Thursday, 13 October 2011

It Was 45 Years Ago Today!

On October 15, 1966 at the age of 13 years and 10 months, my life changed forever. It was on that sunny Saturday afternoon, I, together with my parents, four brothers and one sister, boarded a BOAC Boeing 707 and took off from Heathrow Airport.
Passenger train to Kalgoorlie - 1966

After stopping off at Rome, Zurich, Rangoon, Delhi and Singapore, we landed in Perth just after midnight on Monday October 17. We were put up in a hostel for 'Ten Pound Tourists' for what was left of the night only to catch the train to Kalgoorlie at 5.30 pm that same afternoon.

When I saw the train at Perth Central I thought we had been transported back 100 years! It looked just like one of those trains you see in cowboy movies, and travelled at around the same speed of 35 miles an hour!!

We eventually arrived in Kalgoorlie 14 hours later at 7.30am on the Tuesday. My worst fears were realised! Yes, we really had been transported back in time, it wasn't just a dream. We were back in the 'wild west'! All that was missing was 'Buffalo Bill'. I was in a state of shock and traumatised.

How could my parents do this to me? What had I done to deserve banishment to the colonies at such a tender age?

My dream of a football career with my beloved Manchester United was shattered. My heart was broken, my mind was black. But the worst was yet to come!

Stay tuned.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Where have all the flowers gone..?

Last weekend’s trip to Geraldton was, as expected, delightful. It was a pleasant drive up the coast road, lunch at Jurien Bay, where I had one of the best long macchiato’s  I’ve ever had outside Leederville.

On then to Geraldton, listening to “Harvest” and “Rust Never Sleeps” by Neil Young, Great stuff.

I felt really sorry for Chantelle. She had applied some skin cancer cream to her face and accidentally got some on her lips. No problem until she woke up next morning and her lips and inside of her mouth were red raw and blistered. Well if that stuff burns skin cancer off your face, imagine what it does to the more sensitive area of the lips and mouth. Not very pleasant at all.

As usual it is always good to see the grandchildren. Andrew 14, Lateesha 13, Jasmine 10 and Henry 7. Andrew is taller than me now and Lateesha is the same height. I know that’s nothing to brag about, but everything is relative.
Lunch with the Grandchildren

 Andrew plays this sophisticated game called “Guitar Hero”, I’m not going to go into the complexities of it, suffice to say, it’s way above my head and Andrew plays like a Master. In fact I believe he is in the top 400 in the world. Very impressive.

On the Saturday morning we went to see Lateesha play her final game of netball, which her school team won easily. Lateesha played very well. A beautiful young lady in the making.

Jasmine is a very pleasant and attractive, soon to be teenager. Being 10 years old is almost a teenager isn’t it?

Henry is a bundle of high explosive energy, in a nice way. At 7 years of age he knows more about computers and similar devices then I could ever know. It’s a whole different world to the one I live in, and no doubt if he applies himself, he will go a long way.

On the way home on Monday I was hoping to be swamped in Wildflowers, but alas it was not to be. I came back through Mingenew and down the Midlands Road, through Coorow, Moora and Gingin. I had to go off the beaten track at Coorow to see a decent display of wildflowers. I had expected a mass of wildflowers all along the road to Perth!

I’ll plan it better next time and do a bit more homework and allow more time to explore. Nonetheless, the drive back to Perth along the Midlands Road was delightful. It is such a beautiful country we live in, I really must make more of an effort to take these mini breaks and get out and about a bit more.

Kambalda maybe next, to see brother Phil? Now that would bring back some memories. Scary!

Stay tuned.

Friday, 16 September 2011

It's Wild Flower Season

I've heard the wildflowers in Western Australia are spectacular this year. As it turns out I'm off to Geraldton for the weekend to visit Chantelle and 4 of the grandchildren. I'm really looking forward to the visit including the drive up and back.
Chapman Valley - Geraldton WA

I'm setting off today (Friday) up the fairly recently completed coast road, which is nothing more than and extension of Wanneroo Road. It is a beautiful drive following the ocean, where I'll stop off in the very pretty town of Jurian.

I'll stay with my eldest daughter Chantelle in Geraldton and probably return to Perth on Monday. The kids get older every year (wow, that's profound!), and the things that used to entertain them no longer do. For example, Andrew is 14 and Lateesha 13. Can you remember when you were that age?

I can, it wasn't that long ago, and from memory I wasn't all that interested in hanging around the oldies. And Geraldton isn't exactly buzzing with things to do.

We may go to the pictures (that's movies for you youngsters) and the pool, where I'll sit and read the Weekend Oz or a book on economics or something similarly exciting, while the mob splashes about.

Me amongst the Grandchildren - I love it!
Driving back to Perth on Monday, I intend taking the inland route through Mingenew and Moora to check out the blooms. It's a beautiful drive, not too long, not too short (About 4 to 5 hours depending on stops) and hopefully not too much traffic.

I must say I do enjoy the Geraldton trips and catching up with children and grandchildren. Who cares if there's not much to do, the mere sight of my own flesh and blood is more than sufficient. They are uplifting - just like wild flowers!!

Monday, 5 September 2011

Father's Day!

Well another Father's Day has come and gone, my 35th as a father. I have to admit to being somewhat cynical about all those various 'Days', including 'Father's Day', 'Mother's Day', 'Valentines Day' etc, etc, and sad to say of late 'Christmas Day'.

Not that I've got anything against remembering and acknowledging the real meaning behind some of these 'Days', particularly 'Mother's Day', 'Father's Day' and Christmas Day.

Sometimes, as forgetful, pre-occupied creatures we do actually need to be reminded about certain significant and meaningful occasions in our otherwise busy lives.

My main beef is the over commercialisation of these important occasions. Marketers have a field day whenever one of these 'Days' looms on the horizon. Major corporations and smaller retailers lick their lips in anticipation of the opening of the proverbial wallet.

Poor, stressed out consumers become poorer and more stressed out deciding what useless, soon to be forgotten present to buy this year in order to 'prove' their love for the recipient of the gift.

Now, don't get me wrong, I am all for giving gifts, to anyone, not just family and friends. But why should it take on marketing led significance at certain times of the year, together with all the stuff that goes with it?

It's truly delightful to present a loved one or friend with a gift for no other reason than that person came to mind and resonated in the heart. It can happen at any time of the day, at any time of the year.

Personally I was stoked with a phone call and SMS from Chantelle and Melissa saying "Happy Father's Day, Dad. I love you."  What more could a father ask for? It's more to do with what's in the heart than what's in the wallet (or credit card).

Don't tell the economists though, it's bad for GDP, but that's another story.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

The Joy of Grandparenting

Long, long ago in another life, I used to look at doddering old people fussing over their grandchildren and think to myself, ‘I hope I never end up like that’. I just could not see what all the fuss was about.

That is until my first grandchild came along on January 2, 1997, in the form of Andrew.

Now 14 years and ten grandchildren later, I am the consummate doddering grandfather, fussing over my tribe of angels.

Me with my latest grandson, Ethan Thomas Johnstone 22.7.2011

Becoming a grandparent changed my life forever.

I honestly didn’t believe I had it in me to play hide and seek in the back yard with a two and four year old, or get excited about going to the movies to watch “Cars 2” with 3 of my grandsons aged 5 to 8. And, wait for it, have lunch at Hungry Jack’s with the Geraldton mob of 7 to 14 year olds.

This is just not me, but then again grandchildren have a transformative effect on grumpy old men like me which I’m happy to say brings out the best in me.

It has called out something in me which, while deep in my heart I know existed, I had always found to be elusive. It is LOVE!

Having grandchildren has tapped into a reservoir of love in a way nothing else could. I am now a much happier, contented person with renewed energy for life and I attribute most of it to my grandchildren.

You should try it sometime, it will change your life!

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Carbon Tax ... It's all in the Timing!

I don’t know about you but I spent most of ‘Carbon Sunday’ glued to the TV, channel surfing between ABC News 24 and Sky News. It was riveting TV for a political junkie like me.
So what do you make of all this carbon tax stuff?
I have formed some views during the past few months culminating in the announcement by Prime Minister Julia Gillard last Sunday week.
First of all regardless of whether we believe the planet is warming due to human activity, in the long term it is of great benefit all round to consume less and pollute less. This part is a no-brainer.
global warming pollution 300x199 Bernies Brief
Second, it seems inevitable that the world as a whole will eventually implement policies which result in lower CO2 emissions. The only question is ‘When?’.
Third, the Carbon Tax policy announced by Julia Gillard on July 10, has more to do with politics and staying in Government in than with reducing CO2 emissions. This is evident by the fact that Ms Gillard was one of the four kitchen cabinet members under former PM Kevin Rudd who pushed for a shelving of the previous emissions trading scheme until some time in the future. Prime Minister Gillard then stated a few days before the 2010 election that there would be no carbon tax.
Fast forward to February 2011 and the Prime Minister announces that there will now be a carbon tax. This is the price of forming a minority government with the Greens. My question is would a carbon tax have been announced if Labor had won government in it’s own right??

Fourth, the major CO2 emitters of USA, China and India have not committed to any serious CO2 reduction scheme. In fact the US has completely abandoned its proposed cap and trade scheme.

Fifth, Imposing a carbon tax in Australia will not make the slightest difference to global CO2 emissions in the absence of the major world economies joining in.
Sixth, How is over compensating consumers going to change behaviours? It actually amounts to bribing people to consume more.
Seventh, To impose a carbon tax of $23/tonne on the Australian economy at a time of low consumer confidence and a seriously slowing economy apart from mining, not to mention the serious state of the US, UK, EU and Japanese economies, is sheer madness.
Finally, to further prove the point that this is more about politics than saving the planet, if you did happen to witness the proceedings on Carbon Sunday, you would have seen Greens Leader Bob Brown and his deputy Christine Milne grinning like a pair of Cheshire cats who had just swallowed a flock of canaries and who had all their birthdays and Christmases come at once. They were the happiest people in town and that in itself is a cause to be concerned.
That’s not to say Tony Abbott’s proposed direct action scheme is any better, in fact it is more expensive and still may not have the desired effect.
The main issue is the timing and mechanics of the government’s carbon tax relative to the rest of the world. We are very small players in the world economy (remember Copenhagen?) and our CO2 emissions are less than 2% of global emissions.
However, the proposed tax at this time, I feel, risks causing serious damage to a seriously slowing economy, albeit one which survived the GFC, and that’s the real worry. There is a time and place for everything. It may be a good idea in principle but this is not the time for a carbon tax in Australia.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Moooo .... ! Don't Worry, Be Happy

I was hoping to write about real estate today, but there is not really that much to say that you don’t already know. In short, the market is pretty flat nationally with Western Australia and Queensland faring worst.

However, there is a glimmer that things may be turning around: my phone actually rang once last week and it has rung three times so far this week and it is still only Thursday.

Much more interesting is the government’s amazing solution to our live cow exports… our cows can now relax in the knowledge that they will be asleep when their throats are cut.

According to world standards, stunning is not mandatory, even in Australia, and despite everything else, not much is going to change in Indonesia.

All our cattle exported to Indonesia will now have to be tracked electronically from the paddock to the plate, as it were, and Australian producers will be responsible for the cost of such tracking and auditing.

The government has generously offered around $30 million to the cattle industry as assistance (read compensation) but in the context of a $300 million industry it should keep them in bread and milk for a week or so.

Kevin, (…. I’m from Queensland…) obviously took my advice and flew up to Jakarta and sweet talked the Indonesians, but the damage done diplomatically and economically is a very sad reflection of the incompetence of some or our government ministers.

Regardless of what one may think of live exports there are intelligent and appropriate ways of doing things and in my humble view the government failed miserably on both counts.

Now do we just wait for the next fiasco? ….

Rest assured we won’t have long to wait! Carbon Tax comes to mind…. stay tuned for my thoughts on that hot issue!

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Meine Deutshe Familie

As I have already written I travelled to Germany at the end of May to attend the 65th Wedding Anniversary of my Polish Aunty Elizabeth and Uncle Gerhard.

Aunty and Uncle were lucky enough to escape from communist Poland, together with their son Klaus, in 1965. They settled in (West) Berlin and have been in the same apartment ever since. Uncle is now 90 and Aunty is 87, and, as you’d expect their respective bodies are showing definite signs of wear and tear.
Hilde, Klaus, Uncle, Aunty & Me

The actual day of celebration was June 2, and there was a service at the local church in the morning followed by a late lunch in the afternoon. It was a memorable occasion in itself, but more so for me as I was able to reconnect with first cousin Klaus and his wife Hilde, as well as Klaus’ children Patrick, Mandy and Scarlett and their spouses and their children, my third cousins.

I also got to meet, for the first time my late father’s second cousin, Graszina who is Polish but has lived in Denmark for the past twenty years or so with her husband Robert and daughter Sandra.

As I looked around the gathering and stumbled my way through conversations in very basic German and English, I felt that here was my own flesh and blood. There was that real and unique sense of family.

It was the same feeling I’d had at a breakfast we’d attended just before I left at my brother Paul and his wife Regina's house in Perth.  Present were my sister Elaine, brother Philip as well as nieces Maria and Emily and nephew Phil, (Paul’s children) and their spouses and children. I’d also caught up with Kendal and Carly, Philip’s daughters over that weekend.

And I haven’t even mentioned my own children and stepchildren, Chantelle and Melissa, Melanie and Chris and brothers and nieces who could not be there.

The thing is, this thing we call family is more extensive than we think and it’s a great feeling to be part of an extensive and expanding family.

Imagine if there were no one to connect with, even if it is only once a year (or five years in the case of the German side).

It is indeed a fortunate life.

Monday, 27 June 2011

Kill the Fatted Calf

While I was away in Germany I belatedly read a report that the Federal Government had banned live cattle exports to IndonesiaThis is a typical policy on the run, poll driven, populist response to a TV program, in this case 4 Corners on the ABC.

As a result, thousands of people are at risk of being thrown out of work, many more Indonesians are being deprived of staple food, and once again our Federal Government is looking like a bunch of incompetent amateurs.

This is not to condone cruelty to any living creature, no intelligent, compassionate person would, but things need to put into perspective. For a start I find it hard to believe the powers that be did not know cruel practices were being carried out in some Indonesian abattoirs.

Why did it take a TV program to alert them to something everyone in the meat industry already knew about? So, let’s give them the benefit of the doubt and say they were ignorant of the situation in Indonesia.

And anyway, what happened to diplomacy!?

Surely someone in high authority (What about “…Kevin, I’m from Queensland and I’m here to help”) could have allowed the Indonesians to at least save some face and embarrassment by holding talks in private to discuss the situation to the mutual benefit of all parties.

This government is like (pardon the pun) a bull in a China shop when it comes to diplomacy. Our, at the time, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd set the scene when he referred to the Chinese as “rat f….rs” at the climate change conference in Copenhagen last year.
No wonder Asian countries have seen the West as barbarians for so long.

By the way, when are we going to shut down the live sheep trade, after all we have to be consistent, even incompetently consistent. And, last but not least, has anyone visited a chicken factory (sorry, farm) lately? You’ll never eat KFC again if you do.

I hope all those people complaining and demonstrating about cruelty to animals are actually walking the talk and are or becoming vegetarians.

If there were no meat eaters there would be no market for meat, live or otherwise.
And yes, just in case you are wondering, I am a vegetarian.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

No, Prime Minister!

I saw Prime Minister Julia Gillard being interviewed on TV the other evening and, for the first time I thought she looked stressed and under pressure. I could also hear some nervousness in her voice.
The following evening I saw an interview on ABC 7.30 with the New Zealand Prime Minister John Key.

What a contrast!

Mr Key looked and sounded calm, relaxed, confident and, unusual for a politician, somewhat humble.

New Zealand is hardly a major player on the world economic stage, but they have actually implemented an emissions trading scheme, which seems to be working for them.

Whether you agree with climate change and its causes, the Kiwis have actually done it while our politicians play politics trying to score cheap political points against each other.

And, what's more, New Zealand has operated with a minority government for at least the past ten years.

I've been a keen observer of politics for the past 40 years and I have never seen such a rabble on both sides of politics that we now have in Australia.

Talk about "dumbing down".

Where are the great leaders, statesmen with conviction and vision!? They are nowhere to be seen.

Australia stands at the precipice of the greatest mining boom in its history and it seems our political "leaders"
have no idea on how to come up with and communicate policies which will set the nation as a whole up for decades to come.

What an opportunity going to waste!

That having been said there are foreboding omens on the economic horizon due to the deteriorating financial situations in the U.S., Europe, Japan and the U.K. And don't forget China!

Some economists are forecasting a slowdown in China over the next few years due to rising inflation and debt levels caused by a property boom (sound familiar?). Unless we position ourselves to absorb any financial shocks from overseas, I fear Australia may finally experience an economic downturn, notwithstanding the mining boom.

Sad to say I don't have a great deal of faith in our political leaders until they stop playing to the media and actual grow up and start governing.

What do you think?

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Never say "never".

I attended a blogging course yesterday through UWA extension service. It was presented in excellent fashion by Amanda Kendal, it was a lot of fun and, I have to say, somewhat exciting. So much so that, still recovering from jetlag, I woke up several times last night with my mind blogging away.
I also did something I said I would never do and that is sign up for facebook.
I've got no idea what I am doing yet, but like everything else, the more you do it the better you get.
Anyway, all these people have been turning up on my page and I'm not quite sure which button to press yet, so I hope I don't offend anyone if I get it wrong.
I must say I have instantly warmed to the idea of blogging and look forward to lots of inspiration to get me going.
We do a blog for the business at or should I say Gai does. I just write the content, but now I have my own personal blog and I look forward to it with great anticipation.
Anyway I can highly recommend the course at UWA Extension Sevice and I am now looking forward to the advanced course in August.


Home Sweet Home

Greetings all and welcome to this first post of Bernie's Blog.
Over the next couple of weeks I am going to be relating my recent trip to Berlin, but today I would like to begin at the end.
I arrived home last Thursday from my trip to Germany having been delayed by the Chilean volcanic ash cloud.
I was watching BBC World in the days leading up to my departure for news about airport closures etc, saying to myself " it couldn't possibly happen to Perth".
Well, guess what?
When we arrived in Singapore Qantas told us QF 78 had been cancelled and we were being put up in The Trades Hotel.
After a 12 hour flight from Amsterdam it wasn't exactly what I wanted to hear, but I've learnt over the years to just go with the flow so I accepted my fate with some degree of semi eager anticipation.
The Trades as it turned out was at least 4 star, maybe even 5 star so I felt rather important booking in, even though Qantas was actually paying for it, and all credit to them for looking after us so well and efficiently.
The bad news was that the flight had been rescheduled for 5am the next day and we were to leave the hotel by shuttle bus at 3am, after a 2.30 wake up call.
The wake up call wasn't required as I woke up at 1.30 as bright as a button, the body clock being somewhat confused after 2 weeks in Europe.
As I was waiting to check out of the hotel, at ten to three, a group of young Aussie men were just arriving home from a night on the town, in varying staes of inebriation.
One of them asked me when we were flying. I said the plane was due to leave at 5am that morning and the shuttle was departing in 10 minutes.
You should have seen his face. He and his mates thought we were flying at five in the afternoon and it was pure luck that they had decided to come home.
So, to coin a popular cliche and cut a long story short, the flight to Perth was vey pleasant, good food, pleasant company and SOOOOO good to hear Aussie accents again after two weeks conversing in a mix of German/English.
Gai and the two youngest grandchildren, Ellie and Katie were at the airport to meet me and it was so nice to be on familiar turf.
Trip was fantastic and as I always feel on retuning from overseas, "there really is no place like home".
Tune in next week for the start of the story.