Je Suis Ove (et Don)

Have you ever read a book and thought, ‘That’s me!’?.  I’ve read two – ‘A Man Called Ove’ (which you may have seen as a film) and Don in ‘The Rosie Project’ – and felt this.  It’s quite disconcerting when a writer gets at your heart.  It’s as if you are transparent…But luckily, if the  characters are flawed, immoral or dangerous, you are the only one aware of it and, not wishing to reveal your heart of hearts, you may escape detection of your dark centre.

Now, if you’ve read either of these books, I doubt you will have had this feeling.  If you know me you may think what I feel is slightly odd, because Ove and Don are rather strange, unlikeable characters and you may feel (hopefully?) I am not like that.  But, inside, this is what is going on in my head.Read More »


I Hate ‘Love’.

I love you’.  I hate it.  Not love, but the phrase.  I hear it so often.  It’s used so frequently it’s virtually meaningless.   A phrase used to fill the gap, make the hearer feel good.   But real love is fundamental to a good life.  What can we do about the phrase?

Degrading the Language

Part of the problem with the phrase ‘I love you’ is that it represents just a small – but very important – part of the general degradation of language.  The use of increasingly superlative words for ordinary actions.  ‘Amazing’, ‘fabulous’, ‘fantastic’, ‘unbelievable’, ‘great’, ‘the best’ and so on.  These words are used endlessly each day.  ‘What an amazing cup of coffee’.  ‘You cooked a meal.  Fantastic.’

Garrison Keilor, the great American storyteller, ended his weekly story from Lake Wobegon with ‘…and all the children are above average’.  It used to be a joke, but now it seems all the children – and everyoneis apparently above average on almost everything.  Wow, isn’t that fantastic!  Unbelievable.  Well, actually, it is unbelievable.  It’s simply not possible mathematically.

And so ‘like’ has been replaced with ‘love’, increasingly followed by XXs and now by several emojis.    Everyone ‘loves’ everybody they know.  ‘Admire’, ‘respect’ and similar words have gone.   But in reality, this (respect, like, admire) is what we feel for most of the people we claim to ‘love’.   Similarly, ‘best wishes’ and ‘sincerely’ have gone from birthday and celebration cards and FB (actually they never even reached FB!) to be replaced by ‘love.

What’s wrong with ‘love’?  It’s fake news.

But isn’t ‘love’ positive?  Isn’t positive good?  How could I hate this wonderful phrase ‘I love you’?

What’s wrong is that it is an example of fake news.  I’ve always been a person who tries to tell the truth, to say it how it is, to call it as I see it.  And I don’t see ‘love’ everywhere, I don’t feel ‘love’ for everything, everyone I know.  I want to reserve this very special phrase for very special people in my life, for very special situations.

People say ‘But you must love everyone in your family?  Well, actually, no I don’t!  Some I love, some I like, some I’m neutral towards and some I actually don’t like’.  And, if you are honest, this is almost certainly how you feel about your family.  (I blogged much earlier on preferring friends over family.)

Actually, I use ‘love’ more now than I used to.  Isn’t this contradictory?  No, its not.  I’ve actually felt ‘love’ for a lot of my friends, but been afraid to express it, for all the reasons above.  Now I go out of my way to use ‘love’ more, but only for those for whom I mean it.  Sometimes it feels odd, especially when sending ‘love’ to a male friend, or an attractive female friend.  In this respect, I agree that there should be more love in the world.  We could certainly do with more making love and less (or zero) making war in this world.  What I don’t agree with is expressing love where it isn’t meant.  Which seems to be most of the time.

So, dear readers, I thank you for reading my blog.  Some of you I may indeed ‘love’.  Some I may ‘respect’, ‘admire’ or ‘like’.  Some I don’t even know and I might not even like you…but thanks for reading and I hope the blog continues to be thought-provoking.  Perhaps you will rethink your use of the word ‘love’

and perhaps we can recapture the wonderful value of this simple, but so powerful, word.


As most of us despair the deceit, wilful blindness, self-centred arrogance and corruption of many politicians and leaders in all of our countries, I wondered how do we find a new way to reconfigure the process, create a genuinely new framework for rethinking our societies?  We’ve had capitalism, centred on the power of money and markets.  We’ve had communism, centred on making everyone equal.  We’ve had socialism, centred on protecting the weak.  We’ve had dictatorships, centred on a few powerful people making decisions for the rest of us.  We’ve had democracy, centred on equal rights to speak and vote.  We’ve had religion, centred on the basis of blind faith in the mystical.  We’ve had royalty, centred on the power of a specified family.

All of these have their weaknesses, as we are too painfully aware.  I propose a new political philosophy of ‘peoplism”.  Peoplism focuses a government on what people actually need.  Let me explain how it would reframe our priorities and decisionmaking.Read More »


I went to a Rugby Union game one night recently, followed by an Aussie Rules game the following night.  The contrast could not be greater.  I once found Union an interesting game, especially when the Barbarians were playing (a guest team dedicated to attractive play, rather than winning).  But over recent years I’ve found I prefer Rugby League to Union and AFL by far to either.  Whatever happened to Union?  It seems to have missed the changes which  most games have made to themselves to become more attractive to spectators wanting more action, more entertainment.  I have some ideas for how it could catch up.Read More »


Many visitors to Melbourne complain about its myki public transport card, particularly the need to pay $10 for the card before you can use it.  But my visit to Sydney last weekend – wonderful in all other aspects – was spoiled by the ripoff Opal public transport card pricing experience at Sydney Airport.  Visitors to Sydney be warned.  I was shocked.  Let me explain.

First Experiences:  Visitors Arriving in Sydney

Like most visitors to Sydney, I arrived by plane.  I’m a public transport advocate and user whenever possible.  The huge ads in Sydney Airport claim (correctly) that it only takes 15 minutes to get to the CBD on the train, so it was a no-brainer to go down the escalators to the underground stop.  Very modern, very sensible (memo to Melbourne:  copy this connection please).

I went to the window to buy the Opal card.  Told the seller that I was going to the city, then the Blue Mountains next day (which I knew cost $8 each way for a 2-hour train trip), that I would be in Sydney for 4 days, returning to the airport.  He told me I should put $40 on the ‘free’ compulsory card. Some gem this Opal must be!

$40, I said??  Two years ago, I went into the CBD from mascot and it only cost a couple of dollars, thanks to the advice of a friendly customer service officer, recognising me as a senior.

Senior?, he said.  We can’t give you a senior card here (it’s advertised at the office).  You need to go to Central station to apply for one.  Cost to get to Central?, I asked.  $17, he said.  $17 I exclaimed??  It was only about $2 last time from Mascot, a station just across the way from the airport.

A captive market…at the Airport!

I walked away to assess my options.  They were few and not good (about the same as you have trying to park at a privatised airport).  Back into the queue I went, chastened, to buy the free adult (not seniors) Opal, put $40 on it and chugged it down.

6 stops later, I arrived at my hotel, some 200 metres from the station.  Fuming, I asked the concierge about the public transport system.  Smiling knowingly, he told me I could travel virtually anywhere on the system (train, bus, ferry) for a low price, that there was a maximum price of $15 a day and a maximum of $2.50 on Sundays (due to some recent government decision – perhaps an election is looming…).  The only place where this did not apply was….Sydney Airport.  I could travel to Mascot (before the airport) or Wolli Creek (after the airport) for a low price ($3 he suggested), but if I went to the airport, it cost $17. (Seniors  prices may be lower, but it was unattractive to go separately to Central to apply there for a separate card with unknown benefits, especially given it was almost 5pm on a Friday afternoon, so I didn’t ask him about that.)

This is market pricing at its best!  But what a terrible welcome to visitors to be so obviously ripped off at virtually the only station they are likely to enter (or leave) the system at.  And how depressing that a desired non-road government-owned public transport system charges prices that make a private cab fare to the CBD look economical and socially attractive, especially if you have to drag a bag more than a couple of blocks.

Fixing the Opal Pricing System

Perhaps I missed something. I’ve not heard others complain about this system, yet in Melbourne complaints about the $10 myki10 card are frequent.  But at least in Melbourne you can buy the card you need at the airport entry point and you only pay the $10 once, whereas in Sydney you pay the $17 twice (arrival and departure)!

Fixing Opal pricing would be easy.  NSW Government Departments of Tourism and of Transport, please take note!

  1. Treat Sydney Airport as a regular – not a special – station, thereby reducing fares to normal fares.  (This would of course encourage many local passengers to also take the train, thereby recovering revenue quite quickly through increased volume.)
  2. Provide a facility at Sydney Airport for seniors Opals, where it is needed.
  3. If there is any significant revenue loss from these moves, raise revenue by, say $0.10 per journey or per stop across the system. I’m sure this would be more than enough to compensate for the loss of revenue at Sydney Airport station itself.

Comparing the Sydney Airport and Blue Mountains public transport experience

The following day I took friends to the Blue Mountains on the same train system.  The journey lasted 2 hours each way.  It was very pleasant travelling, a cleaner came round during the journey to collect rubbish, the tap on/tap off system worked well, signage was good.  It was a remarkable experience for $8 each way.  Indeed, here the NSW general public is probably being ripped off by only charging $8, which seemed ridiculously low.

Such a pity to start – and end – my trip to such a wonderful city as Sydney with such a poor public transport experience.  Come on Sydney.  Lift your game!