The past twelve months – 15 – September 2014

2 September’s More information than you asked for… is true to title! Fortunately I have not experienced this since.

Then Two poems of World War One.

Last night’s excellent episode of the ABC’s The War That Changed Us traced aspects of the Western front from the disaster of Fromelles in July 1916 – coincided with my mother’s 5th birthday I noticed – through Pozieres and onwards through 1917. I commend the ABC’s Centenary of WW1 page again. The episode ended with the singing of the first part of the famous Canadian poem “In Flanders Field”. Given what we had been seeing in the preceding hour I thought it proper that the patriotic conclusion of the poem was omitted. I shall do the same.

by John McCrae, May 1915

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

You may read the whole poem here, and detail of how it came to be written.

This face from my past prompted another entry:

That covers much personal, moral and theological. Next day family history: Grandpa Tom Whitfield (1866-1948) in today’s paper!  I then puzzled over a mystery bird.

8 September: Grand-nephews’ epic adventure.

When I was 22-24 and living in The Shire my idea of an epic adventure was to go to Trundle, or Dorrigo, or maybe Wellington NSW! Not so the new generation!

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Two of my grandnephews, Nathan and David, have since leaving Oz on 17 August driven across the USA from sea to shining sea – but not on choppers…

They were in New York on 11 September: Grand-nephews’ epic adventure — 2.

See No mystery about this bird: Mount Keira Road

A list post: Books that most impressed/impacted you?

Not necessarily in order:

  1. The Bible, but including the Apocrypha and Deuterocanonicals as I do like Wisdom and Sirach.

  2. Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu – one of the world’s most inspiring religious/philosophical texts which fortunately makes no claim to be infallible or inerrant. I first encountered this when studying Asian History at Sydney Uni in 1962 and it has grown on me since.

  3. The works of William Shakespeare.

  4. John Hayward, ed., The Penguin Book of  English Verse (1956) was my text in English 1 in 1960 and I devoured it all. Of course there have been many other anthologies and individual poets since, but I still treasure my mouldering Hayward. Features near-original spellings in older texts.

  5. Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace.

  6. Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1776-1789). Believe it or not this was just part of our English II Distinction course in 1961, and I have never read it all: but then neither did the lecturer! It is still wonderful though and I return to it from time to time.

  7. Arthur Miller, The Crucible and Death of a Salesman.

  8. Bertrand Russell, A History of Western Philosophy.

  9. Amin Maalouf, On Identity.

  10. Grace Karskens, The Colony: A History of Early Sydney (Allen & Unwin, 2009). This stands in for a host of excellent Australian histories in recent years,

Well there are ten, but another ten and another ten could be just as valid!

12 September: Mainly inspirational.

Now on a somewhat minor key. On Monday I posted to Facebook: “What are the chances? I’m in City Diggers Wollongong today and chatting to Bruce who was at Keira Boys HIgh class of 1972. I have brought Baby HP to the club so we are on Lost Wollongong looking at a photo of Keira Staff in 1969. Bruce identifies one of his Maths teachers, also a sports coach. I recognise the name from my time at Wollongong High. And in that moment, literally, the guy himself walks past — that very same Maths teacher from 1969!”

That post also spoke of NSW Governor Marie Bashir and the fantastic SBS’s Living With the Enemy: Episode 2 — Detention Centres.

13 September: Brother.

My brother Ian Whitfield just rang. He is back home in Devonport and feeling pretty good for someone who turns 79 next month! I can assure you we all had good reason to have been scared. Ian praises Burnie Hospital — deserved! — and notes being told if he hadn’t got straight through to there as quickly as he did, been diagnosed and treated as well as he was, he might not be with us at the moment. That there was a horrible similarity to what killed our sister so many years ago occurred to him as much as it did to me, I can now reveal — and that one day there I shed quite a few tears. But all is now well — so we are stuck with him for a while longer… And I can’t resist a political note: all thanks to our still fabulous medical system! May it never be diluted by f*cking politicians.

Then some happy/sad memories in On this day – 25 years ago.

I was living here, in this house. I can’t believe a quarter of a century has slipped by!

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1989 in many ways was annus horribilis…. See On memory and outrage and Memories–mine and another’s

I was intrigued by the gathering of scientists on #QandA: see Ask a scientist….

18 September saw anti-terror raids in Sydney and a salivating Daily Telegraph: WW2 cliche is still the best advice to Australians today. See also Terror down under – media — terrible or helpful? and Terror down under – and the Sichuan lunch.

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Smart company: the two on the left were at our table

On 25 September I posted Terror Australis again, regarding Numan Haider.

Last night, coincidentally, saw Episode 4 of Living with the Enemy on SBS.

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  • Coming back to December 2014, I strongly recommend Charles Waterstreet in today’s Sun-Herald.

    “The new Bail Act is tough enough, unless we want to lock up every MMEA (Man of Middle Eastern Appearance) who is charged. The Fake Sheik attacked a chocolate store, destroying hundreds of years of Swiss neutrality. He desperately wanted to belong to ISIL but couldn’t muster a single flag. He wanted an audience with the Prime Minister Tony Abbott. He was a self-important narcissist with a following of one, his co-accused. Only punch-drunk Mohamed Elomar from an ISIL bunker sent condolences by tweet for his pathetic cowardly comrade with arms.”

24 September:

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“Love that beard you look a real Whitfield!”

So writes a distant cousin, Stuart Daniels, who has taken on the role of family historian as Bob Starling concentrates on his own paternal line. Stuart has added some pieces to the puzzle…

Finally Mainly about rabbits…. That turned out well!

30 September

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