Across Continents

Ken's Blog

Much reviled

January 7th, 2012

Teasing e-mail from Mike in Australia. I’d stayed with him and his family near Brisbane. The title referred to a much reviled continent. Punctuated with an exclamation mark, suggesting he realised my not infrequent sharp digs Down Under were humour. Mostly. Perhaps a little barbed in places, but that’d be the fault of a brief and wholly unwarranted detention by Border Protection at Sydney airport. My nervousness at opening the note was misplaced. Little annoyed with myself for thinking it might be otherwise. Should have known better. Fellow Englishman.

I’d earlier chatted to a couple of Australians staying with me in the hostel. Finding unexpected camaraderie in tales of blatant profiteering. Sheer greed. And indigenous cultures. Firm agreement that being invaded – the Aborigines often refer to Australia Day as Invasion Day – is part and parcel of history. Get over it. Besides, without it, they’d still be living in the Stone Age. None of us having as much as a modicum of tolerance for blame cultures or blood money. You don’t find me rounding on the French for 1066. Too busy with the Germans.

I’d added that writing, sometimes even discussing, indigenous people can be fraught with difficulty. It’s the ’R’ word, I explained. More a label. One you don’t want. Closely allied with oft-missed irony. For never have I encountered such a bigot-rich environment as race relations. Surprising? Not really. What do you really expect from the likes of positive discrimination? Much better to treat people as individuals. Even garlic munchers.

And those who play the racism card? In tolerant societies usually the hallmark of someone who has to rely on ill-judged emotion to attempt to win an argument, rather than sound intellect or rational thought. Bit like shouting. Vocal manifestation of cowardice.



Reflections on New Zealand

July 24th, 2011

I’d not exactly liked New Zealand. I’d loved it. In so many different ways. Dramatic scenery. True. It might be cold, wet and windy here. But the people. Warm. Friendly. And, for all my teasing examples, I’m a bit smitten with the accent. I can take being called "Kin". And being sat on the edge of the Pacific Rim. Some serious fault lines. As Christchurch can attest to.

Neighbours they may be, but New Zealand isn’t Australia. Definitely not. Whereas Oz strikes me as a bit brash, a big gawdy, even greedy, "NZ" is, well, rather charming. Genuine. Welcoming. Even the Customs and Immigration Officers. Because you’ve made the effort to come. Not simply to get you to open up your wallet. In fact, so much about the place is terribly reasonable. Sensible. Makes you feel right at home.

On a practical level, the cost of living seems broadly similar to that of the UK. Which, given it has about a fifth of the population of Australia, and a similar reliance on imports, does seem surprising. Its neighbour being considerably more expensive. Exploring, albeit briefly, has been a joy. Efficient, affordable public transport. Some of the finest hostels I’ve ever seen.

I’ve no plans to emigrate. Anywhere. But if I ever were to consider it, it’d be New Zealand. A few years in Australia. Perhaps. But settle somewhere permanently? No contest. Certain I could live here. Think I could fit right in. For now though, I’m settling on returning with my trusty steed. Reckon three months would be great. Might be a few years off. But return I shall.



Constructive criticism

November 27th, 2010

“Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfils the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things” Winston Churchill

Constructive criticism helps the world move forward. Tolerance of it one of the fundamental tenets of democracy. Explains why North Korea remains stuck in the dark ages. And where Azerbaijan will be going once the oil runs out.

“Tell me what I need to know, not what I want to hear” Best Kroner, Norwegian philosopher

Put another way, there’s always room for improvement. Scope to make things better. And so it goes with the blog. I’d asked a few close friends to offer some candid thoughts. Be frank I said. I’m pretty thicked-skinned. Difficult to offend. And in China. Besides, in posing the question, I must surely think the content could in some way be improved. Tell me what I need to know. Not what you think I want to hear.

And the results? A mixed bag, part content, part style. More photos and video clips. Especially of people. And the scenery. Help better explain the geography. Factual pieces. More humour. Quotations. Short sentences. The odd word. Gritiness. Easier to scan. I’ll try my best.

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