Another Luddite Blunder

HeraldSun.com.au

We love our flaming Utes
Hotted-up fuel-guzzling,
V8 powered cars — invented here —
Anachronisms in a future world.
Where bloody minded humankind burns the globe
Turns out it’s fossil fuel
The ugly transgressor
Whilst manufacturers electrify cars novelle
Operate charge-points — not common fuel servos.
Yet another modern Luddite blunder.

Every country son and daughter lusts for their first two door V8 so as to attend a BNS ball.  A mythical rural scene of bacchanalian debauchery manufactured in the minds of their city cousins.  When the isolated, shy individual in fact arrives,  gaucheness personified alights unless egged on by a peer pressure group.  At least it was until the local motor industry gave in to the economic reality the government would no longer prop-up our lazy car industry. They closed their plants and a V8 utility (ute) vehicle is no longer constructed here. 

The Ute survived in the country because of its usefulness. Once the domain of two main constructors it pootled around the farm in many guises. The first, according to my friend Kevin Norbury (1),  was an invention of a Geelong farmer. He cut his new car in half and had a luggage tray built over the rear wheels so he could carry a sick lamb or a bale of hay when inspecting his stock. 

A new vehicle fills the suburbs. Too big to be a useful farm appliance, it sports four doors and a smaller luggage tray. The SUV is the car of choice of home builders (tradies) and it too is a ute. The car is ubiquitous in suburban shopping centres in parks designed for shopping trollies.

The tarmac becomes so hot in most of these the centre owners have built sun protection.

While business accepts our world has changed, our government has not. Perhaps the reason for this is the fossil fuels industries are major donors to the government. Another reason is the support the government gets from the media. (Media rules were changed some years ago.  Over those years consolidation has taken place, so that in some states there is no longer a choice in the news supplier. To put it more succinctly, if the Murdoch press says,” This is how things are.” There is no alternative view put to most folk to add any balance.)

Artificial global warming has reached a point of danger.  No informed individual wants to test the predictions of climate scientists to discover the scientists were right and they were wrong except governments beholden to fossil fuel purveyors. The first global change to reduce carbon emissions was an agreement in Kyoto to cut them.  Here in Australia we put a levy on carbon and asked producers to improve or pay to produce it. The levy was so successful carbon emissions fell. At least they did for a while until opposition leader Tony Abbott called it a carbon tax. At the next election, he became PM and carbon usage shot up. It continued to do so until 2019, when we had another election.   At that election a new PM, Scott Morrison, demonised the Labor party by claiming, “The Labor Party wants to take away Tradies’ utes.”  They returned him on the promise to do nothing about carbon emissions. Or that was his claim. So the country does nothing. 

However, manufacturers are in a scramble to catch up to China, the largest maker of electric vehicles. Observers are warning if Australia does not change its rules on carbon emissions, they destine us to become the dumping ground for all the world’s most polluting cars. A thirsty internal combustion engine does not make a ute a ute. A car becomes one when it has an external carriage area.

A new industry is not without error and a story yesterday caught my eye, The tale is about the difficulty new adapters had charging their electric car on English motorways. (4) This story suggests there is some working out to do until every car is fitted with a universal power connection.


Continue reading “Another Luddite Blunder”

Sweet Companions

Techexploitists.com

Sweet Companions

Truly active is the bee
on manifold flower visits
in her quest for tea
she carts food a-distance

corbiculae cunningly gorged,
port nectar and pollen home
as energy meals - once forged
In the hive to honeycomb

whatever fertilised bloom
flown to, and walked upon,
is now a floret — we assume —
fruitful from the sly turn on.

Plant, insect, humankind
in symbiotic relationships
enjoy a peace of mind
well saved from apocalypses

It is not all beer and skittles.

Ref Bonanza.com

With significant risks, there are great possibilities. That, we are told, is a sign fortune follows the brave. One of the greatest risks is to enter business using your own money. If the business succeeds the opportunity to make it is before you. The chances are you will have to prove yourself before anyone else will invest anything in something you start from scratch. It gets going, even if you have a lot of money. Be prepared because it will take more than you plan to spend.

A third and fourth career of mine was to help business manage cash. I did this for fourteen years. In my case, I have seen how easy and how hard it is. Many years ago I knew one family where both mum and dad were running a successful business, yet I saw the woman in tears. She remembered when she was told there was no money, none to buy a meal for the family. The mother went through her purse and found a few cents. Francene reached in the crevices of the couch and found a few more. She told me that after robbing the kids piggy banks she just found enough to buy half a dozen eggs so they could eat one night. Even after that,  she said, “Bob had faith this business would succeed.” With the T family it did, however, it took many years living, hand-to-mouth like this before it paid off for them. 

Only last month I heard a similar story of a family that had invested everything in farming. They had faced years of plenty and invested it all:  in more land, in more equipment, in more seed. The current season is the best they have had for 25 years, yet they were at the mercy of the weather for 10 days after they cut the crop before they could harvest it. Even then there was no guarantee until it was in the silo.

Such is the life of those who risk everything in the hope of — One Day. One day we will be ok. One day we will have a holiday. One day we will have enough to buy a new home. One day….

I have also seen people who didn’t have to go through these trials. I have spoken with people who have taken charge of the family business and decided the wisest way forward was to grow the business. The decision to borrow and expand is also fraught. Normally the generation that makes that decision is very aware of the risks and they work as hard as their parents did on the business.  

They make personal sacrifices and measure their chances with the risks of expansion. Like many farmers, they succeed where others might have failed

It is a factor of business the risk is not over even when they make the sale This is especially so when the sale is one made of business terms? We can be owed companiesed,  and owe thousands of dollars at the same time. All party’s reason the job be done before all payments are made.

Not that that is the end. If I return to my story from Mrs T. They sold their business to a multinational competitor after their years of struggle just to see the business close and the products be taken off the market. The millions they received did not make up for the work, recipes, name loss,  and pain – it just helped them have a very comfortable retirement.  

In the third generation of a business, things are more difficult. You take an enormous fortune and spread an enormous fortune, and all you get are arguments. If,  as is done with two very public big names – the money is left to one person to manage things can go wrong.

 James Packer has halved his wealth in a decade. The mental anguish is apparently awful. Noting what our eldest has said of his friends clever enough to have sold businesses for tens of millions. They talk of the pressure they have had not losing what was so hard won. It must be worse when billions are risked.

One fellow, and his brother, inherited Australia’s largest building company about 15 years ago. Most of it went to one grandson. Now, remembering when I was preteen, I travelled around the eastern suburbs in the early mornings with my uncle. Some first workers we saw every morning were stocky Italian chaps. Many of them arrived in this land with no English. The owner of the business knew these men before he came here. As his business grew he remembered these hard men. He knew there was no work for them in the aftermath of WW11, so he called on them. The country was short of tall men, and stocky men were even better for the job.

The jobs they worked at were dirty. The equipment they had was scarce, so they picked and hammered with manual tools forming roadside gutters and curbs. The old yellow grader was the only tool of note I remember with the name Grollo printed on the side.

Fifty years afterwards one grandson managed the expansion of the business across the world. He decided he could manage the building company and its expansion into a whole new field from New York. He lived part time there and wherever else it was possible to live as a jet setter and still monitor the business. All the stocky men had retired or died like his grandfather, so he hired the smartest people money could buy.

Last weekend the building company went into receivership. Daniel has named many reasons the company has run out of working capital, but the one person ultimately responsible for the loss.

It is awful to watch a company collapse. Many times, losing a business can be put down to happenstance. Things like the pandemic are not down to mismanagement. Sometimes companies fail because their customers run out of money. Many times good people get caught by sly operators. That hasn’t happened here, and it will not stop many hundreds of innocent people from being hurt.

I have worked with people on both sides of the ledger. I have seen the damage done to families when ill health is the cause of failure. I have seen the anguish when an owner has to find thousands a debtor cannot pay. Insolvency used to be a crime.

Occasionally it is no one’s fault. All too often it is. The lesson from all this entry is to learn from what I have seen close by — fortune follows the brave. Sometimes. Sometimes the brave one is just a foolish gambler. Sometimes the brave one is a thief that will steal and steal again with a Phoenix movement. Observationally i say if you want to play because you inherit the earth, play but don’t pretend your play is business. Better to invest your money and play with the dividends than play with your capital that is someone once worked hard to build it. 

(Not sure my last statement is correct.) What have you got to say?

prowritingaid.com finds fault with this whole piece. Is it so obvious?

Eat what you like

Free Media

There is no advantage being overweight if you do not like food. Despite my overweight status, I like fine food cooked , and eating in restaurants where taste is king. The linen is fine, as is the cutlery, so too are the waiters. All in all I say, goodness reigns.

 Fortunately, I have enjoyed many beautiful meals in such establishments despite having a beer budget and champagne tastes. It is my hope you do too.

At one stage during a period when fine dining was called “nouvelle cuisine” (1960+) chef’s lost the plot. From the many choices I offer two examples:

In the 1970s Daryl and I decided to take Michael to a restaurant called Pamplemousse at 200 Collins St. Melbourne. As a mark of distinction, this restaurant was on the 2Oth floor in a National Mutual building. (Neither the restaurant nor the company survives).

During the meal, high above the darkened city, a waiter brought us our main course. It was served on a huge plate. Maybe the plate was 40 cm across. In the centre of it in a swirl of jus sat the food. To give you an idea of its size, I calculate maybe a couple of match boxes would have covered it. In all, it was so attractive it would not have been out of place if it had hung from an art gallery wall. However, the course was not sustaining by itself.

Frank tells of a similar experience at a different place. The dinner was held to celebrate a very successful business trading year. The meal was seven courses long. In his words, to give you an example of a chef gone mad his description was. “The cook served a single leaf ripped from a Brussels sprout as a separate course”. At its conclusion the diners were so hungry they went the Scottish named take-away for bedtime sustenance before calling it a night. The message to take from this is — food must first be filling.

Of the thousands of dinners I have eaten, more than ever, I understand some meals seem tastier when we eat. Wonderful surroundings help, but the best cooks insist on simple food cooked well. It is helped when you understand the secret ingredient to every good meal is — good company.


One restaurant I would like to patronise in Melbourne is Atticia. The chef Ben Shewry has worked hard building its reputation. Before lockdown, it was placed variously in the top 100 places in the world to dine. Meals in this place carry a high premium, but that is not why I would like to go there. I know the food to be great. (It is however, beyond my retirees budget).

My reason is to support him is for his generosity towards hospitality staff who were stood down during during ISO. Of all the people who were unsupported financially with government aid during this time, wait staff represent a significant number. For more than five months most went without a pay-packet.  In recognition of their hard times Ben and food writer, Dani Valent cooked soup and gave it away each Wednesday to unemployed restaurant staff.  


These descriptions of my enjoyment of excessive attention dim if you cannot afford food at any price. That is why a free meal supplied by one of the best chefs is so exceptional. 

In Melbourne, expensive places are fewer. The Hare Kristina group offer very cheap vegetarian meals in many locations. A business named Lentil as Anything, before ISO, left it to the diner to decide how much they paid for their meal. (After five months closed its reopening however it is dependent on GoFundMe supporters to do so.)


Across the country, diners could once visit a group of diners named Sizzlers. After more than thirty years the last “eat as much as you can” place closed this week.


Times change and dining is no exception. As far as I know, you can no longer order Peacocks tongues anywhere. Excellent news for Peacocks. What else is food news? You can eat for nothing if you live in Tel Aviv, especially if you like chicken. In return there is good news for chicken, according to my friends at Future Crunch.com

FC reports the company, The Chicken, is feeding visitors free chicken sandwiches. This is good news for the visitors, and it is excellent news for chickens. No chickens die in order for The Chicken to make their sandwiches. “the chicken on the menu is grown from cells in a bioreactor in an adjacent pilot plant visible through a glass window. Diners don’t pay for their meals; instead, SuperMeat, the startup making the “cultured chicken” meat, is asking for feedback on its products, as it prepares for large-scale production of food that it thinks can transform the industry.”

Further, they explain:

The process is far faster and more efficient than raising animals. “Once the desired animal mass is achieved, it allows harvesting approximately half the meat every day,” says Savir. “It is metaphorically the equivalent of having a farm of 1,000 mature chickens, and harvesting 500 mature chickens out of that farm every day endlessly.” The “meat” is produced directly, without the intervening step of slaughtering and butchering. Done right, with renewable energy, the process can also cut the environmental footprint of meat, since it uses fewer resources.

Now the meals are free because no government has granted the company approval to sell their product. Today’s food lovers are simply testing food they proclaim, is as good as chicken.


My mixture of unrelated stories accepts good people continue to help the disadvantaged in: soup kitchens and food banks without any motive but to help. May their good work continue.

A little word

Image. Thesaurus.com

Today i have watched Sean Connelly’s acceptance speech at the AFI awards. In 2006 he was given the tribute of a Life Achievement Award. I watched the program today as this is the week he died at 90. In his speech he acknowledged he had in inauspicious beginning. He left school at 13. I was shaken when, of all the things he might have said, he marvelled at how his life changed when he turned five. He said, “ I got my break, big break, when I was five years old, and i t has taken me more than 70 years to realise it. It is that simple, and it is that profound.” This man who became the character James Bond, 007 owed his success to those who taught him to read.

To read is life changing. We caught sight of it in our judicial child. At four she “transcribed” from a favourite work the words use to explain the tale. Drawing page after page of scribble — each sound representing the word she understood we spoke. As a teenager she noted the words she didn’t recognise it a text book in order to later check the meaning from a dictionary and note that beside the entry. 

I, with some glee, report the company Adani changed its name this week to – Bravus. Presumably they assumed it meant “brave”. The company is far from brave. It was controversially given the opportunity to open what is proposed to be the largest coal mine in the world in the Galilee basin of Australia’s far north.  At every stage, Adani has thumbed  its nose to all complainants. 

Whenever it reaches full production, the coal will be shifted offshore to India to produce thermal electricity without any acknowledgement of the contribution it will make toward global warming.  Therefore, it was with great mirth to read students of Latin pointed out bravus would never have meant brave. The appropriate word in English is fortis. The Guardian Australia reported the word meant something else. In fact, it was the opposite of brave. They wrote, “Mining company Adani has changed its name to a Latin word that means “crooked”, “deformed”, “mercenary or assassin”, after mistakenly thinking that it meant “brave”. Knowing the true meaning it appears the company has chosen its new name very carefully as it is most appropriate.

My own education was not as clear cut as it was for Sean Connelly. I had trouble learning to read because I now understand what made it difficult was dyslexia. 75 years ago, no one had a name for it. My teacher thought by sitting me in a corner called, “the dunce’s corner”  I might get over my disability and be shamed into reading. 

I realised words and I did not get on together early in life. Learning to read was painful and it took me years to master. Learning to spell was as difficult.  At school a training exercise was to learn five words as a spelling exercise each night for homework. Early next morning our teachers tested our comprehension and spelling of those words in the subject, Dictation. Day after day i failed to write the words I was expected to learn. 

However, instead of being discouraged I took it upon myself to study vocabulary. I learned the foreign roots of words and little by little to decode the clues in order to read. I learned prefixes and suffixes, and the shape of words in order to scan paragraphs for meaning. Even at this stage of my life i find it easier to scan a text for meaning rather than to concentrate on each word. The downside of this is I still misread obvious errors, especially when rereading my writing, and I find form filling onerous.

To this point I have found you, my reader, accepting of my shortcomings in this area.

I love the sound of well read language. Many authors you like I cannot read. I cannot immediately identify words I use in speech unless I have mastered them before in print. It is possible i have a problem with English but as it is my only language I would be lost without it. As it is I sit somewhere between Sean Connelly and Adani when it comes to language, malapropisms excepted.

The gate swung wide.

Photo Author


Deep in the valley misty pastures
thrive on the swirling tide.
A young pioneer labours tough, ranchos.
The new gate swung wide.

Spatially isolate, feeling alone,
ground broken, preoccupied,
cognitive content from distant lands blown.
The new gate swung wide.

To rouse wanted help in came the mate.
Vivid fertility implied.
Pleased, fun was in the other gestate.
The new gate swung wide.

At first harmony. Wheels turned eagerly,
meshed by fortune’s dreams.
A wearisome routine chews bitterly.
The old gate swung wide

Love forsaken. Into the night she strode
broken dreams packed tight.
With nothing but thoughts of the long main road.
The old gate swung wide.

You are welcome to return Mc Calley.
All is forgiven. I confide.
Your life’s awaiting you in the valley
The old gate swung wide.

Name the Shops

Photo – Film Victoria

As Boy Scouts once a year, (perhaps less often), we played “Name the Shops”. It was a game, influenced by Rudyard Kipling’s book “Kim” and known as “Kim’s game”. It was a simple game which required us to name the shops in the local shopping strip of 3260. They ran for perhaps a kilometre down both sides of the Main Street. We had to name them in the order they ran. It was relatively easy because the shop ownership rarely changed and it included big civic buildings like the court, the shire office, the cinema, the post office, the 7 banks, and three car dealerships.

Some we knew as hangouts. They were the milk bars, the bike shop, the fish-n-chips, and the hairdressers. We struggled to remember the solicitor’s offices, the dress shops, the florists, or the beauty saloons. We knew each of the grocery shops, the shoe shops, and the men’s clothing store, and the chemist. The bakers were easy to name. Harder to remember was the chap that ran the photographer’s shop. On the other hand we remembered the two newsagents because they stocked comics. (We didn’t specifically have them at home, I remember reading The Phantom, and one called The Chuckler’s Weekly.)

There were three stock and station agents – farm supplies stores – in town. We also had four hotels for a population of about 2,000 town folk. Going home in the evenings we would stop and peer through the window of the electrical stores (after 1956) at the fuzzy black and white television sets. It was a strange thing to see, because the picture was frequently all white. This was because we lived in an area of poor reception and the antennas were too weak to pick up a clear picture. (In those early days none of my friends had tv so it caused no envy to look.)

In remembering this game I think I could still score pretty well. The fruiterer operated in a side street as did the doctors, the dentist, and the plumber’s supply shop. Some shops like the boot maker and the jewellers I remember easily because the operators were odd. Maybe the smell drifting from the shops helps me remember others. The smell of ink is a constant reminder of the newspaper office. I get a different, but similar, reminder when I pass a pub on foot.

Nothing remained open after five pm except the fish-n-chip shop and the pubs. They closed at six. The chippery remained open until around ten pm. On Saturdays most shops opened from nine until noon. After that the town was locked down until Monday morning. Saturday afternoon was given over to home maintenance or sport. Sundays were the day of rest. Over 9O% of the people went off to one church or the other. (I can count five different denominations) The church goers would dress in their Sunday best clothes. On the way to church they would nod, or wave, to their neighbours heading off in another direction to a different church.

The non church goers attended the Salvation Army Hall, or they went to the Seventh Day Adventist Church on a Saturday. Even the non believers attended one type of church or the other because even in those days of full employment few people jeopardised their job by declaring their lack of faith. Few jobs were advertised because they were usually filled by word of mouth. Some jobs were closed to people of one church but they were open to those of another. (Those days of fundamentalism were pretty dreadful. (It was possibly the stories I heard like this (long ago) that opened my mind to the evils of all segregation. Otherwise I have no personal experience of this type. It is my hope you never have to experience it either.)

[Unlike today, no one sold phones, (no mobiles). If your family wanted a phone it was supplied on loan from the Post Master General (PMG). All personal communications came from the PMG: mail, telegrams, and phone. It might be of some interest to learn telegrams were a sort of paper delivery of every SMS. Except people usually only got a telegram irregularly. The sender paid so much per letter and to reduce costs the sender just told their simple message briefly.

You could call the messages crude. “SAD NEWS DAD DIIED PEACEFULLY FUNERAL TBA “

Or you might have got one like we actually received when Andrew was born. It reads

CONGRATULATIONS WELCOME TO ANDREW LOVE TO ALL THREE BILL RYAN FAMILY

The message is addressed and was delivered to the hospital ward by the Telegram boy (who possibly rode a push bike to the hospital in a post boy’s uniform.]

Our shopping strip was a practical place. It never changed much as it was a place were all commercial activity took place, year in – year out. Today the buildings remain. Many of them have swallowed their neighbour and they have been enlarged. Some are empty yet the streetscape remains. Down the centre of town runs the avenue of Elm trees planted out by school children in 1876. It is a wonderful oasis to rest on a hot day. In the middle of the avenue is the wonderful bequest,the Thomas Manifold clock, built in the style of Westminster’s Big Ben in 1897.

When you visit Camperdown take pride that your great grandfather, Abraham, for a period, maintained and preserved this significant plantation,now recognised as a important heritage area in the State of Victoria

It is unlikely you will ever play “Name the Shops”. In the unlikely event your suburb has a main shopping strip, even if you learn the names of the shops it is unlikely they will all operate as they do today by middle of next month. Such is the speed of modern change.






The Streetscape

Or

Passers By Cannot Name The Shops.

O’er a gross of years

Ulmus procea – Finlay’s Avenue

Has cut east west along

The Manifold corridor

The giant brick red time piece

punctuates the town’s north,

chimes for southern enterprises,

where grey nomads pause for victuals.

Cafes court calorie counters

counting calories they consume;

breakfast, lunch, or snacks,

take a break – before heading south

to clamber down Loch Ard Gorge.

Snap London Bridge. Drive

on – taste the west’s chronicle.

The Great Ocean Road.

Melaleuca lanceolata Common name – Moonah

Photo Author

Anything that is four times older than me, and still standing, is entitled to lean on the ground, instead of standing all the time. A sure sign of resilience is the ability to rest on an elbow and still stand. We see examples of this in this ancient plant, the Moonah. . The prevailing wind will sculpt and prune it so it is taller on one side than the other. When the wind is too strong the bough will resist until it bend to and meets the ground. There it will rest and send forth new growth.


In my home town we have a few remands of ancient scrub that were old trees long before William Buckley lived amongst the Wadawurrung people. (William Buckley was an escaped convict who was rescued and improbably lived with local tribal for 32 years before he resumed his former life and was pardoned.) The tribes people he lived with had great respect for this tree they called it Plenty. It gave plenty back to the tribe in nectar and medicinal properties. Botanists have named it Melaleuca lanceolata. (Lanceolata reads as if it is a “lotta” plant actually the word refers to its lace like leaves). Its long abundant flowering season from October to February is rich in pollen and a food source for bees.

The tree in the photo stands on the Esplanade at the Eastern end of Gilbert St. It should probably be recorded as a tree of significance – however this is unlikely; first as it is one of the last wild trees left on that part of the Bluff, and secondly it would bring attention to it in the summer when the town is overrun with all manner of individuals. Some, likely as not, uninterested in plants. The trees are not endangered, so I suppose that is another reason it stands unnoticed and alone.

The Moonah tree is known throughout the country as a strong plant, well capable of withstanding salty wind and rain. Indeed in many parts of the country it is planted as a tree good at fighting salt degradation – as we observed in many over-farmed mallee sites. It helps to lower the water table and in doing so draws salt deeper into the subsoil.

Of all the wonderful plants I love I have chosen to write about the Moonah because it is not showy. It is not really splendid despite its delicate tiny flowers. After living 300+ years it is often just a stubby black tree with twisted branches, prickly tough leaves, and flowers almost too small to be noticed. Yet this tree is tough. Farmers find its wood makes everlasting fence posts. It makes a wonderful wind break. (Not even the wind will get through it’s tight canopy). As a result it is a popular tree for birds to roost in. Possums love to sleep through the day hidden among the mess of its branches.

Commonly we find it growing in masses of thick undergrowth where it seldom gets much taller than four metres. Along the Anglesea estuary it adds stability to the shallow, poor soil. Under the canopy – at the proper time of year the undergrowth hides the most spectacular native orchids: the Fairy Orchid grows underneath the moonah others grow nearby, the twisted Sun Orchid, the Sharp greenhood , the Wax Lip Orchid.One hundred kilometres away the tree survives in the undergrowth of the Manna Gum – a favourite of the Koala.

Photo Author

In Torquay we are lucky to have at least one streetscape where the trees (photo included) where trees stand 10 metres tall. This stand (also a remnant) is inland, about 100 metres from the surf beach. Here, the tree are protected from the the inshore wind and they reach up to 10 metres into the clear sky. Because they have been protected they are tall and have grown without the handicap of neighbouring plants holding them back.

Like all plants of the Melaleuca family the flowers grow from a filament that when spent remains on the flower stem as a little hard nut like growth. As the plant grows “nuts” from previous flowering’s remain.


Photo https://commons.m.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Gderrin Wikipedia

The Plenty Tree

The twisted Moonah tree
turns is back to the wind
hunkers down low,
resting a heavy limb
on the dusty dune.
Perhaps the Wadawurrung
sheltered beneath this bough
on the day they
caught a possum to skin
and make into a ceremonial cape.
Even so it grows.
Yearly producing millions
of petals to attract bees
to this generous pollen store
the girls convert to honey
as food we
harvest.

Photo Author

The Loved One

Image- Abebooks

I do not remember much of Evelyn Waugh’s satirical novel “The Loved One,”. To those who know me this is not news. First I read the book over sixty years ago. Secondly most who know me, know as someone who regularly misuses names. “Howard would you hold this please.” When the name I should have used was, Frank – who was working with me. It is a family thing to mix names I say. That is because Grandma alway did it. “Bruce, Ian, Paul she would say until she arrived at the name she needed. Ron.”

As an adolescent the plot of the book didn’t resonate with me as did the explanation of what happened to the bodies that entered “Whispering Glades”, the funeral home. The manner in which the dead were prepared for everlasting life as beautiful specimens of themselves as possible has especially remained forever with me. The notion of the dead being falsely preserved seemed strange when we never saw the dead.

What happens in America, or in your pcorner of the world is bound to be different when it comes to loving your deceased. Here, first, is a personal recollection of my experiences.

It was only, many years later when I joined the big Vagg clan I came face to face with my first corpse. In those far off days it was a family practice for the body to reverently reside in the parlour of the family home in the days before the funeral. Prayers were recited in the room, and the body lay in an open coffin. After prayers, visitors would spend a few minutes in contemplation with the deceased. A day or two later a mass was said and the body committed to the earth.

As the years rolled by the ceremony changed. The body remained in the funeral director’s care until it was required at the church. The body arrived at the church in a closed coffin. Nearly always it remained that way and people lost touch with the sight of a cadaver. Death was left to the professionals and the only members of the congregation who did have a viewing were the immediate family – if that was their wish. Otherwise no one did.

Almost as invisibly funerals have shifted further to become products of big business. Once they were exclusively church affairs – somewhere in the past couple of decades the church has given way to the funeral chapel. Just as the grave has given way to the invisible cremation. In the past in my circle, the coffin left after the ceremony of the church for the graveyard. Family and friends gathered around the grave and after prayers the body was committed to the ground and buried. Hundreds of generations of my ancestors rest where they were placed just like this. Now, in a funeral home a curtain is closed and the casket is whisked away to the crematorium for cremation.

Funerals have become a commercial business. The country’s largest business in Australia is Invocare. This is an American conglomerate with literally dozens of once familiar local business names. (I am cynical about them if I am honest. I do not think death is a product to be exploited by business). Here I recite some of the practices business has been known to exploit – without reference to any particular model.

One company is know to ship multiple caskets to the cheapest under-utilised crematorium even if they are shipped hundreds of kilometres. Once processed the ashes are redistributed to the director’s place of choice giving the funeral director another chance to benefit from the grieving family.

The operators are ruthless profiteers, clipping the ticket of the grieving relatives: for celebrants, cars, flowers, music, caskets ( you wouldn’t want your dad to be sent off in a cardboard box so if you step inside we can show you a gold, bronze or an aluminium casket. If this is beyond your means – (why would it be. – Dad left you some money didn’t he?) we have Mahogany, Blackwood – with a lovely grain, Pine, or (heaven forbid) processed Craftwood. (The slick-sell can last for hours, but don’t worry, We will look after your Dad as if he was our own.

The truth is, over the years we have removed death from the process of life. We don’t even say Dad has died. We lie and refer to him as “In a better place.” “Passed”. Crudely you might read he is Deceased, because we seem to prefer euphemisms to Dead.

People live. People die. I will die. That is the nature of things. In 2020 we have all become aware death happens. It happens suddenly and without warning in a pandemic, and we do not like it. The media is consumed by it. Governments around the world are hiding behind the words of the epidemiology teams that project if we do not do this: close businesses, stop movement, limit traffic, bring in lockdowns, our hospitals will become overcrowded and more people will die.

People have always died. For democracy a dying constituent is no good. So leaders have given way to science and created fear in their communities. Yet the virus kills. Bacteria kills. Stupidly viruses and bacteria spend their whole lives trying to kill their hosts. Just as we people stupidly over consume and kill our planet. Yet when it comes to the planet we ignore science and kill it anyway.

Grim isn’t it? So too are the predictions of philosopher Byung-Chun Han who posits COVID -19 is probably not a good omen for Europe and the USA. “The virus is a physical test. Asian countries, which think little of liberalism, got a grip on the pandemic quite early.” He continued , “The virus is a mirror. It shows what society we live in.”

In his opinion, COVID – 19 shows we live in a second class society because COVID- 19 is not conducive to democracy. It has left the poor to their own devices. We have inadequate hospitals for them. “The pandemic is therefore not only a medical problem, but also a social one.”

“Faced with the shock of the pandemic, the west will be forced to give up liberal principles” and choose strong autocratic leaders.

He even observes it has killed religion. (People) “ totally sacrifice faith for survival. Everyone is listening to virologists who have absolute sovereignty of interpretation. In the face of the virus religious belief generates into farce.” Further he observes, “And our Pope Francis? St Francis has hugged lepers.” We are left to assume Pope Francis has to be cosseted to remain safe.

He is asked a question on everyone’s lips, “Is COVID – 19 a mortal wound for globalisation ?”

In his answer he observes, “We no longer do business for people, but for capital.” He continues, “We freely exploit ourselves in the belief we are fulfilling ourselves. But in reality we are servants.”

Now, Byung-Chun Han suggests the winner from the Pandemic is more likely to be China than is to be the West. It already seems apparent, the virus is forcing people to re-examine the neo-liberal ethos forced upon us for the last forty years. Small government has been a bane on our development by demolishing civic organisations in the belief life will be better if more is left to commercial operators because civil servants cannot work as efficiently. Clearly it did and it can again.

Tony Abbot. (Oh it hurts to write the name of our former prime minister but there – I have). Tony Abbot suggested the world had gone mad locking down business when we should just let the virus rip. Sure the elderly will die, he said, but the pain caused to the economy when they live an extra month or year is too expensive to the economy.

These paraphrased words are similar to the arguments used by Byung-Chun Han in his treatise. The cost of saving the elderly is extravagant when their lives are so costly. (My words are not exactly his). The average life expectation in Germany (he lives in Germany) is 80.5 and the average age of the German Covid-19 cases is 80 or 81.

Written, as these words are, in the sunset years of my life, life is good, yet I am as uncertain as you when it will end. I do not want COVID but neither should you. This does not mean either of us should live fearfully, but was Princess Dianna fearful when she met with AIDS sufferers thirty years ago. No? I don’t think so either. We just need to wash our hands. Keep a social distance. And wear a mask.


Coronavirus Thinkers ere.com

For Byung-Chul Han Philosopher

Ekphrastic Review. Ralph Vaughan Williams, The Lark Ascending


The Lark Ascending

In the style of George Meredith prompted by Ralph Vaughan Williams. Williams’ piece is one of classical music’s most popular tunes.


Drawing on past experience,

With curious indifference,

wind-surfers twist at Eagle Rock.

Two air-gliders soaring – Peacocks!

At Aireys, warm air rises, beach wide

as on Grampians mount, birds preside.

Oven-crisp wind lifts, whirls, skirls

The still, open area swirls

detached – silence broken – undone.

Lest the noisy cockatoo’s pun,

recall a complete parakeet,

Ariel acrobatics replete,

Plunging, over red clover, roll clear

Country air of blissful freedom.

Calling on past material

I recall how our ethereal,

birds screech loudly, as not to sing

like they do for a British king.

Little brown wings stretch over the earth,

all George Meredith’s verse wordless mirth.

Alauda arvenis – “The Lark

Ascending”, neat words promoted

120 lines of poetry devoted

blending- never condescending.


Shrill,irreflective, unrestrain’d

Rapt, ringing, on the jet sustain’d

Without a break, without a fall,

Sweet-silvery, sheer lyrical,

Perennial, quavering up the chord

Liike myriad dews of sunny sward (1)


Meredith’s bird singing – Dylan

Composer Ralph Vaughan Williams

In five note pentatonic scale,

Wrote a radiant telltale,

Of music fit for English kings –

opening chords – violin strings.


(1) excerpt from The Lark Ascends, George Meredith.


Forget my poem. Please find Vaughan Williams tune “The Lark Ascending” and relax for 15 or 16 minutes with one of the most beautiful tunes.