I refer there to yesterday, which was quite productive in my Facebook world of real-life friends, relations and ex-students, as well as what in pre-internet days we might have called pen-pals. The next entry of two will catch up on more of that.
But first the good news: my toothache seems to have gone.
And then the bad news: NSW (Greater Sydney in particular) is far from out of the woods when it comes to the Delta strain.
And in The Gong:
Finally, a photo of Sydney in 1901 from the National Library Archives was posted in the Old Sydney Album on Facebook. “George Street, near the corner of Market Street, Sydney 1901. Federation Celebrations.” I gave it a modest colouring:
My note on that:
I remember around 1953-1955 my grandfather Roy Christison telling me about being in the city during these 1901 celebrations, when the country Australia formally came into being. Indeed I think he was in Centennial Park for the great proclamation.
To me then that seemed SO long ago — but now I reflect that 1970 is back in time from now a similar distance — or the election of Gough Whitlam, for example! Yes, I am my own grandpa!
And this was back in 1971 — not that I was in this place, but the vibe I recall from FIFTY years ago. Went to a folk concert at the Jamberoo pub sometime around then though.
So I start with something completely irrelevant, as this being my blog I can do what I like!
Well, amidst much angst and uncertainty, and with an unprecedented backdrop of COVID-19, the Games Have Begun!
Today let’s back-track.
2012: Watching the Olympics in Wollongong Mall
Of course I have family links to the Games, which I am proud of — have held Olympic gold medals in my own hands!
I used to enjoy telling people I coached Beverley — and I did, in Year 10 English! The Wikipedia article there is very good, clearly written by someone who knew her well.
Beverley Joy Whitfield (June 15, 1954 – August 20, 1996 in Shellharbour, New South Wales) was an Australian breaststroke swimmer of the 1970s, who won a gold medal in the 200 m breaststroke at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich. She was coached by Terry Gathercole and Don Talbot.
The daughter of a fitter and turner who worked in the Wollongong steelworks for more than 35 years, Whitfield was taught to swim along with her sister and their cousins at the age four by her maternal uncle, who was active in the local Learn to Swim program. Along with her sister and cousins, she was a childhood member of the Shellharbour Swimming Club, and was mainly taken to local swimming competitions by her father and uncle. This became even more pronounced following the death of her mother from cancer…
Her father Max was my cousin, so she was my second cousin then. Sadly she died suddenly of a heart condition in 1996.
And then there was the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, by which time I had a recently established blog — or “diary” as I called it at the time.
Saturday, September 16
GO THORPIE!!!! Aussie Aussie Aussie Oi Oi OI!!!!! That 4X100 relay was sheer magic.
More on the Opening Ceremony–yes that torch thing did get stuck apparently! However, wasn’t that “underwater” lighting spectacular! And the waterfall! Yes–they did lay the politics of reconciliation on a bit thick, but it needs to be addressed and the Olympics was a powerful symbolic time: so too for the two Koreas and East Timor–moving moments both. However, I think the image of the girl and the songman remains the most powerful image for me.
I was tutoring in Chinatown today. One student, an 18-year-old from Mainland China, came in clutching tickets to the Olympic Table Tennis where his team will undoubtedly do well! He too admired the message of reconciliation in the Opening Ceremony, and was touched not only by that and the two Koreas being united, but also felt the fact China and Taiwan could play together in the Olympics sent a good message to the world and to the people and the politicians.
And my site passed the 2000 today! A minor matter but pleasing. In August this diary averaged seven hits a day; this month to date it has passed the total for August, averaging seventeen hits a day! Mind you that other site I declared “war” on a week ago has averaged twenty-four hits a day so far this month, so don’t get complacent my friends!
I see Brisbane has won the 2032 games — but who here will forget the bid that eventually ended with “The winner is SIDDENY!” No, not a typo — those in the know will know!
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!
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.”
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:
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.
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.
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. · 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.
#Strongwomen. "I write about the power of trying, because I want to be okay with failing. I write about generosity because I battle selfishness. I write about joy because I know sorrow. I write about faith because I almost lost mine, and I know what it is to be broken and in need of redemption. I write about gratitude because I am thankful - for all of it." Kristin Armstrong