Thanks for the memories, Facebook and blogging! 50 years…

Back to when I was teaching at The Illawarra Grammar School and looked like this:

Wollongong 1973

Teaching at TIGS and always treated with the greatest respect:

A colleague in the Art Department was David Humphries, a most interesting young man who had himself gone to TIGS. He went on to considerable success, as this from 1996 shows. He is still quite recognisable to me as well in this one.

Yesterday Facebook sent me this:

On Facebook I wrote:

Wow! It’s 14 (sic — 16 in fact!) years now since I dined at his place…. I guess we have both aged!

Marvellous having a blog by the way from which I can pull up not just the memory of meeting up with David again but what I said and did at the time!

That refers to these entries

Random notes 23 September 2006

My colleague of thirty-four year ago, David Humphries, and I have made contact. I am having dinner with him soon. He tells me the internet is renewing all sorts of contacts. I mentioned my own a few years ago with Jay Caselberg (James A. Hartley), a novelist now living in Germany it seems. Unfortunately a “senior moment” blocked the name as I was talking to David, but (obviously) I recall it now. Then more recently there had been Scott Poynting and a class-mate of his, Ralph T, whose brother Ian T was a classmate of Simon H, who I have maintained contact with all these years. Wednesday night could prove interesting.

Lord Malcolm is still in the hospice, but the Swans winning through to the Grand Final has obviously brought him back to life. He tells me he comes home on Monday.

The public art of David Humphries 28 September 2006


Here is where I had dinner last night and a few red wines, meaning I do feel a touch seedy this morning… But what a great night it was, excellent conversation going back thirty years and more. I took the bus out to Rosebery and entered David’s studio, greeted by Jacko the red-tailed black cockatoo flying freely through as wonderful an interior garden as you could imagine. The pictures don’t do it justice….

Yes, in 2022 it is as I remenber it from 2006:

I see writer Jay Caselberg is mentioned in the first of those entries, the pen name of J Anthony Hartley — a student of mine back in 1973 at TIGS. He shared on Facebook today: Selected Poetry by J. Anthony Hartley.

J. Anthony Hartley is a transplanted British/Australian author and poet. He has had pieces appear in Short Fiction, Hybrid Fiction, Short Circuit, Unthinkable Tales, The Periodical, Abandon Journal, and forthcoming in The Quarter(ly), Underland Arcana, among others. He currently resides in Germany and can be found at and @JAnthonyHartle1. Apart from short fiction and poetry, he also writes the occasional novel.

My ridiculously big eBook Library on Calibre again

Yes it keeps growing with (needless to say) free offerings so tempting me daily! Ridiculous because I will never read them all in the very finite time I have left! Not ridiculous, because clearly I can read some, and browing is also an excellent thing to do

Here is the Calibre interface.

With one added since I made this screenshot! 3,300 books now…

Right now I am revisiting with delight #5 there on that list arranged in order of time added. (You can arrange easily in other ways — author, title, size, publisher….) Yes, the first 1926 outing of Hercule Poirot!

We walked back to the house together. There was no sign of the inspector. Poirot paused on the terrace and stood with his back to the house, slowly turning his head from side to side.

“Une belle propriété,” he said at last appreciatively. “Who inherits it?”

His words gave me almost a shock. It is an odd thing, but until that moment the question of inheritance had never come into my head. Poirot watched me keenly.

“It is a new idea to you, that,” he said at last. “You had not thought of it before—eh?”

“No,” I said truthfully. “I wish I had.”

Now the next one is an absolute delight to browse — and it is amazing who one finds. A well remembered strange character from the streets of Sydney. A childhood neighbour from Auburn Street Sutherland in 1950.

Free from ANU Press. This edition © 2021 ANU Press

I used to see him often in the city, always head down and completely uncommunicative. Trolley Man.

Photography by Raymond de Berquelle. Collection: Powerhouse Museum.

CINDRIC, JOSEPH (1906/08–1994), displaced person, labourer, and homeless person, was born on 9 June 1906 or 1908 at Sastavol in the region of the Austro-Hungarian Empire that later became the state of Yugoslavia. Also known as Josef, Joe, or Joso, he was a forced evacuee to Germany from Yugoslavia in June 1941. He had worked on his father’s farm since childhood, and had no formal schooling; he could not read, could write only his name, and spoke no English. His Australian immigration papers later recorded that he spoke German and Yugoslavian (probably Croatian).

In Germany Cindric became part of the Nazi forced labour program, spending four years in a coal mine, followed by six months in a gas factory and then over a year polishing lenses. Frustrated and bored with life in the Ansbach Displaced Persons Camp at the end of the war, he sought to emigrate to Australia to work as a coalminer.

Cindric arrived in Sydney from Bremerhaven aboard the Charlton Sovereign on 29 October 1948. By then he was a widower and his two children had predeceased him. The following month he was in Nyngan, central New South Wales, working for the State railways. It was here that he began to identify what he believed to be threats by other immigrants against his life. He left the railways and in July 1949 applied for employment at Dubbo. His work on a Coonamble property lasted but a few days before he left without notice.

It is likely that an obsession with walking also began at this time….

What a story!

And the neighbour…

VALLANCE, THOMAS GEORGE (TOM) (1928–1993), petrologist and historian of science, was born on 23 April 1928 at Guildford, Sydney, elder of two sons of New South Wales–born parents Alfred Sydney Vallance, commercial traveller, and his wife Edna Vera, née Taber, who died in 1931. Tom and his father moved in with the boys’ strict non-conformist paternal grandparents at Sutherland; his brother Douglas lived with his maternal grandparents at Menangle. After primary schooling at Sutherland, Tom attended Canterbury Boys’ High School, matriculating in 1945. He studied at the University of Sydney (BSc, 1950; PhD, 1954), turning from an initial interest in chemistry to geology, particularly petrology, under the influence of William Rowan Browne [q.v.13]. He graduated with first-class honours and the university medal, and was awarded the Deas Thomson [q.v.2] and John Coutts (shared) scholarships….

Little did I know of that when I was 7 and constantly bothering him and borrowing his books! Tommy.

After my grandparents and Uncle Roy moved out to their own place around 1949, and I had just begun school where I shocked the Kindergarten teacher by writing “Sydney Morning Herald” and the date on the blackboard but showed no aptitude in craft, I made a new friend. I spent more and more time with Tommy, Old Fred’s son; he had the most wonderful books which he let me borrow. Mostly they were the old Warnes “Wonder Book” series, prewar most of them, but I devoured the lot. Tommy showed me color slides too of overseas places and flying boats taking off. It was wonderful.

He showed me his rock collection, and I decided then and there I would be a scientist. I seem to remember announcing to the family that I would be a professor one day, and once when we drove past Sydney University for some reason said “I’m going there.” No-one in my family had, up to that point.

Well, a bit of it came true. And if you want to know who Tommy was — he died just a few years ago — read the passage just below these paragraphs, and this review of his last work. When I arrived at Sydney University as a sixteen-year-old in 1960, one of the first people I saw was Tommy who greeted me warmly; I was surprised he recognised me and a bit shy to be so addressed by the eminent petrologist Doctor Vallance.

Tommy was, as you might gather, a bit older than I; I seem to recall my parents apologising to him if I was making a nuisance of myself, but apparently he didn’t mind my frequent visits. I still remember an argument Tommy had with Old Fred, though this may have been later, when I was living in Vermont Street but used to go back to Auburn Street every now and again. The Vallances were strong Methodists, but old Fred apparently (and surprisingly) had a liking for Alexander Pope, and the argument was about Catholics. “Well,” said Tommy to Fred, “that Alexander Pope you are so fond of was a Catholic.” “Pope by name and Pope by nature, eh,” replied Fred. A bonus in visiting Tommy was that Mrs Vallance was always making cakes and let me lick out the mixing bowl. She was a Scot who reminded me of the Queen (no, not that one–the Queen Mother; George VI was still alive at this point.)

My Uncle Roy kept in touch with the Vallances; he was a regular visitor to Old Fred up until Fred died at a very advanced age; I can remember Roy bringing Old Fred down to Wollongong to visit my mother some time around 1973 or 1974.

The Vallance collection, purchased from the private library of the late Professor Tom Vallance, contains between 10,000 and 15,000 volumes as well as 3,000 offprints and 1000 maps, as well as some long runs of geological journals. The collection contains major works in mineralogy, petrology, palaeontology, natural philosophy, geology and geography from the 19th century and selected works from the early 20th century. ( )

About the Whitfields: Wandering Willie’s Tales

Here is one I have lined up to read:

1959 — from Project Gutenberg

Goodreads shows how this book divides people.

One of the funniest, cruelest, and most savagely revealing books about American life ever written, The Magic Christian has been called Terry Southern’s masterpiece. Guy Grand is an eccentric billionaire — the last of the big spenders — determined to create disorder in the material world and willing to spare no expense to do it. Leading a life full of practical jokes and madcap schemes, his ultimate goal is to prove his theory that there is nothing so degrading or so distasteful that someone won’t do it for money. In Guy Grand’s world, everyone has a price, and he is all too willing to pay it. A satire of America’s obsession with bigness, toughness, money, TV, guns, and sex, The Magic Christian is a hilarious and wickedly original novel from a true comic genius.

And about yesterday evening

Not like 8th October!

As the war goes badly for Russia we hear more from those young Russians — at home or in exile — who oppose it

UPDATED 21st September

This moment is so touching — when two beautiful young people meet in exile.

Sorry to spoil your secret, Natasha — but I just want anyone who is still to visit the Russian vlogging world to make sure they start today! As I said on Facebook in relation to a vlog post by Niki in St Petersburg, on which you also appear:

Do watch this! So good! So honest! So real and unpretentious! I learn far more from things like this than I do from the ideological excursions that infest YouTube with “profound” observations (or raw propaganda, or conspiracy hacks). There are exceptions of course — Vlad Vexler for example. But these vloggers! Long may they be allowed to share with us!

To which an American friend in Spain, William Christison, responded: “Goin’ for it when I get up tomorrow, Neil! These and other young bloggers are the best windows into a mad reality!”

More authenticity from those Russian vloggers! Spoiler alert! She is met at her final destination by someone we already know….

And just a reminder about Zack, who has been in exile since February 2022, turning 21 in Tbilisi just this month.

See my posts by searching for “Zack”.

Niki in St Petersburg recently met up with Natasha and another young vlogger, “Depressed Russian.”

From that post see this still of graffiti in St Petersburg:

This graffiti wall honours the great poet Anna Akhmatova 1889–1966, born in Odessa. A truly great poet.

Roman the Russian has posted on being in Tbilisi for six months

I have followed Roman through that entire period and earlier. See for example What do Russians really think? Part 1 from July.

26,308 views to date — posted to YouTube Sep 21, 2022

Fruitful day on Monday — 2 — Sunday night TV led to a journey into great Australian poetry and memories of Sydney High

Last Sunday night ABC premiered a riveting and scary miniseries set in a country town: Savage River. 9/10 from me!

On Facebook I wrote something just a bit strange:

I venture to suggest I was the only person in Australia (aside from perhaps this poet who may have watched) who instantly recalled Robert Gray’s “The Meatworks” — and I am delighted to find it online

Most of them worked around the slaughtering
out the back, where concrete gutters
crawled off
heavily, and the hot, fertilizer-thick,
sticky stench of blood
sent flies mad,

but I settled for one of the lowest-paid jobs, making mince,
the furthest end from those bellowing,
sloppy yards. Outside, the pigs’ fear
made them mount one another
at the last minute….

The poet had at one time actually worked in this place.

My note went on:

I did have some contact with Robert Gray over the years, starting with the time he was working in a Paddington bookshop in 1982 when he told me Patrick White had come in recommending Neos Young Writers, of which I was an editor, through to his generously coming a few years later to talk to my class at Sydney Boys High. Taught his work to the Class of 2000 as well.

Robert Gray 1978
Christine Godden

I think Robert actually spoke to a combined class and this was perhaps the class of 1986 when they were in Year 11. Or it may have been in Term 4 of 1999 when the Class of 2000 began their actual HSC year.

I do recall he did it at no charge, and also that he said “Some people take photos. I write poems. My poems are my photo album.”

Among the most moving of Robert Gray’s poems, for me, is “Diptych” — a pair evoking his mother and his father and their life in Coff’s Harboiur on the north coast o NSW. Here is part of the portrait of his father, an alcoholic and a rather irascible man:

… And yet, the only time I heard him say that he’d enjoyed anything
was when he spoke of the bush, once. ‘Up in those hills,’
he advised me, pointing around, ‘when the sun is coming out of the sea,
standing among
that lifting timber, you can feel at peace.’
I was impressed. He asked me, another time, that when he died
I should take his ashes somewhere, and not put him with the locals,
in the cemetery.
I went up to one of the places he had named
years earlier, at the time of day he had spoken of, when the half-risen sun
was as strongly-spiked as the one
on his Infantry badge,
and I scattered him there, utterly reduced at last, among the wet,
breeze-woven grass…..

This is discussed in the opening part of this wonderful interview done just two years ago by English Buddhist poet Maitreyabandhu (Ian Johnson).

Robert has aged — but so have I! Refers to some wonderful poems, starting with “Diptych”. Great interview by a well-informed English Buddhist and many shafts of dry wit from Robert Gray.

I then recalled the wonderful class of 2000, particularly one member of it:

That is Xiang on the left.

When I taught his poems (including “Diptych”) to the class of 2000 one class member, Xiang, was originally from China — in fact less than five years in Australia. He was on his mother’s side a descendant of the family of the last Emperor of China (“there is a hotel in Beijing that was my great-great-great-aunt’s palace”) and at that time a Tibetan Buddhist. His grandmother had been in the Ministry of Culture in 1989 and refused to endorse the crackdown. The family as a result were sent to Gansu Province where Xiang encountered Tibetan culture. Xiang related well to Robert Gray’s poems and saw the Buddhism instantly.

The class went one day to a HSC lecture day at the Sydney Hilton where Robert was speaking about his poems and of course Xiang was there and had a chance to talk to Robert. I asked him after how he had felt about it. He just said, “What can I say?” He was deeply moved. He achieved a good pass in English too, though his thing really was Maths — despite the fact that he had been speaking English for four years or less and the only way in Year 11 1999 he had been able to cope with The Scarlet Letter was by reading a Chinese translation.

Mind you he then told me just what was wrong with the translation….

In some Remarks on poems for the HSC Robert Gray wrote:

My poetry is full of images, because I want to particularize every natural thing that appears in it, out of respect, you might say. In my poems, nothing is a symbol for anything else. Everything has its own worth and is presented directly. The overall effect is one of clarity and light.

‘Journey, the North Coast’

You will notice at once the rhythm of this. The variety of line-lengths makes it an example of free verse. The poem imitates the swaying movement of an overnight train (but not too heavy-handedly, I would like to think).

Also imitative is the poem’s narrative plunges down the page, without the hindrance of stanza-breaks. The poet finds the experience of waking in the country exhilarating, as is shownin the sensuous imagery used.

There is fleetingly evoked a contrast between the country morning of a holiday and the rented room in the city, where he has lived out of a suitcase. The shadow of the furnished room is carried along with him.

Moments in my eBook Library — 16 —  more random choices

Australian readers would once have instantly known who the author is:

Henry Lawson (1867-1922).

The next one you won’t have heard of — self-published in 2012:

The Polish Experience


Nicholas Westerby

This book is dedicated to my son Alexander. Let’s hope that you cause me more problems than I cause you

© 2012, Nicholas Westerby

Nothing much to add…. I’m afraid the folk on Goodreads were not all that impressed.

I have read other works by Sheridan Le Fanu (1814-1873) but not this one. It does look promising and is a recent addition to my eBook collection.

ANU Press has a splendid policy of allowing their latest publications FREE as eBooks. Who can resist? I now have quite a few and the random read app in my Calibre eBook Reader threw up two which I must confess I have yet to read in full. I really must as both look fascinating.

This edition © 2021 ANU Press

This edition © 2010 ANU E Press

Plenty of food in those two! Finally a period piece indeed from the USA — when enthusiasm for the Bolshevik Revolution was at a height in the West.

Of considerable historical interest still.