Various lockdown hacks and escapes — 17 — horses’ birthday

All thoroughbred horses celebrate their birthday on the same date, January 1 in the Northern hemisphere and August 1 in the Southern hemisphere. You knew that, right?

徐悲鴻 — Xu Beihong (1895-1953) — marvellous.

So that immediately makes me think of tipping — not that I follow the horses, but rather the hobby I have developed thanks to the clubs here in The Gong of footy tipping. Well, given the lockdown here in NSW the Illawarra League tipping comp, which I mention from time to time, went into limbo, but I have carried on for several weeks. But today, bad news, given that lockdown had sent the entire Rugby League competition to Queensland — large parts of which have now also gone into lockdown!

Which means today’s games have been called off, and tomorrow’s most likely — and then it is still up in the air what happens next! But as one commentator on ABC Sports Radio said yesterday, you may as well tear up the rest of the draw — that is Rounds 21-25, which conclude the ones we tip on in our competition. Mind you, I was not doing all that well this last week.

Bye-bye tipping!

However, this blog has done OK in the past month, partly thanks to the lockdown! After all, what is there to do but blog? As of yesterday afternoon July 2021 was the second-best month for views and visits so far this year, after March. NOTE: Yesterday evening I did an extra post on the Mount Kembla Mine Disaster of 31 July 1902. It could attract quite a few visitors rendering these stats out of date!

The highlighted ones were posted in July.

Well, there are memories of course — tips I got right, and famous Bunnies victories.


The latest on the NRL:

The NRL will introduce new Level 4+ protocols as part of an agreement with the Queensland Government for round 20 of the Telstra Premiership to be completed on Sunday and Monday.

The three originally scheduled Saturday games will now be played on Sunday at Suncorp Stadium, headlined by a 4.05pm Storm v Panthers blockbuster.

Sunday’s fixtures have been switched to Monday to ensure the entire round is completed ahead of round 21.

Bird flies in at last

This bird:


That painting of a Palm Cockatoo is by my sister-in-law Aileen.

There is quite a back story to this painting. First you have to understand that my brother Ian and Aileen married in 1955 when I was 12. Their marriage lasted for around ten years, producing four children, two now in Queensland and two in NSW. And lots of the next generation all over the place — some I have only discovered through Facebook quite recently.

I did not see Aileen, with one exception at the Cecil Hotel in Cronulla in 1978-9, after the marriage ended — so that’s over FIFTY years! In the past couple of months I have spoken to her on the phone. She lives around 100 kilometres further down the NSW south coast and was affected by the summer bushfires of 2019-20. Contact arose when her youngest, Maree, got in touch — through Facebook.

In due course Maree posted this image on her feed:


I praised it, and next thing I knew Aileen was asking me if I would like to have it. Well, what would you have said? There was a mix-up over my address and the package was returned to Aileen by Australia Post. We sorted that and the package was delivered to the local post office last Friday — but not to Wollongong Post Office. Instead it went to Keiraville, a nearby suburb just north of West Wollongong, but not on my usual bus routes. Then came the rain! So it wasn’t until yesterday that I got to Keiraville to collect.


Had coffee with the package — much bigger than I expected! And the coffee was a nostalgia trip in itself because they source from the excellent The Coffee Roaster which back in Elizabeth Street Surry Hills days was my coffee shop of choice, being in the same complex I lived in!  So I think I will be returning to Keiraville shops which is, as you can see above, charming. “The Village”, they call it.

019march 016a

March 2009: where Coffee Roaster used to be! Memories!

I caught the 10 bus to Wollongong — there being just one other passenger, a lady who had been living in Keiraville for 58 years! One more joined us on the way. I was masked, and social distancing was not a problem. What a scenic, wandering route the 10 takes!


Lunch at City Diggers, where on Facebook I shared the day’s doings.


So now I am at Diggers — well fed with an odd but tasty dish of curried sausage and jasmine rice!

The #10 bus from Keiraville to Wollongong proved to be very scenic. In this photo I am in the Keiraville coffee shop with the Mystery Package — collected at last. Let’s just say it is from someone I hadn’t seen or spoken to since 1978-9 — and that in Cronulla at the Cecil Hotel. I suspect we are all getting far too old to be hanging on to past issues. And this is a gift I am glad to have. More later perhaps.

It’s bigger than I expected though so that limits today’s shopping.


What is in the Mystery Package. I am still at Diggers and about to go, but decided not to leave you in suspense. Thanks to my niece Maree I can share an image of quite a wonderful painting by my (former) sister-in-law Aileen, who quite literally until very recently I had not spoken to since 1978-9. I won’t bother you with the details, except to say none of it was really anyone’s fault. Aileen is now 81. I think we have both decided life is very very short….

But what a painting!

And I am now the recipient of it….  I suspect my brother Ian would not be unhappy. Hope the same is true of all our family — though I have a strict policy of not taking sides. How can I? I was only 11 or 12 when Ian and Aileen were married.

That painting, whatever, is bloody good!

So thanks to Facebook the painting has overnight been seen in New York, California, India — and one LIKE in particular was rather nice. Here is why:


61 Auburn Street, Sutherland 1946 or early 1947

Left to right: Me, my sister Jeanette (1940-1952),  my cousin Helen, my mother. The figure far left is my older brother Ian.

On Facebook I wrote: “I have mentioned this to Maree, but you may as well all know. One of the Facebook friends who has liked this post, Louise D., aside from being a Professor at Macquarie University, lives in the Auburn Street Sutherland house that was Ian’s and my childhood home! How is that for closing the circle, or something.”

Blogging the 2010s — 79 — August 2015

Saturday lunch in Stanwell Park

Persian Danny suggested last week that we drive up to Wollongong’s north as Chris T had never crossed the famous Sea Cliff Bridge!


So we met at Steelers yesterday – more on the changes there in another post—and Persian D drove us north. We decided Stanwell Park was the place to lunch. In April 2014 I had been there on a family history quest, you may recall: To Stanwell Park: 1To Stanwell Park: 2To Stanwell Park: 3 – and amazing events in NSW! – and that last one begins: “Bussing it over the Sea Cliff Bridge. Wonderful!…” Go there for more pictures and an account of this rather amazing structure.

We settled on this place to eat:


The Palms.

Ian and Jo Draper own The Palms Cafe. Ian is an international chef whose signature dishes use only the best local produce. The menu features daily specials, hearty dishes as well as light meals, and all day breakfast. Dine indoors or al fresco in the sunny courtyard against the magnificent Illawarra escarpment. Drop in for devonshire tea and cake baked fresh on the premises.

Our choices included slow cooked lamb shoulder and meat loaf. Chris T, a chef himself, soon picked up on the fact this was no ordinary chef’s place. He took away two jars of Ian’s special tomato jam, which had been used to garnish his meat loaf dish.

Afterwards we visited John and Frances Vander’s “Articles” gallery in the same buildings as the cafe.

articles-fine-art-gallery-001.jpg w=238&h=238

There were truly beautiful things in there: some Robert Dickerson, some marvellous glasswork and pottery, andsome evocative seascapes by Cronulla artist Nicole Southworth. Frances Vander was most welcoming to us mere lookers, one a pensioner who can only look! But Chris T plans to go back to buy a framed print or two by John Vander – very affordable. His original works are really rather beautiful, and also interesting as he is a very careful realist painter with a strong sense of history. As his site says:

When John Vander paints a town he paints it as a portrait painter would paint his subject.

Every building is accurate. He sketches every building in the street before he starts his final work.

John says, ‘My paintings are sparked by my feeling for the subject. I want others to view my work and catch the same impression of light, colour and form that inspired my original impulse!’

Here is an example, a place both Chris T and I have visited. In fact Chris T worked in Sofala at one time.

Storm Approaching Sofala oil 33x48.5cm $3000

Storm Approaching Sofala

John Vander was born in Belgium. It’s an interesting story.


This goes back another seven years, but I thought it worth replaying now.

Three artists – 2008 recycles

Michael Riley: sights unseen

Posted on August 2, 2008 by Neil

Please visit Message Stick – Sights Unseen – Pictures By Michael Riley. Here are a couple of samples. They are linked to source.


Untitled IX, 1992
from Sacrifice


Untitled, 2000
from cloud


Kristina (no glasses) 1984/6

Even though “the late Wiradjuri/Kamilaroi artist Michael Riley is one of the most important Indigenous artists of the past two decades” according to Stills Gallery, to my shame I have to confess I had not registered his work or career. I should have. I am also wondering if that third picture is the Kristina I know…


Personal Reflections: Saturday Morning Musings – the art of Jiawei Shen

Posted on August 9, 2008 by Neil

In Personal Reflections: Saturday Morning Musings – the art of Jiawei Shen this morning Jim Belshaw gives his account of an SBS documentary I missed last night, as I watched a DVD and then the Olympic Games.


Jiawei Shen
Eyewitness (George Gittoes) 1997 linked to source

There are quite a few Chinese artists, and Chinese artists now in Australia, who have produced very interesting work over the past two decades. See for example Other histories: Guan Wei’s fable for a contemporary world. Here are some examples of Guan Wei’s work.


Day After Tomorrow No.3

For more on Guan Wei see:


Guan Wei’s ancestors were part of the Manchu nobility in China in the mid-seventeenth century. ‘His great-grandfather was the Comptroller of the Yihe Yuan, the luxurious Summer Palace constructed for the Empress Dowager Cixi at the end of the last [nineteenth] century; his great-great-aunt was taken into the imperial family, and gave birth to Aisin Gioro Puyi, or simply Henry Puyi, also known as the Xuantong Emperor, the last imperial ruler of China.’¹ By the early twentieth century, this family had fallen out of power. Mirroring that strange chemical compound in Les vents, in which a form exists for a fleeting moment, the ebb and flow in the fortunes of Guan Wei’s Manchu family suggests an equal transience…

Guan Wei moved to Australia in 1990 after witnessing the tumultuous events of June 1989 in Beijing, China. His first visit to Australia was as an artist-in-residence at the Tasmanian School of Art. Since then, Guan Wei has been an artist-in-residence at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney and at the Canberra School of Art, Australian National University.

His work has been included in several major exhibitions in Australia and internationally, most often as a significant painter who continues to make a contribution to the art that emerged from China post 1989…

Through the decade of the 1990s, Guan Wei’s work drew heavily on the cultural and geographical differences between China and Australia. To mark the tenth anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre in China, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney organised an exhibition titled ‘Guan Wei: Nesting, or the Art of Idleness 1989-1999’. Guan Wei currently lives and works in Sydney.

He was awarded his Australian citizenship at the same ceremony as M received his.

The work in the previous entry was in the less avant-garde, more officially sanctioned, area of contemporary Chinese art.

2015 update

See Chinese New Year: artist Guan Wei celebrates with witty new works and Celebrated propaganda painter in Maoist China, Shen Jiawei, has recently added the Vatican to his list of clientele.

What was I up to in December 2011?

Entries from Monthly Archives: December 2011

World AIDS Day and my circle…

Posted on December 1, 2011 by Neil (abridged)

On 11 September 2001 I posted:

11 Sep 2001

Thoughts of a survivor: Guest article by Ian Smith, the Dowager Empress of Hong Kong

It is difficult to give advice to any one regarding HIV/AIDS. However here are a few thoughts from a long-term survivor.

Do not panic. This is easy to say, but the best thing you can do, is ignore the virus as much as possible, within reason. If you are on medication, never miss a dose. Always have safe sex to avoid passing the virus to someone else, and keep alcohol and other recreational drugs down. By this I do not mean give everything up, just try cutting down. Think, “Do I really need that E tonight?” If you do, take only half, or less. This has the advantage of saving money. It also has the advantage of not damaging your immune system as much…

Today there is an excellent article in the Sydney Morning Herald by Ori Golan, a freelance journalist and volunteer with the absolutely admirable Ankali Project.

… Dr Lynn Pulliam, writing in the Lancet, predicts up to 30 per cent of patients infected with HIV will develop a debilitating dementia. HIV is the most common cause of dementia in people under the age of 40, Dr Lachlan Gray at the Burnet Institute says, and recent studies have suggested milder neurocognitive impairment could be as high as 50 per cent of the infected population.

Many people with HIV are leading normal lives, their viral load undetectable and their physical appearance excellent. This, ironically, is part of the problem. In an interview shortly before his death, the British AIDS activist, Cass Mann, put it like this: ”The greatest disservice AIDS charities pay to [HIV-positive] men today is to present images of them as healthy, buffed, gym bunnies with glossy beautiful bodies having great lives, climbing mountains, partying in Sydney and looking beautiful. If they showed people in hospices dying of dementia or people with lipodystrophy that would stop them in their tracks.”

A recent study by Dr Lucette Cysique, of the Department of Neurology at St Vincent’s Hospital, predicts the number of people with HIV dementia will surpass 2600 by 2030. The toll on their family and friends is tremendous. Moreover, Dr Cysique says the annual cost of care will increase from $29 million in 2009 to $53 million in 2030.

We can be proud as we don our red ribbons this World AIDS Day that new HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths have fallen to the lowest levels since the peak of the epidemic…

There is no room for complacency. AIDS is still an incurable condition. We must act to curb it; we must reach out to this new generation so they know how to protect themselves. There is no time to waste. The global fight against AIDS is not over.

And The Dowager Empress is no longer with us either.

At The Empress’s Wake, Midnight Shift Hotel

And we have all of us mourned the passing of so many others.



Back to 1944–or even earlier

Posted on December 3, 2011 by Neil

FotoSketcher - ian1

That’s my brother Ian going to school. The photo is in Auburn Street Sutherland – yes, a dirt road then. The house is the McNamara place, opposite ours. Roy Mac had a slit trench air-raid shelter. If the point of this pic is my brother’s first day in “big school” then it would be around 1941, but it is certainly no later than 1944.

FotoSketcher - warfamily

Now that one, it seems to me, is 1944-45, but very likely 1945. In the left panel my Aunt Ruth Christison, mother of Ray who has lately commented here. I am in front of her, no older than 2 years which was 1945. The centre panel has my mother Jean, my Uncle Neil Christison, on leave no doubt from the RAAF at the time, and my sister Jeanette (1940-1952).  I am named after Uncle Neil, who is still with us. On the right my Aunt Beth Christison, later Beth Heard, and my brother Ian.


See also Anzac Day scans.


November 1944


Even today you can see how close the bush, especially The Royal National Park, is to Auburn Street. We certainly would have seen and smelled those fires. I can’t remember the 1944 ones, but I sure remember some bad ones in the late 40s and early 50s, including one where the whole horizon was fire and smoke.

My Uncle Keith may have been among the servicemen fighting the 1944 fire as I believe around that time he was stationed at Loftus.

South African War and my family…

Posted on December 6, 2011 by Neil

Sorry, Sirdan! I am sure the Nel family were in this too somewhere…


That’s 1 NSW Mounted Rifles. My rather roguish great-grandfather John H Christison was one of them.


  • Absorbed first contingent units that became A and E Squadrons NSW Mounted Rifles
  • Original strength: 405
  • Subunits: three mounted rifle squadrons (later numbered B, C, and D squadrons), five after absorbing A and E squadrons
  • Commanding officer: Lt Col. G. C. Knight
  • Left for South Africa (B, C, and D squadrons only): 17 January 1900 on Southern Cross
  • Service: February 1900 – March 1901 in Free State, Transvaal, and western Cape Colony including charge at Diamond Hill (12 June 1900); absorbed A Squadron NSW Mounted Rifles in March 1900, 1st WA Mounted Infantry April 1900, and E Squadron NSW Mounted Rifles in May 1900
  • Fatal casualties (B, C, and D squadrons only): 10 killed or died of wounds, 13 died of disease
  • Decorations (B, C, and D squadrons only): three DSOs (A. J. Bennett, M. A. Hilliard, F. L. Learmonth), two DCMs (L. F. Hayward, F. W. P. Rudd), one Queen’s Scarf (A. H. Du Frayer)
  • Returned to Australia: 29 April 1901 (B, C, and D squadrons only)


SA_MedalsSee also the source of the pictures above: About the Boer War.

My cousin Ray Christison notes:

From the late 1970s I made an effort of researching the life of John Hampton Christison. I have a listing of his addresses from 1880 until 1889. He seemed to fall off the radar after the divorce in 1891 and then he pops up again in the Boer War. He enlisted in the 2nd [sic] NSW Mounted Rifles and embarked from Sydney in 1899. Interestingly one of his companions was Peter Hancock, the Bathurst farrier who was shot with Breaker Morant in 1902. When he enlisted he gave his address as Regent Street, Mittagong – the home of his parents David and Catherine. I have John’s campaign medal from the Boer War which has bars for Witterbergen, Diamond Hill, Johannesburg, Driefontein & Cape Colony. He was wounded at Rhenoster Poort. When John returned from South Africa he obtained a job on the West Australian Government Railways and eventually rose to the rank of Station Master.

Fascinating stuff. I really had no idea, but thanks to the rather wonderful thread on my recent post Mainly family I now do.

00 Overview

war graves


My cousin Ray has written an excellent post on this. “I just may begin blogging his biography,” he says of John H. Please do!

My last coachee

Posted on December 15, 2011 by Neil

“i never thought to see the day where mr  …. would get a band 6 in english. f*** the world bitches! i is da bestes” – Facebook yesterday morning.


That’s him. He is a guy who at 12 or 13 was seriously being compared to Roger Federer. He came my way because, after spending just about all of Years 7 to 10 on the international tennis circuit, he arrived at high school Year 11 having never actually written an essay… He was sent to me for help in 2010, and I did what I could up until I moved down here to Wollongong in August-September 2010. I had hopes he would do all right, and I am really chuffed that he has!

Indeed: 90%+ in Advanced English and a mention in the honours list in today’s paper. Smile He is of Iranian/Filipino background.

Afternoon at Five Islands Brewery Wollongong

Posted on December 15, 2011 by Neil

FotoSketcher - PC150521


Oh the humanity! Three exhibitions at Wollongong City Gallery

Posted on December 30, 2011 by Neil

The first exhibition is Generations.

Did you know the Wollongong City Gallery is currently exhibiting work by one of Australia’s most respected contemporary artists?

Hossein Valamanesh was born in Iran but immigrated to Australia in the early 1970s, and now lives in Adelaide. His work is displayed in pretty much every major gallery in the country, including the art galleries of South Australia, West Australia, and the National Gallery in Canberra.

And he has a couple of works on show in the Generations exhibition in Wollongong until February 26th.

One is a six metre ladder attached to a high ceiling with a round mirror at the top.

“The image of the ladder I’ve used for many years but this work was in regards to what is reality and what is dream and how long is a piece of string,” he said. “It’s like an escape hatch you can’t reach but it’s just close enough to feel like you can.”

The work is part of an exhibition that showcases artists with a cultural background outside Australia.

His son Nasseim is a film maker and also has a video piece in Generations.


Story and picture from the ABC.

The second exhibition is of objects and statements by former refugees and migrants:Collections of Hopes and Dreams. Very moving. I propose to return and spend much longer with these things.


The third exhibition is Local: Current 2011. Among the items are these beautiful objects in glass by South Coast Koori artist Noel Lonesborough.


Go on upstairs and there is not only the beautiful former Council Chamber but also some first rate examples of Aboriginal art.