Saturday, December 23

Thoughts while building a boat

Designer's sketch of sailing boat I'm building

Just colour the sails tan, and you'll know what to look out for in a few months on Brisbane Water, Broken Bay or Lake Macquarie. A designer's sketch of my boat.
A grab-bag of jottings today, thoughts I saved as I worked in my hot shed trying to complete a boat that's been years in the building. And it's not that big either. A largish dinghy, really, at 4.47 metres (or 14ft 8in for we oldtimers).

Old fashioned too, with a big standing lug mains'l and a triangular mizzen hanging out over the stern. With both sails tan coloured, it's going to attract attention wherever it's launched.

Cap't Flint is a stock design by Hobart naval architect Murray Isles, designed as an “adventure cruiser” for voyages in more open water. Looks safe for an old guy, even when single-handed. Younger fellows may even enjoy camping in it, as Murray intended.

I've already built one of Murray Isles's designs, a delightfully nippy sailing dinghy, but at 9ft 7in it gave me moments of terror when a stiff breeze swept across Lake Macquarie.
Building boats is fun, but Cap't Flint will be my last. My Scottish skin is becoming too allergic to the chemicals you mix to make epoxy resin.

Alas, it doesn't take long for a respected journalist, lawyer and merchant banker to sink into political life when he's elected to the Federal Parliament. Take Malcolm Turnbull, our new Environment Minister, quoted in this morning's Weekend Australian: “The whole climate change phenomenon has informed and underpinned the policies of the Australian Government for more than a decade.”

The truth, as Malcolm must well know, is that Prime Minister John Howard has denied evidence of climate change for a decade. A stubborn man who overestimates his own intellectual abilities, he listened only to those scientists who had the Quadrant Seal of Approval.

The result: We lost 10 years in which we could have been looking for ways to deal with the crisis.
Now we're looking at such measures as clean coal technologies, including geosequestration to bury carbon gases deep into the soil. The trouble is, there's at least eight to ten years' research before the technologies could be found to be viable. And we, thanks to John Howard, are just starting.

I think John Howard is in trouble with this in an election year. Even those dear old blue rinse ladies who still vote for that nice Mr Menzies are going to think twice about voting for a man who has helped leave a damaged world for their grandchildren.

Howard knows the danger, and as a taxpayer you may expect that millions of dollars of public funds will be expropriated for Liberal Party spin doctoring that Howard has been on top of the global warming issue right from the start. George Orwell's Ministry of Truth still in action, more than two decades after 1984.

It's a pity to see Malcolm Turnbull getting down to their level with such misinformation.

But then, he's the Republican who once wrote of Howard: "Whatever else he achieves, history will remember him for only one thing. He was the prime minister who broke a nation's heart. He was the man who made Australia keep a foreign queen."

A politician, unlike a leopard, must change spots to survive in the jungle. But surely, one can stop short of telling porkies.
Sorry Malcolm, you've lost me. Once I thought you'd be a great prime minister.

For some reason, the people in my household rolled about laughing and hooting tonight when John Howard came on TV to say: “I'm delighted to say that the charges have been laid and that the deadline I set has been met.”

Howard giving an ultimatum to the United States? “I demand you charge David Hicks or release him by February.” And the simpleton who happens to be the leader of the free world responding, “Of course, Old Buddy, I'll see to it right away. When was that election, again?”
Oh, pass the tissues. The comedy is just too much.

Sorry folks, more mockery of our beloved Prime Minister. “The tyranny of incrementalism and the lowest common denominator must end.” Goodness! What does that mean? Prime Minister John Howard's words to the National Press Club show he's got something momentous on his mind, like winning this year's election.

Still, there is merit in his plan for the Australian Government to take over management of the waters of the Murray Darling Basin, promising $10 billion to improve water efficiency and address the over-allocation of water in rural Australia. Provided it's not a non-core promise.

I don't suppose we can do anything about using taxpayers' money to buy back over-allocations of water from irrigation farmers. I've heard enough rumours over the years to suspect National Party ministers overruled public servants who advised against the over-allocations.

Perhaps we could send the buyback bill to the Nationals. Some hope!

And for those who heard the National Press Club speech, there was a real treat – you had to listen carefully, but John Howard came closer than ever before to admitting he'd been wrong in the past. Take a look at his speech, find the sentence “I regard myself as a climate change realist,” and read on. You'll have to read carefully, because this is a masterpiece of the spin doctor's art.

On Newcastle's NBN3 news, I watched NSW Opposition Leader Peter Whatzizname present the Liberals' $132 million plan to save the Central Coast from its desperate water crisis. And, as you'd expect, Whatzizname bitterly attacked the State Labor government for the mess we Central Coast residents find ourselves in.

But hey, surely much of the blame for the mess attaches to the Gosford City Council and the Wyong Shire Council, which jointly ran the Central Coast water supply as its dams dropped to around 13 per cent full.
It's been months since Central Coast residents have been able to use town water for any outdoor use – gardens, car-washing, pools, anything.

Perhaps that's why I didn't spot Liberal candidate Chris Holstein on the TV at Whatzizname's water policy launch. A prominent member of Gosford City Council, he might have faced some interesting questions.

Gosford Council members appear to have put more effort into resisting fluoridation than they did in making sure we actually had a water supply.
The fig tree saga continued as hot days brought on a bucketful of ripening figs at once. So it's out with my mother's old Golden Wattle cookbook, published way back between the wars as a textbook for WA schoolgirls and "to set before those taking up life in rural districts of the State simple directions for bread-making, jam and jelly making and fruit preserving, which will secure success at the outset." Simple enough even for me.
Later editions, from 1973, are a bit disappointing. They omit old recipes like cow heel jelly, and my childhood favorite, celery soup. But they've still got fig jam, and the result is marvellously thick, chunky and spreadable.
I'll email the recipe to anyone interested.


  1. Hi Ian. Congratulations on another excellent article. As always your writing is excellent. I don’t just admire your wordsmith skills; I genuinely wish I had your prose writing ability and knowledge. For me your Blog is a case of: sit, watch and learn from the master.

    I hope you don’t mind if I make a quick comment on your John Howard statement. Why always focus on the negative? Why not the positive? So it’s taken Howard a little longer to get with the climate change program, but why lament the past, when you can celebrate the future.

    I find life is much more exciting when I focus on positive things, and cram my head with positive thoughts. You think we’ve lost ten valuable years. I think we’ve gained many more enlightened ones.

  2. Grumpy Old Ian8:42 am

    Thanks for the praise. As for the negativity, the smart alec answer might be that it's hard not to be negative about this mob. The more responsible answer is that we all should object to what seems an Orwellian rewriting of history. I'll give it more thought and post a further comment, or include it in a new post which should go up tomorrow (Thurs) afternoon.

  3. Suzanne9:47 am

    And I would like to add.

    We see what we choose to see in life. If we look for negative stuff like an Orwellian rewriting of history, we will surely find it. But if we focus on the positive we'll find that instead.

    And I'm not suggesting we all walk around with our heads in the clouds, oblivious of the world around us. Not at all. I believe we have a responsibility to be well informed individuals. However, as there is usually positive and negative in all things (it’s a ying and yang thing), I truly believe optimistic people have a great life. They see joy and happiness everywhere. They view life through a wonderful kaleidoscope. It seems to me pessimists often suffer from anxiety induced illness and varying degrees of depression.

    So even if I run the risk of imitating an ostrich; you know, living life with a head in the sand attitude. I must say I rather be an optimist any day. The alternative makes life just plain hard work.