Category Archives: reminiscences

1949: I was there and even remember it!

king_george_vi_small Such was my response as I watched Episode 2 of The House Of Windsor: A Royal Dynasty on ABC the other night. The episode dealt with George VI, with the embarrassing Edward VIII and his American wife walking on here and there from time to time. The link takes you to the gloriously eccentric Professor David Flint’s account of the series for Australians for a Constitutional Monarchy. I have even so found the series interesting and I certainly have nothing against George VI. But oh my, how patronising were those old newsreel voice-overs!

I notice my parents became “Australian citizens” in January 1949 – not that they had come here from anywhere else. But before that they were just British Subjects, for all practical purposes, such as passports. They still were, but now they were hyphenated: British Subject: Australian Citizen. (See Australian nationality law.)

We still had a Labor government: Chifley. Later in the year we got to know a lot about candles and kerosene lamps, and fuel stoves. We had such a stove in the kitchen at 61 Auburn Street Sutherland. It was to be a year of coal strikes and blackouts. At the end of the year the Reign of Menzies began.

Consider the things we didn’t have: TV, coffee (or anything we would now call coffee), hamburgers, wine – unless you were a wino or in a somewhat different social circle to that which we inhabited, Aborigines, Asians, even Italians – I speak of Auburn Street Sutherland there. Italians, Greeks and so on were just over the horizon, but hadn’t disturbed our world yet, and Asians, apart from market gardeners in some nearby suburbs, were not part of our scene, while Aborigines were to be visited at La Perouse on a Sunday afternoon, should one want some different entertainment. Salami, pizzas and garlic were totally unknown. As was green tea. Tea was always black, and in two main varieties: Ceylon and Chinese. The latter (Lan-Choo) was a minority taste. Biscuits, like just about everything else, came in brown paper bags, weighed out from bulk tins by the grocer. There were no supermarkets, none. Not such a bad thing that…

We didn’t have preschools either. I had just started at Kindergarten, but was already reading – Felix the Cat among other things.

We did have the Sutherland Odeon for the flicks or, more formally, “the pictures” — or perhaps “the pitchers”. No-one talked of “movies” and only the pretentious said “cinema”. At the flicks we all stood to attention as God Save the King was played. No-one I knew questioned that. We were all very much Union Jack people.

My first students at Cronulla High in 1966 were being born too, or some of them…

I grow old.


On this day I blogged… of course

15 January 2006

Fishy times and wishes of a misguided void: from dust to man, and to dust we return. The first deals with Johnnie’s Fish Cafe.

Johnnie’s Fish Cafe in Fitzroy Street Surry Hills: definitely the best!

Sirdan, Lord Malcolm, Simon H and I had a really great meal here today: Simon H had leather jacket, Sirdan and Lord Malcolm had barramundi, and I had hake. Three diferent salads.

Sadly not as it was. The second is on the death of a very young ex-student.

15 January 2007

Commencing teaching in 1906: family history page expanded.

Thinking about The Rabbit commencing his teaching career, I could not help but reflect on my first appointment (Cronulla High) in 1966. I may tell you a little about that later, but I was also motivated by The Rabbit’s post to take up the family history again, adding some of the promised prequel. I have transcribed my mother’s memoir of her father’s first appointment, to a one-teacher school on the Hawkesbury in 1906. In fact the memoir goes back to 1902 when at the age of sixteen my grandfather began his training as a pupil teacher at Croydon Park, a Sydney suburb…

15 January 2008

Summer stories…; M back from Antarctica; Congratulations to Jim Belshaw; Ex-student Trevor Khan.

The first is about Corey Worthington:

What I haven’t thus far been able to link or copy to is the treatment the story received on A Current Affair**, which really is the point of my mentioning it. The reporter there pushed the 16-year-old by constantly hectoring him about his sunglasses, urging him to apologise or grovel on TV, doing the usual impersonation of a crusading representative of public good, but getting for her pains the kind of defiance that, well, you’d expect. Our hero, in the meantime, managed to get himself shirtless on TV, an aspect of the whole affair that probably will boost his MySpace Facebook presence no end.***

15jan 15 January 2009

I’m about to have a coffee with another ex-student Delenio. See you all later.

… Which happened, as you may see on the left.

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Posted by on January 15, 2009 in blogging, memory, personal, reminiscences, reminiscing, replays



We all have them. I’ve been having a bit of fun, and some twinges of nostalgia, in compiling a few of mine.


The Christmas card was given to me by my sister in 1951. Today is the anniversary of her death in 1952.

Looking around these you can find me here and there at different ages. You can find my great-grandmother. You see my father several times, and a photo he took in Papua during World War II. There’s a telegram from the year I was born, sent in fact to the hospital where I was born.

Observant people may spot M. And my 1959 Leaving Certificate, the results decently obscured.

Really observant people may even see Mr Rabbit in an early manifestation.

It is likely these, or some of them, plus some more, may turn into pages on Ninglun’s Specials. I did say I could add pages there.


So, now I have found a use for it I have “unmothballed” Ninglun’s Specials, renaming it Ninglun’s Specials and Memory Hole.

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Posted by on January 14, 2009 in memory, personal, reminiscences, reminiscing


Nancy Bird Walton

bird-walton_lomax_200 You may have seen the news: Aviation pioneer Nancy-Bird Walton dies.

She was the first pupil of  aviation great Charles Kingsford Smith when he founded a flying school in 1933. But she was so short she needed two cushions to see out of the cockpit and reach the foot pedals.

The first woman to gain a commercial pilot’s licence in Australia, she was named a Living National Treasure in 1997.

She did considerably more: Nancy Bird-Walton, O.B.E (1915-2009). The photo is from that site.

I am privileged to have met her in the late 1960s when I was teaching at Cronulla High School. She came one day as a guest of the school. The principal had a talent for attracting interesting speakers. I remember we also had Sir Edmund Hillary, and the Wayside Chapel’s founder Ted Noffs.


This time last year

This blog came into being.

1 December 2007:

2 December 2007:

3 December 2007 – the Monday:

Now it’s that last one I want to note especially. It was a long post. Here is part, with some links corrected. (The point is “Rampant” is being repeated late tonight on ABC-TV. Watch it if you can.)

Read the rest of this entry »


Watching The Howard Years has made me nostalgic…

No, don’t get me wrong! I really don’t miss The Howard, and last night gave plenty of reasons for that lack of sentimentality…

But I was reflecting on what I was up to at the time, and the horrible thought is that for much of it I was blogging, mostly on sites that are long gone. You may recall I found out back in January 2008, however, that much of it was not as far beyond recall as I had thought, which is scary, at times more than a little embarrassing, but also satisfying.

For example:

January 28 [2001]: A bit of a spray…

Going to fire shots right and left today, folks. I hope it will be fun. I’m also composing this on my old but lovely Brother Power Note (memory 32kb!), obviously designed for George W Bush, as one of its quirks is to leave out "W" from time to time, so everything must be carefully checked: "ill" for "will" etc. can be most frustrating as spell checkers don’t notice.

Fancy the poor American people getting George W, thanks to his having pots of money and the Americans having a daft electoral system. Lack of intellect is not a disadvantage obviously; speaking of which there was a documentary here on TV last night about Richard Nixon: scary stuff.

We have a government here I have little respect for. Amongst other things they strike me as alarmingly deficient in the humanity department, not to mention their lack of a sense of history–except what suits them. One Tony Abbott, a would-be but never-will-be Prime Minister (my bet is on Peter Costello, whom I actually prefer), is a "man with a mission" according to today’s Sun-Herald. "I don’t see why unions should have any special rights and privileges in the industrial system," says the deeply experienced and empathic Employment Services Minister. We no longer need unions, says Abbott, because workers and management can make their own arrangements, thanks to "high education standards and the mass media." Fan pi as they say in Mandarin: the greatest load of it is possible to imagine.

I have read, thanks to my flatmate, a few of these "workplace agreements". Suffice it to say they are very professionally drawn up–and guess whose interests they serve, hmmm? And guess how many workers, without the skills in industrial relations and industrial law that a good union can draw on, get sucked in by the fine print? I am in a sector that is still unionised, and, while I am not a raving leftie on all issues, I am very glad my cash goes to an organisation that can supply all kinds of support when things get nasty–and they will and do. Employers are not all evil, but their interests cannot be allowed to rule unbridled. In many sectors the profit motive drives inexorably towards exploitation: profiteers are not moral people, never have been, never will be–and many employers are profiteers. Something has to be there to keep them in check.

Those who argue that economic laws are analogous to natural laws are forgetting that economic arrangements are human creations, like governments and legal systems. They are therefore open to human intervention. One rather obvious fact is that the enormous gaps in the distribution of wealth, the obscene salary packages of many high-flying CEOs, the concentration of wealth in the hands of a tiny minority of the world’s population, cannot go on without some kind of Armageddon. I don’t have slick answers, but I do predict that sometime in the 21st century, either after or in order to avoid such a crisis, people will start rediscovering democratic socialism–one hopes in a less naive form and stripped of the pseudo-science of Marxism.

Back to Abbott. I heard a particularly nauseating interview with him on 2GB a few weeks ago, conducted by the oleaginous Reverend Doctor Gordon Moyes of Wesley Mission (an organisation that does a lot of good, incidentally). At the end Moyes brayed interminably about the fact we now have a "godly government". Oh my God!


Monday, October 30 2000

Spent the day at Bondi in a workshop session on policies/strategies on racism. Quite interesting.

Which brings me to John Howard. "Who is he?" you may ask, if you are in some other country–actually even if you are not. He is the Australian Prime Minister. Here is the joke:

John Howard decided one day to get to know young Australians, so he visited a school. "Now, children," he patronised, "I have a little quiz. Can you tell me what a tragedy is?" "Oh yes," said a little girl. "If my best friend was run over by a bus, that would be a tragedy." "Close, but not right," replied John. "That would be an accident."

So a little boy said: "If all the class was in a bus, and it went over a cliff, and they were all killed–that would be a tragedy." "Oh no," replied John. "That is close, but that would be a great loss, not a tragedy."

Then a little girl said: "I know–if you and your wife were on a plane, and some terrorists aimed a missile at it, and hit, and you were killed–that would be a tragedy." "Right!" said John Howard. "Tell me, how did you work it out?" "Easy–I knew that it would be no accident, and it certainly wouldn’t be a great loss!"

How disrespectful!


November 7 2001: Australian elections on 10th… and I am praying for a change of government

I have had the vote now for 37 years.

For the first half (approximately) of that time, being of mainly Scots/Ulster Protestant background, I voted Liberal, as did my parents and grandparents before me. For most of the second half I have voted Labor, except in the Senate where I have favoured one or other of the minor parties. For the first time ever I will not be voting for either major party in either House.

As Ian McPhee rightly observed today, there are no Liberals left in the Liberal Party. What we have are conservatives (like Costello) and reactionaries (like the Prime Minister). Of course there are precious few Labor politicians in the Labor Party either, and the crunch issue separating me from them, and the government, has been the obscene asylum-seekers "crisis". I have canvassed that issue before on this diary, so do not propose to do so again tonight.

Further, while not excusing those responsible for the attacks of September 11, I find myself increasingly appalled by the crudeness of the response by the United States and by our government’s alacrity (supported by Labor) to leap into the action. (Of course I also wish our ADF members well.) Our "non-evil" weapons, to paraphrase George Bush, are likely directly and indirectly to exact a human cost far in excess of the 6000 in the twin towers. I just hope the causes of terrorism are addressed by the world community more effectively at some time in the future. I fear the present course will in sum probably increase the appeal of terrorism in those parts of the world that currently feel, for whatever reasons, obliged to take that path.

I hope that liberal and secularist religionists of all faiths will become stronger in their opposition to fundamentalism and fanaticism.

Back home again, I am impressed with much of the argument in Quarterly Essay 3:2001: "The Opportunist: John Howard and the Triumph of Reaction" by Guy Rundle. If you want an image of the kind of prat the Liberal Party throws up (and in this case out, after he fell on his face) look no further than Jonathan Shier. He embodied the mindset beautifully. He was just too nakedly prattish to succeed, but he was their man, very much their man.

You are free to disagree with any of the above.

I do lean more towards the Labor Party in certain policy areas, especially social welfare, health and education. I feel they could form quite a respectable government, if not an adventurous one. I also feel they will be quite conservative in terms of economic management this time around; their options are limited there anyway.

M, who experiences nausea everytime he sees John Howard, asks: "Why does Australia want tough leaders? What Australia needs is wise leaders, compassionate leaders." Amen to that–but I can’t recall many: John Curtin maybe? Gough Whitlam? Not wise. Paul Keating? Flashes of wisdom but too much folly. Malcolm Fraser? Only since he retired. Who? Menzies? No, too deep a concept to sum him up, but he was much more of a Liberal than the current crop. Bob Hawke? Plenty of compassion, less wisdom. It’s a lot to ask, M. Depressing isn’t it?

If you want some idea of what wisdom looks like, revisit the International Declaration on Human Rights.

And finally:

November 16 2001: An ex-student in UNHCR

I had a delightful lunch yesterday with an ex-student who was recently working in Pakistan with UNHCR among the Afghan refugees. What he said did not change my views on the subject; rather the reverse.

We also talked a lot about school issues and gay issues.

I have revamped and added to my page about the refugees and related matters. [Updated link November 2008.]  I had admittedly thrown the thing together quickly the other day, and have taken the opportunity to revise and add. There is a much more wicked cartoon of John Howard.

Evan’s call at that time was that the government’s line was a bit like the “tiger repellent” joke – that despite appearances there was no horde of refugees about to descend on Australia. I had that in mind as I listened to the to-ing and fro-ing on the matter last night and learned what “planning” had gone into the Pacific Solution. Evan went on to some exciting times in Malaysia after that.

FEBRUARY 2003: After a perilous five-day journey by sea in tongkangs or slow wooden boats, Acehnese displaced by the escalating war in their troubled Indonesian province cross the narrow Straits of Malacca and land on the long west coast of peninsular Malaysia. Their favorite landing spot is on Penang Island. From there they head overland to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office here, a seven-hour journey by bus, where they hope to get some shelter and protection.

The UNHCR office has been handling scores of requests for refugee status and asylum to third countries since the Indonesian military imposed martial rule in Aceh on May 19. Since then, military operations have, rights groups say, have killed more than 1,000 civilians and displaced 46,000 people. Because of the large number of applications, the UNHCR office has reserved Tuesdays to handle applications from Acehnese to interview, reject or confirm and issue them refugee papers.

But when more than 600 Acehnese arrived last weekend, they found neither shelter nor protection but police waiting for them…

The police action, sudden and inexplicable, puts the spotlight on Malaysia’s conflicting policy toward Aceh, a province that has a long history of resistance to colonialism and deep cultural and historical ties with Malaysia because of their proximity.

There are many Acehnese settlements along the west coast of peninsular Malaysia and several prominent individuals, including actors, politicians and writers, are of Acehnese descent.

The UNHCR asked police to release the detained Acehnese. "We urge the Malaysian government to grant temporary protection to those fleeing the conflict in Aceh and ensure they are treated in accordance with international standards," a UNHCR statement said.

In closing the UNHCR offices, "we cannot operate with the police present and deterring people from approaching our office", said the agency’s refugee eligibility coordinator, Evan Ruth.

At the core of the issue is Malaysia’s refusal to ratify the 1951 UN Convention on Refugees that grants displaced people rights, protection and shelter and asylum.

I gather Evan is now in London.

Back to the present

Jim Belshaw has done two excellent posts today. The first notes the silliness of the Opposition’s stand on deficits: my feeling exactly, Jim, and I wish Debating Society Politics didn’t rule at times like these! The second is Jim’s reaction to last night’s episode of The Howard Years. Jim focuses on Indonesia, having had a long-term interest in the matter and more knowledge than most of us.


I don’t have a memory these days, but…

… I do have a blog. So as this month comes to a close consider:

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Posted by on October 31, 2008 in blogging, personal, reminiscences, reminiscing, replays


Curiosities and ephemera 5: 1955

Oh dear, yes, that is me…

am 030

That’s my Aunt Fay on the left, then my mother, then ? the mother of my sister-in-law ?, then me in SBHS rig as I was in what we would now call Year 7. The photo, I suspect but don’t really remember, was taken on my brother’s wedding day. It was certainly taken at 1 Vermont Street, Sutherland.

I don’t look like Bob Carr, do I? He’s a lot taller…

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Posted by on October 11, 2008 in memory, personal, reminiscences, reminiscing


Curiosities and ephemera 3

Back in June 2007 I posted On Malcolm and his books… where I mentioned a rare edition, or comparatively rare, of Bertrand Russell’s A History of Western Philosophy which I inherited from Lord Malcolm. What is striking about it is the dust jacket, which recycles a wartime map of part of Poland.

Here it is.

try 004 try 005

try 006

Yes, that is Lord Malcolm in his younger days…

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Posted by on October 9, 2008 in Lord Malcolm, memory, personal, reminiscences, reminiscing


Curiosities and ephemera 2

More bits from my box!

curios 001

An early lesson in cross-cultural communication: Koreans (right) when feeling friendly tend to grab one’s leg. Chinese (left) do not and find this rather disconcerting. Taken on one of our language college outings in 1990.

 curios 001dcurios 001b

A couple more 1990 language college pics, but a bit low in quality — the pics, not the students. It was quite a life-changing experience that year. The people around that table, myself excluded, are from Japan, China, Korea and Indonesia.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on October 8, 2008 in nostalgia, personal, reminiscences, reminiscing


Curiosities and ephemera 1

I thought first of this set as something for the Specials, but no, I decided some breathing space here was quite OK…

Speaking of ephemera, or indeed curiosities, here I am with my mother in 1965, and I think you can tell why the pic was taken on the old box Brownie.

try 011b

Of course I haven’t changed a bit…

try 011a

This was in 1990 with Bill, one of my students from the language college I was working in at the time. He was a bit older than the others. I can remember asking the students one lesson to describe their earliest memory. Bill’s was “starving”. He was referring to the disastrous and largely man-made famine that afflicted China in the early 60s.

try 011c

No, that isn’t M. It would be around 1991-2, however, and is at a party organised by one of M’s friends. The man I am talking to, a Shanghainese, was once in the Chinese Air Force. He was also quite a student of literature…


Photography and I

mamiya-msx500 Photography and I go back just on forty years now, though for the last twenty I have done very little. That was when my beloved Mamiya MSX-500, along with three additional lenses, was stolen from Ross Street, Forest Lodge, where I was living at the time.

From around 1973 I became really interested in the whole photography thing, getting into printing and developing through Simon H and a number of his friends when I was teaching in Wollongong. At Wollongong High I went on in the mid 1970s to add Photography to my teaching subjects, and even ran a basic class for Dip Ed students at Sydney University in 1977-1978.

My more formal training came through a short course I did with leading Australian photographers John Williams and Ingeborg Tyssen in 1975, an experience I mention here.

In 1975 I was at Bathurst doing a photography course with John Williams and Ingeborg Tyssen*. Hill End/Sofala was one of our targets. I asked an old guy in the pub, after buying him a beer, if I could photograph him. “Guess so,” he said. “Snowdon did last week…” (John Williams told me I was a good second-rate photographer, which I found rather pleasing, coming from him.)

Photographs, John Williams told us, happen in the mind. The camera is merely an instrument. He had little time for camera buffs as such. It is fair to say that during the past twenty years or so my mind has been constantly taking photographs, but without the instrument there has been little to show for it.

Now, thanks to Sirdan, I am geared up again, but in a new mode which I am still getting used to. I am also getting used to colour rather than black and white, as black and white photography was what I was — and still am in a way — more interested in.

So yesterday I was down in Chinatown again, the Casio in my pocket. I wanted to realise some of those pictures that have been in my head all this time, but I am afraid I am still learning the rather different techniques needed with the new instrument.


As I used to do, though I would have been working on the gray scale balance on the right rather more. You can do that in the old silver film technology…


And that is what the Casio actually gave me.

For more, go to Ninglun’s Specials.

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Posted by on September 19, 2008 in nostalgia, personal, reminiscences, reminiscing, Sirdan


NSW Local Government Election 2008 / Sutherland / Election of Councillors to the Sutherland Shire Council D Ward

darrinhodges If you look here you will find the options open to my niece and her family, and to my Uncle and Aunt in West Sutherland, when they come to vote later this month in a contest far less sexy than the one over in the USA right now, but perhaps more immediately relevant. Candidates include David Redmond (Community First), Howard Boorman (Shire Watch Independents), Jan Forshaw (Labor), Ian Kolln (Independent) and one Darrin Hodges (“Independent”). The last one, who probably has as much chance as the Democrats in the last Federal Election in Australia — less possibly — becomes the focus for a Shire People Are Racist Rednecks story in today’s Sydney Morning Herald: Candidates play white Australia card. That’s Darrin on the right above — the far right perhaps — and what I note is the immense interest being taken by passers-by. ;) The pic accompanies the Herald story.

No matter how unsuccessful this candidate is likely to be, the Herald has run with the story because it suits the media stereotype of The Shire.

THREE years after racial tensions turned Cronulla into a riot zone, several candidates in next week’s council elections in the Sutherland Shire are running campaigns aimed at attracting the xenophobic vote.

Almost 1000 letters claiming the shire “has been slated for a new Third World refugee settlement” have been sent out by three candidates standing for the anti-immigration Australia First Party.

Another candidate, Darrin Hodges, a former member of Australia First who is the NSW chairman of the Australian Protectionist Party, has tried to link high-rise developments with an influx of Asian immigrants.

“To ensure that the Sutherland Shire remains a safe, peaceful and harmonious community of Australian heritage, it is important to prevent overdevelopment,” Mr Hodges said in a candidate information sheet submitted to the NSW Electoral Commission.

“Building large blocks of units encourages ‘Asianisation’ (for example, see Strathfield and Burwood).”…

Mr Hodges said Sutherland Shire should be a place for white Australians.

“It’s the birthplace of the nation. Europeans discovered and built this country and I can’t see any reason why the shire or any other part of Australia should not remain predominantly European.”…

Now in fact West Sutherland, while hardly as cosmopolitan as Surry Hills, is not quite Darrin’s Fantasy Island either.


I am quite pissed off with Darrin for that “birthplace of the nation” line, because my father, I venture to say, invented it in 1958 when he was Secretary of the Sutherland Shire Citizens’ Publicity Committee. I have beside me a sheaf of correspondence on the subject, in fact — letters from the likes of the Lord Mayor of Sydney (Harry Jensen), Asher Joel — not to mention Bob Menzies — and indeed I also have the minutes of a 1958 meeting where my father said: “We seek to make Sutherland Shire attractive to overseas tourists and to make Kurnell, the birthplace of Australia, a worthy ‘Mecca’ to all patriotic Australians.” That was Tuesday 30 July 1958. (I was not in the slightest bit interested at the time, having just turned fifteen and spending my days going to school in a very different Surry Hills.) Dad even wrote songs glorifying The Shire; unfortunately they didn’t get far… Dad’s assessment of Kurnell, incidentally, may not have gone down well with some of his ancestors who were, apparently, Dharawal and may have seen Captain Cook arriving… There goes the neighbourhood, eh!

That Committee was about making The Shire less of a backwater, about attracting — dread thought — industry, about making it rather more like, um, Hurstville.

I paused then while I went to the local convenience store whose proprietors tell me they are taking two weeks off to go back to Sumatra for a wedding.

Anyway, Darrin is too late by half. Auburn Street, where Fred Vallance’s cow used to graze in my childhood, not to mention Ken and Tibby Doyle’s goat, is now wall-to-wall home units.


By 1958 the western part of The Shire had already experienced becoming a home for what quite recently, at that time, were seen as “undesirables” from the Mediterranean — my grandmother was quite vocal on that — not to mention many families from the “slums” of Surry Hills and Glebe — our neighbours in Vermont Street and nearby streets.

And The Shire survived.

Darrin has a right to his views, and to stand for election. What annoys me is that the Herald is palming off what I would regard as a local nutter as if he represented what The Shire is all about in 2008. He doesn’t, and I dare say the election results will reflect that.

This is not to say that The Shire does not have environmental, development and population concerns. I am sure it does, and some of those I would no doubt share if I still lived there. It’s one of the few places in Australia with a nuclear issue in their back yards, for example — the Lucas Heights reactor. Have a look at this:


Now that I would support, personally.

On The Shire and my life, visit Ninglun’s Specials.


Papal Surry Hills July 2008

Residents in Surry Hills — World Youth Day Co-ordination Authority: the map (PDF) and details arrived in our letter boxes this morning. I am thinking of setting up a stall for my holy relics…

Which reminds me of an earlier Papal Visit in 1986, a scene from which you may see here:


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