Sutherland and my brother in my dreams last night. He had a steak sandwich.

I do get vivid dreams at times — and yes, I dream in colour. Good sound too. Usually I don’t recall my dreams. Unless they happen just before I wake up, as was the case this morning.

My brother Ian, 3/10/1935 – 5/4/2017

The dream took place in Sutherland where we both grew up, but as with dreams had little respect for actual time, as it was partly in the present. For some reason we were shopping in Sutherland and the question of lunch arose. I proposed going to the Leagues Club (that’s in Wollongong and is one of five Collegians clubs around The Gong these days) — for a steak sandwich. The Leagues Club steak sandwiches are very good. In fact when Colin returned to Diggers after lunch on Friday he mentioned having a steak sandwich at Collies. Thus:

We eventually went to an eatery — my brother and I in the dream — in Sutherland but for some reason there was a salad shortage as it came with lettuce only. Weird detail, but this is a dream after all.

And I think what was somewhere in this mix was May 2014, when I actually did visit Sutherland — for our Uncle Neil’s funeral, and I had lunch at the Sutherland United Services Club. See Sutherland revisited — 1 and the following one below. My brother was not there that day, but I did ring him in Tasmania to tell him where I was.

So I had lunch at the Sutherland United Services Club in East Parade, pretty much just around the corner from Vermont Street where I lived 1952 – 1955 and again around 1963-64. Oddly, this was the first time I had been inside the club, though my brother Ian, born 1935 and now living in Tasmania, recently told me he used to drink there at one time with the late Reg Gasnier (1939-2014) of Rugby League fame. (I have been trying to work out when exactly this was…*)…

* Ian rang me while I was writing this post so I now have some idea – and a few other names well known in Rugby League in the 50s and early 60s were also mentioned.

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I made a point of ringing my brother to tell him where I was – his heart was very much with yesterday’s real mission. And of course I rested and read a while, and had a red wine – a concept my Uncle Neil would surely have endorsed, if not the particular wine which was a touch ordinary…

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So there you have it. I will leave analysis of all that to you. But I suggest age and memento mori are involved….

Reflections post-election, starting with Scomo’s tears

And I must start by thanking whatever gods that be for the FACT Australia has been witnessing a swift, smooth and PEACEFUL transfer of power. Not even the USA can boast that! Especially the USA since the Orange Sickness struck it!

I thank also our predecessors who have made for us from British roots and our own tradition an electoral system that deserves to be the envy of the world for its integrity and practicability.

I am going to do a different take on this.

I have annoyed some by not in the past going out of my way to demonise ScoMo. For example I have never spelled that with a U. Nor have I got overexcited about his religion.

Now it so happens that I have been in this church in Sutherland, or rather in the Assemblies of God church that preceded it. Ir was not called Horizon then and was much smaller and poorer, but the idea was the same. It was 1964 or 1965 I think, and I was still an Elder at Sutherland Presbyterian Church. Yes, another life. Fellow Elder and friend Robert Kennelly had been invited to preach there. He was aiming to become a Presbyterian minister, which eventually he did — but in the Presbyterian Reformed Church — which began in Sutherland just as I left the church.

From our point of view at the time the Pentecostals were more than a bit weird and theologically suss. But Bob accepted and I went along as moral support and to give him feedback on his sermon. Bob remains in my memory, along with Gwenda his wife, an esteeemed friend, as do Greg and Helen Fox who became key members of the PRC. Helen in fact later taught Latin at Sydney Girls High where I renewed acquaintance in the late 90s and early 2000s. A lovely and funny lady.

I was amused to discover where ScoMo’s church is. And it isn’t Hillsong by the way, though ScoMo’s connection with the Houstons was unwise.

Looking back at what I saw in the 60s and what I see in this story one thing does strike me. This church may be many things, some not so good, some no doubt fulfilling to its community. But I would call this a painfully naive kind of Christianity, and I suspect that is an issue with ScoMo. I also suspect, though he may not even be aware of it or would deny it vehemently, that aside from a certain emotional piety there is no great connection between the way he has acted as salesman and politician and anything profound in the religion. Heretical of me, but let me refer to another notably religious Prime Minister — Kevin Rudd. Again flawed (aren’t we all?) but his religion is far more sophisticated and intellectually and philosophically deeper than ScoMo’s.

OK, but to this story. Morrison’s behaviour here is well within what is normal in such a church as this, his emotions genuine — it must have been traumatic to come unstuck as much as he has in the 24 hours before this talk — and so I am not going to judge or criticise him. But it is also naive, Plucking Bible texts completely out of context because the wording seems to suit is common practice in many low church circles, not just in Pentecostalism. In my opinion it is a most undesirable way to use the Bible. As Cam Williamson, a wise Presbyterian minister at Sutherland in the 50s and early 60s used to say, a text without a context is a pretext.

But the truth is he looks and sounds like a broken man here. I am sure he will recover very quickly though.

And while ScoMo is many things, one rarely noted — and of course I may be completely wrong — is that he is, for 2022, incredibly naive and out of touch! Take his master work in his advertising days. Crass as!

Not that he was necessarily directly involved — though I suspect he would at least have approved them– the childish run of attack ads that characterised the Liberal Party campaign will go down in history as among the worst ever.

Amazingly irritating!

Idiotic and offensive

After the event the ABC’s great show Media Watch analysed the campaign’s media performances. The last minute or two introduce two of the most painfully idiotic takes you will ever see from — of course — the sheltered workshop called Sky After Dark.

Those final thoughts are the subject of some excellent analysis in yesterday’s Sydney Morning Herald.

The narrative according to a chorus of hardline Coalition MPs and columnists goes like this: the Morrison government positioned itself as “Labor-lite” – experimenting “with the poison of leftism”, according to South Australian Liberal Alex Antic – because it caved in on net-zero emissions, racked up budget deficits, abandoned “freedom” during the pandemic and shirked on fighting culture wars.

This shameless Marxist posture, say the critics, not only failed to placate voters in the Liberals’ traditional seats, those folks having long metamorphosed into Maoists and not for the turning, but alienated the party from “the Quiet Australians” and blue-collar battlers the party ought to regard as its real base.

In this construction, the battlers are less concerned about climate change than they are focused on cost-of-living pressures and whether their kids are being indoctrinated into radical doctrines at school. They seem curiously unconcerned about a minimum wage rise, however.

What really happened has been captured in some great cartoons, not least Cathy Wilcox:

AUSTRALIA HAS MOVED ON!

Albanese was sworn in, I slept in, FB supplied this post…

I, Anthony Norman Albanese do solemnly and sincerely affirm and declare that I will well and truly serve the Commonwealth of Australia, her land and her people in the office of prime minister.


I meanwhile just managed to wake up this morning in time to turn on the TV to see this! The night before — Election Night — I had slept very little, but perhaps the election outcome was the balm my spirits needed and last night I slept like a baby — well an edging towards 80-year-old baby!

Then this morning on Facebook the memory elves threw up a clutch of pics that provide today’s nostalgic post.

May 2018: While they finish recarpeting, City Diggers is serving lunch upstairs. And I — getting old, my friends!
My grandfather Roy Hampton Christison, my grandmother Ada (nee Hunter) and my Uncle Roy Hampton Christison Jr. Wartime street photo.
My maternal great-grandmother, Sophia Jane (or Jean) Christison (nee Lillie 1858-1952) — colourisation worked well on this one. She was in her 90s and decorated this cake. And yes, I remember her.
Brat Neil in March 1949 gatecrashing my sister and her friends — the house on Auburn Street Sutherland behind us, L-R Connie Phipps, Jeanette (her 9th birthday this was), Gail Macnamara (her front yard), Deirde Hawke, All Auburn Street kids.


A bit of a mystery about my own life solved perhaps, thanks to Facebook

Nothing too exciting or scandalous, but annoying as the key events are 70+ years in the past and no-one alive can tell me. So I am just going on memory.

It concerns my career through Sutherland Public School. It is a fact — and I am sure of this one — that I started school in 1949. It is also a fact that my last year at Sutherland Public School was 1954 when I was in the wonderful Eddie O’Neill’s 6A Class. 1955-1959 I was at Sydney Boys High, along with other classmates from 6A Sutherland: Ross Mackay, Laurie Napier, Arno Eglitis, Robert Burnie. (That makes five of us — could have sworn it was six! Memory loss?)

Eddie O’Neill — 6A teacher — this photo 1957

I have recounted much about this in these two posts: On IQ and reality TV on SBS, however well intended… (2018) and Various lockdown hacks and escapes — 26 — when your 6th Grade teacher’s son emails you… (2021). The latter includes this class photo:

Sutherland Public School (Boys) 3A 1951 — I am circled.

Just lately in the Historic Cronulla and Sutherland Shire Group on Facebook Joan Duncan posted a photo which I have cleaned up a little and tinted:

Sutherland Public School Kindergarten 1947

Now obviously I am not there as I began school two years later. But in the front row of the 3A 1951 photo 2nd from the left is Colin Dawson, who was a great mate and neighbour in Vermont Street Sutherland 1952-1955, after which I moved to Kirrawee. In the Kindergarten 1947 photo I swear that is Colin in the back row, 2nd from the right. And of course simple arithmetic makes you realise that K-6 the 6th Grade class of 1954 would have been in Kindergarten in 1947.

But I was not! Somehow I have skipped two years to catch up with them in 3A 1951. That is the mystery.

I did give a slightly garbled account of what happened in those two posts I referred to earlier.

How did you get there, Neil?

Now, says I modestly, I happen to know that according to my sixth grade teacher I had the highest IQ ever recorded at Sutherland Public School, at least to 1954. I know this because he employed that in arguing with my parents who were reluctant to allow me to go to Sydney Boys High, where I was one of six [?] in the class to earn a place. My parents were concerned that my general rattiness would make the long train and tram trip involved too great a risk. After all, I had already in 5th or 6th grade had my school bag knocked out of my hand while crossing the road by a car I had failed to notice.

Mr O’Neill, the sixth grade teacher, won the day and I went to SBHS for the next five years. I learned there that my Sutherland smarts were not all that smart after all.

Mr O’Neill, by the way, did a fantastic job on myself and other gifted students at Sutherland back in 1954. He gave us our heads! I recall us running through the school PA system a “radio station” for example, on a Friday afternoon I think. (It’s all a very long time ago.) I wrote a novel — highly derivative — and illustrated it.

I also quoted after that in the 2021 post a much earlier version:

World War II was after all less than ten years before; indeed I was enrolled at Sutherland in 1949. My father had been in the RAAF.

The thing about Mister O’Neill is that he had a class of fifty or so students, all in a portable class room that baked in summer. Hardly any of the boys had shoes. Cast-off bits of military uniform were fashionable; no such thing as a school uniform, or (I may add indelicately) underpants. There were a few quite talented kids in 6A; I was a bit up myself, I’m afraid, because even though I took every August off to have bronchitis, and also that year had mumps followed by orchitis (nasty) and pancreatitis, I still managed to top the class, despite my rather alarming (and continuing) innumeracy. He let us have our heads, really. We produced school newspapers, in which I wrote and illustrated serials that were rather like Biggles, and also devised crossword puzzles. Every Friday we “broadcast” our plays over the school’s PA system.

When I was selected to go to Sydney Boys High my parents were against it, mainly because of the travelling which, combined with my absent-mindedness that led to my once almost being run over at a pedestrian crossing, they felt would not suit me. I guess they were also worried about my health. My mother at that time, I might add, was invalided with a clot in the leg, so I was also cooking dinner every night, following instructions emanating from my mother’s bedroom. She used to say what I cooked for the dogs smelt more appetising than what I made for the family — chops and three veg usually. Can’t go too wrong with that. Well, Mister O’Neill I found one afternoon when I came in from playing with the Dawson boys down the road sitting by my Mum’s bed in earnest conversation. Result: I went to Sydney Boys High. Apparently I had the highest IQ ever recorded at Sutherland Primary to that point… That may not be saying too much, of course, and I certainly found myself a small fish in a big pond at SBHS the following year.

But hats off to Mr O’Neill. Not only was he just a fascinating teacher, but so dedicated. By his complexion I suspect he may have enjoyed the odd bevvie too… At a time when many schools, especially boys schools, were “houses of swinging bamboo”, I can’t recall seeing him actually cane anyone either. I remember him with gratitude. Mind you, I don’t think I ever have quite fulfilled that potential, and at going on 65 it may be a bit late…

In my 2021 post I wrote:

 I did 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th classes in three years. That does gel with the memory I am slightly hazy about, that I skipped a class, for whatever reason. I know my Maths never quite recovered.

The other thing is that you could say I was away almost as often as I was there. Every August I could guarantee most of the month off with bronchitis, and there were the illnesses I mentioned in the extract above from my post about Edgar O’Neill. In 1953 I had my appendix removed and missed quite a bit of school then. I posted about that, and it concerns also the boy second from the left in the front row of that 3A photo — pretty sure that is Colin Dawson.

And I remember my neighbours in Vermont Street, Sutherland, the Dawsons. Facebook puts me in touch with first the next generation, and then, miracle of miracles, with one of the three brothers I knew in the early 1950s.

Colin and Jimmy [Dawson] probably saved my life once when I had a bursting appendix at school in 1952 or 3 — complicated by the fact my sister had died of something similar in January 1952. They took care of me and carried me home one lunchtime when I am afraid the teachers were not taking much notice of my case. I was in such pain. I have never forgotten what they did. The next day I was in St George Hospital.

The youngest brother writes:

Hi I’m Graham Dawson, Jim & Col’s younger brother. They are both well & Jim lives here with me on The Sunshine Coast & Col lives in Bundaberg. I remember you from those times, I was just the little brother hanging around. Lol.

How wonderful is that, after all these years!

I gained quite a bit of my education at home in my room recovering from whatever illness but listening to all the schools broadcasts on the wireless — 2BL? — and other things there too, some wildly inappropriate to my age! There was also the ABC Children’s Session/Argonauts Club. And I read heaps. Comics not least — Captain Marvel, Superman, The Phantom…

Then there were the many many afternoons spent at my Grandpa Christison’s place in then Waratah Street West. The house is still there, and my Aunt Kay still lives there. 

Sorting the confusion.

I do recall a little about Infants School — a dreadful woman called Miss Wise for example, and the lovely Head of Infants Miss Bevan. I think too that my 2nd Grade teacher was a Miss Bamborough — can’t guarantee that spelling. I recall shocking them in Kindergarten by writing Sydney Morning Herald and the date on the blackboard when I was meant to do meaningless squiggles. And bringing some weighty volume about trains to school and reading bits out loud to Miss Bevan if I recall correctly. Recall also being terrible at craft in Kinder or Transition or somewhere and being bored and eating the raffia.

And I could tell the time from a clock too. My Grandfather Christison really taught me a lot even informally, before I ever went to school. I was certainly reading before I started school.

I think this is what happened, though it may have been a little different. I am fairly sure for example that I was not in Kindergarten for very long. My memory says that in 1949-50 Sutherland definitely had a class called Transition between Kindy and 1st Class but I have been so far unable to prove it.

I also was dared — after telling some classmates that my big brother Ian always called Miss Bevan “Old Ma Bevan” — by said classmates to walk up to her and say “G’day Old Ma Bevan!” And of course I did… A dare is a dare after all.

She called me to her office and I was more than a bit petrified. Reform School perhaps? But I think when I explained she may even have been a bit amused….

I think that is when they decided I should go straight to Grade 2, thus skipping up to the level of the eventual Class of 1954 who had started in 1947. I think that is what happened… And the class photos kind of prove it.

And my Maths never did recover.

Update

Not sure why, but Joan’s post to the group seems to have vanished. Or maybe not, the Admin of the group just informed me. So he “liked” my additions and now all is restored it seems. FB does such weird things — the post was probably never “lost” at all!

And there is still a mystery I am yet to explain. How did I (and I think a few others) not spend a whole year in 3rd Class but instead went to 4th Class? I know it happened….

The coming week it is ten years since Sutherland drew me back…

Today I draw on my mothballed photo blog for inspiration. It was a sad event that drew me back to Sutherland.

Sad news from The Shire

Posted on  by Neil

Just had a call from my cousin Russell.

My uncle Roy Christison has passed  away. The funeral is on Monday in Sutherland.

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On the day of the funeral, having time beforehand, I made my way to the house in Auburn Street which was my first home, and also up to the late 1940s the home of my grandfather and grandmother Christison and also of Uncle Roy. Now Facebook friend Louise D’Arcens lives there!

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L-R: Connie Phipps, my sister Jeanette (d.1952), Gail McNamara whose front yard this was, Deidre Hawke — and in front me. March 1949. The house you will recognise.
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L-R: John H Christison (whose sister Joan was at the funeral), Eric, John’s father, Sophia Jane Christison (my great-grandmother), Roy Christison Senior, and finally my brother Ian Whitfield. c. 1941.
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My brother Ian, me, my sister Jeanette — 1944.
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