26.4.03

Here's an interesting link from barlow farms on the essential difference in the way men and women think. The Essential Difference

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25.4.03

Here's an update on Anzac Day commemoration in Sydney. It was cool this morning with quite a lot of rain. However, 12,000 people turned out for the dawn service at 4;30 am. About a third of the crowd was made up of young people and children. Many spoke well of our history and heritage.

Later in the morning, commencing at 9:00am, there was an enormous march which took four hours to finish. Over 30,000 veterans took part and police estimated the watching crowd to be around 300,000. I have not seen such a sea of Australian flags for a long time. They were waved by people of many different ethnic backgrounds. One 94 year-old general did the march twice. Once at the head of the march and then again with his own regiment.

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I wrote this some years ago for the magazine of the church I then attended. It was rejected because " no answers were given." A digger is the vernacular term for Australian soldiers. It came from the trenches of World War I.

The Old Digger


The crowds who had been watching the Anzac Day march through the streets of Sydney began to disperse. I watched the old man as he picked up his belongings. He had several cheap, striped, plastic bags, readily available from bargain stores. These were full. He also had some supermarket plastic grocery bags, tied together at the handles. I could see a pair of shoes in one and a shirt sleeve flapped from another. Were these all his possessions?

He was poorly dressed, but seemed to have made an effort for this day. His tweed sports coat was well worn and had been mended in several places. However it was clean and appeared to have been recently brushed. He wore this over an old business shirt, somewhat the worse for wear. Around his neck was an ancient tie, well out of fashion and bearing many marks. Although down at heel, his shoes were extremely shiny, showing he had not forgotten those spit and polish skills learnt so long ago in the army. They were almost covered by a baggy pair of trousers, also much mended.

He walked down Pitt St., muttering to himself and stopping occasionally to adjust the handles of the many plastic bags he carried. I was almost past him when we came to Christies. Along with their fine umbrellas and Scottish goods, they had a display of war medals in their window. The old man’s shoulders squared and he stood upright and saluted. Then he sagged again and as I passed him I could hear him speaking to himself. “All gone, every one of them. George went last week, and Bert twenty years ago. Bluey’s gone and Ginger too. Only me now. Damn them all , why am I still here.”

I turned around to find him taking a comforting swig from an unseen bottle hidden in a paper bag in his pocket. Then he picked up his bags and walked on.


(Based on an incident I saw one Anzac Day.)

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Anzac Day
Yes, its 25th April again, Anzac Day down here and over the Tasman and in many little Aussie enclaves across the world.

It's Anzac Day, a day Australians hold dearer than Australia Day in January. Back in the dawn on this day in 1915, members of the Australia New Zealand Army Corps disembarked at Gallipoli in the Dardanelles. They attempted to scale the exposed cliffs to set up camp on the heights. Many of them were cut down, even before reaching the shore. After digging in, there was much fierce fighting and there are many tales of bravery. The Victoria Cross is the highest award an Australian can earn for bravery. It is awarded only in exceptional circumstances. Nine of them were awarded in that campaign, seven of them for fighting at Lone Pine.

After some months fighting the Turks, the decision was made to withdraw. This was done, down the cliffs and back to the shore in the dead of night. In contrast to the landing, not one person was lost and the enemy awoke to find they were alone.

We celebrate a defeat? Proud Aussies celebrate a defeat? That's right, a defeat. Across the nation in every capital city and in many small towns, marches are held. The march in Sydney takes several hours to finish and the pubs are indeed shut for that time. Every campaign in which Australians have fought is represented, including the UN peace keeping missions. The Timor troops led the parade in Sydney last year,to enormous acclamation. Even in the smallest of towns, some veterans gather, and, augmented by local schoolchildren and a couple of dogs, a march is held and the last post is played with its haunting , well remembered melody which brings tears to my eyes. Then the pubs open, and they retire there for reunions and to win the war all over again.

The last surviving veteran left in all Australia of that original campaign died since last Anzac Day. He iwas 103 years old. Other old veterans do not march, but are carried in cars. The crowds at the marches lessened for a while but have been steadily increasing over the last decade. Children are well represented along the streets.

I think many feelings motivate the marchers and the onlookers. Of course there is pride. There is the great Australian mateship. We supposedly became a nation at Gallipoli. Certainly a strong nationalism was the result. Even veterans from unpopular campaigns such as Vietnam are well received. Now that is one area where we should not have been represented. Nothing to do with us and all to do with a Prime Mininster slavishly going "all the way with LBJ." And in reality, it too was a defeat.

There is a thankfulness that we are free and a recognition of the effort taken to achieve that. There is a recognition of the foolishness and ultimately, the futility of war. The book of James inthe Bible tells us that many wars are caused by man's greed and a lust for power. There is a unity. all too often lacking today.

I recognise all of this, but still I watch the march with tears in my eyes. I listen to the bands, many of which actually do the march several times over, to provide music for all marching. I too have mixed feelings. I hate the fighting and abhor the useless loss of life. And yet, I am no pacifist although my opinion of Australia'as participation in this latest episode in Iraq has not changed. I know that freedom and justice must be defended. When the Gulf War was announced, my heart sank. My sons were in their late teens then, older than some of those killed at Gallipoli.

I watch and I remember and I am thankful. I do not begrudge them their reunions when the pubs re-open after the march. I think of what might have been and thank God that I am an Australian and that I live in this wonderful land, in many ways removed from much of the strife throughout the world.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun, and in the morning
We will remember them

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23.4.03

I usually keep a small booklet of postage stamps in my wallet. I had finished the last, so went to the post office yesterday for another. Rates have gone up. Internal mail here now has a basic rate of 0.50 cents. I was surprised to see that the booklet was now enclosed in a cellophane pack which was almost impossible to tear open by hand. I needed a stamp to post a letter at the time. A friend working in the pharmacy where our post office agency is situated, used some scissors to open it. Apart from the booklet of stamps, there was also a backing sheet of fairly firm paper. All this for a small booklet of stamps?

Then I remembered the packs of nails and screws from the hardware store. Washers as well are sold in this way. It is hard to find loose buttons anymore, except in specialty shops. Most of them come sewn on cards and they are almost always in the wrong configuration for my needs. Four when I need five, or the opposite. Why this preoccupation with packaging? i won't even mention the pins and stiffening in a new shirt pack.

I take a calico bag shopping and fill that if I have only a few items. When I have to have plastic grocery bags, I take as few as possible and they are recycled in various ways.

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When I opened my Yahoo mail this morning, which I use for almost all my mail these days, I could not help seeing a very bright ad. I deliberately do not click popups etc and didn't click this one. So what was it? It read something like, "Is the war in Iraq a sign of end times? Read what Tim LaHaye and other endtimes scholars have to say." I smiled at the juxtaposition of two of the ideas in those sentences, but was appalled at the slick marketing behind the ad. It is impossible to walk into a Christian bookstore here without seeing promotions for the Left Behind series. They are also in secular stores. There are videos, CDs and even a children's series. I've seen colouring books for small children as well. Now popups on the web.

I've been told that people have been converted through these books, although I've never met any, and I know that Paul says that if the gospel is preached, even by his enemies, then that is good. I don't get this feeling from these books. I sense, and I hope I'm wrong, a grasping at people's fears and insecurities to promote the marketing of the series.

As you can probably tell, I don't agree with LaHaye's theology either. I grew up in an Anglican church and on marriage joined a group which is heavily addicted to dispensationalism. I could never follow it, although I could quote their schemes practically by heart along with the texts they use. At the moment, this is beside the point. It is their marketing I am objecting to.

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21.4.03

Here's the site for Taronga Park Zoo, mentioned in the first post today. Zootopia, In Pursuit of the Perfect Zoo, complete with bird song. It occupies a spectacular position on a bushy hill above our beautiful harbour. As a fundraiser, the zoo now has zoo sleepovers in tents for groups, a beautiful function centre for weddings etc. and holds jazz and orchestral concerts at twilight in the summer.

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Puggles??
Taronga Park Zoo in Sydney has become the second zoo in the world where platypuses have bred in captivity. Healesville Sanctuary in Victoria is the other. Maryanne and Abby are now the parents of two female puggles, born, according to the zoo, late October 2002. It was only recently that keepers were able to verify the fact that there were two young. Maryanne's nesting burrow was in a spot particularly hard to access or watch and keepers have had to build bridges and ladders so mum and daughters can get to the water. One puggle is amazing. To have two, much more so. Apparently platypuses are very particular about their mates and about conditions. The article I read went so far as to suggest that they might even try the old "not tonight, I have a headache" line. The problem was solved by giving Abby a choice of mates.

Lovely word "puggle." I'd never heard it before.

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20.4.03

Thine be the glory, risen, conqu’ring Son;
Endless is the victory, Thou o’er death hast won;
Angels in bright raiment rolled the stone away,
Kept the folded grave clothes where Thy body lay.

Refrain

Thine be the glory, risen conqu’ring Son,
Endless is the vict’ry, Thou o’er death hast won.

Lo! Jesus meets us, risen from the tomb;
Lovingly He greets us, scatters fear and gloom;
Let the church with gladness, hymns of triumph sing;
For her Lord now liveth, death hath lost its sting.

Refrain

No more we doubt Thee, glorious Prince of life;
Life is naught without Thee; aid us in our strife;
Make us more than conqu’rors, through Thy deathless love:
Bring us safe through Jordan to Thy home above.

Refrain

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Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!

Today we celebrate the lynchpin of our faith.

O death, where is thy sting? Where O grave, thy victory?

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