Old folk at lunch

Thursday, December 18, 2003

SOME N.Z. STUPIDITY



Former New Zealand Prime Minister Robert Muldoon is famous for commenting that the constant flow of emigration from New Zealand to Australia "raises the IQ of both countries" -- implying that the Kiwis who emigrate are stupid but Australians are even stupider. That comment is only one example of a generally derogatory view of Australians almost universally held in New Zealand: Much like the attitude of Canadians towards the USA --- and for similar reasons: resentment of a more affluent and capable big brother.

I was therefore rather amused by something that happened recently. A few months ago I bought some shares in one of the icons of New Zealand industry -- Fisher & Paykel, best known for making high-tech washing machiens. Yesterday I received a dividend cheque from them -- to my amazement. These days dividends are normally deposited directly into a shareholder's bank A/c. Shortly after you buy into a company, they send you a form asking for your bank particulars and thereafter the money just appears on your statement. Fisher & Paykel sent me no such form, however, so I had to make a special trip to the bank to deposit their pesky cheque -- which I regard as a prehistoric thing to have to do.

But it does not end there. I resolved to write to them and ask them to deposit my dividends directly in the future. But nowhere on the documentation that came with the cheque was there any address that I could write to! So I looked up their Annual Report, a big glossy production with lots of colour photographs, graphs, auditor reports and all the usual nonsense that you expect of a company annual report. But there was no address anywhere there either! Which is probably illegal, I would think. It was only by digging out the envelope that the report came in that I found a return address on the back of that. But that is not the end of the story either! Included with my cheque was a cheque to someone else with their dividend! Which I of course promptly sent on to the correct recipient. If that is how bright a New Zealand high-flyer is, it does not say much for the average Kiwi.

I guess NZ Pundit will never forgive me for saying that.

Thursday, November 27, 2003

TURKEYS AND DELEGATION



From Socrates on, good philosophers have always aimed to stir up critical thinking so I guess that Keith Burgess-Jackson will be pleased that he has stirred me up over this post: "If you aren't prepared to raise and kill a turkey, don't eat one". A version of Peter Singer thinking if I am not mistaken.

If he means that I should always sincerely say under my breath "I am prepared to raise and kill turkeys" before I sit down to a turkey dinner, that would seem a fairly modest if highly eccentric requirement. If actual action rather than mere preparedness to act is required, however, I see bigger problems. As it happens, I have back in my country childhood been involved in raising fowl and beheading them for the table when required so I guess I would be OK for a Thanksgiving Day feast even under a stringent version of Keith's morality -- but I don't really see why. Does it have to be turkeys that you raise or are other fowl close enough to justify a turkey feast? And how much of the raising do you have to do? And if you don't have to do all of it, why can you not delegate the whole of the raising to others? Delegation and specialization are the the great tricks of homo sapiens, so why should we not delegate that particular task?

Update:

Referring to Keith Burgess-Jackson's view that eating turkeys is morally suspect: I suspect that my post on the subject yesterday sent a few irate readers his way as he has now expanded his exposition of the matter. His argument is that when you have things done for you, you are just as responsible for them as if you did them yourself. So if a turkey is cruelly raised on a factory-farm, you are responsible for that suffering if you buy it.

His argument about responsibility is plausible and may be widely agreed to but I think it just an assertion nonetheless. I would argue in fact that it is absurd to say that you CAN know all the details of all the things that happen when something is done for you (maybe the turkey was kindly raised but the truck-driver who delivers them beats his wife so by buying the turkey we are supporting a wife-beater?) and you cannot be responsible for things that you do not know about.

Friday, November 21, 2003

THE "INARTICULATE" GWB: AN AUGURY



There is a great letter here from someone in Britain who watched GWB's interview there on TV. It highlights the contradictory views many of GWB's detractors have of him and the arrogance behind such views.

The point the letter makes about GWB's relative inarticulateness reminds me of a similar phenomenon here in my home State of Queensland. Queensland was run for nearly 20 years by the very conservative Sir Johannes Bjelke-Petersen. I was one of his party members. "Sir Joh", as he was known, was universally condemned by the intelligentsia for his inarticulateness. He spoke like the ill-educated farmer he was. The media regularly said he made no sense at all. But he made plenty of sense to the ordinary Queenslanders who voted for him and in one State election (1974) his government actually got 59% of the popular vote -- a majority so large as to be almost unheard of in a Westminster democracy.

The big political battle in Australia in the mid-70s was in fact between the immensely erudite and silver-tongued Leftist Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam, and the stumble-tongued but very canny Queensland Premier. And when the 1975 Federal election came around Sir Joh did Whitlam like a dinner. The Leftists won only one out of 18 Queensland seats -- which lost them power in Australia as a whole.

So I think that is a pretty good augury for GWB next time he faces the voters. I suspect that his "inarticulateness" is an asset to him with his voters too. And if GWB does as much good for the USA in his second term as Sir Joh did for Queensland he will be doing very well indeed.

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

ACADEMIC FUN AND GAMES



Yesterday was a rather fun day for me academically. A copy of the journal containing my first academic article (Ray, 2003) to be published in 5 years arrived in the mail. My most recent one before that came out in 1998. That I can still get them published probably means that senile dementia has not got me yet! For copyright reasons I cannot put the new article online but an early version of it is already online here. The early version is probably more readable anyway. What it shows is that older women (but not older men) tend to lie more about how good they are. Apologies to the sisterhood!

Also appearing in the same issue of the journal was yet another article (Van Hiel & Mervielde, 2003) on "Need for closure" (a terrible affliction that we conservatives are said to suffer from) by that Belgian dynamo, Alain Van Hiel. I had just started to get my head around the considerable complexities of the article when I noticed that his results were not statistically significant! In other words, you could have found similar results in a table of random numbers! I am amazed that such stuff is getting published these days. The Leftist discomfort with reality is showing up more and more in academe, I guess. And one of Van Hiel's key measures was the absurd Bieri scale of cognitive complexity. Van Hiel obviously overlooked my "deconstruction" of that particular piece of nonsense. Had he paid more attention to the way he measured things, he might have got more significant results.

Reading on further in my copy of the journal I noticed another article that was rather reverential about some prior work by McHoskey. That stirred a dim recollection that I too had once looked at the selfsame McHoskey article. So I dug deep in the archives and found a paper I had written which never got published. In the unpublished paper I pointed out that McHoskey's work showed that at least one type of conservatism was --- wait for it! --- MORE COMPASSIONATE! No wonder THAT paper never got published! Anyway, I have now uploaded the previously unpublished article here and here.

The really amusing thing about the McHoskey finding is that the conservatism scale he used (the RWA scale) was originally designed to measure a particularly UN-caring kind of conservatism. How frustrating that it gave the opposite result! I have pointed out long ago however that the designer of the RWA scale (Altemeyer) did not have a blind clue about what he was doing.

But the fun is not over yet! The author (Wilson, 2003) who was so impressed by the McHoskey work himself produced some vastly overinterpreted findings using the wacky "Social Dominance Orientation" (SDO) scale. About half the items in the SDO scale express a strong belief in equality between people. And so what was our intrepid author's main finding when you cut through all the flim-flam? That low scorers on the SDO scale (equalitarians) were idealistic! Big surprise! Yet another example of an "artifactual" (built-in, true-by-definition) finding. Will Leftist psychologists ever knuckle down and do some real research instead of constantly trying to load the dice in advance? Don't hold your breath.

References
Ray, J.J. & Lovejoy, F.H. (2003) "Age-related social desirability responding among Australian women". Journal of Social Psychology, 143 (5), 669-671.
Van Hiel, A. & Mervielde, I. (2003) "The need for closure and the spontaneous use of complex and simple cognitive structures". Journal of Social Psychology, 143 (5), 559-568.
Wilson, M.S. (2003) "Social dominance and ethical ideology: The end justifies the means?". J. Social Psychology, 143 (5), 549-558.

Friday, October 24, 2003

"THE POOR"



A point I have made clear on a number of occasions is that I think it makes a difference that I generally speak from a lot of experience rather than from theory about "The poor" (or "underprivileged" in Leftist jargon).

One of the great Leftist themes is their "compassion" for the poor. But from what they say it is clear that the average dreaming Leftist intellectual knows only as much about the poor as he can imagine from the comfort of a well-paid middle class job and general middle-class background. I however was born into a working-class family (my father was a lumberjack) so I have always been perfectly familiar and at ease with the poorer members of my society and been able to speak to them using their own idioms, concepts, values and characteristic beliefs.

I actually have to make some effort to write this blog in international English as my natural tendency is to express myself in the vivid Australian vernacular. If I were writing this blog solely for an Australian working class audience, for instance, I would be able to convey very accurately my impression of Leftists by saying that they are people who are always "bunging on an act", who are not "fair dinkum" and who are always "big-noting" themselves -- but I doubt very much that such terms would be universally understood in the way intended. All three terms are, by the way, expressions of extreme contempt among Australian working class people.

Because my background made it possible, I did for a couple of years not so long ago own and run a large boarding house in one of Brisbane's poorest suburbs (Ipswich). My tenants were almost exclusively long-term unemployed and, yes, I did accept black tenants. The law was of absolutely no use in managing such people. The previous owner of the place was an "outsider" and had experienced financial disaster as a result.

Because I understood the type of people I had as tenants, however, I WAS able to manage them and made good money out of the business. And I would not have been able to eject "campers", single-handedly clear a room full of interlopers or physically throw out druggies if I had not always known the right psychological buttons to push. I always did such tasks with impunity even though I am not physically imposing and even though I was often dealing with hardened criminals.

My psychology was practical as well as theoretical -- largely because it was founded on an intimate understanding of the people I was dealing with. If anybody thinks they know the Australian underclass better than I do, I would like to see them do the sort of thing I did without getting their head punched in.

So what were my tenants like? Foolish. Few if any, for instance, were keen shoppers. Almost all would buy a lot of their food and other requirements from nearby service stations and "convenience" stores even though prices there were up to 50% higher than at the supermarket only a short walk further down the road. If that does not tell you that a lot of poverty is self-inflicted, I do not know what would.

And dishonesty and criminality were rife among them. They were always stealing from one-another. Anybody who had anything of value in his room was very unwise to walk out of his room without locking the door behind him. They WERE often unwise of course so there was an awful lot of "lost" money and property among them. If that does not tell you that poverty is closely associated with moral breakdown, I do not know what would.

And despite the fact that all of them lived entirely from welfare payment to welfare payment, all of them could afford to drink (alcohol) and smoke. On "payday", there was a regular parade of cardboard boxes of "Fruity Lexia" (a cheap but pleasant Australian white wine) into the premises. If that does not tell you that they were not really poor I do not know what would.

Maybe I will say later how I think the welfare system should be reformed in the light of what "the poor" really are like.

Saturday, September 27, 2003

ACADEME, IQ and POLITICS



Leftist professors are very prone to saying that their Leftism is the outcome of their higher intelligence and ability at critical thinking. As a former successful academic myself, I reject that and say that their Leftism is an outcome of their greater egotism. They are already in positions of power, influence and prestige to some degree and that just makes them want more power, influence and prestige -- and they see Leftism as a way towards that. They think it makes them seem wise and good beyond their narrow academic expertise.

It strikes me that there is a counter-example to university professors which tests much more directly what the politics of intelligence per se are. Most people have heard of Mensa -- the social group with the sole admission requirement that your IQ has to be in the top 2%. For a few years in the 1970s I ran the Mensa group in New South Wales -- Australia's most populous State. It is years now since I have been to a meeting but John Moore, a current Mensa member in the USA, has just reminded me of an interesting fact: Libertarianism is far and away the most common political orientation among Mensans. I have also shown elsewhere that Mensans are much less likely to smoke than are other people. From my point of view as a non-smoking libertarian, I think it is obvious that both differences are the expected outcome of greater intelligence!

One of the most useful things about Mensans for the present comparison is that they are notoriously NOT highly successful members of society. They tend to be intelligent people who have missed the boat for one reason or another. So they have no reason for inflated egos -- unlike university professors. So if we take the ego away and just leave intelligence, what are the politics produced? Libertarianism, not Leftism.

Saturday, September 13, 2003

OH WHAT A LOVELY MOON!



Gareth Parker, one of my fellow conservative Australian bloggers has described me as too "lunar" for him. I wonder would he like to point out one claim I have made that is not backed up with good scientific and historical evidence? But I guess that the facts can be pretty "lunar" at times. They certainly conflict with a lot of popular notions.

The good Gareth should perhaps note that almost all of my "lunar" pronouncements have in fact been previously published in widely-circulated academic journals -- e.g. here and here -- and getting anything past the basilisk eyes of academic journal editors is no mean feat for anyone. They of course have access to the world's best expertise on the subject concerned and the fact that my conclusions are ones that they would not generally find congenial means that my evidence and reasoning has to have been exceptionally watertight.

This is not of course remotely to say that everything published in academic journals is correct -- but it is to say that anything published there would have a very hard time being "lunar".

Sunday, August 3, 2003

A GREAT CONSERVATIVE



I am myself a great fan of Menzies and something I always find amusing is the way commentators recognize his greatness but are puzzled that they can never think of anything much he that actually achieved. But that is of course the whole point. Menzies was such a strong figure that he did what very few politicians can do -- he successfully resisted the pressures from almost all special-interest groups to legislate in favour of them at the expense of the community as a whole. Doing nothing was his great achievement. The torrent of legislation to which all governments subject us was a comparative trickle under Menzies. He generally resisted the urge to meddle. And under him Australia was peaceful, calm and secure -- with unemployment negligible and living standards steadily rising. Contracts were enforced, criminals were punished and taxation was a fraction of what it is now. There was welfare for those who really needed it and there were scholarships that enabled children from working-class backgrounds to go to university if they had the ability. I myself was a recipient of one such scholarship. My father was a lumberjack who thought that even secondary education was a waste of time. So Australian conservatives only have to remember the world of Menzies in the 1950s and 1960s to realize that their ideal of a much smaller and fairer government is far from an impossible dream.

Saturday, August 2, 2003

Sir Robert Menzies



Today's story concerns Australia's redoubtable conservative Prime Minister Menzies. The time was the early 1950s and the height of the Communist scare. Many conservatives thought the government was not doing enough to combat Communism and some senior Ministers in the Menzies government agreed. Menzies was however a notable lawyer by profession and declared that a recent High Court case limiting Parliament's powers in the matter had to be respected. This was felt to be an inadequate response so a triumvirate of senior Ministers got together and decided that Menzies had to be deposed, a State of Emergency declared, the Communist party banned and a major expansion of the armed forces undertaken. They decided to deliver an ultimatum to this effect to Menzies himself. Menzies was too imposing a figure simply to be bypassed. They decided to make a surprise call on Menzies one Saturday afternoon. Saturday afternoon in Australia of that era was a time when NOTHING happened. The shops were closed and, if there were no major sporting event happening, people just pottered in the garden, took rubbish to the dump or took a big nap to catch up on sleep missed during the week.

The triumvirs arrived at the Prime Ministerial residence and, as well-known figures, were immediately ushered into the presence of the great man. And what was the great man doing at the time? He was in the greenhouse transplanting tomato seedlings so there would be a good crop for the kitchen! It was the sort of hobby activity any Australian might be doing on a Saturday afternoon in that era. Its sheer normalness and ordinariness did however undermine the resolve of the plotters and Menzies, being a wily old bird, probably realized that something was in the wind so continued to engage them in conversation about tomatoes, the seasons and gardening. When he had finished his transplanting, Menzies asked them to take afternoon tea with him -- which they of course accepted.

During tea Menzies asked them to what he owed the privilege of their visit but with all momentum lost by then all one of them could do was to say weakly that they had come to seek his views on the Communist menace. Being famously quick-witted, Menzies told them that he just that day had come to a major decision on the matter. He had decided to hold a referendum on banning the Communist party. As a referendum is an impeccably proper democratic procedure they could hardly argue -- though all those present would have been aware that referenda are normally lost in Australia. And so the rebels went empty away -- foiled by tomato seedlings.

The referendum was of course held -- and it was lost.

The story was relayed to me many years ago as "inside knowledge" by someone who was in a position to have such knowledge so I have no way of verifying it but I think it conveys very well the sheer mundane safety of Anglo-Saxon political life as it used to be -- the very opposite of the high drama that plagues politics in most of the rest of the world.

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

A FEMINIST MYTH EXPLODED



We all know that feminists think that a woman can do everything a man can do -- and that is probably broadly true. Many feminists take that thinking much further, however. They claim that women who see themselves as fitting into both male and female roles -- as lesbians generally would -- are in fact much healthier psychologically for it. Being androgynous is said to be much better for you mentally than being classically female or classically male.

And there has been much research in the psychological literature that appears to support that theory. When I first had a look at the research concerned, however, it seemed to be very sloppily done -- designed to reach a given conclusion rather than being conducted with proper scientific care. I therefore designed a survey of my own (in conjunction with a female colleague) that would look at the issue in a more careful way. I have just uploaded the resultant paper here (or here). What I found were in fact quite strong correlations -- but they were the exact opposite of the feminist claim. Androgynes turned out to be much more likely to be maladjusted than others. And since my research was much more generalizable and carefully controlled than anything that went before it, one would think that my paper would be an essential reference in any further discussion of the topic.

The paper was published in a widely circulated academic journal nearly 20 years ago now and Google reveals not one reference to it in any academic journal. Funny that! If you reach conclusions that go against Leftist orthodoxy, you might as well not exist in the social sciences, no matter how good your work is. You may begin to see why I resigned from my tenured teaching job at a major Australian university 20 years ago. It took me a while but in the end I did get sick of banging my head on a brick wall.

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

I TURN 60 TODAY



Definitely time for reflection. I have big problems with skin cancer so may not have many years left but the life I have had has been a blessed one in many ways. My father was a lumberjack, I left school before completing High School and I inherited nothing from my parents except my genes. But I nonetheless have done well in academe, in business and in my personal life -- which reinforces my view that in modern Western society it is only ability and good sense that separates most of the "haves" from the "have-nots".

One amusing episode in my university career was when I got an article published in an academic journal under joint authorship with another academic whose first name translates as "God's Penis" -- see here. Another odd accomplishment was when I got praise of one of my ex-wives into an academic journal -- see here.

My only regret is that I had only one child -- but my son is a real chip off the old block so that is pleasing. There is a picture of him here -- Warning: He is not very "diverse" in U.S. Supreme Court terms.

Sunday, April 6, 2003

A MEMOIR OF SCOTLAND



A few recollections about my various visits to Scotland:

The most beautiful scenery I have ever seen was Scotland's Western Highlands. I have never been much of a one for scenery but this even got to me. The only thing in Australia that I know of which comes close is the road from Cairns to Port Douglas.

My wife and I made a detour to visit the Isle of Skye. I was glad we did. It too was really beautiful. One morning I looked out the window of the bed and breakfast place in which we were staying and literally saw "a bright golden haze on the meadow" there.

After Skye, we drove further up the coast and eventually took a Caledonian McBrayne ferry across to Harris and then drove straight up the island to Lewis. When my wife and I got to the main centre on Lewis it was 11pm but still broad daylight and we had no trouble getting accommodation at a bed and breakfast place (i.e. a private home).

At the Northern tip of Lewis was a nice white sandy beach and I decided the next morning that a swim in Sub-Arctic waters would be worth a try. By the time I got in up to my knees I could not feel my toes so thought the better of it. Nobody else tried. I later did the same thing off a beach at Herm in the Channel Islands -- with similar results. I felt rather at home on Lewis. Everyone seemed to have skin that was as fair as mine.

On our way back South we stopped in Glasgow, where my wife had relatives. I got to know a fair bit about Glaswegians and really got to like them. I particularly liked their sense of humour. Billy Connolly's humour is in many ways simply an exaggerated form of typical Glaswegian humour. They are incredibly status-conscious, however. My being a Doctor went down exceedingly well! Education is, of course, the thing Scots most respect.

The most notable thing about Glasgow was that it looked as if it had just been heavily bombed. Whole suburbs were in rubble. But it wasn't the Luftwaffe that did it. It was smart-alec town-planners and Leftist social engineers. They bulldozed the "slums" such as the Gorbals. Beautiful old stone terrace houses which would have been snapped up for renovation in Australia were witlessly destroyed. They moved the slum-dwellers out to new estates such as Easterhouse which then also became pretty slum-like. I know. I later did a social survey there and saw for myself.

I did the social survey on my second trip to Glasgow. On that occasion, one thing I noted was that Scots are great lovers of ritual and "the done thing". They seem to love rules. They have a custom for every occasion. I went to a party in Glasgow at one stage and it was some occasion (Halloween?) on which "Apple Dooking" was practiced. You have to grab an apple with your teeth only while it is bobbing in a pail of water. Being a rather dour sort, I did not think much of the idea so said "No thanks". To an English person that would have been it. They would have been embarrassed to press me further. Not the Scots. In the most friendly way they simply insisted. They just did not understand the idea of not doing something that was customary.

That aside I felt very much at ease among the Scots. Australians are popular there. Scots see Australians as being "enemies" or "victims" of the English --- which is also how they see themselves. As I moved around Scotland it was interesting to see how my reception changed when Scots discovered that I was not English. It was a transformation: From correct formality to warmth. I think I slightly prefer the Scots to the English. I like their greater spontaneity. Though I appreciate English reserve too.

The only thing I dislike about the Scots is their ingrained Socialism. When Mrs Thatcher came to power in a landslide, Scotland actually at the same time swung away from the Tories. Still, Edinburgh is a lot more conservative than Glasgow (where 50% of the Scots live), so maybe I would enjoy living in Edinburgh if I could hack the climate. Glasgow has a reputation for ugliness which is undeserved. There are quite a lot of nice places in Glasgow.

When I was doing my social survey in Glasgow (mainly concerned with Scottish nationalism) I tried to look up various books on Scottish nationalism in the various libraries there. One I could not find anywhere. No library had bought it, I gathered. Because of funding limits, a lot of books are hard to find in British libraries, even University libraries. When I got back to Australia the book I had been seeking was just sitting there on the shelf at my own University of N.S.W. library! They could afford a book on Scottish nationalism that the Scots themselves could not. Wealth and poverty do make a difference and socialist Scotland certainly was poor when I was there.

Saturday, March 29, 2003

PEACENIK VIOLENCE



One of the most revealing evidences of the dishonesty and hidden agendas of the Left is the way that "peace" demonstrations commonly erupt into violence (e.g. here). Leftists are clearly such violent people that they cannot restrain themselves even when it makes a mockery of what they claim to stand for. They truly are Stalin's heirs.

I have my own personal recollection of this. In the Vietnam war era I was a student at the University of Queensland and one of the very few students who outspokenly supported Australia's involvement in the war. As in Iraq so in Vietnam Australians fought alongside Americans. The Australian conservative government came up for re-election in the midst of the affair and the peaceniks made a huge effort to have it defeated at the polls. There were huge anti-government demonstrations of all sorts. When Prime Minister Harold Holt came to Brisbane I was one of his party members and so was invited to attend his Brisbane campaign launch. Various university Leftists known to me, however, forged entry tickets to get into the hall in which the rally was held and created such a din that the meeting was severely disrupted.

We few pro-war students decided to take our revenge for this. Next week the leader of the Australian Labour Party (A.L.P.) came to Brisbane for HIS campaign launch and we were there in the hall. As the party leader (Arthur Calwell) stepped up to the microphone and before he could open his mouth I shouted out in a very loud voice "All at sea with the A.L.P." Pandemonium erupted. The Special Branch of the Police had been tipped off that there would be disruption and were there to protect our freedom of speech but otherwise we would have been murdered. Half the hall jumped up and tried to get at us -- thus thoroughly disrupting their own meeting. Whenever they settled down we would just shout something again and restart them at enraged shouting back at us. The meeting became a shambles. The police pointed out to them that they had disrupted our meeting the week before but the Leftists saw no justice in that of course.

Anyway, after the meeting, the police escorted us across the road to the police station for our own safety while a mob of Leftists gathered outside waiting to get us as soon as we emerged. I don't know how long they waited, though, as the police let us out after a while through a back entrance that the Leftists obviously did not know about.

When the Leftists disrupted the government meeting they did so in no fear for their own safety and thought that they had a perfect right to do so but woe betide anyone who tried to do the same to them! In good Stalinist fashion their resort to violence when faced with opposition was immediate. Can anyone doubt that it is hate and not compassion that is their real motivation?

Incidentally, in the subsequent election, the conservatives were returned with a landslide majority.

Saturday, January 25, 2003

THE BIRTHDAY OF A POET



Every year -- year after year -- millions of people around the world gather together to celebrate with great ceremony and merriment the birthday of a poet. And there is only one poet so honoured: Robert Burns. For people with a Scottish heritage it is one of the greatest celebrations of the year. And today is the day.

I do sometimes arrange a traditional Burns night on the 25th. -- getting into full Highland dress (kilt etc.), inviting friends over, having the haggis piped in, making the usual speeches (to the haggis, to the lassies etc) and making sure that there are plenty of tatties and neeps to go with the haggis. But not this year. I will however be dining on a Scotch pie, a Forfar bridie, tattie bread and clootie dumpling to finish.

There is however one essential that I never miss: to read, sing or recite some of the great words of the poet himself. So here is the greatest love poem ever written:

A Red, Red Rose

O, my love is like a red, red rose,
That's newly sprung in June,
O, my love is like the melody,
That's sweetly played in tune.

As fair art thou, my bonny lass,
So deep in love am I,
And I will love thee still, my dear,
Till a' the seas gang dry.

Till a' the seas gang dry, my dear,
And the rocks melt wi' the sun!
And I will love thee still, my dear,
While the sands o' life shall run.

And fare thee well, my only love,
And fare thee well, a while!
And I will come again, my love,
Tho' it were ten thousand mile!


And here is the greatest love lament ever written:

Ye banks and braes o' bonnie Doon

YE banks and braes o' bonnie Doon,How can ye bloom sae fresh and fair?How can ye chant, ye little birds,And I sae weary fu' o' care?Thou'll break my heart, thou warbling birdThat wantons through the flowering thorn;Thou minds me o' departed joysDeparted never to return Aft hae I roved by bonnie DoonTo see the woodbine twine:And ilka bird sang o' its Luve,And fondly sae did I o' mine.
Wi' lightsome heart I pu'd a rose,Full sweet upon its thorny tree;And my fause Luver staw the roseBut ah! He left the thorn wi' me.


So if you have any Celt at all in you, listen to some of the great Scottish sentimental songs today and open yourself to them. If you shed a quiet tear or two over them, you have a Scottish heart.

Saturday, January 11, 2003

"NIGGER BROWN"



Australians are generally a pretty cheerful lot and so long ago took with gusto to the old English whimsy of referring to a thing by its opposite: "Little John" was really a giant of a man and someone called "Lofty" will generally be unusually short. My father for instance was always addressed as "Bluey" by his friends because he had red hair. And an old friend of mine who is fair-skinned even though he was born and bred in India is sometimes referred to as "the black man" -- because he isn't!

There has been a continuing saga near where I live over a grandstand at a sportsground which is named the "Nigger Brown" stand. There has even been a case taken to the High Court by blacks and their Leftist supporters in an (unsuccessful) attempt to force a name-change. So why the odd name anyway? Because the stand is named after a revered local cricketer whose surname was Brown and whose nickname was "Nigger Brown". And why was he called that? Because of his deathly-white skin! Even a sense of humour can get you into the courts these days.