Back in November 2005!

Wow, some things I have practically forgotten! Here are some bits from Floating Life, my blog at the time.

MEMORY !: Endoscopy

28 Nov 2005

I recovered from an anaesthetic just over two hours ago, so I trust today’s posts make sense. I do feel OK, and Lord Malcolm delivered me from Bondi to the Juice and Java Lounge in Surry Hills where I ate my first meal since last night’s excellent steak.

By the way, yesterday’s yum cha again: Sirdan did turn up, but not where we did! So some time in the near future we will make use of Ben’s gift.

The endoscopy went OK: one or two matters — a small hiatus hernia, not surprising, and some gastritis, which may be the result of Friday night’s poisonous chili sauce. He took a biopsy or two as well, but nothing promises to be too evil. 🙂

MEMORY 2: Yesterday

22 Nov 2005

Yesterday I was meant to meet early in the morning with The Poet [RJS, former Principal of SBHS] to talk him through how to use the site I set up for him but the probably final illness of his mother-in-law prevented this happening. He is off to the USA shortly to visit his son as well, then moving to Victoria.

Later we were to have coffee with Phil Day*; I went to that. W, the ex-deputy, was there too. Phil’s farewell dinner is Friday week. He will be having another bout of chemotherapy earlier that week, but insists he will be at the dinner. As I said, positive.

*See also these posts from February 2007: Celebration of an amazing man and There were four eulogies yesterday…

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Memory 3: English Teacher moments

19 Nov 2005

English Teacher moments

The link above takes you back to August, when I mentioned Scott Poynting, an ex-student from Wollongong who is now at the University of Western Sydney. Imagine how pleased I was to receive this email the other day.

I had heard from a 1972 classmate about your blog site, but only came across it googling to see whether anyone was mentioning our books (the sort of thing one does when there’s marking to be done). Thank you for the nice things you said about them.

Teaching is far too thankless a pursuit (in comparison to its value). With your extensive networks now, however, you must hear from more ex-students than most. This one wants to thank you for reading aloud to us from ‘The Sound and the Fury’ in 1972, and the love of literature to which that contributed. I went on (after a false start – a floating life, if you like) to study English at UNSW, and studied this novel in first year. I later read all the Faulkner I could get my hands on. Later still, I studied American Literature at Macquarie. Another false start, but a floating I don’t regret.

Thank you, also, for reading to us in 1972 from ‘The Outcasts of Foolgarah’. I later went on to read all the Frank Hardy novels I could get my hands on (and most were better than ‘Outcasts’, though the politics attracted me). By that time I was teaching mathematics – another false start. I read a bit of ‘Outcasts’ to my students last year, in a subject on ‘Social Inequalities’, during a week in which we contrast Woollahra and Bankstown.

Yes, you taught me English. Thank you.

Then after coaching today Ben returned a few books and gave me enough free yum chas to sustain an army; I will be sharing with M, but there is enough in the pot to cover one of the Sunday lunches with Sirdan and Lord Malcolm as well! I also had an email from another coachee, Erwin, who is reading “Paradise Lost”. Indeed, indeed.

MEMORY 4: Deadly Identities – Amin Maalouf

09 Nov 2005 — and just as relevant in November 2017!

This extraordinarily wise book, On Identity (London, Harvill, 2000), is more relevant today than ever.

Sometimes, when I have finished explaining in detail why I fully claim all of my elements, someone comes up to me and whispers in a friendly way: “You were right to say all this, but deep inside of yourself, what do you really feel you are?”

This question made me smile for a long time. Today, it no longer does. It reveals to me a dangerous and common attitude men have. When I am asked who I am “deep inside of myself,” it means there is, deep inside each one of us, one “belonging” that matters, our profound truth, in a way, our “essence” that is determined once and for all at our birth and never changes. As for the rest, all of the rest — the path of a free man, the beliefs he acquires, his preferences, his own sensitivity, his affinities, his life — all these things do not count. And when we push our contemporaries to state their identity, which we do very often these days, we are asking them to search deep inside of themselves for this so-called fundamental belonging, that is often religious, nationalistic, racial or ethnic and to boast it, even to a point of provocation.

Whoever claims a more complex identity becomes marginalized. A young man born in France of Algerian parents is obviously part of two cultures and should be able to assume both. I said both to be clear, but the components of his personality are numerous. The language, the beliefs, the lifestyle, the relation with the family, the artistic and culinary taste, the influences — French, European, Occidental — blend in him with other influences — Arabic, Berber, African, Muslim. This could be an enriching and fertile experience if the young man feels free to live it fully, if he is encouraged to take upon himself his diversity; on the other side, his route can be traumatic if each time he claims he is French, some look at him as a traitor or a renegade, and also if each time he emphasizes his links with Algeria, its history, its culture, he feels a lack of understanding, mistrust or hostility…

…people who belong to different components of society that are violently opposing one another today; people at the border in a way, crossed by lines of ethnic, religious or other fractures. Because of this situation, that I do not dare call “privileged,” these people have a special role to play: building bonds, resolving misunderstandings, reasoning with some, moderating others, smoothing and mending conflicts. Their inherent vocation is to be links, bridges, mediators between different communities and different cultures. This is why their dilemma is full of significance. If these people cannot live their multiple belongings, if they constantly have to choose between one side or the other, if they are ordered to get back to their tribe, we have the right to be worried about the basic way the world functions.

“Have to choose,” “ordered to get back,” I was saying. By whom? Not only by fanatics and xenophobes of all sides, but by you and me, each one of us. Precisely, because these habits of thinking are deeply rooted in all of us, because of this narrow, exclusive, bigoted, simplified conception that reduces the whole identity to a single belonging declared with rage.

I feel like screaming aloud: This is how you “manufacture” slaughterers! I admit it is an abrupt affirmation but I will be explaining it in this book.

The tragedy of fools — and he is a fool — like Abdul Nacer Benbrika and the fools who regard such a person as anything other than a deranged bigot, is this total inability, it would appear, to live with “multiple belongings.” But let us not feel too superior: as Maalouf says, “…these habits of thinking are deeply rooted in all of us, because of this narrow, exclusive, bigoted, simplified conception that reduces the whole identity to a single belonging declared with rage.” The Sydney Daily Telegraph does just this too in its own way, sacrificing our own guarantee of some sort of just system in the process: these people have been arrested and charged, and that is the end of the story for the time being. We really should not comment on what they may or may not have been up to until it is tested in the proper forum, which is not the Daily Telegraph, talk-back radio, or this or any other blog.

At the same time, any of us belonging to one of the three major religions that believe, or once believed, that God has been in the habit of leaving infallible bits of writing lying around for fallible humans to screw up on, think again. Realise how dangerous this ahistorical, uncritical delusion about pure texts actually has been and still is.

NOTE: Now you can read chunks of Amin Maalouf — enough to get his drift — on Google Books: In the Name of Identity: Violence and the Need to Belong.

 

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27 years since M and I moved into Redfern

Shared with Philip Costello and his then partner. Philip is now married to Timothy Klinger and they live in New York.

Here’s a recycle. While M and I no longer live together, much remains of what we began 27 years ago!

Redfern Visions 11: George Street

This is the second-last of the set from my walk yesterday. I mentioned I lived in George Street for a year. It has changed, especially on the other side of the road, with quite a bit of new development and some more in train, but what I have concentrated on are the things that have not changed much since 1990-1991 when M and I lived here.

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And here are some more related memories.

Redfern Visions 26: East Redfern 4

Now we are back near Cleveland and Elizabeth Streets, going towards the Surry Hills Shopping Village (aka Redfern Mall) through the back streets.

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This is Morehead Street, which I first got to know way back in 1985 when two of my first gay friends from The Britannia Hotel lived there – Philip and Dean. They were much younger than I was – 21 and 19 respectively — but took me, a neophyte, under their wing, as it were. Later, in 1990, M and I were to take a room at Philip’s place in George St Redfern, our first joint address.

Facebook does it for me again…

A couple of times in the past I have mentioned the Britannia Hotel and especially two friends I met there.

… Facebook has delivered both as “friends” in the past few days! Smile One lives in New York, and the other in East Timor – and bemedalled as well though I am not sure what that is about. And here they are as I first knew them, pretty much.

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Both have stories to tell and both I greatly admire and recall with real warmth. Good to see that they have got on so well these days.

Twenty and more years ago

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M in China pre-1989

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M in Sydney 1990

Vote “Yes” for sure!

So, the weird postal survey is go!  I waited until the High Court gave the nod before posting on this, but let me be clear from the outset. As far as I am concerned there are no good reasons to vote NO to a proposition that does not alter the status of any existing marriage or make compulsory any particular views about marriage. All voting YES will do is enable a sizeable minority, if they so choose, to have their relationhips recognised by the state as marriages. Churches within their own communions will be free to do what they think best. No doubt there will be many same-sex couples who don’t want to be married according to law, just as a substantial number of man-woman couples these days choose not to be married. But they can be if they want, and all the YES will do is extend that to same-sex couples. There are indeed conservatives who are voting YES because they want to encourage all couples to enter into legally binding committed relationships.

Eric Abetz, to take just one example, encapsulated everything wrong with the NO case brilliantly on the 7.30 Report last night. See also Same-sex marriage postal survey: the five worst arguments for voting No. I may have more to say — politely of course — about such piffle later on.

Meantime, let me replay Random Friday memory 20 – July 1990.

…And today in 1990 in a pub that is no more, in a century that is no more, I met M…

A year or two on from 1990:

memorabilia 13: 1993-4

Posted on January 24, 2009 by Neil

Clearly this is Christmas, and it is here in Elizabeth Street, but I am guessing which year*. Oh my, have I ever aged! But fifteen years or so is a long time…

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George, me, M

* It may well be Christmas 1992, the first in Elizabeth Street Surry Hills.

And the pub of course (12 July 1990) was The Albury: mais où est l’Albury d’antan?

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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Here is a 2007 post:

M’s 18th 19th Australian Christmas

16  DEC 2007

Even if he will be spending it on the other side of the Pacific Ocean.

M arrived in Australia from Shanghai in December 1989. He has told me how disappointed he was that year in Christmas, thinking it would be something like Chinese New Year back in Shanghai, only to find the streets of Auburn were less than vibrant on Christmas Day! (I met him around six months later.)

Christmas 1999 – New Year 2000 he was in Bodh Gaya being taught by the Dalai Lama.

Gets around, does M.

Finally, from 2009:

I too was offered a free trip to China…

28 MAR 2009

… and M was once thought to be a Chinese spy.

Back in 1990 when I first met M, then very recently arrived in Australia, I was living in Paddington at PK’s place – and a nice place it was too. The first morning M appeared at breakfast PK was quite nonplussed – being of Lithuanian background he had fairly strong Cold War views in some respects, though not in others. He did indeed suggest soon after that M may be a Chinese spy. He later changed his mind and may even deny the story today. 😉

No doubt among the very large influx of Chinese students at that post-Tiananmen time there would have been some spies, mostly there to monitor the other students. Chinese were used to being monitored. M solved the problem back home in China by joining the neighbourhood spooks – hiding in plain sight, you could say. The neighbourhood committee of spooks also had a benign role; as well as reporting suspicious activity they were agents too of social welfare. M claimed he was particularly lax on the reporting side, especially given his own association with quite a few westerners.

My students at the language college I then worked in more or less assumed someone could be a spy, or “a boss” as they tended to say, and sussed one another out before they started opening up about certain topics.

About a decade later I was offered a free trip to Shanghai by the parents of one of my SBHS students – and not to influence me, as it was offered after the exams. As M said, they were just being Chinese and were grateful I had helped their son. I found a face-saving way of refusing the gift…

25 years ago, July 1990! I can’t believe it!