A repost from New Year 2003 — Auburn Street

Here is another colourised photo: On the back it says “March 21 aged 9” — Jeanette’s ninth birthday (19 March 1949) being crashed by me, it appears. Left to right: Connie Phipps, Jeanette, me, Gail MacNamara, Deidre Hawke. The Auburn Street house is in the background.


Yesterday on Facebook my niece Christine reminded me that she had sent me a photo of that house: “did you see the photo I posted ages ago if your house in auburn st?” In fact it was 2018, and I do remember. I replied: ” And back in 2002 I even was able to walk through the house and explore every room, thanks to an ex-SBHS student, now a teacher, Mitchell who I call Mr Rabbit at times.His description of the event is quite perceptive.”

Now those pages sit there waiting to be visited, usually via a Google search, but otherwise (such is the internet) they “waste their sweetness on the desert air.”  So I have decided to revive that page as a post, adding that The Rabbit, who was 20 at the time, is now almost another lifetime down the track. Last I heard he was in a position of responsibility in a secondary school west of Sydney.

Sutherland 02


Auburn Street revisited

At the end of December 2002 Mister Rabbit drove me out to Sutherland. I said at the time, and still say five to six years on, that this was one of the best days I have ever had. I told the story thus on New Years Day 2003 on Diary-X:

Mister Rabbit wondered whether I would be writing up our day in Sutherland (and Sans Souci) beyond what I had to say on the day:

Yesterday was the most perfect day imaginable in the company of the best companion one could hope for.



First, let me repeat it was the best day I have had for a very long time, and part of what you need to know to understand that is that I have had an ongoing problem with agoraphobia; indeed on the outward journey I was chewing my fingernails rather a lot and willing my adrenalin to calm itself. The company certainly helped. The Rabbit’s driving was very competent, I should say — well, perhaps a tendency to have insufficient free space between his car and the one in front at times. 😉 Having been myself once rear-ended by a sneezing tupperware demonstrator in the Blue Mountains I am well aware of the issues of braking distance and traffic separation, but it is amazing how many drivers are overconfident about their chances of not crashing into the vehicle in front, should the unexpected occur. Tends to explain multiple pileups, a few of which I have seen on Elizabeth and Cleveland Streets in recent years. (I have been a driver, by the way, but not in recent years.)

Last Monday really was wonderful, and just what I needed. I can’t think of anyone else who would have enjoyed sharing it with me as much as The Rabbit obviously did. Aunt Beth (who was born in 1916) I had not seen since my mother’s funeral in 1996! She is, as The Rabbit reports, an extraordinary woman and definitely not in the realm of the bewildered yet. She can show a rather alarming hauteur sometimes, I have to say, but I always was something of a favourite nephew (with the soft spot partly coming from her closeness to what happened to my sister) and it was a sheer delight to see her again. Her stories were good, ranging from her nephew-by-marriage who deviously escaped the clutches of Colonel Gaddafi to her own flight from Northern Ireland to Scotland in the company of four IRA terrorists (a fact that became apparent only when the plane landed and was surrounded by soldiers.) True too. The Tower of London stories I will leave for the moment, but they are good. Oh, and Beth had recently visited Chipping Norton. (She still gets around.)

Roy and Kay received us with great warmth, and my second-cousin Matthew and The Rabbit showed every sign of getting on like a house on fire. It was nice to see them all at something other than a funeral, as my cousin Russell remarked on the day. Mind you “like a house on fire” may have been an unfortunate choice there, as Russell’s family live in one of Sydney’s worst bushfire zones!

And Auburn Street really was a totally unexpected bonus. Mister Rabbit said that I “glowed.”

Mister Rabbit’s account

I had been looking forward to a trip down (N’s) memory lane for several weeks; what I didn’t expect was how the Sutherland (and surrounds) trip would affect me. I offer a generally chronological account of my 150km trip, about two-thirds of which was shared with my passenger.

Traffic up the Hume Highway and Parramatta Road was fairly light, and I got to Surry Hills in 45 minutes. We set out soon after, and made our first stop at Sutherland, where I met Uncle Roy and Aunt Kay, and later their son Russell and grandson Matthew, who is a clever boy and a keen cricketer, and bears some resemblance to a younger N. There were some interesting stories — there’s a lot of talent in some families — and I began to get the flavour of N’s childhood.

Next stop was Woronora Cemetery. Neither of us had been for a while, but N found his relations in quick time. We left them some flowers, and trundled across the way, via the Greek Orthodox, to the Catholic section, where, after some searching, I found my grandfather, and his parents. All this took about an hour, and it was an emotional time for both of us.

Then we went for lunch. There is coffee in Sutherland, but I didn’t have any.

Then, to work off our sandwiches, we went for the longest walk of the day. We passed my father’s old school, which has a great view (“The Catholics know how to buy land”), and the place of N’s early religion, which looked, I thought, not unlike a scout hall. And then an unexpected surprise: N’s childhood home, which he hadn’t been inside since 1952, was completely empty (on account of being ready for auction), and its front door was wide open. We ventured in and had a good look around. N pointed out the many structural changes, including the removal of fireplaces; thankfully, the house itself can’t be knocked down: built in c. 1913, it is heritage. It is, however, being encroached upon by medium density housing, of which there is much in Sutherland these days. But if I had a spare $400,000 in the bank, I’d buy the house tomorrow. N was glowing afterwards, and I was very happy too.


“encroached by medium density housing”

We got back in the car and drove to Sans Souci to visit Aunt Beth, who I was prepared for by N’s reports of her alacrity. But nothing could have really prepared me for one of the most remarkable women I’ll ever meet. I’d only considered abstractly the notion of the elderly as living treasures; after yesterday, I have a concrete example. She told some amazing stories, and she’s immensely proud of her grandson Max, who I’d love to meet some day. We spent just 45 minutes, but there was never a dull moment!

By which time it was 4 o’clock. We stopped for petrol, and therefore could drive back to Surry Hills without fear of being stranded on Cleveland Street, which I imagine would be rather distressing. (In fact, the car stood up remarkably well for itself all day. I’m proud of the old Ox.) I left my car in a side street, hoping for the best; it was still there after a drink at the Norfolk and a light dinner at home. Traffic was light on the way back to my other home, where I arrived at about 7.

It was a wonderful day, and we’ll be planning similar excursions in the near future.

There were a few excursions, particularly to see plays, Shakespeare especially. The differences that emerged at times later had evaporated by the time we met up again when Mr Rabbit was teaching here in Wollongong. We even spent some time a few years back at City Diggers.

Aunt Beth passed away in September 2007.


My Uncle Bob Heard, Aunt Beth, and the twins Robert and James, 1954 — Sans Souci

Blogging the 2010s — 70 — July 2016

And I take the opportunity to go back to the year my blogging began! Then back to 2016 in the shadow of  terrorist atrocities in France and Munich.

What was I up to in July 2000?

Yes, my blogging can reach back to the year of the Sydney Olympics, thanks to the Internet Archive.

Sunday, July 30, 2000

So this closes the June-July on-line journal! How time flies. Watch for a new journal for August-September starting up soon–and this will cover the Olympic Games. Of course very early there will be another yum-cha, by which time there could be news about PK who is going through a crisis regarding his employment. Guess from, what I can gather, I should welcome Delenio to these pages, and Ali from Turkey–both ICQ friends. Speaking of ICQ it has been good to contact Johnny Wu (coastway on ICQ) by that means, as well as through email…

Remember ICQ?

Thursday July 13, 2000

This Thursday ten years ago is when I first met X. While I was away from my seat at the Albury Hotel that night he came and sat on it. Thus we met, and the rest is history as they say. Thinking about some of the funny times we’ve had. Like him telling me a certain Mandarin expression meant “darling” when in fact it was something very rude and uncomplimentary. Like in the first year we were living together and his English was not of the best: we were sharing with another couple, Philip and Michael, at that time. Philip had prepared a nice dinner, and my friend said “Sorry. Not hungry. Have big lunch and steam bum.” No, he was referring to a yumcha he had been to, not an encounter in a steam bath–or the size of his….

No, it’s really been a good ten years for me.

And tomorrow is…..


The Albury Hotel

Sunday July 16, 2000

Welcome to Jason who reads these pages from the USA.

July 14 was, of course, French National Day. But also someone had something on then: what was it? Oh yes, HAPPY BIRTHDAY (again).

Friday night I took back some poems to J***s at the Albury and we had a really good talk about his marriage, his life, the impact of religion in his life, and many other matters. We were joined by Ian Smith. I noticed a hole appearing in the back of my jeans and as I investigated with my finger, the hole suddenly assumed alarming proportions.

Now before I go on I should say that I normally wear jocks or boxers, but sometimes (never at work or if expecting company) I “hang loose”–partly for comfort, partly to save washing! This night I was hanging loose and soon felt cool night air on my gluteus maximus. Fortunately my sweater could be pulled down.

Well, I left the “sacred site” around 9.30 to 10.00 after 4 beers, but though I had had 3 hours to consume them, I hadn’t eaten yet, so I was a little tipsy. I crossed Oxford Street and ran almost straight into a student (aged about 16) from the school where I work. He greeted me and started telling me about Woodie Allen: I was rather conscious of my (invisible) bare-arsed state and my tipsiness. I did not of course refer to the former, but the latter was apparent, so I asked if he was in the habit of accosting half-pissed teachers in Oxford Street. Being a good-humoured young man, he just smiled and said “Not really!!” Not my first such encounter over the years in Oxford Street I must say.

So I then had a meal (at last) and came home. Last night was very quiet, aside from some rather dark talk here at one point. Downloaded ICQ after first Ian Smith and then my young friend had pointed out its advantages.

On ICQ I am Ninglun Wu only, not the Anglophone version my parents gave me.

Dear me! I had forgotten about that incident!

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Evoking the ghosts of the Albury Hotel: mais où est l’Albury d’antan?

July 1, 2000

Here in Australia we begin the Goods and Services Tax (our Prime Minister’s Big Mission In Life) today: so some goes up, some goes down. Curious: the Australian newspaper this morning cost 5 cents more than the Herald: why? Reading William Dalrymple’s The Age of Kali. Anyway, that gets July started: yumcha tomorrow. Also solved by trial and error, cutting and pasting, a big HTML edit problem on this page 🙂

Munching against the fear of “the other”…

Nothing like a good serve of halal nosh to put things in perspective…

I am very grateful to Jim Belshaw for articulating yesterday what I could not:

A friend commented after the news from Nice and then the attempted Turkey coup: “The news is really all worrying”.

While I have been otherwise preoccupied, the world does seem to have become a darker place. As I write, news is breaking of the attacks in Munich. The story is not yet clear, but it adds to the gloom.

One of the points I have tried to make on this blog from time to time is that we cannot always control events, we can only control our reactions to events…

I opted for train pics instead, as you may already know. But here in The Gong Chris T and I, in the wake of the rise of The Revenant of Oz, had determined we would revisit Samaras and chow down in an act of defiance against fear and idiocy in general, and for the multicultural Australia we truly love. And so we did, more on which in a moment.

First though, it is very depressing to note the poor bloody Hazaras in Afghanistan are copping it again: At least 80 dead, 231 injured as IS claims twin suicide bombing on Hazara protest.

Meanwhile in Europe the Munich shooting is looking stranger than ever. It did occur to me yesterday that it would be odd if an Iranian would do anything Isis-sponsored – a bit like a Presbyterian Ulsterman a few years ago doing a bombing on behalf of the IRA. But how odd it has been may be seen from ABC, the London Daily Telegraph and the Herald:

The gunman who went on a rampage at a shopping centre, leaving nine people dead, had no ties to the Islamic State or other extremist groups. Instead, police believe, he was obsessed with mass killings and may have been mentally ill.

The southern German city’s police chief said investigators had found a trove of electronic data and written materials at the suspect’s home suggesting that he had extensively researched shooting sprees before he went on one of his own on Friday afternoon.

The items recovered included a book by a US academic on school shootings titled “Rampage in the Head: Why Students Kill.”…

Friday’s attack played out on the fifth anniversary of a Norwegian massacre by right-wing extremist Anders Breivik that claimed the lives of 77 people. Andrae said the anniversary “played a role” in the timing of Friday’s attack, given the killer’s apparent obsession with mass murder.

Back to our day in The Gong. To remind you, I posted on 11 July:

One resolution Chris T and I made was to return in the near future to Samaras, the lovely Shiraz no longer serving Saturday lunch. See Halal on Saturday, and revamped venue (June 2015). Why go there? Well, because the food is so good, especially the traditional Lebanese dishes. But there is also the need to do something against the worst of our politics, and against things like Wollongong’s Samaras Restaurant targeted by vandals. That was in May 2016. Chris T doesn’t read the local paper nor watch the WIN news, so he was unaware of that story, and quite shocked when I told him.

Operators of a popular Muslim-owned restaurant in Wollongong say they fear a damaging break-in at the business was targeted.

Vandals forced entry to Corrimal Street’s Samaras Restaurant overnight Wednesday and made off with a small amount of cash.

Staff arrived Thursday morning to find the restaurant deliberately flooded and four electronic tablets – used for bookings, orders and administration –submerged in the overflowing kitchen sink…

“Instead of taking the tablets and selling them – which is easy to do – they’ve actually [destroyed] them.

“Did it happen because these people are sending us a message? Did they target us? No one else was hit, that’s what I don’t understand.”

Wollongong Police are investigating the break and enter, which comes after a high-profile three weeks for Mr Nemer, a well-known pro-diversity campaigner.

He engineered the restaurant’s #illeatwithyou campaign in March 2015, when it became the target of anti-Islamic online abuse.

More recently he spoke out over a vandalism attack at the Unanderra barber shop of a friend, Bilal El Mohamad…

So yesterday we went, anticipating a choice of one of the wonderful platters, so big that we always order “for one” and share it.

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We chose the Beirut Platter. Looking at the Entrees and Side Dishes we had no problem choosing Baba Ghanoush because Samaras do it so well, but there was an item we hadn’t noticed before.

Screenshot - 24_07_2016 , 8_39_17 AM

Yes, “Grandmother’s Olives!” The lovely young woman serving us assured us they were indeed from her very own grandmother, that in fact she had herself helped harvest them at one time. They proved to be delicious, not over salty. There was an enlarged photo on the restaurant wall of said grandmother in her olive grove.

But what they must have seen, perhaps even before that young woman was born. See this photo from 1993:

And this story from that time:

THE tent flap moved suddenly and a deportee in a red track suit crawled across the canvas floor towards us, a transistor radio clasped to his ear. ‘They’ve shot two policemen – two Israelis are dead,’ he shouted. In excitement, delight or despair? ‘They said our deportation was to stop violence and look what they have got – more resistance than ever.’ Word spread quickly in the spring heat that has now swamped the Palestinian encampment at Marj al-Zohour. The Israelis had sealed off the West Bank. Palestinian youths had been wounded by Israeli gunfire in Gaza. It was as if the Israeli-occupied territories lay just across the next hill; which, of course, they do.

From their front line inside Lebanon and from the melting snows high to the east on Golan, the Israelis can watch the 396 Palestinians moving between their tents, surrounded now not by frost and rock but by trees in blossom. Marj al-Zohour – in Arabic, ‘field of flowers’ – is now truly surrounded by carpets of purple and yellow blooms, the Hasbani river chuckling dark blue through its gorge below the tents. But 103 days have taken their toll….

I look back on Grandmother’s Olives now with even more wonder. Is not our world enlarged, even by a meal such as we had yesterday – and halal the lot of it too.  “Reclaiming” Australia = Impoverishing Australia, in my opinion. (See also Reclaiming Australia Persian-style in Wollongong.)

Pretty amazing person too is the owner of Samaras, Omar Nemer. See for example this 2015 story:

Wollongong locals and community leaders dined at Samara’s restaurant in the heart of the city on Tuesday for the #illeatwithyou lunch, as part of a special campaign that strives to ‘reject racism and spread love through food.’ The campaign was initiated after the Muslim-owned restaurant was subjected to racist comments on their social media page, in an attempt to encourage others to “boycott Islamic businesses.”

Samara’s owner Omar Nemer spoke out against the comments, which were mostly against the Halal food market. He explained that much misconception exists over the meaning of Halal foods. “A lot of people think that their food is going to be blessed… going against their beliefs…but Halal simply states that the product doesn’t contain any animal blood, animal fat, any alcohol and certain other ingredients that Muslim people cannot consume.”

However these negative criticisms could not stifle the strong, positive community spirit. From the Uniting Church, People Care, Lifeline, Muslims, local media, and the Police Force, it was inspiring to see such a multitude of guests united by mutual aspirations for peace and patronage…

The accompanying photo rather sums up this post:


  Restaurant owner Omar Nemer and community leader Grahame Gould

And in May this year his sister posted on Facebook:

So proud of my amazing brother for all the good work he is doing in our community.

Yesterday morning I joined him at Warilla High School where he was a guest speaker talking to the students about Advocacy, and the campaigns he has been running to promote acceptance, harmony and positivity in our community.

For those of you who know Omar, you would know that all he wants to do is make a positive change in this world, and you’re doing a great job habibi 🙂

Sorry to note though that the Persian restaurant Shiraz has closed. Chris T and I happened to be going past when they were closing it down. Lovely people, lovely food. See for example On being my own great-grandpa, and Shiraz again.

Blogging the 2010s — 69 — July 2015

Bonus! Another year today! And note the first is pre-tram!

Around Devonshire Street — 1

Yesterday I travelled up to Sydney, lunching in Surry Hills at The Shakespeare Hotel with M. $12.50 grilled barramundi and vegetables – excellent. M’s flatmate M2 came along – lovely man, former theatrical with a great fund of stories. It turns out he knew the late Stuart Wagstaff quite well, whereof (with other matters) we talked on over rather a lot of red wine after M left. So I travelled back on the 4.24 pm express, fortunately eight cars and not too crowded. Luckily a West Wollongong bus came along just after I got to Wollongong station, so I was home soon after six.

On the way to Sydney Central Station I tried to capture the afternoon light.




Speaking of Surry Hills, I had an email yesterday from a reader:

I stumbled across this page while doing family history research, and reading the comments raised many happy memories of life in Surry Hills in the 1960s… Met my husband at the CYO, married in St Peter’s Church, Devonshire St. His parents had the newsagency in Cleveland St, next door to the Turkish cafe on the corner of Young St…  The butcher on Cleveland St was where I first encountered the term ‘Halal’ – in 1961.

What would Cory Bernardi make of that?

Random Friday memory 21 – wind-up gramophone

This is a very early memory, back to the 1940s, perhaps even 1945-6, in Auburn Street Sutherland:


In which case that baby must be my cousin Helen (b. 1946), who coincidentally now also lives in Wollongong. I am on the left, my sister with the plaits, and the person on the far left is my brother Ian. See also Auburn Street Sutherland again–worth double postingFragments from Auburn Street 60-70 years ago — 1 and the rest of that series.

I recall that in the war years and just after, before my Christison grandparents moved from Auburn Street to Waratah Street, there were beds on the side veranda accommodating my brother and, I think, my Uncle Roy in a sleep-out. There was an old wind-up gramophone there too, I seem to remember, and a banjo-mandolin my brother would play. I don’t recall the gramophone precisely, but think it may have been like this. The HMV logo seems right too.


I recall two tunes from the time:

Blogging the 2010s — 60 — June 2017

Recently I joined in the Facebook meme #MeAt20 with this photo:


At the time that was taken (1965) I was 21 and living in Vermont Street, Sutherland. The Facebook posting led to quite a long exchange with a friend, Bob Kennelly, who was at my 21st birthday celebration, which took place at home. I haven’t seen Bob in real life in around 50 years! Brought back a lot of memories. What follows is my June 2017 post on life in Vermont Street 1952 to 1955-6. We returned, to a house just over the road that had once been the home of “Shirty” Heard — but that is another story — 1963 to 1964 or early 65. Then Cronulla! We flitted about the Shire in the late 50s through to 1970.


65 years on I recall Vermont Street

See Frameworks for belief — 2 – my world 1952 to 1959. A repost and Curiosities and ephemera 5: 1955. There you will find these:

Here was my world from 1952 to 1955-6: Vermont Street Sutherland, NSW.

Vermont Street

And here I am in that world, towards the end of the period.


That is April 1955 and I am in the front yard of 1 Vermont Street with my mother.  I am 11 years old, and newly at Sydney Boys High. I had had a serious illness just three or four months before – pancreatitis – so I may look a touch thin still. All the ribbons are because we are going to the GPS Regatta at Penrith, a big deal in those days and perhaps even more so in my family. I was the first in the family entitled to go as I was in a GPS school – albeit the only state-owned one – as I would later be the first in the family to go to university.

Just three years earlier my sister had died – 61 years ago today*. She was cremated and her urn placed in a rose garden at Woronora Cemetery, which she now shares with Grandma and Grandpa Christison, who died in 1959 and 1963 respectively…

* January 2013

And this from the other post:

Oh dear, yes, that is me…

am 030

That’s my Aunt Fay on the left, then my mother, then ? the mother of my sister-in-law ?, then me in SBHS rig as I was in what we would now call Year 7. The photo, I suspect but don’t really remember, was taken on my brother’s wedding day. It was certainly taken at 1 Vermont Street, Sutherland…

Except now in 2017 it is no longer 1 Vermont Street, but 48, and it seems to be in a sorry state…


And across the road another house where I lived at the age of 21 is completely gone, the developers having moved in. The white house on the corner is still recognisable, however, and the reservoir up the street, though much expanded since 1952-1955.

Time! Yet lately I have found myself thinking about Vermont Street in the 1950s. It is amazing how detailed my memory of the interior of that house, as it was then, still is in my mind!

Blogging the 2010s — 58 — June 2015

Random Friday memory 18 – Latin at Sydney 1960


Professor and Dean

ARTHUR JOHN DUNSTON, M.A. (Cambridge), B.A. (Reading). Appointed 1953.

Senior Lecturers

J. DUHIGG, M.A. (Cambridge), B.A.

J. J. NICHOLLS, M.A. (Cambridge), B.A.



H. D. JOCELYN, B.A. (Cambridge and Sydney).

I. M. LONIE, B.A. (Cambridge and New Zealand).

That’s from the Sydney University Calendar for 1960. I was 16 and enrolled in Arts 1: English, Ancient History, Psychology – and Latin. This is Professor Dunston:


He was there forever! We had him for Cicero, I think. Latin happened in this picturesque corner:


I had studied Latin at school, mainly under the legendary Edgar Bembrick – his last class in fact. He died in 1960. See also my post 1957 or MCMLVII. So Latin as my fourth subject, just for one year, looked an easy choice. Except it turned out there was so much of it! Not just Cicero, but Livy and Horace – the Epistles, with Mr Duhigg, whose Cambridge accent charmed me. His translations were so elegant, better probably than this one:

An invitation to dinner

If you can bear to recline at dinner on a couch

By Archias, and dine off a modest dish of greens,

Torquatus, I’ll expect to see you here at sunset.

You’ll drink wine bottled in Taurus’ second term,

Between marshy Minturnae, and Mount Petrinum

Near Sinuessa. If you’ve better, have it brought,

Or obey orders! The hearth’s bright, the furniture’s

Already been straightened. Forget airy hopes, the fight

For wealth, and Moschus’ case: tomorrow, Caesar’s birthday

Gives us a reason for sleeping late: we’re free to spend

A summer’s night in pleasant talk with impunity.

What’s the use of my fortune if I can’t enjoy it?

The man who scrimps and saves on behalf of his heirs,

Too much, is next to mad. I’ll start the drinking, scatter

Flowers, and even allow you to think me indiscreet.

What can’t drunkenness do? It unlocks secrets, and makes

Secure our hopes, urges the coward on to battle,

Lifts the weight from anxious hearts, teaches new skills.

Whom has the flowing wine-bowl not made eloquent?

Whom constrained by poverty has it not set free?

Here’s what, willing and able, I commit myself

To provide: no dirty seat-covers, no soiled napkins

To offend your nose, no plate or tankard where you can’t

See yourself, no one to carry abroad what’s spoken

Between good friends, so like may meet and be joined

To like. I’ll have Butra and Septicius for you,

And Sabinus unless he’s detained by a prior

Engagement, and a prettier girl. There’s room too

For your ‘shadows’: but goatish smells spoil overcrowded

Feasts. You reply with how many you want, then drop

Your affairs: out the back, evade the client in the hall!


Horace reads before Maecenas, by Fyodor Bronnikov

I was working through Horace at about five lines an hour, I think, and consequently never did translate it all. Unfortunately the parts I hadn’t quite got to turned up in the exam, though I did pass. Mr Duhigg memorably told then 17-year-old me: “Mr Whitfield, if the rest of the paper had been the same standard as your Horace, you most certainly would not have passed.”

We struggled also through Bradley’s Arnold.


If I recall correctly the lovely Miss Begbie was our guide for that. Or was that Livy? Given this it seems likely.

  • Also in 1960, the infant Tony Abbott arrived in Australia. Oh dear!