To Sydney on Sunday–8 car trains, M, Jim Belshaw

A regular complaint from travellers between Wollongong and Sydney is that out trains come in four car sets, which can lead to some uncomfortable overcrowded journeys. But they have been listening, it appears.



Joining two sets to make 8 cars to Sydney on Sunday morning. The 5.30 pm express back was 8 cars as well.

For some shots of the journey up see To Sydney as the wet approaches–pinhole shots. Yes is was moderately wet pretty much all day.

After visiting M in East Redfern, I bussed to Kingsford then walked to Daceyville. The Daceyville photos will be on the photo blog tomorrow. Thus to Jim Belshaw’s.

Yesterday Neil Whitfield and Winton Bates came to lunch, the first time Winton and I had met for a long time. Winton on the left, Neil right. This was the first time that Winton and Neil had met.

As I can and when I can, I am slowly bringing together the people in our little blogging village. Winton and I were co-editors of Neucleus, The University of New England student newspaper. Neil and I met as bloggers via the death of Australian playwright Alex Buzo. 

As you might expect,  it was a wide ranging conversation that gave us all great pleasure.


Very pleasant day, despite the weather – but even that was better than the 46C we had recently!


Wollongong Station

Yum Yum Cafe closed by yesterday’s record heat

This morning it reopened after the overnight southerly change:



While it is not mentioned by name there, read the Mercury’s report: Cafes shut, people faint as mercury passes 45.

The temperatures were about five degrees higher than forecast.

There were multiple triple-0 calls for cases of heat exposure, including for a 70-year-old man at Windang, a 45-year-old woman at Austinmer Beach and a 26-year-old man at Cordeaux Heights, who was working on machinery when he succumbed to the effects of heat exhaustion.

Statewide, the Ambulance Service of NSW had responded to 44 cases of heat exposure – one third of whom were for people over 60 – by 3pm.

Over the same period there were 89 reports of people falling unconscious or fainting and 37 instances of vomiting.

"Many of those cases are attributable to the heat," an ambulance spokeswoman said.

It was also the hottest day in recorded history in Sydney, which experienced more heat-related illness, transport chaos and even melting roads and ice rinks.

The mercury hit 45.8 at Sydney’s Observatory Hill at 2.55pm, exceeding the previous record of 45.3 set on January 14, 1939.

The record temperature was similar to that recorded in places in the NSW far west, such as White Cliffs, which sweated the day out in around 44-degree heat.

That was topped by temperatures in Penrith, in western Sydney, which reached 46.5 degrees.

Sparks from Sydney’s monorail briefly set fire to trees and grass near the entertainment centre while at the Big Day Out music festival in Homebush, a St John Ambulance spokesman said the organisation treated 200 people, mostly for dehydration.

Too hot to write…

Albion Park (Wollongong Airport) is on 44C right now and that – or more — is what I surely felt in one of the hottest winds I can remember as I walked from the bus to The Bates Motel.  The “official” temp for The Gong measured at Bellambi Point is always way below what we feel here in West Wollongong. 26.9 they say now for there.  They must have their thermometer in the fridge!


Crown Street Mall at noon.

6:45 pm


The view from my window ten minutes ago. Now I do believe I hear maybe a southerly wind!* 

It has been a day of records: the hottest in Sydney ever, and ditto for Wollongong where we reached 46C.

Sydney has experienced its hottest day on record, with temperatures passing 45 degrees across the greater city area.

The mercury hit 45.8 degrees Celsius at Observatory Hill at 2.55pm, 0.5 above Sydney’s previous hottest day in 1939.

Across greater Sydney, the hottest temperatures recorded were at Penrith (46.5C at 2.16pm), Camden (46.4C at 3.04pm), Richmond (46.4C at 3.01pm), Sydney Airport (46.4C at 2.32pm) and Bankstown (46.1C at 3.28pm).

* 9.30 pm – pretty weak old change so far though!

Whatever… Is your patch family friendly?

A minor susurration could be heard across the land in response to the Suncorp Family Friendly [TM] Survey. The Gong was pissed off.

Overall: 21st out of 30

Crime rate per 100,000 – 6323 (9th)

Number of visits to GP services per resident – 5.9 (25th)

Number of children at each school – 494 (8th)

Average cost of a house – $397,000 (19th)

Level of unemployment – 6.9% (25th)

Residents with good long-term health outlook + 65.5per cent (26th)

Median weekly disposable income – $652 (22nd)

Households with access to broadband internet – 66.9per cent (14th)

Children per childcare centre – 42 (2nd)

Residents who volunteer – 16.9per cent (22nd)

FotoSketcher - P9230780a

Brighton Beach, Wollongong Harbour

Launceston starred!

LAUNCESTON is the most family-friendly city in Australia with cheap housing and good education outweighing low incomes and high unemployment, a new report has found.

The Suncorp Bank report, titled the "Family Friendly City Index", found that Launceston was the No.1 city with Hobart coming in at seventh spot out of 30 of Australia’s most populous cities.

Former Hobart man Brendan Vince says he is the biggest convert to Launceston.

"I used to bag it out when I lived in Hobart, but now I love the place," he said.

Mr Vince, a teacher, and wife Joanna, a university lecturer, moved from Hobart about eight years ago.

They have a son Zachary.

"It is a great place for kids, everything is so close and housing is much cheaper than Hobart," Mr Vince said.

The index looked at 10 indicators including education, health, crime rates, income, connectivity and unemployment.

Canberra was the top capital city, in second place, with Perth and Adelaide equal fifth.

Of the big three, Melbourne was ranked 14th, ahead of Sydney (23rd) and Brisbane (24th).

Suncorp Bank executive manager Craig Fenwick said the survey found that increasingly the larger, stressful, crowded urban jungles and under-serviced eastern seaboard capitals were being upstaged by regional cities.

"The results reveal for the first time that many regional cities have a better balance of job opportunities, housing affordability, income, school sizes, health services, broadband access and lower crime rates," he said.

I still don’t quite get it. How come number of GP visits per resident (higher in The Gong than in Launceston) is seen as a negative in access to health services? Sure, it might mean Gongers are unhealthy, or fat, or old, or all of the above – but they are clearly accessing a service, aren’t they?

The country press seizes on the obvious:

A GREAT deal is made of Melbourne’s much-vaunted ”liveability” and Sydney’s glam harbourside lifestyle.

But for families who grow weary of the rat race, it seems the sedate Tasmanian city of Launceston is the country’s most family-friendly place.

New research that compares Australia’s most populous 30 cities on indicators such as access to schools, health, childcare, income and housing, found Launceston came out on top.

The lucky children who live there attend the least-crowded schools, with about 320 students per school, compared with places such as Coffs Harbour, which has 1521 per school, according to the report from Suncorp Bank.

It also has a low crime rate, affordable housing and good childcare availability.

Canberra was second – boosted by high disposable incomes and good childcare – but Melbourne ranked 14th and Sydney 23rd, behind the other capitals Adelaide and Perth (equal fifth), Hobart (seventh) and Darwin (equal eighth).

Half of the top 10 family-friendly cities were smaller regional centres – Victoria and New South Wales’ top entry was the twin-cities of Albury-Wodonga, which did well on housing affordability, health and a sense of community.

Regional cities had a better balance of job opportunities, income, school sizes and lower crime rates, said Suncorp Bank head Craig Fenwick…

Here is the list.

    • 1st Launceston (TAS)
    • 2nd Canberra (ACT)
    • 3rd Toowoomba (QLD)
    • 4th Albury/Wodonga (VIC/NSW)
    • Equal 5th Adelaide (SA)
    • Equal 5th Perth (WA)
    • 7th Hobart (TAS)
    • Equal 8th Darwin (NT)
    • Equal 8th Bunbury (WA)
    • 10th Bundaberg (QLD)
    • Equal 11th Mackay (QLD)
    • Equal 11th Burnie (TAS)
    • 13th Mandurah (WA)
    • Equal 14th Melbourne (VIC)
    • Equal 14th Wagga Wagga (NSW)
    • Equal 16th Bendigo (VIC)
    • Equal 16th Townsville (QLD)
    • 18th Newcastle (NSW)
    • 19th Rockhampton (QLD)
    • 20th Sunshine Coast (QLD)
    • 21st Wollongong (NSW)
    • 22nd Ballarat (VIC)
    • 23rd Sydney (NSW)
    • 24th Brisbane (QLD)
    • 25th Geelong (VIC)
    • 26th Hervey Bay (QLD)
    • 27th Cairns (QLD)
    • Equal 28th Gold Coast (QLD)
    • Equal 28th LaTrobe Valley (VIC)
    • 30th Coffs Harbour (NSW)

Canberra? Second? That says it all, really. Winking smile

Re Yours and Owls

This venue is one of The Gong’s real highlights. Lovely afternoon in The Gong tells of my first visit there. And subsequently.  I haven’t been there so much in the past ten months as the opening hours tend not to coincide with my being in the vicinity.

The reason I mention all this is Angela Thomson’s story Bands rally round paralysed music promoter in The Illawarra Mercury.

With Christmas nearing, Ben Tillman found himself confined to the spinal injuries unit of Prince of Wales Hospital – only 70 kilometres from his Thirroul home but worlds away from his old life of music, friends and freedom.

Unable to move his legs, weak and easily exhausted, he and his two business partners agreed they couldn’t continue to operate Yours and Owls, the live music venue they started together in Wollongong 2½ years ago.

The venue was a labour of love, but the work could be all-consuming and difficult to spin into a profit.

Now Ben – the booker, the one who had built the relationships with the agencies and bands and kept the stage filled five nights a week – was in a wheelchair with an uncertain prognosis after a car accident.

The partners – Ben and long-time friends Balunn Jones and Adam Smith – resolved to sell the business.

But then Ben grew a bit stronger and more focused. He didn’t want to give up on Owls and realised he didn’t have to.

Like scores of Illawarra musicians who have found an audience at the little Kembla St venue, it did him good.

"I’ve started doing a bit of work from the hospital, behind the scenes stuff," he told the Mercury this week from his bed at Prince of Wales.

"It keeps my mind active and helps with the positivity as well. We might be getting another guy on board, we’re excited about that. We’re keen to step it up [this year] and keep doing what we’re doing."

Owls, and the nearby Wollongong Town Hall, will be the site of a large benefit concert next Saturday aimed at supporting Ben financially, and in morale, as he continues a gruelling schedule of physical rehabilitation and moves closer to the day he can go home