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


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.



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.


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:


And then I noticed at the intersection of Church Street:


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



Blogging the 2010s — 118 — December 2014

I recycled some photoposts — and now is as good a time as any to do so again!

The past twelve months – 16 – October 2014 photoposts

I recycled some favourites in the 30 October post This time in 2012 – can’t believe how time has gone!

Wollongong Harbour

There was quite a bit of wind in October: see this from my window, taken on 27 October:

And here I am in Mount Keira Road on 3 October. This also reflects one of the highlights of the month:

From 6 October I began a series with Revisiting Redfern/Waterloo – archivally — 1: “It has been a while since I was in the area in fact, so given yesterday I thought a peep back through some of my many photoblog archives would be in order.” Of course in December I did visit in reality. The last in this series was posted on 8 October. Here is one of the many images I recycled.

Redfern back lane on February 23, 2009

The new Wollongong Central Keira Street West building opened at last:

Finally, a touch of summer on 25 October:

Mount Keira Road with Flame Tree. Compare October 15, 2013.

Haven’t been to the Hellenic Club for ages, and the Red Dragon is no more, alas!


I do need to get out and about when I can, and particularly to resist being locked into some aspects of the daily life here at The Bates Motel, since sitting around all day talking about cats or whatever isn’t my idea of heaven. Don’t get me wrong. The Bates Motel is fine for most purposes: my room is comfortable and the view to die for:


But one does need a variety of conversation with people who are more or less normal – that and good food every few days take me in Wollongong to the clubs, of which there are many. I belong now to two – City Diggers and Steelers. I used also to belong to – and really liked – the Hellenic Club, but I am still recovering from the banishment of Sophia and the $8-10 roast, and the pasta:

Lunch at the Hellenic Club 2012

Steelers this year has become a regular weekly event, mainly with Chris T but at times with DS, Mel, DR, and others. The great attraction is the Red Dragon restaurant with its fantastic Chinese Szechuan dishes – no longer alas at two for the price of one, but still reasonable. And there have been some great conversations over those meals.

The club I most go to is City Diggers. Lately I have found a group of regulars with whom I can always find companionship and a chat. None of them was ever a teacher. (Chris T at Steelers was for a while, but has also been a forester and is currently a chef.)  They range from retired builder – as was my father and is my brother – to another chef to retired biochemist to former Lord Mayor. And occasionally retired wharf labourer and trade union activist…

Blogging the 2010s — 117c — December 2013 — Leonard Cohen

Quite a highlight for Chris Turner and myself.

About last night–Leonard Cohen in Wollongong




I love to speak with Leonard
He’s a sportsman and a shepherd
He’s a lazy bastard
Living in a suit

But he does say what I tell him
Even though it isn’t welcome
He will never have the freedom
To refuse

He will speak these words of wisdom
Like a sage, a man of vision
Though he knows he’s really nothing
But the brief elaboration of a tube

Going home
Without my sorrow
Going home
Sometime tomorrow
To where it’s better
Than before…

Source: The New Yorker January 2012





See also Hallelujah, Leonard Cohen’s coming to Gong! And on local ABC:

Leonard Cohen addressed the elephant in the room early last night at his concert in Wollongong.

“Friends, I don’t know when we’ll meet again, but I can promise you tonight we’re going to give it everything we’ve got”.

But at 79 years of age, still jogging on stage for a three and a half hour show and now on his third Australian tour since audiences thought they’d never see him live again, no one is game to suggest he won’t be back.

And it becomes apparent over the course of the night that a three hour show is virtually required to properly honour his endless suite of music.

Surrounded by a carefully chosen band of virtuoso musicians, the touring Cohen of today is out to provide a smorgasbord of quality to accompany his poetic lyrics.

His voice has never been his trump card, and while it seems to have found even richer depths with age, it’s the exquisite harmonies of his female back-up singers (Sharon Robinson and the Webb sisters) that lift and complement the Canadian poet.

As expected, the set-list was a greatest hits onslaught, each drawing a new round of applause from the almost full Wollongong Entertainment Centre.

From his opening ‘Dance me to the end of love’, then ‘The future’, ‘Bird on a wire’ and ‘Everybody knows’, it was a concert drawing on tracks from the 1967 ‘Songs of Leonard Cohen’ to last year’s ‘Old Ideas’.

But you soon realise it doesn’t matter when a song appears in a Leonard Cohen set – there’s always another trick up his sleeve.

While most bands save their biggest hits until last, Cohen has amassed a career of them he can afford to drop in anywhere.

‘Suzanne’ early in the second set? No problem – simply go straight into ‘Chelsea Hotel no. 2’.

‘Hallelujah’ before the first encore? What about following it with ‘Take this waltz’?

While the crowd was varied in age, it was largely baby boomers enjoying the soundtrack to their adolescence and early adulthood played by a man who can still do his songs justice, but oozes humility.

And there is the enduring beauty of Leonard Cohen – his strength is his lyrics, each word carefully chosen and dripping with imagery and meaning, while he brings in a brilliant band half his age to carry those words.

And as he comically dances and jogs off stage after a third encore, you get the sense it’ll be Cohen’s decision rather than his body that tells him when it’s time to say ‘so long’ for good.

Leonard Cohen again

And why not?  Leonard Cohen performed at the Wollongong Entertainment Centre last Wednesday. As he mentions on his Facebook page he is one of Rolling Stone’s  50 Greatest Live Acts Right Now:

26. Leonard Cohen

Cohen emerged from a fifteen-year hiatus in 2008 with marathon shows that showcase all of his best songs. His band is absolutely stunning, and, at 78, his deeper-than-deep voice is captivating. The three-and-a-half hour show seems to pass by in minutes.

Showstopper: He doesn’t do many covers, but his set-closing rendition of “Save the Last Dance for Me” almost makes you forget the Drifters version even exists.

79 now! And I see that next on that list is Nick Cave:


That’s Nick Cave covering Leonard Cohen in the 2005 documentary I’m Your Man, which I watched again last night – thanks, Sirdan.

Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man is a 2005 film by Lian Lunson about the life and career of Leonard Cohen. It is based on a January 2005 tribute show at the Sydney Opera House titled “Came So Far for Beauty”, which was produced by Hal Willner. Performers at this show included Nick Cave, Jarvis Cocker, The Handsome Family, Beth Orton, Rufus Wainwright, Martha Wainwright, Teddy Thompson, Linda Thompson, Antony,Kate and Anna McGarrigle, with Cohen’s former back-up singers Perla Batalla and Julie Christensen as special guests. The end of the film includes a performance by Leonard Cohen and U2, which was not recorded live, but filmed specifically for the film, in New York in May 2005.

The film premiered at the Toronto Film Festival in September 2005, and was released the same month in Canada by Lions Gate films along with the Sundance Channel. It was subsequently released in various other countries during 2006 and 2007. The film is distributed by Lions Gate Entertainment. A soundtrack CD is also available from Verve.

The DVD of the film contains extra performances…

Critics vary about the documentary, but it has some great quotes.

Sometimes, when you no longer see yourself as the hero of your own drama, expecting victory after victory, and you understand deeply that this is not paradise… somehow we’re, especially the privileged ones that we are, we somehow embrace the notion that this veil of tears, that it’s perfectable, that you’re going to get it all straight. I’ve found that things became a lot easier when I no longer expected to win.


There is a beautiful moment in the Bhagavad Gita.  Arjuna. The general. The great general. He’s standing in his chariot. And all the chariots are readied for war. And across the valley, he sees his opponents. And there he sees not just uncles and aunts and cousins, he sees gurus, he sees teachers that have taught him; and you know how the Indians revere that relationship. He sees them. And Krishna, one of the expressions of the deity, says to him, “you’ll never untangle the circumstances that brought you to this moment. You’re a warrior. Arise now, mighty warrior.” With the full understanding, that they’ve already been killed, and so have you. “This is just a play. This is my will. You’re caught up in the circumstances that I determine for you. That you did not determine for yourself. So, arise, you’re a noble warrior. Embrace your destiny, your fate, and stand up and do your duty.”


For many years, I was known as a monk, I shaved my head and wore robes, got up very early. I hated everyone but I acted generously, and no one found me out. My reputation as a ladies man was a joke. It caused me to laugh bitterly through the 10,000 nights I spent alone.

Now for a final song:

And from Leonard Cohen’s web site:


The birds they sang
at the break of day
Start again
I heard them say
Don’t dwell on what
has passed away
or what is yet to be.

Ah the wars they will
be fought again
The holy dove
She will be caught again
bought and sold
and bought again
the dove is never free.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

We asked for signs
the signs were sent:
the birth betrayed
the marriage spent
Yeah the widowhood
of every government —
signs for all to see.

I can’t run no more
with that lawless crowd
while the killers in high places
say their prayers out loud.
But they’ve summoned, they’ve summoned up
a thundercloud
and they’re going to hear from me.

Ring the bells that still can ring …

You can add up the parts
but you won’t have the sum
You can strike up the march,
there is no drum
Every heart, every heart
to love will come
but like a refugee.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
That’s how the light gets in.
That’s how the light gets in.

Do look at the Rolling Stone bio.

In 2005 the singer suffered every boomer’s nightmare — his retirement fund was empty. Cohen alleged that former manager Kelley Lynch bamboozled him for more than $5 million, and for all intents and purposes he was broke. He created a short-term fix by hitting the road and touring the globe. Everywhere he went — from Coachella to Glastonbury — kudos followed, and pundits believed him to be at the top of his game. When it came time to give his speech at his 2008 induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, he recited the lyrics of his “Tower of Song.”

Hat tip Jim Belshaw:

Leonard (Norman) Cohen. Poet, singer-songwriter, novelist, b Montreal 21 Sep 1934; BA English (McGill) 1955, honorary LLD (Dalhousie) 1971, honorary D LITT (McGill) 1992.


One of the most widely recognized Canadian artists of the later 20th century, in parallel to acclaimed literary work Cohen built a successful career in pop music on the most rudimentary musical skills: a narrow-ranged, gruff voice that deepened and darkened with age and a dependence on simple melodies of a singsong nature. What set him apart was the intense imagery of his lyrics, which constantly probed at the human condition with themes of love, loss, and death, and his commitment to his art.

Blogging the 2010s — 107 — November 2013

In the present: planning today to 1) pay my electricity bill — very modest it is! and 2) visit City Diggers!

Appropriate fare, perhaps — the day after the Great Rudd announced his necessary exit

On that, briefly: did some great things, such as the Apology. Was at times a barrel of laughs, at others a total wanker/bastard. Shame about the Gillard/Rudd thing – and I do believe she has proven more gracious really. But these are just impressions. This Herald/Age item is not too bad: The Labor messiah who could not save himself. He really had to go.

Maybe then it was fitting that with three friends I had a great Chinese meal yesterday at Illawarra Steelers:

Red Dragon Chinese Restaurant…..home of the 2 for 1 lunch!

Red Dragon Chinese restaurant offers a range of quick, freshly prepared Chinese meals. Guests will find dishes such as Whole Salt & Pepper Fish, Seafood Laksa and Black Bean Chili Chicken Hot Pot along with favourites including Sweet & Sour Pork, Mongolian Beef and Honey Chicken.

In addition to these, Red Dragon also boasts a range of traditional Chinese dishes not found in other Asian restaurants. Red Dragon also provides a range of Western dishes in addition to its Chinese menu. These, along with the Chinese dishes are sure to appease all of our guests!…

Should I tell them “appease” may not be quite the right word? The food though – great, especially if you choose wisely.

Afterwards I went to the Illawarra Brewery to sample the Apocalypso, as  I had promised myself last time I was there. It really is very good.


View from The Illawarra Brewery

Alas the Red Dragon is now but a memory!

Recycled pics–3–Chinese Garden

In November 2008 I had a series Best of 2008. Here are three more.

Roof line with clouds: Sydney Chinese Garden

Chinese Garden: waterfall – October 2008. The link takes you to the whole set in its original context.

Reflections: Sydney Chinese Garden

November comes to an end…

I have even started on compiling my annual Christmas DVD, hoping to make it better and more interesting than previous years. Of course much of it is pictures and videos from the year to date, and I really have a few pics I am proud of.

Here are three.

Blogging the 2010s — 106 — November 2012

Chris Turner features in the final one.

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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And see these searches of my blogs:

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

Very pleasant afternoon at Steelers and Illawarra Brewery

With CT:


Other faces: