Last of April 2011–notes

Royal Wedding

Watched it, loved it. No apology.

Richard Allen made a perceptive comment on Facebook.

For those who love myth, the royal wedding is myth in the making. Amazing to see a tradition like this so perfectly re-enacted in the 21st century…and yes, let’s say it, good luck to them!

It also has to do with sheer talent in mounting pageantry properly. The Brits really know how to; the Yanks don’t.

Pedants among you please note:

  1. The Bible translation used for the reading was the New Revised Standard Version. Looks as if the King James is over, despite the fact a 400th anniversary edition is apparently selling extremely well at the moment.
  2. The service was essentially Book of Common Prayer, but modified not only in the “obey” department. Here’s a taste of the current revision of the original.

At the day and time appointed for solemnization of Matrimony, the persons to be married shall come into the Body of the Church with their friends and neighbours: and there standing together, the Man on the right hand, and the Woman on the left, the Priest shall say,

DEARLY beloved, we are gathered together here in the sight of God, and in the face of this Congregation, to join together this man and this woman in holy Matrimony; which is an honourable estate, instituted of God in the time of man’s innocency, signifying unto us the mystical union that is betwixt Christ and his Church; which holy estate Christ adorned and beautified with his presence, and first miracle that he wrought, in Cana of Galilee; and is commended of Saint Paul to be honourable among all men: and therefore is not by any to be enterprised, nor taken in hand, unadvisedly, lightly, or wantonly, to satisfy men’s carnal lusts and appetites, like brute beasts that have no understanding; but reverently, discreetly, advisedly, soberly, and in the fear of God; duly considering the causes for which Matrimony was ordained.

First, It was ordained for the procreation of children, to be brought up in the fear and nurture of the Lord, and to the praise of his holy Name.

Secondly, It was ordained for a remedy against sin, and to avoid fornication; that such persons as have not the gift of continency might marry, and keep themselves undefiled members of Christ’s body.
Thirdly, It was ordained for the mutual society, help, and comfort, that the one ought to have of the other, both in prosperity and adversity. Into which holy estate these two persons present come now to be joined. Therefore if any man can shew any just cause, why they may not lawfully be joined together, let him now speak, or else hereafter for ever hold his peace…

You may also have noticed something called the Australian State Coach – Charles and Camilla travelled back to the Palace in it. It was created by W.J. "Jim" Frecklington here in Oz, who is  the only person living to have built a State Coach for the British Royal Family.



Royal Wedding post by British Muslim blogger Indigo Jo.

OK, well I’m up London — right now, in the Apple Store in Covent Garden — where I had intended to take some pictures of the scenes surrounding the royal wedding. I wouldn’t have done so otherwise, but my friend Claire Wade, who runs a company organising virtual holidays and other events for the house-bound, asked me to take some pictures and, if possible, send them to their Facebook event page. Sadly, I arrived near Parliament Square about 11:15am and the way was blocked at the junction with the Victoria Embankment. There was a space in between the police cordon and the square itself, and I couldn’t actually see what was going on in the square. Every way into the area was blocked, with a few people being allowed through the cordon (mostly away from the proceedings). Basically, only the dedicated few who got there early could even see what was happening, so you might otherwise have stayed at home and watched it on TV…

…I’ve never been particularly fond of the monarchy, but I’m not a dyed-in-the-wool republican either; all of the most prominent republics have various myths that they like to repeat again and again, usually about “liberty” that turns out only to apply to some citizens and not others. But the expensive pageantry going on at a time when the most vulnerable people in society are having their much-needed services cut to the bone is pretty incongruous. Ironically, a lot of disabled people were watching the proceedings avidly and I’m not going to give political lectures to them, but if we are going to hold a big party at a time when the public are facing hardship, then it’s better that we can all go to the party rather than having to watch at a distance

On refugees

Full marks to Leunig in today’s Sydney Morning Herald.



Revisioning our history: Books read lately — 2

One thing I like about history is that it never quite runs out, is never quite settled. Some find this disturbing. I would find it disturbing if it were not the case.

Take Mahroot for example.

In 1789 a devastating outbreak of smallpox swept through the Aboriginal people of Sydney. The true impact of the arrival of Europeans on the Aboriginal people became clear to all. It remains unsure whether the British or French brought the disease that killed countless Aboriginal people or whether it was already in the local population.

Obed West in his 1822 account The Bays of Sydney documents meeting an Aboriginal elder called Mahroot in the 1840s who as a young boy, witnessed the Lapérouse expedition’s camp at Botany Bay and the pox that erupted shortly after their departure. In 1789 people refused to return to La Perouse for the fear of the pox and set up what was referred to as the ‘blacks’ hospital’ at Little Bay. Here the sick and dying were isolated and brought provisions of fish and water.

Well Mister… all blackfella gone! All this my country! Pretty place Botany! Little piccaninny, I run about here. Plenty blackfellow then: Corrobory: Great fight: All canoe about. Only me left now…
Mahroot c.1845

Well. not quite ALL gone. Here is a descendant of Mahroot’s people.


maloneyAnd his descendants are still with us, together with plenty more like them. That’s one of the lessons of smiley-happy005smiley-happy005[3]smiley-happy005[5]smiley-happy005[7] Rivers and Resilience: Aboriginal People on Sydney’s Georges River by Heather Goodall and Allison Cadzow,  UNSW Press 2009.

From colonisation through to the present, Rivers and Resilience traces the social and cultural history of Sydney’s Georges River and its interaction and connections to Aboriginal lives. The authors assert the centrality of this beautiful river, comprised of sandstone escarpments, overhangs and plateaus; a network of creeks and marshy swamps that yield all manner of produce from fresh and salt water fish, eels, crabs, yabbies and oysters and an abundance of berries and wildflowers. If you have an association with the Georges River you’ll really enjoy this book, as you could slot your own story into the stream. The intellectual contribution continues Goodall’s thesis about the centrality of land demands to the everyday social, cultural and economic lives of Aboriginal people. But there is an extra dimension that details both the production of locality – that is the active process of connection to place – and the significance of the past, as it is permanently etched in the land (and water) and continues to shape relations among the river people.

Heidi Norman
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences UTS

There’s a related photographic exhibition doing the rounds at the moment. It’s currently in Hurstville.

The rivers? The Cooks River, but especially the Georges River, the northern border of The Shire – among other things.



Quite a long river, actually, running from all the way out from past Campbelltown and Appin. Again, as I noted with Grace Karskens’s The Colony, much is gained by setting different territorial frames for our histories.

I found again, as I had with The Colony, that things I had heard of or even seen suddenly came into focus as I read much that is in such books as these but has hitherto escaped much notice.

Endlessly fascinating.

Related: PDF on Aboriginal Sites in South-East Sydney.

Check out Resilience Science as well.

I haven’t been watching any of the Royal Wedding lead-up coverage

Instead I have turned the TV off and watched some DVDs instead, and propose to continue to do so.

However, I did watch The Queen in Australia (1954) again. Such a wonderful time capsule of the Australia of 1954 when I turned 11. I will watch the wedding itself, if only because I do like Westminster Abbey pomp and circumstance – and I do like Prince William.



I wouldn’t have bothered with the smart-arse version of the wedding on ABC-2 anyway, or with any of the commercial channels, but it seems we now have something to beat our breasts over:

Just two days before Prince William and Kate Middleton are due to tie the knot, ABC TV has been forced to cancel The Chaser’s one-off live coverage of the event due to what it says are restrictions imposed by the royal family. The Chaser’s Royal Wedding Commentary was due to air on ABC2 from 7:00pm AEST on Friday, offering viewers a satirical take on the royal wedding. But now the live special – promised to be "uninformed and unconstitutional" – has been reluctantly pulled due to restrictions imposed over the Easter break.

ABC TV was initially advised by the BBC, and subsequently by Associated Press Television News (APTN), there were no coverage restrictions that would prevent The Chaser’s wedding commentary.

But new conditions of use issued by APTN over the Easter break state footage cannot be used "in any drama, comedy, satirical or similar entertainment program or content".

ABC TV director Kim Dalton says he is disappointed…

The Chaser’s Julian Morrow says the team accepts the ABC has been put in an "impossible position by people acting on behalf of the royal family". "For a monarchy to be issuing decrees about how the media should cover them seems quite out of keeping with modern democratic times… but I suppose that’s exactly what the monarchy is," he said. "It’s traditional for the condemned to appeal to the monarch for a stay of execution, so that’s what we’re going to do. Unfortunately it’s also traditional for people who appeal for clemency to be executed."

Morrow says the move goes against free speech.

"It seems a bit crazy for the royal family to be trying to dictate the way they get represented in the media," he said. "It seems a bit out of step with a modern democracy, but I suppose royalty is out of step with a modern democracy, so there you go."…

I really am considerably less outraged, though no doubt the freedom to exhibit bad taste and terminal smugness is worth sticking up for… On either side I suppose.

Honestly in my old age I am finding it harder to discern just what essential freedom has ever been denied me by the fact we have a shared head of state who lives somewhere else. I even include the sacking of Whitlam in that – after all, we did get to vote. And Malcolm Fraser is these days on the left of Julia Gillard!


Compare Jim Belshaw’s Monarchy, republics & the royal wedding.

Books read lately — 1

9781742372426First one is bloody brilliant!

 smiley-happy005smiley-happy005[5]smiley-happy005[7]smiley-happy005[7]smiley-happy005[7] Ashley Hay, The Body in the Clouds (Allen & Unwin, September 2010)

What if you looked up at just the right moment and saw – out of the corner of your eye – something unexpected? What if it was something so marvellous, so extraordinary, that it transformed time and space forever?

The Body in the Clouds tells the story of one extraordinary moment – a man falling from the sky, and surviving – and of three men who see it, in different ways and different times, as they stand on the same piece of land. An astronomer in the late 1700s, a bridgeworker in the 1930s, an emigrated banker returning home in the early 21st century: all three are transformed by the one magical moment.

The Body in the Clouds explores the stories we tell to define who and where we are. It’s about the stories we’ll tell for the people we love. And it’s about our secret longing to be up in the air.

You’ll never see Circular Quay and the bridge in the same way again!


The second is brilliant too – but what can you expect from this man?



smiley-happy005[13]smiley-happy005[15]smiley-happy005[17]smiley-happy005[19]smiley-happy005[21] See this great post: The Charming Quirks of Others: Alexander McCall Smith and the art of fiction. How can anyone resist the sheer wisdom of this guy?

It is not because you are  beautiful; not because I see perfection in your features, in your smile, in your litheness- all of which I do, of course I do, and have done since the moment I first met you. It is because you are generous in spirit; and may I be like that; may I become like you – which unrealistic wish, to become the other, is  such a true and revealing symptom of love, its most obvious clue, its unmistakable calling card.

A very witty offering from India next.

smiley-happy005[13]smiley-happy005[13]smiley-happy005[13]smiley-happy005[13] Vikas Swarup Six Suspects

This Indian reviewer — Jai Arjun Singh, a freelance writer and journalist based in Delhi — found faults:

Six Suspects is ridden with caricatures – from corrupt Indian politician, perpetually manipulating strings, to dumb, insular American who comes to love a third-world country (“where cows are worshipped like Goddesses rather than turned into steak”). It would be a mistake to over-stress this aspect of the novel – and to forget that people like Jagannath Rai and Larry Page really do exist – but the book’s use of these character types precludes any lasting insights into the workings of a very complex society struggling with injustice and disparity. Every nexus, every command issued by an oily politician is dealt with in straightforward cause-and-effect terms. The investigative journalist and the TV reporter (a Barkha Dutt stand-in, named – if you must know – Barkha Das) are sanctimonious. People speak in platitudes and articulate their flaws and motivations as if they were pinning easy-to-read labels on themselves for the edification of the reader. (“We hit people not to show our strength but to mask our weakness,” philosophizes a police inspector after an interrogation, “we pick only on the poor and the powerless, because they cannot hit back.”) Rarely do the bad guys bother to delude themselves that they are in some nebulous way working not for self-interest but for the greater good (which is something that happens all the time in the real world).

He’s right, no doubt, but I have to confess the book kept me thoroughly entertained. Some may also be sorry to hear that I feel it gave me a rather good picture of contemporary India.

Vikas Swarup is now best known for writing the novel on which Slumdog Millionaire is based.

Aprils past

And also April’s past – or close to.  I’ve now had so many blogging Aprils! Here is what I mean…

Compare this series  from 2009

16 December: Blogging the Noughties: 1 – 2000. 17 December: Blogging the Noughties: 2 — 2001 18 December: Blogging the Noughties: 3 — 2002; Blogging the Noughties: 4 — 2002 –2004: memorable visuals. 19 December: Blogging the Noughties: 5 — 2003; Blogging the Noughties: 6 — 2004.

20 December: Blogging the Noughties: 7 — 2004Blogging the Noughties: 8 — 2005; Blogging the Noughties: 9 — 2006. 21 December: Blogging the Noughties: 10 — 2007; Blogging the Noughties: 11 — 2008Blogging the Noughties 12.

April 2000

29 April, 2000

I’ve just finished Hell Week (as the Quitnetters call it), having made a determination that this cigarette quit will hold. I did run from July 1998 to just on New Year 1999 almost ciggieless, and for a couple of extended periods in 1999 and 2000. I suppose I have in total smoked over the last year half of what I would have. However, I now know I cannot be a moderate smoker, so it has to stop. My advice to anyone out there: if you don’t, don’t start! It’s an evil drug really. I, poor fool, started in my 30s, as an alternative, I think, to strangling children: teachers may know what I mean.

So yes, I am thinking of M. Right now he would be thinking of whether the Karakoram Highway will open when it should in two days time so he can proceed back to Shanghai via Xinjiang…

Such a shame I didn’t carry on with that quit back then! Still, so far so good. And M is off again in a couple of days, this time to the USA.

April 2002

The media attention given to Sydney Boys High from April 2002, to its current cultural mix, and to selective schools generally, conflated a number of separate but interdependent issues. Much heat was generated in the process and I found myself quoted in several news stories, principally in The Sydney Morning Herald. These are extracts from material published at that time on my school (now English/ESL) pages, then on Tripod, where it was continually revised until 2004. There can be no guarantee that links to other sites still work, though most of them do.

GUIDE: After the introduction you will find –

… Is this really nine years ago now? The links there don’t open in new windows…

May 2005

Captain Cook Hotel

Posted: May 29, 2005 by Neil in Australia and Australian, friends, Gay and Lesbian, local, Lord Malcolm, Sunday lunch, Surry Hills

There are times when Surry Hills is just delightful, and this afternoon has been such a time. I met Lord Malcolm at the Captain Cook, having not been there for quite a while, and yes the food leaves The Shakespeare for dead. My $7 steak (280g) came with mushroom sauce (featuring real mushrooms), mash, and generous vegetables perfectly steamed. Great.

Artist Andy and a friend joined us. Since the Captain Cook is also a gallery and encourages patrons to draw on the tablecloths, a fine artistic time was had during lunch. Lord Malcolm’s Graham Kennedy face looked remarkably like Tony Blair.

Walking home afterwards — I didn’t go on to The Oxford ;-) — I came upon a beautiful little part of Surry Hills I had never seen before behind the back streets near Arthur Street. It led me to Cafe Niki, which of course I know as the coffee shop nearest the Mine.

Speaking of the Mine: adding Google Site Search has made such a difference to the utility of my site! Check it out.

The break in continuity has to do with something called Diary-X – no longer with us.

April 2006

My past catches up

Posted: April 25, 2006 by Neil in Diversions, Education, Personal
Tags: ex-students/coachees

Got this email.

Hi Neil,

I was a former student of yours at Sydney Boys High. Perhaps you still remember my name. I certainly remember most of the stories you told us in English class, e.g. the fellow you met as a child named ‘Rear Admiral Sir Leighton Bracegirdle’. I also remember your recital of Caedmon’s hymn with proper old English pronunciation.

To cut a long story short, I am now working as a Computer Systems Engineer in the city and I am still in the office. I decided to do what I do whenever I am bored – an unclaimed money search.

Do you by any chance have ‘Thomas’ as a middle name? If so, the NSW Office of State Revenue has $76.80 of your money. Even if it’s not you, it should mean something that I thought of you when thinking of people to look up.

Indeed it does; but my middle name is not Thomas. Thanks, V.L. This sort of thing happens from time to time. :-)

April 2007

Photographing Lord Malcolm

Posted: April 29, 2007 by Neil in gay life/issues, Personal
Tags: Lord Malcolm, Sirdan

Lord M wanted some pictures of him with Sirdan and myself, so Sirdan brought his camera and after lunch we went to the hospice. Lord M is pretty much the bionic man these days and can’t get out of bed much, but two nurses helped us wheel his bed to a spot with a nice background view and we took two sets of pics, one lot on Sirdan’s camera and the other lot for Lord M to look at on his mobile phone, along with some he took a couple of weeks back at the Chinese Garden.

I was afraid the photos might look a bit, um… Lord M has been more photogenic than he is right now. But they are actually rather nice. I’m glad we did it.

April 2008

More nostalgia. In my boyish imagination…

… I had a bit of a thing for men in tights, or shirtless, as indeed did many in the 1950s. Whether there was an extra significance in my case I leave entirely up to you. I have met some who never seem to have recovered…


Yes, The Phantom. That’s a whole blog on the subject.

And Robin of Batman and fame I truly identified with, so much so that I once convinced one little boy that Iwas Robin! I must have been about 10 at the time.

I don’t now what he and Batman are up to here; perhaps the source tells us. There are some very remarkable images there. ;)


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