Wine

I haven’t the discipline to be a writer. In my head I am writing a huge essay on global warming’s need for alternative energy but my thoughts are being interrupted by other essays forming in my head demanding that I tell them. Simultaneously I want to get on with other more practical projects. I have several partly finished sculpture masques, a vegetable patch needing attention, and a ”build-a-boat-in-the-garage” want as well. But I digress.

Today’s subject is strange coming from the son of a woman proud of signing a pledge to temperance. You see I want to write a little on wine. At the same time I fully understand how we need to accept the danger of alcohol to our community. It is generally less obvious today than it was in my youth that alcohol causes harm. In the days of six o’clock closing, men, (it was always men), would rush from work to the pub. In the hour, or less they had, they would drink quickly knowing that when the pub closed they wouldn’t get more until the next day.

The alcohol they consumed was more than their bodies could process and when they got home what happened next depended on how it was. Fights and verbal abuse rang around the neighbourhoods. Today we don’t see that public display but we still have abuse and absenteeism because of it. Alcohol is dangerous. I get that.

Let’s get back to earlier times in Australia and my brief story on wine. Victoria had a very well established wine industry until it was hit by phylloxera. With grandparents living in the Yarra Valley area I was told how this little mite had caused the demise of the grape industry. By the time I had grow up the wine industry was showing signs of recovery but it wasn’t until 1952 the first large scale winery Orlando started in South Australia in 1952.

In the 1950’s it was possible to find Claret in retail outlets but the bulk of the wines of the period was turned into sherry. “Plonko’s” were the only people who drank wine by choice. Sherry was sold in half gallon flagons and many households had one, “for the women to drink” as real men preferred beer.

I never developed a taste for beer like a true Australian. Possibly that was because of my mother’s influence, possibly because the smell of a pub was uninviting to me, but mostly because I found I could not drink much of it before I became bloated, and before that blotto, trying to keep up with a school I had been coaxed into joining. (I never liked drinking in schools, but that is another story.)

The wines of the 50s and 60s, may have been good. (That is when Penfold’s Grange got its name for quality.) The wines I became familiar with were ones with European names of French, Italian, or German wine. Riesling, Hock, Chianti are white. The reds, commonly called claret, were named Bordeaux, Burgundy, or Rhone. As young adults were consumed some terrible stuff. There once common names are best not remembered. Most of it was horrid.

I tried my fermentation skills using sultanas whilst at school. I used my school locker to secret the brew away. I based my learning on some partly studied magazine article, or perhaps it was an encyclopaedia. I soon became aware a sterile environment is more than a clean place so unsurprisingly my experiment failed.

In reality wine making is quite complex and best left to the experts. However I prefer wine that is made very simply. I try to avoid wines made using finings of egg, or milk products because some left over material in the bottle is not a sign of bad wine. The big wine makers can produce millions of litres all tasting the same. All looking the same as well but when compared to wine made to celebrate the grape it is lifeless.

In this life I have lots of regrets. Just two are the most hurtful. I regret I have a tin ear for language. So I cannot properly pronounce the names of great wines. The other regret is my poor sense of smell. (In teenage life I had lots of spontaneous nosebleeds that would not stop and my doctor decided to cauterise my nose.) Burning my nasal passage stopped the bleeding but it also stopped me smelling the roses. It also means I cannot detect the subtlest scents. This means I miss much of the best aspects of wine.

Throughout life, little by little, I have tasted some of the worlds most famous wines through fortune, the generosity of friends, and downright indulgence. I have learned best wine does not have to be expensive. I does, though, show it has a life. The grapes it has been made from can still be tasted. They can be felt in your mouth. They can be seen in the way the “legs” form on the glass. It is possible to smell different aromas and sense different flavours in your mouth. Good wine does not have to have lots of medallions. I doesn’t have to be the most expensive wine it the house.

I have also tasted wines from some of the best regional wine growing areas in the country. The styles of wine are at best regionalised. In recent years we have deliberately made trips to centres of excellence just to sample their wine. Wine growers are passionate about their vines. They care about their grapes in a way I had not imagined. The industrial growers may have a different view but the ones that care will happily point out the features of the grape in this row, or that part of the vineyard what is so special about the grape there.

You will have gathered I like wine made with passion on the spot by the vintner. If I have learned anything the best wine is rarely bought over the counter from a major retailer. I needs to have matured in the correct environment. Not too cold, never shaken, but still and stored away from light on its side for years. Aged wine is a rewarding drink best served with simple food and pleasant company. The wine bottle drained like this has done a fine job.

Cheers,

Bruce

Do not eat when reading this.

When I grew up Australia was in the grip of a rabbit plague. Fertile ground was being destroyed as rabbits built warrens of rabbit holes. The clever little animals would run in one hole and out another as you watched. Catching one rabbit didn’t hold back the population for a day.

The proliferation of rabbits meant a lot of my protein came from them. They ran free and catching them required no great skill. Our mother stewed them in white sauce and had another twenty ways of disguising the fact that we were eating rabbit again. I got to dislike rabbit meat. Now if I was to eat rabbit it would have grown fat on a farm and it would be served when it had reached its prime weight. Free range rabbit is a bit hit and miss. A young rabbit in yesterday’s pot might just as easily be followed by a tough geriatric one today when randomly caught.

We rarely ate chicken because chooks were kept to produce eggs. In those far off days when a bird was eaten it was presented on a special occasion. Not for us the 10 week old almost force fed, frozen meat bird of today. I can remember my father experimenting with cockerral growing late in his life. He had purchased some hormone tablets that he injected into the young birds neck. They were supposed to aide the rapid growth of the bird. I suspect today the rapid grown comes from the same hormone fed to the birds with their feed. In either case artificial hormone stimulation does not make good meat.

On those occasions when we ate chicken we ate almost everything. I do not remember eating chicken feet as I have in Asian cafes but the feet were probably consumed in soup. We ate much of the innards, the heart, the liver – made into pate, and the kidneys of the bird. Very occasionally we ate duck, geese, and turkey, consuming much of the bird in the same way.

In the 1950’s we ate lamb but more often the sheep we ate were old. (At the time there was a wool boom. Australia earned much of its wealth selling wool and the animals were first exploited for their wool.) We ate much more of the old sheep we did get from the butcher than is eaten today . Mum pressed tongue into a meat loaf and this was usually served cold. We also ate it hot when served with white sauce. We ate the heart and the kidneys. The fat around the kidneys became the lard used to make Christmas cakes, for example. Some ate the eyes but nearly all of us ate the brains of the animal. Chops at our place were usually fried, the forequarter and the legs were baked. Nothing was wasted.

Some people ate goats but in our place the most often consumed animal meat after rabbit was beef. Housewives knew the cut of meat they wanted and when visiting the butcher they would ask for a pound of rump steak. The butcher would drag the partly consumed hunk of meat from his cool room rails and cut the steak from the hanging piece. Or catch it on his shoulder and walk a few paces and then throw it onto a wood chopping block to break down. Nothing was wasted the off cuts were thrown into a bucket and later ground into sausage meat. Then forced into the gut of a sheep and made into sausages.

It is only in very recent times a new movement has emerged encouraging people to eat, “from head to tail.” This movement is encouraging people to understand meat come from the life of a living animal and if an animal is sacrificed to feed people it is only right of us to honour that life by not wasting anything of its meat.

When presented in the supermarket wrapped in plastic it is hard to imagine your piece of meat was once part of an animal. And that is but part of its story. Once all animals ranged free and the hunter gatherer fed from what was available within the local range. Today more animals and fish are intensively farmed in contained areas as a single species.

The voices of scientists are getting louder and louder. “Animal farming is unsustainable. To produce protein in this way requires too much water. Fattening animals takes too much energy, we must find new food. We need to become vegans.” For carnivores like me this is terrible news. Is this true?

In simple terms the answer is yes. These calls are not new. We may not have to become vegan but we will have to find new food stuff. In researching this subject I discovered in 2014 some authors produced, perhaps the first recipe book for westerners on how to prepare meals of insects. Orientals have eaten many foods we would perhaps consider revolting; scorpions, grasshoppers, different beetles, all manner of creepy crawly things. It seems many of these foods are richer in protein than the meat we eat. For instance Mealy bugs once roasted and crushed into flour make great biscuits. All are much kinder on the environment.

We are in for some quick learning because today in the western world we waste millions of tonnes of good food each year. We toss out food we have over bought and taken home but not eaten. We cook more than we need and throw it out. The animals we feed in intensive farming waste foods too. In fact the food we throw out produced harmful methane gas and we must reduce our waste.

In many parts of the world companies are now producing food stuff from this waste. They gather the leftover scraps and feed this to maggots. It has been discovered the larva of the black fly will eat almost anything organic within hours. These fat maggots in turn are better feed for chickens and fish than the manufactured meal we have been feeding them. We are changing our feeding patterns simply because our current methods are not as efficient as we have been led to believe.

I do not plan to become vegan but it is very likely we, (you and I) will soon be consuming foods we have not believed possible in a very short time. I don’t limit this to soy bean hamburgers but artificial meat made from protein extracts from living animals. Start reading the labels on packaged food. It is surprising what some of this stuff has unimagined ingredients.

Ref. https://www.precisionnutrition.com/eating-bugs

https://www.instagram.com/seasiders2. will take you to my social media

Podcasts. Are they for you?

In our house the radio sound one became most used to was the ABC News Theme. A variation of the same theme is one of my most solid musical memories. It has been played in various editions since at least 1956. My father made sure he was in the house most days for the 7:45 am news, the noon, and 7pm broadcasts as well. The bulletin may have had direct quotes of someone’s speech but it has only been a very recent thing to actually hear the spoken words of the subject in a news program.

Whether it was the News, Bob Dyer’s Pick a Box, or Russ Tyson’s Hospital Hour, if you weren’t home to hear the program you missed it. It was broadcast and afterwards lost in the ether. The radio stations possibly recorded the programs, (certainly they did later when reel to reel tapes became available) but ordinary folk like us had no way of recording, or time shifting, a program to listen to later.

In our house the radio wasn’t glued to the one station because each station seemed to stick to a regular routine of hosted programs. The most regular thing was the ABC however. It was on 3AR for most of the popular offerings. At other times we listened to 3LO. It usually presented music and more serious subjects. As kids we were usually in doors, especially in the winter to hear the kids program called The Argonauts. In this program we learned (perhaps through osmosis) lots about Greek mythology. The program had a very big following and we sang along to the songs presented. By and large they were serious songs presented by opera singers. We also got descriptions of the art work the children sent to the producers.

Lunch time attracted a large audience that just had to be home for the serial Blue Hills. It ran for about 6000 episodes. It took some getting used to at first because it followed The Lawson’s. The program stopped rather abruptly it seems now. This had a strong following as well.

In the evenings we listened to a play, or a sing along program. Other favourites were from the comics Frank Muir and Dennis Norden, Take it from Here, The Glums. My Word and My Music.

Ours was a house of few books and if were weren’t listening to the radio in the evening we listened as my sister Elizabeth worked her way through most of the popular pianoforte classics. I frequently dropped off to sleep as she learned to master a passage in sonata Pathétique.

Someone offered a program called 50 and Over. The guests were invited to talk about their pioneering adventures. May be they had lived in the same hamlet their whole lives and they spoke about the history of the place and they made special reference to the old time personality’s they knew.

As country folk very few people worked after midday on Saturday until they started working again on Monday. On these days for some reason the radio switched to either 3CS Colac or 3YB Warrnambool. Without much comprehension of the game of football the local football broadcast became background music on cold winter days.

Talk to old folk from all those years ago and they will rattle off the names of radio stars, the serials they listened to, and the names of the sponsors. Lux, Lifebouy, Velvet, Atlantic petrol, Raul Merton, Bex, Pelacco, you have the idea with this short list. The influence of advertisers was one of the only ways manufacturers promoted their now largely forgotten names.

Radio did many things. It’s scheduling meant being near the immovable wireless at given times. If you wanted to know the time, or listen to a serial, or catch the voice of announcer you had to be near the wireless. The audience listened and the wireless announced. There was no talk back. It filled dull lives with ideas.

Today it is possible to choose to listen to a broadcast generated from anywhere in the world. The time you choose to listen is of your making. The originator of the broadcast doesn’t need a radio station and to listen you need not own a radio. Radio survives not because it is immediate but because you can choose something to interest you at any time.

The radio can be on and no one pay it any attention. It is nothing more than background noise. At other times if you are like me you might choose to listen to a particular piece of music. You can listen with attention to anything that heightens your interest.

It is becoming a habit of mine to search for radio podcasts on topics I find interesting. The problem is in the 168 hours I have each week most of my time is spent doing something else. This means the podcast producers make many more broadcasts than I have time available for listening. Fortunately must podcasts have a written summary of what is presented. This means I must choose one from here, or there, or ignore the lot.

Presently I choose to listen to programs from the BBC, the ABC, and odd bits here and there. Here are a few current favourites:

My question is? Are you interested in them also?

I remember

My life as a farmer.

This is not a joke. This is true. I have never been a farmer. Yet some of my earliest childhood memories are of farming.

As a toddler, my aunt Pauline likes to remind me, I killed all the hens in the henhouse. I have no memory of this of course, it is something she remembers of my past. I guess I must have watched my parents chop the head of a chicken and thought I could do it as well and help them.


My own memory relating to farming is of visiting my grandparents in Lilydale. They had a few acres on Cavehill Road. On the farm my grandmother used to fatten pigs. They seemed to do well on their twice daily feeds but I do not remember ever eating pork there. She also milked a couple of cows mainly to feed her large family. The farm also held geese, chickens, and turkeys. On the major feasts we were usually fed lamb, or beef. Only on very special days was chicken ever served because hens were kept principally for their eggs. The turkeys and geese must have finished elsewhere.


As a kid in Camperdown our parents had the use of some acres to farm. They also kept cows. Each year we would take a day old calf or two from our neighbours, the Coverdale’s and fatten them up for later sale as young heifers. Not often, but sometimes I would teach the calves to drink from a bucket. To do this you shoved your hand in their mouths and pushed their heads into the milk bucked. They soon learned to drink rather than suffocate and very quickly they managed to drink unaided.


The Evan’s also had a small dairy farm next door. Bill Evans supplemented farm income as a builder and vegetable grower on leased land. He grew a few crops of potatoes and in the holidays I helped bag them. I even attempted to grow a few of my own in an out of the way spot. The ground was uncultivated before my garden and it was in a spot that got too little sunshine so the crop was poor but we did get some tasty fresh spuds for my effort.


The summer holidays were long and to be usefully occupied I would do as the neighbouring kids did and help them and their parents. I learned to repair and build farm fences with the Coverdale’s. With them I would also help with the hay each year. When the hay was dry we build small haystacks from the hay as it came from the hay press in the paddock and help load it first onto a truck and trailer, and then unload it into the barn. Hay stacking was heavy work but it was good bodybuilding exercise as well, and afterwards I always felt very fit.


At home my farm exercise was separating the milk and cream. The separator was a crank driven thing that had to be wound up to speed. Once the correct speed was reached the milk was turned on, and I would keep cranking until the last cream was separated from the milk. I then had to disassemble the machine and wash its parts so they were ready for me the next day.


We had no farm equipment at home except for the separator. I learned to drive a truck and a tractor as a kid on Coverdale’s farm, Renny Hill. But that is all I ever did. I never learned to plough with the tractor. But I did learn to plough with a horse pulled single furrow model. Similarly I never drove a tractor with anything but a three point pickup. These were handy for carrying rocks, tools, sand, in fact anything needed on the farm was easier to load and unload onto the pickup than a utility.


My farming experience was only just beginning. The summer school holidays were a good time to look for farming work and in the Summer of 1962 Bill Woods got me a job at Mt Hesse station near Winchelsea. I had bagged potatoes with Bill Evans. At Mt Hesse I spent a fortnight filling bags of wheat, barley and oats and them sewing them tight so we could load them onto trucks. I got to value the bag loader there as grain bags are quite heavy. None of the work was hard except I developed a total dislike for barley. The grain has an irritating husk that burrows into your flesh at the slightest exposure. I hated the stuff and was very pleased to see the end of the crop. From that experience I earned enough to go out and buy an engagement ring for Jennie. That working holiday has turned out to have been the best investment of my life.


While at Colac High School one May I got a fortnight’s work bagging potatoes on Tirrengower farm in Irrewillipe. The paddock was waterlogged. It was impossible to know where the potatoes were as the stem had rotted away except it was somewhere on the rise between the watery furrows. Being much too wet for a potato digger to tackle the farmer chose about 4 teachers for this job of digging the potato crop with garden forks. The dirt stuck to our boots as we waded along each chilly furrow. It was cold dirty work. When our forks speared a potato it was downgraded and the old fellow employing us was cross. Unsurprisingly many potatoes were ruined. We explained we were doing our best to get as many out of the ground as possible, but the conditions were such we were his only chance of recovering anything, so he eventually accepted his lot.


My next farming experience was again a holiday period. That was dairying with Bill Woods. This lending a hand was not farming either but close enough to the action to learn a little. . My learning was limited as I couldn’t understand how long was need to irrigate a paddock. I did learn how to pull a calf from its struggling mother, and to drive a four wheel bike. I guess my main value was as company for Bill. We got our own first cow from Bill. And it’s first calf was a bull so I taught myself to desex Bandit with the aid of a little rubber band after having seen Bill do it.

My only sheep experience was with our pet lamb Caroline Lamb. I learned a little about wool and Jennie spun it and made raw black woollen jumpers. I did see first hand the terrible damage dogs could cause when left to roam and maul sheep. I also saw how terrible flies are on sheep in the summertime.


At about age nine my grandfather moved to Castella St Lilydale. In his back yard he had a bee hive and I got to see firsthand how he looked after them. Because of their importance in pollination it is obvious bees are more important to humankind than just producers of honey. And so it was with Grandpa. Here was a man of huge size and few words delicately handling the frames in his beehive not so he could harvest their honey so much as to ensure his ladies were healthy and fit to to their natural job.


That early introduction to bees was helpful to me in deciding we should have bees on our block in Anglesea. As a novice I was happy for the beekeeper to manage the hive but I enjoyed watching them come and go about their business. When we moved into suburbia proper I was sorry to leave the bees behind. Now I have a hive at Winchelsea. Hopefully I will be able to add more ladies this spring and we will all get to enjoy some homegrown honey.


I have had great affection for the “ladies” of production on farms. I loved having cows. The bees are fascinating. Coloe our sulphur crested cockatoo gave me great joy when she produced an unfertilised egg each year. Our chooks were also good producers. It is not necessary to anamorphise animal life but it is obvious mankind has made good use of female productive traits across all forms of farming for human good.

My last words on the subject reach back to my earlier life. The fencing experience I had had as a kid came in handy when we settled in  Scotsburn as our farmlet needed fences. Our experience milking was also helpful as was the separator job. I  never learned when to drench cattle or sheep and I suppose they suffered but to me it was farming based more  on seeing than on doing.  That’s it really. Farming has been more seeing than doing but farming life, harsh as it is, has everlasting appeal.

Posture

Posture

My 103 year old mother was a stickler for good posture until almost her last breath. “Don’t slouch, keep your shoulders back,” she would say. In a world weary outback there is no evidence of her influence but her words still ring in my ears. What would she say now?
In this culture politeness dictates subservience, or at best avoidance. One does not create conflict by looking the other in the eye. The general demeanour seems to require a person, when meeting another of authority, to not meet him/her with equal posture. Else it be seen as a challenge. Thus correct posture is not so formal.
One posture commonly seen is sitting. When we southerners sit. Using a single word covers nearly all postures. Possibly because most of the sitting we do is done on chairs. The Walpiri and the Anmatyerr have many words for different sitting positions.
It soon becomes apparent the local women working at the school prefer to sit on the ground. They do this despite the school having picnic tables with attached seating. On the face of it you wonder why they prefer the ground until you realise the insensitivity of the authority providing aluminium seating. It is too hot or too cold (depending on the weather). Silly really.
However in camp the men and women prefer to sit on the ground. So it is not so strange to sit that way when in the school ground.
With the aid of the dictionaries produced by IAD Press here are some examples.
To lie resting propped on one elbow in the Walpiri (w) language is, arlkany
To sit and lie back on ones legs using an arm as a prop is Rtwapety anem (w)Murdu- purrjupurrju Anmatyerr (a)
To sit with legs crossed and outstretched Wipi – yarrayarra (w)
For a group of women to sit together Mapirri (w)
To relax even more and lie supine looking at the sky with your knees tucked up to your buttocksRyakwork (a)
Finally it is most common to observe men and women standing for long periods with their hands linked behind them. This posture is ngarningirri (w) and Arnegerr in (a)

My mother would have loved to have more words on posture rather that just say, “sit properly”.

Snake oil sales

The first fifth of the twenty first century has almost passed and still we have snake oil salesmen peddling hope. My doctor is a much younger man and during conversation I mentioned I had had measles. He knew of the deadly virus but hadn’t had a case in his lengthy service so he was interested to know of my experience. I remember nothing much of the inconvenience now except my sister Margaret and I both presented a problem for our grandparents when we were infected. It was the school holidays and we were holidaying with them. We were both isolated into darkened rooms while we healed because the virus can cause death or blindness. I vaguely remember being delirious but my clearest memory is of being a rotten patient while I waited for the rash to go. Oh, and I remember how I hated the sounds of the bronze wing pigeons that cooed outside.

Since 1963 a simple inoculation has existed to prevent the spread of this disease and until recently it was almost eliminated saving the lives of thousands of kids from the virus. Before it was discovered a new epidemic occurred about every two years. In 2019 it has reappeared across the globe as an epidemic possibly because world unrest has displaced many millions of people this century. It has also reappeared because too many people have been frightened off inoculation programs by fear mongers who claim inoculation causes autism. Whole swathes of people have turned their backs on modern science and refused help. (Modern science has eliminated many horrid former illnesses. TB, whooping cough, measles, whatever. The list is long.) As it is many, if not most, preventable diseases are prevalent in all corners of the globe again and it is hard to understand.

Fear and complacency seem to be common companions. Anyone visiting a modern pharmacy must be surprised illness exists. The secure area is packed with pills potions and remedies for almost every complaint. Throughout the day prescriptions are filled non stop, but this is not where the pharmacies make money. Oh no. On the floor patients help themselves to shelves of alternate medicines. Many of these are supposedly preventative medicines for the diseases the chemists spend their days dispensing drugs. Most of them are untested and certainly unproved.

If pharmacies are busy they have expanded their business model to now offer warehouses filled with dietary supplements. The benefits are manifold, they can add to your muscle bulk, reduce your weight, develop eyesight, or fix your stomach biome. The more you spend the healthier you will become. You will know what to buy when you visit because any number of celebrities will have given you the benefits you can get from Swisse, Blackmore, or Wagner when you watch TV or enter a Social media site. I know this because former cricket captain, Michael Clarke, told me so. Or ….. anyone who has kicked a football, bounced any other kind of ball, or skied down a mountain, or swum the length of a pool knows. They know so much about diet and health from their training resume they need no formal training. Trust them.

Be aware! On no account should one consume a prescribed pill or drug without consulting a neighbour, a magazine or a social media site for they know. They know because science is not to be trusted. Even scientists know this because they will advise, “this is good to the best of my knowledge until someone discovers something better”. The same is not true of the unproven stuff it works. Why? Because I was told.

How smart are we?

When people think

Before WW11, and in the years afterwards, most Australia kids left school after The Merit Certificate. This level is supposed to be equivalent of year 8 today however I doubt many kids of 14 would earn the certificate now.  The tests required students  remembering facts.  They tested basic literacy, numeracy, algebra, history, geography, and included such things as poetry and parsing in the English exam.
Difficult  at the time, they are more difficult today as we no longer use pounds, ounces, troys or money questions about pounds shillings and pence, halfpence or guineas are easier in the dollar currency. Additionally  students of the past could/would calculate addition, multiplication, subtraction, and division,  of multiple numbers in their heads. They could spell accurately. They knew the names of civil dignitaries. The names of their parliamentary representatives and how to address them in written correspondence or in person as well.
They understood compound multiplication and the free benefits of earning interest on interest. Being clever did not guarantee they would go to University or end up working in a profession because most left school far too early only  to continue their educational  training in apprenticeship mentored by their elders.
There can be no argument children today are more articulate, and more confident. Their learning mode is a discovery of processes rather than learning  facts.  Further it is an expectation they will stay at school until they are 18 and all thing being equal most will attend a university. As graduates they might know much but most will struggle to get anything but an internship until they have proved to an employer they know what is expected of them in their job.
The kids of the past learned citizenship as a basic responsibility of adulthood. Too many of the current cohort are ignorant of this responsibility and prefer to dig their heels in when challenged because they, “know their rights.” 
It is a right of every Australian  citizen to vote and  further it is a right to become involved enough to understand the policies the people you vote into office plan to legislate. This right was hard won. Not so long ago women could not vote. More recently aboriginals could not vote. Still more recently eighteen year olds could not.  These facts form just part of the process to a universal vote. 
It is a matter of concern to me like never before people think about their vote. My concern starts with a question. If  the population is better educated how come people across the globe are now more stupid? Over and over people vote against the policies designed to help them. Their great grandparents most with only a Merit certificate to guide them seemed smarter in exercising their vote.
Of course even thoughtful people are being misled by fake news. Today it was revealed that the PR company CFR had accepted commissions to create fake news for their clients.https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/aug/01/revealed-johnson-allys-firm-secretly-ran-facebook-propaganda-network?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

Is it any wonder busy people are misled?
In America we have the misogynist  Narcissistic President Trump misleading people with gaslighting  statements on Twitter almost any hour. Right wing parties across the globe have adopted identical procedures.  Demonising those with ethnic looks, minority beliefs, or from a different class is the place to build hatred. People have stopped listening to the political classes. They have never studied party policies. In fact they do not belong to any party. Party membership across the nation is smaller than that of the Collingwood FC. 
With Crosby’s company feeding Facebook readers fake news and people preferring only to read information supporting their prejudices it should be no surprise they vote their bias.  It is the curse of the age the parties address the emotions of the voter and both ignore reference to the facts.
On election the parties ignore the voter’s emotions and address the facts set by the party supporters. These it turns out are not the party members but the corporate supporters and the interest group lobbyists. Big business has overtaken voters as of more importance to the economy and therefore the government. The importance of government to it is not the common wealth of the nation but to leave business unregulated and untaxed. As a consequence public service and government services are left without the capital needed for infrastructure and social service. These are the very reasons governments exists according to the Merit certificate recipients.  Such is the value of a university education to the government of  the twenty first century. 

We call it home


SATURDAY, JULY 27, 2019

I am still living in the past as I remember things about houses of sixty five years ago.
Over one hundred years after Thomas Crapper invented the water closet most townships used a night man to collect the human waste. In the cities special lanes were built behind the homes so the night man could get on with his business unimpeded. Camperdown was no such city.  Fred  Jolly would go about his job as if he was invisible. His vehicle  would pull up of the front of a house, and without a pause he would leap out raise a 5 gallon can, smelling sweetly of phenyl  and stride to the little back shed. There he would lift a rear door, pull out the contents, cover it with a lid, and slip under the wooden seat  the fresh can. In one move he had the exchanged can on his shoulder, loaded onto his truck and he was off. He made this visit to homes each week. Being out of town this work was done by someone who had to dig a hole in the ground in preparation of depositing the contents into it just as frequently.
Bill Evans and his bother Len substituted their farm income as builders. After the war I was born into, materials were scarce.  This was especially so with house materials so building a house usually took twelve months at least to build. On days off school I would linger and watch these men build. Most houses were under 100 sq metres. The framing was made with green freshly sawn hardwood.  It was heavy, splintered, and full of sap. The pieces of wood were sawn by hand and held together with long steel nails driven into the wood by hand with a hammer. 

The simple house had three bedrooms a larger one at the front,  but the others measured twelve feet by ten feet. A lounge room, with a fireplace, was also at the front of the house, a bathroom, and kitchen were tucked away out the back. The toilet was usually in the back yard for the convenience of Fred Jolly.  The toilet paper most often was the previous year’s phone book torn into small squares and held together with string and hung from a nail on the toilet wall.
I tell you this because that same area hand some of the most significant houses in Victoria and I was lucky enough to visit many of them because of my close affiliation with the church. Rev George Mutten and his wife Madge, were responsible for conducting services in several outlying villages in the area  every Sunday afternoon. Frequently I went with them to these places. Afterwards they were often invited to join the homeowners for afternoon tea. 
One such place was Purrumbete House.  The bluestone stables were many times bigger than the average new houses being built in town then. My first visit to the place was most memorable. On arrival we were shown into a parlour, off the foyer,  and served afternoon tea. My visit was never forgotten either  because of the magnificence of the entry and the formality of the visit. Coming in the front door I was gobsmacked by the wonderful Walter Withers  mural of rural scenes on the wall above the second storey landing. In fact I am still. (I was much flummoxed when David Marriner purchased the  property in the 1990’s  for about $2m and then had copies of the murals made so as he could sell the priceless original artwork for more than he had paid for the property. Fortunately his project was stopped when authorities got to know about it and the work was saved in-situ.) 
During the years of my youth I visited many similar pioneer buildings. Each one grand, and brimming with opulence surrounded as it was by beautifully kept gardens. Further afield were the houses of the Blacks at Noorat, and Moonambel in Skipton, of the McKinnons. These houses were rungs of class above my station in life yet manageable because of the welcome mat available at all times to the clergy.
Closer to home was Renny Hill. I became very familiar with this property when I became a virtual adopted son of the very humble Coverdale family.  The single storey home and garden sits above Camperdown’s southwest. The home is protected from the northern summer wind by a high ridge cut into  the hillside to accommodate the house. To the rear were a number of servants quarters and just beyond that timber workshops that blocked to westerly winds blowing from Lake Bullen Merry.
I usually entered  the house from the back entrance. Just past the boot room was the huge kitchen. It had a large Aga slow combustion stove burning all year. The previous owners, the Gaffney’s, lived in a much grander manner than the Coverdale’s as I first remember visiting the home when it had hired staff.  Outside the kitchen was a bank of bells. In each room beyond the kitchen a bell ringer was built in to the wall so the residents could ring for service.  The house is grand but smaller than Purrumbete. It had about six bedrooms rather than ten. On the northern side the billiard room was the largest room in the house. Diagonally opposite the lower paddock lived Fred Jolly.  Fred never needed to visit here, or the other places mentioned because the squattocuracy  had Thomas Crapper WCs and septic systems. (Strangely the Coverdale’s never had a phone at Renny Hill because the were caught by some old clause relating to the PMG service. Claude refused to pay a bill  left unpaid by the Gaffney’s at the time her purchased the farm and the PMG refused to provide a phone to a property with an unpaid bill.
I have but two other short  housing stories. The first was a little house in Lilydale. My aunt Pauline took meals on wheels to an old lady.  Her house was overgrown and to get in the back door meant fighting the foliage. She was doubled up with Osteoporosis. To keep warm she seemed to wear all she had and on her hands she wore fingerless gloves. After our visit I discovered flea bites. This was my first experience of visiting a house with flea infestation.
I thought we lived very simply in the caretakers cottage at The Park, yet while in primary school I  went home with a classmate that lived almost opposite our primary school. We entered the house by the back door and to my amazement this house in the township had nothing but a dirt floor. Reading the stories of  Henry Lawson and the Drover’s Wife  I was aware early Australian homes had earthen floors but I was utterly surprised to see one in the mid twentieth century in Camperdown.  I have alway considered Australia a fairly just society and yet I have seen first hand the difference in living standards between the rich and poor,  and if I have fear. I fear we are quickly moving back to a period with ever greater discrepancies. It sends shudders through me to think we are becoming so uncaring of the poor again in 2019.

But is it art?

What is art?

 As people we find it difficult to understand art. Sure, we think it can be decorative. We understand it is illustrative. Yet when face to faced with it we understand what we like.  But that barely scratches the surface. As artists do more than illustrate, decorate, or capture a moment in time.  They test our understanding of life itself. Given experience we recognise art is much more than what we at first see. 
Ancient work found on rocks in the outback of Australia may be examples of mans first attempt to use art to tell a story,  We are made aware of how modern aborigines tell the story of their forefathers in dot paintings.   These totemic paintings are used to illustrate the  nature of their storylines and tell something important of their mob. Old as dot painting is, world galleries are only now assembling collections of the work. Modern painters, of this art,  are being celebrated as masters of a new movement older than recorded history.
In every continent Archeological work has uncovered the living conditions of past civilisations from once hidden art work. Evidence abounds that visual art work has been treasured throughout mans life on earth.  Walls and floors  have been found with mural decor. Sometimes the artwork has been made with natural clays. In other civilisations glass tiles are used to illustrate life and the things treasured are depicted in minute detail. Visual art is used to tell stories of past  civilisation’s former greatness.
 In many of the places we have visited in the ancient world there is evidence of the existence of sometimes up to six waves of invaders, each attempting to rub out the evidence of the previous  peoples. And each civilisations has marked the arrival of a new civilisation with art. 
In more modern times. Art work has be lost in fires, floods, earthquakes, tsunamis, in famine and pestilence, in fact in almost every imaginable way. Yet scraps of the art remain as a reminder of how things once were. In the past humankind has  valued art equally with science, law and religion. In fact religious groups are responsible for the protection and preservation of much we know about former civilisations. 
In the Dark Ages art suffered through a period when the depiction of realistic art was unvalued. The illustration of mankinds adventure was instead stylised and heroic. Since that period the world experienced a Renaissance. Giotto is rumoured to have been one of the first new artists when, with the aid of a paintbrush and red paint,  he is allegedly said to have pleased Pope Boniface as an able painter. It appears  a simple circle was all the pontiff needed to know he was an artist of greatness. How ever he was commissioned to work for the pope,  it is certain,  he could depict real life eloquently.
The world has come to love the work of  a catalogue of fine renascence artists with names we know:  Caravaggio, Michelangelo, Leonardo Da Vinci, Titian – you can add dozens of well known artists. I am not going to list their best known works here except to say we have been fortunate in that we have seen much of their work in great galleries around the world. The work is known for its fine brushwork. It’s mastery of Fresco. The simplicity of its lines, or because of its beautiful flaws. David is sculpted out of a flawed piece of marble. The hands are perfectly formed but too large for the body yet it is known as a sublime artwork. 
It is not for me to catalogue every art movement. Sufficient to say that each age has produced people  able to uniquely capture the time,  or paint in a way that depicts the real meaning of the work. (St Wendy ran a series of art history lessons on television fortunately most of her work is still available on YouTube. She was very good at pointing out the allegorical references in the work she cited. A flower placed at the centre of a painting would have meant such and such to the viewers. The landscape referenced in another had hidden meanings for those in touch with the symbolism. I this way artists have been able to signal clear dislike for their subjects or the movements of the time without losing the support of their sponsors.)
It is certainly true much art would never have been commissioned without the artist having a benefactor. The Church would possibly be one of the biggest supporters of art throughout history. The brand of belief is not of importance because each major religion collected the finest work of its time. For instance, in the Catholic Church, many a cardinal would commission a work from one practioner  only to prove to a neighbouring prince of the Church he was better connected. 
Of course art also depended on the wealthy for support. The kings and princes of Europe have always demonstrated their wealth by employing favoured artists. The palace of Versailles demonstrates the wealth of the sun king. In St Petersburg Catherine the Great collected works for the Winter Palace. Of course such extravagance was only possible because using slaves meant wages need not be paid.
To skip to modern art we turn to the impressionists. Their work is something we celebrate today for the impressions of life made in real time. The works of Monet serve as an example. The artist painted and repainted the same scenes. Not because he hadn’t captured the scene precisely but because as the light changed he saw things differently. Whether the paintings were of  the great doors of Notre Dame cathedral, the lily ponds on his estate at Giverney, or the hay stoops in his horse paddock. He painted the daily life he experienced around him. He painted into old age capturing and recapturing the same scenes. No doubt he was disappointed on each occasion as the next time he looked he saw more red, or green, blue or white. It the light he viewed his subject the next time he looked  it always appeared different. 
To see his works for the first time I was blown away of course by each rendition of the scene but also because of the magnificent size of the works. To capture scenes as big as life itself was one thing, to continually capture the light across the scope of the huge canvass was something again.
Artwork doesn’t have to be grand to be good though. From the same period consider the work of the Australian Heidelberg school. It does vary in size but the brilliance of the artist is all there for all to see in the 9×4 inch paintings captured on cigar  cases.
In each new art movement there are new stars. These are the people who test our understanding of art. Discontent to reproduce work in the same manner as their brilliant past masters they challenged us to rethink he question. What is art? 

Today many artists gain fame by winning prizes from modern benefactors. Possibly a turning point in art occurred in Venice in 1895. Until then gallerists had chosen to display art from artists they selected as being good. Evidence abounds they too often got the choice of artist wrong. There can be no greater artist overlooked than Van Gogh, yet in his lifetime no gallery would buy or display his work. Each generation an artist, overlooked in life, is rediscovered. Anyway, back to Venice. In 1895,  after a couple of years planning,  the first great art exhibition was shown in what is now known as the Venice Biennial. 
At first the works were chosen to display and find a market for several selected galleries.  As  time went by the sale reasons,  the sale reason for the exhibition was dropped. Instead the organisers set about finding artists with something fresh to say and works less commercially wanted were shown, just as they are today. Given the great success of the biennial, it has kept expanding across the years, in time that has called for a division of the arts,  As it is today , fine art and sculpture are categorised  separately to music and literature.
In Australia the first benefactor of a major prize was found in – J F Archibald. First awarded in 1922 the Archibald award is for a portrait of a well know Australian or famous artist. The most awarded prize winner is Sir William  Dargie, principally this is because the Art Gallery of NSW mostly chooses artist from that state as winners. Many a  portrait painter has gained their reputation by winning this prize but it could be considered a poisoned chalice because winning often limits the growth of an artist and limits their future output to portraiture. Few talk today of Dargie as an artist one must collect.
After World War 11 new emphasis has been given to art fairs as a way for artist to market their output. The first, and possibly the greatest,  is Art Basel. This fair is so popular is has spawned like fairs across the globe. The work chosen is limited and dependent upon work being selected by local galleries.
The Turner prize is given to the best artist living in or from Britain. The award has been given to sculptors since 1984. Previously entry was restricted  artists under 50. That rule have been dropped. The award is mired in controversy and the reasons for this can be discussed later.
Modern artists do not generally have benefactors to support them in the creation of their art. Many are simply driven to produce a statement of life for themselves. If a buyer is found then the artist probably celebrates but the production of something was first inspired bu communicating something.  
Art is so broad in this age it is almost impossible to catalogue – what exactly is art?  If a video of  a dripping tap is slowed to an ultra slow movement. Is the work art?  If the aim of the artist is to make us think a moment of time is just part of the constancy of life, and we are slowed to think about it, it meets the definition of art. 
What then of the artist who uses their body as the art medium? If they change their body so  an arm that looks like it has grown an extra ear, what then? What if  they that cut themselves and the viewer is asked to make meaning of what appears to be an act of self harm? How is that art? We know if our skin is pierced it hurts and it is disturbing to see our blood running undisturbed until it stops. The artist makes us consider, what is ordinary human behaviour. Art has moved from a pure depiction of life to examining life itself.
Like the poetic works of Gerard Marley Hopkins that make no sense at all on the first reading, the artistic works of the alcoholic Jackson Pollock make no sense. Australia was scandalised when the Whitlam government  spent over $1 million purchasing these dribbles of paint. Yet on seeing his work, first in the Guggenheim Museum of Art in Venice, I can see the work as brilliant. Viewed up close the work is not dissimilar to the way the eye constructs meaning in a Monet.  Monet does not illustrate a hay stack.  Our mind joins the dots (figuratively speaking) and we see a hay stack. The same is true in the random streaks and splashes of Pollock. Our mind reassembles the colours into a painting we can attach meaning. His work requires the viewer work at meaning from the lexicon of their experience if his art is to say something meaningful
20th Century art had new art movements every few years. The fauves, the cubists, the abstractionists, finding names for styles could easily occupied you for years given the number of movements. New art often seemed twee. Take the example of pop art – when Andy  Warhol painted a baked bean tin, or  the imitation of a printed art gravure comic, found in the work  of Roy Lichtenstein. He magnified the style of dots used in gravure printing so the image was made of larger dots as pointillists had previously.
Whole art movements have sprung from artists magnifying an everyday object to a supersize and we, as the audience, see more of something easily overlooked. Or take the sculpture of Ron Mueck. His people sculptures are lifelike in the absolute detail except they are often bigger than the models themselves. Damien Hirst makes his simple work known because instead of preserving a work in formaldehyde, like a scientist might with a frog,  his work reached new status when a shark was preserved in fluid. Is it art to act as a preserver of life? Throughout the century realistic painting came and went and returned again. The works of Gustave Courbet The origins of the world, for example, setting the standard in the 19th century.

Our aunts, and our grandchildren paint scenes of their district but when it can be captured on film with greater detail is it art as the artist looks at the world? Today artists have almost abandoned paint and paint brush and we the viewer is confronted with as art is a test of interpretation. They attempt to find meaning where on first viewing we,  the unquestioning, see none and this they tell us is art. 

Tales from the volcanic plain

The caldera lakes and other things.

Do you know the Western District of Victoria is the largest volcanic plain in the world? This big plain is interspersed with volcanic cones and caldera lakes. For lakes to form over  ages the center of the volcano cooled, the middle sank,  and filled with water.  In the huge area there are hundreds of such lakes. 
Tourists are familiar with Tower Hill near Warrnambool. Similar lakes are found elsewhere on the plain. Fishermen are familiar with the lakes around Camperdown. They fish at Lake Purrumbete.  Nearer to my home In Camperdown we were surrounded by lakes.  Both Lake Gnotuk  and Lake Bullen Merri are within the same caldera but the composition of the water in each is different. Gnotuk is very salty.  Bullen Merri is brackish. 
Bullen Merri was a favourite place for fishermen as it was stocked each year with Rainbow Trout.  It is an introduced species known for its fighting spirit and good eating. The fish had to be bred in running water. Given a natural life they are spawned into a stream and swim away into the ocean and return to the same water to spawn their new fingerlings. The fish in Camperdown were never able to spawn live fish because it was not fed with running water and that is why the lake was restocked each year with fingerlings. 
The water is naturally brackish, the fishermen,  except for opening day, were very few in number so the remaining fish grew up to about 4 pounds.  Every so often when the conditions are hot and still. In those times algae grows on the lake. It turns the surface green. The water becomes toxic and fish are killed. In the 1950’s the years were cold and wet and when we did have conditions that promoted the growth of algae the learning had been lost and people were at a loss to explain what was killing the fish.
The lake was also popular for water sports.  In the summer Camperdown residents would swim on the southern beaches. The Sun newspaper together with its sister The Herald played important role in promoting safety in the water and they also ran a learn to swim program. I got my Herald learn to swim certificate there when I was about 12 simply by walking around the lake to join the classes. 
The community also had other sporting events there in the post war years. It started in a very small way when the Hindaugh boys built an inboard motor boat. Other locals did the same using plywood and prewar car engines. Over time enough enthusiasts had built boats and a boating regatta started. These races became very well organised and they became popular enough to attract large crowds. Each year new facilities were added as they had been in the area used by swimmers.
Accidentally drowning occurred just outside the designated swimming area too often. The water level drops away very sharply and poor swimmers occasionally would flounder in the deeper, colder water and drown. As it happened it was not very far from the edge of the lake. At such times rescuers would frantically dive into the dark water. The bodies were usually retrieved with grappling hooks.
Several  motor boats were lost in these races as well.  A hydrofoil built to Bob Hyde sank when it turned too quickly on a corner and filled with water. I think the boat was powered by an Austin inboard. The hydrofoil was faster than many other boats as it floated on the water and not in the water like a ski boat. It was also very light but prone to flipping over as it bounced from wave to wave.
As outboards became more powerful and certainly cheaper than a boat with an inboard motor the popularity of the regatta diminished. Leading up to the 1956 Olympics Camperdown made a real push to get the Olympic rowing there. They lost for many obvious reasons not the least being there was no infrastructure ready to run the event.
On the other side of the lake above the golf course and below the Public Park a number of enthusiastic people created a 400 Meter hill climb track.  It was very steep. It was windy. The very primitive was made of nothing but loose stones and the earth from which it was ripped. The lads that raced there mainly made their own cars. Then many farms seemed to have car chassis lying in the grass. It was on these ancient frames they attached nothing but the most basic gear to propel them. A gear box from here. A motor from there. A fuel tank and a radiator somehow bolted to the chassis, a bench for a seat, and a battery possibly from the vehicle they used to tow the car to the site and they had a racer. 
The idea was to charge up the hill against the clock. Going up meant the vehicle screamed from gear to gear. When it reached the top it was near pandemonium. In building the cars the builders had no thought of stopping nor had they given any thought to how many cars the last little bit of track could hold. I think six was the maximum they could fit. When they had reached that number they had to take a short break while they drove down to the start. Many of the same bush mechanics that raced boats raced the hill climb. I remember the Hindaugh family. I think the Reed family were also involved. Though theirs was a manufacturers car.
My memory is foggy about how the club established themselves there. I think they raced up Mt Leura before that time. I know they certainly returned there when the racing became better established. In either place a mistake was dangerous as there were no barriers to prevent a driver running off the course and flying into the air and into the caldera.

My tale has veered away from the caldera lakes of the volcanic plains but the lesson is there to learn. On the same plain the original inhabitants of the land have left reminders they lived sophisticated lives centuries before white settlement. They lived in stone houses. They fished for thousands of years using fish traps. Spend time a learn a little of the aboriginals of Lake Condah.