In train at Coledale

… on the way to Sydney.



It’s very wet…



Now I’m in the Juice & Java in Surry Hills. Still wet. Here’s how Stanwell Park looked from the train window.


Meeting Sirdan for lunch, then Dr Cassy.


Still in retro mode


My English/ESL blog began in 2001 as which is still there as a redirect I posted in 2002 – but it sends you to Tripod and blog oblivion.  At first it was just a class site for a Year 10 I had at the time. When that immediate function passed I adapted it to be a school-wide ESL and English site. I also moved to Tripod – the capture above comes courtesy of the Wayback Machine. Its name now was Sydney Boys High Communities and ESL, and then Sydney Boys High School English and ESL. In that guise it moved to WordPress on 2 December 2006, the name having changed towards the end of 2005 to Neil Whitfield’s English and ESL. Today it’s just English, ESL — and more!

This Year's Visits and Page Views by MonthThere are just 230 posts and 38 pages. Nothing has been added since January 2010, but it still is far and away my most used blog. In WordPress stats there have been 497,208 views since January 2006. Sitemeter has been counting all the incarnations of the blog since November 2002 and records 400,161 visitors and 555,432 page views up to now.

The top posts since coming to WordPress follow:

  1. Home page 84,019 views
  2. How should I write up a Science experiment? 56,530
  3. Physical journeys and Peter Skrzynecki’s poems 25,377
  4. Essay writing: Module C “Conflicting Perspectives” – the introduction 24,978
  5. Studying the Gothic, or Emily Bronte? 23,870
  6. A student’s “Belonging Essay” workshopped 20,601
  7. Mary Shelley, "Frankenstein" — and "Blade Runner" 18,423
  8. The "Belonging" Essay 15,211
  9. What tense should I use when I write about literature? 11,802
  10. Wrkshop 02 — NSW HSC: Area Study: Imaginative Journeys 11,391
  11. Belonging pages: HSC 2009-2012 10,848
  12. Is "majority" singular or plural? 7,950
  13. HSC English NSW Area Study Standard and Advanced: Belonging 1 7,877
  14. Scaffolding 7,046
  15. How can I write faster in exams? 6,077
  16. How can I improve my essay grades, especially in exams, without learning "model essays" off by heart? 5,600
  17. How can I write better short stories? 5,504
  18. Workshop 01 — a theme unit in four different text types: senior English Studies 5,419
  19. From my personal site: The Secret River by Kate Grenville 5,412
  20. Workshop 03 — Creative Writing (Year 12) 5,064
  21. Workshop 09: Advanced English Module B "Critical study of a text" 4,605
  22. ESL+ 4,526
  23. Backgrounding my essay: question and resources to be used 4,321
  24. Links 4,308
  25. Literacy 4,187


Floating Life’s record

Floating Life has had 204,763 views since it began. The most viewed posts are:

  1. Home page 52,950 views
  2. Australian poem: 2008 series #9 — A B Paterson "The Angel’s Kiss" 10,841
  3. How good is your English? Test and Answers 9,422
  4. Australian poem 2008 series #17: "Australia" — A D Hope 5,160
  5. The Great Surry Hills Book Clearance of 2005 4,632
  6. Dispatches from another America 3,908
  7. Australian poem: 2008 series #8 — Indigenous poetry 3,819
  8. Sarah Palin — Blogs, Pictures, and more on WordPress 3,594
  9. Australian poem 2008 series #10: Peter Skrzynecki "Summer in the Country" (2005) 3,452
  10. Conflicting perspectives 2,810
  11. The Real Da Vinci Code – Leonardo da Vinci 2,234
  12. Maurice O’Riordan’s view on nude children as art wrong | Piers Akerman 2,227
  13. Delia Malchert – Migraine Aura – Scintillating Scotoma 2,118
  14. Kevin Rudd as art critic 1,682
  15. Rampant: How a City Stopped a Plague 1,406
  16. Cronulla 05 1,278
  17. The Hollowmen – ABC TV 1,263
  18. That hypothetical Year 10 lesson on "White Australia" 961
  19. Christmas poem #1 — Louis Macneice, "Snow" 918
  20. Australian poem 2008 series #12 — Judith Wright recycled for Anzac Day 886
  21. Australian poem: 2008 series #3 — anon. "Botany Bay" 824
  22. Metrosexuality 798
  23. Just a note on China 797
  24. Blog Roll 783
  25. About 772

Another of the best of 2009 pics.

Going back

Consider another of my blogs: Floating Life which began in 2007 and continued until superseded by this blog. Later archives from Blogspot (mainly) were added, taking the entries back to 2005.

Near the end of its run I did a retrospective series under the tag Decade called “Blogging the Noughties”. Another series followed, Picks from 2009 photos, and then Floating Life closed.

One of the “best of 2009” pics

In the "Blogging the Noughties" series I refer to my old Diary-X site a number of times. Diary-X was a bit like a WordPress that failed, though it was much less ambitious. It was a nice place and we regulars loved it.


That links to the surviving copy on The Web Archive.

20 Jul 2001
While the Prince is away…
Holiday almost over

The salt mine beckons…

With the Crown Prince being on a Royal Progress at the moment, I feel I must make sure the Diary is kept up pending his return. I confess ICQ seems slightly bleaker though…

Today I coached in Chinatown and ran into yet another ex-student who was doing business there. Prior to that I spent some time in the UTS Library, where I found an excellent article by Wayne Martino from Murdoch University, published in The Teaching of English (a journal I have neglected of late) 127-128, May 2000 (published by the Australian Association for the Teaching of English (AATE): "The Boys in the Back: Challenging Masculinities and Homophobia in the English Curriculum". While some of that journal is available on the Internet, that article isn’t–which is a shame. It slots well into the issues I raised in the diary before last. I did find on the Net, after searching for "Wayne Martino" on Google, some interesting things from the Tasmanian Department of Education which those interested may follow up.

There was also a thoughtful cautionary article in an earlier Teaching of English (124, March 1999) by Andrew Kowaluk, "Boys and Literacy: Challenging Orthodoxies". This article questions using critical literacy as an instrument of social change on the grounds that as it challenges values it may well meet resistance and entrench the values it seeks to problematize. Oh my God, I have used that word! In referring in the diary before last to the reception of the efforts of a female colleague, I hinted at that phenomenon, and indeed I think teachers need to move carefully in raising such issues.

The whole thing is something I must give more thought to, because I know that what we have (in my school anyway) is, despite exceptions, the ethos entrenches a conception of masculinity that is really destructive. Those exceptions are large and important, of course, but should they be exceptions? Why should the power elite in the school so often be unreflective? Why should bullying tactics on the part of certain staff go unrebuked? Why should a certain type of maleness be so rewarded?

Yes, there are people reading this who know precisely what I mean (and who I am too) and I would be interested in their views.

My late mother’s birthday today: makes me a bit sentimental.

And again:

7 May 2001
After the storm
A bit of a roller-coaster

First, let it be said that banks have lost the human touch. No elaboration–sorry!

There was a bit of a storm a day or so back, but comparative calm has returned. In fact, a couple of storms–one work-related, one domestic! The value of one or two who regard one in a positive light was brought home to me.

Yes, it’s one of those cryptic entries again, folks.

Lunch was like a clear pool and a shady tree in a desert place. I heard too at lunch that a slightly radical change in accessories is in the offing; I look forward to seeing the result 🙂

Lovely talk last night with a new ICQ friend, Kenny–a priest. I am looking forward to this friendship developing. And speaking of ICQ friends: Happy Birthday, Atakan!

Kenny was Ken Sinclair, a Melbourne priest, 6 Feb 1927 – 19 May 2005 – but his website lives still. *

Here are the links to some friends’ sites. The first one, known as "Ninglun", is a teacher at a boys’ high school in Sydney, and in addition to his routine teaching, has a lot to do with teaching and inculcating attitudes of anti-discrimination. The second, "Sal", contributes a lot of material to a group called "The Gay Catholic Clubhouse", and is a great guy. In fact, they are both great guys!

The next link is to the site of Michael Coyne, an internationally known photographer, who,as I tell him, I’ve known for so many years that I knew him before he was famous. The link "Present Australia" belongs to a couple of long-time friends, Mike Clohesy and Oliver Scofield, who set up this business called "Present Australia", that handles everything for people wanting to visit Australia. The next link is to a site called "Woodchips", set up by our Fr Wood’s brother and nephew, to be about the Wood family. In the graphic, Fr Wood is the tall guy second from the right at the back. He is 81, and his mother, seated in front, is 103!

Ken’s link led me to my VERY FIRST SITE on Angelfire! Well, not quite, as I had a site on something called Talk City for a while beginning 2000.


This is rather ironic:


A shame that didn’t stick: imagine the difference a decade of not smoking would have made financially as well as healthwise!

You can even visit the guest book – well, one page!

Back to Diary-X.

Monday, March 25, 2002

On my Diary Key page I have three other diaries linked, all with permission obtained some time back. I thought I’d tell you a little about each one today, and think about why we do this.

I’ll begin with the youngest diarist, Lucas in Montreal. He is about eighteen and uses this diary (he has another) to reflect on his feelings, what happens, his growing definition of himself, and what appears to be quite a battle sometimes with depression. I like his sense of humour and his touch of self-irony. He is a very aware young man.

Queer Scribe is also a North American. His diary is often raunchy as he is much more, shall we say active, than I am. He is a bit younger than I am, but not all that much. He is also very reflective, very self-aware, and, it seems to me, very honest. This is a sample from the latest entry, not so raunchy this time. He is telling of his contribution to a talk-back show:

"But, you know," persisted Tracey, "I’m not so sure I like this having to watch what we say. I mean, doesn’t language constantly evolve? Like the ‘that’s so gay’ thing; sure, maybe it was once a homophobic slur but when we use it now without knowing that, isn’t it ok?"

"Well," I said, "I don’t lose too much sleep over whether this phrase gets said or not. But I think it’s good for us all to be sensitive about the language we use. That’s not political correctness, it’s just about recognizing that the words we choose have an impact on who feels a part of or apart from the dialogue."

(I’m not sure that last sentence is verbatim; I doubt I said anything quite so "articulate".)

…It’s good to be a little uncomfortable because it makes us think about what we’re saying and who our words might be trampling upon. That’s not censorship so much as it is a desire to communicate.

The last one linked from my Diary Key is Drew. He is a thirty-something English guy, very bright. He writes very well indeed. When I first came upon his diary he was living in New York, and his entries around September 2001 make very interesting reading. He is now back in the UK. He has a section explaining his reasons for keeping an online diary–that is what the link in this paragraph takes you to. I rather like what he says, which includes:

I’m a shy self-effacing person in my daily life, but my alter-ego craves attention. I get a kick out of seeing my words, thoughts and observations published on the web and out of knowing that someone else might see them too.

But there are more noble and important reasons as well: The knowledge that I have an online journal to maintain gives me a new sense of responsibility towards my diary. It disciplines me into writing daily, or almost daily. It also encourages me to write well, or as well as I am able.

And I know that I’m a happier person when writing is part of my life.

My diary began also as a discipline, and as a way of getting control over certain things in my life. That was before it went online. Going online was in a way to launch the longest letter to a friend ever written 😉 and it has continued that function, but one knows others read it, and the feedback has often been encouraging. I think I too am "a happier person when writing is part of my life."…

I can’t stop without correcting an omission. One of the first sites of this kind (though it is not strictly a diary) that I encountered is Yawning Bread, a very articulate gay man in Singapore. It is well worth visiting for all sorts of reasons. He writes beautifully and thinks…boy, can he think! His entries for March 2002 are just up and deal with religion, culture and gayness from an Asian perspective. The bill of fare on this site is extraordinarily rich, sustaining, sane and humane. You would be mad not to read it regularly, as it is better than mine!

And there is Mitchell’s site too (see below) which is also a kind of diary, but sometimes a knowledge of wrestling helps, especially on the guest book. A quirkish irony/humour pervades Mitchell’s site, with an underlying seriousness at times (I think he might admit to that if pressed and in the right mood.) I have been known to have been taken in by it in its more ironic modes 😉 It is also a bit elliptical at times. Oh, and there is a gallery.

An issue raised by all this – in fact I had read the article before starting this entry – is in today’s Sun Herald: Journey past the last post by Neil McMahon.

We live so much of our lives online but what becomes of our digital selves when we’re gone?

Neil McMahon reports on virtual life after death.

This phenomenon of us sharing lives in various virtual worlds is so recent that we’re still contemplating what it means in the here and now, with most of us yet to consider what it means when we’re dead and buried. But the debate is beginning. In the US, entrepreneurs have given thought to questions yet to trouble most of us: what to do with the digital trail we leave behind, from Facebook accounts to Twitter posts, from the endless gigabytes of email to that personal YouTube channel that was fun at the time but which may not withstand the demands of eternal life. And these are not mere memories – many will also leave behind significant financial assets online, from music libraries to valuable e-book collections.

In the meantime, some of us will go about creating that digital legacy with the only assistance from outside being asking a trusted loved one to hit "Send" on our final words.

Jessica Horton was not the last blogger confronting mortality to consider how best to give eternal voice to their online self. This month Canadian writer Derek Miller, 41, used his blog,, to deliver what he called The Last Post. It began: "Here it is. I’m dead, and this is my last post to my blog. In advance, I asked that once my body finally shut down from the punishments of my cancer, then my family and friends publish this prepared message I wrote – the first part of the process of turning this from an active website to an archive."

For Miller’s family, as for Horton’s, the lesson seems to be that a legacy managed is a legacy the bereaved can live with. As Horton’s mother, Julia Whitby, says: "We respected her wishes. I like the fact that it’s out there. I know Jess would have liked that. She loved to write, and if she’d lived I think she would have been a writer. I’m very proud that she had an impact, because that’s what she wanted to do."

It’s an interesting issue, eh!

* Ken Sinclair – obituary 2005 pdf

Ken Sinclair,   6 Feb 1927 – 19 May 2005

Fr  Ken Sinclair, openly gay man and priest at St Francis (Melbourne) for many years, died earlier this year, aged 78.

Many of us who went to the national homosexual conferences of the 1970s and 1980s will remember Ken with affection.  He only missed one of the 11, and was a great counter-example to the prevalent view  of the time that Christians were the enemy of gay people.   The conferences helped Ken affirm his confidence in being gay – and in gratitude he spoke publicly for gay rights, sometimes in the face of considerable censure from his own Church. Ken contributed to the gay community in many ways:  in his pastoral work, in his writing, as a supporter of groups, the Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives among them, to which he donated large amounts of material over the years, and in friendship to the many whose path he crossed along the way.   His PhD thesis in 1995 examined the churches’ responses to HIV/AIDS through the filter of their

attitudes to homosexuality, based on interviews with clergy and people living with HIV/AIDS.

There is an interview with Ken in Dino Hodge’s book, ‘The fall upward;  spirituality in the lives of lesbian women and gay men’ (1995), which captures much of what was so likeable about Ken.  For Ken, simple principles of love and charity were at the heart of his religion and nothing could excuse cruelty dressed up as piety.  It was summed up in this passage about ‘particular friendships’, which were frowned on by official teaching when Ken was a novice.

"But as our director said:  ‘Any friendship has to be particular otherwise it’s not a friendship’.  I can’t remember if it’s Charlie Brown or Linus in the cartoon strip that says:  ‘I love humanity.  It’s individual people I can’t stand’. But of course you can only meet humanity through individuals."

Three years ago

In To Wollongong with Sirdan — more than the usual Sunday lunch (May 25, 2008) you may discern the beginning, perhaps, of my present location back in Wollongong.


Sirdan’s new VW Golf Polo Match — generic pic above — is beautiful to ride in, and amazingly quiet too. Conscious this was a trip we had engaged in hypothetically with Lord Malcolm last year, and given today would have been his 51st birthday, we set out to explore at last the road bridge at Scarborough south of Sydney.


Over on Ninglun’s Specials, another of my blogs in suspension these days, I posted a sequel: Sirdan’s pics from the Wollongong trip.

Ninglun’s Specials began as a picture blog in March 2008. It morphed into a photo blog until in due course the current photo blog came into being. One of the continuing functions of Ninglun’s Specials is as a repository of family history posts. In that it is still very active.

The all time top posts since March 2008 have been:

  1. Home page 20,517 views
  2. 10. But is it art? Responses to the Bill Henson controversy of 2008 5,503
  3. Sequel: Art Monthly Australia July 2008 3,795
  4. Family stories 3 — About the Whitfields: from convict days 3,528
  5. 05 — Old Blog Entries: 99-04 2,013
  6. Gustave Dore’s "Ancient Mariner" illustrations 1,772
  7. Top poems 2: John Donne (1572-1631): Satire III — "Of Religion" 1,682
  8. Family stories 1 – mother 1,560
  9. Surry Hills 1,471
  10.  Family stories 4 — A Guringai Family Story — Warren Whitfield 1,320
  11. Chinatown 13: Chinese Gardens Darling Harbour 8 1,295
  12.  About 1,071
  13.  The Bard, a Rabbit, and Ninglun 855
  14.  More tales from my mother 4 — Dunolly NSW — and conclusions 725
  15. DSL collection – Chinese Contemporary Art 707
  16. Personal Reflections: Saturday Morning Musings – the art of Jiawei Shen 641
  17. Family stories 2 — About the Christisons 623
  18.  07 — a controversy — For the record: the great SBHS race debate of 2002 530
  19. Top poems 5: Thomas Hardy (1840-1928) — “The Oxen” 530
  20. More tales from my mother 1 — Spencer, NSW 518
  21. Towns I’ve stayed in 4 — Trundle NSW 481
  22. About the Whitfields: Wandering Willie’s Tales 471
  23. Sydney: World Youth Day 2008 fashion 459
  24.  Redfern Visions 14: Guerilla Gardeners in South Dowling Street 448
  25. Closely watched planes 3 428
  26. Shire childhood, adolescence and early adulthood 4: Cronulla 1961-1962, 1964-1969 423

Latest news from “The Illawarra Mercury”

Here is today’s lead story.

Planking may be getting the headlines but several crews of young people in the Illawarra are getting their kicks from a less dangerous – and perhaps more hilarious – pastime.

Morphing, as it is known, involves donning a purpose-made lycra suit, often brightly coloured and covering the face, and busting out in public to pull poses, jump around and bemuse passers-by.

Then comes the element seemingly essential to all current trends – pictures of the ‘‘morph’’ are posted on social media websites, particularly Facebook.

Dylan Page, 17, one of the four-person Oak Flats Morph Crew – he’s the one in the skin-tight tuxedo – invested in the suit earlier this year for his Year 12 muck-up photos…

There’s also a good feature article on fads and crazes over the years.

In the weekend magazine section there is always a local history feature. Here is today’s on the 1873 antics of the Looneys and Craigs of Mount Keira.

The Merc isn’t entirely parochial, I should add. In fact it’s not a bad paper, especially on Saturdays.

The first “Floating Life” blog on WordPress

That was Floating Life 4/06 ~ 11/07. As you’ll see it began just over five years ago. It still gets plenty of visits, and these are the most visited posts in the last five years.

  1. Home page 64,660 views
  2. Friday Australian poem #17: Bruce Dawe, "Homecoming" 13,702
  3. Two Australian poems of World War II 11,650
  4. Assimilation, Integration, Multiculturalism: policy and practice in Australia since 1966 1 8,169
  5. John Howard: bullying expert extraordinaire… 5,730
  6. Ian McKellen and Judi Dench in Macbeth and segue into Mardi Gras 4,467
  7. Book and DVD backlog 4,094
  8. 3 — Indigenous Australians 3,314
  9. Late Anzac Day thoughts 3,109
  10. Friday Australian poem #3: A D Hope, "The Death of a Bird" 3,101
  11. On the awkwardness (and fatuity?) of discussing religion 2,860
  12. There are at least two movies called Swimming Upstream 2,806
  13. About 2,674
  14. Friday Australian poem #4: Judith Wright 2,604
  15. Friday Australian Poem #5: Judith Wright "For a Pastoral Family" 2,491
  16. Friday Australian poem #11: "Because" by James McAuley 2,337
  17. Bill Heffernan! 2,191
  18. Les Murray and The Widower (2005) 2,133
  19. Friday Australian poem #12: David Campbell "Men in Green" 1,924
  20. 3 — The Da Vinci Code 1,909
  21. New blog report and more 1,791
  22. Does Tim Blair still do global warming jokes? 1,770
  23. Some thoughts on the events of June 2007 1,348
  24. Friday Australian poem # 6: Mary Gilmore, "Nationality" and "Old Botany Bay" 1,216
  25. Admiring ex-Big Brother star David Graham 1,208