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Countess Marie Douglas-David wants her pre-nuptial agreement torn up and her divorce payout doubled to $100 million plus $130,000 a month. Her expenses are more than she thought.

Meanwhile, his expenses are higher than hers, but include $67,000 a week maintaining his wife’s residences. And $95,000 a week keeping his yacht up to scratch.

It’s a hard life.

He was a great actor and a brave man.

From an article by Daniel Finkelstein:

The night after he spoke to the 2004 Republican convention .. Ron said that he expected many of his Hollywood liberal friends would cut him off. It was something he didn’t relish, but he was ready for it. He thought it a price worth paying to be able to say what he thought.

Why should doing what he did have been so rare and so brave? And why did it have such a high price?

For most of his career Ron was an emblematic Hollywood liberal Democrat. He was president of Actors’ Equity for a decade, established the Creative Coalition liberal lobby group with artists such as Susan Sarandon and Alec Baldwin, stumped the country for Bill Clinton and was a prominent campaigner for abortion rights. But after 9/11 Ron went one way, and his liberal friends another. He believed that the fight against Islamism was a fight for his liberal values and he thought that his erstwhile allies didn’t take it seriously enough.

In Hollywood, supporting Bush on any grounds was completely unacceptable.

Group think is a dangerous thing – and it takes courage to stand against it. Thanks Ron.

Stephanie Marsh suggests there is a darker side to Austrian culture. The Fritzl case is proof. Well of course there is. There is a darker side to every culture.

Australian generosity and mateship can descend into boorishiness and violence. But newspaper reports about Ivan Milat and the backpacker murders are not the place to learn about Australian culture. Every nation has its share of racism. Every nation has its share of monsters.

Austria is not alone in these things, and suggesting it is, as this Times article indicates Marsh’s book does, is a kind of racism itself.

A Samoan woman coming to New Zealand on a seasonal work visa had a baby on the plane over. She left the baby in a rubbish bin before coming through immigration.

Questions are being asked (understandably) about why no one noticed she was pregnant – how she came to be granted a seasonal work visa, how she got through immigration on the Samoan side, why Pacific Blue staff did not question her before putting her on the plane.

Someone once told me that, no matter what her appearance, you should never assume a woman is pregnant unless you see an actual baby appearing between her legs. That’s good advice for social interaction, but surely immigration and airline staff are expected to take a little more responsibility?

Apparently both mother and baby are in hospital in Auckland and are doing well. But surely questions should also be asked about whether a woman who tossed her new born baby in the garbage to ease her passing through immigration has the willingness and ability to give this child the ongoing love and care it deserves?

When I first read about the Baz Luhrmann tourism ads for Australia, I shared Andrew Bolt’s concern that they were both unattractive – ie, not likely to attract visitors to Australia, and that they sent the wrong message about Australia. They sounded dull, even morose.

Of course, I hadn’t seen  them then.

I was watching TV a couple of nights ago when one of those ads came on. It wasn’t immediately clear what it was. I thought it was a station promo for a movie or a new series. And without knowing what it was, Amanda and I both decided that it looked interesting and that we would check the time and turn the TV back on to watch it later. I was astonished when I realised it was an ad inviting people to visit Australia.

OK, so there are no well endowed young ladies bouncing along Bondi Beach. There’s no Paul Hogan throwing another shrimp on the barbie. But Australia is more than buxom blondes, beaches and practical jokers.

As a nation, Australia clings to the edges. There is a vast blankness inside, which can be both scary and liberating. A journey to the geographical heart of Australia lends itself to being a journey of self-discovery – through the vast wrenching dust and hopelessness to the sacred rocks and waterholes. This is part of what it means to be Australian – it is more authentically ‘us’ than the Gold Coast. It is a gift we have to share.

It has been a long road, but we are almost home. Amanda and I left Wanganui yesterday and drove up to Auckland, where my brother David manages a complex of 114 apartments in the city CBD.

It was a difficult few days leading up to leaving Wanganui, not only because Amanda is still not well – that will take months – but because of practical matters from packing up her house, to finding a new home for her cat, to saying goodbye to her friends.

The day before we left I had a meeting with leaders at the hospital – the CEO, DON, Chair of the Board and others, to discuss aspects of the hospital’s care for Amanda, including this summary I had written of observations of aspects of managament and clinical care at the hospital: Standards of Care at Whanganui Hospital

I was encouraged by their response, but the hospital has a long history of ‘taking advice on board’ and listening carefully then sailing on unchanged, so it will be interesting to see if there is any real committment to changing the culture and improving levels of service. 

But here we are in Auckland, and the sun is shining. Four more days and we will be in Brisbane, and another three days and we will be home on Kangaroo Island.

An astonishing, excuse filled response from the Wanganui (or Whanganui) Hospital in response to a front page story today in the Wanganui Chronicle about some of their failures in Amanda’s care.

I have just emailed a letter to the editor of the Chronicle as below:

Dear Sir,

I wonder if I might be allowed to address a couple of points arising from your story about my sister Amanda.

I am not surprised that the Hospital would reveal confidential patient information to protect themselves – they had already threatened to do so if we told people what had happened to Amanda. But I am disappointed that Ms Black, the Hospital General Manager, chose to exaggerate or misstate the nature of Amanda’s illness, claiming she was a ‘challenging and complex mental health client,’ as if this provided an excuse for the Hospital’s failure in its duty of care to her.

Amanda is an intelligent, honest and caring woman who holds a professional degree, and is respected by colleagues and clients alike.

In her early thirties she was suddenly struck by crushing feelings of dread, hopelessness and self-loathing. From time to time these feelings were accompanied by an overwhelming urge to harm herself. Despite this, she is a straightforward and easy patient to manage. She has good insight into her illness, is absolutely honest with herself and others, and she wants to be well. If she is at risk, she says so, and will keep saying so until either she gets help, or is so completely rejected that she simply gives up. This is what happened at Te Awhina.

At one point she was told by a senior staff member that she was not at risk, because if she was serious about killing herself she would have done it already, and that there were plenty of ways to do it if she just thought about it more carefully.

As astonishing as that comment from a Te Awhina staff member was, I was even more dismayed by Ms Black’s claim regarding her repeated falls while in the wards, that staff ‘had no reason to believe she was unsteady.’

Amanda’s injuries included a brain injury, a broken neck, another break in her lower spine, and multiple fractures in her pelvis, upon which she was not supposed to put any weight. As if that were not enough to raise doubts about her ability to be steady on her feet, she had already suffered one serious fall while in the Critical Care Unit, a fall that resulted in a deep cut in her head, with so much bruising and swelling that her right eye was completely closed and her sense of vision and balance impaired. If even that was not enough to connect the dots, staff could always have read her notes, where they would, or should, have found comments from orthopedic and physiotherapy staff.

All of Amanda’s current injuries, which as well as those listed above, included a ruptured spleen, lacerated liver, lungs so badly damaged she could not breathe without assistance for two weeks, burns, fractured ribs, cuts and contusions – three separate ACC claims – were incurred while she was in the care of Wanganui Hospital. If Ms Black is serious in her claim that this constitutes ‘very good care, diligent care’ then Good Health Wanganui really does mean ‘God Help Wanganui,’ and residents would be better off taking their seriously ill loved ones to the local vet.

But of course if isn’t good quality care. It’s the Keystone Cops, and the people of Wanganui deserve better.

I wrote a week ago that I expected normal transmissions to resume forthwith. That didn’t happen.

Amanda was then in the Critical Care Unit at Wanganui Hospital. I foolishly imagined that she would be safe there. I was wrong.

She still has multiple major injuries. She has a broken neck and is wearing a brace to stabilise that fracture and prevent spinal damage. She has a fractured pelvis and must not put any weight on  her feet. These would be simple to manage, except that Amanda is also brain injured. This means she sometimes forgets she has these injuries, tries to get up and walk, remove her neck brace, etc. She is also disoriented and suffers vertigo. She must be supervised contantly.

Amanda was in the care of the Wanganui Hopsital when she suffered these injuries, so we hoped that they would take their duty of care for her seriously from that time on.

Last Sunday 22nd Feb she was left unsupervised in the Critical Care Unit. She got out of bed and immediately fell, striking her head on the floor and suffering a deep cut to the right side of her head above the eye. I had only been away from the hospital for about fifteen minutes, and arrived back to find her sitting in bed with a large wound covered with steri- strips, with blood pouring down her face, into her beck brace, and onto pyjamas and sheets. I stood by her bed for over an hour holding a dressing to her wound to stop the bleeding (unsuccessfully), while staff tried to work out what to do. Finally one of the surgical doctors came and sutured the wound.

There were no staff to remain with her, so I stayed with Amanda at the hospital that night, all through the next day and the following night. On Tuesday I met with nursing staff and doctors. I had then had two hours sleep in the previous 60 hours. It was agreed that Amanda should be transferred to a surgical ward, and that additional staff would be provided to watch her. I offered to go on a roster to fill in any gaps.

However, when I arrived the next day, it became clear that the expectation was that I would be by Amanda’s bedside from 9am to 9pm every day. She is my sister and I love her. I would do anything for her. But that was not what I had in mind when I offered to ‘fill in the gaps.’

Additional staff were to be provided by Te Awhina, the residential psych unit. I was not happy about this – these were the people who were responsible for Amanda’s care at the time of her original injuries. But there was no option, so I accepted this as a compromise. I made it clear though, that there were three specific staff members I did not want involved in her care. One had a history of drinking before coming on shift, one had, well, let’s just say he was not a safe person to have around young female clients, and the other was known to clients and former staff and as a bully.

The first person to arrive to watch Amanda was one of the people on that list. I stayed with Amanda that night until change of shift and that person left. It was also clear that those staff had no idea why they were there, so I wrote out a list of Amanda’s injuries, and explained specifically that she could not put any weight on her feet, and might have to be restrained from removing her collar. I also had a copy of those instructions placed in her hospital notes.

The next day I repeated my concerns to someone in the hospital I thought could make a difference. I also had repeated arguments with nursing staff, who seemed constantly to be wanting to get Amanda on her feet. I explained each time that the orthopedic staff had said specifically she not to bear any weight on  her feet. It was clear none of the staff had been briefed on her injuires and nursing requirements, and that none of them had read her notes. Many of them argued with me rudely and dismissively, before saying that they would go and check her notes. I could only respond by saying I thought this was a very good idea. I refrained from saying the obvious – that it might be a good plan to read a patient’s notes before attempting to move her around or administer other medical care.

The same staff member from Te Awhina wa again the first to turn up that night. By this time I was approaching exhaustion, and simply could not stay. I went home and had a restless night’s sleep, wondering what I would find the next morning. I was right to be concerned.

When I arrived the following morning, one of the nursing staff was walking Amanda back from the shower. The orthopedic staff had said this would cause damage to her pelvis. This was in her notes. My instructions were in her notes. But this was not the end.

Amanda told me, and this was then confirmed by the nurses, that Te Awhina staff had twice walked her up to the toilet during the night, and left her unattended. The first time she fell from the toilet and landed on her head on the floor (again!). She lay there calling for help, and soiled herself. The second time, she was left alone in the toilet, unable to bear any weight on her feet, with no sense of balance, confused and disoriented from her brain injury and her fall earlier that same night. She could not get her shorts down and wet herself.

When I found out about this I got a wheelchair, wheeled her down to the car park, put her in the car and took her home.

I then rang the hospital and told them I had taken her home. I explained that I could no longer have any faith in the undertakings hospital were contantly giving me, and believed I would be failing in my duty of care to my sister if I left them in her care any longer.

My respite time (provided by trustworthy friends not the hospital) is up. More on this later.

The name for the local health service, including the Wanganui Hospital, is ‘Good Health Wanganui.’  The locals call it ‘God Help Wanganui.’

Eighteen year old New Zealand golfer Danny Lee could become the first amateur winner of an Australian PGA event for ten years.

I’m not much of a sports fan really, but I’ll be keeping an eye on the final round today.

Good luck mate!

That is, I’m happy for Harry Nicolaides that he is out of prison in Thailand and back in Australia with his family.

But I can’t see what he has to be angry about. He certainly knew the law in Thailand – he had lived there for some time. You can’t be in Thailand for more than a few days without knowing that insulting the royal family is considered a bad thing. So when you hope to make money by writing a book thats insults a member of the royal family, even if no one buys it, and then you are arrested for doing so, you might be disappointed you didn’t get away with it, but you have no right to be angry.

The Australian government acted with all due speed and care in requesting Mr Nicolaides’ release, and this was granted almost immediately, and with considerable generosity, by the Thai king.

Mr Nicolaides apparently intends to write a ‘tell-all’ book. Perhaps he’ll be less angry if this one sells more than seven copies.

That is, I’m happy someone found peace through the ministry of ‘maverick cleric’ Peter Kennedy. It’s nice to feel empowered. Whatever that means.

But if you are a Catholic Christian who is serious about your faith, then you have a responsibility to your children, your fellow parishioners, and yourself, to take your part in ensuring that what is taught and practised in your parish really is the Catholic faith.

Baptism in the name of the ‘Creator, and of the Liberator, and of the Sustainer’ is not Christian baptism, no matter how personally gratifying you may find it. Christianity is not about moulding God and our worship of God to fit our own whims, but about allowing ourselves, body, soul and spirit, to be renewed in the image of Christ.

I have no objection to anyone believing anything they like. But it is simply dishonest to call yourself a Catholic priest, and lead your parishioners to believe that the personal philosophy you are teaching them is the Catholic faith, when you know very well it is not.

As I said earlier, if you want to do things your own way, there are plenty of Anglican Churches which will welcome you with open arms. There are a few different franchises to choose from, you should find one that suits. Try one. Or start your own. Just leave off the false advertising.

An earlier headline said that services around the nation were expected to bring comfort to those who had lost homes or loved ones in fires in Victoria two weeks ago.

Expected by whom the headline did not say. There is not much that can compensate for the death of someone you love. But the milllions of dollars raised, the thousands of services around the nation, and other public expressions of sorrow and support, are an indication of real care. And perhaps the knowledge of that care may bring some small light of comfort. I hope so.

Cornelia Rau was briefly detained in a detention centre for illegal immigrants by Australian offcials four years ago. She did not appear to speak English, said she did not have Australian citizenship, had no identification, and could not explain how she came to be in Australia. It was soon recognised that she had a mental illness and treatment was provided.

Her family, who seemed to appear out of nowhere, made a thundering row about her having been illegally detained (it turned out she had dual German and Australian citizenship) and Cornelia was granted $2.6 million dollars in compensation. It was never quite clear to me how the government or people of Australia (the compensation money comes from tax payers) had done anything wrong.

Now she has travelled to Jordan, where her behaviour has caused her to be arrested. She has refused Australian assistance. Yet somehow this is all still Australia’s fault.

But if you can’t or won’t teach the Catholic Faith, you have no business being a Catholic priest.

If you want a do-it-yourself faith, and a do-it-yourself Jesus, why not be an Anglican?

A Poem for Amanda

Dressings for windows and watches and wounds
I think all my zebras are coming home soon.
I asked my friend Millie the mincer to fix
But she sits on the mantelpiece playing with sticks.
I have to fix, have to fix, have to fix up
The casserole system inside the blue cup.
And please Daddy, please won’t you take me home soon?

My brain is combusted and crumples the moon
The nurses keep playing their pipes out of tune.
The lint on the window sill’s starting to stare.
I am heavy as death, so light I’m not here.
The sheets have gone pickled and prickle my feet
Someone keeps stealing the food that I eat
And please Daddy, please won’t you take me home soon?

The worms in my porridge sing nursery songs.
Who’ll feed the elephant now that I’m gone?
I don’t like the man where the wallpaper bends.
It’s dark where I’m buried here under my friends.
Mustn’t think bad things, they’ll come back and tie me
With eyebrows and pinecones and spiders inside me.
And please Daddy, please won’t you take me home soon?

My arms and my life are all flaked and corrusted
The men in the other place cannot be trusted.
I must be in prison, I know I’ve been bad
The walls are so high, and my friends look so sad
But if you put pineapples back on the wall
I promise I’ll try really hard to be small.
And please Daddy, please won’t you take me home soon?