Ten years ago — July 2012 on “Neil’s Second Decade” blog

Dear me. Forgot about how I spent the last bit of 4th July 2012.

Art and more yesterday

Posted on  by Neil

Lunch at Wollongong Diggers

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Then Wollongong City Gallery, where so much great stuff may be seen right now. For example:

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If you are in The Gong, do not miss this. It is amazing.

Then I felt the need to visit the hospital, where I stayed to around 7.30pm – but all seems well.

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Go in tomorrow for a stress test though – just got the call.

All well so far

Posted on  by Neil

The stress test did show I am unfit but the heart seems OK.  Another test to go later on some time.

Meanwhile, here I am after the appointment in Diggers.

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Having just had a beef casserole…

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And at the bus stop as I set out for the hospital, a good omen?

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With that 80th year looming I look back 20 to find I was blogging!

This post is for the evening of the 29th and the morning of the 30th of June.

Look at the evidence from 20 years ago, thanks to the Wayback Machine!

Oh my!

30 June 2002

Instead of going to Forresters in Surry Hills, we went to the Yum Kee in Chinatown and shared a meal of (somewhat modified?) Northern Chinese cuisine, the fish dish being particularly splendid. There was a new visitor from Taiwan via NZ, plus Sirdan, the Empress, Lord Malcolm, and Lord Bruce. The Crown Prince had logistical difficulties.

The Empress has lent me two books, one of which I have begun. It is Tariq Ali’sThe Clash of Fundamentalisms dealing with the current “War on Terror” and the Middle East. His perspective is clearly left, but none the worse for that; while lingering respect for the old communist regimes is a worry, what has come into play lately, the New World Disorder and the assorted insanities that drive so many, are as much a worry surely; also Ali is right: the USA is not the unmitigated “good guy” in all this. The book deserves reading.

Deserving watching (especially by those who wonder what trades unions might be for, and what exploitation actually means) is a documentary recently on SBS here in Sydney on the sweatshops of US Saipan. Read about it here. And get very angry.

1 July 2002

Yesterday after our Chinese lunch we adjourned to our favourite Irish pub, where the conversation eventually turned to the relationship between gay sons and their fathers, a relationship that often proves very problematic. A number of stories were told, some inspiring hope, others revealing sadness or tension.

The Porterhouse on Riley Street — our favourite Irish pub

In my own case, the issue was postponed as at nineteen or so I was closeted (without even knowing there was such a thing) and impeccably respectable. The major issue for my father, looking back on it, at that time was probably that his business and career had come crashing down around him and he was in fact economically dependent on me, at least for a while. I sense now how humiliating that must have been. I am now the age he was then, older in fact. Some years later he broke down mentally, so our subsequent conversations ranged from the bizarre to the mundane, and we never discussed my emerging realisation that I was gay, but I know he knew–don’t ask me how, but I just know.

My mother certainly did, and when at the ridiculously (but not uncommonly) late age of forty or so I came out to her, she was “accepting”, though she admitted not to understand. I have to say that my attempting to educate her by getting her to read Loving Someone Gay, a very fine book in its way, did backfire a little.

It was a case of my new-found zeal to be open was just a little misplaced. Nonetheless, in the few years left to us after that, my mother often delighted in regaling me with the latest gay gossip she, quite oddly, was well-placed to hear in the particular “sunset home” she was in at the time. (Her personal carer was at the centre of one of the most publicised gay “scandals” in Sydney during those years.)

That I was able just before he died to tell my father that I loved him and for him to tell me “I love you too, son” brings tears to my eyes even as I type this, but I am very glad it happened.

I had a call from my older brother when I arrived home. He lives in Tasmania, and his partner (female) of very many years died early this year. It turns out yesterday was her birthday, so he wished to talk to me, as I am all the immediate family he has left (aside from his own children, none of whom live close to him.) A few months back he and I met face-to-face for the first time in twenty years. I have never discussed my sexuality with him, but he knows; he certainly knew when he saw my living arrangements, but he knew before that. The hugs we shared that day matter so much to me; he is a laconic person, not a verbal junkie like me, so the hugs mean even more.

I have checked Google for resources on straight parent/gay son issues. There is a good column in Mogenic called Educate the parents, which has among other things this lovely one-liner: There is a big taboo about converting straight people to homosexuality. (Personally I think the chances of that actually happening are as good as your chances of getting kicked to death by a duck.)

3 July 2002

Our friend Sirdan was admitted to St Vincents Hospital on Monday afternoon. That it is serious is borne out by his admission despite the current crisis affecting St Vincents and other major hospitals: Overcrowding in city hospitals worsened yesterday, with almost every major emergency department forced to turn away ambulances carrying patients who were not critically ill. He is suffering from an antibiotic-resistant infection that was causing him much discomfort even on Sunday, when the Empress advised him to go to the doctor next day, which he did with the result just described. He is apparently in good spirits, but I propose to confirm that for myself very soon.

Meantime the last diary has really set me thinking about my father, who passed away in 1989. I think I shall write something about him here soon.

4 July 2002

First off, Sirdan was quite chirpy yesterday afternoon, and only a part of him is afflicted–but it is a part he would rather keep. We wish him well. He has been in a lot of pain, but as of yesterday that had improved. His problem is certainly not to be taken lightly though.

Yesterday too I had an email requesting some good Australian sites for young gay people. The request came from a very remarkable young man in Texas, Garith, whose email acquaintance I made via a comment I left on his guest book at the currently beleaguered Talk City domain. His site had simply blown me away!

Our correspondence since has been sporadic, but enough to know he has not always had it easy, but what a man he is proving to be, in less than promising circumstances in some ways. Judge for yourself, for here are … some great quotes, as sent in the email yesterday:

“Because families are defined by love not gender. Because hatred is not a family value. Because equal rights are not special rights.”
Anonymous

“The fact is that more people have been slaughtered in the name of religion than for any other single reason. That… THAT my friends, is true perversion.”
Harvey Milk

“When religion sanctifies hatred, it lends to that hatred a special ferocity. Normal moral inhibitors are erased.”
Johannes Cardinal Wildebrands

“You can safely assume that you’ve created God in your own image, when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.”
Anne Lamott

“In man’s world, gold, diamonds and money are greatest in value…. in actual reality, dirt, water and air are of greater importance.”
Garith

5 July 2002

I haven’t been able to see Sirdan again since Wednesday, but plan to at the weekend. If I go to Yum Cha (and I am not sure I will this time–the vibes may not be quite right) I will see him after, or maybe on Saturday.

Term has ended. I am taking on the Year 12 Extension English class for the HSC, following the sudden departure of Ms X amidst some drama. The topic: Post-Modernism! The text left to study is Australian David Williamson’s satire on the subject, Dead White Males (1995), and the class have already done the movie of Virginia Woolf’s Orlando (a copy of which I have brought home from school) and John Fowles’ The French Lieutenant’s Woman, which I must reread.

[2022: See Workshop 06 — Year 12 Extension 1: pomo 2002.]

Speaking of Post-Modernism, one difference (totally subjective) that strikes me about the two books I mentioned last time is this: while PowerBook and The Monkey’s Mask both are Lesbian/Queer Literature and while both contain quite a lot of sex, in PowerBook this seems less foregrounded, less strident. PowerBook is just as ideologically committed as The Monkey’s Mask but somehow seems more–how can we say?–relaxed? I am really not sure of my ground here–just impressions. I should add that the verse in The Monkey’s Mask really is quite impressive in the range of voices it can capture–it is a verse novel, remember–and it works well. The story in The Monkey’s Mask is entirely more conventional; PowerBook is a palimpsest, a display of intertextuality, yet absolutely clear in its way. Psychologically and philosophically it is the deeper novel, yet wears this lightly.

I will return to Henry James’ The Portrait of a Lady for healing drafts 🙂 Like the reasons for my reading it in the first place, it is a pure pleasure in itself, made more pleasurable by having been shared; there’s no need in my life for more than that level of pleasure and I am lucky to have known it.

A significant note: M cooked up some nice food tonight. You have to know me to know what that means… His life is looking good, and is his–and that is his gain over the past time, some of which has been hard. But I rarely talk about him, as regulars here know.

Got a note–quite a long one–from Garith in Texas (see July 4) who is not unhappy about being featured. His site has an unselfishness about it as well as a quite amazing maturity for a person his age. There is a lot there that could help those he seeks to help.

14 July 2002

This rather magnificent photo of the Paris Gay Pride was sent this month by Timur, an OUT friend in England. Amazing how much these guys resemble me! 😉

30 July 2002

Went to the dentist and got a temporary filling and a threat of root canal therapy; so far so good, and I am hoping the antibiotics fix the problem.

M. moved today and the big rearrangement is well under way. He’ll be around though.

2022

So it is 20 years since Michael moved to East Redfern! Unbelievable. We had been together in Elizabeth Street Surry Hills since 1992.

East Redfern: South Dowling Street from M’s balcony

Once more looking at my April 2007 archive after 15 years

Various selections from the month’s archive.

Alana Valentine is a playwright to watch…

That is if Parramatta Girls, which I saw last night, is anything to go by. It is indeed a “must see” as many comments to be traced from that Google Search indicate — Trevor Cook on Corporate Engagement for example:

This is a great piece of theatre, one of the best plays I’ve seen for awhile. The subject matter is often harrowing but the treatment is full of compassion, wit and understanding. The cast work very well together and there are no ‘weak’ performances. If you can get along to see it you should. Its on at the Belvoir until 22 April.

Except you won’t get in; Parramatta Girls is sold out for the rest of the season.

The Sydney Morning Herald is typical of most reviews: The spirit triumphs in this healing journey.

…The director, Wesley Enoch, has created an unflinching, powerful and moving production full of surprising mood changes, peaks and troughs and with a keen eye to the perpetuating cycles of abuse. Ralph Myers’s stripped-to-the-bone set, with its stacks of metal chairs, starkly symbolises the ruin and discarding of souls. The talented cast does great justice to the material, not just being feisty, fearful and loud but persuasively revealing the stains, regrets and shameful emotions that have singled the characters out and, in their later lives, brought them together.

Skinner’s portrayal affords Parramatta Girls much of its spark and spine, as does Leah Purcell’s as the charismatic Marlene, especially in the climactic rooftop riot scene when she reclaims power even though it means time spent in isolation. Annie Byron gives a remarkably brave performance as tough, soft-centred Gayle while Genevieve Hegney delights as Maree, an innocent who mocks authority and whose spirit-crushed presence lends a tragic dimension.

Parramatta Girls is desperately sad, honest, humorous and uplifting. It is a triumph for Valentine and company. On opening night, when former inmates joined the actors on stage for the curtain call, there were tears, smiles and slightly embarrassed bows; an extraordinary moment of life and art blurring and uniting as one.

One small but important point struck me. Near the end of the play one of the Aboriginal ex-inmates has obtained her records but can’t read them; she gets another “Parramatta girl” to read them to her. The official account, it transpires, includes a number of convenient bureaucratic lies… The play of course is rooted in oral history, though not in oral history alone. It has been very carefully researched. That moment in the play resonated with the History Wars, however. I think it very clearly showed the danger of the purist Windschuttle approach to history; indeed I am sure it was meant to.

I went with a group from South Sydney Uniting Church, having turned up on spec as I hadn’t actually applied for a ticket. Fortunately Andrew had a spare. 🙂

I was able to fill in Andrew and Dorothy on the latest on Lord Malcolm too. Dorothy was especially touched when I told her about Lord M’s Easter Sunday writing project, that by his computer (as I noted yesterday when I went to Lord M’s place on an errand) sits her blessing.

Later

I told Lord M about the play when I visited him today. Lord M had an Aboriginal partner, now deceased. It turns out that partner was the cousin of Wesley Enoch, the play’s director.

I now have the portrait of that cousin of Wesley Enoch on my wall here in West Wollongong — a reminder of Malcolm.

Award-winning playwright Alana Valentine has woven together the true stories of women who were once Parramatta Girls into a masterful tribute to their courage, humour, strength and optimism.

UTS Alumni on 29 March 2022 published this:

“I really believe that UTS taught me that sometimes it is good to be a tool for other people’s vision. And that it doesn’t always have to be about you.”

Alana Valentine (BA Comm, 1983) is one of Australia’s most celebrated playwrights whose visionary work puts the human experience squarely on centre stage. Alana has spoken of how deeply she values the trust placed in her by the marginalised communities she has worked with – on pieces such as ParramattaGirls – to share their experiences on stage, and it’s this dedication to telling important Australian stories that saw her win both won the 2021 UTS: Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences Award and joint Chancellor’s Award for Excellence.

I have been privileged to have met Alana through the South Sydney Uniting Church connection.

Wise words from a young gay American

[There was a blog*] here on WordPress that I was led to by a bit of random surfing, and I am glad to have found it. C**** is “your garden variety, 18 year old queer guy living in Houston, Texas.”

…I am the perpetual student who hates structured education, most of what I know of value I taught myself or at the very least was instructed in away from the walls of my public schools…

I am cynical about oh so much, but still can muster eternal optimism that things can be better (if only people were more like me). Sarcasm and gallows humor are my trademarks.

I love old movies, kitsch, crooners from the 40s and 50s, geezer pop and rock, country music that is not heard on the radio. Hyper masculinity both fascinates me and bores me. I love camp in small doses. My theology comes from books, the saints, the patriots, the movies and drunken ass dances. My politics are liberal but I can’t abide most liberals, and [am] suspicious of them as always waiting for you to trip, but I will have none of their foolishness! Did I mention that I am a wee bit bombastic?…

Teachers need that little dose of reality from the first sentence sometimes just to keep a sense of proportion.

I am referring you to this blog though for one entry in particular, which is not to say the rest is not good because it is in fact a very good blog, especially in the world of teen blogs. In its own way it is as good as the remarkable MyScribbles, the Afghan blog, whose author is around the same age. The cultural context of course is very different. (That reminds me: Ahmad still hasn’t posted this year. A real worry that.)

The entry in question is Choices Made And Not Made.

What set of circumstances do you suppose occurred where I might have had a choice to be gay? Do you imagine that one day I awoke and just up and decided “today I think I will become homosexual’? Do you think I might have made a critical error on “Career Day” in high school? Do you suppose that I chose to become a pariah just for kicks? That I somehow found it appealing to face harassment from bigots, the religious right and those compensating for their own inadequacies. Do you suppose that I would choose to become a lesser citizen that is denied the rights granted to my heterosexual brother, including the right to marry the one I love? When was I asked? Why is it with 90% of the population heterosexual, no one on that side thought to ask me to choose to be straight?

I admit that wasn’t an answer when I answered the question with rhetorical questions. So here it is. I did not choose to be gay. Whether genetic, hormonal or some yet to determined factor, its not important how I got here, I am here and I accept and embrace who I am in its totality as how I am supposed to be. Long before I knew what gay was or had a clue what sex was, I had attractions to other males. It wasn’t a sexual attraction at first it was something more fundamental than that. Its easy for those who view gay as being bad to dismiss us if they can reduce it to sexual acts alone. That being gay is just an easy way for sexual gratification. It is deeper and more profound than that. Its as much an emotional attachment as heterosexual males and females have.

Choose to be gay? No, but I did come to a realization that I was gay, that these feelings had a name and I decided to accept that as part of who I am. It is as much a part of me as a heterosexual’s sexuality is a part of them. Its not how I define myself, but it is there and shapes who I am, and that I do choose to accept and own it with no apology.

My family accepts me as I am. I was blessed with a family that loves me unconditionally… Sadly, my experience isn’t as common as it might ought to be…

I choose to be many things in my life. I choose to try and live my life honestly and to be a good man, that not only my parents would be proud of me, but to live my life in such a manner I can take pride in it. I choose not to live a life in the margins. I choose to try and be a good son, brother, friend, citizen and one day a partner to a man I love. I choose to be a strong gay man. Those are the REAL choices I make.

I did not choose to be gay. I accept my sexuality, own it and do not choose to hide it.

I REFUSE to be defined by bigots, to be limited by prejudices, nor to be denied my place at the table of life. I refuse to have you or anyone else debate my life. I refuse to suffer foolish arguments, banal one liners or the rants and ravings of zealots. I refuse to let my life to be ruled or dominated by homophobic rants or raving. I refuse to live my life in fear of those that choose to live their life coccooned in their hatred.

I choose also to live my life with dignity and honor to the best of my potential. That, my anonymous friend, is how I define “normal.”

That is magnificent, C***. I have just extracted highlights. [It’s a shame it is no longer available.*]

Mind you, referriing to my reading in the past few days which has also interested Jim Belshaw, I don’t know what it is with Americans and “liberals”. To us older folk outside the US what an American labels and then worries about as “liberal” just seems normal, civilised, progressive, and even quite uncontroversial. Things like health care, for example. Even trade unions. Or at least that was the case until about ten years ago.

* UPDATE 5 May 2007

This blog has now been deleted by its author. I have therefore disguised its origin and names in it, as I respect his choice but still value what he said and wish others might read it.

2022 — And the My Scribbles blog?

See How 15 years ago my blog reached into Afghanistan and encouraged at least one teenager…. And just the other day on Facebook Ahmad, now a friend there, posted:

Forthcoming in London on 10 November 2022
Soon after of course the Taliban took over and Ahmad went into exile…

Reading the Bible

To quote the appropriate page for today from Deng Ming-Dao’s 365 Tao: Daily Meditations:

Don’t be afraid to explore;
Without exploration there are no discoveries,
Don’t be afraid of partial solutions;
Without the tentative there is no
accomplishment.

I am still in the habit of following the Daily Office Lectionary from the US version of The Book of Common Prayer, an eccentricity I mentioned on Blogspot Books and Ideas in January 2006.

Lest that seems either saintly or pretentious, let me say that I am pragmatically finding this of benefit. I get food for thought, and, doing it as I do just before sleeping, I find my nights in general have been much more restful. No, I don’t mean to say the practice puts me to sleep, but it certainly helps compose the mind.

Those of you who have followed my rants for a while know that I do not believe God writes books. In other words, I am not a fundamentalist. So what of the Bible? All along from my teen years to the present I have found the Bible inspiring, if not always inspired. So my ruminations over the Daily Office are often critical. For example, reading Galatians lately I have been struck by how exceedingly dodgy Paul’s use of the Old Testament often is. Galatians marks a key moment, of course, in which the Church became more universalist and less a sect of Judaism. Paul was trying to convince the Galatians that this was the way to go, but I can well understand some not being convinced. Another troubling feature of his argument, and indeed in the representation of the Pharisees in the gospels, is that one can see only too clearly the seeds of antisemitism there. I believe, of course, that you don’t have to go down that path, but the potential was there and in time as we all know it bore strange fruit.

So what are we to make of the Bible? Anthony Freeman addresses this on Radical Faith, and I commend him to you. “Whatever more it may be, it is never less than this: part of our world, a human product situated in a particular place, at a particular time, and in a particular culture.”…

I would also commend James W. Aageson from Concordia College on “Reading Biblical Texts: Truth, Fact, and Myth.”

It is not uncommon to hear someone say, “Let’s just read the Bible literally. Let’s forget about all this interpretation stuff and just read the Bible for what it says.” The impulse for this can be appreciated. Serious interpretation of the Bible takes a lot of effort and sustained study, and sometimes all of this effort in the end only seems to work against certain cherished and long held religious beliefs. Many people want the Bible to sustain them. They do not want to be confronted by strange and new interpretations of it. And still others are opposed to the critical study of the Bible because they think God and God’s word are beyond human understanding. They can only be understood by the power of the Holy Spirit and not by human reason standing alone. Moreover, digging into the scriptures seems to make human beings the final arbiter of God’s word instead of God. These concerns are real, and the forces that motivate them should be understood.

Even if a person is of two minds about the critical study of the Bible, however, the problem of a “literal reading” of biblical material is an issue that is more complicated than might first appear. What is meant by the term “literal reading?” What makes a reading “literal” as opposed to something else? And is “literality” the same for all types and varieties of texts in the Bible? If we are to think about this question of literal interpretation, we must address the issue of what is meant by the expression, “literal reading.” The term in popular usage seems to refer to the surface reading of the text. In this sense, “literal” refers to the straightforward adherence to the surface level of the material and its wording, the face value of the text in other words…

One final observation about the discernment of biblical truth should be made. Many truth claims, many biblical truth claims included, should, in my judgment, be subjected to moral critique. When we look at the consequences of historic and religious truth claims, what have been the social and human consequences that have followed from them? Can we discern any consequences? If so, how have these claims played themselves out over time? Are the consequences morally laudable or morally reprehensible? At a minimum, we should ask ourselves if these claims can be true when we see what they have done. When Matthew in his gospel implies that the blood of Christ is not only on the hands of the Jews in Jesus’ day but also on the hands of their descendants, can this statement have any claim to religious truth, given the way this has contributed to the horrible reality of anti-Semitism? When seen in light of the Christian gospel itself, the consequences of this rather direct Matthean implication seem to be suspect, if not altogether devoid of theological truth value, that is if the Christian gospel is in fact good news and not bad news. Moral considerations may not finally settle questions of biblical truth, but they ought to be considered.

Assessing biblical truth is complicated and cannot be reduced to a single notion of truth. Multiple levels of meaning and truth can be discovered in biblical material, and the critical reader of the Bible needs sophistication and flexibility in evaluating them. In some cases, the question of whether the biblical material is true or not is beside the point. It only leads one away from the significant features of the text. Yet truth claims that are made are always made within a social and communal context. Likewise, those of us who try to assess them do so in social and communal contexts. In historical and religious matters, truth is social in character, and the apprehension of it is similarly social. Understanding the social dimensions of truth is important for critical readers of the Bible, just as it is important to understand the historical and literary dimensions of biblical texts and their interpretation.

Many will not be pleased by this approach, but to me it is the only honest way to go. For example, you will see if you visit that lectionary linked in the first paragraph that I am at the moment reading The Book of Exodus, one of the most obvious features of which is that it could not possibly have been written by Moses. Another obvious feature is that the “history” in the book is clearly in the realm of legend, with elements of myth. So you can’t say the Exodus didn’t happen, but you can say it didn’t happen in the in fact various ways it is recounted in Exodus. Wikipedia (for all that it gets bagged) actually reviews this rather well: The Exodus.

If you wish to clarify what myth, legend, and/or folktale actually mean, see Michael Webster’s course material Frequently Asked Questions about Mythology.

It is clear too that when subjected to moral critique Exodus can be decidedly discomforting. There are all sorts of things, what Bishop Spong memorably calls “the sins of scripture”, that Biblical literalists gloss over. (Don’t think the Qu’ran will help, by the way; it is very much in the literalist camp when it comes to its references to Exodus. Not at all surprising in the Qu’ran’s human and cultural context of course.)

Nonetheless, as archetypes Exodus and The Exodus are profoundly inspiring. That is what they still have to offer. Oh yes, and it is a good story, and one which anyone in our culture really should know.

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Bullocky

Beside his heavy-shouldered team
thirsty with drought and chilled with rain,
he weathered all the striding years
till they ran widdershins in his brain:

Till the long solitary tracks
etched deeper with each lurching load
were populous before his eyes,
and fiends and angels used this road.

All the long straining journey grew
a mad apocalyptic dream,
and he old Moses, and the slaves
his suffering and stubborn team.

Then in his evening camp beneath
the half-light pillars of the trees
he filled the steepled cone of night
with shouted prayers and prophecies.

While past the campfire’s crimson ring
the star struck darkness cupped him round.
and centuries of cattle-bells
rang with their sweet uneasy sound.

Grass is across the wagon-tracks,
and plough strikes bone across the grass,
and vineyards cover all the slopes
where the dead teams were used to pass.

O vine, grow close upon that bone
and hold it with your rooted hand.
The prophet Moses feeds the grape,
and fruitful is the Promised Land.

— Judith Wright (1915-2000)

I still love that poem; technically it is almost perfect, in my humble opinion. But it was written in the 1940s, and looking at it through the allusions to Exodus one can’t help wondering about the Amalekites, Canaanites, and so on… Judith Wright herself certainly did, and “put a block on some of [her] poems being anthologised: poems like ‘Bullocky’” later on in life.

Reconciliation isn’t a word I like. It’s about the only word, unfortunately, that fits. But they, I think, have more of a problem reconciling with us because we are the ones who did the deed. And the fact that they can do this speaks very highly indeed for their own capacities for forgiveness and understanding. We don’t have that. That’s because we do have this problem in ourselves: a kind of guilt that stands in the way of understanding. That is a very important part of our development as a people, and until we come into a proper relationship with the Indigenous peoples, we can’t be in a proper relationship with ourselves.

Ramona Koval: You put a block on some of your poems being anthologised: poems like ‘Bullocky’. Was this related to the matter of Aboriginal-white history and reconciliation?

Judith Wright: Yes, in a way it was. That poem came from the nationalist era in which I was only able to write from a white point of view. Now that I can see what that has done to us, I refuse to allow Bullocky to be anthologised any longer because of the way it got taught. It’s a perfectly good poem in itself, I still stand by it as a poem. But it was being used in a way I disapproved of. And the funny thing was, of course, that there were teachers who wrote to me in a fury: ‘You can’t do this. It’s not possible for you to do this. We’ve been teaching it this way for so long.’ They were teaching it as though it was an aggrandisement of the whole invasion. And it was a very bad example of bad teaching of poetry. The only thing I could do was to argue that it shouldn’t be put into anthologies at all. And that, I think I kept to fairly well. It was a great illumination to me of how poems can be misinterpreted simply because the idea is opposite to what they should be.

Interesting.

2022: I still value Bible reading, among other readings, and have a range of translations as actual books or in my eBook Library on Calibre. I have not persisted however with that particular lectionary.

There you are — just THREE posts from my blog for April 2007! And some indications of later developments…

These reposts are prompted by renewed communication with Rosemary

She will know why and will I am sure be taken down memory lane as I was when I first posted them.

More “Neil’s Decades” — 3: 1976

Posted on  by Neil

1976: living at Gilmore Street, West Wollongong. Working at Wollongong High. Passed my “List 2” inspection.

CIMG5190

I lived here in 1974-6, top balcony at the back. There were no flats behind us then. The top front flat had Tilly und Willy from Germany via Dapto. Willy was on the Russian Front in WWII. Nine of the thousand he was with got back alive.

Piecing together memories of 40 years ago! On Lost Wollongong’s Facebook Group someone posted this:

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That really took me back. You see, at Wollongong High in 1975-1976 I was teaching [Year 8] Photography as well as English. You will observe the two top right copies of “The Gleam”, WHS’s magazine/yearbook. Those covers are my work I do believe. The insides too represented quite a departure from what had gone before. If I recall correctly we were gifted offset printing by Illawarra County Council, the local electricity authority at that time who had a new printery with not enough for it to do. The scope it gave us was marvellous. I do seem to recall playing a bit of a trick on the student editorial committee – the 1976 one, I think – by submitting anonymously some meaningless but trendy-sounding poems, which they published. I no longer have copies of these mags. I’d love to check the insides again!

I recalled a colleague’s name the other day too – Wade Snyder, a very memorable American. He was in Science. Seems, if it is the same man, he later co-wrote an HSC Biology text of note. It appears he ended up in Darwin. [2022: the document I linked there has been removed by the college, but fortunately I transcribed the relevant part.]

MR. WADE SNYDER R.I.P  06/06/1930 – 04/10/2013

Last week the [O’Loughlin Catholic] College heard of the sad news of Wade Snyder’s death. Wade had taught at the College from 1989 until 2010 and for most of this time had been the Head of Science. He set up our College Science department so that it could meet the challenges of the 21stCentury. He was both a scientist and academic and our Year 12 Biology students used the text book Wade actually wrote for N.S.W year 12 HSC students. Even this year he was busy revising the text and adding new units of work, so his love and passion for science never wavered…

He was an American by birth but properly spent half of his life in Australia. As a young lad he joined the UN [sic] Navy and served in the Korean War in the early 1950’s…

Assuming this is my former colleague, I had no idea about the Korea experience.

I was not teaching at WHS in 1972, but rather at TIGS. The name of the 1972 WHS Captain does ring a bell, however. He is now a judge in the Federal Court of Australia. At his swearing-in (2009):

It’s pleasing to see so many of your Honour’s family here today, your mother, Joyce, and mother-in-law, Jane, and brother-in-law, Andrew, your wife, Leonie and daughters Imogen and Sophie. Also present, I understand, are your brother, Ray, and niece, Jessica, who I’m told is completing her law degree. Although your Honour was born in Sydney I understand that your parents moved to Wollongong when you were very young and that you went on to complete the trifecta of having attended Wollongong Infants, Wollongong Primary and Wollongong High School, the latter in 1972 as school captain. I believe your Honour was keenly interested in hockey during this time, representing the Illawarra District in various age groups. In 1971 your Honour was selected to play in the New South Wales Combined High Schools Convener’s XI and the following year you were awarded a Hockey Blue by Wollongong High School.

There is an odd link with my SBHS Class of 1986 too, as one of them is also on the Federal Court bench.

The Illawarra Mercury published (October 2015) the following photo of the 1972 Wollongong High orchestra. It gives a taste of those now far-off days.

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Can’t help feeling I taught some of these a few years later…

mais où sont les neiges d’antan?

Posted on  by Neil

Wollongong High’s Class of 1983 – looking towards thirty years on

There are a few people who read this blog who were in that class! I had gone by 1983, 1980 being my last year at Wollongong High – but I did teach some of these people in Years 8 or 9.

My time at Wollongong High teaching English, History and, would you believe, Photography was in two segments: 1975 to 1976 and 1979 to 1980. 1977 and 1978 I was working in Dip Ed at Sydney University.

But today I want to focus on 1979.

1979: Annus Mirabilis Horribilisque

There’s something about me and 9 years. 1989 was another case in point, 1959 was my last year of school, and 1969 my last year as a teacher at Cronulla High School. In 1979 I returned to Wollongong High after my Sydney secondment and the year was in fact pretty good in most ways. I had a very memorable Year 12 Class in 1979.

[There were rumours last year that Mr Smith was having it off with a Year 12 girl.]

– Would you like some coffee?

[There were rumours last year that Mr Smith was having it off with that spunky librarian.]

– Thanks, J.

[There were rumours last year that Mr Smith was having it off with the milkman. “Had your cream this morning?” the class wit, Carcase, used to ask him.]

That fictional version is true to the extent that there were such rumours which in fact were about me. None of the rumours was actually true, however, though I was in the company of the Librarian – a 20-something – and her friends more than once. And there was a boy nicknamed “Carcase”, though I fancy he spelled it “Carcass”…. And he was one of the more memorable people I ever taught.

Physically he was a stereotyped blond surfie, of South African background (or was it Dutch?), and a person with a long record of run-ins with authority. I had taught him before I went to Sydney, and in fact he was in a class I was inspected on for my dreaded “List 2” promotion in 1976. “That boy doesn’t like authority,” the inspector, Tom Dobinson, said afterwards – but congratulated me for the way I had handled him. And strangely enough when I found myself with a senior class of not the keenest students Wollongong High could offer, Carcase was in it. He had been skating on thin ice for some time, apparently, and there were rumours he had spent at least part of Year 10 working for Wollongong Council as a labourer while still at school. I won’t swear to the truth of that, but I can well imagine it.

I was younger and enthusiastic and determined to win this group over. In 1978 I had been in the Balmain Theatre Group, playing Clarrie, a Rugby League commentator, in Alex Buzo’s The Roy Murphy Show.

Back in Wollongong with that senior class, we had something very daring for the time on our text list: David Williamson’s The RemovalistsI thought it would play well with the group and it did, especially after a book-in-hand rehearsed class reading that almost went wrong but in fact went very right.

In the original Kenny is handcuffed to the door when  the corrupt cop knees him in the nuts, to which Kenny replies with the C-word. Naturally I had cast Carcase as Kenny and myself as the corrupt cop. We didn’t actually have handcuffs and I didn’t actually knee him in the nuts, but Carcase, who was a great actor, gave a very loud and convincing response.

I had forgotten I was next to the Social Science staff room. The Head of Department, father of another ex-student of mine who is currently a Fairfax journalist, came in with several colleagues to rescue me, Carcase’s line not having lacked in projection. I held the book up and pointed to the line, while the class rolled on the floor laughing – well almost! Subsequent discussion with staff  along the lines of “Jeez mate, that was a bit fucken rude! You’ve got to remember there’s women about…” was somewhat ironic really, a fact I shared with the class later on before setting them an essay on whether the text was suitable for school study.

Carcase’s essay was so good it was later published in the English Teachers Association Newsletter.

Meanwhile the Balmain Theatre Group was putting on another Buzo play, Coralie Lansdowne Says No. To extend my class’s understanding of theatre and their knowledge of Australian drama, I arranged with the director for the whole class to travel up to Sydney several times to follow the play from casting to first night.

On the casting night I was wandering about by myself on the stage feeling more than a bit nostalgic – as I would have been in the play myself had I stayed in Sydney. Carcase appeared and said something totally unexpected: “You belong here, don’t you…”

Later  after the first night performance the class and I attended some of the after party. Alex Buzo was there and I spotted him and Carcase having quite a conversation about the nature of dramatic language. “What a lovely boy,” Alex said. I assured him very many people at Wollongong High would be shocked to hear such a thing.

Then came the HSC and one of the worst events in my career, as the students found – as did I – in the exam room that even though the fact had been known and indeed publicised that we were doing Huckleberry Finn, there was no question about Huckleberry Finn on the paper. Our texts had been chosen from the previous year’s list – easy to do as they were not very well signposted in those days. It is an English teacher’s nightmare and I was upset more than you might imagine. I was of course investigated but the Head of English is the one who was really hauled over the coals. Not a good time.

In the midst of all this when I was alone back in Church Street North Wollongong and feeling very low, there was a knock on my door late one night. It was Carcase and his then girlfriend, who just happened to be the Regional Director of Education’s daughter. Carcase had come to tell me that no matter what some might be thinking, as far as he was concerned I had been a fantastic teacher and I shouldn’t worry.  Of course in the end the students were not disadvantaged as “misadventure” provisions evened out the marks.

That was the last I saw or heard of Carcase, and I have no idea what he went on to do, though I have heard some of it involved music and he ended up in Queensland.

Earlier this month Stewart Holt, another Wollongong High ex-student who, had he stayed on, would have been in the class photo above, told me he had heard Carcase had died.

Saturday’s Mercury confirms that Mark Bosman, aged 51, had indeed passed away and the funeral is next week.

Hence these stories. RIP.

Added 2022 — Mark Bosman in rock singer mode. Quite recognisable. (Facebook)

And also I note Friends mourn death of beloved GP. Condolences to the Khan family.