Various lockdown hacks and escapes — 13 — what can I say?

Changed the masthead on Facebook this morning.

Gladys will be announcing the details at 11am. Will The Gong still be under lockdown, or separated from Greater Sydney? I think yes to the first, no to the second… UPDATE: Which turned out to be spot on!

Meanwhile on Facebook recently…

If indeed The Gong is also under a further 4 weeks of lockdown, then, given there are 25 rounds, it is fair to say the Collegians/Illawarra Leagues Tipping Comp is cactus…

And something completely different, and beautiful — as memories, but also present comfort. I happened on this from 2016, having been unaware until now that it had happened. But first just one past blog entry among many I might have chosen:

Trinity Sunday in South Sydney Uniting Church — 3 June 2007

Dorothy McRae-McMahon’s blessing for Malcolm came back home today and sat on the communion table throughout the service. Dorothy had, as you may remember, visited Malcolm on a number of occasions and the visits and the blessing were much appreciated. Today his own life summary was read at the start of the service. While Malcolm was not himself especially religious, he knew of and welcomed the interest from the people of South Sydney, which also had its practical side. For example, the South Sydney Herald, the church paper, stood ready to go into bat if necessary when Housing were being problematic, though that did not have to come to pass thanks to this blog, Clover Moore, and Jim Belshaw and, of course, others in the NSW Housing Department.

Malcolm enjoyed Dorothy’s profile of Bob Gould in the May 2007 edition too.

I was given a card and a plant today, which I very much appreciate. It has helped to have the church folk behind me in the past year.

I added: Privileged to have known Dorothy! See the comment for just one instance, but a powerful one, from 2007. It is very likely one of the most beautiful things you will ever read, and full of the spirit of Dorothy. See this item from the 21 July 2021 Launceston Examiner. This is what I referenced in the comment section, the service Dorothy wrote and conducted for Malcolm’s Memorial Service at St Vincent’s Hospital 29 June 2007. An extract, showing the spirit of both:

Dorothy McRae-McMahon

I only met Malcolm Gleeson three times in the days towards the end of his life. It says something about him that those three visits are ones which I will never forget. It was not that we talked much, although we did have some conversation on living and dying and how I perceived that.

There was something about this man which told me that I was in the presence of a special human being. I can’t even describe what it was. I loved his beautiful face and told him that – even when it had lost its normal fullness which I saw later in an early photograph, it was still beautiful. I like his quirky sense of humour and his directness – an extraordinary mixture of unusual strength and yet vulnerability.

As I tried to get some insight into what had formed his life, I could see that to soar into the skies or spread your life across the oceans was part of him. Still I puzzled about sensing something much more in this person – an indefinable depth of being.

Last Sunday, his friend Neil gave me a loan of a little notebook in which there were a few pages of quotations which were precious to Malcolm. He had written them in tiny handwriting, some of them in other languages. He noted that the black pen quotes were about love “following Williams’ precedent”.

There were quotes from Dante, Hegel, Kant, Karl Marx, Kierkegaard, Wordsworth, Nietzsche, Foucault, Freud and others whom I didn’t even recognise. Many of the quotes were so profound that it took me some time to reflect on what they might mean. I have photocopied them all so that I can go more deeply into them with my philosopher daughter.

A couple I liked and understood were both by Kierkegaard:

“At first sight, I perceived that he was a poet – if for no other reason I saw it in the fact that a situation that would have been taken easily in stride by a lesser mortal expanded into a world event for him”

“I know that what I have hitherto understood is very little, so there will always be enough left behind, hiding in the shadows of the soul’s vaguer intimations”

His last entry was by John Barth:

“Things must be wept for.”

Yes, they must, Malcolm and we weep for you.

The quotes which I read helped me to understand the instinct which I had about Malcolm – that the fragile body I saw before me was holding a deep and complex person. It also explains why I immediately wanted to write a blessing for him, which he framed and kept beside him.

Taken 29 April 2007 in Sacred Heart Hospice Darlinghurst: Malcolm, Neil W, Danny Nel.

As beautiful now as it was at the time — and let it be noted that Malcolm was taken by the late stage of another pandemic, one that motivates the pronouncements on the present one by one of the heroes of that struggle, Bill Bowtell.

But back to Dorothy: I commented further:

Dorothy! And South Sydney Uniting Church… Such a positive, amazing person, and so humble in the right way. What you see is what you get with Dorothy. I knew her late partner too, though not as well. She was a photographer, and once accompanied me on one of my junior reporter gigs for the South Sydney Herald.

Now a recent example of fandom, innocent of course. I do find myself rather attracted by the talents of that young pianist I introduced you to the day before yesterday. Now why should that be? Let is look into it further:

I like the informality, don’t you? It turns out he is possibly the great-great-grandson of Franz Liszt! I think great-great-great grandson is more likely.

I commented: I do like a grand piano — and someone who looks — sorry! — plays like this!

Various lockdown hacks and escapes — 6 — share the blessings

Don’t worry — this won’t be religious, exactly…

On FaceBook (yes, I find it a good place during lockdown) a friend I made at South Sydney Uniting Church back in the day posted about her grandchild’s birthday.

I’ve become a regular Sunday morning Zoom host for South Sydney Uniting Church , a task that teaches me humility as I have no, natural technical capacity. Each month we celebrate birthdays. Thank you so much Naomi Ward for including Billie in our July celebrations!

Julie Elizabeth McCrossin

Posted with this picture from the Church:

I of course noticed the bottom left-hand corner — and yes, that’s me! Naomi Ward, who does the birthdays, responded when I thanked her: “Absolutely we still see you as part of our church. I hope you had a good birthday.”

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In South Sydney Uniting Churcha while ago. I see Pat Corowa sitting under the middle window. The link leads to her portrait: salt-water Murroona and South Sea Islander, Patricia Corowa, a long time activist and a seminal figure in the Australian Black Pantherpan-African and pan-Pacific Islander movements of the  1960s and 1970s. The people one met in church!

For the past seven months my dear niece Christine Parkes has been in hospital, engaged in a major health battle. There isn’t much I can do about it, so each day on her Facebook I post a song for her. Occasionally two. A few days ago it was this wonderful discovery:

Billy Bragg’s latest.

Today it was a Wollongong memory — both of my return here in 2010 and Wollongong High in 1979-1980.

Something different today, Christine Parkes! Stewart Holt was the first of my ex-Wollongong High students I made contact with when I came back to Wollongong in 2010. We met at City Diggers, several times in the first few years. Through him I went to the Class of 1983’s 30th Reunion at Collegians. A great night. He is a criminal lawyer and proud dad these days, with a wife who is a teacher. Something of a singer-songwriter as well, and not half bad. And as you can see a FB friend.

With Stewart Holt at the 30th Reunion of Wollongong High’s Class of 1983

In fact this, which is both serious and funny, was the second one I shared with Christine today. It is very clever, very funny, and a calculated anticlimax stretching the wordplay in the final verse:

I noted on that one:

I encouraged Stewart to write when I was his Year 9 (3rd Year) English teacher at Wollongong High. He had a way with words even then. The following is from “The Gleam” 1980, the WHS magazine. I later also published it in the first Neos: Young Writers magazine in 1981, after I had moved to Glebe. When we talked at Diggers Stewart told me how thrilled he had been to have his poem recognised.

June 2006 really surprises me — 1

Believe it or not I do not spend all my days combing my archives, but with the new month I first checked that I did have a June 2006 archive and then, having found it, surprised myself! So this is the first of up to 3 reposts! I may add in some pics…

Pentecost Sunday at South Sydney

Good service today at South Sydney Uniting Church. Dorothy McRae-McMahon gave the sermon or “reflection”. I had been asked to do a poem, so I read from T S Eliot’s “Little Gidding”:

With the drawing of this Love and the voice of this Calling

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always–
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.

It went over well.

More on yesterday: what do you do when…

…someone says “fuck” in church?

Yes, it did happen some weeks ago during a service at South Sydney Uniting Church. There is a space in most services where people can give voice to concerns, or sometimes even vent, and being where we are (Redfern and Waterloo) there are times when real life impinges on our worship. In fact, I think generally speaking we hope that is the case. And a little while ago someone vented, if I remember rightly, about “fucking politicians.” I remember thinking, “You’re angry, aren’t you” — and in this case rightly so. I seem to remember it had something to do with the ongoing saga of The Block. There were those in church that day who were offended, as you may well imagine.

The colourful norrie responded by shortly afterwards wearing an “Unfuck The World” T-shirt to church, a sentiment (however expressed) that Christians can hardly object to.

Kind of related, see this rather wonderful article by Laurel Snyder [Wayback Machine] on Killing the Buddha — a reference to a famous Zen saying, of course, which is not meant to be taken literally: “If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him”. I think that is about excessive certainty and dogmatism.

Dorothy’s sermon yesterday was a subtle and very gentle response to the whole episode: a plea to hear the message in our own tongues, referring to Pentecost, and to lay our lives and our languages side by side in loving acceptance, while acknowledging that this is not the same as “anything goes”. However, feeling free to express what really matters, however it may come out, is more the business of the church than putting on our Sunday faces and limiting ourselves to mere pleasantries. The sermon was well done, much better than this report of it.

Afterwards I had lunch at Sirdan’s with Lord Malcolm and Sirdan. We consumed Lord Malcolm’s birthday French wine, and it was indeed good. Lord Malcolm was also pleased to watch the Sydney Swans win in a game that for a considerable time was going against them.

We also saw an excellent Message Stick on Lillian Crombie, an Aboriginal entertainer Lord Malcolm refers to as his “auntie”, because at one low point in his life she offered him just the right word.

Lillian Crombie See also this podcast.

And speaking both of TV and church, do watch The New Inventors on ABC this Wednesday at 8, as you will see Sam, one of our South Sydney Uniting Church regulars.

Ouyang Yu, The Eastern Slope Chronicle

This time last year Ouyang Yu came to The Mine [Sydney Boys High] to speak to Year 11, so I spent the best part of a day with him. I had been warned that he could be “difficult”, but such was not my experience. This Wayback Machine capture of my Tripod English and ESL site takes you to all I wrote before and after that day about that visit.

Ouyang is a controversial figure within Australian literature, sometimes characterised as ‘the angry Chinese poet.’ His work captures the frustrations (personal, social, professional and sexual) of the migrant experience and hits out at the indifference and hostility with which Australia has greeted recent waves of Asian immigration. He writes with insight about the dilemmas of transnational artists and intellectuals caught between different literary, cultural and linguistic traditions. His raw, uncompromising style (according to one critic, the ‘deliberate unloveliness’ of his language) challenges literary as well as social establishments at the same time as it engages in courageous acts of introspection and self-criticism. Ouyang typifies the new generation of post-colonial writers and intellectuals who can write with detachment about the forces of globalisation and their impact on East-West relations and at the same time acknowledge their complex and often painful impact on their own life and work.


That is on Ouyang’s site.

I pointed out when I mentioned The Eastern Slope Chronicle on June 1 (in the additional comment) that the novel was rejected 29 times before Brandl & Schlesinger finally published it. I can see why publishers would be nonplussed with this very postmodern work where the style quite deliberately, I believe, retains quite a bit of “uncorrected” Chinglish; that this fluctuates convinces me it is deliberate.

The novel is eminently quotable. The first example may justify my referring to him as a kind of Chinese Mister Rabbit, as, like The Rabbit, he says what he sees no matter whose PC sensibilities might be offended.

Contrary to popular Chinese perception that Australians are stupid, I would think they are pretty smart for average Chinese, with their hands because they are good at fixing things, mowing the lawn, gardening, and renovating their houses, better than the average Chinese in these things…

Australians like to make promises but do not seem to like to carry them out. The end result is often exasperating…

And:

His supervisor, Professor Sean Dredge, was a historian who knew little about the Chinese and what they thought. The only reason he accepted Wu was because he thought Wu would be useful to him as he was researching for a book he was going to write on the recent Chinese experience in Australia, particularly after the June 4th, 1989… In a climate where all things Asian were good, the Chinese were quite a commodity to market. As a historian, and one with a business mind, Sean was quick to seize the opportunity…

And:

The comments I got were not favourable. They went something like: this was not appropriate for an essay. More respect should be due. But ever since I hated the idea of a reader that I am supposed to respect. Each time when I write I want to say this to my readers: fuck you! and get away! I can’t be bothered with you making judgments as if you were a god or something. If I do that I reduce myself to the same level as the owner of a McDonald shop whose only concern is get more customers, thus bringing in more income.

Don’t say you haven’t been warned; but I strongly recommend this bracing experience to you. It is indeed a very clever book.

“My home is where my heart find peace,” Su Dongpo [= “Eastern Slope Su”] once said… To me this doesn’t seem to apply for wherever I go my heart just doesn’t seem to find peace, whether it is Australia or in China or anywhere else in the world. Once there was a home for it and it was called China. Now that I returned home, curiously, it was no longer there.

Ouyang Yu is now a Facebook friend.

Ouyang Yu 2021

Stuart Macintyre and Anna Clark, The History Wars

I recommend this book without reservation. It is absolutely vital for anyone who cares about integrity in the writing and teaching of history. Its account of the nature of history and of Australian historiography rings true to my forty years in the field of history teaching.

Indeed, my deposit of memory goes back to the time of Federation, in that my grandfather before me was a teacher and passionately interested in Australian history and shared this with me. I have seen and read many of the histories of Australia used in schools all the way back to the beginning of the twentieth century, and I have seen and read many of the classroom readers going back to the 1880s. I also have a good working knowledge of the tradition of Australian literature. What Macintyre says on all this is absolutely accurate.

I deplore in the most serious way the interventions of John Howard in this area, as the man is not only ignorant but as ideological as any Marxist ever has been, except he of course does it on behalf of his own bowdlerisation of Australia’s past. I deplore the shrill apparatchiks who hog the media on the subject — from whom I would in fact except, at his best, Geoffrey Blainey, who really is a historian, whether or not one agrees with all he says.

I have never been a Marxist, and I have never espoused radicalism in historiography, though I certainly have learned from a whole range of historians. My training was at Sydney University when Stephen Roberts, the second Professor of History at that place, was still alive and well, if Vice-chancellor. I even learned my British history in the same class as, indeed sitting next to, Philip Ruddock!

So as one who is actually quite conservative in my history in very many ways, I again endorse absolutely Stuart Macintyre’s History Wars. Read it to see how bad are the times we live in, intellectually speaking. No joke at all; in fact I see it as a tragedy, given the progress we were making in understanding our shared past.

See also Wikipedia.

My maternal grandmother, the wife of the teacher I mention above, once stopped my grandfather in his tracks when he was about to reveal some juicy family history I now know about: “Some things,” she said, “should not be talked about.”

This seems to have been true of the Howard family, if one is to believe David Marr’s story in the HeraldThe secret Howard plantations.

THE corner of Ewart Street and Wardell Road in Sydney’s Dulwich Hill is sacred ground for John Howard and the modern Liberal Party. For nearly 30 years, the Prime Minister’s father ran a service station on this spot, setting an example his son thinks Australia should follow.

“I was brought up to believe that about the best thing you could ever do in your life,” he said soon after taking office in 1996, “was to start up a business with nothing, work your insides out, hope you earned a bit of money, and pass on a bit of it to your kids.”

His mother’s church and his father’s service station have come to stand as markers of respectability, honesty and the Howard family’s deep roots in the suburban heart of the nation. To be the son of a service station proprietor allows John Howard to claim as a qualification for high office that he was and remains an ordinary Australian.

But Howard’s father had another life. While this old soldier worked his humble Sydney service station, he was also – on paper – a New Guinea planter with a string of estates where 200 native labourers grew copra in his name. Lyall Howard had cashed in his status as a returned digger to “dummy” for the trading house W. R. Carpenter and Company Ltd. His own father, Walter, was doing it, too. The Howard case provoked secret, official investigations at the highest levels in Canberra, but they and their powerful backer got away with the scam…

Could it be that John Howard’s whole approach to history, its selectivity, its discomfort with the past, can be traced back to this particular piece of myth-making and attendant concealment? Speculation I know, but I have always felt something very strange is driving this man…

Is that funny little man still following us?

In June 2011 — reflecting on mutability

Yes, a whole decade! Sometimes I can’t believe it! And I have decided to launch this one tonight instead of tomorrow morning…

Lovely day but tinged with sadness

Posted on  by Neil

Today is Trevor Davies’s funeral in Sydney. I didn’t make it, but my thoughts are there. [Trevor was a pillar both of South Sydney Uniting Church and the Labor Party. He was also the begetter and inspirer of the South Sydney Herald.]

I went down to the library, and then to Wollongong City Gallery.

That – linked – is the work of Ian Whittaker. I was impressed.

Also saw Just Imagine 2011 , Agnieszka Golda & Martin Johnson and Maree Faulkner.  Ended up having some good conversation too. Very glad I went.

Then to The Diggers Club. I am growing very fond of this place.

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The kid waiter was ‘in training” – his fourth day, he told me.

Diggers has changed since the Golf Club took it over — and not always for the better. I still go there but very rarely eat there nowadays.

Yesterday was an emotional day

Posted on  by Neil

Early train to arrive in Redfern by 9.30 am, then South Sydney Uniting Church. After that a nice time at the Trinity Bar in Surry Hills with Sirdan and B, followed by my first Oxford Street visit for ages – the Oxford and The Shift. Home by 6.30.

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Redfern Park 9.30 am

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South Sydney Uniting Church: Trevor Davies

‘Today is a day of mourning for us. Our brother and friend, Trevor, is not in his pew. Something’s not right. We feel it in our bodies and spirits. We feel the burden and the void because we have loved, and because we have experienced love. We feel the force of love. We have experienced a genuine, a divine love in our life together – the most humanising thing that can ever happen to us.

And so, in time, we will be all right. I say this with a keen awareness of grief, a personal, private and particular grief that to some extent wants to be alone and quiet. In time, we will be all right. We are being made fully human, and, as we have prayed, human destiny is eternally linked to the divine. Jesus says, “I am committing myself to you”.

Yesterday, I experienced a peace I hadn’t known since hearing of Trevor’s death. I started to believe (faith is always a beginning) that I/we will be all right. That God is love, and that love is inextinguishable. That humanity, that flesh-and-spirit human being, human loving … that Trevor Edward Davies participates in the inextinguishable love that is God, who is God … Language breaks down under the pressure of love – and yet continues to speak, to signify anew …

“And now, sisters and brothers, I must say goodbye. Mend your ways. Encourage one another. Live in harmony and peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the holy ones send greetings to you” (2 Corinthians 13:11-13)…”

Oh those Bunnies!

My footy tipping at Illawarra Leagues has not been spectacularly successful After the recently completed Round 7 I ranked 96 out of 136 tipsters. I might add that no-one tipped all the winners in Round 7! However, now we have Round 8 and I made a good start last night. So did the South Sydney Rabbitohs, aka The Bunnies, with their seventh win in a row!

Believe those tips at your own risk!

Back in 2013 The Bunnies had special help, but still did not win the Grand Final.

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But they did come good the following year! I was spotted at the bus stop in Mount Keira Road at the time.

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Ah, what a year that was!

Mind you, many a slip and so on this season — but it is looking good. Next Thursday they are up against the Melbourne Storm and that will prove interesting!

The background to that 2014 win and why it was significant is gone into in my 2014 post.

This is the climax of many a turbulent year since the last time the Bunnies made it – 1971. Roy Masters tells an interesting story. (I took the photo below in Cleveland Street’s “Little Lebanon” just up from The Prophet in July 2010.)

So yes, I lived in Bunnies territory for quite a while, and in the last five years to 2010 wrote a few pieces for the South Sydney Herald, even scoring a front page once!

The Paper (as we all called it) was the brainchild of the late Trevor Davies, a Labor true believer and a pillar of South Sydney Uniting Church, where I was a regular from 2005-2010. I have been back a few times, but not in recent days. There were and are some great people there.

On Facebook the other day I posted a memory I have stored on YouTube. Here is a different day from 2008 — you’ll see which one! Sorry it cuts short but I was just getting used to my camera and was not sure of its battery life!