For those that missed it, yesterday’s text was “Man shall not live on bread alone.” The Sabbath saw the travelling toads go down town to the small and perfectly Victorian St Andrews Cathedral for the family service. And mighty fine it was. The church which opened in 1868(the same year as All Saints,Putney) is a Gothic Revival “masterpiece” built by Edmund Blacket who had come out in 1842. Blacket who was seven times removed from Christopher Wren and went tothe same school as Vivien’s nephew,Mill Hill ,had come to Australioa aged 25 as neither set of parents approved of his marriage. From his drawing boards poured cathedrals,churches,mansions,universities. Not everyone is a fan,the Australian Dictionary of Biography states Blacket lacked “Inspiration and invention.”
Christianity in Australiais a few decades behind the UK in its overall decline. While the UKis down to 15% who looked to Jesus, the figure in Oz is 52%(90% in 1960) with Catholics outnumbering Angliocans 2 to 1.
Back to the service. We go occassionally to mumble snd grumble in the UK. Here it was different. Packed out and I was probably the only over 70. Here they were not afraid to talk of Jesus,in your face, on the cross, God’s son who saved us all,that Jesus. Are you an admirer or a follower? Mr and Mrs Thompson,visiting from London.looked to the floor and hoped they would not be found out.
Dean Kanishka Raffel gave an absolute cracking sermon. I hear one every five years and half way through I feel light coming through the stained glass. I think.oh no its true,and then the sermon ends and the trance is broken.Faith,really is toomuch effort. Here was a church that has nine bible classes a week(very low church). On our service sheets was a blank section to make notes on the sermon,all around earnest madams were scribbling away.
Vivien said,”The service worked because they talked with us not down to us.” For me it worked as is moved through smoothly though with little time for prayer. But more time for Jesus,aline in one prayer said,”Thankyou for sending Jesus to die for me.” Steady, thats that a bit heavy.
In France it comes with the job and is encouraged. In the USA the President often has a bit in the office.In Italy bonga bonga is the rage. In South Arica,Pres Zuma would just add his latest squeeze tothe wife roster. In the UK with our mad dog tabloid press if you get the pecker out at work and the little woman goes easy you can be lucky-Lawson,Cook but if she kicks up then its the back benches for you Parkinson,Mellor.
Which brings us onto Barnaby Joyce,the Oz Deputy PM. After months of rumours and changing cars he has admitted he has left his wife and four teenage daughters and his media aide is expecting in a month. So far everyone is saying onTV and all over the press that this is a private matter. Others are saying that the reason the politicians are not doing their normal point scoring is because there is a lot more underwear to come out of the Canberra closet. We shall see.
In the past Jesuit educated Joyce has played the family card. He was against same sex marriage,in recent months he has got the long suffering to turn up at functions-though the girls refuse. But now its open season,the wife has spoken of her bitterness,he has gone on TV and talked about “his failure”. Private matters these are no longer. So far no hint of a one way ticket,this is after all a tight parliament.
It depends on the wife and girls,if they respond to journos and start and start a First Nation dance outside Joyce’s office then bye,bye big fella,you are toast.
In the past Oz politicos get more punished for charging their love nests to expenses than for the private matters themselves. As it happens Joyce has form when it comes to expenses. He has also slipped on the dual nationality banana skin.So he is accident prone. But these are private matters. We havent heard from the girls and they always have something to say about their parents sexuality,especially when they play away.
Old age gives you the time and opportunity to travel. Many journeys end at the massed ranks of the gaping mouths at the nursing home. You may visit the lonely crowds at the cancer hospital. There are the 100s of hours waiting at the GPs. This week it was the cardiac rehab. A collectors item.
The fat,the old and the very ugly begin with an exercise session that is so moderate that it would embarrass a sparrow, Hands up, hands down,to the side,and down. The physio leading this not so merry band,tomake the surreal pure Dali,charming girl, only had one hand.
We go onto the education. Fat bad,salt bad,veg good,sausage roll bad, egg good,diary bad.nuts good. The litany of the often repeated healthspeak drones on. QandA follows. Is soyal milk OK,can I eat oat meal,can I die before breakfast. Red wine is better than white,only two units a day,two alcohol free days a week. This rebel heart,now repaired,feels any more of this well known,screamingly obvious healthspeak and I willreach for the life support switch.
Soon I am walking six minutes up and down a corridor and having my pulse taken, then its two sessions on the bike machine. My heart may be refreshed but my brain is in melt down. But I am here like everyone else because I damaged my heart,now the cardiac cops are reading me what isleft of my rights. Not much.
There are the in your face beaches of Bondi,Coogee and Manly with their super charged facilities, surf boards ,one armed press ups and the rest. And then there are the sweeter more relaxed coves and sands. Of course even they at weekends are crowded to the last lemming. But on Monday we took the short ferry ride across to Taranga Zoo and from the wharf were the only ones on the bus ride across the head land to Balmoral Beach.
Absolute darlng. A mile of golden, art deco and spic modern facilities. A few yummies and oldies passing the time of day. No rush,no bother,no tourists. Boats bobbing,heads nodding, empty sand,massesof shade,ah I do like to be by the seaside.
Here is posh Sydney ,our bus ride had taken us through avenues of detatched houses, no apartments here. just wealth and their pampared pouches. Sydney shares with the rest of the world and ageing population. You get the odd sighting climbing the endless stairs at the Opera House,waiting patiently for a bus.They wouldnt dare turn up on the muscle beaches but at gentle Balmoral they sip their chardoney and do their cross words.
We chose a Greek sea shore cafe and enjoyed meze, calamari, roasted cheese and salad. Vivien swam and I snoozed-I am still red carded and we had one of those hazy,lazy days of summer we will never forget.
Australian politics,like the UKs, are as interesting as bus queues. Same people in suits jostling for the front,sometimes the order changes,sometimes it doesnt,mostly so what? But now there is an element in the games aussie politicos play which is part Alice,part Monty,all farce. All this played against a tweedle dum background of no party or coalition having an overall majority.
MPs and Seantors are being forced to resign,not for being naughty-which happens a lot but because of who they are-and no one knows who is next. Fot they have dug up Section 44 of the 1901 constitution which states no one who is a citizen of another country can represent Australia. In those Imperial days that made sense.But now half of all Australians have at least one parent who is foreign which means they qualify for dual nationality,which unless they have renounced it, they are deemed to have.
25 MPs were born abroad,many others felt by taking Oz citizenship they were doing enough. Wrong. Out you must go. All sides are looking at the other and pointing the finger.Even some who were born in Oz because of their parents or even grandparents have fallen foul. One found his mother had done him a “favour” and put him down for Italian citizenship12 years ago. Another’s papers renouncing all others only came in after the election. Another proved his innocence by waving a receiopt for £10k to show he had done the paper work in renouncing Iran.
Latest in the stocks is an MP whose grandparents came from Poland in 1958.This meant his then 15 year old dad was deemed Pole. Which he inherited. But the MP claims they werent Polish but Jews escaping through the Soviet Union. Which meant when he took out green cap nationality he renounced all others. And anyway his grandparents lied on the immigration forms. Oh dear. What would Alice have made of all this? The other side have no doubts,”He’s Polish ,he’s gone”.
Indidnt take long for our dusky pals in the First Nation to cotton on. One felt “gut wrenching hurt and pain” when she found that her citizenship might be in doubt because of faulty records. This one willrun and run.
Percentages who were born overseas
I come from the generation one removed from the War. We didnt fight but it made us. I was conceived at a Fabian summer camp between VE and VJ Days. Oh yes,a victory baby indeed.
- The War broke Joan and Dick Thompson’s marraiage,not least after June 1944 when Dick spent 18 months in Northern Europe,
- Joan always left wing gravitated towards the Fabians,she would stand for Labour in the 1945 and 1950 general elections. She also socialised with with left wing intellectual groups where she met Karel(my father) and Hans(her future husband,
- Karel was from Prague and Hans from Berlin,both highly educated,assimiliated, non practicing Jews,escaping the Nazis. Both families suffered inthe Holocaust.
- Joan’s eventual bitter divorce ended with her brother testfying for “the other side”
- As a kid I grew up with bomb sites and prefabs,
- My dear friend George who died aged 95 last year hated Churchill. His brother had been on the illfated,Churchill inspired Narvik expedition in 1940, When Churchillcame out toItaly he observed a drunk and his equally inebriated daughter who promised jobs and homes for heros. When George returned in 1946 he got neither.
- There are today pill boxes at the northern end of both Putney and Barnes railway bridges. They were part of a futile defence “Line” as a last ditch before the Germans got to Westminster.
- Near my old school in Blandford Forum,Dorset the Home Guard erased all mention ofthe town’s name from buildings and memorials. The idea was to confuse the panzers on their way through!
- Dick Thompson told me that after Dunkirk there was so little heavy equipment that artillery pieces were placed a mile apart along the South Coast.
- Both Dick and Viviens dad,Mike, were staff officers (majors)who were mentionedin dispatches. I had one uncle who was badly injuredin the paras. One of Viviens uncles went from being a major to conscientious objector during the War. My grandfather was held in reserve and ran Madras harbour,his brother Douglas Gracey was the much decorated general and “the hero of Imphal”.
- The fact that the UK was the only European countrynot to be defeated and humiliated during the War must have had an effect on our conscious and unconscious view of nationality and therefore Brexit.
- Dont talk about the War is a joke from Faulty Towers.
May 1940. Winston Churchill is undecided about whether its peace in our time or fighting on the beaches. There is only one thing for it,he must travel one stop on the underground to find out what the people think.
Here is a version of that scene.
Gor Blimey Guv.Is it you Winnie. Innit a crying shame. Yes it is. Whats your name?Archie Everyman. WellArchie,should we fight on the beaches? To tell the truth,guv,depends on the beach.Southend’s got great cockles but itsa bit muddy,Bournemouth’s OK but a bit ladila.Brighton’s stony,I do most of my fighting outside the Bull and Bush,Bermondsey.
And what your name?Mavis Bonkers,oh sir if I had known you were coming I would have had my hair done. Well Mavis what do you think of this blood sweat and tears. God bless you sir,loved your V sign. Dont worry about us,we can take it,you just do your job, can I have yur autograph?
And whats yout name?Peter Dumbo. What do you think? Never,never,never. Never what? Never say never. Well said Peter.
With that the whole carriage links arms and does a conga which morphs into The Lambeth walk. A bomber goes over head. Churchill breaks into tears. He hasnt had a drink for five minutes and still cant find a light for his cigar. He makes V sign. King recovers from stutters lights up B&H,War is declared.Another V sign. War is won. Conga and scene end.
The Darkest Hour is of course part of the Brexit cycles of films showing in the UK.Dunkirk showing how we left the EU.Darkest Hour showing how badly the negotiations are going. Soon it willbe Dday and how we win through.