Various lockdown hacks and escapes — 13 — what can I say?

Changed the masthead on Facebook this morning.

Gladys will be announcing the details at 11am. Will The Gong still be under lockdown, or separated from Greater Sydney? I think yes to the first, no to the second… UPDATE: Which turned out to be spot on!

Meanwhile on Facebook recently…

If indeed The Gong is also under a further 4 weeks of lockdown, then, given there are 25 rounds, it is fair to say the Collegians/Illawarra Leagues Tipping Comp is cactus…

And something completely different, and beautiful — as memories, but also present comfort. I happened on this from 2016, having been unaware until now that it had happened. But first just one past blog entry among many I might have chosen:

Trinity Sunday in South Sydney Uniting Church — 3 June 2007

Dorothy McRae-McMahon’s blessing for Malcolm came back home today and sat on the communion table throughout the service. Dorothy had, as you may remember, visited Malcolm on a number of occasions and the visits and the blessing were much appreciated. Today his own life summary was read at the start of the service. While Malcolm was not himself especially religious, he knew of and welcomed the interest from the people of South Sydney, which also had its practical side. For example, the South Sydney Herald, the church paper, stood ready to go into bat if necessary when Housing were being problematic, though that did not have to come to pass thanks to this blog, Clover Moore, and Jim Belshaw and, of course, others in the NSW Housing Department.

Malcolm enjoyed Dorothy’s profile of Bob Gould in the May 2007 edition too.

I was given a card and a plant today, which I very much appreciate. It has helped to have the church folk behind me in the past year.

I added: Privileged to have known Dorothy! See the comment for just one instance, but a powerful one, from 2007. It is very likely one of the most beautiful things you will ever read, and full of the spirit of Dorothy. See this item from the 21 July 2021 Launceston Examiner. This is what I referenced in the comment section, the service Dorothy wrote and conducted for Malcolm’s Memorial Service at St Vincent’s Hospital 29 June 2007. An extract, showing the spirit of both:

Dorothy McRae-McMahon

I only met Malcolm Gleeson three times in the days towards the end of his life. It says something about him that those three visits are ones which I will never forget. It was not that we talked much, although we did have some conversation on living and dying and how I perceived that.

There was something about this man which told me that I was in the presence of a special human being. I can’t even describe what it was. I loved his beautiful face and told him that – even when it had lost its normal fullness which I saw later in an early photograph, it was still beautiful. I like his quirky sense of humour and his directness – an extraordinary mixture of unusual strength and yet vulnerability.

As I tried to get some insight into what had formed his life, I could see that to soar into the skies or spread your life across the oceans was part of him. Still I puzzled about sensing something much more in this person – an indefinable depth of being.

Last Sunday, his friend Neil gave me a loan of a little notebook in which there were a few pages of quotations which were precious to Malcolm. He had written them in tiny handwriting, some of them in other languages. He noted that the black pen quotes were about love “following Williams’ precedent”.

There were quotes from Dante, Hegel, Kant, Karl Marx, Kierkegaard, Wordsworth, Nietzsche, Foucault, Freud and others whom I didn’t even recognise. Many of the quotes were so profound that it took me some time to reflect on what they might mean. I have photocopied them all so that I can go more deeply into them with my philosopher daughter.

A couple I liked and understood were both by Kierkegaard:

“At first sight, I perceived that he was a poet – if for no other reason I saw it in the fact that a situation that would have been taken easily in stride by a lesser mortal expanded into a world event for him”

“I know that what I have hitherto understood is very little, so there will always be enough left behind, hiding in the shadows of the soul’s vaguer intimations”

His last entry was by John Barth:

“Things must be wept for.”

Yes, they must, Malcolm and we weep for you.

The quotes which I read helped me to understand the instinct which I had about Malcolm – that the fragile body I saw before me was holding a deep and complex person. It also explains why I immediately wanted to write a blessing for him, which he framed and kept beside him.

Taken 29 April 2007 in Sacred Heart Hospice Darlinghurst: Malcolm, Neil W, Danny Nel.

As beautiful now as it was at the time — and let it be noted that Malcolm was taken by the late stage of another pandemic, one that motivates the pronouncements on the present one by one of the heroes of that struggle, Bill Bowtell.

But back to Dorothy: I commented further:

Dorothy! And South Sydney Uniting Church… Such a positive, amazing person, and so humble in the right way. What you see is what you get with Dorothy. I knew her late partner too, though not as well. She was a photographer, and once accompanied me on one of my junior reporter gigs for the South Sydney Herald.

Now a recent example of fandom, innocent of course. I do find myself rather attracted by the talents of that young pianist I introduced you to the day before yesterday. Now why should that be? Let is look into it further:

I like the informality, don’t you? It turns out he is possibly the great-great-grandson of Franz Liszt! I think great-great-great grandson is more likely.

I commented: I do like a grand piano — and someone who looks — sorry! — plays like this!

Various lockdown hacks and escapes — 6 — share the blessings

Don’t worry — this won’t be religious, exactly…

On FaceBook (yes, I find it a good place during lockdown) a friend I made at South Sydney Uniting Church back in the day posted about her grandchild’s birthday.

I’ve become a regular Sunday morning Zoom host for South Sydney Uniting Church , a task that teaches me humility as I have no, natural technical capacity. Each month we celebrate birthdays. Thank you so much Naomi Ward for including Billie in our July celebrations!

Julie Elizabeth McCrossin

Posted with this picture from the Church:

I of course noticed the bottom left-hand corner — and yes, that’s me! Naomi Ward, who does the birthdays, responded when I thanked her: “Absolutely we still see you as part of our church. I hope you had a good birthday.”

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In South Sydney Uniting Churcha while ago. I see Pat Corowa sitting under the middle window. The link leads to her portrait: salt-water Murroona and South Sea Islander, Patricia Corowa, a long time activist and a seminal figure in the Australian Black Pantherpan-African and pan-Pacific Islander movements of the  1960s and 1970s. The people one met in church!

For the past seven months my dear niece Christine Parkes has been in hospital, engaged in a major health battle. There isn’t much I can do about it, so each day on her Facebook I post a song for her. Occasionally two. A few days ago it was this wonderful discovery:

Billy Bragg’s latest.

Today it was a Wollongong memory — both of my return here in 2010 and Wollongong High in 1979-1980.

Something different today, Christine Parkes! Stewart Holt was the first of my ex-Wollongong High students I made contact with when I came back to Wollongong in 2010. We met at City Diggers, several times in the first few years. Through him I went to the Class of 1983’s 30th Reunion at Collegians. A great night. He is a criminal lawyer and proud dad these days, with a wife who is a teacher. Something of a singer-songwriter as well, and not half bad. And as you can see a FB friend.

With Stewart Holt at the 30th Reunion of Wollongong High’s Class of 1983

In fact this, which is both serious and funny, was the second one I shared with Christine today. It is very clever, very funny, and a calculated anticlimax stretching the wordplay in the final verse:

I noted on that one:

I encouraged Stewart to write when I was his Year 9 (3rd Year) English teacher at Wollongong High. He had a way with words even then. The following is from “The Gleam” 1980, the WHS magazine. I later also published it in the first Neos: Young Writers magazine in 1981, after I had moved to Glebe. When we talked at Diggers Stewart told me how thrilled he had been to have his poem recognised.

Various lockdown hacks and escapes — 4 — talk to a Rabbit

Not just any rabbit. This rabbit: At the end of December 2002 Mister Rabbit drove me out to Sutherland… 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… Mr Rabbit was 20 at the time, and had his say as well:

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.

Only $400,000? You would need maybe THREE TIMES that these days, Rabbit!

Anyway, after an absence Rabbit has reappeared on Facebook. He is no longer 20 just as I am now much nearer 80! He is also a very experienced High School English teacher — indeed Head of English somewhere in the Blue Mountains, where he currently lives.

Our latest conversation was conducted via Facebook comments. I had posted a link to the following quite disturbing story in The Guardian, which certainly raises interesting ethical and aesthetic issues.

Björn Andrésen was just 15 when he walked straight into the lion’s den, being cast as Tadzio, the sailor-suited object of desire in Luchino Visconti’s film Death in Venice. Its release in 1971 made him not merely a star but an instant icon – the embodiment of pristine youthful beauty. Sitting alone in Stockholm today at the age of 66, he looks more like Gandalf with his white beard and his gaunt face framed by shoulder-length white locks. His eyes twinkle as alluringly as ever but he’s no pussycat. Asked what he would say to Visconti if he were here now, he doesn’t pause. “Fuck off,” he says.

No one who sees The Most Beautiful Boy in the World, a new documentary about Andrésen’s turbulent and tragic past, will be surprised by that answer. Visconti, he tells me, “didn’t give a fuck” about his feelings. He wasn’t alone in that. “I’ve never seen so many fascists and assholes as there are in film and theatre,” says Andrésen. “Luchino was the sort of cultural predator who would sacrifice anything or anyone for the work.”…

The Rabbit began:

Rabbit: haven’t seen the film but recently listened to the audiobook.

Neil James Whitfield: The book is very good.

Rabbit: It is. Shorter than I had realised too.
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Neil James Whitfield: The movie is magnificent too — it is reading what it did to the boy playing Tadzio that gives me pause.

Rabbit: the Polish boy was played by a Swede?

At which point I posted the music from the movie.

Rabbit: well I think I will watch it during this lockdown

Neil James Whitfield: So I am rereading “Death in Venice” right now as it is in my eBook library.

Rabbit: The theme of pestilence seems relevant.

Neil James Whitfield: Parts of the last chapter seem very relevant. Yes, I have finished it now. That final paragraph really is something.

Rabbit: well I just watched the film. It’s quite something. They nailed the casting of Tadzio.

Neil James Whitfield: Yes, I was absolutely speechless when I first saw it — and I hadn’t read the book at that stage. The boy really IS Tadzio, and Dirk Bogarde is very good too. The cinematography, the music, everything — all so good. That’s why that Guardian article really does raise interesting questions.

Rabbit: visually such a beautiful film. [Referring to my comment.] Yes very true. I want to watch the new film about the boy actor and also other films with Bogarde who I don’t know much about.

Neil James Whitfield: Wikipedia as usual is a good intro — Bogarde was in some great films and had a very interesting life. What Wikipedia says about his sexuality is very true.

Rabbit: the film Victim is on YouTube and I’ll start with that.

Not all Facebook time is wasted!

Nor is listening to great music and viewing great movies a waste of time. Thanks, YouTube! Not so long ago we could not have had this pleasure.

NOTE: I am replacing the final video I had earlier as I see its maker has produced something even better, and more relevant to The Guardian article.

Various lockdown hacks and escapes — 2

So we here in The Gong and Greater Sydney (including the Blue Mountains) are locked up, pretty much, at least to July 30!

Yesterday on FB — but not verbatim:

And so around 11.30 I rang my friend Colin here in Wollongong. Normally on a Wednesday we would be having a chat at the club.

ME: Been anywhere? I guess not.

COL: Only to the local servo and the bottle shop.

ME: Great minds think alike! I should be at the club right now but for some reason I can’t go…

COL: Yeah, it’s Gladys!

ME: Not just Gladys! I think I will write to the Queen and tell her it has completely stuffed our footy tipping…

COL: Good idea…

And I have to feel for Gladys, really. (That’s our NSW Premier you know.)

The great Bill Bowtell, hero of the fight against the HIV/AIDS pandemic here in Oz in the 80s and 90s, said on Twitter:

@GladysB says it’s unfair to compare “apples and oranges” as between Victorian and NSW response to #COVID19 Trouble is, Covid Delta is the same everywhere and no difference between how to obliterate it in Sydney or Melbourne. Harder measures now will end Sydney lockdown sooner.

On which I wrote: “True, Bill Bowtell. A virus is just a mindless incredibly tiny machine whose one function is to replicate. It has no politics or religion. It doesn’t care which politician it embarrasses…”

And I rang my friend Sirdan in NZ, who had a lovely story to tell, which remains confidential. Was just the sort of thing one needs to hear at times like these. They have a PM over there, of course….

Yesterday for the very first time I went online to do my grocery shop at Coles. I did not have to resort to this in the March lockdown! Again, I told the story first on Facebook: “Took me a little while to work this out, but I have now done the big shop. This is just part of it. It will be left outside my door (I hope!) on Friday morning. Contactless COVID-safe and all that…”

Friday morning coincides pretty much with my supplies running out!

And Facebook also provides some great music, from the last big lockdown. These young kids are so good eh! Just enjoy it!

Some other July days in the past decade or so… A photo post

Looking through my archive for July 2016 I see retrospectives that are worth selecting from. So here are some, nothing too heavy.

Posted on July 13, 2009

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Passing parade — Elizabeth Street, Surry Hills

Posted on July 24, 2009

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Cornstalk Bookshop, Glebe — owner Paul Feain at the freebies table…

Posted on July 11, 2010

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Sunday lunch — Trinity Bar, Surry Hills

Posted on July 14, 2011

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On Wollongong City Beach looking towards Port Kembla.

Posted on July 19, 2011

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Lunch at The Diggers Club.

Posted on July 27, 2011

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Wollongong Harbour.

Posted on July 20, 2012

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Lunch at the Steelers Club — the club and the neighbourhood are totally changed since then!

Posted on July 13, 2013

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A rare sighting of Michael Xu in Wollongong, at the back entrance to Illawarra Grammar School in fact.

Posted on July 29, 2014 

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From my window, Mount Kembla on the left.

Posted on July 11, 2016

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Lunch with Chris T at Ziggy’s House of Nomms, which included two treats especially, the first being a sencha tea delicately scented with flowers. Lovely. The second we tried because we didn’t know what it might be, but it turns out to be a thing! Taiwan Taco Gua Bao.