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Friday, August 24, 2012
Sunday, August 19, 2012
Quadruple amputee competes swim linking world's continents - Telegraph
A French quadruple amputee has completed an icy swim from America to Russia as the final part of a swimming quest to link the world's continents.
Philippe Croizon, 44, who lost his limbs in an electrocution accident 18 years ago, uses special flippers attached to prosthetic limbs to move through the water. He braved strong currents and near-zero temperatures to make the 2.5 mile journey from the island of Little Diomede in Alaska to Big Diomede in eastern Russia. It took him 80 minutes.
"This was the hardest swim of my life, with a water temperature of four degrees Celsius (39 degrees Fahrenheit) and strong currents," he told the AFP news agency after reaching the Russian island on Friday.
Since May, Mr Croizon, who is accompanied by long-distance swimmer Arnaud Chassery, 35, has swum across three other straits separating the world's continents. The pair swam from Papua New Guinea to Indonesia, crossing from Oceania to Asia; across the Red Sea from Egypt to Jordan, linking Africa and Asia; and from Spain to Morocco, between Europe and Africa.
Mr Croizon had his limbs amputated in 1994 after being struck by an electric shock of more than 20,000 volts as he tried to remove a TV antenna from a roof. He said his accomplishment was a message of encouragement to other disabled people.
"I tell them: 'Everything is possible, everything can be done when you have the will to go beyond yourself'. We're all equal, disabled and non-disabled people on all continents."
For photos, please go to
Footnote: Somehow, my niggles don't seem too bad...
Saturday, August 11, 2012
Music may well soothe .......
written by Tony Wright...
Wambyn Olive Farm; sanctuary for ruined pianos. Photo: Supplied
A PIANO sat at the centre of things in our family. It still does. Any excuse for a gathering set the piano singing. Birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas, Easter, picnic races, a sheep or cattle sale, a wake …
Our grandfather played almost anything with great elegance, from the classics to music hall, cousins stepped up with boogie-woogie and rock'n'roll and we'd wait for an uncle to drop his left shoulder at the keyboard, a certain sign he was in the mood for Hank Williams.
Our mother was given to Schubert and Brahms and accompanied our father with his fine tenor and his love of arias; an aunt possessed a soprano that could make the night roll away.
And as the hours went by in the old family homestead, everyone reached back and the songs of Ireland floated across dark Australian paddocks, as if Donegal and Galway hadn't been left behind generations before. On those nights, the Mountains of Mourne swept down to the sea a very long way from County Down, and there was still the ache of diaspora to it.
Music diverts, inspires and heals. It lends context and variation to the colour of life.
My brother could twist the delicate Moonlight Sonata into a long free-form jazz improvisation, Beethoven still somehow contained within it, setting a trance upon us.
When a motorcycle crash took him, hardly more than a boy, the clan gathered for the mourning and sought solace in the piano in the knowledge that here, at least, the magic that was his would never quite fade away.
A singularly musically gifted cousin has rescued the old piano from our grandparents' home and built a stone shrine around it. It is still perfectly in tune, vibrating with memories.
My daughters, who play guitar, remain entranced when my mother, in her 90s now, finds herself regularly moved to sit before her piano and lose herself in music.
The piano - upright, baby grand or grand - seems a peculiar instrument in these restless times. So bulky, so immoveable, so permanent in an era when our lives have become
utterly mobile and our pleasures airily transportable. Why, you can stick your entire musical collection in your pocket and plug into it with a set of earphones wherever and
whenever you wish.
An old piano is an anchor. Perhaps that physical quality constitutes much of its enduring allure. Hold on, it says, you mustn't discard the past so easily - slow down, sit awhile, let it sing old tunes to you.
Even when a piano dies, its frame cracked, leaving it beyond the skill of a tuner, there are those who can't bear to consign it to the breaking yard. In the West Australian wheat belt, a farming couple has granted asylum to exhausted pianos.
Jason Cotter, a writer from the Mornington Peninsula, recently penned an essay about the sanctuary for ruined pianos established by Kim Hack and Penny Mossop on their Wambyn Olive Farm, not far from the village of York, east of Perth. More than 20 old instruments sit scattered around the paddocks, beneath trees, by windmills, home to bush rats and possums and termites, the wind caressing their strings. Visitors from around the world come to pay tribute. Cotter wrote that he found ''less of a funeral and more of a life well-lived''.
Perhaps, though I remain unconvinced. It sounds like a graveyard for lost good times.
A piano, indeed, is nothing without the music, its reason for existence.
And you don't have to find your music in a piano. It is, in the end, nothing more than an instrument - albeit an instrument of genius - from which the enchantment of music can be conjured.
<snip> the full loveliness of its original name.
It's Italian for quiet-loud.
Tony Wright is national affairs editor. Follow him on Twitter @tonyowright
Monday, August 6, 2012
Friday, August 3, 2012
The rhythm was even, and gentle,
to and fro, to and fro…
For so many years he dreamed,
whiling away the hours
as he rocked the memories
gently in his mind.
It was all so quiet now,
not like before, so many years ago.
Then, he'd often thought
that the noise was making tunnels in his mind.
It was then that he'd wished
for silence. Not now.
He was at peace with himself
and with the world
but still, he couldn't help recalling
the sounds of times gone past.
At one time, his verandah
reverberated with the hoops
of fierce Red Indians
fighting for their lives.
Wild battles with Custer's men
threatened to rock the very foundations
of his existence..
but gentle little nurses waited nearby.
Nothing was left unnoticed,
or unloved. The pots of palms
became jungles, hiding wild animals..
A discarded light shade
shielded a great white hunter
from the steamy glare
of the jungles of imagination.
Such times they were!
Only the cream of local society
was invited to the tea parties.
Gingerbread men, wearing garbs
of peppermint icing, nestled cosily
alongside pink frosted patty cakes,
proudly crowned with a glistening red cherry.
Tiny white china cups held promises
of cool, sticky lemonade.
To and fro, to and fro, he rocked..
crumbs of memories
scattered in his dreams.
The gate squeaked, a whoop, a cry!
A laughing cluster of children
tumbled up the path.
"Grandad, it's us..
we've come to stay!"