Various lockdown hacks and escapes — 57 — wandering (and wondering!) in 2001 still

So yesterday’s post led to my visiting the rest of 2001 — November and December. I am just going to cherry-pick bits to republish here. I do notice that I made a determined effort to give up my 50-a-day smoking habit! At the end of December I boasted “Oh yes: one month and four days without smoking!” Sadly I crashed soon after, only finally giving up in March 2011 in the cardiac ward at Wollongong Hospital! Yes, that worked!

One December entry relates very much to smoking, and to my brother Ian — who passed away in 2017.

My brother Ian (1935-2017) and my sister Jeanette (1940-1952) — Auburn Street Sutherland around 1944

14 December A long partnership over

An hour ago, Australian Eastern time,
in East Devonport, Tasmania
Norma,
my brother’s partner of 30 years,
passed away after a long battle
with emphysema.

15 December: My brother.

My brother and his partner have been living in Tasmania for many years now; I am not quite sure how many, but certainly more than five. Before that they lived in various parts of Queensland.

One of the ironies of their life together was that they were both married on the same day in Sutherland, way back in 1955, but in two different churches and to two different people. My brother’s first marriage lasted ten years, and it was after the end of that that he and Norma got together. I remember once saying to them that they could have saved a lot of trouble by getting it right on that day back in 1955, to which my brother replied, “Oh well, we still celebrate our wedding anniversary.”

While my brother and I have been in regular contact by phone, especially since our mother died 1n 1996, I have not seen him for many years, and Norma even longer. Unfortunately there is no way I can go down to Tasmania either, not that I could do much.

Ian and Norma were together for over thirty years. A second attempt at partnership suited both of them. They were kindred spirits, and were very lucky to have found each other. In the past few years Norma was basically bedridden, constantly on oxygen for her emphysema. My brother could not have been more loving and more devoted. He certainly had more peace and happiness with Norma over the greater part of thirty years than he had ever had before.

He’s not a young man now; neither of us is. I am not sure what he will do eventually–stay in Tasmania or move back up north. At one time he said he might move back to Queensland, should anything happen to Norma.

My brother had four children by his first marriage, some of whom I see from time to time. Norma had at least one daughter, whom I met, by her first marriage. Ian and Norma had no children by their relationship.

And yes, I won’t harp on it, but Benson and Hedges had a hand in Norma’s suffering and death.

The deep blue skies wax dusky and the tall green trees grow dim
The sward beneath me seems to heave and fall
And sickly, smoky shadows through the sleepy sunlight swim
And on the very sun’s face weave their pall

Let me slumber in the hollow where the wattle blossoms wave
With never stone or rail to fence my bed
Should the sturdy station children pull the bush flowers on my grave
I may chance to hear them romping overhead.

–Adam Lindsay Gordon

Back to November

November 18: Wettish Sunday..but yesterday was fine

Now when you are reduced to talking about the weather…

But it was quite lovely yesterday, although I spent a bit of it working. At lunch I ran into a colleague, M.S., who was attending a Teachers’ Federation Council Meeting. After work (coaching in Chinatown) at the Midnight Shift (a venue I am not normally all that fond of) I saw Clive and a few others, and had a very interesting conversation with someone I had seen around for ages but rarely talked to. It concerned family dynamics among other things. It is nice when people talk about their lives with honesty and seriousness.

The warm weather brought out some pleasing sights for such as I. Out in the suburbs they were washing their cars and going swimming, I am told, and I am sure that would be just as pleasing.

jan04 006

November 19: Life changes for some…and another web page

You may recall my nephew, Warren, who is an “exhibit” at the State Library of NSW as part of the Flinders Exhibition; he is there in virtual form as a lineal descendent of the family of Bungaree, the Guringai Aborigine who sailed with Flinders in his voyages of exploration about 200 years ago. I had a call from Warren at the weekend.

He has moved, with his partner, down to the Sydney region from Queensland and is now living on Guringai traditional land, as his mother’s family has continuously since settlement. Since it is Warren’s historical research that demonstrated the continuity of the descendents of the Guringai in that area, he is about to play a rather significant political role. There is a chance you may read about him in next weekend’s Australian. You can certainly see a lot of him now in the Cadigal Room at the Museum of Sydney.

I wonder if he would like yum cha.

Father John rang also with the sad but not unexpected news that his 98 years old mother recently died. I met her years ago when she was holidaying from Bellingen, where she lived until recently, and a very feisty old lady she was. She rather enjoyed the Albury!

On this diary a little while ago I celebrated the twentieth anniversary of Neos, a magazine for young writers with which I was associated. I have now put the poems, with a few more details, on my Angelfire site*. I think I am getting better at design 😉 What do you think?

*Later transferred to WordPress.

6 December: Calmer…but not yet tranquil

Beware of a man giving up smoking, especially in the first week or two thereof. Do not confront him with sudden change or with anything that might tip his delicate balance. The result can be messy.

Friends need to be especially tolerant of aberrant behaviour. If they have supported the man in his project of giving up, they may be regretting their decison right now. They may be tempted to say “Please, start smoking again! We can’t stand this!” Do not give in to the temptation, but think of your friend’s better moments or track record over time, and remember that before long your friend will reappear as you remember him, and not as the writhing obsessive you see right now.

Yes, a good night’s sleep has helped. But I still need to be treated with delicacy… And on the subject of sleep, I blamed the 3-4 hours only I had on Tuesday night on two things: racing thoughts and leaving a patch on. Quitnet offers this on the latter: “Sleep disturbance almost always occurs in people who use the twenty four hour patch. Since your mind is unaccustomed to receiving nicotine while asleep, it can cause strange effects, including vivid, colorful dreams and difficulty sleeping.”

My best wishes to you all 🙂

18 December: Ninglun is loved after all…and some links for you

It is Day 21 and the cravings still come, but apparently that is normal. The body/mind has learned addiction and does not easily unlearn it. So one just insists: “Hey, I am a non-smoker!” and the cravings eventually pass.

It is nice to have one’s efforts appreciated, so a card from Michael Harmey (ESL/Multicultural Consultant at our Department of Education District Office) received today was very welcome: “Many thanks for your great work this year… You are doing a fantastic job for ESL and Multicultural Education, and it is a great pleasure to work with you.” 🙂

In the current climate where, overwhelmed by a tide of jingoism and a reactionary triumphalism even the modest progressive tends to be vilified as a member of some “elite” or “chattering class”, it is salutary to turn to a site that gives an alternative, non-Eurocentric, non-USA-centred view of the world, if only for balance. Such an alternative is New Internationalist which I commend as a means to keep your views balanced in our unbalanced age.

For fun, on the other hand, try Bad English. Just look 😉

20 December. Christmas thoughts…of a naked Ninglun

Yes, it is very warm in Sydney tonight and you should be glad I don’t have web cam. Looking at myself I can have few illusions about being no longer young, despite rather nice remarks today from some female colleagues, who expressed amazement at the concept that I turn 59 next year (God willing, of course.) I told them it must be my healthy lifestyle 😉

It is that time of year, school having ended, Christmas and New Year, just around the corner; a time to take stock. So I am naked in another sense, trying here to be unpretentious and honest with myself and my readers, some of whom I know and are dear to me, others of whom are total strangers. I so love the web diary–it has helped me so many times since I started, simply in the fact that I can say and do things here in total privacy and yet I am sharing it with the world. It is quite amazing, as happens from time to time, when someone suddenly pops up from, say, Denmark or Texas, and tells me: “Thanks for that” or “Yes, I love what you said…”

A year ago I made a list which is now on on my Home Page of ten beautiful things in life. I still stand by that. But this year I will put in ascending order the year’s six greatest blessings, bearing in mind what a horrible year it has been in some ways. This is a very personal list, and are the things I thank God/fate/circumstance for in 2001.

6. Some good things professionally, targets achieved in some areas at least, and students whose difficulties I have been able to make easier.

5. The blessing of reading and our local library.

4. Being able at my age to still think new thoughts and learn new things, and to take an imprudent decision when I knew it was what I had to do.

3. My friends at yum cha and around the pubs/coffee shops for their fellowship and confirmation of one’s worth and existence.

2. Becoming a non-smoker at last.

1. Finding one is loveable after all, and seeing another find that too about themselves.

Yes, I know the grammar is not quite right in number 1, but the thought is wonderful 🙂

23 December: Almost Christmas

Yes, so close, but I still haven’t done my cards! Looks like I will be making a few phone calls, sending email or ICQ, visiting some (hopefully) and, a last resort, sending late cards.

Yesterday I went to the Green Park Hotel with Sirdan; in time PK, James, Sailor A, and a number of others, joined us. PK gave me a very nice bottle of whisky.

I savoured it in rare indulgence for the next decade!

Today is another Christmas gathering at the Forresters Hotel, and it would appear quite a few are coming to that. The gathering there a couple of weeks ago was very pleasant indeed.

I received a lovely card from “Master Fu”, an ex-student (class of 2000) who has been doing well in Advanced Mathematics at Sydney University. He has a delightful way of expressing himself:

There are many thanks for many things, none of them comes easily with words, for gratitude is the heart’s memory: thank you for everything you have done. Yours, Xiang

Really nice.

If yours is a family Christmas today, have a really good one; treasure those times, as they do pass.

LATER

The Forresters offered T-bone and mash as their $5 grill today, and it is so long since I have indulged in something so decadently Western; it was delicious. Company comprised Sirdan, James, Malcolm, the Empress, Bruce, Sailor A, Dark Cloud (a rare manifestation) and myself. The cuteness index at the Forresters was definitely near 9/10 today as well. (Elki, a very attractive ex-student who must be about 22 now, was there with his girlfriend; his noticing me was noted by the assembly and brought credit on my white beard!) So a good time was had. The Crown Prince had requested his greetings be passed on and it was done.

Meanwhile I have been reading an absolutely fascinating book on a cross-cultural phenomenon very few of us would have known of before: Martin Palmer, The Jesus Sutras (2001), about a thriving Christian movement in China during the 7th and 8th centuries AD. Have a look at that review and you will get the gist.

Various lockdown hacks and escapes — 54 — more from 20 years ago

This time from October 2001.

02 Oct 2001

Despite what I said…breaking my silence

It has taken something really good (for a change!) to make me interrupt my break from this diary.

1. My nephew, who in an immaculate piece of historical research has demonstrated his descent on his mother’s side from Bungaree, who sailed with the explorer Matthew Flinders almost 200 years ago, has been honoured by having some of his research displayed in a Matthew Flinders exhibition at the State Library of NSW. He has also been interviewed on video, and that interview, along with some other things, will become part of the exhibit at the Museum of Sydney devoted to evidence of continuity of Aboriginal presence in the Sydney Region since European settlement.

2. Cafe Max was particularly lovely this afternoon….

04 Oct 2001

..house and site

M got into tidying yesterday, and became a bit…well…

Today I am on my way to coaching and called into Global Gossip Internet Cafe (of which I am now a member) in order to start the process of deleting the archives (except one or two) on Diary-X. (Internet Cafe saves hassles, is cheap, and makes a nice outing.)

I do this purge on Diary-X every few months, but in some ways it was nice to delete September! However, you can still read it on the Angelfire archive. That gives you September, but all the rest back to late 1999 can be found on that archive, for which see Diary Key below.

Really looking forward to after coaching. I have a book complete with proclamation (correctly spelt) 😉 Max is wonderful….

05 Oct 2001

…but I’ll rave quietly 😉

Our Prime Minister has called an election for November 10, nothing to do (of course) with his popularity going through the roof right now due to one rather dishonourable set of circumstances, and one other–the international situation. It’s not too hard to see the second one, but what of the first? I refer to a series of carefully targetted policy backflips, the cynicism of which even some of his supporters have noted. I also refer to the exquisitely absurd Tampa crisis, a mobilisation of moral panic and xenophobia which is simply breathtaking. In cost terms, we may as well have hired the QE2 and sent all the asylum seekers on a long cruise, but people really don’t seem to care. I’ve argued this one before (see September 2001 diary) and others have argued it better. So I’ll leave it there right now. Except to say I think Malcolm Fraser (ex-Prime Minister and Liberal Party one at that) has generally been quite right in his criticism of his ideological successor over the past few years.

J W Howard won’t be getting my vote–but I guess you knew that; then, neither will the Opposition unless they look a whole lot better. Yes, I will vote: it is compulsory to do so, but I will be studying the alternatives very carefully.

06 Oct 2001

A petition signed by many eminent Australians

In The Australian today there appeared a petition signed by two broadsheet pages worth of eminent and less well-known Australians, including a number I know, such as Nicholas Jose, William Yang, Helmut Bakaitis, Professor Ros Arnold of Sydney University, and of course Malcolm Fraser, ex-Prime Minister (same party as the present one). M. and I agreed we would have signed it ourselves had we had the chance, so here it is:

Australia and the Refugee Crisis

In today’s world, left shaken and uncertain by the terrorist acts of 11 September, it is more imperative than ever that Australia find just and humanitarian ways to respond to the growing refugee crisis.

We are outraged and ashamed at this country’s contemptible treatment of men, women and children seeking asylum in Australia, a country which has given a new home and new life to countless thousands of immigrants.

We are outraged and ashamed that our hard-won international reputation as a decent and tolerant democracy has been severely damaged.

We must not allow the events of 11 September and their aftermath to erode the principles of humanitarianism and justice that underpin our society. Rather, we must reaffirm those principles as essential to our democracy.

Confronted by a situation that is challenging for community and government alike, we call for Australia to abide by both the spirit and the letter of its international treaty obligations in offering sanctuary to victims of persecution who have fled the tyranny of their governments.

We call for a multi-partisan approach to address the global refugee crisis. We call for Australia to show regional and international leadership in developing a worldwide and long-term solution to this problem. This is one way Australia can act constructively in this volatile time.

Finally, we call for all Australians to draw strength and direction from the rich humanitarian heritage of our country, especially the value of the fair go.

I would sign that gladly, and I add that one reason I will not vote for either major party is that the current government has cynically manipulated the situation for supposed electoral advantage (that is, winning the One Nation vote for itself) and the Labor Party has connived in an unprincipled manner for the same purpose. Both stink, in my view, at least on this issue.

The 2000+ people who signed the above petition are not just ratbags, radicals or trendies, but include some of the most eminent and respected in the land.

I had an interesting discussion tonight with a military man who before long will be a lot closer to the action overseas than I am, and he agreed with this assessment of the current government’s handling of the so-called “queue-jumpers” 100%, I am pleased to say.

For further reading, see Peter Mares, Borderline, UNSW Press 2001. This book is excellent, and actually quite charitable towards Mr Ruddock, the current Immigration Minister, but gives inconvenient fact after inconvenient fact to expose the hollowness of the government line, made even worse by the manipulation since the book was written of the so-called crisis over the Tampa. (See September diary for more.)

But I promised not to rave too much…

[What follows] is from “Spectrum” in The Sydney Morning Herald 6 October 2001:

Barely-human nature

WORDS

By Ruth Wajnryb

Be honest. Can anyone truly look at a picture of a refugee family from the Tampa and still see these people as people? I can’t. I now see them in the terms in which they have been newly constructed in the language.

I try not to. I remind myself: these are people. They’re not refugees or asylum seekers or desperadoes or illegals or queuejumpers or boat people. They’re not cargo or contraband or human flotsam or victims of people-trading. They’re not part of a flood or a deluge that needs to be contained. They’re people.

It’s not easy. Over the past few weeks they’ve been languaged – packaged and presented up to us. Sometimes as deserving objects of our compassion. Sometimes as targets of our contempt. Somehow, along the way, they stopped being people.

They are the new dark hordes, a not-too-distant cousin of the yellow variety. They’re Middle Eastern, Afghans, Muslims (variously pronounced Mozlem, Muzlem, Moozlem. I am reminded that Churchill persistently mispronounced “Nazis” as “Narzies”. This allowed him to drag out the first vowel – one can only speculate why. I suspect that talkback radio’s “Moozlem” serves a similar purpose.)

How do you make a villain? Insanely, it helps to equate those-who-flee with the government-being-fled – a formula that would turn Einstein into a Nazi. It’s a peculiar way of thinking that serves only the one making the equation.

And what about us? We’ve constructed ourselves into a land on the brink of being deluged. Overcome by a tidal wave, a plague, disease. We have no will or power of our own; the pestilence will happen to us because illegal asylum-seekers will cause it to happen. Unless we act decisively, close the floodgates, send in the SAS. Make ourselves Tampa-proof. This is what we’ve been told.

This crisis seemed to be about 460 people, a ship, an island, a continent and a prime minister. But it’s not. It’s about language. The language we use to talk about these people has started to construct our attitude towards them. When and how and why did these people stop being people? How and when did these people become “illegals”? How did “illegals” come into the language as a plural countable noun? These are not people who have done, or might have done, or have yet to have it proved that they have done, illegal things. All these categories have been collapsed into one: “illegals”. Their entire identity – a wailing baby, an exhausted mother, a father trying to hold it all together, where they’ve come from, their memories, what fears they’ve had and still have, what hopes they hardly dare to have – all of this has been leaked out of the picture. Now they’re three illegals.

So it’s no longer possible to look at a picture of a refugee family without thinking: aren’t you just an illegal alien, a queuejumper, an economic refugee? Those clothes don’t look too bad. That haircut looks recent. Under the new rhetoric, there’s no neutral term for who they are.

The spotlight turned the people-who-have-been-smuggled into contraband. They’re like drugs, or weapons. They’re cargo. Stop the people transporting the cargo. Stop the governments making life such hell that people willingly become illegal cargo. Now they’re illegal cargo. They’re illegals.

Humankind has a long and colourful history of demonising, of stripping the other of their humanity, seeing them as animals or objects or vermin. (We needed a song, remember, to remind us that the Russians love their children.) Historian Colin Tatz says that atrocious acts such as genocide can happen only because the pathways to extermination have been made possible through language. Step 1 is to create “the other”. Step 2 places that other outside the human membrane. That’s what we’re up to.

I know they’ve been languaged because it has worked on me.

07 Oct 2001

More food for thought

The column above expresses some ideas that I have some sympathy with, in a mode I relate to professionally.

Ruth Wajnryb is an ESL teacher with considerable expertise in migration and cross-cultural communication.

Her analysis of the discourse in which controversy over “illegal immigrants” occurs is well worth noting.

Please consider it carefully. It is very sound linguistically.

Meanwhile today was quite delightful.

Yum Cha at the Emperor’s Garden was attended by the Empress, Sirdan, Malcolm, Mitchell and myself. Food was good, and conversation that continued in two other places was really good.

Mitchell got to hear Sirdan speak Afrikaans, and both Mitchell and I learned more about Sirdan than we had known before. His is an interesting story, from Zimbabwe to South Africa to London to New Zealand to Australia.

Malcolm and the Empress went to see a recent Australian film, The Bank, and loved it so much that they propose seeing it again at 11.45 next Sunday! I, and perhaps Mitchell (who is invited) may join them.

Conversation resumed with Sirdan, the Empress, Malcolm and myself at the Albury (where my drinking was modest and not all alcoholic–so I did know the way to Surry Hills!).

FotoSketcher - 16042_232492893548533_882882010_n
The Albury

It should be added that a slight poetic licence may apply to Malcolm’s stories; I really did know the way home.

More food for thought

This link to an article in The Atlantic Monthly is worth a look. Harking back to Karl Popper’s The Open Society and Its Enemies, originally written during World War II, the writer, from a moderate conservative perspective, brings us back to core problems confronting the existence of liberal democracy when faced with closed minds or societies both within and without. I find the ideas presented must be taken into account when thinking of the current world situation.

There has been a disturbing report of the latest boatload of asylum seekers, turned back to Indonesia by the Australian Navy–in itself arguably the right or wrong thing to do. The report claims that some of the people on the boat began to throw their children over the side. This is very emotive stuff. You know my interest in the topic, and I now include a link to Robert Manne’s latest column on it. I share his perception that public debate on issues such as multiculturalism has soured, and fear too that the present major parties–both of them–have contributed to this display of Hansonism.

“Children overboard” was, it turned out, a lie and a national disgrace.

I said to Ian Smith last night that I suspect my core ideas are actually Dickensian, by which I mean that the spirit in which Dickens viewed both religion and society is congenial to me. In fact I suspect I imbibed it at my grandfather’s knee–the same grandfather who counselled me when young to watch for the knife concealed behind the back when you saw people praying!

2021: See also In Remembrance: Ruth Wajnryb, Ph.D. (1948-2012).

13 Oct 2001

No politics today

However, that does not mean I won’t get on my soap box at some stage in the future.

While I was at the doctor’s surgery the other day I picked up a little book called Brief encounters: Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Associated Therapies for General Practitioners by Alex Tahmindjis, and was interested having had a little experience in this area, directly as a client, and indirectly with others.

The book gave a good summary of depression, anxiety disorders, seretonin levels, and so on.

Improving one’s seretonin levels is one element in treating depression and anxiety. Tahmindjis discusses the role of such medication as Zoloft (which did not work well for me), exercise (which I should do more of), cognitive behaviour therapy (which I have had some experience of), setting achievable tasks (which I sometimes have problems with!) and touching.

“Holding hands boosts feelings of comfort and happiness. If you have a partner, start touching more… No partner? Well, how about friends…” True, isn’t it? Also, one can in such a situation hug in the mind, if you know what I mean; the book does not say so, but I suspect thinking about such a person probably affects seretonin levels too.

Now isn’t it nicer sometimes to think of things like this instead of politics, world problems and matters of intellect? It could be that such a grounding for oneself actually helps when it comes to dealing with other things. What do you think?

Much nicer than politics or the state of the world.

18 Oct 2001

Empress sends naked men…and other mysteries and ruminations

A few days ago the Empress, whose hard disk must be rather like a nudist colony, sent me some not unattractive images (three in fact) that purport to be Ian Thorpe in the nude, and in varying degrees of excitement. The other variation is in his body, which either is very changeable, or the images are fakes. I await the chance to have them authenticated by someone who may know 😉

Our friend A., a sailor, is among those going off to war. At first I wondered how he knew this two weeks ago, but probably he is on the ship that was going to the Gulf anyway to replace one that is coming home. The deployment of Australian forces in the War on Terrorism has bipartisan support here, although two of the minor parties, the Greens and the Democrats, have reservations. Some military experts also question the open-ended nature of the commitment, given that the Australian Defence Forces, while very good, are also very small. The question then is how long we can maintain a commitment, how many can be spared (given the Government still continues its rather odd policy on asylum seekers, the true cost of which is now emerging), and whether (though all deny it) conscription is further down the track.

Naturally we wish the men and women who go all the best and hope they all come back. Unlike the USA, it should be noted, gay men and women are officially among those serving–A. is one of them, and an outspoken one at that.

University exams loom. At the same stage, when I was seventeen and three months, I was a nervous wreck, absolutely convinced I would fail Ancient History (I didn’t) and having completed less than the whole of my Latin course. I passed Latin, but was told if the rest of my paper had been the same standard as my Horace, I most certainly would not have. I did not achieve the Distinction level in English I had hoped for, despite my tutor having encouraged me to consider Honours. I almost gave up on the idea, and was very flattered when the tutor rang me at home after the results came out, telling me to ignore them and do Honours anyway. I did–and got through.

At nineteen and three months (being born in July) I was in Third Year, doing the Honours English Course (I got a Distinction) and, despite again being convinced I would fail (Asian) History, I actually came first! Much to my surprise.

The following year I spent working in an Insurance Company, due to family finances going belly-up. But that’s another story.

Martin Place Sydney 1962 — I worked here in 1963

What a conservative, straight young man I was in those years. I would have run a mile from someone like me if I had ever met such a person. Not that I had much idea such people existed. I just alternated wanking, working and praying and hoped for the best, finding solace with my Christian friends at university and at church, questioning very little politically, and reading my Bible every day. I was a sweet, if naive, young person: cute too? Well, I’m not so sure about that…

Oh my –the things I put online twenty years ago, eh!

Update: on Children Overboard and the 2001 Election.

Various lockdown hacks and escapes — 32a — revisiting the 2002 HSC

After the previous post had been up for around six hours I rediscovered my July 2002 blog archive on the Wayback Machine!

What follows are sections relevant to the previous post.

I haven’t been able to see Sirdan again since Wednesday [he was in hospital], but plan to at the weekend. If I go to Yum Cha (and I am not sure I will this time–the vibes may not be quite right) I will see him after, or maybe on Saturday.

Term has ended. I am taking on the Year 12 Extension English class for the HSC, following the sudden departure of Ms X amidst some drama. The topic: Post-Modernism! The text left to study is Australian David Williamson’s satire on the subject, Dead White Males (1995), and the class have already done the movie of Virginia Woolf’s Orlando (a copy of which I have brought home from school) and John Fowles’ The French Lieutenant’s Woman, which I must reread.

Speaking of Post-Modernism, one difference (totally subjective) that strikes me about the two books I mentioned last time is this: while PowerBook and The Monkey’s Mask both are Lesbian/Queer Literature and while both contain quite a lot of sex, in PowerBookthis seems less foregrounded, less strident. PowerBook is just as ideologically committed as The Monkey’s Mask but somehow seems more–how can we say?–relaxed? I am really not sure of my ground here–just impressions. I should add that the verse in The Monkey’s Mask really is quite impressive in the range of voices it can capture–it is a verse novel, remember–and it works well. The story in The Monkey’s Mask is entirely more conventional; PowerBook is a palimpsest, a display of intertextuality, yet absolutely clear in its way. Psychologically and philosophically it is the deeper novel, yet wears this lightly.

I will return to Henry James’ The Portrait of a Lady for healing drafts 🙂 Like the reasons for my reading it in the first place, it is a pure pleasure in itself, made more pleasurable by having been shared; there’s no need in my life for more than that level of pleasure and I am lucky to have known it.

A significant note: M cooked up some nice food tonight. You have to know me to know what that means… His life is looking good, and is his–and that is his gain over the past time, some of which has been hard. But I rarely talk about him, as regulars here know.

Friday, July 05, 2002

This rather magnificent photo of the Paris Gay Pride was sent this month by Timur, an OUT friend in England. Amazing how much these guys resemble me! 😉

Sunday, July 14, 2002

The news from Wall Street is all too depressing, along with George W Bush’s possibly not unrelated war plans that are, as he has said several times, “not on my desk” at the moment, being (presumably) under it, or in the next room.

Instead, let us consider Yum Cha. Today we met at the Golden Harbour which definitely has the best mango puddings. The Empress has a lot to do at the moment as his father died last night leaving quite a few tasks to be accomplished by the Empress. Other than myself, there were Lord Bruce and the Little Emperor of Taiwan. Sirdan was not there, and the Crown Prince remained incommunicado, as did Lord Malcolm who only returned to the Southern Kingdom on Friday.

Next, I should say I have been doing a bit of maintenance on my site, and checked all the counters. There are currently 49 pages on the site! The Gateway Page is of course the most popular, with over 4000 hits now. Number two is the Diary Key Page. Here are the rest of the top ten: 3) Links; 4) Gay Main Page; 5) Home; 6) TESOL 7 (Aboriginal Australia); 7) Gallery; 8) Massaging the Asylum Seekers; 9) TESOL 1; 10) Ninglun and the Fundamentalist.

Later

After Yum Cha I was reading the Sunday Telegraph over coffee at the Coffee Roaster, and read with incredulity (the only response surely) this regressive pietistic nonsense from Archbishop Pell. One would have thought shame would have prevented him from waxing so lyrical on this of all subjects; an extract:

With all other Christians, Catholics restrict adoration to God alone. But when I was young, Catholics were criticised for giving too much devotion to Our Lady, a Catholic term for Mary, for being too feminine.*

Today the wheel has turned full circle. Catholics are sometimes alleged to be anti-woman, because of the Catholic decision against the possibility of women priests.

However, we did not come to just visit modern Mexico, the second largest Catholic country in the world, or to visit the ancient Aztec pyramids dating back to a couple of hundred years after Christ at Tenochtitln, then a metropolis about the size of ancient Rome.

We came to visit the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which dates from 1531, only 10 years after the Spanish conquest.

Mary appeared to a young Indian convert, Juan Diego, and left a miraculous image of herself as a young Indian woman on his cloak to convince a properly sceptical bishop.

More than 15 million pilgrims now visit this shrine every year, so that it ranks second only to the Vatican as a Christian pilgrimage centre.

The original rulers, the Aztecs, were a highly developed civilization in trade, mathematics and astronomy. But it was an incredibly cruel society, regularly practising human sacrifice, including child sacrifice, sometimes with thousands of victims.

Conquered local peoples and even Aztec allies joined Hernan Cortez’s party because of this.

The opposite to belief in the one true and good God is often not denial, but fear and pessimism. Mary told Juan Diego that she loved his people and would protect them. They converted in millions to follow her God and her only Son Jesus.

* Nonsense; the Protestant objection is that it is unscriptural and superstitious. Catholics and Protestants were equally sexist, of course, in practice.

Sunday, July 21, 2002

Went to the dentist and got a temporary filling and a threat of root canal therapy; so far so good, and I am hoping the antibiotics fix the problem.

M[ichael]. moved today and the big rearrangement is well under way. He’ll be around though.

The Christian Science Monitor has a good reputation as a newspaper. Well worth visiting. I just love this story; good for UNC, I say.

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Brynn Hardman was all set to sit back and glide through some Danielle Steel on Atlantic Beach this summer.

Just graduated from high school in Raleigh, N.C., she was looking forward to a bit of light fare before hitting the heavy tomes of freshman year. Instead, the tanned teen is immersed in the curlicue phrasings of what would have been her personal last choice for beachside reading: the Koran.

Ms. Hardman and 3,500 other soon-to-be freshmen at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill have a controversial assignment: to delve into excerpts of a text invoked by the Sept. 11 terrorists. Only two pages into “Approaching the Qur’an,” by Michael Sells, Hardman says the book is “an awful choice.”…

Last week, three students and a conservative Christian organization took their discontent a step further, and filed a lawsuit.

UNC officials say they have not only the prerogative but the responsibility to open students’ eyes to the Muslim religion and culture. Indeed, pundits here on campus say UNC’s experiment should be a call to other institutions to follow suit – for the good of the country.

But critics say this bulwark of liberal thought – a campus where antiwar signs went up even before bombs had begun falling over Afghanistan – has crossed the line by forcing students to read the book.

The controversy simply fuels UNC’s reputation of chief gadfly here, smack in the heart of Baptist country. People with religious objections can opt out by writing an essay explaining why, but they still must attend a group discussion when they arrive in mid-August.

“The question is, what’s the big role of the university here?” says Carl Ernst, the religious-studies professor who recommended the book to a selection committee of faculty, staff, and students.

“[Critics] assume the choice represents advocacy, but we just want to advance knowledge,” he says. “This will not explain the terrorist attacks of last September, but this will be a first step toward understanding something important about Islamic spirituality, and to see its adherents as human beings.”…

Tuesday, July 30, 2002

Then comes Change/Storm/Happiness: August 2002

Marcia [head of English SBHS] says I look tired, which is to be expected. Work is climaxing with the Trial this week, and a few other issues such as having to speak to the Parents and Citizens Association on multicultural matters next week, and some students who have pressing problems to be dealt with. But in its own way this is rewarding–assuming I survive of course.

It is particularly galling to know that I am being misjudged in another quarter, perhaps, which explains my tendency lately to argue so much on various issues (that we all have).

I now have more socks than you can poke a stick at, thanks to M. The soup is good. And I just had a phone call from Marcel Proust, who seems a decent guy.

Well I have dinner to get, and two essays to mark. There may be more lurking in my email!

–13 August 2002

Heartfelt

My heart goes out to this student involved in the overambitious HSC English Extension course on postmodernism; email arrived yesterday and issue talked through in class today:

Sir,

I was hoping to see you today (Tuesday) but due to my devotion to doing well in school I was unable to attend class. Nevertheless I was hoping to see you tomorrow after our lesson Period 4. I’m aware that you have other commitments and this may not be possible. If you could email me a reply tonight (if you get it tonight that is) it would be greatly appreciated.

Now to the heart of problem (n.b. this does not have to be dealt with asap), I’m having trouble with essay writing, not the actual writing cause I’m good at that, but grappling with ideas of postmodernism. I am not totally convinced by post modernism (as are many) but I understand enough (I have done extensive theoretical reading) to be completely unsure of what it really is. So when I am writing an essay describing postmodern elements (like pastiche and parody in the last task) I feel very inclined to keep making the point that this is a postmodern device. This is because I don’t believe that these are postmodern devices and although they are open to any interpretation by responders the postmodern descriptions don’t sit well with me. This amounts to an essay that does not flow well, as I can’t really get comfortable with the pretense that the text is postmodern. I find myself justifying, every time I make a statement in an essay, that the text is truly a postmodern text. Do I need to do this? or do assume that the marker is believing that the text is postmodern?

I need help in pinning down what the markers are looking for. Do you need to show that you know the texts are postmodern and these…blah blah… are the reasons why? (what I’ve previously been doing, without believing they are postmodern) Or do you show the various elements that are used by the composer and say that these are believed to be postmodern and then voice some kind of opinion on the issue? If I went through and identified all the aspects of the texts that tied in with (say) pastiche and gave textual reference in the way of quotes and compared it to my supplementary texts; does this answer the question (getting me full marks). Or do I make a commentary on the nature of these elements (which is what I naturally feel inclined to do) and get weighed down in the complex theory of postmodern philosophers.

I realise that postmodernism can be taken seriously or lightly and that authors don’t feel the same passion towards destroying the grand narratives that philosophers do, but I need to know what level I need to analyse at? Who do I look at when talking generally about postmodernism? do I talk generally about postmodernism? what questions would I not talk generally about postmodernism?

I understand that there is no definite answer to these questions (God I’m sounding postmodern already) but if you could throw me a line and show me the general direction it would help immensely. I’m sorry I lumped all this on you at one time, don’t feel pressured to answer it straight away, I’ll probably make it through the Trial all right if you need a long time. If you could answer even one of these queries then I would be very grateful.

It turns out his mother has a Ph. D. in Philosophy!

Other

Since I am here, I do have to say I like Dimitri at the local coffee shop, where I felt I wanted to go so that normality might to some extent be restored. He is a very calm person.

–14 August 2002

Two things today.

First, last night I had to speak to the school’s Parents and Citizens Association on the subject of multiculturalism, a task I looked forward to with some foreboding, as controversies over the “imbalance” of the school have been raging (as you would know if you are a regular here) for most of this year*. We have been a ridiculously frequent subject on the front pages of the Sydney Morning Herald, the Daily Telegraph, editorial columns, letters pages, talk-back radio (which I just correctly typoed as “talk-cack radio”!) and even TV current affairs shows. We even get a column in this week’s Bulletin courtesy of Catherine Lumby, who is actually quite right in the trend of her analysis of the power structures involved, though some may bridle at her mode of expression.

Usually there are between ten and twenty people at these meetings; last night there were forty, including, I am pleased to say, a greater than usual representation of our Chinese parents. Also present (at my invitation) were two consultants in multiculturalism from the Department of Education, one male and one female, and Tony Hannon, the 1st Grade Rugby Coach, whose coda to my speech endorsing the current school situation as something he loved carried some weight. I gave a dispassionate account of government policy, then pulled all stops out in my account of why there are so many students from backgrounds other than English, especially Chinese ones. Afterwards, one of the consultants hugged and kissed me (the female one) and declared herself a fan! The audience were won over; not one nasty remark or provocative question.

Thoughts had been sent my way at 7.30 and I am sure they arrived 🙂

My Anne Wilson Schaff Meditations for Living in Balance for yesterday was on, would you believe, “Expanding Our Horizons” by learning from other cultures! Serendipidous indeed.

Speaking of living in balance, I come to the second thing. I was fascinated to read Queer Scribe’s well-written but often very raunchy diary yesterday. Here is a very bright man, twenty years younger than I, whose libido is somewhat more active, shall we say, than mine tends to be:

Writing about insecurities and fears here always make me feel vulnerable, but it seems those are the entries folks most respond to. I have had several emails from readers—many of them gay men around my age—and it would appear I’ve struck a chord. (Or a nerve?) That makes me feel good, not only that I am not the only one going through (putting myself through?) this shit, but also that others out there might feel less alone too….

But more than that, there’s a terrific opportunity here. Because I have been depending too much on my body, my—for a thirty-six year old—youthful good looks. Although this is less true than it was, say, three or four years ago, still much of the sex I look for and sometimes find is a way of hiding, of keeping myself small, safe, apart. It’s time, again, to look at what might be underneath all that, at what, exactly, it is I’m hiding, or hiding from.

I suspect that what I’m hiding—and hiding from—is love. Big surprise eh?

-22 August 2002

It’s a while since I had a “sickie”, but I decided I needed one today. So here I am at home. I work part time anyway and can adjust my days to suit, up to a point. Mid-term is a time when the need for a “mental health day” strikes many a teacher, and the past few weeks have had their share of stresses. And triumphs, I hasten to add; but the only way I will break the back of the Trial HSC marking and cope with a few other things down the track is to take a little time out.

The stressors? Well, adapting to new circumstances at home–and that is going well really, and M has been terrific. Also, the pressure of taking over that Year 12 class had a cost, though well worth it. Some other dramas also occurred, but again the outcome has really been good. It all takes energy though, and that sometimes needs replenishing. I am aware too that I am not getting any younger.

Yesterday evening, I hasten to add, was one of life’s more wonderful offerings. I look forward to more of them 🙂 My Chinese cooking is improving.

Things are looking up for Sirdan too, who has a nice new place to live. He particularly complimented me on Sunday’s diary entry.

–27 August 2002

See on *

07 — a controversy — For the record: the great SBHS race debate of 2002.

Various lockdown hacks and escapes — 26 — when your 6th Grade teacher’s son emails you…

Hi Neil, we chatted some time ago about my father, Edgar O’Neill, your teacher at Sutherland in 1955. I just posted a photo of the 1955 Year 6 class (as well as the 1953 cricket team). Are you in that photo? I thought I’d identify you as it’s your article on Eddie that the photo is attached to.

Muchael O’Neill enail 5 August 2021

He is referring to his family history page. There he reproduces an earlier version of my post Some reposts on teaching — 4 — we need to get back to thoughts like these. In that newer version I at least spell Michael O’Neill’s family name correctly! Here is his father, my teacher at Sutherland Boys Primary in 1954 not 1955 — in 1957 at Jannali School — where, coincidentally, I did my very first (unsupervised) practice teaching at the beginning of 1961! CORRECTION — Not so: he was at Jannali East, I was at Jannali.

Eddie on playground

I had said in my post what an outstanding teacher Edgar O’Neill was:

The thing about Mister O’Neill is that he had a class of fifty or so students, all in a portable class room that baked in summer. Hardly any of the boys had shoes. Cast-off bits of military uniform were fashionable; no such thing as a school uniform, or (I may add indelicately) underpants. There were a few quite talented kids in 6A; I was a bit up myself, I’m afraid, because even though I took every August off to have bronchitis, and also that year had mumps followed by orchitis (nasty) and pancreatitis, I still managed to top the class, despite my rather alarming (and continuing) innumeracy. He let us have our heads, really. We produced school newspapers, in which I wrote and illustrated serials that were rather like Biggles, and also devised crossword puzzles. Every Friday we “broadcast” our plays over the school’s PA system.

When I was selected to go to Sydney Boys High my parents were against it, mainly because of the travelling which, combined with my absent-mindedness that led to my once almost being run over at a pedestrian crossing, they felt would not suit me. I guess they were also worried about my health. My mother at that time, I might add, was invalided with a clot in the leg, so I was also cooking dinner every night, following instructions emanating from my mother’s bedroom. She used to say what I cooked for the dogs smelt more appetising than what I made for the family — chops and three veg usually. Can’t go too wrong with that.

Well, Mister O’Neill I found one afternoon when I came in from playing with the Dawson boys down the road sitting by my Mum’s bed in earnest conversation. Result: I went to Sydney Boys High. Apparently I had the highest IQ ever recorded at Sutherland Primary to that point… That may not be saying too much, of course, and I certainly found myself a small fish in a big pond at SBHS the following year.

But hats off to Mr O’Neill. Not only was he just a fascinating teacher, but so dedicated….

Michael O’Neill in due course sent me two photos, which I have colourised,

1953 1st Grade Cricket — Edgar O’Neill coach
6A 1955 — one or two familiar faces. Repeating the year?

In 1955 I was in First Year at Sydney Boys High.

Me in 1955 Vermont Street Sutherland in SHS uniform

Sadly neither I nor Michael O’Neill has a copy of the 1954 6A photo — my class. I do have 3A from 1952 though, and I am definitely in that one.

That is from a post called (appropriately) I fear I was a weird kid!

I was much more attracted to the Australian Museum –– indeed, even took my neighbourhood friends and classmates there, just a year or two after this was taken at Sutherland Public School — that is from when I was maybe ten years old, travelling by train by myself (or with said friends) to the city, walking across Hyde Park to the Australian Museum. Loved the place!

What really strikes me now is just how formative those years 1952-1954 at Sutherland Boys Primary were.

Does that say 1951 or 1952?

If I was in that class in 1952 — and it is definitely my class — then I did 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th classes in three years. That does gel with the memory I am slightly hazy about, that I skipped a class, for whatever reason. I know my Maths never quite recovered.

The other thing is that you could say I was away almost as often as I was there. Every August I could guarantee most of the month off with bronchitis, and there were the illnesses I mentioned in the extract above from my post about Edgar O’Neill. In 1953 I had my appendix removed and missed quite a bit of school then. I posted about that, and it concerns also the boy second from the left in the front row of that 3A photo — pretty sure that is Colin Dawson.

And I remember my neighbours in Vermont Street, Sutherland, the Dawsons. Facebook puts me in touch with first the next generation, and then, miracle of miracles, with one of the three brothers I knew in the early 1950s.

Colin and Jimmy [Dawson] probably saved my life once when I had a bursting appendix at school in 1952 or 3 — complicated by the fact my sister had died of something similar in January 1952. They took care of me and carried me home one lunchtime when I am afraid the teachers were not taking much notice of my case. I was in such pain. I have never forgotten what they did. The next day I was in St George Hospital.🙂

The youngest brother writes:

Hi I’m Graham Dawson, Jim & Col’s younger brother. They are both well & Jim lives here with me on The Sunshine Coast & Col lives in Bundaberg. I remember you from those times, I was just the little brother hanging around. Lol.

How wonderful is that, after all these years!

I gained quite a bit of my education at home in my room recovering from whatever illness but listening to all the schools broadcasts on the wireless — 2BL? — and other things there too, some wildly inappropriate to my age! There was also the ABC Children’s Session/Argonauts Club. And I read heaps. Comics not least — Captain Marvel, Superman, The Phantom…

Then there were the many many afternoons spent at my Grandpa Christison’s place in then Waratah Street West. The house is still there, and my Aunt Kay still lives there. My father built the house to Grandpa Christison’s design in the late 1940s.

P9170749a

We would talk and talk, Grandpa Roy and I, and I would badger him with questions. He was the soul of patience, a retired headmaster. I now realise how those conversations are to this day the deepest source of my values and my view of the world. That is no exaggeration; I may elaborate in another post.

Grandpa Roy Christison and Grandma Ada — c.1944

NAIDOC Week 2021 — Healing Country — 6

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My family on Gweagal land in Dharawal Country 1944-5 — I am front left, next to my sister Jeanette, my mother Jean, and on the right my brother Ian. In the back row are my Aunt Ruth, my Uncle Neil (born 6 July 1924) in RAAF uniform, and my Aunt Beth.

Yes, it is 9 July again. And that means I turn 78. Born far to the south in the same year, 1943, was this man:

What a great man he has become, and what a life he has had! Just this week his story was brought up to date by the TV program “Who Do You Think You Are?” on SBS.

The show is often emotional; delving into the past almost always is. But for an Aboriginal man, and moreover as a member of the Stolen Generations, that was especially true for Charles.

“(I’m feeling) overwrought, and a profound sense of loss. I’m really peeved,” he says. 

“It’s causing me to lose sleep. But that’s par for the course for a member of the Stolen Generation. If I didn’t have such a high profile, I would have never learned this, I would have remained in ignorance, that I was Wiradjuri man on my father’s side.”

Charles’ family story reveals a history of activism and resilience in the face of the brutalities of colonisation. But an unknown connection to the peoples of Tasmania on his mother’s side revealed a truly remarkable, and tragic family history. 

Charles is descended of an august line; his five-times great grandfather, Mannalargenna, was a highly respected Elder of his people, and acted as ambassador and emissary to surrounding clans.

Uncle Jack Charles — “Uncle” is a term of respect for an elder

Now a question I posed on Facebook earlier in the week:

Seems odd to say “way back in 2016” — but five years is five years, and I don’t get any younger. Well, five years ago I published the post linked to this, which in turn went back to five years earlier!

Question: Am I of Aboriginal descent?

Answer: Possibly, even probably. And no, I have not had a DNA test. But the story is in a way simple. I have (as you do) eight great-grandparents. I can account for all but one of them. In the case of my grandmother’s parentage — and a fine woman but troubled she was by all accounts — the father is unknown. That is, my father’s mother’s father.

The story — which I heard from my father and mother themselves — is that this grandmother was the daughter of an Aboriginal man, probably Dharawal (or maybe Yuin). We know nothing much about him.

But it is enough to make me look at Merrigong from my window with different eyes. The story was enough for Aboriginal actress Kristina Nehm, knowing the story, to always introduce me to Aboriginal people thus: “This is Neil. He is family.”

This is apart from the story of my brother’s wife, who is a descendant of the family of Bennilong.

Here is my story.

My grandmother, Henrietta Bursill.

And let’s finish with something we can all benefit from, speaking of healing — #NAIDOC 20121’s theme after all:

UPDATE

This effectively ends this series, having brought NAIDOC Week back home to my own life and family. Remember, the matter of our national truth and the absolute need seriously to consider the Uluru Statement from the Heart are matters for every week in this country.

Yes, we have learned, and are learning, much — but there are “miles to go before we sleep.”