Category Archives: reminiscing

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.

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Posted by on January 20, 2009 in Australia, Australia and Australian, best viewing 2009, History, memory, nostalgia, personal, reminiscences, reminiscing


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.


What is history? Not so easy to answer…

I do not propose a treatise on this, not only because the blog would be a silly place to try, unless of course the particular blog was entirely devoted to teasing out answers to this question. This is not an academic blog, nor is it devoted to any one subject, but rather to my own whims and hobby-horses. But it is a very serious question. Not enough people think about it. It is rather important, as so many of our arguments have recourse to some form of history, because no sooner do we begin to wonder why things are the way they are than we start looking for explanations, or a back story. In other words, we start doing history, and most often we probably do it naively or badly.

If you want to get into this in depth you could begin with Wikipedia – as we all do, even those of us who are snooty about the Wiki, or (not unjustifiably) suspicious about its status. (I am so glad some HSC students here in NSW have the opportunity to do a critical study of Wikipedia as part of their English course; I can’t imagine a more relevant or desirable study – though not as a whole course, obviously.) The old Wiki offers Historiography.

Historiography studies the processes by which knowledge is obtained and transmitted. Broadly speaking, historiography examines the writing of history and the use of historical methods, drawing upon such elements such as authorship, sourcing, interpretation, style, bias, and audience. The word historiography can also refer to a body of historical work. As the tools of historical investigation have changed over time and space, the term itself bears multiple meanings and is not readily associated with a single all-encompassing definition.

I have also glanced at The historiography of world history, which is from a viewpoint: “World History Archives, by Hartford Web Publishing, offers documents to support the study of world history from a working-class and non-Eurocentric perspective.” Given that, the site looks very useful nonetheless. What is regarded as “history”, whether or not it is “objective” or “scientific” – or can be – is fiercely debated. There is also the fact that across time and cultures what is taken as history has varied enormously. What is constant, however, is that no culture is a-historical. Every culture has its distinctive take on “the ancestors”, its special way, or ways, of treating the past.

We need our memories, individual or collective, it seems. They are in fact a large part of what defines us. Perhaps they are what defines us. Unfortunately, they can also be what divides us, what haunts us.

You can see already how deep a discussion could go, had I but world enough and time… Or talent…

Jim Belshaw often thinks about, indeed practises, both history and historiography. He pondered some issues just the other day: Byzantium, Turtledove and the power of imagination in history, and again this morning, though that entry raised another related policy issue where I find Jim’s argument quite attractive, though I am still at a loss to see what model might in fact take such things into account.

In the second of those posts Jim wrote:

When I studied ancient history at school, our initial focus was on the fertile crescent, Egypt and the middle east. This then shifted north and east to Greece, and then west to Rome….

I was not really aware of the degree of British and Western European centricity in my own historical thinking until quite recently. I was then quite annoyed, because it meant that my own thinking had been caught, conditioned if you like, by powerful but not fully seen mental maps…

In the first one he wrote:

I can and do argue that history is important. In doing so, I mount a variety of arguments. Yet the reality is that I just enjoy it. Too me, history is fun. However, in trying to understand history I also struggle to break through to that past world. What was it really like?

At one point Warren Treadgold discusses the decline in Byzantium intellectual activity during a particular period. He suggested, to use my words, that citation had taken the place of scholarship, that scholarship had taken the place of writing. I think that this is where we are today. 

The best history, the best of any discipline, comes from applied imagination. Too few people ask what it was really like, too many are simply prepared to argue present cases and attitudes.

Now I agree entirely that history is fun as well as important. I agree too that the best history – or at least the best to read – involves “applied imagination” and the art of giving at least a facsimile of what the past world was really like. It can only be a facsimile, albeit a good one if well done, as short of time travel that past world is, indeed, another country. Even if we could engage in Dr Who activity, we might still not be all that much further along in our understanding; how well do we even know what it is really like in 2008? Depends too on who’s doing the looking, who’s doing the talking, where they are, what they are looking at…

History is just like that, only more so.

That’s where Jim and I may differ a bit, as I welcome the variety of historical approaches. I think there are excellent reasons for being “prepared to argue present cases and attitudes”, even if that ought not to be the only history there is. So I actually rejoiced in the recent television history of Australia from an Indigenous perspective, even if it was using its own lenses, because the stories that came out were well worth hearing. That there are also other stories is beside the point. No matter how you cut it, as soon as you start doing history you have already made choices about what to attend to, what to follow. No-one can simply “tell it all.”

Empathy and imagination remain vital ingredients nonetheless. I hasten to add that neither Jim nor I would mean “invention” when we say “imagination” – well, not entirely. It really is quite fascinating how the past has been invented, from time to time, the history of Scotland being one rather interesting case in point.

The other thing which prompted this musing was watching an ancient (1974) documentary about flying boats, which led to today’s post on Ninglun’s Specials: Closely watched planes 6: flying boats. There was some marvellous footage there, and interviews that I am glad were recorded, with the likes of P G Taylor. But looking at it I could see how the doco had itself become a piece of history with its period concerns preserved in its own fabric, and I also realised that 1974 really is a long time ago and that consequently I, who was 31 at the time, am indeed in danger of being a fossil… Even further back in the dark ages I broke, to some extent, with my “degree of British and Western European centricity” by taking up Asian History at Sydney University, a considerable eccentricity at the time. But I have never regretted it. On the other hand, time and actual engagement with Asian people – M, for example – have shown how even that exercise did not escape my earlier mental maps, though it began to change them. In fact the first History class I can actually recall teaching when I was Cronulla High’s Thomas, in a manner of speaking, was on Indonesian history, and I was given the assignment, I now realise, because no-one there was comfortable with it at that time (1965) and my eccentricity had gone before me…


Such is time… Stream of consciousness, almost…

raleghw Before his head was removed, Sir Walter Ralegh wrote this magnificent lyric:

Even such is time, that takes in trust
    Our youth, our joys, our all we have,
And pays us but with earth and dust ;
    Who, in the dark and silent grave,
When we have wandered all our ways,
Shuts up the story of our days ;
But from this earth, this grave, this dust
My God shall raise me up, I trust !

So here am I, not in the Tower of London contemplating execution of course, but in a Surry Hills flat contemplating the $1400 Mister Rudd so thoughtfully placed in my bank account yesterday. (Very handy to cover a couple of debts, and maybe to buy a new pair of boots…) I contemplate also that next year is the fiftieth anniversary of my comparatively undistinguished leave-taking from Sydney Boys High – well I did win a History Prize after all, I suppose.

dec11 010 My niece was in contemplative mood a little, I think, in her Christmas letter, which I also received yesterday. Her family has had an eventful year and have done many interesting things, some of them reflecting how The Shire these days reaches out to the world in a way that would have been inconceivable fifty years ago when, as it happens, my niece was born. They are a rather good looking family too, as you may glimpse on the left… The daughter is a promising dancer, I mean seriously promising. Rather proud of them I am, though through circumstances I have seen less of them than I may have done. You may recall we all got together in July when my brother visited from Tasmania.

I can recall having a few “my God! a quarter of a century!” thoughts when I turned 25, and then, as my niece mentions of herself, even greater wonder when I turned 50 – M gave me a magnificent party – and of course this year I went on the pension, which means I am now…

dec11 009 And looking back through my bits and pieces (right) I see how quickly the kids I have taught have grown up and made their ways in the world, some of them with great distinction, or making important contributions of one kind or another – one I mentioned just the other day.

I have every confidence in the young.

Now, what kind of boots will I buy? A good choice will last me at least three years, as the last pair has…

In another age of recession Henry Lawson wrote of an even deeper level of misfortune:

When you wear a cloudy collar and a shirt that isn’t white,
And you cannot sleep for thinking how you’ll reach to-morrow night,
You may be a man of sorrows, and on speaking terms with Care,
And as yet be unacquainted with the Demon of Despair;
For I rather think that nothing heaps the trouble on your mind
Like the knowledge that your trousers badly need a patch behind.

I have noticed when misfortune strikes the hero of the play,
That his clothes are worn and tattered in a most unlikely way;
And the gods applaud and cheer him while he whines and loafs around,
And they never seem to notice that his pants are mostly sound;
But, of course, he cannot help it, for our mirth would mock his care,
If the ceiling of his trousers showed the patches of repair.

I am well stocked with pants…

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Posted by on December 13, 2008 in Australia, generational change, memory, milestones, nostalgia, personal, poets and poetry, reminiscing


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.)

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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.

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Posted by on November 25, 2008 in Australia, Australia and Australian, human rights, immigration, Jim Belshaw, John Howard, memory, nostalgia, politics, reminiscences, reminiscing, Tony Abbott


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.

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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…

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Posted by on October 8, 2008 in Australia, Australia and Australian, Chinese and China, friends, memory, nostalgia, personal, reminiscences, reminiscing


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