June has not begun well. Our friend Denis was taken ill on the morning of June 1st as our singing dozen gathered for weekly rehearsal. He's in hospital and will undergo further tests in days to come. Isobel and daughter Denise have spent much time with him. Denis is one third of our male voice section, and is a well-known and respected man, with a great sense of fun. All our thoughts are with him. In his absence the rest of us did the monthly concert at the Minlaton nursing home in the showbiz tradition - the show must go on, etc - including extravagant dress-up items involving Elsie and Joan and Wendy, and Maureen whom I did not recognize at first in the wig - but there it is, captured on the DVD - and of course the irrepressible Don in a kilt of sorts ("Donald Where's Yer Troosers?") despite his not having a drop of Scots blood. Correct me if I'm wrong, Donald.
The gloom continued with word of a former colleague's recent death from motor neurone disease. Very rapid. Just three months from onset to the end. Another colleague rang to tell me this, or I would not have known because I don't read the obits ... well, I don't buy the paper. My main reason for avoiding obituaries is the usual one: scared of reading my own name there.
And three other letters or emails from old acquaintances within the past two days have held news of reverses in health or fortune. What's going on? Jeez.
Of course, international events (move over, Iceland volcano) include the Near East mayhem we come to expect. The story of the moment is of that flotilla running the Gaza blockade, soldiers from helicopters, people dead. The deaths are real and indeed tragic. The circumstances intractable. Spin from all sides. Yet how sanctimonious is the wide condemnation of Israel which, beyond question, needed to find a different formula. Were there armaments aboard some of those vessels? Very likely. Did the Israeli side, as claimed, express willingness to allow through any genuine humanitarian aid? And did they mean it?
If our Australian boarding parties from border patrol boats are opposed with force, is armed response allowed? You betcha. Bit of a reality check is in order here, guys. Would YOU want to whack a commando, down the bloke, take his weapon, and NOT expect his mates to open fire? Not me.
This morning the Turkish Prime Minister is quoted saying his country "will never forgive" Israel (the boats carrying supplies to Gaza were organized mainly by Turkish-based groups). Umm. Never is a long time. If long memories are OK then I am heartened to think the world may now expect imminent acknowledgment, apology and reparation from Turkey for the twentieth century massacre of a million Armenians.
But you get the picture. We as political animals get ourselves locked into hate crimes forever. Two wrongs make for ... more wrongs. Heaven help us all.
One small mercy. I also heard from Julie again. She and Shin the teacher from Korea enjoyed their trip to the South East (the S.E. of South Australia, that is: that's what we mean here when we say "the South East", where they actually get reliable rainfall and can grow radiata pine for the building industry).
On the way back Julie and Shin visited Monarto Open Range Zoo after I had raved about it. Shin liked the meerkats. Monarto, you owe me a commission for two discount entry fees: the girls used their Youth Hostel cards for child-price admission.