Friday, May 20, 2011

Friday Ramble

I woke up this morning feeling far less the crusty curmudgeon that inspired Smoking, drinking & problems in public policy. While the house was quiet, I had a gentle wander around the on-line papers, some fellow bloggers and some of my own past posts.

As I watched the news last night of the Queen's historic visit to Ireland, I couldn't help thinking what a remarkable women. The full text of her short speech is in the Irish Times. The visit was of considerable symbolic importance, and not without personal importance to the Queen herself.

By happenstance, in Day 631 May 23, 1941, World War II Day-By Day records:

Crete. Overnight, British destroyers HMS Kelly (captained by Lord Louis Mountbatten, 2nd cousin of King George VI) and HMS Kashmir shell German positions at Maleme airfield. They retire 35 miles South of Crete but they are sunk by Stukas at 8 AM (181 killed). Destroyer HMS Kipling rescues 297 survivors, including Mountbatten, but is then badly damaged by HMS Kelly as she sinks (under repair at Alexandria, Egypt, until June). 

The Queen was personally close to Mountbatten, who was killed by the Provisional Irish Republican  Army on  27 August 1979.

In all this, I wondered what the Irish street reaction was. According to the Irish Times, there was some annoyance at all the security arrangements, while many were disappointed at not being able to see the Queen.

Dear it's difficult. This was a high risk visit. There were threats against her, with one defused bomb. Had she been killed, the results would have been disastrous.

The quote from World War II Day-By-Day refers to German positions at Maleme airfield on Crete.

At 8am, 20 May, German paratroopers began landing between Suda Bay and Maleme. New Zealand General Freyberg who is in charge of the defence of Crete is still misreading Ultra signals. Expecting amphibious landings, he holds back artillery & reserve troops, allowing the Germans to establish a position.

If you are a new reader who just wandered in via Google, I became very interested in Greece, the Greek Islands and Crete in particular during a family visit last year.

Turning in a totally different direction, my post on the New England Australia blog, NBN & Armidale, attracted a fair bit of traffic because of its topicality. Traffic doubled.

The post drew an email from Janene Carey. Janene is a very good freelance writer who also writes for the Armidale Express.

Saw your blog post on yesterday's NBN launch. I was there and thought the whole event quite impressive and significant but the metro media only seem to want to cover the (largely imagined) negatives. You beat me to the punch - I only finished my four stories about it this morning.

I first came in contact with Janene when one of her stories made the front page of the Sydney Morning Herald. It was a very good story, I wrote a post referring to the story, and she emailed me. I had no idea then that she was from Armidale and was connected to the Express.

My contact with Janene gives me at least the illusion of being part of the modern journalistic world instead of being just a ponderous pontificator blogging alone from my study!

In her email, Janene  referred to one of my Armidale Express columns, Belshaw's World - New England masterchefs ponder regional dish. One of the local CWA ladies not on internet contacted her offering me help in identifying uniquely New England dishes.

The CWA, the Country Women's Association, is Australia's largest women's organisation with a remarkable record of achievement over a very long time. Last year on Masterchef, one of Australia's most successful TV programs, the challenge set for Masterchef contestants was to cook certain recipes from the CWA cookbook - scones, lamingtons, jam, a fruit cake - and then serve to 100 CWA ladies. An experienced CWA judge critiqued their efforts. I quote from my then post Masterchef meets the CWA.

Now we know the CWA pretty well, and have eaten a lot of country cooking. My wife also learned to bake from her nan. I guess because of all this, we had a feel as to what might happen.

These contestants have cooked in challenge after challenge, managing often complicated dishes that I could never cook. There have been individual failures, but overall the results have been good. This time, with few exceptions, they bombed big time. It's just not as easy as it seems.

As the contest proceeded, I noticed that eldest had got out the cookbook I gave her some time ago. I feel like scones, she explained. Mixing bowls and ingredients appeared on the coffee table. With guidance from her mum, the process continued.

After the show finished, we discussed it over scones, blackberry jam and whipped cream. Our feeling was CWA 8, Masterchef 2.

Seriously, for us the show was as funny as a circus! Janene, I will follow up.

Segueing into different directions via volunteers (the CWA is all about volunteers), Winton Bates' Freedom and Flourishing had a guest post, What determines who volunteers?, by Shona. Shona talks about her own experiences in the hope that it will encourage discussion.

I have had a fair bit of experience in the volunteer world and regard it as very important. I will try to write a companion post. For example, I don't think that the economic concept of free rider that Winton refers to is especially relevant.

Continuing the segue, the link this time is other people's posts that I want to write about, I found two posts on Club Troppo of special interest.

The first was Don Arthur's Bleg: Can you explain this graph? (changes in male full-time employment).

Over the last twenty three years, the proportion of working age Australian males in full time employment has fallen quite dramatically. To illustrate this, I include one of Don's graphs. Comments follow.

As a male, I found this quite a depressing graph and want to follow up with comments based on my own experience and writing.

In The future of tertiary education – a teacher’s perspective, Ken Parish looks at issues associated with e-learning an universities. I have strong views on this one, and want to do a full response.

Finally, within the Australian Federation the growing conflict between Western Australia and the central administration has reached an interesting stage, with WA increasing mining royalties as part of its budget. I have explored some of the issues involved.

Bluntly, we have two different world views about governance and constitutional arrangements in Australia that are irreconcilable. One asserts rights under the existing constitution, the second actually asserts rights independent of the constitution based on presumed rights of national government. How all this plays out is quite important.       


Janene Carey said...

Not quite breaking news - my tale of covering the Prime Ministerial launch of the NBN at

Anonymous said...

Ms Carey

As I sometimes do, I went through to your bio and hence web page, then onto the 'Hospital Bed At Home' pdf.

It's four days short of six years since I nursed my wife to death, and I must say your words hit me between the eyes, as a very accurate retelling of my own experience. I'm wondering if your full work is anywhere available?

Sorry to intrude, but thank you.


Janene Carey said...

Dear kvd,
I'm glad you find it useful - that is so encouraging for me! I've been trying for a few months to have the full manuscript accepted by an agent or publisher but responses so far have been that although the quality is first-rate, such books don't sell well enough to be commercially viable.
I'm assuming you read the excerpt from the story about Ben and Chloe? I could email you the full text of that if you would like to read it. And there's a different story available at

Anonymous said...

Hello Janene

I would very much appreciate an email of the full text; Jim has my email address, so hopefully he'll read this and pass it along, or advise me of your own.

I wish you success with publishing, and look forward to being advised at some time of your full publication.

Once again, thank you.


Anonymous said...

Janene, having just finished that other reference you kindly noted, I've got to say that your publishers are quite mad. There is an enormous amount of validation of my own feelings as a 'left behind' contained in your words - and that has to be important for many people who have been down the same road.


Jim Belshaw said...

Hi both. I have been in Canberra, otherwise would have responded sooner.

Janene, thank you for the link.

KVD, glad that you like Janene's work. Will link you both by email.

Jim Belshaw said...

Janene, I loved that blog post!