Strange meeting

February 24, 2015

One night last week, in the early evening and after the post-work rush, I took a lift from my lofty workplace to the ground. One man, probably a bit older than I, was already in it. It was just us two.

At first he seemed to be reading something. He eyed me quizzically for a moment and then spoke.

“Did you go to Gordon West Primary?”

“No. I went to West Pymble. But my mother taught at Gordon West.”


My mother was the librarian. I probably nodded.

“Did you go to Barker?”

“No, but I did go to Artarmon.”

That might seem a bit of a non-sequitur but not, I think, to him: it was my explanation of where he might have known me – when we were both taking the bus to Gordon Station to our respective schools.

He told me his name; I told him mine; we shook hands. We talked a little more about West Pymble and West Gordon. Oddly, he was a little vague about the name of the street he lived in, but he did lay claim to living on “the poor side” of Ryde Road (that’s the east side, though I don’t think there was much in it).

My curiosity whetted, I found a picture of him on Trove in a Women’s Weekly story about Daffodil Day at Gordon West Primary in 1964.

Aided by the captions to the picture, I can recognize the man in the boy. I’m pretty amazed that he could recognize the boy in me.

First-night crowd

February 19, 2015

The scene: row C of the stalls in the Joan Sutherland Theatre of the SOH just before the opening of Faust. The row is full save for two seats in the centre.

A woman enters from the right to take one of the seats. I recognize her immediately as I have previously sat next to her in those seats at one of my rare first nights. Longe blond-ish hair tops off an outfit in a style I can only generally describe as superannuated-hippy-bohemian. A woman of similar style enters from the left. Affecting surprise, she calls out: “Oh, hello, Gretel.”

Quite a good joke really: obviously they had come together but the position of their seats dictated different doors. Also quite a good entrance.

At interval, prominent Sydney defamation barrister, Clive Evatt, who sat behind me and has a propensity to unwrap his sweets just after the music starts, engaged Gretel in conversation. What about what the Telegraph (or it could have been the Herald) had published about her? Gretel said it was a very poorly researched piece, but they had since apologised. Clive demurred: apology or not, it was worth $200,000. He, too, could have been joking.

I’m not really crazy about the first-night crowd, but it was fun to see a self-declared Sydney icon keeping up appearances.

One law for the rich

February 13, 2015

Gina Rinehart has obtained an order for preliminary discovery, entitling her lawyers to preview the upcoming episode of the TV series concerning her (which is presumably coming up to the bit where she hounded Rose Porteus through the courts in a second inquest into the death of Lang Hancock – an episode rightly described by then WA Attorney-General, Jim McGinty, as “a savage waste of public resources”) in order to decide whether to seek an injunction against its publication.

Back in 2010, Wendy Hatfield, about to be defamed in an instalment of the ‘Underbelly’ franchise, did not fare so well. She was refused orders for preliminary discovery concerning that series. The judge held (and the Court of Appeal upheld) that she had to wait and see and get damages afterwards if she was defamed (which she was).

Perhaps Rinehart’s lawyers learnt from where Hatfield’s lawyers failed, but it is difficult to escape the conclusion that there is one law for the very rich and another for the rest of us.

Which is probably a truism, if you think about it even a little bit. Even if I am affronted, I shouldn’t be surprised.

Self portrait with stationery

January 26, 2015


Patriotism does not greatly attract me. That is not to say that I am any more free than anyone else of an attachment to where I was born or where I live, but the clamour of the nation state holds less appeal.

I have observed Australia Day as it originally appeared to me at the time I was first able to notice such things: the last day before school – a kind of delayed end of the old year.

It’s just over 2 years now since I moved to my present house. I still believe the previous house was nicer, and perhaps it was.

Meanwhile, I decided today to sort through the above oddments which, as part of my last move, I gathered up from one of my desk drawers. So far (ie, since the picture was taken) I have managed to throw out the pens which didn’t work.

There is at least one object there the nature and use of which (even if ever so slight) remains a mystery to me.

Opera review

January 17, 2015

P1090515 (2)

Dr Nugent is chairing a review of the major opera companies. The Sydney public consultation session is for two hours on a Friday afternoon at the end of January.

Terms of reference here. The financial criteria are the most detailed.

Meantime, going through some boxes of old papers, I came across the above from an opera program booklet for our national flagship company from some years ago. The opening of the text has been somewhat mangled by my low-tech means of masking the year but the overall drift remains clear enough.

And pretty chastening.

For those who may not be troubled to click on the picture to view a larger and more legible version, it is that the demand for opera in Sydney currently exceeded the supply; that the company had 96% capacity houses in the last season and people would need to subscribe be sure of securing a decent seat (though this is not entirely consistent with the point that they would be able to exchange their tickets if they wished).

How did we get from there to here?

On the road 2

January 17, 2015


Via media

January 17, 2015


At Stratford on Buckett’s Way, the road which leads to Gloucester and the beginning of Thunderbolt’s Way, a sign directs you a few hundred metres to the right off the main road to a rest area: some public toilets next to the Stratford cemetery.

If you are looking for a final resting space, there seem to be plenty of spots left. You may be put to a denominational election. Pictured above is the Church of England mob.

There is a solitary Presbyterian:

Stratford Presbyterian. Methodists are more numerous: P1090369

And what about these three, between the Presbyterian and the Methodists?


Could they have been Uniting Church?

On the road

January 8, 2015

Carsons_Lookout_3 This is the time of year when Australians go away for their summer break. I have been away, but not quite as I planned.

In the lull between Christmas and New Year, I drove up to Byron Bay.

Originally this was conceived of as a summer road trip with D, who was due to return from China on Boxing Day.  For various reasons he has prolonged his stay, so I made a solitary trip. That meant less conversation (well, none really) and more radio and CD listening.  Also, probably more of a loss, less chance to take in the scenery – which I am usually able to do as D prefers to drive rather than be driven by me.

I took the back route, picturesquely named “Thunderbolt’s Way” between Gloucester and Uralla, to Armidale, where I broke my trip, and then through Tenterfield, Casino and Lismore.  Much of the country was new to me. “Thunderbolt’s Way” is a combination of a number of roads. I suppose the road from Nowendoc to Uralla across the southern part of the New England Tablelands has long been there. The “missing link” of the route is the road over the mountains from Gloucester to Nowendoc. It is probably really the site of an eco-crime as it was built by a Gloucester timber getter between the 30s and 40s.

The picture above is the view I did not see (owing to the weather) from the lookout named after him.

I stayed with E, my good friend and high-school music teacher, now retired and living in Byron Bay and her husband, R. Their children also live nearby.  They are all old friends and I soon felt myself relaxing into the subtropical groove.

My father called from Canberra: my stepmother had been admitted to hospital.  Two phone calls later she had died.  Before that she had rejected surgery which, if successful, would have left her in hospital for some months – the last thing which she would have wanted. Her last words to me (other than briefly by phone at Christmas) had been “Don’t get old.” Debilitation had sorely tried her and were it not for my father I think she would have been content to go already. Her car bore a “My life my choice” sticker.

Early on New Year’s day, before revellers stirred themselves from the night before, I hit the Pacific Highway and drove home in one gulp.  I picked up my suit and regrouped before driving the day after to Canberra.

That’s a road I shall be taking quite a lot more often in the immediate future.

Happy Christmas

December 25, 2014

Pussy at Christmas

Taken last Christmas. We miss him this Christmas, four months to the day from his last trip to the vet.

Sprummer in Sydney

December 18, 2014


Seen from the front yard of my (rented) house in Ashfield.


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