No, really! What genius is even thinking about this!

Isn’t this one of the most beautiful flowers you have ever seen? I think so, and have ever since seeing them in the wild 60+ years ago!


See Telopea speciosissima or Waratah. It is the floral emblem of NSW.


Apparently some turkeys want to change that! To quote Peter Hannam’s report in the Sydney Morning Herald:

No flower may be “so proud and stately and grand as the waratah”, so a popular book once told our children, but it seems devotion to the fiery red NSW emblem is fading within parts of the Berejiklian government.

The Department of Customer Service, which oversees branding, says it has “no plans” to ditch the waratah as the state’s logo, but leaked details of focus groups suggest some government staffers have other ideas….

The leak surprised government officials with one senior member on Sunday saying it would be “a bloody bad thing” to replace the waratah….

Too right it would be a bad idea!

The Herald poll seems to agree.

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My 1957: Kirrawee, Gymea, Grays Point

I have posted before on this year when I turned 14: 1957 or MCMLVII.


Avery Avenue, Kirrawee, where I lived 1956 through 1958, behind the tree on the left. And yes, we were close to transport. That’s the Cronulla line on the right. It took about an hour and a quarter to get to SBHS from here.

See also More “Neil’s Decades” –8: 1956 — 1, Random Friday memory 24: riding the red rattler, Random Friday memory 30: spotting the Pardalote, Friday nights in 1957 at Waratah Street West Sutherland, and most recently More 1950s Shire nostalgia.

Our part of Kirrawee was still showing traces of a semi-rural past, and nearby were the Royal National Park and other patches of bushland. In 1957-8 especially I would often explore the area either alone or with friends from Sydney Boys High. One walk I particularly liked was down to Grays Point, partly along the road, partly through the bush.

Screenshot - 5_01_2017 , 7_57_00 AM

Things one saw along the way:

8013688 The now heritage listed natural stone bridge over Dents Creek


Gymea Lilies


Around Grays Point

Among my picture sources: Discover Gymea Bay,

What was I up to in December 2001?

NOTE: last month I posted What was I up to in December 2000? Do revisit it.

These entries via the Web Archive (my old Angelfire site). Some names have been edited to conform with my later practice.

1 December: World AIDS Day: Stay safe and avoid complacency

Having said that, I mention that Ian Smith had some good news about a sometime Yum Cha friend whose recent visit to hospital caused much concern.

I reread December 2000 Diary (see Diary Key Page), and find it hard to credit the twelve months that have passed. One cryptic entry there is now cryptic for me too, as I do not recall what it referred to!…

2 December

Yum Cha was good but small crowd. The Empress, Malcolm, Bruce, Sirdan and I waited outside the stated venue for a short while and then went to East Ocean where we ate rather a lot. At the markets later mangoes were 5 for $2! We had a couple of beers at the Lord Mountbatten Hotel, a nice new venue in George Street, and then I came here to the Global Gossip Internet Cafe to write this update. By the end of the day the smoking picture will be as follows, given that it is slightly exaggerated due to time zone factors:

5 days, 21 hours, 35 minutes and 17 seconds smoke free. 200 cigarettes not smoked. $73.00 and 1 day, 12 hours of your life saved! Keep sending the vibes 🙂

Even later: I called in at Cafe Max on the way home, and had coffee with someone I found in there: Nicolas Sykes, whose poetry we published in Neos some years ago. It turns out he designed the Cafe Max logo!

5 December: I wanted to call this Four Weddings and a Funeral…but that was taken.

First to politics in a much more self-centred environment than prevailed even six years ago. There is another worthwhile piece on the refugee issue in today’s Sydney Morning Herald. My quarrel with the logic of conservative politics is historical–look what a died-in-the wool rightwinger would have advocated 50 years ago, 100 years ago and so on–and be very glad there were more liberal forces at work in Western society. The same measure may be used of extremists of any stamp: the track record of Marxists is also lamentable. I revisit my own front page from time to time to reassure myself of my sanity 😉

I am still not smoking; ironically, M. is smoking quite a lot now. Last night I slept very badly, a combination of forgetting to remove my nicotine patch and a racing mind, which happens from time to time. I normally sleep like a log.

LATER I am so tired! I must make sure I take the patch off right now before going to bed. Yes, that’s Day 9 in two hours–at midnight.

6 December: Calmer…but not yet tranquil

Beware of a man giving up smoking, especially in the first week or two thereof. Do not confront him with sudden change or with anything that might tip his delicate balance. The result can be messy.

Friends need to be especially tolerant of aberrant behaviour. If they have supported the man in his project of giving up, they may be regretting their decision right now. They may be tempted to say “Please, start smoking again! We can’t stand this!” Do not give in to the temptation, but think of your friend’s better moments or track record over time, and remember that before long your friend will reappear as you remember him, and not as the writhing obsessive you see right now.

Yes, a good night’s sleep has helped. But I still need to be treated with delicacy… And on the subject of sleep, I blamed the 3-4 hours only I had on Tuesday night on two things: racing thoughts and leaving a patch on. Quitnet offers this on the latter: “Sleep disturbance almost always occurs in people who use the twenty four hour patch. Since your mind is unaccustomed to receiving nicotine while asleep, it can cause strange effects, including vivid, colorful dreams and difficulty sleeping.”

My best wishes to you all 🙂

7 December: Hot day again…and could be stormy

Well the last few days have been stormy for me, internally at least. I have acted quite peculiarly at times, and indeed I put this a few hours back to my fellow-(recovering)-addicts on Quitnet, and they thus replied:

RE: DAY 10 and things are better!

From campfire32 on 12/6/2001 7:04:20 PM
I have also had my moments that I am less than proud of since quitting. I blame them on Nicodemon.

RE: DAY 10 and things are better!

From melindar on 12/6/2001 7:14:56 PM
Nice the way you hit those double digits and the equanimity begins to kick in. It all works out and if your friends are real, they will stick with you no matter what!

Once before at this stage of a quit (thank God this is the last one!) I had some who seriously requested me to take up smoking again!

9 December:

…A few of us had a nice lunch at the Forrester’s Hotel in Surry Hills. It is such a long time since I have had a good old-fashioned Aussie steak! There were other more personal reasons for the lunch being special, but that’s for me to know 🙂 And yes, Day 12 continues on track.

News from my brother is not so good. It appears his partner is slipping in and out of coma, and the prospects are one way only. I must keep in close touch with him (he is in Tasmania). It is emphysema, resulting from smoking, and she is only eight years older than I am.

10 December: Looking back over the week…and quite a busy day

I have found myself is the extremely odd position, as someone who was terrified of computers even until late 1999, that I am increasingly regarded by the English Department at my school as something of an IT expert. I actually did talk to a real one tonight, Malcolm, about some issues regarding our school LAN, and this may lead to a new perception of me at large! The Librarian is still amazed at the (rather easy) accomplishment of being able to tell her which kids have loaded games onto the Library machines and when!

Malcolm yesterday awarded his Quality Sustained Evil Award for 2001 (10 out of 10 score) to one of our fellow-diners. I can only concur!

Should my knickers get particularly into a knot in future, just say “Thumbelina” to me. If that doesn’t work, shoot me.

Over the past week one plus has been learning that I have some very remarkable friends that I need to treasure carefully. I have also found my feelings to be truly deep, and learned that needs to be husbanded carefully too–with an eye to the good of all involved. Wise but cryptic tonight, but one day all may be revealed. Not now though. I am very happy though, in the event… And so I bloody well should be.

December 11: But do they smoke?…natural history + cultural difference

I offer this from Planet Out News for no apparent reason, except it may explain a thing or two I have seen in gay bars ;-):

Researchers discover gay orangutans U.K. Monday, December 10, 2001 / 03:33 PM

SUMMARY: Researchers have spotted gay sexual activity between two pairs of male orangutans in Sumatra.
Researchers have spotted gay sexual activity between two pairs of male orangutans in Sumatra.

It is the first time homosexual behavior has been seen in wild ape communities, according to the researchers.
Dr Elizabeth Fox, a researcher from the Bronx Zoo-based Wildlife Conservation Society, has published her research in the American Journal of Primatology.

She said: “It’s disheartening that we’re only now beginning to learn of the full range of behavior among these highly intelligent animals, yet they are vanishing faster than any time in history.”

Orangutans are the only great apes native to Asia, and they live largely solitary lives.

Other great apes known to take part in homosexual behavior include male mountain gorillas and female and male bonobos.

On quite another note, the wonderful Yawning Bread has some new postings. The top one in November begins as follows. Do go there to read the rest. “Yawning Bread” is a gay Chinese man in Singapore; his site is one of the best “ideas” sites I know.

Family ownership and coming out

The trouble with skin colour is that it is so obvious. We tend to ascribe to racial differences, or to its surrogate, cultural differences, things that may have little to do with race or culture.

I am reminded of this each time I hear people say that coming out is a Western thing, and that it’s not the Asian (read: Chinese) way. I am not denying that some persons find their family situations quite impossible for coming out. Nor do I deny that in some cultures, more people find it very hard to come out, compared to other cultures. But to stop there and say, “aha! cultural differences!” isn’t satisfactory analysis.

12 December: What really matters…it’s that time of year

So many sad and horrible things have happened during 2001.

Today I would like to focus on good news stories. First, from Afghanistan, as reported in today’s Sydney Morning Herald:
Herat’s scribes and teachers resisted the extremist regime in clever and sometimes courageous ways, International Editor Hamish McDonald writes from the ancient city.

Read this wonderfully encouraging story about the human spirit here.

Second, consider this quotation: “”Life is to be fortified by many friendships. To love and to be loved is the greatest happiness of existence.” (Sydney Smith–English writer 19th century.) That is taken from this week’s meditation on Interlude, a site I go to regularly, a place where religion and spirit are well served without a hint of the dark evils of Christian, Islamic or any other fanaticisms/fundamentalisms–which are to religion as deformity is to beauty.

The theme is friendship, and I pay loving tribute here to two of the most important men in my life, both of whom came my way unexpectedly. Without one, I would not be where I am today. For some time he and I were partners, but now it is “family”. Without the other, where I am today would not be nearly so good. He is just someone with whom I feel extraordinarily comfortable, and who feels like family to me now:-). May the rest of this dying year and the year to come bring both of them what they want and need.

The second one said something about joining Quitnet too, as a supporter; hope he does 🙂 And it is DAY 15!

13 December: Great letter…but the Australian government will ignore it

I have a page on my website devoted to the recent twistings and turnings of the Australian government on refugees and immigration. The tragicomedy rolls on. Like tiger repellent in the Australian desert (very effective, as you never see tigers there), our fearless Ruddock’s “Pacific solution” and “border protection” have kept the millions of Afghan refugees from leaping into boats and swamping our shores. Nauru (24 square kilometres isn’t it?) has accepted another payout and will take more asylum seekers. Do they outnumber the Nauruan population yet? The cost of all this–well, not really 500 million dollars salted away from three different government departments–oh no; maybe just 100 million dollars, said Ruddock yesterday.

Born in pre-election vote-catching expediency, morally vacuous, patently absurd, ad-hoc management–what else can you say about it? This perhaps:

A letter to the Prime Minister

We write to you as a group of Australian citizens currently living overseas, who share a common concern with regard to recent events in Australia that have attracted significant international criticism.

We are proud that Australia is one of the most multicultural countries in the world. Immigrants have made a profound contribution to Australia’s unique national character. Although our history is not perfect in this regard, we have succeeded in creating a common identity through tolerance and open-mindedness towards those who join our community.

In this light, we are disturbed and disappointed by the Federal Government’s actions in relation to the desperate plight of refugees. We are deeply concerned that Australia’s international standing as an open and tolerant nation has been compromised. As ambassadors for our country, we have found it difficult to justify to our overseas colleagues the Australian Government’s recent decisions in this regard.

Furthermore, we strongly object to the Government’s use of language that dehumanises and vilifies refugees trying to escape persecution. We feel that, as Prime Minister, you have a responsibility to encourage Australian citizens to overcome their fears and uncertainties about the significant changes that are currently taking place in the international sphere. Instead, we believe that your Government has framed the debate in a way that gives legitimacy to intolerance in the general community. We ask you to move beyond populism and to conduct Australia’s affairs in a way that reflects our status as a forward-thinking nation.

We call on the Australian Government to comply with its international treaty obligations with respect to refugees, and to meet its responsibilities as an international citizen in responding to humanitarian disasters.

We call on the Australian Government to respond to the current refugee crisis (as it did for East Timor) by increasing the number of available places in the humanitarian program for the refugees currently fleeing Central Asia and the Middle East.

We call on the Australian Government to put an end to mandatory detention and to inhumane treatment of asylum seekers.

We care deeply about Australia’s role and future direction, and strongly entreat you to re-visit these issues.

Dr Bryan Gaensler, Cambridge MA, USA, Clay Fellow, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Harvard University, 1999 Young Australian of the Year. And others.

That appeared in this morning’s Sydney Morning Herald, but to the government and the true elites around here (you know them, always slagging genuinely liberal views as “elite”) it won’t make a blind bit of difference. Just another soft-headed set of chattering class chardonnay swilling pointy headed politically correct crypto-socialist bleeding hearts after all: not real Aussies at all, not real patriots.

14 December A long partnership over

An hour ago, Australian Eastern time,
in East Devonport, Tasmania
my brother’s partner of 30 years,
passed away after a long battle
with emphysema.

15 December: My brother.

My brother and his partner have been living in Tasmania for many years now; I am not quite sure how many, but certainly more than five. Before that they lived in various parts of Queensland.

One of the ironies of their life together was that they were both married on the same day in Sutherland, way back in 1955, but in two different churches and to two different people. My brother’s first marriage lasted ten years, and it was after the end of that that he and Norma got together. I remember once saying to them that they could have saved a lot of trouble by getting it right on that day back in 1955, to which my brother replied, “Oh well, we still celebrate our wedding anniversary.”

While my brother and I have been in regular contact by phone, especially since our mother died 1n 1996, I have not seen him for many years, and Norma even longer. Unfortunately there is no way I can go down to Tasmania either, not that I could do much.

Ian and Norma were together for over thirty years. A second attempt at partnership suited both of them. They were kindred spirits, and were very lucky to have found each other. In the past few years Norma was basically bedridden, constantly on oxygen for her emphysema. My brother could not have been more loving and more devoted. He certainly had more peace and happiness with Norma over the greater part of thirty years than he had ever had before.

He’s not a young man now; neither of us is. I am not sure what he will do eventually–stay in Tasmania or move back up north. At one time he said he might move back to Queensland, should anything happen to Norma.

My brother had four children by his first marriage, some of whom I see from time to time. Norma had at least one daughter, whom I met, by her first marriage. Ian and Norma had no children by their relationship.

And yes, I won’t harp on it, but Benson and Hedges had a hand in Norma’s suffering and death.

The deep blue skies wax dusky and the tall green trees grow dim
The sward beneath me seems to heave and fall
And sickly, smoky shadows through the sleepy sunlight swim
And on the very sun’s face weave their pall

Let me slumber in the hollow where the wattle blossoms wave
With never stone or rail to fence my bed
Should the sturdy station children pull the bush flowers on my grave
I may chance to hear them romping overhead.
–Adam Lindsay Gordon

16 December. Yum Cha, and a very funny tv series

Deliberately had a quiet one today, beginning with Yum Cha at the Emperor’s Garden: me, the Empress, Malcolm, the Empress’s flatmate, Bruce and Clive. After that the usual shopping, then some drinks. During that last phase I have to admit the urge to smoke was rather strong, but I survived. Sirdan, James and some others joined us as the afternoon went on.

I rang my brother last night; he is not too bad considering.

School ends this week, so the annual unemployment sets in.

18 December: Ninglun is loved after all…and some links for you

It is nice to have one’s efforts appreciated, so a card from Michael Harmey (ESL/Multicultural Consultant at our Department of Education District Office) received today was very welcome: “Many thanks for your great work this year… You are doing a fantastic job for ESL and Multicultural Education, and it is a great pleasure to work with you.” 🙂

In the current climate where, overwhelmed by a tide of jingoism and a reactionary triumphalism even the modest progressive tends to be vilified as a member of some “elite” or “chattering class”, it is salutary to turn to a site that gives an alternative, non-Eurocentric, non-USA-centred view of the world, if only for balance. Such an alternative is New Internationalist which I commend as a means to keep your views balanced in our unbalanced age….

23 December: Almost Christmas

Yes, so close, but I still haven’t done my cards! Looks like I will be making a few phone calls, sending email or ICQ, visiting some (hopefully) and, a last resort, sending late cards.

Yesterday I went to the Green Park Hotel with Sirdan; in time PK, James, Sailor A, and a number of others, joined us. PK gave me a very nice bottle of whisky.

Today is another Christmas gathering at the Forresters Hotel, and it would appear quite a few are coming to that. The gathering there a couple of weeks ago was very pleasant indeed.

I received a lovely card from “Master Fu”, an ex-student (class of 2000) who has been doing well in Advanced Mathematics at Sydney University. He has a delightful way of expressing himself:

There are many thanks for many things, none of them comes easily with words, for gratitude is the heart’s memory: thank you for everything you have done. Yours, Xiang

Really nice.

If yours is a family Christmas today, have a really good one; treasure those times, as they do pass.


The Forresters offered T-bone and mash as their $5 grill today, and it is so long since I have indulged in something so decadently Western; it was delicious. Company comprised Sirdan, James, Malcolm, the Empress, Bruce, Sailor A, Dark Cloud (a rare manifestation) and myself. The cuteness index at the Forresters was definitely near 9/10 today as well. (Elki, a very attractive ex-student who must be about 22 now, was there with his girlfriend; his noticing me was noted by the assembly and brought credit on my white beard!) So a good time was had. The Crown Prince had requested his greetings be passed on and it was done.

Meanwhile I have been reading an absolutely fascinating book on a cross-cultural phenomenon very few of us would have known of before: Martin Palmer, The Jesus Sutras (2001), about a thriving Christian movement in China during the 7th and 8th centuries AD. Have a look at that review and you will get the gist.


I am just back from Christmas lunch with the Dowager Empress of Hong Kong. His Atlantic salmon was to die for, and the tamarind prawns were–oh my God, I don’t usually eat prawns, but they were wonderful. The Christmas cake was a genuine Mrs Beeton recipe (with a whole bottle of brandy); it was light yet flavoursome. There is no doubt the Empress has a talent. I would have loved to have shared this day with the Crown Prince, I really would, but that could not be. Sirdan was there, and Paul Davis and another friend of DEHK’s.

On DEHK’s new DVD and digital TV we saw several episodes of Queer as Folk, which is not on free-to-air TV here. It is such a shame that SBS did not get it for late night viewing, because it is actually very good indeed. I would like the chance to see it again.

Walking home was an apocalyptic experience. The ground is yellow with smoke as bushfires ring Sydney. It is very hot and there are strong winds. The south and west of the city looked to be totally in flames from the vantage point of the inner city. According to the latest news the Blue Mountains are very bad, and the road north may soon be closed. To the south around Appin seems also to be bad. M. has headed north but would have got through before the problem arose.


26 December: A bit cooler but I wouldn’t guarantee it to stay that way

The bushfires dominate local news today, as they certainly make their presence felt even here in the inner city. It does seem so far to be not as bad as yesterday, at least in terms of heat and wind, but that could change.

I am not affected directly by the fires, but have friends and relatives who could be. It would appear on Christmas Day that Mr Rabbit got quite close to the fires to the south of the city.

There have been such summers before; it may be part of the land’s revenge on the settlers. I remember fires in the early 1950s in which all of the Royal National Park south of Sydney burned, and at the Sutherland Public School we kids were terrified as the ground turned that horrid yellow colour, the sky red and black. Flames leapt the railway line just behind the school.

On that day the earnest evangelical Anglican rector chose to tell his Scripture class about “the end of the world in fire”.

Very tactful, eh.

The world didn’t end and the park renewed. But then as now quite a few houses were lost and some lives.

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28 December. Year burns to an end…but a fabulous lunch yesterday

Smoke again fills the sky over Sydney this morning. The sunset yesterday was an amazing sight: “the bloody sun”–absolutely red in a brown sky. This gallery from ABC-TV shows vividly what has been happening around this state over the past days. The weather forecasts are not promising. While it is cool now, 40C is predicted for Saturday/Sunday; so just keep your fingers crossed. Even breathing can be difficult lately.

Lunch yesterday at the favourite coffee shop was really delightful, and I don’t think I have ever enjoyed watching cricket quite as much as I did after lunch.

30 December. Childish… but it was fun at the time.

For the past several years a colleague, Max J., and I have amused ourselves at work with a copy of Nuttall’s Dictionary of Quotations that happens to be in the staff room. A product of the early 20th century, Nuttall features hundreds (probably thousands) of quotations from the Greek and Latin, as well as other European languages–and English, of course. Max and I began “translating” some of them, combining in equal parts: some knowledge of Latin, French, German or Greek; sheer perversity in punning and word association; evil.

Here are some samples, from a very limited “collected edition” I made several Christmas Holidays ago:

1. Vitae philosophia dux, virtutis indagatrix.
The dux lived for philosophy, but found virtue in doggy tricks.
2. Qui non proficit, deficit.
He who does not make a profit will be shat on.
3. Nec vulta destrue dicta tuo.
Your penis is like the neck of a dead vulture.
4. Sardonicus risus
An erection is a touch comical.
5. Formosa facies muta commendatio est.
In Taiwan, silence at stool is highly prized.
6. Nullum est sine nomine sexum.
Nothing is sinful if it is done in the name of sex.
7. Sumo petit livor.
The Japanese wrestler is looking for a flatmate.
8. Est naturae hominum novitatis avida.
It is natural to show passion towards novices.
9. Fama crescit eunda.
Celebrity makes the nether parts longer.
10. Justitia virtutem regina.
The queen has the power to moisten nipples.
11. Forma bonum fragila est.
An ant’s erection is very delicate.
12. Non obstante veredicto.
Do not oppose a real dickhead.

Well, it was funny at the time… 😉 A couple of my regular readers will be amused at least, if only to see in what aberrant ways teachers may relieve their boredom and/or stress.


More seriously

This morning the sky is more smoky than it has been the past 24 hours. A dreadful day has been forecast, so we shall see. Meantime,this image captures well the sight that greeted me on Christmas Day, except that had the camera turned more to the south, that plume of smoke would have filled the whole frame.

NOTE: The Black Christmas bushfires were bushfires that burnt for almost three weeks from 24 December 2001 to 7 January 2002 across New South Wales, Australia. It was the longest continuous bushfire emergency in NSW history.