Leaning Towards Christmas

Leaning Towards Christmas

Leaning Towards Christmas

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA—The tree is up and our feral feline has already been seduced by its baubles and bling and attempted to climb its fake Canterbury pine branches and make off with the flashing star.

He made the same ascent last year with, pardon the pun, catastrophic results. He snapped the top clean off resulting in an eternal leaning due to two taped stakes connecting the tree top to its piny nether regions.

Admittedly, this leaning does give the tree a certain authentic ‘I was harvested on a particularly blustery winter morning’ appearance. Instead, it was made in China with the only real similarity being that, this one, like its genuine counterpart, has a definite shelf life.

This Christmas, I fear, will be its last. The rest of the Christmas decorations have also taken on a rather forlorn air, mostly because the chief festivity officer, namely my daughter, has taken off to Europe. She’s enjoying a bracing start to a European winter while we begin the slow melt into summer.

While we may not have all the trappings of a picture book Christmas, an Aussie Christmas has one definite advantage: Sunshine—lots of it. We can take full advantage of nature’s own energy source and go mad with solar lights. That’s if they’re not all snapped up by greedy solar shoppers. There never seems to be enough to go around. I managed to salvage the last bucket of white icicle lights (irony there) at my local supermarket which I proceeded to excitedly drape over our entrance wall. They showed great promise until I realised they were six metres long and the wall was twelve. Half the wall looks dazzling but the fun stops there.Reindeer

To make up for the lack of lighting, I hung up last year’s wreaths made from my old passionfruit vine and sticks I found in the bush. Rustic festive charm is the general theme. I also had a couple of wooden reindeer lovingly crafted by my husband. However, these seem to have landed up in the fire pit when a certain teenager insisted it was too late to gather his own wood when friends were arriving ‘any minute’. All that remains of Rudolph is his log head and a rather faded red bow.

All that remains of Rudolph is his log head and a rather faded red bow.

Shopping at Christmas is universally manic. Each year I resolve to avoid the mayhem by adopting the clichéd yet sensible ‘shop through the year’ approach. It never works. I know without a doubt that with a week to go I will be the vague shopper pacing the lofty, festooned and fake marbled hallways of my local shopping mall.

I will be the wild-eyed woman manically humming ‘Jingle Bells’ with mounting hysteria. And unfortunately, I will have only myself to blame. If the truth be told, weeks ago, I specifically went to buy a particular someone a Christmas present only to be drawn like a magnet to the sale rack of a rather enticing clothes shop. It ended right there.

I do, however, have a rather canny and last ditch trick up my sleeve. It’s called online shopping. That’s if I haven’t already missed the deadline. Let me check … oops, one week to go. So online it will bein the cool comfort of my own home, a glass of festive cheer on hand.

I will cleverly avoid the onslaught of shoppers, sweaty Santa’s or sneaky sale racks. Sounds blissful. All that remains is the food shop which will include a tray of luscious, sun-kissed Bowen mangoes. Instant sensory, festive euphoria has to be the sight of these golden nuggets nestling in air-conditioned comfort on the kitchen counter.

Then and only then will I be perfectly set for an Aussie Christmas.

Let the joyful countdown begin …

Wishing you all a blessed and bountiful Christmas!

© Lois Nicholls

Time to Cull Celebrity Campaigners

Time to Cull Celebrity Campaigners

Time to Cull Celebrity Campaigners

I can't be your Facebook friend. i just can't

One of life’s most basic lessons is never to assume. Check your facts. And never, ever assume you can win your audience with arrogant self-importance.

Hillary’s leftwing press failed dismally in this regard. And so did she. What both parties assumed was that everyone believed their spin. That eloquent words shape a nation’s attitudes. That Hillary’s fraternizing with Hollywood was lauded. And Hollywood was even more misguided. The ordinary people clearly didn’t care when singer Katy Perry stood up and in a spectacularly condescending manner, dictated who people should vote for.

What must have come as a crushing shock is that she just wasn’t that important. What Katy did … or said, just didn’t cut it. Similarly, people did not care when Beyonce and Jay-Z ran a free concert (which, incidentally, they only half-managed to fill) and Hillary embraced them with gushing rhetoric. The sexist, racist trash that emanated from Jay-Z’s mouth should have been enough to turn off the most avid Hillary supporter but that aside, again, why do these celebrities in their opulent bunkers not get it that the world does not generally give a toss. When did they start believing their own press? Just because Vogue endorses a Kardashian doesn’t mean the world takes note.

And just like badly raised children unaccustomed to not getting their own way, post-Trump victory, many of these same celebs had a toddler tantrum.

Emotional intelligence was severely lacking. Many expressed a desire to flee to Canada. Not Mexico, mind you. Too risky. Canada obviously sounded more comfortable. As far as I know not a single celebrity has left yet. They’re throwing tweeting tantrums because this is the first time they’ve had to deal with the fact that beyond their privileged lives, no-one really cares. Tweeting – and encouraging riots is their mature response. Saluting democracy? I think not.

And Lindsay Lohan? A recount? This is your carefully considered opinion? Miley Cyrus, who claimed to care passionately for women’s rights was another star campaigner.  Hard to take someone too seriously when they’re pictured cavorting on stage with a giant blow-up penis. Or riding nude on a wrecking ball. Somehow I don’t see young girls aspiring to be just like her. Not once have I heard my own daughter express any vague adulation. Miley can sing, yes, but it ends there. And Hillary was happy to be endorsed by her? And assumed the masses would listen? Big mistake.

While celebrities have perhaps behaved with scant regard to maturity, mere mortals have acted no better. The most wanton and immature threat of which is; “I can’t be your Facebook friend anymore. I just can’t.” Sounds unbelievable until you realise that it’s really happening. A friend’s American relative did just that, daring any of her Facebook friends to show their hand. If they didn’t, it hinted at their Trump allegiance and for this, she would defriend them. Shocking but true. I can only be your friend if your opinions mirror my own. Free speech at its best.

Eating humble pie when things don’t go your way is tough. But it’s the mature thing to do. It reveals true character and resilience. I applaud you for doing just that. One of a handful of pro-Hillary supporters, Australian journalist Joe Hilderbrand, admitted the ‘Lefties blew it‘.

Politicians would do well to follow suit. Take Australia’s Labor leader, Bill Shorten. Perhaps he’s regretting calling America’s new president ‘barking mad’.  In fact, at the precise moment (delightfully caught on camera) when he heard the ‘barking mad’ Trump had the top job, his expression mirrored my son’s when he realizes his younger brother has beaten him to last night’s leftovers. Crestfallen. A sense of total betrayal and disbelief. How could he? Or in Bill’s case, “What do I say when I eventually meet this guy face to face?” Here’s the thing, Bill, every single human being is flawed. You should know. Perhaps you should acknowledge this publicly.

Not that Trump will be without his regrets. A serial motor mouth, he needed to put a lid on it plenty of times. This campaign turned darned ugly. And I’m sure encouraging wife, Melania to grace his customized Boeing 727 in a GQ magazine spread 15 years ago is among his regrets. Not to mention hers. Melania may reportedly speak five languages, but the nude shoot featuring her languishing on fur with little but diamonds to hide her well-honed form, has definitely come back to haunt her.  And the nightmare will return every time she tries to get too serious. I don’t suppose it was even a vague consideration that she would one day be America’s First Lady when she suggestively bared all. What to do? Perhaps give a deep and meaningful Vogue interview on ‘things I regret’. A message to young girls perhaps? I’m sure her press will put a positive spin on it.

Just don’t expect this ever so slightly cynical old hack to believe a word.

Sunday’s farmer solidarity march for human rights, not race

Sunday’s farmer solidarity march for human rights, not race

Sunday’s farmer solidarity march for human rights, not race

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA – In the one week it took to organise Sunday’s mass march through Brisbane in solidarity with South Africa’s embattled farmers, four more were brutally murdered.

For many in the crowd of over 1,000 people marching from Roma Street to Queensland’s State Parliament House on Sunday, the march was personal. In our group of five, one had recently attended the funeral of an Eastern Cape relative brutally tortured. The elderly woman, a stalwart in her rural community, died of injuries too graphic to relay. Her housemate succumbed to equally severe injuries, and her husband was left for dead – beaten, bound, burnt and gagged. He miraculously survived.

My farm connection has more romantic roots. I spent the first few years of my life living on an agricultural college in the KwaZulu Natal Midlands. I later attended the local school, and my boarder friends all came from surrounding farming communities. My German-descent friend, Ute taught me to ride horses on her parent’s farm. My grandfather had been a Karoo farmer, and my dear late dad worked in agriculture all his life. As a child, I learned that drought meant tough times for farmers. I learned that when shop potato prices were low, the ‘poor farmers’ were getting nothing for theirs. I gained an appreciation for the growers of the produce that landed on our plates and the hard slog it took to get it there.

Today, there is nothing romantic about being a white farmer in South Africa. Drought and low potato prices pale into insignificance when lives are at stake. Of course, no one can ignore the fact that farmers are not the only victims of crime. In fact, for my friend directly affected, attending the march was more about standing up for human rights. “I see this as a human rights march, not a political or racially motivated march. I stand in solidarity with all those who have suffered through violent crime,” he said.

And yet, it is hard to overlook the stark reality that white South African farmers appear to be systematically targeted. There is no politically correct sugar-coating of the increasingly depraved, torturous details of farm murders.

Figures of exactly how many have lost their lives are often refuted, but there are a reported 74 murders from 1 April 2016 to 31 March 2017. Figures escalate weekly.

Repeated stories of women raped in front of their young children don’t make for pleasant dinner conversation. Nor does the story of a 12-year-old boy scalded in a hot bath and his throat slit after both parents were brutally slaughtered. Or of a two-year-old toddler being shot dead. It’s more comfortable to avoid reading news feeds or to skip the unimaginably bloodied, gory pictures posted on social media. Far easier to bury our head in the sand. The march, whatever the practical outworking, at least showed sorely lacking support for the silently suffering minority. It also was an opportunity to say thank you to politicians such as immigration minister, Peter Dutton for hearing their plight.

Political persecution if proven by Australia needs to be investigated. We’re not talking race but about doing the right thing about existing laws of political persecution – Andrew Laming, LNP representative for Bowman

As one of the organisers, Arno Nel said: “Violent crime is rampant in all communities in South Africa. Attacks on farmers are racially oriented, whites in particular in these rural areas face persecution perpetuated by the ‘Kill the Boer, kill the farmer’ slogan (by EFF’s Julius Malema and government commitment to take farmland without compensation). This has left white minorities fearing for their lives … We are deeply aware of the privilege of living in this country and hope to extend the same to our farmers.”

Andrew Laming, the LNP representative for Bowman, was equally impassioned. He spoke about being alerted to SA farmers’ plight after seeing an 87-year-old farmer beaten beyond recognition on his social media feed. ”Today, one month ago, I was just another politician vaguely aware what was happening, and then a thread popped up, and the story behind the photo had to be shared. Since then it has been shared ten times every minute 24 hours a day—once a second in every country that has Facebook.

“Political persecution if proven by Australia needs to be investigated. We’re not talking race but about doing the right thing about existing laws of political persecution,” he said.

Independent crossbench senator Fraser Anning, was equally supportive. He said he was behind solutions to give white South African farmers preference for refugee visas, calling violence towards white farmers in the country a “genocide”.

“The ‘Kill the boer, kill the farmer’ slogan promoted by parliamentarians has left white minority groups fearing for their lives.”