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Savannah Georgia

 

 

Savannah was the first British settlement in Georgia, named after King George II and thus the one time State capital and one of the oldest cities in North America.  It has since been eclipsed both as capital and in size by Atlanta but retains a southern charm that Atlanta lacks.

It was established on the Savannah river by James Oglethorpe, a social reformer and philanthropist, to provide land and a living to the 'worthy poor' of Britain who at that time were spilling out of the debtors prisons.   Among the crops that were brought from London and trialled by the would-be farmers was cotton.  This quickly became a cash crop in the south of North America feeding the cotton mills of Manchester and Birmingham.  But it was soon realised that the colony's ban on slavery would need to be lifted if the new entrepreneurs were to compete with the nearby Spanish and French slave states that had begun to grow cotton in competition. London duly complied and slavery thus became essential to economic success in this 'free market'.

Savannah is a very attractive city with pleasant parks and some fine old houses including the South's oldest public art museum: "with American & European works spread over 3 themed buildings".  The contemporary Jepson Center was featuring a Rodin exhibition which we decided not to fit in to our schedule, arguing that Rodin's work is replicated in many places.  So we parked the car midtown and walked the leafy streets to the river.  Very pleasant.

 


Historic Savannah - Click on this picture to see more
 

 

 

Wormsloe

Wormsloe is an Historic Estate established in 1736 by Noble Jones, one of James Oglethorpe's settlers, on Skidaway Island.  Noble Jones was the sort of 'jack of all trades' needed to establish a new settlement.  He was both innovative and well educated with: carpentry; surveying and mathematical skills; people skills; and hands-on technical knowhow.  It was he who surveyed and laid out the city of Savannah for Oglethorpe. He later became a member of the Royal Council and a senior Justice.

In many ways it was Noble Jones who was responsible for the success of the colony as he took charge when Oglethorpe was not present.  Like Oglethorpe he was opposed to slavery but in the end got overruled when the new settlers appealed to London.  Australians may remember that Governor Macquarie was similarly overruled and recalled when new settlers appealed to London.  Not in the interests of slavery but for the reverse, his policy of emancipating and elevating former convicts to positions of authority over free settlers. 

Initially Noble Jones built a fortified house on Skidaway Island that commands the river flats.  Again there is an Australian connection.  He manufactured lime by mining and firing aboriginal shell middens that had accumulated over thousands of years of oyster and other shell fish gathering by the natives.  This was then combined with more shells and sand to produce a soft concrete called 'tabby' that's particularly effective in absorbing musket fire.  Later he built a more commodious family home that still stands.   There's even a cricket pitch.  Probably one of the first in North America.

He's buried near the original fortified house, overlooking the river. 

 


Wormsloe Historic Estate - Click on this picture to see more
 

 

From Savannah we would return to South Carolina to Charleston to drop off the car and catch a flight to New Orleans.

 

 

 

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Travel

Denmark

 

 

  

 

 

In the seventies I spent some time travelling around Denmark visiting geographically diverse relatives but in a couple of days there was no time to repeat that, so this was to be a quick trip to two places that I remembered as standing out in 1970's: Copenhagen and Roskilde.

An increasing number of Danes are my progressively distant cousins by virtue of my great aunt marrying a Dane, thus contributing my mother's grandparent's DNA to the extended family in Denmark.  As a result, these Danes are my children's cousins too.

Denmark is a relatively small but wealthy country in which people share a common language and thus similar values, like an enthusiasm for subsidising wind power and shunning nuclear energy, except as an import from Germany, Sweden and France. 

They also like all things cultural and historical and to judge by the museums and cultural activities many take pride in the Danish Vikings who were amongst those who contributed to my aforementioned DNA, way back.  My Danish great uncle liked to listen to Geordies on the buses in Newcastle speaking Tyneside, as he discovered many words in common with Danish thanks to those Danes who had settled in the Tyne valley.

Nevertheless, compared to Australia or the US or even many other European countries, Denmark is remarkably monocultural. A social scientist I listened to last year made the point that the sense of community, that a single language and culture confers, creates a sense of extended family.  This allows the Scandinavian countries to maintain very generous social welfare, supported by some of the highest tax rates in the world, yet to be sufficiently productive and hence consumptive per capita, to maintain among the highest material standards of living in the world. 

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Fiction, Recollections & News

Lost Magic

 

 

I recently had another look at a short story I'd written a couple of years ago about a man who claimed to be a Time Lord.

I noticed a typo.  Before I knew it I had added a new section and a new character and given him an experience I actually had as a child. 

It happened one sports afternoon - primary school cricket on Thornleigh oval. 

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Opinions and Philosophy

World Population – again and again

 

 

David Attenborough hit the headlines yet again in 15 May 2009 with an opinion piece in New Scientist. This is a quotation:

 

‘He has become a patron of the Optimum Population Trust, a think tank on population growth and environment with a scary website showing the global population as it grows. "For the past 20 years I've never had any doubt that the source of the Earth's ills is overpopulation. I can't go on saying this sort of thing and then fail to put my head above the parapet."

 

There are nearly three times as many people on the planet as when Attenborough started making television programmes in the 1950s - a fact that has convinced him that if we don't find a solution to our population problems, nature will:
"Other horrible factors will come along and fix it, like mass starvation."

 

Bob Hawke said something similar on the program Elders with Andrew Denton:

 

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