Saturday, 23 August 2014

Life: Slow boat to Budapest, Fast Jet to Munich, Quick Mercedes to Raubling... leaves me longing for my island home!

So a couple of years ago, Deb and I were out for a birthday Chinese meal one Saturday night with good friends Greg and Heidi. Over the meal, Greg asked us if we had ever considered a holiday floating along the European river system. Well we actually had back in 2007, but ended up doing Europe in a high speed Audi A8 instead.

And in the fullness of time.....

We came to join Greg and Heidi and about 80 others on an Avalon Waterways trip from Amsterdam to Budapest on their newest ship (and largest in the river system) the Illumination. For 14 magic days we motored along the rivers and canals until we came to Budapest. Lots of good times, laughter, too much wine and food. Actually way too much wine and food.. my belt has shrunk.. a lot!

And we met some new friends along the way.

This trip I decided was going to be about making interesting images.. so lots of B&W shots of doors and street scenes. Not so many post card type images. And of course.. for these the studio needed another new camera. The Fuji X-Pro 1. A real piece of hardware and one that encourages those "different" pictures.

The mighty Fuji X-Pro 1

So we started in Amsterdam after a wasted day in Dubai. (Now that is another story!) Wandering the back streets and seeing people laughing as they wined and dined at street side cafes. Interesting place, not as much government in your face here. I like it. And I also like the meals at the Hotel America. Now if you visit Amsterdam try it out. We were last there with Gerry and Jeanine in 1990. Bitter sweet memories.

Evening meal with Greg and Captain Heidi in Holland

So eventually we board the ship, do a life boat drill and away we go. As the sunsets ever so slowly in the west we cruise into Germany for many stops along the way. The next 2 weeks were pure bliss. Lots of side trips, making new friends. (Hi Mark & Libby.. how's the new watch?)

Then eventually we sail into Budapest on our last day to a cold overcast morning.. but wow the buildings here are stunning. Simply the prettiest city I have ever seen. Since the fall of communism this place has come alive. No phones in your houses (unless you are part of the party machine) let alone mobiles under communist rule. Go and use the phone box on the corner .. and be careful what you say. Big brother is tuned in!

Our tour guide told us they didn't get a phone in their family home until 1994!

Even the trams look good in Budapest.

And then the day to go home came... and suddenly I realised how much I loved Australia. Standing at the airport to book in on Luftwaffe to fly back to Munich; being told i am 2 kg over.. that will be 50 Euros please. "You're kidding me.. 2 k over and it's 50 Euros" And the answer  came.. "Every K over is kerosene!" A new tag line for our speed camera obsessed government!

Still they flew us to Munich safely and then after a day's business we're loaded on an A380 for the long trip back to Australia.

And the thing about Australia and Europe is this: As Greg pointed out during our trip.. Europe has been at war with itself since Biblical times. And with the Russia/Ukraine thing at the moment.. well it still is.

But down here on our island in the South Pacific... well what a life style we have. And we need to keep it that way. After my 10th trip to Europe, I have never before appreciated coming home as much as I did this time.

Even if we did fly Emirates. (Dear Mr Emirates.. my 12th leg with you guys.. and the last. Lift your game at Dubai airport. Standing in the burning hot desert sun on the aircraft stairs while you try to offload 500 people into buses for the 20 minute ride to the terminal.. it's not good enough. You have 52 A380s... upgrade your airport to allow air bridge disembarkation  at the terminal before you buy any more new planes if you want to see us again!)

Now the time has come to process all of those images and make a coffee table book.

Thanks Greg for the suggestion of the trip.. thanks again for the company, you too Heidi and Mark & Libby and the rest of the cast and crew. Most relaxing holiday ever.

Now.. where's Weight Watchers phone number.. need to resign!

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Politics: Why do we tolerate the Nanny state!

As Australians, why do we tolerate or perhaps even encourage the Nanny state? Why do we let governments intrude into our lives. Some of us actually encourage it!

But why?

The previous Labor government thought it was an admirable achievement that they passed so many legislative acts in the parliament. Are they for real?

Is not the basic idea simply that we have the right to live our lives our way, to do as we please with the caveat that we don't affect the lives of others?

Let's start with something simple as a example. Walking your dog. Now in Brisbane your dog must be on a leash... and that seems fair enough. After all you need to be in control of your dog to prevent it attacking or even just jumping up on other people. And it also is in the dog's interests in the event of an unsafe event occurring. So moving along... it seems reasonable to clean up your dog's poo along the way too. Nobody wants to step in fresh dog poo in an expensive pair of shoes.

Now here is where it almost went crazy..... the Brisbane City Council actually wanted to make it compulsory for you to carry at least one plastic bag to pick up your dog's droppings? Get out of our lives please. We know we must pick them up.. so leave it at that. How we pick the poo up is of no concern to the Council. We could pick the poos up with our bare hands and carry the poo in our shirt pocket if we wanted too. Unsavoury and disgusting as it sounds.. that should be our choice.

What about clearing a tree on your land? It is your piece of land, it is your tree.. you should be able to decide if it stays or goes. Not some bureaucrat!

My favourite is housing. I own an old semi rundown house built in 1890. It costs a fortune to maintain and is really past its use by date. Debra and I would like to put a bulldozer through it and redevelop the block. Council says no! The house is of historical importance. OK.. if that is so, then buy it and restore it for "the people" or else assume responsibility for its upkeep while we own it.

Our house!

Our choice!

Ah.. but Governments at all levels know better.

Ride a bicycle? Why should you not be the one to decide if your wear a helmet?  Ride a motorcycle? Well in Victoria they want learners to wear hi viz vests. And in France they want all riders to wear hi viz vests!

Where does it end?

Go to Europe and see people take their dogs on trains, into shops and cafes. Not here in Australia. We don't have enough common sense to ensure that our dogs don't soil in these areas. So they are banned. We cannot be trusted to manage our animals in public.

So again.. why do we insist that the Government knows what is best for us? Why do we roll over and let them do this to us! Why aren't we as mad as hell! It seems to be a bigger issue for left wing administrations. Think the Training Guarantee Levy. I argued with a 20 something year old woman on the phone over this in my MAX Instruments days. We constantly trained our staff as technology changed.. but no, it didn't meet the legislative requirements as laid out by Keating Government. How on earth could this bureaucrat in Canberra know more about our business than me as General Manager?

Piss off lady. Our business, our risk, leave us alone. You get our company tax every year to spend on the non achievers of this world. Isn't that enough?

Recently the gas company told me they were going to move our gas meter from under the house and screw it to the outside of our old Queenslander "as required by law" to make it easier to read!

My response... "Go piss up a rope mate! You are not going to deface the front of my tumble down place with a gas meter. In fact.. disconnect the gas and take the bloody meter away!"

And that is what happened after a round of calls to morons who had no authority to act in the "Removal of meter, gas etc".

Over the years we have lost our various freedoms.. remember having an incinerator to burn your garden clippings? Being able to fly a kite in your local park? Well not welcome in a lot of parks now.

After spending a few days in Amsterdam and seeing the liberty of people there, to ride bikes without helmets, dangle their feet in the canals as they eat lunch you come to realise that they just rely on their own common sense. No people patrolling the streets looking for litterers (and with no public bins; a security measure they tell me) and there is not a lot of litter about.

The people of Amsterdam.. go about their day!
Again. why as Australians are we not so liberated Is it a hand down as we were a British Colony and perhaps they are so anal about the way others live their lives? Or are we frightened of not having "Big Brother" to watch over us? Ask the Greens. They want to control every facet of our lives. Socialists to the core. Go away! Please!

As for me, I want to live my life on my terms without the government involved in every facet of my life. I guess that is why I am a conservative in my older age!

Nanny state? As the late Doc Neeson said... NW/GF/FO!