Wild weather

We have had more than a bit of that in the past few days. Partly it is the effect, most likely, of the La Nina phase we have now entered. US meteorologist Dan Satterfield posted a link to a Washington Post account of that: La Niña is back. Here’s what that means.

It’s one of many drivers in our atmosphere, but it is often among the most important given the extent to which it shuffles other atmospheric features key in determining how weather evolves over the Lower 48.

In brief, here are some of the key impacts La Niña could have in the coming months:

— Extending favorable conditions for Atlantic hurricane activity this fall.
— Worsening drought conditions in the Southwest through the winter and potentially elevating the fire risk through the fall.
— Raising the odds of a cold, stormy winter across the northern tier of the United States and a mild, dry winter across the South.
— Increasing tornado activity in the Plains and South during the spring.

La Niña is the opposite of El Niño, which often makes headlines for spurring powerful southern storms that can generate beneficial rains in California and track across the entire nation.

In Australia:

La Niña is characterized by increased rainfall and cloud cover, especially across the east and north; snow cover is increased. There are also cooler daytime temperatures south of the tropics and fewer extreme highs, and warmer overnight temperatures in the tropics. There is less risk of frost, but increased risk of widespread flooding, tropical cyclones, and the monsoon season starts earlier.

Recent Wollongong weather forecasts

And we have been getting a lot of these warnings, this one from Thursday afternoon.

Wollongong actually has been spared. Not so some other parts of the state, and I especially noted Armidale where Jim Belshaw now lives. There was a tornado there on Thursday night!

Jim himself says he is OK. When I asked he said: “Hi Neil. It was wild while it lasted, very noisy and the car has some hail marks, but the main storm was just to the north of us running along a west-east line. The closed UNE campus which suffered damage starts about 800 metres, away, but is a very big campus.”

I remembered one of my mother’s favourite stories from her childhood in Braefield — my mother and the 1921 tornado! My God, that’s 100 years ago! And note she calls Australia Day “Anniversary Day”, as people did back then.

More tales from my mother 3 — Braefield NSW 1916-1923

Braefield was a small place: three railway night officers’ cottages, a Post Office Store of sorts, and a brand new school building. The old one became the local hall where church services — every denomination — were held once a month, and it was also the scene of all local social activity. It was War time and a very energetic committee made up of farmers’ wives and families knitted for soldiers and every lad that left Braefield was farewelled in the old school hall and presented with a watch, and welcomed home — those that came home — being then given a medal by a now saddened committee….

In December 1920 we went to Sydney for the Christmas vacation, returning on Chaffey’s Mail, which left Central about 2 pm on Saturday and stopped all stations from Murrurundi to Tamworth where it terminated. We arrived home about 2.30 am.

The tornado

The following day, Monday, was Anniversary Day. Dad drove into Quirindi to get supplies; there were Chinese shops always open. Before his return we children had been watching the sky. At first we thought a dust storm was approaching across the Breeza Plains. The sky went from red to purple and then to deep indigo. Thank goodness Dad arrived home, and he said to Mother who was ironing in the kitchen, “There is a storm going to hit the back of the house, and we had better go into the bedrooms.” She refused as she wanted to finish her ironing. Within moments the verandah had gone and dad hustled us all into the dining room and under a heavy oak table. It became pitch dark. The storm only lasted for twenty minutes, but the dining room was all that was left of our home! If it had not been for a 10,000 gallon water tank which was luckily full and sheltered that room only, I would not be here today.

Kind neighbours took us in. The path of the storm could be traced back along the plains as large trees were chopped to match wood, and our place and the railway siding were in its direct path. Both were shattered. A kindly farmer lent us an unoccupied dwelling, scarcely a house, but shelter, and we were given bedding and necessary equipment so that we could survive. The iron roof of our place was found over a mile from the house! The other farmer had our home rebuilt as quickly as possible.

Poor Mother was pregnant again and a still-born child was born in June. Again it nearly cost our Mother’s life, and again, thank God for Dad’s wonderful mother who came and stayed through these very troublesome times.

Various lockdown hacks and escapes — 72 — FB delivers more family history

Isn’t this delightful?

In Memoriam:
Graham, Ruby Ruth (nee McInnes). (11.12.1892-5.10.1991)
Daughter of Jonathan & Susan Caroline (nee Whitfield) McInnes.
Wife of Stanley Keith Graham.
Mother of Jonathan Adolphus & Lilian May.
Photograph: Ruby aged 10 years courtesy Whitfield/McInnes family collection.

Thanks to the Wollondilly Historical Page on Facebook on 5 October. I commented: I met them! Really! And indeed spent time with daughter Lilian as recently as April 2014. Lilian turned 100 this year and is still living in Gunnedah.

I learned of Lilian’s birthday in February, again thanks to the Wollondilly Historical Page. This is what I said then:

Whitfields — this is a must read!

So here is a Whitfield relative who has cracked the ton! And I can vouch for her being an amazing woman and a fount of family history. I was privileged to have met Lilian at Stanwell Park in 2014. She recalled my father as a bronzed beach god — from her memories of Shellharbour in the late 1920s!

“At Stanwell Park yesterday. She had a shopping trolley of Whitfield family pics, photos and documents going back to the 1830s! Amazing stuff! The four hours I could spend didn’t do it justice. Lilian Lee. 90+ and sharp as… She has been a TAFE teacher in her time. Recalled I met her father and mother too sometime around 60+ years back and he gave me a ride in his buggy.

“She really was just wonderful. And I am sure you can see the intelligence and humour in her face. She had at 90+ walked up the hill to Stanwell Park Station to meet me — and it is quite a climb.

When she was a little girl she saw William Joseph John Whitfield (b. 1836), the son of William Whitfield, in his turn the son of Jacob Whitfield, the convict who arrived in Sydney from Ireland in 1822. When you contemplate that….

Lilian at 100

This is what the Wollondilly Historical Page said:

Lilian Lee of Gunnedah is today celebrating her 100th Birthday (10.2.2021)

Lilian May Graham was born on 10.2.1921 at Lidcombe N.S.W. her Parents being Ruby Ruth (nee McInnes) & Stan Graham. Lilian’s Grandparents were Susan (nee Whitfield) & Jonathan McInnes.Lilian married Raymond Lee on 24th October 1942.

Their children were Alan (Sadly was killed in accident at 37 leaving 3 children and a wife.), Graham & Jennifer.

Lilian has eight grandchildren, and nine great grandchildren and looking forward to the arrival of another two.

Lilian is still a dedicated member of the Gunnedah Country Women’s Association where she held various positions such as President, Vice President, Treasurer, International Officer, Cultural Officer, Land and Cookery Officer. She volunteered in other capacities, such as Art Gallery attendant, Bible Shop attendant, and Treasurer at the Uniting Church.

Lilian taught as a TAFE teacher teaching Secretarial Skills and was a Secretary at the Roads & Traffic Authority. On 30th November 2020 Lilian Lee was granted Life Membership to the Country Women’s Association for thirty years of dedicated service. The Citation that was prepared for her Life Membership described Lilian as an “immensely popular member, well-respected by our younger members and our more mature members alike.”

Lilian often inspires and advises others to reach their potential and is instrumental in making a beneficial difference in many people’s lives.

Photograph of Lilian May Lee. (3.2.2021) Information & photograph courtesy of Jennifer Lee-Robins & Whitfield family files.

Church of England cemetery, Picton

See my posts To Stanwell Park: 1 (2014) and Still in Dharawal country — but among the Whitfields, contemplating centuries (2021).

Various lockdown hacks and escapes — 70 — October 3 2002

At that time I was “journalling” as I still called blogging on Diary-X. Sad what happened to Diary-X, and when it vanished entirely so did my blog. The bits preserved on the Internet Archive are few and far between. This one is still around because I copied it to a site I had on Angelfire, and that got captured by the Internet Archive. Here it is with some videos added.

3 October 2002: Vermont Street 1

At Vermont Street Monday to Friday at 5 pm without fail I would listen to the ABC Children’s Hour, a habit begun the previous year as my sister was a listener; she became an Argonaut and then so did I. I was Leda 37 (each member was allotted a “ship” and given a number), but I only ever won one Blue Certificate. Many quite prominent Australians have testified to how significant this rather odd radio program was in their lives.

Can I remember the Argonauts theme song? Let’s try:

Row, row, merry oarsmen row
That dangers lie ahead, we know, we know–
But bend with all your might
As we sail into the night
For wrongs we’re bound to right,
Jason cry–
“Adventurers,
Argonauts, row, row, row.”

Today is my brother’s birthday. Vermont Street saw many changes in his life, culminating in his marriage in 1955 (he was 19, she was 16), the last year we were there. 1953-1954 he had been in the Army, stationed at Holsworthy; it is worth recalling that the Korean War in which there were 1538 Australian casualties (including 281 killed) was still being fought up to July 1953. So by 1955 I was the only child left in our household. By the time he was 24 my brother had four children of his own. [I was wrong there I think, as that would make the 4th child born by 1959. It was actually three children at that stage. A fourth did arrive a few years later.]

My mother has written about the move to Vermont Street, what it meant, and the impact of the death of Jeanette, my sister, far more poignantly than I ever could. It was, as she said, the first home our family could call their own; Auburn Street had been rented, first by my grandfather Christison, and then by us. I had been born into a large extended family all under one roof–we were only there because of the War– though by 1949 that had come down to the nuclear family of Mum, Dad and three kids. Grandma and Grandpa Christison lived in Waratah Street which intersects with Vermont Street, so in the new house they were just around the corner. I spent almost as much time with them as I did at home, as Grandpa Christison was probably more a father to me than my father was; after all, I had known him longer! Also, he talked to me and answered all my questions–even about snails 😉

Very many days after school I would be at their place, and a regular event was to walk over the road, cut through the railway fence, and stand together by the pulsing and hissing C32 steam locomotive that at about 4.00 pm always sat on the goods line waiting for the all clear to proceed to Sydney with its train load of fresh Illawarra milk. Grandpa had befriended railway workers during his time in the country and loved to talk to the engine driver and fireman, who seemed to enjoy talking to him as well. I just loved steam engines, their smell, their heat, their sounds, their explicit power. I was fascinated too by their age: “Beyer Peacock England 1896” for example, on the side of some C32. Of course the magic moment was when the South Coast Daylight Express would come roaring down the line on its return journey to Sydney with its streamlined C38 and its beautiful Pullman carriages that I would dream of travelling in one day. Why, it would come rushing through at 60 or even 70 miles per hour! Wonderful.

3801 in full flight! See also Dennis Rittson’s Train Photos where you will find many more.

The goods trains had their excitement too, often double-headed up the hill from Jannali by a pair of deep-throated D-51s or, most exciting, one enormous D-57, or occasionally an oil-burning Baldwin (an American locomotive) or a huge Beyer-Garrett double-ended articulated loco. The latter were rare as their length and weight made them unsuitable for the Illawarra line as they tended to displace the rails on sharp bends!

A D57! Wonderful model train layout…

Now you didn’t know I knew so much about trains, did you? In those days I just loved them, and could tell even in the dead of night from my bedroom in Vermont Street just what class of engine was chuffing up the hill from Jannali, just by its sound.

My mother was less romantic about steam engines; she rather resented the black flecks of ash falling on her newly washed sheets!

The real things with sound…
The beautiful restored C38 — 2021

Various lockdown hacks and escapes — 62 — when patience wears thin

Good one — shared on FB by that wonderful US meteorologist (and blogger) Dan Satterfield.

And in Melbourne in recent days we have had spectacles we could well do without. Yes, there are valid reasons for affected workers to be pissed off — but trashing their own union does not come to mind as a good move. Thanks to numerous analyses — and an excellent photo-set from Al Jazeera — we can have little doubt about the mischief-makers who have hijacked the cause.

On Facebook I noted: Just what we do not need — the malignant American madness on our streets! No need for an expert! I saw on FB with my own eyes an anti-vaxxer inviting people to come join yesterday’s fracas and advising hi-viz to “blend in”! Bastards.

This was posted last night by the South Coast Labour Council Secretary Arthur Rorris and represents the views of our local Illawarra union movement. Kudos!

Melbourne meanwhile has had other happenings:

Not the first time for Oz of course, though it is not as great an issue here as in many other parts of the world — New Zealand and Indonesia just to name neighbouring countries. But it does happen. See my blog archive: Australia not earthquake free.

I remember this one well, though the effects in Sydney were minor. My father had just died and I was in my mother’s room in her Glebe Point old people’s home, on the phone making funeral arrangements. “Shit! An earthquake!” I recall saying inadvertently to the person on the other end of the line as the room distinctly shook.

My father, mother and I were living in West Wollongong in 1973 when a magnitude 5.5 earthquake struck in the early hours of the morning. Not only were we shaken but the noise was amazingly loud. The ceiling was damaged in one room at The Illawarra Grammar School where I was teaching at the time, the local radio station was off the air for several minutes, the lights went out at the Steelworks and in the coal mines – that would have been scary – and a large crack appeared in the front of the Department of Education building in Wollongong. One woman reported being thrown out of bed and afterwards laughed that this was a rather extreme way for her boss to make sure she got up early enough for work. At TIGS we joked that the quake was a “punishment” for the previous night’s rather pleasant wine tasting in the very room that was damaged; the Reverend Gentleman who founded the school was of evangelical persuasion and his portrait had fallen off the wall in presumed disapproval. The epicentre of that quake was out towards Picton/Appin. There is an active fault in that region.

There are several active faults in Australia, but we are far from the edges of tectonic plates so earthquakes such as those in the Pacific rim of fire are unknown here. Nonetheless a 2002 report says “two separate geological studies have concluded that an area from Adelaide to south-east Victoria is seismically active and the next ‘big one’ could endanger lives and infrastructure.”

It just might be of course that Jacinta Ardern is more pissed off about AUKUS than we realised!

The earthquake that hit Victoria on Wednesday morning is probably the result of tectonic plate pressure in New Zealand that built up slowly and then released suddenly in a rupture at a fault east of Melbourne.

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.