Serious note, then something lighter

My sister-in-law Aileen rang yesterday morning. She was in tears. We all watch what is happening with my niece Christine in Sydney’s St George Hospital with leukemia and infection issues, some relating to immunity issues following chemo. Her sister Maree sent me messages about her own distress in coping with this. I have to say Aileen understands quite well what is happening, if not every detail of the treatment. Nor do I, if I’m honest, though last night Warren filled me in on more detail and is keeping me posted.

My nephews Warren (with whom I am in regular contact) and Jeff (who is not online) have both been engaged in the interventions that only siblings can do, Warren somewhat further down the track in that one.

Meanwhile Christine is in a good place, considering, and getting the best available treatment.

Now for something very different. You may from time to time have noticed I frequent the City Diggers Club in Wollongong, and have since joining in January 2011. Indeed just the other day I posted here video of the coffee shop on 7 January 2011!

Lately there have been big changes, the club having merged with (or been taken over by) the Golf Club. So that led eventually to the Bistro getting new management and then, saddest of the lot, the Coffee Shop losing its separate identity. Given that really has for ten years been my favourite part of the club, this pissed me off completely. I mentioned these things a couple of posts back.

After trialling it around five times I concluded the Bistro had become over-priced and under-inspired. But don’t just rely on me. The word is getting out there: this is from Trip Advisor. From 4-5 star reviews back in March to 1-2 today! That is down to “poor” or “terrible”!


Looking back at January 2011 again

And barely comprehending that is a whole decade ago! Anyway, it seems that the night here in Mount Keira Road was full of noises, such as I did not hear in Surry Hills.

I think we decided it was frogs. The sad part is that now, ten years later, there is dead silence. The yard next door has been thoroughly dug over and I suspect a local extinction event had resulted.

My place too was a lot cleaner and tidier 10 years ago, I’m afraid. I would not be surprised now in 2021 if there are frogs in the room with me now that I never see…. But back in 2011:

The Bates Motel Buddha: Year of the Rabbit

Posted on  by Neil

Chinese New Year next week. Year of the Rabbit

Come along to the Nan Tien Temple for their annual Chinese New Year Cultural Festival.

That’s a Wollongong event. For Sydney see this list.


The painting celebrates the Year of the Goat/Sheep – my year. It is a real treasure, given to me by a Chinese-born student some years back.

As I said earlier: tidier ten years ago:

I soon added to the curtain the place came with! Late afternoon in my west-facing room can be unbearable, and that aircon is very old and dodgy.

Speaking of heat and summer noises, a final short video from January 2011:

From Dharawal country again…

FB friend (and current inhabitant of my childhood home in Sutherland!) Louise D’Arcens posted a lovely set of photos on FB the other day, saying:

Glorious Dharawal country. Every January I take annual leave, and then struggle with all the work still hanging over me. My usual approach – and I know it’s far from ideal – is to spend part of the day working but then do something else. Today we walked by the Hacking River (called Deeban by the Dharawal people), marvelling at the bounty of Sydney rock oysters (badangi/dotang) lining its banks…. Back to work now, feeling better for having been to the river.

I replied:

Finding I am very likely of Dharawal descent has been pretty amazing, as even before I knew there were whisperings in the heart even from childhood whenever I was in certain places — and my nephew Warren tells me he felt the same, in his case because on his mother’s side he is also a descendant of the family of Bungaree. I feel it whenever I look up at Mount Keira.

I have posted about my connection — probable connection — several times, but it seems right to look at two instances. First, just last month:

Not quite as clear as Aileen’s [my sister-in-law’s] Bungaree connection is the story of my Shellharbour family: see How indigenous are you? and my 2011 post Family history and mystery–the Indigenous connection.

My great-grandmother, Henrietta Bursell/Bursill

And now from a 2016 post:

For my case see my 2011 post Family history and mystery–the Indigenous connection:

…my father’s mother, who had a very sad life. According to stories my father and mother told me it is through Henrietta that the family has some Aboriginal ancestry, as I noted back in 2000-2001:

Now Henrietta has been something of a family secret; one story, told me by my father and mother, says she was the illegitimate offspring of an Aboriginal (or part-Aboriginal) farm worker and a widow. You will note my father was nineteen or twenty when she died. My nephew Warren not long ago met a Tharawal Elder named Les Bursill at a gathering in Canberra; Henrietta was a Bursill (variant “Bursell” on some records). So it is possible they were all descendants of the First Australians… About Warren: my brother married his first wife Aileen, Warren’s mother, in 1955. It turns out she too was of Aboriginal descent. See Warren’s excellent account of that family in A Guringai Family’s Story.

There is no doubt about my sister-in-law’s descent from the family of Sophy Bungaree, that is of the family of Bungaree of considerable fame in early colonial history. But what about the Whitfields and the Bursills? I see that Henrietta’s birth certificate names no father, and if then the story I heard is true – and I am quite sure it is – then of course she wasn’t a Bursill at all, which does rather complicate matters. For the moment then we are all assuming Dharawal, but that father could have come from further afield. It is also worth noting that Les Bursill does not trace his Aboriginal roots through his father, but rather through his mother.

Possibly we’ll never know exactly where Henrietta’s natural father came from. The story about her birth was raised with my maternal grandfather, Roy Hampton Christison, when my mother and father became engaged. As my mother told the story, old Charlie  Bursill came and told grandfather Roy about the “touch of the tarbrush” via Henrietta. I do note that Grenville’s 1872 Post Office Directory lists a MRS Bursill as a farmer in Shellharbour. The story is that she had an Aboriginal assistant working for her, and that he, in 1874, was the actual father of Henrietta. He is said to have (wisely?) disappeared. Grandfather Christison told C Bursill to jump into Lake Illawarra, I believe, and of course the engagement and marriage went ahead in 1935…

Changes in clubland here in The Gong

I even amazed myself when I came back to The Gong just over ten years ago by joining some local clubs, not having really been the club type before — except for The Teachers Club in Surry Hills. So in fairly short order I joined Illawarra Steelers, City Diggers and The Hellenic Club (the nearest actually). Lately I have added The Illawarra Leagues Club which has now morphed into Collegians. Two reasons — the need for a social life and to meet (or in some cases meet again!) people, and to get good nourishing meals.

For some time the prize in the meals department went to The Hellenic Club. The lovely Sophia served up the most generous meals imaginable at ridiculous prices, and on Fridays there was a Greek as-much-as-you-can-eat buffet that was out of this world.

Here is the $8 roast lamb of August 2012:


I had a few of those! The club unfortunately made very little profit as Sophia was perhaps over generous! These days, rather oddly, they have a Korean Barbecue!

Then at Steelers there was a succession of Asian restaurants, beginning with The Steel Wok (run by a Vietnamese but serving generic Chinese) — which was not bad. A typical meal ten years ago, Meal: $6.95 White wine: $2.30.

I see from my blog files that I joined Steelers in December 2010, and Diggers in January 2011. More on them shortly.

They did a pretty good pho too.


Steelers in 2012 had a different Chinese restaurant, which was quite good. They tried yum cha, but it never really worked as the numbers were not there.


That restaurant was called Long Quan, and by 2013 had been replaced by the Red Dragon whose chef was an expert in Sichuan food. It was possibly the best Chinese restaurant I have been to, as I was telling my nephew Warren on Facebook today. My friend Chris Turner, who is a chef, will back me up!

The last one, the Red Dragon, was wonderful — Sichuan food and one of the best Chinese restaurants I have ever been in. This was their beef hotpot. They also did a wonderful whole steamed fish, and something called Chairman Mao Pork, which apparently was his favourite.

An example of the steamed fish, in fact from Christmas Day 2013.

But (in my opinion, and that of Chris who has never been back to Steelers since) the Club pulled a rather dirty trick on our brilliant chef.

They kept the poor guy on serving cheap food while the kitchen and club had big renos, letting him think he would be back when all was done, but instead they installed a new couple from Canberra who are more the seafood and grill kind, some dishes quite up-market (like $52!) and that lot are still there. Their specials are good though and given I am pissed off with the changes at Diggers I will be eating there again, beginning tomorrow even! 

So probably by the time you read this I will have had at least one lunch at Steelers, and the specials are pretty good.

Now let’s look at a wonderful bargain of a Monday at City Diggers back in 2015 — the $10 lunch.

That’s two courses for $10. I could have had soup and roast beef, but opted for vegetarian lasagne and dessert.


Diggers has lately merged with the Wollongong Golf Club, or as it now appears, has been taken over by them. The full extent of the change is only now becoming apparent, most recently the vanishing of the coffee shop which was for me the club’s most endearing feature.

Now just a memory!

There is also a new menu, which strives to be rather more upmarket than the ones we had been used to for ten years past — including those $12 fish-and-chips once so loved by hordes of Chinese tourists! Not being totally thrilled by bangers and mash at $6 a banger (admittedly home-made), nor entranced by falafels served with the merest smear of hummus — even in they were Egyptian falafels. And you can get much better falafels at Samaras in Wollongong for less — much better! In fact (as a former resident of Surry Hills Little Lebanon I speak) among the best felafels I have ever had.

I have now parted company with Diggers as a place to eat, thus far favouring Collegians/Illawarra Leagues where the seafood special last Friday at $7.95 (fish, calamari, chips, salad) was perfectly acceptable. There are plenty of other good dishes around the $15-20 mark as well.

Let me finish however with another memory of the Red Dragon! Chairman Mao Pork! Melt in the mouth! This is Adam Liaw’s version, and I venture to suggest the Red Dragon’s was even tastier. Even if when we asked the rather cheeky student Chinese waiter what it was, he simply said: “Fat!”

Adam Liaw says: “Red-braised pork could well be the national dish of China. For a cuisine as diverse as China’s, the provinces can’t even agree on a staple grain – to generalise, in the south it’s rice; in the north, wheat, millet or barley – let alone a style of cooking. The one constant seems to be red-braised pork. It exists in dozens of regional cuisines, and Chairman Mao loved the dish so much that in his birthplace of Hunan province it even took his name.”

Some images and videos from ten years ago

Here in West Wollongong! Unbelievable a decade has passed!

City Diggers: 7 January 2011 — what I loved at first sight. Things are changing now, not necessarily for the better.

The Yum Yum Cafe — for some years went there most mornings — not so much now.

2011 was a La Nina year too, it appears….

And Australia Day 2011 in The Gong:


It ended with coffee at The Steelers Club accompanied by the voice of the bingo caller.