xmlns:og='http://ogp.me/ns#' The Font of Noelage: September 2014

Sunday, 21 September 2014

It's no secret anymore.

Many years ago, when I was in my teens, I was in madly love with Doris Day. She sang a song just for me. It was our song. It was called Secret Love. The punchline of this melodious song of love came just after the beautiful and enchanting Doris had shouted about our love from the highest hills and even told the golden daffodils that “Our secret love is no secret anymore.”

I guess, now, it is the same with ASIO, Australia’s intelligence gathering Secret Service organisation and the other equally, and formerly secret, police services. Just a few days ago these “secret” police agencies, in Queensland and New South Wales, involved 800 officers in raids on numerous households to prevent what was said to be a major terrorist threat. How did I find out about the activities of the secret service? It was on all the evening TV news bulletins and splashed across all the morning newspapers. Apparently, the Secret Police made videos of the raids and provided them to various media outlets. How very thoughtful of them.

Now, of course, the commercial TV networks have gone into overdrive covering every aspect of this possible terrorist threat. A day after the raids, Channel 9 set up its cameras in front of a private home and said the people inside had been interviewed by the Secret Police. Perhaps Channel 9 will consider painting a large target on the front of this house to assist energetic anti-terrorist, anti-Muslim vigilantes who may, like our Prime Minister, rush to judgement. 

Soon after the raids, Mr Abbott appeared on TV at the remote aboriginal community where he has been taking photo opportunity after photo opportunity, one including a rather sad picture of a smiling Mr Abbott looking straight at the camera and patting an aboriginal boy on the head, completely ignoring the boy’s attempt to shake his hand. 

Later on, Mr Abbot found another camera to tell his fellow Australians that the raids were the result of an intercepted telephone call in which somebody mentioned beheading an innocent Australian citizen. “This,” said Mr Abbott, “was a clear statement of intent.” No need to have a trial then. The PM has already issued a guilty verdict.

Two years ago the rabid radio jock, Allan Jones, not in a private telephone conversation but over the airwaves to his devoted if deluded listeners, said that the Prime Minister should be shoved into a chaff bag and dropped into the ocean. In fact he said it on numerous occasions. There were no early morning police raids on Jones’ home for his murderous and possibly treasonous statement against the Prime Minister of our country. Quite the contrary, in several newspapers he was praised for his deadly intent towards our Head of Government. At that time our PM was not Tony Abbott, it was Julia Gillard. Mr Abbott is a close friend of Allan Jones so he is no danger of being drowned in a chaff bag by the outspoken broadcaster or one of his fervid listeners.

The recent well publicised anti-terrorist raids focussed on Muslims and were linked to the horrific acts of the Islamic State in Syria, also known as The Islamic State in the Levant; the Levant being an area containing Syria, Iraq and neighbouring regions. This cutthroat sect is generally referred to as ISIS, ISIL or just plain IS. Its firmly held belief is that everyone should live according to their totally unrecognisable version of Islam and they will behead anyone who will not convert to their way of death.

Mr Abbott has already committed Australian troops and material to help save the people of Iraq from these murderous butchers. He has not declared war against IS, ISIL or ISIS, but says Australia is involved in a purely humanitarian mission to protect innocent Iraq communities from the sword wielding monsters in ISIL. However, he has sent a dozen or so fighter planes to the area. No doubt, if push comes to shove, we will drop some humanitarian bombs on ISIL forces.

The good news is that Australia’s “Budget Emergency” is now a thing of the past. Mr Abbott was quite happy to explain that his humanitarian actions in Iraq would cost about half a billion dollars a year. Maybe we can forget the Medicare co-payments? At least nobody in the media is talking about the budget anymore. Not when we have a war, sorry, a humanitarian action, on our hands.

All rational people agree that everyone should be protected from anybody who thinks they are doing God a favour by chopping the heads off non-believers. ISIL has no support from orthodox Muslim organisations overseas or in Australia. Anyone making such deadly threats in Australia should be quickly apprehended. My concern, however, is that these recent anti-terrorist raids involved 800 police officers in early dawn searches of many, many homes and brought in scores of Muslims for questioning. It has focussed attention on Australian Muslims a whole. And for what? All we know is that after the widespread raids and wholesale questioning only one person has been charged. One person!

Presumably, when this charged person comes to trial much, much more will be revealed. That is when we can all shout from the highest hills that the reason behind these widespread and widely publicised raids is a secret no more.

It will also be interesting to peruse the latest Newspolls after this flurry of anti terrorist activity. No doubt Mr Abbott, when he has finished patting little aboriginal boys on the head, will be interested, too.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Spring has sprung...or has it?

Today is September 1st. In Perth, Western Australia, it is the first day of Spring. Or is it?

Most countries mark the transition of the seasons on the 21st of the appropriate month. In the Northern Hemisphere of course, where the seasons are reversed, it is still Summer and will remain so until September 21st.  In the Southern Hemisphere, South Africa also uses the 21st as the date at which seasons change. So even though today is the first day of Spring in Perth and, indeed, across the entire continent of Australia, Spring will not arrive in Cape Town or Johannesburg until September 21st.

For some reason, in Australia, we mark the start of our seasons on December 1st, March 1st, June 1st and September 1st. The North Americans, The Europeans and the South Africans choose to mark their seasonal transitions according to the times when the sun is over the Tropics of Capricorn and Cancer in December and June on the 21st day of those months and over the Equator on  the 21st day of March and September. The Equinoxes.

Of course, as a primary school boy growing up in Perth, I always knew when it was Spring. I had an after school job. My Aunty May owned the Lucky Bunny lottery kiosk at 119 Barrack Street. Each afternoon, at about four thirty, I had to run the lottery ticket butts and money to the Lotteries Commission office in St Georges Terrace. I always knew when Spring was coming, because in late August, as I ran down Hay Street, near Plaza Arcade, a man would be yelling out, “Sweet scented Boronia, threepence a bunch.” Ah, yes, that man’s shouting and the sweet smell of Boronia were my harbingers of Spring.

Of course, in Perth we have a Mediterranean climate of cool to cold, wet winters and warm to hot, dry summers. The fact is our winters are short and our summers are long. You could say winter runs four for months from May through to the end of Àugust. Summer lasts about eight months from September through to to the end of April. Of course we can get rainy days in summers and warmish days in Winter. This Friday, September 6th, the Weather Bureau says it will be 27 degrees. Now in some parts of the world they would take that for a summer's day.

In fact, it wasn't till I was in my early twenties and I travelled to England that I really experienced four very distinct seasons. I arrived in winter. The days were short and gloomy and the trees had no leaves. In the following months I gloried in the fact that buds were appearing on the trees, birds were out and about and the days were increasingly less gloomy. Summer of course was wonderful. Very long days that extended till after 9-0'clock at night with the gardens luxuriant and in glorious technicolour.

Later on in Canada the four seasons were even more marked. Of course there was a lot of snow in winter but the Autumn was a treasure house of multi coloured maple leaves that transformed the landscape into masterworks of art. 

Whether we use the sun’s position for the summer and winter solstices and the equinoxes, or the first day of the months in which those event occur to mark the seasons, the flowers and the rain and the cold and the heat and the winds don’t always seem to follow the rules. In my garden flowers started blooming in early August, when Spring was weeks away.

Dr Tim Entwisle, the Director of the Melbourne Royal Botanic Gardens believes that in Australia we have the seasons wrong. Dr Entwistle, who was previously the Director of London’s Kew Gardens and Sydney’s Botanic Gardens and Domain, knows quite a bit about the blooming trees. He says that we need FIVE seasons, which he names Sprinter, Sprummer, Summer, Autumn and Winter.
According to Dr Entwisle Australia’s seasons should begin on the first day of the month as follows:

Sprinter.         August/September. Wattles in bloom and gardens filled with flowers.
Sprummer.     October/November. A second wave of flowering.
Summer.         December/March.  A summer of four months. Hot and dry.
Autumn.         April/May.  Still plenty of warm days.
Winter.           June/July. Short burst of cold and wet weather.

Well of course, Australia is a big country so Dr Entwisle is obviously referring to land south of a line across Australia from Carnarvon to Newcastle, because Southern Australia has hot, dry summers and cold wet winters while Northern Australia has hot wet summers and warm dry winters. It is for this exact reason that most of our politicians find the need to head north on some investigatory mission in the cold southern winter months.

Now, Dr Entwisle may know quite a lot about the weather and the flowers that bloom in the Spring but he, like me, is a relative newcomer to this land.  Our records only go back less than 200 years. The Noongar people of south western Australia have been here for over forty thousands years. Over that time they observed that there were SIX seasons along what  is sometimes called The Rainbow Coast. The Noongars divided their year as follows:

Birak;                         January. Hot and dry.
Bunuru:                      February/March. Warm easterly winds.
Djeran:                       April/May. Cool and pleasant.
Mahuru:                     June/July. Cold and wet.
Djilba:                        August/September. Cold with lessening rains.
Kambarang:              October/November. Warm with rains finishing.
Birak:                         December. Hot and dry.

So, maybe Doctor Entwisle is on the right track and we do need five seasons. Or maybe six, according to Noongar tradition.

Meanwhile over in South Africa, the South African Weather Service is expressing concern about 
South African seasons, which as mentioned earlier, commence on the 21st of the appropriate month as determined by the position of the sun over the equator and the tropics. In some respects the South African weather authorities seem to agree with Dr Entwisle that summer and winter are interspersed with shorter seasons of spring and autumn.The South African Weather Service says that Spring and Autumn are very short transitional seasons in South Africa, though it agrees that January is Mid Summer and July is Mid Winter. It has drawn up a proposal to reconfigure the seasons by not referring to the soltices and the equinoxes. It recommend the seasons be listed as follows:

Autumn.           March1 to May 31.
Winter.             June 1st to August 31st.
Spring.             September1st to November 30.
Summer:         December 1st to February 28/29th.

Hey, that’s what we have in Australia already. Maybe, we were right all along? It really is Spring after all.