Sunday, July 18, 2010

Gary Hatcher's Book Launch: You Probably Have Parkinson's Disease

Saturday 17th July 2010 was the long-awaited day when Gary's book was officially launched at the Bracken Ridge Community Centre, to a very receptive group of family, friends, neighbours, former colleagues and members of the medical profession.

In 2000, Gary retired from 30 years of being a primary school principal.  Slowly, a few things went wrong - he couldn't whistle, he had a slight tic in his wrist, he lost his sense of smell, he had trouble with his voice and he developed a stiff shoulder, and these problems were treated independently of each other.  In 2002, a doctor, while administering a cortisone injection into his stiff shoulder, remarked "By the way, you probably have Parkinson's disease."  This diagnosis was later confirmed, and then Gary and his wife Ruth embarked on a difficult and tumultuous journey.  In March 2009, when medication could no longer provide Gary with a satisfactory quality of life, he underwent a Deep Brain Stimulation operation.  While life was by no means plain sailing after this, Gary now looks forward to a bright and active future.  His book You Probably Have Parkinson's Disease is a light hearted record of his experiences to date.

Gary's brother Bryan was MC for the morning.

Grandson Connor wanted to sit with Gary.

Gary's speech.

Gary's speech.


Gary's speech.

Gary's speech.

Gary's speech.

Anne's speech.
Jim tells the story of when he and Gary, both primary school principals on the Gold Coast, decided to take an early mark one afternoon to go fishing, telephoning Gary’s school to say he had an important meeting to attend. When Gary arrived back, Ruth had three questions to ask:

1. What was that sudden important meeting you had to attend?

2. Why did you wear those old clothes to a meeting?

3. Where did all those fish come from?

Karen's speech.
Karen officially launches the book.  Hooray!
Casey draws the raffle.
Nigel wins the lucky door prize.
Champagne for Anne.
The gathering.
Nigel and the lucky door prize.
Darren and Connor.
Broni and Darren with Connor.

Leonie with Callum and Casey.
Lindsay and Robyn on their wedding anniversary.
Grant and Kim

Gary signs Pat's book.

Best wishes to Ruth and Gary for the future (and we hope you sell lots of books).
To buy a copy of this heartwarming book, please email:

Monday, July 12, 2010

Ted Smout memorial bridge opens 11th July 2010


This bridge provides a short link between the Redcliffe peninsula and Brisbane.  The opening of the bridge was an all-day festival, with entertainment on both sides, and the bridge open for the public to walk across.


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Bob, Ralph, Paul, Julia, Pat and I joined the tens of thousands of people who walked across, although Paul claimed that he and Julia were the only ones of his age group there.


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The original Hornibrook Highway was built in 1935, and closed to traffic in 1979, when the second bridge was built.  Since then, it has been very popular for walking cycling and fishing.  For safety reasons, it is proposed that it will be demolished next year, with a reconstructed bridge 100 metres long on the northern side, leading to a fishing platform.  As you can see, many people preferred to walk across this bridge rather than the new one.  The tide is very low, as it is the season of the winter king tides.


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The second bridge, the Houghton Highway on the right (with the hump in the middle to allow boats under it at high tide), was completed in 1979.  You can just make out some pelicans sitting on the light poles.


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Pelicans currently sit on light poles over the Houghton Highway, giving passing motorists a nasty shock when nature calls.


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Light poles on the new Ted Smout bridge are angled so pelicans can’t sit on them, but there is a platform which sits out over the water.  This way, the pelicans, a signature of Redcliffe, can still be seen, but not experienced too closely.


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The new bridge is named after Queensland’s last surviving World War 1 veteran, former Sandgate resident Ted Smout, who died in 2004, aged 106.  At 2.7 kms in length, it is Australia’s longest bridge.



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The bridge has an extensive fishing platform on the seaward side which comes complete with seating, a shelter, drink fountains, fishing facilities and lighting.



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Pat, Bob and Paul arrive on the other side.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Adventures of St Paul in Damascus: Chapter 5

St Paul’s Adventure in a Basket

Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. All those who heard him were astonished and asked, "Isn't he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn't he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?" Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Christ..

After many days had gone by, the Jews conspired to kill him, but Saul learned of their plan. Day and night they kept close watch on the city gates in order to kill him. But his followers took him by night and lowered him in a basket through an opening in the wall.
(Acts 9:19-25)

Paul himself recalls this adventure in his second letter to the Corinthians:

In Damascus the governor under King Aretas had the city of the Damascenes guarded in order to arrest me. But I was lowered in a basket from a window in the wall and slipped through his hands.
(2 Cor 11:32-33)

Local tradition adds that Paul was enabled to escape by the help of a Roman guard of Ethiopian origin, who was later condemned to death for this reason.

A window beside the south-eastern gate of Bab Kissan has been venerated as the spot where Paul made his daring escape. This gate has been sealed and restored several times. In 1885, a disused mosque and surrounding land near Bab Kissan was purchased by the Melkite (Greek Catholic) Patriarch, Gregory Joseph. On this land a chapel dedicated to St Paul was erected, whose walls incorporate traces of the ancient gate and a small section of the wall.


It took us three attempts to find the spot of Paul’s dramatic escape, so the eventual success was appreciated all the more.

First attempt:
After we came back to Straight Street from visiting the house of St Ananias, we continued in a westerly direction along Straight Street, looking out for Al Abbarah Street on our left. Some of the streets had names in Arabic, some in English, and some had no names at all. Very few streets on our trusty map were named, so we expected that Al Abbarah would be a major street – perhaps even wide enough for a car – but after walking for some time, we concluded we had come too far, and must have missed it, so we went and had lunch.

Second attempt:
Retracing our steps (after a magnificent lunch), we discovered the unmarked Al Abbarah Street by a process of elimination. I had even previously taken a picture of the restaurant on the corner of Straight Street and Al Abbarah Street.

I was so busy photographing the basil in front of this restaurant that I missed Al Abbarah Street, right beside it.

This is Al Abbarah "Street".  Can you see why we missed it?
Pat goes boldly along Al Abbarah Street.

We've found it! (Or have we?)
Can you blame us for thinking we'd arrived, when we saw this plaque on the wall.

 Wouldn't you think we'd arrived?  After all, the sign on the wall does say "Sant Paul Chur."

We went through the open doorway, which led into a little garden.  We met a lady coming out, and asked her the way to the church.

"Oh no, this isn't the church" she said.  "This is my house."

"Then where is the church?" we asked timidly.

"Oh, you must go that way" she replied, waving vaguely in a direction outside the door.

We followed the direction of her waving, but found nothing but a maze of alleyways.  So not wanting to miss "Happy Hour" at our hotel, gave up for the day.

Third attempt:
Having come so close, I was quite determined to find the spot where St Paul had embarked on his basket adventure.  Next morning, we visited the wonderful Damascus museum, set in a farytale garden, and then the Al-Takieh Al-Suleimaniyeh mosque and craft market.  After this (I think it was the shopping) Pat wanted to go back to the hotel for a swim and a sleep, but I still had some unfinished business concerning St Paul.....

Apart from crossing the streets, we found Damascus a very safe place.  The many stall holders were friendly and encouraging, but not aggressive or persistent.  So we were both happy for me to go back to Old Damascus on my own in search of St Paul.  It was about a 30 minute walk to Old Damascus, then I made my way through the colourful Souq Hamidiyeh and along Straight Street to the narrow Al Abbarah Street to the plaque which seductively promised the church of St Paul, but didn't deliver.   

From here, I'll use some material from my blog Damascus on my own - the keys to the city posted on 16.05.10 at so if you've read that blog, you can skip the next bit.

When I reached the place where we’d drawn a blank the day before, I asked directions from a man in the alleyway. He told me that I was in the wrong place, but if I went with him, he would show me the way. He told me he taught English, history and geography to the children in a nearby orphanage. He was quite a big man, but seemed very unwell with asthma, as he was struggling to walk, and offered me some “fresh water” out of a bottle he was clutching. Do I believe him? I decided I would. We went uphill through some alleyways, with him gasping as we went. He stopped at a doorway in the wall, produced a key for it, and told me that it was very hard teaching the orphans and did I have any money for them. Pat had given me some Syrian money for a taxi home if I needed one, so I decided the orphans needed it more than I did, and besides, this was the only chance I would ever have to find the church. He looked at it rather disparagingly and told me it wasn’t much, but reluctantly unlocked the door anyway. Inside, I was rather relieved to find a nun and a priestly looking man who unlocked another door for me, and there I was in a little courtyard, at the back of the church!

I had found it!

The little walled courtyard was very pleasant and peaceful, surrounded by shady trees.  An old man sitting calmly in the shade there smiled a welcome.  (You can even see this courtyard on Google Earth.)

From the courtyard, you could see this plaque attached to the back of the church. When I came home, I looked up Salma and Sélim Boulad, at whose expense the church had been dedicated to St Paul in 1925 by the Patrirach of the Greek Catholic Church at that time, Dimitrios Cadi.  The Boulads were a very old Melkite Greek Orthodox family who could date their family back until 1513!  They were famous for the manufacture of Damascene steel, and later for high quality silk.  In 1724, part of the Melkite Greek community in Damascus, including the Boulad family, broke away from the Greek Orthodox church, aligning itself with the Catholic church of Rome, which caused a great deal of persecution and bloodshed to the Catholic group. 

Sélim Boulad (1839-1933) relocated to Lebanon with his family in 1860, after a massacre of Catholic Christians in Damascus, and it was there that he married Salma Messadiyé.  Sélim and Salma, both "of great piety" had vineyards and other land which they later donated to the church, built and maintained a chapel there, and established shelters and orphanages for refugee Catholic communities in Lebanon.  They then financed the building of this church in Damascus dedicated to St Paul - the one I had been searching for!  And all that from a little plaque at the back of the church.  See also

The church was simple, beautiful and very obviously dedicated to St Paul. There was also a box for donations for the orphanage. I felt badly about doubting the old sick man, and put in some more of my taxi money.

Behind the cross on one side was a relief of Paul having his vision.

Here it is a bit closer.

And on the other side was the actual basket adventure itself!

In the vestry was a painting, somewhat the worse for wear, of Paul receiving some divine assistance on the way down.

And just in case you still didn’t get it, there was an actual St Paul sized basket as well.

Outside the church was a fine sculpture of St Paul on his horse, having his vision.  If you know where to look, the sculture shows up as a little black dot on Google Earth. 

When I walked outside the church, I realised that we hadn’t been able to find the church from inside Old Damascus, as its access was from outside the city wall. 

I wish I had found this Wikipedia entry before we went to Damascus:

To visit the Chapel of St. Paul, go out the Eastern Gate (Bab Sharqi) from Straight Street and keep to the right. A 400-meter stretch of the ancient city wall stops at Bab Kissan, in front of the roundabout on the motorway to the airport.

The sober and austere design of the chapel blends in well with the antiquity of the walls. Two elegant and modern Chi-Rho monograms adorn the fortified towers that stand on either side of a fictitious window, similar in style to those of a medieval castle. It is not difficult to imagine the scene of the escape: how St. Paul, after being lowered from the wall, fled in haste down the road that leads to Jerusalem.  See

You can see the shadow of the sculpture of the horse's hooves on the ground in front of the church, which incorporates material from the earlier Bab Kissan.

The Chi Rho is one of the earliest forms of christogram, and is used by Christians. It is formed by superimposing the first two letters in the Greek spelling of the word Christ ( Greek : "Χριστός" ), chi = ch and rho = r, in such a way to produce the monogram ☧. Although not technically a cross, the Chi Rho invokes the crucifixion of Jesus as well as symbolizing his status as the Christ.

Interestingly, the Chi-Rho symbol was also used by pagan Greek scribes to mark, in the margin, a particularly valuable or relevant passage; the combined letters Chi and Rho standing for chrēston, meaning "good."

And so I followed the outside of the wall of Damascus around to Bab Sharqi (the way I should have come), thinking of St Paul, leaving these same walls under cover of darkness 2,000 years ago, setting out on his mission to spread the Good News to the ends of the earth.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

The Adventures of St Paul in Damascus: Chapter 4

St Paul and St Ananias

In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision,

"Yes, Lord," he answered.

The Lord told him, "Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying.  In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight."

"Lord," Ananias answered, "I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem.  And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name."

But the Lord said to Ananias, "Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel.  I will show him how much he must suffer for my name."  
(Acts 9:10-16)

The vision of St Ananias
Here is poor St Ananias having his vision, from the hard-to-photograph series in the house of St Ananias. 
Like many other people who have had visions from God (e.g. Jeremiah and Jonah) Ananias is understandably not happy with what he is asked to do, and tries to argue with God, to no avail. 

So off he sets to Straight Street.

The house of Judas in Straight Street
I know I have used this picture in Chapter 3, but I was so pleased at identifying the spot, I just had to use it again.  This is where Paul was led by the hand after his tumble, and spent three days being blind and not eating or drinking.  Can you imagine Ananias, with some trepidation, knocking on the door?

St Ananias heals St Paul of his blindness
Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, "Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit."  Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul's eyes, and he could see again.  (Acts 9:17-18a)

I know this picture - again from the house of St Ananias - is not a good one, but it's the best I could do with it.  Just think of it as Paul coming out of his blind spell.

St Ananias baptises St Paul
He got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength. (Acts 9:18a-19.)

Here is a statue, outside the house of St Ananias, of St Paul being baptised by St Ananias.

The house of St Ananias
Well, I've referred several times to the house of St Ananias, and its series of difficult-to-photograph pictures, so here it finally is.

Eastern tradition includes St Ananias as one of the 72 disciples sent out by Jesus (Luke 10:1). Following the stoning to death of St Stephen in Jerusalem, supervised by Paul, Ananias prudently returned to his home city of Damascus, where he later became the city's first bishop.  According to this tradition, he was arrested by the Roman governor Licinius for being the head of the local Christians, and stoned to death outside the walls of Damascus.

Material and written evidence, as well as oral tradition, suggest that the site of the present House of St Ananias is in fact the actual site of where St Ananias lived, and the early Christians gathered, although numerous different buildings have occupied the site during the intervening 2,000 years.

In 1820, the Franciscan Holy Land Custody reclaimed the site and rebuilt the house, adapting it into a chapel.  Further chages were made in 1893 and 1973, giving the underground chapel its present form.

To reach the House of St Ananias, enter Old Damascus by the eastern gate of Bab Sharqi, and take the first turn to the right, Hanania (a version of Ananias) Street, and proceed until the street takes a dog-leg turn to the left, and there you are.  The underground chapel is reached by a staircase of 23 steps of basaltic rock, as the present street level is four metres above what it was in St Paul's time.

Hanania Street
Pat strides along towards our objective, map in hand.

Hanania Street
Passing Nassan Palace!

Hanania Street
Voluptuous oleanders perfumed the air.  Pat strides on.

La Terrasse (Al Choune) Restaurant, Hanania Street.
Did we stop?  No.

Hanania Street
Enticing shop along the way.  Did we stop? No.

Cafe St Paul, Hanania Street (with free internet)
We must be getting close.  Pat's out of sight.

St Ananias' House
We've arrived!

The House of St Ananias (finally!)
Down the 23 steps of basaltic rock we went, to find this beautiful underground chapel, lovingly maintained by the Franciscan Holy Land Custody.  Above the altar are pictures of Paul in his basket, Paul being healed or baptised (it's hard to tell which) by Ananias, and Paul having his vision.

The second room contained a series of pictures (several of which you've seen) depicting the adventures of Paul.  A truly beautiful place.

The House of St Ananias (street level)
The two circular windows provide the only natural light and fresh air to the underground vault.  On the left is a statue of St Francis, as the house is maintained by the Franciscan Holy Land Custody, while on the right is the statue of St Ananias baptising Paul, as shown above.


Back to Straight Street
This is where Hanania Street joins Straight Street, with St Sarkis Armenian Apostolic Church visible on the other side of Straight Street.  For Ananias to go to the house of Judas, he would have turned right at this corner and continued almost to the other end of Straight Street.  It would have taken him about 20 minutes.

Pat still has the map.