Modest expectations – Medals await for those who ski and shoot

I was sitting across a table; I can’t remember who asked the same rhetorical question first. The question went something like this: you know, you and I have one fundamental thing in common. Invariably, I’m met by a blank stare; the question just popping up.

“Our ancestors avoided the Black Death.” By whatever means, they did.

The East Smithfield plague pit – a source of genetic material

There were no defence mechanisms against the miasma, although they were certain people who began to understand the value of hygiene who found some defence.

Hygiene, as we know it, was not generally accepted even by all the medical profession, let alone the populace. Walk around any old cemetery and see the number of deaths of children under the age of five years in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries from what today are curable diseases, largely due to the progressive introduction of vaccines.

Even the Spanish flu virus, which devastated country after country following WWI, the time when my father and mother were young, survives as seasonal influenza, for which a vaccine is available each year.

By the time I was born, due to the vaccination against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis, these diseases were vanishing, although the pertussis vaccine was not as effective as the other two. They were all combined into the triple antigen injection in 1953.

The Spanish flu never reached Tasmania, but the 1935 polio epidemic started in the small town of Railton, the topiary town in central north Tasmania. Poliomyelitis was still a scourge when I was a small boy. I lived through the 1949 epidemic, when contact between schools stopped, and hygiene was enforced. We survived and, within the decade, first the Salk and then the more effective Sabin vaccine emerged. Over the following decades the disease melted away, such that hospitals that were constructed for poliomyelitis patient treatment were repurposed.

Vaccination was generally accepted until that rogue doctor Andrew Wakefield fooled the Lancet into publishing his outrageously fraudulent claim that autism was induced by the MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella) vaccine. He was in cahoots with a group of lawyers and grifters who wanted to use this claim to sue the manufacturers, distributors and those administering the vaccine.

Why Wakefield is not serving a long prison sentence is beyond me. But his antics were catalyst to much of the anti-vaccine sentiment which has followed and been attached to so much of the conspiracy mumbo jumbo. If this is allowed to continue to spread, then the world is at risk from the succeeding waves of anti-vaccine propaganda dissuading a substantial proportion from being vaccinated.

As I wrote in 2014, well before the COVID-19 epidemic, in the Medical Journal of Australia (MJA):

Wilful objection to vaccination on the basis of spurious science should neither be encouraged nor rewarded, particularly by government. It is time for the whole question of conscientious objection to vaccination to be aired in Parliament if for no other reason than to find out which of our politicians are against vaccination, for they are as dangerous to continued Australian wellbeing as anyone who would challenge the biosecurity of our country.”

This statement applies more than ever!

Shenanigans is an Irish word

Racecourses that once attracted tens of thousands of people now lie beneath airport runways, university campuses and housing estates. It is now 50 years since Birmingham’s Bromford Bridge course shut (21 June 1965) and it is one of many that vanished thanks to a housing boom and the lure of developers’ money. BBC report in 2015 (The racecourse had been opened in 1894, but horse races had been held there since the 18th century.) 

Racecourses are closing all over the world. Since 2000, for instance, 38 racecourses have closed across the United States.

When reporting that the Singapore racing industry will shortly be closed down to provide vital space for housing, I recommended that Randwick racecourse too should be closed. I believe it stands to reason to take over that racecourse with all its accessibility advantages if the Government is serious in seeking to increase the housing stock most effectively. For those businesses seeking to have their staff to return to offices in the City, the redevelopment of Randwick Racecourse could provide housing located close to the city and served by light rail.

The problem is that any transactions between the Australian Jockey Club (AJC) now Australian Turf Club (ATC) and the NSW government, especially when the Party of Tripodi is in power, is influenced by the cosy relationship between it and the NSW Government.

Because most of the population takes no notice and the media writers are gushing about the purchase of racecourse land, the community is hoodwinked until the deal is done, and “spaghetti junction” politics is transferred to a “hallowed turf” rort – note the use of “hallowed”. You can find the word in the Irish Roman Catholic litany, the traditional players in the acquisition and management of the racing industry and the tribe that underpins the NSW Labor Party right.

They are aided and abetted by The National Party, whose policies are to slavishly try and keep rural myths that have never existed. The party is powerful – look how it took down Michael Baird’s attempt to abolish greyhound racing. With its history of cruelty and corruption, the abolition of greyhound racing was long overdue. Yet we, as NSW citizens, still allow it to exist, an abomination which attracts fewer and few spectators.

Determining the ownership of the racecourse is beyond me, but the trail on this matter is murky. Let’s start with a quote from a racing industry blurb:

The land at Randwick on which the racecourse was situated was crown land and controlled by the NSW Government. The issue with Homebush, apart from the state of the track, was the yearly negotiation of rent and use. At Randwick, the burgeoning AJC had much more security. In 1863, the NSW Government granted to trustees representing AJC an annual rent of “one black peppercorn payable on demand”. So far, this payment has never been collected.

Then there is no description of how the racecourse land proceeded to outright acquisition. Presumably there is an Act somewhere. Just a simple query and, if so, why was it not contained in any racing industry information.

For Rosehill, there was a clearer money trail.

The original land was held by the MacArthur family, as noted by Ian Ibbett. In 1880 it was sold to the lawyer, Septimus Stephen, who subdivided the land and advertised it for sale using the name of Rosehill.  Enter the flamboyant theatrical entrepreneur of the late nineteenth century, John Bennett. He bought a significant holding of 140 acres for a racecourse and recreation ground and on 18th April 1885, after an outlay of some £17,000, Rosehill racecourse conducted its first meeting.  Bennett even went so far as to provide a private railway track connecting Rosehill to the mainline at Clyde. The railway notwithstanding, for some years, racegoers, were able to come to the course by boat, anchoring mid-stream in the Parramatta River, while patrons paid the princely sum of a shilling for the transfer ashore.

The opening meeting at Rosehill Racecourse in 1885

Bennett set up the Rosehill Racing Club (RRC), which later became the Rosehill Racecourse Company. The amount of money which he paid for the land seems not to be disclosed or at least not readily available.

The Sydney Turf Club (STC) was founded in 1943 and is the youngest of Australia’s Principal Race Clubs. It was formed following an Act passed by the New South Wales parliament called the Sydney Turf Club Act (since repealed). The Act gave the club the power to hold 62 race meetings a year at the Rosehill and Canterbury tracks.

This came about because the then NSW Premier William McKell, instituted government legislation which created the Sydney Turf Club (STC) in 1943. McKell hand-picked the first board of directors which set about reviewing and dismantling the proprietary and pony race clubs. After much discussion and reporting, the STC purchased Rosehill Racecourse Company and Canterbury Park Racecourse Company. The remaining clubs at Moorefield, Ascot, Kensington, Rosebery and Victoria Park gradually closed.

In February 2011 the Sydney Turf Club (STC) and the Australian Jockey Club (AJC) officially merged to form a new Sydney racing club, the Australian Turf Club (ATC), and commenced racing immediately. The backstory was that the AJC was broke and the STC was very solvent. The STC members did not want the merger, but its Board overrode the members’ wishes. That is how the racing industry works as an offshoot of the Sicilian Vespers.

Sydney racing was further boosted by a $174m funding package by the NSW Government to redevelop Randwick racecourse ($150m) along with improvements to Rosehill ($24mM).

Yet the ATC runs a deficit, despite having absorbed the STC funds.

Now the ATC has the temerity to seek $5 billion for the Rosehill site, so they can spend up on equine fripperies, when the aim should be to restrict, to reduce the outlandish prize money and to make the industry pay for itself.

The NSW Taxpayer is being asked to underwrite an industry in decline, despite the outrageous prize money. Yet another normal day at Spaghetti Junction on Macquarie Street.

Remember the word outrageous! It is time for us to stop being fooled.

I would acquire the Rosehill Racecourse, and tell them to use the pre-existing facilities, and legislate for betting companies to build the facilities elsewhere – they would soon work out what was essential and not. Anyway, that would be my starting point. Sydney needs housing not an outdated and increasingly irrelevant industry.

The Japanese Maple Births

This Spring a couple of native mynahs took over our front garden. Not only was it a birthing clinic but then we had to endure the nursery, while the two fledgelings grew up.

In the meantime, mum and dad mynahs objected to anybody coming into the garden, and dive-bombed the unsuspecting intruders, which made the 20 metres to the front door for those having to “wing” it. However, we also heard from others that they had to cross the road to go past the house in order to avoid the dive-bomb.

The two fledgelings needed to be fed, but only one emoted; after some initial false starts including when they ended up buried in clivias for half a day, both sat on the branches with their mouths open, but only one crying for more. The other was silent.

For a period we thought one had plummeted to its death, but the only intervention by my wife was a crumpled cardboard “staircase”, which enabled one of the fledgelings to eventually climb back for another try.

This was the only intervention. The nest was constructed in one of the Japanese maples. The garden contains two Japanese maples, but is essentially a walled garden, with camellias and climbing roses inside and ivy coating the outside wall alone the lane.

Then the critical time occurs, and the fledgelings shed their airborne uncertainty, and begin flying all over the property and across the lane into the trees or into our pittosporum in the back garden, which overhangs the lane or into the olive tree outside our front gate.

They might fly but they were not yet completely independent. Whether they have learnt the art of feeding themselves or not, for a time they returned to the garden at feeding time.

But now they have gone. Perhaps there has been something satisfying in providing the environment for native mynahs to raise their fledgelings. My wife doesn’t agree – native mynahs are a long way down her “bird of preference” list.  Next year, if you think the welcome is laid out again, chirp again.  You guys better go easy on attacking our visitors. Otherwise, you also can just wing it!

Yitzhak Who?

We, who have fought against you, the Palestinians, we say to you today in a loud and a clear voice; enough of blood and tears. Enough…We are today giving peace a chance and saying to you and saying to you again: enough – Yitzhak Rabin at signing of Oslo Accords 1993

The stain is spreading, President Biden. What would you say if your Secretary of State was a Muslim?  What would you say if your Secretary of State was a Jew? But then your Secretary of State is a New York Jew whose ancestors came from Hungary, with distinguished Yiddish scholars in the mix and a stepfather, who was a Holocaust survivor. Impressive CV for such a task in hand.

Now the Hamas had plenty of time to perform the atrocities for which they have been accused by the Israeli publicity machine. Such as has occurred to those who have been released, been held for a longer time when the Hamas would have had a more leisurely time to commit these foul atrocities. What, you mean, these Hamas “animals” were escorting the released captives with civility with no complaints of atrocities- on the face of it the released all seem to be well cared for. It seems a disconnect, but the Bibi is the maestro of the Disconnect.

Now, there are those gentle, considerate Israeli soldiers, shooting up hospitals, humiliating a group of Palestinian men – why the inhumanity? The shema recited alleges that these men could be Hamas with exploding underwear; well the way the Israeli soldiers are acting, they could be equal to what the Israelis describe as Hamas, shema or not.

And the West bank, let’s shoot up the Palestinians, targets for the right-wing bunch of settlers. Would you tolerate in the United States, Mr Biden – shooting up the innocents – it’s called mass murder, President Biden.

How many of those terrorist children are you going to kill before the stain covers the whole of the Land of the Free. And what about the mothers – the hypocrisy of banning abortion Stateside and yet condoning at the same time killing defenceless women, some of whom are demonstrably pregnant, by these heroic Israeli soldiers – and let’s not forget the heroic pilots who outdo one another in blowing up Gaza, and anywhere else that they fancy. Far more authentic than those video games.

Biden, look at those settlers killing the defenceless on the West Bank. They are from the same sect that murdered Rabin. Do you condone, you, President Biden a plagiarism upon your House.

And here we are, being consumed by Christmas and good cheer.  And in this time of gifts given in the traditional holly encrusted brown paper bags, there’s our Australian Government wagging its tail, loyally filling the pockets of consultants and the coffers of the American war machine who can rest comfortably, ye merry gentlemen.  The brown paper bag has never been so well decorated. Finally, this week Australia has joined with the vast majority of countries to demand a ceasefire, parting with the entrenched US position.

But, while there are vetos, who cares about Gaza? The Palestinians are just barbarians. They don’t play golf, you know.

And by the way, Happy Hannukah.

Winter in the Isle of Wight

Some years ago, about this time of the year, we went to the Isle of Wight

It was a time between appointments. Downtime. Winter in England. Where to go? The wattage of inspiration. What about the Isle of Wight? Where else? The slight sense of adventure crossing the Foggy Solent – the stretch of water which separates the land from the Isle.

Driving down to Lymington through the New Forest – once the hunting domain of William the Conqueror and the place where son William, nicknamed Rufus, caught an arrow in somewhat inauspicious circumstances. Even in winter it’s a beautiful place of open forest and picturesque villages where wild donkeys roam through the streets coming out of the forest. It is all very quaint.

“Quaint” – what a delightful word derived from Old French cointe, from Latin cognitus ‘ascertained’, past participle of cognoscere. The original sense was “wise, clever”, also “ingenious, cunningly devised”, hence “out of the ordinary” and the current meaning came about in the late 18th century).

But then so is Yarmouth, where the car ferry deposits us – at the mouth of the Yar estuary. The George Hotel has been picked as the hotel of choice because of the availability of its prized No. 19 room. This room has an expansive terrace. From here we have a view over the estuary. The weather is cold, but there is not much chill factor in the wind. Yachts are shadowy forms – and even if it is the wrong part of the country, it is all very Swallows and Amazons as the Arthur Ransome books of my youth described the English coast.

The George Hotel has been described as a winter hotel. Oak stairs that slope, a plaque that recognises that King Charles 1 had been there, possibly on one of his last nights of freedom. A breakfast room that overlooks the sea where you take porridge and kippers and that keystone of British life – a pot of Earl Grey, his lordship perfectly buffered in the tea bags.

August is crowded with tourists. It is Cowes week. The yachts are thick in number on the Solent. In winter they say the village atmosphere returns. The Isle of Wight becomes a tourist attraction in summer and a haven for sailors who sail the day and crowd the bar of the George Hotel at night. The Isle of Wight has been a favourite of royalty, but Osborne House, which Albert built for Victoria, is closed for winter – apart from special viewings. They’ll start the week after we have left.

The Isle of Wight in winter is also the Isle of Wight without funfairs and crowded roads. As one lady, who runs a teddy bear museum in Brading, one of the favourite watering spots in touring the perimeter of the island, remarked – bedlam for her is a wet day in August when the shop is jammed and her ability to service sorely tested. But in a rainy winter’s day, nobody came in while I waited for the teddy bear loving wife to buy yet another bear for her collection. The transaction was completed with due care given the seriousness of the purchase. After all, teddy bears have personalities and must be compatible.

Quarr Abbey

The Quarr Abbey, the stolid red Belgian brick building constructed in early part of the 20th century is open. The home of a declining number of Benedictine monks, the abbey provides accommodation for travellers. But we came and wandered the cloisters and purchased a CD of the monks intoning Gregorian chants interrupted by the Abbey bells, but we did not stay overnight.

That is the essence of the quaintness and yet outside there is a spectacular coastline which starts in the west at the Needles and then, along the ocean face are white cliffs and spectacular views of surly seas. It is an unencumbered view – you can stop and walk at will. There is room to move here, now that winter has come.

Mouse Whisper

You know the ads on television which characterise Dan Murphy as a New York bootlegger, but the advertisements betray a discordance in the representation. First the prices on the labels are in shillings, but the felt pen used in changing the price was not in use until the 1970s. So colourful; sure, the first felt pen was patented in 1910 but up until the 70s, they were excessively clunky. The one in the ad was probably bought the day they made the advertisement.

The actual Dan Murphy was a wine merchant who had a series of successful wine outlets in Melbourne. The first was in Chapel Street Prahran, set up in 1952 in competition with his father Ted Murphy; another at the lower end of one of the “Little” streets – either Little Bourke or Little Lonsdale Street. A small, cluttered vintner’s gem; the bottle that struck one as you entered the shop was the bottle of 1945 Chateau Margaux, carefully protected under wire netting.

Dan introduced the traditional Australian beer culture to fine wines; but he eventually succumbed to the financial blandishments of Woolworths. This behemoth has changed the Dan Murphy persona to one of an American bootlegger, albeit getting things wrong – presumably intentionally.


Modest Expectations – On the Seventh Day

Let us also pray for the Jews: That our God and Lord may illuminate their hearts, that they acknowledge Jesus Christ is the Saviour of all men. 

Pope Benedict XVI

Almighty and eternal God, who want that all men be saved and come to the recognition of the truth, propitiously grant that even as the fullness of the peoples enters Thy Church, all Israel be saved. Through Christ Our Lord. Amen.  Good Friday Prayer sanctioned by Benedict XVI.

I always impose a riddle when I construct each of my blogs trying not to repeat myself, and I prepare them months before they appear. This riddle was formulated in September. Therefore “On the Seventh Day” was a play on the Six Day War. There was an irony underlying the aftermath of the Six Day War. The seventh day was a day of rest traditionally for us Christians. So, its use is just coincidence with the assault on Israelis by the Hamas. Yet if it had not been this War, the title would have little relevance.

But not being a creationist, I do not believe that God worked on such an earthly timetable; the title of this blog was a metaphor for UN Resolution 242, which called for:

  • The establishment of a “just and lasting peace in the Middle East” with implied mutual recognition.
  • Israeli withdrawal “from territories occupied” during the war
  • The right of all states – including Israel – to live in peace within “secure and recognized boundaries” that includes “guaranteeing the territorial inviolability and political independence of every state.”
  • “A just settlement of the refugee problem.”

In other words – Resolution 242, the seventh day metaphor.

This followed the Six-Day War, where Israel destroyed an Arab attempt to take over Israel. To avoid accusations of bias, I quote a Jewish narrative: The tensions and incidents leading up to the Six-Day War were highlighted by repeated calls by Arab leaders for the destruction of Israel, Egypt blockading an international shipping lane and the decision by the UN to cave in to Egyptian demands to remove international peacekeeping troops from the Sinai with a subsequent massive military build-up on the Israeli border.

With Arab armies massing on its borders and Arab leaders threatening genocide, Israel launched a pre-emptive strike on June 5, 1967. Six days later the war ended with Israel having captured the Golan Heights, the west bank of the Jordan River, the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula.

With the Arabs having suffered a crushing defeat, the Arab League met in September and issued the Khartoum Resolution with the infamous “Three Noes” in which the Arab League declared “no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with it.

During the period since independence, the Zionists were as ruthless towards their neighbours and those whose lands they expropriated as the Arabs had been in the years leading up to the Six Day War. This hatred has been institutionalised on both sides, except for brief periods.

The UN Security Council Resolution 242 was adopted on November 22, 1967 and with it the hope for eventual peace between Israel and the Arabs. The resolution was followed by a UN peace mission lead by Swedish diplomat Gunnar Jarring to try and implement 242. His efforts culminated with a peace proposal presented in 1971, but failure to agree on how to implement it was finally shattered when Egypt and Syria attacked Israel on Yom Kippur in 1973 – the holiest day in the Jewish calendar. It is not a coincidence that the Hamas launched their attack on a Jewish holiday, Shemini Atzeret.

In 1988 the PLO accepted Resolution 242 in its declaration of independence. The word “Palestinian” was not used in Resolution 242. At the time the PLO did not explicitly recognize Israel nor call for a peace treaty nor a two-state solution, but instead accused Israel of seeking the “extermination of the Palestinian people.”  Yet in 1993, Israel and the PLO signed the Oslo Accords.

Israel has set up a technocratic country with the outward appearance of a European democracy. I am aware of a Voltaire comment. Voltaire said that he wondered whether Prussia was an army with a state rather than a state with an army. The basis of this comment was that Prussia was surrounded by hostile forces, whose foreign policy was to destroy this emerging European power. Prussia did not have the overwhelming support of an external power, as Israel has with the US. Yet the words of Voltaire seem very relevant today.

As I have foreshadowed, what will Netanyahu do after levelling Gaza in his search for what is apparently a very highly technically advanced tunnel system under Gaza, leaving a passel of Hamas fighters very protected, while ensuring with the blessing of the USA that every Gazan is killed, including the systematic killing of children. Netanyahu seems to be emulating a version of what the Romans did to Carthage, sowing the land with salt; Netanyahu is creating mountains of rubble. How is Netanyahu going to delight his far-right constituency enshrouded in black and hatred as they do their ritual prancing. I for one was not particularly enchanted by the sight of these people spitting at Christians. What a good idea, kill every Palestinian Christian as well.

I do not condone war. I do not condone brutality. I do not condone torture. I am ashamed of former Australian Prime Ministers being seduced by the Zionists to sign a Netanyahu panegyric. At least Gillard should have known better.  Paul Keating to his credit refused.

In many ways the USA has led the modern world, including Australia into a morass where any moral compass has been lost. In any comments, nobody would condone what Hamas did, any more than actions depicted in those confronting images provided by ISIS showing what they did to their prisoners during the Iraq conflict would be condoned.

Much of this criminal behaviour is done in the name of religion. My fellow Australians condone what is happening in Gaza by a group of adherents who constitute 0.4 per cent of our population, who seem collectively to be cheering one of the monstrous perpetrators in this morass, Bibi Netanyahu. We with connivance of the media have allowed a range of stunted sociopaths to glimmer in this morass trickling towards Armageddon.

I doubt if anyone is listening to Benedict, but his prayer at least was not written by the Zionists.

White Jews of Kerala

I first went to Kerala at the end of 1983. I had watched a Malcolm Muggeridge documentary about India. He inspired my desire to go to India, and particularly to sit in the Viceroy’s Chair in Simla, the hill station for Britons fleeing the Delhi heat in summer. Simla is nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas. That was one action of his that I did not achieve.  I went to Simla in the middle of winter and that was a remarkable trip to Himachal Pradesh from New Delhi.

Muggeridge created another image of India. He stood on a beach in Southern India, which he identified as Kerala. I had never associated palm trees and sandy beaches with India. This only served to confirm my intention to go and stand on a beach in Kerala with arms outstretched in the seductive atmosphere of Southern India as Muggeridge had done. My eventual stint turned out to be a month when I travelled the length of India. When I had landed in Bombay, as it was then called, I wondered why I was there. By the end of that month, I knew!

Paradesi Synagogue, Cochin

Beaches were not the other reason to attract one to Kerala, a state with a significant Christian population that votes Communist. It is its diversity. I had heard that there was a Jewish community in Cochin, called the White Jews of Kerala. Along a narrow street, to which we had been directed, there was a nondescript building. Behind the façade was the Paradesi Synagogue, which had been constructed in the 16th century by a group of Sephardic Jews who had come from Portugal. There had been a group of Jews there before. These were named Black Jews, the origin being more problematical and whom the “invading” White Jews prohibited from becoming full members of the White Jew synagogue.

When we visited the synagogue, there was an old man who acted as the caretaker. A White Jew – he frankly did not have any distinguishing features from those of any other South Indian I had met. He remembered a rabbi, but that was long ago. Still, he said that the White Jews had a minyan – just. Most of the White Jews had left – gone to Israel. He was old, as were those who stayed, and he recognised clearly that soon there would be no more White Jews. He showed us the synagogue, which had been well kept. He told us not to take photographs but sold us a postcard.

This showed the image which fixed our gaze when we had sat on one of the benches – a golden image of the raised platform where the service is led and where the Torah is read, being freestanding and roughly situated in the middle of the sanctuary and the ark (called the hekhal by Sephardim). The hekhals are essentially cabinets or armoires storing the sefer Torahs along the wall that is closest to Jerusalem.

There was a ner tamid or oil lamp hanging in front of the Ark; the tables of the Law surmount it. The seven-branched candlestick, the menorah, was placed at the side. It was only the second time I had been in a synagogue, although I have had many Jewish colleagues.

When I went back to the Paradesi synagogue years later, the White Jews were no more and the synagogue was now a tourist attraction, which one had to pay to enter. I did not want to see the relic of a vibrant religious community. I reflected how I had been privileged, meeting one of the last White Jews in a working synagogue.

In the Fast Lane

Some years ago, I did a regular locum for a couple of Polish doctors. They were Jewish, and he was in the Polish army during World War 2.  He had not been recognised as a Jew. He thus avoided being sent to a concentration camp. However, that did not exempt him from brutality by the guards in his POW camp, and he was never keen on Latvians, but that is another story. Anyway, as he recounted to me, one day in the prison camp he was deprived of any food and drink. He said that he was able to find out the date. It was Yom Kippur.

A Lesion in Brevity

For several years, I have been playing around with the challenge of writing a short story in less than 500 words. I intended writing a quintet as I had done for the Kimberley, and car accidents. The first drew their inspiration from my trip round the Kimberley in 1979, but my five short stories were hardly Ion Idriess; the second quintet I wrote after I had a nasty car accident driving near Shepparton on a cold rainy winter’s night in 1981; and the third on episodes tied into religion. As with the other sets, it was supposed to contain five short stories, but along the religion trail, I had run out of inspiration.

Thus, I just embellished a visit I had made.

When visiting the Cathedral of Notre Dame located in the city of Lausanne, a Roman Catholic Church confiscated by the local Evangelical Church – a Calvinist offshoot, I saw an exercise in flamboyant religiosity, which I translated into the 370 word narrative below which I entitled: Oblivia – A short play with words:

For her she had come for Inspiration. 

She, the lady in the crimson turban and gathered pleats threw up her arms and then prostrated herself before the altar.  It was a small stage, there were no saints alive in the rose window above her.  A window held true to its 13th century countenance as sketched by Villard de Honnecourt; as constructed by Pierre d’Arras.  An Imago mundi which Oliver Cromwell would never have countenanced in the Protestant acquisition had he been allowed to get out of his Albion cage.  So he would not have she decided.

A vague thought, but not “nouvelle”.

She did not see her companion fall down, striking his head on the stone floor.  It was academic whether the fall preceded the fit; or not.

She did not hear the head strike the floor. 

She remained prostrate.  Precisely on the stroke of the 120 “cat-and-dogs” mantra, she raised herself to a kneeling position and carefully flicked the crucifix from the pleats.

Her companion was bleeding from the right ear – unseeing eyes beneath increasingly blue-tinged eyelids – body quivering in the throes of grand mal epilepsy.  Body askew on two levels.  The head on the step – the body across the flag stones.  Not particularly good for maintaining the airway.

The earplugs in her ears as she listened to the Tallis motet Spem in allium made communication difficult, especially as the videte miraculum had just commenced.

Her companion was dusky and his sounds were of one choking. 

She crossed herself – an extravagant flourish considering the Calvinist surroundings – stood up only to genuflect – then plunged into a kneeling position, head upturned towards the Inspiration.

The workers fixing the heating system in the Grand Bay of the Cathedral had dropped their tools and run the length of the nave to the fallen person.  One rolled her companion over; another had run back to where the mobile phone had been left and called the ambulance.  One worker was wrestling with the airway; could the colour be reversed?  Another had fingers on the radial pulse.  The fitting had stopped; the eyes remained without recognition. The light filtering down from the rose window elicited no response. 

For him, he was left with no Inspiration.

OK, this was a serious literary conceit.  This past year I was challenged to write a short story in 100 words where you get 10 per cent leeway – thus 110 words max. I responded with an anecdote (micro-story) derived from my childhood entitled “Green to Red”.

The aunt’s villa had a long corridor. On the left side people lived; on the right, the doors were locked. One day the small boy found one door unlocked. He peeped in and saw a mass of green-inked paper. 

The hand on the shoulder. She hissed: don’t go in, there are carpet pythons.

He pulled back, scared. 

Years later he learnt there were no carpet pythons, never had been; but why wasn’t he allowed to go into that room? 

He went back to the villa, now empty. Doors were locked, except one. The paper was still there, but red-inked.  

He felt something on his shoulder. It hissed in his ear.
A resident carpet python

Excluding the title, the above narrative hits 110 words. Bit like 20-over cricket in reforming the classic short story which often dribbles on to being a short novel. Yes, the title of the segment is “lesion” – only one letter and one vowel eliminated away from “lesson”.

The Next Governor General

A few blogs ago, I suggested that the next Governor General should be an Aboriginal person. My vote would be for Tanya Denning Orman, described as a Birri (Queensland Channel Country) and Guugu Yimidhirr (Cooktown) woman from Central and North Queensland. She is vibrant – a person of the emerging generation who, in a five year tenure in Yarralumla, could do what the recent referendum failed to do. She could become a face of her people not only worrying over a Terra Cotta redress, but giving a vital interpretation of what it is to be an Australian, a true exemplar of hybrid vigour.

Another worthy contender is Narelda Jacobs OAM, a Whadjuk Noongar woman who is a journalist and presenter on SBS. As has been said about her, she is someone who really understands the responsibility that comes with being seen. Neralda’s mother was a northern Irish immigrant and the founder of the first Noongar Church in Perth; her father was a Whadjuk Noongar man and a pastor who taught his five mixed race daughters that they “belonged anywhere”.

The suggestion has been made that Linda Burney should replace the current incumbent, the strange serviceman with the tinkling wife, and restore some relevance to the post of Governor-General is a firm “no”.

In my lifetime, the value of the post has been reflected by the individual’s ability. Ninian Stephens, William Deane, Bill Hayden were all great men. Quentin Bryce – the first woman to be appointed Governor-General, with whom I once clashed in a medical ethics forum in my only encounter – I grudgingly admire although I’m unsure of her legacy.

If it is true that the Government is seriously considering Linda Burney for the role, it would be a grave mistake at a time when the Aboriginal people need a different role model to lead their cause. Linda Burney, as the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, showed how inadequate she was during the Referendum campaign. She needed to do a lot more than sloganize. Now is the time for strong leadership, especially given the reaction of the Australian community to the referendum.

Let’s face it, giving her a five-year retirement package would be to miss an opportunity, but given the way the NSW Branch of the Labor Party functions it would be its classic Lilliputian way of doing anything.

Rumours are that Burney has a heart condition, which added to her other shortcomings, would not augur well for what should be a positive contribution to the future of the Aboriginal people, especially given the reaction of the Australian community.

Assuming the Burney becomes a non-runner, it is then time for the next Governor-General to take a leaf out of the Nelson Mandela workbook, rather than that of Malcolm X. I have advanced two names; but those who could select these or any other young Aboriginal women should realise the opportunity that must not be missed.

Mouse Whisper

When you people believe Netanyahu is out to exterminate every Gazan, you realise us mice are liable to be collateral damage, especially when you belong to a species of mice found only in Gaza.

I did not know about them until one of them left his mouse pad out. They are a sept of us house mice discovered by human scientists about 15 years ago in Gaza. These mice are distinguished from other mice by their light and dark brown colour with white big patches on the fur. The new subspecies was named “Muscles” Gazaensis. Presumably to survive they will follow the Hamas into the tunnels, but unsurprisingly we have not heard from them lately. However, we mice have strong survival instincts.