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It often surprises our international interlocutors, for example in Romania, Russia or Germany, that Australia is a monarchy.  More surprisingly, that our Monarch is not the privileged descendent of an early Australian squatter or more typically a medieval warlord but Queen Elizabeth of Great Britain and Northern Island - who I suppose could qualify as the latter.

Thus unlike those ex-colonial Americans, British Royal weddings are not just about celebrity.  To Australians, Canadians and New Zealanders, in addition to several smaller Commonwealth countries, they have a bearing our shared Monarchy.

Yet in Australia, except for occasional visits and the endorsement of our choice of viceroys, matters royal are mainly the preoccupation of the readers of women's magazines.

That women's magazines enjoy almost exclusive monopoly of this element of the National culture is rather strange in these days of gender equality.  There's nary a mention in the men's magazines.  Scan them as I might at the barber's or when browsing a newsstand - few protagonists who are not engaged in sport; modifying equipment or buildings; or exposing their breasts; get a look in. 

But a Royal wedding hypes things up, so there is collateral involvement.  Husbands and partners are drawn in.

As it happens, due to Daylight Saving there, Sydney was just nine hours ahead of the UK so this latest Royal extravaganza, beginning at noon in Windsor, was to occur conveniently around our dinner time on Saturday evening.  Our friends Graham and Claire invited us to come over for a meal and to watch it at their place.  Claire is a published gourmand so it was an offer too good to refuse.  Graham had lit a fire (not Norwegian Wood), welcome against the autumn chill in Sydney, so we gathered round the fireplace; donned our fake crowns and tiaras; and took up our real glasses of bubbly.  Then, like a substantial part of planet's TV audience, we settled down to watch the nuptials of Prince Harry and his American paramour at Windsor.

***

I have to confess that I'm not a great consumer of the aforementioned women's literature. So for some years I was a bit behind the times when it came to the Royal Family. I sort of lost interest around the time of the Profumo/Keeler/Rice Davies affair. You know, the spy scandal involving Princess Margaret and that photographer chappie. Wait, wasn't he the one she eventually married?  How did that marriage go?

But recently we watched The Crown on NetFlix and I discovered a big gap in my knowledge. For example I was reminded that Charles and Ann had a younger brother!  I'd completely forgotten him.

Despite all sorts of esoteric knowledge of this kind The Crown was a bit thin on the ground about the Profumo/Ivanov thing, except to implicate the Duke, during his Phil-and-her-ing days.  So if you want to know more about Christine; Mandy; and poor Dr Ward, driven to suicide, The Crown is of no use. But you could:  Read Here...

Anyway, that's when I decided I'd better catch up and watch some more documentaries. After all, an Australian Republic seems to be receding further into the future, so we may be dining with the Windsors for eons yet.

Of all the royal documentaries I've recently watched (detailing the penultimate King's Nazi sympathies and so on) the most informative has been The Windsors

That's where I first discovered Meghan, the new Duchess of Sussex as well as several other minor royals - explaining who those girls in fascinators were at the last Royal Wedding.  Apparently they're the children of the recently recalled Prince Andrew and his estranged wife Fergie.  And that brought to mind that other Royal wedding - the one culminating in topless toe-sucking photos in the South of France.  How could I forget that?  It's amazing what one can put out of one's mind.

The Windsors also went a long way to explaining the presence of American Episcopalian Bishop Michael Curry and that extraordinary half hour long sermon (or so it seemed) on the subject of love. It even prepared me for the camera team's apparent obsession with George Clooney's girlfriend and someone called Posh Spice, who wouldn't smile for them.  Everything seemed entirely in keeping with what I'd been led to expect.

In the event it was something towards the end of Bishop Michael Curry's sermon that most caught my attention.  Like several in the congregation, I'd been losing concentration until this point.  I'd thought he was going on and on and on about love, waiting in vain for a 'right on' or 'halleluiah brother' from the passive audience - when suddenly it was about fire:


...French Jesuit Pierre Teilhard de Chardin was arguably one of the great minds, great spirits of the 20th century.
Jesuit, Roman Catholic priest, scientist, a scholar, a mystic.
In some of his writings, he said, from his scientific background as well as his theological one, in some of his writings he said - as others have - that the discovery, or invention, or harnessing of fire was one of the great scientific and technological discoveries in all of human history.

He declaimed
 


Now I know about Teilhard de Chardin.  He was the Roman Catholic anthropologist and neo-animist thinker who, if I read him correctly when studying philosophy (it's possible I'm mistaken), believed that bacteria have infinitesimal souls, plants more substantial ones and so on - all the way up to pre-humans and modern man who at last had a fully formed one, just in time for Armageddon, now that God's project (Alpha to Omega) is complete.

Like Galileo he was censored by his Church and threatened with excommunication as a heretic during his lifetime.  But like Galileo he is now posthumously restored, thanks to Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, otherwise known as the Roman Inquisition. Cardinal Ratzinger, another interesting character, became Pope Benedict but retired early following a personal message from God. Thus he became the first Pope not to die in the position for over 600 years.  Who could blame him?  With a near to 100% fatality rate it's obviously a very dangerous job.

Bishop Curry's follow-on observation that since the early twentieth century cars and planes have harnessed combustion as a source of energy seemed irrelevant to a sermon on 'love' but might have assumed some importance had he also observed that prior to the harnessing non-human energy, with the invention of the first such engines in the late seventeenth century, the almost universal alternative had been slavery.  This might have been additionally appropriate in the context of his earlier evocation of Dr Martin Luther King Jnr and of slavery's lasting, singularly unlovable, consequences.

Yet I can't blame Bishop Curry for referencing de Chardin.  I've done it too in an article (on India - look it up) on this very website.  And you can read about Martin Luther King Jnr in Atlanta Georgia - USA - Middle Bits.

Anyway enough of that serious stuff.

This was, after all, a royal wedding. So if you want to know as much about the royals as I do, and have access to NetFlix, take a look at The Windsors:
 

 

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Travel

Istanbul

 

 

Or coming down to earth...

 

When I was a boy, Turkey was mysterious and exotic place to me. They were not Christians there; they ate strange food; and wore strange clothes. There was something called a ‘bazaar’ where white women were kidnapped and sold into white slavery. Bob Hope and Bing Crosby, or was it Errol Flynn, got into all sorts of trouble there with blood thirsty men with curved swords. There was a song on the radio that reminded me over and over again that ‘It’s Istanbul not Constantinople Now’, sung by The Four Lads, possibly the first ‘boy band’.

 

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Fiction, Recollections & News

A Womens' view

 

Introduction

 

The following article presents a report by Jordan Baker, as part of her history assignment when she was in year 10 at North Sydney Girls’ High School.   For this assignment she interviewed her mother, grandmother and great-grandmother about their lives as girls; and the changes they had experienced; particularly in respect of the freedoms they were allowed.

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Opinions and Philosophy

Bertrand Russell

 

 

Bertrand Russell (Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell, OM, FRS (18 May 1872 – 2 February 1970)) has been a major influence on my life.  I asked for and was given a copy of his collected Basic Writings of Bertrand Russell for my 21st birthday and although I never agreed entirely with every one of his opinions I have always respected them.

 

In 1950 Russell won the Nobel Prize in literature but remained a controversial figure.  He was responsible for the Russell–Einstein Manifesto in 1955. The signatories included Albert Einstein, just before his death, and ten other eminent intellectuals and scientists. They warned of the dangers of nuclear weapons and called on governments to find alternative ways of resolving conflict.   Russell went on to become the first president of the campaign for nuclear disarmament (CND) and subsequently organised opposition to the Vietnam War. He could be seen in 50's news-reels at the head of CND demonstrations with his long divorced second wife Dora, for which he was jailed again at the age of 89.   The logo originally designed for the CND, the phallic Mercedes, became widely used as a universal peace symbol in the 60s and 70s, particularly in hippie communes and crudely painted on VW camper-vans.

 

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