Author Archives: Greta

On food and being an immigrant

Vegemite jar pictureI was discussing Vegemite with some online friends recently. It’s quintessentially Australian, an icon which I’m delighted to say after having been purchased by an American company some years back, has now reverted to an Australian company. Unlike the happy little Australian Vegemites of my generation, I didn’t like the stuff at all. It had the colour and consistency of axle grease and tasted worse. We didn’t grow up with it, you see. I’ve acquired a taste for it, but it took a long time.

The spread’s origins are explained in the link above, but I reckon Terry Pratchett’s theory that failed wizard, Rincewind, invented the stuff by boiling copious quantities of beer in a billy is much better fun. As well as pretty close to true.  In fact, if you want to know how most of Australia’s icons originated, you can’t go past his book, The Last Continent. It’s actually about Forex (XXXX), not Australia, but that’s close enough. After all, XXX is Queenslandish for beer.  Here’s a spoiler-filled article all about the book.

Anyhow, back to food tastes.

Mind you, the Australians had their doubts about what we Clogs ate, too. You eat raw fish? Yes, yum, roll mops. And as for salted liquorice… at least if I had that with me on school excursions, I had it all to myself. I remember one friend asking to try it. I told her she wouldn’t like it, but she insisted. The look of dawning revulsion on her face was a picture.

Mum, of course, cooked the meals she and Dad were used to in Holland at home. She got a job as a cook at a school for nurses not all that long after we moved to Shenton Park and she had to learn a whole different cuisine. But we ate Dutch food, or at least, food prepared in a Dutch way. Potatoes formed an absolute staple and some of my favourites were variations on ‘stamppot’ – basically potatoes mashed with other vegetables, with some added bacon or some such. I loved hutspot, which is potatoes, onions, carrots mixed with chopped fried bacon. But really, stamppot can be made from potatoes and anything – sauerkraut, leeks, cabbage, whatever. Served with Dutch smoked sausage and mustard. Or there was hashee, which is basically a cheap cut of beef cooked slowly with lots of onions and served with potatoes and veg. Soup was another staple, often made with little or no meat, such as bruine bonen soep (brown bean soup) or Dutch pea and ham soup, thick enough to stand a spoon in.

Then there were the cakes. The Dutch used marzipan for chocolate letters or filled pastry during Sinterklas (their pre-Christmas celebration)but it also had pride of place in lots of every day cakes like gevulde koek. The first time I went back to Holland for a brief visit I walked along a street past a few patisseries – I don’t know what else you’d call them – and they were just putting out the freshly made cakes. The smells were incredible. You don’t get that from packets of imported cakes bought from the supermarket. Find out more about what floats the culinary boat in the Netherlands from this article. It has pictures.

Mum always used to make soesjes for birthdays. They’re profiteroles, not specially Dutch but quite delicious. I used to watch her make up the choux pastry, half cooking it on the stove top. Then she plopped shapeless lumps onto a baking sheet and after half an hour in the oven out would come these golden brown shells of nothing, ready to be filled. I got to smother the tops with chocolate icing and spoon cream (whipped with a smidgen of sugar and a hint of vanilla) into their middles. And then… and then I got to lick the cream off the beaters, and use my fingers to wipe off the mixing bowl for the chocolate icing.

Dutch apple tart was another all-time favourite. I made this just a week or so ago. Note the cinnamon. It gives the apples and raisins a lovely flavour. The lattice isn’t perfect – but what the hey – it just gets eaten. Best served warm with a dollop of cream or ice cream.  This is the recipe I used.

 

 

Reflections on TV these days

I’m not a great watcher of television. Never have been, really, but in the last few years most of the TV channels churn out “reality” TV shows – cheap to produce and I suppose they must be popular.  I remember quite a few years back, Pete and I were returning from Brisbane to Melbourne on a Sunday afternoon. Our car was parked in the long term car park, which is serviced by a fleet of small buses going between the car park and the terminal. We caught one of these buses and listened to the conversation between a large group evidently travelling together. They had been to the Big Brother house, where the reality show was being filmed. They were right into it, talking about the … what do you call them… contestants? in the house as though they knew them. Pete and I exchanged a few looks with each other. I think we managed ten minutes of the show, maybe twice. But we must be in the minority, because reality show ‘stars’ seem to be able to make a fortune out of this stuff. The Kardashian shows have been around for a decade. You can buy the DVDs in Big W etc. And Kim Kardashian’s butt and boobs must be around the most-photographed in the world. Particularly by herself.

Apart from that, we have reality shows following the activities of customs officials, road patrol cops, the dog squad, vets – you name it. We get to see the versions from overseas, too. New Zealand airport arrivals, UK immigration officers etc etc. Then there’s the real set-ups. Married at first sight, the seven year itch thing, the biggest loser, survivor, I’m a celebrity – get me out of here.  It’s pretty hard to find any decent drama on the box these days. Unless you buy a subscription service, or you’re prepared to sit through the endless commercials on each channel’s extra services where they air the old shows.

Even the news has plummeted. The ABC is so far left that it might as well join the Labor (sic) party. With the exception of Aljazeera, which still employs journalists, the other channels seem to revolve their news broadcasts around dolly birds with long hair standing outside places like the law courts or maybe the scene of a crime, telling us what the studio announcer has already told us, with a few guesses at what might happen next. During the recent tropical cyclone Debbie there must have been at least a dozen ‘reporters’ scattered along the coast. One idiot was filmed at Airlie Beach, rain-soaked, with the wind howling, exhorting people to stay inside their houses. As for the morning breakfast programs – I get out of bed and log on to Facebook, while Pete watches TV. I reckon I know about most of the important stories before he does, and I don’t have to listen to the inane banter.

Apart from the obligatory news and weather, just about the only programs I like to watch are cooking shows. I hasten to add that does NOT include the egregious My Kitchen Rules. That’s a contrived program about people set up to present interpersonal dramas (a reality show). ie it’s not about the food. I do watch Masterchef. Yes, I know it has its set-ups, especially when the team competitions take place. But that show IS all about the food. That said, I’d rather watch Maggie Beer, Rick Stein, Nigella Lawson, Jamie Oliver and the like. My particular favourite was Two Fat Ladies. One of the ladies was an ex-lawyer who was a reformed alcoholic, the other liked a drink and a smoke. She rode the motorbike, while her ex-lawyer mate sat in the sidecar. They made smashing food, with not a low fat alternative in sight. It was always butter, cream, and lard. Real food.

And on the subject of food, have you noticed how weight loss has come full circle? When I was young and slim and conscious of what I looked like in mini skirts and jeans, if I put on a couple of pounds the drill was to stop eating carbohydrates such as bread and potatoes. If you wanted a snack, you ate a stick of celery, or a chunk of cheese. Now, after years of manufactured rubbish like low fat yoghurt and cheese, soft drinks loaded with aspartame, margarine (remember ‘I can’t believe it’s not butter?’), fat meticulously cut off everything before cooking, and no more than three or four eggs a week (because cholesterol), we’ve come back to real (unadulterated) food in moderation. That transition has taken about forty years. I recall my mother always had a jar in which she collected the drippings from cooking meat or bacon. It was a staple of her cooking, as well as a good way of using a valuable resource. Maybe we can start doing that again.

Okay, rant over.

In other news, I haven’t done much writing, although I’ve started a new story. But while I was doing some computer housekeeping, I ran across a blog post I wrote six or seven years ago, about the evolution of my earliest books. You’ll find it at Space freighters’.

Now for pictures. These are some of my favourite bee pictures.

A bee on a sunflower

A honey bee approaches a callistemon

A native blue banded bee (these guys are tiny)

A close-up of a blue banded bee with a salvia flower. This bee is quite old – you tell by the bald patch on its back

Honey bee and Geraldton wax

Matching bees on everlastings

Bee and rosemary

 

A catalogue of travel

The bay reflects the clouds as the sun rises

The world’s something of a train-wreck at the moment isn’t it? You can see it happening but you can’t bring yourself to look away. I don’t have anything particularly cheerful to say, so I won’t say much. I’ve promised Himself I’d make a Dutch apple tart tomorrow. Fair’s fair, after all. He’s making Peter’s Famous Chicken Soup tonight. That’ll keep us going for a few days. We don’t waste food in this family. We haz a freezer!

Apart from that, for those who care I’ve started on a new story. And for those who don’t care, I’ve catalogued our travels so you (and I) can easily find a stop along the way. You’ll see a link at the very top of my website that says ‘TRAVEL’. If you click on that, you’ll get a table of journeys we have made. Click on one of those and you’ll get a list of where we went. You can opt to start at any point and journey along with us by clicking the links at the bottom of the post, or whatever scratches your itches.

I had a lot of fun reading my own posts as I put the catalogue pages together. (Don’t tell anyone, but I reckon I did a great job 🙂 ) I fact, I’m very sorry I deleted the posts from earlier trips.

 

 

May the Fourth

Picture of Star Destroyer with words may the 4th be with youMay the 4th. Star Wars day. Back in 1977 a Galaxy Far Far Away crawled up the screen of a theatre near you. Since then, a whole new generation has been introduced to the worlds of the Force and an industry is in full swing, churning out books, toys, games, costumes – you name it. Yes, the science is suspect (at best), the worlds are alternative Earths, the aliens awfully humanoid. But through it all, I loved it and I still do.

Back then, I was teaching. My ten-year-old class loved the new movie. I didn’t go and see it until the long summer break, some nine months later. I’m not a great movie fan and science fiction for me was Asimov, Clarke, Heinlein, Bradbury. I’d LOVED 2001: A Space Odyssey, so this kid’s SF fantasy romp was beneath my level of sophistication. Still, needs must. I went along to the movies and was surprised to find I thoroughly enjoyed it. Lucas hadn’t needed to call it A New Hope back then. I particularly, especially loved that opening scene where the ISD (Imperial Star Destroyer to those not in the loop) chases Leia’s consular ship. Yes, I ducked. That was truly awesome.

But when The Empire Strikes Back was released, my mood changed from “what fun” to a gibbering, orgasmic mess. I saw that movie four times in ten days. Why? Luke Skywatcher? Nah. Luke never did it for me. Han? Yeah, okay, not bad. Darth Vader???? Oh, yesssss. Tall, dark and powerful. In ANH he was portrayed as a shouting bully-boy with smudges on his face mask, albeit with a quirky sense of humour. In TESB he has grown. He’s the man in charge. His face mask gleams. His sense of humour is still there. And he’s got… EXECUTOR. Be still my pounding heart. The ultimate spaceship. Oh, man. That scene where Vader is at the picture window on the bridge, surveying the Imperial Fleet, every massive ISD dwarfed by the mighty flagship. Excuse me while I dribble. And with the Imperial March playing in the background – da da da dada da dada daaaahhhh…

I bought the figures, the models, the books (don’t bother) and eventually, the movies – in VHS (I still have them). I reckon I’ve seen TESB a hundred times or more.

I couldn’t wait for Revenge Return of the Jedi. But it didn’t really do it for me. Oh, the speeder bikes were cool and Executor was back. But some of it was so… dumb. Like Leia in a metal bikini. WTF was Jabba the Hutt intending to do with her? I mean… you hear the stories about sheep and camels. But really? Surely Jabba would be expected to take a fancy to one of his own kind? Later on, the Emperor’s idea of persuading Luke to join him would’ve had him kicked out of the snake oil salesmen’s guild. Very clumsy. And building another Death Star with the same intrinsic fault? Dumb dumb dumb. And then they crashed Executor. My heart was shattered.

Still, I was desperately disappointed when the series ended. Fortunately, spin-off books began to appear, some worthwhile, some garbage. Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire trilogy was a stand-out (here’s my take on why) and Brian Daley’s The Han Solo Adventures was also well worth an afternoon or two. Alan Dean Foster’s Splinter of the Mind’s Eye was a bit of fun, set between ANH and TESB.

Like many others, I was ecstatic when Lucas announced the three films filling in Darth Vader’s early years. And like everybody else, I hated the prequels.

Still and all, I was even more excited when Star Wars was resurrected. And although quite a few people liked The Force Awakens, I didn’t. To me it was A New Hope with a few tweaks and absolutely no imagination. But Disney made up for it with Rogue One. Now I’m hangin’ out for The Last Jedi. Tragic, really.

I can’t finish without mentioning that this year we’ll be without Princess Leia and without R2D2 – or at least the actors who played those parts. So a last salute to Carrie Fisher and Ronnie Baker. At least the Star Wars legacy will remain for many years to come.

I’ve moved all my books

I started by putting my toe in the water, decided the temperature was right, and shifted all my books from Draft 2 Digital (D2D) and Amazon, over to Pronoun. All the titles are now available again on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Google Play, Kobo, and iBooks. But they all have different URLs because of the change in distributor.

It’s not a simple move. Links had to be updated on my own website not just on the book pages but also in posts I’d written. Fortunately, I have a broken links widget that tells me (um) when links are broken, and where. Apart from that, there are the links at SFR Station. Then I had to ask Amazon to kink the new version of books to the earlier one, so the accumulated reviews would appear. On the way through, I tweaked a few blurbs (book descriptions for those not in the know), and changed a cover. That’s the new cover for A Victory Celebration at top left. It’s a sexy little story, and the previous cover didn’t reflect that. (It seems readers like a bit of sex. With me, that’s about as sexy as it gets)

Why did I move?

Well, for a start, Pronoun doesn’t charge for its services, whereas D2D charges 10%. Pronoun, which is owned by Macmillan, has obviously negotiated a royalty deal with Amazon. If you list a book for less than $2.99 directly with Amazon, your royalty is 35% of the list price minus costs. For all other values, authors get 70%. But Pronoun pays 70% on ALL books at Amazon. Hey, if you have a $0.99 short, you get $.70 instead of $.35 (rough figures to make it easy, okay?) Doesn’t sound like a lot, but it all adds up.

Then there’s the formatting. You load your Word .docx (no other format is accepted) to Pronoun and you’re given a choice of six very good looking layouts for your ebook. D2D does a good job, but Pronoun adds bells and whistles. You can load your own epub if you’re specially enamoured of it – Pronoun will convert to .mobi.

Pronoun is also helpful when setting a price, providing comparisons of prices with books in the selected genre of a comparable length.

You’re given assistance when selecting the all-important key words. When you pick your two genres, you’re presented with a list of search terms, with a figure for how popular they are with users, and how high you might get in a sub category of that name. You can also enter your own search terms, and Pronoun will process your words in the same way, showing suggestions and popularity. It’s all good information to help you reach the highest possible audience.

And the main reason? One stop shop. I make a tweak and load it in one place. Pronoun does the rest, including Google Play, where I haven’t been able to jump through the publishing hoops before. I get paid into Paypal once a month, two months after the money is earned (that’s pretty standard). And I have a lovely author page for you to look at. Here it is.

The Pronoun support people have been great, even fixing up a bug I told them about when I first signed up. The formatting guidelines are well-written and easy to understand, as is their contract. I did have to dig just a little bit, though, to find out how to tell them about my EIN tax document – without a recorded EIN against my name, US companies have to charge foreign folks like me 30% US tax. Check the FAQs – they’re good.

The downside

  • The graphical presentation of sales is nice, but I’d like monthly figures in an Excel spreadsheet, much as D2D provides.
  • It takes a little longer to get your books loaded at the retailers. B&N is usually the longest, taking several days to a week. But even Amazon might take three.
  • You don’t get the instant gratification of watching sales on Amazon’s sales charts. However, if you’re desperate, you can always check a book’s ranking to give you some idea.

If you want a bit more detail about working with Pronoun, I wrote a blog at Space freighter’s lounge when I first dipped my toe. Here it is.

In a way I’m sorry to leave D2D. They do a great job, provide good reports, provide great user support, and offer access to other distribution outlets like 24 Symbols, Oyster, and Tolino. I could have left my books there to gain access to those additional channels, but I wasn’t making any sales there, so opted for the simple life. Besides, D2D cannot distribute to Amazon or Google. And I already mentioned about royalties, layouts, and marketing extras. Did somebody mention Smashwords? I took my books from there several years ago. It was all too hard, with none of the marketing extras, and with no return on investment.

So… if you have my books listed anywhere, be advised – the links have changed. Except for print, of course. That still happens through Create Space, who STILL operate in the Dark Ages and send people in third world countries like Australia printed paper cheques.

 

Our place in the Universe

I’ll admit it. I don’t have much to say about anything this week.

Cassini, the probe that has been exploring Saturn for the past several years is on its last hurrah. It will be ring-diving for a few more weeks – if it doesn’t hit anything in the process. And then it will take its final plunge into the planet’s atmosphere. You’ll find out all about Cassini here.

You know, when you see Planet Earth from that distance, a tiny dot glimpsed between the rings, it makes you realise how insignificant we really are. Carl Sagan said it better than I ever could. If you’ve not seen/heard this before, from his wonderful series Cosmos, take a look. Sagan: the pale blue dot

And now I think I’ll just share a few photos with you. (I didn’t take all of them)

This is where we live – NASA

Dawn

Moonrise

The enormity of space

This is a very distant star cluster. Take the trip click on the picture

The perils of house-hunting

It was a long, hot, dry summer in Hervey Bay this year. In some respects the arrival of Cyclone Debbie was a blessing. Don’t misunderstand, I have the deepest sympathy for all those people who endured the lady’s fury. But Hervey Bay is too far south to feel the full fury of a tropical cyclone, and when Debbie became a deep low, bringing high winds and flooding rains to the Sunshine and Gold Coasts and into NSW, we were protected by Fraser Island. We didn’t mind the rain, though. We had just had the driest summer since we’ve lived here, and summer is supposed to be our wet season.

Be that as it may, the weather has cleared, all the plants heaved a huge sigh of relief, and the birds abandoned us. If you’re one of those people who think feeding birds is a bad thing, rest assured they still prefer their natural food. The callistemons are in bloom, and we hear the birds; we just don’t see them. When the flowers die off they’ll come back for a spot of apple juice, or a nibble at an apple, or some multi-grain bread.

One thing about an absence of lorikeets is that we can be visited by some of the shyer species. We have nesting boxes in our trees, and although one is a long-time abode of a possum, one is empty. A pair of pale-headed rosellas have been eyeing it off. She goes for a look, while he waits below, giving advice.

There has been a pair of rosellas around as long as we’ve lived here, and every few years they’ll be looking for a nest. The first year we lived here was interesting. The house had one of those pot-bellied space heaters, with a round metal chimney up through the roof, fitted with a raised cap like a Chinaman’s hat. That sort of arrangement was perfect for birds who nest in hollowed-out branches in trees. The female bird slipped under the gap between the raised ‘hat’ and into what she would have thought was a log – and slid right down to the bottom. We couldn’t reach her in the stove – she was above a flue. What to do? Pete got up on the roof and took off the cap, but the bird had nothing to climb up, and of course couldn’t fly. So we lowered down a thick rope with a knot on the end, hoping she would cling to it and we could draw her up. The male bird was watching all this from a nearby vantage point, no doubt worried out of his little bird brain.

It took a couple of goes. She caught on quite quickly, and Pete drew her up almost to the top. But she let go too soon. The next attempt was a success. As soon as she could spread her wings she and the hubby were off.

We always thought the heater was a waste of space. I think we lit it twice in all the years before we got rid of it when we replaced the roof. The nesting boxes are much safer, of course, designed specially for birds of that size. Lorikeets have used this one in the past. I’d love it if the rosellas took up the tenancy – but lorikeets are aggressive little shits, so I doubt if it will work out.

In other news I had a brush with melanoma. Like most Australians my age who grew up in the surf and the sand, spraying our bodies with coconut oil to work up a lovely golden tan, I’ve got plenty of age spots and moles. One large spot on the side of my jaw appeared to be falling apart, so I went to see the doctor. He said it was a squamous something-or-other and not to worry. But since I was there, he checked the collection on my back. Nothing nasty. Then (as a bit of a joke) I pointed at a tiny spot on my left arm just above my wrist. It was circular, not lumpy or misshapen, about the size of a pin head, but it was black – therefore unlike any of the other blemishes on my skin. The doc’s body language changed remarkably. “I think we should take that out,” he said. Who was I to argue? So we made a time and he punched this thing out, so small it didn’t need stitches, and sent it off for pathology.

The wound required 8 stitches. It has healed nicely

You know it’s not a good result when the surgery rings you to make an appointment. I was told that tiny spot would have become a melanoma, which is the most dangerous form of skin cancer. He thought he’d got the lot, but he suggested he remove a bit more skin to be certain. There would be a scar. So now I have a scar above my left wrist. But I don’t have a melanoma. Fair trade if you ask me.

And I wrote a review of the latest Star Wars novel, Thrawn. It’s over on my other blog if you’re interested. Here’s the link.

 

Best wishes for Easter

Good Friday is one of only two days in the year when it’s difficult to find a shop or anything else open in Australia. The other is Christmas Day. You can go to just about any town centre and shoot a cannon down the main street without any fear of hitting anybody. Both are holy days, the most profound in the Christian calendar – although, as usual, there are overlaps with many other faiths. For Christians, Good Friday (I’ve always had to wonder about ‘good’ in this context) was the day Jesus was crucified. The Jews celebrate the Passover, when the children of Jewish slaves were spared in Egypt.

Everybody knows that Easter incorporates a lot of ‘pagan’ symbolism about a time of rebirth and the arrival of Spring – eggs, rabbits, and so on, so I won’t bore you with that. But there are some modern discrepancies which I feel are worth mentioning. For a start, some of my UK Facebook friends say Good Friday is a ‘bank holiday’. I assume that means the banks are closed. Is anything else? It just seems to be a curious description for such a holy day. Is Christmas day described as a bank holiday? (Himself had a look on Google (as you do). Seems Good Friday and Easter Monday are both just holidays in UK, same as Oz. Gotta check Everything these days.)

In that most Christian of Western countries, the USA, it seems Good Friday isn’t a holiday at all. Pete tells a story of a business visit to the US. When setting up meeting dates, someone noticed some meetings were scheduled for Easter. “That’s Good Friday,” an Australian pointed out. “So?” the American replied, shrugging. Curious.

Needless to say, in our consumer-driven world, Easter and Christmas have been commercialised within an inch of their religious lives. Hot cross buns appear on the shelves pretty much as soon as the shops open after Christmas. Chocolate eggs and rabbits are not displayed until the end of February, and after that we’re all exhorted to buy seafood for our Easter feast. Shops are packed on the Thursday before the holiday as people stock up for that one shop-free day. The shops will also be packed on Saturday as people make up for that day of abstinence. Needless to say, Easter Sunday has lost its status as a shop-free day, and it’s almost back to normal trading. For most Australians Easter is an extra-long-weekend with Easter Monday tacked on at the end. They take breaks, go on holidays, spend time with family or friends. For others it is a time for worship and reflection.

Whichever way you celebrate the Easter break, we wish you all the best. If you’re travelling on the nation’s roads take care.

Stained glass window

Picture of roses from my garden

Roses from my garden

Waves

Lake Geneva

Who deserves Justice?

(c) Depositphotos_73325631

You might recall a few blogs ago I wrote a review for ‘They all love Jack: Busting the Ripper’ by Bruce Robinson.

It’s a dense book, packed with names and details, and I’ve read it again to pick up the details I inevitably missed the first time. I’ve also dwelt on its themes and what I think it’s REALLY about. For me, that comes down to one word: JUSTICE. The fact that the book is about the Jack the Ripper murders is almost incidental. They are graphic, horrific, revolting events, but they almost pale in comparison with the way the killings were treated by the Establishment. Whether or not you accept Mister Robinson’s argument that Michael Maybrick, much-lauded icon of the Victorian musical world, was the Ripper, the author has in my opinion proved the case that the Ripper murders were parodies (if that is an appropriate word) of Freemasonic ritual. Jack was either a Freemason, or someone who knew more than he should about Freemasonry. Robinson argues that the identity of the murderer was deliberately covered up by the Metropolitan Police, and through its leadership (Sir Charles Warren), the political system to which it answered.

I could not help but feel that our current Establishment is not very different.

My mind kept returning to the cover-up of child abuse in institutions set up to care for children. Bishops, Archbishops, Cardinals covered up for paedophile clerics, moving these predatory monsters from parish to parish to PROTECT THE CHURCH. Never mind the kids. I can imagine one of these bastards rubbing his hands with glee as he took up his post in a new parish. Ahahahaha new blood. The hypocrisy of the leadership of these organisations beggars belief. Never mind the men whose lives were ruined because, as eight-year-old boys, they were routinely buggered by a pervert. If they  complained to the hierarchy (as some did) they were  called liars, making things up. We must protect the good name of the Church. In 1888, it was never mind the disgusting low-born whores, (there are plenty more where they came from), we must protect the secret rituals of the Freemasons.

It’s not just the church. In our day, in Western society anyway, the church is not the mighty edifice it was in Victorian times. Now, large institutions rule the roost. Remember the deaths of thousands of poor Indians in the Bhopal gassing? The owners were convicted of negligence and effectively slapped on the wrist with a minimal fine and a few paltry criminal convictions. Or the tragic story of men working with asbestos who contracted mesothelioma. The dangers of asbestos and its link to cancer were well known, yet even now sufferers have to fight a company for a share of inadequate compensation. These days, of course, we have the other side of such cases of industrial mismanagement, as lawyers offer to make claims against offending companies.

Coming closer to home, what about the Global Financial Crisis? It happened because of the greed of moguls in Wall Street and other financial hubs. Governments paid billions (and more) to prop up teetering banks. The cascading effect ruined the aspirations of millions of people: ordinary people trying to buy a house, or small companies trying to earn a buck were bankrupted. Jobs disappeared, rents skyrocketed, superannuation funds lost money. Many, many people took their own lives. The losers were, inevitably, the little people. The people who created this debacle might have spent a sleepless night or two. Maybe. But their wealth and position in society remained unaffected. There are plenty of programs dissecting what happened in 2009. Here’s a link to just one. I need hardly add that nobody went to jail. Oh- I tell a lie. One person was charged with insider trading, I think. Only the Iceland Government had the balls to cancel the debts and charge the bankers.

Okay, I’d better get off the soapbox.

I’ll finish with one more aspect of Robinson’s book. He claims that Michael Maybrick murdered his brother, James, and framed James’s American wife, Florence, with the murder. Be that as it may, reading the details of this travesty of a trial is gut-wrenching. Once again, Robinson argues that it was in the interests of the establishment that Florence should be effectively silenced by being convicted of a murder that she did not commit. This perhaps foolish woman was lucky to escape the death penalty, but was sentenced to life in prison. She was released after fifteen years. Here’s a Wikipedia article about the case.

It’s not hard to find modern examples of where justice was meted out to the wrong person. The case of Darryl Beamish is just one. Another case more pertinent to the Establishment is that of the Birmingham Six, convicted of planting IRA bombings during the Irish terrorism of the seventies.

I guess in such cases as Beamish and the Irishmen, justice has finally prevailed. Unfortunately, the greedy bastards who caused the GFC won’t get their come-uppance.  Such a pity. And certain cardinals and bishops will escape justice, too – let alone the disgusting perverts whose deeds they covered up. Many of them have died, and presumably Rest in Peace. It’s one of the few times I regret my lack of religion. I’d like to imagine one of those priests fronting up at the Pearly Gates and getting his ticket for the elevator downstairs, where I hope he rots for all eternity.

Pretty pictures. I’m sure I’ve got some.

The aftermath

ex-tropical cyclone Debbie wreaks havoc down the east coast

Cyclone Debbie has certainly cut a swathe through the holiday islands of the Whitsundays and their gateway, Airlie Beach. Bowen and Ayr bore the brunt of the storm and that takes nothing away from all the smaller places in the way. Cane fields, vegetable crops, and banana fields were flattened, destroying farmers’ incomes for at least one season – to say nothing about destruction of infrastructure and homes, loss of power, stock losses and the like. And then there’s the native wildlife who have to hunker down just like we humans. She was a massive storm. Here she is from the ISS.

Cyclones travel in a clockwise direction, and this was a huge storm, so after Debbie crossed the coast anything within eight hundred kilometres or so to the south was going to get wet. Mackay and Rockhampton were well in the zone and suffered substantial wind and water damage. With rainfall of hundreds of millimetres the rivers rose and roads were flooded. Even Hervey Bay copped the end of an outlying cloud band, although 80mm of rain without gale-force winds was actually welcome. As a side note, while Pete and I would have been quite safe at Cairns, we wouldn’t have been able to drive home. And that is why we hurried home when we did.

After they cross the coast cyclones rapidly downgrade to a tropical low, and the clean-up starts in their wake. It doesn’t mean the danger is over, though. The models suggested three tracks after Debbie crossed the coast, all tracking south. We expected her to come down through the interior, but the lady had other plans. I’ve never seen anything like it. Gale-force winds and very heavy rain all the way down the east coast of Australia from Mackay. Inland from Mackay, over a metre of rain fell in two days. The cyclone made landfall on Tuesday lunchtime. On Thursday the State Government closed all schools from just north of Bundaberg to the Queensland border for two days. Businesses followed suit. Our local bank closed its doors at 10am to give staff the chance to get home and off potentially flooding roads. Falls of five hundred millimetres were expected around the Southeast corner of the state, along with gale force winds. It was unprecedented. Australia is used to cyclones – but not one that does a left-hand turn, taking it down into heavily populated areas.

As usual, Hervey Bay fared well enough. Although rainfall this March (396mm or roughly 16″) is the third highest monthly rainfall we have experience in our time here, the previous two months were so dry that the rainfall is still well below the average for this time of year. I’m sure residents further south won’t be saying the same thing.

I thought I’d finish this clean-up post with a few things from our trip I hadn’t mentioned.

The view over Townsville from Castle Hill

Driving up to Cairns, we stayed overnight in Townsville, where Pete had his very first Mexican meal in a busy restaurant in Palmer Street. I love Mexican food, but Pete has never been interested. However, it was his suggestion – and he enjoyed it. Next morning before we moved on we drove up to Castle Hill, overlooking the town and with views to Magnetic Island just across the water, and to the hills surrounding the town.

Castle Hill from the city

From Palm Cove we drove up to Port Douglas. It’s only about forty km following the Captain Cook Highway along the coast. The road seems to have been built on a ledge between the sea and the mountains, twisting and turning with every cove and inlet. Port Douglas is mainly a resort town, with golf courses and hotels. One hotel (the Mirage) was famously built by Christopher Skase before he fled his debtors and went to live on Majorca. For us, the place didn’t have much to offer. It seems to be a jumping-off point for the Daintree and the reef. But I took some pictures.

Looking south from Port Douglas. The longest of those sandbars is where we stopped to take a picture (see below)

There’s no doubt the coastline is picturesque. I’d asked Pete to stop (on the way back) at a stopping place where I’d noticed a great photo opportunity, which he did, safely. I’d hardly got out of the car when a car horn honked. Some idiot had seen the view and decided to stop, with a car right behind him. The driver of the offending car pulled to one side to let the other driver pass. This is all happening just near a curve, too. The offending car moves back out into the road. For a minute I think it’s going to turn around, doing a three-point-turn, but another car comes along and our mate drives off, with the person in the passenger seat holding their phone out the window. It was a great picture, but really, people, I wouldn’t have thought it was to die for her. Or even sustain an injury.

A storm is gathering over Port Douglas – not Debbie, just a normal tropical storm

On our way back from Hartley’s croc park we stopped to take pictures of these weird rock sculptures. I have no idea what they are for, but I’d guess they’re a bit like the padlock fad, where lovers attach a padlock to the wires on a bridge. However, just as the authorities have been forced to cut away the padlocks, which in those quantities can weigh a great deal, sometime a storm will hit these piled up stones and scatter them back on the beach.

No idea what these ‘sculptures’ are meant to signify

That’s it for this journey. Be sure to join us next time we venture away from home. If you want to go back to the start of this trip, here’s the link. Say hello to Cyclone Debbie