Thursday, January 03, 2008

Down Under randomness

It's annoying when you go on holidays for three weeks and the first two weeks is spent sick and/or at the mercy of a certain international airline.

I've managed to do fun things like see my accountant and go to the dentist. The latter informed me of how things once were at the NHS, relating the experiences of a colleague of hers. Apparently with kids dentistry they got paid a flat rate of £35 a go, so instead of filling teeth they were told by the boss to pull them out because it was quicker. This dentist could pull a tooth in 30 seconds whereas it would take 4 minutes to fill it. So they could see more patients and get paid more if they just pulled out teeth. I don't think this would be an ideal solution.

I don't know how long ago this was, but apparently things have improved within the NHS. It ain't a patch on the Aussie system though.

I also learned that eating often may be good for your energy levels but it can be detrimental for your teeth and your wallet. Thus, mine need quite a bit of patching up. Especially my wallet, which no longer has $1500 burning a hole in it. I'll have to have a rethink about my dietary plan throughout the day. The trick is to drink water with every snack in order to lower the pH in your mouth, and brush a couple of times a day.

Random thought: I reckon Anton Ego in Ratatouille is modelled on English writer/critic Will Self, not just the French blone mentioned in Wikipedia.

During my convalescence I've managed to do more indoor stuff than normal. On the piano front, I've almost got a grip on Clair de Lune plus the usual Chopin/Rachmaninov/Bach/Satie toons. Always noice to tinkle the ivories.

Also a spot of reading. Over the past three weeks, I've completed the following:

The Light Fantastic, Pyramids, Moving Pictures, Night Watch, all by Terry Pratchett - good comfort reading by a very funny and satirical writer.

Amongst the Dead by Robert Gott - a dark spoof about an Australian private investigator and the wilds of the north, not bad but the ending didn't quite work.

The Peculiar Memories of Thomas Penman by Bruce Robinson - well written, although it was hard to relate to the characters, who were mostly loathsome.

The Captain and the Enemy by Graham Greene - An excellent novel by a brilliant writer. The first three parts are written by the protagonist, who is a journalist but doesn't consider himself much of a writer. The last part tells the rest of the story after the novel is thrown in the bin. All of the characters are interesting and at least slightly mysterious, and none of them can be considered good guys.

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen - set mostly in Bath at the start of the 19th century. It's interesting to see the similarities between then and now. The done thing then was to hang around the Pump Room and attend balls in the hope of making acquaintances and finding a partner. It's not quite like that nowadays.

The heroine is Catherine Morland, who early on falls for Henry Tinley, but spends the first half of the book avoiding the advances of the oafish John Thorpe, the brother of her new acquaintance Isabella. The second half is set in Northanger Abbey itself, and is a bit of a spoof of the Gothic novels that were partly the rage back then. Ann Radcliffe is referred to a lot, so it would help to have read some of her novels to give this more context.

The two main themes (Bath life and Gothic novels) are a little odd when put together, but who's going to argue with a classic?

There are some funny quotes:

"Not keep a journal! How are your absent cousins to understand the tenour of your life in Bath without one?" - Henry Tinley to Catherine Morland

Outside the Pump Room: "Crowds of people were every moment passing in and out, up the steps and down; people whom nobody cared about, and nobody wanted to see; and he [Mr Tinley] only was absent. 'What a delightful place Bath is,' said Mrs. Allen, as they sat down near the great clock, after parading the room till they were tired; 'and how pleasant it would be if we had any acquaintance here.'

I then saw The Jane Austen Book Club on the (mostly) incident-free flight back to Londres. It was scary stuff.

Blind Faith by Ben Elton - A modern and somewhat more comical version of 1984. Privacy is heresy in a climate changed world. If you're not talking about yourself on your blog, sharing all your information on Face Space and cyberstalking others, you risk falling foul of God and the Love. More scary stuff.

His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman - three books, the first of which has been made into a movie called The Golden Compass. The writing isn't brilliant but the story does hook you in eventually and it contains some challenging ideas. Unfortunately, for reasons only known to Hollywood, the film deliberately ignores the pivotal theme of the books: the bad guys are the Church and God. That's a great pity, I think. I read an interview with Pullman where he's clearly not happy with this, but doesn't want to say too much because he's afraid he'll jeopardise the other two films. That's basically selling out.

There has been a strong religious backlash against the books in the USA. Fair enough - freedom of religion and all that. People (probably Catholics) are afraid that their kids will be corrupted to the dark side if they read the books. I think that's utter bollocks, 'cos I remember when, as a child, I read the Narnia septology, which was very pro-Christian. I was aware of this message when I read the books (many times) and simply ignored it. They were good yarns. Ditto when I read the Dreadstar comics in my teens. The bad guys there were the Church and Lord Papal, which I thought was cool. Neither of these stories had a significant effect on my decision to be an atheist and face the void.

Speaking of facing the void, I read that Fred Nile of the Christian Democratic Front is opposing the building of an Islamic school out at Camden because Islam opposed Christianity. I could be wrong, but I was under the impression that Australia had freedom of religion as well. Sigh. As someone said, "I don't think he realises the Crusades were over long ago."

Whatever creed you follow, I hope youse had a happy Christmas + good new year's bash.

The family Christmas album

Christmas at the Joneses in Kiribilli House
© Jeff Jones

Piers cuts a chunk of ham as cousin Harry looks on
© Jeff Jones

Serious business
© Jeff Jones

Nina was content with bread crusts
© Jeff Jones

Strewth! This was followed by stollen and immobility
© Jeff Jones

All four of the Jones cousins
© Jeff Jones

Jim, Joan, Margaret and Ma at the Nelson Bay residence
© Jeff Jones

Cousin Jus and Nic's 'new' place. Note handy urban vehicle in backyard
© Jeff Jones

Cousin Zoe is happy at being three
© Jeff Jones

Cousins Jus and Zoe sort out candles and whatnot
© Jeff Jones

Ma and pa at our last supper
© Jeff Jones

1 comment:

Cuz Jus said...

Glad to hear you got back in one piece! Better than the journey over by all accounts. Sorry we didn't get to catch up whilst you were home - next time. Dad hopefully did a good job as tour guide and you got to have a good look around. Talk about a chaotic day!! Hope all goes well for you in 2008 - will keep you updated on the house going's on via web! PS cute photo of Zoe!