Saturday, May 12, 2012

Saturday Morning Musings - the quality of life

I still intend to bring up my main budget post. Just letting the dust settle a little first.

This Saturday Morning Musings rambles around aspects of Australian life.

To begin with, this slightly unusual Australian story made me smile. It came via skepticlawyer.

The Australian term wowser means one whose sense of morality drives them to deprive others of their sinful pleasures, especially liquor.

One of the tensions in Australian social history can be described as the larrikin vs wowser. If the wowser wants to impose social order, the larrikin displays disdain for authority, propriety and the often conservative norms of bourgeois Australia.

The tension goes back to the early days of convict settlement in New South Wales. The moral codes and manners of that new society in that strange land could best be described as somewhat relaxed. This led to a desire to impose social order by the emerging middle class. This was opposed in turn by the bohemians who attacked the moral rigidity of the middle class moralists.

Australian painter and writer Norman Lindsay (1879-1969) railed against the wowser. I really liked, do like, Lindsay's work.

This photo from Mark's Clarence Valley Today photo blog is of an exhibition of Lindsay's work at the New England Regional Art Museum in Armidale. I grew up with these paintings, for they formed part of the Hinton Collection at the Armidale Teacher's College. I remember taking a New Zealand cousin around the collection. In one class room there were twenty Lindsay paintings, in another over ten Tom Roberts

There is something mildly erotic and perverse in making love to one of those stick-thin women so beloved by modern fashion. It's a bit like sex with a skeleton, interesting because its odd. I much prefer Lindsay's voluptuous women, his frank and sumptuous nudes. For the life of me, I cannot understand the modern obsession with thin. I like plump sexy women. I suppose that you could say that there is more to play with!

Lindsay's paintings were highly controversial. In 1940, sixteen crates of paintings, drawings and etchings were taken to the U.S. to protect them from the war. They were discovered when the train they were on caught fire and were impounded and then burned as pornography.

In what may seem an unconnected segue with little relevance to Australia, this one came from fellow trainer and Facebook friend Tony Karrer.

Again I had to laugh. Be afraid. Be very afraid!

Two hundred years ago this year, the US invaded what would become Canada and got beaten. Tsk!

The general social tolerance that you see in Australia, the tension between wowser and larrikin, is replicated in Canada. We share a common history, while the US sometimes seems frozen in the time warp created when it rebelled.

Turning to less contentious topics, from time to time on this blog I talk about land management techniques. I love this stuff, even though I am a townie.

At several stages in my life I have wanted my own place. Yet the reality is that I would have been hopeless at it.

Canadian economist John Kenneth Galbraith grew up on a farm. He once described his life as an escape from manual labour! That's what farming is, and that's why I would have been hopeless at it.  I can't even use an Ikea key properly!

Yet the desire to see better land management, the fascination with new approaches, remains. The scared boy looking down from that horse in A New England childhood - a country slice still remembers the discussions on land management he heard, the books he read, on ways to improve country. Unlike the urban Greens whose obsession with stasis, freezing things as they were or are, dominates, improved land management centres on change, not return to a non-existent past.

Here I have continued to read Philip Diprose's Ochre Archives with interest. He described his approach to land management in  Deserts and Desertification and then in Management Techniques on Ochre Arch. It is a holistic approach.

I have been trying to work out how to bring all this alive to a predominantly urban readership no longer in close contact with the country: it's an eroded gully that runs again as a creek; it's green grass in a drought; it's the smell of the soil when you take a handful; it's the quiet sound of running water. You don't get this through legislation. You get it because people care.

From time to time I have written about gardens and gardening. It's partly a nostalgia thing, partly a genuine love.

I mourn the decline of the Australian garden, as do many others. Yes, life is busy, but food is more than a lunch or evening meal out an often nondescript restaurant.  There is so much bad food in Australia now. We have gained quantity at the expense of quality.

This photo comes from Sophie Masson's A la mode frangourou. French-Australian like her blog, Sophie is a well known Australian writer. Her blog is luscious if you are a foody.

This morning I signed a lease on a new house.  The first thing that I will do tomorrow is plant some herbs. Who can cook without fresh herbs?

A slow revolution has been sweeping Australia. The words stop, I want to get off, have been sweeping the country.

In a way, it's a very middle class thing. Many Australians, those whose income levels do not allow them to participate and who have to eat what they can or do what they can regardless of quality, are locked out.  Accepting that, so many of us now are saying that the texture of life is the important thing, not the power or status, that it is forcing change across multiple dimensions of Australian life. Perhaps that's the point to finish this morning's muse.

In the end,  its the quality of what we do that counts, not the quantity.


Janene Carey said...

Hi Jim,
May I suggest you check out the Gardenate website if you're about to embark on a herb/vegie garden? Lots of info, a lively community swapping tips on gardening and cooking, and a free reminder service monthly
It's a website (and also an app) that my software developer husband built because he wanted something like that himself.
btw the Torbay profile went up on our website on Friday - there are several connected articles but the main one is at

Winton Bates said...

Jim, regarding land management. You remind me the discussions of land management at home on the farm. My father kept talking about it in terms of 'leaving the world a better place'. I think that view was common among farmers - and probably still is.

Rummuser said...

In a small town, an entrepreneur decided to open up a brothel, which was right opposite to a church. The church and its congregation started a campaign to block the brothel from opening with petitions and prayed daily against his business.

Work progressed. However, when it was almost complete and was about to open a few days later, a strong lightning struck the brothel and it was burnt to the ground.

The church folks were rather smug in their outlook after that, till the brothel owner sued the church authorities on the grounds that the church through its congregation and prayers was ultimately responsible for the destruction of his brothel, either through direct or indirect actions or means.

In its reply to the court, the church vehemently denied all responsibility or any connection that their prayers were reasons for the act of God. As the case made its way into court, the judge looked over the paperwork at the hearing and commented:

"I don't know how I'm going to decide this case, but it appears from the paperwork, we have a brothel owner who believes in the power of prayer and we have an entire church that doesn't."

Jim Belshaw said...

Really liked both the Gardenate web site and the Torbay story. Janene. Will run something on both.

Jim Belshaw said...

I'm sure that your right, Winton. It's actually one of the sub-themes in New England's history.

Jim Belshaw said...

Nice story, Ramana. There's actually a very funny Australian film with a similar theme - The man who sued god -

Anonymous said...

Jim I took two things out of this post with which I closely identify:

"the texture of life is the important thing, not the power or status"

"obsession with stasis, freezing things as they were or are, dominates, improved land management centres on change, not return to a non-existent past"

Both very well stated. Thank you.


Jim Belshaw said...

Hi kvd and my thanks.

Anonymous said...

I remember you taking me to the collection @ ATC. I was seriously amazed. I was equally amazed and infuriated that when we moved to A'hole, it was all shoved in a back room somewhere @ the Art Gallery and therefore not on view; it was just part of the permanent collection. Phillistines abound including @ ANU at the moment).

Jim Belshaw said...

Phillistines do indeed abound, and not just in Armidale. I suppose that they had to do things to protect and manage the bigger collection, but the luxury of just wandering the ATC corridors never knowing what you might find remains in my mind.

Anonymous said...

I've always identified with the Phillistines:

I think they've had a very bad press, and I always wonder how such a tribe with such love of life became ensconsed in Sydney.


Jim Belshaw said...

Interesting link, kvd.I wasn't aware of the connection with the sea people. As for Sydney!

Unknown said...