Yesterday: books and gumbo in that order

Back at City Diggers after lunch with Chris T at Soco Kitchen (please book; COVID-safe capacity 14) I posted this on FB labelled “having a post-gumbo red wine.”

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I do indeed look suitably replete. And no wonder! Here is SoCo Kitchen’s gumbo:

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Before that I had been to Wollongong Library returning the crop of books I had had for months (except for two they posted to me when my reservations became available). The entire operation of visiting the library nowadays under COVID is rather like visiting a speakeasy in the Roaring 20s. Find the side door. Knock and wait….

And here are the books I returned. Quite a bunch, all but one really interesting and some outstanding.

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Now the ones I borrowed yesterday. Look how long the due-by dates are! Not expecting COVID to go anywhere soon, are they? It’s usually three weeks.

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I am going to frustrate you by not saying anything about the books yet. Perhaps you can try Goodreads out on them — they are probably all there.

I have quickly checked the books borrowed yesterday myself and it seems I am in for some good reads. My random choices quite often turn out well.

I discover Mongolian rock!

Well not really. It already existed before I came around, and its cultural roots long before that. But first: there are two Mongolias. The country Mongolia has a population of just 3.5 million.  Inner Mongolia (内蒙古) is an Autonomous Region of China, with a population of 25 million. Mongolia once dominated China.

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That’s a Persian painting of  Genghis Khan in 1213-14. We’ve all heard of him, but most of  us know very little about him, despite his creating one of the most extensive world empires ever.  The Mongolian rock group The Hu certainly remember him. 5,156,745 views — premiered Aug 23, 2019! (The band is from non-Chinese Mongolia. Look again at the population! They tour a lot, in fact were stuck in Sydney because of the pandemic.)

 

That is one impressive song and video!

In Chinese Mongolia one finds Hang Gai:

 

Also impressive. YouTube, by the way, warns us that CCTV-3 is “funded in whole or in part by the Chinese government.”  Um, I suspect I kind of  knew that, but it was the music I was interested in.

Another artist of Chinese Mongolian origin is Tengger. This video is part of a competition,  Singer 2018, which an English woman ended up winning. And this brings me to how I ended up watching all this.

Yesterday I posted on Facebook:

When you see comments like these — “One of the greatest artists alive and to have ever lived!” and “Appreciation and respect from USA. What a great singer!” — you sit up and take notice. Immediately I see the horse-head fiddle and know this is Mongolian, but in this case Inner Mongolia — that is in China. He [Tengger] really is AMAZING!

(The video below is the song that attracted those comments.)

And this is how I encountered Mongolian music just over a week ago, thanks to Michael Xu who posted some items from the modern Chinese music shows that appear on CCTV-3. (Trump never watches them. Xu Jinping probably does….) Then it just took YouTube’s algorithms to steer me to such as The Hu (Mongolian) and Hanggai (Chinese Mongolian), after which I told Chris Turner who was hooked, and yesterday Colin and Adam at Diggers. Overnight an ex-SBHS student said very nice things about one of my postings: “I doubt I would have ever come across that in any other way, as I have no connection to that culture or history and live in the philistine island oasis that is Australia.”

 

Now go back to 2011 and the London Proms:

 

Blogging the 2010s — 117c — December 2013 — Leonard Cohen

Quite a highlight for Chris Turner and myself.

About last night–Leonard Cohen in Wollongong

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Chris

I love to speak with Leonard
He’s a sportsman and a shepherd
He’s a lazy bastard
Living in a suit

But he does say what I tell him
Even though it isn’t welcome
He will never have the freedom
To refuse

He will speak these words of wisdom
Like a sage, a man of vision
Though he knows he’s really nothing
But the brief elaboration of a tube

Going home
Without my sorrow
Going home
Sometime tomorrow
To where it’s better
Than before…

Source: The New Yorker January 2012

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See also Hallelujah, Leonard Cohen’s coming to Gong! And on local ABC:

Leonard Cohen addressed the elephant in the room early last night at his concert in Wollongong.

“Friends, I don’t know when we’ll meet again, but I can promise you tonight we’re going to give it everything we’ve got”.

But at 79 years of age, still jogging on stage for a three and a half hour show and now on his third Australian tour since audiences thought they’d never see him live again, no one is game to suggest he won’t be back.

And it becomes apparent over the course of the night that a three hour show is virtually required to properly honour his endless suite of music.

Surrounded by a carefully chosen band of virtuoso musicians, the touring Cohen of today is out to provide a smorgasbord of quality to accompany his poetic lyrics.

His voice has never been his trump card, and while it seems to have found even richer depths with age, it’s the exquisite harmonies of his female back-up singers (Sharon Robinson and the Webb sisters) that lift and complement the Canadian poet.

As expected, the set-list was a greatest hits onslaught, each drawing a new round of applause from the almost full Wollongong Entertainment Centre.

From his opening ‘Dance me to the end of love’, then ‘The future’, ‘Bird on a wire’ and ‘Everybody knows’, it was a concert drawing on tracks from the 1967 ‘Songs of Leonard Cohen’ to last year’s ‘Old Ideas’.

But you soon realise it doesn’t matter when a song appears in a Leonard Cohen set – there’s always another trick up his sleeve.

While most bands save their biggest hits until last, Cohen has amassed a career of them he can afford to drop in anywhere.

‘Suzanne’ early in the second set? No problem – simply go straight into ‘Chelsea Hotel no. 2’.

‘Hallelujah’ before the first encore? What about following it with ‘Take this waltz’?

While the crowd was varied in age, it was largely baby boomers enjoying the soundtrack to their adolescence and early adulthood played by a man who can still do his songs justice, but oozes humility.

And there is the enduring beauty of Leonard Cohen – his strength is his lyrics, each word carefully chosen and dripping with imagery and meaning, while he brings in a brilliant band half his age to carry those words.

And as he comically dances and jogs off stage after a third encore, you get the sense it’ll be Cohen’s decision rather than his body that tells him when it’s time to say ‘so long’ for good.

Leonard Cohen again

And why not?  Leonard Cohen performed at the Wollongong Entertainment Centre last Wednesday. As he mentions on his Facebook page he is one of Rolling Stone’s  50 Greatest Live Acts Right Now:

26. Leonard Cohen

Cohen emerged from a fifteen-year hiatus in 2008 with marathon shows that showcase all of his best songs. His band is absolutely stunning, and, at 78, his deeper-than-deep voice is captivating. The three-and-a-half hour show seems to pass by in minutes.

Showstopper: He doesn’t do many covers, but his set-closing rendition of “Save the Last Dance for Me” almost makes you forget the Drifters version even exists.

79 now! And I see that next on that list is Nick Cave:

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That’s Nick Cave covering Leonard Cohen in the 2005 documentary I’m Your Man, which I watched again last night – thanks, Sirdan.

Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man is a 2005 film by Lian Lunson about the life and career of Leonard Cohen. It is based on a January 2005 tribute show at the Sydney Opera House titled “Came So Far for Beauty”, which was produced by Hal Willner. Performers at this show included Nick Cave, Jarvis Cocker, The Handsome Family, Beth Orton, Rufus Wainwright, Martha Wainwright, Teddy Thompson, Linda Thompson, Antony,Kate and Anna McGarrigle, with Cohen’s former back-up singers Perla Batalla and Julie Christensen as special guests. The end of the film includes a performance by Leonard Cohen and U2, which was not recorded live, but filmed specifically for the film, in New York in May 2005.

The film premiered at the Toronto Film Festival in September 2005, and was released the same month in Canada by Lions Gate films along with the Sundance Channel. It was subsequently released in various other countries during 2006 and 2007. The film is distributed by Lions Gate Entertainment. A soundtrack CD is also available from Verve.

The DVD of the film contains extra performances…

Critics vary about the documentary, but it has some great quotes.

Sometimes, when you no longer see yourself as the hero of your own drama, expecting victory after victory, and you understand deeply that this is not paradise… somehow we’re, especially the privileged ones that we are, we somehow embrace the notion that this veil of tears, that it’s perfectable, that you’re going to get it all straight. I’ve found that things became a lot easier when I no longer expected to win.

***

There is a beautiful moment in the Bhagavad Gita.  Arjuna. The general. The great general. He’s standing in his chariot. And all the chariots are readied for war. And across the valley, he sees his opponents. And there he sees not just uncles and aunts and cousins, he sees gurus, he sees teachers that have taught him; and you know how the Indians revere that relationship. He sees them. And Krishna, one of the expressions of the deity, says to him, “you’ll never untangle the circumstances that brought you to this moment. You’re a warrior. Arise now, mighty warrior.” With the full understanding, that they’ve already been killed, and so have you. “This is just a play. This is my will. You’re caught up in the circumstances that I determine for you. That you did not determine for yourself. So, arise, you’re a noble warrior. Embrace your destiny, your fate, and stand up and do your duty.”

***

For many years, I was known as a monk, I shaved my head and wore robes, got up very early. I hated everyone but I acted generously, and no one found me out. My reputation as a ladies man was a joke. It caused me to laugh bitterly through the 10,000 nights I spent alone.

Now for a final song:

And from Leonard Cohen’s web site:

Anthem

The birds they sang
at the break of day
Start again
I heard them say
Don’t dwell on what
has passed away
or what is yet to be.

Ah the wars they will
be fought again
The holy dove
She will be caught again
bought and sold
and bought again
the dove is never free.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

We asked for signs
the signs were sent:
the birth betrayed
the marriage spent
Yeah the widowhood
of every government —
signs for all to see.

I can’t run no more
with that lawless crowd
while the killers in high places
say their prayers out loud.
But they’ve summoned, they’ve summoned up
a thundercloud
and they’re going to hear from me.

Ring the bells that still can ring …

You can add up the parts
but you won’t have the sum
You can strike up the march,
there is no drum
Every heart, every heart
to love will come
but like a refugee.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
That’s how the light gets in.
That’s how the light gets in.

Do look at the Rolling Stone bio.

In 2005 the singer suffered every boomer’s nightmare — his retirement fund was empty. Cohen alleged that former manager Kelley Lynch bamboozled him for more than $5 million, and for all intents and purposes he was broke. He created a short-term fix by hitting the road and touring the globe. Everywhere he went — from Coachella to Glastonbury — kudos followed, and pundits believed him to be at the top of his game. When it came time to give his speech at his 2008 induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, he recited the lyrics of his “Tower of Song.”

Hat tip Jim Belshaw:

Leonard (Norman) Cohen. Poet, singer-songwriter, novelist, b Montreal 21 Sep 1934; BA English (McGill) 1955, honorary LLD (Dalhousie) 1971, honorary D LITT (McGill) 1992.

Life

One of the most widely recognized Canadian artists of the later 20th century, in parallel to acclaimed literary work Cohen built a successful career in pop music on the most rudimentary musical skills: a narrow-ranged, gruff voice that deepened and darkened with age and a dependence on simple melodies of a singsong nature. What set him apart was the intense imagery of his lyrics, which constantly probed at the human condition with themes of love, loss, and death, and his commitment to his art.

Blogging the 2010s — 115 — December 2011

I should mention that the wake I referred to in the last post occurred in January 2011. See The Dowager Empress’s wake.

World AIDS Day and my circle…

On 11 September 2001 I posted:

11 Sep 2001

Thoughts of a survivor: Guest article by Ian Smith, the Dowager Empress of Hong Kong

It is difficult to give advice to any one regarding HIV/AIDS. However here are a few thoughts from a long-term survivor.

Do not panic. This is easy to say, but the best thing you can do, is ignore the virus as much as possible, within reason. If you are on medication, never miss a dose. Always have safe sex to avoid passing the virus to someone else, and keep alcohol and other recreational drugs down. By this I do not mean give everything up, just try cutting down. Think, “Do I really need that E tonight?” If you do, take only half, or less. This has the advantage of saving money. It also has the advantage of not damaging your immune system as much…

Today there is an excellent article in the Sydney Morning Herald by Ori Golan, a freelance journalist and volunteer with the absolutely admirable Ankali Project.

… Dr Lynn Pulliam, writing in the Lancet, predicts up to 30 per cent of patients infected with HIV will develop a debilitating dementia. HIV is the most common cause of dementia in people under the age of 40, Dr Lachlan Gray at the Burnet Institute says, and recent studies have suggested milder neurocognitive impairment could be as high as 50 per cent of the infected population.

Many people with HIV are leading normal lives, their viral load undetectable and their physical appearance excellent. This, ironically, is part of the problem. In an interview shortly before his death, the British AIDS activist, Cass Mann, put it like this: ”The greatest disservice AIDS charities pay to [HIV-positive] men today is to present images of them as healthy, buffed, gym bunnies with glossy beautiful bodies having great lives, climbing mountains, partying in Sydney and looking beautiful. If they showed people in hospices dying of dementia or people with lipodystrophy that would stop them in their tracks.”

A recent study by Dr Lucette Cysique, of the Department of Neurology at St Vincent’s Hospital, predicts the number of people with HIV dementia will surpass 2600 by 2030. The toll on their family and friends is tremendous. Moreover, Dr Cysique says the annual cost of care will increase from $29 million in 2009 to $53 million in 2030.

We can be proud as we don our red ribbons this World AIDS Day that new HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths have fallen to the lowest levels since the peak of the epidemic…

There is no room for complacency. AIDS is still an incurable condition. We must act to curb it; we must reach out to this new generation so they know how to protect themselves. There is no time to waste. The global fight against AIDS is not over.

And The Dowager Empress is no longer with us either.

And we have all of us mourned the passing of so many others.

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Then go back to 2000:

Diary for December 2000

Saturday, December 2, 2000: Yesterday was World AIDS Day.
My little circle of friends has displayed over the past week an amazing range of emotions. We’ve had love gone wrong, love gone right…and so on. Quite dramatic really. Perhaps the dominant note, one way or another, has been love.:-)
I have, I must say, found December rewarding so far.
One of my circle has an anniversary coming up of one of life’s turning-points. There are mixed emotions involved, which I, perhaps, understand better than most. The person involved may read this, and he knows my thoughts are with him.

Sunday, December 3, 2000
I hope to dedicate December, one way or another, to love and understanding. Today it is the turn of my ICQ friend Atakan, a young (not gay) teacher in Turkey. He is quite a devout follower of Islam, but not a fundamentalist; indeed he found some elements of this site a bit shocking, but still talks to me :-) Given that here the popular image of Islam is coloured by media reports of extremism and violence, it is as well to reflect on the fact that this is a distortion. Here, for example, is what Atakan recently messaged me:
ATAKAN ALI 11/30/00 8:08 AM : “Be so tolerant that your bosom becomes wide like the ocean. Become inspired with faith and love of human beings. Let there be no troubled souls to whom you do not offer a hand, and about whom you remain unconcerned.”
ninglun 11/30/00 4:41 PM: That’s very beautiful. Thanks.

And then 2006:

Queer Penguin on World AIDS Day

Posted on December 6, 2006

I have to admit, though I am usually a regular Queer Penguin reader, that visiting the hospice and other matters having perhaps distracted me, I only noted Hypocrisy and Condemnation are Also Diseases via Gay Erasmus. Sam’s post really is very honest, confronting, and powerful. Brace yourself if you are homophobic, but read it nonetheless. You may get a taste of reality. He is also quite rightly trenchant on stupid gay men who can only think with their genitalia. Of course, that failing, and the often combined stupidity (or is it a sad incapacity for genuine human feeling?) of so-called recreational drugs, especially the mind-mincers in the speed family, infect (in more ways than one) party people and airheads of every sexual identification, more’s the pity.

Sam’s post is still there and still worth a visit.

…I don’t pretend to have a solution to what is currently a disturbing problem, that nearly 30 years after the mysterious ‘gay disease’ first appeared, men are still falling victim even when there is now a simple and almost always effective way of avoiding the disease. Maybe a reduction in the omnipotency of sex in gay men’s world – at least in inner Sydney – could be a start, but it’s not like the urges will suddenly cease to exist.

I’d like to think that the first step will be for gay men to have less of a fight on their hands when nurturing their own self-respect and sense of responsibility. Once they genuinely value and treasure their lives, why on earth will they want to jeopardise it?

I also have a feeling I’m not the only person who’s not just made, but repeated, a stupid mistake that could have cost me dearly. Those without sin, etc. Every day I am grateful I’ve not become another statistic, but I never forget that is purely a case of good chance. I don’t intend to repeat that mistake ever again.

In the meantime, I also never forget those friends, and friends of friends, who live with the spectre of HIV because of one mistake.

At The Empress’s Wake, Midnight Shift Hotel

And here is a special treat — one of M’s circle, and hence for some years of mine.

See also Sadness (1999)

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My last coachee

“i never thought to see the day where mr  …. would get a band 6 in english. f*** the world bitches! i is da bestes” – Facebook yesterday morning.

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That’s him. He is a guy who at 12 or 13 was seriously being compared to Roger Federer. He came my way because, after spending just about all of Years 7 to 10 on the international tennis circuit, he arrived at high school Year 11 having never actually written an essay… He was sent to me for help in 2010, and I did what I could up until I moved down here to Wollongong in August-September 2010. I had hopes he would do all right, and I am really chuffed that he has!

Indeed: 90%+ in Advanced English and a mention in the honours list in today’s paper. Smile He is of Iranian/Filipino background.

Blogging the 2010s — 112 — November 2018

This month I ended with a monster post — and you’ll get most of it again today. Because it’s worth it!  And even relevant to the present moment. But first a welcome visit:

Lovely visit last Sunday as November powers on…

Here I am this morning at a seasonally festive City Diggers Club.

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My visitor here last Sunday afternoon said I looked furrier than when he had seen me last.

It was great to see Les Farnell again, who called in en route between Canberra and Sydney. His partner was the late Graeme Little, a great man in English teaching circles. Graeme I first met in his capacity as Inspector of Schools back in the early 1970s. My friendship with Les and Graeme dates back to the 1980s.

December 2008 — ten years!

Just a few memories…

Fantastic, but another reason to feel old!

11 DEC 2008

cover_dec08I was skimming the Sydney Morning Herald’s glossy free mag just now, checking out whether I was on the list of Sydney’s Top 100 Influential People… 😉 Many of the usual suspects were there, and quite a few I hadn’t thought of. It is one of those that really attracted my attention.

thumb_jackThere under Community was Jack Manning Bancroft.

Now there was a familiar name: Class of 2002 at SBHS!

So how at the age of 23 did Jack get into the Top 100?

Through this:

Jack is the founder of the AIME Program. He graduated from Media and Communication in 2006, and attended St Pauls College in his time at university. He was awarded the inaugural ANZ Indigenous Scholarship for his degree, and received the Sydney University Union Leadership and Excellence award in 2005. He is a member of the Bundjalung nation in the North Coast of NSW. Jack hopes to lead AIME to every university in the country in the next 5 years.

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Click on the screen grab to explore AIME. It is well worth it!

And in 2018: Mentoring — The Key to a Fairer World

Update

I found some blog references to Jack and his work.

Indigenous Literacy Day by Judith Ridge (September 2008) says:

Tonight I went to the launch of Bronwyn Bancroft‘s beautiful new picture book, Possum and Wattle: My Big Book of Australian Words at Gleebooks. The book is, as you would expect if you know Bronwyn’s work, quite stunning. The images are striking and vibrant, and the colour reproduction remarkable. And a great celebration of indigenous Australian language.

Possum and Wattle was launched by Linda Burney, who spoke of of the terrible loss of Aboriginal languages (which she rightly said are, of course, Australian languages) while reminding us that all Australians are in fact speakers of Aboriginal Language. Each time we speak certain place names, or of native flora and fauna, even certain idioms, we are speaking Aboriginal Language.

Bronwyn spoke of the importance of education and literacy, especially for Aboriginal Australians. Her own father was excluded from formal education because of his Aboriginality. Now her children are school and university students and graduates, and she is about to embark on her PhD—just one generation away from that exclusion. And there is no education without literacy…

I also have to mention Bronwyn’s son, Jack Manning Bancroft, who spoke at the launch about the organisation he heads up, AIME Mentoring (Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience). AIME pairs Aboriginal university student volunteers with Aboriginal high school students in a one-to-one mentoring project that aims to support young Aboriginal students in education. It was the first I’d heard of the program, and it’s something I want to learn more about. Jack was strong and heartfelt as he spoke about the value of the program, which hinges on the dedication of the current generation of young Aboriginal people to get out there and do something practical to support each other. As it says in the “About” section of their website, AIME is action. Fantastic. (And I am really curious—must ask Bronwyn about this—my grandfather’s middle name was also Manning, after the river/region where he was born. I guess that means Bronwyn’s people come from there, as mine do, although so much more recently.)

A blog called Event Mechanics promotes 2007’s Indigenous Carnivale, and quotes another blog to this effect:

A very cool, and damn motivated and inspiring bloke, called Jack Manning-Bancroft is helping organise the above day. He writes: “We welcome you all to this years Indigenous Carnivale. On Saturday the 26th of May it will be National Sorry Day. We will pay our respects to those who have suffered in the past, we will pay our respects to those who continue to suffer, and we will offer nothing but respect to each other. This is our arena. This is our community. This is our time.”

Running alongside Carnivale is it’s big brother AIME (Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience) – where Jack’s helping me to do some mentoring work. It’s a mentoring program that works with High school Indigenous students. All of the profits from Carnivale will go to its big brother AIME.

Such is time… Stream of consciousness, almost…

13 DEC 2008

raleghwBefore his head was removed, Sir Walter Ralegh wrote this magnificent lyric:

Even such is time, that takes in trust
Our youth, our joys, our all we have,
And pays us but with earth and dust ;
Who, in the dark and silent grave,
When we have wandered all our ways,
Shuts up the story of our days ;
But from this earth, this grave, this dust
My God shall raise me up, I trust !

So here am I, not in the Tower of London contemplating execution of course, but in a Surry Hills flat contemplating the $1400 Mister Rudd so thoughtfully placed in my bank account yesterday. (Very handy to cover a couple of debts, and maybe to buy a new pair of boots…) I contemplate also that next year is the fiftieth anniversary of my comparatively undistinguished leave-taking from Sydney Boys High – well I did win a History Prize after all, I suppose.

dec11 010My niece was in contemplative mood a little, I think, in her Christmas letter, which I also received yesterday. Her family has had an eventful year and have done many interesting things, some of them reflecting how The Shire these days reaches out to the world in a way that would have been inconceivable fifty years ago when, as it happens, my niece was born. They are a rather good looking family too, as you may glimpse on the left… The daughter is a promising dancer, I mean seriously promising. Rather proud of them I am, though through circumstances I have seen less of them than I may have done. You may recall we all got together in Julywhen my brother visited from Tasmania.

I can recall having a few “my God! a quarter of a century!” thoughts when I turned 25, and then, as my niece mentions of herself, even greater wonder when I turned 50 – M gave me a magnificent party – and of course this year I went on the pension, which means I am now…

dec11 009And looking back through my bits and pieces (right) I see how quickly the kids I have taught have grown up and made their ways in the world, some of them with great distinction, or making important contributions of one kind or another – one I mentioned just the other day.

I have every confidence in the young.

Now, what kind of boots will I buy? A good choice will last me at least three years, as the last pair has…

In another age of recession Henry Lawson wrote of an even deeper level of misfortune:

When you wear a cloudy collar and a shirt that isn’t white,
And you cannot sleep for thinking how you’ll reach to-morrow night,
You may be a man of sorrows, and on speaking terms with Care,
And as yet be unacquainted with the Demon of Despair;
For I rather think that nothing heaps the trouble on your mind
Like the knowledge that your trousers badly need a patch behind.

I have noticed when misfortune strikes the hero of the play,
That his clothes are worn and tattered in a most unlikely way;
And the gods applaud and cheer him while he whines and loafs around,
And they never seem to notice that his pants are mostly sound;
But, of course, he cannot help it, for our mirth would mock his care,
If the ceiling of his trousers showed the patches of repair.

I am well stocked with pants…

Bonus pic: Surry Hills Christmas

14 DEC 2008

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Surry Hills prepares to party