My dear Followers…

 

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Mount Keira

…you are probably wondering what this old man in “Downunder” is up to?

“Why don’t he write? (is one of my favourite lines from the film ‘Dances with Wolves’)”

Yes, why haven’t I written for a few months?  I’m busy coping with life. I am active but everything takes longer nowadays. On top of it, the medical profession has taken up a big chunk of my precious time. They ponder the question of how they can prolong, or extent,  my life. “Prolong” sound negative, doesn’t it? I’m sure I want my life to go on a bit longer.

The photo on the top was taken during one of my two recent stays in hospital at Wollongong, NSW. It is a picture of Mount Keira.  A small hill, compared to all the big mountains in the world. But since it raises 464meters from practical sea level it is dominating the city. It is part of the Illawarra Escarpment.

 

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The coastal plain as seen from Mt Keira

 

And this is part of the view from the top of Mount Keira. It is breathtaking.

The region in which we live, the Illawarra, is as beautiful as it gets. Less than 100 km south of Sydney.  It is almost unknown by the Sydneysiders. They rather go north on their weekends or vacations. And if they go south they bypass the region on the motorway.

During February we had downpour after downpour, resulting in local flooding in local areas. A boy, only thirteen years old, drowned in a creek. He was being swept away in the deluge while riding a boogie board with about twenty other children. That is what children do. When I was that age I played with my friends in the ruins of Berlin after the war. That too was a dangerous pastime. Luckily, nothing serious happened to me and I’m here to tell the story.

We live in a world of unprecedented uncertainty. I know, life was always uncertain but what we have now is on a scale that is simply frightening. People have lost trust in their system of government. And governments have lost trust in their voters.

Much of the uncertainty and the fear it creates is the result of modern communications. The global village is today’s reality and not only a thought bubble emanating from  Marshall McLuhan’s brain.

For me, a frightening world is still an interesting world. It is an opportunity to learn. We are conscious beings, who are forced to learn or we won’t survive. We are craving “input”  like the robot “Johnny 5” in the 1986 film “Short Circuit”. The problem with the majority of us is, that we are craving junk input too. To know what to learn and what not to learn then becomes the question.

At this stage of my life, I have to learn to deal with what my doctor announced with a stern face, “You have a tumour! You know, a tumour?” Yes, I heard him the first time. This is my reality now.

After a couple of invasive procedures and a six weeks treatment regime, I am free to spend my time in a more or less unstructured way. We, Aunty Uta and I, had time to go and see a couple of movies. The outstanding one was “Frantz” a French- German coproduction. It is an anti-war movie par excellence. It is shot mainly in black and white to express the mood of the time in 1919.  Occasionally, the colour appears at some beautiful moments in the story. There is only one very short scene of what actually happened during a battle. Perhaps it was necessary to show why the main protagonist acted in the way he did. War not only kills people but messes with the lives of the survivors too.

Today,  I’m happy to report that France and Germany are the best of friends. And this after hundreds of years of fighting each other. This gives raise to some sort of optimism as those two European nations, having seen the past, understand that the only way forward is through cooperation.  The British on the other hand have pulled up the bridges and wallow in their insularity.

Last month was my birthday. The 82nd no less. I took my wife to downtown Wollongong and we had a cheese platter in a roof top restaurant. The sun shone and warmed us on the outside and the cheese and wine on the inside. We were in a life-affirming mood and were reflecting on our sixty years of marriage.

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We had a great time and wished us both a long life together.

I hope, I will write another post soon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Pauly the Car

Our  little car at a time of wellbeing

Our little car at a time of wellbeing

We have a little car which was nicknamed by my sister Ilse on one of her trips to Australia, “Pauly” (actually “Paulchen” in German).

We have owned the car for fifteen years now and it never caused us any problems or breakdowns. It went and went and went…

When Ilse named the car, she advised us, never to talk bad about it in its presence. She seems to think, cars have a soul and can easily be offended.

Last weekend was my 80th birthday and I had a really good time. Our son Martin had even flown in from Melbourne for the weekend. He had to fly back on Sunday and we offered to take him back to the airport and daughter Caroline home to Sydney.

The only way out from Wollongong, which is practically just a few meters above sea level, is up a steep road, Mount Ousley Road, across the Illawarra escarpment. It was only constructed during WWII by the Americans with their “can-do”  attitude.

While going up the steep hill, Caroline was driving,  the car seemed a bit sluggish. With four adult people on board, it did not seem unusual. But, we started to discuss the car’s age and Caroline suggested we could buy another car. Maybe not a new one, but at least a well preserved and reliable second-hand car.

Just seconds after discussing this, and not remembering Ilse’s advice,  the car showed severe signs of illness. It lost power and no amount of gear-shifting would help. Soon enough, belching smoke poured out everywhere and we feared the engine could blow up. Our car looked more like an old steam engine than a 21st Century automobile.  We decided to pull up at the turn-off to the Clive Bissell Drive where there is a convenient parking area. We thought of letting the car cool off and then continue.

Caroline did not trust “Pauly” anymore and rang a friend who lives in a neighbouring suburb. He came  and Martin made it, just in time, to the airport.

I set off, full of optimism, that I would be able to nurse the car home. But it was not to be. Our talk about getting another car had offended “Pauly” too much and after about a kilometer the car stopped.  We rang the automobile club and organised the tow away  to our car repair station.

While my first eighty years ended on a high note, the second eighty years started not so well. See how the next eighty years go. And next time we talk about a new car we will make sure “Pauly” will not hear us. I have the feeling it is on its last leg.

Hold-up at the Art Precinct

We had reason to go to Wollongong, the largest city in the Illawarra, and on the way back to the car I saw a large picture on the wall. Street art, I presume.

 

Mythical figure?

Mythical figure?

 

I was intrigued. What was it? An animal or a tree trunk? There seemed to be flying birds and falling leafs.  Beside was a sign.

 

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Ah, I was at the art precinct and they told me that I was under observation. I did nor know art was dangerous to warrant CCTV. As you can see on the sign it showed the way into a rather dark alley.  I felt I had to investigate a bit further. And found a triptych of horror.

Triptych of Horror

Triptych of Horror

 

I can not see any connection between the three pictures of the panel.

I went back to the street and to my surprise found three character with doubtful intentions.

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My favourite

My favourite

 

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After seeing those three, I wanted to get the hell out of there. I was lucky on the other side of the street Uta  was waiting for me near a safe sanctuary.

 

Anglican Church - Kembla Street

Anglican Church – Kembla Street

 

 ps. This blog is published also in German at pethan35.wordpress.com

An old Man and the Sea

Contemplating the eternal sea

Contemplating the eternal sea

The last couple of days we were staying at the shore of the mighty Pacific Ocean. The constantly rolling surf creates its own rhythm. Like our hearts it  beats faster or slower according to circumstances.

Why do we go to the edge of the ocean? I think there is something primaeval in our urge to go and see Mother Ocean. That its where all life on Earth originated. We are land animals now, but have not forgotten where we came from. The  Amniotic fluid is not dissimilar to sea water and points to our development from marine to land animals.

Waves smashing onto rocks

Waves smashing onto rocks

One can see  the power of the sea while observing the waves smashing onto rocks,  which are the remnants of a fiery, volcanic past. In earlier times the beach was often the starting point for a fishing exercise. Boats took off with cooperating males as crew. In other parts of the world this is still being done.

Here, where we live on the South Coast of NSW, in the Illwarra, the beach is mainly used for recreational activities. One can see not only  surfers but also driftwood.

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It too is a witness to a former life as a tree, from who knows where from. The edge of the ocean, the beach, is the result of the changing nature on our planet. Next morning it was gone. Drifting, of course to another destination.

Recreational users of the beach will be well familiar with a flag that symbolises so much of Australian life. It is the Life Saver’s Flag  telling all it is save to surf between the two flags.

 

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When walking along the beach one can see other elderly people contemplating. Contemplating what? Their lives, our lives. life on Earth, where it will all end? Only  a couple of weeks ago there was a report and even a video why water disappeared from the surface of Mars. I think we don’t have to worry about it right now.

 

Caspar David Friedrich like is a man looking at the sea flanked by two young Morfolk Pines

Here is a man, Caspar David Friedrich like,  looking at the sea flanked by two young Norfolk Pines

That was last night and the setting sun turned the haze that had settled over the landscape into a mysterious veil.

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In the morning, a new dawn broke and prepared a new setting all together. I was thinking, not at all morbidly, if all live came out of the ocean perhaps we should be returned to the sea when we die. I know, at funerals the clergies like to tell us, that we were made from dust  and to dust we will return. But wouldn’t it make more sense to return us to the sea  where all life originated?

I looked at the rising sun over the ocean  and decided, I would like that when my time comes.

 

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Nan Tien Temple revisited 2013

Here in the Illawara, not far from Dapto, where we live, there is a beautiful Buddhist Temple. It is on a small hill overlocking the plain towards the escarpment.

Last year I wrote a post for my German block about it. Today I will post something on this blog.

We always like going there as we find it very peaceful there. The people, mostly worshippers, are not the hectic tourists. The pagoda greets the visitor .

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From up there one has a beautiful view of Mount Kembla and the escarpment.

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We had beautiful sunshine today and therefore many people from Sydney were making the trip down the highway. Some go to the temple proper some relaxing in the well kept gardens and enjoying the little Buddha figures, spread all over the gardens, doing their Tai Chi.

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Walking along the path we found a sitting Buddha who looked at us with slight amusement.

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We walked slowly up the hill and arrived at he Gratitude Bell. It is to show gratitude to your parents.

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On the next picture you can see Uta banging away in gratitude to her parents no doubt.

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Still one can enjoy the view from up there and show gratitude to our departed parents. I’m sure they would have enjoyed being there too.

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From up there we walked to the temple where so many people had arrived. Inside people worshipped. We were not able to take any pictures there but from this scan of a post card you can see what we were looking at.

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Still, outside there are beautiful vistas to enjoy.

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Our last impression of the temple and its surrounds was the perfect axis from the pagoda to Mount Kembla. I’m sure our Karma will be positively effected by our visit to the Nan Tien Temple today.

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Many more pictures of the temple and its gardens you find here

Thoughts on the 16th of May

On this day, seventy-eight years ago, I was born in Berlin. This was such a long, long time ago!

The apartment building I grew up in

The apartment building I grew up in

So much has happened during that time. That I’m still alive is a wonder. Before I was ten the biggest of wars dominated my life. I would say it has shaped me into the person I am today. I can’t run away from that legacy. Neither do I want to.

First the Poms, then the Yankees tried to bomb shit out of me. Many a times I was in an air raid shelter when the whole building was shaking. We heard the bombs whistling down on us and after a moments silence the mighty burst of an explosion nearby made us think there was an earthquake. But we survived the day and night bombing only to experience the roar of the artillery of the Red Army pounding the city of Berlin. Three times buildings in which I was at the time were hit by shells. I will never forget the sound of the Katyusha rocket launcher. Berlin’s destruction was the end of the devastation in Europe that also included Stalingrad and Warsaw.

American B 17 over our home

American B 17 over our home

Once, coming back from an errand to get some sugar, I was attacked by a Russian fighter plane. Later, on my 10th birthday, a couple of Red Army soldiers wanted to blow my brain out unless I drink a cup of vodka. I refused and was saved from my ordeal by an officer. I must have believed the Russian political commissar who told me, Russians would not make war against children. I have been a Russophile ever since.

Seventy years ago, in 1943, I knew nobody who was as old as I am today. Of my four grandparents only the mother of my dad was still alive. I had a couple of old grandaunts but they were still not older than seventy then. For an eight year old they were amazingly old. Now I’m even older! But I heard them telling stories of what happened nearly seventy years earlier. What a span of time I’m grappling with here: 140 years !

We have three great-grandchildren and that puts us in the middle of seven generations. This is purely amazing! I lost my maternal grandmother when I was just three and I remember her well.

When you live in Berlin you experience history as it happens. It is that kind of town; restless and searching for more life, even in the ruins of a “Thousand Year Empire” that lasted only twelve years. The part of Berlin where I grew up was in Kreuzberg. “It is one of the most interesting places on the face of this planet,” says my blogger friend NotMsParker http://kreuzberged.com/

After the war Berlin was occupied by the four big Allies. And they were not on friendly terms with each other. Especially the Soviet Union did not trust the Western powers and they wanted to dislodge them. Of course this feeling of mistrust was reciprocated. There was always a sense of political crisis in the air. Perhaps we, my wife and I, were looking for a more stable environment. Our gaze went to the end of the world: Australia. A nuclear holocaust for Europe was on the cards and what better idea than putting as many miles as possible between us and the old homeland.

On the way to Australia, on an ocean liner that was for us pure luxury, we stopped at exotic places like Aden and Colombo. I saw Colombo one day after my birthday on the 17th of May 1959, Pentecost Sunday. It impressed me with its mixture of its many religions.

SS Strathaird to boat we came on 1959

SS Strathaird the boat we came on in 1959

On board SS Strathaird May 1959

On board SS Strathaird May 1959

Australia gave us a good start. After two years tragedy struck us in the form of Poliomyelitis. All our three children were struck down with especially bad consequences for our eldest daughter. She was confined to an iron lung and a wheelchair for the rest of her life.

Later in life I took up long distance running and even ran four Marathons. What a great time I had. I even ran many road races, of different length, in my home city Berlin on my various visits there. Everyone knows about the “Wall” in Berlin and when it fell in 1989 it was the happiest day of my life. I still feel the emotions of that tremendous event today.

As I steadily get older I feel like a ticking time-bomb. I feel alright now and still go for runs. They are not long runs like I used to do, but short runs every second day. It is good for my mental equilibrium and for my cardiovascular system. But at my age one can expect life threatening events. Elderly people fall and end up in hospital never to return to normal life; if at all. A sniffle in the morning could be the beginning of a terminal Pneumonia. “And so it goes,” Kurt Vonnegut, one of my favourite American writers, used to say.

But I made it to here and I have plans to stay around for at least another ten years. And if I keep running I may end up in “Runner’s Heaven”. Wherever this is.

In the mean time, I’ll keep in contact with my many internet friends I’m privileged to have found or they found me. This is one of the good things that happened during my life time, the PC and the Internet. The computer was invented by Kurt Zuse only a few hundred meters from where I grew up, in a house I passed on my way to school and a school friend resided in. “And so it goes.”

At this late point in my life I’m still interested in politics, but take it more with a grain of salt. Often I give the news a miss as I feel I heard it all before. I’m worried for the people on the Indian Subcontinent that they might be sucked into a great confrontation. I hope the teachings of the Koran, the Bible, the Bhagavad-Gita and of the Dhammapada will help the people to overcome their differences. There is so much wisdom in these books.

My world of ideas comes among others from Goethe, Wilhelm von Humboldt, Henry George, Ralph Waldo Emerson and many others (like the great Russian writers). I love all the great painters and the classical music of Bach, Beethoven and Mozart and the folk music of so many countries, and Jazz, of course.

This is where we live now: The Illawarra, NSW, Australia

This is where we live now: The Illawarra, NSW, Australia

I could go on but my lovely wife brought me a cup of tea and everything must come to an end. But don’t worry I’ll be here for a while yet.

“AND SO IT GOES” 🙂

A cup of tea served with LOVE

A cup of tea served with LOVE !

Those magnificent men in their flying machines….

We went out today to meet some old friends, going back to when we came on the boat to Australia, 54 years ago. Today we went to the local airport were fine food can be had. I took a few snaps of the planes as they moved about the air field at Albion Park, NSW.

 

The Airfield Albion Park

The Airfield Albion Park

Then the “Red Baron” took to the air. Another dog fight?

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Two yellow Double Deckers took up the chase.

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Another plane is getting ready.

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To no avail, the Red Baron returns unscathed.

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Relentlessly, he is taking off again, for another mission.

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While the “Red Baron” flew his missions that sparked our memory a modern chopper took some tourists on a joyflight inspecting the Sea Cliff Bridge at Coalcliff, NSW.

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After all this plane spotting we were a bit peckish and went for a well earned lunch. Where else but in the Aviator Lounge 🙂

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