Day 58: 24 June 2017
Monday, 25 June 2018 07:06

Prior to spending my nineteenth year working in (rich, distant) relatives’ woollen mills in England, Mum, my elder sister Penny and I visited Athens and Rome. We also planned to spend a week skiing at the highly-rated St Anton Am Alberg ski resort, in Austria. We arrived at St Anton mid-afternoon. Penny immediately took to her bed with a rotten cold. I hit the slopes, and managed to get in just two runs before mean-looking storm clouds arrived. The hotel manager told Mum that if we needed to be in England by Sunday, then we should catch the following morning’s train back to Zurich. Early the next morning, at the station, and standing in shallow water, we were told that all trains, in both directions, had been cancelled due to the blizzard now upon us. A German woman, who had planned to put her car on the train, approached us. ‘I vill take you to ze train in Freiburg,’ she said. ‘From there, you can go to Zurich.’ Somehow, we managed to bundle our luggage and ourselves into Susie’s small VW, and for the next twelve hours we slid all over the road, often crashing into snow-covered side barriers, as Susie fought a losing battle with her car’s steering and windscreen wipers. While Mum chatted to Susie, Penny, who sat next to me in the back seat and was still unwell, did her best not to throw up. As for me, I just sat there. It turned out that Susie was a doctor of science, a Freiburg City councillor, and a freelance journalist. What’s more, our guardian angel had once been to Australia, and had dated a grazier from near Mansfield, in north-east Victoria. My ears pricked. I wondered if it was the same farmer who’d dated the mother of a school friend. That man was a grazier from Mansfield, and had quite a reputation with ladies. I’d even been with my friend in the man’s car, and had also visited his holiday shack. Then she said his name, and I let out a small gasp. What a man, I thought.

Day 56: 22 June 2017
Friday, 22 June 2018 13:00

I had to swallow hard this morning before we entered a coffee shop in nearby Kingston. The reason: last week I saw a Liberal senator visit the very same café with what I guess was an ultra-conservative, sink-the-boats-advocating, young protégé in tow. This is the one and same Tasmanian senator who, I saw it reported, thinks gay people can be 'corrected'. Introduce him to a good girl and he’ll get over it [his gayness]! Maybe, the senator is grooming his coffee date to replace him in parliament, but checking first to ensure the lad’s views are as whacky as his own. Where do they find these people? It’s over their dead bodies that a vote in parliament on same-sex marriage will get up. Whenever I ponder Tassie politicians, I try to think not of the people like the senator, but of good and sensible people, like the rational Andrew ‘Get-rid-of-pokies’ Wilkie, and former senator Bob Brown, who will be remembered for trying to save the planet. Perhaps include Jacqui Lambie if only for her vehement advocacy of the plight of returned service personnel (their mental health issues being such a grossly under-addressed problem in our country). The senator is part of that ultra-conservative rump in the Liberal Party which, as I say, the Party has no trouble breeding. Another member is Kevin Andrews, who for a while under Abbott was minister for Defence. I’m sure that I heard him say on ‘AM’ one morning that people wanting to flee Afghanistan – like minority Hazara people – should queue in an orderly fashion at migration office in Kabul. What, and wait for the Taliban to gun them down? Like many, I am saddened that Malcolm (keep-the-job-at-any-cost) Turnbull, cannot stand up to the likes of the senator. Yet, I do understand that his hands are tied, given that people like the senator appear willing to bring him and the government down rather than pursue the sensible and acceptable middle ground. I do sleep better knowing that Derryn Hinch’s vote in the Senate cancels out the senator's.

Day 57: 23 June 2017
Saturday, 23 June 2018 08:47

I've had it up to here with people who butcher the English language, especially from well-educated folk who should know better, many of whom earn their living from using words. No, Malcolm, it's not ‘...given to Lucy and I’. It's Lucy and I at the start of a sentence, and Lucy and me at the end of a sentence. Mr Howard also might like to take note. To football commentators (and a so-called journalist on ‘AM’ just this morning), it's number of people, not amount. Amount is for snow and other stuff which can't be counted. Number is for things that can be counted, like people. To the Channel 7 news reporter, it’s fewer people/traffic lights/burglaries, not less. It’s less chaff, less anger, less frustration. Australia is batting, not are. Collingwood is hopeless, not are. Something cannot be almost or very unique; something either is unique, or it’s not! And the footballers didn’t play good. They played well. Police spokespeople, including chief commissioners, please take note. Fifteen-year-old criminals are not ‘young men’; they are boys. So many advertising billboards costing thousands to produce and erect use an apostrophe when one is not required, as in… Get Your Christmas Bargain’s Now. There is no such thing as… at this point in time. It’s… ‘at this time’. Grr! An otherwise good journalist with Hobart’s Mercury newspaper has used the word gotten. Can you believe it? Was he trying to be hip, or what? Radio interviewees who begin every answer with ‘So…’ as in ‘So, research shows…’ It really does grate, especially when it’s used to start every sentence. Me and John makes me cringe, but I wonder how long before it’s accepted as normal. As for ending a sentence with a preposition, I’ve just about done my head in. Finally, a letter has arrived from the new principal of my school. In her letter, she highlights the last of six points as 'the latter'. The word latter is used for only two options. Look it up. Goodness gracious, where will this butchery end?

Day 55: 21 June 2017
Thursday, 21 June 2018 05:24

It’s a such pity that the Church of England has decided to dumb down its dress code for clergy. They say it's to stop scaring away young people, fancy vestments considered a turn-off. I mean, really, surely having to commit to love their neighbour as much as they love their self-obsessed/indulgent young selves is more scary a proposition for the young than seeing their priest dressed in a frock! But, I’ve grown up with the dress-ups, formal liturgy, real hymns, even incense being thrown around the sanctuary. I’m fine with it all. Keep the robes, I say.

* * *

When I was young, I desperately wanted to enter the priesthood. I considered it the way to get as close as one could to God. In chapel at boarding school – for our year in the country where we had no choir – my seat was in the front row directly in front of the lectern, from which fiery sermons were delivered. I really wanted to deliver fiery sermons. So, one day I made a list of all the qualities I believed were necessary to be a minister: brilliant public speaker, compassionate soul, counsellor, administrator, theologian, social whizz, charming, hospitable, organised, biblical scholar, expert on the liturgy and ecclesiastical conventions, public relations guru, super-intelligent, more than anything knowing when to move on! While I could tick most of the boxes, I knew that the one thing I lacked was the IQ required to be ordained. I just wasn’t bright enough to study and pass Greek and Hebrew.

* * *

I tell this story not to titillate, or embarrass clergy, but to show that we’re all human – and sinners. A group of clergy attended a two-day, residential workshop. When it came time to settle the account, the organiser asked the centre’s manager if his group had been well-behaved. ‘Of course,’ he replied. ‘Has there been anything unusual about our group?’ the organiser asked. The manager replied, ‘Only that I’ve never billed so many ‘x-rated’ videos in one night.


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