Modest Expectations – Peyton Manning

“Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently enquired of the wise men.” Matthew 2;16 

The Israeli Army discovered a cache of weapons behind an MRI Machine in the Al-Shifa Hospital. Unless they were plastic, nobody in their right mind would place weapons anyway near an MRI machine. Salting the mine is a well-known trick.


And of course the Israel Defence force would discover a shaft under the hospital, but who dug it? Actually, the shaft opening reminds me of one of those mine shafts in the gem fields of Central Queensland, into which I was once lowered on a makeshift lift, a glorified tin can, to the mineral face. There was a passage leading away. Here the miners were fossicking for sapphires.

Without discovering a shaft, the word “war criminal” comes to mind for Netanyahu and his buddies. Also, the American Intelligence backing the Israeli supposedly provides proof. What proof?  I would have thought that it would be easier to use technology such as the synchronized electromagnetic gradiometer which uses the enhanced conductivity associated with tunnels, as compared to the surrounding medium, to detect the tunnels. I am sure that to terrify children and stomp around a hospital looking for Hamas shadows is much more exciting to the Israeli onlookers dressed in black. Especially if one can incite a shoot-out. Good television – paediatric massacre.

The Washington Post recently reported that in December 2021, Israel’s military said a high-tech upgrade to the barrier that had long surrounded the Gaza Strip would protect nearby Israeli residents from the threat of violence from militants. It cost a billion US dollars. The Hamas have shown how vulnerable the wall was, while at the same time catching the Israeli defence forces napping.

I have written enough. I am sick of the apologias for this Israeli pogrom; the attempt to intellectualise what is just murder of thousands of children and keep invoking the destruction of Hamas being the ultimate aim whereas it was, as I speculated earlier, the genocide of the whole Gazans. What does the arithmetic of hostage mean. The damage has been done. Shame on all of us!

Gorse, I’m Right

It is a wonder the Tasmanian Government in all their gallows humour has not replaced the Tasmanian blue gum with gorse as its floral emblem, since the onward march of this yellow Caledonian curse across the landscape seems to be unstoppable. Tasmania has tried a number of methods of eradication. One has been burning but burning gorse just helps germinate the seed and accelerate the spread, while leaving an unsightly blackened scene.

Irish women may have used gorse to make a yellow dye similar to saffron from its flowers, but that is of little consolation to us Australians. Gorse presence greatly reduces land value. The plant is unpalatable to cattle and sheep. Horses will eat new growth while goats will eat mature plants. Gorse is a significant haven for vermin. There is a range of herbicides but they are costly and must be applied with a degree of skill. I cannot believe that such skill being applied at regular intervals of time along the road from Zeehan to Strahan where the gorse is advancing and has reached the Henty River would not arrest the advance. This is the land of temperate rain forest, where sections still remain pristine, but for not much longer unless the Government fights the yellow peril.

The solution is to have a permanent flock of goats. Goats are everywhere in Australia, and it has been shown that feral goats can become trained as a useful flock when it comes to eating gorse. The comment that once the goats are removed, the gorse returns has a simple solution – keep on with the goats. The missing part is government funding for the goatherds, and of course the goats. Of gorse!

We live on a Planet with a Volcanic Temper

If nothing else, the past few days have brought home a stark reality: The sleeping giant is very much awake. A network of volcanic fissures extends right into the suburbs of Reykjavík. What this bodes, no one knows. One thing is certain: The forces shaking my kitchen, shaking the foundations of so many small and brittle lives, are far beyond our control. – Aldo Sigmundsdottir, The Washington Post

Iceland is up to its old tricks again. Iceland, despite is name, does not intrude across the Arctic circle and although one correspondent diminished Grindavik as nothing more than an undistinguished fishing village, volcanic activity excites everybody. In any event magma building up beneath Iceland may break through the surface into a volcanic eruption, sending lava flows toward the Blue Lagoon, the Svartsengi geothermal power plant, as well as Grindavík.  But it seems to be spreading across the whole Reykjavík Peninsula.

Blue Lagoon

Having enjoyed the intensely pale blue lagoon with steam rising into the air, I realise that, located where it was in a cooled lava field, it is inevitable its existence will be threatened at some point when the Earth decides to move. This area has lain dormant for 800 years, but the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull, a volcano completely covered by an ice cap in 2010, caused no loss of life but considerable inconvenience for planes with its dense high ash plume rising to nine kilometres into the atmosphere.

Years later, it resumed a less active state so I could drive around it on my way south; its recent activity was denoted by a wisp of smoke.

I have written extensively in an earlier blog about my visit to Iceland in 2013. Now, hearing that the Blue Lagoon is in danger, it would be a great pity if such a beautiful tourist attraction is destroyed by the lava flow, but that is how Nature functions.

The pink and white terraces

I have always been fascinated by the descriptions of the Pink and White terraces – these natural silica terraces beside Lake Rotomahana, where Victorian New Zealanders would come to bathe in the silica rich waters. The description of them always emphasised not only their beauty, but their uniqueness – some called them the eighth wonder of the World. Unfortunately, in 1886, Mount Tarawera erupted and destroyed the Terraces. Yet one is not allowed to accuse Nature of vandalism!

The other area which I know well is the Western District of Victoria. This area of Victoria was home to at least 400 short-lived basaltic volcanoes that erupted in geologically recent times (last 4.5 million years ago). Iceland by comparison has 33 active volcanos.

The largest of the Victorian volcanos is known as Tower Hill, which remains as a caldera, through which one can drive. On its sides are very rich basalt soils, in which potatoes are grown by the Koroit community under the extinct volcano. The past intense volcanic activity is also indicated by the stony rises and progressive movement of basalt rock to the Southern Ocean, on the shores of which blocks of basalt remain as sentinel of past volcanic activity. In that time, Western Victoria must have resembled one representation of Dante’s Inferno.

Putting it all in perspective, around the planet there have been 30 major volcanic eruptions this century at the rate of about one a year. The biggest volcanic eruption was Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai near Tonga in 2022. This had the same volcano eruption index (VEI) of 5 – the same power – as the Vesuvial eruption of BCE 79 which destroyed Pompeii. The only other comparable volcanic eruption (also measuring 5) was in the Southern Chilean Andes, the Cordon Caulle. This happened in 2011. The ash cloud reached as far as Melbourne, but there were no known casualties.

Those which caused the greatest loss of life were one in Guatemala and the other Anak Krakatoa in the Sunda Strait, which exploded leaving a caldera and a massive tidal wave which affected both Java and Sumatra.

On each occasion about 500 people were killed, with many more injured, with associated destruction of infrastructure.

Volcanic eruptions always attract attention, but when it is in Iceland, they always seem to occupy central stage.


I have never written about one of the most fascinating places we stayed some years ago. This was Blanchland Village, nestling under the Northern Pennines. It can be succinctly described as this: Blanchland is a village on the Northumberland/County Durham border which grew out of the foundation of an abbey in 1165. It was bought by the Bishop of Durham, Nathaniel Lord Crewe, in 1708 and on his death in 1721 Blanchland became part of a charitable trust established in his will. Here we stayed in what has been described as one of the prettiest villages in England. I thought the stone buildings drab, but we were lodged in a very comfortable apartment opposite the main accommodation at the Lord Crewe Hotel. The hotel we remember had a massive fireplace and it was where we ate most meals. Kippers were on the menu – I love them, but others don’t.

Lord Crewe Arms, Blanchland

I learnt that Earl Grey Tea originally came from Northumberland and being already the tea I mostly drank, it was interesting to find its wellspring.

The other traditional drink which always seems to be associated with mediaeval retreats is mead. Cider yes, perry yes; mead definite no!

We hiked up the hill every morning. Here there were the heather-covered moors of these Northern Pennines. We came across the remains of the ancient silver mine. As reported, silver was being extracted from North Pennine ores on a significant scale during the medieval period, as was lead. Throughout many centuries of mining activity, a constant by-product of the processing and smelting of lead ores was silver.

From the report, it is further estimated that the mines produced a total of over two million ounces of silver between 1130 and 1200 here near Blanchland. As such this was an important mine for silver in the medieval period. It is considered that the minting of this silver may have contributed to a doubling of English silver currency between 1158 and 1180. However, it seems certain that this was a time when mining expanded rapidly within the ore field and was then the most productive source of mined silver in England.

In one corner there was a small dell which had been cordoned off to protect the remnant of an ancient wood. It was one of those leafy areas which you imagine form the backgrounds in multiple children’s books. The problem with the maintenance of such areas is that they are incompatible with sheep farming which is allowed on the moor.

We were lucky to be on the moors in summer, but even then it is desolate, although I enjoy the openness of the various moors and the selective isolation. What I mean by that is it is great to be able to walk the moors in summer with the aim of getting to know oneself; but try winter, slogging through the snow while composing soliloquys for one’s isolated lost soul. Not quite the same.

We were staying at the foot of the moors, and one of the days, I remember trudging up the hill and encountering a farmer who was backing his tractor onto the track. For some reason, we got talking and he revealed that he had invented the green plastic method of wrapping and waterproofing the large round bales of hay. It is interesting that small advances in the human condition remain in the brain.

Blanchland was one of those villages which, until you stop to look around and find the unusual, you may just remark that it was pretty. But its history tells otherwise that it is not just a pretty facade.

It’s a Long Way from Darjeeling

You can never count one’s number of buffaloes until they are captured. I thought it to be relevant adaption to the sub-continent of the old adage about counting chickens before they are hatched.

Cricket’s World Cup is the four-year tournament attracting the best ten teams from around the planet to play each other in the 50 overs a side match. This means a drawn-out spectacle with matches held all over India on this occasion. The Indian side were unbeaten coming into the final, which was scheduled to be held in Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad, the capital of Gujarat state whence Modi emerged. The stadium holds 132,000 people and is the largest in the World. The Indians were leaving nothing to chance as the curator would have had the opportunity to make a pitch friendly to the hosts. Umpires may be neutral, but curators are not.

But they lost – no, not beaten by a better team; India choked. Really?

This country always has high expectations of our sporting teams, but when they fail, the tall poppy syndrome kicks in. The higher the expectation, the intensity of the tall poppy syndrome when the particular team or individual fails.

Now the Australian cricket team has reached its zenith. Zeniths are generally not plateaux; but Australian cricket has shown remarkable ability to do just that.

Australians have had tough relentless cricket captains since Kim Hughes’ term ended in blubbering. That image was understandable given the times, but from Alan Border on, the Australian team was often ugly, graceless in maintaining its superiority until Steve Smith’s tearful response to cheating and being found out in South Africa.

Tim Paine, for an excellent underrated wicketkeeper, did the best he could. However, Pat Cummins, the current captain and a great fast bowler who can bat, has shown a resilience and yet a sense of fair play. When the Poms accused the Australians of cheating when they had had enough of the sly Bairstow and ran him out, Pat Cummins weathered the storm. His resilience was sorely tested, but with his unfailing smile, often steely, he represents the myth of the traditional Australian.

How he handles his retirement will confirm that myth, not that I believe that is tomorrow, even though fast bowling is not the most natural use of one’s body. Nevertheless, enjoy the unexpected win; even Modi, who was watching the loss, waved in acknowledgement to the Australians despite his stony expression.

Mouse Whisper

You would think a mouse would warm to hip-hop, but I’m inclined to agree with the sarcastic comment about this art form “Promoting drug dealing and degrading women. Good stuff.”

It was invented, if that is the word, in the Bronx in 1973 – 1520 Sedgewick Avenue to be precise, when some dude call D J Cool Herc, started syncopated chanting to the kids dancing at his sister’s break up party while scratching and otherwise mutilating the record. The chanting was called “rapping”. Thus, the egg was cracked and this reptilian music emerged.

Some hip-hop enthusiast in Boston forsees 2024 as “a rap scene full of more elite talent, star power, and diversity than ever before, whether we’re talking about Bia, Cousin Stizz, Oompa, Termanology, Dutch ReBelle, Millyz, Latrell James, STL GLD, Cliff Notez, Najee Janey, Avenue, Bori Rock, Brandie Blayze, Red Shaydez, or Van Buren.”

Bewdy! Lots of “Z’s”. Can’t wait.

Cool Herc’s party flyer
























Modest Expectations – Boning up

Dr Tanveer Ahmed is a University of Sydney graduate, who is in psychiatric practice with an alphabet list of specialities from addictive disorders to transcultural psychiatry. Nowhere among the list is a claim that he knows anything about Medicare. In fact, what he wrote in AFR some weeks ago contains a particular passage of arrant nonsense replete with non-sequiters. (sic)

But as all relevant stakeholders agree, the Medicare system was dreamt up at a very different time. Half a century ago, the challenges were around infectious disease, infant mortality and work-related injuries in a manufacturing-based economy. The medical profession was about large hospitals and alpha male consultants.

First, Dr Ahmed, Medicare is a payment system of Federally-funded patient benefits, a Constitutional head of power granted to the Commonwealth in the 1946 Referendum. Earle Page, in 1953, was the first to try and harness this head of power for the benefit of the patient, particularly in setting up the Pharmaceutical Benefits Schedule. Still in operation today, Dr Ahmed.

Reporting on Nimmo

Now, progressing this nonsensical proposition that Medicare was the results of some reverie: the genesis for Medicare was the Nimmo Inquiry, set up by a Coalition Government and reporting in 1969. The Report was the platform, which enabled John Deeble and Dick Scotton to outline their plan for a universal health system. This was adopted first by the Whitlam Government (Medibank) and in its second iteration, Medicare, when Hawke was in power. Patient medical benefits have been at the heart of system. The throwaway line of medicine 50 years ago reflects the arrogance of ignorance. Unlike today, infectious disease was not perceived a major problem. It was the decade before AIDS; and Infant mortality was not a major discussion point, but abortion was. In 1972, yes, the mortality rate per 1000 live births was about 16; today it is closer to three. The figure for Aboriginal infant mortality is closer to 13.

Entering into a discussion about what was relevant 50 years ago demonstrates the resilience of the payment system and how it has coped with distortions. In other words, can that resilience continue?

A major challenge is that there is no recurrent mechanism for adjusting the fees for Medicare benefits. What happens now periodically is the Commonwealth sets up an inquiry into medical benefits – or more specifically one or two sections of the Schedule – and while the Inquiry proceeds Government uses it as an excuse to freeze Medicare rebates. So different from changes initiated by the Nimmo Inquiry 54 years ago.

Secondly, a serious distortion is the practice of public hospitals to double dip by “privatising’ their outpatient facilities, diagnostic imaging and pathology. Public hospitals are supposed to be funded through the State/ Commonwealth agreements. However, there were some State governments that diverted such funding for other uses and have been shamed. Politicians are very good at building monuments to themselves and hospitals can issue very useful media releases, especially if the number of dazzling gizmos blinds the population to the lack of staff and services.

Yet Dr Ahmed said the medical profession is all about large hospitals. Where does that comment get us? Hospitals are about staff and being able to provide an optimal 24/7 service. The solution lies in the management of the hospitals and when Dr Ahmed was in swaddling clothes, I was involved in a hospital management plan which worked because it encouraged participation by the medical work force in management – in other words not leaving the decision making in the health care system to others. But what has his statement to do with the current plight of the health system.

The recently constituted Review commissioned for two PSM awardees who probably know “where the bodies are buried” should be able to produce a “fearless review” report, unless both of them are among the grave diggers. The cynical view is that by commissioning the Review from the “Yes Minister” crowd, at best we may get a sample of the soil where the bodies are buried rather than a complete exhumation.

The third challenge is the growth of medical practice being treated as just another business commodity. The hedge funds, the private equity investors, the conglomerates based overseas mostly saw Medicare as a “Eureka” moment.  A government ATM! The doctors become salaried ciphers, as they get a guaranteed stipend while the patient benefit money flowed offshore into tax havens. Ahmed mentions this but does not make the connection between this distortion and Medicare.

The fourth is that the co-payment becomes the major patient cost as the value of the benefits decreases relatively. Given that medical specialists charges are increasingly detached from the medical benefit, then Medicare becomes more and more strangled – and in time irrelevant if no remedial action is taken. Two forces are contributing to this strangulation – (a) funding the NDIS – it is difficult to believe that significant funding that would otherwise be directed to Medicare has not been diverted to the NDIS, and  (b) the asymmetry of information undertaken. between patient and provider. The consumer is at a disadvantage in that when confronted with a diagnosis he or she is completely at the mercy of the information fed by the providers.

These are the real reasons Medicare has lost its effectiveness. A salaried profession is coming to general practice by stealth, coupled with an absence of regular review of the value of the patient benefits. In the past, George Repin assured that the AMA’s contribution was in Joint Inquiries, regular engagement with the Commonwealth that assured the value of the patient benefits. I fear today that the AMA in such updated reviews would be protecting the profits of overseas investors.

Introduction of capitation across Australia raises the question of why? The Constitution provides a particular way to go which has been remarkably robust, despite the attempt of Fraser’s Government in particular to sabotage it in its infancy before Medicare’s introduction consolidated the system under Hawke, with the guidance of his exceptional Minister for Health, Neal Blewett.

I have dealt previously with this idea that the health professionals naturally come together and work co-operatively. To accomplish this requires people with very special skills and not authoritarian personalities – perhaps Dr Ahmed’s feared alpha male consultants rampaging through Medicare. Still, I do not know what a reference to the alpha male medical consultant has to do with the value of the Medicare Benefit.

No, Dr Ahmed, the scheme was not dreamed up; and God knows why the AFR printed this shallow piece where simply put, the Commonwealth government, a Labor Government, is just starving the scheme into bureaucratic marasmus.

Meanwhile, the AMA sends out media releases printed on warm lettuce leaves.

Herding Goats

In an earlier blog, I wrote about my Uncle Frank Egan, who kept a flock of sheep in his backyard in Avoca, a settlement nestled in the Victorian Pyrenees. He fed his sheep by a judicious use of the Long Paddock for miles around, which earned its title as Egan’s Paddocks. It kept the flock intact, while he had very little actual land.

It struck me after driving through the extensive gorse lining the roadway between Zeehan and Strahan, after reading about the various forms of gorse eradication, that goats would seem to be the best way to solve the problem, as long as the relevant local government is patient as it may take a few years to fully accomplish.

Likewise, after the extensive rains, with the prolific growth of grasses alongside the roads, goats could be used to trim the verges. However, goats without a goatherd may prefer a diet of wheat shoots or canola rather than just stick to the roadside. Thus, goats need supervision. The concept of local government employing a goatherd should not be too difficult with a migrant community where the goat is an essential part of family life.

Boer goats

Goats are such versatile animals. Angora goats are known for their hair; others species for the quality of their meat, and further others as milking goats. The assessment of goats in relation to their weed clearing capacity, especially relating to gorse, suggest Boer goats may be the best.

In support of the above, a Dandenong Valley horticulturist, Colin Arnold has said; “Angled onion is a major problem along the Dandenong Creek. The goats love the flowers and eat the foliage too at certain times. They also eat other local weeds: privet, English ivy, pittosporums, blackberries, hawthorn and even prickly gorse. Gorse has seed that is viable for 25 years, but goats will find those seedlings and eat them, too. In areas where there are larger bushes, such as blackberries and tree regrowth, I put bigger goats.”

He added that young goats preferentially target weeds rather than eat the native vegetation. I would like to see the evidence, but generally the local councils should know where their native vegetation needs protection.

Arnold does use Boer goats for the task. They are also good meat goats – so in drought times, the flocks can be reduced. Others use an electrified corral where they can leave the goats to munch. The goats are resilient to being outside, if given a modicum of care. Nevertheless, the employment of goatherds by government could standardise the responsibilities of such a person.


To me, it is a no brainer for the use of goats to be introduced and trained goat herders should be recruited to establish an industry that becomes no different from any other local government responsibility.

It is a pity that Uncle Frank never developed a business called “The Long Paddock Munch” – the family fortune could have been, founded in the mouth of the goat.

Pity about the lack of goats then, and the spectacle of Uncle Frank as a goatherder is just too fanciful, but the profession should not be discarded as a thought bubble today with so much exotic invasive weed needing removal – and hopefully also to fuel reduction in the bush.

Snug in the Huon Valley

Where would you find settlements called Snug and Flowerpot and Eggs and Bacon Bay?  Then there is Cygnet, just down the road. Has a certain ring about it, if under a different spell.

You drive along the winding road South from Hobart into the Land of the Scarecrows. It is a picturesque drive through small villages and past farms. There is a collage of primary produce outlets and markets along the way. Fruit and vegetables are fresh; the taste tells me so. Tomatoes straight off the vine; wonderfully variegated beetroot and radishes; home to stone fruit and once where apple orchards and hop field dominated, now there are cherry trees covered in netting, and at the end of summer the trees are showing exhaustion after bountiful crops.  This is the Huon Valley.

As we look out over the garden of our friends, there is the scenic D’Entrecasteaux Channel, which separates the Huon Valley from Bruny Island. On the Channel there is always a sloop or a ketch to complete the picture of summer serenity.

But if you look in the other direction covering the hillside are the brooding forests of eucalypt and blackwood.

On 7 February 1967 Southern Tasmania was engulfed in fires, an event which came to be known as the Black Tuesday bushfires. They were the most deadly bushfires that Tasmania has ever experienced, leaving 62 people dead, 900 injured and over seven thousand homeless. The fires were particularly linked with Snug, which was almost completely razed.  This occurred after a very rainy year in 1966, and there was plenty of bush to burn – as it did when the temperature rose, the wind came from the north-west and the humidity was low.

As we were driving on a hot day a week or so ago, we stopped at a roadside stall near New Norfolk and while we were buying his youngberries, the farmer looked up and said that the wind had shifted west, and had it done so in the morning that would have been a perfect scenario for bushfires to break out. Fortunately it did not occur.

Our friends have taken precautions against bushfire – a mandated reservoir of water, extensive clearance of vegetation including tree removal. Nevertheless, there is only one narrow road out of the Valley and despite the increase in fire trails, the bushfire danger to the Huon Valley remains, as it does to Hobart, as happened in 1967.

Fire management plans are available, but brochures are easy to write and their recommendations are often expensive to enforce. With the current doctrine of allowing everyone to do what they like, as a side product of decades of neoliberalism where trust in individual responsibility will suffice on the grounds that we all live in a rational world. Naïve, comes the cry!

After the Black Sunday bushfire in 2009 in Victoria, a curious journalist interviewed people implicated in deliberately lighting fires and found that “a criminal profile for bushfire arson {which} is fairly well defined, but to my way of thinking, unsatisfyingly clinical. We know arsonists are usually men at an average age of 26, with a disconcerting number volunteering with the country’s firefighting agencies. They also tend to be disconnected from friends and family and live with depression or {other defined} mental illness.

In fact, the man convicted of some of the Black Sunday bushfires received 17 years imprisonment.  The severity of the penalty was linked to 173 people who died; 2029 houses were lost. In contrast to the Snug bushfire, the Black Sunday bushfire took over a month to extinguish.

The Black Sunday arsonist was 39 years old at the time of the offence and a former volunteer in the Country Fire Brigade. Nevertheless, that fire’s common causes are three: fallen powerlines, lightning strikes and arson.  To that can be added the discarded cigarette butts and sparks from industrial equipment. Nothing much you can do about lightning unless the site of the strike can be immediately identified – a forlorn hope. Thus, reliance on community efficiency in preparation for bushfires may help; but I am not sanguine with climate change. Tasmania will become more and more like Victoria. This would be tragic, the signs of 1967 are not evident now in the Huon Valley. But for how long?


I used to play squash twice a week in the sixties. Australia at the time had the world’s best men’s and particularly women’s squash players. Heather McKay won 16 consecutive British Opens from 1962 to 1977. Squash courts were not cheap to build and as the popularity of squash waned, so did the number of squash courts. This has been ultimately the fate of indoor racquet ball sports; popularity is important to maintain their costly capital expenditure. There are a variety of these, now niche sports; moreover, table tennis without the table would be a little difficult for the ocular challenged. Badminton, once battledore and shuttlecock, is not a game for the concrete red-meat Americans. Royal tennis for the elite. The problem with croquet is that it needs a big lawn whereas tennis, once its companion sport, has proved adaptable to a variety of surfaces.

And now pickleball, tennis when one is not playing tennis – the conundrum is how long will it last before it becomes “pickled ball.”

By the way the name, according to trusty Wikipedia, as mentioned in the body of the following article, came about because in the summer of 1965, pickleball was founded by three guys fooling around on Bainbridge Island, Washington. Within days, it was called “pickle ball”, a reference to the leftover non-starters in the “pickle boat” of crew races – an American term. Note the date of invention and the time it has become popular. The rule of thumb between time of invention and time of general adoption is 18 years.

I am indebted to the Boston Globe for this edited version of how the new phenomenon has become a sensation, if not an addiction.

Karine Marino played pickleball from 8 until midnight on a recent Monday night, drove 11 minutes home to Bedford, took a quick shower, set her alarm for 5 a.m., and drove back to the same indoor courts for her 6:30 a.m. game.

“But I just do that once or twice a week,” Marino, 58, said. “It’s not all the time.”

No, no, of course not. She usually plays a mere three hours a day, unless she’s in a tournament, or she’s coaching a friend from her club, Life Time in Burlington, or …

Pickleball, as you may have heard, and heard and heard and heard, has become the “fastest growing” sport in the United States, per the Sports & Fitness Industry Association.

But it’s one thing to read that nearly 5 million people played last year — an increase of nearly 40 percent over 2020, according to the sports association — and another to watch a loved one get sucked into the game’s gravitational pull. Flying to pickleball camps, joining multiple pickleball leagues, eying a $145 designer pickleball dress, and playing through the pain of pickleball elbow.

A woman attorney recently figured out that her boyfriend was graciously giving her son a ride to school — under the guise of being helpful — in part because it is next to pickleball courts.

“He has a whole new social life with retired ladies,” she said.

Pickleball was invented  by three dads, who were looking for family-friendly entertainment. From there it famously jumped to retirement communities, and periodically word would come out of Florida or Arizona about some goofy-sounding game in which grandparents were engaged. If people talked of it at all, it was mainly to mock.

But in a makeover even people who eat plant-based diets (nee vegans) might envy, pickleball has come so far that not only is there such a thing as Major League Pickleball, investing in a team has become the hottest financial move since crypto, though ideally with fewer crashes and indictments.

“Naomi Osaka and Patrick Mahomes Join Wave of Celebrities Investing in Pickleball,” Forbes headlined in December. “LeBron James is a pickleball fan,” a 2022 CNBC headline read, “and now he’s buying a team.”

Pickleball has a reputation for being a friendly sport, and that’s accurate — unless you try to get between a pickleballer and their lifeblood, aka more pickleball courts.

“You are always hunting,” said Erin McHugh, a woman who sees empty parking lots as potential courts and author of “Pickleball is life: The Complete Guide to Feeding Your Obsession.”

There are an estimated 35,000 courts in the United States, more than double the number from five years ago. But it’s not enough.

At a South Boston indoor pickleball parlour, where courts rent for as much as $100 per hour, aspiring players need to act fast. Those who don’t grab a slot within seconds after the online sign-ups begin are unlikely to get a court at the time they want, said owner Brian Weller. “It’s like trying to get Taylor Swift tickets.”

As the sport grows so does the drama. Pickleballers are battling both tennis players for court space and court-side neighbours who are fed up with the loud thwack-thwack-thwack of the hard plastic ball hitting the paddle (and also the boisterous and sometimes drunken chatter from spectators).

Tension flared. In Marblehead {a coastal Massachusetts town} recently when pickleballers complained about the winter closure of pickleball courts, according to the Marblehead Current, “There’s a {Chinese} balloon flying over the Carolinas, but we’re worried about pickleball nets,” a member of the Recreation and Parks Commission said. “I’m at my wit’s end with pickleball chatter.” The Commission compromised by agreeing to reopen six courts for players who can bring their own nets.

Why is pickleball so seductive? Its relatively small court means there’s less ground to cover than in tennis. You could spend a lifetime working on your game, but you can also have fun right away. You can socialize and exercise at the same time, usually outside, and for that reason it became a pandemic darling.

But a sport doesn’t get this big without a sprinkling of magic. Perhaps Marino, a retired engineer and aspiring pickleball “evangelist,” captured it best.

“The majority of people say it takes them back to their childhood,” she said. “To that carelessness. You play in a way that you are disconnected from your reality.”

Mouse Whisper

This was sent by My Mouse on the Wye. It has been seen more than 20,000 times on Facebook, but still makes me chuckle.

There was this well-dressed man on the bus in Cardiff. He was the quintessential English gentleman, with the cultured arrogance as he directed a rebuke to the woman in the hijab talking to her teenage son for speaking a foreign language not English.

An elderly lady on hearing this turned around from where she was sitting, and said to yon knight, “She’s speaking Welsh.”