Yes, believe it or not, I have been blogging for the whole decade! This is the third of a series.
Friday, December 13, 2002: …Brian, I am universally incompetent…
Gilchrist has just been caught Shah, bowled Irani, making Australia 1 for 101. And isn’t Saddam Hussein the English captain? It is all very confusing.
My mother was a great cricketer, apparently the best wicket keeper in her school, of which her father was the Principal– indeed, also the entire staff, except for my grandmother who taught sewing informally. Apparently though talent was not enough, so on those rare occasions when the school (Braefield) had to play someone else my mother did not score a berth. Wrong gender, you see.
I had the right gender but not the talent, or perhaps not the determination. I did bowl once in Primary School, with such risible consequences that I immediately wrote cricket off my list of things to do, though I seem to recall travelling around The Shire with the Sutherland Primary team, as mascot I think. I don’t recall ever actually being on the cricket field as such; indeed I think a great deal of time was spent with other mascots exploring the surroundings of whatever field — the Gunnamatta Bay foreshore in the case of Cronulla, or the nearby bushland in the case of Sutherland Oval.
At Sydney Boys High I avoided cricket completely. My sport in summer was Non Swimming, a brilliant sport that involved mostly sandcastle building. The trick was never, when tested, to swim twenty metres. Some Master Non Swimmers sustained this ability for their entire school careers; one was not allowed to play any other summer sport until one had swum the requisite distance. One such genius ended up as Head of English at a prestige Brisbane Anglican School. I, on the other hand, accidentally swam too far one day and was immediately promoted to Lifesaving, which also involved sandcastle building, but at a different beach. There was more though. I seem to remember almost drowning once, but I never did get my Bronze Medallion. Or play cricket.
Backyard cricket excepted, of course, but even that only in Primary School.
My mother retained a lifelong passion for the game, and watched it religiously well into her eighties; her father too was a fan, and so was at least one of my female cousins. None of the males seemed to have cared too much about it.
Now in my old age I am actually beginning to enjoy it. Mind you, I always could become interested if I actually sat down and watched it, but rarely did. M, on the other hand, never added cricket to his cross-cultural achievements. It is not particularly Chinese, though; I actually have met the odd Chinese cricketer. M could not understand what people saw in the game, though he could sit rapt watching tennis or soccer, and swimming and diving, it goes without saying, are spectator sports any redblooded gay man will watch, no matter what his background.
I blame Mitchell. For my straying into cricket lately, I mean.
Oh, I forgot to mention; I did have a stint as a cricket coach, at Cronulla High during my early years of teaching. This was almost as funny as my being a Rugby coach very briefly at Illawarra Grammar. Or teaching Woodwork for a month at Sydney Boys High — which I did! My highest school sporting achievement was teaching swimming at Illawarra Grammar, my students confident in my cousinship to an Olympic Gold Medallist. My second highest was befriending the most famous Sports Master ever known — Brian "Basher" Downes at Wollongong High School — who reacted rather well to my answer when he asked me what sport I would be involved in. "Brian, I am universally incompetent" was my reply; he seemed to like it and gave me girls’ badminton.
By the way, my current workplace is directly opposite the Sydney Cricket Ground. Oh, and Australia is now 2 for 161. I think that is about 90 short of the English total…
Saturday, December 14, 2002
Stephen Deken is the originator of Diary-X**, where my current diaries are created and where at least the past month (currently September on, as I have been lazy) of archives also live. I love Diary-X; it is so easy to use and is so human at every level. The people behind it have faces, if you know what I mean.
On his own Diary recently Steve had this advice for web diarists:
Don’t obsess over your hit count, how many people are linking to you, or what your layout looks like. It’s not that these things aren’t important, it’s just that your focus should be on the words you write instead of how much people like or dislike you. If you focus on the words, if you focus on capturing the emotion of your day in an entry, you will gather readers, even if you never once ask people to link to you, even if you have a prefab layout. Words first, readers later.
Diary-X is a place for journals, a place for diaries; it is not a place for weblogs. The distinction, which is unfortunately lost on a lot of people, is quite important. A journal, a diary, these are very personal things, they are intimate expressions of self; they are introspective, they examine what’s going on inside your head. A weblog is impersonal, it does not address the notion of self; it is extrospective, it examines the world outside. Diary-X is meant to house journals, it is meant to be introspective. (Traditionally, in the online world, a journal/diary has a single entry per page, while a weblog has multiple entries per page; this is one of the reasons diary-x only allows a single entry per page.)
There is no requirement to update on a daily basis, or even to follow any sort of regular pattern of updates at all (every other day, MWF, Tuesdays only, etc). If you can’t think of anything to write, if you don’t feel the need to write, you shouldn’t write. This is not to say that it’s a bad idea to bind yourself to a pattern, just that there is no need to do so. Regular updates will certainly build your traffic, but there is the danger that you will wind up writing for your audience instead of for yourself. Your journal is a personal thing and for the most part you should ignore your audience.
Journals on diary-x are public communications, and that needs to be taken into consideration when composing entries. It’s a matter of respect, it’s a matter of privacy, it’s a matter of etiquette. The people who are important to you are likely to show up as "characters" in your journal, and they may not approve of being spoken about. Some of them may feel that you are speaking about them behind their backs. While it is up to the individual to ascertain where the line gets drawn, you need to be aware that the things you say in your journal can have an impact on your relationships with other people, including your parents, siblings, significant others, and even your working life. Diary-X is not a substitute for a handwritten journal stored safely under your mattress, which are private communications.
I thought such good advice was worth heeding myself, and also worth passing on. Oh, and do visit Steve’s diary; it is worth it. And browse others in Diary-X from time to time.
Thursday, December 26, 2002
Yes, I am back.
Christmas certainly had its good points this year. One aspect has been getting in touch with various family members I have not seen much of for a variety of reasons the past few years, especially some older ones. I was just speaking for example to my Aunt Beth who, despite arthritis and a few other penalties of age, remains at close to 90 amazingly sharp. She commented briefly on what she had been reading in the Herald and was happy that there is a chance I might see her on Monday, even if it is cleaning day and the cleaners who do her place may prove noisy.
That I may be enabled to see her, and make a few other pilgrimages, is down to another of my Christmas highlights Here is a poem that I have loved since I first read it at sixteen; it has of course a theological import that I well understand, but seems to me to say much that is relevant to anyone experiencing uncertainty about their own worth or chance of happiness. Enjoy.
I also spoke to my brother in Tasmania, which was nice. And to M, which obviously was very welcome.
On Monday evening I went to the Norfolk Hotel with Simon H. An excellent conversation ensued, enlivened also by a mathematical colleague who is just back from the UK, Ireland and New York.
Christmas lunch at the Empress’s was excellent. For the record, it was a small affair: the Empress, Sirdan, Lord Malcolm, Paul D, myself, and towards the end, Grace. And a dog and cat. The food was fabulous. I contributed some Chinese chicken. (A nasty looking one with head still attached when I last saw it was the focus of another Christmas elsewhere but I am told it, and the accompanying salad, worked out well.) The Empress had done an amazing poached salmon in aspic, a hot dish, West Indian I think, and a three years old Christmas pudding that actually had shillings, sixpences and threepences in it. Sirdan made some olive bread, kind of Turkish style, which was just right with everything else.
This year was fairly cool. It did not rain in Sydney, or not much, but in other parts of the state the drought was relieved, if a bit too vigorously. Nature is wonderful, isn’t it?
I am currently reading a very quirky novel indeed, but one that makes you think seriously about the future, ecology — and Americans. It may err on the side of silliness a bit in its central conceit — a revolt by the world’s animals, including domestic moggies. For a scientist, though, Robyn Williams writes quite entertainingly, and the book is worth reading: 2007 is its name. I guess you can literally call it a fable.
I also had a Christmas email from an acquaintance I have known since 1965, John Boase, who has published a very interesting book of sonnets. There is a story here, but I am not telling.
My OUT friends sent quite a few greetings too, and I had good messaging sessions with Robin of Cambridge and Tariq especially.