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 — 69 — revisiting old haunts October 2011

The third and last from ten years back — a train trip to Sydney and Surry Hills, Oxford Street and old friends.

Train sequences — people watching to pass the time

PA160112
PA160113
PA160114
PA160102
PA160102a
PA160105
PA160108
PA160106
PA160107
PA160110

Crown Street Surry Hills:

PA160088a
PA160090
PA160093

On Oxford Street:

PA160096
Ray outside the Midnight Shift
PA160099
Sirdan and Ray, Midnight Shift

Various lockdown hacks and escapes — 66 — Glebe, Neos, John Hawke: poet

In 2005 I posted this:

Twenty years ago Neos came to an end…

16 JUNE

In September 1981 Rob Duffy (19), John Hawke (15), Michael Stevenson (16) and I (age indeterminate) started Neos Young Writers, a magazine for — you guessed it — young writers. Raina MacIntyre (17) provided some spectacular art-work based on Eliot’s “Gerontion”.

In time other editors joined us: for issue 2 (February 1982) the team was the same. The magazine continued until 1985, published by Gleebooks. Later editors included Gavin Murrell, Richard Allen, Hung Nguyen and Lyneve Rappell. We won a Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Award for service to young Australians, and a Literature Board Grant. We had the odd subscriber in England, Ireland, Italy and the USA! We even score a little entry in The Oxford Companion to Australian Literature (ed.2)….

The link takes you to WordPress, where I have just republished some highlights from the first two issues. This is just a sample. And keep in mind that John Hawke was still 15 when Neos 1 was published!

And in 2011:

Speaking of Neos, I see that old copies go for $15 a pop now! Shame I no longer have any…

John Hawke went on to academia, including a time at the University of Wollongong where he published Australian literature and the symbolist movement in 2009. There have also been poems, but so far no collected work. I wonder if there will be? There was this poem in Jacket, December 2001:

Reliquary

“This ‘peace on earth’ has seen headier days when the sealers and whalers came with their aboriginal women they had torn from their tribes and slaughtered relentlessly the beautiful creatures of the deep.”

— Touring Tasmania, vol.XI.

The lake of charity, the ice-cream sandwiches,
the moulting lagoon: it is all falling
into the past inevitably, like the last
pack of cigarettes you’ll ever buy —
the barbershop reek of the cardboard,
a black metal comb in its milky glass,
the colour that bleaches a neglected letter
dated to the final day. Then the baby is born,
a new calendar of life commences,
yet somewhere it is September 1986,
a white car speeds endlessly through the spinning
night of ragged coastline sea-towns,
past Murder Creek, over Bust-Me-Up Hill,
to the no-time of the eternal casino,
into those infinite bunkered weeks, that basement dark,
the merz that goes without a name.
And I’m feeling sorry for all the noise
beautiful poems will never contain,
because I am ‘modern’ but want to go back
for a few words, not many — that’s selfish,
but when things seem desperate you have to act
some way, and I don’t believe it’s late.
Remember: this is how your parents were
before you were born  —   nostalgia for her
golden body a charm against death,
and too much emotion ever to adequately
deal with or ignore. This makes it
history, but how did we ever get that old,
answering bitterness with tenderness.
In the hamburger warmth of the pinball joint
we shared our flippers, made out
on a midnight slippery-dip, on a Disney ride,
in a maze of mirrors, on a ladder,
by the verdant banks of a tea-coloured river.

Matt da Silva  published some archival photos a while back.

neos_young_writers_editorial_meeting_02
That’s Gavin Murrell and Richard Allen and ?Lyneve around 1982-3.

I met John Hawke at Fort Street High in 1981. Interesting place and time — there was for example a very active underground student paper, The Liberator, with which John was involved. In fact I suspect John and his friends were The Liberator!

I became aware of John’s poetry quite early and was amazed by what I read. I felt it needed to be published somewhere, but where? The ultimate answer was: start our own magazine. Neos 1 came out in September 1981. I wrote the following in the early 2000s.

In September 1981 Rob Duffy (19), John Hawke (15), Michael Stevenson (16) and I (age indeterminate) started Neos Young Writers, a magazine for — you guessed it — young writers. Raina MacIntyre (17) provided some spectacular art-work based on Eliot’s “Gerontion”.In time other editors joined us: for issue 2 (February 1982) the team was the same. The magazine continued until 1985, published by Gleebooks. Later editors included Gavin Murrell, Richard Allen, Hung Nguyen, Matt Da Silva and Lyneve Rappell. We won a Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Award for service to young Australians, and a Literature Board Grant. We had the odd subscriber in England, Ireland, Italy and the USA! We even score a little entry in The Oxford Companion to Australian Literature (ed.2).

John Hawke has continued to write and publish poetry, but has not yet had a book published (aside from editing a number of issues of the Newcastle Poetry Prize anthologies). He studied at the University of Sydney where he tutored for a while in the English Department. The last I heard he was working in the Creative Writing Department at Wollongong University. Richard Allen (with his wife Karen Pearlman, whom he met in New York where he lived for some time) is very active, with several books published, dance works performed, and multi-media dance/poetry/video works achieving some success.

Richard’s career has continued with much success, and Raina MacIntyre is now at the University of New South Wales and a much quoted expert: she heads the Biosecurity Program at the Kirby Institute, which conducts research in epidemiology, vaccinology, bioterrorism prevention, mathematical modelling, genetic epidemiology, public health and clinical trials in infectious diseases.

John now has two published books of poems. He is at Monash University.

But back to Glebe at the time Neos was flourishing. In some ways I was not, experiencing what could be called burnout. I have posted about this several times, especially In 1983 I learned more than I knew I was learning…

At that time I lived in Glebe and was in some ways at a rather low ebb, in hiatus from teaching but still editing Neos. I lived for a while in a boarding house in Boyce Street with assorted students, crims and schizos and one or two ordinary folk. It was an education. Among my neighbours was a schizophrenic Aboriginal woman whom I call “Marie”.  As I listened to Marie, who was also kind of concierge to the house, I found a story emerging amid the apparent randomness and even craziness. I tried to capture that in a poem at the time. Every word in the poem she actually said, though not all at once, and I have structured it so that her story emerges, as it did for me over a much longer time. An artist who lived upstairs read it and said I had captured her exactly.

10166946_01_x
59 Boyce Street. At the time I occupied the front room. “Marie” was on the second floor at the landing. The artist had the balcony room. By 1983 the artist had moved on and I had the balcony room.
This is the very room!
The view from that balcony.

You can read my poem here. But back to John. He (and at times others on Neos) would often visit as we went through the poems and stories that had arrived for the magazine, These sessions could last all day, and I do remember one with John where we sat on that balcony and talked until dawn! My burnout was not all bad!

And from Neos 1 or 2 here is a poem from the teenage John Hawke. It is a prose poem. He still writes them, I notice. This one was singled out for praise by Patrick White!

OBITUARY

John Hawke

Fifteen years spent in a small flat on Parramatta Road with his mother and two brothers (his father died in 1975) the second son John killed by a car to become the hundred and first road accident victim of 1981 (15 up on the same time last year) chewed on asphalt as sharp steel sheared his skin and tore him on the edges of concrete he had walked for fifteen years sucking at the same grey air to find breath for screaming through a mouth full of tar screams bouncing off ugly bricks a hot moist panting into his brother’s lungs helpless on the sidewalk and his mother who saw the crumpled white body and dropped her groceries he spent fifteen years in a small flat on Parramatta Road lived Parramatta Road until Parramatta Road chewed him up sucked between its teeth like wet cement until an iron girder scraped him away from Parramatta Road though the rest of the world passed him by.

Just a bit later:

See Gig Ryan’s Introduction to that 2015 book.

John Hawke’s forensic inquiries in this book are layered with casual erudition – Diderot, Czech poet Vladimir Holan – and locate the poem as transformative state. Many of these poems conclude with a mystical ascent into nature, reminiscent of Patrick White scenes in which the division between consciousness and the universe wavers, signifying that any reconciliation is epiphanic, claimed by art or religion. Yet nature belittles human effort – ‘The path to the point is marked by a scattering / of impermanent hand-made memorials’ – that is, the poet’s endeavours are precariously, though heroically, makeshift, overlaid; but nature is also that which threatens or devours, ‘digesting light’.

And now in 2021 we have John Hawke: Whirlwind Duststorm. Critic Martin Duwell begins:

Poems come claiming many different identities. There are those that aspire to be no more than songs, those that exemplify a previously worked out aesthetic theory, those that worry at an aspect of their author’s inner life, those (“I do this, I do that” poems) that want to take a slice of random individual experience of the world, those that are slabs of discourse engaged with issues of the world, and so on. The feeling I have about the fine and rather unsettling poems of John Hawke’s second book is that they aspire to be strong, free-standing objects. And I don’t mean by this that they are just tightly structured well-made pieces – though they are that – rather that they shun being dependent on meaning for their strength and stability. At the same time, they don’t seem to relate to the generative imperatives of Surrealist poetry where, in that deeply French way, unity derives from development out of a single unified process.

The title poem appeared in Overland February 2021. It is not an easy read, but it repays spending time with it. There are depths there, but also notes that surfaced even in the work John was doing when he was 15 or 16! At least, I think I can see them.

John Hawke today

One more from Neos, 1981.

JERUSALEM 1918

John Hawke

The wind was always dry and hot,
sweaty and dusty and we were always squinting:
the sun would bounce off the white baked roads
straight into your eyes; I felt so dark–
probably just the dust, but it never seemed right, it seemed
so empty and inhuman.

I don’t know if I saw a leaf all the time I was there:
the trees all stunted and bare and twisted;
never many animals: the occasional snake,
and sometimes those long-necked birds, graceful,
but brown and dappled so that
they were never very beautiful.

You couldn’t say the country was either,
but there was something about it–
a sort of majestic calm, lifeless and menacing,
as if it were the starkness of the earth itself
that could suck you dry, twist you like the trees
and leave you as colourless as everything else.

Various lockdown hacks and escapes — 65 — thinking about Newtown

As I said on Facebook: part of my regular round through the late 80s, 90s, and first decade of this century. I was introducing this marvellous video:

And a few days before I had thoroughly enjoyed this one:

Looking back through my blogs I find many a reference in the various archives.

2006

Welcome to the Newtown Precinct

07 MAR

Link.

I now have a strange machine called a holter taped to me; it will record all my heart gets up to for the next 24 hours until I go back to Royal Prince Alfred Hospital to get it removed. Just outside the hospital I ran into, and spoke to, Professor Brian McCaughan, still very recognisable, who was a member of the Class of 1968 at Cronulla High, my first teaching post. I have of course heard of him, but have not seen him since 1968. That was nice. Kind of ironic though, given he is a member of the Australasian Society of Cardiac and Thoracic Surgeons, among other distinctions. Some of the most brilliant people I ever taught were at Cronulla High, but then the opposite was also true…

I started the day at Erskineville, dropping in on the ESL teachers’ Information Network meeting. Then up to Newtown where I bought a couple of books, had lunch, and a beer at the Newtown Hotel. King Street beats Oxford Street these days, no risk. There is just no comparison. King Street is a far more interesting place.

2008

Well now, that’s my Mardi Gras event for this year

28 FEB

courthouse

After coaching tonight I caught the slow bus from Chinatown to arrive on a cold and wet Sydney night at Newtown’s rather wonderful Courthouse Hotel for the blogger meetup. That’s not our group in the picture on the right. I was late, so I missed Marcellous.

Even before I had settled into the group for an hour I met of all people someone I had taught English with at Dapto back in 1970, one of the Spender sisters, Dale and Lynn, the former a rather well-known feminist writer, the other no slouch either. It was Lynn I saw, though initially I thought it was Dale. We both contemplated the years that had flown since then with some amazement, though I have to say I am a minnow compared with what those two have done with that time. (See also When I was a twenty-something conservative in transition…)

Back to the blogger meet: it was great to put a face to Panther at last. James O’Brien I knew instantly, though I had never met him before, and I discovered why The Other Andrew is so called.

Someone whose travels eclipse M’s trips in duration, if not quite in exotic destinations but he comes very close, is this person:

collage

I’m an Aussie who has just spent 2 1/2yrs roaming around Europe with my dog, a very large Alaskan Malamute by the name of Bondi. Our adventure began in May 2005. So far we’ve travelled around much of UK, including a week-long walk across Scotland; spent 2 months each in Spain & Paris, plus a 5 week circuit of Ireland; done a load of family-tree research; a coast-to-coast crossing of England on foot along Hadrian’s Wall path, and a side-trip to dive wrecks in the northern part of the Red Sea. Most recently we completed a 20,000km 20-country tour of Europe by car, and 3 months in Scotland.

I also discovered what the wonderful header on Dancing About Architecture is all about.

Check here to learn more about what this meet was and who was there. I imagine a relevant post might appear before long too. Topics as various as knitting, historical reenactments, and Number 96 — that site was especially referred to — were being talked about as I, noticing that it was getting dark out, decided I had to set off home, which I did via an excellent Chinese noodle shop in King Street.

Newtown at night is, I have to say, far more interesting and far more pleasant these days than Oxford Street.

2010

In Newtown – same building, different feeling

Posted on  by Neil

Wonderful what playing with lighting does.

CIMG4293
CIMG4294

2011

2011 retrospective–2—February

Posted on  by Neil

I ended February in the cardiac ward at Wollongong Hospital. A neighbour of mine who was helpful at that time was Paul the Poet, himself no stranger to the hospital as he was on renal dialysis there three times a week. Paul passed away on Saturday night. Rest in Peace.

paulg

“This guy Paul used to sit outside the 7eleven store on King Street in Newtown and for a very small consideration he would recite a little poem…. I just thought he was wonderful…. he was quite ill at the time and on some kind of benefit which really wasn’t enough to live on so when he felt up to it he would get out on the street and earn a few more dollars…. so much better than begging although it was still kind of heartbreaking that he had to do it… and yet his poems where really fabulous and it always brightened up my day to see him about….” – Juilee Pryor

So he ended his days living here at The Bates Motel.

2013

On Facebook I shared a story from the South Sydney Herald.

Coby Smith-Carr (second from left) with fellow Corroboree Sydney dancers Photo: Supplied

Smith-Carr, who was featured in the March issue of the SSH, has been chosen to dance as part of the performances for Corroboree Sydney in November. A new national festival, Corroboree Sydney is for all Australians to celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture, and according to Sydney Opera House Chief Director Louise Herron is set to be “the largest Indigenous arts and culture festival in Australia’s history”.

Since the SSH last talked to Coby, who has achieved many sporting awards in water polo, swimming and dancing, she has been busy performing with the NSW Aboriginal Dance Company. Being one of only eight students to be selected from a number of Sydney high schools, Coby had the opportunity to learn inside tips on dance technique, performance and production from Bangarra Dance Theatre and Nederlands Dans Theater during a week-long work experience program.

She now works at Sydney Unversity’s Gadigal Centre.

Coby is a proud Aboriginal woman with ties to Wiradjuri Country from her family in Wellington, New South Wales. She joins the Gadigal Centre, having previously held a role within the Indigenous Recruitment Team within Sydney Future Students. Coby believes education is important for everyone, especially our Indigenous people in order to close the gap and make a difference. Students can go to Coby with any questions and support they may need, or just to catch up and have a chat.

2021

On Facebook in July I recalled this person and place:

Looking back beyond the last five minutes, I recall many a conversation in Newtown in the 1990s with the wonderful Bob Gould, whose amazing bookshop was something of a Mecca — so long as you got over your fear of towers of books falling on you. How he ever knew where anything was I’ll never know, but he always did. I was searching out material in those pre-Google days for my book “From Yellow Earth to Eucalypt” (Longman 1995) and knew that not only was Bob’s shop a likely place to find things but that Bob himself was a living treasure on the history of Marxism(s) and the Chinese variety in particular.

Back in the day, as he says himself, he was heavily involved in the Chinese faction of Australian communism: “Just recently, under the Freedom of Information Act 30 year access rule, I squeezed my ASIO file out of the government, and was rather amused to be reminded of the fact that in the early 1960s I was a member of the Australia-China Society and participated on the side of the pro-Chinese grouping in a very intense faction fight with the pro-Russian Stalinists who were trying to hang on to control of the society after the Sino-Soviet split…. I’ll never forget until the day I die, sometime in the heady year of 1968, that enormous Falstaff of popular Australian Maoism, Albert Langer from Melbourne, sleeping on the floor of my house during some conference or other in Sydney, playing The east is red interminably on our record player, and being jumped on playfully by my seven-year old daughter.”

That is from a remarkable wide-ranging essay “Over the hills lies China” which Bob wrote in 1999. It is still very relevant as background to where we are today. Bob reviews a number of books in the essay, including the very popular (at the time) and quite dreadful “Among the Barbarians” by Paul Sheehan. He also (as he did in our conversations) commends Simon Leys/Paul Ryckmans, a critic of Maoism who punctured many an illusion about Chinese Communism, but from a great knowledge and love of Chinese history and culture. “While revelations since 1976 have shown a lot of this to be rather eccentric and sad illusion, and the more critical stance of such China scholars as Simon Leys has been proved much more correct a view of the devastating, cruel and counterproductive effect of the Cultural Revolution, nevertheless, this widespread Western enthusiasm for China and Maoism contributed substantially to a decline in the fear of China and hostility to the Chinese.”

And a bonus ABC documentary from 1995

A 25 minute documentary focusing on the characters that inhabit King Street in Newtown, Sydney – aired on ABC TV 9.2.95. I was around at the time…

Various lockdown hacks and escapes — 60 — it’s the Moon Festival

I see I posted on this exactly eight years ago — twice: 19 September 2013 and 20 September 2013.

P9190207
Here in West Wollongong in 2013 the Autumn Festival moon looked like this – except that it was spring of course!

One of the gains from my years with Michael Xu is an enjoyment of traditional Chinese music – truly beautiful.

G1-2
The Chinese Dulcimer or Guqin — which is what you hear in that second video.

Of course in recent years the politics has just gone totally bananas! But let us not focus on that right now. There is nothing I really can do about it — it is just sad, and very dangerous. No, let us just see the beauty of this festival right now.

The next video comes from the past day or two, from Henan TV in China. It feature the wonderful Zhou Shen, that counter-tenor we have met before — an enormously popular figure in China now. Genuinely.

We don’t need to know Chinese to enjoy the artistry of that.

The story behind the Moon Festival follows:

A bright moon rising above Tian Shan Mountain,
Lost in a vast ocean of clouds.
The long wind, across thousands upon thousands of miles,
Blows past the Jade-gate Pass.
The army of Han has gone down the Baiteng Road,
As the barbarian hordes probe at Qinghai Bay.
It is known that from the battlefield
Few ever live to return.
Men at Garrison look on the border scene,
Home thoughts deepen sorrow on their faces.
In the towered chambers tonight,
Ceaseless are the women’s sighs.

Li Bai (李白) or Li Po — 701-762

3-li-po
Li Bai