Coming up to seven years since I smoked!

 March 2011 revisited — 1

Here’s how it began for me:

And that dominated this blog for the next couple of weeks, though by 9 March I was back home.

Of course that should be 2011…

Meanwhile. and not unrelated:

  • 30 days, 17 hours, 34 minutes and 24 seconds smoke free.
  • 1537 cigarettes not smoked.
  • $992.00 and 11 days, 17 hours of your life saved.
  • Your quit date: 2/28/2011 2:00:00 PM

The quit date is the approximate time the ambulance arrived…


NOTE: The Quitnet calculator is no longer with us, but as a guess, seven years 2011-2018 would roughly be 130,000 cigarettes not smoked!!!! That’s over $12,000 a year times seven! $84,000!!!!


On mental illness in Wollongong

I was shocked by this on last night’s local WIN News.

Hundreds took part in Wollongong’s Walk for Pride this morning breaking down the stigma and starting conversations about mental health.

Currently, one in two people in the Illawarra is struggling with a mental health condition.

That Walk of Pride looks as if it was a good event. I didn’t see it as I was at home doing overdue laundry.

It took years for Woonona’s Madelaine Dunning-Baker to speak out about her mental health issues, but now she’s leading the charge.

The 21-year-old was the ambassador for Wollongong’s fifth Walk of Pride on Thursday – an annual event which promotes acceptance and understanding.

She led hundreds of Illawarra residents with a mental illness, their carers and supporters, and local service providers in the walk which culminated in an expo in Wollongong mall.

The theme of this year’s event was ‘Share the Journey’; something Ms Dunning-Baker said has helped her to finally fight her demons….

South Coast Private Hospital CEO Kim Capp said such events not only helped stop the stigma of mental illness – which will affect one in four people at some point in their lives – they helped raise awareness about the supports available.

‘’For me this is a very important event for the community, for people who live with a mental health condition, their families and service providers,’’ she said.

‘’We know how very difficult it is for people to navigate the mental health system – so the expo provides them with a one-stop-shop to find out about all the services available in the community.

‘’Of course as well as educating our community about what’s out there, it’s also a celebration of well-being.’’

As part of the awareness month, Wollongong City Gallery is hosting an exhibition of artworks by patients from the Wollongong mental health hospital.


South Coast Private Hospital, Wollongong

It is a fact that when you walk or bus from Wollongong Station one of the biggest complexes between the station and Wollongong Central is that private hospital and clinic. Makes me wonder about Wollongong! But the “one in two” quoted in the WIN story does seem a bit much! Compare Health Stats NSW.


What I saw in December 2014

Photo recycle from Monthly Archives: December 2014.

Happy Christmas to all my readers

Posted on December 24, 2014 by Neil

Feel free to substitute a more relevant greeting if that is needed.


That’s a view from my table at Diggers yesterday after lunch. Note the big x-ray envelope on the chair. As I said on Facebook: “Chest pain: not good at my age or any age. Went to doc. Probably muscular, but ECG not unambiguous. Need to recheck 27 December… If it gets worse, I call an ambulance and go to hospital. If not, better! Whatever, I still sing the praises of our health system — thanks Gough! No matter how it has altered, it is still far better than almost any country you can name. Protect it, people!”

OK so far.

Winding up the Redfern visit

Posted on December 13, 2014 by Neil

From Sunday 7 December.


In Redfern Street


These buildings have had a most interesting history over the past 40 years. Great and not so great, but rarely uncontroversial, things have happened here. See Church Mouse (A small voice from St Vincent’s Redfern), Redfern Jarjum College, and Jarjum College opens amid hopes and concerns.

REDFERN: Jarjum College, a new independent Catholic school for Indigenous children, was officially opened on April 12 [2013]  before a crowd of over 500 people. On the site of the former St Vincent’s Presbytery in Redfern Street an old building has been transformed into a small school with a current intake of 20 students…

…In officially opening the school Governor Bashir thanked the children and the work of Principal Beatrice Sheen as well as mentioning her own family connections to Redfern through her grandparents who lived in the area.

After working for a number of months at the new school, Lottie Ceissman is now one of its most vocal critics. She was recently dismissed from her role. As well as believing that she has been unfairly treated in her dismissal, she is also very critical of the direction that the school is taking and has raised strong concerns regarding the present quality of education at the school. “The Jesuits have come in with a ‘top-down’ attitude,” she said.

“They haven’t involved the local community. You cannot run a school like this. They are not learning reading, writing and arithmetic. They are learning how to do dot paintings. The principal is just trying to make it too ‘aboriginalised’. They don’t even have a proper play yard. I don’t want my job back. It’s an unsustainable place. They started 26 kids and now they are down to 20.”…

And then to Surry Hills

The Sydney visit ended with lunch with M at the Shakespeare Hotel in Devonshire Street — not as good as on earlier occasions as they mixed up our orders sending out very indifferent fish and chips instead of the much better grilled barramundi we were expecting.


In the Shakespeare Hotel

M was a bit sore and sorry too as his bike had been hit by a taxi the previous Sunday. I guess all things considered he was lucky the injuries were not worse.

More from the Redfern visit

Posted on December 12, 2014 by Neil

From Sunday’s trip to Sydney.


That’s the new building above Club Redfern


And looking back from Regent Street/Redfern Street


This street sculpture has caused some controversy. What do you think?

THE mother of deceased indigenous youth TJ Hickey is supporting a push to have the controversial Redfern Bower sculpture removed from the suburb.

The Bower was commissioned by the City of Sydney in 2008 as part of a $16 million upgrade to the Redfern St area…

Last Saturday: Wollongong Toy Run

Posted on December 10, 2014 by Neil

Back to The Gong for this entry. Last Saturday in Crown Street Mall I witnessed the 25th Wollongong Bikers’ Toy Run. This has become a Christmas fixture, not only here but elsewhere.

25th Annual Wollongong Toy Run (NSW); 6 December. Leaves 10.30 am sharp from cnr Shellharbour Road & Addison Street, Shellharbour; travelling to Wollongong Lower Mall (Crown Street). Please do not wrap toys/presents. Toys should be for ages 3—13 (ages 10—13 in most need).


That’s the Lord Mayor, Gordon Bradbery, on stage, extreme left.




Still in the present: Redfern revisited

Posted on December 8, 2014 by Neil

Sunday I took the 7.45am express to Sydney, getting off at Redfern.


I hadn’t been to Redfern in quite a while. The immediate purpose of the trip was lunch with M at The Shakespeare Hotel in Surry Hills, but I decided, it being Sunday, to go early enough to attend South Sydney Uniting Church. I hadn’t been there for quite a while; I suspect this was the last time: South Sydney Uniting Church last Sunday. It proved a bit of a bonus because along with some old friends there were quite a few Indigenous Australian young people from Arnhem Land and Darwin down for some conference or other.

But on the way I paid another pilgrimage.


Redfern Park



Yes, home of The Bunnies!

Back in the present

Posted on December 6, 2014 by Neil

So humid, and so many storms lately! Here is the view from my window on 4 December:


See Climate change: NSW to become hotter, more fire danger days and Sydney weather: The picture that captures story of city’s early-season tempests.

Yesterday morning in Crown Street Mall, Wollongong:


Musicians from The Illawarra Grammar School

What was I up to in August 2001?

Yes, my blogging can reach back to the year after the Sydney Olympics, thanks to the Internet Archive.

01 Aug 2001

Some things to do when drinking coffee

1. Write an acrostic sonnet. All you need is a friend whose name is 14 letters long, or a message that adds up to 14 letters. Some years ago, a famous Australian woman poet was rejected by the Bulletin magazine; she got her revenge with an acrostic sonnet under a male name. The editors did not notice that if you read down the first letters of each line, they spelled FUCKALLEDITORS. It was published.

I did this yesterday, while drinking coffee. I did not have anything rude as line-openers, nor did I do much more than write rhythmic rhyming prose! Still, it kept to the rules pretty well, and every time I do one I appreciate the skill of those past and present who can write seamless sonnets that are real poems.

2. Do the Herald cryptic crossword. I succeeded today in the time it took to drink one skim flat white and eat a sandwich! So either it was easier than usual, or I was inspired. Some samples:

“Drops tally–can’t find earl” (5,5) = LOSES COUNT
“Computer part for a complicated car trip” (4-5) = HARD DRIVE
“Thus might leader embrace a bully boy” (4) = THUG

Get it?

Chinatown coffee shop, 2008

05 Aug 2001

Warm winter day

It has been much warmer today. Cute people are beginning to shed their winter coverings 🙂

Morning brought the August Yum Cha at the Emperor’s Garden. The Empress was in good form as usual, and others there were Kiwi Nick, Sirdan, Malcolm, James/Lucy and myself. Clive unfortunately had a minor stroke in the last day or two and is in Royal North Shore Hospital. PK has not been to Yum Cha for some time, and I can think of two reasons–but it is a shame he’s not coming.

Almost immediately after my old reverend friend J came over to my place, and as M was asleep we went out and shared a wine, and then went to the Cafe Niki. J has recently returned from Egypt and Jordan, so some of the conversation concerned Egyptology, some Christian and Islamic theology. J has a lot of time for Islam, having spent much of his life in Islamic countries.


Cafe Niki back in the day…

14 Aug 2001

Lord, I’m weary…

Feeling rather exhausted, having had an annoying migraine earlier today that led to me coming home from work. Fortunately, I don’t go the whole trip with migraine…just weird visuals whereby a greater or lesser part of my field of vision is blotted out by sometimes amazing jagged lights and swirls. The first time it happened, many years ago, I was driving a car down a mountain road (Mount Ousley) late at night. This is difficult when half the road goes missing. I have been checked, in case you are wondering, several times, and nothing major is wrong with the brain–well, not in that sense 😉 My mother, and her father, suffered from it too. Fortunately most of the time it leaves me alone.

I rallied enough to share a herbal tea at Cafe Max and helped another cure a headache with acupressure!

In my continued relaxation reading (crime fiction) I read a real oddity lately, The Trial by Robert Whitlow (Nashville, Word Publishers, 2001). Yes, that publisher does give the game away: you have your “police procedural”, your “hardboiled”, and your English village/stately home detective fiction–and now your “born-again believer detective fiction”. It is actually not all that bad, but a curious concept and (to my agnostic Australian eyes) a cultural oddity of the first order. It is amazing how a Presbyterian ladies’ prayer group can affect the workings of the somewhat suicidal (but eventually saved) investigator, who eventually scores the born-again cute woman. The falsely accused murderer finds not only his case sorted out by these two, but also finds the Lord and converts half the penitentiary (except for those who run the system–but this is Georgia after all). He also donates a kidney to the victim’s wealthy father (whose name may be, but isn’t, Packer) who is then brought to the Lord in turn.

A passionate interest in American Football also seems to be a necessary ingredient in salvation.

In my Presbyterian days one of the sainted figures was the rather amazing young Calvinist David Brainerd (1718-1747) whose work was further publicised by the great (and last of the Puritan divines) Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) whose belief in the depravity of man and the sovereignty of God was so strong–doctrines he found “exceeding pleasant, bright and sweet”–that it seemed to escape his notice that the God he describes is a serial killer and a psychopath: just read the great sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” to see what I mean.

Is it, then, unconscious irony that makes Whitlow write thus of Brainerd?

Anna Wilkes lived in an older area of Chattanooga named after David Brainerd, the New England missionary of the early 1700s who spent his short life preaching the gospel to native Americans in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Hundreds and hundreds of Cherokees were educated and converted to Christianity through the efforts of the missionaries inspired by Brainerd’s efforts, and many forced to relocate to Oklahoma along the infamous “Trail of Tears” sang hymns as they walked and died along the route west. All that remained of the original 1800s mission was a small cemetery at the edge of a shopping mall parking lot.

Now that actually does tell you a lot about American history. Seriously!

Oh–and with reference to last week’s diaries (esp. “is this a pizza?”) I must thank Sirdan for this which arrived on Sunday:

Good morning N—, a lovely morning to you, I do like the new page, colours are OK, and the roast tasted good [ref to a conversation we had], and what comment did the museum have on the “ANTIQUE”? — Danny.

19 Aug 2001

Good Yum Cha…but somewhat nasty news…

First, the mid-month Yum Cha took place at the Golden Harbour this time. We found the food good, indeed the beef on skewers at the end was to die for. However, it is a bit chaotic there, and the next one (first Sunday in September) will be back at the Emperor’s Garden. Clive, I am glad to say, is well and out of hospital, although he wasn’t at Yum Cha. It was in fact a very small Yum Cha, just the Empress, Malcolm and myself. Good as always though.

I have been writing limericks just lately, but not for here 🙂 One popped into my head as I was walking back from Yum Cha. A good one too!

Xerts Restaurant has its first birthday party tonight and M went off in rather fetching black vinyl trousers. Hard to believe he has been working there eleven months.

The somewhat nasty news was in the Star Observer, in the form of a letter from Lance Leopard, whom I have known on and off since he was a teenager, what–1987? He had been bashed on Oxford Street recently, resulting in his having his jaw wired up–he jokes himself that that would seem poetic justice to some! He warns us all to get behind the Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project, and remarks on the irony of the fact his last public engagement before being bashed was to present that group with a large cheque from a fund-raiser he had done.

Mindless and/or homophobic violence always distresses and mystifies me. I have been pretty lucky thus far, but as Lance said, we should all develop eyes in the back of our heads when we are out.

30 Aug 2001

News…insoluble problem?

The current situation concerning the Tampa with its cargo of human misery and/or criminality plucked from the sinking Indonesian refugee boat exercises the minds of many of us. I do not know the answer, let me say that up front, and have some sympathy for the dilemma confronting the Australian government which is damned if it does and damned if it doesn’t.

This is part of a world problem, and everyone should remember that. If you want villains, start with frightful regimes like Saddam Hussein’s in Iraq (compounded by the aftermath of the Gulf War) and the Taliban in Afghanistan (a horrible mix of religious puritanism, tribalism, the working out of Russia’s cold war adventurism and the USA’s CIA support of anti-Russian forces at that time which eventually led to the Taliban and so on…) As the Bible (or is it Shakespeare) teaches, it is amazing how sin leads on to sin. Perhaps every refugee directly or indirectly resulting from Cold War policies should be given automatic entry to the United States or Russia, whichever they choose? There might be a certain justice in letting the Cold War’s aftermath come home to roost.

Then look at the extraordinary successful capitalist enterprise known as people smuggling. Finally, look at the role of Indonesian business/military interests (And who controls them really? Anyone?) and government. Rather than absorbing all these co-religionists (generally–but some are probably not religious in the case of Afghans, hence the need to leave their country) Indonesians shelter them briefly and then, at a price,give them the means to sail on their way.

We could sell them food, fuel and supplies, I suppose, and give them a map with “New Zealand this way” marked on it…
On the other hand, demonising asylum seekers is not a good idea. Probably most of them have some justification. Nor is it likely that the countries they come from will provide them with appropriate exit papers.

We need to bear in mind too that there are refugee camps in, for example, Pakistan that are overflowing with people probably just like those on the boats. From these camps there are recognised ways of applying for asylum in and entry to Australia, and strictly speaking this is the way it should happen. (An ex-student, Evan Ruth, works with UNHCR in such camps.) From the asylum-seeker’s viewpoint, however, this legitimate channel must seem fairly hopeless, as the numbers we have in fact taken from them have been very small. On the other hand, despite the rather infamous Wackenhut private detention centres here, a large proportion of those who fly or drift ashore have had their claims recognised and do stay in the end.

As for the Norwegian government’s response, it might be said Norway is a long way from the action, even if a bit of Norwegian territory floating around near Christmas Island is where it’s happening. They can afford to wash their hands of it.

What we don’t want is for the current situation to roll back the achievements of multiculturalism in this country over the past 30 years. We can do without people like Jim Ball, 2GB’s late night Hansonite (yes, he gave Hanson the full arse-licking treatment on his program earlier this week.) Last night he opined that all those in the Senate who demurred from the Government’s attempts to put through draconian laws on the subject–the ALP, the Greens, the Democrats and Brian Harradine–would in an ideal world be accused of treason and taken out and shot. Such talk is very dangerous in a democratic, pluralist society. He has not yet suggested using our new Collins Class submarines to “take out” refugee boats before they get into Australian waters, but I am sure some have already thought of it.

This has got long enough, and I am well aware that I have not solved anything; but I hope at least it gets you thinking. And do put up every critical defence you can against media manipulation on this one! Particularly beware of “polls” on the Internet or to newspapers or tv stations, which are obviously meaningless as there is no sampling procedure, no control on how often people vote, and indeed no conceivable validity–except to make mischief.

Ironic again to look back at last year’s diary: “14 days to the Olympics”… That buzzy season with all that goodwill seems so long ago.

I’m not a politician. I’m just a nobody. I turn with relief to the warmth that comes from the people I love and close the shutters. Does that make me selfish? Hey you, to whom it may concern, I’m just glad you are there to share the journey sometimes. Don’t take too much notice if I get too carried away with my rants. On the other hand, maybe that’s part of what you like in me? One could get terribly depressed about things like this, but what can we do? In caring about each other we find an oasis, a point that keeps some balance, that keeps us sane. By keeping true to that we do something. Who knows what it is in the scheme of things, but it is something at least. I retreat to that when it comes down to it. I am more grateful than you can conceive for love given and returned.

There is another selection from my 2001 blog at August retro–3–way back!

What was I up to in August 2000?

Yes, my blogging can reach back to the year of the Sydney Olympics, thanks to the Internet Archive.

Thursday 31 August 2000

Fourteen days to the Olympics as of tomorrow. Moore Park, near where I live, has been in a state of destruction/reconstruction for the past two years, mainly due to an airport tollway built on its perimeter. The tollway is done, but the park is still mountains of topsoil. Interesting, as the pedestrian access to certain Olympic venues (according to the official map that arrived in my mailbox yesterday) goes right through it. Hmmmm.

Just finished The Boy in the Lake by Eric Swanson; I swear I didn’t know it was a gay novel when I borrowed it from the library, but it is, and it is very good indeed. A rather slim novel, American, it explores relations between present and past, issues of adolescent sexuality, and guilt,love and betrayal. Here is a review, and a few other books which I haven’t read thrown in. Remarkably uncliched, and humane first and gay second–if you know what I mean.

Monday, August 7 2000

I thought people might find this amusing and interesting. It is a report I have written for our school newsletter:



Chinese students

Last Saturday the visiting students from Hangzhou returned to China. On Friday morning at a morning tea in their honour all five students spoke eloquently (in English) of the kindness they had experienced with their host families and here at our school. Two indeed wrote poems in English for the occasion; as these are to be published elsewhere I cannot use them here. In keeping with the multicultural nature of the occasion, I congratulated their teacher, Mr Xu, in very brief and halting Mandarin, on the students’ skill in English. Here are some more examples of the students’ writing.

Differences between Australian culture and Chinese culture

“1. The Chinese don’t show their feelings to others. There are no kissing or hugging. For example, a Chinese boy will do lots of things for his girlfriend, but he won’t say ‘I love you.’

“The Australian people are quite different. When you see an Australian people, you can know his feeling, happy or unhappy. It’s very easy. When someone disagree an idea, an Australian will say: ‘You are wrong.’ A Chinese will say, ‘Maybe you are right, but I have another idea.’

“Family is important to Chinese. A Chinese can do everything for family, even to die. The most familiar people is his wife, son, then his friend.

“I think the most important thing for an Australian is himself. When he is 18 years old, his father is his friend, not a father again. I find there are a lot of people have pet, a dog or a cat. That may be because he don’t have a child. The pet is his child.

“In all, there are many differences between the two cultures.”


“2. (Australians) think if you like it, you should say. And if you hate it, you should let him know. But people in China do something different. For example, a guest wouldn’t say any of the meal is terrible, though it really is. He would force himself to eat it and try not to show his embarrassment. Because he think it is the custom.

“Second, Australians respect a people’s ideas more than people in China do. Parents wouldn’t let children to decisions to their own business. But in China parents would do more decisions for children, no matter if their children like. If you have a choice, the Australian would let you make it yourself, but Chinese people would give you more suggestions and even decide for you.”

— Robert

Wednesday, August 9 2000

Just back from the dentist–not too bad.

Yesterday a Singaporean-Australian student I taught a few years ago at my school brought me a copy of an anthology entitled Shades of Grey in which he has a piece published. In a very flattering inscription addressed to “one of the best teachers I had” he outlines the purpose of the collection: “to encourage a greater understanding of ethnic Australians and the community, and share and raise awareness of the thoughts and feelings of ethnic Australians,” especially the youth.

This is directed to all Australians, but also to Asian youth in relating to the older generation and their cultures. It is a splendid little book with poems, essays, memoirs and stories by a range of young men and women, particularly Vietnamese, but also Greek, ABC (Australian-born Chinese), and Chinese from various countries. The group behind the anthology has a website you may like to visit.

Monday, August 28 2000

Looking at the ergonomics of my setup here, and I will have to do something–experimenting moving stuff around. Partly this is some bad aches and pains in the neck and shoulder region. Maybe also the cold snap recently, or some flu-like thing. Who knows? The doctor seems almost as vague as I am about it. Get my neck x-rayed on Wednesday: maybe an old car accident? I had one or two.

Nothing like a few aches and pains to make one feel a bit of a relic, especially at my age. And the TV series Four Corners on ABC-TV (Australia. that is, still blessedly non-commercial and not to be confused with American ABC!) was on 21st century sweatshops known as “call centres”: I must say it made me more sympathetic to the people I sometimes deal with after going through the “Press 1, Press 2, Press Star” routine. Here I am on a computer right now–but I’m still a technophobe or pre-hi-tech romantic dreamer at heart. Ah me!!!

Interesting line in the program from a Phil Ruthven: “It’s not our values we have to change; it’s our habits.”

Most apt, as another aspect of my present health thing is my blood pressure was way up on its usual normality: so the ciggies must stop (again) and have today. God I stink! So does the apartment. If you don’t, guys and girls out there, DON’T SMOKE! Take it from me–nothing to recommend it, and a bastard to give up–for me anyway.

Promise to be more cheerful next time 🙂

I didn’t finally quit smoking until 28 February 2011! And that x-ray did uncover a one-time broken neck!