Saturday, 13 December 2014

Good Servants Are So Hard to Find

Courtesy of Tim Blair, my laugh-out-loud moment of the weekend:

Every week a Guardian Money reader submits a question, and it’s up to you to help him or her out – a selection of the best answers will appear in next Saturday’s paper. 
This week’s question
A pay cut means we have had to sack our cleaner to save the £25 a week she cost, but, a month on, nothing’s being cleaned and the house is starting to resemble a squat. We set aside two hours on a Saturday morning but it’s not happening. How do other couples divvy up the cleaning without major rows? 
What do you think? 
Do you have a problem readers could solve? Email your suggestions to or write to us at Money, The Guardian, Kings Place, 90 York Way, London N1 9GU
 Some of Blair's correspondents have proposed some excellent solutions:

Open the front and back doors, fire up the leaf blower, done in 2 minutes.
Their only option appears to be to sell their house.
Worker of Sydney (Reply)
Sat 13 Dec 14 (03:55pm)
If you clean just a small spot, entropy will gradually clean the rest of the house for you as it continuously fills in the cleaned spot.
rhhardin of Ohio (Reply)
Sat 13 Dec 14 (10:42pm)

Friday, 5 December 2014

Giving 'Feedback' to Your PP

Over at Fr Z's Blog, I found this in the combox from Fr Angel Sotelo. It strikes me as a very wise list of pointers to remember when you want to tear a strip off your parish priest for real or imagined infractions.

Some other rules in “correcting” a priest whose behavior you do not approve of: 
1) This is your personal disapproval. DO NOT act like you speak for the parish–because you don’t, e.g. “Other parishioners have remarked that you….” Perhaps there are also parishioners who like Father very much, and would slap you if they saw you correcting him. So don’t make yourself the spokesperson of “the parish." 
2) Stick with very specific examples and do not turn into a mystical fortune teller, e.g. “If you keep this up, you will drive people away” or “Your actions are the reason the Church is going in a bad direction.” Beware of such prophecies, for many a parish has thrived under a harsh and rude pastor who had other good qualities that you didn’t notice. 
3) Describe behavior without judgments about the cause of Father’s behavior. Do not make yourself Miss Cleo the psychic and attempt to know Father’s inner intentions: “You’re constantly acting from your need to be the center of the universe.” Gee, and here we thought that only God can read interior motives and intentions. 
4) Do not get personal and lob nasty ad hominems, because even if Father forgives you, he may never forget, and his demeanor with you will be permanently harmed. Comments such as “I just knew you would not listen to my constructive criticism–I feel so sorry for the people who will suffer under your leadership” or “Priests like you make me ashamed and embarrassed to be a Catholic.” 
5) Remember that if you forget that Father is the human being he is, and push him too far, he could decide to give it right back to you, and blurt out something like, “Speaking of people who are suffering, your teenage son two weeks ago said he had the worst mother in the parish, calling you Queen B**ch to his friends while waiting for confirmation class to start. I can perfectly see now what he was talking about.” Many a parishioner has been left with lifelong scars that he or she picked up in an ugly showdown with a priest that got personal.

A masterly list, which is why I'm reproducing it here so that I can always find it again ...

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Julie Burchill on Islam

'Julie Burchill' and 'Islam'. Now there are two concepts you don't often see put into the one sentence ...

But I believe she's really nailed it in this Spectator article. I - and Tim Blair as well, thank goodness, so I know it's not just me - continue to wonder why Australian feminists are silent about the authentic misogyny that is gaining ground all around them, while relentlessly pursuing matters of complete and utter irrelevance to everyone else but them.

Meanwhile, Brendan O'Neill has noticed that students aren't perhaps quite as radical as they used to be. Oh man. Reading this article took me back (flashback-style) to Helen Garner's book The First Stone and the fallout over the so-called Ormond College Affair in Melbourne.

This has been going on for decades now; we must be into our second generation of self-righteous students, surely?

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Public Lecture: Martin O'Meara VC

In case any of you were wondering why I was being interviewed by the ABC and getting into trouble about Martin O'Meara VC - it's because I'm giving the Frederick Bell VC Memorial Lecture this year. And you are warmly invited, if you happen to be in the area!

'More than Ordinary Care: Martin O'Meara VC'
Friday 14 November
Cottesloe Civic Centre, Broome St, Cottesloe
6pm for 6.30pm start

Please RSVP to Dr Neville Green, RSL Cottesloe Sub-branch,, by Friday 7 November for catering purposes (light supper beforehand).

Gold coin donation at admission; all funds go to the RSL.

About the Presentation:

Born in Ireland, Martin O’Meara came to Western Australia as a young man and worked as a labourer and sleeper-cutter before enlisting in 1915. He showed conspicuous bravery during the Pozières offensive, repeatedly going out into no man’s land to rescue wounded men and to carry up ammunition. He was awarded the VC by King George V in London in July 1917. 

O’Meara returned to Western Australia in November 1918, and was quarantined at Woodman’s Point because of the Spanish flu pandemic. But within a week of his arrival, he became violent and incoherent, and was diagnosed with ‘delusional insanity’ and taken to Stromness in Cottesloe, a home which was used for returned servicemen with shell shock. From there, he was transferred to Claremont Hospital for the Insane, and remained confined there and at Lemnos Hospital until his death in 1935. 

From this stigmatised obscurity, O’Meara has since become a cult figure for military, Irish, mental health and local historians. This presentation will provide an introduction to: 

• O’Meara’s known biography and war record;
• existing sources of information about his life in hospital; 
• his diagnosis and management in the context of Western Australian psychiatry at the time; 
• the way in which his illness was presented in local newspapers during his life; and 
• the subsequent historiography of his life and death.  

Conflict of Interest

My take on the Nova Peris thing, at QED.

Query: did the organisation for which Peris worked at the time have a conflict of interest policy/procedure?

And if not, why not?

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Martin O'Meara VC

Journalist Andrea Mayes interviewed me via email the other week, and has written what I think is a sensitive and balanced article about Martin O'Meara VC on her online news page.

(I wouldn't have used the word 'debunked', myself, because that's not what I'm trying to do, but that's a minor quibble.)

This article, though, has caused something of a stir. Some of the responses I've had indicate that people think it is insulting to suggest that O'Meara may have had something already in his makeup that turned out to be both a strength and a weakness, and that it in some way diminishes his courage under fire.

So here's some broad responses to some of the criticisms I've received:

1) We can't say with any precision WHAT O'Meara's diagnosis was, because the records are too old and too imperfect. And even if we did have good records, psychiatry is still such an inexact science that we'd still only be speculating. People tend to forget that psychiatry is still uncertain about the origins of almost all mental illnesses.

2) It's not casting aspersions on O'Meara, or on any other war veteran, to speculate that he may have had a pre-existing condition or a genetic predisposition that led to his serious problems after the war, which included a lot of violent outbursts and delusions.

3) Martin O'Meara may not have had what we now call PTSD; he may have had trauma-induced psychosis. This is slightly different, and bears more examination in the light of some of his symptoms. And there's nothing wrong with speculating about this, as long as it's acknowledged as speculation.

4) If pre-existing conditions and genetic predispositions are as widespread in the general population as some psychiatric researchers think they are, then they are going to be represented in the military, as well as in other walks of life.

5) Not everything to do with mental conditions is relentlessly negative. People with diagnoses have reported all kinds of new insights, new talents and new ways of seeing life, as a direct result of their diagnosis. Hence the Churchill comparison; a man whose mental illness was an inescapable part of his life, but which also moulded his character in ways that we can all be grateful for.

6) O'Meara's courage is unquestioned, as is his contribution under fire. It doesn't diminish this to speculate that some of that courage came from an inner disposition which, once the trauma of war was over, also led him to become so very unwell for the rest of his life.

After WWI, most men with psychiatric injury who returned to Western Australia were sent to Claremont Hospital for the Insane. After a huge amount of public campaigning, and some very good machinations by the State government, Lemnos Hospital was built and opened in 1926.

This Hospital came into existence because enough people saw a difference between 'people who went mad of their own fault' - the alcoholics, people with tertiary syphilis, and other undesirables who filled Claremont at the time - and 'people who went mad in a noble cause', such as war veterans.

Do we still think that way about people with mental illnesses? And do we treat them differently because we make judgements about the origin of their mental problems?