Star power: Oboist Gianfranco Bortolato will give four recitals across the region during this year’s Organs of The Ballarat Goldfields festival. Photo: SUPPLIED

FROM THE DESK OF Roland Rocchiccioli – January 17, 2018

January 16, 2019 BY

It is a truism: If it seems too good to be true, it probably, and well might be a case of caveat emptor – ‘buyer beware’!

LET me say from the outset of this column: I have great sympathy for all those people who have lost their money and had their travel arrangements cancelled as a consequence of the collapse of Bestjet.

I know how it feels to lose money. Apart from the anger and disbelief, there is the apportioning of blame. I finally came to terms with my gargantuan loss by admitting I was the culprit – not the victim.

I allowed it to happen by making a series of stupid mistakes.

For a moment, hark back to those days when one picked-up the telephone, dialled the number for Ansett, TAA, or Qantas reservations, and made a booking to go wherever. It was a very simple and successful process. You paid for the ticket with a credit card; by charging it to an account; or cash/cheque when you collected it from the airline’s premises. Quite often one did that in the lunchbreak.

Out of sheer curiosity, I telephoned Qantas – 13 13 13 – and went through the whole wretched rigmarole of pushing button 1 and button 2, until, finally, I was able to leave a number for a call-back.

It came, eventually, and I asked a simple question: “Is it possible to telephone Qantas and making a reservation to go wherever?” The answer was in the affirmative. “In that process, am I able to speak with a living, breathing person?” I loathe the know-all, robotic voice asking asinine questions. Again, it was in the affirmative.

Australia has many advantages as a place to live, but it does have one great disadvantage.

They tyranny of distance. We are miles away from anywhere except Tasmania and New Zealand.

Consequently, the cost of interstate and international travel is exorbitant – in some cases prohibitive. I am so envious of my London colleagues who, regularly, jump on the Eurostar to Paris, arriving in time for lunch, and return home, in time for supper. If you fly four hours from Heathrow you would be in Moscow.

If you are flying from the Sydney or Melbourne to Europe we would just be hitting Darwin – not yet left the country!

We all love a bargain, and the temptation to go online and find the best and cheapest possible price is irresistible; however, and removing Bestjet from the equation, the world is filled with charlatans. They cannot wait to get their hands on your money. It seems to me, there is something to be said in favour of accredited, shopping-strip travel agents – as they once were. Many will disagree, and it is personal decision, but nothing would convince me to trust, and provide funds, to any organisation which does not have a shop-front, or a registered office address, where I could present and argue a dispute.

It has been suggested the government should assist with compensation for those affected by the collapse of Bestjet, and airlines should honour the travel arrangements, even if they have not received payment for any confirmed itinerary. I understand the reasoning but the question is simple: “Why?”

Certainly the onus of responsibility for recompense does not lie with taxpayer; and, while it would be wonderful, I can think of no valid reason why any airline should be asked, or expected, to offer what would be tantamount to free travel under the circumstances. That may seem a harsh judgement, but ultimately we are responsible for our own lives, and while I am sincerely sorry for the losses and the disappointment, this is clearly an example of: ‘Ya pays ya money, ya takes ya chances!’

On a more agreeable note: The festival of the Organs of The Ballarat Goldfields has returned for a 24th year, under the artistic direction of Sergio de Pieri.

As a former university college organist, I still own and play an 1850 Hapsburg pedal organ. It made the most glorious sound until a plague of Ballarat mice invaded and ate the interior felt. It has been painstaking restored but, lamentably, has lost some of its dark and more sonorous tones. It has given me nearly 50-years of great joy and since it was acquired has been played by some very famous characters – with varying degrees of expertise, and in dubious stages of sobriety.

Signor di Piero has put together an exciting and varied programme for 2019, including recitals by Nello Catarcia, organist from the magnificent 14th─century Italian Cathedral of Orvieto, the Etruscan city in Umbria, which I have visited many times. Mr. Catarcia will play Bach, Cesar Franck and Liszt at the Carngham Uniting Church, Snake Valley.

Schubert Songs for String Quintet and baritone, with David Greco and Australian Haydn Ensemble – in two parts. Part two: St John the Baptist Church, Beaufort; the only early organ in Victoria where the pipe work is made entirely of wood.

The celebrated Venetian oboist, Gianfranco Bortolato, will give four recitals of different programmes at the old Wesley, and St. Paul’s, churches, Clunes; Loreto College Chapel, and Mary’s Mount Centre; and the Wendouree Performing Arts Centre, Ballarat.

For more details search: www.ballaratorgans.com.au.

Roland can be heard every Monday at 10.30am on radio 3BA and contacted via rolandroc@bigpond.com.