Brexit or not, one place in the UK still welcomes foreigners

In 1985, we had a dream of a better world, a world that came together like Captain Planet’s Planeteers to solve problems. We, the human race, joined hands across the oceans and saved not just the lives of people in need, but “our own lives” at the same time. Because, as dozens of rock stars told us, “We are the world”.

In this more ironic age, the USA for Africa song seems more insipid than inspiring – but it was a time where people really did believe in common-sense international solutions. Sure, many of those people were rock stars, who tend to solve any problem by inserting themselves into it. And looking back, it was sometimes difficult to discern the line between selfless acts of charity and a career-enhancing stadium gig.

But Live Aid made a difference, both in terms of awareness and fundraising. And We Are The World’s writer Michael Jackson and his band of idealistic musos seem far removed from a Presidential nominee who’s more interested in building walls than solving hunger. Continue Reading →

Remembering Harold Murray Knight

Portrait of Sir Harold Knight by Bill Leak (1990), RBA collection

Portrait of Sir Harold Knight KBE DSC by Bill Leak (1990). From the RBA collection. Source: RBA site.

A remembrance shared at his memorial service – Friday 26 June 2015 at St Andrew’s Cathedral.

A Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire enters an official state function after a Knight of the Garter, but before a Knight Bachelor. He may attend special services in the order’s official chapel, St Paul’s Cathedral, and display a red circlet saying “For God And The Empire” around his coat of arms.

Bill Gates, Placido Domingo, Rudy Giuliani, Sultan Abdullah bin Khallifa of Zanzibar, Bono and Billy Graham are all KBEs, and so was the late Sir Harold Murray Knight.

But I am here today to talk not of KBEs, DSCs, or even the RBA. I am here to remember a man who proudly bore a different title – Grandpa. I somehow can’t call him anything else even at the age of 38. Continue Reading →

LinkedIn is the worst

Even LinkedIn’s slogan, “Connect to opportunity”, is nauseating. But it’s now worth so much that if everybody in Australia tipped in $1000, we’d still be $10 billion short.

If you haven’t used LinkedIn, imagine Facebook if every user had their boss looking over their shoulder the entire time, so that instead of sharing amusing distractions, they instead raved about their passion for generating shareholder value.

LinkedIn is like a school reunion with only the people you didn’t want to keep in touch with, boasting about their career accomplishments to try and make you feel inferior. It reads like the fake employee testimonials in a recruiting brochure. Continue Reading →

Dare I say it… I don’t like beer

When you’re an Australian male, beer is the only socially acceptable drink. We talk about going for a beer, not a wine, and certainly not a soft drink. And we only admit any desire for an evening of fancy cocktails to close, trusted friends who won’t mock a beverage that arrives adorned by a maraschino cherry and a pink umbrella.

Aussie blokes are supposed to operate under the working assumption that any time we drink a beverage that isn’t beer, we wish it was, even if we’re sipping a coffee at work or downing an energy drink after pumping iron. (Come to think of it, anyone who can invent an electrolyte-restoring beer is going to make a fortune.) If Jesus had been Australian, we know very well what he would have turned that water into.

When blokes are out with mates, and go up to the bar to get a round, it’s beer unless specified otherwise. And if otherwise is specified, there’s often a need to justify it. So I’ll say something like “beer doesn’t always agree with me”, or “I’m a bit hung over so I’d better stick to the mineral water”, implying that beer was the culprit the night before. Continue Reading →

Rocking out in Thainatown

Once upon a time, the pubs of inner-city Australia were full of music. Or so we’re told by those lucky enough to have lived through those halcyon days. Global names like Midnight Oil, INXS and Cold Chisel blazed a trail for local heroes like Regurgitator, the Whitlams and, for all I know, Frenté (hey, they were big when I was in high school). And they packed out many a local from the Seventies through to the Nineties.

Then the pokies came. Publicans decided that live music and the beer its audiences consumed weren’t lucrative enough, and cordoned off part of their establishments to become windowless dens full of banknote-devouring ‘gaming’ machines.

In a pokie room, the only original compositions you’ll hear are the dinky electronic bleeps played on the rare occasions when players defy the heavily-stacked odds and win something. But nobody ever took home an ARIA Award for a pokie jingle. Continue Reading →

I’m disorganised. Pity me

In Year Seven, I went to a high school where I didn’t know a soul, so had to make a name for myself from scratch. I was like Rabbit, Eminem’s character in 8 Mile when he first goes to the rhyme battles, only instead of baseball caps and baggy jeans, everyone was wearing a tie and what Scott Morrison would call an ill-fitting suit.

I’m proud to say that it took me just a few weeks to establish the identity that stayed with me until the end of the year. I was the Kid With The Messy Desk.

I was also the Kid Who Looked Ridiculous While Singing In The Choir Because He Opened His Mouth Too Widely, as some kind older kids were delighted to tell me, but the Messy Desk brand proved to be the enduring one. Continue Reading →

You need to eat idli

I once thought I knew a bit about Indian food. Back at uni, I regularly dined at those North Indian bain marie joints, and not just on butter chicken – although I have to admit that I always got butter chicken as one of the three selections.

Sometimes I even got lentils. Which I knew were called ‘daal’, because I was a man of the world. Or so I thought.

On other occasions, I even went out for proper, fancy Indian at restaurants where they serve the curries in little metal bowls and there are unlimited pappadams and various pickles on the side.

Years later, I went to India for the first time, and feasted on Goan fish curry, as well as the thali meals, a selection of lots of little curries and other delights on a metal plate, each in its own slot. I even had a favourite vegetarian dish, aloo gobi, which is cauliflower with potatoes. I know now that it’s about the most unsophisticated thing you can order, tantamount to asking for mac and cheese – but back then, I proudly proclaimed it as my thing. Continue Reading →