Wednesday, 30 December 2009

The Ballad of the Ford Fairlane

T’was on the Parramatta Road,
He found his Ford Fairlane
Could carry quite a load,
But soon he thought, insane.

It seemed so big, so strong,
It was cheap enough
Nothing could go wrong
We know though life gets tough.

You see before he left the city bounds
It stalled in all the heat
With air con off, he heard the horrid sounds
Of an engine that missed its beat...

Cooling down with many stops
Arrived at Kap and Tim’s
The engines crook, the cars a mess
This won’t get you up to Coffs.

It was elbow grease, that did the trick
And up the coast they went
All is not lost thought Nick
But the sales man was quite bent.

A proper look showed all was shot
It stayed garaged in Corumba Road,
Poor Nick and Han were in a spot,
The tension grew, they might explode.

Dear Mat and Fi, said just go
In our little car, a better Ford
So off they went too and fro’.
Beach, Chris and Jodie’s all adored.

And back to Coffs for Christmas Day,
But big decisions they had to take.
What to do? They had to find a way
To ditch the Fairlane, for heavens sake.

At last the time came and all was clear
The old car traded in you know,
But after several bottles of ice cold beer
They bought a car that should now go.

Yes dear reader, it is not big or strong
It is quite small, a petite dancer
But for five years it won’t go wrong
It is a Mitsubishi Lancer.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Look it is demanding really

I am back in Sydney. Although I am on perpetual holiday it seems to be impossible to get my thoughts together to keep the blog up to date. How do Anita, Nick and the rest do it? So I have decided that, look it is demanding really to be a constant blogger and to have a social and cultural life. On the other hand without the intrusion of such activity I will have little to write about. As it is, there is too much and I dont know where to start.

The last time I wrote I was in England, on a wintry November day. Now here, not there, I am warm and contented.
So much has happened, we have been to Surfers Paradise, to the celebration of Chris and Jodie's wedding. what a party that was. Family, friends, beautiful setting and wonderful people. Would that all life could be like that.

Having said that Surfers is strange because it is two worlds, the world of the beach and serious holidaying mixed with sport, but also a normal world of people living working and going about their business. I guess much of the world is like that but somehow the think strip of land concentrates the people and their jobs and the mind.

We have had some excellent conversations whilst here, with Anita at brekky, with Rob at brekky, with Jo and Rhiannon afternoon tea again! Kevin Sarah and Tim at lunch, Hans for dumplings, Susan Linsey and Ian at supper; Max Annie Susan and RP at supper brekky and for a weekend, later David and Hazel, as well as the other David and Hazel for David's 90th.  And so it goes on, all fascinating intelligent and entertaining people.

We have been to hear Hayden's Creation, with Susie singing at the Opera House,  an opera at the Recital Hall that was superb but i cant remember the title or it was by, other than it was 17th century italian. We have listened to Annabelle Crabbe talk loosely on the subject of Bunny the expat australian in Paris. Annabelle is so bright and amusing and informative she would be the ideal dinner guest,  better than most mega celebs we think. Last but not least was a Review at the Warf, Pennies from Kevin. Yes satire is alive and well and active in Australia, but then to paraphrase Churchill there is a lot to be satirical about.

Since returning the Liberal Party has 'executed' Malcolm Turnbull as leader and appointed Tony Abbott whom is known as the mad monk.

In NSW the Labout party has 'executed' their leader Nathan Rees and appointed Kristina Kennealey. This has not been a popular move, and eveyone seems to believe that she is a lost cause. But as a new expert on Australian affairs, I think she will surprise everyone and deliver change. She certainly already has a distinctly different style.

Anyway to famuly matter, the sad thing is that Beth is not going to be able to get over here for the new year. There seem to be all sorts of reasons for that but I hope that she will be able to do so sooner than later.

Hannah and Nick as can be seen from Nick's blog are having smoe problems of an automative nature and for some reason only known to the NSW government being a qualifed science teacher in the UK does not enable her to teach science here. She has three tertiary qualifications but that is not enough. Now if she was wanting to teach singing or cricket it would be understandable but science, at six form level, hullo!! NSW wake up. Krisitina needs to intervene, on this case alone, as well of course as the Health Service, Community Services and her party, But it would be cool if she started with my daughter and the bastard on the Paramatta Road who knowingly, it seems sold Nick a crap car that barely went after the first 20 miles.

And another thing I cant understand my driving license I can drive almost anything other than an electric car, what is that about??

Anyway I have more or less caught up with the narrative back to reflection next blog and sooner if I can see it as being less demanding really.

Monday, 23 November 2009

a reflection on the Kirribilli Wharf Cafe

If I were there now, I would not be at  the KWC because it would be closed, but if it was as now here, there, I would be because it would be time for a bacon and egg roll and a Loughy strength cappuccino.

At the Kirribilli Warf Cafe, life goes by, there is laughter, debate and from time to time the hostess, the wonderful Margaret is given to the odd over the top remark. It is OK if she likes you but if you are a Pom, American or generally European you need to come equipped with a range of dynamic coping techniques to adapt to the prevailing mood of the day.

I love the regulars, always good discussion, information, and friendship. An amazing place, excellent food and coffee,  a challenge to the authorities, it is a true community cafe, an essential local resource. A recommendation to anyone, who is prepared for the unusual.

I can't understand why the Governor General and Prime MInister who are after all locals have not popped in. If they want to go somewhere where they will not be noticed it is certainly the KWC!

A Norwich Morning

Well it is not quite raining but it might do. I am after all an Englishman by my genes, thus to start a blog by talking about the weather, seems to be the correct thing to do.

Since returning to England a week ago, I have been struck by several self evident truths. The first is that Sydney is a hell of a long way away. It has taken me a whole week to shift time zones. Now I am going back again at the end of the week. A well it is all about choices I guess.

So much is going on here. We had what I thought was the best Crossroads Annual Conference yet. The speakers, including Angela Smith, the Minister for the The Third Sector all gave presentations that were to the point and moved the debate on. Why oh why however do they have to call it the Third Sector? Charitable Sector, Voluntary sector, are good names that people understand. What incidentally are the first, second and fourth sectors? This is seriously bad. It is a bit like the situation I found when I came to Norfolk, all the areas were known by numbers which ran from 1 to 14. How the hell any of the public was supposed to work out the code I have no idea. This was one of my limited range of real achievements to change the names to the place, so people would have a better chance of understanding what we were on about.

Any way Crossroads is going to be demanding next year as we are looking at how we can draw closer to the Princess Royal Trust for Carers including the possibility in the longer run of merging. This will enable us to keep the brand but share top level functions.

The network of Crossroads schemes too are under pressure but I am delighted with the fact that so many of the vulberable ones are now engaged in talks about merging. Anne Roberts and I are about in the new year to do a round of the schemes that we believe are worth trying to save. We will do that by visiiting the Boards and see what we can do to help them address the issues.

The Families House too is going from strength to strength but there is an immediate underlying financial problem so we need urgently to get in more income to bridge the emerging gap.

The other major issue is to get an appeal underway to try to reprovide the Priscilla Bacon Lodge. First meeting is tomorrow afternoon of the Appeal Committee.

This afternoon I have to Chair the Organ Donation Committee of the Hospital. This is hard work getting donation to be the norm rather than the exception. This is so sad as so many people are dying as a result of the lack of organs. It is simply a culture issue. The structure is there to deal. So big steps necessary to day to move the agenda forward. The whole matter will be presented to the Board of the Trust on Friday.

After that it will be quick trip home and then back to Sydney.

I am delighted that Hannah Nick Zoe and Esme seem to be really stuck into their new life in Sydney. They have been impressive in what they have achieved in the past couple of weeks. I will not now see them again till we meet up at the Surfers Paradise in a couple of weeks. In the meantime it seems as if there is a full programme of social and cultural activity starting with about three hours of me landing in Sydney.

So it is quite wonderful a life i have. Of course with the internet i can keep in touch with the vital issues here. So I am only a mouse click away.

Monday, 9 November 2009

A Sydney morning

On the balcony in Harriette Street, mid morning in November. The sun is shining it is warm, not hot. If I was not so deaf I would be hearing the birds, but I can just hear the roar of the traffic on the Freeway as they come from or go to the Harbour Bridge. The Jackaranda looks stunning all over Sydney at the moment. Hannah is trying to do school work with Zoe and Esme. Sue is in the shower. Nick is in the CBD for an interview with headhunters. Life goes on around us.

This afternoon we will go to see Hazel and David, then on to Lucy. Tom has demanded that Grandma picks him up from nursery. Lucas is well.

Eight grandchildren. Fantastic. Each intriguing, each amusing, each wonderful in their own unique way. Thinking of Anley in England, one yesterday. A charmer if ever there was one. It is great having seen all eight in the last three weeks. Hoepfully we will see them all together one way or another in the New Year.

Reflecting on yesterday afternoon at Joey's. Afternoon tea. With a table cloth. On the balcony. Rambling discussions about literature life, school. Rhiannon, Jess, Jessie, Mat, Ross all there coming and going. It is so good listening to the vibrancy of the young people. And of course talking to Jo about her passion for art and  writing. Most of all for Bob. What an essay she has just written on his work. Bob or borrowed, is its essence. Wonderful stuff. She writes better than most journos on the SMH in my view.

Also it is possible to see Rhiannon as a very successful writer.

NOw we go the the Kirribilli Warf Cafe for morning coffee. Life is OK here.

Sunday, 1 November 2009


Well, I don't mean those that are achieved by holding up a mirror, but more thoughts on the strange world we live in.

So much happens to us all. We have now had the celebration of Maybelle's life. It was a good send off I believe. It was candid and heartfelt. We will spread her ashes in the sea at Porto Pollensa, in the spring. This will be the ultimate send off for the organiser of the feeding fish group. The celebration was as the lawyers say proportionate. It was good having so many friends and family together again for this sad event, which was nevertheless timely.

It was lovely too that Hannah was able to be there, and speak so well of her wonderful grandmother. It was poignant in that of course Hannah, Nick, Zoe and Esme were about to depart for their great adventure on Sunday. Now as a write this, one week on they have had their own first week out of England in Thailand. By all that is good in the internet, on FB particularly we know that they are having a great time.

Of Hannah and Beth, I can only say how proud I am of them. They both have proved what wonderful people they have become, during this time. I am lucky indeed. Whilst Hannah had a future to organise, Beth managed to combine working, being a mum and wife, with fixing the details of Maybelle's death. She dealt with all the details of the administration. A huge task for anybody under any circumstances. She did it pretty much on her own.

Sometimes the other issues in the various organisations with which I am involved seem small compared with these personal challenges. However of course for the people involved they are vital and all absorbing. So in a future blog I will try to explore the tension between the personal and the professional and to decide what really matters.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

a time for every purpose

With the death of Maybelle, we are all thinking about life, her life and death, our place in the world, and the fact that however hard we, or governments try, life cannot be totally controlled.

I find it amazing that so many people, so much of the time, need to control events. If they have a view they need to impose it. Therein lies the need for a philosophy that enables us to deal with the idiocy of it all. I think that the piece from Ecclesiastes 'there is a time for every purpose', is particularly helpful in considering conflict. My own philosophy is absolutely Taoist in this respect. I believe strongly in the notion of 'yield and overcome'. But of course the problem in that, it is in itself intrinsically a controlling mechanism. Yield would be good, but then overcome is what I object to.

The world order is not really order, it is chaotic because things are run by, we are governed by people who 'know' that they are right. And of course much of the time they are only right in a very limited sense of the word, and only by their own construct of the world. All of this is dangerous. Give a leader,  power, it matters not whether it purports to be democratic, eg America, the UK Europe or where ever, and then give them military power, and  self righteousness and there is a recipe for disaster, for any country where the leaders, not the people have a different paradigm.

If you then add in religion into the political mix then there is conflict of the worst kind. It really does beat me how or why religion can be so destructive of true morality, by which I mean the natural goodness and respect for each other, no matter what colour class or creed we have. It is just a dire world we live in.

It is no wonder therefore that Maybelle, a long time ago gave up on organised religion, when as she saw it, it failed her at her time of need when Harold left her. It is out of respect for her views that we will have a humanist celebrant at her funeral on Friday. And we will do our best to celebrate her life in a way that we believe she would enjoy if she were able to.

The time to cast away our own wishes and value hers. A time to rejoice that she was, in the same we that we celebrated that her daughter Anne was. There was, is and will be sadness of course, but we should face up to the fact that we are all certain of death, we can not generally control these things, and must face the future without Maybelle, and get on, as Maybelle herself would have done, look towards the next thing, and get excited about that.

The time for reflection and the time for new purpose.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Ok what now?

Today is Wednesday 14th October. As I write this Sue should be somewhere over the middle of Australia. Hannah Nick and the girls are gearing up to follow her.

Meanwhile back in Norwich, Maybelle seems to be very frail. It is just so sad seeing her so weak, but she has fought so long, to keep going, it is time for her to rest for us to say our farewells  to her. She has no quality of life. Her situation is exactly what she had so hoped to avoid.

So this is a time for saying goodbye and preparing to say goodbye.

On Monday however we had a party at home, here, for the wonderful staff and Trustees of the Families House. This was by way of a thank you to those who had managed to keep the place going through some very difficult times and to say hullo to the new staff and to Marian who has joined us a Trustee. I felt that it was a happy event and for the FH the future is bright.

Anne Roberts told me that one of the Crossroads funders is increasing their annual donation from £100,000 to £400,000. So once again we prepare ourselves for loss, but there are good news stories which help us look to the future.

Nick has a future as a poet, Gary is better, apart from facing a sad couple of weeks with Maybelle now is good.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

reflections on art, theatre food and family and friends

Life is just so rich. In the past few days we have had a ball. Don't we always? Just so lucky.

So as at the weekend we took Beth to London, to see her Uni friends, who were up for tea at the Ritz. She has a fantastic time.

Fetched up at Cranley Gardens where it was great to see Kate for the first time since her arrival back from South America. She seems to be in a really good space, although wants a job in Bristol to help pay the bills.

Joined for afternoon tea, by Alex and Murray. Not quite the same standard as Beth was having down the road in Piccadilly needed Lorraine there to deliver that.

We went to the Kapoor exhibition at the RA. Wow, some if it is just so stunning. I loved the various mirrors, they were beautiful, fun and I would say high art. The great thing is that everyone was smiling they made people happy. I commented to one of the room attendants that it must be great to see everyone so happy. He commented that that was true but they were nervous as the art was so appealing yet fragile that they had a real challenge to prevent the visitors from interacting with it, and stuffing it up. So he said for them it is the hardest exhibition. One persons pleasure is another's stress I guess.

Onto the National Theatre, where we met Kevin and Lorna. We ate together near by before going onto see Mother Courage. A fantastic production. Not a happy play, in fact it gets more depressing every 15v minutes. But it is wonderful theatre and extremely challenging. Sad really that we, human kind simply seem unable to learn from the experience of previous generations.

Then on Sunday caught up with Julia. It was good seeing her again. We had a good lunch a the Oxo Tower, then took in the Pop exhibition at the Tate Modern. What an interesting thing that it as a concept. Is it art? Probably but how can anyone compare it to the beauty of even Caravaggio and I hate what he does. But it is emotional powerful and brilliant. Pop Art seems to me to be crass, exploitive and shallow. The porn component was more interesting, at least that is disturbing, challenging, and Sue and I have talked much about it. Coming to no real conclusion, other than it is well over the top and in your face. Probably unnecessary, but why do we find it difficult?

I am enormously blessed by my family and friends. We have had had a huge week, talking to so many of you. Learning so much from you all. Thankyou. But in this blog I want specially to mention Nick whose own blog started me on this path. Anyone who reads it has to be inspired by his writing his candor and insights. He is very brave blogging in this way. And we all love him all the more for his emotional maturity and sheer brilliance at conveying complex ideas and emotions so well in this way. What is more the bastard can be amusing too while doing it.

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

What a week!

We seem to have been battling up and down the A 12 all week but really it has only been twice.

Had a great time with Alistair and Nicola on Sunday. Great conversation about the state of the world, our children, the health service, difficult people and only brief reference to Arsenal, so we got away with that lightly.

We are delighted that newly weds are still married after a whole month.

Tuesday we went to Surrey to see the DIxons and Helen came over for lunch.
Went on to meet Martin and Chris, (and their friends John and Jan), M and C had just flown in from Nice. Good meal in the Black Swan. Lovely meal. Great pub. fast moving conversation about everything.

Today working at various charity issues. Families House, Crossroads and PBL. It is all about organisation and funding.

Life is so hard in the voluntary sector, which is vital to the nation's well being, but it is tough finding the resources to keep going.

It is interesting to me that Anya Braithwaite Jill's granddaughter is doing a long bike ride with her Dad to raise funds for Marie Curie in memory of Jill, she has raised over £2500, for the hospice movement. Yet some charities struggle. wonderful that Anya has done this. People are so wonderful yet we are facing a huge crisis in the next few years in all the organisations I am involved with.

They are all necessary but we are in some disarray as a result of  combination of bankers greed and political incompetence. We need I think to lower expectation of what is possible. Yet institutions such as Hospices, are the mark of a civilised society. It will be interesting to see how we get on when we launch our appeal for the PBL.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

September 27th 2009

What a weekend. Sunshine all day each day.

Johanne and David here to stay. Walking at Holkham beach. Long discussions about meaning of life.

Good food. Music in the amazing Salle Church. Setting perfect music disappointing. Not sure why. Beethoven sonata for violin and piano and Schuman piano. Just did not do it for us.

Still trying to crack how to do this blog thingy.