Biographical Log of Michael Furstner - Page 172

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The Martinshof Story - A Philosophy of Happiness - Life Awareness - Maps & other Text series

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Friday & Saturday, July 16 & 17 2010 (diary)

Geology excursion in Central France, 1959 Watching the Tour de France travelling through the Massif Central on TV last night my mind was cast back 51 years to the summer of 1959.
I had completed my first stint of geology fieldwork in my designated mapping area in Galicia, then traveled by train to Bayonne on the Spanish - French border. From there I hitch hiked my way to a small town in the Massif Central (forgot its name, Brive ?) to attend a geological excursion through that region with Prof. Den Tex.

On my arrival I collected a letter from my girlfriend Antien who wrote to me she had started a new relationship with a fellow goldsmith student in Schoonhoven. This of course upset me considerably, but being far away and committed to the geology excursion there was nothing I could do about it. Every night, back at the hotel of the day, I would play bridge and drink lots of wine deep into the night.

Tour de France logo The exclusion itself was quite good and included a climb of the Massif's most famous mountain, the Puis de Dome.
At that time the Tour de France was also in full swing, and as it happened passed that year through the Massif Central. So that, surprise surprise, one evening (in Clarmont-Ferrand ?), while we all sat at dinner, the two most legendary cyclists of the time, the multi-time Tour winner Anquetil (from France) and the champion mountain climber Bahamontes ("The Mountain Goat" from Spain) suddenly entered our hotel.
It struck me how small both men were, but how powerful their upper leg muscles.
After having showers in their rooms both men came down and joined us in the dining room, although of course not on our table. All the same for most of us, who were devoted followers of this epic annual contest, it made our day.

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Sunday & Monday, July 18 & 19 2010 (diary, politics)

Tony Abbott, 2010 This last month Kevin Rudd has been kicked out as Australia's Prime Minister by the Labour Union heavies and put Julia Gillard in his place. On the plus side, this now is Australia's first female Prime Minister and first self declared atheist.
However, on the negative side, absolutely nothing has changed in terms of policy and Government direction. After bungling around big time for the past three weeks Gillard has called for an August 21 General Election, hoping to pull through on the strength of her "honeymoon" period with the media and general public.

A friend of mine commented only last week that she did not know of any socialist Government in the world that had not damaged its country. I don't have the knowledge to confirm that, but the UK, after its decade plus of Labour Government, certainly is now in the greatest mess of at least the post WW2 era, leaving Cameron and Clegg to clean up the mess.

Australia too has suffered economically under the three Labour Governments it has had since WW2. The Whitlam Government of the early 1970s was a disaster for the Australian mining industry, which took over 10 years to recover. (The Government was kicked out by the Australian Governeor General halfway through its legitimate term.)
The Hawke Government of the 1980s put draconian taxes on our oil and gas industry with the result that this resource rich country is now largely dependant on overseas fuel imports, as only the North West Shelf resources (off the West Australian NW coast and exempted from the tax) have been further developed and other investments (these past 15 years) have gone overseas, notably to Indonesia and Qatar at our expense.

Julia Gillard, the very opposite of Margaret Thatcher Julia Gillard has watered down Rudd's ridiculous mining profit tax, but the new Resources Rent Tax she imposed on all iron ore, coal, oil and gas mining in Australia is little better, taxing these industries at the rate of 46%, the highest in the entire world.
Just this week it was confirmed by a world economic expert (taking a sounding around the world) that Australia is now viewed with great suspicion by investors around the globe. It has in fact lost total credibility as a reliable country to invest in. As a result small Australian mining ventures looking for finance to get up and running will get no finance, unless they pay an extra 5% penalty rate on their borrowings. This will virtually kill off any new development in this country.

The tragedy of course is that Australians are bombarded with superficial hollow Labour slogans of "moving the country forward", and the likelihood of another 3 years of disastrous (workers union controlled) Labour mismanagement.
Will Australia have the insight to vote Tony Abbott in and kick Labour out in five weeks time. I hope, but I am not confident at all.

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Tuesday, July 20 2010 (diary)

Georges Simenon As far as I can recall the only books I have ever read of Georges Simenon are his detective stories featuring Inspector Maigret.
But I have now just completed reading one of his romans durs ("hard novels") entitled The man who watched trains go by ("Homme qui regardait passer les trains", written in 1938).
Simenon's romans durs are highly entertaining psychological novels with a hard edge to it. They have been described as being "existentialism with a backbone of tempered steel" and more philosophical profound than any of the fiction by Albert Camus or Jean Paul Sartre!
"Simenon may be", writes Luc Sante in his Introduction "the most famous unknown (literary) writer of the twentieth century". And from what I have read so far I tend to agree with all the above.

Although Kees Popinga (the Dutch main character in the novel) does watch some real trains go by, the novel's title reflects his underlying feeling that life's many opportunities are passing him by.

Kees Popinga is a highly respected member of the Groningen community in which he is firmly entrenched. He has a beautiful home, nice family and is second in charge of a shipping supplies business where he has been working all his life. Then suddenly he is told that the business is about to be declared bankrupt as a result of his bosses mismanagement of the company's finances. Popinga, who has invested all his life savings in the company (and still with a large mortgage on his house) is now finacially totally ruined.

This new reality has an enormous immediate impact on Popinga, but instead of feeling totally crushed by it he sees this as a tremendous opportunity to escape from his entrenched predictable humdrum life.
He suddenly feels free now! He can do what he wants and be whoever he wants to be, and with a handful of cash, given by his boss, he leaves his home and family behind and travels by train to Amsterdam to an attractive woman, now prostitute, his boss used to visit weekly.

Unfortunately, besides his suddenly found sense for freedom, the culture shock of the bankruptcy has also released a rather unpleasant element of Popinga's nature, his envy and vindictiveness, which until now he had largely managed to keep under control.
So when the prostitute humiliates him by laughing at his demands, he accidentally kills her.

From here on it is all downhill for Popinga. He flees by train to Paris where, after a number of adventures and misfortunes he is finally captured by the police, sent back to Holland and placed into an asylum.

Towards the end of his experiences in Paris he realises that he has been only an "amateur" at creating a new life for himself, mainly (he believes) because he tried this "too late in his life".

These days it is so easy to break out off a set life pattern and seachanges or treechanges are rather common, hardly commented upon, certainly not in casual and laid back Australia. But in 1938, when Simenon wrote this novel, and up to 30 or 40 years later attitudes were quite different.
Simenon's novel resonates strongly with me on two counts :

Firstly I have felt since a very early age in my life that I did not wanted to be "captured" and "imprisoned" forever within one given social group. I have always had great interest to investigate a new social environment, but once the passage of time and increasing familiarity threatened to pull me into it too strongly I would disengage and leave. This has been a recurring pattern at various levels throughout my life right up to the present day. To grow, I have always believed, one must change and not settle down in a fixed predictable pattern.

Secondly like Popinga, my life too was turned upside down, in my case during my mid life crisis. And I too have had a positive as well as a negative reaction to this crisis. I have grasped the opportunity for greater freedom and a new direction in my life (music) and (unlike Popinga) had the experience (or expertice) to succeed.
But it has had as downside a strong increase of my emotional intolerance I don't believe I had before. At the slightest (perceived) sign of encroachment on my freedom I get my hackles up and react strongly. This has especially affected the few relationships I have had after my marriage. I try to subdue this, but I find it not easy to do, even now.

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