THE LAST CONFESSION – a Review

Although not a Catholic, I feel, given the subject matter of the play, I should confess; I went to see THE LAST CONFESSION, as a fan of David Suchet, with only a cursory knowledge of the background story. And yes, as the lights flooded on to the red-robed Suchet in the opening scene, I too stood and applauded. Then, as that familiar, dulcet-toned voice flowed across the auditorium, for a moment I wondered whether both the actor and the audience would be able to overcome Poirot. Within a minute the effete Belgium had vanished, as the Cardinals and power reigned supreme.

The play is set during a tumultuous period in the Catholic Church history (1978) – Pope Paul V1 is in his dying days, Mafia connections have assumed control of the Vatican Bank and the Church is in crisis, Cardinal Giovanni Bennelli (Suchet), although a King Maker, has a moral compass of sorts, while at the same time, battling a crisis of faith. Determined to fix the problems with the out of control Vatican and specifically, the behind the scenes administration, known as the Curia, after the death of Pope Paul V1, (Donald Douglas), he manoeuvres his friend, Cardinal Albino Luciani of Venice (Richard O’Callaghan) into the Papacy as a compromise candidate. Luciani assumes the name Pope John Paul 1, but the little man is far more determined, liberal and morally straight than his peers had suspected. In a strange way, I suddenly thought of Malcolm Turnbull and the Liberal Party. Thirty three days into his reign, he informed two of the most powerful cardinals he was removing them. The next morning, Pope John Paul 1 was dead.

Evidence was tampered with on a scale that still beggars belief, no autopsy was permitted and the Vatican press releases of the time, giving his cause of death as a heart attack were found lacking in substance, to say the least! Cardinal Benelli, as always, positions himself centre stage in the battle to elect a replacement Pope, eventually finding himself just five votes short of becoming Pope.

I found this work to be absolutely enthralling, forget the red robed cardinals and the white robed Popes, this is a story of the naked grab for and the need of power. It could just as well have been about politicians – Rudd and Gillard, Turnbull and Abbott, but perhaps most tellingly, it is the searing story of those faceless men who manoeuvre and manupulate in the shadows of power

The stage design is dark and brooding, suggesting great power, ancient beauty, but also malevolence. Outfitting stage hands in monks robes is a very clever, efficient method of moving sets with actors necessarily still on stage. Admittedly the mood of the work does make it easier to light the actors, but the reality is, the simple spotlighting of each actor as they emerge from the shadows works brilliantly.

The play is wordy, intense, almost claustrophobic and at times, I found myself on the edge of my seat, absolutely riveted. Yet there was also unexpected humour, much of it black, but clever and the technique of giving stage time to one woman, Sister Vincenza, played by Suchet’s wife of 37 years, Sheila Ferris, adds light and a sense of almost normal life. There is a lovely domestic scene between her and Pope John Paul 1. This first work by American playwright Roger Crane, under the direction of Jonathon Church, is simply brilliant, as is David Suchet, which is not to dismiss the superb work of the other actors.

It is a large ensemble of 20 actors, but rather than name them all, it is testimony to the power of the story and the actors that Poirot was nowhere to be seen. It is a fabulous cast. Even if you are a David Suchet, if your supporting actors aren’t up there with you, you will not fly. This cast soars.

Finally, as the realisation hit me as to who the Confessor was, I found myself understanding the words of an Italian prosecutor, reprinted in the programme: “… hopefully Pope Francis will be given enough time to make his changes …”

Real life – if you wrote about it, nobody would believe it, they’d swear you made it up.

The Perth season (His Majesty’s Theatre) finishes on Sat 16th August

Brisbane, the Lyric Theatre, Aug 20 -24th

Adelaide, Her Majesty’s Theatre, Aug 27 – 31st

Melbourne, Comedy Theatre, Sep 3 – 5th

Tickets from Ticketek and Ticketmaster

Greg Ross

July 2014: MH17, And Israel

Our world seems to be lurching into chaotic madness, trying times for an ageing antiwar old hippy. There is a stark reminder on Berlin’s Niederkirchner Strasse, of how we never learn – as you walk along the Gestapo dungeons, you look up at remnants of the Berlin Wall, shaking your head at the absurdity of the Soviet Union building their Wall of Terror and oppression on top of Nazi Germany’s infamous and even more terrifying Gestapo Headquarters. One would have thought, having suffered so much at the hands of the Nazis, the last thing they would have done was to follow the same course. It would appear countries are like children – the abused become the abusers, which segues into the horror that is MH17.

The fact that the aircraft was shot down is inexcusable, the technology and training exists to readily identify aircraft as they fly overhead, however it is the ‘beyond callous’ treatment of the dead souls and the crash site that beggars belief, brings tears to the eyes and finally  waves of rage. The night the Perth granddad and his grand kids were murdered on that plane, my little granddaughters were staying with me, they, with their mum and dad are flying to Germany next year to take part in my wedding to my German fiancée, (who agrees with everything I’ve written here), it could so easily have been me and my innocent family.

Of course, it’s obvious the Russian operatives behind the pro-Russian militia attacking the Ukraine, will never be brought to justice, just think of Gaddafi and the Lockerbie (Pan Am) terrorist bombing, but Russia will have to back off its activities in the Ukraine. The evidence of Russian involvement – the supplying of weapons and trained personnel to the pro-Russian fighters is overwhelming, regardless of protestations and try as I might, I simply cannot refer to balaclava-clad armed militia as soldiers. Proper soldiers are not ashamed of being recognised, these are murderous, shadowy thugs. The poet Leonard Cohen describes these vultures well in his song ‘The Captain’. “Whatever makes a soldier sad, will make a killer smile.”

There seems a strange reluctance of European politicians to strongly condemn what is happening, although the people across Europe, are expressing outrage. The US administration has almost given up on European Parliaments backing US measures aimed at bringing Putin and his cohorts into line. Perhaps the outrage of people will force the politicians to find some backbone.

Meanwhile, our friends, neighbours and children lie scattered across fields, bodies rotting as they are looted for anything of value. Russia and here, we should all remember the video footage of the Russian mother demanding information of her son (serving on board the submarine Kursk), being injected at a public meeting to shut her up, continues its obfuscation, while obviously removing as much evidence of implication in the atrocity as quickly as possible.

To my confusion and consternation, I now find myself wanting the Australian and British SAS – the best of the best of armed services anywhere in the world, to be invited in by the Ukrainian President and secure the crash site. It would take European nations several months of meetings to even begin to think about some sort of troop movement, whereas these crack forces would sort the balaclava thugs out within a day or two and what could Putin do? Three tenths of five eighths of fuck all, without declaring war on the western world and he can’t afford to do that.

Then there is the horrific, seemingly never-ending basket case of Gazza, Hamas and Israel.

I’ve long been a critic of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinian people, I’ve never been able to understand why they are not entitled to a nation  of their own but once again, as with MH17,  my peacenik beliefs have been challenged to the point of sad abandonment.

For the last few years, every mad mullah on this Earth has demanded the destruction, no, total annihilation of Israel and the Jews, now it’s a daily call and there is an eerie chilling uprising across the world, cursing Jews and Israel. In Germany, the police in several large cities appear to be siding with Arab protesters and shrugging their shoulders at the plight of Jewish supporters and attending journalists. Worse, pro-Arab demonstrators across the western world show an alarming propensity for violence. Where the hell did this anti-semitism come from? You’d think that of all places, European nations, especially Germany, would never ever have allowed such feelings to develop, but they have and they are.

Now I’ll admit that some Jewish people can be hard to take – the Chosen race and all that nonsense, but what have they ever done except create successful businesses, beautiful art and music? Even under the most hideous provocation – extermination by the Nazis, they didn’t protect themselves, preferring a noble, but sadly misplaced belief in an inherent  goodness of mankind – Polish, Dutch and French Collaborators soon taught them the realities of life.

Speaking of Nazis, Russia’s Putin is employing their same proven propaganda methodology, convincing some Ukrainians and many Russians that the current Ukrainian government are Neo-Nazi thugs, it’s exactly how the German soldiers and people were manipulated into believing the Jews were murderous, diseased rapists and thieves. Indeed Hitler then used the same methods to convince his armed forces the Russians were hideous, murderous thugs. If it wasn’t so sad and insane, it would be almost laughable that a hopefully small group of Russians are now proving Hitler right.

Which brings me back to Israel. It has become increasingly obvious that no matter how much the Israel people may want to live in peace, the vast majority of Arab nations, under the direction of their religious leaders, will not  rest until, as they regularly declare, the Jews are wiped out. Hamas uses ordinary, innocent Palestinian people and their homes, to hide behind and fire indiscriminate weapons at Israel. There is no targeting, apart from the  well-honed Hamas practise of sending off one weapon, then waiting just long enough for ambulances to reach the scene and firing another rocket. The Palestinian people may well want peace, but the dreadful reality is their religious leaders and Hamas do not. In the last few days (18th – 20th July), there have been three Ceasefire offers, including a humanitarian one, to get supplies in for the people, Hamas, as usual, ignored every offer and kept firing rockets at Israel.

Anyone baying criticism of Israel’s intensifying war on Gaza and Hamas, would do well to walk a mile in their shoes. Imagine we’re living in Australia and a fanatical religious group declares to the world they won’t rest until all Australians are wiped off the face of the earth, (come to think of it, the Aboriginal people have a story that is uncomfortably close to that) and begins firing rockets indiscriminately into our cities. What would we expect our government to do?

You bet. And we’d expect our allies to help us. In a dreadful way, it has already started to happen, in Bali with the bombs and now with the previously unthinkable conversion of Aussie-born kids into Jihadist killers. These people want to kill civilians, it is their modus-operandi. Not only do they hide amongst civilians, they actually prevail on children to carry out acts of murder. You’ll be smiled at by an innocent child, who will then, in the institutionalised belief in some mad God, pull a switch or a pin and blow everything and everyone around them into a million pieces.

And that is what Israel is faced with day after day, hour after hour.

Perhaps some would like the Jews to do what they did in the Nazi era, – meekly go to their slaughter? Perhaps we should send Hamas and the dreadful monstrous mullahs railway carriages, locomotives and tracks, then they could take the Jews away by train to some extermination camp, it worked before.

Me? I’ve reached the conclusion that Israel has no choice other than to obliterate Hamas and any other group demanding Israel’s destruction. The insanity of Islamic hatred for anything Jewish is such, that it’s obviously never going to end any time soon, so Israel might as well take the devil by the horns and go for it, defending themselves.

I wish I didn’t have to blow out the incense and put the beads and Peace Love t-shirt to one side, but there comes a time when moral outrage and a sense of what is and isn’t right, mean that just as it was when we lived in caves, evil will one day come stalking and ultimately, when all hope of peaceful negotiation has gone, there is no option left but to defend. And so just as we must defend those poor souls on board MH17, Israel must defend its people.

Greg Ross

Sir Jack

Sometimes in your life, you’re lucky enough to meet a boyhood hero. Today, for obvious reasons, I’ve been thinking of how lucky I was to spend a little time with Sir Jack Brabham. In my time as a marketing manager, which is not to suggest we were great mates, just that I had the honour to have that precious time with him.

I put him in an RX7 for a Classic Rally – I took the pic at Kings Park, later, I took him out to the Holmes A Court car collection at the Heytsbury Stud – I took this photo of him with Robert Holmes a Court’s favourite car. A year or two on, I put Sir Jack in a Jaguar XK8 for another Classic Rally – I took that photo out at the Gingin air force strip and then, in what was a very emotional moment for a lot of fellow car enthusiasts, I took Jack as a surprise guest to a Jaguar Car Club meeting here in Perth – there was a standing ovation as he walked up the front and I think there were more than a couple of blokes near tears to finally meet our shared hero.

I did have another incredible moment, there was a Ferrari Drive Day out at Barbagallo Raceway, Jack was due to fly back home to the Gold Coast that afternoon, I asked him if he wanted to go out and have a look at the race track before he flew out, he did. At the track, he looked at all the Ferraris and said, “The enemy!” (he was taciturn!), then as we walked along pit lane, one of the cars had a small fire in the engine bay, he smiled and said “Good. You know Ferrari fans used to boo and jeer me in Europe, this is good!”

We had a race spec Ferrari at the track and I asked him if he wanted to have a drive,”You know,” he said,”I’ve never driven one.” I gave him the keys. Out he went. The word got around very quickly that Jack Brabham was out on the track in a Ferrari, everybody stopped to watch and listen. After several laps, he pulled up and I asked him what he thought. “Jump in,” he ordered. Was I going to turn down the chance to go with Sir Jack in a Ferrari? NO! As we came down the long straight into turn seven (the final turn, he slapped on my leg and said, “You ready son?”
“Go you good thing go!” I yelled out. He bloody did. 

Vale and God speed Jack.

 

Brikmakers Super GT Series

GT3 Series 27 April 2014

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[img src=http://www.gregross.com.au/wp-content/flagallery/gt3-series-27-april-2014/thumbs/thumbs_gt3-serie-27-april-2014-384.jpg]00Corporate marque facilities
[img src=http://www.gregross.com.au/wp-content/flagallery/gt3-series-27-april-2014/thumbs/thumbs_gt3-serie-27-april-2014-142.jpg]10Two of the driving forces behind the series - Robina and Ken Coppin
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[img src=http://www.gregross.com.au/wp-content/flagallery/gt3-series-27-april-2014/thumbs/thumbs_20140427_114622_0.jpg]20My team - fiancee Ann and Wayne - with my arm in a sling, I couldn't have done it without them.
[img src=http://www.gregross.com.au/wp-content/flagallery/gt3-series-27-april-2014/thumbs/thumbs_20140427_131812_0.jpg]10Yours truly
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[img src=http://www.gregross.com.au/wp-content/flagallery/gt3-series-27-april-2014/thumbs/thumbs_gt3-serie-27-april-2014-383.jpg]00One armed, stuffed photographer ... sent out to grass!

http://youtu.be/SCJRVguSY0U

With Brikmakers (part of BGC) coming on-board the Super GT Series, the racing got under way on Sunday 27th April, in conjunction  with several other motor sport categories running for the day, under the WA Sporting Car Club.

The format for the Super GT Series, consists of Qualifying, plus two race rounds, the first 18 laps, the second of 20 laps and with a mix of ex-V8 Supercars and Italian and German (read Porsche) exotic race cars, it makes for exciting racing. Results and more detail will be added here over the next 24 hours.

WADJDA – a Review

I’ve long understood I have some sort of inbuilt basic flaw when it comes to movies – and theatre – well, any man who can happily pull Aunty Jack out of the closet (and her dress) obviously has issues (Australians of a certain age will understand).

Yes I LOVE real Bond movies – Connery skip, skip skip, Craig and LOVE Eastwood’s Spaghetti westerns, but overall, I loath the Terminator, Bourne Conspiracy type things. I do, check testicles, often really enjoy Chick Flicks, worse I’m at an age when it doesn’t worry me to publicly state the fact.

Fast forward to WADJDA, the first film shot in Saudi Arabia since 2008, when filming and cinemas were banned and this film is about two women no less – a mother and her daughter. One assumes the film maker lives in interesting times. Something about the trailer for the movie caught my attention – I wanted to see it.

I assume I’m much like many people in the West with no real comprehension of day to day life in Arab / Muslim (can the two be separated?) countries, my perceptions and prejudices are formed by what I read and see in the media, so this film fascinated me, in its illustration of modern life in Saudi Arabia.

Now I am in no way any sort of expert film critic, just a 63yr old bloke who could never ever watch BEN HUR again, when Heston turned out to be a gun-touting lunatic, who cried and loved WHALE RIDER, who occasional watches the three hour original version of DUNE for inspiration and THE ENGISH PATIENT to always bear in mind how close a screen play can resemble a book, you probably get the picture.

I loved WADGDA. It gave me hope, it taught me things about the female perspective in Saudi / Arab countries, it reminded me that in many ways, we really are all the same as humans, it’s just that religion and power (usually misogynist and usually men in dresses!) keep getting in the way. While the film was uplifting from a human point of view it, I gave silent thanks that my own granddaughters have the freedom we take for granted – maybe that’s appropriate in the week leading up to ANZAC Day.

A woman sitting behind us, of a similar age to me, told her friend she thought it was boring, I thought quite the opposite. To me, it sits well with THE BOOK THIEF. Gentle, thought-provoking, heart-warming and instructive.

As a footnote I came out of the theatre and watched the news of the Australian arse hole who’s killed his little daughters, juxtaposed with other news footage of the extreme right-wing hatred by white Australian men, as they target innocent Muslim women – where the fuck are we headed and why, oh why, is it always men who dominate, kill and ruin lives?

Go see this film, as I watched it, lines from a Leonard Cohen kept drifting into my mind:
Now why do you stand by the window
Abandoned to beauty and pride
The thorn of the night in your bosom
The spear of the age in your side?
Lost in the rages of fragrance
Lost in the rags of remorse
Lost in the waves of the sickness
That loosens the high silver nerves
Oh chosen love, oh frozen love
Oh tangle of matter and ghost
Oh darling of angels, demons and saints
And the whole broken-hearted host, gentle this soul
And come forth from your cloud of unknowing
And kiss the cheek of the moon
The new Jerusalem glowing
Why tarry all night in this ruin?
And leave no word of discomfort
Or leave no observer to mourn
But climb on your tears and be silent
Like the rose on its ladder of thorns

The Gods and Man Light Up The Sky

Burswood Easter

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[img src=http://www.gregross.com.au/wp-content/flagallery/burswood-easter/thumbs/thumbs_burswood-pentax-april-2014-019-copy.jpg]00The curious case of the unknown flare
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[img src=http://www.gregross.com.au/wp-content/flagallery/burswood-easter/thumbs/thumbs_fireworks-easter-saturday-2014-048.jpg]00Let the Lightshow Begin
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[img src=http://www.gregross.com.au/wp-content/flagallery/burswood-easter/thumbs/thumbs_cars-at-burswood-001-copy.jpg]00Back to Burswood

This time of the year is a cause for celebration in different ways for different people – Easter for Christians (and Agnostics like me), Passover for Jewish people and, I suspect wedding celebrations for a couple at Burswood resort on Easter Saturday – Chinese couples seem to rather like spectacular fireworks at their weddings. We’ve just moved into our new home in the area and this was the first fireworks display we’ve watched from our balcony. This first week has provided a real celestial display – blood red sunsets, a full moon and gunpowder. As Neil Diamond wrote so long ago, “It’s a beautiful noise.”

Off the Cuff … Shouldering the Post-Operative Pain

(Re-Post from 3rd of April due to technical issues with the website)

You’ll be in a sling for eight weeks, the first six weeks in a high-intensity device belted around your hips and shoulder and the last two in a more normal sling.”

Right,” I nonchalantly replied, implying familiarity and competence, but apart from the small matter of being paralysed for a day or two after a somewhat horrific car accident out on the Nullarbor some 40 years ago, I’ve never even broken a bone, although I’ve been a hospital patient a couple of times over the years. I simply didn’t see a sling as being much of an issue, besides, the pain of the last seven months (since the original injury) would finally be gone. The suspected and therefore thrice injected (steroids) Bursa muscle damage, had, under the reveal of an MRI, proven to be grounds for what’s known as a Rotator Cuff operation. “A relatively simple operation Greg, we open the shoulder, dig out a channel in the bone and attach the muscle.”

Now the MRI experience provides a substantial clue to my biggest fear, claustrophobia. 17 minutes into the MRI, tightly bound with one hand above my head the damaged shoulder arm at my side and completely enclosed in a very close chamber, sheer uncontrollable panic took over and I screamed for them to get me out. Barely able to hold the proffered glass of water, I eventually agreed to go back inside for a final 15 minutes,“Otherwise we’ll just have to repeat it all again Mr Ross.” I knew I could not go through it again.

Fast forward three weeks and I’m on the table in the operating theatre. I’m struck by how delightful everything is, lovely friendly people, beautiful sunny Autumn day, nice background music. “Ah,” I said, as the anaesthetist began the flow of sedative into my hand, “I remember that cold feeling followed by a little pain.”He smiled and replied, “You won’t remember much after this.”

 A couple of hours later, they wheeled me back into my room. I was sort of aware my fiancée was there and that I was lying in a semi upright position, but not much else. Two nurses were standing over me explaining I should not let “… the pain get away, call us as soon as you feel anything, it’s very important. Do you need to go to the toilet?” As they assisted me out of bed, I became dimly aware of ‘my attachment’ – a grey sling with some sort of internal cushion between my body and right arm. Leaving me comfortably numb and seated, I began to realise I really was going to have to use my left hand, for everything.

That night in hospital was interesting, in an ‘out-of-body’ sort of way – I drifted in and out of sleep, quickly adapted to pouring my own water and getting myself to the loo, occasionally standing by the window watching the dark still stretch of the Swan River, later even photographing the awakening dawn with my mobile phone and posting the pic on Facebook, then gazing almost wistfully at the multitude of planes taking off with FIFO workers to mines across this vast state, knowing I wouldn’t be joining them any time soon. All the while, only remotely aware of ‘my attachment’.

My fiancée arrived, followed closely by breakfast and the day shift nurses. “Blood pressure’s excellent, is your heartbeat always slow? How’s your pain?”

Good. Always. None.” The surgeon arrived with various hangers-on and I really must compliment his bedside manner, he made sure Ann (my fiancée) was central to the conversation and was genuinely friendly. He told us while the operation had been a success he had discovered the injury also included a previously unknown torn and consequently frayed tendon above the elbow. He’d repaired and reattached it successfully, the only factor being that it would make the recovery process a touch more complicated and perhaps a little longer, but to all effects and purposes, the operation was a success. He then became more serious, explaining it was absolutely essential to keep the sling in place and follow his instructions and exercise regime rigidly, going on to say if I didn’t and he had to re-operate, the chances of an excellent (85-90%) recovery of shoulder use would diminish. He and the nurses explained how to put the sling on and remove it for showers etc and then he reiterated that pain management was absolutely essential, “Don’t wait for things to become painful, don’t try to be brave, unfortunately in two to three days time, as the blockers wear off, it will be painful, so please, please use the medication the nurses will give you, you can go home and I’ll see you in two weeks.”

My daughter picked us up, I sat in the front passenger seat and realised I couldn’t do up the seatbelt, premature role reversal set in as she gave me orders to sit back and stop trying to help! At home, we’d prepared as well as we could, we’d even purchased an electric recliner chair, by my count 20 years too bloody early!

I’d been practising using my left hand, but it remains awkward, eating is OK, but one does have to be careful and yes, there are times when your food needs chopping up, you simply can’t do it. I am a reasonably quick and competent two handed typist, but now it’s left hand one finger picking, while the mouse and my left hand have what can best be termed as a chaotic relationship.

The first evening settled in and we knew it was time to try a shower. Very tentatively, we began the seemingly simple operation of removing clothing and the complicated sling. Suddenly the task overwhelmed both of us, Ann’s an academic and never been involved in anything like the belts, whistles and velcro of ‘my attachment.’ Although she’d done her best to observe what the nurses had demonstrated back at the hospital, she’d been relying on the fact that I’d nonchalantly replied,”Yep, yep, yep, no worries” to everything, besides she knew I was quite practical. But of course, I was just being a bloke (we don’t read maps, or need instructions!) and I was also blissfully in the arms of Sister Morphine at the time.

We were both terrified of damaging the operation and too shocked at our joint inability to cope, to get anything right. We didn’t know how to put the damn thing back on, my daughter had our cars, we couldn’t call a cab – I had no clothes on – and we had no idea how to put the sling back on, with the useless arm resting on a pillow. We rang the hospital and got through to a bloke who said, “Oh, I know the slings you mean, but they’re complicated, I’m not very good with those myself, hang on while I ask somebody else.” Eventually it was decided I’d have to come into the hospital and they’d show us how to do it. There was no choice but to ring Jodie (my daughter) and ask her to come over and take us to the hospital. As we waited and calmed down a fraction, we thought we’d have another go, this time we managed it and rang Jodie, telling her to go back home, deciding to try the shower in the morning. Thus began the first night at home and so also began the Chair Shuffle.

Whilst the sling is on (eight weeks) you have to sleep in a sitting position. Fine in theory, but in practice! It should all be perfect, but that car accident so many years ago left me with a crushed – chalked was the word they used I think – tail bone, I always have to sit more or less upright, or with cushions etc stuffed behind my back to be comfortable. Armchairs simply aren’t built that way, then there’s ‘my attachment’, it’s big and needs support, although not too much, or it scrunches up the shoulder. The result is you do drift off for an hour or so, then you wake, uncomfortably numb in the bum. So you get up, whereupon your alert and loving partner, who’s also not really sleeping as she’s concerned for you, calls out, “Are you OK?”

You go and stand on the balcony, remembering to drink copious water, then 20 minutes later, try the same chair. Things ache straight away, so you move to another chair, drift off for an hour or so and the whole process repeats itself. And so it is every night … and day. The good news is, I now have a selection of chairs I rotate to throughout any given 24 hour period; The Recliner in the corner of the lounge, the outdoor setting chair on the balcony, the swivel chair in the study, an armchair in the lounge and a dining chair at the table. And a routine has now developed, where by about 5.10am every morning, I’m so tired, I collapse into whatever chair is next and sleep for about three and a half hours. And all the while, ‘my attachment’ is with me, every bloody where I go and that segues into my claustrophobia.

Inevitably, at some stage, once a day, usually in the early evening, unreasoned blind panic and fear overwhelm me, I get hot, sweaty and terrified, the sling has to come off, immediately! By this time I’m short of breath, short with Ann and incapable of rational thought. We rest my arm on pillows, Ann takes the sling off and I sit there, feeling both relieved and foolish. After about ten minutes we put it back on and I’m OK again. It’s quite bizarre and ridiculous, but you have no idea how real the fear and panic is, nor how hard it is on Ann.

Ablutions are interesting. The first thing I discovered is that although I’ve always been a wet shave guy, it’s decidedly unsafe to try shaving using a razor in my left hand, so we splashed out $25.00 on a Braun electric shaver and it works, using my left hand! Last time I tried an electric shaver was about 1973 and it didn’t work, anyhow, problem solved, although trimming an Edwardian style beard is currently impossible, gotta pay somebody to do that.

This next bit falls into the too much information bracket, but it’s important info for others who may be facing similar issues – the toilet, or lavatory as we were taught to say at boarding school (by Rigamortis, our alcoholic Latin master, but that’s another story). One doesn’t consciously realise the extent to which two hands are of value in completing the task – one for balance, the other … But when you’re restricted to one hand and not your normal hand, certain operations become major issues and you can’t get it wrong, asking for help is simply out of the question.

We’ve worked out a shower routine, (my two or three shower a day habit is impossible, there aren’t enough hours in the day!), clothes off, ‘my attachment’ off, simple shower sling, with plastic milk bottle on – yep, standing naked in the shower clutching an empty two litre plastic milk bottle is not one of my most dignified moments! Ann joins me and throws on the body wash and shampoo, then proceeds to hose me down. Out of the shower, she dries me, reminds me of the need to diet, sprays on the deodorant, shakes a bit of talc and then we reattach ‘my attachment’ and go through the dressing procedure – no T-shirts, it’s only possible to get into open neck short sleeve shirts. Then it’s the under daks and sensible baggy shorts. But joy of joys in simple pleasures, I can splash on the aftershave and run a brush though my hair, even use the hair dryer, after a fashion. Afterwards I take a walk to get the newspaper, before settling into the Chair Shuffle, although it is easier during the day, when you’re constantly doing things.

I did try to stop taking the pills the other morning, but by early evening, I could see myself that I was becoming very grumpy and aggressive, so I quickly returned to the chemical regime. I fortunately haven’t experienced the severe pain the surgeon warned of and it’s now been exactly one week since the operation. Perhaps because I’ve taken the pills as directed and done the exercises as directed, the issue / problems seem to be psychological rather than physical and I think Ann is paying a far worse price than me. Realistically she’s got a bombastic, frustrated overgrown child to deal with and she has to do everything, with very little help from me. Because I’m so aware of this and probably because I’ve always been such an independent cove, the situation makes me doubly frustrated. And all the while, ‘my attachment’ clings to me, silently screaming, “I’m helping you!”

Both ankles and feet are currently quite swollen, no doubt due to the lack of normal movement, so it’s obvious I should do more walking, the trouble is I don’t have my usual energy, but I guess that will return. Frustration at not being able to do so many mundane tasks is a core issue and I find myself apologising to Ann for asking her to do things, which drives her mad. So then you don’t apologise, but feel bad for not doing so.

It’s obvious that I’m the problem, rather than the operation and I think it’s here that patients need post-operative guidance. A good friend of ours has also undergone a similar operation, a week earlier than me and she is experiencing almost exactly the same mental issues, yet we are quite different personalities. It also disproves the theory I’d developed that it was probably me just being male.

One thing is absolutely certain, day to day living would not be possible without a committed loving partner, I would need outside assistance every day, not 24 hours, but certainly a daily visiting routine for showering and later to change back out of clothes. The price a partner pays, is colossal and they’re right in the firing line when frustration boils over. I now have some understanding of the impossible role family members play as 24 hour carers for injured or disabled children and spouses. I know I’m going to have to give Ann some sort of pampered holiday at the end of this eight week period and strangely, I’ll need it too, as I’ll then be facing a rehabilitation period of several months, that’s something I still need to get my head around. But right now, we need to navigate our way though the next seven weeks, ‘my attachment’ isn’t going anywhere!

Greg Ross

RICCIARDO DISQUALIFICATION

Originally posted on 17/03/2014 by Greg Ross

I believe the FIA have treated Daniel Ricciardo too harshly, on the basis that he had no control or knowledge of the programming involved in the fuel flow sensor. Officials have already freely admitted this.

If it is proven Red Bull have breached the rules, then the team should lose Constructer Points and Ricciardo should retain his Driver position. There is precedent, with events in 2007, when McLaren were fined (and excluded) for having illegal inside information on rivals Ferrari, however McLaren drivers Alonso and Hamilton were not penalised.

There are still a few issues to be established, or confirmed – the part in question measures fuel volume per hour, yet it appears the rules stipulate a fuel weight per hour. And whilst the meter is used in other motor sport applications, the authorities were concerned enough about its performance to recommend a software change or adjustment. It’s a safe bet that Red Bull and every other team up and down pit lane were deeply concerned, this was the first time these new cars and engines had been driven in anger, on a very different fuel mix to all previous races.

Red Bull claims their system gave a reliable reading, so they made the choice to stay with it. Claims that Ricciardo’s car used more fuel (per hour) than allowed seem spurious – he didn’t use all the allotted fuel, nor did he run on to empty. In other words, he gained no advantage from Red Bull’s decision, other than that team had an accurate reading of his fuel consumption. It looks increasingly as though FIA officials are determined to punish the team for disobeying their instructions to use the acknowledged faulty part / software and the aforementioned possibility of an advantage over other teams in having a more accurate (read better) fuel metering system.

Either way, if there’s been a breech of regulations, it’s the team that’s at fault, not Ricciardo. Indeed regardless of the eventual outcome (sure to be sorted very quickly, as the Malaysian Grand Prix is just two weeks away), Ricciardo proved his worth. He drove a very mature race, he didn’t try to push the car past the limits he was learning of lap by lap, by attempting to catch the race leader, he kept out of trouble and maintained his position (2nd) throughout the race. His handling of the car, himself and his responsibilities towards his team, sponsors and us, the fans, was a joy to watch. Ricciardo has arrived and brought with him good humour, manners and sportsmanship – he may well have a thing or two to teach his team mate.

Greg Ross

 

 

The Book Thief … A Film Review

Originally posted on 14/03/2014 by Greg Ross

movies-the-book-thief-poster

http://youtu.be/92EBSmxinus

First a confession; apart from Clint Eastwood Spaghetti Westerns and James Bond movies – well Sean Conroy skipping straight through to Daniel Craig, I loathe the violent, action genre so beloved by most blokes. Worse, I usually prefer the so-called Chic Flicks. Sob! My feminine side just keeps coming out … so to speak! The English Patient remains one of my all time favourite movies (and books) – I do seem to have a penchant for films featuring vast deserts – Lawrence of Arabia, Dune and the aforesaid English Patient. Oh yes, there is also a penchant for Vampire movies – I keep breaking the appointment with the pysc!

The Book Thief has no desert, no vampires and no Aston Martin, but something attracted me to the film (I had not read the book), though critics had not raved, indeed some were rather dismissive, so hand in hand with my very pleased fiancée, I went along for the ride.

First the accents, it’s often hard to imitate a German accent, they pronounce W as V, so any actor immediately sounds like some B-Grade spiv … “Ve have vays.” You either run with an all German cast, or if you want commercial success outside of Germany, you throw in a NAME English speaking actor or two and lightly salt the script with a German word or phrase here and there.

Geoffrey Rush is not a bad name to have for Box Office pull, I once saw him live at the Barrymore, in Exit The King, alongside Susan Sarandon, they were both magnificent, powerful and instantly gripping. But The Book Thief doesn’t instantly grab you by the throat, it takes a while to sort out what’s going on in the opening scenes – we never even see the first character, a pleasant, matter-of-fact voice-over, making occasional appearances throughout the movie.

I have no wish to act as ‘Spoiler’ and relate the storyline here, rather tell you the acting is superb, the cinematography is natural, the recreation of a pre-war (1938 onwards) German village (and life) is realistic. The story, though brutal, has a soft, gentle landing, saccharine? Perhaps, I prefer to think that rain and sunshine fall upon all of us. A touch contrived? Maybe, but I felt I was watching vignettes of believable characters, as cards fell either at random, or perhaps at the behest of Death.

I am privileged to have a reasonably intimate knowledge of German people and past lifestyles, many of us are not, we have a preconceived notion of the Germans. Some, for obvious reasons, cannot and should not let go of the hideous Nazi years and some just cannot let go. John Cleese nailed this brilliantly with his “Don’t mention the war!” skit in Fawlty Towers. We (Poms, Aussies, Kiwis) loved it, most of us completely missing the fact the joke (barb) was aimed at us. I defy anyone to be in a room with an English person and German and not hear ‘The War’ brought up (by the English person), within fifteen minutes.

And therein I believe, is the major hurdle for this film – many are not able to accept Germans in the Nazi era as ordinary decent people, this book (script), asks us to accept that premise and further, accept the possibility of ordinary Germans also being victims. One critic commenced his critique demanding to know why there was no mention of the Holocaust! Why? There was and one of the main characters is Jewish. Perhaps we saw different versions. Does he not consider the Germans have strived for almost 70 years to somehow make amends for the horrors of the Nazi period, or more telling, perhaps he just want to keep punishing them?

If you don’t harbour, or can overcome personal prejudices, this a gentle tale where even Death behaves with manners as he lays waste to both the innocent and the evil. The story of a little girl, her love and need for books and her bitter sweet journey. I loved this film, this story, the acting and left the cinema with unashamed tears falling slowly down my cheeks. It’s nothing like The Life of Pi, or indeed The English Patient, but it nestles perfectly between them.

c) Greg Ross

 

A Bali Virgin … or How I learned to Love Bali and Stop Hating the Thought.

Originally posted on 14/03/2014 by Greg Ross
I’d been everywhere man … except Bali, a phrase I’ve ‘worn’ with honour for the last 30 years. Horror stories of drunken out-of-control Aussies and Bali Belly served to harden my resolve, Europe was (and still is) my favourite destination.
One of my daughters went a year or so back and vowed never to return, however in recent times, three trusted friends have implored me to take a look at Bali, an island they’ve grown to love and my fiancée’s birthday was coming up, so in a spur of the moment decision, I booked a six day / five night holiday, although not as a package, I followed friends experienced advice and booked a resort, driver and airfares independently of each other, all on the internet.
The luxury Semara Resort was very well priced – a fabulous large executive unit with a bath (most important for the birthday girl!) was A$772.00 for six days / five nights and the driver was incredibly cheap – $25.00 per day, car, driver, fuel and parking all inclusive, 24 hours a day! Amazing value.
This was also the first time I’ve ever flown with a budget airline – I’m a long-term Qantas sort of guy, but internationally, they’ve abandoned Perth, so with some misgiving, I booked with Air Asia, deciding to pay for seat choice, meals and something called ‘Red Carpet’ (ex Denpaser) – the promise was for $26.00pp you’d avoid the queues. All up, the flight cost was $822.00 return for two of us. It struck me as cheap and as long as the plane was clean and reasonably new, I’d be happy.
I wasn’t sure whether Seats 1c and 1d were up the front, but in fact they were, pre-booking meals was a masterstroke – we were served first, there was no beer or wine on the trip to Bali, but the plane was near new, spotless and the crew were genuinely polite, far more than I can say for a recent (January) British Airways flight).There was no entertainment, but that’s why you have book readers, besides, it’s a short-haul 3hr 40 minute flight. You’ll need US$25.00 per person to pay for your Visa when you arrive at Denpasar (only payable in US dollars) and you’ll need R150,000 (A$15.00) per person exit fee when you leave.
I won’t dwell on the sights to see in Bali, enough has been written to serve readers for the next millennium, rather first time impressions and advice from an initially reluctant visitor. Traffic is utterly chaotic, dominated by motor scooters, often with three or four people on board and no discernible road rules as such. Cars, small trucks, buses and motor scooters go anywhere, I think they drive on the left, but not necessarily, it just depends on where they want to go! For somebody like me, who’s spent a lifetime at the wheel, it’s beyond belief. But, and this is insane, it works! Everybody is utterly mindful of the other driver, tooting (a quick beep) to warn, or let the other vehicle through. I am convinced it’s a mind-set born of religion (Hindu with a hint of Buddhism) and congestion. Compared to Perth, where people speed up to prevent anybody merging, this place is Paradise, but I wouldn’t want to drive there. A personal driver takes you where and when you want all day everyday. Six days cost us $150.00 including airport transfers, our man Gusti made our holiday.
The cost of wining and dining varies considerably, beer is cheap, but not as cheap as Germany, (a country I visit regularly) food is about the same cost as Germany, both countries are about 40% cheaper than dining in Perth. Wine is the bugbear (I don’t drink beer). It’s incredibly expensive, although realistically, a bottle of wine at a Balinese restaurant costs the same as a bottle of wine in a Perth restaurant, but A$12.00 a very small glass is over the odds (for me). I ended up drinking fruit Smoothies (at about A$4.00). However, we did find (again, friends advice) a great restaurant, Biku, where a decently filled glass of Margaret River red was just $6.00 and the food was excellent at about A$6.50 a main course. Bottled water is a must, even at the resort, where although the water is safe to brush your teeth with, perhaps not drink. There are mini marts everywhere and you can buy large bottles of water for A$1.00 vs A$2.00 at the resort – you’ll use the bottled water for making tea and coffee as well. I took a duty free bottle of whisky with me, which served me very well at the end of each day (you’re allowed one 1 litre bottle per person into Bali). If you’re a smoker, you are in paradise, from memory (I don’t smoke) , a packet of cigarettes was about A$2.50.
We packed a lot in, going to temples and mountains, the artists haven of Ubud and lots of restaurants. Be aware, as you pass through certain areas outside the central city, the police will stop any car with a European inside and charge a ‘Visiting Fee’, there’s no charge for the Balinese driver, the cost is usually about A$3.00 per person, all done with smiles and friendly conversation. Our experience is that you’ll spend about A$100.00 per day for two people, including food, but not including accommodation or transport. You won’t run into many Australians outside Denpasar, mainly Asian and European people, possibly it’s quite true that Aussies prefer Kuta. We did go there for a quick visit on our last night, it was jam-packed with Aussies in Bintang singlets and recent tatoos. I suspect many of those enjoying themselves in Kuta were on the very well priced A$650.00 for 4 day flight and accommodation type packages.
It is certainly a Third World country and you can understand the visitor fees, when you discover the population has, in the space of ten years, increased from 3.6 million to 4.2 million, the government struggles to provide services – sounds like home really doesn’t it! The roads are pot-holed, people park on the footpaths and quite often, you come past a beautiful creek / forest area, strewn with rubbish from plastic bags, no doubt ripped open by the scraggly dogs or monkeys, but overall, the villages are a lot cleaner than some outback Australian communities. As for safety, I never once felt threatened, indeed, we felt a lot safer in Bali than we have in some European cities, such as Prague, or, come to think of it, the Perth to Midland train on a Saturday night!
Perhaps the hardest thing to deal with, are the constant hawkers – whenever you get out of the car at a tourist spot, they converge on you. The Javanese are the most uncomfortable to deal with – they insist on touching you, whereas the Balinese seem to respect personal space a little better, but “Tidak” (No Thanks), spoken politely, sees most off, although you might have to repeat yourself three or four times! If you are of a mind to purchase, from a stall or a street vendor, always knock the price down by two thirds to start negotiations, or start at a third less than what you’re prepared to pay. Don’t think you’re being offensive, they love the game and remember, if it’s untreated wood, or made from eggshells etc, you’ll lose it at Customs in Perth.
Holiday over, Gusti dropped us at the airport and it was time to find out what Air Asia meant by ‘Red Carpet.’ What they meant was you jumped the queues in front of everybody else, you were personally escorted through customs and everywhere else by an Air Asia representative straight to their VIP lounge, ‘The Premier Lounge’, where just like Emirates (perhaps not quite so luxurious), you were wined and dined at no cost until called to board your plane. When we arrived in Perth, our luggage was some of the first off, marked ‘Priority.’ I usually travel overseas in Premium Economy and your luggage isn’t marked Priority. Air Asia have won us and so has Bali. It’s stunningly beautiful, genuinely friendly and very relaxing, very very reminiscent of Broome back in the late 1970s. We’ll be back.
Greg Ross
PS: The writer paid all costs involved.