Family note and then Attenborough

First family. I have noted before that my grandnephew David Parkes and his sister Lauren have been on an amazing and very extensive trip through Europe. Lauren’s latest posts on Facebook are from Ireland. This is just one photo:


So more descendants of Jacob Whitfield are revisiting the scene of the crime, so to speak. I have been wondering how close they have been to where his son William Whitfield was born 16 Mar 1812 , Parish of Drumgoon, Cootehill, Co. Cavan, Ireland.

Years ago, without even realising the family connection, David and Lauren’s older brother Nathan was in the Emerald Isle too, but only briefly.

That’s my grandnephew Nathan in Ireland in 2011.

And now Attenborough. Tonight Channel Nine is showing the Australia episode of Seven Worlds, One Planet. Definitely a must watch!

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On Facebook recently I reminded myself and everyone else of how David Attenborough moved from scepticism to acceptance on the subject of climate change. To quote the man himself way back in 2006 — and if anything his conviction has grown since.

I was sceptical about climate change. I was cautious about crying wolf. I am always cautious about crying wolf. I think conservationists have to be careful in saying things are catastrophic when, in fact, they are less than catastrophic.

I have seen my job at the BBC as a presenter to produce programmes about natural history, just as the Natural History Museum would be interested in showing a range of birds of paradise – that’s the sort of thing I’ve been doing. And in almost every big series I’ve made, the most recent one being Planet Earth, I’ve ended up by talking about the future, and possible dangers. But, with climate change, I was sceptical. That is true….

But I’m no longer sceptical. Now I do not have any doubt at all. I think climate change is the major challenge facing the world. I have waited until the proof was conclusive that it was humanity changing the climate. The thing that really convinced me was the graphs connecting the increase of carbon dioxide in the environment and the rise in temperature, with the growth of human population and industrialisation. The coincidence of the curves made it perfectly clear we have left the period of natural climatic oscillation behind and have begun on a steep curve, in terms of temperature rise, beyond anything in terms of increases that we have seen over many thousands of years.

People say, everything will be all right in the end. But it’s not the case. We may be facing major disasters on a global scale.

And here under the rubric FACTS from NASA is something from the present:


As I said on Facebook:  I fear I have become even more intolerant of self-styled “climate change skepticism” in recent times. I cannot even imagine why anyone in the light of so much evidence can even contemplate such an idea! But of course people are entitled to their opinions…

See also Skeptical Science, and browse extensively there!

Wollongong stars on SBS last night

Did you see Ainsley’s Australian Market Menu on SBS? See Eight reasons to eat your way around Wollongong.


That’s “Linda Galea, a first generation Australian with Maltese heritage, has been a stallholder selling vegetables from her family farm at the Wollongong markets for up to 15 years.”

Then there’s Louie Kelbert’s honey.

The Warilla man’s passion for bees arose from his first sting at the age of eight when he was throwing rocks at a swarm, and the bees turned and attacked. For his ninth birthday his parents presented him with his first hive, which he still uses today.

“See they thought I was a strange kid because I never played with toys … always had the interest for beehives and bees,” Mr Kelbert said. “I saw photographs in books and TV documentaries and I thought, ‘wow, I would love to do that’.” 

He now keeps 3.5 million bees in 46 hives in a field … neighbouring the Illawarra Golf Range and a reserve that is rich with flowering bee-friendly plants, such as tea tree, swamp mahogany, banksia and bitou bush.

Every morning he arrives to inspect the hives and spends the day in the field with his swarms of Caucasian, Carniolan and Italian bees, all sub-species of the Western honey bee. 

And here am I this morning with my jar, though mine came courtesy of a TIGS ex-student from the 1970s, Doug Parrish, who often minds the stall.


Over the last nine years I have often posted images of our wonderful Friday markets, for example here and here.




Do I dare…? Call Me By Your Name

T S Eliot:

I grow old… I grow old…
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

I do not think that they will sing to me.

I will never read those lines again without thinking instead of Call Me By Your Name2017 movie (directed by Luca Guadagnino, written by James Ivory) and 2007 novel (Andre Aciman). Here’s a hint:


The peach scene is tastefully but faithfully transferred to the movie, as is much from the novel. So curious was I after seeing the movie on Saturday night on SBS that I visited Wollongong Library on Monday:


I read the novel with considerable pleasure. While there are major differences, particularly towards the end, James Ivory’s screenplay is remarkably faithful in many details, and well in tune with the spirit of the novel where it departs. A US novelist born in Egypt, Aciman was very much involved in the movie; indeed he actually appears in a cameo role.

For more details on all this I highly recommend Wikipedia. There is also much of interest in Cal McGhee, “Ten Things in Call Me By Your Name You May Have Missed.” One of the ten concerns the change in Elio’s father’s occupation in the movie, where he is an archaeologist, not a language scholar. So the movie opens with a montage of Greco-Roman statues of beautiful youths, including (if I recall correctly) Hadrian’s favourite Antinous. In the movie Elio, Elio’s father and the visiting US post-doctoral student Oliver visit Sirmio. Instantly an oldie like me — or more particularly as one who did Latin for the Leaving in 1959 when Catullus was a set text — pricked up my ears. Way back in 1959 I could translate — had to in fact — this:

Paeninsularum, Sirmio, insularumque

Ocelle, quascumque in liquentibus stagnis

Marique vasto fert uterque Neptunus,

Quam te libenter quamque laetus inviso,

Vix mi ipse credens Thyniam atque Bithynos

Liquisse campos et videre te in tuto.

O quid solutis est beatius curis,

Cum mens onus reponit, ac peregrino

Labore fessi venimus larem ad nostrum

Desideratoque acquiescimus lecto.


O what is happier than worries released,
when the mind sets aside its burden, and we
having been exhausted from foreign labor, have come to our home,
and we rest in our longed for bed?

Our selection did not include lyrics like this one:

Hunc lucum tibi dedico, consecroque, Priape,

Qua domus tua Lampsaci est, quaque silva, Priape,

Nam te praecipue in suis urbibus colit ora

Hellespontia, caeteris ostreosior oris.

If you are curious.

But the movie probably would have. See this lovely moment, of which Cal McGhee writes:

The eroticism derived from ancient nude sculptures has a lasting presence in the first act. Oliver’s purpose in Italy is to study these subjects and develop his academic paperwork with Elio’s father, but notice the way he admires the washed-up figure on the beach mirrors his later fascination with Elio’s similar chiseled and statuesque beauty. His reverence and gestures are one in the same, setting up a comparison to both characters as works of art.

Elio is pictured in several poses mirroring that of the washed-up statue, and it is undeniable that Timothée Chalamet himself bears an uncanny resemblance to figures frequently sculpted in ancient Greece, from the tight curls of his hair to his striking jawline and bone structure.

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One of my initial reflections then is that while I loved every moment there is also something old-fashioned about the movie, harking back to the late 19th century, the world of such as John Addington Symonds. I commend “Hellenism and the History of Homosexuality” by Emily Rutherford.

If you were a boy who lived in Britain before around 1890, and if your parents were from the upper or middle class or had aspirations thereto, you would have begun to learn to read Latin in elementary school — perhaps even before you learned to read English. From the 1830s it became increasingly common for middle-class boys in particular to attend secondary school away from home, at one of the “public schools” formative of a social and professional elite. Until the Second World War, if you were expected to go to university, you probably began Greek by thirteen, and your education would have upheld classical languages as a form of knowledge that surpassed math, science, and certainly modern history and literature in importance. You would have read epics, tragedies, histories, and maybe some poetry, though this was strictly controlled to ensure that boys did not encounter any content that was too sexually suggestive…

Yet a certain frisson centered on the homoerotic — as one eighteen-year-old discovered in 1858, when he encountered in a family friend’s house copies of Plato’s Symposium and Phaedrus, far outside the bounds of his public school’s curriculum. As he recalled in an autobiography:

I read on and on, till I reached the end… and the sun was shining on the shrubs outside the ground-floor room in which I slept, before I shut the book up.

I have related these insignificant details because that night was one of the most important nights of my life…. I discovered the true liber amoris at last, the revelation I had been waiting for, the consecration of a long-cherished idealism. It was just as though the voice of my own soul spoke to me through Plato…. For the first time I saw the possibility of resolving in a practical harmony the discords of my instincts.

This boy, John Addington Symonds, grew up to cement the connection between a certain Hellenic tradition and what he called “eros ton adunaton,” the love of impossible things. He found in Plato and other classical describers of a “heavenly,” pure form of same-sex love between an older and a younger man a way of acting upon one’s desires that could be rendered compatible with Victorian ethical norms. ….

Timothée Chalamet is perfect as 17-year old Elio. (He was 21 at the time of filming.)

You know my favourite scene? The seven minute close-up that forms the film’s end. I found that so powerful, different and all as it is from the way the novel ends. Aciman says:

When you first saw Luca Guadagnino’s film, was it what you’d pictured?

“Yes and no. I was worried about the ending because I had been told it was going to be a shot of Elio’s face crying, and I said ‘Oh my god, this is going to be sentimental.’ Of course it wasn’t. He was learning this wonderful lesson, which was how do you accept pain and how do you resign yourself to the end of the relationship? I thought that was so beautifully done. I told the director, ‘Your end of the film is better than the end of my book.’”


There are good things on TV…

Yes, there are so many cringeworthy shows, some of them unaccountably popular too. Can’t be bothered naming them! You know what I mean. But there are so many gems too. For example, I have lately caught up with replays of The Recording Studio on ABC. And last night SBS offered an absolute treasure: Struggle Street Season 3.

The controversial SBS documentary, which was criticised and labelled “poverty porn” when it first premiered in 2015 documenting the lives of people living in the western Sydney suburb of Mount Druitt, returned for a third season on Wednesday night.

This time it explores the lives of individuals living in Ashmont and towns across the Riverina region — an area distinctly affected by the ongoing NSW drought.

“It’s absolutely gutting watching this,” one viewer wrote on Twitter.

“This should be mandatory viewing by everyone in government. My heart breaks for our country,” another said.


See Meet the participants of season 3 of ‘Struggle Street’.

Last night we met:

Barry and Rosey

Barry’s family have been dairy farmers for a century and a half. Barry, 54 and his wife Rosey, 49, with their two young children, Annabella, two, and Lincoln, five, live in Deniliquin in the southern Riverina. As the drought stretches on relentlessly, their farm is on its knees. A lack of government-allocated water, escalating costs and the fixed price of milk have culminated in desperate times for Barry and Rosey. Rain is their only chance of salvation. Can they stay afloat long enough to save their farm?


For over four decades, 72-year-old Robert, known as Bob, has lived on the road, cycling to jobs from rural town to rural town, mostly living in a tent or makeshift lean-to. But since sustaining injuries when he came off his bike, he’s been forced to stay put. When we meet him, he’s living in a caravan on the edge of North Wagga Wagga and dealing with ongoing medical conditions. Facing the prospect of having to stay put, Bob is not taking well to the idea of giving up his itinerant lifestyle.

Mason and Katherine

Mason and Katherine live in Tolland, five kilometres from downtown Wagga Wagga. The suburb has developed a bad reputation due to its high unemployment rate and growing crime. Mason is looking for work and Katherine is stay-at-home mum to two-year-old daughter, Suzianna. Their home is a drop-in centre of sorts. Katherine’s taken in two pregnant teenagers and also helps Mason’s partially blind best mate, Ethan. When their home is broken into and ransacked, Katherine questions the environment in which she’s raising her child.

This is truly REALITY TV — a very healthy dose of reality it is too. A must watch.

Good media — yes, there is such a thing…

… or should that be “there are such things”? (Yes, I did Latin at Sydney University!) Here at Wollongong City Diggers just now they are playing Bingo in the next room. Could have sworn the caller was speaking Mandarin! But I am sure it just sounded that way…

So last night on WIN — that is, for Sydneyites Channel 10 — I saw and much benefited from the Adam Goodes documentary.

The film’s director, Ian Darling, said the fact that some people felt the need to put an apology in writing was encouraging.

“At the end of the day there were hundreds of thousands of people across the country who booed. Not everybody is going to change their mind,” Darling said.

“We have done test screenings and when you show it to school kids there is a real honesty and a number of them after 70 minutes said, ‘Wow, I got this so wrong’.”

A chance for the public to reflect

Darling said one of the main aims of the documentary was to ensure Goodes’s voice was finally heard by re-compiling the events of his final three years in the game, in chronological order.

During that period, Goodes was targeted by fans who booed and jeered him whenever he touched the ball. It led to his exit from the game in 2015.

I had not paid close attention at the time, though I saw  with disgust the responses during that period of the likes of Andrew Bolt, Miranda Devine and Alan Jones. (The latter was represented in the doco by an actor’s voice, which actually was a bit of an improvement! The words were his though.)


Given the opportunity to hear extensively from Adam Goodes himself, one could only marvel at how much more polite and reasonable he was than the gaggle of knockers. Particularly dreadful was Sam Newman. Fortunately I have lived for 76 years without ever seeing or hearing him! Believe it or not, that’s true! There have to be some benefits to living in NSW!


If you get a chance, do see The Final Quarter! Related: from 10 Daily — It’s one of the most shameful chapters in Australian sporting history.  Eddie McGuire had a few of his least fine moments back then, but do read ‘Heartbreaking’: Eddie McGuire responds to Adam Goodes doco.

The hour-long film touched on McGuire’s widely-condemned King Kong comments as well as the racial slur Goodes copped from a 13-year-old Collingwood supporter. The two-time Brownlow Medallist, who won two premierships with the Sydney Swans and was also named Australian of the year in 2014, was booed at subsequent AFL games and announced his retirement shortly after.

Director Ian Darling has previously said the film is an unflinching look at “what racism looks like”.

“One of our greatest footballers, who happened to be Indigenous and a proud Australian of the Year, was literally booed out of the game,” he said. “Adam did so much talking over that period – far more than I realised [before starting the documentary]. The problem was that as a nation, we didn’t listen to him. So you can see as the film unfolds how it has affected him so profoundly.”

AFL staff have since apologised to Goodes, admitting they did not do enough to “call out” racism and discrimination.

My second example of good media is ABC News, particularly their drought coverage this week. So important, and so good that we got to hear these stories! For example:

Gippsland farmers in their third year of drought are estimated to have lost as much as 70 per cent of their regular income.

The situation is now described as a “green drought”, where paddocks look green from a distance, however pasture growth is hamstrung by low rainfall and grass growth is stymied by weeds.

Rodwells Sale agronomist, Casey Willis, said these weeds had limited nutritional value.

“A green drought is a drought through the wintertime where we have a green cover but there’s no actual growth coming from any desirable pasture species,” Ms Willis said….”

“A lot of what’s being grown in paddocks at the moment is weeds and they have little to no nutritional value for stock.