22.11.03

Rugby World Cup - everybody loves a winner
The final is tonight here at Telstra Stadium at Olympic Park. It's been amazing to see the turnaround in the support for the Australian Wallabies since their defeat of the All Blacks last Saturday night. This time last Saturday, many were calling them the "wannabees." Trans-Tasman rivalry is strong, as can be seen sometimes even in blogdom. However it has been noted that when the chips are down, ANZACS stick together and many New Zealanders are now supporting Australia against England. The all Blacks played France the other night and are third in the competition.

England will have the pleasure this morning of hearing a wealth of songs composed by Aussies who were listening to our national broadcaster, the ABC. Some of these were only a few lines long, others a complete song and were sung on air by their composers. Many of them used well known music such as Rule Britannia or Land of Hope and Glory. Some turned derogatory references to our convict past back on the English. After all, almost all of the earliest convicts were English, although there later were both Irish and Canadian political prisoners too.

Sydney is awash, not only with rain this morning, but also with green and gold. Rugby jerseys have sold out all over the city. Radio stations across the city have been persuaded to all play the song Waltzing Mathilda simultaneously at 5:00pm this afternoon. The sails of our Opera House, normally lit up to illuminate the white tiles, will undergo a transformation tonight and will be flooded with green and gold.

I watched the semi-final last week and enjoyed the game. If Australia can keep the ball away from the English Wilkinson who has remarkable success with drop goals, it should be entertaining and rewarding for us.

Australia has already made Rugby history in two ways. We are the first country already holding the Cup to reach the finals to defend our position. We are also the only country to have reached the finals three times.

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Real Live Preacher has some exciting news! The publishing firm, Eerdmans, has given him a contract for a book. Well done!

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19.11.03

senses
Fred talks about reading about the sense of smell, and of becoming undisciplined as he followed links from his reading.

I am also fascinated by such things. Our Christmas holidays were spent at the beach when I was a child. Our journey there was usually hot and tiresome. Three children, beach umbrella, clothing, food, assorted picnic necessities and so on were crammed along with my parents into a tiny Renault 750 car. It would be hot and often humid and we were cramped and probably cranky. All this would change some miles from our destination. We could smell the sea. That faint, elusive, slightly salty, clean smell wafted in on the sea breeze as we drove along with all car windows open. No car airconditioning then!

Our mood would change instantly. We were on the alert for our first glimpse. We had to climb what seemed an enormous mountain with several hairpin bends before we were in a position to see the sea and have the fulfilment of the promise of the smell.

Winter holidays were spent in a tiny cottage in the Blue Mountains. This had been built about 1900. Its only stove was a woodstove and heating in the tiny living room was an open fire. To walk into the cottage after it had been closed up for a while was to smell the smoke and feel the memories of many years. The timbers and hangings were impregnated with smoke. This was a comforting smell to us and we happily gathered starting wood and split rounds of wood for the fires. Years later when my own children were young we also installed a wood stove in our kitchen here in the city. When the first fire of the season was lit, someone would invariably remark, "This smells like Glen Ayr." That was a good thing. It meant warmth, happiness, good food which somehow always tasted better for a bit of smoke. It meant connection with the past and its traditions.

Not all memories evoked by the sense of smell are pleasant to me. I had many operations as a child and have horrible memories of an ether mask being held firmly on my face. Even now, the slightest whiff of ether immediately brings back memories of my struggle to escape.

Other senses also evoke memories. Sound is an intangible sense but memories from it are very strong. The beautiful song of the murderous currawong, instantly transports me to the Australian bush. Perhaps I'm near a creek, on my back watching the clouds float, suspended in an intensely blue sky. Sometimes I am at the beach, very early in the morning, swinging high to see if there are dolphins in the bay, riding the waves.

The whistle from the steam engine on a weekend excursion has other memories. A young girl, kneeling at the train window to catch the first glimpse of the approaching tunnel end, hears the whistle. At the same time, an escaping cinder flies in the window and burns the back of her leg.

Memories raised by music are too many for me to even think about starting on.

I an see what Fred means about undisciplined thoughts. I could spend the rest of the day letting my mind wander over such things.

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It's just so sad. My sister-in-law continues to go downhill. I feel so sad for my brother and their young son whose 11th birthday will be in a couple of weeks. He asked his father to promise no one from the family would be in hospital over Christmas. Two years ago, his mother almost died from peritonitis on Christmas Eve. That's when the cancer was discovered. Last year, while it wasn't Christmas, but New Year, my brother had an operation for prostate cancer.

My brother didn't know what to say. It's not something that can be promised, is it? He eventually said that sometimes people feel better in hospital with proper care. Yesterday, while stuck in a traffic jam with his father, my nephew said that he really wanted to know what was wrong with his mother. His school raises a lot of money for Canteen, the charity concerned with teenage cancer patients. He actually knows about what it can do.

My brother couldn't bring himself to tell him. I don't blame him. It must be an incredibly difficult situation and I can't begin to even think about what I would say in his position. He just said that she was very ill and we could all see that.

They are not Christians. She is heavily into deep New Age stuff, while my brother is basically agnostic. They find no comfort or strength in prayer. Over the years, they have isolated themselves from even the rest of the family and have trouble now understanding how we still want to help and support. They have few close friends as they retreated into their own little world after their son was born after almost 20 years of marriage. They are both lawyers and my brother holds a position as the head of one of the State government's busiest legal bodies. He is having trouble doing everything at home, doing this job which also involves some travel in the state, and in keeping things reasonable for their son.

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