A home girt by sea… and one that is not.

Well, it has to be done. On Tuesday, next week, I will be flying out to Awestruck-and-failure for a 3 week stint. My junior attachment will be participating in something called World Scholars, an academic forum involving children from 50 countries. The event is being held in the Melbourne Convention Centre form the 18th to 21st of August.

My father spent much of his childhood in Melbourne. His own father was something of a panjandrum, back in the day. There are other, earlier family connections to the country that have left a mark on the place. I like to tell my Ozzie friends, when they brag about their nation’s general awesomeness, that it was my family that largely invented the country. Curiously, that claim seldom elicits the level of gratitude and respect one might anticipate. I suppose that seeking out suitable quarters for incoming convicts is not a contribution that descendants of said convicts are likely to find particularly endearing, even after 200 years.

I also have a cousin living in Melbourne a man I last saw in 1996. He is a charming, eccentric individual of great fortune and fecundity, though I tend to employ a degree of suspicion with regards to the veracity of some of his personal and historical anecdotes.

From Melbourne we fly to Sydney where we will spend a few days. One of my brothers lives in NSW a couple hours out of the city. He had his farm taken from him in 2002, which was a bit of a bugger. I see that South Africa’s ANC thinks that Mugabe’s land reform policy is one worth emulating and that it would be economically beneficial to the country to do so. No doubt they are right.

I lived in Sydney for several months, also in 1996, and was there again when England won the RWC in 2003. What a time that was!

From Sydney to Brisbane, where we have lots of friends and a nephew, son of the banished brother, referenced above. My attachments have relatives with whom we will be staying. The visit will involve a trip to Noosa which is a pretty part of the world.

Meanwhile, here in sunny Zimbabwe, life goes on. Some of you may have read about our recent election. All we wanted was a perception that it was free and fair. Did not really matter who won, though I suppose most of my community would have opted for the incumbent to maintain the presidency with a parliament in which the opposition MDC held a large minority. I am no great fan of democracy as it seldom works to the benefit of the population as a whole but merely caters to the basest needs of the lowest common denominator and in so doing fills the coffers of those at the top. As one poster wrote in this country “I can’t be a jobless graduate because some herd boy received a cup of fertiliser?” But that is what they asked for and now they have it. Or at least a pretence of it.

Of course the West purports to support democracy, but all they want is the veneer so that they can continue, “in good faith”, their charade i.e. that Africans are civilised and should be dealt with in a civilised manner. In reality, they know damn well that it does not exist on this continent, despite attempts to portray otherwise. In any event, things have been stuffed up slightly by idiotic members of the opposition who managed to get shot at by idiotic members of the military. In case there is any doubt, the country is under the control of a military junta. (Apparently that it is the official term, though it sounds very 1970s.)

So now we have a government that got caught stealing the election (they can’t do arithmetic) and then exacerbated matters by firing on their opponents. The discontinued pretence by Western observers that all was well has put a halt on the inflow of investment that we were so hoping for. For how long that lasts remains to be seen.  And so life goes on. The sun shines and the people shrug and continue their daily grind feeling just a little worse off than they were yesterday.

30 thoughts on “A home girt by sea… and one that is not.”

  1. Aye weel, Sipu, Safe oot and safe hame.

    Thanks for a good yarn with lots of interesting threads at which to tease.

    Panjandrum. Great word. I always enjoy the story of its origin and its subsequent WWII usage. By chance, I am going to hear Jasper Fforde this Saturday at the Edinburgh Book Festival. He is, of course, the author of the third iteration, Panjandrum-wise.

    See that bit about your family inventing OZ? Is that, by any chance, a Macquarie reference, given that Lachlan is credited by some as being the first person to use the name in an official document?

    All that I am prepared to admit in re England winning the RWC 2003 is that Ian Robertson is a great commentator and that his ‘And Jonny Wilkinson drops for World Cup glory’ was utterly memorable.

    Moving on to Noosa, as you will be, I got really excited. I thought that I could invite you to Noosa Heads Bowling Club, which I joined for one whole dollar Australian when I visited OZ. I was going to send them a message asking them to look out for you. Imagine my distress when I checked and discovered that the Club folded in 2015. I would ask for my dollar back, were it not the fact that I won nearly AU$100 on the pokies during my two hours of active membership.

    To be serious, I have to say that I feel that the UK coverage of the Zimbabwe elections that I read attempted to be fair and balanced. You probably. of course, know far more about the facts. I hope, however, that things will improve and that the necessary investment will follow.

    And I also hope that we will again, in due course see a representative of Zimbabwe laying a wreath at the Cenotaph on Armistice Sunday.

    Finally, it’s the Brisbane leg of your trip that has piqued my interest and fuelled my imagination. Forget the meeting of Stanley and Livingstone. Disregard Henry VIII and Francis I strutting their stuff at the Field of the Cloth of Gold.

    What we Charioteers need to know is whether or not you are going to meet Bearsy? For some reason, the last (and first stanza) of one of Kipling’s finest comes to mind:-

    ‘Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet,
    Till Earth and Sky stand presently at God’s great Judgment Seat;
    But there is neither East nor West, Border, nor Breed, nor Birth,
    When two strong men stand face to face though they come from the ends of the earth!’

  2. No!

    I am far too old and frail to come within a country mile of any person rejoicing in the characteristics projected by the entity known within the Chariot as Sipu.

    No, nay, never – Heaven forfend. To put it mildly. 😱

  3. To be fair, Bearsy, Sipu’s striding the country mile towards you, Brisbane-wise. No real effort required on your part.

    Whatever. I did have a sort of feeling that the pair of you might well choose to be ships that passed in the night without exchanging signals, however physically proximate you might happen to be.

    Pity. It could have been fun in a kind of Apocalyptic sort of way. Would have been even more fun if Janus was going to be in the vicinity at the same time.

    One can but dream!

  4. Do not despair, JM, all is not yet lost.

    In a couple of days our leader Boadicea – my lady wife – will return from her overseas travels and, in contrast to me, age has not yet wearied her to any significant extent and her approach has always been more robust. Indeed, now she has become matriarch of her clan (there were no viable male contenders, of course), she has already leapt in to regularise relationships between some recalcitrant rellies, to great and immediate effect.

    So she may pursue a more interesting course of action. Stay tuned to this channel! 😎

  5. JM, it always strikes me as improbable that a man whose blatant racism and inbred lack of empathy and human warmth can really have as many friends as he claims. I would not waste a moment on him.

  6. Good morning Mr M. Thank you for your good wishes, travelwise.

    With regards to Panjandrum, I think it would be remiss of us not to include the nonsense prose that brought to us that great word.

    “So she went into the garden to cut a cabbage-leaf to make an apple-pie; and at the same time a great she-bear, coming up the street, pops its head into the shop. “What! No soap?” So he died, and she very imprudently married the barber; and there were present the Picninnies, and the Joblillies, and the Garyulies, and the grand Panjandrum himself, with the little round button at top, and they all fell to playing the game of catch-as-catch-can till the gunpowder ran out at the heels of their boots.”

    As small children we were given a copy of Randolph Caldecott’s illustrated book of the above. It caused great a deal of mirth and to this day members of my family are liable to end explanations with, “with a little round button on top!” Not exact, but close enough. It is such a shame that children today do not seem to have access to his books. John Gilpin, The House that Jack Built, A Frog He Would A-Wooing Go. Etc. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Randolph_Caldecott

    No, I am afraid, we are not related to McQuaries so probably not quite so illustrious. My claims, when it comes to verbal contact with Australians, tend to be exaggerated, (one can never be too careful when debating with diggers) though there are a few place names connected to the family. If I were not so paranoid about social media coming back to torment one for things one has written, I would be happy to provide further information.
    Funny thing about 2003, throughout the entire tournament I maintained a solid belief that England would win, even when there were only minutes to go in that final. It is uncommon for any England team to engender such confidence. I was not at the game itself, sadly, but in a pub where I was just about the only Pom and a vocal one at that. Afterwards, many people came to congratulate me which was very decent of them, though, under the circumstances, somewhat unjustified.

    I have been to Noosa before and I think the idea of playing bowels there would have been very attractive, so I would have leaped at your offer. Sorry that the club has folded, but thanks for the thought.

    Re Zim elections, as one Norwegian diplomat said to me before the event, though to be fair, he was only very junior, “If they are so incompetent that they cannot steal an election, how on earth are they going to run a country?” There is of course a great deal of fake news (God bless Donald Trump) so it is difficult to differentiate fact from fiction. Obviously both sides make claims. International observers, SADC and the AU in particular, have demonstrated in the past how dishonest they are. On this occasion the EU certainly made negative remarks about the fairness and transparency of the process, but I do firmly believe that they were prepared to be less severe than was warranted simply because they wanted to let the process pass and be considered free and fair. They were not, but let’s move on.

    It would indeed be good to have wreath at the Cenotaph, though I think that a lot of grovelling is required by the British establishment with regards to recognising the contributions and sacrifices made by the people of this country in 2 World Wars as well as other skirmishes that have taken place since our nation was founded. Whatever the modern view, those people were honourable. My old school whence emerged England’s youngest bright cricketing star, has a chapel dedicated to the departed, long lists of ‘old’ boys who gave their lives for King and Country. Very sad. But that is old politics.

    And now to the matter in hand. Brisbane. It certainly crossed my mind to endeavour to extend an olive branch to B&B, though I recognise that given our history it would have been extremely presumptuous of me to have done so. Bearsy’s initial reaction to your comment did not surprise me, nor does it offend me in the least. I can quite understand why he would be horrified at the prospect of meeting me in person. Of course I maintain that my persona on this site is not quite the same as the corporeal me, but he is probably being judicious in his reservations.
    Be that as it may, should our literary patrons be willing to venture into the depths of depravity that is the chimerical character of Sipu, I would be delighted and honoured to make their acquaintance in person, time and my own hosts permitting.

  7. Hi Sipu. I am wildly envious of your forthcoming travels. Melbourne you can keep to be honest, likewise Sydney, but when in Brisbane, my favourite city in all the world, for old time’s sake please go to the Story Bridge Hotel on Kangaroo Point and blow the froth off a couple of cold ones for me.



  8. Australia is a brilliant country. Dreading another long, bitter English winter I will fly from London to Hong Kong for a few days of R&R. I will then continue on to Perth. After that I will take a flight to Melbourne and after spending a few days there go by train to Ballarat where I’ve hired a well-kept Federation cottage. I will take a night train from Melbourne to Sydney and spend a few days there before going into the Blue Mountains and provincial New South Wales, after which I will go back to Sydney for a couple nights and then fly back to London.

  9. Thanks OZ, I enjoyed my previous visits to Melbourne, though I am not looking forward to the weather, which I suspect is not going to be great at this time of year. I agree that Brisbane is probably my favourite city, though I have not been to Adelaide. Another area I have wanted to visit is the Atherton Tablelands. I imagine its altitude may make the climate more clement than it is at the coast. That is the great thing about this country. We are at 1,450 metres and in the tropics. Never too hot or too cold and low humidity. I will drink your health. Cheers.

  10. Correction to the above, “I think the idea of playing bowels there would have been very attractive.” I certainly do not think that playing with bowels would be attractive; bowls, though, yes.

  11. Hi Sheona, you are right, it should not be, but I fear it is inevitable. The rewriting of history is taking place at a fearful rate. One only has to witness what is happening in the US with Civil War leaders whose memorials are being erased. In the case of Georgia, literally. The aspiring governor of that state has promised to sandblast the images of Robert E Lee and others from the face of Stone Mountain. Incidentally that artwork preceded the Mount Rushmore, though the sculptor was the same. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stone_Mountain. They are now talking about renaming Austin Texas because Stephen Austin (not Steve of $6 million fame) its founder, was pro slavery. Cecil Rhodes has fallen at UCT and nearly feel at Oxford. Meanwhile the genocidal monsters, Shaka Zulu and Robert Mugabe have been commemorated by having their names given to international airports. For every victor there is a vanquished. Rhodesia was vanquished and those who fought are considered by most to be villains though many were the sons of heroes. It is a question of perspective.

    However, it is not all bad. The 13 year old appendage to whom I referred has been given a set of course work for the WSC competition that requires her to find out links between various poems and moments in history, specifically the Great War. She has been discussing the Treaty of Versailles and the consequences thereof and been learning Donne’s “No Man is an Island” and Frost’s “Mending Wall”. I am glad to say she has a good grasp of the dilemma expressed by Frost’s “Good fences make good neighbours”. Ultimately, though, Frost’s narrator continues to build the wall each year despite his misgivings. Multi-culti Europe should do the same.

  12. Sipu: Europe is a train wreck and I doubt it will ever get better. Sure, it might not completely collapse but Europe has become so inherently unstable and anti-functional that it will continue its drift. I can’t be bothered to go back. Germany has become complete rubbish, France is a wreck, ditto for Spain, Italy, etc. Worst of all, it’s hideously expensive.

  13. Sheona – whilst I agree that knowledge of relevant history is important for every new crop of youngsters, it is equally important (IMHO) that the history that is taught is correct (judged by the standards of the day, and also by today’s standards – there is often a great difference). However, I fear that there is currently a little too much emphasis on the achievements of our glorious dead, and far too little scrutiny of the less palatable dark side.

    For example, WWI saw millions of young men slaughtered in trench warfare, following the orders of safely remote, incompetent Generals and their ilk. And as for WWII, I grew up with a Dad who was one of the last to escape Dunkirk and who was full of the gung-ho patriotism of the day. But by the time he reached his 80s he had realigned his politics and economics with pragmatic reality and was firm in his view that younger generations would steadfastly refuse to become embroiled in such destructive madness. I rather fear that he was wrong, but I applaud his mature reflection.

    But I am horrified to realise that the biggies of the EU states are still apparently operating on the old, old, same old beliefs that one of them can become dictator of the unholy integrated empire in the style of the Romans, or the Austro-Hungarians, or the grand Satan in the Vatican. Will it be Germany, France, or most likely Brussels?

    Shudder! Bring on the Historians! 😎

  14. Sipu, I was quite surprised to read ‘Of course I maintain that my persona on this site is not quite the same as the corporeal me’. Do tell us what is fake.

  15. Bearsy: For all the talk of “rules-based” international systems, the world is returning to the status quo ante. The Chinese are convinced of their eternal right to be the suzerains of East and South-East Asia. The Gulf is, once again, the crossroads of global trade and travel. Europe is once again the world’s backwater, drifting aimlessly arguing over how many digital angels can dance on a post-modern pin. That, or whether digital angels defecate. When the realities of statecraft hit them, they’re caught flat-footed and are absolutely hopeless in responding. They cannot keep up with the Chinese, so they demonise them. The Americans are seized in a fit of creative destruction and they’re incapable of grasping that the Americans aren’t going to give away their market or defence shield like sweets at a promotion any more.

  16. Well, Janus, since you ask so nicely, let me try and explain, though I did write about this once before.

    I joined the MyT, part of which subsequently morphed into the Chariot, not because I wanted friends, (despite your doubts, I do have them) but because I wanted to be able to debate in a frank and open style without making undue allowances for an individual’s sensitivities. Nearly everybody came here via a particular newspaper site, not a social network. If I was seeking friends, I would have joined Facebook. I was not and have not.

    Naïvely perhaps, I wanted to discover new ideas, propose my own ideas and I wanted to be able discuss subjects, using any valid arguments available to me without being distracted by personal considerations. Well aware of my own intellectual shortcomings, I wanted to learn from others, from their knowledge, experiences, skills and education. But, at the risk of sounding entirely arrogant, I also wanted to persuade others of my beliefs and philosophies, whether they be political, anthropological, social, religious, literary etc. I wanted to be able to feel comfortable attempting to expose bogus arguments, factual inaccuracies, misplaced prejudices and flawed logic. Where possible, I like to get to the truth of whatever subject is being discussed. Above all I would like to slay hypocrisy, whether the hypocrite is me or somebody else. Robust, impersonal and unsentimental arguments allow these foibles to be exposed. In my view, the Chariot provides that platform.

    When we converse face to face with somebody, we tend to consider a number of factors such as their age, gender, physical appearance and abilities, their standing in society, relationship to oneself or to others one knows etc. A person could be a dignitary or a bum, an employer or an employee, a potential customer or a service provider, a relative, a friend, or a friend of a friend, the spouse of a friend, the child, sibling or parent of a friend, colleague, relative, associate and so on. As a result there are frequently consequences that extend beyond the termination of the discussion. If I posit an extreme point of view, or challenge the logic or veracity of my interlocutor’s statements that person may feel personally affronted which would make it awkward the next time we met. I do not believe the same is true on a discussion site such as this, or if it is, I care less about it.

    As pretentious as it may sound, truth and logic are important to me. It is sometimes very difficult, in a face to face conversation to tell somebody that his facts are wrong or her arguments are illogical. Personal considerations get in the way. And yes, I do realise that of course my facts could be wrong and my arguments illogical. But I would rather learn the truth than win an argument, just as I would rather lose a game than win by cheating.

    It really does not bother me whether you like or dislike me. You do not know me and I do not know you. What I care about is whether you are going to say something interesting and whether you will find interesting anything that I have to say.

    You appear to have taken a strong dislike to me at a personal level, though you do not know me on such a basis. I am not in the least offended by insults. I am offended by dishonesty, hypocrisy and vapidity.

    To answer your question, unlike my Sipu persona, when people meet me face to face, they tend to find that I am polite, courteous, respectful, friendly and charming. I show an interest in them and ask them about who they are, what they do and what they care about. If I feel the need to challenge them, I will attempt to do so without offending or humiliating them, though not always successfully. Like most people, I imagine, if I tend to espouse the same views as someone, I will be inclined to like them and will quite possibly nurture the relationship. If not, I will simply move on.

    Does that make me a hypocrite? Quite possibly. Is such behaviour the acceptable face of hypocrisy? I would like to think so.

  17. Thank you, Sipu. I have no feelings about you, positive or negative. However I tend to dislike your views on racial differences.

  18. Well, Janus, maybe one day we can have a discussion about race. But it will need to be more than a series of one liners for which you are so renowned. I do find it amusing that so many of those who purport to be most racially inclusive, tend to live in places and countries where they have very little interaction with other races. From Denmark to Surrey. Hmm.

    What I would like you to do is to explain just exactly what you mean by racism. The word is bandied about so freely these days that it is not clear at all what constitutes racist behaviour or attitude or mindset. It strikes me as being entirely illogical, which ultimately boils down to intellectual dishonesty, i.e. hypocrisy, for a person to have affirmative views about another race and to deem those laudable, while castigating another individual for having negative views of the same race. To deny that members of a specific race have certain characteristics that are more commonplace within their own race than within another, is frankly idiotic. If characteristics can be positive, they can also be negative.

    But regardless of one’s opinion it is what you do about it that counts. As someone who has spent a lot of time living and working in this country, I think you would be hard pressed to find an African who knows me or who has worked with me to describe me as being a racist. That does not mean to say that I am not, (though that depends on the definition) it simply means that I am sufficient well mannered not display my prejudices to the discomfort of others. That same restrained behaviour extends to most other social aspects of my life. I may think a person incompetent or ugly or stupid that does not mean I am going to say that to him or her. Generally speaking, there is not much that they can do about it. Where I find others to be dishonest, selfish, lazy etc. I may very well confront them about it, especially if those characteristics and behaviour impact negatively on my well being or the well being of those I care about. In this country, for example, the standard of driving is atrocious. I feel no compunction about telling a driver who is occupying the middle of the road while texting that he is behaving dangerously. That sort of behaviour is something he can rectify. I don’t call him an idiot, I say he is behaving like an idiot. There is a difference. What I mutter to myself is something else entirely.

    It is my firm belief that racial prejudice is entirely natural and sensible and is nothing to be ashamed of. What is deserving of shame is the denial that racial prejudice exists. People who espouse that view do far more damage to society than those who admit it. I can make this country my home and be happy here because I understand the nature of the indigenous people, or at least I have figured out a modus vivandi. I doubt very much that you could enjoy living in Africa unless you were to change your attitude to race. We understand that good fences make good neighbours both in a literal sense as well as a metaphorical one. “Non racialists” tend to behave like an Englishman trying to converse with an Italian, believing that all he has to do to make himself understood is to speak loudly and slowly. European culture is being destroyed by the influx of various races who not only have different inbred characteristics but also have different cultures. You have alluded to that yourself with your post about meddling with the English language. Though somehow you feel it acceptable to decry American influence but not African.

    It is perfectly rational to draw a parallel between different human races and different dog breeds, or horse or cattle or…. A greyhound has a number of physical and behavioural traits that are specific to its breed. So too a German Shepherd, a Labrador, a Dachshund, a Border Collie, and an American Pitbull. Selective breeding has led to different human races as it has led to different dog breeds. The only difference being that with humans, it was the environment that did the selecting, while for dogs, it was humans.

    Africans from the Savanna have never had to plan ahead for winter. It does not exist here to anything like the same extent it does in northern Europe. Therefore long term planning was not a particularly advantageous characteristic. The complete opposite was true in the north. In the Savanna, warmth, food and shelter were always plentiful. Not true in Scandinavia. Sure disease existed, but the resistances that were built up were not conscious decisions, they were the luck of the draw. If an individual happened to have an inbuilt resistance to malaria, say, he would survive and so be able to procreate. If he did not, he died. If a Norseman had sufficient nounce to plan ahead for winter, he survived. Otherwise he died.

    Characteristics such as the ability to plan ahead exist to greater and lesser extents in races even now. Zimbabwe, has the potential to become an extraordinarily wealthy country. You only have to look to see what was achieved during the very short life of the country known as Rhodesia, to realise that. But because indigenous Zimbabweans simply lack the ability to think long term, our country is in a monumental mess. Theirs is an attitude, if my stomach is full, the roof is keeping out the rain, the car still runs, then all is right with the world. Never mind that the larder is empty, there is a tree growing in the gutter and the engine oil has never been changed. You don’t believe me. Come here and I will show you. It has nothing to do with education, wealth or opportunity. Many such people have top degrees, more money than most westerners and they have prestigious jobs in government or the private sector.

    So before you judge, make an objective assessment of the real world and don’t base your decisions on the views of left leaning bien pensants who write for the Guardian.

  19. Have returned from my travels… In a much better frame of mind than after my last trip!
    The food was excellent (all cooked!!) and the weather, while unusually hot in the UK, made walking around a pleasure. And, despite the differences in the various European cultures (not races!!) I understood what I was looking at…
    Yes, Sipu, if you can find the time in Brisbane – I will certainly meet with you.

  20. Sipu, I choose to live in Sussex, not Surrey for readons unrelated to the topic. And I prefer one-liners to diatribes!

  21. Hi Boadicea, thanks for your invitation to meet. I will have a better idea of availability once I am in Brisbane. But it would probably be after the 30th.

  22. Last night BBC4 had a programme on Duleep Singh Maharajah formerly of the Lahore durbar. I have read a bit about this period – real history, I mean – and was horrified at the bias the so-called historians showed. They never even mentioned the Khalsa, those wonderful warriors who were desperately keen to have a go at the British forces before the British had even set foot in the Punjab. Everything was the fault of Britain, Queen Victoria and the India Office. Husband who has not done the same reading was also appalled at the slanted commentary, so blatant was it.

    Bearsy, I think people are much more aware of the horrors of the Great War now. I escorted three separate groups of pupils to the battlefields of the Somme where they could see for themselves the trenches at Vimys and the war cemeteries. Frequently tears were shed for the futility and waste of young lives, especially at the Thiepval memorial.

  23. Sheona: When I was gathering sources for my history degree, the de facto guiding professor had hoped that I could make use of recent “scholarship” and write something as up-to-date as possible. I went through scores of books, journals and articles published within the most recent decade. I could find little of use. It was either incredibly slanted or it was nothing but a rant. In the end, I had to rely on classics of scholarships written in the 1950s-1960s. To be fair, there were a few reasonably good sources — largely on Korean history, but anything dealing with social issues or concerns was useless. One of my favourite examples was a book on marriage, divorce and morality in late imperial China. The writer, I’d hesitate to call him a scholar despite his holding a professorship at Stanford University, went off on tirades about the relative conservatism of the Qing Dynasty and how horrible he found it. It was only in passing that he acknowledged that they were doing what was necessary to correct a moral relativism so extreme that it had fostered dangerous, violent social breakdown.

  24. Hello Boadicea, I am currently in Noosa and will be returning to Brisbane on Thursday. I have a local number 0401721847. If you send me a text message I will call to try and arrange a rendezvous. Regards.

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