Various lockdown hacks and escapes — 41 — another record in NSW

As you can see.

Now (Sunday) the total is 1,2018!

So my escape today is to ten years ago and the end of another August here in The Gong.

…it has been spring for the last couple of weeks, whatever the calendar says. And people liked yesterday’s Shakespeare sonnet, so I thought – why not?
From my window

The Shakespeare sonnet mentioned above was posted because I was feeling the approach of my seventieth year. Now of course it is the eightieth that looms…

View from my window…

Then on 28th August 2011:

Diggers again and beef penne! Oh yum…!


Then wandered around Crown Street Mall. Let’s hope the “Mall Sceptics” lose at next Saturday’s election! It’s a treasure, that’s what it is…


See also Crown Street Mall Sunday people — 1.

And a selfie from ten years ago!


Various lockdown hacks and escapes — 30 — checking my previous blog

I decided to use the category inspiration as my way in. The blog ran from December 2009 to February 2013, when this current blog took over. It was variously called Neil’s Second Decade (of blogging) and in pessimistic mode Neil’s Final Decade. That proved to be inaccurate! There are 138 posts under inspiration.

Annoying aspect — the number of embedded videos that now read:

I wonder what that was about?

But fortunately more videos are still working than those which don’t.

Picking a post or two from all those in the category is really difficult! So do feel free to explore for yourself using the link at the end of the first paragraph.

So I will just repost two pretty much at random. Enjoy!

Mutability–William Wordsworth

Posted on  by Neil


From low to high doth dissolution climb,
And sink from high to low, along a scale
Of awful notes, whose concord shall not fail:
A musical but melancholy chime,
Which they can hear who meddle not with crime,
Nor avarice, nor over-anxious care.
Truth fails not; but her outward forms that bear
The longest date do melt like frosty rime,
That in the morning whitened hill and plain
And is no more; drop like the tower sublime
Of yesterday, which royally did wear
His crown of weeds, but could not even sustain
Some casual shout that broke the silent air,
Or the unimaginable touch of Time.


Oh wow!

Posted on  by Neil

That’s what I thought when I looked out my window here at The Bates Motel yesterday evening.

Mount Kembla

Yes, I still say WOW! some afternoons!

Various lockdown hacks and escapes — 6 — share the blessings

Don’t worry — this won’t be religious, exactly…

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!

Julie Elizabeth McCrossin

Posted with this picture from the Church:

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.”

08feb 001b
In South Sydney Uniting Churcha while ago. I see Pat Corowa sitting under the middle window. The link leads to her portrait: salt-water Murroona and South Sea Islander, Patricia Corowa, a long time activist and a seminal figure in the Australian Black Pantherpan-African and pan-Pacific Islander movements of the  1960s and 1970s. The people one met in church!

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:

Billy Bragg’s latest.

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.

With Stewart Holt at the 30th Reunion of Wollongong High’s Class of 1983

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.

And the years remind me that I am of another time…

Willie again. My brother would have loved this, I suspect. Shocking really that I am new to this — I heard this song for the very first time just yesterday.

Indeed, with my laptop’s camera I captured myself in the very act of writing this post.

I had been reflecting lately on Facebook:

You may have observed that now and again here on FB in recent weeks I have shown my hand, you could say, rather more than I used to do. Observant ones will know what I mean, and I know some may not entirely like it. But expect this to continue, perhaps especially on the blog for which my posts here are sometimes drafts.

I am approaching 78 very soon. When my brother had passed his 78th (October 2013) a few months on, around Christmas, he commented in his dry way that he had outlived Dad. Yes, in 1989 Dad passed away — Boxing Day pretty much — just one month past his 78th. My brother made another 4 years. My mother went 7 years beyond hers — at least one year too long in my opinion as that year was pretty miserable.Just saying, folks. Not being morbid.But one effect is I don’t want to waste my time on bullshit. Know what I mean?

This song — brilliantly and subtly done by John Partridge — does apply, even if I have never been a drag queen….

Old comrade from teaching days back to the 1970s, Rowan Cahill, to my great pleasure commented, though we disagree on probably more than a few things, “Understood Neil…no problem with this.”

Typical of the kind of FB post I had alluded to is this one reflective of our current lockdown, and of much I had read on social media. I was commenting on this item:

The body of a man who died after testing positive for coronavirus lay in front of his house in North Jakarta for more than 12 hours before an ambulance responded.

A video of the 64-year-old’s dead body lying alone went viral on social media, raising alarm bells about the dire state of Indonesia’s healthcare system, which has been stretched to its limits by the pandemic.

Indonesian authorities reported a record daily increase in coronavirus cases on Saturday with 21,095 new infections and 358 new deaths.

More than 56,000 Indonesians have died from the disease….

My comment:

Yeah, lockdown does suck. In my case it removes most of my social interaction, which is a loss indeed. On the other hand I can bother people here on Facebook! But before we all start bitching, blaming and complaining, have another look at this story and be reminded what it is really all about….

And the Peruvian guy I spoke to a week or so ago at the club whose family in Peru had not been outside their house (essential shopping excepted) for over a year….

And I look at my blog post about our lockdown and there is Tikno in Indonesia giving me health advice!

I also rather pointedly posted this from Archbishop Desmond Tutu with the comment: “I hope this is a meme we all can share!”

I have more than once railed against what we might call the partisan bitching memes which even really intelligent people on social media fall back on too often. They are in many cases really crude sloganeering propaganda — true even if you agree with them. But not this one!

And even more pointedly perhaps I shared what really is one of my absolute favourite Billy Joel songs, saying “I have long loved this song — and can’t help thinking of it sometimes as I read social media… And that seems a good cue to tell you I am off to enjoy Jack Irish on ABC-TV. After which I will check State of Origin…” Which I did!

I believe I’ve passed the age
Of consciousness and righteous rage
I found that just surviving was a noble fight.
I once believed in causes too,
I had my pointless point of view,
And life went on no matter who was wrong or right.

So here I am, like Gerontion:

After such knowledge, what forgiveness? Think now
History has many cunning passages, contrived corridors
And issues, deceives with whispering ambitions,
Guides us by vanities.  Think now
She gives when our attention is distracted
And what she gives, gives with such supple confusions
That the giving famishes the craving.  Gives too late
What’s not believed in, or is still believed,
In memory only, reconsidered passion.  Gives too soon
Into weak hands, what’s thought can be dispensed with
Till the refusal propagates a fear.  Think
Neither fear nor courage saves us.  Unnatural vices
Are fathered by our heroism.  Virtues
Are forced upon us by our impudent crimes.
These tears are shaken from the wrath-bearing tree.

Yes, possible anti-Semitism there, T S Eliot — but it is of its time, and the offensive phrase is in the company of magical evocations of a Europe between the two wars, an age of decaying narratives, which disturbed the increasingly conservative Eliot…

Echoes of which no-one of my age can escape finding at times in their own hearts…

I an old man,
A dull head among windy spaces.


William Blake

William Blake wrote some of the most powerful, amazing poems in the English language, and he really was as mad as a meat-axe. That’s the short version.

In his excellent Dictionary of World Biography (available FREE from ANU Press as an eBook!) Barry Jones writes:

Blake, William (1757–1827). English poet, artist and mystic, born in London. His father, a hosier, was a follower of Emanuel *Swedenborg. From the very first he was a highly imaginative child who claimed to see angelic visions. Apprenticed to an engraver (1771–78), he studied briefly with the Royal Academy School and then set up shop in 1784 as a printseller and engraver. His first book of poems, Poetical Sketches (1783), was followed by Songs of Innocence (1789) and Songs of Experience which includes The Tyger (1794), illustrated like all his later books with his own hand-painted engravings. Poems such as The French Revolution (1791) and America (1793) express a temporary political fervour which he did not retain as his views became more and more imbued with mysticism. His mystical and prophetic works include the Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1791), The Book of Urizen (1794), The Book of Los (1795) and many others, printed from his own copper plates and illustrated with his visionary designs. Nearly all his works have a highly individual symbolism, but while his early poems are notable for their simple language and serene brightness, his later works, with their symbolic characters—Urizen, the author of restrictive moral law, Orc in rebellion against him and Los, the captive champion of light—create an atmosphere of gloom and mystery. However, despair is set aside and mutual love and forgiveness of sin offer revived hope of salvation in the epics the Four Zoas (1796–1804), Milton (1804–08) and Jerusalem (1804–20). Some of *Blake’s finest artistic work went into the illustrations for the Book of Job (1820–26) and for *Dante’s Divine Comedy (left unfinished at his death). His paintings were ignored by the public but he enjoyed the unfailing support and belief of his wife, the friendship and sometimes the financial help of other artists such as *Flaxman and Samuel *Palmer and he remained serenely happy until his death. Most modern critics have acknowledged him as a lyrical poet and visionary artist of supreme power.

Ackroyd, P., Blake 1995.

Lately I have found some excellent readings from literary critic and psychiatrist Dr Iain McGilchrist. Here are two:

~ London by William Blake ~

I wander thro’ each charter’d street,
Near where the charter’d Thames does flow.
And mark in every face I meet
Marks of weakness, marks of woe.

In every cry of every Man,
In every Infants cry of fear,
In every voice: in every ban,
The mind-forg’d manacles I hear

How the Chimney-sweepers cry
Every blackning Church appalls,
And the hapless Soldiers sigh
Runs in blood down Palace walls

But most thro’ midnight streets I hear
How the youthful Harlots curse
Blasts the new-born Infants tear
And blights with plagues the Marriage hearse

Blake may be best known for his poem “Jerusalem” which has become a kind of English unofficial national anthem — curious, given that careful reading shows it is rather a powerful critique of the England Blake saw. Some say that as well as what they seem to refer to — the Industrial Revolution — the “dark Satanic mills” may be something completely different!

Leftist folk singer Billy Bragg sings the Hubert Parry setting of “Jerusalem” —