Thursday, November 12, 2009

Armistice Day

Yesterday was Armistice Day.

These are photos of our trip to Villers-Bretonneux in 2005 to see the Australian memorial and cemeteries. My father’s brother – Matthew Herbert Prideaux - was killed at Pozières in July 1916 at age 20 – and my father never recovered from this.

Matthew’s body – like so many – was never found and lies forever in the soil of France.

It was a cold winters day when we visited – a suitable time to visit such a bleak place where so many Australians died so long ago. We were the only visitors and left flowers and his photo at the memorial.

In the Village there is a ‘Kangourou Café’ and a sign on the local school says “N'oublions jamais l'Australie."

There are local young people in the villages in the Somme dedicated to the memory of the Australian sacrifice and major ceremonies are held each year on Anzac day. We will go – maybe next year.


There is a carpet shop on the corner of Ungargasse and our street, Beatrixgasse, that sells oriental carpets. Well – they are advertised as oriental carpets but could well be made in Bulgaria. This does not mean that they are not of oriental design mind you it’s just that my cynical outlook prompts me to doubt their provenance.

Since we have been here – now 14 months – there has been a big sign in the window advertising a 60% reduction. I imagine it has been there since the shop opened.

On the opposite corner is the house where Beethoven finished his 9th Symphony. I can imagine the composer gazing at the shop and thinking ‘Sweet Baby Jesus – as soon as I finish this damn thing I am going to get me one of those – what a bargain – I wonder if I can get a composer’s discount?’

Cate and I have wanted to buy an oriental carpet for a while but have not done so in the certain knowledge that it would probably not really be oriental and would be destroyed by the cats. The existing rug looks like it has been used by a Taliban motorcycle repairman in his workshop.

The cats do everything on it – and I mean everything.

A man from West Africa accosted me in Beatrixgasse today (just near the carpet shop) and said that his children were starving. He showed me photos. They didn’t look undernourished but they may have been old photos.

I said I couldn’t spare much and told him that I had recently had to pay €15 to save a woman from three bad men and that I hoped he would understand. I gave him her address and said that I had moved on but if he wanted to collect the €15 he was more than welcome.

The industry to be in would be manufacturing those half crutches the professional beggars use. They were out in their droves today and I am surprised that they don’t crash into each other. There must be begging boundaries so that they don’t overreach themselves.

Because they lean over so far they probably go round in circles but I have checked and they all use the crutches with their right hands – so will all be going in the same direction. To avoid confusion they go up on the left side of Landstrasser-Hauptstrasse and done on the right side.

For the first time ever I saw someone give a half-crutch beggar money. He was clearly a local workman and I just don’t understand what he was thinking. He was clearly such a soft touch I was going to tell him that I needed €15 to escape from three bad women.

For a long time the Australian government has been unhappy about people killing themselves. They consider that it is their responsibility to do this by starving pensioners to death or killing them in hospitals and nursing homes. (This is a NSW government specialty and they have probably patented it).

What they really hate is euthanasia. They hate this so much that some time ago they passed laws making it illegal to discuss euthanasia on the telephone or by email. They are of course approaching this from the perspective of religious belief. One must die in agony because their invisible friend considers it appropriate.

Philip Nitschke is an Australian crusader for the right of terminally ill people to take their own lives. Naturally he has been hounded every step of the way and every time a poor sod manages to kill his or her self Philip is a target. I am prompted to write this because of another raid by police on his organization’s offices.

You would really think that governments and religious organizations would have better things to do that to try to stop terminally ill people from taking their own lives so that they don’t die in agony.

I mean there are still a very few things that the Federal and State governments combined haven’t stuffed completely and for all time – can't they focus on those and let us die in peace?

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