Sunday, March 29, 2009

Farewell Rance

I am almost afraid to read the blogs lately. God seems to be calling so many people home. Up to now they have been friends or relatives of bloggers. Now I learn of the death of a guy in Utah who I have never met but did hope to do so one day. However for about 3 years I have been reading his comments in a group of Christians who love the film 'Brokeback Mountain". I came to look forward to his posts. Many were irreverent, he had been brought up a Mormon and lived in a Mormon community. He loved to take the mickey out of them. His opinions of George Bush were unprintable. He told some wonderful stories about growing up and his life today with his partner Marty. Many of these stories had a punch line which displayed his understanding of human nature. Others were just hilarious.
I have copied just a few.
I think that the diversity in the world is what gives it it's texture, it's richness, it's incredible range so to speak. I had a close elderly friend, who is gone now but who was on the Tribal Council for the Northern Ute Indian Tribe. He taught me so much about life. One day we were having a spirited discussion about the nature of God and he told me that he wanted me to take him to the mountain to a very large lake near here and he would show me the face of God. I was interested to see what he was talking about and we have a boat so one Sunday morning at 4:00 a.m. we drove up to the lake, uncovered the boat in the marina and headed out into the channel at the crack of dawn. We slowly cruised up the lake to a beautiful canyon where he ask me to just turn off the engines and let the boat slowly glide to a stop. I poured myself a fresh cup of hot coffee and just looked at him. "Do you see it?" He asked?. "What am I supposed to be seeing?' "Just look for a few minutes" he replied. Finally, I said, "Hey look, theres some elk, wow, they are so beautiful." "Keep looking" he said. I stared intently at the sides of the canyon for a few minutes and then I realized that; "This is like a game preserve up in here, man, there are elk, deer, moose, coyotes, eagles, crows, osprey's, sea gulls, so many things." "Yes" he said, " and have you noticed that no one is trying to turn the elk into deer, the deer into moose, the moose into coyotes, the eagles into crows, or the osprey's into sea gulls? They are as they were meant to be and they each have their place in the universe. "That my friend, THAT is the face of God". Why do we always think that we have to change people, to make them "like us". What kind of a flower garden would you have if there were only roses? There are daisy's, petunias, zinnias, nasturtiums, phlox, daffodil's, annuals, perennials, shade plants, sun plants in every color and hue and for every purpose. They each have their unique and beautiful role to play and to change any of them would mean destroying something else that is precious and there for a purpose.

Then one Christmas he wrote:

I am sort of on a bummer this morning. I finished putting the lights on the tree, all 1,300 of them. Man, what a looker. I had the TV on the Salt Lake City CBS affiliate and suddenly they announced that they were going to take the viewing audience on a tour of Temple Square to show us ITS lights. I walked over and sat down and I am damned glad I did. If they had showed that overall shot while I was standing up, my legs may well have buckled. Oh My GOD!! I have never seen so many freaking lights in one place in all my life. I was just sort of numb with envy when they introduced the three gentlemen responsible for this incredible display. I KNEW IT, I JUST FREAKING KNEW IT. Can we say "light on our feet" here? Can we say "Heterosexually challenged"? I knew there was no way straight men could pull off such a fantasy. I mean these three made Tu Tu LaRose look like a college half back. One would think that the Mormon Church has enough fantasy problems as it is. These people believe that Sitting Bulls great great great great great great great great great great great Grandfather came from Jerusalem to the Americas in 600 BC. Well let me tell you something folks, if these three boys are straight then Sitting Bulls last name was indeed Schwartz, and DNA be damned. As they sashayed from mind boggling tree to mind boggling tree, limp wrists flying hither and yon, it had to occur to one just what can happen when you turn three gay men loose on a religion oriented tourist attraction with an unlimited budget at Christmas time. I am sure that the powers that be at Rocky Mountain Power are going to take one look at Temple Square's power bill and be forever convinced that there is indeed a God. Oh well, it gives me something to shoot for next year. Rather than 1,300 lights I wonder how that tree would look with 1,800 lights. Hmmmmmmmmmm

Another was about an important woman in his life

When I was just a kid, about 10 or thereabouts, dad got involved with a family from Huston in the oil well drilling business. The wife of this couple, her name was Kate and she spotted me from a mile away. Of course I had no idea what being gay meant then but she did. One day it was her turn to take us swimming and we had all piled into her car and when she let us all out she ask me to stay a minute. She told me that she wanted to talk to me one of these first days in private. I wondered what she meant by that and about a month later I found out. We had gone to their house to pick her up to go to the ranch for a few days. Once we were up there, she ask me to go for a walk with her. So, I grabbed my BB gun and away we went. We were walking through a big stand of aspen and there was a lot of dead fall and she sat me down on a big log. I will never forget what she said to me. She told me that I was very special, that God had made me different from other men and that while I would not understand it then, that one day I would and she told me that no matter what, I had to believe that Jesus loved me, that I was born to carry a special light, a light that gave the world a sacred brightness. She told me that there would be those who would not understand and there would be those who would be cruel to me because I was different but no matter what, I had to remember that I was born under a special star. She also told me that she would always be my friend and that when I finally understood what that difference was, she would be there as my friend if I wanted to talk. About five years later, she was in the hospital dying of lung cancer and I went to see her. By then I had an idea what she was had been talking about all those years ago and when I walked into the room, she at once reached for my hand. Her hand was so cold and thin but she squeezed my hand firmly and said "How is my fire child?" We made small talk for a few minutes and then I told her "Katherine, I know now what you were talking to me about that day in the aspen grove." She squeezed my hand again and said "Are you alright?" I told her I was and we talked for over four hours. I don't know what I would have done without those four hours, they were among the most important minutes of my life. Kate died a couple of weeks later and I felt like I had lost my best friend and in a way I had. She was the only person on earth who truly knew me then. I was lost for a long time without her. But, she gave me something that I have treasured always. A knowledge that there is a sacred bond between gay men and straight women, they are the best friends we have ever had.

and finally a story that had me ROFL

My sweet baby, Marty, is one of those people who can resist anything but temptation or a gadget. If it is a tempting gadget, it is all over but the receipt. I had a very uneasy feeling Sunday when he came bouncing in the house after a little shopping sojourn to Milts Ace Hardware, grinning from ear to ear and just bubbling over with excitement as he handed me one of those heavily laminated do dads that drive you crazy trying to open. You know the kind I mean. Well, this one read "Driveway Patrol". About the only thing that patrols our driveway is a few quail and maybe Clyde and Rufus, our one legged wild turkey and narcissistic pheasant, respectively. Marty was just glowing with excitement as he ripped and tore and used two knives trying to extract this enchanting gizmo from its packaging. "Check this out" he bubbled as he bolted from the garage door and down the driveway with a little hammer and a couple of roofing tacks. I walked into the utility room and raised the blinds. Our driveway is close to a third of a mile long but the range of el gizmo is only 400 feet so at around 350 he went to the fence and hammered in his tacks. He hung the gizmo and came bolting back to the house. He takes the cover off the receiver and puts in the batteries and sets it on the butcher block, with beautiful brown eyes flashing, bolts back out the door and into his pick up. He goes tearing down the drive way and sure enough, when he broke the beam on the gizmo, "Bing Bong", well, more like "BING BONG", way too loud in my estimation but maybe we can put the damned thing in the basement. He puts the pick up in reverse and hits her again "BING BONG, BING BONG". Sweet Jesus, I was so relieved that we don't have all that much company. Where does he put the receiver? You got it, in the window right above his side of the bed. I expressed my reservations; "Marty, we live on a dead end road and anyone coming here has to pass eight other houses and they could never get here without being seen, and in all these years we have never been bothered in any way once." "Oh, I know I know but this is just a little extra insurance." He was just so cute and excited I didn't have the heart to bursts his bubble. I am the early riser and he is the one who hates mornings. I am always up at around six and he comes dragging in around eight and it takes him till about nine thirty to become fully human. Monday morning he comes staggering in around nine and he wasn't looking all that perky. "Ah, nice you could make it, nearly had to start the day without you." "Oh shit, you woke me up when you passed the patroller, I was just dead to the world when all of a sudden it was BING BONG." I hadn't even thought about it but I couldn't suppress a chuckle. "Well, you can always move it to the basement". "Naw, its alright, I will put it in the window above your side of the bed and if you don't mind you can turn it off when you get out of bed so it doesn't Bong when you leave." Oh just terrific, I am not sure of my name when I first wake up and he wants me to remember to turn of the Bonger. "Right" was my reply. Tuesday I turned it off and all went well. Then came last night. As he came in with his nightly cup of milk and chocolate chip cookies, he stops and turns on the gizmo in the window above my side of the bed. He hops into bed and we watch "Allo Allo", set the turn off timer on the tv kiss good night and go to sleep. I was sure it had to be all hell breaking loose as I struggled for consciousness. BING BONG BONG BONG BING BING BONG BING BONG BING BING BONG BONG BING FREAKING BONG. We were both sitting bolt upright and he blurts out "What the f----" "Well shit, it's obvious isn't it? There is a god damned funeral procession coming down our god damned driveway at one thirty in the god damned morning." BONG BONG BING BONG. We both shot out of bed at the same time and Marty grabs the three million candle power spotlight he uses to terrorize the occasional skunk that wonders into the yard and ricocheting off each other, we bolted through our dressing rooms, into the hall way, down the hallway to the first right and then straight to the utility room window that looks out on the drive way. I slid the window open and Marty turned on the light. About 24 glowing eyes stared back at the dazzling light. "Oh shit" he mutters, "I never thought about deer." BING BONG BONG BONG BONG BING BING. They had to be having a conference or something as there was nothing to eat where they were standing in the foot deep snow. "Hey" I yelled at the top of my lungs, they just stood there, when suddenly something flashed past my head. "What the......" "MARTY ARE YOU CRAZY?". About the time the spitting skein of firecrackers hit the sidewalk it sounded like the gunfight from "Open Range". BING POW BANG BONG BONG BONG BANG BANG BLAM BLAM. The deer vanished in seconds and suddenly it was quiet again. "Are you mad?" he squeaks as he closes the window. "Naw cutie, that was the most action we have seen at one thirty in the morning for ages." We both laughed as we walked back down the hall to the bedroom, "Tomorrow I am going to put that thing in the top of the pine tree down at the end of the front lawn." he said as we crawled back into bed, "Shit why? What can it patrol from up in the top of that damned pine tree?" "Helicopters" he replied as he plopped down on his pillows.

About 18 months ago, Rance developed cancer of the oesophagus. He was out of action for a few months of operations and treatment. We thought all was okay but recently there were setbacks and today the sad news that he has died.

Good bye, dear friend, and much love to those who love you so much

More of his writing posted by Birdie (Strelitzia)

Friday, March 27, 2009


Last night I watched the first half of a TV program called Bombora
About 1 kilometre off North Steyne lies what is shown on nautical charts as Manly Rock. This reef is known to local surfers as the Bombora.It took me back to the 60's and 70's when I lived for the beach and surf. I was never much good at it but I loved the culture. September school holidays saw me travelling north with a group of students with our surfboards on the roof to the Sunshine and Gold Coasts of Queensland. We would camp by the beach. I owned a Kombi van.

The summer holidays (January) saw me at the beach as much as possible. One memorable year I went to the beach every day for the whole six weeks. Another year we drove right around the southern coastline to Perth looking for the beaches we had read about. Weekends during school time often meant leaving after the pub closed (10pm in those days)on Friday or Saturday night (I watched my alcohol intake) with ex-students and driving to an isolated beach so we could wake early the next morning and surf all day. Midget Farrelly and Nat Young were our idols. They were interviewed in the program and they are now old just like me :-).
To make money for the school we showed surfing movies in the school canteen on Friday night and the kids and money poured in.
Generally I am not interested in watching sport but I can still spend hours watching surf movies.

The only problem was that all that lying in the sun, covered in salt, led to today's skin cancers. No-one wore sun cream except perhaps for some zinc cream on the nose and cheek bones.

Nowadays I cover up and I have not been in the surf for over 20 years.

In those days it did seem to be the Endless Summer cruising from beach to beach looking for the perfect wave.

and some of the music of that era. An Aussie band, the Atlantics playing Bombora in 1963. Life seemed so good.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Baby on Board

Just a little rant.
This sign on the back of a car window really gets my goat. I do not plan to run up the backside of the car in front because in order:
1. I may injure myself.
2. I will be hit with the repair costs to both the car in front and my own or at least lose my no claim bonus on my insurance.
3. I would be embarrassed at my careless driving.
4. I might get a negligent driving charge.

Only after that would it worry me that I might injure the persons in the car in front including any babies. In fact if they were obeying the law and the baby was correctly fixed into a properly attached baby capsule, it would probably suffer the least injuries.
There, got that off my chest.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Great news for flying Oz to NZ

I went as a teacher with school groups on camping trips to New Zealand in 1966, 1969 and 1972. I fell in love with the country. In those days it was not necessary to have a passport to travel across the ditch (Tasman Sea).
By the time I got round to visiting again in 2001, passports were necessary.

If you read my blog, you know I hope to be living in Dunedin before the end of this year. I tell my sister it is only a 2 hour flight and it is over 2 hours by train between my home here in the Blue Mountains and her home in the Northern suburbs of Sydney. However there is the hassle of passports and customs.

Now it has been announced by the Prime Ministers of New Zealand and Australia that there will be a common border within a year.

The Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, and his New Zealand counterpart, John Key, agreed at a bilateral meeting earlier this month to make the creation of a common border between the countries a priority.

The airlines say the move will cut operating costs on the Tasman - and therefore fares - by at least 30 per cent and will lead to an explosion in the number of new routes being flown.

The deal was discussed in talks between the prime ministers at Kirribilli House in Sydney earlier this month.

"It's one of those things we've decided to see if we can get an agreement within the year," Rudd says. "We've decided rather than just have it languish in never-never land, to bring it into decision-making territory."

The chief executive of Australasia's biggest low-cost carrier, Jetstar said

"It just changes the whole psyche of the trip. You know the hassle of going to an international airport and all the crap you've got to go through to get through. But this would be a domestic terminal, 30-minute close-out, rock straight through and you're on your aircraft."

Great news indeed.

Saturday, March 21, 2009


Pressure of work meant I did not take a stage role in the shows over the next few years but I did work as either a stage hand or in lighting for 'The Music Man' and 'Fiddler on the Roof'. However in 1991 I left teaching (I thought) and looked for other employment.
I obtained some work door to door interviewing which was soul destroying and some part-time teaching (6 hours per week) at TAFE (Technical and Further Education).

Therefore, I had plenty of time to return to the stage and we put on 'Showboat'.
As usual I was part of the chorus but I did have a small role as the doorman Charlie.
"Gotta message from ya prima donna, said to tell ya she was goin on a tare"
"Hey, I'm a doorman not a nursemaid"
were my lines which I still remember as seen in the first photo.

Playing the songs raises strange emotions in me. It was an anxious time as I did not know where my future lay and I was very lonely being home so much. It was, of course, before the internet.

We usually prided ourselves that all our singers were local. Some of them sang professionally, as did Leslie Andrews who sang the role of Joe but also worked for the Australian Opera. However he lived locally. But for 'Showboat' we employed a professional to sing Ravenal. I loved every night, when I was on stage with him, as he sang "Till Good Luck Comes My Way". His voice was overpowering.

Several years later I went to see it performed professionally at the Lyric Theatre in Sydney and was amazed to meet my partner from the show, Helen, during the interval.

I enjoyed some of the costumes: bow tie and tails at the New Year's Eve Ball and the natty brown number with green tie and pocket handkerchief. I just threw them out a few days ago.

It is difficult to find any but the main numbers on Youtube so I have decided to go with the lovely Dame Kiri Te Kanawa singing "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man".
I cannot listen to it without tears of sadness, partly the song and the show but also my memories.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

St Patricks Day

Has finally arrived.
While on vacation in Rome , I noticed a marble column in St. Peter's with a golden telephone on it.
As a young priest passed by, I asked who the telephone was for. The priest told me it was a direct line to heaven, and if I'd like to call, it would be a thousand dollars. I was amazed, but declined the offer.

Throughout Italy , I kept seeing the same golden telephone on a marble column. At each, I asked about it and the answer was always the same: It was a direct line to heaven and I could call for a thousand dollars.

Then -
I finished my tour in Ireland . I decided to attend Mass at a local village church. When I walked in the door I noticed the golden telephone. Underneath it there was a sign stating: "DIRECT LINE TO HEAVEN: 25 cents." "Father," I said, "I have been all over Italy and in all the cathedrals I visited, I've seen telephones exactly like this one. But the price is always a thousand dollars. Why is it that this one is only 25 cents?"

The priest smiled and said, "You're in Ireland now. It's a local call."
Happy St. Patrick's Day.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Catholic Church Conundrum

Having grown up in the Evangelical Anglican Diocese of Sydney, it was a great revelation when I found a teaching position in a Senior Catholic Boys' College in 1975.

In the years before I went there, my attendance at church was very sporadic. As a teenager and while in my early 20's my life had revolved around church, the Inter-School Christian Fellowship and the Evangelical Union at University. I was in the choir, a leader in the Youth Fellowship, Sunday school teacher, occasional preacher, involved with the Billy Graham Crusades. But after my Engagement was broken in 1971 I gradually gave up church activities and my social life began to revolve around the local hotel. You could count on one hand the number of times I attended church each year. I still had my faith, I prayed and read the Bible. Even while overseas for 4 months in 1974 I attended church services while in England but I was conscious that my sexual desires kept me outside of full acceptance in the church. Attempts to change by prayer and psychiatry had failed and my plans to enter the Ministry were thwarted. I guess I was in a no-man's land as my only homosexual acquaintances were secret meetings arranged by mail and usually one-off.

I did have a full and happy social life revolving around surfing, watching football matches and drinking with ex-students but of course these tended to move on once they developed serious heterosexual relationships and this was never going to lead to long term happiness.

The Catholic priests and brothers provided a totally different view of religious life. At first I was confused because their talks were less biblically based. But I found their thoughts stimulating and nourishing. Although a Protestant, I was accepted as part of their community. Within a few years I had developed more healthy relationships in the gay community and was involved in fighting for gay law reform. I became more open even at school and was not rejected. There was no problem in taking my partner at that time to staff social activities.

When an Anglican priest let it be known that I was not welcome in his church, I began attending Catholic Masses. However I did not feel as comfortable there as I did at the school Masses. I did attend Masses arranged weekly by a Gay Catholic group and was surprised to find priests assisting and even once a bishop.

Their attitude seemed to be the same as the following recent comment at The Wild Reed.

I am a Roman Catholic priest and I want to commend you for your blog. Don't let anyone try to decide your catholicism for you. If the church is truly catholic (universal) then it has no one manifestation or theology. My favorite definition of the church is Here Comes Everybody (James Joyce in Finagin's Wake). The Church is us, It includes the hierarchy but also the faithful. John Henry Newman points out that in the Arian contoversy the bishops turned out to be heretics and the faithful the orthodox. We are all in this together and as we journey through history we are bound to fight over certain matters such as gays. But if we are right, and I think we are, someday the church will acknowlege the gifts and rights of gay people. And of course then it will say, "As we have always taught...." Keep up the good work.

Similar views are also found in other blogs written by Catholics that I read.

I had several doctrinal problems with the idea of becoming a Catholic. Strangely, I have come to disregard most of these now that I worship in an Anglo-Catholic parish. However my greatest obstacle was the position of the Pope. I do not believe that so much authority can be given to one man and I had scant regard for John Paul II anyway. Obviously he did much that was good but he was also a man of his times and as he became older and more frail I had to balance pity for him with anger at some of his views.

I believe his replacement has been an absolute disaster. I refuse to see him as a kind old grandfather, my feelings for him are unprintable.

I do pray for liberal Catholics as they must shudder at the activities of the hierarchy. The recent case in Brazil is just the worst of many in recent times. I applaud the views of a Catholic Mary E. Hunt who writes in religion dispatches

We do not believe in the cruel, vindictive, callous God they cite. Many believers put our faith in a loving, merciful divinity whose response to human tragedy is to weep not condemn, to embrace not exile. That is a Catholic view, well-supported by scripture and life experience. The bishops are welcome to their views, but beware of people who think they know more about God’s will and God’s law than the rest of us. They are selling a product we are not buying.

I live in an Anglican Diocese whose leaders also preach a cruel, vindictive, callous God although I doubt even they would go as far as the Bishop in Brazil supported by the Vatican.
However, I can worship in a parish which preaches a different gospel and can in many ways thumb its nose at the Archbishop and I know that the Worldwide Anglican Communion contains people and leaders of widely different viewpoints.

So, while I am thankful for the ministry of Catholic priests and lay people at a time when my faith was in deep trouble, I am glad I stayed within the Anglican church.

Monday, March 09, 2009

The Amazing Internet

Way back in 1974, I was travelling in India. While staying in New Delhi I took a day tour to the Taj Mahal. On the bus I met Mahendra. Although an Indian, he was living in Malawi and visiting relatives in India. He was staying at the next hotel to me in New Delhi so we joined up for some sightseeing then went to Jaipur together on a very memorable bus trip. In Jaipur the monsoon had set in but we rode an elephant in pouring rain up to the palace. I have a photo somewhere but this one will have to do. Imagine us up on top with umbrellas.

I left Mahendra in Jaipur and took a very slow night train back to New Delhi then went on for 4 months in Europe.
Mahendra desperately wanted to leave Malawi where the Indian people were being persecuted. I made inquiries with our immigration but, before I made much progress, Mahendra was able to migrate to London and then the Australian authorities were no longer interested as he could not longer be classed as a refugee.

We met for dinner on each of my later visits to London in 1976 and 1980. Then we lost contact. Apparently he sent me a letter to the address I left in 1982.

I have now received an email from him as he found me on the 'net'. I thought of him when watching the Taj Mahal sequences in 'Slumdog Millionaire'. It is good to make contact again.

I have also received an email from friends in Johannesburg. We met in Munich in 1980 and attended the Oberammergau Passion Play together. We have maintained a once per year Christmas card although they often went astray and Peter and Kathy have visited Sydney twice. I have never taken up their offer to host me in South Africa. That country frightens me.
However today's email asks whether I would like to join them on a 30 year reunion to Oberramergau and the 2010 Passion Play.
Damn this Global Financial Crisis. I am so tempted as my day at the play in Oberramergau was one of the most wonderful days of my life.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Matthew leads Mardi Gras

I did not attend the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras last night. In the first 20 years of its history I rarely missed but, for the last 10 years, I have found the thought of hours of standing plus the long drive home too daunting.

This year our Gay Olympic hero Matthew Mitcham led the parade.
He wore his Olympic clothes of green and gold along with his medal which my sister thought appropriate.

However I would rather see him like this, much more eye candy and more in keeping with the usual dress standard.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Je suis très triste

I began worshipping at St James, King Street 3 years ago when I could no longer worship in churches which were becoming less and less Anglican in their forms of worship and where I could expect at any time to hear a homophobic sermon.

It requires me to leave home just after 6.30am and I arrive back just before 1pm.

There are 3 regular services.
7.45am Said Eucharist
9.00am Sung Eucharist
11.00am Choral Eucharist

I usually attend Sung Eucharist.

At Easter, Christmas and St James Day we have a combined service at 10am which is Choral Eucharist.

For Choral Eucharist we have a Professional Choir and a Head of Music who was recently headhunted from England, I presume at some expense. Music consumes about 20% of the parish expenditure.
The Kyries are sung in Greek and the Gloria, Sanctus, Benedictus and Agnus Dei are sung in Latin along with the motets as we take Communion.

I guess these are beautiful but I find my legs ache, my mind wanders, sometimes I try to remember my schoolboy Latin to follow how much longer each will be.

I like to sing and enjoy singing each of the above in English at Sung Eucharist. (I am not sure if my neighbours equally enjoy it but no-one has complained, I believe I sing in key)

Yesterday I received a bombshell when my sister sent me an email headed: St James new service time and saying "How does this suit you?"
I had not yet downloaded and read the March Monthly News and did so to find the Rector announcing that from late June every Sunday St James would have just a 10am service of Choral Eucharist.

The time is a nuisance I could tolerate. I would leave home later but would not arrive back for lunch until 2pm, however if the service runs late (more likely with Choral Eucharist) it would be 3pm.

However Choral Eucharist every week is something I would find intolerable. I feel Music should enhance our worship not become the focus of it.

So again I will be moving. Christ Church St Laurence at the other end of the city is more Anglo-Catholic and has "Solemn High Mass" at 1o.30am but does have Sung Eucharist at 9am so I will first try this out.

St Mark's at Granville (a migrant largely Muslim area) describes itself as the only moderately high church in the western suburbs and it is actually closer to home but the priest moved to Queensland last year and who ++Jensen will allow to be the replacement is problematic. Its webpage has disappeared.

All the other inclusive churches in the Diocese are east of the city, impossible to reach regularly.

A few months ago my sister asked "Won't you miss St James when you move to Dunedin?" Perhaps this is God's answer.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Christian Witness

I have been reading the discussion on Doorman Priest mainly arguing with a right wing Christian about our attitude to followers of Islam.

Now I have been directed by Franiam to a thought provoking post by Bubs about his experience in New Orleans at Mardi Gras.
Sydney's Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras is on tomorrow night. I once use to attend regularly and even volunteered as a marshal many times (much better view :-) but have not been for many years. It is a long time to stand and a long drive home.
However I digress. I am sure there will be a few right wing Christians making a fool of themselves but the huge crowds enjoying themselves will easily drown them out.

Many years ago I heard the following while training for a Billy Graham Crusade (yes!!!)

Think of a tree standing tall but bare during Winter.
The winter gales blow with all their strength and might apparently trying to move the tree. The tree creaks and groans bending slightly but remains without any signs of life.

Eventually Spring comes and the sun's rays send their gentle warmth to the tree. Change and signs of life begin as the leaves begin to sprout and soon the tree is covered in green growth followed by brilliant flowers and eventually fruit which attracts birds and animals. A tremendous change of life has occurred. My garden is full of deciduous trees (not native to Australia) to remind me of this. An old plum tree near my back door especially. Although the parrots benefit more than me from its fruit.

I feel this is how our Christian witness is to be if there are to be worthwhile results.

Like everyone I read about Islamic fundamentalists regularly in the news and I am filled with revulsion. I do not associate with Islamic people and do not live in the area where they mainly reside. However in 2003-4 I worked with two men (both named Mohammed) who taught Maths where I was the School Librarian. They were two real gentlemen, admired by staff and students. Except for their names the only time they spoke of their faith was at a staff meeting when one lady brought cakes and they were so apologetic that they could not partake due it being Ramadan.
Whenever I feel angry about Islamic terrorists I try to balance my feelings with my knowledge of the two Mohammeds with whom I worked.

Similarly I believe I can witness to Christ, not by knocking on stranger's doors nor ranting and raving about other's sins but by letting my acquaintances gently know that I am a Christian and hopefully being a good example of Christ's Love.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Renovation Ructions

I am sure you are all aware I want to sell my house and move to New Zealand. I decided long ago that two major jobs were needed to make the property presentable.

1. About 20 years ago with some students I built retaining walls and paved an area at the back of the house. These walls were collapsing along with some of the pavers. A more professional job was needed.

2. I have an ensuite which I have always hated with its shiny black tiles and without going into details the fittings had become rather grotty.

My plans were to have the walls and paving completed first then the ensuite.

Therefore at the end of last October I rang 4 landscapers. In the usual fashion here, 2 arrived to quote, 1 promised but did not arrive, the other never rang back.
One man was very contemptuous of my original work despite it having lasted 20 years. The other, a woman who advertised on the local gay website, was very complimentary of my amateur work and, the two quotes being comparable, I chose her.
The arranged start date in mid November passed (rain delaying earlier jobs was understandable). Then the early December date also passed and work finally began in second week of January. Her not having an assistant worried me as some of the work is heavy but she said she would work 4 days per week. Soon heat was an excuse although I felt starting after 11am was a bit ridiculous in Australian summers.
Seven weeks later with no more than 2 short work days per week the walls are finally nearing completion and hopefully the paving will soon start. At least I do not have to be home for work to be done though I sometimes help with unloading timber.

Not wanting to delay any further I began the ensuite process in late January. I needed my sister's input as although I have the gay gene I do not have the fashion sense that is suppose to go with it. Tiles and fittings were selected, work quote accepted and last Monday week chosen (after my return from travelling south for a few days).
I moved out of my bedroom to a very uncomfortable, narrow spare bed in the 2nd bed/junk room.

Work started only half a day late and everything was gutted by Tuesday afternoon. Waterproofing was done Wednesday and needed 24 hours to dry.
Friday I heard there was a delay for a tiler so I went to the movies. Monday nothing, Tuesday nothing. Today Mr Tiler rang and said he would be here at 10am. Appears his father-in-law is sick in Melbourne and, while he unloaded tools and we carried tiles into bedroom, he then left but hopefully will work a few hours tomorrow morning before flying to Melbourne and return to finish the job next week. Then I have to reorganise the painters who were to start this Friday.

Meanwhile I have just helped my landscaping lady carry timber around the tiler's trailer and face another week or more of uncomfortable nights.

I have always said I hate having anything to do with tradespeople and this vindicates my beliefs. Perhaps this is my Lenten penance.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Aged Pension

Yesterday I described the Health Scheme in Australia and my soon being eligible for a Commonwealth Seniors Health Card. While I am certain to be eligible for the card, I may not need it if I become eligible for an Aged Pension which will provide me with all of its advantages and more.

Since turning 60 I have possessed a Seniors Card. This is a State card and gives me concessions at various commercial establishments. Five per cent off my coffee at one chain is the concession I most use.
However its main advantage is a Senior ticket on all transport services around Sydney. I pay $2.50 for a day pass which allows me to travel 80km by train to the city and jump on and off trains, buses(government and private) and ferries all day. It extends for about 200km from the city so my Monday hiking group makes great use of it. I would not be able to worship regularly at St James, King Street without it. It is a marvellous scheme and does not depend on my income or assets as long as I am over 60 and not working 20 hours per week.

However when I turn 65 I can apply for an Aged Pension. This will depend on my income and assets (other than my house). I will not get a full pension but hope to gain a part pension. I own the block of land next to my house and it needs to be valued. Selling it would lose me my view over the valley and it is one of the reasons I am planning to move.

The actual amount I would be given is not so important as all the other advantages of the card including free driver's licence and car registration, cheaper utility bills and cheap transport even interstate. It is also accepted for a discount by many more businesses than the Seniors Card including the Sydney Symphony. Unlike the photo above I will not need to go and collect it. In these enlightened times it is paid direct into one's bank account. Some people do not like to admit they are a pensioner. I have paid taxes all my life and, being single, no kids, received few benefits so I will be happy to finally gain something.

It was of interest to find that I was able to gain a concession on Amtrak in 2007 by showing I was over 63 and our grey hair gained us cheap bus rides in Los Angeles. It did not happen in Washington, New Orleans or New York though.

Sunday, March 01, 2009


At the top of my blog, I have been counting down to St Patrick's Day. This has some significance as it is my birthday and this year I will be 65 and a senior citizen in the eyes of the Government.
In Australia we have had Medicare since the mid 1970's.
We all pay 1.5% of income levy on our tax.
When we attend a doctor, the fee may be bulkbilled in which we pay nothing and the doctor accepts the amount paid by the Government. Often we pay the doctor but take the receipt to the Medicare office and receive a rebate. I pay my usual doctor (now $55 a visit) and receive about $38 back. I sometimes go to the Medical centre and pay nothing but cannot book and usually wait for over an hour.
Hospitals can be free but you have to accept any doctor and if it is non-urgent you may have to wait a very long time (even a year).

Therefore I also have Private Medical Insurance. I now pay $120 per month for top cover. The Government subsidises this by 30% and the company cannot charge me more due to my age. (I will miss this when I move to NZ).

Thankfully I have not had to use this very often. I do get a new pair of glasses nearly every year which would be almost free except I have bifocals and transition lenses.
I get about 30% back from dental charges. When I had a back operation in 2003, I only paid $250 excess (once per year) as my doctor accepted the payment but many do not. The physiotherapy and all hospital charges were covered.

When I went to emergency with a heart scare (thankfully groundless) I was kept in overnight and it would have been free even without medical insurance but, as I elected to allow them to bill my insurance, I received a free morning newspaper and a cab fare back to the railway station :-).

However now I am to reach the age of 65 and will be eligible for a Commonwealth Seniors Health Card. There is an income test but it is quite high, about double my income. My regular doctor will now also bulk bill me for visits and my monthly prescription medicine bill will drop from over $120 to about $20. I will also get assistance with my telephone bill and money to assist with council rates, car registration and electricity. Worth counting down the days.
But there is more. I may be eligible for an Old Age Pension. More on this tomorrow.