to different schools and church so were seen as being different, our parents were friendly to each other but generally did not socialise together and as we grew older and went to our respective high schools we had little in common.
At University there was more mixing and I got to know some Catholic brothers in teacher training and remember being invited to an all male production of "HMS Pinafore" at the monastery which I found highly amusing. 

My family was a bit different as my grandfather's second wife was Catholic. They were apparently married behind the altar in the Catholic cathedral and he remained a strict Methodist.  My sister finally married a Catholic after 8 years of 'going out' as she insisted on being married in an Anglican church.  It however has always been a problem, they decided children would cause strife and he will only enter a protestant church for weddings and funerals.  He is still very much of a pre Vatican II mindset.

Two things I remember about Vatican II.  I drove a fellow teacher to work each day and she was excited about hearing the mass in English and singing some of the more familiar (to me) hymns.
The second was more important.  My Anglican church, where I was youth leader,  was across the road from the Roman Catholic church but 'never the twain would meet'.  I am not certain, but think the initiative was from my Rector.  I received a visit from the assistant parish priest one Saturday morning when I was still in bed and we arranged a combined Fellowship Tea.  It was decided the speaker should be from Alcoholics Anonymous to avoid any difficulties and the only prayer would be the Lord's Prayer which they of course called the "Our Father".
I think the priest said grace.  Naturally we went off to our own churches afterwards. I do not think it was ever repeated, certainly not in my time there.

Many years later I took a teaching position in a senior Catholic Boys High School and taught there for 15 years.  I became friends with and came to respect many of the brothers. It was a time in which, due to State aid, many more lay teachers were being employed. Quite a few were ex brothers who had married.  In the later years I was completely "out" and actually was helped by some of the religious while I think others would have preferred I went away to solve problems.  As I was experiencing complete exclusion from the evangelical Anglican parishes, I began attending Catholic masses.

I took communion after a Jesuit priest told me I was welcome as I was a member of the community and in fact he chose me to distribute the host on one occasion.  I am sure other priests would not have been so welcoming but I worked on the principle of what they did not know would not hurt them.  The bishop of Dunedin,  in my previous post about his pilgrimage on the Camino,  mentions regularly attending Mass on the journey but not partaking.  This makes me sad and I am proud that the Anglican church welcomes all Baptised to communion.  There have been news items about Catholic priests refusing the sacraments to LGBT people and I have known Catholic friends who have been excommunicated due to divorce and remarriage.  They naturally left the church. My brother-in-law seems to regard his marriage in a protestant church as having condemned him. He only attends church now at Easter and Christmas yet does not want to compound the problem by attending a protestant service unless necessary due to family obligations.

I believe the participation in the Eucharist is between the communicant and God and no one else. This and a few other reasons meant I did not pursue some thoughts of converting to Catholicism.  My evangelical upbringing made the devotion to Mary a problem but I would find that less so today.  Transubstantiation was no big deal. I have always regarded the Eucharist as more than just the memorial service I was taught to believe. My view is probably closest to the Lutheran belief of sacramental union.  However this post will be far too long if I go into that matter.

After 4 years away from Catholic schools as I studied to be a librarian, I returned to work in a junior Catholic high school where all the staff were lay. There were a number of Protestants teaching and we were encouraged, even obliged, to take part in the religious programs.  At staff retreats the sacrament was often offered in both kinds and I was amused to see it was usually only the protestants who took the wine.  I actually taught Religious Education one year but, as the course only involved Old Testament studies, mainly 1 and 2 Samuel to 12 year olds, it presented no problems.  I taught there for 8 years and much of my casual teaching for the next 8 years was also in Catholic schools. My main source of income today is from the Australian Catholic Superannuation Fund.

My greatest objection was to the role of the Pope. That is also why I am strongly against the Anglican Covenant.  While I am willing to listen to and consider wise guidance from bishops and vicars, I consider my beliefs to be between me and my God. While in Sydney I found acceptance from Catholic Laypeople and Religious and knew they privately disagreed with many of the official decrees of the church, yet publicly they had to toe the line.  In the Anglican church there can be public disagreements with the bishop even by rectors in the Sydney diocese although it is not good for their future advancement. And one can always move to more agreeable dioceses. Heaven forbid that we should all have to follow the line of one Archbishop of Canterbury or even a committee of World Primates.

It is sad to see that so many of the changes brought by Vatican II have either stalled or been reversed. I read in an interesting article that was largely due to the death of Pope John XXIII and the fact that while Paul VI was supportive, he was less willing to stand up to the reactionary forces in the Vatican.  Thankfully despite the sometimes distressing news of conflict within the Anglican Communion we are not dependent on the views or personalities of one man (or woman).

As for the Catholic church. The above article states:
The Vatican II vision is still ''out there''. Catholics have grasped the possibility of the church as a local community based on Jesus' message of love, co-operation, tolerance and service to others.
I will pray this vison might one day prevail. 

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Now Here is a Bishop

I spend a lot of time criticising the bishops of Sydney for good reason. But unlike a certain mad priest in England who, because he was badly treated by one bishop has it in for all of them, I know that most of them are doing a good if difficult job.

Back in 2006 or 7, when I first began to seriously consider Dunedin as my future home, I discovered the blog of then Archdeacon Kelvin Wright, vicar of Roslyn and was impressed.  I followed his blog as he planned to complete the Camino de Santiago de Compostella.  In 2008 all was put on hold as he dealt with prostate cancer but he and his wife, Clemency, completed about half in 2009.  

I first visited St John's Roslyn on my second trip to Dunedin, this time with my sister,  in November 2008 and introduced myself to him.   I was a bit astounded and had mixed feelings when it was announced in late 2009 that he had been elected bishop of Dunedin. So I was only a parishioner for 4 weeks before he was consecrated bishop and left the parish.  I attended his consecration and was amused to find myself seated next to the wife of the bishop of Nelson.  Nelson would be the one diocese in New Zealand where I would not feel comfortable. It has a history of a close relationship with evangelical Sydney but, while the bishop has aligned himself with Gafcon, he has not been as obnoxious in his comments as Jensen.  We, (his wife and I) had a pleasant conversation while waiting for the service to begin. 

Now Kelvin and Clemency have just completed their pilgrimage on the Camino and I have followed his blog with interest.  It has not been without incident.  First Kelvin had problems with his achilles tendon but after prayer by other pilgrims he seemed to make a remarkable recovery.  Far worse,  a few days later, Clemency fell in the shower and they had to make an ambulance trip to hospital.  Thankfully there were no bones broken but she had to complete the pilgrimage (just over 100km of the total 800km)  by bus. 
Although you may not have time to read his day by day description, I do recommend "Why Pilgrimage"
Part of his comments there follow:
Personally, I am not convinced that prayers said in front of the bones of some dead bloke are any more effective than any other sort of prayers, even in the highly unlikely event that the skeletal remains belong to one of the apostles. I don´t think that the sheer hard work of walking hundreds of kilometres across a foreign land earns any sort of favour with the almighty. But I know that making pilgrimage is a spiritual practice.

All spiritual practices have this in common: they confront us with the limits of the false self, so that we can recognise those limits and grow past them, and this is precisely what the Camino does. It is a tool, in other words, whereby we make real Jesus invitation to leave ourselves behind in order that we might find ourselves. The Camino Santiago de Compostela  is not a pleasant and refreshing walk through beautiful Spanish countryside. It is not an interesting historical and cultural walking tour. Or at least, it is not just those things. The Camino challenges  and searches and judges. The Camino exposes us, we who answer its call to pilgrimage. The myriad defence mechanisms we call our personality are opened up and shown for what they are and the result is not diminution but expansion; a contact with the true self and with the great one whose ground, Says Meister Eckhart, is the same ground as that of the true self. 

And then after finishing and greeting Clemency on the final day, they went and worshipped at the cathedral in Santiago with the amusing but emotional  Botafumeiro

The first thing for me to do was to visit the crypt and pray before the bones of St. James. I´m not entirely sure why, as readers of previous posts will know, but somehow, for me the Camino was not complete until I had done this. There in a small cellar, down a flight of steps was a silver casket containing James´ mortal remains. A young woman prayed before them and then pushed several copies of her CV through the grill to lie before the coffin. Unemployment is high in Spain, and I guess both her faith and her intention were obvious, and I found the sight intensely moving. I knelt there and remembered several things. A parish priest who, at the end of his pilgrims blessing had asked us to pray for his parish when we got to Santiago. Then a farmer tending some strange (to me) crop on a sunny hillside. I smiled and waved to him and he stood, raised both arms and cried out
¡Hola! ¡Bien Camino!¡Rece por mí cuando llegue a Santiago!
Hello! Good Camino! Pray for me when you reach Santiago
So before I spent time holding my children, my grandchild, my diocese, my family, before God I remembered that farmer and his nameless crop and the parish of Arzua. Bless them all, my Lord and make of them what you intend.

Thanks be to God for their pilgrimage and thanks be to God for directing me to this diocese. Kelvin is not Anglo-Catholic although the Jensens probably think he is but he is open to the Mysteries of our faith.  He is very much into meditation.  He is inclusive although more circumspect on such matters since becoming a bishop.

A few months ago I met him in the local hardware store and had a brief chat, then 5 minutes later we met again in his local supermarket and, as it is not mine, he was able to direct me to what I wanted. Now that is a helpful bishop.

I probably would have small disagreements with him at times, we are both human,  but I am very grateful to be in the Diocese of Dunedin.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Across Australia 5 Lake Argyle to the Bungle Bungles

My original plans for the day at Lake Argyle were to go on a late morning cruise down the river below the dam followed by the sunset cruise on the lake.  However the river cruise that day was cancelled and we were transferred to the following day.  Luckily we had only planned to drive 70 km to the town of Kununurra.
So that morning we boarded a smaller boat to travel down the river.  It was faster and slipped through the rapids so was great fun.  As we left from just under the dam, a party of kayakers were loading their craft for several days of travel down river to Kununurra.  Fortunately there are only freshwater crocodiles in the river as there is another small dam or barrage at Kununurra which backs up the water so it can be used for irrigation and it prevents salties from coming upstream. Saltwater crocodiles can live in freshwater but not the other way round.

We passed the kayakers very slowly, on our way back.  I think our guide was disappointed that they were still upright and dry and had not turned over in the first rapids as he expected.

The freshies had been completely uninterested in them as they went past.

We were surprised at the lack of size of Kununurra (basic pop 7,000 increasing to 10,000 in dry seasonal due to tourist activities and farm workers.)   It was Saturday afternoon and little was open.  Fortunately the supermarket was open but I had broken my thongs (jandals in NZ, Flip flops in USA?) and was lucky to find one pair my size in the smallest Target (variety) store I had ever seen.  We drove up a hill to look over the town.
The nearest town of any size is 500km east in Katherine and 1200km south west in Broome.  You would not want to live there if you were a shopaholic.

Sunday morning we passed farms growing melons and mangoes and the new crop sandalwood but visited a zebra rock gallery. These are the natural rock colours.

We both bought a small piece each for a souvenir.

Then we drove towards the coast and the town of Wyndham (pop 800).  It is 100km from Kununurra and on the coast so is  the port and the oldest town in the region.  Great views from a hill overlooking the estuary with 5 rivers and extensive mudflats but very misty (salt?) so I will not post any photos.
Instead we returned to the main Great Northern Highway and drove for another 380km to our next night's stop. There was just 1 roadhouse in all that distance. My sister drove for an hour so I took the following photos as the road went on and on .

Where we stayed for the next 2 nights was a very strange campsite. It is underwater in the wet and so is portable.  Everything is set up at the beginning of the dry season and taken down again at the end.  It is the entrance to the Bungle Bungle National Park with its beehive shape striped formations.  The proper name now is Purnulu National Park.  It was only discovered by a film team in 1983, became a national park in 1987 and was put on the world heritage list in 2003.  It is only accessible by 4WD so we had to join a bus tour which took 2 hours to drive the 52 km from the highway where we camped to the boundary of the park.  The park covers 2,500 square km.    Many tourists view it from the air but both cost and my fear of flying in anything with one engine meant we only saw it the hard way.  In the morning we walked to Cathedral Gorge (4km return) which was spectacular.

In fact still photos do not do it justice so I will try to post a movie.

Another shorter walk nearby led to a great view over the park.

Then after lunch we drove to the other end of the range and visited the Echidna Chasm. It was a shorter (2km return) walk but rather rough so my sister gave it a miss. It is a very deep narrow chasm so was better in the afternoon heat.

Then it was time to retrace our steps in the bus back over that 52km rough road to our van parked near the highway.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Fifty years

Ah, those days.

It is 50 years since The Beatles released their first single - a moment that changed the music world forever.