Sunday, November 28, 2010

It's like making a cake

      Cake Ingredients at Dean and Deluca, NYC, October 2010

Investing is like making a cake.  For the best results you need to have a range of good quality ingredients, you need concentration  and a steady hand, you need a constant temperature - and most of all you need patience.

This is my conclusion after reading two interesting pieces today.

The first was a New York Times  article by Ron Lieber  on November 26, 2010 headed "A Dying Banker's Last Instructions".  Gordon Murray - a 25 year banker with Lehman Brothers and Credit Suisse First Boston - has terminal brain cancer - and has used his remaining months to write a book "The Investment Answer" with his co-author Dan Goldie.

The book is a lesson on patient asset allocation instead of trying to beat markets.  And summarises some sound principles:

1.  Hire an advisor who is paid by you, not the funds you are investing in.
2.  Divide your funds across both multiple assets (stocks and bonds).
3.  Spread across the globe - diversify your country risk.
4.  Choose passive funds (like index funds).  Few managers can beat the market.
5.  Re balance by selling your winners and buying more of your losers (if you have done 1 - 4 above, and this is hard to do).

The second piece was written by Deborah Nason in Investment News on November 28, 2010.  Nason describes some new funds that have been established for investors who wish to invest in local food systems and local economies close to them and are patient with modest returns.  She describes some funds established by RSF Social Finance which seek to invest in local sustainable food production businesses.  RSF report a 30% per annum growth in client numbers.  Their investors are not expecting double digit returns, and are concerned by climate change and carbon footprints.

Can you see why these two stories synthesised for me?  Have patience, mix your investments around, read some good recipes and listen to good advice, support your passions and convictions (great to invest in local sustainable food production systems!) and don't listen to people who are promising they can beat the market or who are being paid by the funds they trying to sell to you.  Pay for good advice and be patient with steady returns.

Like a lovingly baked cake - your investments will do fine.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Food As an Asset Class

In her Australian Age article today ( Food for more thought) Jo Chandler talks about her trip to Malawi in October 2005 when she saw the desperate famine and the awful spectacle of western aid agencies having to ask village elders to choose who should receive the limited food aid available.  She then contrasts this with Malawi in 2010.  The country is now a net exporter of food to its neighbours after the president introduced a program to subsidise fertiliser and seed and encourage a drive to self sufficiency.

Chandler talks about the emerging food crisis and the consequence of limited investment in agriculture research and development compared to the need.  She quotes the director-general of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation Jacques Diouf.

 "More than 70 per cent of the extremely poor live in rural parts of developing countries, and those areas need investment in seeds and fertiliser, and better access to markets, to reduce hunger. Developed countries promised to invest $22 billion in aid to agriculture from 2009 to 2011,  but so far only $425 million has been spent. Movement is in the right direction, but the pace needs to be accelerated".

And she quotes from the Australian director of Oxfam Australia. 

''We have seen the results of decades of immediate interventions without long-term planning, and it has not helped people in developing countries to have sustainable access to enough food. What we need is a long-term response that invests in small farmers who feed their families and communities, that helps farmers adapt to the impact of climate change, and that provides sustainable ways to use the land and water resources we have.''

The  UK based Financial Times today (Friday 15 October) contained a  special supplement titled "World Food" which profiles the emerging food production crisis in the world.  Reference is made to the recent decision by the  Bill and Melinda Gates to now focus on agricultural research and development as part of its new focus on food security.  There is also reference to the the bid by BHP Billiton, the world's largest mining group - for the Canadian fertiliser company PotashCorp.  

And in Australia - there is a race by Canadian agribusiness companies to win control of the Australian grain sector - with Viterra of Canada acquiring control of the Australian wheat and barley exporter ABB and the more recent bid by the Canadian fertiliser company Agrium for control of the former Australian Government owned grain exporter AWB Limited.  

All this  "food crisis stuff" is attracting  serious attention from  the world's financial press.  What is it telling us?  That perceptions are shifting about food production assets as an asset class - and that food itself is now becoming a strategic lever  as the world starts to realise it  needs to re-scope the capital base around food production technology and infrastructure - within the new constraints of the post GFC  liquidity and capital rationing,  declining sustainable fresh water sources,  limited arable land availability and the impact of volatile climate change.  

The challenge is in three parts:

1. To equip the rural poor around the world to feed themselves (using the Malawi model).

2. To provide sufficient food to the world's city based populations.

3. To understand how and where the global investment community should place capital into food production assets (following the lead by BHP with it's potash play).

I prefer to be optimistic about these challenges.  What an opportunity for the innovative use of capital and for fresh thinking!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Look to the East for Liquidity

We continue to see the impact from the  collapse of liquidity and erosion of value in the old world economies  flowing from the global financial crisis of 2007 and 2008.   The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania recently reported ( In Search of Capital ) that during 2009 angel investing in the USA in start ups declined a further 8.3% to $17.6 billion - following an earlier massive  drop of 26.2% in 2008.  This didn't really overcome the positive news that because deals were slightly smaller in size last year there was actually a 3% increase in the total number of firms that got financing.  If the US stops funding entrepreneurial activity there is something seriously wrong.

In June we saw Dave Kansas pose the question Did China Save Your Retirement in his Wall Street Journal article - proposing that unless the Chinese let their yuan appreciate against the US dollar US retirement savings were under severe threat - and expressing some relief that there appeared to be some signs that China appeared to making moves to loosen controls on their currency.  More recently we have seen the US legislature approve new laws empowering the administration to take punitive action against the Chinese unless they relax their currency controls.  I won't hold my breath.  Why should/would they?

To me the best indicators of what is happening is to watch where the private bankers and investment bankers are going with staff, infrastructure and to source capital.  And it's not Europe or North America. It's India and China.  Look at the example of Lombard Odier Darier Hentsch, the small and venerable old boutique Swiss private bank - which is boosting its Hong Kong team.  At the time it made this announcement in September it criticised it's larger private banking rivals also rushing to China stating that the days of product pushing are over and the future of private banking is "where the client is still the focus".  "The deleveraging that has occurred following the global financial crisis in 2008 has resulted in a structural change in the market.  It is not a cyclical change".

I am excited by this.  As an Australian living in our island at the bottom of Asia I am living right in the middle of the largest global power shift since the war.

What opportunity there lies for the brave and the agile!

Friday, May 21, 2010

The West must try to age gracefully

HSBC's Stephen King says that the US should age gracefully in his latest book.  He is pointing to the tectonic shifts in global power that are evident in the the current financial crisis in Europe - which he says - just like the US - has borrowed too much money for too long (over 40 years of living on deficit budgets) and supporting an unsustainable way of life.

Will the Western Europeans with money (Scandinavians, Danes,  Dutch and Germans) bail out the rest of their colleagues in the EU if the USD950 billion bailout announced on May 9 by the EU Finance Ministers does not restore confidence in the Euro?  As Time magazine points out (May 24 2010, page 19) - this bailout amounts to a massive 8.2% of the EU Gross Domestic Product.

More voices all saying similar things (refer my earlier post about Standard Chartered Bank's commentary about the future being with countries with cash, commodities and creativity - or at least one of these).

The only countries with cash now are the Gulf States, Russia and the strong emerging nations of East Asia - lead by China.

Indeed, the West - at best - will do well to age gracefully!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Super Tax - Super Silly?

I was recently in Geraldton - which is a dynamic regional centre about 1 hours flight north of Perth in Western Australia.  The town was historically wealthy from grain farming and fishing, but more recently the local economy is booming with the development of a handful of new mining companies and the commitment by industry and government to build a new deep water bulk commodity export port which will be known as Oakagee.

The sunset is looking over a new children's water playground on the foreshore - taken from my hotel balcony.  I remember staying at the same hotel ten years ago and trying to go to sleep over the sound of grain trains rumbling through the night along this same foreshore.  The town has relocated the railway to a new route behind the town and has created a new beach by trucking thousands of tons of sand to the foreshore - creating a beautiful seaside lifestyle with marinas, coffee shops and apartments.  This is wealth from mining and commodities, and the thing I like about Geraldton is that food production is still powering ahead in a complementary way.  The locals are developing an integrated economy.  And one of Australia's largest wind farm projects is just outside town.

With the financial rumbles in Europe the world is a buzz about Gold  as a store of value.  This is an article about the "Super Pit" gold mine in the town of Kalgoorlie in  Western Australia- which is apparently now one of the largest man made holes in the earth's crust (soon to be 3.6 km long and 650 metres deep) and also one of the world's richest deposits of gold.  Australia is the second largest producer of gold in the world after China and in 2009 Australia earned $17.5 billion dollars in revenue from gold sales.

You can check out the Google Earth Super Pit to see how big it is.

But all this wealth has now attracted the attention of the politicians trying to shore up government revenue streams.   Australian politics is currently dominated by the announcement by the Australian government that they intend to introduce a new "super profit" tax on mining companies in Australia.  This weekend the Australian  mining lobby is  running advertisements saying that if the tax is introduced, Australia will have the highest tax regime on resource extraction in the world at 58%.  And with an election due in Australia within 6 months or less - the main opposition party has responded by saying that it will abolish the "super tax".  The battlelines are drawn and it will be a fascinating contest.  But like all things political - the focus is on the short term and the spin.

My view?  We have the mineral and energy commodities the world needs now and should develop them in a sensible way - but instead of a super tax (which is fundamentally discriminatory and anti competitive) we should provide global best practice tax and capital investment incentives to attract capital investment into sustainable food, water and energy systems and research and development in these areas.

Look at the example of the Middle East Gulf economies - who know they are running out of energy  commodities and are aggressively investing in food, water and sustainable energy assets around the world.

A little town like Geraldton is starting to get its act together - is it too much to hope for our politicians to think past the short term and do the same?

Saturday, May 1, 2010

How lucky are we?

How lucky are we?
I snapped a iPhone photo of this graph from an Australian newspaper (Australian Financial Review) a few weeks ago and am now tracking down the sources cited.  In the meantime - living in Western Australia (WA) and looking at the effective Real Prices quoted - we would have to be thinking - how lucky are we to be sitting on significant quantities of mineral and energy resources and to be so close to the growing power of China and North Asia? The hype is huge and everyone in WA has stories of multi-million dollar contracts being let for roads and infrastructure and stories about rapidly escalating house prices and the congestion at Perth airport.  The share registries of our small and medium resources companies are being pored over by fund managers looking to get exposure to commodities in a politically safe environment.  This investment has included sovereign wealth money from China - similar to Chinese investments in energy and mineral assets in Africa and Latin America.
Yes - we are lucky to be here in this hot spot at this cycle in our history.  However, the problem with having lots of base metals is that other places have them too - and ultimately it is a price game in a market where more supply can be brought on very quickly.  And we have a high cost base compared to Africa and Latin America.
I am much much more excited by the upswing in the red curve - which tracks the rebound in demand for food commodities.  As Asia builds cities over it’s productive coastal agricultural land and starts to run out of water - this is where Australia’s competitive advantage will start to build sustainable value - because Australia is one of the most efficient sources of food production in the world - and without the benefit of government subsidy.  

Food and water assets don't yet excite the stock analysts - but they will.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

People have to find their own way

At a meeting in Sydney and then drinks on a pub rooftop in the Rocks with my colleagues watching the sunset over the Opera House - and listening to the traffic and trains rumble over the Harbour Bridge just behind us.  

I got thinking about the reminder we had heard earlier in the day of the Cohen Brown 10 Elements of Good Leadership:

1. Vision
2. Goals
3. Plans
4. Actions
5. Results tracking
6. Follow up and feedback
7. Coaching
8. Resource Management
9. Motivation
10. Relationship Techniques

And the summary that Leaders have a vision, Managers follow a process.  Now I am not going to argue with Cohen Brown (CB) - the improvement in sales and revenue in so many organisations that have implemented CB speak for themselves.  The 10 Elements are so strong and obvious we forget them easily!
In the back of my mind though I was reflecting on something I had read earlier - which was an article about  Hans Monderman - the Dutch traffic engineer who was asked to resolve the problem of a high rate of accidents in a busy intersection in the Dutch town of Drachten.  He thought about it for a while and then decided to remove all rules, signs and lines from the intersection.  "Who has right of way? I don't care", he said.  "People have to find their own way, negotiate for themselves and use their own brains".  Accidents plummeted in the intersection and his approach became known globally in town planning management.
Monderman  recognized that increased control by the state actually reduced the  individual and collective responsibility of the citizens.
CB badly applied ignores this element of human nature - which is that people are essentially independent thinkers and don't like following a formula.  The art of the leader is to help people share a vision and then to help them work out how to implement it themselves.  
This particularly applies when your team is young and smart.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Shift from West to East - driven by Cash, Commodities and Creativity

I have just been doing some research on the emerging trends of demand for food and energy commodities in Asia and came across this paper from Standard Chartered Bank (Standard Chartered Research ).

In summary:

  • There is a huge fundamental change is underway in the global economy. 
  • The shift in the balance of economic power from the West to the East will last for decades.
  • There will be winners and losers in this shift. The winners will be those with financial, natural or human resources, or one or more of the three Cs: cash, commodities or creativity

  •  Creativity may be the most powerful of all the resources to be rich in. With vast numbers of people entering the workforce, huge improvements in productivity, and continued globalisation, the rewards for innovation and creativity will become even greater. 
  •  The three Cs are shaping the New World Order, as well as the path of the current recovery. For example, China’s cash has allowed it to inflate its demand and raised Asia’s exports back to pre-crisis levels, despite an uncertain outlook clouded by weak G3 demand and growing protectionism. 
  •  In Africa, the rebound in commodity prices and a growing share of trade with emerging markets have also supported the trade recovery. 
  •  Strong fundamentals and flush liquidity are supporting Asian credits and currencies, especially as USD strength peaks in light of Europe’s improving situation, rising risk appetite and shifting interest rate expectations.

Further developing this thinking - if you don't have cash or commodities - then you need to be creative.

In a context where economic power (the cash) rests with the Chinese and East Asia - access to the food, energy and water based commodity economies will be critical - and if you don't have these - you need to develop cash flow from your THINKING.

Friday, April 2, 2010

5 Big Themes for the next 5 years

5 Big Themes for the next 5 years

A few weeks ago the Australian Financial Review’s Boss Magazine  (10 March 2010, page 22) ran an article on the fads and trends for the last ten years and the expected themes for the next ten years.
1.     The internet
2.     Employee self sufficiency
3.     Spinning off centralised functions
4.     Networking
5.     Globalisation
6.     Customisation  (the whole CRM thing)
7.     Collaboration across sectors
8.     Sustainability
9.     CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility)
10. Work /life integration (balance implies separateness).

Fads that had “waxed and waned”:
1.     Paperless, open plan offices
2.     PowerPoint
3.     Free Agents and telecommuting
4.     Hot Desking
5.     24/7 casual dressing
6.     Total Quality Management
7.     Six Sigma (for everything)
8.     Bringing the whole person to work
9.     Knowledge management
10. Positive psychology

And Boss Magazine’s suggested “Buzz Themes” for the next ten years:
1.     Working smarter, not harder – focus on outputs not inputs; put people first
2.     Social capital, connections, within and beyond the organisation
3.     The integrated scorecard
4.     Communityship; collaboration leadership
5.     Diversity (age, gender, ethnicity, skills).
6.     Long life learning
7.     True sustainability – monitoring and measuring the right things.
8.     Team leadership – let everyone get ahead.
9.     Zero Waste.
10. The ambidextrous organisation – simultaneously exploring new frontiers and exploiting short-term shifts and opportunities.

This has been percolating in my mind as I go about my daily business.  I am challenged by the Buzz Themes and I grimace at some of the fads that have waxed and waned.  I remember being part of a committee that commissioned a CRM system – we spent thousands of hours and millions of dollars – and looking back – I’m not sure we really built any more sustainable customer relationships than we had before.  Maybe we did – the company is still a dominant player – but I remember the zeal of the consultants with whom we spent all this money – I wonder if they also grimace! 

I also fight the immediate temptation to switch off now when someone fires up a PowerPoint presentation and reads out their slides.

My 5 big themes for the next five years (ten years is far too distant):

1.     The value of relationships and the relearning of the importance of spending time face to face with people – the promise of the WEB2 and social networking has sold lots of iPhones and created lots of Face book pages – but hasn’t built enduring interpersonal relationship value.  Technology will however drive the re-distribution of power (see 5 below).

2.     The desperate “smarts” vacuum we see in corporate organisations which – after endless restructures - have no skilled middle management left to mentor and guide younger staff – who in the mature economies of the world  (statistically) are most probably without a stable mother or father influence in their home lives.

3.     The relentless focus on cost will accelerate as the Indians, Latin Americans, Chinese, Africans and Central Asians continue to try to drive up their people’s standards of living and undercut existing value chains in everything. 

4.     Food, water and energy will become the critical success factors to sustainable society – control of these three – in the context of climate change – will determine the future global power structures.

5.     Power is distributed:  Twitter users demonstrated this in the recent Iranian elections – elected and tyrannical governments alike will not longer control agendas like they did.  We have too many informed and connected people using information technology to be swayed by the spin doctors.  Are big advertising agencies and the traditional media in big trouble? 

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Taking Lots of Small Steps

Shoe department at Gallery Lafayette Paris 2009

I have just read the article by columnist Chanticleer on page 64 of the Australian Financial Review (Thursday 18 March 2010) talking about the strong results of the Australian specialist high-end retailer David Jones Limited – which is the Australian woman’s little slice of Paris.

David Jones Limited – or as it affectionately known in Australia - “DJs” – has sparked a minor rally on the Australian Stock Exchange by returning a global best practice 40 percent gross margin on its sales revenue of Australian dollar 1.086 billion in revenue for the half year to December 2009.  It will pay an interim dividend of 12 cents on May 3rd.  Naturally this sparked a rally on its shares – which flowed over into the general market.

This is an awesome result in the context of the Global Financial Crisis.  I wonder how many global fashion retailers have achieved similar results over the last 6 months?  The general reporting suggests that the market for discretionary fashion goods has been stagnant.

How did Chief Executive Officer Mark McInnes and Chief Financial Officer Stephen Goddard achieve this outcome? 

As Chanticleer points out; by taking lots of small steps. 

McInnes and Goddard achieved this result by focussing on the small things:

  • ·      By constant attention to removing costs (through 58 separate cost reduction projects they reduced cost by 0.3 % in the 6 months).
  • ·      Persistent striving to better supplier relationships (including a line by line review of their day to day banking arrangements).

Through this focus on incremental small steps – they have achieved a global  best practice result. 
Chanticleer adds that DJ’s has never lost its focus on its core value proposition – to appeal to women and to attracting them back for repeat purchases – rather than on new customer acquisition.

Whatever your goal, you can achieve great outcomes by focusing on the details and taking lots of small steps.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Management Matters in Australia

For some who have asked me - here is the link  Australian Government paper "Management Matters" to the paper released by the Australian Government in November 2009 called "Management Matters".  It has some disappointing  findings - on most criteria against global benchmarks - Australia has average performance  at best from its management pool.  I will also post the file on my LinkedIn page. 

The Exceptional Performance Formula

I was fortunate today to participate in a leadership training workshop facilitated by rogenSi IP Limited in Sydney Australia.  It was one of the best training sessions I have attended in many years.  I was particularly struck by the Exceptional Performance formula:

EP = (K+S+P) x M


EP = Exceptional Performance
K  =  Knowledge
S  =  Skill
P  =  Process
M = Mindset

Most managers are reasonably good at providing their people with knowledge, skills and good processes.

The exceptional leader provides the multiplier of creating the Right Mindset - thereby creating Exceptional Performance.

The rest of the workshop was about how to create the right mindset in your team - through a combination of rational and emotional drivers around:

  • Setting direction (Vision, Strategy, Reality)
  • Engaging and exciting your team (which often is the most important missing ingredient)
  • Executing
  • Sustaining Momentum.
I have learnt a lot today and am grateful for the opportunity to grow as a leader.

I was curious to check out the rogenSi website tonight.  Again - I was  impressed with their Values (rogenSi DNA Page ) - which I have copied below:


Our values direct our energy, our expertise and our choices.

Honour Clients
    • Know their world
    • Anticipate
    • Work magic
    • Challenge boundaries
    • Own the result

Create Buzz
    • Energise
    • Play
    • Create
    • Inspire
    • Celebrate

Be Courageous
    • Talk straight
    • Embrace feedback
    • Break with convention
    • Be bold – take risks
    • Follow your instincts

They certainly delivered to their values today - Well Done and real inspiration!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Australian Business - Opportunities for improvement

The Australian Financial Review publishes a business magazine on the weekends called "BOSS".  It ranges from good to mediocre - the latter when the editor has had a bad month and fills it full of reprints from the Harvard Business Review or the Guardian.

The edition on the 10th March 2010 was very good.  I was particularly struck by a review on page 23 of the strengths and weaknesses of Australian business - which drew on some research funded by the Australian government and published in a report called "Management Matters in Australia" released by the Australian Government in late 2009:

Where Australian Management is strong:

  • International Outlook
  • Team Leadership
  • Risk aversion
  • Strong operational management skills
Where Australian Management is not strong:
  • People practices - attracting, developing and retaining employees
  • Measuring and improving management practices
  • Over rating management performance
  • Centralised thinking and reluctance to foster autonomy of operations
  • Investment in management training and education
  • Fostering innovation.
I think this is absolutely correct.  Australia is very lucky at the moment that we have lots of things that North Asia (in particular) needs - especially natural gas and mineral commodities.  So we are enjoying a fantastic standard of living selling our wares and buying some time.  We are in danger of becoming complacent about the need to build strategic sustainable advantage - and in particular the need to invest in our people skills and the quality of the people in our business enterprises.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Training for sustainable competitive advantage

I once worked in a bank where the CEO decided to shut down the training division. He was chasing short term cost advantages (and got them) and his view was that the  leadership of the bank should provide the training.   I remember once when - after spending a lot of money on developing a new system to better manage customer files and records - he decreed that the line managers would train the staff in implementation.  So instead of spending time building market share and helping my team win new business and retain customers, I spent three weeks showing staff which buttons to click on a screen (after I had learned the system myself through trial and error).  In effect - for the time I worked there - the only training I was able to provide for my staff was that which I implemented by scratching budget in from other areas and doing some ad hoc training through external providers - or by piggy backing my staff onto a little bit of training that was being done by another division in the bank.

Really what was happening was that we were mining the experience of the longer serving staff (who had been properly trained) without replenishing the organisation's talent pool.

Needless to say, the bank found it could not retain young talent and a huge part of the line managements activity was in recruiting new staff to replace those who had left to join another organisation.  End game?  The bank was taken over by another bank not long after I also moved on.

This research by McKinsey is really interesting reading.  Organisations that will build competitive advantage are those whose senior managers are critically supportive of both technical and soft skills training.

McKinsey Survey on Building Organisational Capabilities March 2010

So - don't skimp on training your people. It is probably the biggest thing you can do to build sustainable competitive advantage.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Bhutan - getting ready

I love to go trekking - and like to be always planning my next adventure.  Having pored over maps and atlases since childhood - I have always been fascinated by the Himalaya region and Tibet.  This could be because I was born in Darjeeling to Christian missionary parents - but I don't have any conscious memory - so it must be subconscious linkage (collective unconsciousness and all that Mr Jung!).

I have decided that I would like to visit Bhutan - and then - when I can - the areas around Mustang on the Tibetan border with India.

In the months before I go on the next trek - I like to read as much as I can about the people and the place I am going to.  So I bought some books on Bhutan.  I have just finished reading Jamie Zeppa's "Beyond The Sky and the Earth".  Such powerful and honest writing - about a Canadian Masters graduate in English who goes to teach in Bhutan - and how it transformed her life.  It is a gritty, honest and beautiful read - and has sharpened my desire to go and see this Buddhist mountain kingdom.

Zeppa learns to understand how a culture based around material possession provides no lasting happiness, happiness is within.  Happiness  is driven by how we think.

I thoroughly recommend this book.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Two worlds

Two Worlds

I spent yesterday in the Western Australian country side visiting with a client who grows grain and raises sheep on a large farm near the town of Katanning.  It was a beautiful day and there was a magical quality to the light as I drove home.  The vistas were vast and it was good to stretch my eyes to a far horizon.

Farmland near Katanning in Western Australia.

Then I finally stopped to take a picture of this old abandoned farm house that I have driven past on previous occasions.  I thought about the lives lived here.  The house is crumbling but a few trees planted around it by the pioneers of the district are sprightly and healthy.  I imagined children in bare feet and scabbed knees playing under the trees and then running to the kitchen door for supper when Mum calls.

Abandoned mud brick farmhouse near Kojonup

Then the very next day I flew to Melbourne to attend a meeting of our leadership team.  That is a four hour flight across Australia in an Airbus.  The sun was setting as I checked into my hotel.  The view from my hotel window tells many stories - including two competing churches on opposite corners on Collins Street, and the buoyant towers and construction cranes in the background.  

Twilight in Melbourne from my hotel room

I have been tossing the clash between the  two worlds in two days around in my brain.  We are an urban culture and our towns and regional communities are shrinking.  Yet there is such raw power of Nature's life out there - can we see it and feel it in our cities?  Or have we lost our way a little?  

Saturday, January 2, 2010

At the Beach on 2nd January 2010

We enjoyed fish and chips on the beach tonight and thought over 2009 as we watched the sun set over the sea.  The last lingering colours of dusk ranged from a golden orange through to a viridian blue - and then the black night sky with the first stars.  The wind stopped blowing around 8.30pm and it was perfect.
I decided my theme for 2010 was ENERGY.  By applying it I will create more of it - within me and within those around me.