Catch-ups and inspirations

To the Library yesterday as my card needed renewing. All the biographies and autobiographies have been gathered in one place since I was last there, regardless of place of origin or subject. I picked up three:


1. Raymond Gaita, Romulus My Father (1999). Despite this having been on the HSC, I hadn’t actually read it.

2. Joan Didion, Blue Nights (2011).

…an account of the death, in 2005, of her and Dunne’s adopted daughter, Quintana Roo, and more specifically, of Didion’s struggle, as a mother and a writer, to cope with this second assault upon her emotional and, indeed, physical resources. The new book, no less than its predecessor, is honest, unflinching, necessarily solipsistic and, in the way of these things, self-lacerating: Did she do her duty by her daughter, did she nurture her, protect her, care for her, as a mother should? Did she, in a word, love her enough? These are the kinds of questions a survivor — the relict, as the old word has it — will put to herself, cannot avoid putting to herself; questions all the more terrible in that there is no possibility of finding an answer to them. As Didion says, “What is lost is already behind the locked doors.”

3. Robert Hughes, Things I Didn’t Know (2006).  Now that one I sat down with at Diggers over lunch and am now well into.


More on them later.

It does seem appropriate, however, to be reading the Robert Hughes at last beginning on the day of the memorial service in Sydney. See also Malcolm Turnbull’s brilliant eulogy in Parliament: Occasionally a speech rises above all around it…. The first couple of chapters certainly encourage me to go on.

Tonight either the Rabbitohs or the Bulldogs will be rejoicing. Actually, whatever the outcome the Rabbitohs can well rejoice.  I also hope that the energies of many of those in Sydney who seem to desire a repeat of last Saturday in the non-sporting arena will focus on something far more sensible – that is, the decision of which team fronts Melbourne for the Grand Final. I am sure Allah knows, but let’s see how it pans out. Some things are far more important than stirring the pot on behalf of haters or the excessively righteous…*

So in that context a story that matters even more, in my scale of values.


Saad and Faisal Habib have faced many difficulties in their young lives but just weeks after arriving in Australia they are well on their way to mastering four languages.

The brothers, aged 16 and 14, were born profoundly deaf and have faced many communication and language barriers in their home country of Pakistan.

For the next five months they will live in Wollongong while their father, Ullah, studies at the University of Wollongong.

Just four weeks after starting at Wollongong High School of the Performing Arts’ deaf support unit, the boys can now speak basic English and Australian sign language (Auslan), as well as their local Urdu and Pakistani sign languages.

Support unit English teacher Fiona Sampson said Saad and Faisal had learned two new languages in an impressively short time.

"In just two short weeks they improved their grasp of written English and grasped the basic level of Auslan," she said.

"This is an amazing feat for boys whose start in life has been hampered with communication and language difficulties."…

Good on you, boys, and all honour too to those brilliant NSW state school teachers, all of them but especially those supporting students with disabilities and teachers of English as a Second Language. Neither the Australian nor the NSW governments really seem to appreciate what gold they are working with and squandering on ill-informed or pusillanimous policy decisions.

* Sunday

The Rabbitohs lost, the city won! All was quiet. Smile