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

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

Is it that long ago?

31 Oct 2007

The Empress has sent an edict:

Lest We Forget

31 October 2001

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

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

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

Last night I confessed on Facebook:

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

And someone comments on Bruce’s album:

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

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

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

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There are more images there.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blogging the 2010s — 121b — December 2017

There was one major development here in Oz in this month.

I am, we are….

We are one but we are many
And from all the lands on earth we come
We share a dream
And sing with one voice
I am, you are, we are Australian

Read more: Various Artists – I Am Australian Lyrics | MetroLyrics

Spontaneously the 600 assembled in the public gallery of Australia’s House of Representatives burst into that song last night at this moment:

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See Same-sex marriage signed into law by Governor-General, first weddings to happen from January 9 and ‘I’m glad I’ve lived this long to see it’: At 98, Neville Wills can finally marry the love of his life.

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Check my previous posts. For more context visit SSM: A global perspective on Australia’s change.

Repost: from 2015 — Random Friday memory 16 – among the Chinese

Twenty-five years is a very long time, though as many septuagenarians would understand, quarter-centuries aren’t as long as they used to be. 1965- 1990 took, well, 25 years, but 1990-2015 has gone by in a matter of minutes! 😉

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That was taken in winter 1990 on an excursion to Wollongong with my class of overseas adult students. The couple on the right are from Korea, as I think is the woman with the red bag – or is she Chinese? Blue umbrella is Zhang Rui from Tianjin in China (a scientist) and next to him another Chinese, Ding. The taller slightly older man is Bill Zhang from Guangzhou. Lovely man.

Bill and I in Hyde Park 1990. He had been photographing the grass so his wife in China could see this wonder: apparently at that time great dollops of lawn were in his eyes quite an exotic spectacle.Why these students? As I noted in another post where there is indeed another story too:

I in fact worked with Phil rather briefly, as in 1988 to early 1989 I was teaching in St Ives, in 1989 dealing with a range of personal matters and sometimes not quite with it, and in 1990 to early 1991 at Wessex College of English. I did work at High in Term 4 1989, and again from 1991. I saw a fair amount of Phil nonetheless and was there in the final stages when, sadly, AIDS-related dementia also showed itself at times.

This was Wessex College in Wentworth Avenue Sydney in 1990. It was just upstairs from the job centre at the time, and that’s how I ended up there.

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I was as a casual teacher in Christmas holiday dole mode in January 1990, but the job centre actually gave me a job —  upstairs, which was wall-to-wall with Chinese, as were so many other places in that post-Tiananmen time. I hadn’t ever actually taught English as a second or foreign language, nor had I ever met any people from Mainland China. Wessex gave rather good in-house training (which I later supplemented with a Grad Cert TESOL from UTS) and I soon rather took to the Chinese (and others) with whom I spent my time for the next thirteen months.

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We spent quite a bit of time having coffees and lunches in the YWCA next door, and Hyde Park was just across the road. It really did turn out to be rather a good year (for more than one reason.) Here’s a related memory:

I am glad I visited the garden, as I called in on Sam, who has the “dress up as a Chinese princess” concession in the garden, something he has been doing for fifteen years now. I first met Sam, who was once in the Beijing Opera, in 1990. I remember it well. I was in a coffee shop and Sam was serving. I was reading an illustrated book about the Tiananmen incidents of 1989. “I can tell you all about that,” said Sam. “I was there.” And indeed he was. It turns out Sam is giving up the “dress as a princess” business in April, and going into something new. He’s over fifty years old now too. How time flies!

Some time in 1990 or 1991 I took Sam (and M and a guy from Tianjin, a scientist, called Rui) to SBHS to talk in a history class that was studying China. Sam rather stole the show when he told the students how his father, also in the Beijing Opera, had been beaten to death by Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution. Kind of brought Chinese History to life, that did.

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With my class at Wessex, probably late in 1990. Japanese, Korean, Indonesian, Chinese.

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A quarter of a century ago! June 12, 2015

The real story on China: Linda Jaivin

There is an absolute MUST READ on The Monthly right now! I have long admired Linda Jaivin’s reportage/analysis on China. See most recently Death of a hero: Liu Xiaobo 1955-2017.

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A sample from the new Monthly article.

One of the earliest slogans of the post-Mao reform years that began with Deng Xiaoping’s ascension to power in 1978 was “Look to the future.” The CCP began scrubbing its history of the awkward bits: the horror of the anti-rightist campaign that condemned hundreds of thousands to labour camps, the three-year famine that killed tens of millions, and the decade-long Cultural Revolution that began with an orgy of violence and ended with China’s society in trauma and its cultural heritage in tatters. As a result, the nearly 53% of the Chinese population (731 million people) that was born after 1976 know little of these things or even about the events of 1989, when the People’s Liberation Army crushed the massive student-led, pro-democracy protests in Beijing and elsewhere with extreme violence. They are a fortunate generation that has grown up amid a constant rise in living standards, social freedoms and economic opportunity….

The Chinese-language China Daily is a state-run English-language newspaper that
answers to the CCP. In 2016, with China’s propaganda chief and Politburo member Liu Qibao present to witness the ceremony, China Daily signed a deal with Fairfax papers to distribute China Watch, a supplement sprinkling hard nuggets of Party line through a fairy floss of panda news, upbeat economic stories and features like ‘Why I Moved to Beijing for a Comfortable Life’.

Here’s a fun translation fact: official Chinese media translated the word xuanchuan, which can mean propaganda, promotion or publicity, as “propaganda” for the first 40 years or so of the PRC – as in “Ministry of Propaganda”. By the ’90s, however, the CCP had come to realise that “propaganda” had a certain “dictatorship”-like odour in the West, and changed the official English name of its Propaganda Department to “Publicity Department”.

China Watch appears in the Washington Post and London’s Daily Telegraph

Not uncritical, as you can see, and very well-informed. Do read it all. It is essential if you are truly to make sense of the Sam Dastayari affair, much of the commentary on which has been more than tinged with hyperbole, in my opinion. Here is an outrageous example from Immigration Minister Peter Dutton:  ‘Labor can’t have a foreign spy sitting in the senate’.

Blogging the 2010s — 121a — December 2017

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

Looking back at 2017 — 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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You might like to read A Guringai Family Story.

Since I came back to Wollongong it has become something of a custom to spend Christmas lunch, or in the case of this year Boxing Day lunch, with my cousin Helen Langridge and her husband Jim. See So, Christmas Day! (2016). This is Helen and Jim ten years ago on Jim’s retirement.
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Quite a distinguished fellow is Jim. As usual there was much great conversation, including among other things the fact that next month will be their 50th Wedding Anniversary! Here is a picture of my mum and dad at that wedding in January 1968:

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

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

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

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

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

 

Recalled from the turn of the century: chuffed!

On Facebook recently I posted some items from my English and ESL blog archives.

Neil Whitfield’s English and ESL site

“A great resource for all students and teachers…” — Frances M., English Teachers Association Bulletin Board, Mar 25, 2005. (NOTE: corrected link, but if you go there you will find the site referred to by its pre-retirement name and on its old Tripod.com address! The particular page that so impressed Frances M is now here.)

Of the first one I posted I said: “I just reread this for the first time in years, and aside from fond memories of Sydney High and Bob Li — he is second from the right in this photo from 20 years ago — it cheers me up to recall that I may after all have done some good through my teaching career!”

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Here is that post:

Multiculturalism — Bob’s story

In senior years students used to come voluntarily to the ESL staff if they felt their English may be costing them marks. Let one of 2000’s Year 12 students speak for himself on this, but it should be added that all his teachers assisted him achieve his goal–to study Medicine at the University of New South Wales:

Wish you all the best for Christmas and the New Year (and later the Chinese New Year). Hope you have a great holiday!

Thank you tons for teaching me 2 years of English, which enabled me to achieve the top 10% of the state: something I thought unrealistic before.

I still have all these 12/20 and 13/20 poetry essays from early year 11 in my folder… and also the 15/20 ‘The Scarlet Letter’ and ‘Richard III’ essays from the yr11 yearly exam. I still keep the 16/20, 17/20 ‘Empire of the Sun’, ‘Robert Gray’ essays from yr12 assessments, and also the 19/20 ‘Satire’ essay from the trial HSC. And of course, the ESL practice essays which scored 18/20 and 19/20 marked by you over the internet. And now, the record of achievement which says 91-100% percentile band in English.

It was indeed a solid progress, and I thank you again for teaching me, Sir!

The ex-student whose letter of thanks I just quoted is Bob Li (2000). In his email giving permission to quote him he said:

Of course you can quote me in the High Notes! I hope more and more students come to ESL and benefit from it just as I did. English is a headache for so many students from non-English speaking backgrounds. Continuous practice from year 7 is a great way to minimise (or even eliminate) the tremendous difficulty they are likely to experience in the HSC.

It is worth quoting the autobiographical piece Bob wrote as part of an ESL test at the beginning of Year 11 1999:

I’ve only been to Australia for six years, but my personal opinion about Australia has changed quite dramatically.

I still remember how I wanted to go back to China when I first came. I felt that everything had changed. Life here in Australia is so different. The streets are so quiet I could hardly see anybody. I’ve always liked to live in a crowded city like Shanghai, where I could see people everywhere doing all sorts of activities. Language is probably the biggest problem that I have faced. I couldn’t understand anything in English. School was disastrous, as I was always sitting in the corner waiting for the bell. I remember I always got scared when people talked to me. I felt very lonely in this totally unknown world.

My thought of going back to China started to calm as years went by. I started getting fluent in English, made a lot of friends here. I started to like Australia. Today I love Australia. I want to stay in Australia forever. I’m very used
to the life here and I love it.

My first goal for the future is to get an excellent result in the HSC. Hopefully I could get into Dentistry or Medicine and have success in my future. I think I will have my future life in Australia, and I wouldn’t get used to life in China.

In another email Bob had this to say:

Just to share something with you. I’ve been practicing Wing Chun Kung Fu in Melbourne in the last month, and I founded it very very beneficial. It not only helps my self-defence and fitness, but also increases my physical and mental awareness, reflexes and confidence. Kung Fu is really a beautiful art, practicing it transcends to a higher mental and physical level.

Just in case if you haven’t heard of Wing Chun, it’s a style of Kung Fu derived from the Southern Shaolin Temple. Usually it takes 15 to 20 years to develop an efficient martial artist in Shaolin, which was a rather long time. So some 250 years ago, the 5 grandmasters discussed their techniques, by choosing the most efficient techniques from each style, they formulated the new training program which takes only 5 to 7 years to develop a Kung Fu master. It was named “Wing Chun” and represented “hope for the future”.

Here’s the Philosophy of Wing Chun that I’d like to share with you.

  • One who excels as a warrior does not appear formidable;
  • One who excels in fighting is never aroused in anger;
  • One who excels in defeating his enemy does not join issues;
  • One who excels in employing others humbles himself before them.
  • This is the virtue of non-contention and matching the sublimity of heaven. “The practitioner should meditate on these principles and make peace through the study of Kung Fu – a way of life.”

I found it very rewarding, so I think I’ll continue to train… hope uni work doesn’t prevent me from doing it.

Asian Pride

I have seen such a slogan from time to time. Bob is a good example of healthy pride. As the last letter shows, he is finding much to learn from his Chinese background. At the same time, he is as comfortable as can be with other aspects of Australian society. In him the problem of identity seems to have been solved.

There are some for whom things may not be so harmonious. For them, perhaps, Asian Pride may be in opposition to people or aspects of cultures other than their own, rather than a healthy balance. At extremes it may even become exclusive and racist. I have to say that, even so, Asian Pride is better than Asian Shame!

The rest of us must make sure that no-one is ashamed of who he is. That is the core problem of racism–we build ourselves up at the expense of others, making others feel ashamed or inferior–or angry. This is bad for the community as a whole, as we all have to get along.

That was published in the SBHS newsletter and led to a rather amazing dialogue, too long to paste here: see A debate on race.

Next on Facebook:

Multiculturalism — Student lives

Experiencing cultural change through the eyes of young Australians who have been students of Sydney Boys High. The texts are not corrected, but may be slightly edited. These stories were gathered between 1998 and 2000 as part of my testing of student writing, but parallel stories occur still, over and over again.

Boy aged 12: in Australia 7 years

What happened to me when I was little would take pages to write, so I will just tell you one of the main point when I was little. Our family immigrated to Australia except for my father because he had to work in Hong Kong so we would have money but my father would visit us every 3-4 months and would stay for about a month in Australia. Every time when he leaves Australia I would cry for a very long time.

Now I’m 12 and whenever my father is going back to Hong Kong there isn’t a tear but I feel a bit sad. Also, now I’m 12 I have made it into Sydney Boys High and it is a very good school but I have to wake up very early.

In the future I would like to have a good HSC mark so I can get in to a good university and make alot of money after university. In this piece of paper is all about my life.

Boy aged 12: In Australia 2.5 years

Five years ago, I was a dull boy in China. Everything was just fine. I went to School in the morning and Slept in the evening. When I found out that I was going to Australia I had mixed reactions. My first thought was Yes I finally had my Childhood dream come true to travel in an aeroplane. Also I got to see dad for the first time in my life. When I was only a year old he came to Australia but I thought wait a minute I’m going to have to leave my friend.The thought hit me. I was confused.

Now here I am in Australia. I just got into Sydney Boys High. Our family is now prospering along very well. My study is improving gradually. I really think my future would be fantastic.

Growing up to be an adult is a time of tense learning and important decision-making. In the portion of life that I’ve got left I wish I could receive a worthwhile job and a reasonable pay. I wish to through my work benifit both to community and the country. If I have achieved these things then when I die I will look back and think that was a job well done.

Boy aged 12: in Australia 4 years.

It wasn’t a great year, but that is common in most school years. I think it was then that my parents had the strange notion to emigrate from Israel. I do indeed remember them discussing the move, I remember not being too happy about it at first. I did not want to leave in the least bit because I didn’t want to leave my friends behind, but eventually I realised that it was a wise decision. Approximately then I started watching the news and learnt that a war was raging between Israel and Iraq. And when my father went to serve in the army, as all Israely men have to, I realised that I would nothing more than to leave.

My life now is much better than before, I can state that quite clearly. I have become quite accustomed to the english language and the Australian way of life. It did seem strange to me at first but now I do not mind it. Over the last few years I have made a lot of friends and I consider my life now very good.

In the future my life should improve and I plan on gaining more friends in this new school. I expect succeed in my academics as well as my physical education and sport.

X*** aged 12: In Australia 6 years.

Hello! My name is X*** and I will write in this paragraph about an incident that happened nine years ago. When I was still in Shanghai, something almost fatal happened. It was a hot and stuffy night and some of my grandparent’s friends came. While they were talking, I climbed onto the window sill of a bay window. It was much cooler sitting on the window sill.

What I didn’t know was that the window was opened. So when I rocked a bit too hard, my upper body was dangling out of a 12 storey high apartment! Luckily, my grandmother saw me and grabbed me just before I fell out of the window and made a mess on the road. So, as you can see, I had a very frightening past…

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Shanghai 1995

Boy–aged 15–in Australia 3.5 years.

5 years ago I was in Shanghai, China. I went to my local comprehensive primary school which was a alright school. In school learn mainly Math, Chinese and Biology. But we also used to do secoundary subjects like Art & crafts and music. The school was fairly small compared to the Public schools in Australia, but we had fun. In school every subject was very compatative and stressful. In school sport was not one of main componants. Every once in a while we play table tennis or soccer.

… In the next five years I want to go to America and Major in Music and Computer Engineering in “Julian University”. Julian University* I heard was a good school for musicans. might even get a Doctorate in Music. When I’m a bit older, I wish to join the Venia Philharmonic Orchestra. That is my vision of the future. I might even say I might marry a very good looking
super model, but I don’t think that will happen.

He means The Juilliard School.

Blogging the 2010s — 119 — December 2015

Has since become one of our go-to lunch stops! Now even better in bigger premises next-door to the original, and a new name (Xanadu) which no-one seems to be using. It’s still Ziggy’s as far as we are concerned.

Ziggy’s House of Nomms

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great addition to Wollongong’s eateries! More anon.

If you’ve followed my blogs for any length of time you will know how significant a part yum cha played in my life and the lives of my friends through the 1990s and the early 2000s. For example:

Sunday, September 3 2000: 12 days to the Olympics

They say Moore Park will be finished before the Olympics, but they are finding it difficult as there are not enough graders available to do the job. Meantime Belmore Park, near Central Station, is now carpeted–not with bright flowers, or fresh green grass, but with daggy green carpet! Very tasteful. There was a bomb scare at Kirrawee Railway Station south of the city last week; apparently emergency personnel were misdirected to Canterbury Station (some distance away and on quite another line) due to a “pronunciation problem”! However, Central Station refurbishment has been completed–well almost.

Extra police on the streets and quite a few foreign visitors are already apparent in the city. The athletes, of course, have started moving into the Olympic Village.

Today was Yum Cha again–for the uninitiated this is Cantonese for “drink tea” and is essentially an endless supply of delicacies (steamed buns, dumplings, chicken feet, etc) washed down by tea. One can if one chooses have a 24 course breakfast–or more. There were ten people today–PK, Ian Smith, J***s, Sirdan, ABC Andrew, Clive, a guy from Houston Texas, a lesbian Olympic volunteer official from NZ (a friend of Sirdan), Bruce from the Albury, and me. Rabbit sent his hugs to all but was otherwise engaged today. Sad news is that John Wilkinson, who was there last time, an old friend of M, is critically ill in hospital: M has just gone to visit him.

Good news (9.30 pm): John Wilkinson is much better than he was yesterday.

Sunday, September 17

Another glorious Olympic day in Sydney. The shirtless cuties are about again. 🙂

Having announced today’s Yum Cha (Chinese brunch) would be held at the Golden Harbour at 10 am, I turned up expecting crowds, and indeed quite a lot of foreigners were about. Presumably the restaurant owners read these pages (who doesn’t?) so we were delayed twenty minutes while the staff cleaned up, went out for extra provisions, and put tables in the street to cope with the overflow. At last we were ushered to our select table, and the Dowager Empress enthroned herself beside Clive, with PK on Clive’s right, Sirdan and J^***s on my left. People were too shy to identify themselves, but as the restaurant filled with people I could but be impressed by the drawing power of these humble pages. As was fitting all these people pretended they did not know us, respectful of our privacy.

And many another entry. Just one example:

Then in January 2001 I wrote:

January 21: Laid-back day

There was a mid-month Yum Cha today, but I didn’t make it. I met the Dowager Empress and PK in Paddy’s Market about 11 am. (They were the only ones who did make it!) Chinatown was buzzing for Chinese New Year: a street market, music, crowds. The Empress bought a pair of rather remarkable door knockers and a good fortune thing with lots of twirly bits–very garish. This afternoon Simon H and K., the actress, both came over–and a great afternoon it was. Consequently, one way or another, it looks as if I am off to the Wharf Theatre tomorrow night; I shall report on that later…

Sadly, Wollongong did not run to yum cha, though Steelers did try in 2012.

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I dropped in for lunch yesterday and found that they were launching a new Yum Cha service and a much redecorated restaurant. Literally Day One! So there was a bit of confusion about when and how the food would appear, but when it did it was very tasty. Let’s hope they get into the Yum Cha groove very quickly and get lots of customers. I suspect there must be a minimum customer level to make Yum Cha viable.

Sadly this experiment did fail. Now we have something similar to yum cha – a tea house experience with dumplings and steamed buns: Dumplings the cat’s meow.

Ziggy the cat has a short, white coat and a penchant for sitting on a warm laptop computer.

Gravity fascinates him. He will happily push an expensive piece of glassware off a table in order to test its limits.

Named after Ziggy Stardust – for his different coloured eyes – the eight-year-old mog is an old soul, according to owner Steen…

Opened on Monday, the cafe serves up a selection of more than 170 kinds of tea and a long menu of dumplings priced at $5 for three.

“We make dumplings exactly how they’re done in China,” said Steen, best known for his involvement in Wollongong’s Phoenix Theatre. “We go to a company, we hand them our recipe, they make dumplings specifically for us.  It is a a group of women sitting around a table in a shop in Hurstville.  They’re all wonderful, fun ladies who sit there and make dumplings all day by hand. You can’t make dumplings by machine – they break.”

The cafe is a joint venture by Steen and partner Kevin Caucher.

It was inspired by the couple’s March holiday to Mr Caucher’s Chinese homeland.

I road-tested Ziggy’s on Christmas Eve and I shall no doubt return. The variety of tea is amazing: I selected Dragon Well 龙井茶. Mind you, I suspect they don’t have Jin Jun Mei: see Wollongong to Surry Hills, Shanghai and tea and Bargain eats in The Gong, and that tea from China…. I’ll ask them one day. The dumplings were very good but I ordered too many. Doggy-bagged some home for laters.

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At Ziggy’s House of Nomms (Illawarra Mercury)

The place was packed. I squeezed into a spot at the window bench. And there perhaps is a bit of a worry for the future. The place really is rather small. Full-on yum cha isn’t possible as there are not the numbers to make it work, a problem Steelers also ran into in 2012. Ordering  dumplings from the menu means there is a time lag to the table as each order is processed individually; the eating and talking take time too, so tables don’t turn around all that rapidly – and maybe there aren’t quite enough tables. On the other hand the quality and theatricality are drawing people in. I suspect Steen and Kevin Caucher will be run off their feet. I certainly hope so.

The background story is worth reading too. I find I knew Steen’s English teacher “back in the day”. See Phoenix boss Steen rises above difficult childhood.

And now to solve a mystery I put on Facebook yesterday.

Wollongong looking festive — 2

Yesterday we had face-painting in Crown Street Mall:

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And then I noticed at the intersection of Church Street:

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Yes, the 26th annual Toy Run. See last year’s post Last Saturday: Wollongong Toy Run. Yesterday:

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