Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

The Ecuadorian Question

September 21, 2017

I’ve been thinking about my ancestry a bit recently.

It’s something of a topic du jour, what with the suggestion that ACT Senator Katy Gallagher might be Ecuadorian because her British mother was born there in 1943, or Barnaby Joyce’s statement that he considered himself to be a “fifth generation Australian.” This is presumably on his mother’s side unless his father’s forebears went to NZ from Australia.

Still, “fifth generation” – that’s impressive, isn’t it?  It means – well what does it mean?  Leaving indigenous people aside, if your grandparents all came here from somewhere else and your parents were born here, who is the first generation, and are you the second or the third?

The answer appears on the basis of a little internet research to be the latter, and I’m hazarding a guess that, where ancestors came here in different generations counting back, the claim is made on the basis of the earliest generation and hence biggest number.

 

First cuckoo

September 12, 2017

Last night I heard something from the stand of trees in the grounds of the nearby public school.  It sounded like a bird but I couldn’t work out which.

This afternoon I unmistakeably heard a channel-billed cuckoo in full voice.

Could it be the more subdued sounds last night were the marks of exhaustion after a long commute?

I was there

September 11, 2017

Yesterday at D’s insistence and with him I did my part and went to the marriage equality rally in town.  There was a festival atmosphere on the train as we headed in with about 15 minutes to spare before the advertised start of 1 pm.

The last demonstrations I went to were the marches that broke many Australians’ heart – the big ones in 2003 against the invasion of Iraq.

The worst thing about such rallies is that practically every member of the organising coalition, and then a few more, has to have someone up there giving a speech.  This can really try one’s patience.  There is also the problem that in such a coalition on one issue, people will want to push the envelope out to the corner of their particular concerns.  Mostly I was with them at every corner and suspicious bulge to the package, but in the light of the “No” case campaigners’ attempt to make this postal opinion poll about every other issue than marriage of people not of a different sex, it would have been prudent, in my opinion, to keep things tight.

Bill Shorten gave a speech where he managed to reference “Climb Every Mountain,” “You’ll never walk alone,” the parable of the Good Samaritan and the St Crispin’s Day speech (those not here today will wish they were and say they were.)  There were probably more references that I missed.

So we stood out the speeches and after a longish wait to decant from Town Hall Square, headed along Park Street, Elizabeth Street, Phillip Street, Bridge Street and Young Street to Circular Quay where we were told Pauline Pantsdown had taken the stage in front of Customs House.  We didn’t actually see her as the square was pretty much full to capacity and we took the opportunity to catch a train home while we still could – just after 3.30.

It felt like a big rally to me so I was a bit peeved that it only ranked No 3 in the evening news. In some cases the rally was coupled with coverage of Malcolm Turnbull attending his own tame (I doubt if a single non-coalition-apparatchik gay person was in attendance) Liberals & Nats forum for the Yes campaign. As if Malcolm’s do was in any way comparable to tens of thousands of people on the streets.  Also a bit rich and doubtless calculated of him to hold it on this day.

I found myself immersed in a terrible emulatory hardness of heart waiting for “our” story to reach the screen: how dare those pesky Hurricane Irma types (No 1, though with predictably much more attention to the yet to suffer Floridians than the already devasted Cubans and Martinians) or Mexican earthquake victims vie with our just cause for attention?

There were lots of colourful costumes. My favourite was more subtle – a t-shirt in the style of an old pale blue Penguin paperback cover worn by a gent, about my age.  The book title?   An Ideal Husband by Oscar Wilde.

 

 

Misanthropic

September 6, 2017

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In recent years there has been a proliferation of cinema screenings of live theatre events.  Probably the Metropolitan Opera was the first big player, but since then they have been joined by others.  In their countries of origin, these have been done as “live” screenings.  Here in Australia we have to be content with delayed screenings.

Whilst these screenings have their limitations, I have generally enjoyed the ones I have gone to.  They give a better account of a live art form than screen adaptations of plays or “filmed” (mostly mimed) operas.  I would go to many more of these than I do if they were not nearly always scheduled for (generally weekend) daytime screenings.  Even though my present office is well lit, the proverbial dingy little office of the working week hangs over me.  Especially if the weather is fine and sunny, it seems wrong to turn my back on it.  Call me Clancy – even if what usually happens on a weekend is that we sleep in, faff around (mostly inside) the house on weekend domestic chores, and only manage to sally forth, if at all, in the late afternoon.

So it took some effort to leave a glorious day behind me last Sunday in favour of a noon screening of Moliere’s Le Misanthrope, from the ComédieFrançaise.

The misanthrope of the title, Alceste, is a man who is disenchanted with the world and with people and brings difficulty upon himself by his desire only to be sincere – which includes always to tell the truth to others.  This has already brought him into strife; more follows after he takes up the invitation to give his true opinion of Orontes’ verses.  Alceste has fallen, unwisely one might think, for a young widow, Célimène, who has a converse tendency to insincerity, including when in company to offer her adverse opinions of “absent friends.”

There’s got to be a lot you miss when you see a play in a foreign language.  You are pretty much a swine in the face of any verbal pearls.  It was only at the scene – in this production played out over a meal, where Célimène gives a series of cutting character-sketches (known, I suppose to every French school child, as ‘the portrait scene”) that I suddenly realised they had been speaking in rhyming verse all alongThat’s a turn-up for the books from the usual situation.

By the time I got out, at about 3.30, the glorious weather had clouded over.  Still, I was very glad I went.  At a “culture vulture” level, it was good to have seen such a famous play.  There is usually good reason why such plays have earned their fame and this was no exception.  There was much food for thought.  It was also a very handsome and striking production.

This year I have been reading a bit of literature in translation.  It is rather shocking how many even quite famous foreign-language works are almost totally inaccessible and certainly out of circulation in English.

Some of the themes and approaches of the play are familiar – it would be odd if they were unique.  In the alternative title to the play (“The Splenetic Lovers”) and the sallies between Alceste and Célimène, there are reminiscences of Beatrice and Benedict.  Reviews of this production have battened on its delivering a “Chekhovian” version of the play.

In the course of the play, some business is made of a piano on stage.  Alceste tinkers at it from time to time, bending over the keyboard and playing in a most peculiar way.  The picture above does not really fully capture it but gives an idea.  Interviews with director construct a psychology for Alceste as alienated and depressed.  It turns out the piano-playing style is a nod towards Glenn Gould as a modern type of misanthrope.

I doubt if we’d get a reference like that on the stage in Sydney.

 

 

 

Folk humour

August 26, 2017

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From twitter; one Marcus Strom, apparently in Stanmore somewhere.

 

Too clever for me

August 23, 2017

Last night to Carriageworks for Sydney Chamber Opera’s production of Britten’s first “chamber opera,” The Rape of Lucretia.

Something was afoot.  I was forewarned by Kip Williams’ director’s notes:

The Rape of Lucretia is a foundation myth that tradisionally has been used to perpetuate ideas surrounding the ‘value’ of a republic: namely that men must bind together in order to protect the chastity of their women.  At its core, our production asks questions of the ways in which this thinking still exists in our contemporary lives, and what impact this paradigm has had on how we think about gender, power and sex.  Ultimately, we are interested in examining this ancient culture in the context of our own, drawing parallels between ideologies and systems of power that permit masculine entitlement, engender the disempowerment of women, and both perpetuate and exonerate acts of sexual assault.  This production is an act of illumination and erosion of the exculpatory power of this history.

[….]

One of the challenges in approaching a staging of Britten’s opera is the absence of any critical perspective on the gender politics contained within the world of Rome.  By giving our performers contemporary identities as their primary relationship to the audience, we afford them an active critical voice on the politics at play.  through them we explore the performative and restrictive nature of gender in the Lucretia myth by fracturing each charater into three parts: the costume, which represents the character, the actor, who performs the character’s actions whilst lipsynching the dialogue, and the singer, who gives voice to the character.

OK.  LIPSYNCHING!  That artifice of last resort usually called upon when a singer is indisposed.  You can get used to that when it is just one singer, but why would you willingly embrace it for the practically the whole cast?

Just to explain a bit more.  It is 509BC.  Rome is ruled by Etruscan kings.  Lucretia is the only virtuous wife of a bunch of Roman aristocrats who are away in military camp – the others all find their wives otherwise engaged when they pop back to check on them.  One of the husbands, who is envious of Lucretia’s husband for having such a virtuous wife, goads Tarquinius, Prince of Rome whom no woman can refuse, to just pop back again and see how virtuous she really is – after all, maybe her virtue wasn’t tested/tempted quite enough?  T. jumps on his steed, arrives at L’s place in the middle of the night demanding hospitality [interval].  Servants we are told by the narrators (see below) are insolent towards him in a way that only servants can be.  (Servants!  We all know how they can behave!)

In the night Tarquinius goes to Lucretia’s chamber and rapes her, galloping off to the camp before dawn. Next day Lucretia summons her husband back, tells him what has happens and says – despite his entreaties that it is not her fault – that the punishment for unchastity is death and kills herself.  The Roman men vow to rise up against the tyrants, which we all know they did and founded the (scarcely less tyrannous) Roman Republic.

This all comes from Livy (a bit altered and supplemented in some details) save that in the opera a lot of the action is narrated by a male and female chorus, taking primary responsibility for the male and female spheres of action respectively.  From the start it is made clear that they are from some later, Christian, era. At the end the female chorus asks if that is all the story and the male replies it’s all fine because it’s given meaning (what meaning exactly is unclear) by Christ’s love.  This helpfully provides a bit of a chorale for the finale.

Obviously it’s not a very attractive story from the perspective of modern sexual politics.  But can the audience be trusted to work that out for themselves?  Apparently not.

Just to explain a bit more: in the first scene (at the camp) the three women singers donned insignia to designate the male characters, who were then sung, puppetteer style, by the respective male singers hovering in the background.  In the second scene the process was reversed.  And so on until the denouement when the artificae was (mostly) abandoned for more direct dramatic expression.

Various reviewers of the production have tried to find redeeming aspects to the conceit but in my opinion these are even-a-stopped-clock-is-right-twice-a-day sorts of advantages.  I found it genuinely confusing at first and also an obstacle to my enjoyment of the music.  You have to go along with it at the price of being totally put off so I gradually got used to it in the second scene, though not without moments when I found a “the-king-is-in-the-altogether” spirit surfacing within me.

Maybe if I went again (only $35 so not out of the question) I’d be able to deal with it better.

Of the singers, I was particularly impressed by Andrew Goodwin – not a singer I’ve always been keen on in the past – even if (and this is a response to the work rather than the singer) I found myself sighing just a bit inwardly at some of the more extended passages of aspirated tenor coloratura – BB and PP at it again. (The crucible of light is drowned!) Goodwin gave a bravura account (wrestling a chair as Tarquinius’ steed) of Tarquinius’ rush to Rome.  Later, the sinister night rustlings of T’s approach also caught my imagination.  Things continued with more drama (as you would expect) in the second half.

The orchestra/instrumental ensemble is placed behind the amphitheatre-ish set, which I think if you were low down on the tiered seating would muffle its sound.  Even from where I sat, high enough to overcome this obstacle, the orchestra still seemed a bit distant, especially when it was playing quietly.  Many details were scarcely discernible.

The house (general admission) was full (14 rows of 20 seats), including (in a reserved section) some of the great-and-good – Neil A was there with M Vallentine; Richard Mills was also there (it’s a co-production with Victorian Opera) and the man in front of me, fascinatingly, had his Australian Opera program from when they first put it on up the road in Newtown in 1971 (it came back in 1981).

At present Carriageworks also has an exhibition about the 1917 strike (which started at Eveleigh).  This includes some large and striking union banners which are on display in the main foyer/hall.  I am still trying to work out why in the Australian coats of arms which feature on them, the kangaroo and emu face away from the shield.

 

 

 

SSO 2018

August 14, 2017

The Sydney Symphony has announced its season for next year.

There’s not too much to frighten the horses – or the accountants.  We have a Mozart festival.  (There is also still the Mozart series at Angel Place.)  The concert performances of operas have been abandoned.  The Carriageworks venture is not slated to continue.

The orchestra’s year in Sydney ends in mid-November to make time for a European tour.  That might make the accountants nervous.

A second “Meet the Music” series has been reinstated on Thursday nights – not a repeat of Wednesdays but a selection of other programs.  This must be a good thing, though if you take the brochure literally the deal for <30s entails relegation to C reserve unless accompanied by an >30 [>29?] ticket buyer.  Can that really be the case for school groups?

There is no Berlioz.  Hint: he died in 1869.

Emmanuel Ax headlines the Mozart series.  Other pianists I’m looking forward to are Simon Trepceski, Steven Osborne and Benjamin Grosvenor (who has been to Sydney before but not for the SSO) and of course NF (see below).  Stephen Hough seems squandered on the Rach/Pag variations and midweek/daytime gigs.  Thibaudet plays the S-S “Egyptian” (why does that always make me think of Cardinal Pirelli?) in what should be a particularly beguiling program (Debussy Faun & Sibelius 2)

Anne Sofie van O sings Schubert orchestrated[!] – which I suppose is a way of presenting her in this repertoire in the Concert Hall, coupled with Mahler “10” (D Cooke).  (Simone does 6.)

I can resist the special pricing of the other Anne-Sophie despite a symphonic rarity by Kalinnikov.

Edo de W conducts Beethoven 9 – I would have preferred something more adventurous but his return is always welcome.

Speaking of returning former chief conductors, Caetani is back [in Sydney] again and welcome here so far as I’m concerned whatever they feel about him and he about them there. He will channel his Italian side for a change with the Verdi Requiem. Then again, let’s not be complacent: when are we going to hear Stuart Skelton back in his home town?  He’s all over almost everywhere else in Australia like a rash (Melbourne next year, anyway.)

Particular highlights for me:

  • Oboist, François Leleux, whose almost totally unheralded visit here in 2012 made quite a buzz amongst double-reedists, returns for the first of the Angel Pl Mozart series. (How does an oboist pop up on tour in Sydney for just one gig?  Possible answer: because he comes with his violinist wife, Lidia Batiashvili.)
  • Nelson Freire playing Beethoven 5 with Wagner bleeding chunks – a sin I expect I will be able to forgive since committed by Runnicles.
  • Masaaki Suzuki – this time to conduct a program including Beethoven’s Mass in C – not LvanB’s greatest moment but  also not bad, and MS should offer something interesting in that and the Haydn symphony it comes with.  Local ladies take vocal solos with some intriguing overseas gents.

When you look forward to a new season it is easy to concentrate on either old favourites or long-anticipated rarities.  Not so many of the latter in prospect.  Doubtless I’ll strike some surprises next year when it comes.  Meanwhile, as pure straightforward enjoyment, I expect the Debussy/Saint-Saens/Sibelius combination will be hard to beat.

 

 

Seen and heard

August 8, 2017

More for my benefit than anyone else’s, an update on live performances I have been to recently – well, by now not so recently:

1   SSO, Mozart series, Angel Place, Orli Shaham

I went to hear Orli Shaham with the SSO at Angel Place.  The program was Haydn Midi symphony, Mozart, Piano Concerto No 21 and, as a quasi encore (it is a tradition in this series to end with a mystery piece) the last movement of Mozart’s piano quartet in E flat.

In the Haydn I found myself wondering if the SSO couldn’t afford to be a little less robust in its approach. This seemed more to scale for the next day’s outing at the Concert Hall of the SOH than Angel Place.  As for the Mozart, my memory is now dimmed but I remember thinking Shaham and indeed her colleagues most relaxed in the piano quartet at the end.  Perhaps my reception of the concerto was too much overshadowed by fixed notions from other interpretations.

2    Aphra Behn, The Rover.

With D to this, at the Belvoir/Company B.

D and I hardly ever go to plays.  I was drawn to this by the rarity of Restoration plays in Sydney’s theatrical bill of fare and Aphra Behn’s reputation as a kind of Germaine Greer special topic.  Victor has rightly remarked on the trio of exceedingly skinny-legged (male) actors.  One of these is Toby Schmitz, who featured prominently in the publicity.  Is it him or just the characters he plays that I find just a bit irritating?  He has a line in boyish charm which somehow misses me.  It might be (to coin a phrase I first heard applied to Teddy Tahu-Rhodes) a “chook magnet” thing.

We were promised a “rollicking” show.  Some of this felt a bit forced as the actors ran around madly to convey the sense of Naples at carnival time.  Moments when the actors broke through the fourth wall and played against the work were evidently loved by others more than by me.

I could have done with a bit less physical comedy, especially when this delayed the plot, and more verbal thrust and parry (there was also a bit of sword stuff).  I had a look at the script later on the internet.  There is probably a reason why we don’t see much restoration comedy these days.  It would take an effort to bring that script alive for a modern audience – but in this case I felt a bit of a lowest common denominator approach was taken.  Since I first wrote this I have found that Kevin Jackson expresses a similar view much more cogently than I can.

I was a bit disappointed in it but I did still enjoy it.  Maybe my expectations were too high.   D, did not share my disappointment.  We did still both enjoy it and I’m glad I went.

3.  SSO, Robertson, Graham, Mahler 3.

I heard this once live and then in the car on the way to a funeral at noon on the following Saturday.  In the live performance I thought Robertson’s approach to the first movement was a bit “cool” and “objective;” listening to the broadcast I appreciated how clear it all was.  I wonder if it is actually something about his rather brisk manner on the podium which created that impression.  Whatever, any such impression was not sustained into the impassioned last movement.

Susan Graham was great.  For the bimm bamms and associated Wunderhorn song the choirs sang without scores – not such a feat for the Sydney Children’s Choir (ratio of boys to girls about 1:3) maybe but assisting an pleasingly bright sound from the Ladies (or are they Women now? – that’s what the ABC announcer called them afterwards) of the Sydney Philharmonia.

The posthorn solo was less offstage than usual.  The mystery was only solved when Paul Goodchild emerged for his bow at the end in the organ loft – he must have been hiding round the corner and taking direction from the organist’s video screen.

4.   Omega Ensemble – Schubert “Trout” Quintet and Octet

This too was an event for which I nursed high expectations [/hopes?] which weren’t quite met [/fulfilled].  Both are, as one says if put on the spot, “great works.”  The shadow of well-known recordings and impactful live performances (and the first exposure is always impactful even if in retrospect not so great) hangs over any live encounter. That must be for true even though I am very much not a “record-head” who judges everything against particular recordings with which I am familiar.

In the “Trout” I think the cellist could profitably have swapped places with the bassist and sat in the bow of the piano facing the audience directly.

I always suspect that the issue for the OE is that, as an ad hoc ensemble, they have less chance (than a more permanent ensemble) of things gelling as a result of frequent experiences of playing together.  It is hard in those conditions to obtain an optimal freedom and warmth of expression.  The concert was well attended and warmly received.  I enjoyed both, the octet more than the “Trout.”

I’ll have a chance to hear another Octet in a week or so when the Australia Ensemble plays it on the 19th.  Meanwhile, despite my lukewarm words above, I seem to have been stirred to a bit of a Schubert craze and am stumbling through D568.  There is something about Schubert that for me really hits the spot.

Nasty

August 7, 2017

Last Friday I drove out to Concord Hospital to pick up D, whom I had dropped off at 7am for day surgery.

For some reason the car radio was tuned to 98.5 fm.  According to Wikipedia:

2000FM (callsign 2OOO) is a multilingual community radio station broadcasting to Sydney in languages other than English from studios in the suburb of Burwood. It is a volunteer run organisation and is funded through listener support, grants and limited commercial sponsorship.[1]

The mission of 2000FM is to provide a service through dedication to enrich the cohesion of our cultural diversity via tolerance, understanding and respect for each other.[2]

When I turned the radio on just after setting off a man was reading from John Hewson’s article in the SMH, the substance of which was to complain that members of the Liberal Party who were agitating for a free vote on marriage equality were grandstanding at the expense of the coalition’s electoral prospects.

Hewson had written:

To be clear, I support same-sex marriage, and like so many who do, don’t, and are just a bit “here and there”, I would like to have seen the matter dealt with expeditiously, given what is perceived as widespread community support.

Up till then, I didn’t know what station I was listening to – I thought it might have been RPH (PH for print handicapped).  I was swiftly disabused of this when the reader interrupted his reading at this point to ask John Hewson, as a politician, if he ever would have been asked to write an article on SSM for the SMH if he did not say he was in favour of it.  Then I knew what side the wind would be blowing from.

Not that Hewson was actually there to answer the question.

From there on the reader interspersed Hewson’s text with his own comments. By the end (he hadn’t finished when I finally got out of the car) he was in full flood.

The argument as far as I recall it was:

  1. The trouble all began when we let same sex parents have children.
  2. Children hate to be left out or to be different.
  3. Same sex parents therefore wanted to be married so that they could go to parent teacher nights etc and be recognized. [so far an interesting inversion of the ‘all about the children’ arguments – it shows how people attribute to their opponents their own ways of thinking]
  4. So now they were trying to subvert our traditional notion of marriage, and take away our marriage, the institution of which we are a part;
  5. Which is part of our Armenian cultural heritage [he didn’t sound very Armenian, if that is possible, and maybe I’m a bit mixed up here with the announcements from time to time that the program was sponsored by St Gregory’s Armenian School – an institution which in fact was wound up some years ago with its premises at Rouse Hill now sold to Malek Fahid Islamic School and much productive – for lawyers – litigation]
  6. And not, (implicitly, like homosexuals) a matter of genital-to-genital.
  7. And now some of our politicians think they know better than us!
  8. there’s this Warren Entsch “not that I know Warren Entsch from a bar of soap – except that a bar of soap leaves you clean
  9. So you should get on your computers, I know you have them, and tell them that you don’t want it;
  10. Don’t let those homosexuals get their fingers on our marriage!

There was more with which obviously I disagree, and I haven’t remembered all the nasty swipes along the way – I’ve only really clearly the remembered the one at Entsch.  I think the “fingers” (why not hands?) remark was also associated in some way with some snide suggestion (maybe about genitals again) that made it seem nastier then than it does as I have reported it.

Meanwhile, today the Liberal Party, summoned by Malcolm Turnbull, has stuck to Tony Abbott’s poison pill.  It’s not that both major political parties (Julia Gillard was a particular disappointment and Penny Wong not much better) haven’t had to wrestle in their own ways with the art of the politically possible, but surely the politically possible is changing?  The biggest irony is that, at least from where I stood, Abbott’s slippery entrenchment of the plebiscite by a joint party meeting was the final nail in his political coffin, because it was not how many had understood his previous political undertakings, even if it was consistent with the fine print.

Even the statutory embedding of a man-woman definition into the Marriage Act in 2004 (one of John Howard’s many bad deeds, though not without accomplices) was such an entrenchment – because if there was nothing to try to resist in a last ditch way there was no point in it at all.

The only consolation I can see at present is that if the head of steam builds up strongly enough, the change, when it comes, will be less traded off for little sheltered pockets of bigotry.

Here’s hoping.

 

 

 

 

Conundrum 2

July 27, 2017

I’s taken me a while, but back to Calokerinos, Executor of the Estate of the late George Sclavos v Yesilhat; Yesilhat v Calokerinos, Executor of the Estate of the late George Sclavos [2017] NSWSC 666.

You will recall that George Sclavos, a pharmacist who had been generous to many or at least relaxed in his attitude to recovering monies lent to many, died suddenly aged 65, survived by his two nieces, Anna and Cleopatra, in whose favour an informal will was found.

Okan Yesilhat disputed the validity of the will. He said he was George’s surviving de facto partner. Okan said this relationship, of many years’ standing, had been a secret.

Obviously there must have been some kind of a relationship between George and Okan. George had advanced substantial sums of money to Okan – well above the other amounts known to have been advanced by him to others – and he had given Okan the means and authority to conduct his bank accounts.

To me, as a gay man, Okan’s claim of there being a sexual relationship is a plausible one. On reflection, perhaps that is putting it too simply. To me it is plausible that, if there was a sexual relationship, it would have been conducted in complete secrecy in the way that Okan alleged.

On the other hand, it is very easy to make up a story about someone who is dead. A court must scrutinize carefully any claims of dealings with deceased persons and especially where those claims rest entirely on the word of the surviving person who makes the claim.

Lawyers often talk about whether one judge or another is a good “draw” for their client. This preserves what in some ways must be a legal fiction, that there is some random process of selection of which judge hears a case. Often it may be that the selection of a particular judge from those available is a matter of chance, but the selection of judges itself is clearly far from being so.

In any case, it doesn’t look as Justice Slattery was a very good draw for Okan. As he said at paragraph [28] of his reasons for judgment:

The Court soon began to doubt Mr Yesilhat. Early in his evidence he explained how he deliberately deceived his first wife about his alleged relationship with George. Without a flicker of shame he elaborated upon a cynical scheme to mislead his first wife, Ms Susan Katri, into believing he was not with George at night. His story of lying to his first wife is barely worthy of credit. But the fact that Mr Yesilhat was prepared to parade such studied trickery carries its own significance. Why would one who shamelessly avowed deceit of a spouse, not practise deceit on this Court?

When I first read this, I thought “Whoah!” There seemed to be a kind of paradox  – a variant on “all men [sic] are liars” – in this case, “all closeted gay men are liars.” So is no self-confessed closeted man to be believed?

What Slattery J found “barely worthy of credit” (credit here means worthiness of being believed rather than reflecting well on the teller) was Okan’s claim that he used to go to a gambling club before leaving without placing a bet to spend time with George.  Okan said he did this so that he could produce the ticket to his then wife (who had already complained that he saw too much of George) as, in effect, an alibi.

Slattery J didn’t accept this.  I’ve inserted in bold the numbers for his reasons:

[211] (1) First, it is difficult to accept that Mr Yesilhat could have kept up this pretence for years, when he claims his visits to the deceased were regular. (2) Secondly, his claimed alibi was unstable. Other people frequented the same club and would have been able to see that Mr Yeslihat had left to go elsewhere. (3) Thirdly, such an alibi was likely to create quite separate domestic concerns: that he was gambling away the family’s money. He sought to answer that threat by explaining that this poker club was not one where gambling for money occurred. But that does not meet the problem that to a person being shown sign-in slips at a gambling club it may not have looked that way. (4)Finally, Mr Yesilhat’s case of arranging regular assignations with the deceased behind his first wife’s back infers that the deceased was complicit in this deception. How else could the deceased believe that a married Mr Yesilhat could spend so much time with him?

[212] (4A) But that is not consistent with the deceased’s character.  All the evidence about the deceased points to a man who  (4A1) had an open and friendly nature, (4A2) had deep moral feelings and religious scruples especially about his sex life, (4A3) maintained warm relationships with family and friends and (4A4) had never been involved in fraudulent activity. But Mr Yesilhat seemed comfortable to accept that the deceased was as dishonest as he was in conducting this relationship.

That’s a lot of reasons. Maybe 2 is the best, were it not that many affairs are conducted under cover of equally risky alibis.  My own skepticism would be of the elaborateness and consistency of the claimed ruse rather than its fragility – why not a variety of garden husbandly lies?   3 assumes Okan’s wife did not know/believe that no money was gambled at the club.  I don’t think I would be as ready as Slattery J is to take 1 and 4 (4A4 in particular is a stretch – how can you prove such a negative?) as from the start tending to preclude the truth of Okan’s account.

There’s a lot more in the judgment and the judge had plenty more reasons to which I find myself without the energy to do justice.  The thing is, unlike the rest of us who can afford a Marabar-caves sort of indeterminacy, he did have to make up his mind. That’s his job.

From which you’ll probably realise that Justice Slattery totally dismissed Okan’s claim, and upheld Cleopatra’s claim for repayment of all monies paid to or taken by Okan, with interest.  Okan’s story was just that: the story Okan had to tell if, following George’s sudden death, he was to avoid having to repay the money he had already received from George and hang on to the money he opportunistically grabbed by continuing to use after George’s death his capacity to operate George’s accounts. That Okan had obtained monies on such a scale and authority to operate George’s accounts in this way was not to be attributed to any sexual relationship between them, but rather that (at [312]) Okan was an “intuitive and manipulative individual” who well understood and was close enough to take advantage of George’s generosity.

So much (so far as the monies obtained by Okan and his company in George’s lifetime were concerned) for any credit in heaven which George professed a hope to attain on account of funds unrepaid at his death.

Nieces and intestacy

Why, asked Cleopatra (rhetorically), would she seek to forge a will as Okan claimed she had when, as George’s nieces, she and Anna stood to benefit anyway under what looked like otherwise being intestacy?

It is possible that this emerged during submissions as a result of a remark by the judge himself.  As he said at [688]:

the Court did raise the hypothesis in submissions that George’s nieces would take on George’s intestacy. But in the course of preparing these reasons it is clear that hypothesis was based on an erroneous assumption as to the present State of New South Wales law at the time of the deceased’s death. The nieces or nephews of an intestate in New South Wales have no entitlements; the State of New South Wales would be entitled to his estate: Succession Act, Parts 4.3 and 4.5.

I think his Honour’s first instincts were better than his afterthought.

This is the contents page to parts 4.3 and 4.5 of the Succession Act (part 4.4 deals with indigenous families) to which his Honour refers:

PART 4.3 – DISTRIBUTION AMONG RELATIVES
Note

   127.    Entitlement of children
   128.    Parents
   129.    Brothers and sisters
   130.    Grandparents
   131.    Aunts and uncles
   132.    Entitlement to take in separate capacities

   PART 4.5 – ABSENCE OF PERSONS ENTITLED

   136.    Intestate leaving no persons entitled
   137.    State has discretion to make provision out of property to which it becomes entitled

If you go by the contents listing alone, there is no section which, going by the headings, deals with the entitlements of nephews or nieces.  However, section 129 is as follows:

129 Brothers and sisters

(1) The brothers and sisters of an intestate are entitled to the whole of the intestate estate if the intestate leaves:

(a) no spouse, and

(b) no issue, and

(c) no parent.

(2) If no brother or sister predeceased the intestate leaving issue who survived the intestate, then:

(a) if only one survives-the entitlement vests in the surviving brother or sister, or

(b) if 2 or more survive-the entitlement vests in them in equal shares.

(3) If a brother or sister predeceased the intestate leaving issue who survived the intestate:

(a) allowance must be made in the division of the estate between brothers and sisters for the presumptive share of any such deceased brother or sister, and

(b) the presumptive share of any such deceased brother or sister is to be divided between the brother’s or sister’s children and, if any of these children predeceased the intestate leaving issue who survived the intestate, the deceased child’s presumptive share is to be divided between the child’s children (again allowing for the presumptive share of a grandchild who predeceased the intestate leaving issue who survived the intestate), and so on until the entitlement is exhausted.

If I am reading this aright, contrary to his Honour’s observations, nieces and nephews (and for good measure any intersex children of siblings) do have entitlements under intestacy in the event that their parents had an entitlement but predeceased the intestate person.  Siblings have an entitlement if a person dies without parents, spouse or issue.

If George died without leaving a will, under s 129(1), George’s parents having predeceased him and he dying single and childless, his brother would have been entitled to the whole of his estate. George’s brother having predeceased him, under s 129(3)(b), that brother’s daughters, ie, Anna and Cleopatra, his nieces, would have been entitled to share that brother’s presumptive share equally.