Blogging the 2010s — 117b — December 2013

Well starting at Christmas Eve, I found some family memorabilia. But there’s more as you may see below! There will be a Part C because of Leonard Cohen.

Just wonderful: Kim Ho’s “The Language of Love”

I mentioned this in July but, having downloaded it then, I have just watched it again just now – and it is so remarkable, so good, so beautiful that I had to repost on it alone, rather than as part of a set of things like last time. It really is one of the best things I saw all year!


See Kim Ho on The Language of Love. See also Actor Stephen Fry’s tweet about Sydney student’s film turns it into worldwide hit on YouTubeDannii Minogue falls in love with a film by a 17 year old Sydney schoolboy, and Sydney student’s gay love story receives global acclaim.

Written and performed by student Kim Ho, 17, and shot at his high school, Sydney Grammar, the piece has resonated with audiences around the world.

Since it was released in April, it has been watched by more than 100,000 people on YouTube, been praised by the US gay magazine The Advocate as perfectly capturing the “wonder, fear and excitement of first love” and English actor Stephen Fry tweeted that it was “amazing”.

Not many HSC-time exercises* have such an effect! Kudos to the Australian Theatre for Young People. Kudos to Sydney Grammar too!

kimhoNow do as I just did: watch it!


I see from the Newsletter of the Sydney Grammar Foundation November 2012 that Kim Ho was in Form V – what the rest of us call Year 11 – when as a 17-old he made this wonderful film. I am even more amazed.


Corrected correction!

It seems Transcendence was made in 2012. In early 2013 “Kim then worked with playwright Tommy Murphy and filmmaker Laura Scrivano to develop the piece further, which can be seen as THE LANGUAGE OF LOVE.”

Update 13 December

Happy to have been liked by The Language of LoveSmile

Lost in translation–and also in time!

I renewed contact with an ex-student from SBHS the other day via Facebook/Twitter. Chris Rodley now writes for The Guardian, among other things. Point is, he was part of a cohort that I was teaching when I was working on my book From Yellow Earth to Eucalypt which Nicholas Jose so kindly remembered in his contribution to Telling Storieswhich I am still reading. In other words, around twenty years ago! As presumably is the Christmas party – I think it was Christmas – in Riley Street Surry Hills at Nicholas Jose’s place where I would have met Linda Jaivin. That all happened through my then partner M, who had known both Jose and Jaivin in China and subsequently.

All that in turn is to introduce one of the best reads I have had lately!


Whether we’re aware of it or not, we spend much of our time in this globalised world in the act of translation. Language is a big part of it, of course, as anyone who has fumbled with a phrasebook in a foreign country will know, but behind language is something far more challenging to translate: culture. As a traveller, a mistranslation might land you a bowl of who-knows-what when you think you asked for noodles, and mistranslations in international politics can be a few steps from serious trouble. But translation is also a way of entering new and exciting worlds, and forging links that never before existed.

Linda Jaivin has been translating from Chinese for more than thirty years. While her specialty is subtitles, she has also translated song lyrics, poetry and fiction, and interpreted for ABC film crews, Chinese artists and even the English singer Billy Bragg as he gave his take on socialism to some Beijing rockers. In Found in Translation she reveals the work of the translator and considers whether different worldviews can be bridged. She pays special attention to China and the English-speaking West, Australia in particular, but also discusses French, Japanese and even the odd phrase of Maori. This is a free-ranging essay, personal and informed, about translation in its narrowest and broadest senses, and the prism – occasionally prison – of culture.

See also GoodreadsLinda Jaivin, Found in translation: In praise of a plural world (Review). It is, as a reviewer from The Wheeler Centre noted, “an exhilarating and entertaining essay”. There is a sample in The Monthly —  also one of the best parts!

An example closer to home of how a phrase can mutate in its uses and connotation is that of “asylum seeker.” Although it was Prime Minister Paul Keating who first thought to throw fences up around the immigration detention centres, it was John Howard, with the able assistance of Philip Ruddock as minister for immigration, who erected metaphorical razor wire around the word so that it was contained within notions of illegality and spuriousness. (Ruddock also coined the word “rejectee” for those asylum seekers whose applications failed at the first stage of assessment.) The international convention to which Australia is a signatory states that it is not illegal to seek asylum, however one arrives in a country, and the Press Council has ruled that it is inappropriate for media to refer to asylum seekers as illegal.

Yet Coalition governments, in particular, have injected the word “illegal” so successfully into our political rhetoric that they have drugged significant portions of the Australian population into feeling no pain at this toxic translation of politicking into policy. The present minister for immigration, Scott Morrison, argues that he realises it is not illegal to seek asylum, but is merely referring to boat people’s “mode of entry.” The Opposition spokesperson Richard Marles cautions: “This is an area where language is bullets …’’

Words have the power to change the way people think; they are part of the architecture of perception. If you are speaking French, for example, the process known as tutoiement – by which two people agree to call one another by the informal tu rather than the formalvous – both recognises and enables intimacy.

Translators know this, which is why they must think carefully on how to translate vous into English, or “you” into French. Hypnotists also know the power of words, which is why they advise clients to stop saying, “I am an insomniac,” and instead repeat to themselves, “I sleep eight hours a day and wake up refreshed.” What is said becomes what is real. Politicians know this. Morrison knows this. In its most pernicious form, the principle that words both name and nurture realities enables what George Orwell described as “doublespeak”: “War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.”

In 2010, the Nobel committee awarded the Peace Prize to the imprisoned Chinese writer and pro-democracy activist Liu Xiaobo. At a press conference attended by foreign reporters, the spokesperson for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs flatly denied that Liu was a dissident. There were no dissidents in China. Liu Xiaobo was not a dissident; he was a criminal. The artist-provocateur Ai Weiwei blogged the following response:

Foreign Affairs Ma’s statement contains a number of layers of meaning:

– Dissidents are criminals;

– Only criminals have dissenting views;

– The distinction between criminals and non-criminals is whether they have dissenting views;

– If you think China has dissidents, you are a criminal;

– The reason [China] has no dissidents is because they are [in fact already] criminals;

– Does  anyone  have  a  dissenting  view  regarding  my  statement? 

Asylum seekers are illegals. Only illegals would seek asylum … Ai Weiwei translates rather well into Australian.

BTW, way back when Chris Rodley was a boy I also met Liu Xiaobo, who visited Sydney at that time.

Linda Jaivin has a great talent for being quite profound and serious with a deceptively light touch. The current issue of The Monthly has her account of a visit to North Korea, accompanied by this photo which she took.


Inside the museum, we admire a map of the province that is covered in stars to indicate all the places Kim Il-sung and his son and successor Kim Jong-il had visited. In an enlarged black-and-white photo, Kim Il-sung speaks into a microphone; underneath the picture is the microphone itself, preserved for posterity in a vitrine. Another vitrine holds a piano accordion that Kim Jong-il once played. We are told how many times the leaders, Great and Dear, visited this province.

Stopped at an intersection in the broad streets, we watch a traffic policeman energetically direct the sparse traffic. Soon we stroll into another plaza, this one dominated by a huge, colourful mosaic triptych of the “Three Generals”: Kim Il-sung, Kim Jong-il and Kim Jong-suk, wife of the former and mother of the latter. In our photos, the Three Generals are very, very large and Emma and I are very, very small. Later, when they look at the images, our friends in Beijing will remark on the deep, clear blue of Sinuiju’s sky.

And if you visit The Monthly, do not fail to read Tim Winton’s essay on class. Alas, it is locked – but worth a subscription or buying a print version, as I have. It is essential ammunition against the zeitgeist under Abbott and Murdoch. Rusted on Marxists and lefties will probably find it shallow, but those who like me have always regarded the extremes of politics as just too much like cults – and I suspect that has been most Australians! — will be at home with the Winton article – because it is just so plainly bloody true!

Have yourself a….

Add whatever festival is appropriate!


Here we have the Order of the Laughing Boot. Not sure yet what to do with it, to whom to award it!  I did Google to see if anyone else had one, but find I am thus far unique – or the phrase is. But I did find The Laughing Boots, which is pretty close.  As a matter of fact the above is one of my much loved and much worn boots which finally decided yesterday that after three years of almost every day wear it had had enough.

I now have a fresh pair.  It remains to be seen which lasts longer, me or the boots!

And some miscellanea by way of Season’s Greetings.


From my cousin Ray Hampton Christison, this wonderful card of our great-grandfather John Hampton Christison. I also looked up the photographer: that is a pretty amazing story in itself.


A Christmas card I have kept for over 60 years – from my sister Jeanette in 1951. She died in January 1952.


The following came via Jim Belshaw on Facebook, but originally from Keith Burgess from Armidale who says: “For all you New Australians this Xmas, have a great time out bush.” Smile


Yes, a dropbear! As the Australian Museum notes:

Danger to humans and first aid

Bush walkers have been known to be ‘dropped on’ by drop bears, resulting in injury including mainly lacerations and occasionally bites. Most attacks are considered accidental and there are no reports of incidents being fatal.

There are some suggested folk remedies that are said to act as a repellent to Drop Bears, these include having forks in the hair or Vegemite or toothpaste spread behind the ears. There is no evidence to suggest that any such repellents work.


Looking out my window of an evening, I always check…


From my window around 7.30 pm 22 December 2013

Blogging the 2010s — 105 — November 2011

The funeral of my Uncle Roy Christison dominated this month. There were other things, including a train derailment.

Mainly family

Bit of a glitch on the local railway though.


As well as showing the derailed coal train that excellent photo from the Mercury shows the single track leading to the Clifton/Scarborough tunnel and the proximity of the wonderful new road bridge, built because the road kept falling into the water…

My Dad would have been ONE HUNDRED YEARS OLD today!…

Off to The Shire again today

For my uncle’s funeral.


Fortunately it’s a lovely day and the trains are running again….

Aftermath of last week’s derailment near Scarborough

I mentioned this morning that the line opened today.


What a gathering of the clan that was!


There were more Christisons there – including my surviving uncle, Neil, who looks well at 87 – than I have seen in decades. My cousin Ray wasn’t there, being at the time (or close to it) passing through Braefield, of all places, but he sent me this via Facebook.


That was taken about 70 years ago at 61 Auburn Street Sutherland.  L-R: John H Christison (whose sister Joan was at the funeral), Eric, John’s father, Sophia Jane Christison (my great-grandmother), Roy Christison Senior, and finally, I am 99% sure, my brother Ian Whitfield.

Few houses remain in Auburn Street, but this one does. I visited it yesterday. I lived here from 1943 to the beginning of 1952.


Uncles and aunts

I had so many! Christmas Dinner at Auburn Street in the 1940s and early 50s was a hectic affair. Grandpa Christison’s old oak table was one of those that could be extended by turning a creaky screw apparatus to open the table up so that an extra slab could be inserted. Rather like this:


So from my colourised photos I select aunts and uncles that may have sat around that table to Christmas 1951, after which we had moved to 1 Vermont Street. I never did know what happened to that table, which had quite a history in our family. As my mother tells it:

The tornado

The following day, Monday, was Anniversary Day. Dad drove into Quirindi to get supplies; there were Chinese shops always open. Before his return we children had been watching the sky. At first we thought a dust storm was approaching across the Breeza Plains. The sky went from red to purple and then to deep indigo. Thank goodness Dad arrived home, and he said to Mother who was ironing in the kitchen, “There is a storm going to hit the back of the house, and we had better go into the bedrooms.” She refused as she wanted to finish her ironing. Within moments the verandah had gone and dad hustled us all into the dining room and under a heavy oak table. It became pitch dark. The storm only lasted for twenty minutes, but the dining room was all that was left of our home! If it had not been for a 10,000 gallon water tank which was luckily full and sheltered that room only, I would not be here today.

Yes, THAT table!

Well there would have been the eldest — Eric Christison and Gwen, but I don’t have separate pictures of them. However Eric is seated on the left-hand side of this early 1940s Christison group, with my brother Ian at the right extreme.  My great-grandmother Sophia Jane is in the centre, and she could have been at Christmas dinners up to 1951.


Next would have been Beth. Not yet married in 1951, so I will use a photo from my other archives which came already coloured.


After her Keith and Ruth, the two in the middle — and you have seen this pic of their wedding before.


Keith and Ruth had two children, Helen and Patricia, by 1951. They are some years on in the front of this photo of Eric’s daughter Joan who, along with her brother John and sister Elizabeth, just may have been around the table too.


The youngest Christison son, Roy Junior, may have also been there. He is far right in that photo.

Towards the end of our time in Auburn Street we might also have had the newly-weds Neil and Fay Christison. They were married in Wollongong Presbyterian Church as Fay was from Unanderra. Not sure what year: 1951?  They were a splendid couple though.



Continuing colourisation discoveries

On Facebook I posted this one of the Christison family (my mother’s people) in Scotland in the late 19th century.


As I said there: “Finally a really old one, and it is in 19th century Scotland, in Brechin, though the photo was taken in Arbroath, the largest town in Angus. It shows my great-great-grandparents David and Catherine Christison en famille. David and Catherine came out to Australia in 1885, sponsored by their son John Hampton Christison, to assist John in his Hunter Valley vineyard. My grandfather Roy Hampton Christison, John’s son, was born 18 December 1885. The family no longer has a Hunter Valley vineyard.😢”

Old English Teachers’ Association mate Ernie Tucker commented: “Your genes gave you that family visage.” Really? So I replied thus: “Moi….”


Thanks to my cousin Ray Christison’s wonderful book Shapeshifter: the strange life of John Hampton Christison, Professor of Dancing 1858-1923 (2017) I can tell you what ultimately happened to David and Catherine Christison.

David ended up as the official lamplighter in the NSW town of Mittagong.  In the Robertson Advocate (14 November 1905) we read:

Death of Mr. David Christison.
Death has claimed another old resident of the district in the person of Mr. David Christison, senr., who died at Mittagong on Saturday last at the age of 78 years. Some eighteen days previously the deceased was seized with an illness which despite every attention by Dr. Middleton proved fatal, the cause being apoplexy.
The late Mr. Christison was born in Scotland; accompanied by his wife and family he came to this state 20 years ago, and the greater portion of that time had been spent in Mittagong, where for a number of years he followed the occupation of lamplighter to the local council, and held that position to the time of his death. His jovial disposition and his straightforwardness earned for him a host of friends in the town, by whom the news of his demise was received with much regret. He leaves a widow and a family of two sons and three daughters.
A large concourse of people followed the remains to the Fitzroy cemetery on Sunday, when the body was laid to rest in the Presbyterian portion, the ceremony being performed by the Rev. J. J. Gilmore. Messrs M’Callum Bros. carried out the funeral arrangements.

Catherine passed away in 1914. Ray offers rich detail in his book.

Screenshot (255)

Colouring unlocked the story of my family in the late 1930s!

One of the old family photos I colourised today is this one of my brother Ian (1935-2017).


By the brickwork I know this is my own early childhood home, 61 Auburn Street, Sutherland NSW. Other than the fact Ian looks a bit real-boy mucky, he also looks under five years old, wouldn’t you agree? Now that puzzled me as I thought my immediate family arrived at Auburn Street as a wartime thing. Before that, I thought, they had been in Shellharbour, where they married, then Wollongong.

But that picture has to be no later than 1939, possibly before war broke out.

I knew that my grandparents Roy and Ada Christison had moved from Shellharbour to Sutherland in 1938 when Roy took up headmastership of Caringbah Public School. I find a NSW Teachers Federation Illawarra Association Annual Report dated 18 March 1938.

Screenshot (254)

Nice to see Grandpa was a conscientious Federationist!

Now my parents were married in 1935, Ian being born in October. Going on stories my parents told (especially my mother) I know they first lived with my Whitfield grandfather, Tom, in Shellharbour. I have seen the house, which is/was in Addison Street. It was not a totally happy arrangement as Tom was a bit of a Tartar and mum stood up to him. Mind you, it turned out Tom rather liked that…. I recall a story of my mother being shocked one day when he turned up with two dead Rosella parrots and told her to pluck and cook them.

Dad was working for Tom but itching to leave, not discouraged I suspect by my mother. I think, but am not sure, that he worked briefly at the Port Kembla steelworks, while he, mum and Ian moved to Wollongong — somewhere near the Catholic Church. A flat or boarding situation, where there were bedbugs.

So what happened next? Without realising it, I had the likely answer in a post on this blog some time ago: “Elizabeth Anne Hunter had married one Albert Boyne in 1891. My father for some time just before World War 2 worked for their son, Cyril Boyne, who was a Real Estate Agent and Auctioneer.”


That is a reference from Cyril Boyne, dated 3 May 1938. So now I think that at that date my mother, father, and Ian were already living at 61 Auburn Street, Sutherland.

Contemplating the photo of my brother generated this sorting out of my family’s story!

Next day

In the uncertain hour before the dawning (thanks, TSE) two things occurred to me about the above. From somewhere in my buried memories came the possibility that Dad worked for a while in Wollongong for Vandyke Brothers, builders, who were active in the region in the late 1930s.  I should mention that Dad was a carpenter, and old Tom a builder of some repute.

Second, I think that the first place Mum and Dad lived on his taking up employment with Cyril Boyne was Earlwood, an inner western Sydney suburb. I think it is fair to say that Dad, while an excellent carpenter thanks to Tom’s sometimes harsh tuition, was both ambitious and a dreamer. His ultimate goal was to be a businessman in his own right, a goal he at times achieved after the War, but which eventually came crashing down on us all — though not through anything shameful Dad did. I suspect Dad’s agenda was to outdo old Tom, even after Tom had departed this life (1948). Dad used often to say disparaging things, not always appreciated by my Christison uncles, about “wage plugs” — those who worked for others. So I also suspect Dad chafed under Cyril Boyne, especially maybe given the job with him had been organised by the Christison/Hunter side of the family, no doubt to help Mum. Therefore perhaps taking up residence in Auburn Street coincided with Dad’s leaving Cyril Boyne’s employ. Then came the War, and Dad joined the RAAF 8 April 1940. In many ways this was a good period for him, and his contribution respected.