A touch of nostalgia — photos I took in October 2008

These come from the photoblog that I started after my friend Sirdan gave me his old digital camera! They are thus from 13 years ago!

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Central Station, Eddy Avenue — SGHS students heading for the trains. Now there are tram lines here!
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Hay and Pitt Street pedestrian crossing
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Jacaranda, East Redfern
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Ward Park, Surry Hills
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A Surry Hills lane
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Moore Park, Sydney Boys High on a cold spring day
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The English staff room, Sydney Boys High. The desk next to this sink was mine at one time!

Various lockdown hacks and escapes — 75 — music and memories

In June I posted on hearing of the passing of a lovely talented woman The Albury Piano Bar — my second lounge at one time… Sylvana Bonnaci.

I knew her best from the Albury Piano Bar, but she sang at many other venues including Paddington’s Unicorn Hotel, another place I used to frequent in the late 80s and early 90s, and also the White Horse in Surry Hills. Not to mention her career on cruise ships.

At The Unicorn — 1990

Imagine my joy to discover a whole treasury of Sylvana on YouTube thanks to someone called dajen123. Here are just three. I went into a total time warp listening to all of them!

The Julian Lennon song “Salt Water”.

We are a rock revolving
Around a golden sun
We are a billion children
Rolled into one
So when I hear about
The hole in the sky
Saltwater wells in my eyes

We climb the highest mountain
We’ll make the desert bloom
We’re so ingenious
We can walk on the moon
But when I hear of how
The forests have died
Saltwater wells in my eyes

That one captures the feeling of the Piano Bar beautifully.
Oh yes!

And here is a whole show! This time at the Midnight Shift, also now just a memory… But what memories!

Clearly post-2000, probably post 2010. But what a voice, what a show!

So thanks, dajen 123, whoever you are! I suspect we must have crossed paths…

Various lockdown hacks and escapes — 69 — revisiting old haunts October 2011

The third and last from ten years back — a train trip to Sydney and Surry Hills, Oxford Street and old friends.

Train sequences — people watching to pass the time


Crown Street Surry Hills:


On Oxford Street:

Ray outside the Midnight Shift
Sirdan and Ray, Midnight Shift

Various lockdown hacks and escapes — 57 — wandering (and wondering!) in 2001 still

So yesterday’s post led to my visiting the rest of 2001 — November and December. I am just going to cherry-pick bits to republish here. I do notice that I made a determined effort to give up my 50-a-day smoking habit! At the end of December I boasted “Oh yes: one month and four days without smoking!” Sadly I crashed soon after, only finally giving up in March 2011 in the cardiac ward at Wollongong Hospital! Yes, that worked!

One December entry relates very much to smoking, and to my brother Ian — who passed away in 2017.

My brother Ian (1935-2017) and my sister Jeanette (1940-1952) — Auburn Street Sutherland around 1944

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

Back to November

November 18: Wettish Sunday..but yesterday was fine

Now when you are reduced to talking about the weather…

But it was quite lovely yesterday, although I spent a bit of it working. At lunch I ran into a colleague, M.S., who was attending a Teachers’ Federation Council Meeting. After work (coaching in Chinatown) at the Midnight Shift (a venue I am not normally all that fond of) I saw Clive and a few others, and had a very interesting conversation with someone I had seen around for ages but rarely talked to. It concerned family dynamics among other things. It is nice when people talk about their lives with honesty and seriousness.

The warm weather brought out some pleasing sights for such as I. Out in the suburbs they were washing their cars and going swimming, I am told, and I am sure that would be just as pleasing.

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November 19: Life changes for some…and another web page

You may recall my nephew, Warren, who is an “exhibit” at the State Library of NSW as part of the Flinders Exhibition; he is there in virtual form as a lineal descendent of the family of Bungaree, the Guringai Aborigine who sailed with Flinders in his voyages of exploration about 200 years ago. I had a call from Warren at the weekend.

He has moved, with his partner, down to the Sydney region from Queensland and is now living on Guringai traditional land, as his mother’s family has continuously since settlement. Since it is Warren’s historical research that demonstrated the continuity of the descendents of the Guringai in that area, he is about to play a rather significant political role. There is a chance you may read about him in next weekend’s Australian. You can certainly see a lot of him now in the Cadigal Room at the Museum of Sydney.

I wonder if he would like yum cha.

Father John rang also with the sad but not unexpected news that his 98 years old mother recently died. I met her years ago when she was holidaying from Bellingen, where she lived until recently, and a very feisty old lady she was. She rather enjoyed the Albury!

On this diary a little while ago I celebrated the twentieth anniversary of Neos, a magazine for young writers with which I was associated. I have now put the poems, with a few more details, on my Angelfire site*. I think I am getting better at design 😉 What do you think?

*Later transferred to WordPress.

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 decison 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 🙂

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

It is Day 21 and the cravings still come, but apparently that is normal. The body/mind has learned addiction and does not easily unlearn it. So one just insists: “Hey, I am a non-smoker!” and the cravings eventually pass.

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.

For fun, on the other hand, try Bad English. Just look 😉

20 December. Christmas thoughts…of a naked Ninglun

Yes, it is very warm in Sydney tonight and you should be glad I don’t have web cam. Looking at myself I can have few illusions about being no longer young, despite rather nice remarks today from some female colleagues, who expressed amazement at the concept that I turn 59 next year (God willing, of course.) I told them it must be my healthy lifestyle 😉

It is that time of year, school having ended, Christmas and New Year, just around the corner; a time to take stock. So I am naked in another sense, trying here to be unpretentious and honest with myself and my readers, some of whom I know and are dear to me, others of whom are total strangers. I so love the web diary–it has helped me so many times since I started, simply in the fact that I can say and do things here in total privacy and yet I am sharing it with the world. It is quite amazing, as happens from time to time, when someone suddenly pops up from, say, Denmark or Texas, and tells me: “Thanks for that” or “Yes, I love what you said…”

A year ago I made a list which is now on on my Home Page of ten beautiful things in life. I still stand by that. But this year I will put in ascending order the year’s six greatest blessings, bearing in mind what a horrible year it has been in some ways. This is a very personal list, and are the things I thank God/fate/circumstance for in 2001.

6. Some good things professionally, targets achieved in some areas at least, and students whose difficulties I have been able to make easier.

5. The blessing of reading and our local library.

4. Being able at my age to still think new thoughts and learn new things, and to take an imprudent decision when I knew it was what I had to do.

3. My friends at yum cha and around the pubs/coffee shops for their fellowship and confirmation of one’s worth and existence.

2. Becoming a non-smoker at last.

1. Finding one is loveable after all, and seeing another find that too about themselves.

Yes, I know the grammar is not quite right in number 1, but the thought is wonderful 🙂

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.

I savoured it in rare indulgence for the next decade!

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.

Various lockdown hacks and escapes — 53 — more from 20 years ago

The previous post — which includes the relevant links to the Wayback Machine — extracted from my otherwise vanished blog posts for September and October 2001 items relevant to what we are all remembering at the moment. But there were other items too, some actually quite embarrassing, some fun to look back on. So I thought I would share a few more. So….

Back to 2001!

02 Sep 2001

Spring again and another Yum Cha

Although it is Spring and Father’s Day, it was a bit cool and windy today. A good Yum Cha took place at the East Ocean Restaurant with the Empress (of course), Malcolm, Sirdan, James, PK (with whom I have had some good talks recently), Bob (a rare visitor — not Shanghai Bob!) and myself. It is interesting as this diary has been faithfully kept for the best part of eighteen months to look back at Yum Chas past: last September for example Sydney was gearing up for the Olympics and was just getting into the mood; we had a couple of Olympic visitors at that Yum Cha.


Twenty years ago this month myself, Rob (rest his soul), John Hawke and a couple of others began the young writers’ magazine Neos. (Simon H. was there in the background too.) The magazine went on until 1985, attracting a pretty fair reputation, including one Literature Board Grant and Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Award for services to youth. My mother was particularly proud of that. Funnily, it was also a time when my own life was at a low ebb, but I survived.

It was towards the end of that time that I “came out” at last, and also began my current principal means of employment.

One year ago this week (September 8), I notice I received a small but significant gift, something I always keep in my wallet and treasure. A rather cryptic note in last year’s September Diary marks the occasion. Since then has not disappointed.

09 Sep 2001

Learning from web diaries…and other matters

On my Diary Key page you will find links to three other web diaries. Each of them is there because it is well written, strikes me as honest, and gives me insight on a regular basis. To take two of them. “Lodestar” is a seventeen-year-old American who has just started college and is very articulate about his own journey of self-discovery, sex and intimacy. He is clearly intelligent and at times emotionally fragile; he has already had problems with depression, which I am sure he will ovecome. I read him with pleasure, not as a voyeur, but as a distant, empathetic witness. “Queer Scribbles” (or “Queerscribe”) is an older gay man, though younger than I. He is far more sexually active than I have ever been, but his journal shows him as very self-aware and again strikes me as authentic. His insights are often valuable. If you check his archive you will see what could at first seem tacky, a page where he rates the people he has had sex/relationships with. (Not something I would do–anyway it would be a short page compared with his!) Nonetheless what he says is actually rather interesting and he does seem to me a person I would not mind knowing. I should add that I have told all three diarists that I have linked to them.

Queer Scribe raises the question then (or I imagine he could): OK, yesterday you had all that to say about degrees of intimacy. What about sex? What about just “getting your rocks off”? The short answer is that may or may not be part of a full intimate relationship/friendship. What is true is that sex is never the foundation of an intimate relationship. If a relationship is based on sex alone it will surely fail. Well–in my view that is. Recreational sex between two (or more?) people is necessary for some, it seems, and may happen with a degree of intimacy that never gets past Stage 1! There may be no harm in that if that is all either person wants…and so long as that basic considerations such as safety and mutual respect are in place. (Rape and any other form of exploitation are beyond the pale.)

Never confuse such recreational sex with intimacy, however. It would also appear that seeking relationship–true relationship–through sex could be a disappointing path to take.

You know something? I never knew real intimacy with another human being until I was past 40! A slow learner, me; but there are many paths, and mine has been mine: I know something now of happiness, and the friendship that in a way has inspired these ruminations is one that has brought and brings a large measure of that. I managed to survive all those years without real intimacy, just! It did leave its mark though, but also taught me a lot. Those younger people who have wasted less time than I did, don’t rush to find all your fulfilment in one place or with one person only. You need your experience to be enriched, not narrowed; and yet it is true that the higher levels of intimacy happen rarely and with only a few people. But it is not good for a young person to be tied down too much.

So much could be said: I rather like Stephanie Dowrick’s Intimacy and Solitude (1991; Random House pb 1997). And despite the fact that I am now utterly convinced (and this from a one-time Evangelical Christian) that all sacred texts are of human origin and one of the world’s most dangerous delusions is the belief in inerrant verbal revelations from the Divine, I still cherish First Corinthians 13 in the New Testament as a landmark statement about love.

11 Sep 2001

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

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

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

Explore alternatives. Smart little dinner parties work out a lot cheaper than a night out on the bars, and have the advantage that you can still hear the next morning.

If you can’t cook, learn; I never eat fast food–eating at home is cheaper and more nutritious than fat-laden Maccas etc.

Do not give up working unless you are forced to do so. Possibly the worst thing you can do is go on the Disability Pension, and then sit around in poverty, brooding about your situation. This causes stress, and all the indications are that stress hastens the progress of the disease. Never even think, ‘I have AIDS!” You do not!! You are HIV+.

Coming out as positive is as hard as your original coming out. You will find some people drop you, and others are wonderfully supportive. Choose who you come out to with care; you do not want the news to be all over the scene within five minutes.

Personally, I am totally out. If I meet a new person, and the conversation looks like leading past the bar or club, I disclose. It is easier than getting into bed and saying “by the way, I am positive” then watching them run. Give them the choice of backing out gracefully in the venue; the damage to your self-esteem is far less.

Find other HIV people. It is easy to do, about half of my friends are positive, the rest negative; all are friends.

Never “Out” someone as positive. They might not be as open about their status as you are. Remember, they have trusted you with the knowledge of their status. Do not spread that knowledge around.

Always try to set long-term goals, and meet them. My present long-term goal is to be at Gallipoli for Anzac Day, 2015. My doctor, who thinks I am crazy, says he will be there with me. Start with targets a year or so away and increase the length of time.

Ian Smith passed away at Bundanoon in December 2010.

19 Sep 2001

Free dinner…and some ex-students

I decided to take a break from world affairs (though they still oppress me). Instead, let me tell you that last night there was the Annual Debating Dinner at Moore Park Golf Club, and quite pleasant it was. I learned that in his youth (in the 60s) the Principal had travelled through Kashmir and Afghanistan! It was at the time of the Sino-Indian Border Dispute, which must have been exciting. Was it the Hippy Trail???

Oscar M**** was the distinguished ex-student guest speaker–somewhat amusing: but then so was he, with an interesting tale about the perils of sharing the Honeymoon Suite in a Singapore Hotel with a fellow debater… Sorry, nothing really interesting happened.

I may indeed not be doing Debating next year; it is getting too much for this old Ninglun.

Today I met two of the class of 1995 in Cafe Niki: CR and C: C always looked gay but turned out to be straight; CR was a highly (sorry–is) talented writer, and apparently came out in Year 12–but I didn’t notice. He’s quite cute too. Learned many interesting things about the class of 95.

24 Sep 2001

Holidays coming…but a lot to do

The school term ends this week, and I gather it is mid-semester break at some universities. Year 12 has its farewell assembly on Tuesday; it seems such a short time since the equivalent last year, which was of course a few weeks earlier due to the Olympics. The Olympics! We have had that glorious weather again lately, but such a different feeling this year–but I told myself not to talk about the war today!

The UTS research project at our school climaxes this week, and it will be a full-on day with all the involved students being interviewed on video, with UTS providing a barbecue for them as well. It has been an interesting thing to be involved in. I will need my relaxation time at Cafe Max this afternoon though, even if the company may not be what it has been the last weeks. Mondays at Max has become a bit of an institution and has been for me one of the happiest things about the past month or so. The proprietor turns out to be a most interesting person too.

I have the place to myself for the week, and there is much cleaning up overdue; circumstances such as mismatched working hours and sleeping times for my flatmate and I have made household tasks a little harder to do lately, but now I can make up for it. There is some business to attend to as well.

I saw the Empress and Malcolm yesterday evening–and I do commend the Empress’s guest item on this diary (September 11) if you have not read it yet. Regular readers will be amused to hear how effective the Empress’s curse seems to have been, as the Flinders Hotel ceased trading last Friday, apparently!

Well, people, may this be a week of rest, restoration, reconciliation, love, friendship, healing…all those good things. I think we all need it.

25 Sep 2001

Year 12 Farewell and…twelve months on

In the entry for 24 September I mentioned the UTS research project was coming to a climax, and that yesterday would be a busy day. It was. However, it went well, and a high point was a lunchtime barbecue for the 7F class who were the subjects of the research, food provided by UTS. I also received a nice card and a mug for my efforts.

I did go to Cafe Max afterwards, where I had a good talk with an old teaching colleague, another gay man, Greg. That made the day end rather well.

Today was the Year 12 Assembly. They (at their own choice) changed a few traditions, making the Assembly more dignified but not stuffy. They had also foregone the traditional “muck-up” in favour of fundraising for the Children’s Cancer Research Council by stopping cars on Anzac Parade to collect money. They expected maybe $500 but collected $4500! Finally, they did away with the luncheon (a bit tedious last year?) and had an afternoon garden party in the courtyard of the school for staff, students and parents–a good idea, and the storm held off just long enough.

I could not help remembering how I spent last year’s Farewell Assembly sitting on a log….

The same rite of passage, same school, different year!

I’ll save October for later….