Charabanc ride

Mad Teddy's web-pages

Charabanc ride

This page added on Monday, 21st June 2010
(southern winter solstice)

Are you all sitty comfty-bold two-square on your botty? Then I'll begin....

Once upon a time
in the land of greens,
Where the sky was silky-soft
and full of coloured dreams,
Deep inside a rainbow
lived Happiness Stan,
In a small Victoriana

So begins the story of Happiness Stan, who becomes concerned one evening when he notices that half the moon has disappeared. The full saga takes up Side 2 of the Small Faces' 1968 album "Ogden's Nut Gone Flake" (reviewed here), in a suite which features the four lads singing half a dozen songs interspersed with highly amusing commentary provided by Stanley Unwin (whose "two-square on your botty" remark, above, begins the proceedings). Mr. Unwin describes our hero's stunned reaction to the missing semi-satellite:

“Oh, blow your cool, man!” he do'd this deep thoughcus.
“What is the folly of this half-disappearing of the moony-most?”

Right then and there, Stan makes a big decision to go on a quest, to find out what's happened to it:

“Whereat, man? Whereat?” he thoughcus. “Oh, dear...!”

- and off he goes, "into the deep fundamold of the complicatin' forrey, to sort'n-it this one out, matey"!

If you'd like to hear the entire "Happiness Stan" suite, it's on YouTube (at the time of writing) in three seven-to-eight-minute video clips as follows:

Ogden's Nut Gone Flake...             Part 3             Part 4             Part 5

Note that the second half of Part 5 is taken up with the song "Tin Soldier" - a love-song written by lead singer and guitarist Steve Marriott to a girl who later became his wife. (It didn't actually appear on the Ogden's Nut Gone Flake album.) Here's a YouTube video of the group performing this song, with American singer P.P. (Patricia) Arnold providing backing vocals. Now that's Rock'n'Roll!!!

If you like their style, also check out Part 1 and Part 2 - and also have a look/listen to other Small Faces songs on YouTube, especially the very catchy "Itchycoo Park", the song that first got me interested in these guys' music way back in 1967, when I was just 14 years old. (The phasing of the choruses still sends shivers up my spine...)

UPDATE, Tuesday, 30th September 2014: I revisit this page from time to time, mainly to check which - if any - of the YouTube links no longer work, for whatever reason. If I find any such, I spend a bit of time trying to hunt down replacements for them.

I've already updated the "Itchycoo Park" link a few times; they last a while and then "disappear". The most recent link, above, has the original video - but a version of the audio in which the phasing is different: to some extent, it "swoops up" where the original used to "swoop down", and vice versa. It still sounds pretty good; however, I think the original is better, so I'm a bit disappointed that it's gone. (Or maybe I'm just getting old and set in my ways? )

However! I've just found a version which has the original audio, but with a completely different video component. Here's the link; but just a word of warning: It's a bit "cheeky"! So don't say I didn't warn you...

Back to business...

Another of their songs which I really liked was a cheeky Cockney thing called "Lazy Sunday" (often referred to as "Lazy Sunday Afternoon"). This was the last track on Side 1 of "Ogden's Nut Gone Flake"; it became a big hit in its own right:

...I'll sing you a song with no words and no tune,
To sing in your karzi while you suss out the moon - oh yeah!
Lazy Sunday afternoon, I got no mind to worry -
Close my eyes and drift away...

These guys had an incredible knack of delivering loads of good humour with a psychedelic edge. (In case you're wondering, the karzi is where you go when - er - nature calls...)

"Lazy Sunday" is on YouTube here - enjoy!

UPDATE, Monday, 21st November 2011

You've probably noticed that the links provided above to "Ogden's Nut Gone Flake" no longer "work". Unfortunately, that's "par for the course" on the web in general, and YouTube in particular - things come and go, for various reasons.

However, what goes around can have a habit of coming around, if we're lucky. A day or two ago I found that someone has placed the six "Happiness Stan" songs (along with others from the "Ogden's..." album) individually on YouTube as follows:

1. Happiness Stan       2. Rollin' Over       3. The Hungry Intruder
4. The Journey            5. Mad John          6. Happydaystoytown   

How long will those links last? I don't know! I'll keep checking from time to time, as I do with other pages within this website - but it's a big job to keep up, and growing bigger as I keep on adding more pages. So, if you'd like to help: if you notice that one or more of my external links have dropped out, please be good enough to contact me and advise me of the fact, and I'll get onto it!

*      *      *      *      *

In 1969 - the year after "Ogden's Nut Gone Flake" was released, and when I was in my first year at Launceston Matriculation College - I and three other blokes formed a short-lived rock group. I was the guitarist; we had a bass player, an accordionist (whose instrument, with crystal mikes plastered all over the outside, sounded really freaky though an amplifier); and a lead singer. (The bloke who sang could also play the guitar, but I got the job of guitarist because I had - I think - greater knowledge of chords and harmony. I was "strictly rhythm" - just like Guitar George, mentioned in the Dire Straits hit "Sultans of Swing"; I couldn't play a note of lead back then.)

In mid-1969, we took part in Hoadley's Battle of the Sounds (more info in this Wikipedia page) in Launceston's Albert Hall (above - it was painted white in those days). We called ourselves "The Iridescent Spectacle" and wore blue flares with white pin-stripes, clean white shirts, dark jackets and psychedelic ties (my Dad said we looked like "comics"). I was just sixteen years old.

We played "Lazy Sunday" and our own take on the Rolling Stones' "Jumpin' Jack Flash" (click here if you'd like to hear the Stones' original). I heard after the event that we came second last - perhaps because we didn't have a drummer; but the simple fact that we were pretty rough around the edges probably had more to do with it, truth be told! But we gave it a shot; and it was fun, exciting, and a bit scary. Memories...

(It wasn't too long after that that I had my bout with "anxiety depression", as mentioned in my On the spectrum page. In retrospect, it's probably a good thing that I never became a rock star! )

*      *      *      *      *

Just one other thing, before moving on : the Happiness Stan videos mentioned above all simply use the album cover as a backdrop to the music; however, a 1968 episode of the BBC TV show "Colour Me Pop" was made about the Small Faces in general and "Ogden's Nut Gone Flake" in particular - with coverage of the group (miming their instruments, but with live vocals) and Mr. Unwin (doing his narrative live, with some slight differences from the original version on the album). It's also on the web as a series of short videos. Song of a Baker features Mr. Unwin's "two-square on your botty" at the very end, as a lead-in to the following six songs, each of which is followed by a short narration:

1. Happiness Stan       2. Rollin' Over       3. The Hungry Intruder
4. The Journey            5. Mad John          6. Happydaystoytown   

Enjoy the music, be entertained by the crazy story, and have a chuckle at the antics of the five participants.

This is turning into yet another of my long-winded web-page introductions, isn't it? But that's OK, because good music - especially when accompanied by off-beat humour - can set the scene for anything worth doing. By all means, go ahead and listen to all that magic stuff - but don't forget to come back here afterwards, because I have some important thoughts I want to share with you.

Welcome back. Now that the formalities are out of the way, let's get to the main subject of this page!

Do you know what a charabanc is? In case you don't (as I didn't myself until quite recently), click here for a tidy explanation; also have a look at this article.

Also click here to read the Wikipedia article. You may recognize the picture at the top of this page in that Wikipedia page; that's because that's where I found it! Apparently it's quite okay for me to put it here, because it's out of copyright. (Can't be too careful... )

That blue "Victoriana" charabanc (which, as mentioned in that out-of-copyright note, was actually presented to Queen Victoria in the 1840's by the King and Queen of France) was a horse-drawn affair. Motorized versions only appeared a few decades later, when the internal combustion engine became commercially viable, so that cars and other motor-vehicles began to proliferate. Check out this web-page, and have a giggle at the frumpy old pictures of how things used to be in the early 20th century.

Okay - so you get the general idea. The benches (bancs) were often hard affairs with low backs; there wasn't much in the way of protection from the weather (although Queen Victoria's charabanc had the appearance of an elongated version of the "surrey with the fringe on top" from the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical "Oklahoma!"); and they had a high centre of gravity, which made them unstable and subject to accidents - sometimes fatal.

All in all: not a particularly comfortable ride, really! - which leads one to wonder: why would our hero Stan want to live in one of these things? (I suspect that we're not supposed to ask difficult questions like that...)

So where's all this leading?

Well, for myself at least, the past several months have been a bit of a "charabanc ride". After what seemed like a very positive time for most of 2009, toward the end of the year things started to go "pear-shaped".

I've already told the story in an earlier page of how my computer(s) basically died in early November, and how I was thus pretty much cut off from the internet for quite a while.

Then again, it was necessary for me to undergo certain medical procedures soon thereafter, which I didn't look forward to with any great delight.

Further, a low back injury which occurred late in 2007 has finally begun to cause me some real trouble, and increasingly makes me feel like an old man.

Worst of all: the stress brought on by these events, combined with the social ineptness which is an unfortunate characteristic of Asperger's Syndrome, led me to make a series of what can only be described as "gaffes" beginning late last year - the result of which has been that I've lost contact with several acquaintances (some of whom I considered good friends) to the point where I have experienced some real grief. It hasn't been a happy time; I frequently have to remind myself of the wise words of George Harrison from his lovely song "Beware of Darkness":

...Beware of sadness.   

It can hit you,
It can hurt you,
Make you sore - and what is more,
That is not what you are here for...

- to keep myself from going completely bananas. (There are times when I really wonder what I am here for; maintaining this website is one way I've found to be therapeutic, helping me to focus on the positive.)

But I recognize that I have no monopoly on this. The whole world seems to be increasingly undergoing pain and sorrow, as - often with the best will in the world - things can go seriously wrong.

UPDATE, Tuesday, 22nd November 2011

Just before moving on: I noticed a while back that the above link to that delightful Whisper of the Garden video of "Beware of Darkness" has now been "blocked in [my] country on copyright grounds". I'm still trying to figure out (1) how it can be that it's blocked in some places and not in others; and (2) why something that has become so much a part of the culture needs to be blocked at all, four decades on. Couldn't the "blockers" show a bit of generosity, having made a very respectable amount of money from the song over such a long time? How about just getting a life? For heaven's sake - what is the world coming to?

Well... I can deal with it. At the Concert for George, organized by George Harrison's widow and son to celebrate his life and music, his old friend Eric Clapton beautifully sang and played "Beware of Darkness"; and the YouTube video of the event has (so far, at least) - escaped the "blockers". It's here - enjoy...

In December last year, the much-heralded summit on climate change was held in Copenhagen, Denmark. In case you've forgotten what it was all about, visit this BBC News page to jog your memory.

As that article says: "Was the summit a success? This depends on your point of view." (Sort of reminds me of the old quip: "Is life worth living? That depends on the liver..." )

There are plenty of web-pages which take the position that the Copenhagen event wasn't simply a total waste of time. Pardon my cynicism, but the page you are reading right now isn't one of them. As far as I'm concerned, it was a damp squib, and any attempt to suggest otherwise comes under the heading of spin.

The 1997 Kyoto summit was the first serious attempt to get a large number of industrialized countries together to begin to discuss the implications of global warming at an international level, and to perhaps begin to do something about it. That was also less than successful, in large part because stubborn governments - notably, the US and Australian governments at the time and in the following several years - refused to get involved with it in a meaningful way.

To see how Australia's Howard Liberal Government viewed the Kyoto Protocol, click here. Note the classic comment about "jobs" - which, it seems, parliamentarians of any political "colour" like to mention when attempting to justify their position on any issue.

Just yesterday, while driving in Launceston, I found myself behind a car which had the following message on the back:

Says it all, really, doesn't it?

As you can see from this Wikipedia page, there was an emphasis on the use of the word "carbon" at Kyoto. Clearly, this is because at least some of the greenhouse gases which contribute to global warming contain carbon - notably, carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4).

Fair enough: carbon is, in that sense, a factor - even a major factor - as carbon dioxide is the main gas produced by the burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas, and this accounts for a very large part of the energy we've been using to run our modern world for over a century. No surprises there. But what has bothered me for some time is how even something like this can be turned into "spin" by those with a vested interest in doing so.

Over the last couple of years I've noticed that - not only in Australia, but around the world - a new kind of jargon has surreptitiously begun to creep into the English language. Everywhere in the media, we have been bombarded with terms like:

Carbon capture and storage
Carbon emissions trading
Carbon sequestration
Carbon footprint
Carbon credits
Carbon offsets
Carbon taxes
Carbon this
Carbon that
                   Carbon the other...

...just what is going on???

Let's think about carbon for a few minutes. Please bear with me if I wax a bit "nerdy", because I think it's essential in order to make a few vital points...

You could perhaps be forgiven for beginning to wonder if carbon, the element, is some kind of dreadful pollutant. Is it?

Carbon (C) is element number 6 in the periodic table. It is unique among all the elements because of its ability to form complex long-chain compounds which are essential to life as we know it. The runner-up in this regard is silicon (Si), element number 14, directly below carbon in the table and in some ways chemically similar to it. Some rather neat science fiction stories have been written about the possibility of silicon-based life - notably, Stanley G. Weinbaum's "A Martian Odyssey" - but the truth is that silicon can't really measure up in this regard, for various practical reasons. The simple fact is that, of all the elements, carbon is the only real contender for the title of "the very stuff of life".

This means that, unless you take the view that life itself is in some way toxic, carbon is very much a "good guy"!

So - if you'll pardon the pun - I consider that the loose talk about carbon in recent times is nothing more than a smoke-screen, being perpetuated by people who view it as in their interests to keep you and me in the dark and as confused as possible.

Now: why would anybody want to do that? What possible motivation could there be for doing so?

As far as I'm concerned, it's all about trying to couch our world's overarching environmental problem in economic terms - which is what politicians and corporations love to do - rather than admitting that it's an essentially technical problem, which will only be solved, if at all, by a determined effort on the part of people who understand the real underlying issues and are determined to tackle it in a logical, systematic way.

The solution will need to be fundamentally based on science and engineering, with a huge amount of goodwill all round - and with economics playing very much a secondary rôle, merely providing what is needed to facilitate the necessary actions, rather than having any pretence to being the driving force behind it all. If we are to fix our badly-damaged planet, the days of the economists "running the show" are over.

“Wonderful, wonderful carbon trading”...?

It seems quite clear to me. Large corporations will always take the easy way out. Simply using a financial "stick" to beat them if they pollute - whether it's an emissions trading scheme, a carbon tax, or whatever - will only have the effect of increasing prices, as they will simply pass the impost on to the hapless consumer.

The only way to get them to change their behaviour is to make available a "carrot", in the form of a truly affordable and effective energy source, so that they will see it as in their own interests to take that option. Then, if they are tardy in doing so, fair enough - some kind of punitive financial arrangement to persuade them to hurry up and make the necessary changes may have some benefit. But merely to impose the "stick" without first providing the "carrot" is simply to put the cart before the horse.

However, to date, these conferences only ever seem to be about playing what I call "money games"! Any technical considerations are always in the form of some kind of vague hope that existing technologies - some of which may be fine as far as they go, but almost certainly are not ready for large-scale implementation any time soon - will in some way be adopted sufficiently well to solve the problem.

What is needed is a real determination on the part of governments to encourage fully-funded research into real solutions, which I firmly believe are best achieved by harnessing zero-point energy - which is not happening, as it is still viewed in mainstream scientific circles, and thus by the governments they advise, as "pseudo-science"; and that is why - from my perspective - the Copenhagen summit was such a complete waste of time.

But don't just take my word for it. In an attempt to be fair to both sides of the argument, here are two links which each take a less damning view on the feasibility of financial fixes:

This article, from the BBC about three months ago, quotes Sir Nicholas Stern, author of the Stern Review on the economics of climate change (October 2006). (I've mentioned the Stern Review previously in this site, toward the end of my It's still not easy being green page.) Lord Stern, taking (as you'd expect) an economic point of view, admits that things could have been done better at Copenhagen but doesn't write the summit off altogether.

This one, published in "The Australian" in February this year, sees it in terms of a "rich-poor chasm" - which is fair enough, because that's always the way in any large-scale public issue, isn't it?! But - surprise, surprise - as usual, there's no mention of any technical aspect of the matter. Again, as far as I'm concerned, these well-meaning people simply don't get it.


Do please have a look at this web-page, whose authors seem to be no more impressed with "economic fixes" than I am myself. If anything, that page is even more scathing than I am on the issue, taking as it does the point of view that Kyoto was also a disaster. (My own perspective on this is that at least Kyoto represented a first attempt to get the big issues "onto the table"; credit where it's due.)

Also, run an eye over this page, which I think deals with the issues quite well but needs to go further in terms of the necessity of developing real, practical solutions.

Unlike Happiness Stan's errant moon, our problem is not going to come right all by itself, in just a few days. It's going to take the best scientific and technical minds the world has to offer to implement the necessary technology, and it will take quite some time - which is why we need to start now.

If I may just bring up another aspect of the matter of carbon:

When I began writing about these matters in this website a few years ago, I referred to the problem most often in terms of oil. Since then, the issue of coal seems to have been in the headlines more than oil, probably largely because of the emergence of a new world power which has been building coal-fired power stations like they're going out of style (which I hope they do, and very soon!).

(If you watched any of the 2008 Olympic games on TV, you'll know just how much of a problem photochemical smog has become in that country, where, for the last few years, such power stations have been built at an incredible - and alarming - rate; click here to read a 2007 BBC article about this.)

Well, guess who is very happy to sell lots of coal to that other country to run its nice new power stations? That's right - good old us, down here in Australia! Click here to read all about it.

On a related matter:

Over the last few years, we've also been hearing quite a lot about "clean coal", also mentioned in that Wikipedia article.

Permit me to tell you my own story about coal. ("Are you sitty comf'ty-bold..." )

One day, when I was a toddler still living in England back in the mid-1950's, my Mum had got me all nicely scrubbed and dressed ready for an outing on the town. She left me in my play-pen in front of a nice warm fireplace while she took my sister (nearly four years older than I) upstairs to get her all neat and tidy also, ready for off, and then came back down - to find that I'd managed to push my play-pen across to the coal-scuttle, get the lid off it, and - well, you can guess the rest.

So don't talk to me - or my Mum - about clean coal, OK?

- And I'll be having quite a bit more to say about oil shortly (and you know why).

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Perhaps the worst aspect of all the hype about "carbon" over the last few years is the fact that many people have become so sick of hearing it that they have become "turned off" by the issue of climate change altogether. This hasn't been helped by "climategate": the claimed irresponsible, insincere actions of some climate scientists - much, I'm sure, to the delight of those who see it as in their own greedy (or lazy) interests to cloud the issue to the point where they don't need to be bothered about it any more (or at least until they, like everybody else, will have no choice but to do so, as its impact increases around the globe). Click here and/or here if you're interested to read more about this.

Down here in the "land of Oz", we've had a rocky first half of the year, from various perspectives. In February, our federal govenment initiated the Home Insulation Scheme as part of its attempt to deal with the after-effects of what has in more recent times come to be known in political, financial and media circles as the "GFC" (an inane three-letter abbreviation which has been adopted for the term "global financial crisis", as though that could in any possible way lessen its miserable effects).

I'll have something to say about the Home Insulation Scheme in a moment; but first, permit me to have an ursine growl about the GFC. In my ...and so this is Christmas... page, posted at the end of 2008, I mentioned how I'd have liked to get what was left of my superannuation completely out of the stock market, if and when it ever recovered to anything like the way it was before the "GFC" hit. Well, with that not occurring, and with what appears to be "GFC part 2" now well on the way, it is my joy to report that in the middle of 2009 (last year) I went ahead anyway, and made the move to put it all into cash. I might add that - as I see it - that was not only a personally fulfilling move on my part, but also a very wise one.

The Home Insulation Scheme - on the face of it, a good idea in principle - has become a political disaster for the Rudd Government. Click here to read an article on the World Socialist Web Site, which - although obviously taking a fairly extreme left-wing position, as you'd expect - gets the strictly factual aspects of the story fundamentally correct.

(I think that this article is unfair to the government when it refers to the "callous indifference for the lives and safety of insulation installers and home owners". I think that's uncalled-for. Granted, it's been a disaster from an administrative point of view, but to put it in those terms is really "over the top". Essentially, I think the government meant well, but basically "stuffed up" the implementation of it.)

The penultimate paragraph of that article mentions the "discredited emissions trading scheme". This has been another headache for the government. For many months, they were pushing this as hard as they could, claiming that it was the best way to deal with the climate change problem.

Well, if you've been reading this page - and earlier pages in this website - carefully, you'll know what I think about that.

So I didn't cry any crocodile tears when the Senate (the Australian Parliament's upper house) threw out that idea, not once but twice, thus opening the door for the government to call a double dissolution. However, the government has chosen not to do so, preferring instead to shelve the idea for at least three years.

We are due for a Federal Election later this year anyway. It's entirely possible that the government, with these various problems coming up, would prefer not to take any precipitous action such as calling a double dissolution, as doing so could quite easily get the public well and truly offside and thus cause them even more trouble.

The most recent problem the government has had to cope with has been the very divisive new mining tax. Click here to read a Reuters article on the topic.

I don't claim to understand the ins and outs of this; indeed, it seems that I am one of many Aussies who are thoroughly confused about it. Just why the government should come out with something like this just a few months out from an election, especially when their popularity with the electorate is considerably down from its high point only a year or so ago, is something of a mystery. Since they're in "damage control" mode on various fronts already, one would think they'd tread a bit more carefully. Beats me!

Returning briefly to the emissions trading issue:

The Labor government and the conservative (Liberal/National) opposition will always argue about the details of how money-matters should be dealt with, from their respective ideological positions - whether the approach to climate change should be about "carbon emissions trading" or "carbon taxes", etc. etc.. We expect that. (I did hope, a couple of years ago, that the new Rudd Labor Government would adopt a more creative approach to climate change, and indeed tried to get their attention myself and refer them to my earlier pages - in particular, those about zero-point energy in which I had repeatedly raised the issue - but to no avail, so far anyway. It's still all about economics to them, unfortunately...)

But what really bothers me is that the current third major force in Australian politics, the Greens, don't seem to get it either (and yes, I've been badgering them too). So far at least, they also seem to view the matter in economic terms, more so than in terms of real alternative energy. Am I frustrated? You bet I am!!!

- And now, while all this posturing and ducking for cover is going on in political circles, we've seen the worst story so far this year taking shape, in the Gulf of Mexico.

What an unholy mess.

It's not as though there hadn't been any warning. In a late update to my Shadows on the wall page, posted in November last year, I included a link to an ABC story about a massive fire on an oil rig in the Timor Sea. (The story is still there as I write this; click here to read it).

That fire was put out successfully, and the oil leak was contained. What a relief; surely, now, you'd think that oil companies around the world would have taken dire warning from that, wouldn't you - and made sure that nothing like it ever happens again, anywhere on the face of the planet - including in the Gulf of Mexico?

I haven't got the heart to post lots of links to web-pages which detail this disgusting business. (In the very unlikely event that you haven't been keeping up with the story, may I suggest that you type something like "gulf of mexico oil spill" into Google, and read at least some of the vast number of web-pages about it that you'll find by doing so.)

So I'll post just one:

President Obama's Oval Office Address on BP Oil Spill & Energy - placed on YouTube on June 15th, 2010.

Is it really too good to be true? Is President Obama really committed to phasing out the dependence of America - and therefore, presumably, by implication, the whole world - on fossil fuels, and to a serious attempt to move to a clean energy future?

- And if it is true, then why is it that our Australian leaders couldn't have led the way by doing something similar following last year's oil-rig incident in the Timor Sea?

Jethro Tull's 1969 double-album "Living in the Past" contains a song entitled "Wond'ring Again" (which I think is perhaps my favourite of all their songs). Written and sung by lead singer and multi-instrumentalist Ian Anderson, this may well be one of the first ever truly "environmental" songs. Incredibly, it first appeared over four decades ago - but in view of what's happening right now, it could have been written yesterday. It is from this song that I have taken the phrase "charabanc ride" as the title for this web-page.

It's on YouTube here; may I suggest that you right-click on that link to open it in a new window, and then follow the lyrics below while listening to it:

There's the stillness of death on a deathly unliving sea,
And the motor-car magical world long since ceased to be
When the Eve-bitten apple returned to destroy the tree.
Incestuous ancestry's charabanc ride,
Spawning new millions, throws the world on its side,
Supporting their far-flung illusion, the national curse -
And those with no sandwiches, please get off the bus.

The excrement bubbles, the century's slime decays;
And the brainwashing government lackeys would have us say
It's under control, and we'll soon be on our way
To a grand year for babies and quiz-panel games.
Of the hot hungry millions you'll be sure to remain;
The natural resources are dwindling, and no-one grows old -
And those with no homes to go to, please dig yourself holes.

We wandered through quiet lands, felt the first breath of snow -
Searched for the last pigeon (slate-grey, I've been told).
Stumbled on a daffodil, which she crushed in the rush - heard it sigh,
And left it to die.

At once felt remorse, and we're touched by the loss of our own;
Held its poor broken head in her hands, dropped soft tears in the snow -
And it's only the taking that makes you what you are.

Wond'ring aloud: "Will a son one day be born
To share in our infancy, in the child's path we've worn?"
In the aging seclusion of this Earth that our birth did surprise,
We'll open his eyes.

I'm Australian by naturalization, having lived here since 1961 and become a citizen in 1978. It took me a while to adjust, but Australia is now very much home to me, and I'm proud to call myself an Aussie.

But I was born in England, and there's also a part of me that's proud of that aspect of my heritage. It was Britain that stood up to the might of Nazi Germany; and in the following decades it was Britain that did the right thing by granting independence to its former colonies - and also provided the world with some excellent musicians, including the Beatles, Cream, Small Faces, Petula Clark, Jethro Tull, Pink Floyd, Mike Oldfield, Kate Bush, and many others. Why wouldn't I be proud?

But right now, I'm not proud of Britain's own petroleum company, BP, who through their greed and carelessness have wrought immense damage in the Gulf of Mexico.

Perhaps there's a silver lining, if - as a result of this disaster - things can begin to change, so that we can begin to heal our aching planet and learn to live together in peace and with mutual respect.

- - - - - - - - - -

UPDATE, Tuesday, 6th September 2011

Since early this year, we Aussies have been becoming increasingly aware of something called "coal seam gas". I'm still getting up to speed with the details of what it all means; my understanding thus far is as follows:

1. It's possible to access natural gas (methane, basically) by drilling down into coal-beds;

2. In some Australian states, mining companies have the right to invade privately-held rural land whether the land-holder likes it or not and commence test-drilling in the search for this gas, on the principle that the resource is under the property, rather than being part of it;

3. If they find it, they can effectively come onto the property and commence operations at their whim, with the land-holder forced to accept a disgustingly small compensation payment;

4. The damage to the land and the health of the residents can be - and often are - impacted upon very badly, and there is nothing they can do about it.

Please visit this page to read more, and follow the links therein.

Note that there is an embedded YouTube link in that page, and that it's possible to link to other YouTube videos on the subject from there. One in particular, which is about much the same thing happening in the US, is this one. (Note in particular the reference to radioctive waste that can be released into the environmnent as a direct result of the so-called "fracking" process which is used to get the gas out.) Please watch it (and some of the others, if you can spare the time), and ask yourself whatever happened to democracy and civilization.

People are angry. There is a grass-roots movement called Lock the Gate which has recently grown up in Australia. The message is: "Stand up to the mining companies. We won't tolerate what is happening. We have a right to our living space, clean water, and clean air." Have a look at that page; there's a YouTube video embedded there too.

I can't get my head around the idea that this kind of thing can happen here in Australia. I hereby take a stand against it, and invite you to do the same. If this isn't about human rights, I don't know what is.

After all, when all is said and done, it's just another dirty fossil fuel. We can do better. We had better do better.

If you've visited the YouTube pages listed at the top of this page (or if you're familiar with the "Happiness Stan" saga by some other means, perhaps simply by being a fellow Baby Boomer), you'll know that Stan did indeed fulfil his quest of finding out what had happened to the other half of the moon, "scintilladin' dangly in the heavenly bode".

In case you haven't (or you're not), here's a brief synopsis:

On the first day of his journey, Stan sits down to eat his cut lunch (some kind of mince-meat sandwich, apparently), and becomes aware of a fly on the point of starvation, asking if he might share Stan's meal. (This story is told in the song "The Hungry Intruder", with the fly's plaintive request sung beautifully by bass-player Ronnie Lane, and with Steve Marriott taking the part of Stan.) Rather than carelessly swatting the fly, Stan kindly invites him to help himself. The fly, then feeling much better, asks Stan if there's anything he can do to express his gratitude.

Stan explains his quest, asking if the fly can supply the information he needs. The fly says that he doesn't know, but that he knows someone who would know - and expresses his disappointment that he's not big enough to take Stan there on his back. Then Stan, "having the possessy-power of the magicold", waves his hands over the fly and speaks the magic words:

“If all the flies were one fly, what a great
enormous fly-follolloper that would bold!”

- and the fly grows to a huge size, so that Stan now indeed has the mode of transport he needs. So off they go.

After a week, they land near a cave in a "tranquil beauty-spot, before the deep fundamold of a forrey". (There are lots of forreys in this story; I'd be surprised if someone hasn't come along and logged them all by now. ) The fly points to the cave and tells Stan that a hermit named Mad John (no relation ) lives there, and will explain what has happened to the moon - and will also reveal "the philosophy of life't itself".

After the fly has taken his leave, Mad John appears, "glowing with a friendly light", surprises Stan by informing him that he has been expecting him, and enquires whether Stan is still worried about the moon. He then points: "there, in the heavenly bode" - and Stan finally understands that, during the week of his travels, the moon has become full again.

Mad John also explains to Stan "the philosophy of life't itself" in these words:

Life is just a bowl of All-Bran -
You wake up every morning and it's there.
So live as only you can!
It's all about - enjoy it! - 'cos ever since you saw it,
There ain't no one can take it away...

Well - make of that what you will. There's got to be a grain of truth in there somewhere (pun intended)!

What I get from it is this:

If you have a quest, or a dream, or a vision - whatever you want to call it - you should pursue it, come what may, and don't let anyone stop you. Life is too short to waste; if an opportunity comes along to do something special and worthwhile, seize the moment!

Happiness Stan did indeed pursue his quest, as immortalized in the silly but charming fable we've been following in this page - and he ultimately fulfilled it.


Dreams can come true. In the midst of all the anxiety and disappointment that has come into our homes via our television screens in recent times, for my book the best story so far this year is that of a wonderful young Aussie girl named Jessica Watson, who - in spite of opposition in high places, setbacks, and some ungracious commentary from "knockers" (the kind of people who apparently can only get their kicks from engaging in destructive criticism) - fulfilled her dream of sailing around the world, solo and unassisted, over 210 days (30 weeks).

I'll admit to a misty eye and a lumpy throat when, on Saturday 15th May this year, "our Jessica" - sixteen years old and full of the joy of living - triumphantly brought her 10-metre pink yacht in past the Sydney heads and sailed along the harbour, accompanied by a welcoming flotilla of other small craft, ultimately to dock at the Sydney Opera House to a hero's welcome, having completed her quest to become the youngest person in history to complete such a feat.

>>>     WOW     <<<

Well done, Jessica - that was magnificent. You have quite taken our breath away!


I have my own quest. When I began this website in early 2005, my intention was to do whatever I could to help get rid of what must surely have been the most rabid, reactionary, right-wing federal government this country has ever had.

(It's highly significant that Malcolm Fraser, a former Liberal Prime Minister at a very turbulent time in Australian politics, has recently become sufficiently disillusioned with the increasingly conservative direction of his old party to resign his membership thereof. See this ABC News web-page to read more. God forbid that this outfit should get back into power at the next Federal Election, due in just a few months.)

Along the way, I included some of my own interests to give it the character of a personal statement, rather than simply a political rant. As time went on and the climate issue finally came to be seen around the world as massively important, about three years ago, I came to realize that what I was doing may well have some direct relevance.

So my dream evolved into something more comprehensive. With time on my hands, having become unemployed at the age of 44 and with few prospects of finding another full-time job (and yes, I did try), I began to put a lot of effort into this website, starting in early 2005, as mentioned above. Over the next year or two, my main focus shifted from politics to the very real need to convince as many people as I could that we need to phase out the burning of fossil fuels and switch to the one totally reliable energy-source available anywhere in the world (indeed, at any point in the entire universe), absolutely as soon as possible.

Perhaps I'm kidding myself. Maybe I'm quite simply wasting my time, and nobody could really care less. I don't know - but that's the nature of any quest, or dream, or vision. If you know how things are going to turn out beforehand, it just becomes a case of going through normal procedures, doesn't it? But this is about trying to do something special, and to make a difference - with no guarantee of success.

So I take heart from stories of people like Happiness Stan and Jessica Watson, who dare to attempt something "off the beaten track". Failure is always a possibility; but if you fail having tried your best, at the very least you can hold your head high. - And you can try again.

*       *       *       *       *       *       *

Happiness Stan took just seven days to fulfil his quest from the moment when "gathering all behind in the hintermost, he ploddy-ploddy forward into the deep fundamold of the complicatin' forrey to sort'n-it this one out, matey".

Jessica Watson took 30 weeks - about seven months - to achieve her dream of circumnavigating the world (not counting, of course, all the essential hard work and preparation she put into it before she set out).

It may well take something like seven years - perhaps more - for me to realize my vision of a world in which basic human decency triumphs over greed and arrogance, and our energy needs are met by the fundamental energy source in the universe, cleanly and cheaply, so that we can all have good quality of life - not just the rich and well-heeled. I've been onto this for about five and a half years so far; no end in sight yet. It might not happen in my lifetime; somewhat like Moses, I may perhaps get to see my "promised land" from a distance, without ever actually reaching it. But that's all part and parcel of pursuing a dream.

The important thing is not to give up.

*    *    *       *    *    *

ADDENDUM, Friday, 25th June 2010

You may have noticed how, as evening approaches on what has been a sunny day, the various colours in the spectrum are highlighted in the surroundings - starting with red, moving through orange, yellow, green and blue, ultimately ending with violet as the sky darkens. (The effect may be heightened if there's been a shower of rain shortly before, so that the air is clean and the colours are thus enhanced.)

I took the picture you see above in our front garden on the evening of Friday 26th March this year, just as this process was beginning, and the reds and pinks in the garden were really shining.

In our household, my wife is the gardener. (I'm just the bloke who sits inside and tries to sort'n out the world, matey, by writing inspiring web-pages. ) So, usually, she's the one who waters the garden - generally in the late afternoon or early evening, when the sun has just about gone for the day, so as to minimize water loss by evaporation.

My wife is from overseas (as I am myself, although I came here quite a lot longer ago). Every so often, she goes home to visit her folks for a few weeks, leaving me in charge of doing whatever needs to be done around the place. Depending on the time of the year, this may involve undertaking certain important tasks in the garden - watering the flowers and vegies, basically. So, in February/March this year, looking after the garden - and taking a few pictures of it - was my department. Basically, I was just here to help.

*    *    *    *    *    *

Here's a short copy-and-paste from one of my earlier pages which I posted on Saturday 17th January last year:

“My name's Kevin, I'm from Queensland, I'm here to help”

So spake Kevin Rudd, new leader of the federal Labor opposition, in his keynote address to the Australian Labor Party conference in Sydney, on 27th April 2007.

- and of course he did indeed go on to become Australia's Prime Minister on Saturday, 24th November, 2007. I've documented this, and the early months of Mr. Rudd's new federal government, in this page, posted on Tuesday 4th March 2008.

Until a few months ago, Mr. Rudd was very popular. He'd taken Australia in a new direction, effectively cleaning out a lot of political cobwebs from the Howard era (eleven and a half long, dreary years beginning in 1996). But things began to go awry around the beginning of this year. Without going into a lot of detail, just yesterday (24th June) Mr. Rudd stepped down as Prime Minister at a very emotional press conference which you can see on YouTube by clicking here.

In that speech, he made a point of detailing the very real early achievements made by his government, the very reasons that he remained a very popular public figure until quite recently.

So what happened to make that change?

It's a long and rather complex story. I don't want to go into lots of detail here; you can find out more by Googling if you're interested. I'll just give a few of my own thoughts here.

As mentioned, when he took office, Mr. Rudd made a point of taking charge, becoming very busy, very quickly, earning the respect of the Aussie people - myself included - as he made a number of long-overdue changes. But I think he perhaps didn't stop to draw breath often enough, eventually coming across as an impatient, somewhat driven, overbearing figure, to the point where it all became a bit of a worry. Then, when things started to go seriously wrong early in this very difficult year, the public began to lose faith in his judgment.

Among many others, I didn't - and still don't - think much of the carbon emissions trading scheme which he championed (although my reasons are probably quite different from most people's; I've gone into some detail in the main body of this page, above). I think that the home insulation scheme fundamentally made a lot of sense, but should have been implemented much more carefully. I'll admit that I don't really understand the mining tax issue; I suspect that very few people do.

I think that Mr. Rudd has many strengths, but that communication is perhaps not one of them - and that this was what was most needed in recent times. But then, nobody can be all things to all people, all of the time.

But he's done a lot of good. The very best thing, as far as I'm concerned, is that he got rid of the previous dreadful government when, apparently, no-one else could. He was here to help, when we really needed him. For that, even without all the positive things he's put in place since, I'll give him a cheer. He had his quest, his dream, his vision - and in large part, he has fulfilled it. I really hope that his successor can continue with the process.

For what he has achieved, I'd just like to say:

Well done, mate - you did okay. Hold your head high.

*    *    *                                                                                      *    *    *

UPDATE, Tuesday, 28th September 2010

On Saturday, 21st August 2010, we had a Federal Election down here in the Land of Oz. I'll probably be having a lot more to say about this in the not-too-distant future; but I'd just like to make a few quick comments here.

Firstly: Neither of the major parties (i.e. the Labor Party and the Liberal/National coalition) has won enough seats to form a clear majority. This time, the "balance of power" is held by a combination of Greens and Independents. (The Greens are going to have a huge influence in the Senate - the Upper House.) For the first time in 70 years, we have what is known as a hung parliament.

- And the best thing that I can say about that is:

      WELL . . . !      

Secondly: Quite clearly, things are going to be very different in Australia for the forseeable future. Predictably, the Liberal/National coalition - with its quite blatant "born-to-rule" mentality clearly on display - is hell-bent on bringing Julia Gillard's minority government down by whatever means possible, ASAP. However, with the government's slenderest possible margin (needing the promised commitment of the Greens and some of the Independents not to block supply or support frivolous no-confidence motions), I think that the "Libs" will just make themselves look even sillier than they do already (largely due to their leader's statement that climate change is absolute crap), and thus lose even more public support, if they try any wrecking tactics. If they fail to recognize that Australia has moved on (finally!), then they will quite simply squander any vestige of relevance that they may still have.

Thirdly: Now that the dust has begun to settle (today is the opening of the new parliament), we're hearing new language emerging in the climate-change debate. With such economic "fixes" for our badly-polluted atmosphere as "carbon emissions trading" and "carbon taxes" now apparently considered "old hat", the latest market-based gimmick to be foisted on poor old carbon is a price (click here to read the most recent piece of news on the matter as I write this). So it seems that the purple haze, from earlier in this page, now needs a bit more added to it:

Carbon capture and storage
Carbon emissions trading
Carbon sequestration
Carbon footprint
Carbon credits
Carbon offsets
Carbon taxes
==>       Carbon price       <==
Carbon this
Carbon that
                                              Carbon the other...

- all of which means that old Mad Teddy still has a lot of work to do!  

If I may express my exasperation with the current paradigm for dealing with our world's current main problem in the words of Jimi Hendrix (but note that I've written my own new lyrics for verse 2):

Purple haze, all in my brain;
Lately things don't seem the same.
Actin' funny, but I don't know why -
'Scuse me while I kiss the sky!

Purple haze all about,
But economics alone can't sort it out.
It's a technical problem, which could be solved -
If only we could get our leaders involved!

Purple haze, all in my eyes -
Don't know if it's day or night.
You've got me blowin', blowin' my mind...
Is it tomorrow, or just the end of time?

Won't you please join me in my quest? Have a look around this website, see what it is I'm trying to achieve, and lend a hand...

A splash of spring colour from our garden to help set the mood

UPDATE, Friday, 31st December 2010   (New Year's Eve)

I hadn't planned to add anything more here; indeed, only a week ago (Christmas Eve), I posted my Goodbye, 2010... page, thinking that it would be my last post for the year.

However, last night I did a bit of YouTube-ing, ran across a song I really like which I'd seen/heard there a few weeks ago, and thought: "That's just what I need to round off my 'Charabanc ride' page!"

In various pages in this site, I've made mention of Canadian-American rock band Steppenwolf, who had a string of hits around 1970. They had a punchy, forceful musical style, and often hard-hitting lyrics (they weren't afraid to be quite political). Sometimes, however, the lyrics were quite poetic and inspiring at a personal level. (My favourite song of theirs is "It's Never Too Late", the title of which I borrowed for the title of the penultimate page on my Main menu page; here's the link to a beautiful and inspiring slide-show version of the song on YouTube). You might like to visit the "John Kay and Steppenwolf" website; the home page is here.

Well, in 1987, some twenty years after their first success, Steppenwolf released a new song called "Hold On". Here are just some of the lyrics:

"Someday", you just keep on sayin',
"Someday, I will find a way to live my dream" -
But there's no guarantee.
Still, you got hope and your fantasy.

Hold on, never give up, never give in!
Stay young, and believe in your chance to win.
Hold on, never give up, never give in -
Stay young, and don't ever betray your dream.


Keep on believing, keep on achieving,
Stay fast and young, your time will come.

On the face of it, it's a bit difficult for a 57-year-old bloke, with a bad back and sundry other "middle-age" problems, to "stay fast and young"! However, I take that to mean in the sense of being mentally alert, active, and involved - as well as being "young at heart", of course. I fully intend to stay as "fast and young" as possible, for as long as possible, in both those senses - believe me. (For what it's worth, that will do as my New Year's Resolution! )

You can read the entire lyrics to "Hold On" here. Also, there are several videos of John Kay and his musical mates (wearing suitably daggy 1980's "rock-star" attire! ) performing this heart-warming song on YouTube; one of the best, in my opinion, is here. Enjoy - and be inspired!

I'd like to wish you a very Happy New Year for 2011 -
and may at least some of our shared dreams come true.

UPDATE, Thursday, 27th June 2013

Well! It seems that dreams really can come true after all.

Last evening (Wednesday 25-6-2013), the Australian people saw the return of the Prime Minister for whom they voted very enthusiastically a little over five and a half years ago.

It's been a long wait. If you've read through this page thus far (or if you're quite simply an Aussie who takes any interest at all in current events), you'll know that just three years ago, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd was deposed by an internal Labor Party coup.

Whatever the (possibly) valid reasons for something like this occurring, I - among a great many other Australians - didn't like the way it was done. As far as I was (and still am) concerned, the events of that time are best described, quite simply, as treachery.

Since then, politics in this country has become toxic. (That's not just my assessment; the word has been mentioned in this context on an on-going basis within the media for some years now.)

The toxicity has emerged, in part at least, as a result of what was once referred to as "the battle of the sexes". On the one hand, Ms. Gillard has made no secret of the fact that she considers her "gender" (more on this shortly) to be important - specifically, that she has been the first ever female Australian Prime Minister. On the other hand, partly as a result of irresponsible behaviour of some in the "shock-jock" media, some very nasty comments - including, in some cases, some which may be described (in common current parlance) as "misogynist" - have proliferated both within federal parliament and in the wider community. All very unfortunate, pointless, and damaging to Labor's cause, as the community has become increasingly polarized - and largely along "gender" lines. As reinstated Prime Minister Kevin Rudd himself has said only a few hours ago:

In recent years, politics has failed the Australian people.

I'm well aware that there are plenty of people in Australia who see things rather differently. This morning, I woke up, switched the radio on, and listened to ABC Radio National's "Life Matters" program - this particular episode being entitled "Gender Politics". In the program (you can click on that link to listen to it) was an interview with feminist commentator Anne Summers, who accused Mr. Rudd of "treachery"!



Oh dear - it seems as though we may have a long way to go before this country starts to function anything like normally again, after all the very unpleasant public negativity over these past several years. The sooner we start, the better.

(Please - do have a look at that last link, above. But don't just read the article itself; also have a look at some of the comments underneath, in the interests of balance.)

So, yeah - I'm glad to have Mr. Rudd back at the helm again. Although I may not agree with absolutely everything he says or does, at the very least I can respect him as a person who genuinely has the interests of all Australians at heart.

- - - - - - - - - -

As promised above - a bit about the word "gender".

The Concise Oxford Dictionary, Eighth Edition (1990), gives the following definition:

gender n.  1 a the grammatical classification of nouns and related words, roughly corresponding to the two sexes and sexlessness. b each of the classes of nouns (see MASCULINE, FEMININE, NEUTER, COMMON adj. 6).   2 (of nouns and related words) the property of belonging to such a class.   3 colloq. a person's sex. [ME f. OF gendre ult. f. L GENUS]

Okay - it's a bit technical, perhaps; but the point to be made here is that the word "gender" is fundamentally about language - words such as her; him; it; hers; his; its and so on. It's only the colloquial usage which has to do with a person's sex, according to the Concise Oxford, Eighth Edition. [If we look up "common", and go to the sixth definition of the word as an adjective, we find that it says: "6  Gram. (of gender) referring to individuals of either sex (e.g. teacher)." Just thought I'd better clear that up.]

So how in the world has that formerly minor colloquial use of the word "gender", less than a quarter of a century ago, come to be pretty much the only common use? - so that the word "sex" seems to have been banished from polite conversation, almost as though it is now school-marmishly viewed as nothing more than a "dirty word" and thus best avoided?    It seems to me that this is basically just a really silly form of political correctness we could well do without (and while on the subject, something broadly similar can be said of the current strident attempts in some circles to redefine the meaning of the word "marriage").

For the record: I, for one, take high exception to this kind of bastardization of the English language. (Go on - look it up!)

Just my little rant, okay?

- - - - - - - - - -

Welcome back, Kevin. May you indeed lead the Australian Labor Party, and perhaps even the whole country, back onto some kind of even keel, so that ordinary Aussie citizens may feel as though we can belong here once again - and may you also be successful in your attempt to rescue Labor's flagging fortunes before the coming federal election, and thus save Australia from a very unwelcome resurgence of "Howard's Way".

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