Back to the beginning of my blogging…

I am still contemplating that post on cancel culture and statues, realising that I have covered a lot of it before — you’d find the posts by searching the blog for Macquarie or Cook. So will I do it? I have a video I want to post…. But I am torn now between recognising that there is a valid side to the arguments for, and another side where I am tempted to think it really has become the latest version of playing goodies and baddies…. Such a shame those old fossils were unfortunate enough to be born outside a privileged western country before, say, 1995!

So I turn away again and muse on how I got into this blogging thing. Thus:

So what happened near this day?

20 NOV 2005

While looking for evidence on my old diaries about scintillating scotoma (see previous entry) I decided to review what was happening in my life around this day since 1999! That’s a lot of diary, not all of it online. Below you can read what I found, the last two years being linked as they are still archived online.

22 November 1999: Went to city today for first time since the agoraphobia started. Unfortunately also smoked. Object of exercise Year 11/12 Study Day at Sydney Hilton– Robert Gray, et al. Two light beers at Flinders with Colin on way home. Survived the ordeal of city, but walking, not bus or train. Next challenge Erskineville next week. Noticed on Saturday Chinatown now pretty much OK. Reflect on fact M now been away six months. Nothing heard since letter to A dated one month ago from Kathmandu.

Monday, November 20 2000: in which Ninglun does not solve the world’s problems 😉 If we take a theme that has been emerging here in recent days, prompted by the end of the HSC and the conversations I’ve been having with eighteen-year-olds about being eighteen.

It is an interesting world that eighteen-year-olds have inherited, but a glance at history shows the world I inhabited (but largely ignored thanks to fundamentalist religion) was just as fraught: a month after my 18th birthday Britain applied to join the EEC; the Berlin Wall went up — there was a hit song at the time called “West of the Wall” the USSR tested a 30 megaton bomb; Eichmann was sentenced to death five months after my birthday; US troops entered Laos; and the day after I turned 19 the first satellite TV link between Europe and the US was made — another hit song was called Telstar

So now I think of globalisation and its impact, of the seeming triumph of a particularly rampant form of capitalism. I am still convinced that the marriage of morality and politics/economics leads straight to some form of democratic socialism; it is greed alone that prevents the rich and powerful from conceding that — and sadly the fact that socialism was brought into bad odour by its bastard child Marxism-Leninism.

How’s that for simplistic nostrums, boys and girls? But I’m a poor old thing who hasn’t been eighteen for a very long time 😉

November 21 2001: Havens…from the cold I have been working a little less lately — one day less in theory, since an HSC student I was shepherding has now successfully negotiated the year. So today I taught just one lesson, then went to the Library, then on to a particular coffee shop that has become a favourite in recent times.

Places acquire associations. It is not just that this is an extremely pleasant shop with a charming if dotty owner, but that going there makes me particularly happy, as I associate the place with being happy. I gather I am not alone, as I hear other customers go there perhaps for similar reasons; it can be a haven on cold wet days like today or yesterday, a place to read quietly, or to settle the nerves before some stress.

I should mention that last Sunday I called in there and saw the proprietor’s youngest son, who is red-headed as well as cute, though that is for me an aesthetic and academic judgment I hasten to add.

I am reading two books, as it happens, and will tell you about each in more detail later on. The first is very rich indeed; it won the Booker Prize last year: Margaret Atwood, The Blind Assassin. The second is angry in places, but also very honest and in places just right: Paul Monette, Becoming a Man (1992), a gay autobiography. Lined up are a number of others, including in my leisure reading field of crime fiction/thriller The Bannerman Affair (1997) by Australian writer Gareth Harvey. Another reason for choosing that last one is that (my God!) thirty years ago I taught Gareth Harvey in Wollongong!

Well, tomorrow is a total work-free day, so I look forward to the coffee shop again 🙂

Wednesday, November 20, 2002: Yes, a Shakespeare play I had never read before — King John — which we, The Rabbit and I, finished reading today, and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Perhaps this line appeals more:

There is so hot a summer in my bosom,
That all my bowels crumble up to dust:
I am a scribbled form, drawn with a pen
Upon a parchment, and against this fire
Do I shrink up.

Which is what you say when a monk has just poisoned you. I was disappointed though that Robin Hood did not appear in the play once, but there was a Bastard, and (at least as I understood him) a rather camp assassin named Hubert.

Sunday, November 23, 2003: Diary-X Ninglun pulls it off, avec Agneau du Printemps de Nouvelle-Zeland!

I refer, of course, to my amazingly accurate prediction yesterday, though I had no money riding on it. Yes, the Rugby World Cup, won deservedly by England in a last-minute field goal. Sirdan, Malcolm, Kevin and I watched it at Sirdan’s place and found ourselves thoroughly enjoying it; the Empress was also there but tended to fall asleep a bit.

I’ll tell you what, Sirdan knows a thing or two about lamb. All those years in New Zealand, I suppose. The New Zealand lamb leg he baked last night was, we all agreed, probably the best lamb we have ever had, real melt-in-the-mouth stuff. The 1999 McLaren Vale Shiraz didn’t go too badly either.

20 November 2004: Diary-X Another hot one in Sydney yesterday, chilling afterwards at The Shakespeare again but this time with Sirdan who has, wait for it, been invited to THE Sydney Christmas Party – Saatchi and Saatchi. He’s going too. Last year it was reported thus in the Sydney Morning Herald: “…access to last night’s invitation-only Saatchi & Saatchi end-of-year party – a highlight of the social calendar – was strictly limited so that select staff and guests could ‘relax and enjoy’ themselves…” A somewhat different aspect is reported on Interview with the Cleaner:

“I will never forget the Xmas party at Saatchi & Saatchi, Sydney (us media chicks used to get Snatchi & Snatchi) when some pissed idiot took a steaming dump in the lift thinking it would be funny. It was.”

Will Thorpie be there???

Still, despite this elevation to the ranks of The Invited, Sirdan is still available to give advice on pickling and brewing, among other things… Such as growing pumpkins on an inner-city balcony…

So there you go! What a geek I have become!


Six months more of 2020? What could possibly go wrong?

So here we are at 1 July 2020.  Back in January 2020 this was the scene:

Wollongong rides its luck again!

Yesterday’s day from hell passed relatively quietly, but that was not true of so many places near here and further away. Fancy Penrith, west of Sydney, being the hottest place on earth at almost 49C!  Luckily West Wollongong reached just 35C.

Today I just want to illustrate some of the scope of these fires simply by sharing from my own relatives! I avoid full names for privacy reasons, and have also eschewed link addresses.  NOTE: if any of you want a photo or reference removed, please let me know.

First, my sister-in-law and a niece in Milton/Ulladulla NSW.  Here is a view from my sister-in-law’s home a few days ago:


The most recent post on Facebook: “M***** and her mum have been evacuated to mollymook beach, it got bad in uladulla, she is trying to reserve her battery on her phone.”

Now a cousin who, interestingly, I have only just become aware of through the internet, though we are the same age. James lives in Tahmoor. This photo — and he is an excellent photographer — was taken at little place called Balmoral which was virtually wiped out just before Christmas.


Finally, two cousins — sisters — L and H, who live at Bundanoon. A few days ago L posted: “What does a tired RFS Deputy Captain do when he finally has some off truck time? Well if it is Tim ******** he drives down to the Southern Highlands and spends four exhausting hours in the heat on the roof of his aunts’ house clearing gutters and cutting back overhanging branches to make us safer as fires move closer. You are a legend Tim and we love you heaps. xx”

Sadly, just in the last day Bundanoon has been hit. Eleven hours ago H posted: “My little town of Bundanoon is on fire, houses are being lost right now. We are safe at mums with our animals but our hearts are breaking. Simply devastated.”


I am planning to go to Sydney for lunch tomorrow, to Surry Hills in fact. I will have in my backpack — as indeed I do now — this computer, its charger, my phone charger, and all my medication. Why? Wollongong has been lucky. We all know very well that Wollongong has been cut off from Sydney by fire before today!

See my post of August 16 2019, at the very beginning of this long bushfire season.  Complacency is not an option….

And since then…. Well, you all know about that!

As far as the blog is concerned, May was the “hottest” month.

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That was the month I posted at least twice a day colourised photos from my family archives. Like this from WW2:


In the six months to date the most viewed posts have been:

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YouTube rolls back the years to the Albury Hotel in its glory days

Oh yes, I have blogged before about this place. Remember when it closed?

Is it that long ago?

31 Oct 2007

The Empress has sent an edict:

Lest We Forget

31 October 2001


Yum Cha this morning was myself, The Empress, Clive, James, and eventually M, absolutely exhausted and needing the food. It was a good Yum Cha (The Emperor’s Garden service was friendly and excellent). After that M went home to sleep — he starts again tonight at 6 pm, and I went with James and The Empress to the Albury — yes, I was there this Sunday — where we surprised the bar staff by eating barbecued quail that Ian had purchased, and added a Chinese tonic to our beer (it said it could be used in beer) which caused the beer to look like some Jekyll-and-Hyde potion, but actually improved the taste!  — March 4 2001

It is also where M and I first met in July 1990. Is it that long since it closed?

See also the images at mais où est l’Albury d’antan?

Last night I confessed on Facebook:

Instead of watching what I intended on ABC2 I have found myself deep in memories thanks to Bruce Part’s photos of The Albury Hotel. This is a rendition of one of those photos.

And someone comments on Bruce’s album:

Such an beautiful original old pub destroyed! I was saddened when I finally moved to Syd and it was gone. I met a lovely guy there on my first visit around 1996 and didn’t leave empty handed….a big deal for a country boy!!!

“Such an beautiful original old pub destroyed!” indeed. I hope Bruce finds a few more to share in that “boot box full of photo memories.”

I have cropped a couple and given them the art makeover treatment.

FotoSketcher - 16042_232492893548533_882882010_n

There are more images there.

Last night on Facebook I posted these musical discoveries I had just found on YouTube. Of the first I said: “Time warp time! Sylvana in the Piano Bar of the Albury Hotel in 1986! I certainly knew the place, and I certainly heard Sylvana. She was good!

“Among other memories — sitting one night at the piano next to the famous former South Australian Premier Don Dunstan. Told him it was a shame all the good politicians were retired or dead….”

And here was another: “And more from the Albury Piano Bar back last century! You see the piano in this one. I and my friends would often sit right at the piano! You will also note the background chatter — well, this is a live performance on possibly a crowded bar. Another reason to sit close to the piano….”

And that wasn’t all I found. Jan Preston used to play at the Britannia Hotel in Chippendale — when? 1987? Gary Croft was running the joint then and he liked his jazz. I recall embarrassing myself once (or am I dreaming?) singing “House of the Rising Sun” to Jan’s accompaniment. She was a great personality as well as a brilliant musician.

Sometime around then I lent them a cassette deck when theirs had broken. For as long as they were using it I got free drinks! They used it for a good while.

See Hour-long phone call takes me back to Chippendale 1985.

Blogging the 2010s — 121a — December 2017

Counting down to the end of this decade of reposts…. Who can forget the first memorable instance of Donald Trump’s creative counting? Yes, there will be a 121b!

Looking back at 2017 — 1

Here is where my visitors have come from in 2017 to date:

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Now for January, avoiding Donald Trump! Mind you, if you insist:

Sorry, but it has been rather hard to avoid Donald Tweet lately, who even after a day or two is turning out to be as bad as, if not worse than, I had imagined. Also, can you see any resemblance? I can…


But I don’t think Donald Tweet smokes, or at least I am not sure he does. Mind you his performances sometimes suggest he might have been smoking something. Take just one example:  Trump Goes to CIA to Attack Media, Lie About Crowd Size, and Suggest Stealing Iraq’s Oil. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing!

“I love you. I respect you,” said the president, who ten days earlier likened U.S. spies to Nazi Germany for their role in publicizing an intel dossier packed with allegations that Russian intelligence services have compromising information on him.

“There is nobody who feels stronger about the intelligence community and the CIA than Donald Trump,” Trump said, speaking before the wall at CIA headquarters engraved with black stars for the officers who died in the agency’s service. “You’re going to get so much backing that you’re going to say, ‘Please don’t give us so much backing.”

The substance of Trump’s speech focused on the fight against what he called “radical Islamic terrorism,” echoing his inaugural line that it be “eradicated off the face of the earth.” While Trump did not offer any details on how he would do that, he hinted at a more aggressive approach in prosecuting the war on terrorism….

White House spokesperson Sean Spicer used his first press statement Saturday to deliver an angry broadside against the media and reports of the inaugural crowd size. “These attempts to lessen the enthusiasm of the inauguration are shameful and wrong,” he said.

Trump claimed between 1 and 1.5 million attended the inauguration; estimates put it closer to 250,000 attendees.

“I have a running war with the media,” Trump said. “They are among the most dishonest human beings.”…

God help us if this is the garbage we can expect for four more years! Oh, and as all of us could see with our own eyes on our own TV sets in live coverage a day or so  back:

Christmas snippets

This one just because I like it! Three of my grandnephews/nieces: Nathan, David and Lauren Parkes:


I spoke to their uncle, my nephew Warren, who lives in North Queensland on Christmas Day. This is Warren:


You might like to read A Guringai Family Story.

Since I came back to Wollongong it has become something of a custom to spend Christmas lunch, or in the case of this year Boxing Day lunch, with my cousin Helen Langridge and her husband Jim. See So, Christmas Day! (2016). This is Helen and Jim ten years ago on Jim’s retirement.

Quite a distinguished fellow is Jim. As usual there was much great conversation, including among other things the fact that next month will be their 50th Wedding Anniversary! Here is a picture of my mum and dad at that wedding in January 1968:


Jim brought out the wedding album which includes a photo of me looking SO THIN! And of course young.

Helen has a copy of her brother Ray Christison’s recently published book Shapeshifter. The strange life of John Hampton Christison, Professor of DancingThat is about our rather spectacular great-grandfather.  Ray’s book is beautifully done!


See among my posts Neil’s personal decades: 14 – 1885 — Christisons.

You can read more about this rather amazing but tricky character in my post My great-grandfather: “morally dubious to say the least.”  My cousin Ray Christison is mentioned quite a bit on that post; he has written a book about John H: Shapeshifter – the strange life of John Hampton Christison, Professor of DancingHere is an interesting snippet by Ray from the comment thread on my post:

Neil, I have been trawling through my old notes and have begun writing a full biography of John Hampton Christison (currently about 5,000 words and growing). I will publish it as a small book. You asked about John dancing before Queen Victoria. John listed his major dancing awards in the 1882 Manual of Dancing & Etiquette. He stated this: “at Edzell Castle, 1873 I took first prize, a Highland dirk, at Balmoral Castle in 1875, second against thirty, most of them professional men”. Queen Victoria may or may not have been present when John danced at Balmoral Castle. Given John’s penchant for self-promotion I find it bizarre that he would not have specifically mentioned this in a work as important as his Manual of Dancing & Etiquette. I have a very vague memory of Kathleen Christison telling me that he danced there before one of the other royals, however I can’t find any notes to corroborate this.


Blogging the 2010s — 116 — December 2012

So tonight (it’s 7pm) I thought I’d get 2012 done! Only seven years to go!

Union pride, plus today’s activity

Late, am I not?

Hey, given recent attitudes to unions please note:



Prompted by tonight’s inspiring Compass episode about Stewart House.

Today I have been working on the slow process of preparing the Christmas/New Year DVD for family and friends.


It takes hours from first preparing a video to finally burning the DVDs.

In between had a great phone conversation with my brother in Tasmania.

Scans–sister, self

Here is one of my sister Jeanette, which I hadn’t scanned before. I think it was taken in the playground at Sutherland Public School in 1951 and thus must be one of the last photos of Jeanette who died in January 1952.



The colourised version (2020) of that photo:

The heads “inserted” in the back row aren’t named, so Jeanette is third from the left in the lacy collar.

And here am I around 1990-91 at a barbecue. Andrew is the one to whom I am talking – a former member of the Chinese Air Force.


Of course I no longer smoke – even if that achievement was to take another 20 years!

Wisdom of the sp*mmers

Quite a crop of sp*m comments were stopped by Akismet this morning, as 99.9% of them usually are. I am amused by their fake sincerity and sometimes weird machine-generated English.

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All those, and more, tried to attach themselves, with glorious irrelevance, to my latest recycle post 2010 recycled: GapMinder!  Note the thread of flattery. The last one was trying to sell me upholstery cleaning, or just as likely malware or spyware.



Great sage—“You are amazing! Thanks!” – meditating at the Steelers Club, Wollongong, yesterday.

Jimmy Little — 1 March 1937 – 2 April 2012

In  NITV best option for Christmas Night–in my opinion I commended the Jimmy Little Celebration Concert, originally broadcast in May 2012. That link takes you to a video still on the Opera House site: “Highlights from the Celebration Concert which followed the State Memorial Service in honour of the late Jimmy Little. The story also includes interviews with Paul Kelly, Christine Anu, Dan Sultan, Col Hardy, Don Walker and many others.”  Fortunately NITV broadcast the entire concert commercial-free. Smile

Members of the public can attend the Jimmy Little Celebration Concert on Thursday 3 May commencing at 8pm in the Concert Hall. The concert will celebrate the life of the wonderful Jimmy Little. Family and friends will come together to honour in story and song the extraordinary contribution this Yorta Yorta elder has made to the cultural life of Australia. Artists including Col Joye, Judy Stone, Archie Roach, Lou Bennett, James Henry and Paul Kelly to name a few, will pay tribute to Jimmy’s amazing sixty year legacy as an artist, performer and champion for his people.


On Boxing Day NITV followed up with a documentary I had not seen before – Jimmy Little’s Gentle Journey. You can see it also today on NITV Ch34 at noon. It was originally on ABC.

From poverty and personal tragedy to Australia’s first Aboriginal pop star – Jimmy Little’s Gentle Journey is an intimate look at the life of a pioneering artist who defied incredible odds.

This timely ABC TV program touchingly traces the trials and triumphs of a remarkable survivor celebrating 50 years in the business. Awarded an Order of Australia Medal and named as a Living National Treasure earlier this year, Jimmy’s life has just recently been reinvigorated when he became the recipient of a kidney transplant.

With another new album out in June, Australia’s first gentleman of song, whose voice melts ice, continues a trailblazing career that has gently been opening doors and minds throughout his life. At a time when Aborigines were not even recognised as citizens, Jimmy Little broke down white-dominated cultural barriers as he painted images – past, present and future – with his songs. Jimmy was the first Aboriginal person to feature regularly on television, and with his incredible talent and success, subtly swept aside ignorance and negative stereotypes.

Ironically perceived by some as a conformist, Jimmy has determinedly and consistently pursued his own independent, gentle path refusing to conform to a variety of ‘bandwagons’. It is a path that has brought trials and triumphs but he has stuck to his convictions and as an artist rather than activist he has changed attitudes and encouraged reconciliation with a simple and honest love of music and humanity. Over a career as a musician, actor and educator spanning 50 years, Jimmy Little has proven himself to be a survivor whose talent and determination remain solid.

Jimmy Little’s Gentle Journey provides an intimate and comprehensive biographical portrait of his life and times.