Seasons Greetings 2021

I love this image of our fair city, so I’m reprising it from last year.

Last year I said 2020 was dominated by the four “C’s” – Coronavirus, climate change, China, and corruption in politics.

This year was much the same, and again I found myself overwhelmed in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Luckily others were better organised, so a good time was had by all.

Sadly, November saw the death of my younger sister Lorna, who passed away after a short illness just a few days after a significant birthday. For those who knew and loved her she was a very authentic person, or as my brother said in the orbituary, true blue! This photo highlighted by Keatings Funerals in Chinchilla is from her later years:

We met on 29 November at Miles Presbyterian Church to celebrate her life, as they say these days, and mark her passing.

Tears were shed, stories were told, and there was much remembering of the early days. We were five siblings growing up, a typical-sized family of the times, but there were always others in the house as well, such as Aunty and Grandma, and often boys and girls from ‘college’. That was when St Peters was a small, inexpensive co-educational boarding school, intended for the sons and daughters of Australian German Lutheran farmers and for the progeny of missionaries in PNG who spent every second Christmas with families in Australia.

This photo emerged from a shoe box left by my mother:

It shows my sister as a shy little waif, apt to hide behind her mother’s apron. We had just moved into a very fine house our parents had built for us. My guestimate is that my younger sister was about four years old.

Moving on about five years, we have this one:

Grandma (in the middle) and Aunty (Dad’s older sister) were there, as was the new kid on the block, my younger brother, just three years old. My elder brother was away at school. Someone was always away.

The photo illustrates how lustily we flourished. My elder sister was just 13. For some reason we all reached full height in our early teens.

Move on another six years, for the only known photo of the seven of us together. At the time my elder sister was living in a nearby town and had just been formally blessed at church to go and teach at Hope Vale Mission, as it was then, years before Noel Pearson saw the light of day:

I don’t think my parents knew what they had launched upon an unsuspecting world!

And wasn’t little sister a stunner!

In time she too made a life and generated a family together with her husband Ken, who sadly departed the scene on the last day of 2017, and so started a tribe of her own.

And so the cycle goes. A life well-lived, we will miss her dearly.

As I said, COVID put a damper on activities in 2021.

Through the good work of the Queensland Government in keeping us safe, and through its support for the arts, we were able to see the exhibition ‘European Masterpieces from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York’ in Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA). Here’s Titian:

Later, as life began to resemble ‘normal’, we saw the Queensland Ballet’s performance of Dracula.


Certainly the company has reached new heights of balletic excellence with Artistic Director Li Cunxin, Mao’s Last Dancer.

For me, I still work in gardens and yards. Excellence was also sought with bonsai bougainvillea in one of the gardens I work in:

The garden has two of them, which looked truly beautiful when they arrived. A hailstorm within the first week changed all that!

I’m still learning how to prune and care for them, but the one above gives some idea. Sorry about the untidy hose.

Looking to 2022, it is genuinely hard to be optimistic, given the challenges faced by humanity. For example, it was very convenient driving out to Miles across the fertile Darling Downs during flooding rain, and not a single incident of insect splat on the windscreen. Years ago that would have been unthinkable. What have we done?

Edward O. Wilson, the famous biologist, alerted us decades ago to the importance of maintaining biodiversity if we want to keep our planet as a liveable place.

In May this year we drew some hope for the tuture from visiting the ‘Creative Generation Excellence Awards in Visual Art’ exhibition at GOMA which:

    recognises and celebrates the artistic achievements and creative talents of senior high school students from across Queensland.

    This exhibition showcases the work of the 37 excellence award recipients selected in 2020 from over 500 entries submitted by students from metropolitan and regional schools throughout the state.

This work was perhaps emblematic:


The artist said she wanted to give detritus new significance and a ‘new life’ by providing a protective, cocoon-like shelter so that life could flourish within.

How the students wrote about their work was as impressive as the works themselves, as they sought to reconcile inner and outer worlds, to create meaning and purpose.

Meanwhile at our place we continue to cultivate the four emotions worth having – loving-kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity.

We hope you are having a pleasant and rewarding Christmas/New Year and wish you health and happiness for 2022.

19 thoughts on “Seasons Greetings 2021”

  1. This post was written in snatches between dealing with the invasion of COVID into our lives.

    The status now, in short, is that we are all well. Two of three of us have had PCR tests , but have not yet received the results.

    When most were eating Christmas ham on Christmas Day we were testing ourselves with rapid antigen tests. The results appeared very rapidly, in a minute or two.

    Two tests showed one line, meaning negative. On the third, a troublesome second line appeared. We’ve been dealing with what that second line means to our lives ever since.

  2. Dear Brian, so good to hear from you! Am too old to deal with flood of e-mails (and lots of other things), that’s why you haven’t heard from me for such a long time. Hope your positive test was just a bummer, as is wont to happen!!! Youse vaccinated? Salute you and Lyn with a quote from Swiss Kurt Marti for your new year: “und wenn ein gott ist – stelle ich ihn – mir als liebhaber vor” (put that into your German pipe and smoke it!) Christoph J

  3. Happy New year to you and John, Brian. I think there is no doubt that this will be an eventful year (as if we need another one), so get ready for a wild ride.

    My resolution is to be more organized this year and achieve more.

    That means making a list, and checking it twice ….. daily.

    I’ve always thought of making lists my reserve capacity. Time to put that theory to the test.

    New Years night was a big fizz for me here. I’m hiding from covid so expected to see the fireworks from my home as I have a broad field view across the Rhine Estuary, but then a fog rolled in. So it was a white out with booms in the distance all around (the Dutch love making big bangs) through the fog. Then a friend, who I haven’t spoken to for a couple of years, returned my Christmas message and we spoke for an hour or more.

    I did a preliminary list of my design projects the other day and it came to nearly 20 active initiatives. I want to make a difference so the best thing I can do is complete all of these this year. That’s the plan, so far.

    For anyone interested in design, I normally use a package called SpaceClaim, but have had an iPad Pro for some years now and the design package fro that is called Shapr3D. I’ve been had a few goes at getting started using it but the other week gave it a more determined work out and Siemens (the developers) have done a good job of improving this package to where it now kind of “rocks”. I was able to design a gizmo to make it easy to turn valves on and off without having to do Yacht Yoga to reach the valve handles inside cupboards and under floor boards.

    The interesting thing is that I did this whole design laying in bed, and propped up while “watching” TV. The design is a version of the drive elbows that were common on mechanical sheep shearing arms of a century ago. Good never gets old.

    So for anyone interested, this New Year, I suggest consider buying an Apple iPad Pro (sim card version) and explore the awesome software available for it. I’m using:
    Shapr3D (technical design)
    UMake (free thinking design)
    Morpholio Trace (architecture and landscape presentation)
    Forger Classic (sculpting …haven’t done much with this yet)
    Google Sheets/Docs (spreadsheeting and communication)
    Scanner Pro (document copy and send)
    Simple Mind Pro (organizing ideas)
    WhatsApp (global communication network)
    Zoom (done it a couple of times)
    Google Chrome (of course)
    GoogleCast (entertainment on the big screen)
    Navigation: (weather)
    Google Maps
    Google Earth
    Essential Skeleton 4 (to understand where the bits that are hurting actually are)
    Mag. Light Pro (lighted magnifier)
    A decent Data Base package. (I have to have a companion Android package to run the one phone based Relational Database that runs on a phone ……. SailForms Pro)
    A good basic Electronic Board design package.

    All of that runs effortlessly on the iPad Pro 10.5, instant on with up to a 10 hour battery life. If anyone is feeling bored and unable to be creative this Pandemic, unless it is poverty, they have no excuse.

    Well, unto the breach! Good Luck everyone with your New Year’s Plan.

  4. Christoph J, it is lovely to hear from you. Margot and I loved the times we had with you and S in 2008 and 2015 (Lyn was the one I didn’t marry!)

    For the record, my son returned a positive RAT (rapid antigen test) on Christmas day. Margot and I were negative. We’ve all had PCR tests now, but Mark and I are waiting for results. We are keeping ourselves isolated and we are fine.

    Meanwhile Omicron is going mad. We had more new cases yesterday in 12 hours than we had had in the previous two years.

    That is what happens when you let infected southerners in.

    They cancelled the 6-day post-entry test because it only returned 0.6% positive. Small number? Can’t these people do back-of-the envelope maths?

    0.6% of the 400,000 that entered in the couple of weeks after we somewhat opened on 15 December gives us 2400 infected persons entering the state. That’s more than we had in the previous 2 years.

    Welcome to living with COVID!

  5. Great review, Brian. Looks like a good movie, though I would have to pick the right time and mood to watch it.

    I’ve now read your pre amble (I hadn’t before).

    From 4 years and barefoot to now sadly gone. That would have been hard especially with little warning to loose a favored sister. Very sad.

    And yes, what have we done. But then at population 3 billion we had no idea of how our presence would dominate in the way that it has. I spend a lot of time musing how our impact can be parred back. But it has been all too easy to clear and build, and see it as progress, where to nature it has been a procession of devastating.

    As a boater I cringe to see another boater holding up the huge fish he caught. We are at the point where any one of those images could represent the last fish of that species to live to that age.

    There are methods and we have to try to change towards a more compact low impact existence.

  6. I guess “That is what happens when you let infected southerners in.” doesn’t surprise me given the state you live in.
    However, part of the problem is Qld insistence on using the state border that runs through a megacity as the pandemic border. Problem is that a lot of people need to pass thru the inter megacity border. Would have been a lot to use a pandemic border location that di not have many people wanting to pass through. Much easier to run with a more elaborate border check.

  7. Bilb2: See “Two centuries of rapid global population growth will come to an end” for an interesting graph of world population growth from 1700 (0.7billion) including projections through to 2100. (10.9 billion.)
    Also worth having a look at The global decline of the fertility rate since 1950 The table is the most interesting bit since it has fertility rates for most countries and various groups of countries. For the world the fertility rate declined from 4.96 children per woman for 1960 dropping to 2.44 in 2020. Other figures include:
    Australia 3.39, 1.81
    Europe 2.63, 1.61
    Asia 5.68, 2.12
    There appears to be a good chance of population growth reversing in the near future. however, it will take some time for population to return to levels that the planet can comfortably handle.

  8. Interesting, John, but with world the population tripling in the last 70 years and forecast to increase by 41% by 2100 from now, clearly there is still a problem.

    Africa, especially sub-Saharan Africa has a fertility rate over 4 and will just reach replacement rate around 2100.

    EO Wilson, according to the link in the post, suggested that if homo sapiens wants to survive we need to vacate half the land surface of planet. May be doable with concentrated food production as per bilb2’s link and manufactured food etc.

    The real fun starts if/when Antarctica’s “Doomsday” Glacier visibly starts to disintegrate and sea level rise inundates many of the world’s major cities, including Shanghai, New York, Miami, Tokyo, and Mumbai, plus a number of fertile food deltas and other low-lying productive lands.

    Even now we have this from the UNHCR in the run-up to COP26:

      for millions of people around the world, climate change is already a daily reality.

      Ninety percent of refugees under UNHCR’s mandate, and 70 percent of people displaced within their home countries by conflict and violence, come from countries on the front lines of the climate emergency.

      They are vulnerable not only to extreme weather like floods or cyclones, but also to seeing their livelihoods dry up due to drought and desertification.

  9. Lots of good information on population at Wikipedia.

    According to forecasts, it is projected that 50% of births in the 5-year period 2095-2100 will be in Africa

  10. Brian; The bottom line of the projections I have seen is that the current (2019) world population of 7.7 billion will rise about 40% to 10.9 billion by 2100 unless we do something dramatic to halt population growth and start to drive it back down to a level that will allow everyone to live reasonable lives and the natural environment to start spreading again.

  11. John, that is clear. My problem is that people who are doing long-term planning and considering our futures simply ignore the likely affects of climate change.

    Those who are concerned with climate change, including the IPCC and the UNFCCC, typically ignore or downplay the effects of sea level rise.

    At present, given the levels of GHGs, they should start with the standard assumption that effects will be similar to the Pliocene and seek to find what the variation on that might be and why, not just regard it as some low risk possibility.

  12. bilb2, thanks for the personal appreciation. My sister was not well in recent years, so was vulnerable.

    When she was young she was fleet of foot and quick with her hands.

    On barefoot, it was the standard form of dress for us as kids, my elder sister wearing shoes was a bit anomalous. I can’t remember the circumstances of the photo, but we weren’t in our Sunday best.

    On shoes, I remember having Sunday shoes, and sandshoes to wear if there was frost on the grass etc. My father wore boots, but wrapped his feet in cloth rather than socks.

    As a younger brother I wore hand-me-downs in the first instance. After the war my mum bought a parachute and cut it up to make work shirts, PJs and sheets.

    It was a simple life. No TV, a crackly radio in the corner of the main living area, when I was 9 we got an old ute to travel in, so saw my first movie when I was about 9 or 10. A bit earlier we got a party line phone, and a bit later electricity, but a home plant powered by the diesel motor that ran the milking system for milking cows.

    The farm was like a little community – no-one ever got bored.

  13. I had a longer comment, but this stupid software served up an Internal Server Error. Not what I needed in this new year!

  14. I remember that period so well, Brian. At least from 1954 on. I bet you never felt deprived in that time. Living in Port Moresby, once I found as section of telephone cable that had been cut out and thrown aside. I dismantled it to get the wire to make an aerial system around the yard to get better radio range. It didn’t work very well, then I discovered by accident that the wire flyscreens were a much better aerial, and i could hear Brisbane radio. It was such a novelty to be able to hear actual advertisements. I remember an Ad for Tinned Pineapple. And I remember how adults seemed to be so interested in listening to cricket results broadcasts.

    I sent the compost machine Ad as it has come up a few times and seemed relevant.

    I hadn’t watched all of the hydroponics video, but now have. Really interesting. I think a bit about how much growing I can fit on a boat. By that example, quite a bit it seems. I know I can do fish farming because the center board trunk on my boat is teaming with thousands of fish fingerlings, and I did nothing to kick that off. I imagine that in the right place I could make a fish net skirt for the boat down to the Harbor bottom and grow fish in decent quantity in that enclosure. Coupled with some hydroponics that could be a strong food complement.

    Of course that works for a few people, but millions?

  15. Bilb, I work for some Indonesian immigrants in Indooroopilly. Next door is a Chinese migrant who has somehow imported his parents who don’t speak a word of English. They live on a tiny block, with a sliver of dirt between the driveway and the fence. With trellises you would not believe what grows there!

    On radios back then, some kids in boarding school had crystal radios. I never understood the technology, but it was small and it worked.

    Being of German heritage we had no focus on cricket at all, but tennis was another story, especially when playing the Americans in the Davis Cup.

  16. We are on our first day of liberation after having isolated over Christmas, being household members of a COVID +ve person.

    Everybody wearing masks. Quite a few people out and about, but everyone being careful.

    Having driven about 40-50 km through several suburbs to get medicine and reprovision, the changes in tree and shrub vegetation this year are quite noticeable. Jacaranda display was off again this year. I think we are now near the northern trajectory of their range.

    One thing that shocked has been the poinciana display, normally bursting with flowers. This year, almost nothing. Frangipanis were also disappointing.

    Quite a few leopard trees, which usually spring back to life in late spring/early summer, are half dead and struggling.

    Nature is clearly out of whack, which personally I find hurtful to the spirit.

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