Showing posts with label Australia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Australia. Show all posts

Sunday, January 24, 2016

An Aborigine talks of "the Australian dream"

The journalist Stan Grant is a descendant of the Wiradjuri tribe.

I love a sunburned country, a land of sweeping plains, of rugged mountain ranges… It reminds me that my people were killed on those plains. We were shot on those plains, diseases ravaged us on those plains. My people die young in this country. We die 10 years younger than the average Australian, and we are far from free. We are fewer than 3 per cent of the Australian population and yet we are 25 per cent, a quarter of those Australians locked up in our prisons. And if you're a juvenile it is worse, it is 50 per cent. An Indigenous child is more likely to be locked up in prison than they are to finish high school. My grandfather on my mother's side, who married a white woman, who reached out to Australia, lived on the fringes of town until the police came, put a gun to his head, bulldozed his tin humpy, and ran over the graves of the three children he buried there. That's the Australian dream. And if the white blood in me was here tonight, my grandmother, she would tell you of how she was turned away from a hospital giving birth to her first child because she was giving birth to the child of a black person. The Australian dream. We are better than this.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Yanks in control of an Aussie Eden

If I were still residing out in my native land, I would surely react strongly to this ugly case of a total sell-out to American capitalism. Click here to see what I’m talking about. Settled down in France, far away from this sad situation, I can’t do much, and I no longer really care too much. Australia, after all, has become a total sell-out to global capitalism. Aussie voters—including the much-celebrated social wage-earning class known as battlers—are solely concerned with paying off the mortgage on their dull little homes. So, who gives a brass razoo (or a fuck, for that matter) about the presence of Yankee capitalism on an exotic West Australian island.

All the same, I’m immensely saddened by this story. But there’s surely worse to come…

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Knowing Indonesia

At the start of 1962, when I sailed from Sydney for the Old World, my grandfather was surprised, indeed slightly shocked, that a young Australian might venture out into the Northern Hemisphere without having first visited Outback Australia and our neighboring New Zealand. Today, in a way, I agree with him. But I’ve never, of course, regretted for an instant my profound relationship with France, along with parts of Britain and the Mediterranean (particularly Greece and Israel). For me, travel has always been an almost sacred affair, carried out necessarily in solitude, akin to setting foot in an ancient monastery. Consequently, I’ve never really traveled very much at all, except maybe into my own metaphorical “heart and soul”.

For Australians in general, Indonesia is a very special nation, since they’re our closest northern neighbors. Personally, I’ve never set foot there. As a schoolchild in Grafton, in the 1950s, I was thrilled when my paternal grandparents, in the context of an exchange program, welcomed a male Indonesian student into their home for a short time. (It’s not impossible that his name is going to spring into my mind, one night, in a dream.) He was so intelligent, refined and friendly that we tended to look upon him as an exhibit in a cultural museum. I would love to know what he thought of us.

Click to enlarge

Today, in my native land, everybody is shocked (like me too) because, in the early hours of the morning, Indonesian police dragged a couple of nice Australian fellows out of their beds in Bali, and stood them up for execution in front of firing squads. Needless to say, I disagree entirely with this kind of barbarian manslaughter, which serves no useful purpose. Here in France, on 18 September 1981, the great lawyer Robert Badinter made a moving speech to the National Assembly that culminated in the abolition of the death penalty.

« J'ai l'honneur,
au nom du Gouvernement de la République,
de demander à l'Assemblée nationale
l'abolition de la peine de mort en France... »

It would be marvelous if every civilized nation in the world were to abandon forever the disgusting death penalty… but we’re nowhere near the achievement of this goal. Just look at Texas. Meanwhile, it would be good if Australia were to make an effort in getting to know our northern neighbor, instead of reducing the Indonesian nation to the sole silly low-cost pleasure-ground of Bali.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Pathetic end of a pioneering era

I don’t know whether many of my compatriots have ever heard of a NSW rural township named Breeza. Here’s a wonderful photo of the Breeza landscape from Ian Stehbens:

Breeza is surely one of the loveliest names you could possibly imagine for a hot flat place out on the Liverpool Plains. One imagines sea breezes floating in magically from the distant Pacific! I heard this name constantly during my childhood, because my grandmother Kathleen Pickering [1889-1964] was born in nearby Quirindi and brought up in Breeza, on a sheep station named Currabubula. What fabulous place names! If you’ve got a map—or, better still, Google—you’ll find that the municipalities named Breeza and Currabubula lie in the middle of a triangle whose corners are Gunnedah, Tamworth and Quirindi.

I’ve just published (through Gamone Press) a family-history book, They Sought the Last of Lands, presenting pioneering stories of my Australian ancestors.

If you’re interested, I invite you to click here to download the chapter in which I speak of my grandmother from Breeza.

Now, some of the few remaining flimsy threads that tie me to my native land are about to be destroyed forever. A Chinese company named Shenhua has apparently received approval from the NSW state government to build a gigantic coal mine on the agricultural lands of the Liverpool Plains near my ancestral township of Breeza. Astounded and shocked by such a scenario, I hardly know what to say.
Australia is selling off to China
 the lands and spirits of her pioneers.
The souls of my ancestors.
Click here and here for press stuff on this unfolding tragedy.

Meanwhile, as usual Down Under, where life is casual, nobody seems to give a coal-mine fuck. Is our Australian people really as apathetic and indeed pathetic as that? Yes, no doubt. I would love to be contradicted...

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Patriotic sheep

On Australia Day, these sheep got their act together:

But this dumb ram didn’t:

Monday, January 26, 2015

Australia Day thoughts

I’m so stunned and embarrassed by the comical stupidity of that Abbott fellow that I don’t feel like saying anything much at all today. So, out of respect for a land I once loved, I shall remain silent.

PS A sad thought crossed my mind: Things could get worse, alas, if Charles were to become king. And another sad thought: How many of those Australians who joke about Abbott today were actually responsible for voting him in, often with the sole misogynistic aim of getting rid of Julia Gillard? Aussies are a fickle people.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Συγχαρητήρια Ελλάδα !

It would be wonderful if the stunning victory of the extreme left in Greece could be an incentive for vast changes in Europe.

On this Australia Day, it would be wonderful too if my native land, inspired by the Greek example, were to set out at last on the road towards the creation of a republic, capable of recuperating the vast mineral wealth that is being stolen by international capitalists, and using it to build a splendid infrastructure and a decent defense system for the people of Australia.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Darwin guy close to getting a Darwin Award

In this blog, here, I’ve already mentioned the prestigious annual Darwin Awards. They’re necessarily posthumous awards, because a winner has to have done something immensely stupid, to such an extent that he kills himself, whereby benefiting humanity through the removal of his ugly chromosomes from the human gene pool. The standards for receiving this award might appear to be excessively high, but the underlying idea is that, if a candidate doesn’t kill himself, then he wasn’t stupid enough to deserve a prize. You might say that such a failed candidate demonstrates, through his survival, that he wasn’t sufficiently altruistic or self-abnegating, with respect to his fellow men, to be a winner.

In the case of the following fellow, with a shirt hiding his face, all I can say is that he came bloody close to getting an award. The ATM [automated teller machine] that he succeeded in blowing up knocked him backwards onto the ground, but the explosion didn’t have quite enough force to blow his stupid head off. Pity.

I was most impressed by the way in which the guy got back up immediately onto his feet, tore the shirt off his face, and headed off away from the camera. When I was a kid in Australia, we had a nice expression that sums up this kind of sporting prowess:
He took off like a bat out of Hell.

This would have been a particularly poignant Darwin Award, because the fellow’s act took place in Winnellie, which happens to be a suburb of the Northern Territory town of Darwin. What a shame he failed.

Incidentally, among the comments of well-wishers who appreciated this fascinating video, I was really pissed off by an American who talked as if our hero were a citizen of God’s Own Country… and moreover a Republican. Bloody pretentious Yanks. It’s time they realized that, Down Under, we’ve got individuals who are just as brilliantly idiotic as the dumbest US specimens.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Fit to be worn by an Aussie PM

This morning, I was browsing around on the Internet, looking for stores that sell long winter underwear... which is the ideal solution for keeping warm whenever I'm wandering around outside in the snow. I took a look at the website of the French textile company named 3 Suisses.

Now I can already hear some of my readers complaining: "William is such a staunch Francophile that he's trying to pull the wool (or synthetic textile) over our eyes by suggesting that the 3 Suisses company is French. But we know enough French to realize that this company, in view of its name, is obviously Swiss." I'm sorry to disappoint such bright readers, but the explanations I'm about to reveal might enable them to succeed in a future French trivia quiz. In 1932, Monsieur Toulemonde set up the offices of his company in Roubaix, in the north of France. Opposite his office building, there was a bistrot run by a Monsieur Suis, who had 3 daughters. Customers got around to referring to the bistrot as chez les 3 Suisses. And that name rubbed off onto the textile company on the other side of the road.

After World War II, the annual 3 Suisses catalogue became required reading for families throughout France. And, as early as 1998, the 3 Suisses company glided effortlessly into the Internet era... almost as if they had been waiting for it to happen.

These days, when Internet users are reading the French news, they often find images of scantily-clad females, wearing 3 Suisses garments, floating across the top of the screen. And I know from experience that, whenever I've been tempted to take a closer glimpse at such a creature, I've been bombarded constantly, for days afterwards, by all kinds of 3 Suisses ads for female clothes... which are generally of a quite pleasant nature.

This morning, though, I was hit in the eye by the following 3 Suisses publicity:

I peered at the name beneath the photo on the left, and said to myself that this was no doubt a joke. Somebody had surely created this hoax name and image on the 3 Suisses website. No genuine manufacturer would dare to call his company "Aussie Bum". Maybe the site had been hacked by a gay guy from Down Under who was still under the spell of Mr Rabbit's budgie smuggling.

Well, it seems I was wrong. The company in question really exists, and you can click here to view their range of big-bulge products.

Monday, December 31, 2012

Satellite night views

I'm impressed by this lovely Nasa night view of the planet Earth:

[Click to enlarge]

Questions arise, demanding answers. From right to left (like the Sun):

— Clearly, the New Zealander who was holding a candle has learned that humanity possesses fire. A kind soul might inform him that we've also invented electricity.

— The Australian government should find and punish the fuckwit who turned out all the lights in Tasmania at exactly the moment that Nasa photographers were asking the people of the world to say cheese.

— What's all that luminous agitation in the Nile Delta ? The spirit of the pharaohs ?

— Dark Africa. Basically, the African continent remains dark. Is this some kind of literary arrangement?

— Northern America appears to be sharply divided between illuminated society (to the Atlantic east) and the obscure Far West. California might succeed in throwing light upon this vast dark territory.

Don't forget to blow out your bedside candle before falling asleep.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Young Australians 2012

In France yesterday, a similarly illegal protest march took place in Paris. We learn today that an official inquiry will take place, to identify the ringleaders. An organizer of an illegal happening of this kind can be jailed for six months and fined 7,500 euros. To perform their inquiry, French police have the identities of 152 protesters, and they will be using street video images and messages that appeared on the Internet.

The exceptional resolution of the French ministry of the Interior is reassuring. I have the impression that a similar procedure is to be adopted in Australia. The following excerpt from The Sydney Morning Herald confirms that the disturbances in Sydney are being taken most seriously:
The chain of text messages that led to the riot in Sydney's central business district on Saturday leaving 23 people injured, including six police officers, was being traced by detectives last night. More arrests were expected in addition to those of the six men already charged, after about 400 protesters tried to storm the US consulate in Sydney and became involved in running battles with police around Hyde Park, St James railway station and William Street. [...] The public order and riot squad was on standby last night to quell any further outbreaks of violence, and an investigative team, Strike Force McAlister, was formed to track down ringleaders.

Australian child 2012

Saturday, February 25, 2012

French visitor in Australia

Recently, this emu at Taronga Park on the shores of Sydney Harbour was puzzled:

The bird couldn't be expected to know that the great French 34-year-old rugby international Sébastien Chabal (nicknamed the Caveman) was in Sydney on a working holiday. He had been invited as a guest player in the third-grade Balmain team in a match against Petersham.

Why not have fun while getting paid to visit Down Under? For the moment, Chabal has a bit of time on his hands, since leaving his last club in Paris.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Rally Australia

At Coffs Harbour, over the four days starting next Thursday, this is the Citroën automobile to admire:

Here's a rear view of this vehicle:

And here's the driver, Sébastien Loeb:

For the moment, Loeb is leading the 2011 championship, but he could still be beaten by the other Citroën driver, Sébastien Ogier. Meanwhile, with three rallies remaining after Australia (in France, Spain and the UK), the Finns Mikko Hirvonen and Jari-Matti Latvala, in their Fords, are unlikely to catch up with the Frenchmen.

Click the banner to access the Rally Australia website. I've been looking at the four-day schedule and the various maps, and trying to figure out what I would do if I were a spectator out in New South Wales. On the opening day, it would be good to spend some time at the Jetty Precinct in Coffs Harbour, in the hope of glimpsing the drivers and vehicles before they actually get into action, late in the afternoon. Then, on Sunday afternoon, it would be interesting to watch the final so-called "power stage" up in the vicinity of Wooli and Red Rock.

The rally covers such a big area—of what appears to be bush country (?)—that I have no idea how spectators are expected to move from one place to another. Nor do I know how spectators can actually obtain real-time information on the results of the latest stages. Maybe by means of an iPhone capable of linking to the above-mentioned website?

Early Australian automobile rally

Starting next Thursday, Rally Australia will be taking place near my birthplace: more precisely, in several rural zones in the vicinity of the coastal town of Coffs Harbour.

I shall never forget my first contact with an automobile trial in Australia, in 1956, at a time when I was living with my grandparents at Robinson Avenue in Grafton and preparing my final high-school certificate. I am referring to the 1956 Ampol Around Australia Trial. My grandfather was the Ford dealer in Grafton, and his garage had a gasoline pump alongside the roadway in Fitzroy Street, at the spot where the entrance to an automobile business existed up until recently.

This address was indicated as an official refueling station for the Ampol contestants, who had left Sydney during the day. When the vehicles started to arrive in Fitzroy Street, it was late in the evening. I was there, alongside my grandfather's gasoline pump, participating in the excitement. After all, in quiet old Grafton, we had never before seen anything quite like this. I remember in particular the third car to arrive, with its headlights blazing. It was a charming little MG TF sports car (manufactured by Morris), much like this:

On the local radio, I had heard about this vehicle and its occupants, Les Slaughter and Bill Mayes, no doubt because their vehicle was so much more elegant than most of the typical sedans engaged in the trial: bulky Holdens, Peugeots, Fords, Standard Vanguards, etc. I was so close to the car that I had time, while it was being refueled, to gaze down into the cockpit, where I could see clearly the two drivers, both of whom were wearing woolen bonnets (because it must have been quite cool, of an evening, beneath their flimsy canvas hood). To my innocent eyes, unaccustomed to harsh sporting adventures of this kind, there was something unreal about the vision of these two fellows emerging from the darkness, and waiting impatiently to take off once again. As they drove off into the dark, I had the impression that I was watching a pair of daring pioneers, heroes of a new kind.

The next morning, we learned from news bulletins on the radio that Slaughter and Mayes had never reached the next town, up on the Great Dividing Range. They had disappeared mysteriously somewhere along the mountainous Gwydir Highway between South Grafton and Glen Innes. However nobody in any of the other 31 vehicles, racing through that rugged and sparsely-populated region in the middle of the night, had witnessed anything unusual. Later on in the day, an intrigued automobile specialist, Evan Green, came upon telltale tracks in the gravel, indicating that a vehicle had left the dangerous road. Police found the little MG down at the bottom of a gorge. The two drivers had been ejected by the impact, and they were lying face-down in a creek, side-by-side, where they had in fact drowned. I was no doubt one of the last people to see Slaughter and Mayes alive, in the cockpit of their beautiful little automobile. I've never forgotten that tragedy, which marked me enormously. Curiously, though, I felt that it was almost inevitable that such exotic and intrepid heroes should meet their destiny in this dramatic fashion.

Finally, the trial was won by two Australians—Alan Taylor and Wilf Murrell—driving a run-of-the-mill French car: a Peugeot 403.

POST SCRIPTUM: It's quite possible that this archaic gasoline pump, which apparently still exists today at the Fitzroy Street premises, is the place where Slaughter and Mayes fueled up for the last time.

Friday, March 18, 2011

The day my grandfather woke up in Australia

My grandfather Ernest Skyvington [1891-1985] once described to me his joy upon arriving in Sydney Harbour on the SS Marathon on Christmas Day 1908, where he was greeted by his London-born seafaring uncle William Mepham and his Australian-born wife Gertrude Driscoll, who lived at Rushcutters Bay.

The next day was important in 20th-century boxing history and, indeed, in world racial history, for Australian boxing enthusiasts would witness a match that had been unthinkable, in the Northern Hemisphere, up until that summer afternoon in Sydney. A black Texan, Jack Johnson [1878-1946], whose parents were former African slaves, would finally seize the world heavyweight championship from a white Canadian, Tommy Burns [1881-1955].

My grandfather, aged 17, spent the 26 December 1908 wandering around Rushcutters Bay, where he was impressed by the crowds who were gathering for the big match. He would tell me much later (with a hint of pride in his modest origins) that he obviously didn't have the necessary cash in his pocket to pay for a seat in the stadium.

Click the above image to see a panoramic photo—which I've only just just discovered—of the entire view of the Rushcutters Bay stadium on that famous afternoon.

Exactly 46 years later, my grandparents would take me to that same Sydney eastern-suburbs neighborhood to watch another great match: the Davis Cup tennis finals, described in my article of 27 December 2007 entitled Over half a century ago [display].

POST SCRIPTUM: A fascinating video summarizes the celebrated Johnson-Burns title fight of 1908 (which I recently heard described on French radio).

There's a terribly significant detail, which may or may not correspond to what we tend to imagine when we hear this story today. Finally, it was not the referee, but rather the Sydney police, in the 14th round, who intervened to halt this one-sided combat, which looked as if it might culminate in a fatal issue. But, before stepping in between the boxers, the police ordered the news filming to be stopped. Today, historians consider that the Sydney police had orders to do everything that they could to avoid the idea that the sporting archives might contain the terrible images of a black man hammering a white boxer to death. As you can see for yourselves in the video, the Sydney police did in fact succeed in this censuring mission.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Crocodile Douglas

My son François Skyvington has just pointed me to a French TV trailer concerning his recent moped excursion in Western Australia.

[Click the image to see the trailer.]

The documentary includes a sequence with the crocodile expert Malcolm Douglas, who died a few days ago in a freak accident when his four-wheel-drive vehicle crushed him against a tree on his farm property near Broome.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Down blunder

When I was young, the first blunder indicating that something might be rotten in my native land was the Orr case, in 1955. In an atmosphere evoking the trial of Socrates for moral misconduct, a professor of philosophy in Tasmania, Sydney Sparkes Orr [1914-1966], was castigated on the grounds that he had been involved in an intimate relationship with one of his female students, named Susan Kemp. At that time, I was convinced that a professorship of philosophy was surely the most noble calling that could possibly be imagined in Tasmania or the civilized world at large, and that such an academic incumbent should certainly have the right, in certain circumstances, to screw his permissive libertarian students. Retrospectively, I don't deny that I probably imagined myself already as a future teacher of philosophy, in exciting Tasmania, initiating a harem of splendid young virgins (all of whom were taking notes conscientiously) into the subtle sins of sex. Alas, I never made it to Tasmania…

Starting in 1980, my compatriots have perpetrated a vastly greater blunder: the case of Azaria Chamberlain.

For ages, it was called Ayer's Rock. Then somebody in a government administration, bowing down to the sentiments of the survivors of an indigenous people that had once been slaughtered, said it should be known henceforth as Uluru. Why not? For me (who's never set foot there), it's Dingo Rock.

The amazing details of the many ways in which Anglo-Saxon fuckwits screwed up this investigation and legal case can be found on the web. To my mind, it is a harsh indictment of almost everything about naive and uninformed Australian attitudes towards crime, law, guilt and innocence. The notorious legal pursuit of Azaria's mother, Lindy Chamberlain, was a case study of Down Under ignorance, stupidity and injustice.

Today, those of us Australians who respect historical evidence and arguments must visit the following excellent website, and read Lindy Chamberlain's 30th anniversary "letter to open-minded Australians":

I ask the following rhetorical question: Are we Australians in fact sufficiently open-minded to hear Cindy Chamberlain's plea for justice?

No, globally, many things make me fear that we Aussies are still too astronomically stupid…

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Staple Aussie food

Emmanuelle, my daughter, has the impression that there exists a characteristic Australian cuisine. I have no idea where she got this strange idea. She often asks me whether, apart from steak and kidney pie, and crumbed lamb cutlets, etc, I can recollect any other typical Aussie dishes. I often tell her that my staple diet, as a lad in South Grafton, was peanut butter sandwiches. A few days ago, for the first time ever since I've been in France, I bought a jar of Nicaraguan peanut butter at the local supermarket.

With my home-made walnut bread and Norman butter, the sandwiches are as good as (probably better than) anything from my childhood.

Meanwhile, if Australian readers were to supply my daughter with the recipes of authentic Australian dishes, I'm sure she would be delighted (since I believe she's putting together some kind of a document in this domain). Following my last visit to Australia, I've attempted to obtain the recipe of traditional meat pies of the so-called "humble pie" variety (this could well be a trademark), but nobody has ever replied to my inquiries.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010