Ever bursting with new ideas for stamping out discrimination, the Equal Opportunity and Anti-Racism Unit of Burchett Hill City Council has come up with a "killer app" to dispose once and for all of what EO&AR commissioner Ms Drusilla Alitosis describes as "title-related misogyny that relegates women to the category of inferior beings".

Titles such as Mr, Mrs, Miss and Ms are to be "more equitably applied," she says. "The last three will henceforth be used only of males, employed by or otherwise connected with the municipality. That will give them an idea of what it's like to be discriminated against as countless women have been who would prefer to be called 'Mr'."

Council will further enact a bylaw making it an offence "on the level of spitting in the street" for anyone in Burchett Hill to use "Mr" of a male.

At the same time, says Ms Alitosis, women will have "the opportunity to feel what it's like to have the patriarchal upper hand by being called 'Mr'." She added that, for women who feel particularly strongly about the matter, the old honorific "Esquire" will be permissible, a privilege already claimed by Mr (formerly Ms) Gail Murdstone, a sometime lady prison officer who is the municipality's Director of Child Protection and who is currently engaged on a campaign to have all children attending private single-sex schools in Burchett Hill removed from their parents into council care on the grounds of "exposure to the risk of heteronormative indoctrination".

Under the new rules, the Mayor of Burchett Hill will be known as Mayoress. Thus the current (but in reality perpetual) Mayor, Greens party veteran Councillor Les Rhiannon, who is also Ms Alitosis's "partner", will be, to give him his full official title, "Her Worship the Mayoress of Burchett Hill People's Municipality, Mrs Les Alitosis". Dress rules will be altered to correspond with everyone's new "identity". It is fortunate that the collection of evening gowns made for a succession of mayoresses by legendary local couturieuse Lorette of Burchett Hill (late of the "Paris End" of Collins Street) for the mayoral balls of the 1950s had been presented to the municipal museum, since Councillor Rhiannon will be able to avail himself of these, suitably amplified in girth, when presiding at official functions such as the Mayoral Rave-in, a 1970s form of entertainment dear to the Mayor in his university days with which he has replaced the "elitist" mayoral ball.

Ms Alitosis says Greens councillors will use their majority in the council chamber of this inner-city municipality ("proudly twinned with Pyongyang") to "ram the issue through". Party officials would be among the first to adopt the change, starting with the Greens national leader who will be known in Burchett Hill as "Mr Milne" and the former leader "Ms", "Miss" or "Mrs" Brown - "it's up to her," says Ms Alitosis.

The titles edict has had a mixed reception. Trevor Castrol, the municipality's Director of Mobile Infrastructure (formerly council car pool) said he didn't mind what he was called "as long as you don't call me late for me dinner." Amid his own laughter he added, "I dunno what the wife'll say about having to be called 'Mr'. But she wears the pants in our home so I suppose it won't make any difference" (more laughter).

Councillor Jeremy Floris, who is in charge of the council's Gay, Lesbian and Otherwise Gendered Outreach Programme, explained that he was in two minds about the change of titles. On the one hand he was "thrilled" that he would now be able officially to call himself Jennifer and wear what he described as "my slinky little black cocktail number", hitherto worn only in private, to council meetings and other evening events. On the other, he was "furious" that the initiative should have come from "that pushy Greek strumpet" (believed to be a reference to Ms Alitosis's family and matrimonial background and to her forceful and fiery personality) "barging in on territory that, as head of the council's Diversity Unit, rightfully belongs to me."

In contrast, wholehearted concurrence is the reaction of Burchett Hill's official Director of Smoking Rites, Ernie Heiss, who presides over Welcomes to Country and other traditional ceremonies in the municipality. "I don't mind being treated as a lubra," he told Argus, "not if it means I can also get the job of Municipal Custodian of Women's Secret Business the council's just advertised. That'll be $185,000 a year on top of what I get now."

"The only worthwhile change in titles would be their total abolition," says Burchett Hill's chief censor, Ray Finkelstein. "'Mr' and 'Ms' and all the rest are an invasion of privacy because they reveal without prior acquiescence of the bearer a person's gender - or in this case their 'assigned' gender - which is thus an invasion of privacy. The habit of the Murdoch press in using such titles is one of those media abuses we are intending to crack down on in Burchett Hill."

Totally against the change is the Mayor's chaplain, fierce-featured Imam Ibn al Choppa-hedoff Poofa of Burchett Hill Mosque. The Imam says he is "outraged and humiliated" that he will henceforth be considered a female cleric, in which capacity, he complains, he would be expected to submit to genital mutilation.

Imam Ibn al Choppa-hedoff's opposition is a further indication of an unfortunate rift between the municipality's Islamic community and its ruling Greens councillors, a once close relationship already under strain on account of the council's policy on same-sex marriage (see "Marriage Reform in Action", Argus, 5 September 2012) and a more recent disagreement over "sustainable energy". This latter dispute arose after the Mayor called for the construction of wind turbines on the roofs of all public buildings (the Town Hall now sprouts a forest of whirling blades, each one sending showers of chopped pigeon onto passers-by below) and suggested that the minaret of Imam Ibn al-Choppa-hedoff's mosque would be an equally appropriate site for a turbine. The Iman, to mask the fact that he has concluded a "personal private" deal with a mobile telephone company for the use of the minaret, has rejected the request as "secular interference" and an "insult to the holy purposes" for which minarets were prescribed. He might be "forced", he said with an eagle glare, to resign as chaplain and declare a fatwa against the Mayor and his "sacrilegious cohorts"

"The Sons of the Caliphate,"declared the Imam (referring to an ethnic cultural group subsidised by the council as part of its "Diversity in the Arts" programme), "stand ready with their scimitars sharp and thirsting for infidel blood to bring justice to those who mock the sacred representatives of the Prophet." To safeguard his own blood and in order not to lose the votes of the congregation at the mosque, Councillor Rhiannon hopes to placate the angry Imam by conferring the freedom of the city of Burchett Hill posthumously on Osama bin Laden, whom he describes as "a fallen hero in the world struggle against American imperialism".

30 November 2012

There are other news stories from Burchett Hill in Argus here ("Municipal News"), here ("A Feast of Reason"), here ("On the Street Where You Eat"), here ("The One Day of the Year"), here ("The Glorious First of May"), here ("Support for the Arts"), here ("How May I Not Help You?"), here ("Our Very Own Olympics"), here ("Marriage Reform in Action"), here ("A School Story") and here ("A Voice in the World").



As every keen gardener knows, the war on pests is never-ending. You no sooner get rid of one than there's another to be dealt with. Where I live the most virulent pest is friends and neighbours dropping in uninvited and wanting a cutting of this or some advice on that. They quite spoil the prettiest garden and make it very hard to enjoy outdoor living in the meditational privacy I for one so much treasure. Banishing these pests and making sure they don't come back is a perennial chore.

I have recently had a very exciting inspiration in this regard from an article I was reading in an old National Geographic at the dentist. It was about Amazonian Indians in the Brazilian jungle. Apparently many of them find that, what with one thing and another, there are people around them who make pests of themselves and need to be got rid of. One knows how they feel. Well, to make a long story short, these ingenious inhabitants of the rainforest have devised an infallible form of pest control that is just perfect for the Australian garden too. Let me explain.

First they dig a deep pit - they do this themselves but I would recommend getting a maintenance person to do it because it's very hard work - or if you have a hubby you also want to get rid of and he has cardiac problems, well, look no further! Then they embed some pointed stakes in it (the kind you can get from any good garden supplier). Stand them vertically, about 50 centimetres apart. IT IS ESSENTIAL to keep the sharp end uppermost and not to stint on the stakes. About three dozen would be a minimum for a normal-sized pit.

The next step is to cover the pit by placing a very simple timber frame across it - a piece of trellis would do if the timber's not too solid. You camouflage this with grass and leaves so it can't be seen. The next time a pest drops in, steer him or her towards the pit and dropping in will be exactly what they do - and there's no risk they'll be back again tomorrow either!

I am now having a series of pits dug at strategic points along my front path. When they're ready I intend to give a little garden party for all my regular droppers-in and hopefully after that I'll be left in peace. I'll keep you posted (no pun intended!).

N.B. DO fill in the pit and trample down well as soon as it's full! And DO memorise the location of the pits! Otherwise you'll find yourself joining the droppers-in. And wouldn't that be the pits?

Readers will find earlier gardening notes by "Edna" on 23 March, 24 April and 12 September 2012.

20 November 2012


Mintaro too has been sold (see "Architecture for Sale", Argus 30 October) at its reserve price of $3 million. Its future is a brighter one than that of St Alban's (see update below) though not without clouds. The new owners will "restore it as it was", which presumably means no jacuzzis, but they intend to make the house "pay for itself" by running tours and a "dining experience". Their model apparently is the British television series Country House Rescue. The worrying part is that they're going to embalm Mintaro. The gas lighting will be restored - why? - and "heritage experts" consulted "to ensure fittings and interior decorations are replicated or restored". Translated, that means a riot of commodes, whatnots, bulbous sideboards and other antique-dealers' wares whose putative authenticity is unlikely to preclude aesthetic mediocrity, together with lacy doilies, self-consciously "Victorian" wallpaper and presumably the heritage expert's favourite colours of maroon, dark green and cream wherever you look. But at least the roof will be secure again and the tower won't fall down.

17 November 2012


The lovely church of St Alban in Armadale, Victoria, has now been sold (see "Architecture for Sale", Argus 30 October 2012). For how much and to whom is not disclosed. A "residential use" was much touted in the agent's advertising: with a building so large that would mean flats, and the fine interior of its nave hidden behind a warren of partitions and mezzanines. It will be depressing to see what indignities will now be inflicted on this beautiful church, without doubt one of the best and most original in Australia.

15 November 2012


The damage done by Roman Catholic priests and brothers who so shamefully betrayed their trust with children does not end with the pain and anguish inflicted on innocent lives. By their sins this tiny minority of child-abusers has destroyed the moral authority of the entire Church in the public mind, and in the mind of many Catholics.

What a weapon to hand the forces of secularism.

With what authority now can the Church argue against abortion and progressive causes such as gay "marriage"? Who would listen?

No one believes child abuse is peculiar to Catholic clergy, and in percentage terms clerical abusers are fairly low down the list compared with other walks in life that are in contact with children. The problem is endemic in our morally decadent society. Yet in the media and in the utterances of children's "advocacy groups" (often adults with an axe to grind) the Church is daily singled out as though it were the sole offender.

Is it only my nasty suspicious nature that makes me wonder whether the frenzy of these accusations is not wholly unconnected with the Roman Catholic Church's vigorous opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage? Many of those in politics and the media whose attacks on the Church are loudest, and who will do their best to turn the forthcoming Royal Commission into a forum of anti-Catholic propaganda, are enthusiasts for these causes. It is clearly in their interest that the Catholic Church be rendered so despicable in general estimation that no one will dream of taking any notice of anything it says on any moral or social issue.

So although the cries of condemnation of child abuse are no doubt sincere, many who cry loudest must admit with equal sincerity that it's an ill wind that blows no good. The clerical abusers have done them a favour.

14 November 2013


"It matters not who won or lost, but how you played the game," wrote a poet called William Ernest Henley (1849-1903), a quotation much employed by schoolmasters of a certain era to console a losing team. All very true of sporty games no doubt, but not of the great game of the United States presidential election in which who won matters enormously to the whole world.

As to how he played the game, the challenger Romney gave the challenged Obama a great run for his money and, one suspects, not a few moments of panic as well. For his part, Obama played the game in the manner that served him so well in 2008, relying heavily on the vacuous rhetoric strategy ("Together we can" etc) albeit with an air of flagging conviction, as though even he were wondering if anyone was still taken in by it. He needn't have worried. Enough voters lapped it up to keep the challenger out of the White House. Or they voted for the President because they had not got over their love affair with his colour, either racialistically as in the case of black voters sticking en bloc with the candidate who is supposedly one of themselves, or romantically, as with white liberals expiating their vicarious guilt by voting for an alleged descendant of the victims of past oppression. Nor would the shamelessly partisan media coverage, which stopped just short of presenting Romney as a Mormon kook, have helped voters form a balanced judgment. One imagines President Obama can hardly believe his luck. Obviously, too few Americans are troubled or personally affected by what his inept and spendthrift first term has done to the United States economy - an ineffable level of debt, China virtually with a mortgage on the nation - to hold him to account for it. Still blowing hard with the rhetoric, he exhorted the nation in his last speech before the poll to give his administration "the chance to finish what we have started". The heart quails to think of the straits the US will be in once he has done.

If Obama has won the election the Left has won America. Not the old no-nonsense Left that used to stand up for the poor and weak against big business and the banks, but the soft new Left, selectively conscience-stricken about everything in the American historical record, aggressively secular, sybaritic, that thinks the state owes it a living. The kind of Left represented by one Sandra Fluke, a 31-year-old perpetual student, whose speech decrying the horrors of a state in which there was no Obamacare to pay for her contraception, and presumably for disposing of the consequences of any malfunction in whatever contrivances she employs, was a great success in Washington and on the campaign trail.

This was an election between two Americas: the new one of Barack and Sandra and the old one of work and enterprise and moral responsibility that became - on the whole benevolently - the most powerful nation in history and guarantor of the free world. That's a role the new America doesn't have the stamina or inclination to continue; after four more years of Obama it won't have the means either.

Scarcely reassuring for us here in Australia. 

8 November 2012


Another blast of Greenhouse gas from a triumphant Obama.

"I will return to the White House more determined and inspired than ever."

Oh dear.

9 November 2012



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6 November 2012


The Ordinariate decreed by the Pope for Anglicans wishing to convert to Rome yet retain their liturgical "Anglican patrimony" is up and running in Australia and services in the Anglican tradition, suitably modified to conform to Roman Catholic doctrine and practice, are being held at a Catholic parish church in Melbourne.

It might be argued that the extent of the modifications leaves room for only a limited degree of recognisably Anglican patrimony; but given that most if not all members of the Ordinariate come from the High or Anglo-Catholic Anglican tradition, whose liturgy is closely modelled on Catholic rites (pre-Vatican II Catholic in some cases) and owes not much at all to that touchstone of Anglican orthodoxy, the Book of Common Prayer, there is not a great deal of Anglican patrimony to accommodate.

This, however, is not the case in the branch of the Ordinariate now established in the inner-city municipality of Burchett Hill, where the Ordinary, the Right Rev. Hugh Lancelot Waldegrave Montgomery-Campbell-Blomfield, is determined not only that the "historic face of Anglicanism" will be expressed in liturgy, but that Catholic doctrine and practice "will have to adjust to our tradition rather than the other way round." A proud and independent spirit (he is the direct descendant of two Anglican Bishops of London), Dr Montgomery-Campbell-Blomfield is invariably to be seen around Burchett Hill in the traditional day costume of Anglican bishops as worn until the 1950s - gaiters, apron and frock coat and a Homburg hat with strings on it. When officiating he wears a voluminous rochet with bands and billowing lawn sleeves and a mortar board, with, "as a concession to Catholic patrimony," a stole and chasuble over the rochet if the service is Mass.

"We represent an Anglicanism untainted by the Oxford Movement or Tractarianism," says the Ordinary, "the pure undefiled Anglicanism of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, that remarkable epoch of Erastian vigour. Ours is the Anglicanism of Parson Woodforde, of George Herbert and that eminent divine Nathaniel, third Baron Crew and Bishop of Oxford," he explained, adjusting his lawn sleeves in preparation for a service of Commination.

The Burchett Hill Ordinariate has been assigned the use of the Catholic church of Our Lady of the Pierced Heart, a dedication Ordinariate members feel "is not really very Anglican-sounding" and which they hope to change to St George's. The church building has already undergone some necessary adjustments to fit it for Ordinariate services. An Italian marble high altar with throne of exposition and attendant angels has been crated up and reassembled in the Ordinary's residence (the rambling twelve-bedroom presbytery beside the church) where, laden with silver salvers, bowls of fruit and decanters of port, it is in service as a sideboard in the dining room - the Ordinary believes that "to be consistent with our Anglican patrimony" he should live like an eighteenth-century prelate as well as act like one in church. In place of the altar there is a wooden communion table - "portable, as the Elizabethan Injunctions require," explains Dr Montgomery-Campbell-Blomfield, "and covered with the decent carpet of stuff prescribed by Canon 82 of 1604." Behind this is what is now the centrepiece of the church, a towering three-decker pulpit with sounding board. Here the Ordinary officiates twice a day, sonorously intoning Morning and Evening Prayer. There is no parish clerk to make the responses, but the presbytery housekeeper, Mrs Kathleen O'Malley, who has been kept on to run the Ordinary's domestic establishment, does her best to "help out", taking her place in the lowest level of the pulpit and reading out the responses from a vast Prayer Book on a purple velvet cushion, though somewhat undermining the classic dignity of the liturgy by the impenetrability of her Connemara brogue and by frequently losing her place. "It's all a lot of stuff and nonsense anyway," she has been heard to grumble. "Why can't I use me Little Flower Daily Missal like we used to?"

Beside the communion table a tall pot-bellied stove, as once seen in many a rural English church, sends out intermittent bursts of heat on cold days. Though untroubled by speculations about climate change - he would describe himself as a Latitudinarian in this regard - Dr Montgomery-Campbell-Blomfield had the church's gas heating system turned off for good when the last bill came in. "There's too much mollycoddling these days," he says. "Gilbert White didn't have ducted heating. And I for one never feel the cold," - this latter assertion being hardly surprising given the proximity of the stove to the triple-decker pulpit. When the Ordinary ascends to the uppermost level at sermon time to deliver one of his substantial homiletic disquisitions, in a tradition of preaching Dr Johnson would have savoured, replete with quotations in classical Greek, he is level with the top of the stovepipe.

A screen for projecting the words of hymns, mounted on the east wall by the former parish priest, has been replaced by elegant polished timber boards in a Georgian design inscribed with the words of the Ten Commandments and the Lord's Prayer. The low bench pews have been removed from the church and proper high-walled box pews constructed in their place, two of which, reserved for principal Ordinariate benefactors, have their own fireplaces, as was common in the eighteenth century. Dr Montgomery-Campbell-Blomfield is toying with reintroducing pew rents, once the St George's congregation increases above its present four.

The church has a fine Fincham organ, unused since after the Second Vatican Council when a then curate, long-haired jeans-clad Father Damien "Chuck" McHartigan, very popular with the younger parishioners and now resident c/o the Sexual Offenders' Unit, HM Prison, Burchett Hill Heights, introduced a "teens' combo" to play and sing at Sunday Mass under the name of the Marty Haugen Groovers. For Ordinariate services Dr Montgomery-Campbell-Blomfield is hoping to get enough voices together for "a traditional Anglican village choir", as depicted in the well known painting by Thomas Webster in the Victoria & Albert Museum, to be accompanied "in true eighteenth-century fashion" by viol, cello, clarinet and flute. Its repertoire would be drawn exclusively from the pages of Hymns Ancient & Modern.

The Ordinary has also devoted his attention to the presbytery and done his best to turn it into something resembling an English episcopal palace. Its principal rooms, uniformly dull and indiscriminately used by earlier parish priests for meetings, watching television and storing donations for the parish op shop, have been formally designated drawing room, library, morning room, music room and audience room, in the last of which Dr Montgomery-Campbell-Blomfield presides over Ordinariate chapter meetings in a full-bottomed eighteenth-century wig. The hideous jazz-patterned curtains, the "Fler" chairs, leatherette-upholstered couches, faded Genoa velvet club chairs, AWA radiogram with its recordings of Father Sydney MacEwan ("Mountains of Mourne", "The Wearin' o' the Green") and other 1950s furniture accumulated by his predecessors have been thrown out, together with the framed prints of racehorses and Sacred Hearts that cluttered the walls and a bronze bust of Archbishop Mannix. The Ordinary has refurnished the presbytery, thanks to a timely bequest from an aunt, with chintz-covered sofas, breakfront bookcases, Victorian landscapes in gilt frames and a huge mahogany partners' desk for himself, with silver inkstand and candle-snuffers. Firelight flickers on tooled leather bindings, silver, glass and marble from the roaring blaze Mrs O'Malley is charged with keeping going in all main rooms.

The latter functionary, in order that she might not to spoil the stately effect with her floral pinny and lambswool slippers, has been persuaded, albeit with some difficulty, to wear a white cap and apron when going about her duties. "Got tickets on 'imself, that one 'as," she confided to the newsagent while doing her Tattslotto, "thinks 'e's living in Downting Abbey or somewhere."

The Ordinary's assertion and implementation of the true principles of Anglicanism raises the question of why he joined the Ordinariate in the first place. "The Anglicanism of today is not the Anglicanism of the past," he explains. "It might seem paradoxical but that vanished Anglicanism has more in common with Catholicism than the present-day version with its female clerics and the rest. Catholicism has a reputation for rigorous conformity but this has not so far been the experience of our Burchett Hill Ordinariate. Once you're in you can do pretty much as you like."

3 November 2012