Bondi Tripe Lunch




THE DIARY OF A BONDI BOY is a day-by-day view of the world from a balcony overlooking Bondi Beach, written by a former journalist who was born and grew up in Bondi, and who has returned there to enjoy life in the greatest beach  in the greatest city in the greatest country in the world (written in the form of part-diary, part causerie).

21/10/16 Friday, BLACKHEATH -

Saw (the ever-dapper) Dr Cameron Holloway yesty and, as mentioned above, he has ordered an angiogram for me on Tuesday.  His echo and ECG tests confirmed that something was amiss, heart-wise.  Hopefully I will last till then (when I expect more stents will be put in).  Fingers crossed, anyway.  All this medical toing-and-froing has put a damper on our Cybersydney work, which is a pity, for we were poised to accelerate.  Going up to Blackheath this morning to see what Gus has done for his money.  At least it’s sunny outside at Bondi.  Will report further anon.


25/09/14 Thursday, BONDI -


I have decided to write a diary. This quixotic decision was taken this morning (shortly after breakfast) for a number of I think cogent reasons, which I should explain at the outset, as it may seem an odd thing for someone at my stage of life – 74 going on 75 - to launch into in what must be, realistically, my declining (not to say ultimate) years. So some explication is in order. I have already written – for our Life Book project - my autobiography (Against the Grain, subtitled From Hot-metal to the Internet and Beyond - A Life in the Information Business), and although, if granted time and occasion, I can add to the online version of that, I do not think it necessarily exhausts my autobiographical proclivities or capabilities. A number of things have led to launching into this – for me, exciting - new project. Given a life immersed in words, I always thought I should, almost as a duty, write something of a less mundane nature…even a novel or maybe something else of a literary nature. (I cannot write verse, even though I love poetry.) Frankly, I have never thought I had it in me to “write a novel” - supposedly the goal of every frustrated or ambitious journalist (for that is all I claim to be: a modest denizen of Grub Street). Consequently I have all my adult life put off this dormant or nascent urge to rise above base journalism, and felt slightly guilty for not doing so. I think the germs of this new and more practical resolve were planted in Richard Hattersley’s car coming home on Sunday from our Blackheath Literary Lunch (which Sandra and I started a year ago, in our weekender up at Blackheath).   We were talking about the Club blog I - now occasionally - write for our Friday Group at the Club, and he deplored their recent infrequency, as he “thought they were good”. I fended off the compliment, but he went on to say it was a pity “because he liked my style”. Later, at home in Bondi, I thought about this. Do I have a “style”? It would certainly make me pleased to think so. Then, a day or so ago, we received a book from someone in England written by an E.M. Delafield (of whom I had never heard). Entitled Diary of a Provincial Lady it was a (clearly heavily-truncated-and-edited) diary of her life in the south-west of England in the 1930s, and was rather delightful – a bit like Lark Rise to Candleford, but from an upper-middle-class point of view. I took the book back into my study from where I had been reading it in the bathroom and sat down at my computer. But much like the aging Tennyson, I found I had nothing new to say. My various writing projects had come to an end (for the time being at least) and there was nothing fresh I could key in, apart from email, some casual Googling, etc. Yet my fingers were itching to be put to work. Suddenly, I thought…why don’t I write a diary? If E.M. Delafield could write something interesting at her age of – I guessed 40 or more – then perhaps I could try something, if not similar, then analogous. For many years I have been researching DH Lawrence’s Australian novel Kangaroo, which I have decided is a fictionalised diary of his time in Australia. In the book I am writing about this (DH Lawrence in Australia) I say that Lawrence would not have expected his daily-doings – his comings and goings in Sydney and Thirroul in 1922 - to have riveted his readers. No, it was the comments and observations he makes within the framework of his daily-doings that would interested them, and which is indeed the principal charm and attraction of the book (particularly for an Australian interested in what other people think about us). So this is to be what I will be doing. I won’t write dairy of my comings and goings, except as the starting-point for what I hope will be noteworthy things that occur to me, incidentally as it were, as the days pass by. If I do have a “style”, then it will come out along the way. (Each day I will put the current diary entry in the box above, so that the diary will be in two forms – an orthodox chronological one, starting with its inception, and a daily-entry format being an ongoing record of quotidian thoughts and activity.)


BONDI Thursday, 25/9/14 (the first entry starts here) – Yet I am also going to try to emulate E.M. Delafield and keep my daily entries as short as practicable. We are now in an era where prolixity is a no-no. It’s the age of the Twitterati, and although I will not confine myself to 140 characters, or even 140 words, I will try to stay my flighty fingers in the cause of brevity and reader interest. I do, however, have something to say initially, and I hope I can say it succinctly. As I sat at my keyboard this morning, my eyes were drawn to the pile of books and folders on my left, waiting to be read. I had put them there after clearing out my study, now that my Lawrence research-in-chief is finished. This was stuff I thought I might need to refer to. I glanced at the pile again. There they sat, accusingly, daring me to read them, or else concede that I didn’t want them, and put them away with the rest of the detritus in the basement garage. It was then that a thought struck me. In 10 or 15 but surely within 20 years, no one will read a book. They will be obsolete. Of course, people have been saying that for some time, but what hit me now was that the Internet generations, now growing up, won’t even know what a “book” is. The printed page will seem to them as medieval manuscripts are to us now. Libraries will be print graveyards - museums of a bygone age of the written word. Strangely, given my profession and my lifelong interest in words, I won’t cry for that Argentina. Today, I much prefer the online world. (It’s far quicker, for one thing.) The alphabet is an anachronism, grammar is decaying, and spelling (given Spell-check) an almost archaic skill, like copperplate handwriting and slope cards. So goodbye Gutenberg. We must now bow down before the binary system. (I wonder – do the 0s&1s have a poetry of their own?)

26/09/14 Friday, Bondi - Sandra tells me she read in The Economist – surely the best news publication in the world – an obituary for Ian Paisley.  I did not even know he had died.  I didn’t see anything in the local papers – indeed, the local Media – of his death.  The people - I will not dignify them with the name journalists - who now choose what is news probably didn’t even know who he was, or his role in UK politics spanning more than four decades.  For good or evil he was, literally, the living symbol of Ulster Unionism.  (And probably 50% of my paternal heredity is of that ilk.)  The ranting of his diatribes and his thick Ulster burr still reverberate in my ears, and stir the blood of my ancestors.  Given the time we spent in the UK in the 70s and 80s, I will remember “the big fella” for a long time – fondly or otherwise, I am not quite sure.
27/09/14 Saturday, Bondi - A good turn-up at the Friday lunch at the Club yesty.  The long table was full, and Tasmania was also partly colonised.  Were it not for the Friday lunch – which I started more than a decade ago – the Club would be hard-pressed to put on its traditional buffet lunch on Fridays.  There were only a handful of other diners in the MDR.  Before we went up we had our usual discussion - Media matters mainly - and I also gathered up a few stragglers for our White Tie lunch on Wednesday.  Malcolm Colless is champing at the bit to get into his topic (“What’s Wrong with the Media Today”), and he will put on a good show, for he knows where some of the body-parts are buried.  There was some speculation on how much the SMH’s horrendous mistake this week (putting the wrong photo of the Melbourne Muslim militant on their front page) would cost them.  Graham, the former SMH legal eagle, suggested negotiations would start at $1 million.  Their groveling page-2 APOLOGY was the biggest I have seen.  They will rue the day their outsourced their subbing to New Zealand.  Vic Carroll’s infamous words “The Herald is no longer a subs’ paper” will come back to haunt them.  Reporters, who took over from the subs the running of print-publications, can’t run newspapers - which exist, as far as the reporters are concerned, to publish what they write, almost as a privilege.  For the subs, however, they‘re a vehicle for telling the public what’s happening - or should be.
28/09/14 Sunday, BONDI -

I emailed Ruffels in the UK yesty, for I discovered, from his postcard, that it was he who sent the Delafield book (the signature on the flyleaf being illegible).  I thanked him and told him where it had led, and attached the start of my diary.  (I must think up a title for it.)  For more than 30 years John has helped me uncover what happened to Lawrence in Sydney and Thirroul in 1922.  His skills as a researcher are of the highest order.  He is responsible for some of the important breakthroughs, including the identity of the man who put Lawrence on to Jack Scott and the secret army that provides the plot of Kangaroo.  Yet John had no academic background, and limited education.  He was a Banardo’s boy, sent out to Australia by a mother who could not look after him in London.  He grew up in one of those homes for boys without families (near Newcastle, I think), and later became a postman, pounding his beat in Randwick, before retiring on what must have been a minimal pension somewhere up Central-Coast-way.  Now he is over in England visiting the relatives his research skills have tracked down.  We had his mother to lunch on our balcony at Bondi when she came to visit him some years ago.  He must, like me, be in his 70s (he’s already had his prostate operation).  Not a great man, but a very good one, and I will certainly pay tribute to him whenever my book is published.

29/09/14 Monday, BONDI -

It’s good to see Tarquin coming into the Club again.  He is the quintessential club-man.  He has been rusticating in the country since selling his house in Leichhardt…first down at his mother-in-law’s place at Yass, now at Moss Vale where he has apparently bought a house, and thus is now within commuting distance once more.  (He’s promises to come to the White Tie lunch on Wednesday.)  He’s also taken over from my former boss David McNicoll as the best-dressed man in the Club, and he was at his dapper-best last Friday (though without the florid “wes’cot” he designed for our Friday Group, and which is seldom worn now).  He comes of a rather grand family (he is Tarquin de Fleurriet de la Force), which has a port – the drink, not the place - named after it.  I first met him in London when he was doing PR for de Beers.  One reason I warm to him is that he is something of a fan of mine, and has preserved all my Friday Group blogs since I started writing them back in 2003.  He’s a bit of a lady’s man, too, and can turn on the charm like a warm-water tap.  He used to flirt outrageously with the former Club chef, who has also retired down his way – Bowral, I think (where, apparently, she cooks for Alan Jones).  I must put them in touch again, if I can find Vanessa’s email address.  We miss her cuisine, desperately.

30/09/14 Tuesday, BONDI -

Steve sent me the latest Squiz figures.  They continue to be excellent.  At our September Users Conference, JP delivered a very upbeat picture of Squiz’s future.  All this can be traced back to the Ham Counter at David Jones’s food-hall in 1995, when John Paul’s sandpit-mate Angus Blackburn quit ham and came to work for us at the Australian Technology Park.  Angus – grandson of Sir Charles Bickerton Blackburn, our Chancellor of Sydney University - did not tarry long, but before he departed (for farming up Byron-Bay-way) he introduced us to JP, who had just won the University Medal at UNSW in Neuroscience, and wanted a gap-year in computer technology before going on to do Medicine.  He heard from Angus what we were doing – building Cybersydney – and came to join us (unpaid) in Redfern.  We helped introduce JP to Open Source, and he got our OK to start what became Squiz (Sandra dreamt up the name) in 1998.  We then put him in touch with Steve Barker, our former McCafferty’s Traveltime  salesman, and the rest is history.  However, it is nice to know that we have an assured income into the future (we have 10% of Squiz).  Not many journalists are lucky enough to have something like that – few of us bothered with superannuation - at the end of their working lives…and we are still working!

01/10/14 Wednesday, BONDI -

A lovely Spring morning.  Bondi looks exceptionally beautiful on such a day.  Not a cloud in the sky; cool, crisp air; and the glint of early-morning sunlight on the white-caps rolling in to the beach.  With the rising sun due-east, the sea is a carpet of blue flecked with silver, seen from our apartment overlooking the south end of the beach, looking eastwards across the bay to Ben Buckler.  (And the dawn comes up like thunder….)  I feel quite poetical this morning, having just completed my piece on Lawrence and Agatha Christie surfing at Manly (they didn’t, but could have) with Lawrence’s evocative description of the beach below Wyewurk on a July 1922 night, “raving with moonlight”.  As he walked along the shoreline, he glanced seaward.  The water was lapping at his feet.  I quote him: 

The light on the waves was like liquid radium swinging and slipping. It was nearly high tide, the waves were rolling very tall, with light like a menace on the nape of their necks as they bent, so brilliant. Incredibly swift and far the flat rush flew at him, with foam like the hissing, open mouths of snakes. In the nearness a wave broke white and high. Then across the intervening gulf the great lurch and swish, as the snakes rushed forward, in a hollow frost hissing at his boots. Then failed to bite, fell back hissing softly, leaving the belly of the sands granulated silver.


Now that’s good writing (and brilliant observation, for as I know, that’s what you see as you walk along the water’s-edge, though no one had seen it quite like that before).

02/10/14 Thursday, BONDI -

We had a sharp dose of reality at the White Tie lunch yesty, in the person of John B Fairfax, former deputy chairman of the SMH (he first sold out to Young Warwick, bought in again, then sold up all his shares – at a big loss - when he realised the ship his family had launched 150 years ago was sinking fast).  He did not mince words (and I had to remind the audience of mainly journalists that this was under Chatham House Rules, and he could not be quoted or sourced).  He said the Herald was a travesty of its former glory in the days when it was talked about in the same breath as The Times of London and The New York Times.  It had trashed its reputation - like Eddie Obeid, he said.   The Fairfax management had abandoned control of the paper (and we can assume he included The Age in this condemnation).   It had no direction and no future.  The change to tabloid had been a disaster.  It was like the Ugly Sisters trying to fit their feet into the glass slipper.  He spoke with some feeling.  I emailed his comments to Trevor Kennedy, saying it confirmed everything we both had been saying.

03/10/14 Friday, BONDI -

 What should I call this diary? Should it have a name? Probably so, for I should assume that one day it might be collated into a volume, and would thus then need a title. The title that would, for its contrarian connotations, have attracted me – Against the Grain – I have already used for my autobiographical Life Book. I should I think now choose something that would augment the traditional title-wording, “A (or The) Diary of…”. But of what? What am I? A Diary of a Nobody is taken. Obviously The Dairy of a Journalist would be apposite. But that’s not very inspiring (though in future it could have an antiquarian appeal). I am after all supposed to be a good heading-writer, so I should be able to think up something decent. The Diary of a Hack Journalist (or Sub-editor) is a possibility, for that is what I am – and the term “hack” is not as pejorative as it once was (for, as I now know from my Internet involvement, “hacking” is just another word for programming, and that is seen as a good thing nowadays). The opening chapter in my Life Book is entitled “The Boy from Bondi”, and I liked that. “You can take the boy out of Bondi, but you can’t take Bondi out of the boy”, so the saying goes. So let’s go – provisionally – with The Diary of a Boy from Bondi. (But shouldn’t that be The Dairy of an Old Man from Bondi?)

04/10/14 Saturday, BONDI -

Came up to Blackheath yesty and will be here over the Labor Day weekend - a holiday with even less meaning today than the Queen’s Birthday. Blackheath is at its best this time of year – Springtime. Last time we were up here the blossom trees had started coming out. Now our azaleas are all in bloom, though the trees that line Hat Hill Road are yet in bud. It’s nice to have a garden, which is looked after by Allan, our sometime gardener. He also keeps an eye on the place when we are back in Sydney. Next door the Warrens’ garden – much grander than our meager effort – is also in full-flower. It’s warming up, too. With luck, we will have lunch today on our back terrace, overlooking Pope’s Glen, the national park at our rear doorstep. The herb garden that Allan planted is doing fine, though the mint seems rather straggly. He’s coming today to get his modest stipend, and I’ll point this out to him. (It probably needs more water.) We’ll have a relaxed weekend, with perhaps a visit from John Lanser, who’s up at Katoomba for a mini-film-festival, or Peter Baldwin, who I have invited over for lunch or afternoon-tea. (Shouldn’t that be “whom”? But we can relax our rules of grammar up here too.)

05/10/14 Sunday, BLACKHEATH -

Most of the day I’ve been editing the final text of Sandra’s Life Book (On the Write Side of the Tracks). In doing so, I came across her reference to Olga Deterding and her literary salon, where in 1973 Sandra was bidden as the new biographer on the block, just before Ottoline was published. Olga, the Shell heiress, put on a pretty lavish show for London’s literati in her three-storey penthouse overlooking Green Park. (Tragically, she later choked on a chop-bone.) One of her previous boyfriends was the British TV personality Alan Whicker. He was one of the best reporters I ever saw on TV, in Britain or elsewhere. (His distinctive interviewing style was parodied in a Monty Python sketch.) One documentary I particular remember. He decided to go out and do a program about a “pools” winner. They waited until a particularly down-market recipient turned up. Then Whicker and his crew accompanied the man from “the pools” to break the news to the lucky winner. They arrived one miserable winter day at some dismal working-class street in the Midlands. It was sleeting. The pools-man knocked on the door of the hovel. In the parlour the whole family were waiting. They knew they had picked the necessary eight score-draws, and that some sort of “dividend” was coming their way. But were they the only winner, or would they have to share the prize with many others? As Whicker’s camera rolled the pools-man sat down and began: “I am pleased to tell you that you are the only winner this week.” The room waited expectantly. “Your dividend will be £13,000” (or whatever the precise figure was). They just sat there and stared ahead, blankly. They did not know what £13,000 was. It was a sum of money utterly beyond their comprehension. These were people to whom £10 was a large amount of money. They might have been able to imagine what £100 was – it might enable them to purchase their hovel. But this sum was completely alien to their world, their existence. As Whicker remarked, their lives would now never be the same again (and they weren’t). No one viewing that program could have felt anything but pity for them.

06/10/14 Monday, BONDI -

It would be an interesting excise for someone, who had such an interest, to compare Sandra’s version of events with mine. From the time we met at the Telegraph in mid-1964, our two accounts run parallel, like the two sides of a railway track. It’s a bit like Durrell’s Alexandrine Quartet, but in only two volumes (and fact rather than fiction). We have different recalls of many events, both factually and interpretation-wise. Yet, reading what she wrote, they are surprisingly in concert. We seem to have had the same view, and the same reactions to events; in most matters. What may be of interest, however, is the comparison and contrast between our journalistic careers. Sandra, being female, had a much-harder time of it than I did. The two accounts provide what must be an almost unique insight into journalism in the years leading up to the Internet, from different sides of the reporters’ room, as it were. How lucky we were to have been journalists when the profession had yet to be taken over by prospective Hemingways, Spell-Check, and the internet - in other words, when newspapers and magazines were still important and did what they were intended to do We had good careers, which we can both look back on with pleasure and satisfaction. How I pity the young “journalists” of today in a profession that has lost its purpose and its way.

07/10/14 Tuesday, BONDI -

I like to keep an eye on the mating habits of my fellow humans – that’s the journalist in me – and I note, looking down from our balcony at Bondi, how many girls of nubile age come by with dogs-on-leash. Nowadays, it’s One Girl and Her Dog (we used to watch, when we were in London, a BBC show One Man and His Dog, which were shepherding trials for border collies). This new girl-plus-dog phenomenon first impinged on me a few years ago when Danielle, one of the girls who then worked for us, informed us - as if it were a matter of some considerable significance - that she was about to "set up house" in Alexandria with what looked like a promising bloke, and that they would soon be acquiring a dog (a husky, in fact). This, I deduced, was the next step along the road to modern matrimony, now that proposals, engagements, kitchen teas, etc, are a thing of the past. Apparently today the opening gambit in the contemporary mating scene is “living together”, and then, third, "the pregnancy", which effectively locks in the arrangement, and leads, as the sparks fly upwards, to the altar or the marriage celebrant. Thus today we get, in upwardly-mobile Bondi, a motley assortment of second-stage hounds, of varying degrees of respectability, padding by, led from the dog-collar by a female of the species, with a predatory - or perhaps now well-satisfied - look in her steely eyes. It’s good no doubt for the dog populace still languishing in the pet-shop, but I worry what happens to fido when its job is finished, and its matrimonial services are no longer required. I note that a few females continue pass by, out of loyalty or nostalgia, with both pram and dog, and so are still something of "an item"...though clearly the former match-making functionary's canine duty is now done. Yet the poor mutt at the end of its leash must now have sensed, from its rapidly declining status in the ménage, that its doggy days are numbered. At times like this it’s better to be a cat.

08/10/14 Wednesday, BONDI -

How we miss Trilby, our cat. She was with us for 18 years, and was part of our otherwise childless family. We were a threesome. A beautiful chocolate-point pedigree Siamese (see her picture in my Life Snaps file), we got her from a breeder off the South Circular in 1979, and we brought her out to Australia in 1987. We purchased Collaroy partly so she would have a garden to run – slink – around in, and she died there, a venerable 18 years old, in 1997. (She liked Bondi, too.) She slept in our bed and was as good as any cat could have been. There could never be another Trilby.

09/10/14 Thursday, BONDI -

I’m having lunch today with an old school friend, Peter Wrench. We go back a long way. I did not realise how long until I ran across him unexpectedly one day in the Club in 2002. We had just given agistment to the Australasian Pioneers Club, which is almost as old as the Union Club (which I had joined in 1987), and of which he was a member (vice-president, I think). They had sold their premises in York Street because of falling membership, and needed somewhere to stay until they made their minds up where to settle next, and what to do with the $4 million they got for their former premises. We had last seen each other in 1958 on the junior clerks’ desk at British Tobacco in Kensington. We had been sent there from Sydney High as our first jobs in the adult world. I stayed only a few months before taking up an unexpected scholarship to go to Sydney University, but he stayed on for much of his working life. We grew up together in Bondi, a matter of streets away from each other. We both went to Bondi Beach Public School, and then on to Sydney High. His mother had a photo of class 2a at Bondi showing us standing beside each other, aged 7. He and I later joined forces to organise the Pioneers to remain in Bent Street for the foreseeable future (an arrangement that saved the struggling Union Club’s financial bacon). We will have a lot to look back on.

10/10/14 Friday, BONDI -

The lunch with Peter Wrench yesty went well, though it was a rather sad affair. When the lunch was arranged he said he had something to tell me. This turned out to be a new project that would, he was convinced, restore his fortunes, which have fallen rather low of late. Peter has a Micawberish belief that something is always around the corner that will, not only turn up, but make him, if not rich, then affluent once more. I think his previous project was some involvement in a mineral-sands venture in Bangladesh. I counselled him then to be careful, because I happen to know that everyone in Bangladesh is corrupt, and there was little likelihood that the venture would be successful. Forever optimistic, he went ahead. (What he could bring to the project mystified me, as he has no money to invest in anything.) He told me yesty that, unfortunately, the Bangladesh initiative had, as I expected, come to nothing. However, it had now led him on to this new project, involving a young Chinese whom he had encountered in a Bangladesh context and who has a plan – wait for it! – to export “ethical pharmaceuticals” and other products (infant food, etc) to China. The expression “coals to Newcastle” sprang to mind. Yet he had been assured by his new Chinese friend that there were people in China who were desperate for such imports from Australia (“the Chinese admire everything Australian”), and that consequently “the mark-up” would be enormous. I told him to beware of Chinese bearing such gifts, but he waxed lyrical on the returns he expected to get from his involvement, which consisted, apparently, of teeing up suppliers of such goods (Campbell’s Cash and Carry, etc), and looking after the Sydney end of the venture. I summoned up as much enthusiasm as I could muster for the idea – which also involved a website his son-in-law Tim would build - and he went away promising to “let me in on the action”. I like Peter very much, and have a great deal of loyalty, stemming from our growing up in Bondi, tied up in him. And I can have nothing but admiration for his eternal optimism and persistent chutzpah. Enthusiasm is a quality I admire more than any other in my fellow human-beings. I genuinely wish him well, but I’m afraid the portents are not good.

11/10/14 Saturday, BONDI -

Late on Thursday afternoon I was supposed to play golf up at Bondi links (and it’s a true links, linking the land to the sea) with Dan, to whom I have handed over my now unused clubs and who I am trying to help learn the rudiments of what Churchill called “a good walk spoilt”. I picked him up outside his flat in Sir Thomas Mitchell Road and we drove up Campbell Parade to the course where I learned my golf and which I used to scour for lost golf balls each day when I was a kid. There was no immediate place to park, so I dropped Dan off to go up to the pro-shop and wait for me there. I cruised up and down Military Road below the club-house, searching for what my New Zealand relatives call a “park”. But there was no place – nowhere - to leave The Gem for several blocks on either side of the road. I even drove down my old street, Wallis Parade, but it was solid all the way down to Wairoa. Finally I had to go back to the club-house where, fortunately, Dan had realised something was wrong, and came back to the now double-parked car. We abandoned the effort play golf, and returned to Notts Avenue for dinner and an update about Squiz (where I got him a job). But I was quite shocked, if that is the right word, by the fact that I could not find a place to park on that stretch of roads in North Bondi. I had not realised how over-crowded, at least automobile-wise, it had become - a combination no doubt of the popularity of the Ben Buckler-North Bondi purlieu, and (more probably) the fact that everyone has a car these days. There are very few premises that boast a garage in that part (or any part) of Bondi, a fact the consequence of which I had not hitherto appreciated. On a hot Sunday back in my childhood, when more than 50,000 would descend on Bondi Beach from all over Sydney, I used to estimate, as I made my way down to the surf, how many would be on the beach that day by how far up from the beachfront cars were parked. Even with 80,000 allegedly on the beach, they never reached up to the top of my street. (Though the parking places round the pavilion would be chockers.) No wonder they’re talking about an underground car-park beneath what they call “Bondi Park” now. But it doesn’t look I will get my game of golf at Bondi with Dan, at least after people start driving home from work.

12/10/14 Sunday, BONDI -

I think I should say something more about the changing face of Bondi. I have been exchanging emails with Hugh Wyndham in Adelaide about climate change. In response to an email from him about some new evidence of the perils of CO2, I (a sceptic) told him (a believer), tongue-in-ckeek, that I was keeping an eye on the water-level at Bondi, and that I had not noticed any rise. He assured me that global sea-levels had risen a 1.3 mm (since when?). But I have noticed no change. Bondi Beach is much as I remembered it over seven decades ago, when I was growing up here. However, the area behind the beach is changing, and rapidly. It is no longer the Bondi I knew when I was a boy (ie, very run-down). It’s been comprehensively upgraded, with new luxury apartments springing up all over, like mushrooms after rain. Hall Street is in serious danger of turning into Rodeo Drive.   Units in the once-ghastly blocks of 1920-30s flats are changing hands for millions, and Ben Buckler is becoming what it always should have been – the most-sought-after apartment address in the Eastern Suburbs. (It’s a good thing we have our two flats in Notts Avenue, else we would be very jealous.) Looking out from our balcony this morning I noticed that people are no longer swimming across the bay. (Fear of sharks no doubt). The girls are no longer topless (I assume they have other allures on offer). Jogging along the beach also seems to have declined, and life-saving by the “surf clubs” almost disappeared, now that we have council lifeguards on duty (when they are not appearing in Bondi Rescue). The council sweeper now combs the beach at night, weaving around nocturnal couplings, and the pavilion is garnished with upmarket eateries and trendy cafes. Yet I have no nostalgia for Bondi past. I much prefer it yupped.      

13/10/14 Monday, BONDI -

There was an item on the news yesty about Rolf Harris, who it was reported had to be moved to a different prison in England “for safety reasons”. I am troubled by Harris’s conviction on “sex charges” and his subsequent incarceration for a condign number of years. This is happening, particularly in England - but also in Australia - to some former “pop-stars” and “TV personalities” based on accusations from former “fans”, of both sexes. (Cliff Richard! - is anyone safe now?) I have little doubt that some such offences could have happened, yet I am disturbed with the parallel to the witches’ trials in various parts of the world in the 17th century. As the Salem trials showed, the word of juveniles cannot be relied on in such circumstances, and this applies to “fans” too. I never liked Harris’s brand of “entertainment”, and his wobble-board left me cold, but I don’t think this kangaroo deserves to be tied down so securely, especially in places where pedophilia is given short-shrift.

14/10/14 Tuesday, BONDI -

My day in court. A second offence for DUI, after been stopped for a very minor traffic infringement and breathalysed at Kings Cross four or five weeks ago, when I was found just over the limit (0.053 – a “low-range” offence). I sat in court while a morningful of far-more-serious offences were dealt with (those “represented” by lawyers are always heard first). I, as the second unrepresented case, came on just before lunch. I was clad, in contrast to the other much-scruffier offenders, in my business-suit-best, with university tie. (The “charge sheet” had mentioned that I had been “caught” returning home after lunch at the Union University and Schools Club.) I had my defense prepared, but it was soon obvious the “beak”, after dealing with all the other crims, was going to let me off lightly, having been pissed off with most of the other defendants. So I just went along with it. Yet he had to go through at least some of the motions, so he quizzed me on how much driving I did, and made a show of reading my “previous record”, noting to my credit that I had once been a motoring editor (of Everybody’s).  He did not record a conviction, so my 54-year-old “clean-sheet” driving record remains intact. He put me on a one-year good-behaviour bond, which was the least-severe penalty he could impose, in the circumstances.   “A slap on the wrist” the court official explained, apologetically, as he politely accompanied me to the “registry” where I duly entered into the “bond”. I had just time to get to the Club for Tuesday lunch with the Pioneers (only four of them today). During the morning tea-break, and to add some interest to the otherwise mundane occasion, I had sought out the “Press Room”, for I wanted to see what it might look like compared to the one we used to frequent at Central Police Court when I was a second-year-cadet court reporter for the Telegraph back in 1960. I was rather surprised to find one – wall-papered in News Ltd posters - and even more surprised, given current journalistic standards, to find someone in it. He turned out, moreover, to be from today’s Telegraph, and was engaged in typing something on his laptop. He wanted to know why I had intruded upon him, and I told him. He then became quite comradely, so I told him my story of the Central Police Court cat – the best story, I assured him, ever to come out of that grim Victorian structure further down Liverpool Street. Some years ago I also called in to inspect its Press Room, but it had gone, no doubt translated into the far-more-salubrious surroundings of the Downing Centre, which had by then taken over the old Mark Foy’s building on the corner of Elizabeth Street. I thought it rather appropriate that the former emporium, which was forced to close due to declining retail patronage, has found a flourishing new role housing the CBD’s inferior courts, establish there to service the increasing patronage thoughtfully provided by our modern legal system. I had a good sniff round and noted that prospective jurors congregate now in the very basement through which I used to walk to get the 360 bus back to Bondi, after a stolen day guiltily “wagging it” at the movies in town. As an ex-miscreant truant – and sometime court reporter - I felt almost at home there today.

15/10/14 Wednesday, BONDI -

It seems that I am to have a grommet in my ear, so my ENT specialist informed me yesty. For more than a year now my hearing has deteriorated, particularly in my right ear, which is, Dr Biggs confirmed, filled with liquid, no doubt the residue of a cold. He will insert the grommet to drain the liquid under a general anesthetic. Normally he would do this with a local, but due to my surfer’s ear I will have to go under completely. (Not that I mind, as I like hospitals and operations – a legacy of being put into St Vincents aged 5 after cutting my left tendon treading through the embers of a VJ night bonfire, then becoming “the darling of the wards” as I galloped around on my crutches.)   My surfer’s ear was diagnosed in 1976. Technically, it’s the growth of exostoses – bony bumps – caused by water rushing in and out of one’s ear in the surf (a place I spent a lot of time growing up in Bondi). It’s pretty rare, and my then specialist, “Doc” Halliday, called his father, Sir George, to come and see it. It’s even rarer in England, where doctors came from miles around to peer into my ear in St Mary’s Paddington before the second operation (they use a dentist’s drill to clear a path to the eardrum). I recall hearing the word “grommet” before, but I had no idea what it was (a tube inserted into your eardrum). I have a vague recollection that Prince Charles once drew a grommet, which he depicted as a sort of rodent. Apparently it’s also the name for an apprentice surfboard rider (I Googled it up). The Bunnings catalogue depicts it as a brass ring with some sort of cylinder inserted into it. Dr Biggs – a curiously reassuring name – warned me my surfing days are over, unless I wear a water-tight earplug. Oh, well, there goes another part of my younger, fitter days. I’ll now have to gaze at the surf beneath our balcony at Bondi and remember nostalgically waves once caught…along with backhands down the line, and 7-irons to the green.

16/10/14 Thursday, BONDI -

I’ve always been a great fan of soup. (I write this after having this evening consumed a cup of “instant” tom yum soup from a packet I bought for less than 30c.) These days I like soup almost better than alcohol – it’s certainly less fattening. I usually have a cup before lunch (elevenses) and another just before dinner, both boosted with extra chicken-stock powder, and a squeeze of chili sauce. (I like it hot.) I throw away the dried noodles that come with the several flavor-sachets in the packets, though I might break off some of the noodles and add them to the cup if I am especially peckish. I think I can boast of being one of the few people left alive in Sydney who remembers toheroa soup – without question, one of the world’s great soups. I discovered it as a cadet one day on my way back from Coroners Court at a fish restaurant in King Street called Gravas’s. I had always liked fish soups, but this was out of this world. It was green, thick and had gudgeons of what I later knew to be the NZ shellfish, the toheroa. It is unique to NZ and today heavily protected, and almost none exported. (I think the Maoris have a monopoly on it.) When I became a sub, I used to get a copy-boy to go up to King Street and pick up some take-away cartons of it for me and my fellow subs. I have not seen or tasted it since, to my eternal sorrow and regret. It would surely have given a run to what is claimed to be the world’s greatest soup – the Chinese concoction called “Buddha Jumps Over the Garden Gate”, which is based on shark-fin soup and about 50 other costly ingredients. (The legend goes that Buddha passed a house and smelled the soup being cooked inside, and jumped over the garden gate in his haste to taste it.) It is of interest that we get the word “restaurant” from the French name of a restorative soup that was so popular in 18th century Paris that a chain of such soup-places was set up to service demand – hence today’s restaurants.

17/10/14 Friday, BLACKHEATH -

Speaking of fish soups, I should record for any future readers (aka posterity) how many fish restaurants there were in town when I was growing up. For if I don’t, I fear no one else will. Gravas’s I have mentioned in the context of toheroa soup, but it wasn’t the only one (in an era – the 1950s - when fish restaurants were almost the pinnacle of contemporary dining-out, and a distinct cut above Cahills “restaurants” and Sargents pie palaces). The swishest fish restaurant in town was further down King Street, between Pitt and Castlereagh, on the first floor above some shops. There was another one, called I think George’s, just round the corner from the State Theatre, in Pitt Street (I used to have oyster soup there if I went into town to see a movie). Another was down at the Quay, across from the ferries. Yet another was near Central Railway, in the street that ran down to George Street from Eddy Avenue. (I remember it in particular because it was there one day I encountered a bad oyster in my soup.) There were others, too, that I cannot recall now. We also had a very good one at Bondi, between Roscoe and Hall streets. It was big for fish restaurants, and had refrigerated windows through whose frosted glass you could see (and presumably choose) big red “lobsters” (crayfish); Georges River oysters; plump orange-and-white Tasmanian scallops; and whole flathead, snapper, whiting, and bream. In earlier days, Sydney’s fish restaurants, or cafes, were mainly run by Greeks, who marketed the fish their fishing boats had caught via these outlets (they also ran many of the fish-and-chips shops throughout Sydney). I came across an echo of this in Katoomba recently, when we joined a campaign to save the iconic Paragon restaurant, which had fallen into the clutches of a Sydney solicitor who, we were assured, was letting the place run down, and maybe wanted to turn it into a convenience store. The Paragon – probably the oldest café in NSW, if not Australia – started out as a Greek seafood café in the 1920s. Its Greek owners progressively revamped it in the 1930s art-deco style, and it is still – almost miraculously - largely intact. I would move hell and high-water to keep it so.

18/10/14 Saturday, BLACKHEATH -

Sandra and her Abbotsleigh classmates - is there a feminine for “mate”? - had their 55th annual reunion yesty, and I duly drove her up the Pacific Highway and deposited her at the school gates. I had arranged (“While the cats are away, should the mice play?”) for the husbands to go off and have lunch together, which four of we mice did, to a “fusion” restaurant in Bobbin Head Road (my quip about bobbing heads went well wide of the mark).   Uncharacteristically, I chose badly (Schezuan pork belly) and did not enjoy the food. I restricted my alcohol intake, as part of my new good-behaviour-bond regime, to two glasses of not-very-good white (Clif had acquired it, he told us with some pride, for $2.50 a bottle from Gray’s Wine Auctions). The conversation was desultory – mainly about property prices on the North Shore, and the increasing number of wealthy Chinese buying up the prime spots - and I left early to pick up Sandra and drive up here to Blackheath. The cats, she reported, had talked mainly about their grandchildren. The new Canadian headmistress addressed the convocation of 40-or-so Weavers who fronted (the school motto is “Time Flies Faster than the Weaver’s Shuttle”) about what Sydney’s most WASPish school was doing in the way of giving politically-correct scholarships to Aboriginal children. It was good to get away into the fresh Mountain air.

19/10/14 Sunday, BLACKHEATH -

What do I write about today? What happened that is worth recording - or, more to the point, worth reading? I know - cicadas. Yesterday we heard the first cicadas of the year. We were out having lunch on our terrace, when suddenly they started up, as if a switch had been flicked on. Popes Glen sang with their song (which I gather is generated by their rubbing their legs together*).   It is the sound of the Australian summer. However, this was a little eerie, as only a week ago it snowed in Blackheath (10 inches on the ground). This, no doubt, is further evidence of climate change. Sandra is the expert on cicadas, and can name several types – the “Floury Baker” and the “Greengrocer”, for example.   As I don’t trust any insect bigger than an ant, I won’t inquire which type we have up here. But more power to their little legs.   They add to the rich fabric of country life in Blackheath. (I wonder if they are carnivorous and we can sool them on to the mosquitoes that will no doubt soon start harassing us, now that the warmer weather is with us again?) It’s supposed to be 25 degrees today, and fine, which will be nice for our literary lunch (on “The Literature of the Blue Mountains”). I will be trying to argue that Norman Lindsay is the literary giant of the Mountains. But to do that, I will have to show that cartoons are a form of literature, which I am sure they are. Lindsay’s cartoons, especially his WW1 propaganda ones, were worth a thousand words, and more. One of those cartoons – “The European God of War Beats his Drum” – was for sale in a second-hand shop in Pitt Street when I was a young sub-editor. I wish I had gone in and bought it. (*No, I am wrong here. Wikipedia – what would I do without Wikipedia? - tells me that their “song” is produced by contractions of their abdomen, which makes a continuous clicking sound. Only males “sing”, and it is apparently their mating call. Today Popes Glen is once more ringing to the sound of sex.)

20/10/14 Monday, BLACKHEATH -

Our literary lunch yesty (we were 12) was enlivened by a new face, Jennifer Lee, who performed – there is no other word for it – Concreto, a poem by Denis Keavans, Australia’s self-styled Poet Lorikeet. Denis, who succumbed to a heart attack at Wentworth Falls in 2005, is remembered as an activist from the far-left who wrote poems on a range of issues, from environmentalism to every other politically-correct cause you can name. Most of it is tendentious rubbish, and Geoffrey Lehmann rightly excluded him from his magisterial compendium of Australian poetry, on grounds of both subject matter (rank polemics) and poetic quality. But the “Lorikeet” did write one good poem, Concreto, which is worthy of anthologising, and which he himself performed on numerous occasions in the Blue Mountains and at miscellaneous left-wing gatherings around the place.   Jennifer recreated for us one such performance, from the opening lines

Concreeto is byoo-tee-ful !!!!
We need more concreeto in the Blue Mountains

to its concluding refrain

Because concreeto is byoo-tee-ful, It's a byo-tee-ful colour grey-ey-ey, nice and smoooothe.

with appropriate gestures. It was a tour de force, and much appreciated by all present. We each did our party pieces, Richard Hattersley reciting a poem he had written about Shipley, on the other side of the railway. For an ex-finance editor, it was commendably good, and I told him so. Brian Wakefield, who had brought Jennifer along, sang some lines of a socialist song (he later confessed to me – proudly or ruefully I am not quite sure - that he had been brought up a Communist). I did my intended piece on Norman Lindsay, arguing that his political cartoons were literature. The food was good – a Tagine - and everyone went away happy, having added further lustre to the Blue Mountains cultural scene.

21/10/14 Tuesday, BONDI -

A red-letter day for the Life Book and The Library of Life. The page-proofs of Sandra’s On the Write Side of the Tracks arrived yesty from the printers in Melbourne. It looked wonderful, as every new-born baby should. This is the first-published book for our Svengali Press, and our first Life Book to go on to virtual shelves of The Library of Life. The “dust-jacket” – in black, with Paul Delprat’s painting of Sandra sitting to him in his Balmoral studio in 1962 – looks great, and makes a perfect cover. The inside is as good as any orthodox-published book could be, though from now on we must not have cross-heads or anything else that could fall at inconvenient places in the text. The Svengali Press logo on the spine looks very professional, and augurs well for the future of our fledging digital publishing venture. My Life Book is next cab on the rank, and will go down to Melbourne in a week or so (I selected the photographs up at Blackheath yesty). An historic day in the fortunes of the Darroch-Jobson new digital-Media-world.

22/10/14 Wednesday, BONDI -

Gough Whitlam’s death was announced yesty (“reported” seems inadequate for an event of such magnitude).   I met him three times – first at an Australia Day party (and Dismissal wake) at his speech-writer Evan William’s home in 1976; second at a Constitutional Convention in Hobart later that year; then finally in our Embassy in Paris when he was UNESCO ambassador.   His intellect was prodigious, and he was probably the most intelligent - and learned - person ever to become PM. I had quite a bit to do with him when I was reporting the aftermath of The Dismissal for The Australian, and wrote a number of articles and editorials about him. He was a difficult person not to like, and admire. In Hobart he casually called into the café where we Press were lunching, and was charm itself. Yet he had his faults. At Evan’s place he held court in the backyard intoning about the role of the CIA in his downfall, about which he was quite paranoid. As everyone is saying today, he changed our country, and I must say largely for the better. His many reforms will be his legacy. Yet his zeal turned into hubris, and he will be remembered, above everything, for his Dismissal, and the manner of it. I do not think he was a particularly-good politician, and I tend to agree with Vic Garland when he included him in his list of PMs who were clinically insane before they left office. “The job sends you mad,” he told me in his High Commissioner’s office in London. “It obliges you to live in a world of your own making, because you can’t control the real world.”   The only PM he excluded from his list was Menzies.

23/10/14 Thursday, BONDI -

Today, given the events of earlier in the week, I sent out an email asking our White Tie group if anyone would like to speak at our December luncheon on the topic (which I had chosen): “GOUGH WHITLAM – MAD, BAD, AND DANGEROUS TO KNOW?”   I should not have done this, and received several complaints. So I sent out another email withdrawing the question and apologising for the apparent slur on The Great Man. I pointed out in my defence that it was a reference to Byron, adding that I did not think Gough would be offended by being likened to Byron. Yet it was insensitive, and I attached my diary entry (above) by way of exculpation. I added that, as a penance, I would give the December talk on another great figure – Santa Claus. I wonder how many will get the implication of that not-so-subtle allusion?        

24/10/14 Friday, BONDI -

An email was waiting up here from the Cambridge University Press (local branch) telling me that the CUP had decided not to publish my manuscript on DH Lawrence in Australia. This was not unexpected – indeed, I was almost half-hoping that they would turn it down, as it supplies me with a way of ending my Life Book on a note of rejection, for otherwise there is not much else in it to justify the title Against the Grain. (No, that’s not quite right. I would have much preferred them to publish, as they were the right and proper publishers to do so, given their deeply-flawed – embarrassingly-so - “Collected Works” edition of Kangaroo, with its incorrect ending and Bruce Steele’s crippled Introduction.) Still, they have given me my Huxley moment. (“The Lord hath delivered him into my hands, said “Darwin’s Bulldog” at the famous Oxford debate on evolution.) Trying, apparently, to find an intellectually acceptable way to cover themselves, the CUP referred my manuscript to their textbook division, and their rejection email today said:


As you would already be aware, the market for academic books is extremely competitive and we are forced to be increasingly selective in what we take on. In this instance we felt that your book would not be appropriate for our current publishing list…


One is reminded of what happened when the MS of Animal Farm was sent over to New York to the Orwell’s America publishers, who, being of a left-wing persuasion, had happily published his previous “progressive” works, like Down and Out in London and Paris. They declined to publish Animal Farm “because we do not publish children’s books”. Now I have to decide what to do with the manuscript. But I will certainly rewrite my ending to Against the Grain, in which exercise I do not anticipate the CUP will fare well. (I should add here that this is my second rejection from the CUP. In 1974 I was invited by its then publisher, Michael Black, to put in a submission to edit Kangaroo for the CUP “Collected Works” edition. My submission, which I had slaved over, was knocked back, without explanation or excuse – probably because it had suddenly dawned on them that I was a journalist, not an academic.)

25/10/14 Saturday, BLACKHEATH -

It’s now one month since I started this diary, and it’s time to look back and take stock. Is it working? Has it achieved its purpose? Is it worthwhile? Does it add anything to the sum of human existence? How does it compare with other diaries? Has it a future? I think it is working, and has indeed achieved what I set out to do. From my perspective, I think it is worthwhile, and might even add to the sum of human existence…because I believe it is attempting to do something that no other diary I have read has ever done before - and in doing so could break important new ground in this dawning digital age. Dare I say it? Yes I will. I am beginning to think that these “entries” could constitute a new form, or variation, of writing, suited to the Internet era. The “Diary of a Boy from Bondi” has turned out, serendipitously, to be something much more than a day-by-day record of events, a mere commonplace diary. The entries are starting to take the form of “micro-features”, each with a beginning, middle, and end. In fact I have consciously begun to shape them thus. I think this is new. So, is there a name for this sort of thing? Sandra and I have been racking our brains to come up with a suitable term. Finally, after a considerable search, we found one. It describes these “micro-features” aptly, and it is in fact a proper, orthodox literary expression. The problem, however, is that the term is arcane almost to the point of complete obscurity. (Surely a no-no to any self-respecting sub.) Nevertheless, the word is “causerie” – not admittedly something that trips off the tongue. It is a literary expression and means “a short informal essay” (originally from the Latin causārī, to plead a cause). The significant word here is “short”. We are now in an era when anything much beyond a few hundred words is in danger of not being read. Books, except in special circumstances, are dying, and will eventually be dead and gone. Journalism that ventures over half-a-column is whistling in the wind. No one will read it. This calls for a new form of writing - such as, perhaps, the causerie. Esoteric, yes, but at least I now know what I am trying to do has a proper grammatical name. (Who knows, one day it might even go viral on Facebook or Twitter - joke!)

26/10/14 Sunday, BLACKHEATH -

In for a penny, in for a pound. We have decided that The Diary of a Boy from Bondi should “go live”, and so Sandra is going to construct a website for it. (She did one for Tripe, so why not one for my quotidian ramblings? Her experience with tripe will come in useful.) As we now have a literary term – causeries – for these micro-features (aka mini-essays), we can launch them into the ether with a label attached to them, and a prospective literary category into which they might perhaps be slotted. (What would the Dewey Decimal System classification be for them? Should they be in LITERATURE, JOURNALISM, or wherever the Internet is in the DDS hierarchy - TECHNOLOGY?) I harbour no illusions as to who, if any, might read them. I doubt if they are going to go viral overnight, or over-year, or over-ever, for that matter. Yet I do think they contribute, as an appropriate and even original form of expression, to our Brave New Digital World. With the printed word on the verge of extinction, the Internet’s “literature” surely needs all the help it can get. (However, I think everyone knows what my views on this are.)

27/10/14 Monday, BONDI -

We have now decided to use the main picture on our “home-page” for the new The Diary of a Boy from Bondi. It was taken on our balcony at Bondi when we held a tripe lunch one Sunday. (It shows, among other delicacies, my famous tripe terrine.) I am reminded in such a context of one of the greatest political photographs ever taken in Australia. I think it was the 1961 general election – the one Menzies almost lost. It was taken in some country town in NSW and showed Opposition Leader Arthur Calwell standing on a box addressing a small crowd in front of a butcher shop. Over his shoulder in the shop window was a large sign which read:  FRESH TRIPE. It should have won a Walkley.

28/10/14 Tuesday, BONDI -

Jon Stewart, whose satirical Tonite Show is probably our favourite programme on Foxtel, this week moved his studio from New York to Austin Texas (I don’t know why). Texas is a pretty Republican State, and Stewart is pretty Democrat – in fact rabidly so. He’s what is called a “Yellow Dog” democrat (one who would prefer to vote for a yellow dog than a Republican). This warrants a Diary entry because we know Austin pretty well, having spent a month there in September 1972 researching Ottoline (her daughter sold her mother’s papers to the Humanities Research Centre at the University of Texas at Austin). We liked Austin and we liked Texas. We were in a six-storey student hostel across the street from the main admin building from whose tower Charles Whitman shot and killed 16 people in 1966. It was here also that the idea to write a book about DH Lawrence in Australia originated. The head of the HRC, Dr Warren Roberts, called us in on our last day there and asked what we had planned after Ottoline. Six years later I went back to Austin and the HRC to see the holograph manuscript of Kangaroo, which they had recently acquired. Warren Roberts, Lawrence’s bibliographer and initial general editor of the CUP’s Collected Works, took me out to a Tex-Mex lunch and suggested I look into the problem of the variant endings of Kangaroo (which I did, and eventually solved the mystery of the two endings – Secker and Seltzer). He later ensured that my “Not the End of the Story” article was published in the DHL Review. Warren was the reputable face of Lawrence studies, and was disinterested and conscientious academic – and a Southern gentleman with it. I liked him, and I think he liked me. Good memories of Austin, Texas.

29/10/14 Wednesday, BONDI -

Last Friday I had to tell my cousin Kerrie that she was not an Eason, the family name of the maternal side of my parentage. It’s a long story – too long to be told here. (I have made it part of the concluding chapter in my Life Book.) In short, however, I was following up something another cousin, Lesley, had told me – that three of my uncles were not fathered by my grandfather, George Eason. The matter seemed to turn on some event in 1919 when my mother, her mother, and her four brothers were expelled from mid-west NSW and exiled to Glebe, by then a slum. I have been trying to piece together what led to this family breakdown.   I had assumed it had something to do with my grandfather returning from the war and finding three bastard children. I had tried to find out more from the original source – the family genealogist cousin Betty - but she and Lesley clammed up, and I did not want to probe further for fear of offending them. Yesty afternoon, however, I finally looked up a family history and saw the birth-dates of my four uncles. To my considerable surprise I found that the youngest, Uncle Max – Kerrie’s father – had been born on March 2, 1919. Records showed that Grandfather George returned to Australia on December 22, 1918. So he could not have been Uncle Max’s father – and thus Kerrie’s grandfather. However, I had what might be better news for Kerrie, who has yet to react to my pretty devastating revelation. In the Eason family Bible Max’s birth is recorded, in my grandmother’s handwriting, not as Maxwell John Eason – the name we all assumed with which he was christened – but Maxwell Adam Eason. I advised Kerrie, who is planning a trip up Coonamble-way, to see if the records there show anyone with the name “Adam” (or better still “Maxwell Adam”). This could tell her who her real grandfather was.

30/10/14 Thursday, BONDI -

Today we resolved to dedicate our Lawrence function next Saturday to launching the new publishing and distribution division of the DH Lawrence Society of Australia (DHLA). We have decided to call the new venture “Rananim Media”. (An obvious name, given that we already publish Rananim, the journal of our DHLA society.) This is our considered response to the CUP turning down my DH Lawrence in Australia manuscript. Last Friday I said in my diary that now I had to decide what to do with the rejected MS. We had a number of options, or possibilities. We could look for an alternative publisher (perhaps a university press in Australia). We could seek advice from our publishing contacts (Curtis Brown, Tom Thomson, Carl Harrison Ford, etc) about how to proceed. We could look outside Australia for a possible overseas publisher. Or we could publish it ourselves - which is what we have decided to do. Our Library of Life project now has a publishing arm, The Svengali Press, designed to print, on demand, the autobiographies generated through our primary Life Book project. The first hard-copy production - Sandra’s On the Write Side of the Tracks - arrived from the printers in Melbourne today, and very handsome it looks. (So “professional” in fact that it led to this new Rananim Media idea.) My Against the Grain will go down in a few weeks time (I am subbing the final text now). We have several other Life Books in preparation for publication, including super-computer pioneer Peter Jones’s important life-story. We also intend to use The Svengali Press to publish other titles – anything covered by the Dewey Decimal System, in fact. We now have the means and resources to do this. Indeed, we plan to use the term “Media” to the full, and will also distribute Garry Shead’s wonderful video film on Lawrence and Kangaroo, through the distribution network we will now set up, supplementing our online “Library in the Cloud”. This decision means that last week’s ill wind has blown us some good after all. Importantly, we will also publish what will become the first-ever “correct” edition of Kangaroo, thus finally realising Warren Roberts’ original vision of producing the definitive text of Kangaroo “that Lawrence really wanted”. It will be made up of Seltzer’s 1923 text, including Lawrence’s final proof corrections, and the Secker ending - missing, scandalously, from the CUP version - together with my annotations and introduction. (Given my 40 years of research into Kangaroo and Lawrence’s time in Australia, I should be able to improve on Bruce Steele’s Melbourne-based efforts.) This will be quite a coup, and a prominent feather in the cap of our new publishing arm.

31/10/14 Friday, BONDI -

I mentioned above (19/10/14) my insect problem – I don’t trust anything bigger than an ant. My particular dislike – yes, fear – is of spiders. Not only because some of them might kill you, but because they are evil, sinister creatures that hide in dark places and slither and crawl and make your skin creep. (I don’t like snakes, either.) At this moment there’s one lurking up in our house in Blackheath – a huntsman about an inch and a half across – waiting to get me. I left it on the wall above my chair, hoping he (or her) would be gone when we get back. Was this dread something I learnt, or is it instilled in our DNA, a product of eons of evolution? My particular fear is of walking into one of their webs as I make my way down a path in the dark, and finding it crawling all over me as I disentangle myself from its sticky threads – ugh!. (This has happened to me more than once.) Sandra, on the other hand, has no fear of spiders at all. She almost likes them. He grandfather collected them – he has a daddy-long-legs named after him – and once asked Sandra to help trap a funnel-web for him (she was only too happy to do). That said, however, I must confess that I am currently making the acquaintance of a spider that occupies a small hole in the grille door that guards our front entrance at Bondi. I see him (or her) scurrying into its hole when I unlock the grille from the inside. (Its hole is the diameter of a drinking straw.) It has a little web outside in what serves as its front garden which ensnares its sustenance – the stray gnat or mosquito. It must be at least the fifth generation of whatever type of spider it is, as it or its kin have been occupying that hole for what must be more than a decade now. It’s probably handed down from father to son (or mother to daughter), as a protected tenancy. They may have even acquired the freehold. I watch him/her every morning as we go out, peering at me from inside its front door, and almost feel like making some gesture of recognition or farewell. “Morning spider, we’ll be back around 4.” I am getting quite protective of him/her – he’s part of our household, even. (At our literary lunch up and Blackheath next month I’ll be reciting The Spider of the Gwydir, one of Australia’s greatest humorous poems. I’ll dedicate it to my little friend by the front door.)

01/11/14 Saturday, BONDI -

It’s just after 6am and it’s the witching hour on Bondi Beach. (Witching in the sense of casting spells over people.) As I sit in my study and look down on the southern half of the beach, I observe an absurd spectacle.   Groups of up to 30 people are going through what I assume are exercises of various forms and contortions. The one closest to me is led by someone who runs backwards down to the water followed by his converts. Further up another group is crawling up the sand towards the promenade, then getting up and standing-start jumping back down again. Now a new group has turned up, just below us, and they are running down the sand, doing frantic push-ups, and running back up. I can see two more groups going through equally strenuous contortions on the grass behind the promenade. Most seem to be women of a certain age, and to be under the control of gurus who are obviously their “personal trainers”. It all looks slightly ridiculous, as if I were looking at a Lowry cityscape when all the stick figures suddenly start going into convulsions. At one stage Dan wanted to take a personal-trainer course. Perhaps I should have encouraged him. In the long run (sorry for the pun) it might prove more lucrative than Customer Relations Management.

02/11/14 Sunday, BONDI -

Our DHLA event yesty went well – very well, in fact. It was intended as a memorial occasion to our late President John Lacey and our late Secretary Margaret Jones. But it had three other purposes: a talk on secret armies by Andrew Moore (who coined “The Darroch Thesis”); our announcement of the launch of Rananim Media (the new publishing arm of our DHLA); and a showing of Garry Shead’s film on Lawrence and Kangaroo. Garry has re-edited the version we saw premiered at the Chauvel in Paddington, and it’s a much-more-polished production now. He warmed to our idea of publishing the “correct” text of Kangaroo. “You can copyright it,” he said. And so we can – and will. At home afterwards I somehow cut my finger, and it started bleeding copiously (my blood-thinning medication makes me a ready “bleeder”). I now have an inkling of what it must be to have haemophilia.

03/11/14 Monday, BONDI -

Robert Whitelaw introduced me to a new expression at our DHL function on Saturday – “getting off at Redfern”. I am a student of the language, and welcome any chance to improve my grip on it. Robert, who is something of a man-about-town, has his finger on many pulses in Sydney. Earlier he introduced me to some other contemporary expressions, like “the significant other” and “friends with benefits” (modern mating terms). To “get off at Redfern” means coitus interruptus, or pulling out too early. A delightful expression, and so typical of Australian slang (one wonders if Barry Humphries had a finger in it). When on Weekend in London in 1966 I did a piece for their Australian immigration supplement on Australian slang, and what a Pom could expect Down Under. My favourite was “one up against the duck house”. This is not what it might at first appear, but (according to a dictionary of Australian slang) means “something to your detriment”, first heard of in 1933 and used in a book by Norman Lindsay in 1947. One wonders where Robert came across the train to Redfern. Given the protection now available in such affairs, one would have thought it need not pull up at Sydney’s penultimate station, but go straight through to Central.

04/11/14 Tuesday, BONDI -

Speaking, as I have been doing, of the death of the book and the demise of newspapers - the overarching theme of my diary – yet another rather profound thought struck me yesty morning. I think the general corollary of February 23, 1981 - the day the new Reuters Monitor financial Information service went live and information became, for the first time in history, a product in excess supply (thus launching the digital revolution) - is that people will, increasingly – and perforce – not write in the belief that what they say will, necessarily, be read by someone else. This is a profound thought, and may change literature forever (if indeed true). Up till now, people have written in the belief, or hope, that what they write is worthwhile because other people will read and perhaps appreciate what they have said. I think we are coming to a time when people will write, primarily, for an audience of one – themselves. (And with the only secondary hope that it might interest someone else.) It will be sufficient that the writer himself or herself can read it. Unattractive an idea that may be, but that day is coming, as the sparks fly upwards. I only hope that it gives comfort, and encouragement, to those of us who feel they have something to say. At least we can read it, and think it worthy of recording.    

05/11/14 Wednesday, BONDI -

(Guy Fawkes Day…Remember, remember, the fifth of November. Gunpowder treason and plot.) No fireworks today, but we are having our White Tie lunch at the Club (Hugh Liney on “Who Killed Pop Music?”) In preparation for this, Sandra decided this morning to give me a haircut. This is, believe it or not, my first “official” haircut since – wait for it – 1985. Long time no trims. (In the meantime I cut my hair myself, as best I can, looking into the bathroom mirror, and feeling if it’s too long at the back.) I gave up going to barbers and hairdressers because, that last time, in the hair facility at the RAC club in London, it impinged on me that the barber was gay – a homosexual. This was the height of the AIDS scare, and I did not want to risk anything in his barber’s chair. (In the meanwhile, I have saved a lot of money on haircuts.) The last time Sandra cut my hair was even earlier – in 1966, after we came back from London and were living in Macpherson Street, Cremorne. It was not a good cut. In fact, she went slightly deranged and, not satisfied with her first attempt, she kept on cutting, in the hope – vain, as it turned out – improving on her earlier efforts. Finally I called a halt, while I had some hair left. There was some amusement (Sandra herself having been reduced to hysterical giggles) at the office when I arrived at work that night - first in the subs-room, then downstairs in the composing-room (I was make-up sub by now). But this time she made a reasonable fist of it – it was, perhaps, fortunate that she had not much hair to work on - and, besides, I don’t concern myself much about my appearance these days. (At least I still have some hair on top, when so many of my acquaintances are going bald – like my unfortunate school-chum Peter Wrench. However, I also live in hope that over in London Pilger’s going bald, too, as fair-haired people are usually the first to go.)

06/11/14 Thursday, BONDI -

As I am writing my diary - or causeries – I am subbing the final text of my Life Book, Against the Grain. I was correcting chapter 9 this morning (mainly changing single- into double-quotes and putting double-spaces between sentences) when I came to the passage explaining why in mid-1986 we decided to quit England, and return to Australia. The catalytic moment for me came while I was playing golf at Ealing Golf Club. Through this pretty course meandered the River Brent. I was walking beside it with a fellow member when I remarked on the condition of the river, stained almost as yellow as the rivulette in Gilfach Goch, and whose banks were also littered with minor debris. “That’s a scandal,” I said.  “Surely in this age of environmental concern, they would do something about that.” “You are wrong,” he replied. “The Brent Valley Authority is one of the most environmentally-aware local authorities in London. They police this river strictly. No one is allowed to pollute it.” “Then how come all this pollution?” I asked. “That is not pollution from anyone along the river,” he told me. “That’s the pollution that comes from the streets of West London. All the local gutters drain into the Brent, and nobody can do anything about that.” To solve that problem, they would have to tear up and rebuild much of north-west London. It is a problem that a place like Britain and London cannot, in practical terms, fix. They are stuck with it, apparently forever. In Australia, however, we can still change that sort of thing. (As they did at Bondi Beach, diverting the storm-water outlets into a tunnel that now goes out beyond the waves, and the “Murk” into another tunnel that goes even further out.) Here there is still hope. Our environment is improving, our waterways are becoming less polluted, the air is cleaner, and our surroundings are steadily improving. Australia is a place where hope and determination can still change things for the better. That, today, is even more true. On the whole, our environment is – and I shudder to use the word incorrectly – pristine. There is little or no pollution, very little litter in the streets or in the bush, and – despite the climate-change doomsayers – the climate is benign and the level of the sea beneath our balcony the same as it was when I was growing up in beauteous Bondi. We are, as my old editor-in-chief Donald Horne described us, indeed a Lucky Country.

07/11/14 Friday, BLACKHEATH -

I had to see my cardiologist yesty to get a clearance for the general anaesthetic I will have on Tuesday to insert a grommet in my ear. He administered a stress test (which I dislike – I have never been, unlike my father, a keen walker) and a new ultrasound examination of my heart’s inner workings. Apparently I will last at least another two years, as that is when I am due to come back again. The office of his NSW Cardiology is in the former Bank of NSW building in Martin Place (now Westpac) on the mezzanine floor of which was some sort of travel department where I used to go collecting travel brochures when I was at Bondi Public. It is a relic of the days when banks had to at least appear to be substantial institutions. Yesty, in its captious “banking hall”, there was only a “concierge” to direct people where else to go. The impressive ranks of teller places were vacant, with only a few ATMs in a corner to service customers. The machines are indeed taking over. Dr Cameron Holloway, a young associate professor of cardiology, and a very dapper chappie, took my blood-pressure and said I was 120 over 70. (You know you are getting old when cardiologists start looking younger.) “You have the blood-pressure of a teenager,” he told me. A legacy of all that bike-riding I suppose. Still, it made my day.

08/11/14 Saturday, BLACKHEATH -

Our White Tie lunch last week on pop music was an outstanding (I will resist the obvious puns) success, and Hugh Liney did us proud. We had 20 around the square table (is that a contradiction in terms?) and they were all – and here I will succumb – rapt as Hugh “sang” (chanted) some lyrics of some contemporary Rap “songs”, which are now, he told us, pushing out what goes for modern pop music in what is left of the pop charts. Our outgoing Club President Marion Pascoe sent me an email afterwards saying how much she enjoyed these politically-incorrect occasions. I responded saying that I was doing my best to fight the good fight, and attached for her my Club blog of 2010 about Aboriginal dot-art. She in turn told me that someone she knows, a nurse, does dot-paintings in her spare time, getting up to $5000 for a single “painting”. She executes these in the tea-room of the hospital where she works. No doubt inspired by the “tea-room dreaming”, I suggested. “Very droll,” she replied.

09/11/14 Sunday, BLACKHEATH -

As I thanked the young man who supervised my stress-test on Thursday for his considerate handling of my ageing body, I told him he was no Torquemada. He looked at me blankly, and said: “Who?” I tried to explain about torture and the Spanish Inquisition, but he hadn’t heard of the Spanish Inquisition either. I dared not ask him if he knew what, or where, Spain was. Yet I do not think he is untypical of products of the present - and recent - Australian education system. We have two very bright boys working in our office, both doing post-graduate work at UNSW, full-time. One lunch time I happened to mention the drowning of Harold Holt. Not only did they not know he had drowned, but they did not know who he was. They almost certainly don’t know who Torquemada was or his role in the Spanish Inquisition. (“What’s an auto-da-fé?”)   I am sure if I delved further I would have unearthed a deep and extensive ignorance of almost everything which has got our civilisation to where it is today. Of literature, they will know almost nothing. The history of Europe and the rest of the world will be a blank to them. I seriously doubt that they even knew who Whitlam was when The Great Man passed away a fortnight ago. (“What was all that fuss about?”) How much are they missing from what life on Earth can offer! How can they enjoy and appreciate the fruits of modern civilisation if they don’t know what modern civilisation is made up of? The glories of 16th-century Spain is lost on them. The will not know who Rembrandt was. I am sure they don’t know who Luther was, nor Pericles, nor Milton, nor Tolstoy, nor Mozart, nor, for that matter, Henry Lawson and Norman Lindsay (let alone Harold Holt). Come next year and they will not know why we are celebrating the bicentenary of Waterloo. (“Wellington? Who was he?”) The Federal Government will have to almost forcibly indoctrinate them with the Anzac legend, so they will understand what we will celebrate on April 25. (“So that was that holiday was all about.”) How tragic their ignorance for them, their generation, Australia, and perhaps the whole world. February 23, 1981, has a lot to answer for (as has comprehensive education).

10/11/14 Monday, BONDI -

An interesting topic of conversation – if I could find someone to discuss it with – is which or what invention or technological breakthrough has changed the world the most? I’m not thinking so much about big breakthroughs like fire, or agriculture, or the discovery of gravity, or the exploitation of electricity or relativity. I’m thinking more of things like the steam-engine, the transistor, the microchip, or the internal-combustion engine. Each of those “inventions” has a claim to having contributed most to today’s world. Yet from my perspective , the world of information, the most important development is a date, February 23, 1981 - probably the most important date in human history. For that was the day – as mentioned above – that information became, for the first time, a commodity in excess supply. I believe that when future generations look back they will say that it was the subsequent development of the device that most exploits that “tipping point” - the mobile-phone - that changed everything. Today, this little device - little bigger than a playing card, and about 20 cards thicker - is taking over the world. It has become the main, default, communication interface, outside and inside. It is sending the telephone and land-line back to the stone-age. We still use computers and laptops, but the Iphone is taking over. At bus-stops (and no doubt railway stations) almost every commuter – at least those under 60 – have their eyes or ears or twitching thumb (and in women’s case, thumbnail) attached, like a modern-day umbilical cord, to the black-glass-block of silicon-chips and wireless connections. The miracle of today’s world of digital technology is being compacted into a mini-mobile-office that you can hold in the palm of your hand. It is a wonder too wonderful to even wonder at - and I must get one soon.

11/11/14 Tuesday, BONDI -

Grommet Day. I am about to go off to St Vincent’s Day Surgery to have the grommet inserted in my right ear by Dr Biggs, under a general anaesthetic. It had to be a general rather than a local because of my “surfer’s ear”, an affliction, stemming from my many years in the surf at Bondi, when boney growths called exostoses narrow the canal leading to the eardrum, and thus they can’t get at it easily. (For more gory details, see 15/10/14 above.) It’s also Remembrance Day (not to mention the anniversary of “Kerr Day”, when Gough was sacked in 1975). When I was at school down at Bondi Public, the whole of Sydney stopped – on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month - to mark the then very important anniversary (it was almost as big as ANZAC Day). The trams across the road from the school halted for – was it three minutes? – and we and everyone else were also expected, obliged almost, to be stationary for the allotted period of “remembrance” (and even bow our heads). I’ve never liked this sort of thing - it smacks of jingoism and xenophobia and the worst aspects of populism. I am steeling myself for next April and the general wallowing in ersatz government–generated patriotism that will then be stuffed down our throats by a lickspittle, compliant Media. Ugh! (Later - my op was fine, but so far no improvement in hearing, and my ear still feels blocked. But I enjoyed my time in St Vincents, as I always do. The only blight on the day was that Sandra scraped the nearside front door a bit. But that’s the rub of the green.)

12/11/14 Wednesday, BONDI -

It occurred to me today – in the context of Kerry going out to Coonamable this week digging up our Eason roots – that I really should have been christened Robert George Darroch.   According to my father, my mother sneaked in the “Maxwell” as my middle name, presumably after her youngest brother, and unbeknown to him. Normally, the first name of the maternal grandfather would have got the nod. However, I do not think my mother – nor her mother – wanted George Eason, who had expelled them all from Coonamble, etc, to be remembered in her new son’s middle name. She had helped bring up Max in Glebe, and our regular visits to him and his family in Housing Commission Panania showed what fondness she had for at least that male representative of her mother’s Mason line. So “Maxwell” it was to be. (Preferable to the more stolid “George”, I think.) I suppose “Hurley” might have been another possibility, or even “Ryan” or “Killeen”, if a touch of the Tykes were allowed a look-in. However, over in NZ the Darroch “no popery” side would have bridled at that. On the other hand, their “Armstrong” could have been a possibility…Robert Armstrong Darroch. Yes, that sounds nice and solid and no-surrenderish. I wonder if Canon Chasuble is free on Sunday afternoon?

13/11/14 Thursday, BONDI -

I have been having an exchange with Geoffrey (Lehmann) over my book and who might publish it, now the CUP has turned me down. Rather than publish it ourselves, he suggested a Melbourne publisher called Text, which was of a “progressive” tendency (and so might be interested in the secret-army side). In thanking him for this, I attached to my reply the text of the ending of my book, with its summing-up that Kangaroo is an anti-fascist novel (“Scaly back…” etc). He replied that my “conclusion” was “masterly”, and even persuaded him to have another look at the novel, having not liked it when he read it in English I, or whatever. Coming from Geoffrey – who has previously condemned Lawrence as a novelist - that is praise indeed. Moreover I can take it as honest praise, for Geoffrey does not dissemble, nor say things that make people feel better. So that’s nice. Meanwhile I am ploughing through my research notes and papers (those that keep glaring at me from the left of my monitor screen), tracing footnote references and sorting out what to ultimately keep or throw out. I came across the article Pierre Ryckmans wrote in the NYT Review praising Lawrence’s novel and my interpretation of it (“The Darroch Thesis”). That was even higher praise than Geoffrey’s. (Ryckmans died a few weeks ago.) It’s doubly nice to have the support of two people whose opinions I respect. So up you, CUP.

14/11/14 Friday, BONDI -

I see that a new “gala” exhibition of pop art has popped up at the NSW Art Gallery. I must go and see it, for I am an especial fan of pop art. It’s big and bold and resonates with contemporary relevance and references. Although I like all (non-dot) art, I appreciate modern art more (a legacy of my Fine Art course in 1969 and my involvement in the Power Bequest – in 1959 I reported the announcement of it as a first-year cadet…which led to Glebe, wrapping up Little Bay for Christo, etc, etc). I will be particularly interested in whether there is any mention of whether pop art is today seen as abstract or representational. I crossed swords with a lecturer in my Fine Arts course, Terry Smith, over this. I wrote a term essay on pop art, that said, inter alia, it was basically representational. He held the contrary view - that it was basically abstract - and marked me down accordingly (shades of my History II contretemps – but, then, like my Labor-historian lecturers, he was left-wing too). I persisted with my position in the final exam, and did not get the marks I should have (a credit, but I should have almost topped the year – and would have, had Bernard Smith anything to do with it). Today, on sober reflection, I think it is both – a combination of abstract and representational. One day I must talk about my visit in 1984 to the main art gallery in Hamburg, and my first sight of the work of Joseph Beuys. Was he abstract or representational? I would be interested to hear Terry Smith’s opinion on this.

15/11/14 Saturday, BLACKHEATH -

I invented a new expression yesty – “fish-ball journalism”. I was writing a piece intended for Quadrant (I’ve finally forgiven them for turning down my article demolishing AD Hope’s attack on Lawrence). My piece was based on a SMH cutting of 1929 about a chance meeting in London in 1926 between Brian Penton and Lawrence. (The gravamen of my piece was about Penton’s invention, when he was Editor of the Daily Telegraph in 1940-45, of Telegraph Style - that strict regime of grammar and syntax that I learned as a young journalist on the Tele.) I was looking for a way to end my piece when I remembered the passage in Kangaroo where Lawrence is quoting extracts from The Bulletin, and saying how much he liked its style and content. I went on to remark that Lawrence thought highly of Australian journalism, contrasting it with “the horrible stuffiness of English newspapers” which he could not stand, as “they had the same effect on him as fish-balls in a restaurant, loathsome stuffy fare”. I concluded by saying that in Australian journalism today, with its indulgent prolixity and loathsome stuffy fare, “it’s fish-balls, fish-balls, all the way down” (paraphrasing Stephen Hawking’s “turtles” quote). I like “fish-ball journalism”. I think it might stick.

16/11/14 Sunday, BLACKHEATH -

One of the numerous pleasures of having our weekender up here at Blackheath is that I can listen to music – music that I choose to listen to. My tastes in music are esoteric, verging on the bizarre. Whenever I get the chance – mainly when I go downstairs into our lovely “country kitchen” – I switch on my player and listen to my favourite recording – the songs of Peter Dawson. (I have to do this in the absence of Sandra, who is, I regret to report, no fan of Australia’s greatest bass baritone.) These songs are mainly about England. (Old Father Thames, The Yeomen of England, The Changing of the Guard, Glorious Devon, When the Sergeant-Major’s on Parade, etc.) That, in fact, is their particular delight for me - that they are about England. Although I like to put it about that my roots are Scottish (or else from Ulster), the place I most identify with is England. My culture is English, my history is English, my language and literature are English, and in fact I regard myself as being English (though Australian-born). And, of course, we lived in London for nigh on two decades. I play those great tunes and songs and sentiments as proudly and chauvinistically as I dare – or at least until Sandra comes down the stairs and demands that I turn him off. My Darroch grandfather was equally anglophile. “Mother knows best,” was his election slogan in Wellington. I like to think I take after him in this regard. “You have won the lottery of life,” Cecil Rhodes once said. “You have been born an Englishman.” Today, up here at Blackheath, I am enjoying the proceeds of that lottery.

17/11/14 Monday, BONDI -

Saturday was Wy Day. We made our way over to Burran Avenue to pay our respects to the Prince of Wy, aka Paul Delprat. I had expected a more subdued Wy Day than normally, in the wake of Paul losing his battle with Mosman Council to have a driveway put through the Wyargine reserve, giving him dual access at the bottom of his land – and to Balmoral Beach. Given that he had put so much into this battle – elevating him and his family to the ranks of royalty and claiming independence from the municipality – that I thought he would be at least licking his wounds. Not a bit of it. He was as boisterous as ever and revelling in the trappings he himself has arrogated to the court of His Serene Highness (we are Lord and Lady Darroch of the Principality). And his attendant Court was as crowded as it usually is on Wy Day. Sandra presented him with a copy of her book, with his portrait of Sandra on its cover, and he made an impromptu address to his “subjects” there assembled, lauding Sandra, the book, and our long friendship - even claiming (incorrectly) that we had first met at his place. But it was a nice speech, and he carried it off with his customary charm and aplomb. We had to dash away to come up to Blackheath for our Literary Lunch on Sunday (which went very well), but we came away well pleased that our best and oldest friend had not only bounced back, but would probably reign over his Principality for many years to come. You can’t keep a good Delprat down. (And Wy should you?)

18/11/14 Tuesday, BONDI -

Stan and Jane Jefferies to lunch today (at the Greeks in Bourke Street). Stan – Peter’s father – came to ask our assistance in staging a “Return to the ATP” event next year, when, he intends, to invite as many of those he can contact who were at the Australian Technology Park after it started in 1995 to come back and mark the anniversary, and celebrate what, for many of us, was not only an exciting time in our lives and business careers, but also a somewhat defining moment in the story of Australian technology and innovation (so this is a 20th year commerative event). For we were there at the beginning. We agreed to be on a steering committee that Stan will assemble to organise a commemorative dinner, or whatever. I have mixed feelings about the ATP. On the one hand it was where we started Cybersydney and Squiz, where we were introduced to the Internet, and launched us into the new digital information age (replacing dying journalism careers). It was an exciting era. On the other hand, the ATP failed to fulfill its promise, purpose and potential. In most ways it was a failure, for which the vaunted “three participating universities” – USYD, UNSW and UTS – were largely responsible. Their internecine feuding and lack of – yes, vision – cruelled what should have been a beacon of innovation in a State in sore need of something visionary. (Bob Carr – a technology nincompoop - was particularly to blame for this failure.) In fact, Squiz was probably the best thing ever to come out of the ATP (and we should be, and are, grateful for that). So we will do our bit, and return there to the graveyard of the Industrial Revolution with pleasant memories. In the end it was all a bridge too far, which the self-centred universities declined to go cross, once they had built it (and It confirmed my low opinion of academics).       

19/11/14 Wednesday, BONDI -

Today Geoffrey Sherington (ex-Professor of Education and ex-Pro-Vice Chancellor at USYD) addressed the Vernon Group at the Club on the state of university education in Australia. He told us that the Fisher Library no longer has books in it (except a few reference books, etc). The stacks have been cleared of books, which have been banished to Regents Park or somewhere else remote from the university. You can request a book, but have to wait a few days until it is fetched from west of Parramatta. “What,” I asked him, “is in the stacks now?” Apparently desks for students, or whoever, to browse the web, suck their Cokes, and check their email and Facebook/Twitter messages. I was almost afraid to ask the next question. “Do they still have lectures?” A few, he replied, but mainly students access their lectures via Google and the university website. He told us that USYD now has almost 40,000 students (it was about 2000 in our day). About a third are from overseas, and most of them come to get residency status after they have graduated - which is why the degrees have to be easy to pass. I knew things were bad, but I did not realise they had got this bad. Thank God we went there when they still had books and lectures and meaningful degrees (though, as I explain in my Life Book, I never got one). I’ve had a vague ambition to go back and complete my degree (and tell the English Department about my Kangaroo discoveries). That’s one I can cut off my Bucket List.                 

20/11/14 Thursday, BONDI -

Michael Lester has emailed me about the probable derivation of the term “causeries” (I had sent him an example of my Bondi diary). He wrote: “In doing a quick bit of research, I see that ‘causeries’ was used in mid-19th century to describe writings of French author Saint-Beuve, who wrote a series of Causeries du Lundi facilitated by the rise of...newspapers. So how apposite for you to revive it in digital age! Saint-Beuve’s causeries were subsequently published in 20 or more volumes. Apparently the word comes from the French 'causer' to chat.” That’s a useful provenance.  (And an echo of the column Sandra used to write in the SMH, called Sydney Monday.)

21/11/14 Friday, BONDI -

Friday lunches. These are something of a tradition in my profession. It’s the traditional day to go out at the end of the week and have a good meal with your colleagues, assuming you’re working a normal-hours five-day week. When I was working on The Australian in the mid-1970s we used to go to the Italo-Australian Club in George Street where a good, cheap Italian meal with some cheap plonk was to be had. Later, on The Bulletin, we used to go to the excellent New Hellas Greek restaurant in Elizabeth Street, just up from Mark Foys. (We used to see Lionel Murphy lunching there – and that was before they turned Mark Foys into a District Court). Ted St John used to run a good Friday Lunch at the Ceylon Tea House in Castlereagh Street (the curries were excellent, and I brought the wine). Peter Wilenski was a regular there, but it was mostly rather right-wing, I am sorry to say (but legal too). I was never asked to the Friday Lunch that Lenore Nicklin used to run at upmarket Tony’s Bon Gout further down Elizabeth Street (mainly for left-wing Herald writers). Perhaps my favourite Friday lunch venue was the Castlereagh Hotel (“the Scunge”), next to the old Telegraph building, where there was a small first-floor dining-room that was probably the first attempt at something better than pub-food in Sydney. (Lindsay and I were regulars there, along with some of the other staffers on The Bulletin.) When I was elected to the Union Club in 1987 I made it a practice to come to lunch here every Friday. At first I was rather lonely - as new Members usually were then - and I took to sitting at a table in the Smoking Room next to what was then the bar. As time wore on, a few other new Members joined me, and we would go up to lunch together (before that I sat at the Secretary’s Table, where new Members were always welcome). In the fullness of time the group expanded into what it is today – unquestionably the most enjoyable, and best-informed, Friday Lunch in town. And I look forward to seeing you there, later in the week.

22/11/14 Saturday, BONDI -

Last evening we were bidden to attend a reception marking the 100th anniversary of the birth of Dylan Thomas. It was held in the “official” residence of the UK Consulate-General, in an impressively-large mansion in the best part of Vaucluse. We were there as the representatives of the DH Lawrence Society of Australia (I being its President, and Sandra its secretary). Representatives of the other Sydney-based literary societies – SydLitSoc - were also there, plus the entire Dylan Thomas Society local membership (they catered for the event). The UK High Commissioner came up from Canberra for the occasion, and recited a nice poem he had written about Dylan visiting Sydney (which he never did) in the poet’s distinctive style (mentioning the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Opera House, and Luna Park). He carried it off well, and the occasion was a success, despite few of the guests knowing each other. (Most of the time we were peering at name-tags.) Then in came the Prince of Wy and his consort! Apparently he’s a member of the Dylan Thomas Society too. (We are also seeing him tomorrow at the annual Julian Ashton Art School exhibition.) Every catered function, almost. I don’t know much Thomas poetry, except his great line about “not going gently into that good night”. But I do know his last words. He was a notorious drunkard, and in 1953 was in a bar in New York where he drank 18 whiskies, straight. Then he put down his glass, and said: “That, I think, is a record,” and collapsed and died. It probably was, too (a record, that is).

23/11/14 Sunday, BONDI -

In 1986, when we were in New York (running Kerry Packer’s office there), I was a keen reader of “the Greatest Newspaper in the World”, aka, The New York Times (“All the News That’s Fit to Print”). I especially liked its regular Metropolitan Diary, which, once a week, had some nice little feature about life in The Big Apple. (A bit like my causeries, though shorter and less structured.) An example told of a well-dressed woman walking her poodle up Park Avenue in the snow. She is wearing one glove while her dog has the other one in its mouth. At the lights, a passer-by asks her: “Why don’t you put the other glove on?” She replies, through clenched teeth: “Don’t you think I would, if I could?” Very New York. I myself submitted an item to the Metropolitan Diary about an incident I observed in a drug store on 10th Avenue, just round the corner from our place in Van Dam. I was in an aisle looking for something when I heard a commotion at the cash-register. A slightly Jewish lady was making to come up the steps when she cried out, plaintively: “Won’t someone get that cat away?” The store cat was sitting at what must have been its customary possie at the top of the steps. Curious, it got up and looked down towards the doorway. “My God,” the lady suddenly cried out, “it’s coming after me!” The cat was quickly shooed away, and the lady entered the store, saying as she passed the till: “Not everyone likes cats, you know.” The NYT didn’t think that was fit to print, so my item didn’t get a guernsey. Pity. (I’m sure Dudley would have liked it.)

24/11/14 Monday, BONDI -

We went yesty to the annual exhibition and prize-giving of the Julian Ashton Art School, Australia’s oldest art school, founded by Paul’s great-grandfather 124 years ago, and of which he is now the Principal. Paul was in his element, for he does this sort of thing very, very well. He is our oldest and best friend, and someone I have the highest regard for. And he can paint! He and Sandra met at the school when they were students there in the early 1960s. We have many of his pictures on our walls at Bondi and up at Blackheath, including two delightful sketches of Sandra, one of which is on the cover of her life-book.   He has, as I relate in my life-book, the genealogy to kill for. Not only on his maternal artistic ide, but his great-grandfather, GD Delprat, virtually founded BHP, one of the world’s great mining companies. Paul lived with us in London in the 1970s, and our lives have been closely entwined for almost 50 years. He is charm personified. The former NSW Governor Marie Bashir opened the exhibition, and presented the prizes. She gave an elegant (and heart-felt) speech, telling of her mother’s links with the school, and her own love of art. The school’s raison d’etre is the teaching and promotion of traditional artistic skills, especially drawing, and as such is something of a voice crying in the wilderness in a contemporary art world clouded over by abstract, conceptual and other trendy excuses for not representing the world as it actually is, and learning how to do it. It gives us a warm glow to be associated with real, “representational” art. Yesty was as delightful and enjoyable an occasion as Sydney has to offer…us.

25/11/14 Tuesday, BONDI -

And while on the subject of art, I have to report that on Friday the OZ ran a long piece by Nicolas Rothwell on “The Twilight of an Art Movement”, lamenting the closure of galleries across Australia specialising in “aboriginal art”. I use the quotes to indicate my long-held conviction that the two words are mutually incompatible. What critics, gallery owners and curators call “aboriginal art” is, almost entirely, not art, and little of it is genuinely aboriginal. Just under a year ago, Rothwell (son of my former mentor on the OZ, Bruce Rothwell) reported on the hostile reaction to a hanging of “aboriginal art” at the Royal Academy in London, reluctantly admitting (for in the past he had a great proponent of the genre) that London critics had, to a man, condemned the indigenous works as not worthy of the name of art. The UK critics’ criticism was scathing, and echoed all I have written on the subject (see my dot-art Club blog). Rothwell admitted, candidly, that to non-Australians the message of its “jumbled patterns” (ie, its dots) can only be appreciated “to those implicated in their stories” and is “mute without interpretation”  My criticism was far harsher – I described “aboriginal art” as “crap” - but I at least give him credit for finally belling the cat. I only wish he had gone on to inform his readers that all so-called depictions of “The Dreamtime” are fraudulent and dishonest (tribal law forbids aborigines from depicting The Dreamtime) and that no female aborigine can put a single dot to canvas (or whatever), for they are excluded by tribal law from knowledge of The Dreamtime. The blind leading the blinded.        

26/11/14 Wednesday, BONDI -

I have an ingrained distaste for personal decoration – in men. The thought of this surfaced today when Sandra suggested we go to the Vinnies (Catholic or Jewish) to find a necklace for a new outfit she wants to wear to various events over the Xmas period. She wants one with “big blue beads”, like the red set she already has. This called to mind the first and only time I wore beads. It was in 1976, when we were living in our big terrace house in Victoria Street. Some Paddington friends of ours, the Marsden-Smedleys, invited us to the Sydney production of Hair at a nearby theatre in the Cross. Luke Marsden-Smedley (despite – or perhaps because of – being a Quaker) had recently taken to wearing a kaftan, so I thought I too should fall in with the spirit of the times, the zeitgeist, and wear something “hippie”. So I acquired, and wore to the performance, a necklace of small wooden beads. It felt good at the time, but I did not wear them again. When I was in the throes of my Bulletin miseries in 1978, Sandra suggested I take to wearing an earring, presumably to smarten up my persona, which was rather dour at the time. I did not warm to this idea. Today, I do not like to see men, old or young, wearing rings, in their ears or elsewhere. (Back in the trendy 60s we saw the Warhol film of Robert Getting His Nipple Pierced, which I found pretty repulsive.) I can bear tattoos in men - but not on women - so long as they are modest and minimal. (The film The Illustrated Man also disgusted me.) In such displays of personal decoration there is something cheap and tawdry and lower-class that grates and sets my teeth on edge. I even dislike seeing men wearing wedding-rings, which they seem to have taken to doing these days. It is not very manly, and teeters on the effeminate. Let’s leave such things to the fairer sex. They have the better bodies for it.

27/11/14 Thursday, BONDI -

The inestimable advantage of an online diary is revision. If you are stuck with pen and paper, you can hardly drag it back to cancel half a line. The moving finger leads you on, by the nose. You can make small changes, but that gets messy. With a digital diary you can go back time and again and change what you originally wrote. You can drag it back from the brink of permanency. This, I think, is a tremendous advance in diary-writing. For I agree with Hemingway – revision is the essence of good writing. I do not claim I can write like Hemingway, but I can adopt his writing technique. Because, like George Meredith, I think I have a good “ear” for how things should sound (which is what made me a good sub-editor, I suppose). So what you will read herein is the product of regular revision and, hopefully, improvement. (Gray’s famous Elegy was the result of years of rewriting and polishing.) So now I can devote all the piety and wit I can muster to this new medium. Eat your heart out, Pepys.

28/11/14 Friday, BONDI -

Of course, the other great plus of an online diary is that you can display all the entries, not just a selection of the entries that might appeal to those who buy the hard-copy book, edited back to make it more readable and “popular”. Prospective readers online can just flick through the entries at their leisure, and read anything that catches their eye or takes their fancy, and skip what doesn’t. Yet the even greater plus is that people can view it as it is written (or recently written). In this important sense it is an online quotidian autobiography – a day-by-day account of one’s life, which can be seen in the process of being written, and experienced. I am sure I am not the only online diary in the world, but it gives me some satisfaction – and encouragement – to believe I am achieving what I set out to do, which was to find a literary (or journalistic) form attuned to and appropriate for our new online Internet era. Indeed, I will venture further. This new diary format provides a way of continuing my Life Book (or anyone else’s) into the indefinite future. It is open-ended and unfinished. This I think is also new, and significant.

29/11/14 Saturday, BONDI -

Last night I had my first nightmare since I was a child. (I trust this does not presage some deteriorating mental condition, like Alzheimer’s.) I won’t go into it in any detail, except to say it involved finding myself lost in some derelict part of a city I was unfamiliar with. I don’t even know in which country it was “set” (probably England, given the run-down condition of the streets). Hard as I tried, I could not find my way out of a maze of footpaths and ruined buildings (and I was dragging Sandra along with me, making the nightmare even worse). It was exceptionally vivid, and I must say my dreams are becoming more vivid of late. There is a theory, to which I subscribe, that the human brain has a dormant, innate creative faculty that, if the waking mind lets slip its grip, can wander off and make up stories - which is of course what dreams are: short-stories conjured up by the mind at sleep. Lawrence believed this, and wrote about it at length in his Fantasia of the Unconscious. He called it his “daemon”, and he thought it was responsible for much, if not all, of his original (ie, inspirational) fiction. I cannot recall any of my childhood nightmares, except I remember having had them, around the age of six or seven I think, and being frightened by them. Last week I had a mini-nightmare about being frozen by JP out of Squiz (which is not true). But that’s the sort of unsettling dream I have had many times before, like dreaming I go into the subs-room at the Tele and finding on the wall-roster that I am not chief-sub any longer. I am sure everyone’s daemon entertains fears of one sort or another. Lawrence liked and trusted his daemon. He thought it was the more creative part of him.   Perhaps I will become pals with my daemon, too. I hope so.          

30/11/14 Sunday, BONDI -

Much of last week was given over, Media-wise, to the brouhaha over “cuts to the ABC” (the Government’s decision to trim the ABC budget by 5% over the next five years or so, in place of the “efficiency dividend” it is asking from other Government entities, and which ABC management stubbornly declines to go along with). The subsequent screams in the Media by the luvvies would put a stuck pig to shame. As my former Bulletin colleague and Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull said recently, the ABC is now controlled, to all intents, by a “workers’ collective” (as is of course the Fairfax Press). The same stable that produces the “fish-ball” journalism at the SMH now fills out the bloated ranks of “the National broadcaster”. The ABC has long been a haven and hotbed of political-correctness, supported by a pushy lobby-group called “the Friends of the ABC”. This is, of course, unreconstructed soixante-huitre socialism in action, the baby-boomer’ last gasp, or rather squeal. I suggested to Sandra last night, listening on TV to more “support your ABC” bleats from the Left, that we should start up a counter lobby-group called “Foes of the ABC” (first item on our manifesto, “Bring Back Michael Charlton”). I mentioned this at our regular politically-incorrect lunch at Manly today, and signed up five foundation members on the spot.

01/12/14 Monday, BONDI -

A rather disturbing email from Dan last night. He said he had been informed by the HR person in Kent Street that his contract with Squiz would not be renewed after December 19, when it expires, apparently. He does not know what is behind this unexpected turn of events, and naturally he is disturbed and worried (as am I). I thought he was going quite well at Squiz, though he has been sidelined into the company we took over a few months ago, Insightful (a CRM operation). I advised him to go and see Steve, whose wing he had been under for over a year, and find out what is going on. But I don’t like the sound of this. However, I will bide my time until I know more about what is happening. (“It is the bane of our profession,” said Sherlock Holmes, “to make assumptions from insufficient evidence.)

02/12/14 Tuesday, BONDI -

Going by bus into the Club last Friday I observed in the seat below and in front of me a girl in her late teens composing a message on her iPhone. Holding it in her left hand, her thumb was dancing like a thing possessed over the screen’s keyboard, picking out the letters making up her message. Among the young digerati today it’s the moving thumb that writes, and having writ, moves on. The thumb is now a vital part of the human anatomy, a late bloomer in our new communications age. Hitherto, the thumb has been the body’s Cinderella, or perhaps its ugly duckling, the butt of jokes and put-downs. The thumb not only rhymes with “dumb” but behaves like the hand’s village idiot. Someone who is clumsy is “all thumbs”. No one has ever accused a thumb of being slim and elegant. It’s the stumpy part of the hand, the digit whose development was stunted, left behind when its four prettier and better known siblings were growing up. Anatomically speaking, the thumb is the pollux, a close relative of the hallux, or big-toe (in birds it’s “the bastard wing”). The thumb might be dumb, but it has a role in sign-language denied most of its adjacent digits. In Rome an up-or-down-thumb gesture determined the fate of gladiators. The phrase and gesture “thumbs up” became popular in WW2, meaning “good” or “OK” or indicating approval. (Down under, however, it meant “up you”, and was intended to be disparaging.) Deployed horizontally, it helps hikers hitch a lift. The thumb is unique in that it can touch each of the other fingers, and is handy – no pun intended – for counting numbers (hence “digits”). It can rotate about the bone that connects it to the forearm, which makes it ideal for tapping a virtual keyboard. (It has been waiting all its evolutionary life to find something this useful to do.) Today, the dancing thumb can even cancel out half a line, which is more than its more comely brethren could ever do.

03/12/14 Wednesday, BONDI -

A few “genuine” diary-entries today. My Life Book went off to Lazarus in Melbourne yesty, to be set, proofed and printed. I have asked for 40 copies, though I think I will have some remaindered ones left over. (Better to have too many than have to order reprints, as Sandra may soon have to do.) Got the Squiz board papers this morning – almost all good news, with a few problems that I’m sure JP will address successfully. (We should get a nice dividend on Monday.) Dan’s troubles still hang over us, but I hope Steve can come up with something to keep him at Squiz (fingers crossed). It’s the White Tie lunch today, with 25 coming to hear the Rev Andrew Semple (a Club Member and Rector of St James) slag off at St Nicholas. The Literary Dinner last night (on Ireland) was a success, with a record 15 attendees. Geoffrey handled it well, and we finished early – quite an achievement in the circumstances. Sandra clashed with a new Hibernian attendee, lured by the subject, who went on and on about the potato famine, the evil British, the Black-and-Tans, etc, etc (after Sandra spoke trenchantly about the IRA bombings in Rotten Row that killed Guardsmen and some beautiful horses, whose deaths especially angered her). I had to come between them in the end. I have offered my Lawrence book to Curtis Brown locally, but haven’t heard back. Finally I got a nasty email from Cousin Lesley complaining that I have put her in the poo with my life-book revelations about the Eason family “aborigine”, etc. She denies, vehemently, that she ever told me anything about it, which is a downright lie. I tried to placate her by saying I wouldn’t refer to her by name, but that didn’t appease her. She says she doesn’t want to hear from me again. Suits me.  

04/12/14 Thursday, BONDI -

Before Sandra (our Svengali Press publisher) sent off my book to Melbourne I added a few paragraphs to the end, expanding on what the “Beyond” of the subtitle (“From Hot-Metal to the Internet and Beyond”) might imply. What I should have mentioned, but didn’t - so I can mention it here now - was the role of “the truth” in journalism in particular, and information in general. I recall what I used to tell cadet journalists on the Tele, which was that before their copy left their desks, they should ask themselves a last question: “Is this true?” Now, that is about as complex question as there is. (What I really meant was they should be certain their “facts” were correct.) What is “Truth” or “The Truth”? What is “Fact”? Does it matter in journalism (and information generally)? Not as much as it used to before February 23, 1981 (see below). Of course, it is a question – the nature of “truth” – that underlies all philosophy. We had a session on “Truth” at the Blackheath Philosophy Forum a few years ago. At dinner afterwards I asked one of the speakers, a young philosopher from Sydney University, if he knew what “Truth” was (explaining that, being a journalist, I was interested in “The Truth”). He told me that he was an exception among his fellow philosophers in that he believed there was something called “The Truth”. He explained: “A statement is true if and only if it turns out to be true.” (Apparently the import of this depends on the meaning of the phrase in logic “if and only if”, which is so arcane that I don’t dare to go into it, even if I understood it, which I don’t.) So, rather than probe any deeper, I am quite happy to go along with Keats’s last lines in “Ode on a Grecian Urn” - Beauty is truth, truth beauty/That is all you know on Earth/And all ye need to know. (OK, it’s a copy-out, but I like to get a bit of poetry in when I can.)

05/12/14 Friday, BONDI -

In the course of Googling up “Truth”, I came across many uses of the term in a newspaper and journalistic context. There are a lot of newspapers around the world called “Truth”. Here in Sydney there was a Norton-family scandal-sheet called Truth (its weekly feature by Jack Lang got me my scholarship to Sydney University, as I relate in my life-book). The official Soviet party paper was (and maybe still is) called Pravada, which is Russian for Truth. It seems that there are as many newspapers called Truth as there are Clubs called Union. My favourite is the Truth and Consequences Herald, the weekly reptile in the New Mexican spa town formerly known as Hot Springs but which changed its name to Truth and Consequences in 1950 after a quiz program of the same name, thus winning the prize for the first town in America to rename itself after the show. To mark this historic event, the town stages an annual Fiesta, a highlight of which is a parade through town that features, according to Wikipedia, such celebrities as the Hatch Chili Queen (Hatch being a nearby town famous for producing, reputedly, the hottest chilies in the world). However, I digress. (But, heck, that’s more interesting than what I was going on to say, so I’ll pull out there, before the dogs start pissing on my swag, to cite a note passed to a loquacious MP in the House of Representatives when he went on too long.)

06/12/14 Saturday, BLACKHEATH -

But what about information in general? If I am going to speculate what is “Beyond the Internet” in the information business, I should say something more definitive about “truth” and “fact”. My thesis here is that the explosion of information that followed February 23, 1981, has undermined our belief in “truth” and “fact”. My conviction is that much of what we thought was true and factual was in fact the result or product of insufficient and inadequate information. We tended to think it was true, because that is all the information we had about it. Popper was, of course, right. The only thing we can say with certainty is that something is not true, for you never know when another black swan might sail by. We live now in a new age of heightened uncertainty. History is having to be rewritten as we learn more about the past, courtesy of the information revolution. And the bigger the data gets, the more fact and truth and reality are called into question. We watched a Stephen Hawking doco last week in which he cast doubt on the very nature of the universe and reality. (He certainly showed that our view of the world – our consciousness - is shaped by what’s inside our heads.) He even raised the possibility that the universe could be a simulacrum, constructed perhaps by some greater force or power of which we have neither comprehension nor understanding. I think there are people around the world who will find that idea appealling.

07/12/14 Sunday, BLACKHEATH -

Some good news. (You can’t have a good-news newspaper – no one will pay money for good news: it’s the bad news that sells – but you can have a good-news item in a diary. Hopefully, readers can derive some vicarious pleasure from the diarist’s good news.) On Friday I got a reply email from my sometime agents Curtis Brown saying they would like to see my DHL in Australia text. That’s good news. My suggestion that Monday’s Squiz board meeting (I am one of three directors, the others being CEO John-Paul Syriatowicz and Steve Barker) be construed as an AGM has been agreed, which implies I am being accepted back into the management fold. So that’s good news too. Dan is now reconciled to quitting Squiz - he was in effect sacked - and has signed up for a TAFE course in design with the idea of becoming an interior (and maybe exterior) designer. We have always thought his abilities lie in the visual rather than the IT area, and so that’s good news too. Last Wednesday’s White Tie lunch was an outstanding success, the Rev Andrew Semple doing us proud with this attack on Santa. (He even sang us a anti-Xmas carol he had composed for the occasion.) Steve was there, and we had a good chat about Squiz, during which he informed me I am now the director of a company (Squiz Pty Ltd) that has 15 subsidiaries, here and overseas. He even hinted that I (and Sandra) might undertake an overseas trip, inspecting them all. (Squiz Poland now boasts 50 staff!) All I need now for my cup to runneth over is a fat dividend tomorrow. God’s in His Heaven, and all seems right with my world. (Touching wood.)

08/12/14 Monday, BONDI -

As I gaze out at the world from my study at Bondi, there is not much to be positive about, generally speaking. Yesty an Abbott Government Minister told us that it currently takes seven tax-payers to support one old-age pensioner. By 2030, it will be five taxpayers, and by mid-century, three. The impression that Australia is going to hell in a demographic handcart is hard to avoid. How are we going to support the increasing number of people who rely on the government to keep them afloat? Yet there was one bit of good news. The Murray Inquiry into the financial system came up with a bright idea, which, if adopted, could help stave off welfare Armageddon. That is to stop people cashing in their superannuation on retirement, and blowing the lot on luxury cruises, etc, so qualifying for a pension to live on for the rest of their increasingly-long lives. Murray suggested that super should only be available in monthly installments, thus relieving the dwindling number of taxpayers of the burden of supporting them until they drop off the twig. I hope the govt can do something to implement this. Yet the erosion of wage-and-superannuation-paying work-force-jobs can be but slowed down, as China and the robots inexorably take over. I noted in the Spectator last week that Belfast’s great shipyards are, like the Clyde, no more. The dockyards that built the Queen Mary and the Titanic are being given over to “leisure activity”. Brave New World, indeed (how long before we get government-issue Soma?).

09/12/14 Tuesday, BONDI -

Huxley’s dystopian view of the future was, of course, intended as irony, even sarcasm. He was one of Ottoline’s brightest young men at Garsington, and wrote a nice poem about her (The Lady and the Pug). Each of Huxley’s book-titles came from Shakespeare, and Brave New World did too. It is from Act 5, Scene 1 of The Tempest:


O wonder!
How many godly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,
That has such people in't.


Huxley had the misfortune to die on November 22, 1963 – the day President Kennedy was assassinated. His passing did not rate many column-inches the following day.

10/12/14 Wednesday, BONDI -

(I had better note this, in case it becomes – though that’s unlikely – an historic moment.) Last night around 5pm I got the idea for Selfies. Not self-snaps taken on an iPhone, but small-scale autobiographies – self-portraits in a limited number of words, intended to appeal to those for whom a full-scale “proper” Life Story is too daunting or too difficult. Sandra likes the idea, so we will see if it has any legs. It’s an attempt to get round the reaction we have been getting from people who like the idea of the life-book, but cry off when they realise its difficulties and other ramifications. An associated idea is the Biogram, some sort of diary facility that could take the Selfies forward as an optional add-on, analogous to our Life Book continuing-diary idea. But I might be running too far ahead here. I’d better keep that one to myself for the time being. (Later – didn’t. This one has legs…see 13/12 below.)

11/12/14 Thursday, BONDI -

I don’t think we are going to have Stan’s planned 20th anniversary of the ATP (see 18/11/14 above) after all. Yesty I saw an item in the paper that the ATP is up for sale. What a tragedy. What a shame. What a scandal. What congenital stupidity, incompetence, and bungling (mainly on Bob Carr’s part). But above all that – it demonstrates the lack of vision, the internecine bickering, and the arrogance of power that the “three participating universities” displayed all through this sorry, sorry, saga. We were there, in the Red Rattler, at the beginning, before the proverbial first sod was turned, sharing Tom Forgan’s dream of creating in Redfern’s derelict railway yards a technology park that would foster the innovation and technological advancement that we so desperately need in Australia. It was to be our silicon valley, the hothouse where the emerging world of ICT could grow and flourish and become commercially-viable. We did our bit. In fact Squiz was born there, and where in 1998 one of Australia’s most promising IT companies began its success story (we now employ more than 60 people in Poland alone, as I found out at our board meeting on Monday). But we were one of the few. The universities – USYD, UNSW and UTS – did little or nothing to help either their tenants or their putative spin-offs to grow to become the successful technology companies of the future. Stan did his best with his National Innovation Centre, and should get credit for that. Tom did his best, too. But the dead hand of the three (and later 4) universities stifled the best and bravest of intentions. They will probably sell it off for high-rise housing. If so, they should name one of the urban monstrosities after Bob Carr. If any single individual should be blamed for the debacle, it would be that “sea-green incorruptible” - and latter-day Luddite.

12/12/14 Friday, BONDI -

In Coles the other day I saw of carton of 10 eggs. This is decimalisation gone mad. It’s taking political-correctness (or metric-correctness) too far. What’s wrong with the dozen? On whose authority are we being robbed of two eggs? I will do a White Tie lunch on this in the New Year (and a Club blog). These days I go out of my contrarian way to use “imperial” units whenever and wherever possible. In for a penny, in for a pound, I say. (Just as I say Hufftons for Houghtons.) My main complaint about the metric system is that it was imposed on us by dictatorial powers-that-be who had no mandate for doing so. It was metric fascism. I was not consulted about the change, nor was anyone else I know. I grew up with ounces, inches, miles, gallons, acres – and, yes, rods, poles and perches. Why should I be deprived of them halfway through my life? Supposedly it was (if I remember correctly) to be consistent with other national measurement systems, specifically the Common Market. Well, America didn’t go metric, and they’ve managed to remain the most powerful economy in the world without metrication. What’s good for them should be good for us. I am willing to accept that decimal currency is easier to deal with than pounds, shillings and pence (let alone guineas and half-crowns). At primary school I struggled with long-division of £SD. And cms are easier to handle in printing than ens, els and ems (let alone picas and nonpareils). And I will agree, reluctantly, to do my shopping in kilos and grams. But I’m darned if I am going to measure my height in cms and hit golf balls in metres rather than yards. Call me a troglodyte if you will, but I have Uncle Sam in my corner. (And the dozen will be with us for a long time yet, you will be relieved to know.)

13/12/14 Saturday, BONDI -

I have now written The Library of Life’s first My Selfie - and this is it: “I WAS BORN at Bondi in 1940. I have spent my working life in the information business, starting as a “cub” reporter on the Daily Telegraph in 1958, latterly transferring to the Internet and the new digital technology. I have been happily married for more than 50 years to fellow journalist and writer, Sandra Jobson Darroch. In 1995 we founded Cybersydney and are today running several IT businesses (including The Library of Life). I am a director of Squiz Pty Ltd, an international web-experience company, which I also helped found. I still regard myself as a journalist, and do a regular blog, together with an online causerie called The Diary of a Boy from Bondi. I have written several books on DH Lawrence and his Australian novel, Kangaroo. I have also written my autobiography, AGAINST THE GRAIN – from Hot-metal to the Internet and Beyond, a Life in the Information Business. This was the second of The Library of Life’s Life Books, and is accessible both online and in “hard-copy” format, published by our Svengali Press. I like playing with words and have strong views on the future of information. I believe the book, along with newspapers and other printed Media, is dying, and that the future of information and “the written word” is digital. I now live at Bondi, where I grew up, and we have a weekender at Blackheath, on whose lovely golf course I first broke 90 and then 80. Sandra and I hold a monthly Literary Lunch in our house at Blackheath, and we run the monthly White Tie (politically-incorrect) Luncheon at our Union and Universities Club in Sydney. I am a keen amateur cook, with a penchant for chillies and tripe. My ancestry is Scottish, Northern Irish and English. I am strongly Anglophile and enjoy listening to Peter Dawson renditions of such traditional songs as ‘The Yeomen of England’”.

14/12/14 Sunday, BONDI -

We watched a two-parter on the History Channel last week about Kim Philby, probably the world’s most infamous traitor. Yet you cannot but admire the man, for he spied – successfully - for Russia for over two decades without giving himself away. What a secret he kept to himself, and from his friends, all those years. MI5 had their suspicions, of course, once his pal Guy Burgess defected, but he managed to survive that, ending his career in Beirut as a foreign correspondent for The Observer, before being “allowed” to slip away to Moscow - avoiding Establishment embarrassment - as the net closed in. I mention this because of a story our SMH colleague Margaret Jones told us some years before she passed on to the great newsroom in the sky. She got it, first hand, from Claire Hollingworth, the renowned UK foreign correspondent. As a young reporter Claire became friendly with Philby, who was something of the man-about-town in London in the late 1930s. One day he asked her when her birthday was. “October 11,” she replied. What a coincidence, he said, that was his birthday too. From then on, every year on October 11, she would get a card from Philby – even from Moscow, after he defected – to mark their common birth-date. One day she told another leading UK journalist about this. “That’s a coincidence,” he said. “I get a card each year from Philby too, ever since we discovered we had the same birthday.” “What’s your birthday?” Claire asked. “March 16,” he replied.

15/12/14 Monday, BONDI -

I have an ambivalent attitude to busking. So long as buskers do not importune or harass, I am in favour of them. It’s a street-form of private enterprise, something of which I generally approve. Their success (in garnering “tips” or pourboires) depends on having a captive audience, such as queues outside cinemas or crowds in public places like shopping malls, etc. On the other hand, I have an active dislike of those pests who come up to you at the traffic lights and offer to clean your windscreen for 50c or a dollar. They are a nuisance, and often try to extract their tariff by cleaning your windscreen anyway, and then expecting payment. That is importuning, if not blackmail. However, yesterday, waiting at the lights at Anzac and Cleveland, I encountered a new form of both manifestations (the windscreen pests being also technically buskers). As we waited for the lights to change – they take their time at that intersection – a young man jumped out and starting juggling wooden balls in front of the waiting vehicles. He did it very well, with a happy grin on his face and engaging mannerisms. I wound down the window and gave him a dollar, as did several others cars nearby. I am not quite sure what the police would say about his auto-busking, but I at least approved. That boy will go far, if he doesn’t get run-over.

16/12/14 Tuesday, BONDI -

At the Club last Friday we spotted someone in the Smoking Room walking around with an iPhone to his ear. Our group humthrumped and I was about to say something when a steward emerged from the bar-room and shepherded the unabashed miscreant into the phone booth to continue his interface with his little black rectangular box. How long before that Club proscription falls by the wayside? Not much longer, I suspect, as our membership gets younger – and we oldies continue to drop off the twig. (Steve is threatening to set up an iPhone for me.)

17/12/14 Wednesday, BONDI -

An appalling day in Sydney yesty when a mad Islamic gunman held more than a dozen hostages, then began shooting them, and was taken out two-captives-too-late by the police swat squad. I would not have mentioned this were it not for the coincidence – precedent almost – of the death of Aldous Huxley. He died the day President Kennedy was assassinated (as mentioned above 9/12/14), and thus his passing did not warrant many column-inches next day. On Monday the Treasurer Joe Hockey was due to release the government’s mid-year economic update. It was to be the big story of, not just the day, but the half-year. In the event, it hardly rated a back-page low-double. My old colleague Malcolm Turnbull was a master of killing a story he, or his clients, did not want the public to see by releasing a “better” story to take the public’s and the Media’s attention away from the “bad news”. I think Joe was pretty happy with the coverage his bad news got. It’s an ill wind…        

18/12/14 Thursday, BONDI -

I glanced up at the sky one morning recently and saw something that sparked a memory that I resolved to write about. It was a “patch of blue” in an otherwise overcast sky. What flashed into my mind was the old saw – which I first heard from Sandra – to the effect that if there’s enough blue areas in an otherwise cloudy sky that are “big enough to patch a sailor’s pants”, then good weather was coming (there were, and it did). I then remembered similar sayings about the weather, like “red sky at morning, shepherd’s warning”, or “it’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good”, and (my favourite) “ne’re cast a clout till May be oot”. As the UK Met Office points out, such sayings were useful in the days before…er, the Met Office. They gave folk some way of anticipating weather to come. They were also mini-proverbs, as in “it’s always darkest before dawn”, implying that no matter how bad things might seem, they’ll soon be looking up. Philosophical, too, as in “where are the snows of yesteryear?” Most interestingly, however, is that the old saw about “a patch of blue” is clearly wrong, for sailors don’t wear sky-blue trousers. (Though “Hello, sailor…”) The true saying - when I looked it up - harked back to the Anglo-Dutch wars of the 17th century, and implied that if you could see enough blue in the sky “to make a pair of Dutchman’s breeches”, then it would soon be sunny (Dutch sailors wore light-blue trousers, apparently). We used to have a friend in Mosman – Elizabeth Kata – who wrote of novel called A Patch of Blue which was made into a Hollywood movie that won an Academy Award.

19/12/14 Friday, BONDI -

Sandra decided to clean one of our “Persian” rugs this week, scrubbing it with water and detergent, then hosing away the resultant dirty suds, and leaving it to dry in the sun on the balcony. It’s a very nice – and I suspect quite old – primarily-green rug that we bought in London in the early 1980s. Even when we bought it, in a junk shop in the Golborne, it was pretty grimy, and has no doubt accumulated more dirt in the intervening years. We call it our George Orwell rug, because it was either above that junk shop, or a shop nearby, where Orwell (as Eric Blair) lived in the late 1930s, and which he describes in 1984 (it’s where Winston Smith and his girlfriend are surprised in bed by the Thought Police). Not only impecunious, but also wanting to see where and how the lower-classes lived, Blair had taken what I suppose was a flat above a shop in what was then one of the worst slums in London (vividly described in 1984). In fact he called the novel - which I once regarded the greatest work of literature ever written - 1984 because he was a fan of GK Chesterton and his novel The Napoleon of Notting Hill, which was not only partly set in the Golborne, but also in 1984, when London had split into rival boroughs, and the citizenry of Notting Hill had elected a down-and-out to be its ruler. Chesterton had set his work in 1984 because that was 80 years into the future - his novel (his first) having been written in 1904. We spotted our Orwell rug on the floor in the window of the junk shop, and made a bid for it (it was there as montage, and not intended for sale). I can’t remember the price, but it was certainly less than £50. In fact I think it was £20. It has come up well, and now happily lies next to the much-more “modern” reddish “Persian” rug we bought at the Jewish Vinnies in Cleveland Street a year or so ago, for, I believe, $60. They go well together, in more ways than one.

20/12/14 Saturday, BLKACKHEATH -

A new shop has opened in Bronte Road called Embroider Me. (Our Cybersydney interests keep a weather eye on changes in the retail landscape in Bondi-Waverley.) A shop – in a prominent position, too – devoted to embroidery? How could it justify its existence is today’s world of computers and machines that do almost everything humans used to do? Yet handicrafts are seemingly flourishing these days, as the craft fairs up in Blackheath and elsewhere testify. (The hardware store in Govetts Leap Road recently closed, to be replaced by, of all things, a craft shop.) What is the explanation? I grew up in a world when handicrafts were an important part of daily life, particularly the daily life of women. Sandra tells me they even taught needlework and its associated skills at Abbotsleigh. (We at Sydney High, by contrast, had to go across to Bourke Street school in first year to learn our handicrafts - woodwork and tech drawing.) My mother, who was a long way from being domesticated, nevertheless had a Singer sewing machine she maintained, and occasionally used, in my bedroom, while Auntie Ruby’s mother, who lived in Lakemba, even crocheted. (She came from the Isle of Man.) In the village shopping centre down the bottom of our street in Bondi was a haberdashery shop that sold skeins of wool, reels of cotton, zips and buttons, and other handicraft accoutrements. It was the female equivalent of the hardware store up on the next corner. Are these domestic skills making a comeback with today’s modern (working) woman? Is this some sort of paradoxical latter-day reversion to the world of Lark Rise to Candleford? I will wait and see, and report back. (However, in this context, I cannot resist mentioning one of the headings pasted up on the wall of the old Telegraph subs room. It was across seven columns in our then women’s section, and it was over a feature on how women might occupy their spare time with craft-work. It read – in 96pt bodoni campanile, our largest type – “HOURS OF JOY IN THE PALM OF YOUR HAND”. (It was actually in lower-case.) it should have got the Walkley Award for heading-writing, if catching readers’ attention is the goal of good subbing - which of course it is. What went for their female subs were pretty naive in those more innocent days.)         

21/12/14 Sunday, BLACKHEATH -

It turns out that the “craft shop” in Bronte Road isn’t so grafty at all. Its name is actually EmbroidMe, and it’s one of a chain of over 50 similar shops - it’s a franshise - across Australia. They do indeed sell embroidery, but not for idle female hands. It’s more of a marketing operation, selling clothing with brand names, etc, embroidered on them. Given their spread of outlets, it looks as if they have this market stitched up (groan!).

22/12/14 Monday, BLACKHEATH -

This is probably as good a chance as any to place on record some of the better headings I wrote as a sub-editor. I was not the greatest heading-writer in the world - or even on our paper - but, given how much I enjoyed playing with words, I was a pretty handy one. Almost on my first night on the table I made my mark. I had picked up out of the chief-subs’ basket a “filler” to sub. It was an overseas story about a circus fire in Japan in which 10 children died. 10 BUDDING NIPS NIPPED IN THE BUD was the heading I suggested, but it was rejected. Yet it was a promising start to what was to become my principal area of expertise in journalism – subbing. Often I had to write headings over pictures, and two I recall fondly. One was above a photo of a new weather-forecasting sign that could only display six characters, and showing “SHOWRY”. My heading was BAD SPELL OF WEATHER. Another was above a lineswoman asleep in her chair at Wimbledon – COURT NAPPING. Another one that was rejected when I was subbing on Weekend in London was over a filler about a car-horn that played Colonel Bogey’s March – FRUITY TOOTIE. Two I wrote when subbing on The Bulletin pleased my old chief-sub Dudley Burgoyne. One was on a filler about a threatened species of NZ parrot – SCRATCH THIS COCKY. The other was on a story about a black disc jockey in Adelaide – PLAY IT AGAIN, SAMBO. Perhaps the heading I was most proud of was over our pages 2-3 coverage of the funeral of General de Gaulle, which the great man had insisted would be without pomp. I borrowed the opening line of Wolfe’s famous poem on the death of Sir John Moore at Corunna – NOT A DRUM WAS HEARD, NOT A FUNERAL NOTE. (Fourteen-column headings, let me tell you, are not easy to write.) Alas, none of my headings ever made it on to the nirvana of the Telegraph subs-room wall.

23/12/14 Tuesday, BLACKHEATH -

(up here over the Xmas period) Whenever I walk down stairs these days I make sure I hold on to the handrail. This cautionary habit has been instilled in me by the memory of how my father died back in 1989. We had been to a restaurant in Dixon Street and were walking back across Hyde Park. As we went down some steps into Park street, he suddenly tripped, and lurched down the stone stairs, striking his head on the pavement at the bottom. (Not only was he legally blind from macular degeneration, but had consumed quite a bit of wine at dinner.) The fall proved fatal, and he died a few weeks later in an Anglican nursing home in Gordon. It turns out that “falls” are one of the commonest means of death in the elderly. I recall that Terry Blake, who ran the Kings Cross Whisper, also died – no doubt, as was his wont, after a few drinks - when he fell down some stairs in Potts Point. I too am elderly now, and if I am to go, it hopefully won’t be down a flight of stairs. Hence my new-found friends, the handrails.

24/12/14 Wednesday, BLACKHEATH -

Of all the things in life that I regret, probably what I regret most is not being thin, or at least thinner. I hate getting fatter. I’m not, I don’t think, “technically” fat – not yet, anyway. But I am putting on weight. I suppose “portly” might best describe me. Yet I was thin, once. Quite thin. Well, slim anyway. Recently I was looking at one of my diaries for when we were in London in the 1970s. I used to note my weight each day, trying to get under 12 stone with a frugal diet and lots of jogging in Kensington Gardens and energetic bike-riding down to Holland Park Lawn Tennis Club. Once I even got under 11 stone 7 pounds! Giving up sport has obviously made me put on weight, as has my food and alcohol intake. I try to be good, and at least limit my carbohydrate intake (and I’m cutting back on alcohol). But it’s hard, and food – and wine – make life more pleasant. (I look forward to lunch each day, I’m sorry to confess.) Geoff Dobbin – who was rather tubby - told me once at the Club that he had “a fat wardrobe”. I know what he meant. I have a wardrobe full of clothes that I not only can’t fit into, but never will. I should throw them all out and retain only those items that I can fit into these days – my very own “fat wardrobe”. Meanwhile I must avoid mirrors and photographers.

25/12/14 Thursday, BLACKHEATH -

It was Christmas Day in the Mountains, and it has dawned bright, cool and clear (unlike the previous two Xmas days, when it was cold and foggy). We will have our traditional Xmas lunch of pork and pudding, then we are bidden to Isabelle’s for a (hopefully Chinese) Xmas dinner tonite, with Peter Baldwin in attendance. Today I will continue re-subbing Sandra’s electricity book, which we now plan to publish via our Svengali Press. We stopped this project over 15 years ago after Energy Australia refused to publish her text, written to mark electricity’s 100th anniversary in Sydney. But now that we have our own publishing company, we will do it ourselves. It deserves to be published, for it is an important work on an important aspect of Sydney’s – and Australia’s – history. Energy Australia backed off, after its predecessor Sydney Electricity in 1995 commissioned Sandra to write the book. They did not appreciate her exposé of the history of corruption that has bedeviled the story of electricity in Sydney (which began in 1904 with the city council’s Electricity Undertaking). This timidity they will come to regret, for Sandra is now released from any obligation to “tone down” her revelations to appease their corporate sensitivities. Her book now starts with Acton’s dictum: “Power trends to corrupt.” That will set its new tone. She can now tell the truth, the whole truth, and this truth will hurt them. Also it will be obvious why they refused to publish it – fear of being tarred with the same brush. (“The freedom of the Press belongs to those who own the presses.”) Last night, however, my mind went back to Xmas 1965 and our restrained yuletide celebrations in our ill-equipped flat in Goldhurst Terrace in London. To mark that occasion, I composed a piece of doggerel, which I can repeat now, in more propitious circumstances (with our washing-machine and clothes-dryer humming contentedly in the next room): “It was the night before Christmas, and all through the house, not a cloth was clean, not even a blouse”. I will not give up my daytime job.

26/12/14 Friday, BLACKHEATH -

I will mark this Boxing Day by recalling what happened at Bondi another Boxing Day in the late 1980s (an event that became part of the legend in what was then the Sydney County Council). It was not a typical Sydney summer day, being overcast and humid. (I think it was raining, too.) I was in the kitchen preparing lunch. As I was carving slices off the ham, I was suddenly thrown across the room by a severe electric shock. A frantic Sandra rang the SCC and shouted: “Help! My husband has been electrocuted by a ham.” The person on the other end of the phone thought Sandra had been on the turps, but said they would send someone anyway (as they were obliged to do). What had happened, we deduced when the SCC man arrived to investigate, was that the ham had come in contact with a power-plug on the wall above the kitchen bench. It in turn had become “live” due to corrosion and the humid atmosphere in our unit. When the ham came up against the power-plug it conducted a 240-volt charge through its salty interior and up the knife I was using, and into my hand. The serviceman tested all our plugs (which were made of metal) and found them all “live”. He forbad us using them until they could be replaced by plastic ones (which they soon were). I quickly recovered from the shock, but when Sandra was later writing her electricity book she found that the incident had been recorded in the SCC staff newsletter under the heading: “THE CUSTOMER WHO WAS ELECTROCUTED BY HIS HAM.” So for this at least, I will go down in history.

27/12/14 Saturday, BLACKHEATH -

With age come changes to one’s body (and mind). And I have certainly noticed some in recent years. Yet I don’t want this to be, if I can help it, a dismal account of the onset of old age (I recall, with a wince, Leonard Woolf’s autobiography, entitled Downhill All The Way, and the Rumpole author - I forget his name - Clinging to the Wreckage). Of course, the question that hangs over all of us is: are these changes the first signs of Alzheimer’s? What is natural and to be expected, or what might presage something grimmer? Here I have a complicating, or exacerbating, factor, for I am a chronic hypochondriac, and have been all my adult life. So I have to distinguish between possibility and probability. I noticed what was probably the first indication of concern a few years ago when driving back from our then weekender at Collaroy. As I came up the hill towards the Spit bridge, suddenly I could not remember the name of the suburb I was driving through. (It was Balgowlah.) I knew it was lodged in a cell somewhere in my mind, but as much as I searched the cell-block, I could not find it. The cell was there, I knew, and that there was a name inside it, but I could only see the opening of the cell, and could not venture inside. That was about 10 years ago, perhaps 12. Since then have come numerous such “blanks” (almost all temporary, and “found” after further cogitation). But, worryingly, they are coming more frequently, and even closer to the present. (“What was I thinking off a minute ago?”) It affects my general factual memory, but I don’t think catastrophically. My knowledge of history is pretty intact, and my memory of lines of poetry not affected at all. So I think this is the natural and to-be-expected consequence of growing old. My body, too, is aging – indeed decaying - but I can live with that. Of course I regret having to give up golf and tennis (and now surfing), but I can still enjoy memories of past endeavours, if not triumphs, and derive some vicarious compensation from that. Still, it’s a factor that I must be aware of as this diary goes on.

28/12/14 Sunday, BLACKHEATH -

John-Paul and his family have come up to stay at their weekender at Medlow Bath, the next village to us at Blackheath. (It was his and Vanessa’s purchase of their place there that inspired us to come up from Bondi a decade or so ago and buy our own weekender here.) We are dining with them on Monday night at the refurbished Hydro-Majestic at Medlow Bath. The two blokes (who live together and now own “the Hydro”) have made a very good job of the revamp. It has brought the old place, which I remember so well from holidays up here in the 1950s, back to something approaching its former 1920-30s glory days. I think this, along with the new two-lane highway to Katoomba, will make a substantial difference to “the Mountains”. (Already Blackheath is going ahead once more, and the new Coles and Woolworths supermarkets at Katoomba are helping the cause - and I also think the Paragon café in the main drag, which we are trying to support, is also on the verge of coming to the party.) How my childhood memories of staying up hereabouts come flooding back! I will enjoy our first – but surely not the last – dinner at the Hydro tomorrow night.

29/12/14 Monday, BLACKHEATH -

I noticed an article on stamps in one of the Sunday magazines, and was rather surprised to learn that people were still collecting them. I had thought that their quotidian lack of rarity had rendered collecting them (into stamp-albums) archaic. Yes – in the sense that kids like me (and adults too) used to collect them. Yet, like most other things, their subsets are still worth collecting, and some of them are as valuable as they have always been, and in fact more. The British Guiana one-cent magenta – the world’s rarest stamp – recently sold at auction for $US4.5 million. Indeed, the point of the article was that some local stamps are so valuable today that there is a flourish stamp-forgery business now operating in Australia. As a kid I was an avid stamp collector, first of general stamps, then of Australian stamps. (I have a distinct collecting streak – it is a weakness of mine.) But it wore off as I got older, and around the age of 15 I sold my entire collection of Australian stamps for nowhere-near their true value in order to buy a cricket bat. It was a bad bargain, for I was never much good at cricket, with which I was obsessed at that age (later I wanted to become a cricket writer). In fact, I am still a stamp-collector in one sense, for I have stored in my cupboard my father’s collection of rare NZ “health” stamps. There’s no point in selling them, but I can’t bring myself to throw them out. I leave their destiny to my estate.

30/12/14 Tuesday, BLACKHEATH -

Dinner last night at the refurbished Hydro with JP and Vanessa. What a power-couple they are! He’s the CEO of Squiz, a company that is tracking towards being a $50-million-a-year international mini-conglomerate (we own a bevy of associate IT companies) and which is about to open an office in Beijing. She is the Senior Vice-President (Operations) Asia and Pacific of the US insurance company Liberty Underwriting (her office is in the Gateway building at the Quay). They met at university and married soon afterwards, and managed somewhere along the line to have two children. I emailed JP just before Xmas with an item from my (other) diary dated October 25, 1996: “Lunch with JP. He told me he had postponed medicine for another year and would stay with us.” He replied: “Yes, that was a watershed date.” He and Steve Barker started Squiz two years later (with our support and approval). It was a very pleasant dinner, though with a touch of Fawlty Towers about the service and the food (both supplied by the catering school which has taken up residence there). JP paid, brushing aside my offer to split the bill. I did not argue with him.

31/12/14 Wednesday, BONDI -

As I passed a bus-stop in Bourke Street yesty I saw a chap wearing a T-shirt that asked IS THAT THE TRUTH OR DID YOU READ IT IN THE TELEGRAPH? Good question. The answer depends, of course, on how you measure what “the truth” is. (see 4/12 above)

01/01/15 Thursday, BONDI -

No fireworks at Bondi last night. The usual NYE pop-concert did not eventuate, so the fireworks that normally accompanied this traditional Bondi occasion did not occur. But we were woken at midnight to the sound of the Harbour mega-fireworks, and watched the spectacular (it cost over $7 million to put on) display on TV. However, the beach in the morning did feature its customary New Year party-goers detritus - though somewhat down on previous years - so Bondi still did its bit for the occasion. (They had come, mainly, to see the first sun of 2015 rise, which it duly did around 5.30 into a clear, blue sky.) And I have made a New Year resolution – to, once again, lose weight. But I’m serious this time around, for I have been rather breathless of late, as well as thicker round the stomach, so I am going to do my darnedest to cut back both the food and the grog, and to start getting more exercise. As someone Chinese said, a long journey starts with a first step. I will take mine today.

02/01/15 Friday, BONDI -

A remarkable day yesty, for I saw Bondi again as it was when I was a kid, growing up here, and with more than “50,000 on the beach”. It was packed, and Bondi was jumping - as I describe in my Life Book - once more. I did not count them, of course, but I was using the sort of description we used when I was on the Tele and doing “the beaches story” (see “A Newspaper Man” in Against the Grain and 11/10 above). I made my way along the promenade, then up to Campbell Parade, then along the crowded “strip” back to Notts Avenue. It brought back nostalgic memories of the Bondi I knew in the early 1950s, when it was Sydney’s “city beach” and people came from every part of Sydney – by tram – on a hot Sunday in January and February.   Again I had to jostle along the Strip, and the cafes and eating places along it were crammed with “beachgoers”. You could almost smell the coconut-oil and see the sand on their feet. Of course, it was not the Bondi of my childhood, though as I passed along it images of the places I had known so well came back to me – the milk-bars, the hamburger shops, the fish shops, the big amusement park, the Hotel Bondi where my mother worked, my school, Hall Street…the whole enchilada. But now it has lots of foreign faces and foreign tongues. The phrase La Grande-Motte came back to me (the place we visited in France in high-summer in 1985, before we went to New York). Bondi is beginning to look like that Tatiesque Mediterranean “beach” resort (La Grande-Motte=The Big Dune). And when the new ex-Swiss-Grand complex opens later this year, it will be even more like it, joining the other heavily-yupped residential places, revamped and new, behind the beach (which however never changes).   On days such as yesty it’s great to be a Bondi Boy again. And it was also the first day of my new fitness regime - hence the walk - which was also a success. (I feel fitter, and think thinner, already.) What better New Year’s Day could it have been? For Bondi is back, with a vengeance, and the red, red robin is bob, bob bobbing along.

03/01/15 Saturday, BONDI -

When John Douglas Pringle – who chose Sandra to be the first female news reporter at the SMH – wrote his book about Australia (Australian Accent, 1958) he said, memorably, that Sydney was ruled by three winds: the southerly – “the wind from the Antarctic”, often expressing itself as a “southerly buster”; the warm nor‘easterly – the wind of long, lazy summer days; and then the westerly – “the true voice of the continent”…hot and dry in summer, and cold and sharp as a knife in winter. Bondi, however, is ruled by four winds. Yes, those three, but also by another - the easterly…which, for me, is the true wind of summer. With it comes a smell (much more pronounced in my younger days) which is the distinctive odour of Bondi, the smell of sewage being discharged into the ocean beneath Bondi Golf Links. For me that smell was a perfume, more attractive than Channel No.5, or Old Spice for that matter. It was the real smell of summer and the beach. Its reign was brief – half a day perhaps - but it signalled that the prevailing wind was switching from the chilly south to the balmy north-east, where the summer breezes did indeed come from. It meant that I could put on my swimming togs, grab my surf-o-plane, and head down to North Bondi, where, I hoped, some good waves were to be caught. To me, it was like the Bisto ad in England. (Ah, Bisto! said the boy, with his nose sniffing the air.) The sewage came out into what we called “the Murk”, an evil-looking grey-green discharge from under “the stink-pot”, which was the sewerage vent in the middle of the golf course. (I soon learned as a sub the difference between “sewage” and “sewerage”.) Fishermen on the rocks below dangled their lines in the Murk, which was reputedly rich in fish like sweep and drummer. I thought this was a disgusting practice - until I met at the Club a chap who used to work for CSR. He told me the Murk was mainly the detritus, released illegally into the sewers, from the CSR refinery at Pyrmont. It was rich in what was left over from making rum. No wonder the fish liked it.

04/01/15 Sunday, BONDI -

My father would have been 100 today, had he not died in 1989, after falling down a flight of steps in Hyde Park (in circumstances, and with the consequence of which, I describe in my Life Book). He does not get a good Press in my life-story, where I describe him as unfeeling and having cared little about me. I do not think he advanced my cause in childhood, certainly as far as our mutual problem with my mother’s drunkenness was concerned. Often his treatment of me verged on cruelty. If I have achieved anything worthwhile in my life it was despite, rather than because of him. Today, on his birthday, I should be try to be more kind to his memory. Like Lawrence, who did not give his father much a Press either (especially in his early novels), I think I may have been too harsh. Lawrence later regretted what he had said about his miner-father. Like me, he too was a mother’s boy. Ian, as I should call him now, mellowed in his later years, particularly after our marriage, and he helped us considerably financially. The money I found in his room (in various bank accounts) enabled us to buy Collaroy, which was one of the best things we ever did. Under his gruff, Scottish (and Northern Irish) carapace he had a softer, kinder side. He was easily moved to tears. He would never admit that he was proud of what I achieved in journalism, literature, etc. But I think he was. Were I not off the grog, I would raise my glass to him tonight. I only hope I have inherited his longevity, for he would have lived beyond his 86 years, had he not stumbled that evening in Park Street in 1989.               

05/01/15 Monday, BONDI -

The year 1985, which dawned 30 years ago this week, was probably the best year of my life. It was my annus mirabilis. (The term coined by Dryden to mark the year 1666 - and the title of his poem commemorating that “year of miracles”.) It was certainly the apogee of my journalistic career, or rather the year in which I was at the highest point I ever reached in my profession. I was about to turn 45. I was, with Sandra, running Kerry Packer’s ACP London office. I had just been elected President of the Foreign Press Association in London - the first Australian journalist to attain that prestigious position. I was secretary (and founder) of ANZCA, the Australian and New Zealand Foreign Correspondents Association, and attended regular briefings at the Foreign Office, where I was regarded as the spokesperson for the Australian Media in the UK and Europe. I was hosting weekly Press conferences each Monday at the FPA for Maggie’s formidable Press Secretary Bernard Ingham, who invited me to his office in 10 Downing Street for a cup of tea and a chat – a rare privilege - and with whom I got on well. I was the only overseas journalist invited to meet the future Russian President Gorbachev when he visited London that year, and I was one of only two journalists to attend a reception at St James’s Palace prior to the 1985 G7 Summit in London. In Sydney I was regarded as one of the top executives in the company, and the close-confidant of my superiors at ACP (the company I had joined in 1958), editor-in-chief Trevor Kennedy and managing-director Rob Henty. Indeed, I was probably number 3 in the ACP hierarchy, above all the editors and other executives in the company. I was flying round Europe and America attending publishing-technology expos, and my Lawrence research was forging ahead. I was about to go off to America, where Sandra and I would add ACP’s New York office to our expanding World Press Network empire. Our WPN international syndication operation was spreading throughout the UK, Europe and Australia, and was poised to become the world’s biggest syndication operation. I was slim and trim, running every morning in Kensington Gardens, playing good tennis at HPLTC, and was off 8 at Ealing Golf Club. My 1985 diary records that I had got down under 11 stone 7, and was fit as a fiddle. Little did I realise, that balmy September in 1985, what disasters the next 12 months would bring (see the “Bad Day at Black Rock” chapter in my life-book), when my world came crashing down around me.

06/01/15 Tuesday, BONDI -

I said in my entry yesty that 1985 was “the best year of my life”. What I should have added was, “so far”. For although it would take a great deal to come up to that annus mirabilis, I should not exclude the possibility, especially if my father’s longevity indeed rubs off on me (and my current health-and-fitness campaign already seems to be yielding promising results). I think there is a distinct possibility that this year, 2015, might challenge 1985 for the title of “best-ever”. Let me count my blessings – no, I won’t do that now. Let’s see where I am this time next year.   We’ll do a reckoning then. (But so far it’s looking good.) Meanwhile, my diary will record the blessings - as, if, and when they come. However, I had an unfortunate setback this morning when, due to my new semi-starvation diet, I experienced the first “hypo” of my now 12-year diabetic life. I was typing away in the office when quite suddenly gaps began to appear in the text in front of me. My God, I thought - it’s the onset of macular degeneration (the curse of male Darrochs)!  I’ll have to make an urgent appointment to see Dr Kearns (my ophthalmologist) first thing tomorrow. Then I remembered that I had almost no breakfast this morning, and not much for dinner last night. I did my blood-sugar…2.9, the lowest I have ever been. I was hypo! I rushed to stuff down some biscuits, and an hour later I was 8.7. Yet it blew my diet out of the water. Still, I now know, for the first time, what a hypo feels like. (How I feel for Sandra, who lives with these ups-and-downs every hour of her brave life.) I’ll cut my insulin back tonight to 50-30, and test myself tomorrow. And it’s back on to the (amended slightly) diet tonight, too.

07/01/15 Wednesday, BONDI -

It is said that the devil has all the best tunes. (There is grave doubt about who did say this – the most popular choice being William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army.) The original meaning was that the devil’s blandishments are hard to resist. Music-wise, however, I think the left (rather than the right) has the better tunes. If you take away the war songs – The Battle Hymn of the Republic, Johnny Comes Marching Home, etc – there’s not much to be sung about conservatism, capitalism, and the market economy. I admit that Wagner had some good tunes, and he was pretty right-wing. But I’m talking here about popular music. I listened the other night to Paul Robeson singing I Dreamt I Saw Joe Hill Last Night. (I had wanted to hear him sing the canoe-boat song from Sanders of the River, which was written – the story – by Edgar Wallace, possibly the most successful author ever.) My God, it was good. I love Robeson’s voice. My journalistic hero Allan Barnes introduced me to him one night at his flat in Woollahra. My politics tutor Terry Irving played us some IWW songs when I was doing Government ll honours, but their lyrics were more interesting than their lilt. And I will readily concede that Land of Hope and Glory sounds better at Conservative Party conferences than The Red Flag at Labour ones. There’s a lot of good working-class and “protest” music (The Company Store, for example). On the other hand, fascism had some good tunes (the Horst Wessel song). Such songs – of which the Marsellaise is the greatest by far – are better called patriotic songs.   (Who can forget the sequence in Casablanca when Paul Henreid leads a rendition of it?) It was originally called The Marching Song of the Army on the Rhine. Its only rival is the Welsh national anthem, Land of My Fathers, though the “unofficial” anthem Men of Harlech is also pretty rousing (as sung in the film Zulu). If only Australia had something as stirring.              

08/01/15 Thursday, BONDI -

I really like our office in Cleveland Street, Surry Hills (east Redfern, to be precise), where we have been for over 10 years now. For us, a suburb coming up in the world hits all the right notes. We have seen this before, first in Paddington (Edgecliff actually), then Glebe, then Notting Hill, and now Surry Hills (and perhaps also when we were in Van Dam Street in SoHo too). It is very pleasant to walk along the streets and see the houses “being done up”, the new restaurants and cafes, the revamped pubs, and the young couples (hetro and homo) busily going about their business of improving the area. Even my old school – I refer to Bourke Street primary, not Sydney High – has been yupped. I used to go there in first year for woodwork and tech drawing (an echo of High’s past in Harris Street next to the then Technological Museum – itself a legacy of the 1879 Sydney Exhibition). Back then – in 1952 - it was one of the most down-market slum schools in all of Sydney. Now the 4-wheel-drives drop off and pick up the kids before and after school (though most live close enough to be taken by their mothers to the school gates). Yuppiedom has come to Surry Hills, hooray!.

09/01/15 Friday, BONDI -

I think it’s time to fess up. This is not the only diary I keep. Since 1972 I have maintained, with various degrees of rigour, a daily diary. I still maintain it, and the current year 2015 is on my desk at work, and I dutifully fill it in every morning. It was started originally (at Chiswick, when Sandra was writing Ottoline) to record our daily expenses, partly for accounting purposes, partly in a (mostly vain) effort to live more cheaply. Later entries report my attempts to lose weight (also mostly in vain) during my irregular “health-and-fitness” campaigns. In the main, the entries are brief, though occasionally they become more discursive, if the moment moves me, or I feel a need to record something significant. The volumes up to the present year are stored on a bookshelf up at Blackheath, and I occasionally had cause to refer to them when writing my Lifebook. (I wish I had been more discursive, but that was before I discovered, as mentioned above, the benefits of writing an online diary.) I doubt if anyone will be interested in reading them, so they will probably go with me to my grave – or, more likely, the crematorium. They are part of my “stuff”. (I must write about “my stuff” one day.)

10/01/15 Saturday, BONDI -

Chemistry is an even more dismal science than economics. There are not a lot of laughs in chemistry. However, a fellow Club member, Noel Hush - a very distinguished chemist - recently sent me this rib-tickler, which was going the rounds: “A major research institution recently announced the discovery of the heaviest element yet known to science.  This new element has been tentatively named ‘Governmentium’.  Governmentium has one neutron, 12 assistant neutrons, 75 deputy neutrons, and 224 assistant deputy neutrons, giving it an atomic mass of 312.  These 312 particles are held together by forces called morons, which are surrounded by vast quantities of lepton-like particles called peons.  Since Governmentium has no electrons, it is inert.  However, it can be detected, for it impedes every reaction with which it comes in contact.  A tiny amount of Governmentium causes a reaction to take over four days to complete, when it would normally take less than a second.  Governmentium has a normal half-life of three years; it does not decay, but instead undergoes a rearrangement in which a portion of the assistant neutrons and deputy neutrons exchange places.  In fact, Governmentium’s mass will actually increase over time since each reorganisation will cause more morons to become neutrons, forming isodopes.  This characteristic of moron-promotion leads some scientists to speculate that Governmentium is formed whenever morons reach a certain concentration.  This hypocritical quantity is referred to as ‘Critical Morass’.  When catalysed with money, Governmentium becomes ‘Administratium’, an element which radiates just as much energy, since it has half as many peons, but twice as many morons.”

11/01/15 Sunday, BONDI -

When Noel Hush was working at Manchester University, he struck up a friendship with Alan Turing, the pioneer of computing science and artificial intelligence (and the subject of a current movie, The Imitation Game, starring Benedict Cumberbatch). He used to enjoy chatting with the great mathematician in his study at the university. One night (Hush recalls) it was particularly chilly, even though a fire was flickering desultorily in the grate. Trying to get more heat out of it, Hush picked up the poker and stirred the smoldering coals. When he sat down again, Turing said to him: “Do you realise that you have to know someone for seven years before you can stoke their fire?” Turing, who committed suicide a few years later, had an advanced sense of humour (and would have particularly relished Noel’s Governmentium joke).

12/01/15 Monday, BONDI -

In my life-book I mention my time on the Sunday Telegraph (as make-up-sub/cum-feature-writer) and my fellow feature-writer, Don “Mad Dog” Grady, whom, I say, probably had the best news-nose I ever encountered in journalism. I tell the story of Don coming to the Tuesday features conference with story ideas he had picked up, or thought up, on his way to Pulsford Chambers from Town Hall station – a matter of three city blocks. Specifically I cite the story about “Spring Heel Jack” – Maxie Melville’s heading (it was my ST chief-sub Maxie who christened Don “Mad Dog”) - the bootmaker in whose window in Park Street Don saw a pair of shoes with a spring in their heel. It is my conviction that a good reporter (RIP) should be able to pick up a story from the proverbial sweet-wrapper in the gutter. I intend to try to put that precept into action. I will try to find, as I drive in from Bondi to our office in Surry Hills, something to write about in this my diary. I can’t do it every day – I am not the reporter that Don was – but I will “Give it a Go” (to recall the name of one of Jack Davey’s radio shows on 2GB in the 1950s).

13/01/15 Tuesday, BONDI -

Which reminds me that I was actually a contestant, with my father, on that Jack Davey quiz show “Give it a Go” in the mid-1950s. (One of the good things about a diary is that you can, as indeed you must, talk about yourself - which everyone who writes wants to anyway.) My father, who used to compete in public quizzes after he returned from the war, fancied himself as a general-knowledge expert (which he was), and it was his idea to apply to go on the show. I was roped in - two could appear together - as his “second” as it were. He gave me to research task of looking up geographical data, in case we got a question on that subject. (I remember going in to the NSW Public Library to do this.) By the time the night came, I knew the capitals of every American State, and such questionable information as the highest waterfall in the world (the Angel Falls in Venezuela). We didn’t get far, and were knocked out by the second question (“Which African country gained independence in 1945?” – Libya). My father claimed he knew the answer, but was put off by my incorrect speculations. Many years later I was subbing on Weekend in London when a particularly pompous feature writer came up to our desk and said: “I don’t suppose any of you know what the capital of North Dakota is?” “Bismark,” I piped up. Chalk that one up for the subs.

14/01/15 Wednesday, BONDI -

Now this is really odd. For zonks Sandra and I have been driving around Sydney slinging off at oriental carpet outlets with SALE! perpetually outside them. We also read in the colour supplements regular ads for CARPET SALES. Sandra has got sick of me saying: “Not another another Persian carpet sale!” Of course the implication is that you can’t trust a Persian salesman, or store. They are notorious for claiming what they sell is a special, never-to-be-repeated bargain that you cannot afford to miss. There are liquidation sales, going-out-of-business sales, Christmas and New Year sales, etc, etc, etc. You can be sure that if you go into a Persian carpet store, you will be ripped off. So you can imagine the chances of finding me in one looking for a carpet to buy. But that is just what I will be doing next week. Am I mad? No, it just that we bought a wonderful Chinese blue-and-white circular rug at the Vinnies in Bronte Road yesty, and so much it is a match for our new white décor in our apartment (white shutters – which look great – new white leather sofas, newly-painted white sideboards, etc) that we decided to roll up our lovely Persian rugs and go for blue-and-white, thick-pile Chinese rugs throughout. Hence my new-found interest in oriental-rug outlets. The Vinnies rug cost $65, which must be almost as good a bargain as our George Orwell rug (see 19/12 above). We will probably take the two good Persian rugs up to Blackheath, along with Paul’s big “Childe Harold” picture, whose vibrant colours won’t go with our new minimalist white-and-black – and blue - furnishings.      

15/01/15 Thursday, BONDI -

The bird-life outside my study door overlooking the south-end of Bondi Beach is fascinating to observe. Not that I am a bird-watcher – or “twitch”, as they are referred to in England. (Indeed, until I looked it up, I did not appreciate what a sub-culture bird-watching, or “birding”, is. One interesting reference to “bird-watching” that took my eye is that it is prison slang in American jails for observing fellow-inmates’ penises at the urinal. By I digress.) The local, or rather cliff-side bird population is dominated by a family of cockatoos, who have taken up residence in or on a ledge abutting the Bondi Baths. I say family because there are more than two and perhaps not more than three or four. (However, other cockatoos often come to visit them, and sometimes we have 15 or more of their relatives flying and squawking around Notts Avenue.) The male of the family has a particular antipathy to street-sweepers, and whenever they come to sweep our street and footpaths, he harasses them, squawking even more raucously and flapping his wings aggressively. I think it is the yellow jackets these sweepers wear that poses some sort of existential threat to the cockatoo species. But the cockies have their foes, too. An extended family of swifts who reside in our two carparks also has a boss-bird who harasses the cockatoos, chasing them off the lamp-posts opposite – their favourite perching-place. As the swifts are a tenth the size of the cockies, you would think the larger birds could ignore them, or brush them off. But the swifts, or swift, is not deterred by either size or any evasive action – and they are much faster than the ungainly cockies (who have trouble standing upright on the more-narrow perches in the street).   Of course we have Bondi’s normal population of pigeons and seagulls, yet it is the occasional, or seasonal, visitors that I especially look out for. One lot is a pair of black (what I thought were) diving-gannets, but - on looking up such birds - they are probably shags or cormorants. I like them because they actually surf in the water below my balcony, diving in and out of waves (from a surface-start) in what I assume is their search for seafood, or seaweed. They are biggish birds, and have a habit of sitting on the rocks below with their wings akimbo, apparently to dry them after a dive, or for the sheer pleasure of being the sun. But the stars – the celebrities - of my local bird-population are a pair of what I call “windhovers” (after Hopkins’ poem The Windhover).   They are probably, technically, sparrow-hawks, and their evil hooked-beaks betray their role in life, which is to kill other birds, presumably sparrows (though the swifts also keep a prudent distance from them). Even the much-larger cockatoos take flight when one of them, the male out hunting, arrives above the cliff-face and begins to hover, stationary, observing the landscape (and birdscape) below for likely prey. They obviously come to Bondi to nest, and their “procreant cradle” (see Macbeth quote below) is further along the cliffs, towards Tamarama. They do not come every year, and I have not seen them for two years now. I hope they are still extant, and that they, or their offspring, will return one summer soon. However, I cannot end this ornithological causerie without quoting Hopkins:


I CAUGHT this morning morning’s minion, king-


  dom of daylight’s dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding


  Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding


High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing


In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing,


  As a skate’s heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and gliding


  Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding


Stirred for a bird,—the achieve of; the mastery of the thing!




Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here


  Buckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion


Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier!




  No wonder of it: shéer plód makes plough down sillion


Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,


  Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermillion.



That was probably his best poem, and surely one of the greatest in the language. It describes my irregular visitors perfectly… ” how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing”.  English can be a beautiful language. Sheer plod can make plough down sillion shine, and gash gold-vermillion.  


This guest of summer,
The temple-haunting martlet, does approve,
By his loved mansionry, that the heaven's breath
Smells wooingly here: no jutty, frieze,
Buttress, nor coign of vantage, but this bird
Hath made his pendent bed and procreant cradle:
Where they most breed and haunt, I have observed,
The air is delicate.


And so it is with the sea-air at Bondi, I can assure you. (I apologise for the length of this entry, and the poetry. It ran away with me, hey-diddle-diddle, like the dish in the bursary mime.)

16/01/15 Friday, BLACKHEATH -

The sausage. On Sunday we are having a literary lunch up here on the topic of Australian literature. I have promised food to match. But Australian cuisine hasn’t much to offer in any generic sense. Damper and witchery grubs, certainly, and the shrimp on the barbie. But what else? Our aborigine population isn’t much help here (burnt kangaroo and other singed native fauna).   For the rest all we have is British colonial cuisine, which even in England wasn’t much chop (if you will excuse the expression). So I turned to my mother’s “country” cook-book (or my memory of it, for it got mislaid somewhere along our global peregrinations). One dish she did well was curried sausages - very Australian - and that’s what I will essay on Sunday. Which brings up the topic for today, the humble but ubiquitous snag. Bismark – the Germans are big on sausages - is famously quoted as saying that you should not ask what goes into sausages. Of course, for a Scot, the world’s greatest sausage is the haggis (and you should not ask what goes into them). “Great chieftain of the puddin’ race” Burns called it. Nonetheless, it’s a big, fat sausage, which is boiled rather than fried, and is indeed the undisputed monarch of the wurst tribe. I have a nice story to tell about the best sausage, haggis apart, I have ever tasted. One day in the mid-1970s Leo Chapman rang me to say he had heard that the best place to buy sausages in London was from a Polish butcher in Westbourne Gove, in Notting Hill. He gave me the address. (Leo, the only man I know who has conned Rupert Murdoch, was an expert on finding the best – and cheapest – of everything in London.) I knew that part of Westbourne Grove well – we lived only a few blocks away. It’s wall-to-wall antique shops, being a stone’s throw from Portobello Road. There could not possibly have been a butcher shop there, or I would have noticed it. But Leo’s advice is always worth taking, so I went along to the address, which indeed proved to be an antique shop. I was about to drive away when I noticed something odd. Double-parked outside were several cars with diplomatic plates. And outside the side-door of the shop there was a queue. I joined it. Down a flight of stairs was a makeshift “counter”, cut into the wall of one of the rooms in the basement. When I reached it (passing various continentals carrying their parcels upstairs) I found a young Polish girl who asked me what type of sausage I wanted. I took a selection home, and they were scrumptious. Shortly after this the Polish butcher moved to Harrow Road and opened a proper butcher shop there, and for several years afterwards I used to feed my staff regularly on his plain pork, smoked pork, and “special” sausages (which were in effect mini-haggises), and which I cooked on the office barbie for lunch almost every day. (I make a practice giving my staff lunch.) Alas, the last time I went, in the mid-1980s, the butcher’s daughter told me her father had died, and they were closing down. What a loss to the puddin’ race was that

17/01/15 Saturday, BLACKHEATH -

Why don’t men were hats any more?   Seventy or 80 years ago, you would not have seen a man in the street without a hat on. Today you don’t see any. Why? By hats I mean of course proper hats, not other casual headgear, like “Baseball caps”, these days worn back-the-front by the young trendies (which rather defeats the point of wearing a cap, which is to protect the face and eyes from the Australian sun.) No, I’m referring to dress hats – trilbys, homburgs, bowlers, fedoras, and top-hats like those that gentlemen used to wear to the Club (and even wore inside, as some old photos and the silhouettes outside the MDR demonstrate). If anything, you would think our modern concern about skin-cancer would increase the need for hats outdoors. One of our members, Clive Lucas, usually wears a straw or Panama hat to the Club - but then he’s a heritage architect, and takes it off in the downstairs ‘loo before venturing any further (which once was a proper cloakroom, equipped with hooks for Members’ hats). When I was at school, even Sydney High had a hat, which must have been de rigueur at the other non-government GPS schools (some of which boasted “boaters” too – I would have liked to have worn a boater). At tennis, I always use to wear a white floppy hat, which, thank God, has bequeathed me some immunity from the ravages of facial skin-cancer. When I was working in London, bowler hats were part of the “uniform” of “the City” (even the “scouts” at Oxford and Cambridge wore them). But it’s the top-hat whose demise I regret most. If manners maketh the man, then a “topper” made the gentleman. Not everything changes for the better. Bring back the topper! (Or at least the Akubra.)

18/01/15 Sunday, BLACKHEATH -

Am I a conservative? Am I reactionary? At the Club the other day, Chris Dawson – who is reactionary – accused me of being a conservative. He said it in a nice way, but the implication of his remark was that everyone knows that I am a conservative. That worried me. I don’t really mind being called a conservative, for in many things I am conservative. (And as I grow older, I concede that I am drifting towards the right.) Yet I have spent my entire professional life determined not to attach myself – or my beliefs – to any political or ideological position. That, as I have often said, would cripple me as a journalist, and a dispassionate observer and reporter (and, worse, a conscientious sub-editor) as, of course, every decent journalist must be - dispassionate. My antipathy – hatred – of Pilgerism and his brand of “crusading journalism” is surely well-known (I have broadcast it often enough). Recently Michael Symons has also accused me of being conservative (by which I think he meant reactionary). Yet, as I told him, if I have an ideological viewpoint it would be Liberalism, in the John Stuart Mill/Gladstone/Asquithian sense. When we were trying to save Glebe, I joined the local Labor Party branch. In England, Sandra and I joined the Social Democrats (Sandra was the local branch secretary). I did join the NSW Liberal Party briefly in 1978 – but that was to expose the “Uglies” (Del Agnew, Urbanchich, et al). Yet as I outline in my Lifebook, my political/ideological outlook was forged in the years after the War, in an atmosphere of Communist-inspired strikes, rationing, and Labor-Government restriction – oppression - generally. In those days, Menzies and his Liberal Party stood for freedom and individual liberty – the traditional (lower-case) liberal values – and that was why I later joined the Daily Telegraph, for it then championed those ideals, too. Later I was against apartheid and (eventually) the Vietnam War. I believe in equality, private enterprise and a “safety-net” welfare state. That is not reactionary. That is liberalism. It’s the world that’s changed, not me.                              

19/01/15 Monday, BONDI -

I once shared a cab with Bea Miles, Sydney’s most-famous “bag-lady”. (Memory lane might be a more productive thoroughfare for causeries than Bondi Road – see my Don Grady entry above, 12/01/15.) Bea, the daughter of WJ Miles - a proto-fascist who owned Peapes menswear store in George Street - went to Sandra’s (exclusive) school, Abbotsleigh, but had rebelled, or gone off her head, and had taken up residence in such insalubrious places as a storm-water outlet at Rushcutters Bay. In her spare time she had taken to importuning Bondi lifesavers for sexual favours. This came to mind as I looked down from my balcony this morning on the cars parked below and noted some of the names they give to cars nowadays (both marque and model). I recalled the names of the cars I knew as a kid, but see no more – marques like De Soto, Studebaker, Humber, Armstrong Siddeley, Mayflower, etc, etc, etc. (I was once the motoring editor of Everybody’s magazine.) Bea, who used to sit on the steps outside the Public Library with a sign around her neck saying: “SHAKESPEARE READINGS 6d”, was notorious for harassing cab-drivers. She never paid a fare (except once, when she hired a cab to drive her round Australia) and had a nasty habit of slamming the cab door when she was finally evicted from a taxi she had hijacked. I had been doing some uni-research at the Public or Mitchell Library and had flagged down a taxi to take me home to Bondi. But before I shut the cab-door, Bea jumped in. Now, the point of all this is that on the trip to Bondi she bet me whether we would see more Holdens than Fords. I don’t remember now what the outcome of this was, of even if I agreed to her “challenge”. I was thankful to get out in Wallis Parade and leave Bea and the unfortunate driver to continue their journey on. But I liked Bea, and have a soft spot for bag-ladies. One of my favourite passages in The Vivisector is when Hurtle Duffield encounters – as Patrick White obviously did – a bag-lady feeding cats in Paddington, and realises she is his aunt, or sister, or some other relative. (See below re my Uncle Jack.)

20/01/15 Tuesday, BONDI -

Yes, Jack – My Uncle Jack, to paraphrase George Johnston. If ever a family had a black sheep, it was Uncle Jack (in more ways than one – see next entry). I quote from my life-book: After my father moved into Elizabeth Lodge, he would make a practice of walking into town to David Jones to top up his supply of tins of Bronte Lambs Tongues, which were both inexpensive and, for a New Zealander, apparently something of a delicacy. He was a dedicated walker, and at an advanced age went on the arduous Milford Walk in NZ. On one of his regular strolls into town, so he reported to me, he was accosted by a face and figure that looked vaguely familiar, half-way down William Street. It was a dirty and dishevelled Uncle Jack, who had been kicked out by his family and was now spending his nights at the nearby Matthew Talbot hostel for homeless men. “I’m pretty far gone,” he told my father, who never saw him again. He had also spent, so Cousin Lesley later informed me, some time in Long Bay Gaol, for non-payment of family-support, and had to be bailed out by her father, Uncle Max. Yet the Darroch side of my family also had its lost sheep. One was called Duncan Darroch, who had come over from Dunedin and was also living rough somewhere around the Cross. One day my father got a call from Central Police Court saying (as he thought) that I was in court charged with some offence, and to come and rescue me. Of course, it wasn’t me, but Duncan Darroch, who had been arrested at Kings Cross underground station after he refused, when requested by railway transport police, to desist from importuning passengers, waiting for trains on the platform, with readings from the Bible. I do not recall if my father did anything in the matter. Once, Duncan, clad in a kilt - in which he rode about town on a bike - turned up at The Bulletin in Park Street asking to see me, as he had evidence of some injustice he had allegedly suffered at the hands of the health - I suspect mental health - authorities back in NZ, and wanted me, as the Darroch family’s investigative journalist, to pursue it for him. He did not get any further than reception, and I also never heard of him again. I dread the knock on the door from the Who Do You Think You Are? team.

21/01/15 Wednesday, BONDI -

So now I have to reveal the Big Secret of the Eason family (my mother’s side)…the aboriginal connection, or taint. I knew nothing about this scandal until cousin Lesley (daughter of my mother’s eldest brother, George) informed me in a Xmas letter: “Did you know that three of your uncles were not your grandfather’s sons?” As I say in my life-book: Shit! That was one out of left-field. It turns out that Uncles Mervyn and Jack were (I now know) fathered by an aborigine in or around Gilgandra – where my mother grew up – in 1910 and 1912 respectively. (I don’t remember anything of Mervyn’s appearance, a builder down Sutherland way, but the family snaps I had did show Uncle Jack looking suspiciously swarthy. (Read my chapters 1&13 for the gory details, such as I know them.)   But Lesley said “three”. She clammed up after this, and now refuses to speak or contact me (she was very close to cousin Betty, Mervyn’s daughter, and now regrets telling me anything). However, I know – after a bit of sleuthing – that the third “bastard” uncle was the youngest, Uncle Max. I know he was a bastard because he was born in March 1919 and my maternal grandfather only returned from the war four months earlier in December 1918. He could not have been around when Max was conceived in July – six years after Uncle John (and my grandmother was a devout Catholic). There is a great story to be told about all this, and my nose is hot on the scent. I hope to have more for a later entry.   (But I am pleased to have an aborigine in the family.)

22/01/15 Thursday, BONDI -

What makes a good diary? Is it the big names and the big events, or something else? Two of the best diaries I have read - for my History II course - were by Harold Nicolson and Chips Channon. What they said (from either side of the 1930s split over Munich) about the movers and shakers was of interest. Yet it was what they said in passing – largely about themselves and their lives - that I remember most. This, I think – the incidental stuff – is what makes diaries worth reading, for it says something significant about their era and lifestyle. One day Chips went shopping in Kensingston (Harrods, etc) and remarked in his diary words to the effect that he found it “difficult these days to go shopping and not spend £200 on Saturday morning” (he had married a Guinness). When Harold was on a lecture-tour in America he was invited (so he thought) to visit some “tarts” in Chicago. Not prostitutes, he explained in a diary-entry, but the American pronunciation of “tots”. It was not so much what Channon and Nicholson said in their diaries, as what it implied. In Chips’ case, a pre-war culture of casual wealth and luxury and indulgence and class superiority. In Nicolson’s more-deprecating case, the gulf between America, with its easy-going way-of-life, and the stiffer and more formal way-of-doing-things (and the subtle differences in language, or at least pronunciation) in England. In both cases, the entries delivered an image of who they were and what they stood for which paragraphs of explanation could not. I hope I can achieve something like that, as I no longer (if I ever did) rub shoulders with the movers and shakers of this world, or any other.

23/01/15 Friday, BONDI -

What is my era? What would make my diary worth more than a passing glance (if that)? What do I stand for? My era is largely the post-WW2 era (though I was not a Baby-Boomer). That was a time of recovery, of a world resuming where it left off at the end of the 1930s. I grew up in the Menzies era and in the boom years of the fifties and early sixties. What happened to me later was largely shaped in those dynamic, exciting years…my attitude to life, to society and politics, to an Australia that was beginning to shake off its British roots and beginning to make its own way in the world. As far as having anything to say that would interest others, I think the picture I paint of growing up in Bondi (and Sydney) is worth reading, for I think I am a good observer, who can write. I am at heart still a Bondi Boy, and am very pleased to have ended up here again. My memories of journalism in its heyday in the 50s and 60s certainly are worth putting down, for I suspect that unless I do so, that era will be lost, which would be a great shame for Australia and my profession. What I say about the information business following the decline of traditional journalism is also significant, I think. (Hence the subtitle of my life-book – “From Hot-metal to the Internet and Beyond”. So my diary has to be read in tandem with Against the Grain.) As I was lying on the gurney in Sydney Hospital’s Emergency Department, I wondered if I had done anything I would be remembered for. I decided (later) there were two things – first and foremost doing my best to ensure that Sandra’s difficult life was as good as I could help to make it. (And I think I have succeeded there.) The other was, of course, my Lawrence research and my book - which is now with Curtis Brown - DH Lawrence in Australia. Having ultimately found out what happened when Lawrence arrived in Sydney in May 1922 was a major research achievement, and constitutes a important contribution to English literature, and Australian history and culture. Finally, what do I stand for? I regard myself as a classical John Stuart Mill Liberal, and stand for self-interest, personal freedom and opportunity. I am not a socialist, nor am I a conservative. I want the world to change and develop. I have a set of values – such as a revulsion of cruelty, especially to animals – and, like my father, I am moved to tears in some circumstances. I have faults…I am not all that honest, I am not gregarious, I can’t dance, I am a hypochondriac, I resign too easily, I like to show off, and I do not say or do things to please others (Sandra excepted). When I die, I fancy I will not be missed, except, if I die first, by Sandra (and maybe Paul Delprat). Above all, I have learned a lot about people and the world, and I would not have missed being alive in my era and having been a journalist in it. I have had a good life. Whether I have led a good life is, perhaps, another matter.

24/01/15 Saturday, BLACKHEATGH -

I promised to write about “my stuff”, and an opportunity to do so came this morning when I read in the SMH that an infamous hoarder’s house in Bondi was to be sold by order of the Sherriff for non-payment of council clean-up charges. Coincidentally, the house – a photo of which showed its front-yard piled high with detritus of various sorts – is in Boonara Avenue, the street in which I was born (or where my parents then lived). I too am a hoarder, and have been since childhood. Vinnies, op-shops, and particularly the Jewish Bargain Bazaar in Cleveland Street are my constant, regular haunts – and some marvelous stuff have I got from them all. At this moment a beautiful Chinese rug is drying on our balcony, having been washed and scrubbed. It cost $65 at the Vinnies in Bronte Road. And only yesty I picked up a nice bit of Crown-Derby-type porcelain for $10 up at Blackheath (I beat the dealer down from $15). Our second garage downstairs if full of stuff I have picked up, Autolycus-style (“a picker-up of unconsidered trifles” in the The Winter’s Tale). Most spectacularly down there is “the Beast” – a huge ex-chemist’s cabinet I found in a second-hard shop in Bondi Junction – which is filled-to-overflowing with our collection of “Veggie-Ware”. This consists of a style of “china” decorated with vegetables and fruit, and most particularly with radishes (it should be called “Radish-Ware”), intended for serving appetisers and other casual food. As a kid I collected all manner of things – even the wrappers on tins of peaches and other canned delectables. I am an inveterate, incorrigible magpie. I have enough second-hard kitchen-ware to furnish four houses. In London I scoured Portobello Road on both Fridays and Saturdays. Every now and again I have to cull my various collections – to make room for more. I recently threw out, reluctantly, almost a hundred pieces of Veggie-Ware I deemed superfluous to my collection (the Beast, poor thing, could take any more). My father, as I relate in my life-book, collected items of pornography (I found tens of thousands of images of naked ladies in his room after he died). He also saved up used brown-paper bags. At least I am up-market from that.             

25/01/15 Sunday, BONDI -

Last night about 7pm I glanced out my study door and saw a film being projected on a portable (blow-up) screen set up against the western side of the pavilion, in what is now called Bondi Park. Even with my long-sight, I couldn’t quite make out what was showing, but it took me back to when there was an open-air cinema in front of what was originally a theatrical stage on the side of the pavilion that faces Campbell Parade. (In earlier days, on Sunday afternoons in summer, they used to put on vaudeville-style shows there – as they also did at Manly.) In the days – decades – before drive-ins, open-air cinema was quite popular. I remember going to one in Grafton in 1950 and seeing an Abbott & Costello comedy there. The Bondi one didn’t last long, but I snuck in under the canvas walls they set up - you had to pay to go inside - and saw a film about the north-west frontier (it might have been the one Errol Flynn made about the Charge of the Light Brigade). I was mad about the movies then – around the age of 10 or 12 – and regularly attended the half-dozen-or-so cinemas in Bondi and Bondi Junction (and I used to sneak into town to see the city flicks whenever I could – “wagging it” from both primary school and Sydney High). And of course, as I relate in my life-book, I dropped out of university to watch the midday movie on TV. But I have not gone to a cinema since we saw Crocodile Dundee in New York in 1986. And that’s a long time between intervals.

26/01/15 Monday, BONDI -

Our “Australia Day” literary lunch at Blackheath last week was almost too successful. We had 17 on the day, and three had to be turned away. That was too many, and the logistics were awkward (we had to serve lunch in sittings). The topic we chose was “Literature in Australia” and several said afterwards it was our best-ever (for the record, it was our 21st Blackheath Literary Lunch). We didn’t have John Lanser’s reading of one of the Blue Mountains poet laureate’s execrable poems – John had double-booked - but Brian gave, at my request, an excellent rendition of Concreto (see 20/10/14 above), which set the scene for the various contributions. I recited a bit of Lawson’s The Roaring Days (“The night too quickly passes, and we are growing old/So let us fill our glasses, and toast the days of gold!”) and managed to give everyone a turn. The food was praised – especially my poached salmon – but I cooked too much, and we had to throw out a lot. I was abstemious, and drank nothing but diet fizzy. I felt like someone out of a Bateman “The Man Who…” cartoon. (“The Man Who Stayed Sober For the First Time at his Own Literary Lunch.”) Next month’s topic is “War” – at the suggestion of Bob O’Neill – and I intend to eschew Tennyson in favour of Southey, and After Blenheim


But what good came of it at last?"
    Quoth little Peterkin.
"Why that I cannot tell," said he,
    "But 'twas a famous victory."

27/01/15 Tuesday, BONDI -

It will be gathered by now that I am in love with words. They are my toys and playthings, and I enjoy tossing them about, changing them around, finding new uses for them, delighting in the imagery they evoke, and relishing how they can be used to reflect speech and thought. (I only wish I knew more about where they came from, and what others there might be whose acquaintance I might yet make.) How I envy Tyndale, and Shakespeare, and all the great poets – Hopkins in particular, who also liked playing with words and their sounds. This indulgence was brought on by my recent use of the word “rub” when describing Sandra’s minor door-scrape on the front-nearside door of The Gem as “rub of the green”. Curious word, “rub”. It enjoys a multitude of uses and contexts, from rubber-bridge, to rubber tyres, erasers and condoms. In the sense I used it, it is a very old word, going back to the 13th century, when it meant an obstacle or impediment (originally a bump on a bowls lawn). When Hamlet said “Ay, there’s the rub” he meant “Ay, there’s the problem”. In snooker “rub of the green” means a bad break, which is also its meaning in golf, implying something not covered by the rules of golf, a foreign or outside agency. A useful term, which I think I used appropriately in Sandra’s case. Shakespeare also alluded to a rub in Richard II in 1593:


Lady: Madame, wee'le play at Bowles.

Queen: 'Twill make me thinke the World is full of Rubs

And that my fortune runnes against the Byas.

28/01/15 Wednesday, BONDI -

I had better explain my reference above to “The Gem”. The soubriquet derives from a remark a motor-mechanic made when we took our blue Volvo – the one we brought out from England in 1987 – to a garage in Mona Vale for some minor rust-repairs. “It’s a gem,” he said, referring to the fact that it did not have, as most cars now do, an engine run by electronics. (No doubt he probably was not equipped to deal with a modern Volvo’s electronics.) Since then we have had two more Volvos, including our present one (a 2001-hatchback, which still purrs along – for we are Volvo loyalists). So our current one is “Gem 3”. When we went back in London in 1979, we bought a second-hand Volvo (which kept breaking down in tunnels through over-heating). Yet, having been a motoring editor (at Everybody’s in the early 1960s), I knew the Volvo reputation for longevity – they last almost as long as the Mercedes, an average of 15 years. So in 1980 when I got an advance to write a book about Australia for the Bicentennial, I walked straight out of John Murray’s office in Mayfair to the Volvo dealer (Lex Brooklands) at the end of the street and slapped down – metaphorically speaking – my £8000-advance, and bought our first brand-new Volvo (the blue one). It lasted until 1994 – Geoffrey King drove it across the Nullarbor to where we were in Perth. Then we got our second Gem, second-hand from our excellent Volvo garage, Precision Motors. It lasted until 2009, when we got our present Volvo, also second-hand from Precision. Despite the slurs of Steve Barker – a motor-head - that I should use the Squiz dividends to get a new car (“Now you can afford to buy a decent car”) we will stick by our Gem 3 - despite Sandra’s scratch - for some time yet. It is now 15 years old, but there are many good miles in it yet. (However, when I do finally replace it, it will be, Squiz willing, with a brand-new Gem 4 – though I will probably keep Gem 3 while we have to park in the laneway next to our office in Cleveland Street. I would not risk a new Volvo in that purlieu.) FOOTNOTE: I did not write the commissioned book on Australia, and returned the advance. Murrays told me it was the first advance they had ever had returned by an author – and they were Byron’s publishers!)    

29/01/15 Thursday, BONDI -

(our 50th wedding anniversary)  We've been together now for forty years/An' it don't seem a day too much” so the Cockney song (“My Dear Old Dutch”) goes. Well, for us it’s now 50 years, and it does not indeed seem a day too much. I hope and pray we will survive at least a few more years. We have had a very good life together. To celebrate, we had dinner last night at the swish and expensive new Italian restaurant in Hall Street. But we finished early to go home and watch the tennis (Murray won the semi). We had a much-nicer dinner on Wednesday at the Club with fellow-anniversarians Angela and Clif Barker (Steve’s parents). We were married 10 days after them. The food and ambience were far superior, and the occasion far more pleasant. Today we bought some new white office furniture (to match the new art-deco décor in Notts Avenue). The place is almost finished, and looks stunning - I am convinced it is the best apartment in Sydney. (The Barkers are coming over for lunch next week to inspect.) The main news of the week is Steve Morgan’s agreement to change his shareholding in Squiz. We gain some future security from this, so it’s a good deal all round, and we are relieved of any financial worries into the foreseeable future. In fact, we can now afford to do – or buy - anything we want to. (We have a trip to China planned for next October – our anniversary present to ourselves.)       

30/01/15 Friday, BONDI -

Today Sandra and I lunched - for the first time - with the Dueling Chopsticks, a group of ex-journos convened by John Webb (ex-Tele, whom we met at the Dylan Thomas affair at the UK Consulate-General’s in Vaucluse a month or so ago - see 22/11/14). In a Chinese restaurant in the Haymarket I found myself sitting next to a former Fin Review sub, Noel Mayer, whom I didn’t know and have never heard of before. But he worked at the Tele and went to Sydney High two years before me. In fact, we must have been on the same school bus, as he then lived in Vaucluse (and now resides in Paddington, in much-reduced circumstances apparently). He told me a Packer story that I had not heard before. As I well knew, the reporters’ room at the Tele was like something out of the Mattheu/Lemon film, The Front Page. At times it was so crowded that reporters had to sit on the desks, as there weren’t enough chairs to go round. Someone complained to the union, and the AJA house-rep sought a meeting with The Boss to lodge an official protest. Frank gave him an audience, and heard him out. (McNicoll was present.) “How many chairs do we need?” Frank asked. “Five,” said the rep. Packer turned to McNicoll and said: “Sack five journalists.” End of protest. (But that is just another example of The Boss’s twisted, not to say macabre, sense of humour.)   

31/01/15 Saturday, BONDI -

Frank once offered me David McNicoll’s job (as editor-in-chief). Beneath that fearsome exterior he had a lively sense – not so much of humour, but amusement. He liked a joke, so long as it was at other people’s expense. (As far as I am aware, his son Kerry did not have a sense of humour.) In my life-book I told the story of what he did when he saw Alec Boys trying to run the gauntlet of his prohibition of giving away free papers (“Alec! You forgot your poster!”). I also tell the story of Rob Henty turning up at Cairnton in a cut-down suit of Frank’s (“Gretel! Where’s my blue suit!?”) After a bitter journo’s strike in the late1960s he put his head round the door from the subs’ room to Mahogany Row and said: “Up the workers!” He enjoyed stirring the possum. I had gone into McNicoll’s office late on Saturday night (I was late-night chief-sub) to tell him I was leaving, as Sandra and I were going to London on a working honeymoon. Just as I finished, the door opened and in came Sir Frank (he had been knighted by then). “This boy wants to leave us, Frank,” McNicoll said in his best avuncular manner, explaining my presence in his office. Frank, who had had more than a few whiskies, turned to me and said: “Is there nothing we can do to make you stay?” I mumbled something. Then he went on: “What if I offered you Mr McNicoll’s job?” It was David’s turn to mumble something, and I was quickly ushered out. Gorgo – our nickname for him – had his impish side.

01/02/15 Sunday, BONDI -

The unthinkable has happened (at least I thought it was unlikely to the point of unthinkableness). Tony Abbott, until, as of few weeks ago, a cast-iron certainty to win the next election, has blown it – in spades. He has been in the polling-doldrums for many months, mainly due to his failure to get the government’s budget (and other measures) through a hostile Senate. Yet he is not that attractive to the average Australian voter, no matter what their politics are. Though a successful Opposition leader, and trounced Julia in the pre-election polling, he comes across as an ideologue and not very people-friendly. He looks and acts like what he is – a product of a Jesuit seminary, with the ideology to match. He does his best – kissing babies, showing up at major events, visiting the troops, and communing with aborigines. He abolished the unpopular mining and carbon taxes, stopped the boats, rescued the NBN, condemned “climate change” as crap, and put on a great show internationally. (And the electorate almost always gives a new government two terms.)   Besides, history shows that it is fatal to change leaders before an election. So I thought his position was rock-solid secure. Yet I think the unthinkable is just about to happen. His big mistake was restoring imperial honours with a few dames and knighthoods. Then, in the face of general unpopularity about this move back toward the monarchy, he decided – as a “captain’s choice” - to give Prince Phillip an AK in the Australia Day honours list. This was met with universal derision. He has misjudged the electorate badly, a fatal mistake for a PM. Worse, he was ridiculed. Yesty the Queensland LNP government lost an unloseable election, and the Premier has lost his seat. Tony will be blamed for this. More damagingly, he has by his championing the monarchist cause catapulted republican Malcolm Turnbull out of the wilderness and back into leadership contention. Malcolm is now an eminently-credible alternative. I did not think he had a snowball’s chance in Hell of ever coming back (he actually decided to quit politics after he lost the leadership, but was talked out of it). Now he is on the verge of realising his life-dream – Prime Minister of Australia. There is a lot of bad blood to go under the bridge yet, but my money is on Malcolm, whose political skills are undeniable (and he only lost the party leadership by a single vote). There is more than a touch of the Menzies about all this. (And I think Malcolm, with whom I worked with on The Bulletin and later at ACP, will prove to be a very good PM. Perhaps even a great one, for he has the seeds of greatness in him.)

02/02/15 Monday, BONDI -

I bought a bunch of flowers at Coles supermarket up at Bondi Junction yesty – the first bunch I have actually purchased, for non-entertainment reasons, since we have had our apartment at Bondi – more than 40 years now. They were lilies of some sort, the same species that we now buy regularly for the kitchen when we go and take up residence at Blackheath (bought from Aldi at Katoomba, where they can be got for a modest $4.50 a bunch). I was a late convert to flowers, which I now regard as an important part of one’s existence on Earth, and an ornament to our lives. When growing up in Bondi, it did impinge on me that flowers existed. There was a frangipani tree in the front yard of our flats and hydrangea bushes in some of the houses opposite. I can remember snap-dragons, roses of course, and I distinctly remember finding some carnations in the front yard of the house behind which was a tennis court in O’Brien Street, and being disappointed that they didn’t smell very much. There were wattles on the golf course at the top of our street and a florist down in Campbell Parade where I first saw a tiger-lilly that I thought was very attractive. (I think they had orchids, too.) Yet it wasn’t until we bought our first house in Glebe that I actually thought about planting plants and shrubs and trees, and paid my first visit to a nursery (we travelled up Baulkham Hills way to buy some plants for our new front garden in Toxteth Road in 1968). I was very proud of the rock-garden we constructed in St Lukes Road in London, which we planted with azaleas, and later we had window-boxes in Westbourne Park Road. In Chiswick in the early 1970s we grew sweet peas in the backyard and I think we had honeysuckle trained along the back of the fence in the front-yard. Sandra had grown up (in Roseville!) with flowers, and it was she who had taught me most of what I know about them. I have always loved the smell of roses, and will go out of my way to sniff one, just as I will pat any cat I pass by. The names of the flowers I largely learnt from her, so now I can mostly identify them by variety. My flower purchase at Coles yesty is a harbinger of my new determination to keep our vases at Bondi filled with flowers on a regular basis from now on. And of course we now have Alan, our sometime gardener at Blackheath. (We bought a red bottle-brush for his “natives” landscaping overlooking Popes Glen, and will take it up next week for him to plant. Then we will discuss what to put in the front garden, which he has cleared and made ready. My vote will be for roses, but I might sneak in a tiger-lilly, if we can find one.)

03/02/15 Tuesday, BONDI -

At my age, certain privileges fall due. One is permitted - indeed encouraged - to give answers to such questions as: “What is the meaning of life?” “What lessons have you learnt from your time on Earth?” “Have you anything you want to pass on, any advice to give to ‘the younger generation’?” Well, yes, I do. The main lesson I have learned in life is – do not rely on other people. Plough your own furrow. Don’t think that anyone owes you anything. You, and you alone, are responsible for your time on Earth. In the words of the song, “Do it, your way.” Sure, you have responsibilities to other people, and you must conduct your life so as to do your duty by them. My main role in adult life has been to see that Sandra has had as good a life as I could make it. Hers has not been an easy time on Earth. To have been a diabetic since the age of 10 or whatever is as tough as life can get. Helping her has given my life some meaning. Yet she had, perforce, to rely on someone else. She had no choice in the matter. I have been more fortunate. I am the captain of my fate. Yet, in the past, I have relied on others when I shouldn’t have. That was a mistake. But, thank God, I am now free of social and business entanglements. (Yet to not go away with the idea that Sandra is weak or handicapped in any way. She is as fit as anyone I know, in both mind and body. I just brought her back from the gym, where she works out several days a week. She a tough cookie, mentally and physically.)

04/02/15 Wednesday, BONDI -

It was our first White Tie lunch of the year today, and it was one of our best yet. We had 23 attending to hear our Club President Robert Bishop condemn Australia’s politically-correct voting system (compulsory and preferential). Hardly a voice was raised against his swingeing critique of its manifold faults. The ludicrous situation we have in the current Senate with Ricky Muir of the Motoring Enthusiasts Party sitting as a Senator (for 12 years) with less than 1% primary votes silenced any support for preferential voting. The only arguments raised in support of compulsory voting were the practical ones (not having to get people to the polls, etc). The fact that over 200 countries have optional voting and only 11 enforce compulsory voting spoke for itself. (Strangely, the only major countries – except islands like Nauru and enclaves like Luxemburg – that want to frog-march people to the ballot-box are South American ones, like Bolivia and Argentina.) I made the point that the concept of the mandate is the crucial factor here. With compulsory voting the winning party can claim it has a mandate to implement its policies, as a majority supported its party platform, and thus gave them a “democratic” mandate. But if voting isn’t compulsory, the concept of the mandate collapses. Few present knew how the Hare-Clark system worked, or who Clark was (he largely wrote our Constitution.) None had heard of the Braddon Blot. One despairs for democracy in our nation. (I did, however, manage to cite Earl Bathurst’s comment when the First Reform Bill was passed in 1832: “Icabod! The glory is departed. They have let the enemy in upon us!”)

05/02/15 Thursday, BONDI -

Good news from Dr Harris this morning. My blood pressure is almost dangerously low, and I have lost more than 10 kilos. My new regime is taking effect. (It is only five weeks since I gave up alcohol and restricted my food intake.) We are seeing Kathie Samaris next week for our quarterly check-up (she is our endocrinologist). She will be pleased. She said I should lose 20 kilos. Well, I’m halfway there. Can I get back down to 11 stone 7 pounds? Could I play golf and tennis once more? Is there honey still for tea? Exciting days ahead.

06/02/15 Friday, BONDI -

Who will read this diary (in this post-February 23, 1981, information-saturated world)? Very few, I would warrant. Maybe no one. I may be writing this for my own satisfaction – and enjoyment – alone. Richard Hattersley might be tempted, if he knows it exists, and where it is to be found, or accessed. (See my diary introduction, 25/9, re his role in this.) Tarquin might – he says he has kept all my Club blogs, presumably because he likes them (we attended the launch of his first novel last week at the Club). I will give them both copies of my life-book, as burley, if you like. Those who read Against the Grain (wherein I presage the launch of THE DIARY OF A BOY FROM BONDI) might also be tempted. It is rightly said that journalism implies an audience (cf my life-book reference to the “delight of the journalist”), the corollary presumably being that no audience or readership, no journalism. Yet I do think I am doing something useful, even valuable, and maybe unique, perhaps exploring new literary territory (the daily online causerie – a sort of ongoing blog, as it were, though I detest the term “blog”). I read something recently about Sir Richard Burton and his prolific literary output, and carefree attitude to life. He had a quote that he believed summed up his life and work. It was his motto, the guiding light or principle of his adventurous life. "Do what thy manhood bids thee do, from none but self expect applause". (He was very strong on “manhood”.) It’s a good motto, and I think I will adopt it. I will put it at the top of my life-book preface (attributed, of course). “from none but self expect applause” – yes, that will be my guiding light and justification for what I am doing, and its ongoing motivation.

07/02/15 Saturday, BONDI -

It is said that the devil has all the best tunes. (There is grave doubt about who did say this – the most popular choice being William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army.) The original meaning was that the devil’s blandishments are hard to resist. Music-wise, however, I think the left (rather than the right) has the better tunes. If you take away the war songs – The Battle Hymn of the Republic, Johnny Comes Marching Home, etc – there’s not much to be sung about conservatism, capitalism, and the market economy. I admit that Wagner had some good tunes, and he was pretty right-wing. But I’m talking here about popular music. I listened the other night to Paul Robeson singing I Dreamt I Saw Joe Hill Last Night. (I had wanted to hear him sing the canoe-boat song from Sanders of the River, which was written – the story – by Edgar Wallace, possibly the most successful author ever.) My God, it was good. I love Robeson’s voice. My journalistic hero Allan Barnes introduced me to him one night at his flat in Woollahra. My politics tutor Terry Irving played us some IWW songs when I was doing Government ll honours, but their lyrics were more interesting than their lilt. And I will readily concede that Land of Hope and Glory sounds better at Conservative Party conferences than The Red Flag at Labour ones. There’s a lot of good working-class and “protest” music (The Company Store, for example). On the other hand, fascism had some good tunes (the Horst Wessel song). Such songs – of which the Marsellaise is the greatest by far – are better called patriotic songs.   (Who can forget the sequence in Casablanca when Paul Henreid leads a rendition of it?) It was originally called The Marching Song of the Army on the Rhine. Its only rival is the Welsh national anthem, Land of My Fathers, though the “unofficial” anthem Men of Harlech is also pretty rousing (as sung in the film Zulu). If only Australia had something as stirring.              

08/02/15 Sunday, BONDI -

A funny thing happened on my way into the Club last Friday. As I got out of a taxi in front of the Club, a gentleman – at least I assume he was a gentleman, for he seemed intent on accompanying me into the Club – accosted me. “Hello,” he volunteered, extending his hand. “I’m Jack Jones.” (That was not his name, but it will suffice.) I was somewhat taken aback. Though I have been a member for more than a quarter of a century, I had never been greeted outside the Club in such a fashion. The occasional nod of recognition, perhaps, or even the rare “Good morning, Rob.” But this pre-entry degree of familiarity was new to me - particularly as I did not know him from a bar of soap. I limply took his offered hand and replied, hesitantly: “Ah, name is Robert Darroch”, wondering where on earth we could have met before. As we proceeded up the green steps together, I opened the door for him. I assumed that he must be a new member, as yet unused to our ways. Once inside, I felt I should say something more to him, for the Club tradition is to make new members feel at home. “Would you care to join us in the lounge?” I ventured. He looked around the foyer. “Is that the Knox lounge?” he asked.   “No,” I replied. “That’s the Dangar Room.” He appeared confused. “We’re meeting in the Knox room,” he said, vaguely. That was on the second floor, I informed him. It was now apparent that he wasn’t a new member at all, but a visitor attending a function at the Club. “It’s my school’s lunch,” he said, by way of explanation. It was then that I committed a faux pas. “What school did you go to?” I asked, unthinkingly. He didn’t look countrified enough to be a Kings boy. Nor North Shore enough to be from Shore or Barker. His unfamiliarity with city surroundings ruled out Grammar. Perhaps a Newington lad? “Canterbury Boys’ High,” he said, with a puff of pride. Just then, another chap of a similar age and appearance came through the doors. A look of recognition passed between them. Relieved of my hospitality duties, I left them chatting together, and proceeded into the Dangar Room to join our Friday group. Now, don’t get me wrong. I have nothing but admiration and respect for the boys of Canterbury Boys High. It is a great public school (if not a Great Public School). A number of people I know went to Canterbury Boys High, Phillip Knightley and Murray Sayle – two of my journalistic heroes – being just two. Michael Kirby went there and our late DH Lawrence Society president, John Lacey, was also an old boy. For heaven’s sake, that was where John Howard went to school! (It is, after all, a selective high school.) Still, it does show you how - if this is the politically-correct term – “democratic” our club has become of late (I believe that I was one of the first from Sydney High to be elected). I hope Jack Jones and his fellow CBHS old boys enjoyed their lunch, and will come back again next year. We selective boys have to support each together.

09/02/15 Monday, BONDI -

Which takes me to the matter of “class”, about which I think I should now say something. When I said (above) “democratic” I meant, or implied, less class-ridden. Because for most of its existence the Union Club was an “upper-class” institution, as The Australian Club still is, along with most of the surviving “gentlemen’s clubs” in the various capital cities. Such clubs are a class-phenomenon, aping Pall Mall and St James’s in London. But does class really exist in Australia? Is there – or was there – a hierarchy of upper-class, middle-class and lower-class here? In Government in the late 1960s I did a term-essay on class and its political implications, deciding that it does exist in England, but not to the same extent in Australia. When we lived in London, I saw ample evidence of class there. (Once, in Bouverie Street, some printer actually tugged his forelock as he made way for me.) Then South London was still a lower-class purlieu (in fact Cockney), and when we went up to Welbeck Abbey to see where Ottoline grew up, we certainly saw how the upper-class lived. England, when we were living there, was still a class-society. We ourselves slotted comfortably into the middle-class there, and were taken as such. We were readily accepted into Holland Park Lawn Tennis Club, which was at the upper-end of the middle-class range. (When the first Australian cricketers arrived in England, they were classed as “gentlemen” rather than “players”.) Part of my initial problem at Weekend was that I was not in tune with its working-class readership (see my life-book for my journalistic travails in London), and its “beer, ‘baccy and bingo” culture. At the time I was growing up I did not realise that there was a discernible class-difference between my parents - my mother having been brought up in working-class Glebe, while my NZ father was definitely middle-class. As I tended to take after him, I spoke what I later came to know was “educated Australian”. (In England which class you came from was largely determined by your accent, and where you lived.) So does class exist in Australia? Not by accent perhaps - but by behavior, probably yes. Our Club has come down in the world since we merged with the University and Schools Club – but not by much. Does it matter? Probably not. However, when I was arrested for drink-driving in Darlinghurst Road, the constable remarked on the way I spoke, implying I was of a different type of person to those they usually come across round the Cross. Be that as it may, I still see myself as a Bondi Boy, and a street-urchin at heart.

10/02/15 Tuesday, BONDI -

I am quite a fan of LS Lowry and his “stick figures”, set in various bleak urban landscapes in northern England. Normally there’s not much art in places like Leeds and Bradford (as Orwell discovered on the way to Wigan Pier). I am reminded of what happened when Ottoline paid a visit to the Lancashire town of Burnley, where her husband was the local MP. She was woken in the morning by the sound of wooden clogs on the cobblestones as Phillip’s constituents made their way to the town’s cotton mills. “I felt that no one ever felt any passion in Burnley,” she wrote later in a letter to Lytton Strachey. Lowry’s art – which today fetches hundreds of thousands - depicted the people who worked in those dark, satanic mills. One day an art critic found a small Lowry that consisted of only one stick-like figure. He asked Lowry if this represented a change of direction, and that he was now concerned with the place of the individual in society, rather than the crowd. “No,” he said, explaining that he occasionally dashed one of these off to earn some drinking money. “I call them my ‘oners’.”  

11/02/15 Wednesday, BONDI -

An interesting and unusual event occurred at the Club yesty. I witnessed a President of the Club propose the Loyal Toast. I was attending the Pioneers Club’s annual Proclamation Day lunch – a highlight of the Pioneers’ year. (Proclamation Day is February 7 – the day in 1788 when Captain Phillip read the Proclamation appointing him Governor of the new Colony of NSW at a ceremony at what is now Circular Quay but was then Sydney Cove…two weeks after the First Fleet dropped anchor in Botany Bay.)   The Pioneers always have the Loyal Toast at any of their lunches and dinners, but the Union Club dropped this act of fealty back in the 1990s when the then President failed to propose the traditional Toast at either the tennis or golf inter-club dinner. As far as I know, it was never proposed again by any subsequent President - until yesty when our new President Robert Bishop reverted to tradition. I had always thought dropping the Toast was mealy-mouthed and a politically-correct genuflection to incipient republicanism (or monarchial cringe), and not worthy of such a great Club as ours. I’m glad to see it back, at least at joint occasions like yesty’s. (For my involvement with the Pioneers – whom I brought into our Club – see my life-book.) LATER TODAY: Marion Pascoe, our Past President, told me, rather indignantly, that she proposed the Loyal Toast at one function at least. I suspect, however, that’s the exception that proves the rule. I apologised, nonetheless.

12/02/15 Thursday, BONDI -

One of my main criticisms of modern-day journalism is that they seldom tell you what happened next. There’ll be some interesting item in the paper – such as a report of an arrest, or car-crash, or court-case – that leaves hanging what happened subsequently. Nowadays they seldom tell you what happened after, or next. They don’t (as we used to say) “follow it up”. You are left in limbo. If journalism was still about what, when, where, and why (as it used to be when the profession was properly-run) there would be a concerted effort to “finish the story”, or at least tell you why it is still untold. But I should do that, too. I must ensure that if I raise a hare, I chase it down. I must systematically go back over what I have written and ensure their leave no unfinished business.

13/02/15 Friday, BONDI -

I have decided to take up bike-riding again.  It must be 10 years since I gave it up, and resuming is a big, bold step (taken because I am determined to lose another 5 kilos before I see Kathy Samaris again). I do not think just dieting will achieve the weight loss and fitness-level I want. So it’s back on the saddle of my old yellow Europa (it’s actually a girl’s bike – but that’s good I think, for I have enough trouble trying to get my leg over the lower centre-bar, and anything higher would be well-nigh impossible). I did of lot of bike-riding in my youth, and in London, and after I returned to Sydney in 1987. In fact, after we came back (from Collaroy) to live in Notts Avenue again, I used to ride every weekday morning…down to Rose Bay and back. But after my heart-attack in 2004, my riding regime dropped off. I drank more wine than I should have, over-ate, stopped playing golf and tennis, and let my body run down. Now I am trying to climb back. I took my rusty trusty Europa up to the new bike shop in Bondi Road (where I bought a pump on Wednesday) and they promised to give it a complete overhaul. Even getting it up there, mostly with me on foot, was quite an effort. But now the worm has turned, the die is cast, and I pick up my revamped bike on Monday, and on Tuesday I will see how far I can ride at least in the direction of Rose Bay. The road back will be long and arduous, but I am determined to make it. Watch this space.

14/02/15 Saturday, BLACKHEATH -

I pride myself on my punctuation. Having been trained as a subeditor, and spending much of my journalistic career correcting what reporters wrote, I have, I believe, a pretty-good grasp of the English language and how it should be used, and appear in print. (Note the hyphen in that sentence.) I do not say my knowledge of English is perfect or flawless. But it is probably better than most other people’s. I think I am in particular strong on punctuation. My use of the comma (and semi-colon) is as good as it gets in normal human-beings. But my forte is the hyphen. Today, it is a much under-used, not to say abused, element of the language. (However, most younger people do not even know what a hyphen is, let alone how to use it. Most think, if they think at all, it is the same as a dash.) Not using a hyphen renders some sentences nonsense, or at least confusing or ambiguous. The phrase “a pretty-good grasp” above is different to “a pretty good grasp”. (What is “a pretty grasp”?) And compound nouns like “human-beings” require, if not demand, a hyphen. (They are not beings of a human kind, but a recognised single entity called “human-beings” – and there is no recognised single entity “a single-entity”.) Am I being pedantic (or showing off)? No – the hyphen is an essential part of the language, and its proper use makes the language clearer and more elegant.   Brackets and dashes are another matter, and I will say something about them one day. (I also think I know how to use the apostrophe correctly too, especially in possessive nouns ending in “s”.)

15/02/15 Sunday, BLACKHEATH -

Although I became a “motoring editor” in 1962 serendipitously (Everybody’s needed a motoring editor, and I owned a car), I had more than a passing interest in cars. They were a feature of my growing-up in Bondi, and I knew the names of the various makes currently on the roads. Even today, when the names of the sub-brands almost exhaust the resources of the dictionary, I enjoy seeing what car companies come up with to attach to the rear of their new vehicles. In particular, I relish what sort of image or message they are trying to convey with their car-names. Volvo doesn’t go in for model-names, and just use alpha-numerical nomenclature (my DL240 is now a V70). When there weren’t many cars on the roads, the simple brand-name – Ford, Bentley, Dodge, Daimler, etc – sufficed. The second-most-famous marquee, the Model-T Ford, was not a brand-name but a generic description (I believe there was a Model-A Ford somewhere). I am not quite sure if the most-famous marquee, the Rolls-Royce, had “official” sub-brands, like “the Silver Ghost”, or if that was more in the nature of a nickname (it was a bit of both, and it was succeeded in the 1950s by the Phantom – also named for the Rolls’s legendary quietness). The names of the 1950s cars stick in my memory – the Studebaker (it had a back-end like its front end), the Mayflower (it was shaped like a box), De Soto, Hudson, Humber Snipe, Austin A40, Morris Oxford (Sandra’s father had one of them), Armstrong Siddeley, Jaguar, Rover (our first car in London was a wonderful used 3-litre Rover with PAS – power assisted steering), MG (Morris Garage), and the car I then lusted after, the Austin Healey (which my best-man Johnny Witham owned, and in which I arrive at our wedding). As motoring editor, I got to know all the great marques, like the Hispano Suiza, the great Alfa range, the Ferraris and Maseratis, and probably the greatest car ever built, the 12.7-litre Bugatti Royale (six were made, and three sold). Yet of them all, one name, for me, stood out, and if ever I became really, really rich, I would track one down and bring it out to Australia – the Lagonda. The very name bespoke of the ultimate in relaxed luxury (I think the now much-maligned Prince Philip once owned one). That would be one up the nose of my snooty neighbours in Notts Avenue.

16/02/15 Monday, BONDI -

On the trip to and from Blackheath I have a lot of time for thinking. Returning today, and gazing at the traffic on the motorway around me, an interesting thought occurred to me. What speed should I be driving at? Should I drive faster than the traffic, or slower, or at the same speed? Normally I am an aggressive driver, and try to drive just on or a few kilometers above the speed limit (on that stretch of motorway, it’s 110 km-an-hour). Why? I suppose it presents a challenge, and is also something to help pass the time. But these days I no longer need to speed. Time is not a consideration. So it’s more a testosterone factor I suppose. It’s what a chap or bloke does, on the road. Lately, I have been moderating that testosterone urge. Yet I can’t always hold it back, and if I spot a “challenge” – a rival driver overtaking me, for example – my foot hits the accelerator, and I take him on. On the way back to Sydney today I decided to try to drive more sedately, and not “beat the traffic” or take on any road challenges. (That in itself was a challenge.) I remembered an essay I did for the Leaving Certificate. It was called “The Pleasures of Travelling Slowly”. The author (I think it was the critic James Agate) described his enjoyment in travelling by horse-and-cart rather than by motor vehicle. So I drew into the nearside slow-lane and cruised along at about 80 kph as the faster traffic rushed by. It was then I realised that to enjoy the pleasure of travelling more slowly all I had to do was take my foot off the throttle. Simple as that. But how about going at the same speed as most of the other traffic? It was then it further occurred to me that this three-way trichotomy (as it were) applies to much of life generally. In most things we have three choices – more, less, the same. I wonder if the philosophers have addressed this important aspect of life on Earth?

17/02/15 Tuesday, BONDI -

Today was supposed to be the beginning of a “serious” fitness campaign (augmenting my dietary regime). As I presaged (13/2/15 above), I collected my trusty, reconditioned Europa from the bike shop in Bondi Road and rode it (downhill) back to Notts Avenue. A bit shaky, but no problem. This morning was to be my first proper bike ride. I was about to go down and get the bike out of the garage when something told me I had better try something less vigorous first. So I went for a walk (in the darkness – it was just after 5am) along the promenade. I got to the end OK, but coming back I began to have problems. Not breathlessness, but my (walking) muscles were not up to it. Dawn had now broken and the beach and its surrounds were beginning to fill up with joggers, walkers, stretchers, personal trainers and their followers, and so on. They pounded past me as if I were standing, which I almost was. How I made it back home is a minor miracle. The final climb up to the steps to the apartments, and then up to our unit, were agony. I am recovered now, but it gives one pause for thought. Just how decrepit was I? Is it just age or can I, with perseverance and bike-riding, get back to some simulacrum of my former fitness?   I will try again tomorrow and report back.    

18/02/15 Wednesday, BONDI -

Dan has swum back into our ken. I made contact last Friday and asked how he was going. He replied, implying that he had been put off by our failure to enlist his help (he’s doing a design course at Newtown) in the revamping of our apartment. He also said he was having a tough time financially. In reply, I told him if he needed any work we might be able to offer him something along the same lines as our new “boy”, Scott. He replied in grateful terms, and came to the office for a chat yesty. We agreed he should take on the “Bar Scene” CBD site/ap. I think he could do a good job on it, for it uses all his skills (design, frequenting bars, Squiz experience, etc – and he has a mistake under his belt, for you only learn by mistakes). He starts tomorrow. I sincerely wish him well, and hope he makes a fist of it.

19/02/15 Thursday, BONDI -

Paul was at his ebullient best at his Vernon Lunch talk yesty on “Art”. This, of course, was an excuse to talk about himself, but he did it well, describing the art personalities he had encountered in his life, from his great-grandfather Julian Ashton down to an 18-year-old girl whose drawings he admired (and judged) at the NSW Art Gallery last week. He paid a nice tribute to Geoffrey Lehmann (“his brother”) and to us, especially mentioning his time living in our house in Notting Hill in 1971. He turned on the charm as only he can, and the small audience (of 12) appreciated it. He has been Principal of the Julian Ashton Art School (founded 126 years ago) - where he and Sandra first met as students - for 26 years, but has not had an exhibition himself in that time. He promised to have one again soon, as he was still painting. The trouble is that his forte is the naked female figure, and parental discretion has restricted his scope in that direction. Has he got a cache of them hidden (he has storage space under his second house in Annandale) somewhere? His children are now at university, so he might feel it safe to let his genii out of the bag, or basement. One hopes so, for he is the best painter of unclad females in Australia (as two film companies recognised in The Age of Consent and Sirens, in both of which he was responsible for “the nudes”).

20/02/15 Friday, BONDI -

The glory of the Australian language – Australian English – is its slang. We have probably the richest slang in the English-speaking world. This thought came to mind this morning when Sandra remarked on something I had done, and I responded: “There are no flies on me.” I recalled in 1950 when I was up at Grafton visiting my father (the resident DMR Bridges Engineer) and we went to Yamba, the nearby beach-resort. In a milk-bar there, overlooking the beach, they had a display of local postcards, one of which read: “There are no flies on the beer at Yamba” above a glass of beer ready to be drunk. It stuck in my mind as a typical bit of Australian slang - though, now that I look it up, it’s not just Australian slang (it has a range of connotations, mainly that one is “with it”, and not giving an opportunity for flies to settle). When I was working on the UK popular magazine Weekend in London in 1966 I was asked to do a piece for an emigration supplement (these were the days of the “£10 Poms”) on what the immigrants could expect in Australia. I chose to write on the different language and idiom they would find there. I consulted a dictionary of Australian slang at Australia House and put in some of its more colourful expressions, such as “One up against the duck-house” (meaning, I told our naïve working-class readership, to put one over someone). I had a few others I can’t recall now, but I spared them one of my favourites: “The Bondi Cigar” (also known as the “Bondi Brown-eyed Mullet”). Fortunately we no longer find any Bondi Cigars or Brown-eyed Mullets in the surf at Bondi, now that the sewerage outlet under “The Stink Pot” on Bondi Links has been moved seven miles further out to sea. But they were certainly a feature of swimming at Bondi when I was growing up. Today all we get is some slimy scum on the sand when the southerly blows. (The rest I leave to your lurid imagination.)

21/02/15 Saturday, BONDI -

Now that we are a bit more affluent (the Squiz dividend arrived last week, like the Spanish treasure fleet from the Americas), I am resolved to smarten up my appearance, and the first step – appropriately - is to wear better shoes to the Club. I have various pairs of shoes that I bought in London in the early 1980s (when, by dint of the ACP contract, we were fairly affluent) and which I brought out to Australia. They are Church’s, one of the best shoe “brands” in the world. When I was young my father told me about the great names in shoes (like Crockett & Jones and Church’s), and when we lived in London I decided to heed his advice and buy the best footwear. This, for me, was something of an economy, too, as I have to have my shoes built-up – a costly procedure – and so need to make them last as long as possible, which only quality shoes will do (my right leg is about an inch shorter than my left, a legacy of a mild attack of polio in childhood). Church’s are made in Northampton, which is the shoe capital of the world. While Crockett & Jones are the Rolls-Royce of shoes, Church’s are the Volvo – unpretentious, reliable and long-lasting.   I bought five pairs in London and had them built-up up by courtesy of the NHS…black, dark-brown (ox-blood actually), tan brogues, unlaced brown, and a pair of spiked golf-shoes. I still have them all – 30 years on – and only the golf-shoes are unusable, or unused, now. Yesterday I wore my ox-blood ones into the Club.   I have shoe-trees for each pair (Michael Caine once told a young acolyte in a movie to only buy the best shoes, and make sure he bought shoes-trees for them.) I have had one more pair of shoes custom-made and built-up in Sydney, and these are now my “dress” shoes (but I keep the black Church’s for occasional wear too). Incidentally, I have also acquired some custom-tailored shirts, and will be seeing a visiting Indian tailor in a few weeks time for a fitting. I will choose a very good cloth – quality counts there too. However, I will not go so far as Donald Trump, who, when asked what his greatest indulgence was, replied: “A leather-lined sock-drawer.” For me it’s still plain, unadorned melamine, though I will keep my eye on the horizon for the top’sls of another galleon.

22/02/15 Sunday, BONDI -

At the Friday lunch I saw an old face – Howard Tanner, until he recently “retired” one of Sydney’s leading architects. (He announced last year he had given up his practice, but I’m sure he is not short of private clients.) Howard – he is named after Howard Ashton, Paul’s grandfather – is married to Mary Stephen, the portrait of whose ancestor used to grace our MDR, though I don’t know where it is now. In his book about Australia and Sydney, former SMH editor John Pringle said not only was Sydney ruled by three winds (see 03/01/15 above) but its society dominated by two families – the Knoxes and the Stephens. Their influence is certainly reflected in our Club (in our Knox Room on the second floor, and in that Longstaff portrait of a former Stephen President of the Club). He was very friendly, and told me he had been elected to the committee last year. Why I am not quite sure. Surely we have given up any idea of rebuilding. Anyway, his advice on matters architectural and decorative will no doubt be useful, and a boon to the Club (his taste in such things is second only to that of fellow architect Espie Dodd, who chose some of the better items acquired by the Club in the 1990s). Anyway it’s good to see Howard back in the mix. Whatever influence he will have on the committee’s deliberations can be nothing but positive. Also it was good to see Tarquin on Friday, up from Moss Vale (see 29/9/14). He certainly brings to our Friday gatherings a touch of the exotic. Over lunch he regaled Malcolm Colless and me with his amorous adventures in London with various ravishing Sloane Rangers. There is a definite whiff of Don Giovanni about him, and how much of what he so readily boasts is true is hard to tell. (Ma in Ispagna son già mille e tre.) But he certainly enlivens our Fridays, and I like him. He’s the sort of Member no self-respecting Club should be without.

23/02/15 Monday, BONDI -

There’s a really fascinating article in the UK part of last week’s Spectator on online dating (by Melissa Kite, who writes their “Real Life” section). This was from the very coal-face, touching as it did on that which makes the world go round. But it was a very sad article, whose main message was that women are desperate for romance – “meaningful” male companionship - but that the Internet has not delivered it, and probably can’t or won’t. Her article was actually on a new dating-app called Tinder (which she has tried), whose attraction, if you will excuse the pun, is that it tracks local romance – that which is on hand, so to speak, nearby. Pulchritudinous propinquity. But it was its implication that I found interesting, student that I am of human relationships (see, for example, my 7/10/14 comments on the role of the dog in modern romance). The picture her article painted is of a contemporary society in which women have been deprived of the traditional ways of finding mates, and of men who no longer have any duties or responsibilities in the promotion and upkeep of the institution of marriage (and procreation). The sexual revolution and the pill clearly have a lot to answer for. Which sex has done better out if it? Would women prefer to go back to assembly rooms, walking out, courting, proposals, engagements, kitchen teas, church weddings, and honeymoons (even chastity and wedding-nights?). Do men prefer one-night-stands? I know what Barbara Cartland’s answer would have been. And Jane Austen’s. I wonder if in her sour old age Germaine Greer regrets anything? It seems middle-aged Melissa Kite does. (But I suspect Dan doesn’t.)

24/02/15 Tuesday, BONDI -

Bondi plays a big role in both my life-book and this diary (of a Boy from Bondi). As I write this I am looking out my sliding study door on to the beach below me. I grew up here and I live here now. But what I did not realise until quite recently is how much of my Eason ancestry is also tied up in Bondi. It was not happenstance that I am a Bondi Boy. I of course knew that my mother was living in Bondi when I came into the world. In Boonara Avenue, off Bondi Road, in fact. The house she and my father lived in – in what I assume was a “bed-sit” - is still there, before the transfer to Oakley Road (as I describe in my life-book.) I had always assumed she had only recently moved to Bondi (from where she grew up in Glebe), and thus it was merely a fortunate accident that I grew up in Bondi. However, recent research, by me and others, reveal a much-stronger connection with Bondi (confirmed when I recall now more about my early life). Some excellent genealogical research by Susan Hurley (the Easons and Hurleys are closely connected) reveals that George Eason, my mother’s father, lived for much of the latter part of his life in Park Parade Bondi, opposite Waverley Oval. I can recall visiting some relative called Ina or Ita in Denham Street (parallel to Boonara Avenue). These could have been daughters of my mother’s Aunt Maud (nee Ryan?). Also there were two boys, Dawson and (was it John?) who also lived in Bondi Road, opposite the council chambers. (John had a good voice, and used to sing Danny Boy and other Irish airs at my mother’s parties in Wallis Parade.) Yet another relative with an Eason connection lived in Chaleyer Street in what was probably North Bondi (it’s the border between North Bondi and Rose Bay). And there may have been other Easons or Eason relatives in the vicinity. So it is little wonder I grew up a Bondi Boy. (But what attracted all that Eason blood to Bondi?)

25/02/15 Wednesday, BONDI -

We went into the State Library yesty to look up some Royal Commission reports about electricity corruption in the 1920s (we are doing the final revision/subbing of Sandra’s Power for the People book). Actually it was what is now the expanded Mitchell Library (which used to house the whole State Library until they built the new building next door in Macquarie Street). And a very impressive sight it is too, with floor after floor, gallery on top of gallery, of shelves of books surrounding the Reading Room…all of them unread. Yesty there were about 20 or so people sitting at the desks in the Reading Room, almost all with laptops in front of them – and no books. Apparently the main reason they come there is for the free WiFi the library provides. I did see one couple with a book in front of them, but apparently they were tourists, looking up or reading something about Sydney or Australia (otherwise they would have been in the main library next door, where the main reading activity seems - as I know from my rare visits there - genealogical research). This confirms what Geoff Sherington told us about the Fisher Library at Sydney University, where the stacks are empty of books and now serve as laptop or iPhone access facilities (see 19/11 above). Sandra went to her hairdresser’s yesty afternoon and reported that no one was reading the magazines they have there for customers. Instead, they were using their mobile-phones. Reading the printed word, whether in books or magazines, is indeed dying out. I felt sorry for all those books in the library, no longer needed, alone and palely loitering. Books do furnish a library (to paraphrase Anthony Powell), but like libraries everywhere now, they have little or no functional purpose. Book graveyards. So why are we starting a publishing company? Because it’s mass-produced books that are redundant now. We are taking advantage of the small-run digital publishing revolution – free printing in fact – coupled with an online library…our Library of Life concept. For it’s not reading or writing that have been superseded – quite the contrary - merely Herr Gutenberg’s clever idea for replacing medieval manuscripts, and the passing of the printed world that he created. For ourselves, we are determined we will not pass with its going.

26/02/15 Thursday, BONDI -

I was driving past my old school yesterday and caught a glimpse, through the trees, of the top left corner of the building. That was the library in my day. I doubt if it is now, for reasons stated above. But it called to my mind other libraries I have known and frequented and loved in past years. My first one – as I relate in my life-book - was the small school library in Bondi Beach school. I can still picture it today. (My main reading then was Biggles and the Just William books.) It was just a smallish room, with books on shelves, but it was my first real introduction to books, and I visited it often in my final three years there – to such an extent, and so ostentatiously, that Mr Hogg wrote on my final 6th-class report card: “Robert is a book-worm and must play more sport.” (I did.) I also relate how I used to borrow books from the commercial lending library in Wairoa Avenue, a block up from Wallis Parade. I remember finding my first Hornblower book – Lieutenant Hornblower, there. I think I was also reading Buchan and Conan Doyle’s historical novels around that time. The books at Sydney High were more geared to our academic courses, but it had a good collection of books on history, which was my favourite subject. I remember in particular one wall had The Times History of the Great War – about 20 volumes it seemed to me - and I devoured them all. I didn’t use the Fisher Library much at university, preferring the City of Sydney Library in the QVB and, occasionally, the NSW State Library (you could never find the book you wanted at Fisher). In London we went to the British Museum to look up Ottoline material, and it was also there that I first saw the holograph of Kangaroo on microfilm. The best library I ever visited was the HRC in Austin Texas, where Sandra and I saw Ottoline’s letters, and Dr Warren Roberts – head of the Humanities Research Centre, and Lawrence’s bibliographer – first put my nose on to Lawrence in Australia. I owe a lot to books and libraries, and it is sad to see their demise. Sic transit Gloria.

27/02/15 Friday, BONDI -

I weighed myself yesty (at the chemist in the Surry Hills shopping centre which has a digital height-and-weight machine) and I was down to 87.1 kilos. This means I have lost almost half-a-kilo in a week. I now weigh myself each week to see how my diet is progressing. So it’s working. My aim, as I mentioned above, is to lose more 5 kilos before I see Kathy Samaris again. (I was under 90 kilos when last I saw her – see 07/01/15 et seq.) And that’s without my intended – hoped-for – bike-riding kicks in! That, however, is not going as well as I had planned – the bike is in the garage downstairs waiting for me, reproachfully. Up till Monday my excuse was that the lift was broken and getting down there each morning was a problem. But the lift is now operational again. Also we went to Royal Sydney yesty to sign up to use their new Health Club (very swish). Sandra is booked in for her first session next Thursday. I was somewhat put off by the daunting array of instruments of torture in their well-equipped gym. But the swimming pool looked inviting, so I’ll make my splash there. We’ll buy some tracksuits up at Lithgow tomorrow and mentally prepare ourselves for the travails ahead. Watch out body-fat, here we come.

28/02/15 Saturday, BLACKHEATH -

The Tele reunion yesty went off pretty well. It was held in the Bowlers Club in York Street – a good place for purveyors of bias to gather. There were 20-25 there, but apart from Lindsay, whom I had invited along, I recognised only two faces – David Haselhurst (who could forget him?) and Ray Kerstler (I don’t know how to spell it) who was a cadet or D-grade when I was deputy chief-sub on the Tele. He came to our place in Notting Hill when he was working at a local squash club. A number of other faces I did not recognise introduced themselves, and I then recalled who they were. Almost everyone remembered who I was - in contrast to Sandra, whom no one recognised or remembered. I knew none of the women journalists there (about five or six), which is probably unsurprising, as when I joined the Tele in 1958 there were no women journalists in the newsroom, and hardly any in the entire building. Lindsay probably felt a bit lonely. He worked briefly in the Tele art room as a cadet before he was sent down to Everybody’s in the Bulletin building, which was where our paths first crossed. But there were no other artists or photographers there, as far as I could see. I tried to give Trevor’s apologies (I had invited him, as ex-editor of The Bulletin and editor-in-chief of ACP), but no one seemed to be running the event, and I did not feel like bellowing something out spontaneously. Trevor in any case wouldn’t have known the other people there, apart from Swizzle-Stick, who took a while to remember who I was (see the “Chairman’s champagne” story my life-book). I was the most senior person there, at least in terms of length of service, and position in the ACP hierarchy. We had to leave early, as we had to be up in Blackheath for a philosophy forum committee meeting today. As I could not make our apologies to anyone, we snuck out as unobtrusively as possible. As I write this, they are probably still “batting on”. It was nice to be called “Bob” again.

01/03/15 Sunday, BONDI -

Speaking of such things, Crikey reported last week that the Hun – their name for the Melbourne Herald-Sun – only kept on one of the five cadets they appointed last year (but will take on another five this year). So it’s come down to this now - a one-year cadetship…and then what? (See my life-book account of the four-year cadetship we had on Tele in the 1950s). I wonder what the poor bastards could learn in a year – and what skills they would have needed to acquire to be “kept on”? Why does the Hun bother? According to the same report, Fairfax no longer offers a cadetship program every year and “its last application round was last year, and Fairfax insiders expect it will accept a new batch every two years”. There’s no longer any need to worry about the profession of journalism in Australia, nor its quality and proficiency - if they don’t have cadets and cadet-training, where are the journalists to come from? But I should give up worrying my pretty head about this. The world of professional journalism – my world – is fading away. I of all people should not be surprised by this. It’s the very theme of my diary – that newspapers and books, etc, are dying. Yet I feel I have a duty to record its passing. The image that comes into my mind is that of General Macarthur making his farewell address to a joint sitting of the U.S. Congress, and I will quote his final words in full: “I am closing my 52 years of military service. When I joined the Army, even before the turn of the century, it was the fulfillment of all of my boyish hopes and dreams. The world has turned over many times since I took the oath on the plain at West Point, and the hopes and dreams have long since vanished, but I still remember the refrain of one of the most popular barrack ballads of that day which proclaimed most proudly that ‘old soldiers never die; they just fade away.’ And like the old soldier of that ballad, I now close my military career and just fade away, an old soldier who tried to do his duty as God gave him the light to see that duty.” The hopes and dreams of my life-long calling are also fading away. (But it was bloody good while it lasted.)

02/03/15 Monday, bondi -

What people, especially young people, see in “pop music” nowadays escapes me. Admittedly I do not listen to much of it, but what does impinge on me (mainly blaring from passing souped-up cars and in other public places) is merely a cacophony of noise with neither melody, nor lyrics, nor anything else to recommend it, or give anyone a reason for listening to it. Yet I see numberless people with earphones plugged into their ears apparently listening to, I assume, what goes for popular “music” today. In the office our techo Peter seems to have earphones permanently attached to his head (and he’s nearing his forties!). OK, I’m an old fuddy-duddy, but surely I am not the only one who would like to hear the sort of music we used to listen to when we too were kids. Or am I wrong? Is there some gold among the dross that I am missing, because I do not listen to it all? Is it just that I am in my 70s? Perhaps “rap” has some merit, or interest, in its Bob Marley-inspired “lyrics”? But I think not. (Tarquin, he is keen to assure us, believes that much of today’s “pop” music is “fantastic”. But is that his lost youth – and his perennial desire to be appear trendy - speaking?) Maybe it’s like the advent of atonal “classical” music - which I also don’t like, for much the same reasons. I like tones and tunes. Hugh Liney gave us a good talk on this subject at a White Tie lunch last year (see 8/11/14) and promised to set up a session of the old songs and tunes…like the ones I used to listen to on my Little Nipper HMV radio every afternoon and evening. Then there seemed to be a new “pop” song every week, and we had a “hit-parade” to track them up and down “the charts”. We had old-fashioned “disk-jockeys” like Brian Henderson and Bob Rogers (I think one of them ran Teen Time.) Personally, I blame Elvis the Pelvis for this. The world of pop music changed after his pulsating posterior gyrated on to the scene. (But I liked the Beatles too, and think John Lennon’s “Imagine” is one of the best pieces of popular music ever composed and sung.)     

03/03/15 Tuesday, BONDI -

I have suggested to the Club that we take up Hugh’s idea of putting on an evening of 1950s pop music, especially for those like me who remember with affection the good old days and the tunes and songs of yore. Hugh is (apparently) amenable to the suggestion, but wants to “workshop” it first. I suspect he wants to widen it out from my early-fifties concept into the late 50s and probably into the sixties – and maybe even beyond. Personally, I would prefer him to go in the opposite direction – into the 1940s – but I will cleave to his druthers in this, as he will be providing the music and commentary. Robert Bishop (President) and Chris Dawson (Events Committee chairman) are both very keen on the idea, as is the Club events-organiser. My provisional title was “How Much is that Doggie in the Window and other songs of the Fifties - an Evening with Hugh Liney”. Hugh will be away until May and will I hope get back to me for the “workshop session”. No doubt he is too young to remember Mule Train, Sixteen Tons and The Purple People Eater. To get this up and running I might have to compromise and let in Bill Haley and his Comets. But if I have anything to do with it – and I will - that doggie will have his day (or evening).

04/03/15 Wednesday, BONDI -

An interesting literary dinner last night on “War”. We had a reciprocal guest from the Australian Club in Melbourne, called Adrian. Further back he was in Zululand, where he grew up amongst the survivors of Rorke’s Drift. He was amiable enough - he kept insisting on shaking hands with me - though his grasp of literature was a bit flaky. He thought Kangaroo was written by the author of Seven Pillars of Wisdom. No one was impolite enough to disabuse him of this unfortunate misapprehension. Apparently he is a disciple of Cecil Rhodes (“You have won the lottery of life, you have been born an Englishman”).  His contribution was to talk about the Magna Carta and Churchill’s famous Fulton speech (“From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an Iron Curtain has descended across Europe.”) I did not to tell him Squiz now has an office in Stettin (today called Szczecin, once a Hanseatic port in Swedish Pomerania in what is now Poland). I recited perhaps the greatest anti-war poem, Southey’s After Blenheim. I explained what, however, Southey is more famous for – the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. (A poet of the Romantic era, Southey was Laureate for over 30 years and invented the word “autobiography”.) Sandra spoke about her father’s time in New Guinea and the family saga of the Japanese sword. The only other contribution of note was Geoffrey’s reading of a long WW1 poem by a little-known Australian poet. It was a very good poem. (Kenneth Slessor thought highly of its author, and mentioned him in Five Bells.) Presciently, Geoffrey cried off our White Tie lunch today, but didn’t miss much. David Flint had come to justify Prince Philip’s politically-incorrect knighthood, but instead delivered a diatribe against the “commentariate” and how they were white-anting Tony Abbott. It was far-too political for the occasion, and left a sour taste. I certainly pursed my lips. Downstairs later I talked to Chris Dawson about opening up the White Tie lunch to the general membership. He warmed to the idea and promised to discuss it with Robert Bishop. The Club’s black-granite griffin was on display in the Card Room, and will be a regular attendee at future WT lunches (he has a broken ear). I have bought a white tie for him. No one knows how we acquired him, but it probably has something to do with Newington School, whose mascot is a griffin. He came with the University and Schools Club when they merged with us. (We call those who come to the WT lunch “Griffins” as a mark of respect to a former President of the Club, Sir David Griffin, who arranged the last White Tie dinner at the Club, and was one of the most politically-incorrect people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting.)

05/03/15 Thursday, BONDI -

For a former chairman of the Press council, David Flint (who was at Sydney High two years ahead of me) was surprisingly naive about the Media today. At Wednesday’s White Tie lunch he claimed that the Media was universally anti-Abbott, which is nonsense. The burden of his talk was that Abbott is being attacked by two enemies - by the commentariate on one side and “factions in the party room” on the other. Being interested in such things, I tried to elicit from him (and the rather creepy guests he brought with him) who or what these factions were, for he implied that he had inside information about them. The most I could get (from both sources) was that they were connected with “major donors to the party”. Developers? I asked. No, not really. The far-right? (I mentioned the Uglies and David Clarke.) No – but neither he nor his strange guests would say any more. David in fact claimed that he could name them, but for the laws of defamation (about which he should know something). “Opponents of party reform” were also averred to. But I at least was left none the wiser – except that the Liberal Party (particularly at the State level) was in some disarray, factionally speaking. David kept returning to his opening theme – that the Press was exercising power without responsibility “the prerogative of the harlot through the ages” (quoting Baldwin’s famous quip). My main contribution was to tell the story of FE Smith sitting behind Baldwin on the platform and turning to a colleague and saying: “There goes the tart vote.” It went down well.

06/03/15 Friday, BONDI -

I will let that last entry stand, but I want to update and correct it, for I now think I was wrong about – and yes, naive - my understanding of what was going on. I of all people should have picked up the hints earlier. One of David’s guests asked me, after he sat down, whether I was interested in politics. Of course I was, but I should have realised he was, in effect, wanting to know if I was “one of them”. On looking this fellow up – his name was John Riddick – it turns out that he is from David Clarke’s far-right clique, and had stood unsuccessfully for President of the NSW party. He is one of the leaders of a move in the party to “make it more democratic”, code for giving supporters of the right and far-right a better chance of branch-stacking. It turns out that “the factions” David and his guests were their opponents in the branches who were trying to thwart the stacking. Their main complaint is the “lobbyists” in the party are being preselected, or rather their nominees are, instead of the “rank-and-file” (they even use the terminology of the Labor Party). The “lobbyists” are, apparently, commercial interests in the community and the party. David and his guests did not join us downstairs after lunch. They had no doubt realised that I at least was not a likely supporter of their cause, and was not worth further attention, or acquaintanceship. I don’t think I will be seeing much more of this “old school mate” either.

07/03/15 Saturday, BONDI -

As I was strolling in Centennial Park this morning (well, going for a brief walk in the company of Sandra, whose ambulatory activities I am doing my best to support) I thought, for no particular reason, of how many verbs and gerunds have been turned into nouns, of late. An exhibition of pictures is now “the hang”. The construction of a building is now “the build”. A budget or schedule of expenditure is now “the spend”. And there are others I cannot recall at the moment. I instinctively bridle at these (I think gratuitous) neologisms, and they irk me. Yet I of all people should not turn my back on new words, if they add to the language. I am all for the use of colloquialisms and every-day speech in the written word. I remember one Saturday editorial David McNicoll wrote in which he used the term “fisho”, which elevated what he said; caught the attention of the reader; and made it more vivid and interesting. David was a good writer, as well as being an excellent editor-in-chief. We called him “The Silver Bodgie” – long before Hawke assumed that mantle. (And, yes, I do remember “bodgies” and “widgies” - that’s how ancient I am.) These days, however, I tend to favour the old word rather than the new one, to give what I write a bit of, dare I say, panache? (Verve, at least.) Actually Sandra came up with a new (to me) word this week – “dooring”. It is the generic term used (by a magistrate, no less) to describe a cyclist crashing into a car door unthinkingly opened by someone pulled up at the kerb. Presumably it has a declension….”I doored him”, “he was doored”, “the dooring took place in Bondi Road”, etc. The moving finger writes, and having writ, we have to accept what it moves on to. (Of course, “dooring” is the conversion of a noun into a verb, or gerund, rather than the other way round.) I will keep my eye open for instances of similar conversions, as I come across them. (Perhaps I could make one up myself - see 15/11 for my invention of “fish-ball journalism”. What about “nouning”, or ”verbing”?)                      

08/03/15 Sunday, BONDI -

At Geoffrey’s literary dinner this week (see 4/03/15 above) Richard Hattersley (also see Introduction above) read some of Spike Milligan’s war writing. Spike and Barry Humphries were the funniest people in the world. The Goon Show, which Spike largely wrote, inspired Monty Python’s Flying Circus. (Peter Sellars was a pretty funny Goon too.) We saw Spike on stage in London in 1966 (in Son of Oblomov). He was a regular visitor to Australia. His parents retired to Woy Woy, and he came out almost every year to see them. There’s a bridge up there named after him. He also appeared in some Commonwealth Bank TV commercials, struggling through some undergrowth publicising the bank’s claim “it had branches everywhere”. One hapless reporter asked him at the airport one day: “How long with you be in Australia, Mr Milligan?” Spike replied: “Six feet two inches.” Like many great comedians, he was mad as a hatter, and certifiably so. Tony Hancock, also a great comedian, committed suicide in Sydney while on tour here and in the grip of severe depression. Ross Campbell, our Tele funny-writer, had a good story about sad comedians. On his first day in the reporter’s room just after the war, he saw a middle-aged man emerge from the Chief-of-Staff’s office, crying. Ross went in after him to get that day’s assignment. “Who was that who came out crying?” he asked the COS. “That’s Lennie Lower, our humorous columnist,” he was told. Apparently Lennie, who liked the odd drink or two, had asked to an advance of his salary, and had been turned down. Lennie in his day was the funniest writer in Australia, and his book Here’s Luck, is a comic classic, and is still read today. Do you have to be mad to be funny?   It helps, it seems.

09/03/15 Monday, BONDI -

Yesty at Bondi we had our own irregular politically-incorrect lunch, which originally inspired the regular one we now hold at the Club each month. We are a sixsome – Jo and Arnold (Vink), Amr and Rosie (Marzouk), and us. We first came together a couple of years ago after a lunch at which we all suddenly realised, with pleasure, that we could talk among ourselves about things that would be politically-incorrect in other company. So decided to make it a more regular occasion. We now alternate at each other’s place several times a year. It was our turn yesty, and I cooked a paella, for it was a lovely late-summer-early-autumn day at Bondi, and we dined outside on our balcony. And that paella is the departure point for this entry, which is about my cooking intersts. For I enjoy cooking, and cook all our meals at home. I am probably at my happiest thinking about what to prepare for a meal, and preparing it in my kitchen – especially my “country kitchen” up at Blackheath, constructed specifically for that purpose (to give me pleasure preparing meals). It started as a kid when my mother was working at the Hotel Bondi and I had to fend for myself. Even in my young teens I was baking Xmas cakes and passion-fruit puddings and conjuring up sweet-and-sour pork dishes and my now-famous chili-garlic-rice. I do a mean paella, if I say so myself, and which is indeed “my signature dish”. (Sandra hates cooking, and specialises in setting the table and cleaning up afterwards – so we make a good team. It would be terrible if she wanted to share the stove with me.) When we were running the ACP office in London, I cooked a staff lunch every day (mainly on the greenhouse BBQ – but also featuring my secret-recipe chili-garlic-rice.) I think it helped staff morale, and I enjoyed being thought useful. I continued this tradition on in Sydney at our Brougham Street and Paddington offices. (Steve sent me last week a snap he’s discovered of me cooking a staff lunch at Caledonian Street.) These days I prefer simple dishes, and now that I am on my diet – which is going well - I only “splash out” for guests like yesty’s. I regret having had to give up wine and alcohol – for that was probably the part of preparing lunch I most enjoyed.   Yet steeling myself to that change-of-life gives me almost as much satisfaction as a glass-or-two of chardonnay (well, not quite).

10/03/15 Tuesday, BONDI -

As usual, the main topic at lunch on Sunday was politics. The other five were going on about the fall in Coalition support in the opinion polls, and, by implication, in the community at large. (“Horror! Tony might not win the next election!”) I then put in my customary oar and said that the polls should never be taken as an accurate reflection of community sentiment. I especially decried the oft-vaunted influence of the Media, and newspapers in particular, in the political process (and old complaint of mine). This morning, driving to work and disputing Sandra’s claim that the Media distorts the political environment (aka “general belief”) by its partial reporting and coverage, an idea occurred to me that I think is important. I suspect that the “general belief” has to be viewed as having two levels – a superficial or surface one, and a deeper more significant level. Most people mistake, or confuse, the former for the latter. The two are connected, of course, and the former is some reflection of the latter. But I think they have to be seen, or taken, as two distinct levels. Perhaps the best way I can delineate the two levels is to recall what English psephologist David Butler told us in Government 1. “The best question you can ask someone to find out how they will vote is to ask them what their parent of their sex would have voted at your age.” In other words, voting is not a surface thing, but goes deeper, probably deep into your DNA. You may say things about current politics, but that is mostly the surface speaking. What you really think, and how you will really act, is determined at a more profound level. Someone once said: “Trust your instincts. They are wiser than you are.” That’s your DNA speaking.

11/03/15 Wednesday, BONDI -

Quotidiently speaking, what is my favourite day of the week?  Today is Wednesday – do I like its dawning more than any other, or is any day much like another?  Many people like Fridays best (“Thank God it’s Friday”) because that’s when their working-week ends, and they can look forward to the weekend (which is why Saturday and Sunday are so called).  In recent years, I have looked forward to Friday because that’s the day I go into town to have lunch with my Friday Group at the Club.  (See my various entries re “the Friday lunch” – 27/9/14, 06/2/15, etc.)  In fact, I look forward to doing that on Thursday and Wednesday too.  Similarly, I used to look forward to Monday, because that was when our subs’ golfing group used to play golf each week at various courses around Sydney (and was my day-off when I was working on the Sunday Telegraph).  Once I started working for myself (or ourselves) I looked forward to Monday as the start of the working week, for I enjoyed what we were doing, especially in London, and there was something new and interesting to do starting each Monday.  That’s pretty much true today, too.  Now that we have our lovely “weekender” up at Blackheath, I look forward to going up there on as many Fridays as we can make it.  I also look forward to our Sunday Blackheath literary lunches and to the White Tie lunch on Wednesdays at the Club.  When I was working as a sub on the Tele I used to get Wednesdays and Thursdays off, and looked forward to them.  (Wednesday I played golf in the mid-week competition of Moore Park, where I was a member, and on Thursday Sandra and I used to go out on the town in the evening, which was rather pleasant.)  On Saturdays, when I was playing suburban competition tennis, I looked forward to Sunday morning, and would hope it wouldn’t rain and dampen that prospect.  That leaves Tuesday as not having much going for it.  Is that my dog-day?  In fact, I look forward to every day’s dawn (and light is just about to break over Bondi as I write this, and look out on to the beach below).  The secret of life, I have decided, is to wake up each morning and have something to look forward to do.  Today I am looking forward to finishing the final subbing of Sandra’s electricity book, as we want to get it off to the printers in Melbourne, hopefully to get copies back before the current State election.  Hurry up clock, I want to get moving.

12/03/15 Thursday, BONDI -

We had a really spectacular dawn at Bondi this morning.  I wish I had the words to describe it.  It needs the freshness of a poet do it justice.  Bondi must have had many spectacular dawns, but this one was the best I personally have ever seen.  Prior to the sun’s rising the sky was slashed with bands, stripes, of pink-and-grey clouds – striated I think is the expression.  Then as dawn neared, the clouds above the bay changed from pink to be edged with orange, and then some colour deeper than orange (but not yet red – no shepherd’s warning)…blood-orange perhaps.  As the sun got closer to peeping over the horizon, the sky gradually turned from pink to the colour of burnished gold.  Then the glowing disc crept into view, manifesting itself as an angry-red golf-ball, then, free of the horizon, it slowly changed to orange, and, mounting higher, put on its customary burnt-yellow attire.  After that, as it slipped under some low clouds, the colours on morning’s palette dimmed and faded, and the new day became something of an anti-climax.  Now, about 10 minutes later, it’s a normal, somewhat overcast blue-and-grey-and-pink Bondi morning.  The dawning sun at Bondi  is presently in the process of making its annual precession along the rim of the ocean-edge, and is now, having reached its farthest point west, edging back east, towards its destined June 21-22 winter station, just (from my study perspective) a little to the right of the stink-pot, where it will sharply about-turn, and retrace its inevitable progression back towards the west, to its rendezvous with the summer solstice at the other end of its quadrant.  I can understand Akhenaton’s obsession with the sun-disc, for it does indeed rule over everything, all life, on Earth, and well-worth starting a new religion for.  Throughout time its regular coming and going, its rising and setting, was clearly something beyond any value, or words, and rightly worshipped.  The loss of the occasional virgin was a small sacrifice to expend for its quotidian assurance.  I will look forward to its return tomorrow, as I know it will come back again, after circumnavigating the globe.

13/03/15 Friday, BLACKHEATH -

This day last week I saw what Trumper could have been like (or the closest I will ever get to it).  The South African batsman AB De Villiers hit 150 or so in the victory over the West Indies at the SCG in the current cricket World Cup (which has just reached the quarter-finals stage).  It was without question the greatest, grandest innings I have ever seen (as it was happening), at least from the point of view of batsmanship and pure batting skill…and I saw Sobers’ century at the SCG in 1961, and Richard’s 160-odd in a one-dayer in England in the 1970s.  De Villiers reached his hundred in about 53 balls, then accelerated.  He hit shots I have never seen played before (echoing what Johnny Moyes remembered about seeing Trumper bat, even well past what must have been the great batsman’s prime).  Many testified that Trumper seemed almost another being at the wicket, a creature from a different world.  Moyes recalled one performance when the Australian wicketkeeper (was it Carter?) nominated the shot to be played before the ball was bowled, and Trumper executed the nominated stroke, no matter where the ball was bowled.  He invented shots never before played – such as his leg-glide between his legs.  I think I saw something akin to that last week when De Villiers was in full flight – “in the zone”.  He was sweeping fast bowlers for six over the leg fence from outside the off-stump.  And he did that impossible shot – among others - several times.  Like Bradman at Trent Bridge, I called Sandra (who is not a cricket fan) in from the kitchen to witness the performance.   (“You will not see the like of this again.”)  I don’t know who will win this year’s World Cup (but it certainly won’t be England, who were inexplicably knocked out by Bangladesh on Monday night).  It could be South Africa (which has the best batsman and the best bowler in the competition); or New Zealand (which is, surprisingly, performing well above its weight); or Sri Lanka (which had until Friday my current favourite batsman, Sangakkara); India (the reigning champions and probably the pre-competition favourites, with the brilliant Kohli at number 3, though their bowling is weak); or Australia (also playing very well, and is no doubt now the team to beat).  Yet Trumper won marches that were impossible to win – like his 102 before lunch at Old Trafford on a “sticky”, arguably the greatest innings ever played…and I think De Villiers is of that ilk.  I would love to see a final between Australia and South Africa.   Just as I would have loved to have seen Trumper bat on a “sticky”.  His pulling that day amounted to genius, one commentator – Cardus? - remembered.  I think I saw pulling of that quality last Friday at the SCG.                                                          

14/03/15 Saturday, BLACKHEATH -

March is my favourite month, partly because it’s my birthday, but mainly because in March summer turns into autumn, and I am not a summer person.  (Islay is imprinted on my DNA.)  September, when spring arrives, is also nice.  But you cannot identify the precise day that winter ends, yet you can tell when summer ends and autumn arrives.  It happens one day in March, when you wake up in the morning and there is a chill in the air.  It can happen early in March, or later (I think I can recall it being delayed a day to two into April).  I can even remember a false dawn, when summer returns for a day or so.  The seasons are not as marked in Australia as they are in northern climes, and no one can gainsay the surprise and beauty of spring when the snowdrops start peeping up, and the daffodils come into bloom in the London parks.  Autumn, in Sydney at least, has a similar effect on me.  I feel better in colder weather, and I think my body perks up too.  Up here at Blackheath the leaves are turning red, and starting to drop.  Today is the first day of a new Blackheath Philosophy Forum season, and the temperature is 15 degrees in the new centigrade scale (another curse of decimalisation – see 12/12/14).  Winter, cold weather and philosophy seem to go together.  I believe autumn arrived at Bondi yesterday, just in time for by birthday on Monday, so tomorrow is the Ides of March, which always bodes well for me.  (I don’t think Caesar was a Pisces.)  I will go downstairs now and switch on Peter Dawson, and gaze contentedly out into Pope’s Glen and the non-natives in the Warren’s garden next door.  There their Japanese maple is tinged with red, though the gums all around it soldier on, regardless.  But I would not have it otherwise. 

15/03/15 Sunday, BLACKHEATH -

The thread that runs through this diary is of the new world of information, the birth of which occurred on February 23, 1981 (see 4/11 et seq).  In particular I am trying to elucidate, or explain, the sub-title of my life-book – “From Hot-metal to the Internet and Beyond”.  It is that “Beyond” that now interests me most.  I do not believe anyone has yet much of a grip on what is “Beyond” the Internet, or, more accurately, where the Internet is going, or taking us.  But at least I am thinking about it, and trying to (however amateurishly) discern patterns and probabilities.  My provisional belief, or understanding, is in terms of a new information landscape forming, replacing the entire old Media and existing information world.  Of course, anyone with any sense, or interest in the matter, will realise that.  Recently, however, I am beginning to get an inkling – a dim picture - of the shape of this developing landscape.  (Of course, I am only too aware of the decay and decline that it is inexorably replacing.)  The picture that is forming in my mind is of a new world in which information comes from a multitude of individual and varied sources (such as newspapers, radio, TV, etc – even the Internet or the World Wide Web, and especially what is inadequately called “the social Media”).  Data from these and every other available source is coalescing into what might be called, to borrow a term from relativity, “the information ether”.  Take the item above (10/03/15) in which I talked about society’s “general belief” being a reflection, or product, of what “the community” might think about a specific subject or general matter.  Here I was denying was the widespread misapprehension that people’s views are shaped by what they might read in newspaper, or see or hear in the old Media.  My new belief is that, if they do not get it from their DNA – which is where most so-called information stems from – they are now “absorbing it” from  the ambient information environment.  A vital sign of how this is happening can be seen on the streets, each day, where almost everyone has a mobile phone in their hands, or to their ears.  They spend the waking lives with their eyes glued to a screen, small or large, or with an earphone in their heads.  They are tuning into the information ether.  At the moment this is an emerging or still-forming belief, but one whose thread I will follow in subsequent entries.                

16/03/15 Monday, BLACKHEATH -

(my birthday)  How does living in this information ether affect such things as “truth” and “fact” – and indeed history and perception and belief more generally?  I am convinced that the inevitable corollary of the information tsunami – which brings us billions – going on trillions - of new items of information every day – is that it undermines such concepts of truth and fact.  I gave up long ago reading the quizzes in newspapers.  The information they had, or were seeking, was no longer of any importance. I ceased caring or bothering about the questions or the answers. February 23 has devalued information to the extent that it not only has little or no value (so you can’t sell it) but it has also lost its interest and significance.  Interest comes from scarcity rarity, not generality.  That is a profound change, and one which affects life on Earth.  It means we can be less and less sure about such things as truth, fact and history.  Philosophy is, they say, about the search for truth.  But what we called truth (and fact and history) is, I believe, a function of scarce or limited information.  We “knew” things because it was all the information we had available to us.  Last Saturday we had our first philosophy forum session of the year.  It was OK, but today we no longer place as much credence in what philosopher say, or have said.  They have lost some of their purpose in life.  Some years ago we had a session on “truth”.  I remember what a young philosopher from Sydney University’s Philosophy Department said:  “I am rare among philosophers; I believe there is such a thing as truth.”  He then went on to tell us what truth was.  “A statement is true if, and only if, it turns out to be true.”  (Apparently the phrase “if, and only if” is the significant part of the statement, echoing Wittgenstein.)  Today, in the information ether, truth is even more elusive, alongside with its stablemate, fact.  I wonder where that leaves journalism – and history’s first draft.

17/03/15 Tuesday, BONDI -

As I passed by (without going in, I hasten to add)  the bottle-shop in the Katoomba “Cultural Centre”, where Coles is also to be found, I noticed a hand-daubed sign outside saying: “Patrick’s Day”.  Has creeping secularism deprived Patrick of his sainthood?  Is this a trend, or a function of the decay of the language?  I wonder how many who passed by (or went in) wondered who this particular Partrick might be.  Come to think of it - who was Patrick?  I doubt if Katoomba has any particular connection with him (the Mountains, though a fairly religious precinct, tends to be Protestant rather than Catholic).  Perhaps the link is via the products the shop sells.  It turns out, according to Google and Wikipedia, that Pat was a lad kidnapped from Roman England by Irish raiders, made a slave, escaped, took holy orders, and returned to convert Ireland to Christianity (which in those pre-Lutheran days meant of course Catholicism).  Legend has it – and there is a lot of legend in this – that he died (in Ulster of all places) on March 17, around 460 AD.  He was duly made a saint, and his saint-day was marked on that day.  (St Patrick is revered not only in the Catholic Church, but by the Anglican Communion and even in the Eastern Orthodox Church.)   And there the matter stood until the Irish populace around Boston took it into their heads to do something about being from Ireland, so they invented St Patrick’s Day as a celebration of Irishness in America.  It spread back to Ireland, thence with the rest of the Irish diaspora to Australia and elsewhere.  Today it is especially celebrated in Northern Ireland, where the annual St Patrick’s Day march in Belfast is the target of much Orange Lodge attention, and often rioting.  (We used to have a St Patrick’s Day march in Sydney, but that seems to have fallen by the wayside.)  Yet I may be doing a disservice to the bottle-shop in Katoomba, for the Irish term for St Partrick’s Day is, translated from Irish Gaelic, “the day of Patrick”.  Well, begorrah.  (For more about St Patrick’s Day, go to: .)            

18/03/15 Wednesday, BONDI -

We used to celebrate St Andrew’s Day at the Club, but that’s fallen by the wayside, too.  (We would never have thought of marking St Patrick’s Day, for in the past being a Catholic would almost certainly have deterred you from membership, along with Jews, aborigines and other non-WASPs.)   When we were in New York in 1986 I noticed, cycling into Central Park on day, a large plinth by the roadside, on top of which was a very-much-larger-than-life bronze figure, viz



As you see, beneath the figure is a single word incised boldly into the plinth’s stone-work.  It says:  MOORE.  Whom Moore might be, or have been, is not explained.  Interested, I looked the statue up in the Central Park website.  Moore, in case you don’t know, was Thomas Moore (the other Thomas Moore, the one who kept his head).  He is best remembered – if he is remembered at all (which is highly unlikely outside Central Park and Ireland) – as an Irish poet and lyricist whose main claim to immortality, and a big statue in Central Park, is the song Believe Me, if All Those Endearing Young Charms. But that, as perhaps you will have guessed, is not the real reason for his big statue in Central Park.  You get a glimpse of the real reason as you enter Art Gallery Road in Sydney’s Domain.  On the right you will see a large plinth on top of which is a very-much-larger-than-life bronze figure.  Underneath the figure is a single word incised boldly into the plinth’s stone-work.  It says:  BURNS.  The Central Park bronze, erected by the city’s Irish-Catholic community, is their response to the adulation accorded Scotland’s Greatest Son, whose Immortal Memory, in the Club and elsewhere around the world, we celebrate on January 25 (his birthday), and on July 21 (the day he died) in southern climes (the Great Chieftain of the Puddin’ Race not being a suitable plat de jour in hot weather).  Moore, however, is quite famous in the context of Irish literature, which admittedly is not saying much, at least compared to Burns and Scottish literature.  Moore (1779-1852) was a friend of Byron and one of his poems was set to music by Beethoven.  Not even the immortal Burns was accorded that distinction.

19/03/15 Thursday, BONDI -

There is another interesting statue in Central Park that I noticed on my meanderings (on my bike) around New York in the mind-1980s.  It is of a dog called Balto.           


You may think that if MOORE could wrangle a plinth in Central Park, then why not a dog called BALTO?  But Balto was no ordinary mutt.  His story is too long to tell here, but his fame lies in having a year earlier been the lead dog in an emergency sled-dash from Anchorage to Nome carrying a container of serum to combat a deadly diphtheria outbreak threatening the lives of native children in that remote and isolated part of Alaska.  The 1000km dash was made by relays of mushers in mid-winter with temperatures as low as minus-100 degrees, and took more than 15 days.  (Balto’s dog-team ran the final leg, in the dark in zero visibility, into Nome.)  Today that rescue run is commemorated each year (since 1975) by the annual Iditerod sled race that retraces the route of Balto’s epic dash.  Balto and his musher were present at the unveiling in New York 1925.  He was stuffed and now resides in a museum in Cleveland, Ohio.  Lassie, eat your heart out.   

20/03/15 Friday, BONDI -

At the ill-attended Vernon Lunch at the Club on Wednesday Andrew Robertson, the former senior Navy officer who has convened the monthly lunch for many years, announced he would relinquish the role in mid-year, and asked the other four of us present whether the occasion should be carried on, convened by someone else, or if, like him, it should (to quote General Macarthur), like the old soldier and “just fade away”.  He said he would raise the question with other (absent) members of the Vernon Group.  The “group”, which I suspect now numbers less than 20 souls, has been languishing for some time now, and its continuance, even its justification, has been in question for many months.  I have been one of its number for a comparatively short period – two or three years at most – but it goes back, I have learned since being invited to join it (by Paul Delprat, who became a member soon after he joined the Club), many several decades, and had its roots in the influence of CSR in Club affairs.  Once, the Colonial Sugar Refining company was perhaps Australia’s biggest commercial concern, and headquartered in nearby Bridge Street supplied many Members of the Club, as well as several Presidents.  A famous CSR chief executive Sir James Vernon was a Member, and it was he who founded what became known as the Vernon Group after he stepped down and formed O’Connell Associates, a sort of business retirement-village in O’Connell Street intended for top executives who had left their former employ and needed somewhere to continue their other business interests in the CBD (board memberships, mentoring, etc).  They also took to lunching together at our Club each month and inviting prominent guests to address them on significant topics – hence The Vernon Group.  It no longer has anything to do with CSR, and has been struggling for existence (one of its main catchment comprised former Presidents of the Club).  Some time ago, knowing its problems – mainly not getting sufficient numbers attending to warrant inviting good guest speakers - I suggested to Andrew that it be turned into the Club’s Science Lunch.  That function was discontinued when Harry Blackboro left the Club in the 1990s, and my idea to save the Vernon Lunch was to revive it as the Vernon Science Lunch - particularly as Sir James Vernon was a scientist himself, a chemist.  He did not respond to my suggestions, twice repeated, but I thought on Wednesday he was glancing in my direction when he made his momentous announcement.  So watch this space.

21/03/15 Saturday, BONDI -

One of the good things about a diary is that you don’t have to necessarily explain everything.  If I were writing in any other substantive medium, I would feel obliged to say who, for example, Harry Blackboro (mentioned above) is, or was.  He was for many years a member of the Club, and one of the brightest people I have ever encountered, perhaps the brightest.  But he resigned after he moved to Burradoo. (He left in something of a huff, for he thought the Club was losing its way and turning – to use his expression – into a hotel…and I must confess that our foyer is looking more hotelish, and less clubish, every week.)  We corresponded for many years afterwards, and I visited him regularly in his lovely home down in the Southern Highlands.  But we lost touch when we drifted apart intellectually, mainly because of his increasing antipathy to my IT interests and championing of digital technology.  For if ever there was a computer Luddite, it was Harry (who, being interested in science – he convened our science group at the Club - should have known better).  To him, the printed text, and especially the book, were as precious as religious tracts (his letters to me came in longhand).  There, I have gone and explained who Harry was, which I will not necessarily do in this diary.  Nevertheless, he deserves his spot, for he was once a stimulating part of my life.  (It was he who terminated our correspondence, for he could not bear to hear any more about the death of the book and the demise of printed text.)    

22/03/15 Sunday, BONDI -

I should record what happened at Bondi on Friday.  (Bondi is becoming a more interesting place, almost by the day.)  Around 6.15 I heard a noise outside my door (which I had just opened to let the morning light and sea breeze into my study).  It caught my ear because it seemed to come from the beach immediately below our balcony, which was unusual.  Clearly someone was using a mike to address what at that moment seemed to be a group of about 50-80 people (I could not see all of them, as they were partly obscured by the trees opposite).  Then something else caught my eye – a small drone hovering above the gathering, which was increasing in numbers.  I could not hear what was being said, except whether the speaker, also obscured, could be heard “at the back”.  I called Sandra out, but she could not discern the drone, despite its flashing green and red lights.  I turned away to catch up on my email, and partake of my frugal breakfast of nuts and oats.  By then it was about 6.50.  Then I peered out again and the whole assembly had spread along the water’s edge, and had linked hands.  They stretched from the south end of the beach almost up to North Bondi – about three-quarters of the width of the beach.  Then it suddenly – literally – dawned on me (for the sun was just rising) what this must have been.  It was the autumn equinox, which falls either on March 20, or 21, or even 22, and the sun rises at 7am, but if we did not have daylight saving it would be 6am precisely, and the day and night would be of equal length.  They were marking and celebrating one of the four major events of the solar year.  I saw no virgins being sacrificed, but it did smack of the age of Druids, Stonehenge, and that sort of thing.  Anyway, whoever they were and what their organisation was, they had a nice day for it. (And I hope their drone got some good shots of it.  What a boon would that device have been in the days of Press Graphics.)

23/03/15 Monday, BONDI -

This gives me the chance for a (much-needed) brief explanatory entry.  The Press Graphic was the camera newspaper photographers used in the days of hot-metal and all that.  As a young reporter (see eg the Ava Gardner incident in my life-book) we went out on a job with a staff photographer who carried a bulky contraption called a “Press Graphic” with which he took the requisite pictures to illustrate a story.  Its major functioning element was its flash mechanism which was synchronised with the shutter.  That flash was one of the major manifestations of the “old Media”.  Its passing was as significant as the end of molten lead, both of which were a quintessential part of my lost newspaper world.  Now it’s all electronic, and what goes for reporters these days are even starting to take the pictures themselves, using what goes for movie-cameras these days (as well as subbing their own stories – imagine!).  Soon the drone will probably write the story too, and no doubt put a headline on it.  Oh, for the Good Old Days of reporters’ notebooks, shorthand, 6b pencils – the subs’ tool - and the flash of a Press Graphic.              

24/03/15 Tuesday, BONDI -

Another spectacular dawn over Bondi this morning (and I still do not have the words to describe it; it needs a Monet to do it justice - after he had his cataracts removed).  It’s 6.58, and the sun has still not risen.  It is warm and balmy, yesterday being particularly nice, and reminded me of that marvelous time of the year in London, early summer, when there is a soft glow or mist in the air, and a wonderful smell – too mundane a word – a tang or scent (May?) that makes you feel how good it is to be alive and living on Earth.  It’s now 7.03, and the sun is just above the horizon, and a great day is in prospect.  I will be chairing a special History Lunch at the Club at which John Malcolm will talk about the biography he recently completed of his distant relative Sir John Malcolm, one-time Governor of Bombay in the days of Warren Hastings and the Raj.  My mind goes back to the Southgate’s history of the British Empire that I read at school, and from which I gained my picture of India under the Raj (the Black Hole of Calcutta and all that).  John himself is a living piece of imperialism, having been born into a wealthy Western Districts family in Victoria, went to Eton, joined the Guards (he’s about 6ft 2in), and worked for various British overseas companies (he was in charge of Royal Dutch Shell’s interests in Iran) before returning to Australia and becoming the head of OTC (the overseas element of what was then Telecom) before retiring on his family’s wealth in Sydney, Edinburgh and a Hill Station outside Bombay,  each of which now claim part of his year.  I like John.  He is the best of what being British is.  An uncle, Lord Gowrie, was Governor-General ,and later Constable of Windsor Castle, where John visited him when at Eton.  Indeed, a relic of Empire is John, and I hope I do him justice today.

25/03/15 Wednesday, BONDI -

Malcolm Fraser died last Friday, ambivalently.  He was lauded on both sides of political aisle.  To the right, he was a conservative who toppled Whitlam, and something of a hero.  To the left, he was a “progressive” who had seen the error of his earlier ways and turned, later in life, into being a champion of socialist causes, and increasingly so.  At the end, his politics were what is called today “green-left”, and he died a hero of the side that had once reviled him.  I have three memories of him.  The first, recounted in my life-book, is when I attended a post-Dismissal conference in Melbourne in 1976.  At the black-tie dinner afterwards, he got up to speak (as PM, and after Whitlam had spoken, to the warm applause of my fellow journalists).  As he rose, the Press table hissed him, with the exception of me and my former Daily and Sunday Telegraph colleague Alan Barnes, perhaps the best Australian journalist I have ever worked with.    Alan turned to me and said:  “I am ashamed to sit at this table.”  The second memory is of attending a Press conference in London when Fraser was on his way back to Australia from a Prime Ministerial jaunt in Africa.  (It was just before he was replaced as PM by Bob Hawke.)  Fraser began telling us that what Africa needed was less capitalism and more central-planning.  I piped up:  “But that’s socialism, Prime Minister.”  He swatted that one away as if it were a fly or mosquito.  Finally, I recall what a journalist friend told me of Fraser’s visit (as PM) to Singapore in the 1970s.  After talks, Lee Kuan Yew offered him his Prime-Ministerial limo for the rest of the day.  Several hours later the driver returned, shame-faced, telling officials that he could not allow the vehicle to be seen parked outside where Fraser had asked to be taken.  It was a house of ill-repute.  (Fraser apparently knew of its existence, as no doubt he did when in a similar situation, some years later, he lost his trousers in a hotel in Memphis.)  A possible explanation for this phenomenon was given by former Liberal Minister Vic Garland, when he asked me to Australia House (Fraser had sent him to London as High Commissioner) to ghost-write his memoirs.  “Haven’t you something more interesting to tell me,” I asked, when it was obvious his life would not be a best-seller.  He thought for a moment, then said:  “How about this.  In my political career I have known every Prime Minister since Menzies, and I can tell you, as a fact, that each one of them was clinically insane when they left office.”   I think we can add the then current PM to that disturbing list.

26/03/15 Thursday, BONDI -

The reference above (24/03) to “May” is, of course, to the plant called “May”, otherwise known as hawthorn.  It flowers in May (obviously) and has a distinctive, pungent smell, or scent – a combination of sweet and spicy.  I suppose the local olfactory equivalent is privet.  My beloved HPLTC in London had May planted around the four hard-courts, and its enticing smell – as pleasurable to me as the smell of the stink-pot in Bondi (see my life-book why) – symbolised, for me, the beginning of summer and the London “season” (Lords, Wimbledon, Sunday afternoon tennis, golf days at Ealing and Epsom, and all that).  So for me it has very positive memories.  May, the month, doesn’t mean as much in the Southern Hemisphere as it does in the Northern one.  There, Mayday is an important event, loaded withal sorts of implication…such as in the old saw “Ne’er cast a clout till may be oot” (which has a double meaning - it could mean don’t shed your winter clothing until the month of May ends…or until the May is in blossom). For me it has an extra connotation, for it reminds me of the film Maytime starring the great Nelson Eddy.  It was taking Sandra to Chequers nightclub in 1964 to hear him perform there, and listen to such songs as Romberg’s “Will You Remember?” from Maytime, that sealed our relationship, and led to our first kiss, which is as pleasant a memory as I have.  I suppose the equivalent month in Australia is November – not a particularly memorable month…but then summer here is not like summer there.  Oh to be in England, now that May is there!  One day, I promise, we will return to London, of which we have such fond, fond memories.  I will make that my mission in life, as Oscar Wilde’s Cecily said, hoping to convert the bunburying Algernon Moncrieff.     

27/03/15 Friday, BONDI -

My Bondi morning begins with a visit to the bathroom, switching on the kettle, and pressing the remote to activate Foxtel and Sky to catch up on the morning news.  On Monday, Sky’s lead item was about Foreign Minister Bishop’s visit to Vanuatu, which last week was ravaged by a force-5 cyclone.  The second item consisted of CCTV footage of the gunmen in Tunisia who killed more than 20 people, mainly tourists.  That happened last Wednesday.  The third item was about sport.  That at least was recent.  Apparently nothing else newsworthy happened in, say, the previous 12 hours to warrant a main item on Sky News.  Nothing in Australia or anywhere else in this wide world that might tickle the news-nose of whoever edits the news on Sky, presumably a journalist.  This is not news, it’s what we used to call footage.  They had whatever they call footage these days of Bishop in Vanuatu (she no doubt took the government film crew with her), and so Sky deemed this to be the main news of the morning (and it will probably run all day).  Ditto Tunisia.  Why do I bother.  I haven’t the slightest interest in what Bishop is doing in Vanuatu, nor does anyone else, I suspect.  But Sky loves weather footage – especially if it’s free - and will devote minutes of news-time to anything about floods, bushfires, cyclones and anything else climate-wise, particularly if they can get one of their so-called reporters into the hot-cold-wet-or-windy spot, clad in appropriate apparel, to provide the to-camera footage against a backdrop of whatever the weather disaster they are coving happens to be.  Back in the good old days, there was a contest in Fleet Street to compose the least-interesting headline.  The prize, the story goes, went to SMALL EARTHQUAKE IN CHILE – NOT MANY DEAD.  Yet if Sky could wangle a free trip to Chile, they would be there to cover it, before you could say Jack Frost, and it would be their lead item on the morning news.

28/03/15 Saturday, BONDI -

I weighed myself last week and I am now down to 84.1 kilos. I am, almost literally, a mere shadow of my former self.  I have lost more than 15 kilos in just over 10 weeks.  That is a remarkable transformation, and one I frankly thought unlikely to the point of impossibility.  My new slim, trim figure is being remarked on, much to my delight.  I might soon begin to fit into my “slim clothes” – ones that I kept after I began to put on weight a decade or more ago (maybe two decades), retained in the then forlorn hope that I might wear them again one day.  (This wardrobe is the reverse, if you like, of Geoff Dobbin’s “fat wardrobe” which he kept so he could fit into at least some clothes when his waistline blew out due to continued over-indulgence.)  It now looks like I might lose the 20 kilos Dr Samaris urged me to shed to get into the proper shape a diabetic of my age should try to maintain (see 24/12, 07/01, 05/02, 13/02 & 27/02).  My next goal is to get under 80 kilos, and once into the seventies, my ultimate nirvana of 11 stone 7 pounds (about 72 kilos) will at least be in sight.  Wouldn’t that be wonderful – a miracle! – to get down to what I was in my thirties.  As I said at 07/01, I might even be able to take up golf, or perhaps tennis again.  Now that’s a consummation devoutly to be wished.  (LATE BAD NEWS:  I weighed myself again yesty and I had shot up to 86.6 kilos!  Horror, horror, horror!  I have, alas resiled, and taken to snacking on pita and taramasalada for elevenses.  But it’s back to the straight-and-narrow tomorrow.) 

29/03/15 Sunday, BONDI -

 (the start of Holy Week)  Yesterday, at Westfield Eastgardens in Pagewood, I finally joined the digerati.  I now have my own mobile phone, and a mobile number to go with it.  I realise that few will credit that I, of all people, should have waited so long to be inducted into the mainstream of the world I have for so long, and so persistently, championed.  The borak I have poked at people! (some my close friends) for being backward in embracing the new world of computers, keyboards, screens and that little oblong black thing that your finger is supposed to dance over, and which you press to the side of your head.  I began to feel like Jarman, the English jurist who wrote Jarman on Wills, only to die intestate.  I was recently trapped outside the Kent Street door of my company, Squiz, as I did not have the entry code. When someone finally came down to rescue me, like the stray dog at the door, they asked why I didn’t ring reception.  They could not believe that a director and former chairman of such a high-tech ICT company could be phoneless in Gaza.  Now at least I can get in.  Indeed, I made my first mobile call yesty – to Sandra, across the lunch-table, and I have already mastered the weather, changing the dial-tone, and plugging in the recharge cable.  I hope to graduate to SMS later this week and voice-mail hopefully not long after.  I trust, however, I will not be like Clare Short, whose mobile started ringing at her first Privy Council meeting.  As the rest of the Cabinet waited and fidgeted, Clare delved into her capacious, overloaded handbag searching for the source of the loud noise.  After a fruitless, embarrassing few minutes, the ringing finally stopped.  The Queen lent forward and said:  “I hope it wasn’t anyone important.”  My new mobile number - for your IPhone directory – is 0477 192 006.  In June1920 Warren Harding was nominated as the Republican candidate for President, which Wikipedia informs me is the only important thing that happened that month - and that was the only number I could think up that wasn’t taken.  So my pneumonic is of course “Teapot Dome”.  (I inherited my phone from Sandra – it is a hand-me-down - after she upgraded to the new IPhone 6+.  She’s the technology brains in the household, though I do a mean excel spreadsheet, if I say so myself.)  As Mae West might have said:  “Give me a call sometime.”

30/03/15 Monday, BONDI -

I thought I had a good grip on what makes the world tick.  Today, however, I got John James’s latest weekly newsletter (one of the best in Australia) which showed a map of Antarctica on which was superimposed a map of the U.S. – and America is smaller than Antarctica!  I never realised that.  (However, until I found out, I thought Australia was bigger than both Brazil and China, which it isn’t.)  I suppose it surprised me because of what America represents in global terms – its wealth, power, influence, etc.  Yet it’s my – faulty or otherwise – picture of the world that I consider my greatest mental or intellectual asset…my general knowledge, if you like (though that has been seriously undermined by February 23, 1981, and the consequent downgrading of fact and truth – see 6/12 above).  Of course, my picture of the world, and its construction, is what made me a journalist in the first place. I was interested in the things around me and in the rest of the world.  So when I do spot something that I cannot place, explain or identify, I know it is news and worthy of noting (and trying to explain).  The information revolution has made my life richer, though less certain.  Today I feel very sorry for people to whom everything is unknown or unexplained (and so unappreciated), and I suspect they constitute a majority of people.  They are oblivious to what they are missing.  For them the world is uninteresting because everything is of a piece, and unexceptional.  It is the exceptional, not the commonplace, that makes life interesting, enjoyable – newsworthy - and worth living. 

31/03/15 Tuesday, BONDI -

I should explain who John James (mentioned above) is, for he is a most interesting person.  (What I said yesty applies to exceptional people, too.)  He has had quite an influence in my life.  It was his name that I first came across, one evening in the Mitchell Library in 1976.  Sandra and I (who were both working on The Australian) were doing some after-work Lawrence research and we came across a cache of MSS called The Haughton James Papers.  It was in those papers that I got my first glimpse of the secret army that Lawrence ran across in Sydney in 1922.  John, who was and is very left-wing (and an alarmist), had decided to do some research into the (to him, fascist) New Guard, and had come across, in NSW police files, another organisation that was active, behind the scenes, at the same time.  Though he did not realise what it was, he kept the notes of his research.  This, of course was the Old Guard, and it was the first validation of what Tom Fitzgerald had told me in 1976 at Evan Williams’ Australia Day party (“Do you know why we were called the New Guard?” Eric Campbell had asked Tom. “Because there was an Old Guard.”)  And so began my long search for the truth.  Decades later I discovered that John, who had trained as an architect, was living in some sort of ashram (of his own design) at Hartley Vale, on the western side of the Blue Mountains.  He had returned to Australia after many years overseas where he had conducted an intensive architectural study of Chartres Cathedral, and produced a huge book on it, illustrated with his own drawings.  Now he was back providing sustainable-living and other alternative-lifestyle instruction west of the Divide.  He became a passionate prophet of climate change, and now sends me his weekly newsletter on this and other anti-capitalist causes. (Curiously, he is also very pro-Putin – though here I agree with him.)   Despite what our political and scientific differences might be, I like John, and we get on well together.  He’s a trier, and bubbles over with his numerous enthusiasms.  It’s people like him that help the world go round.

01/04/15 Wednesday, BONDI -

Yesty I got an email from Fiona who runs the literary agents Curtis Brown in Australia telling me that they would not “take on” my DH Lawrence in Australia book, citing lack of potential publisher interest.  A great disappointment, of course, yet I suspect alas she is right – it has no general interest, and probably little academic (text-book) potential either.  It may be that my castigation last year of the CUP for failing to print my book may at least in part be the function of similar fears and caveats.  Lawrence is longer a popular, or read, writer today, despite his leading position in the canon of English literature.  (Lady Chatterley is tame these days, and is no great shakes in the porn stakes.)  This week Dymocks published on its website a list of the 100th most popular books in Australia.  Needless to say, Kangaroo was not amongst them – and I suspect if they widened it out to the top 1000 books, it would not get a guernsey there either.  Oh, well, I will just have to come to terms with the reality that my book will not make the impact that I had hoped it would, and should.  So what to do?  Obviously we can publish it ourselves via The Svengali Press.  Local publisher Tom Thompson, who is coming to see us next week, is another possibility.  He once published an edition of Kangaroo.  Tonight we are attending a Quadrant dinner, and the new editor there – an Englishman - seems to be interested in Lawrence and Australia.  They publish books, too.  So that’s another possibility.  But published it will be.  I am not going to let more than 40 years’ research go in vain - not to mention such considerations as the truth, Australian history, and world literature.  Who might read it, however, is another matter (and over which I have little or no control, along with most other writers and authors today).

02/04/15 Thursday, BONDI -

The Quadrant dinner at the Club last night – my first – was interesting, and possibly productive.  I had eschewed involvement with Quadrant for a long time due to what I saw as its notorious right-wing links and associations.  (Once it was supported by CIA funding.)  Notwithstanding that, it published an article I wrote many years ago on Kangaroo and my research.  I was drawn back to it more recently by Geoffrey Lehmann’s opinion that I should get some of my Lawrence research published in it.  As I have no other outlet, I decided to go along with this idea, and last year sent them my piece on Lawrence and Brian Penton and fishball journalism (see 15/11/14), which they published in February (and is the subject of a current exchange in the letters columns with Hal Colebatch, whose hagiography of his famous – in WA – father I once panned in a review for the RAHS journal).  The new Quadrant editor, Englishman John O’Sullivan, sent a nice email about this and hinted he would like to fan the flames of controversy about The Darroch Thesis etc.  So we went along last night to meet him and take the matter further.  There were a lot of familiar faces at the gathering of 100 or more, which went off well.  Ex-editor Keith Windschuttle (who was on the Tele at the same time I was) was particularly friendly and mentioned my Penton piece.  I gave him a copy of my life-book (as I did my dinner-table companion, Malcolm Colless).  Ex-Bulletin editor and former golfing companion Trevor Sykes was there, but stand-offish.  However, the most interesting contact was a poet Geoffrey brought along and whom I sat next to.  His name is Jamie Grant and, so Geoffrey told me later, may become the new literary editor of Quadrant.  Obviously a good contact.  We chatted about Lawrence - he knew who I was – and last night after the dinner I sent him the text of my DHL book.  It’s an avenue worth exploring, anyway.

03/04/15 Friday, BONDI -

In my entries on Monday and Tuesday this week I mentioned John James and how I came across in his papers at the Mitchell the first validation of what Tom Fitzgerald had told me about “the Old Guard”.  This was similar to how my colleague Dr Andrew Moore himself first came across the 1930’s successor to Lawrence’s Diggers and Maggies.  He had just graduated and been sent as a history teacher to some county town in the south-west.  Also being very radical, he was interested in the New Guard.  He joined the local historical society and when they learned of his special interest, he was told there was an old lady who lived out of town who knew something about that.  She was the daughter of a Colonel Hinton.  He went to see her.  Apprised of his interest, she told him her father had indeed been mixed up in that sort of thing.  “Would you like to see his papers?” she said, explaining that when he had died in his flat in Sydney she had found a trunk filled with papers.  And so Andrew stumbled across a precious cache of Old Guard records - nominal rolls, etc.  (Hinton had been under strict instructions to destroy such records.)   Andrew realised their significance, and it changed the course of his life.  He parlayed that into a PhD, a university professorship, and his book The Secret Army and the Premier.   I came across Andrew, then still researching what was to be his PhD thesis on the Old Guard, in the Mitchell Library one night in 1976 or ’77 when I asked for some manuscript papers and the librarian said:  “Do you know someone else is looking at those papers?”  And so our serendipitous paths first crossed.  He became my Huxley in the story of the evolution of secret armies in Australia.      

04/04/15 Saturday, BLACKHEATH -

It was also, it should be noted, that this was analogous to how Lawrence came across the secret army which then had no name, but that later morphed into the Old Guard.  (Its “nickname” was “the garage” or “the association”.)  This part of the story – the saga of Lawrence and Kangaroo – is recounted in my yet-to-be-if-ever-published book, DH Lawrence in Australia (but I had better mention it here, by way of explanation, lest I succumb before it sees the light of day).  On the day after his arrival in Sydney in late May 1922 Lawrence and Frieda took a ferry to Manly and then tram up the northern beaches to Narrabeen, where they had been invited to have afternoon-tea with a man they had met on a boat to Australia (Gerald Hum).  At the tea-party, serendipitously, was a man called Jack Scott, who happened to be the second-in-command of the secret army Lawrence portrayed as the Diggers and the Maggies.  They “hit it off” and Scott struck up an instant friendship with Lawrence (whom he wanted to impress) and a week or so later divulged to him what was probably Australia’s biggest secret – its secret-army dimension.  Lawrence parlayed that into his eighth major novel, the quest for the truth about which has been my life’s obsession.  No – I cannot depart this life without getting that into the public domain in some way or other.  And I will.

05/04/15 Sunday, BLACKHEATH -

(Sandra’s birthday)  Driving up here to Blackheath on Friday I got my first speeding ticket since 1976.  I have been fined a number of times for speeding – one year I even exceeded the demerit-point limit - but they were camera-detected, via radar.  This was only the second time I has been physically stopped (“pulled over”) by police for exceeding the speed limit (also radar-monitored, of course).  The officer informed me he had registered my speed as over 120 kph (the limit on that stretch of the M5 motorway was 100 kph).  Had it been light, I would have seen his police car waiting to ambush someone, but it was still dark, just after 6am, raining, and visibility was very poor.  He seemed somewhat apologetic when he handed me the ticket, and told me he was only treating as a minor infringement in the over-110-kph range ($200 or so).  I had not gone far when I saw another police – highway patrol – vehicle by the side of the motorway waiting to strike.  And further on, another and another.   There must have been 10 or 12 or more on various stretches of road on the way up.  It was clearly a Good-Friday traffic-police-blitz.  They were hunting in a wolf-pack.  So I was not alone, nor being singled out (and I am sure I was not over 120 kph - though I willingly concede I was probably over 100).  The only other time I was pulled over was when I was working at the SMH in early 1976, and had been playing tennis with some other subs at a court in Gladesville, and they caught me just short of the Gladesville Bridge.  Now that I am a teetotaler, I no longer have any fear of police-cars by the side of the road.  I am also, mostly, more sedate in my driving (see 17/2), but I will be doubly-careful on our way back on Easter Monday, for the wolf-pack will still be out there, periscopes up.            

06/04/15 Monday, BONDI -

Our Saturday Philosophy Forum talk – address is apparently the better word – was ill-attended, yet one of our best-ever.  (It was cold, wet and Easter, and the topic of the talk/address – morality and the law – was not a crowd-puller.)  The speaker, Heydon Wardell-Burrus, last year was one of our young-philosophers panel, then finishing his law degree at USYD.  Now he has double firsts in both law and philosophy.  This is a lad (though by now he must be nudging 30) who will go far.  Presently he’s employed by a law firm in town, and is destined, I predict, to become a major figure in our legal profession (though he might consider shortening his name – to, say, “HWB”).  In any case, note that name, you will hear more (or less) of it.  The gravamen of his exegesis was what makes a law morally justified in a progressively disenchanted – by which I think he meant fractious - world.  Why should people, a community, obey the law, and acknowledge/recognise its validity?   He had two answers – one, it has been produced by a process the community recognses as valid; two, it is in accord with a moral code, such as religion.  I asked the first question.  If you are searching for what makes a law acceptable and “right”, why not ask if it is reasonable?  I cited “The Man on the Clapham Omnibus” as a legal measure of reasonableness in the UK.  He acknowledged this, and said the antipodean equivalent once was “The Man on the Bondi Tram”.  However, the trams don’t run to Bondi anymore, so have we lost this Australian measure of what is reasonable?  And who was this legal individual anyway – the man who lived at Bondi, or just came to Bondi for the beach in summer?  I suspect the latter, just as it wasn’t who lived at Clapham, but the cross-section of English society the fabled omnibus went through on the way to Clapham.    (Apparently he was originally Bagehot’s “bald-headed man at the back of the omnibus”.)  Thus it also was, presumably, the purlieus the tram “shot through” on its way to Bondi that mattered…working-class, middle-class, and so on.  Who today would the Man on the Bondi Bus (or train) be?  A rather different kettle of fish, I think.  Now the demographic centre of Sydney is somewhere north-west of Ryde, and very multicultural, not to say Chinese.  But that’s another, and bigger, question.  HWB, despite his daunting erudition, brushed my question aside, probably I suspect because he hadn’t properly considered it.  Yet unless the populace regard a law as reasonable, they will tend not to obey it.  (Anyway, Peter Baldwin thought it was a good question.)

07/04/15 Tuesday, BONDI -

BONDI Tuesday, 07/04/15 – [Hidden Entry #1 (about Squiz)]

08/04/15 Wednesday, BONDI -

How internet-dependent have I become.  Up at Blackheath over the Easter weekend our internet connection was down, and I could not access my email (except by driving up to the highway and using my, or rather Sandra’s, mobile to see if I had any messages).  Back at Islay (the name we have given our Blackheath house, which is in an electronic black-hole) I kept wanting to go into the study to see if I had any emails.  And when I wanted to look something up, my screen told me it could not access the internet, much to my annoyance and frustration.  I almost felt I was on a desert island, cut off from the rest of civilisation, and incommunicado.  I spared a thought for Robinson Crusoe.  How can one live today – survive today, appreciate today - without electronic communication with the outside (outside one’s study or office) world?  I suppose the need to communicate is ingrained into me, as a journalist, and perhaps more deeply.  Now the internet is almost a physical part of my body – certainly of my mind and consciousness.  Yet this, I think, is not nature but nurture, for my connection, my umbilical-cord, to the ambient information environment is a consequence of February 23, 1981 (see above, numerously).  What on earth did I do – how did I survive and enjoy life - before the internet and email, not to mention my new mobile-phone?  The same way I suppose that stone-age man did, before he invented the wheel, or agriculture, or whatever…in other words, with extreme bloody inconvenience.   

09/04/15 Thursday, BONDI -

The Australian’s monthly glossy colour insert, Wish, had a puff piece last Friday about the new Langham Hotel (formerly the Observatory Hotel) in Kent Street in the Rocks, which has just underwent a $30 million refit.  What caught my eye was the heading ROOM WITH A MEW.  Could it be, I wondered, that the new hotel now had feline amenities?  And, yes, it does!  As the puff went on to say, guests’ furry friends are also welcome (if they are under 20kg, which certainly would include cats).  The cat guests would get their own special beds, a special menu (room-service of course), and a cat-sitter when required.  A hotel spokesperson explained that such facilities are now common at the top hotels in Europe and the U.S.  Of course, this brought to mind my 2008 Fowler blog headed FELINE AMENITIES that pointed out the eccentric POD definitions of “cat”, “dog” and “mouse”, inserted by Henry Fowler’s cat-loving brother Frank, but which also included, in the POD definition of feline: “f. amenities, veiled spite”.  I went on (see appendix #1) to show how George DuMaurier and Louis Wain borrowed the term (originally from the German word katzenfreundlichtkeit – “cat friendliness”) for some of their cartoons satirising Victorian drawing-room manners (this info courtesy of Google, following the various listed hotels in Europe which provide facilities for cats).  I’ll send it to the Langham, for their amusement at least.  Good mews indeed.  (I am going to add a folder of appendices to this diary, partly when I need to record  more than my causerie format allows, but also as an excuse to get my Club blogs, that go back to 2003, in on the act.)

10/04/15 Friday, BONDI -

For someone who thinks he knows something about politics, and particularly for someone who is supposed to be a student of extreme-right-wing politics, aka fascism in Australia (secret armies and all that), alarm-bells should have started sounding when I read this week in the SMH that a new organisation calling itself Reclaim Australia had clashed in Melbourne – and elsewhere around the country -  with what was apparently a counter-rally calling itself No Room for Racism.  The latter turned out to be a fairly ad-hoc Trotskyite (under the banner of “Solidarity”) “coalition” – the sort of bovver-bolshies-for-hire travelling troupe (“Have Placards, Will Travel”) that disrupted, violently, the Kemp talk at Sydney University recently, and which turns up at any given excuse for a “demo” to harvest the consequent publicity and show its supporters and potential members that it’s doing something.  I was later alerted to the existence of Reclaim Australia by that excellent journalist, Guy Rundle, in Crikey.  He likened them (I do not yet know who Reclaim’s “them” may comprise) to such previous expressions of Australian nationalism as the Jindyworobak movement of the late 1930s and early 1940s (linked to the fascist Australia First movement of PR Stephensen, who was interned).  Rundle tries to locate Reclaim Australia in the polyglot landscape of the right, but although he has a good grip on the far-left (the latest Trotguide lists 35 factionettes on that zoological effulgence), he is all at sea when he tries to talk about the far-right.  Lawrence had a firmer grip of that milieu in 1922 than Rundle has today.  Still, I should have picked it up, for I did spot the Age report in the SMH.  Now that my antenna has been alerted, I will keep an eye on what’s happening.  For this story has legs.  (Reclaim’s basic line is anti-Islam – expressed as “anti-Halal” - and “let’s keep Australia Australian”.  Pickering thinks it’s patriotic rather than racist.  But what is patriotism other than racism?)

11/04/15 Saturday, BONDI -

I hope I have not over-burdened this diary, and bored the pants off everyone, with my complaints about modern journalism and its falling standards, but I cannot let one of its most egregious manifestations pass without comment and protest.  As usual it was seen in the SMH, which is, lemming-like, leading the hack-pack towards the journalistic cliff-edge.  It was in a story on page 11 about the deaths of “an entire family…tragically killed” in a car-crash in Abu Dhabi and an alleged mystery about who was in the other car (and I quote) “leading to speculation” that “a powerful business man or member of the royal family” might have been involved.  This is the passive-voice gone mad.  Not only are we not told who is doing the leading, where the speculation comes from, nor what their supposed involvement might be.  This is as vague as it can get.  No one is quoted, no source given for the content, and there is no attribution (just unsourced “speculation” – indeed, it could have, and probably was, merely the writer’s speculation).  This appalling sentence has no credibility or factual content at all.  It is Lawrence’s fish-ball journalism at its very worst.  But that’s not right either.  The apotheosis of this brand of SMH “journalism” was the report by their Harriet Alexander in 2009 about a plane being seized by Indonesian authorities and their occupants put in the local slammer.  (See appendix #3 for the full, ghastly report.)  But, again, why do I bother?  It’s all too ubiquitous these days.  Still, someone’s got to complain about this sort of thing, even if I am – as I know I am – the proverbial voice crying in the wilderness.  Yet a lot of Tele subs will be grinding their teeth, or, more likely, turning in their graves.  Grind, grind, grind, and grind.       

12/04/15 Sunday, BONDI -

I think, given the previous entry, I had better explain what Telegraph Style is (and how it would have prevented “journalism” like the item cited above).  It was originally laid down in the early 1940s by the then Tele editor, Brian Penton.  Its tenets were simple, but not easy to follow, for they went against much of what you learned at school (see appendix #4).  I was fortunate – as I relate in my life-book – for at school and later at university I had been a fan of simple, straight-forward English expression, championed in particular by George Orwell (whom I then thought the greatest writer in the English language).  At university I read books like Sir Ernest Gowers’ Complete Plain Words and endeavoured to follow their precepts.  Later, as a cadet on the Tele, I took to this simpler form of expression like the proverbial duck to water.  (Which is how I got my first column, THE VOICE OF THE CHURCHES, and earned my subsequent transfer to the subs table while a callow second-year cadet – the youngest-ever sub, I believe.)  I knew what the passive voice was, and knew how not to use it.  Indeed, I found the DT Style active-voice model of a less-than-20-word sentence – subject, verb, predicate – an easy and logical way to communicate with our “model-reader” – the proverbial seven-year-old child in Green Valley.  I think I owe a lot of my success in journalism to that skill with simple, direct language.  Not so much because of its syntax and grammar, but because it inculcated in me a habit of reducing complex matters to their essential gravamen.  Thus it wasn’t so much that I could write in Telegraph Style – which of course I could - but that I thought in it.  That was the way my mind worked.  (Which was also why I could dictate to the copy-takers over the phone without having to write it out beforehand.)  The essential skill of the sub is to comprehend the point of a story and find the best deployment of words to convey its essence to the reader.  At the Literary Dinner at the Club last week, I delivered a lengthy disquisition about Sir Richard Burton and the Arabian Nights.  The others present - who included Geoffrey Lehmann and John Edwards - expressed amazement that I could have remembered so much about Burton and his life and works, and have rattled it off, without text or notes.  For that I can thank Brian Penton, Ray Walker and the subs table at the Tele, and perhaps my innate clerking skills, “the clerk sent from heaven”, as I put it in my life-book). 

13/04/15 Monday, BONDI -

Sydney High, my old school (which is just down the road from our office in Cleveland Street), has been in the news recently about a boycott (or other protest) of an Old Boys’ fund-raising event featuring as guest-speaker (and star attraction) former Immigration Minister – and himself an old boy – Scott Morrison.   The SMH reported – on its front page – that a petition has been got up with, allegedly 300 signatories, protesting about the choice of Morrison for the event, the SMH reporting that “alumni” (a word I have not seen used in such a context before) are, and I quote the report, “disgusted” and “warning it would be an embarrassment to their school to celebrate a man who has so flagrantly disregarded human rights”.  I am trying to find out who the 300 are – Leonidas’s 300 springs to mind – and who or what is behind it.  How was the list got up?  Though I got the original SHSOBU notice of the event, no one has contacted me about it.  The SMH report said John Pilger, my old school chum, was involved.  Is he behind it?  I suspect so.  If I find out more, I will report back.  Meanwhile anyone reading this might like to see my Club blog, written about 10 years ago, on the egregious Pilger, my bête rouge (as I describe him in my life-book).  See appendix #2.

14/04/15 Tuesday, BONDI -

I promised I would report back, and I now know, after a bit of delving, more about the “300” attempting to block Morrison’s advance on Sydney High. The petition was apparently got up by some 1998 boys, plus two old-boys from 2006 and 1982.   Pilger was tweeted about it by the 1982 old-boy, and lent his name (and endorsement) to the boycott or whatever.  I will follow up this story, and may report further. LATER:  The 300 have now been joined, as the Spartans were at Thermopylae (over 1500 of them, mainly Thespians and Thebans), by some hangers-on, and according to the petition now number over 650.  (A figure boosted by a swag of ex-girls – do they have “old girls”? - from Sydney Girl’s High.)  The wording of the “open letter” to ex-SHS students (it was not open enough for me to get a copy, so presumably it went out to a select list of them, no doubt of a predictable political persuasion).   I have written my own “open letter” to those organising the event – see appendix #5).  I hope it reaches Pilger’s jaundiced – though yellow is not the colour I am thinking of – eyes.  (I hope I am not being racist or chauvinist – though I fear I am - when I say the list of the protesters made that screeching/squealing noise when you drag something across a smooth surface.  The list included a number of both female and Asian, mainly Chinese, names.  What right has Alice Wu to say whom SHSOBU should invite to a fund-raising event at the school?  But, of course, she has as much right as any other Old Girl of her school.  Yet it still grates on me – it goes against my grain.)

15/04/15 Wednesday, BONDI -

Yet another filling dropped out this week (I don’t know where it went) and now my mouth looks and feels like Cannae or the Somme after the battle, or Winston Smith when O’Brien started pulling out his teeth and hair to show how decayed and decrepit he has become after the Thought Police nabbed him.  I will have to, well, grit my teeth, and visit my dentist soon and surrender myself up for a probable total mouth reconstruction, a visit I have been dreading for many months now.  Hitherto I just put up with other filling-losses, my tongue doing its best to work around the sharp-edges of the now-numerous vacant places in my gums.  But the latest loss, of a front, highly-visible tooth-filling, cannot be so easily avoided.  Not that it’s a matter of appearance – that’s a cause I gave up on many moons ago – but rather that my fear, mistrust, and indeed hatred of dentists has to be confronted one day soon, and this latest dégringolage might as well be the occasion.  My teeth have been a disaster area for many decades, ever since I was a child in Bondi and my local dentist, a Mr Lewis (he was Jewish) set up practice in a back room of his house at the bottom of our street.  I do not say he did work on my juvenile teeth unnecessarily – though I think I have suffered under several dentists who later did so - but I am sure he did not let any opportunity pass to augment his income at the expense of my mouth.  Yet I do not want to damn his profession entirely - nor cast any aspersions on the Jewish community - for I did once come across a dentist who was both kind and painless (it’s the pain of the drill I fear most – I am a cringing coward as far as teeth are concerned).  He was Chinese, a Dr Hing who had a busy practice in Victoria Street Potts Point, just up the street from where we were then living.  So skilled a dentist was he - he was a lecturer in dentistry at Sydney University - that he did most of his dental work without novocaine (I dread injections, too).  Alas, he retired not long afterwards, and I was cast back on the tender mercies of other suburban Torquemadas, one of whom was so brutal that I stopped him in mid-dental-work and told him he was hurting me, after which he told me to get out of the chair and never darken his surgery again.  Now I am back with the Jewish persuasion of the dental profession in Curlewis Street, just up from the beach.  Haddon Suttner is not too bad, and shows some interest in my Internet activities, so we can have a chat while he conducts his archaeological work on the ruins of my toothscape.  I know that given any encouragement he will want to undertake a complete restoration of my face, so I will have to stay his itchy drilling hand when he starts talking about crowns and bridges and whatever new tricks dentists get up to these days.  I will make an appointment this morning.  At least I will make one person happy today.  (Dégringolee is French for seriously unkempt, a word much in vogue in Bloomsbury.  Behind her back, Ottoline was said to be Dégringolee.)

16/04/15 Thursday, BONDI -

I might explain how we came across Dr Hing, for it is a morality tale about the dental profession.  We were living in Victoria Street at the Cross when Sandra developed toothache.  She has almost perfect teeth, and never needs to go to the dentist.  (In 20 years in London, she only went to a dentist once or twice for tooth-cleaning.)  The question arose which dentist she should go to, as the last dentist she visited was in Roseville when a child.  (She no doubt has a strong tooth-gene, which I envy.)  Mr Lewis - mentioned above - had clearly prospered in the years after I was going to him, and had taken half a house on the corner of Blair and Wairoa.  We drove past his surgery to see if he was still there.  He wasn’t, but another dentist had obviously bought his practice (he shall, for reasons of defamation, remain nameless.)  So, having nothing else, I suggested Sandra go there.  She came out to report that the dentist told her she had to have all her wisdom teeth out, and this would require an anesthetic.  Daunted by this prospect, Sandra rang her father, who happened to be giving an aneasthetic at the Scottish Hospital in Paddington.  In fact he was doing a dental list for Sydney University’s professor of dentistry.  “Four wisdom teeth extractions sound a bit drastic,” Bin told Sandra.  “I’ll go and ask the professor about this chap.”  He came back and told Sandra the dentist had a reputation for telling people that had to have their wisdom teeth out.  “Don’t go back to him,” he said.  “The professor has told me there’s a very good dentist near where you live.  His name is Dr Hing.”  Sandra went, and of course her wisdom teeth were right as rain.  The only thing they needed was a good clean and polish.  So that’s how I also came to go to possibly the best dentist in Sydney, if not the world.  I only wish he was still in practice.  (In the event, Dr Suttner was gentle with me, as they say, and may be in the running for my Hing Prize, though I will reserve that award until after I see him again next Thursday.)

17/04/15 Friday, BONDI -

Last week we were driving around the back-streets of Bondi, filling in time before Sandra’s appointment at her new gym in O’Brien Street, revisiting the haunts of my Bondi childhood. My mind went back to the boys I remember from those early years, and where they lived. As we passed Oakley Road I recalled where Jimmy Heymann was, next door to our house on the corner of Oakley Road, before we moved to Wallis Parade. He and I used to go to Moore Park each day in the school bus (he is third from the left, second row, in this Bondi Beach Public School class-photo, taken in 1950 - I am top row, fourth from the left, looking very serious).



A Jewish boy called Brass lived in Frederick Street (he is third from the left, third row). For some reason my early interest in chemistry is associated with him and his laundry. Further up the street was a boy called Barnes (I think he’s first on the left, top row – or he might be far-right in the second row) whom I associate with some sort of dressing-up evening at school, and also surfing at Bondi.   Peter Wrench, who lived in Clyde Street, next to the quarry, is on my right. (See Against the Grain for his role in my life.) I do not know where a boy called Leonard lived (he is on Jimmy’s left – see my life-book about him too), but the cleverest boy was called Barrett (third row, second left) who lived in Plowman Street, off Murriverie Road. He got some sort of bursary to Scots. A boy called Faust lived in Murriverie (also Jewish, as were Leonard and Jimmy Heymann, so he might be in that group of three in the second row), and I used to play hookey with him in town. His father owned the big pawn shop Fausts off Taylors Square. I don’t know who the other boy in a tie was, but he obviously came from the better part of North Bondi. But I remember most of the other faces, as faces, yet now cannot attach names nor places to them. There was a boy called Blackshield who lived at the top of Gould Street, but where he is in the photo I cannot tell. Admittedly a pretty undistinguished-looking lot – but you should have seen the B class! That’s where Colin Spenser, who introduced to masturbation, went through his schoolday motions. I wonder where they all are now, and what they did with the rest of their lives. I think they would be surprised where I ended up (though at school I was known as “the professor”).

18/04/15 Saturday, BONDI -

The rising sun has now gone past the headland across Bondi Bay under Ben Buckler, and this is my equivalent of the autumn equinox.  As I mention above, it follows its appointed path across my eastern horizon, its summer equinox position being on the far right of Ben Buckler, three-quarters (from the perspective of my study door) across Bondi Bay.  Its winter equinox is along the edge of Bondi golf course, about an inch or so short of the Stink Pot.  Its disappearance behind Ben Buckler headland is a significant event in my year, even though it happens in early April rather than March 21-23.  I am not quite sure when virgins were sacrificed  at Stonehenge to ensure the return of the sun and the warmth of the northern spring - probably at the December winter solstice in that hemisphere.  For my part, had I any virgins to spare, I would dispatch them at our southern solstice, also in December, for I much prefer Bondi in the winter months, when the southerly blows, and the clouds are grey and overcast, and there are white-caps on the waves.  (Though white caps would be more usual when there’s a stiff winter westerly blowing, and a decent sea running – a rare combination at Bondi.)  July is my favourite month at Bondi, and the mid-point of my astronomical year, when the skies clear and (as Lawrence describes in Kangaroo) the westerly wind is “as cold as flat ice”.  That is Bondi at its truest and its best.

19/04/15 Sunday, BLACKHEATH -

(Blackheath Literary Lunch)  I had a rather profound (and far-reaching) thought this morning up here at Blackheath.  Perhaps I am wrong about the consequence and significance of February 23, 1981.  It’s not so much the quantum of data that has overwhelmed us since information ceased to be a scarce commodity.  It is rather that our attention span has been truncated, or contracted.  This may indeed be the result of the pressure of information coming at us, or it could be the speed of the information.  These days we do not have enough time or patience or desire to read anything much longer than a few hundred words at the most – if that (unless it is something we are very interested in, or touches us personally).  It is the attention or interest span that is the key thing, not the quantum of information.  This truth was brought home to me by the reaction to my recent Benaud blog.  It got a lot of notice, partly because it was fairly short, and partly it was about something people might be interested in – a celebrity name, in fact.  So I will try to revert to my original intention and keep my items much shorter from now on (though I have a few longer ones already in the pipeline which I will use more occasionally).  And I will have to keep an eye open for celebrities.

20/04/15 Monday, Bondi - Walking in the park - the only park I walk in is Centennial Park, as aforementioned - a lady came past us with a very large white dog on a leash.  It would be more accurate to say a very large dog came by with a lady on a leash.  She was over 60 and about the same size, bulk-wise, as the dog (and the same hair-colouring).  It wasn’t an English sheep-dog, but about the same statue.  (It resembled in build and coat a very large chow, which probably was its brand.)  “It’s my daughter’s,” she said while the dog paused briefly to relieve itself against a tree, “I’m taking it out for her.”   As they set off again, the lady apologised for passing so close to us, explaining, in a receding voice, she could do nothing with the pooch, which had its own agenda.  So it’s come to this, then.  Not only do the grandparents have to look after the grandchildren, but the dog of the ménage as well.  At least the little old lady with the white dog won’t have to worry much longer, given the function of fido in current boy-girl menages.  (See my 07/10 entry on this modern social phenomenon.)  He’s probably done his job.  Her final words, as the Doppler-effect kicked in, were:  “Dogs have a lot of urine.”
21/04/15 Tuesday, BONDI -

There’s a big southerly blowing this morning, one of the biggest I have seen in recent years – certainly from my now-open study door.  This is obviously a three-day southerly, the result of a low off the coast.  It’s pelting rain, and the gale-force wind is lashing Bondi and the coastal beaches.  The sand is being piled up along the promenade and drifting across Queen Elizabeth Drive on to the grass of what is now called Bondi Park.  Grains of it will indeed, as I describe in my life-book portrait of Bondi, be peppering the shop-windows and wayfarers braving the wind and rain along The Strip in Campbell Parade.  The waves last night got within 10 yards of the promenade in the centre of the beach, and no doubt lapped it at the northern end.  I see the waves mounting beyond Ben Buckler and their spray rises 20 feet or more when they crash on to the rocks below the point.  This is Bondi at its wildest, boisterous best, and I love it.  It brings back a lot of memories, all of them pleasant.  It is the breath of the south, from the Antarctic, and everything must bend before its exhalation.  I have only seen one bigger that I can remember, and that was when I was 8 or nine, and a southerly of historic proportions hit the coast.  Then its waves lapped all along the wall of the promenade, north and south, and the whole beach became a single sheet of water.  The papers alleged that at low tide gold sovereigns were being found by the beachcombers who came to witness the phenomenon and see what the storm had washed up (or revealed what was below the normal level of the sand).  That even-mightier southerly must have been as big as the one that, in the early years of the last century, exposed aboriginal stone tools at the north end of the beach, where there used to be some sort of aboriginal tool factory, quarrying the igneous rock in the ancient dyke that cleaves the cliff up on Bondi golf links.  How lucky I am to have been a Bondi Boy.  (I’m also thankful our two units face north-east, and are sheltered from the south.  I chose well – but then I knew what the southerly can do at Bondi when it unleashes its full fury.  At least I can go out on our balcony and observe across my beach vista the awesome results of its handiwork.)

22/04/15 Wednesday, BONDI -

Late yesty I got a call from the Club secretary, Des, to tell me that my nomination of Peter Wrench for membership (re-admission, actually) of the Club had been “declined”.  In other words, he had been blackballed – not by the membership, but by the committee.  This was after the President, Robert Bishop, told me last week that he did not think the election (if that is what it was) would be a problem, and that it would have his support.  Peter had declared himself bankrupt more than 10 years ago and resigned his Club membership after the Pioneers joined our Club in a semi-merger that Peter and I arranged - which saved our Club’s bacon - for there was a clause in our rules that debarred bankrupts from membership.  After the merger with the University and Schools Club, this clause was removed, and I asked the then President Marion Pascoe if I might nominate Peter for readmission.  She said she did not think it would be a problem, and on this basis I put his name forward (the correct terminology) about six months ago.  More recently the President told me that some committee members had raised questions about Peter’s election, but I thought we had put those matters to rest.  Yesty I was expecting a call from Robert telling me of Peter’s election.  So the call from Des – not Robert - came as a shock.  I phoned Peter (who was waiting for news down in Bowral) and told him.  He was pretty devastated.  Now I must consider what I should do. I should resign immediately, as that is the traditional course to take in such circumstances.  For to have one’s nominee blackballed is akin to you yourself being blackballed, and a serious reflection on you.  How can one go into the Club and mix as before with other members who might be guilty of doing such a (rare and extraordinary) thing?  How could I face the committee members I know so well, not knowing which ones were responsible for this – and there is no other word for it – insult?  But there is Sandra to consider.  She is the longest-standing female Member of the Club, elected more than 50 years ago, put up by her father, who had been a member for many years before that.  I cannot ride roughshod over this, to appease my impugned “honour” (and go off to sulk, as she put it) - especially as she thought I shouldn’t have nominated Peter in the first place.  I will have to now consider my position, very carefully indeed.

23/04/15 Thursday, BONDI -

Perhaps the worst part of this cursed Wrench matter is the fact that Robert Bishop was fully aware of what I might do if my nomination were to be “declined”.  He knew that I would take it as a matter of principle – indeed, honour.  He was aware that I might resign if Peter’s nomination were blocked.  He must have indicated this to whoever – singly or severally - was opposed to Peter’s membership.  So it was done not merely knowing they would be offending me, but that the Club would likely lose whatever use I am to it and my fellow members.  Apparently that loss was seen as secondary to blackballing Peter, and they were content to go along with it.  I have, I should point out, a history of resigning and other protests within the Club (and elsewhere).  Twice before I have resigned from the committee because I believed they were acting improperly.  First, when the merger with the USC was being mooted, I resigned because the committee, I believed, was creating an artificial financial crisis to force the merger through by unnecessary spending (and other things, like reducing the number of car-spaces in the carpark, and exaggerating the decrepit state of the building).  Some years later I resigned a second time because the then President sent an open email to other committee members reprimanding me for telling my lunch group what the committee was doing (ie, over committee secrecy – something I have an ingrained antipathy to).  On a third occasion I stopped coming to the Club and relinquished my Friday Group and History Lunch activities when Sandra’s Philosophy Lunch was sabotaged by a committee member.  (I won’t go into the details – except to concede that I am hypersensitive to anything that affects Sandra adversely.  When we came back from England in 1966 I resigned from my beloved Moore Park Golf Club because they had banned Sandra, whom I had taught golf in London, from playing with me, and setting foot in the members’ lounge.)  So not coming into the Club again won’t be that big a sacrifice, and that is probably the course I will adopt, with Sandra’s concurrence.

24/04/15 Friday, BONDI -

I have now discussed the Wrench matter at length with Sandra, and we have come up with an agreed joint decision, or approach (modus vivendi or operandi?).  I will not resign, for that would cut off any future possibility of returning to the Club (as I did before, after the Philosophy Lunch affair).  However, I will sever my current links with the Club, however hurtful that will be to all concerned.  (I especially regret its effect on Geoffrey Lehmann, but that is unavoidable, for I cannot turn up at his Literary Dinner knowing who else might be there, for I suspect I know who is behind this.)  That is the least – and probably most - I can and should do in the circumstances.  And I have told the President what I am going to do.  However, it will be messy.  But I can do no other, as someone else who also took a stand once said.

25/04/15 Saturday, BONDI -

(the Centenary of ANZAC)  I have noticed something strange, or odd, in the street lately.  Grey-haired men keep looking at me.  When I say grey, I mean grey of hair.  These are men of a certain age - and that’s 60-plus.  I have no objection to being the focus of their attentions.  It’s certainly not sexual, for I do not think they are looking at me because of my beauty, or pleasantness of feature, or comeliness.  I have never thought myself handsome or good-looking.  If I have a good point physically, it would have to be my legs.  I have, or had, very good legs.  After my first game of tennis in a north London park in 1965, I was having a drink in a nearby pub with my tennis companion (Alan Veitch, a fellow Aussie journalist) when a lady of advanced years came up and said she wanted to tell me what nice legs I had.  Up to that point in my life (I was 25) I had never thought about my legs, at least in that context, from an appearance point of view.  However, I did get whistled at in Goldhurst Terrace when I went round, as was my antipodean habit, in shorts; or when I was riding my bike around that part of London – Swiss Cottage - particularly in the winter months.  (What happened earlier that year on Temple tube-station, when I went to play tennis in Pimlico clad in my tennis gear, I relate in my life-book.)  My legs may be genetic (from Scotland? or Scandinavia?).  More likely they are the result of my early bike-riding years, pedalling all around Bondi and its environs (again, see Against the Grain).  Or perhaps it was all that swimming and surfing on Bondi Beach (it certainly wasn’t running or walking, both of which I eschewed because of my shorter right leg).   Actually, I think I am getting these glances for the same reason I myself look at other men with grey hair.  It’s to see if I might have known them when I was younger, before we both had grey hair (and the other concomitants of old age).  It’s almost as if we were now members of the same lodge, or club, or some other minority subset of the general community.  Those glances are the equivalent of a visual Masonic handshake.  Hello, Bro, it’s good to see you’re still around.

26/04/15 Sunday, BONDI -

Something rather eerie happened today.  As I relate in tomorrow’s entry (which this replaces), I went out on my balcony to watch the sun rise over Ben Buckler yesty morning.  As it did, a remarkable weather phenomenon occurred.  While the sun was still behind the blocks of flats on the further point, a semi-circle of sun’s rays spread out, forming the image that is on the badge of the AIF (though it’s called something else these days) – a badge every much in evidence on ANZAC Day yesty.  I have seen this before, but rarely.  I wonder if I was the only one to notice this remarkable – and pertinent - coincidence?  I looked up the history of the badge on the internet, and it turns out that the rising sun symbol goes back to the early days on the colony, when the new nation, or proto-nation, was in its infancy.  Later, around 1902, it became a symbol on the badge the Australian soldiers took to the Boer War, and still later to Gallipoli (bearing the words then:  AUSTRALIAN IMPERIAL FORCE).  It is still on today’s modern Army badge, though the wording has been changed to protect us from imperialistic taint.  (The motto of the State of NSW is also based on the rising sun, whose wording is:  NEWLY RISEN, HOW BRIGHTLY YOU SHINE – the motto originally written for the 1879 Garden Palace Sydney International Exhibition).  As I say, eerie. 

27/04/15 Monday, BONDI -

I like to imagine that my balcony at Bondi is like the deck of a sailing ship.  I go out of my now-renovated study, whose door had been locked for probably a decade or more because of the computers and my DHL library in there (now boxed up and down in the basement garage), as though emerging from my cabin, and go across to the glass-panels that form the balcony rim and grip them as if they were the railings of my quarter-deck   I gaze out across Bondi Bay with its tossing waves and white-caps (last week’s storm has not totally abated), and the southerly still bringing rain up from the south, as if spindrift on the open sea.  Bondi beach needs a poem to capture that vista and Bondi’s many changing moods.  Hopkins could have done it – long live the wild and the wilderness yet – or Tennyson:  Break, break, break, / On thy cold gray stones, O Sea! / And I would that my tongue could utter / The thoughts that arise in me.  But Byron is perhaps closest to what I feel, as a Bondi Boy:


And I have loved thee, Ocean! and my joy


  Of youthful sports was on thy breast to be


  Borne, like thy bubbles, onward; from a boy


  I wantoned with thy breakers,—they to me


  Were a delight; and if the freshening sea


  Made them a terror, ’t was a pleasing fear;


  For I was as it were a child of thee,


  And trusted to thy billows far and near,


And laid my hand upon thy mane,—as I do here.



Now it’s almost 6.50 am, and the dawn is coming up like thunder out of New Zealand cross the bay.  So Kipling could have done it justice, had he visited Bondi when he was in Sydney in 1891.  It surely would have left him with a better impression than his patronising “Song of Sydney”:  Your birth-stain you have turned to good.

28/04/15 Tuesday, BONDI -

Are there any poems about Bondi?  I googled up to find out.  And there are!  (I should have known that – there are poems about everything and everywhere these days - though none about Bondi have made their way into Geoffrey Lehmann’s pantheon of Australian verse.)  To give a random example, here are some lines from “Sunny Day In Bondi Beach” (sic) by Jona PoloRamirez:


Birds swimming in the sky
Colours blended with the kite
Beach's gleaming in sandy white
Sun shining a beauty in my eye.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  “Jona is a Filipino-Canadian, born at Ambuklao, in the Philippines.  She belongs to one of the indigenous tribes, the Igorots. Having gone through two major surgeries of cancer, her love for writing became her survival tool.”  She, like Kipling, visited Sydney, but took the bus to Bondi.  Google has quite a few poems like this, with which I will not afflict you.  However, Bondi does have its poet laureate, just as the Blue Mountains does (Denis Keavans – see 20/10/14).  He is Adam Gibson, the self-styled Bondi Poet, and indeed has published a book of poetry devoted to Bondi, entitled, prosaically, Bondi: Poems (I think the colon is important).  One is called “Bondi Milkbars” and goes:


The last milkbar has closed its doors,
no milkshakes available here anymore.
No Bates’, no Marg’s, no Bill’s, no Valis’s
no more.



(I think the switch from italics to roman is important, though I can’t see why.)  I, too, remember Valis’s.  It was the big milk-bar-cum-cafe between the Hotel Bondi and King’s cinema, and forms part of my portrait of Bondi at the end of chapter 1 of my life-book.  Sorry, no offence Adam, but even Denis, who’s pretty bad apart from “Concreto”, could have done better than that.  If only Kipling could have come to Bondi, or better-still, Lawrence (see 1/10/14).

29/04/15 Wednesday, BONDI -

Yesty one of the morning papers (there are no others these days – for we don’t have evening papers any more, RIP) had a really-good heading.  It was, better-still, their front-page banner heading (though all Telegraph front-page headings are banner-size today– God knows what they would do if something really serious happened).  It was above their coverage of the final days of the Bali Two who will be executed this week.  Its “human-interest-angle” lead-par reported that one of them had married his recently-acquired (OK, I’m a cynical journalist) girl-friend overnight.  All three papers had the story on their front-page.  The SMH’s banner headline was THEIR FINAL HOURS.  (In poster-type - Grannie has sloughed off all vestige of her former quality-newspaper persona.)  The Australian had it as a second-lead, headed, more soberly and in something like 42-point bodini bold: “Chan marries on eve of death” (lower-case).  Good marks for an appropriate coverage of the event.  But it was the Telegraph’s banner that took the cake, and deserves a Walkley:  TILL DEATH DO US PART.  A great heading, worthy of any subs-wall in the world.  (The headings in the Telegraph are consistently good nowadays.)   I’m pleased to see that sub-editors still have a useful role to play in today’s digital Media world.  

30/04/15 Thursday, BONDI -

I shouldn’t refer to the SMH as Grannie any more.  (The name came from the image of an elderly lady on top of its page-1 daily diary, called “Column 8”.)  It became the sobriquet for the paper, when it was a quality broadsheet, and one of the world’s great newspapers (of that ilk).  I have used the name in my life-book.  In our below-the-salt tabloid milieu it was a term part-derision, part-endearment.  Now it, too, has gone tabloid, though a quality one – and you can have that sort of thing, for the Tele was, at least by contemporary standards, a quality tabloid.  It was certainly a serious one.  It even had a religious column, THE VOICE OF THE CHURCHES, which was my “round” (unprecedented for a first-year cadet), and which, as I relate in Against the Grain, probably got me on to the subs-table due to my ability to convert the sermons of Sydney's clergy into Daily Telegraph Style (five pars of 20 short, crisp words in the active voice - subject, verb, predicate).  But I digress.  The point of this entry is to conjure up an image of today’s SMH, the personification of Grannie’s target-reader now.  Is it a he or a she?  Maybe a metrosexual, a he/she.  From the content and tone of the paper he/she would be youngish (certainly not over 50); definitely of a progressive bent (Labor or Green or even a bit of a Trot); a bit of a yuppie; into the arts; certainly not a “bridgee”*, but inner-city (though today’s SMH content is aimed between Parramatta and Penrith); he/she follows Rugby League or AFL rather than Rugby Union; presumably knows who Brockie is; possibly tattooed and may even be pierced; has tried drugs; holidays on the Gold Coast or in Bali; is ambivalent about boat-people and most other hot-button issues (gay marriage, climate change, the republic, etc); and thinks Australia is a great place to live, and in which hopefully one day to be able to afford a Mac-mansion, with a double-garage.  Definitely aspirational rather than a Howard battler.  I can’t picture such a creature myself, so I will ask Lindsay if he can come up with at least the male simulacrum of a typical SMH reader.  See appendix#9.  (*A bridgee is what SMH journalists now call people from the North Shore – their former core readership.)

01/05/15 Friday, BONDI -

Today is the first “official” day of my separation from the Club.  I am sorry to miss Robert Warburton’s farewell, but at least I contributed to whatever they are going to give him.  He has been a good and faithful servant of the Club.  He has been there, he told me, as long as I have been a member – more than 28 years.  I had held out a small window of hope that the committee would find a way to fix the mess they have made of things.  David Say, bless his heart, went to see the President on Tuesday with what he thought was a face-saving way out (involving going back in time and giving me the opportunity to withdraw my nomination after being apprised that it was not likely to be approved - which is what they should have done in the first place).  But even that escape hatch was closed, the President saying that the committee was adamant that Peter would not be re-admitted, full-stop, end of story.  The best they could do would be to send me a letter saying their rejection was not a reflection on me.  But it is, and there’s the rub. For it’s no longer a matter of Peter’s blackballing.  It is the way it was handled, and the way the consequences of what they were doing were disregarded, or dismissed.  But that’s water under the bridge now.  I saw Peter yesty and explained what had happened.  He tried to get me to change my mind, saying I should not suffer because of him.  But this is a scourge for my own back, and I will bear it with the fortitude that St Lawrence of Rome did – “Turn me over, Brothers, I’m done on this side.”  (That was DH Lawrence’s final sentence in the original version of Kangaroo, and I am content with it.)  Today Sandra and I, eschewing the Club, are going to the Duelling Chopsticks journo’s lunch in Chinatown.  I am back with my own people – and I can be reasonably sure there is one person who will not be there, and who I would otherwise see had I dined at the Club, or went to Geoffrey’s Literary Dinner next Tuesday.

02/05/15 Saturday, BONDI -

Let’s turn away from clubs and clubland, for there is something immeasurably more interesting to talk about today.  For something quite dramatic – the word apocalyptic trembles on my lips – has happened.  It looks as if we have happened upon one of Australia’s really great stories – and it’s about my family, my mother’s side, the Easons.  (“We” are Sandra, me, my cousin Kerrie, Sandra’s cousin Gennie Granger, my Watson and veteran researcher John Ruffels, and Susan Hurley, the historian of the Hurley clan, a junior branch of which is the Easons, my mother’s family.)  Part of – the beginning – of this saga is outlined in my life-book, where it made up chapter 13, “The Eason Family Mystery Solved?”  The mystery revolves around why my mother left a comfortable life in the mid-west, around Coonamble and Gilgandra (where her grandfather, George Eason snr, owned considerable tracts of land, several department stores and was Mayor of Coonamble) and fetched up in the slums of Glebe, living on the poverty-line.  What had happened to lead to this startling change of circumstances?  The suspicion was (and I outline the extensive background to all this in appendix #10) that something had happened in or around Coonamble in 1918-19 involving an aborigine and a rogue pregnancy which led to my grandmother, my mother and her four brothers being expelled from (I now know) Gilgandra and exiled to very down-market Glebe, then one of Sydney’s most indigent inner-city suburbs.  It was the question-mark in the heading of that last chapter of my life-book that was left unexplained, and which I promised to try to solve in this diary of a Boy from Bondi.  (See 28/10/14 re this.)  Well, it’s by no means solved – far from it - but it has opened up into something much bigger, and which I believe will become one of the major sub-themes in this diary (along with Bondi, journalism, Squiz, DH Lawrence, clubland, and, I suppose I can now say, literature and language).  So buckle your seat-belts, folks.  It’s going to be, I think you will find, a roller-coaster ride.

03/05/15 Sunday, BONDI -

I am now going to say something very politically-incorrect.  The White House last week announced its nominee for the next Attorney-General of the United States, the most senior legal official in the land.  It turned out that the best person for the job was black and a woman.  I have no reason to believe she is not the best person for the position, and that being black and female had nothing to do with it.  And it has nothing to do with me, or Australia.  I do not know her, nor anything about her as an individual.  Yet for me she represents something that has been bothering me – indeed, haunting me.  This is the rising phenomenon of the firm-jawed, grim-countenanced, Terminator-like, high-flying female lawyer.  I say haunt because in my mind they loom up, as a subset of the human race, like the phantasmagoria in Macbeth – “a succession of dim and doubtfully-real figures”, demi-witches in fact.  (“How now, you secret, black, and midnight hags?”)  We had one in our units at Bondi.  (The following names have been changed or omitted to protect me from defamation – for these predatory harridans can be highly litigious.)  Though she wasn’t blonde, let’s call her Brünnhilde, and she was with a top Sydney law firm.  (How law firms today must rue the day the Pill was invented.)  She got on to the units’ committee, then proceeded to manipulate the running of the body-corporate to her advantage, ensuring that her unit got the best of the stage-three renovations.  When Sandra, me and Robin resigned from the committee, she gave us a good-riddance glare, and went on her steely-way.  (Soon after she got pregnant, sold her unit for millions, and went off to find bigger premises for her prospective family – the next step in her career.)  Then there was that chap whose wife was “general counsel” for a big Media company.   I’ve seen them about in the Club, too, power-dressed and beady-eyed, looking for someone or something to put down.   When I was writing something recently, the image of one of them rose up threateningly behind my chair, and momentarily stayed my fingers.  But FitzGerald-like, my typing finger moved on, for I am not going to let these pale Hecates daunt me, though Birnam Wood to great Dunsinane doth come. 

04/05/15 Monday, BONDI -

I was walking up Hall Street early on Saturday morning (my God - how that street has changed since I was a kid!), filling in time while Sandra was at her gym further up in O’Brien Street, and glancing in the widows of the many estate agents who have put up their shingles there.  In one agent’s shop were some pictures of units to rent in Bondi.  One place caught my eye.  It was at 42a Wallis Parade North Bondi – two down from where I grew up, at number 38.  It was, admittedly, a large unit, with three bedrooms, two bathrooms, and garage space.  Yet it was $2400 a week!  In Wallis bloody Parade - four blocks from the beach, with only a view of the other side of the street to gaze out on!  There were several other places for rent at over $2000, and none under $800 a week.  I had not realised how the increasingly up-market status of Bondi – its yuppisation -was being reflected in the rents.  It’s crept up on me.  What would we get for our place?  Enough, I suspect, to live in comfort, if not the life of Riley, almost anywhere else in the world.  Coincidentally, someone moved into Werner’s unit above us yesty.  He is 30ish, and his big BMW is parked downstairs in Werner’s garage (it can hardly fit in).  Obviously a high-flyer, perhaps from interstate or overseas – I thought I detected a New Zealand accent - with a generous allowance for local accommodation (he has two surfboards).  He was very friendly and introduced himself and I have asked him to drop down for a drink.  No doubt there are plenty like him wanting a nice pad in at Bondi, overlooking the beach.  We are beginning to think of perhaps going back to London again, and renting (or house-swapping), say, a mews-house in Notting Hill-Holland Park for six months or a year or so.  Hmmmm…

05/05/15 Tuesday, Bondi -

This morning we had our first fog of the year. Before 6am, a cool, clear day was dawning. It’s now 6.15, and Bondi is blanketed in a thick white fog – a “pea-souper”, in fact. From my balcony I can hardly see the water below. (But now it’s lifting, and the pavilion is coming into view.) Fogs are a comparatively-rare weather phenomenon in southern, temperate climes, where Bondi of course is. Now, however, it is the season for fogs in Sydney. It’s autumn - the southern-hemisphere’s equivalent of Keates’s “Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness”. Lawrence also noted this in Kangaroo, writing: “there were fogs in the morning, and foghorns on the harbor”. That was in early June, but he had already seen, on his arrival in Sydney on May 26, 1922, it was misty around Circular Quay.   I cannot remember surfing or going to school at Bondi in a fog, though I do recall it being misty when playing early-morning golf at Woollahra. LATER: there was dew on the grass as we walked in Centennial Park this morning, and a low mist on Moore Park as we drove by. Now it’s a bright clear, day, and promises to be 26 degrees, and sunny. I hope it’s still that when we get back to Bondi this afternoon, after picking up Dan at IKEA (it’s his second day there in his new job). He’s going to help us hang the new picture we bought yesty of Bondi (it’s a photograph, actually, but of picture-quality). It’s a panorama of the centre of the beach – entitled “Panorama” – and it will enhance our apartment and make it more redolent of the beach and Bondi generally. I also wrote this morning the blurb that will go on the top of this diary when it goes “live” today. I will cite it here, too, for it is the reason why I am writing this diary:  

THE DIARY OF A BONDI BOY is a day-by-day view of the world from a balcony overlooking Bondi Beach, written by a former journalist who was born and grew up in Bondi, and who has returned there to enjoy life in the greatest beach in the greatest city in the greatest country in the world (written in the form of part-diary, part causerie).

06/05/15 Wednesday, BONDI -

All my at least professional life I have prided myself on one major thing – I think I know what‘s happening around me. I believe I know how the world works (in general terms), and what’s going on in Australia, Sydney and Bondi. My “general knowledge” is, I thought, of a high order. If I saw anything about me, be it a lolly-paper in the gutter, or something in the street - though I might not know the exact cause or set of circumstances that produced it - I would not be surprised by it. (This attribute is what Alan Barnes tried to drum into us as cadet journalists, more than half a century ago - we had to know what was going on around us, to cultivate that quintessential journalistic utensil: a news-nose.) Admittedly, the information revolution has made the world immeasurably more complex and complicated. Yet I can - I had thought – still walk around, watch TV, and listen to what people are saying and doing, recognising that it was part of a world and existence that was within my compass, part of my world, my reality. That belief got shaken on Sunday when I saw a crowd of people outside Ravesi’s café/bar on the corner of Hall and Campbell Parade. There must have been more than 50 there, staring through the café door and window (inside it was packed). They were even watching from the other side of the street, spilling over into the road in front of what used to be the corner café. Then I recalled having seen a security guard outside the hotel on the corner of Cleveland and Crown, on the way home. I wondered at the time what was going on, for the hotel was also full-to-overflowing. It turns out they were congregating to watch a fight on TV. It was, apparently, a welter-weight world-title-bout. Not only did I not know it was on, but I hadn’t the foggiest idea who was fighting, or why, or where. The sacred who?-what?-when?-where?-and-why? – the five-W’s of journalism – had failed me entirely. Normally I was (for I can no longer say “am”) pretty good on sporting events, but this “Fight of the Century” had avoided my radar and my hitherto vaunted news-nose, altogether. Is this old age creeping up on me? Are my journalistic skills failing me? Is it a consequence of the surplus of information? Or was it that I was not interested enough to pick it up? (That’s the most likely “targeted” explanation - I hope.) But it’s something I will have to watch, for I want to keep my news-nose on the q.v.

07/05/15 Thursday, BONDI -

 We have just had – there is no lesser word for it – a brainwave, which might elevate the fortunes of our internet business and Cybersydney from the realm of good ideas into the nirvana of success and money-making. In that respect, this would well be my most important diary entry, certainly up until this Tuesday (which was when the idea hit me). This week Peter converted the Word document in which I was writing my diary into a website, and put it up on the internet (while informing Google of its debut). The URL is It looks nice, and as I was looking at it for the first time, as it then was, I thought how more attractive it would be if, instead of having static pictures (of the view from our balcony, and snaps of me from my LIFESNAPS file) we had a clip of, say, the view through my study door of the beach, etc. It was then that a far, far better idea came to me. Why don’t we make it a live-feed from our balcony overlooking the beach? Why don’t we make that a primary feature, and attraction, of The Diary of a Boy from Bondi - 24/7 live vista of the most famous beach in the world? People would come to it from all over Sydney, Australia and the world to view the changing scene (after all, Bondi Rescue goes all over the globe). Then let’s go even further and make it the showcase, the shop-window, of what else we are doing – Cybersydney, and all that. We could put in a link to CyberBONDI, and from there to the whole of Cybersydney – all our 14 CXs. And from there to the Library of Life, etc, etc. (Squiz might even get a look-in.)   The revenue? Google ads initially, but then who knows what businesses might like to have their goods and services advertised to the wider world? We will do it, starting yesterday.

08/05/15 Friday, BONDI -

It’s been a busy – and productive – week, and today is the appropriate day to be writing this entry.  For from today I am switching my allegiance from the Friday group at the Club to the Pioneers.  This is not an act of treachery (nor pique), but a proportionate and appropriate response to the events of the past 10 days or so, after my nominee for membership of the UUSC, my childhood friend Peter Wrench, was blackballed by the Club committee (see 22/4/15 & photo below). 


That’s Peter on my right in a 1950 class-photo at Bondi Beach Public School.  (It was his mother who put the cross above my head.)


On Wednesday Sandra, in my absence, presided over the White Tie lunch – the final one at the Club – and finished the occasion by telling the 20-or-so who attended (the topic was “Whitlam – Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know?”) why I was not there.  It was appropriate and proportionate that I absented myself as my gesture of protest against the abrogation, by the committee, of the Club’s conventions and traditions - see Sandra’s explanatory remarks at appendix #12 (she apparently carried off the occasion with some aplomb, if not panache).  That left me to decide what to do next.  I couldn’t not do anything, yet nor should I cut off my nose to spite my face.  My switching allegiance to the Pioneers will get my message of protest across to the Club and the committee, without severing my (and Sandra’s) connections with the Club of which I have been a member for going on for 30 years, and of which Sandra has been, first an associate member, and now a full member, for over half a century.  Moreover, I think I can do something to assist the Pioneers, whose continued existence, not to put too fine a point on it, is shaky, bordering on tenuous.  I certainly can’t do much now to advance the cause of the UUSC.   Yet I think I can help the Pioneers - of which I have also been a member since Peter Wrench and I arranged their semi-merger with what was then the Union Club in 2003.  But now it’s goodbye Friday group - which I founded more than 12 years ago - and hello Tuesday Group.  (They’re in for a bit of a surprise, too, I think.)

09/05/15 Saturday, BONDI -

Last Saturday I got an interesting email from Rob Douglass (ex-banker, ex-Club, etc).  It was catchlined “Brief Encounter”.  It described Rob and his partner Jenn trying to catch a ferry into town (the live at Drummoyne).   They missed the ferry and looked round for a taxi to take them to the bus-stop up on Victoria Road.  One was parked by the wharf, waiting for a fare.  Rob takes up the story:  “Just then a man, balding with thin straggly long white hair, emerged from a block of flats and got into the taxi.  Jenn asked if he would mind if we shared the cab up to the bus-stop.  He said:  ‘Hop in!’  Discussion with our benefactor was limited to the unreliability of the ferries and the ineptness of the government in fixing the problem, and the vast sums wasted on 'upgrading' the wharf.  After we got out, I said to Jenn that I thought I knew his face.  ‘Yes,’ she said.  ‘That was John Pilger.’  Rob had not recognised him, despite the fact that had met in the 1970s when Pilger was trying to raise money to start a left-wing newspaper.  So my Old School Chum was back in town again.  “Thar’ she blows” (see 13/04/05 & appendix #2).  But I liked Rob’s straggly-white-hair description.  Blond men, like Pilger, go bald quicker.  God works in many strange ways, His wonders to perform.

10/05/15 Sunday, BONDI -

We watched the UK election results (on BBC World service) on Friday night and into Saturday morning.  What a triumph for Tory leader Cameron, and what a disaster for everyone else except the Scottish Nationalists, who won 56 of the 59 seats north of the border (they even elected the youngest MP since 1667 – a 20-year-old lassie with the lovely Scottish name of Mhairi Black, who campaigned, inevitably, via social media).  But given the mood the Scots are in, they would have elected a haggis, had it stood.  They’ll be a lot of soul-searching after this result, especially on the left, which lost seats and votes to the Tories when they were expected to at least equal them in both respects, yet fell almost 100 seats shy.  That electorates are in a volatile mood is undeniable, but is something else happening?  Could this be The Strange Death of Progressive England?  Labour and the Scots wanted an end to “austerity” and a return to socialist principles – Beveridge’s 1945 welfare state updated.  With a palpable recovery in progress, the electorate – at least in the south of England – didn’t want any of that.  Boris Johnson believes the UK should become a Federation, with four separate “States” (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) and the House of Lords turned into a kind of Senate.  Though this was universally poo-poohed, I think the UK will have to go at least some distance down that road.  With 56 MPs answering to Edinburgh and Glasgow, Scotland will be ungovernable from Westminster.  (Of course, Labour will never again govern in its own right.)  All that can be said for certain is that this situation will not last five years.  In 10 Downing Street, the honeymoon, such as it is, will be very brief.  (And the inevitable bye-elections will be most interesting, which we will watch from the sideline.)

11/05/15 Monday, BONDI -

What was it like, growing up in Bondi, and being a Bondi boy?  How much has Bondi changed since then…the late 1940s and early 1950s?  Given that this diary is now going further afield – around the world, in fact – I think people who come to it might like to know more about the place, then and now (though the “now” is very much the subject of this DIARY OF A BOY FROM BONDI).  Some of this is told in chapter 1 of my life-book, Against the Grain – A Life in the Information Business, which can be accessed in THE LIBRARY OF LIFE (go to ).  But reading books, in either hard-copy or digital format, is not everyone’s cup of coffee these days.  Indeed, a major theme of this diary is that books are dead.  So I have extracted from my life-story a few relevant, or pertinent, paragraphs from chapter 1, “The Boy from Bondi”.  This gives a short pen-picture (obsolete expression!) of life in Bondi around 1950-52 - see appendix #12 - before it was yupped, and came up in the world of real-estate.

12/05/15 Tuesday, BONDI -

Those of a grammatical turn of mind will recognise, in some of the above entries, the Oxford Comma - see, eg, 04/05/15:  “It was, admittedly, a large unit, with three bedrooms, two bathrooms, and garage space.” (note the final comma).  As a sub-editor, and a student of the English language, I am very interested in punctuation and correct usage (though, as some authority I respect once said, it is usage that largely determines what is “correct”).  I especially pride myself on the use and deployment of commas (see, eg, 12/02/15).  I would go so far as to assert I am an expert of the deployment of commas, which are, I believe, one of the fundamental components of our language (and literature).  Thus the differential use of the Oxford and ordinary commas is important to me and what I write.  So what is the Oxford comma?  Put simply (though very little is simple where usage is concerned), the Oxford comma – also known as the serial comma or the Harvard comma - is the final comma inserted before a conjunction (and, but, etc) in a series of nouns, eg Tom, Dick, and Harry.  Yet most writers would punctuate this as Tom, Dick and Harry, omitting the Oxford comma.  It becomes more pertinent when more than three nouns are involved, viz:  “Bob, Fred, Jane, and Bill”.  In any such list of nouns, that final (Oxford) comma is often omitted, viz: “Bob, Fred, Jane and Bill”.  But I believe, contrary to popular usage, the Oxford comma should sometimes be inserted, as it can remove any confusion which a linkage between the final two nouns might imply.  (In the above example, if the Oxford comma is omitted, it is the bathroom rather than the unit that might have the garage.)  Yet for me the crucial point is whether there is, or should be, a pause in normal speech between those final two words.  For it is speech, I believe, which largely determines the use of commas (that, and clarity of expression, and mellifluousness).  If you would pause when saying something (“Bob, Fred [pause], and Bill”), punctuation should be put in to make what you write better-said and fully comprehensible.  For the mind automatically turns what is written and read into speech-format.  That is how our brain and verbal facilities function.  Lawrence once said, replying to someone who had criticised his use of commas:  “Comma or no comma is all the same to me.”   But in practice he would never have thought that, and was only saying it for effect, for he was meticulous about how he wrote, and paused, and punctuated (see?).  I know, for I have read his 8th novel Kangaroo a hundred times, and have never found a comma missing or out of place.  (But I will have to go and check about his use or non-use of the Oxford comma.)

13/05/15 Wednesday, BONDI -

I speak – or could once speak – Bondiese.  That does not mean that I speak differently to those unfortunate souls who did not have the privilege of growing up in Bondi.  For there is no such thing as a Bondi accent.  When I was growing up in Bondi, however, I did have a particular accent, and this was what used to be called “educated Australian” (to distinguish it from what most other people – especially in working-class Bondi – spoke, “broad Australian”).  Educated Australian is more closely related to the way English is spoken in middle-class England, while Broad Australian is, well, less English, and is closely associated with the way people speak in, say, the outback or rural Australia (but I don’t want to get into geographic niceties here).  The way I spoke as a child I probably inherited from my father, who had been brought up in New Zealand by my school-master grandfather, whose was very anglophile (when he stood for parliament in Wellington his election slogan was MOTHER KNOWS BEST).  Certainly I spoke differently to the way my class-mates at Bondi Public spoke (they called me “The Professor”).  But it’s not my Bondi accent, or rather lack of it, that I’m referring to here, but rather the language and vocabulary I used when growing up in Bondi – for Bondi does have, or at least had, a distinctive, particular terminology, or lingo.  Recently I tried to compile a glossary of “Bondi words”, and this is the list I came up with:

…the Stink-pot; the Murk; the Bogey-hole; the Quarry; the Gun; the Jungo; Six-ways; Seven-ways; the Terminus; the Trams; the Beach; the Rocks; the Baths (pronounced “barthes”); the Point; the Rip (also known as “the Bondi Tram”); the School; the Pub; the Shops; the Gully; the Bus; the Southerly; dumper; “out the back”; “shoot the waves”; “Saturday-arvo”; bindi-eyes; the cry of the paper-boy; surf-reel; the Beach Inspector; bottle-oh; the Beach-front; the Rose Bay Surf Club; the Astra; the Drain; the Surf; catch a wave; Tammo; a pass-out; the disappearing beach; the surfing season…

…and that’s where I stopped to write this entry.  I haven’t enough space here to define these words and expressions – which I may add to - but I do so in appendix #13.  (Yet I should also mention that my Irish/Catholic-educated mother had not-a-little to do with the way I spoke as a child.  To this day I aspirate my aitches, as those who went to a Catholic school also do.)

14/05/15 Thursday, BONDI -

One of the most visible recent changes in Bondi has been the proliferation of “cafes”.  On our way to the office this morning I noticed a new one had opened in lower Bondi Road (in a former video shop), and yet another one near Six Ways in Glenayr Avenue, which is fast becoming the Montmartre of Bondi.  A fresh one crops up almost every week – or every month anyway.  Drinking coffee morning, noon, afternoon, and night is a major part of life in our area (and elsewhere in Sydney- it’s a city-wide or even national phenomenon).  They have set up business in post offices, converted electricity sub-stations, chemists, laundromats, and in former shops and businesses of every shape, size and genre.  There are even pop-up ones!  I see a cafe has replaced the former haberdashery shop at the bottom of my street in Wairoa (on the corner of which is now a Jewish café, once a butcher-shop).  If there is one business that is booming in Bondi and elsewhere, it’s the café business (that, and Thai massage).  It seems almost unAustralian these days not to get your regular, daily dose of caffeine – it’s our national drink now.  Yet it’s more a sociological or demographic phenomenon than a beverage trend.  It’s the café the place rather than coffee the drink that is the pertinent thing.  Cafes are now the place to meet and chat and, particularly in Bondi, to park the pram and tether the pooch.  Once the Cross was the place to go for cafes.  But then the ubiquitous espresso “coffee machine” came on the scene, with its baristas, and lattes and macchiatos.  The old coffee places – “coffee lounges” - like Repins, Cahills, and the Victory Café in Darlinghurst Road (which was still dispensing “continental” meals when we were living there in the mid-1970s) are gone, as has the iconic Gelato Bar on the beachfront in Campbell Parade.  With the rise of coffee we are losing the traditional morning-tea and, especially, the afternoon-tea – once an important social event in Australia.  We have turned from a nation of tea-drinkers into a country of coffee-sippers.   I myself have never been much of a fan of coffee.  (A “café” is where coffee is served, by definition.)  Personally, I can take it or leave it.  At home as a child we seldom if ever had coffee, and if we did it was a disgusting ersatz concoction – was it called Camp Coffee? – which was laced with chicory, and was drunk mainly as a flavouring in boiled milk.  (This was almost certainly the coffee beverage Lawrence mentions in Kangaroo, consumed after their return from their day-trip to Wollongong.)  We did have a coffee percolator, but I never saw it used.  I can remember my first cup of cappuccino.  It was in a cute little coffee-shop in Roslyn Street, just down from Darlinghurst Road.  Jim Musgrave, a court reporter on the SMH, with whom I played tennis, had asked me to meet him there.  I had just become a sub on the Tele, and we talked about journalism, I lauding the role of the sub above that of the reporter.  He demurred, strongly.  I don’t remember anything about the cappuccino, except perhaps that it seemed very bohemian and Crossish – what today would be called “trendy”.  But now it’s incorrigibly suburban, and whatever allure or glamour it once had has been lost on the outside tables and open-frontages of Bondi and elsewhere.  For café coffee – like Bondi - has been comprehensively yupped.           

15/05/15 Friday, BONDI -

I came yesty across a new part of Bondi that I had never before realised existed – North Bondi Village.  Now, of all the places on Earth I know better than any other, it’s North Bondi.  I grew up in North Bondi.  My street, Wallis Parade, was in North Bondi.  I am really a North Bondi Boy.  I know it like the back of my proverbial hand.  Nothing could move in North Bondi without me knowing it – at least until I was in my mid-20s, and got married and went overseas.  But even when I returned to live in Bondi in the mid-1980s, I thought I could still say that I knew all there was to know about North Bondi.  So where is the North Bondi Village that I missed somehow?  Where was it hidden?  Where in Bondi would you secrete an entire village?  It swam into my ken yesty when I was showing a potential new staff-member how CyberBONDI works.  We were updating entries for what I thought was the Ben Buckler shops between Ramsgate and Hastings Parade – around what used to be The Terminus (see my Bondi glossary).  Now, however, I found that those shops at the north end of Campbell Parade were in what was called – I assume with some degree of authority or officialdom – “North Bondi Village” (for the name was repeated in several source-databases).  Well, I never.  Actually, I like the name.  There is something of a little village there, with at least five nice cafes; a couple of decent restaurants and take-aways; a good Italian grocer-cum-fruiterer;a  chemist and dry-cleaners; and a brace of hairdressers (one where we used to have an internet cafe and from which we launched CyberBONDI in 1996).  North Bondi Village has my imprimatur.  Go to it, village.

16/05/15 Saturday, BONDI -

Let’s take this concept further. For I think there are other parts of the CyberBONDI subset of Sydney that might qualify for the description or categorisation of “village”. The stretch of shops, etc, along Bronte Road at Charing Cross has been called (by one former shopkeeper who was trying to promote the place) a village – Charing Cross Village, in fact. It is as much a village as North Bondi Village is. The little precinct of cafes and restaurants at the end of Bronte Road, facing the beach, is a bit of a village. On the other hand, similar or analogous precincts are not villages – the shops in Wairoa Avenue at the bottom of my street, Wallis Parade, don’t come up to village-level. The shops along Bondi Road, although village-ish, are too elongated, or not compact enough, to be called a village. Seven Ways is not a village – but Six Ways is beginning to take on a villagey ambiance – hence my description above of it being the Montmartre of Bondi, or at least of Bondi Beach. Looking further afield, Five Ways Paddington could be described as a village, as could other parts of CyberPADDO (Vaucluse, for example). Indeed, we had thought of called CyberINNERSYDNEY, CyberVILLAGES, the villages being Balmain, Glebe, Redfern, Surry Hills, Woolloomooloo, etc – the inner ring of suburbs around the CBD. (The City Council is calling such places, villages. In fact they describe Sydney as “the City of Villages” – “Sydney is made up of diverse urban villages with their own distinct characteristics”, as the Council’s website puts it.) These, of course, are not true villages, for they are suburbs in their own right. But I take the Council’s point. When we come to do Inner Sydney, we will certainly call that CX, cyberVILLAGES.

17/05/15 Sunday, BONDI -

I got a welcome email for Michael Symons on Friday.  (Michael used to be a close friend – see my life-story about just how close – but we had drifted apart in recent years, for a number of regrettable reasons, which I won’t go into here).  So I hope this is the start of, not so much a rapprochement, as a renewal of our formerly amicable relationship.  I was best man at his first wedding, and he waved us off from wharf 13 in Walsh Bay when we left for London in 1971.  He is a very substantial person.  We first met when he and Sandra were in the reporters’ room at the SMH in the late 1960s.  He was their science and pop-music correspondent, and quite left-wing.  He was a (successful) conscientious objector against the war in Vietnam, a conflict that we originally supported, but on which we came to cleave to Michael’s position. Later Michael became very interested in gastronomy.  He is the author of One Continuous Picnic, the definitive book on Australia’s cuisine, at its highest philosophical (and practical) level. For some 15 years he ran a very upmarket restaurant in the Adelaide Hills called the Uraidla Aristologist. Recently he launched a blog called “Meals Matter” ( which does something rather similar, content-wise, to my DIARY OF A BOY FROM BONDI (ie, in effect, it’s a causerie).  I have become a subscriber (or “follower” actually, for he built it using Twitter technology – something I might look into for my own diary/causerie).  I look forward to reading what he has to say, as often as he wants to say it.

18/05/15 Monday, BONDI -

Speaking of shops being taken over by cafes (see 14/5/15) Sandra and I were talking recently about the shops of yesteryear that are no more. She doubted that the shopping “centre” in her Roseville would have any shops today – maybe only a “convenience store, and probably a café. The newsagent will be gone, the butcher, the greengrocer, the chemist, the post office, the habadasher, Buttels the grocer, the delicatessen, the shoemaker, and the milk-bar. (We checked on Google street-view and the chemist is still there, as is – surprisingly - the milk-bar.) Down the bottom of my street not a single shop from my growing up in Bondi remains.   So I can add to Sandra’s list the barber and the hardware store, replaced (as mentioned above) by two cafes, a hairdresser and Mrs Lipton’s corner-store (which was actually one down from the corner butcher shop) by an architect’s office. A lot of generic outlets are gone, and not all thanks to Frank Lowy, whose retail malls are as big and bustling as ever. (Roselands has a lot to answer for, however. The corner-store was a vital part of the local community when I was growing up.) Yet it is not so much that the local shop has moved into the mall, but that other factors are revolutionising the retail landscape. The chemist (and its pharmacist) has been largely replaced by the discount chemist – the dispensing supermarket concept. Shoes are so cheap these days – thanks to China – they are not worth repairing, and the shoemaker has gone the way of the tinker and the hawker (my Killeen ancestors were tinkers and hawkers). Coles and Woolies have taken over food-retailing, leaving only niche outlets behind. People now buy whatever sweets they want in the convenience-store or the service-station, so the sweet-shop has almost disappeared, along with the milk-bar. No one makes or repairs their clothing now, and a sewing machine is as archaic as the cash-register, so goodbye to the haberdasher. Men get their hair cut in unisex salons, now (and hair will always need cutting). No one’s reading newspapers or magazines today, or books for that matter. Sandwiches are packaged not made (who would want to employ “an experienced sandwich-hand” today)? Bunnings has taken over the hardware business, and email is killing the post and its suburban offices. People don’t walk to the shops any more – they drive there, so the car is another cause of the demise of the local shops, on top of China. And then there’s online shopping! There’s a distinct touch of Lark Rise to Candleford about all this, and it makes me feel old. (As I say above, thank God I have Squiz and Cybersydney!)

19/05/15 Tuesday, BONDI -

Sandra gave evidence before a NSW Parliament Select Committee yesty – not something one does every day of the week. She had been called before Fred Nile’s Legislative Council inquiry into the Government’s plans to privatise the 49% of “the poles-and-wires” presently owned by the State’s two electricity distribution authorities – AUSGRID and TRANSGRID. Apparently word had reached them that Sandra has written a history of the electricity industry in NSW, and they wanted to ask her if it might impinge on their considerations. (Sandra’s book – the product of two decades of research, initially commissioned by the main NSW power utility Sydney Electricity – tells a story of malpractice and corruption so damning that their successor, energyAustralia, refused to publish it.) As Sandra said in the first sentence of her submission, she knows where the bodies are buried, and their names. In the event they didn’t ask her much, and what they did, she answered with the authority of someone who has done her homework and knows what she’s talking about (although she reckons her performance only warranted a 7 out of 10). The next witness was Michael Egan, Bob Carr’s Treasurer and a former Energy Minister. He overheard what Sandra had said and asked her for a copy of her book (POWER FOR THE PEOPLE – The Uncensored Story of Electricity in Sydney and NSW), also asking her to autograph it for him. Something of a coup, I think.  (The book is now on sale available from The Svengali Press - email sales inquiries to . It’s our first commercial book. It will not be our last. Her submission can be seen at appendix #14.)

20/05/15 Wednesday, BONDI -

 Those of a grammatical turn of mind will recognise, in some of the above entries, the Oxford Comma (see 04/05/15: “It was, admittedly, a large unit, with three bedrooms, two bathrooms, and garage space.” – note the final comma). As a sub-editor, and a student of the English language, I am very interested in punctuation and correct usage (though, as some authority I respect once said, it is usage that largely determines what is “correct”). I especially pride myself on the use and deployment of commas (see, eg, 12/02/15). I would go so far as to assert I am an expert of the deployment of commas, which are, I believe, one of the fundamental components of our language (and literature). Thus the differential use of the Oxford and ordinary commas is important to me and what I write. So what is the Oxford comma? Put simply (though very little is simple where usage is concerned), the Oxford comma – also known as the serial comma or the Harvard comma - is the final comma inserted before a conjunction (and, but, etc) in a series of nouns, eg Tom, Dick, and Harry. Yet most writers would punctuate this as Tom, Dick and Harry, omitting the Oxford comma. It becomes more pertinent when more than three nouns are involved, viz: “Bob, Fred, Jane, and Bill”. In any such list of nouns, that final (Oxford) comma is often omitted, viz: “Bob, Fred, Jane and Bill”. But I believe, contrary to popular usage, the Oxford comma should be inserted, as it removes any confusion which a linkage between the final two nouns might imply. (In the above example, if the Oxford comma is omitted, it is the bathroom rather than the unit that might have the garage.) Yet for me the crucial point is whether there is, or should be, a pause in normal speech between those final two words. For it is speech, I am convinced, which largely determines the use of commas (that, and clarity of expression, and mellifluousness). If you would pause when saying something (“Bob, Fred [pause], and Bill”), punctuation should be put in to make what you write better-said and fully comprehensible. For the mind automatically turns what is written and read into speech-format. That is how our brain and verbal facilities operate. Lawrence once said, replying to someone who had criticised his use of commas: “Comma or no comma is all the same to me.”   But in practice he would never have thought this, and was only saying it for effect, for he was meticulous about how he wrote, and paused, and punctuated (see?). I know, for I have read his 8th novel Kangaroo a hundred times, and have never found a comma missing or out of place. (But I will have to go and check about his use or non-use of the Oxford comma.)

21/05/15 Thursday, BONDI -

That said, I should now go on to say something about hyphens – unquestionably the most misused item of punctuation in the English language. If, as I say, I see myself as an expert on the use of commas, then what superlative can I bring to bear on hyphens? I suppose I can get my message across by saying that I regard myself as an expert on hyphens, too – and they are a far-more complex matter than commas. (There – I’ve used one: “far-more complex”, see below.) Fowler has a lot to say about hyphens, and little of it complimentary. He begins his four pages of explanation by saying that there is no consensus – even among authorities - on their correct usage. He quotes Churchill (the last refuge of a lexicographer?): “One must regard the hyphen as a blemish to be avoided wherever possible.” Yet, as the admirable Fowler also points out (see my Fowler blog at appendix #1), they are necessary - he would say regrettably - in written text. (Even Victor Borge was flummoxed by the hyphen, and did not include it in his phonetic punctuation .) My friend Gilbert Case, who topped our year in English, is wary about saying anything definitive about hyphens, leaving their usage to personal taste, much as Lawrence did with commas. (He calls punctuation, dismissively, “bird-droppings”.) I, however, take a more-upright position, and I think they are essential – not so much from the point of meaning, but they stiffen up the language, and make it less sloppy and namby-pamby. They are the sinews of grammar, connecting things that should be linked or joined, and making meaning clearer and more precise. I know I am being pedantic here, perhaps even archaic. I realise that many people do not even know what a hyphen is, let alone how and when to use one. So what can I say about the proper use of hyphens? I think there are two major areas where the hyphen should be used – first, in compound nouns; second, when using qualifying adjectives. Take the example above. How should you – if indeed you should at all - hyphenate “a far more complex matter”? Is it a compound noun (a “far-more-complex-matter”)? What is the adjective “far” qualifying? Should it be “a far-more-complex matter”? Personally, I think the “far” qualifies the word “more”, but not necessarily “complex”, hence my chosen punctuation. But I can see arguments for “a far more-complex matter”; “a far more complex-matter”; and even for “a far-more complex-matter”. For those – like Gilbert, and even Fowler – who say or imply that the use of the hyphen is optional, what would they do about “paper boy”? It has to be hyphenated. Yet these waters are getting deeper and more turbid with ever word I write (shouldn’t that be “more-trubid”? - no, I think not.) I had better leave it there, before I go bonkers.

22/05/15 Friday, BONDI -

I went out on my balcony yesterday morning; put my hands on my ship’s rails (see 27/04/15); gazed out over an almost deserted Bondi Beach; then up into the post-dawn sky flecked with wispy grey clouds; took in a deep draught of the clear, clean, crisp air; and said to myself: what a wonderful thing it is to be alive, and to be living where I am. Lines of poetry inevitably come to mind...Oh to be in Bondi, now that’s May is hereBliss was it in that dawn to be alive. I must convey this feeling, and this splendid vista, to the wider world (Earth has not anything to show more fair). I cannot selfishly keep it to myself. Therefore I have decided – as mentioned above (see 07/05/15) - that soon we will have a web-cam installed on our balcony, so that the rest of Sydney, Australia, and the whole wide world can share it too. (We are evaluating various cameras now.) It will show what Bondi looks like every day (and night), 24-hours-a-day, seven-day-a-week…the different moods of the beach; the changing seasons; the storms, the waves (indeed, the surf-conditions); the swimmers, the surfers, the board-riders, the joggers, and those who merely stroll on the sand or the promenade; perhaps even something of the dramas that go on and in and around the beach – so far as the web-cam can take in all this. (We once saw a shark-attack below our balcony.) It won’t be Bondi Rescue, but it will be “live” and “as it happens”. It will complement my daily Bondi Diary. It will be a portal through which everyone can see the wider world as viewed from my balcony overlooking Bondi Beach. (I only hope my words can in some small way do justice to the daily prospect through my study door.)

23/05/15 Saturday, BLACKHEATH -

I got a Google alert earlier in the week informing me that the DH Lawrence Heritage Centre in Nottingham is to host a dog-show on June 7. There will be prizes for the waggiest tail, best crossbreed, handsomest hound, and “the dog the judge would most like to take home”. Apparently they’re trying to raise £5000 for a Labrador charity. Why Labradors are in need of charity is not explained. They seem a popular-enough breed of dog, often being chosen as the family pet. (They also make good seeing-eye dogs, so that might be the point of it.) I have nothing against Labradors, though normally I do not like dogs, despite having had one – “Nigger” - as a kid growing up in Bondi. One afternoon this week I was up at the shops in Hall Street, and there were four dogs tethered at the bottom of the steps leading down to the trendy food-arcade there. Four of them! Bondi has not just been yupped, it’s been pupped (see 7/10/14 for the role of the dog in modern Bondi relationships). Lawrence, I regret to say, was a dog-person, so the Nottingham dog-show has some pertinence, if not precedence. Yet I may be doing him an injustice, for although he wrote a nice poem about his Taos dog Bibbles, he had been rather rough with her, castigating her over her lack of loyalty as a “little Walt-Whitmanesque bitch”. (Whitman, Geoffrey Lehmann points out, was rather promiscuous, and had quite a few boyfriends.) Lawrence was nicer to the cats in Women in Love, describing one of them as “erect and kingly” and praising its masculinity, which his alter ego, Birkin, identifies with. So maybe he was a bit of a cat-person too, as am I. (I do miss Tribly so – see her photo in my life-book.)

24/05/15 Sunday, BLACKHEATH -

We were playing cards with Jo and Arnold at their nice apartment in Randwick last week when Sandra’s Abbotsleigh-friend Jo, who is reading my life-book, sympathised with me for having had such an unhappy childhood.  Obviously I have given the impression that my mother’s drinking problem utterly blighted my early life when growing up in Bondi.  Well, it did – on and off.  But as I also said in Against the Grain, “it seemed quite nice at the time”.  And it was.  As I went on to say, I had a mostly-happy childhood…“there were few clouds on my horizon” (any clouds came later, professionally, during my subsequent journalistic career).  Yet there is something interesting here, beyond my personal life-story, which is worth this causeristic entry.  A movie I saw a while ago on World Movies told the story of a young boy who grew up in a concentration camp in or near Poland (it was a Polish film).  The film depicted him, still clad in his camp-garb, wandering aimlessly through what were no doubt the post-war ruins of Warsaw, wishing he was back in the camp.  There, he had been comparatively happy.  He had liked the camp.  It was where he grew up, and was all he knew.  The point here is that children tend to be happy and extract whatever good they can find from their daily existence, no matter how unfortunate other people – adults – might have found it.  I am certainly not drawing a parallel between growing up in Bondi and life in Auschwitz.  There could be no greater contrast.  Perhaps what I am saying is that happiness is comparative, and can be derived from even the direst circumstances.  Coincidentally, something similar to this phenomenon cropped up recently when Jo and Arnold came over to Bondi for our regular bridge-evening (we alternate fortnightly).  His Dutch parents had been POWs in what is now Indonesia, and he, like the Polish boy, had grown up in a prison-camp, in far-from-pleasant circumstances.  But when he saw on TV – quite accidently – a picture of POW camps in Indonesia, he felt (he told us) a warm glow of familiarity and, yes, happiness.  He had good memories of the camp he grew up in.  Ditto, I suppose, with me in Wallis Parade, North Bondi.

25/05/15 Monday, BONDI -

 Today I want to say something about profanity. How many swear-words do I use in a day? I don’t count them, but it would be quite a few, I think. One thing I find interesting about this is that my swear-words are not only becoming more frequent, but more profane. Yet something holds me back from actually writing the word “fuck”. In fact, that is the first time I have ever written it down. Yet there has to be, so the cliché goes, a first for everything. I believe I heard “that word” used for the first time on TV – by the critic Kenneth Tynan in England in November 1965. Now even Sandra uses it (but I still squirm to hear a woman swearing). Lawrence deployed it, notoriously, in Lady Chatterley (and also in his letters to Ottoline defending his use of it). Now it’s as common as “the great Australian adjective”. Yet CJ Dennis used that most effectively by substituting “bloody” with dashes in his 1908 poem “The Austra-aise” (“a marching song, sung to Onward Christian Soldiers”):


Fellers of Australier,  

Blokes an' coves an' coots,

Shift yer --- carcas

Move yer --- boots.


Now, of course, it would be not the six-letter-word, but the four-letter one. What brought this to mind was considering what I should say if anyone at the Club were to ask why I wasn’t giving the committee a piece of my mind over their unconscionable blackballing of someone I had put up for membership. I would be tempted to respond with the tale of two young boys who were caught illegally fishing somewhere in the outback, and were shooed away by the council ranger. “Why don’t we go back and tell him to get fucked?” one boy said, as they walked away from the riverbank. “Fuck him,” replied the other boy. “Tell him nothing.”, and walked on. That’s the proper Australian response.

26/05/15 Tuesday, BONDI -

 I have had some strange and wonderful bodily malfunctions in my now long lifetime – indeed, I had thought I had had pretty-well all that could be thrown at me. But last week I had a new one diagnosed. Trigger finger. I didn’t even know there was such a thing. Had anyone mentioned the term “trigger finger” to me, I would have thought it had something to do with firearms. “Jessie James had an itchy trigger finger,” or some such Wild West context. I had fronted my GP to get some routine blood tests, and while she was sticking barcodes on the phials I asked about the fourth finger of my right hand, which was “locking” every now and again in a crooked position. After a fairly cursory examination she told me I had contracted, or developed, “trigger finger” (so called because once it is uncrooked, it snaps back into its correct position). It’s caused, apparently, by the tendon thickening and becoming less-elastic. It also has something to do with diabetes, the type-two of which I am also inflicted with. It’s “triggered” by age, an infliction none of us can avoid. Shakespeare wrote of this:


CRABBÈD Age and Youth


Cannot live together:


Youth is full of pleasance,


Age is full of care;


Youth like summer morn,


Age like winter weather;


Youth like summer brave,


Age like winter bare.


Youth is full of sport,


Age's breath is short;


Youth is nimble, Age is lame;


Youth is hot and bold,


Age is weak and cold;


Youth is wild, and Age is tame.


Age, I do abhor thee;


Youth, I do adore thee;


O, my Love, my Love is young!


Age, I do defy thee:


O, sweet shepherd, hie thee!


For methinks thou stay'st too long.



If only we could stay its onset. Alas, we can’t. I will have to live with my crookèd, crabbèd fourth finger (and short breath).

27/05/15 Wednesday, BONDI -

I think, given the above (18/05/15), it behoves me to say what shops and retail businesses are, if not flourishing, then clinging on in this new volatile commercial era – at least in Bondi, which I am very familiar with (though I haven’t done a cyberBONDI block-sweep for more than two years). Cafes, certainly. Ditto hairdressers. Ditto oriental, especially Thai, massage establishments. These are places where bodies are pummeled and otherwise toned up. They are not “massage parlours”, where other and more expensive bodily services are rendered. (In Cybersydney parlance, this is “ethical massage”; the other sort being listed under ADULT SERVICES.) I think there are at least seven oriental massage places in Bondi Road, and several even closer in Hall Street, so presumably there is some local demand. Convenience stores are also proliferating. There are several along “The Strip” (aka Campbell Parade) and one in Hall Street – though that thoroughfare is going up-market faster than Marjorie Jackson got out of Lithgow (it’s taking on Rodeo Drive characteristics, especially from the point of view of clientele.) Con, my IGA supermarket friend in Hall Street, says the convenience stores are actually laundering stolen goods, mainly cigarettes and sweets, the former stolen and the latter taken out the back-door of Coles and Woolies food-marts. What else? Laundromats and dry-cleaners are pretty stable. Restaurants are flourishing, and some new mainly-ethnic variety seems to be opening every month in Bondi and Surry Hills (where our office is). It’s a moot point which is the more successful today, the café or the restaurant. Video shops are dead, and I haven’t seen much sign of a high-street market for IT (but see below). Cake shops are now called patisseries, and are holding their own, though the Baker’s Delight franchise seems pretty sickly. In fact many of the franchise operations are ailing. ATMs are eating into the bank-branch infrastructure, but otherwise that sector seems healthy enough. To get an up-to-date picture of the retail sector you would have to look at the shopping malls, like Westfield Bondi Junction. There shop-churn is regular, but overall the mall seems to be doing very well (Bondi Junction’s is so busy at the weekend that you can’t park there). So what would Mrs Worthington put her daughter into these days?   Nor journalism, certainly, nor any of the professions (given the graduate output today). A trade perhaps. But maybe the stage, which is largely taxpayer-funded nowadays. I was chatting to a bank officer last week. She was getting nowhere in the bank, and asked for my advice. I told her to learn all she could at the bank’s expense, then resign and set up in some business of her own…anything, even cleaning cars - but be your own boss, and the master, or in this case, mistress of your fate. (Had she really wanted a career in journalism, I would have told her to learn computer code, which I am pleased to see is now Labor Party policy.)        

28/05/15 Thursday, BONDI -

Incidentally, I’ve discovered why probably there are so many Thai and “oriental” massage establishments in Bondi (and I presume elsewhere in Sydney). It had been worrying me, as I could not see any commercial reason for their prevalence. I had ruled out sex, for they seemed to be genuinely offering “ethical massage”, and not something more sinister – a front for “adult services”, as we coyly categorise it in our CXs: cyberBONDI, etc). However, I learned this week that such bodily attention is not only tax-deductible, but you can claim it from your medical fund. It’s classified, officially, as “alternative medicine” (and we have a section for that, too, in cybersydney). So as the other suburban or high-street shops go out of business, due to factors mentioned above (18/5/15), some of their places are being taken over by busy little oriental hands and fingers (and feet, I am led to believe), subsidised thoughtfully by your taxes and medical fund contributions. (The masseurs are no doubt moonlighting Asian uni-students.) Good on them. Nature abhors a vacuum, and here was a gap in the streetscape that needed to be filled. So now we have not only the Thais that bind, but pummel and rub too. (I’m sorry, but puns are in my journalistic DNA.)

29/05/15 Friday, BONDI -

I’m wrong about IT shops in the High Street – for one has just opened in Bondi Road!  It hasn’t got a name yet, but it is offering a full range of ICT services, though it seems to be favouring the laptop and mobile-device carriage-trade.  And now I come to think of it, a similar shop recently set up business in the Surry Hills Village shopping-centre up the street from us at 431 Cleveland.  So is this the shape of our digital future to come, the replacement for the video shop in the High Street, the inexorable consequence of February 23, 1981?  The oriental massage places had better look to their laurels, those busy little Asian fingers might soon have some local competition.

30/05/15 Saturday, BLACKHEATH -

A question of perennial interest to me is the extent to which we are in control of our body and mind, and to what extent we are influenced – driven even - by factors over which we have little or no control. One of my favourite stories (almost certainly apocryphal) is of the American professor who comes across two yokels repairing a hedgerow in Shakespeare country. Asked what they were doing with the hawthorn branches they were working with, one replies (in a thick Warwickshire accent, reflecting Hamlet): “He rough-hews them, and I shape their ends.” That it is destiny that shapes our ends, “rough-hew them as we may”, goes back to at least the Fates, who in Greek mythology decided how long our “thread of life” would be. Today, we know that our inherited genetic make-up – our DNA – determines much of what we are and even what we do. But at least we can hope to learn something along the way from the process of “growing up”. Most other creatures – all living things – are ruled by their DNA and the genes they inherited from their parents and ancestors. They learn little from their environment, other than what they are programmed to do. Yet it’s the degree or extent that my genes run me that intrigues and fascinates me. How much of what I do – even of what I think – is “free-will” and under my direction, and what run by my ancestors? Am I 90-10, 50-50 or 20-80 genetic? It is this thought that is causing me to look more closely into my family history. Am I more a Darroch than an Eason?   How much a Killeen, how much a Fairbrother or Armstrong? If only they had left me their life-stories – but of course, they have…in my DNA. I must get my DNA analysed. I am told National Geographic can do this now. Our philosophy Forum Speaker last Saturday – her subject was the philosophy of time – said there was no such thing as free-will. All of time has been laid out by the Big Bang, and we are just playing out what we have been programmed to do. It’s the Calvinist idea of predestination, from the point of view of Relativity. What I have just written was predestined by the Big Bang, as will what I write tomorrow…

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Shakespeare put it in the mouth of Macbeth.

31/05/15 Sunday, BLACKHEATH -

Today is the last day of May, so I can cast a clout tomorrow (though in our hemisphere one should be putting on a clout, not casting it off).  Last week I was doing a block-sweep of Bondi Beach and North Bondi, my boyhood stamping-ground, when, as I drove down Hastings Parade towards Wairoa, I remembered the bonfire that used to be lit on Cracker Night on the corner of those two streets in what used to be a large open space, marred only by a block of 1930s flats erected on the wrong side of Brighton Boulevard (and which is still there, surrounded now by Wairoa Special School).  That was on Empire Day, May 24, when we got a half-day holiday at Bondi Beach school to mark one of the most important dates in the Australian calendar, originally Queen Victoria’s birthday (inaugurated in 1905).  Some time in the Sixties it was watered down into British Commonwealth Day, and in the Nineties it was abolished altogether (though nominally it was merged into the Queen’s Birthday Monday, which this year falls on June 6).   We don’t have Cracker Night any more either, it being deemed politically incorrect too, and likely to start a bushfire.  So no more Catherine Wheels, Tom Thumbs, Double Bungers, Mt Vesuviuses,  Roman Candles...and skyrockets!  How I loved skyrockets.  (Before Empire Day there was also Guy Fawkes Day, November 5, when crackers and rockets could be let off.)


Remember, remember, the fifth of November,

Gunpowder, treason and plot.               

How many Australians remember Guy Fawkes and his plot to blow up James 1?  In London we had to give “a penny for the Guy” to Irish urchins at Tube-station exits.  Ah, that brings back some memories of wintry London, and the smell of paraffin in the night-streets in Notting Hill.  Ah, Bisto!

01/06/15 Monday, BONDI -

What would it be like growing up a Bondi Boy today?   What would be different? How different would it be?   I have no Bondi boys I could ask, so I’ll have to speculate. Physically, Bondi hasn’t changed all that much (though it is going through a period of rapid change now). Yet it is still largely the Bondi I remember as a kid, some 60 years ago. The beach hasn’t changed (despite the dire predictions of the climate changers). The waves are still as beautiful as ever, and the sand is still there as I remember it. Despite advancing yuppification, the streets behind the beach appear much as my memory pictures them. The same blocks of flats are still in Ramsgate Avenue and Brighton Boulevard and the beach-facing ends of Wairoa, Gould, Warners, Beach, and Glasgow. My Wallis Parade, four blocks from the beach, has changed – one whole side of the street I knew is no more. But Blair, Oakley Road, and the streets either side of O’Donnell and Murriverie are mostly intact. So the streetscape is much the same. The golf course is still there, as is Bondi Public and St Annes. Even the Hotel Bondi is recognisable despite it being half-demolished and developed as luxury units and up-market shops. (It has its own arcade now between Campbell and Gould.) Of course my cinemas are gone, as is the amusement park that stood where the Swiss Grand before they started redeveloping it into God knows what. The Berkeley flats next to the school are, surprisingly, untouched, while most of the shops along the beachfront, have different businesses now (there’s probably a preservation order along the whole of Campbell Parade). It’s the population that’s changed. Today I don’t see boys – or girls – playing in the street. No kids are riding bikes around the place, as I once did. There are no backyard tennis courts any more. Even Don Ferguson’s courts in Wellington Street are gone (transplanted to Bondi Bowling Club, of all places!) Do kids still fish off the rocks at North Bondi? I don’t think so. So what do they do if there are no cinemas to go to; no milk-bars to congregate in; no vacant allotments to pick over; no merry-go-rounds or dodgems to frequent; no mini-golf holes to putt balls into; no billy-carts to construct and hurtle down streets in; no lemonade stands to raise some pocket-money; no golf balls to find and sell; no palm-fronds to strip off and turn into bows-and-arrows; no bee-bee guns or sling-shots to terrorise the neighbourhood; no water-pistols; no marbles; no jacks; no games of street cricket (“French cricket”); no “over the fence is out”; no racing “boats” down flooded gutters; no catching tadpoles; no cowboys and Indians; no hide-and-seek; in fact, not getting into mischief at all? They’re probably watching TV or playing computer games on their iphones. February 23, 1981, has a lot more to answer for.

02/06/15 Tuesday, BONDI -

My little spider by the door has a friend, or at least a companion.  (Or maybe a rival, or even – shudder – a foe.)  He’s bigger than my little friend who has his hole and web a few inches from where I insert the key to unlock the grille gate (see 30/10/14).  So he could be a she, as I believe in the spider world the female is not only deadlier than the male, but bigger.  At the moment it is trying to construct its own web under the window frame about 10 feet across the entry-atrium.  It may well be a relative.  It definitely looks of the same ilk.  I will keep an eye on things (but not interfere with Mother Nature.)  However, this gives me an excuse to mention the greatest spider poem in the world, and one of the best Australia poems of any sort.  It’s The Spider by the Gwydir, and I am going to cite it here in full, for it deserves its complete rendition:


By the sluggish river Gwydir
Lived a naughty red-back spider
And he was just as wicked as can be.

And the place that he was camped in
Was an empty Jones’s jam-tin
In a paddock by the showground near Moree.

Near him lay a shearer snoozing
He’d been on beer and boozing
All through the night
and all the previous day.

And the rookin’ of the rookers
And the noise of showtime spruikers
Failed to wake him from the trance in which he lay.

Then a dainty little sheila
With a smarmy looking spieler
Came along collecting wood to make a fire.

Said the spieler, He’s a boozer
He’s gonna be a looser
If he isn’t you can christen me a liar.

Hustle round and keep nit honey
While I fan the mug for money
We’ll have some little luxuries for tea.

But she said don’t be silly
Go home and boil the billy
You can safely leave the mug to little me.

So she circled ever nearer
Close to that dopey shearer
Who was lying there all fast asleep and snug.

But she didn’t see the spider
That was ringin’ close beside her
For her mind was on the money and the mug.

The spider sighted dinner
He’d been daily growin’ thinner
He’d been fasting and was hollow as a drum.

As she eyed that bulging pocket
He darted like a rocket
And bit that rookin’ sheila on the bum.

The sheila started squealing
Her clothes she was unpeelin’
To hear her cries would make you feel forlorn.

One hand the bite was pressin’
The other was undressin’
And she reached the camp the same as she was born.

Then the shearer pale and haggard
Woke and back to town he staggered
Where he caught the train and gave the booze a rest.

But he’ll never know the spider
That was camped beside the Gwydir
Had saved him sixty smackers of the best.

It was written anonymously by the editor of a mid-west newspaper (Orange?) in the late 19th century, and I agree with Geoffrey Lehmann, who rates it one of the best Australian poems.  The fact that it is amusing makes it even better.  Poetry, like opera, is best when it isn’t too serious.  It’s meant to lift the spirits, not dampen them.

03/06/15 Wednesday, BONDI -

My favourite opera is Don Giovanni, which is satirical, and indeed humourous. In fact, I believe that Mozart’s greatest opera – itself a high measure, given his other operatic masterpieces – is possibly the greatest work of art ever created, which is as high a standard as one can get. Superior to the best painting? Better than the greatest novel? Or poem? Or piece of sculpture or architecture? Or any of the other art forms? Isn’t that a bit over-the-top? I mention in my life-book my innate clerking proclivities – of collating, indexing, sorting, categorising, and ranking. So finding the best of things is something I like doing, and do almost automatically. The idea that Don Giovanni might be the greatest work of art ever-created came to me some time ago. I thought that, like everything else, something must or should have its ultimate – the best-ever, its supreme expression (if only so lesser things can be measured against it). Don Giovanni has a lot going for it, as a work of art. The music is of as high a standard as you will find in that art form. Words set to music is possibly the supreme form of musical expression (as Beethoven’s Ninth so beautifully demonstrates). And music is said to be the highest of the arts, as it goes directly into the mind and body, unlike other art-forms - like writing, painting, sculpture, architecture, and so on - which must be appreciated through their particular modes of expression. So the greatest work of music can lay strong claim to be the ultimate artistic creation. All this could well seem trite, even presumptuous or pompous, were it not that a mind far, far greater than mine also thinks that Don Giovanni is the greatest work-of-art ever.   He is the Danish philosopher Kierkegaard, who wrote an essay arguing just that (see my 11/01/07 Club blog, at appendix #8). So I am in good company.

04/06/15 Thursday, BONDI -

My old school buddy, now Brisbane-domiciled, Gilbert Case sent me a week or so ago a collation of pictures of trams from Sydney’s past.  In particular it had shots of the tram terminus at Ben Buckler (now yuppified and renamed “North Bondi Village” - see 15/05/15), where I once sold papers and polished my youthful tennis-strokes.  I have mentioned Bondi’s trams in several diary entries, and but not yet their most famous manifestation – “the Bondi Tram,” as in the saying, once in common parlance across Sydney, “To shoot through like the Bondi Tram”.  It was idiom for departing from somewhere quickly, or moving quickly in any direction.  It originated in the practice of trams going to and from Bondi along Oxford Street sometimes not stopping at the stops opposite Centennial Park.  They “shot through” between Paddington and Bondi Junction.  That speediness, however, is not the subject of this entry, though the near-legendry-status of the Bondi Tram is, for it is (my legal friends tell me) the Sydney equivalent of the Clapham Omnibus, as in the phrase, “The Man on the Clapham Omnibus”.  This legal personage is, or was, the law’s model or personification of “the average Englishman” whose behaviour and mores were seen as the measure of “reasonableness” in the courts and determinations of British law.  Apparently (my legal friends also assure me) the local equivalent here was “The Man on the Bondi Tram”.  As I explain at appendix #15, the analogy is not inapt, and indeed a reasonable one.  Yet as I also said in that original 23/08/14 Club Blog, the person on any mode of public transport to Bondi today can no longer be taken as anyone average or typical of Sydney, still less of Australia at large.  Australia, Sydney and Bondi have changed.  (However, I still see myself as an archetypal, if no longer necessarily typical, “Bondi Boy”.)

05/06/15 Friday, BONDI -

There is no use hiding it any longer – I am, we are, now well off.  I went shopping today and for the first time in my life I did not look at the prices of the things I bought.  That must constitute something of a milestone or watershed in one’s life.  I no longer shop at my school-friend Con’s IGA shop in Hall Street for our daily needs, but at the new Harris Farm place opposite in the new, and very up-market, food supermarket in the basement.  (I can park quite easily in O’Brien Street, at its back entrance.)  Some time ago I gave up worrying about what we spend.  With the Squiz dividends flowing in, whatever financial concerns we might have had are over.  I now see the point of David Jones’ food court up at Bondi Junction.  The high-priced and luxury goods there are not for the ordinary Bondi-district resident, but the well-off, no doubt from Rose Bay, Bellevue Hill, Dover Heights and – increasing - the more expensive parts of Bondi itself (such as Notts Avenue).  Not that our needs are excessive or extravagant.   It’s just that whether lamb chops are $5 or $10 or more no longer matters.  The outward manifestation of this new-found – yes, wealth – are the flowers we now buy each week (see 02/02/15) for our newly-refurbished apartment, which enhance its appearance and make living here a good deal more pleasant.  Certainly not sumptuous - luxurious maybe (lavish?  opulent?  splendid?  extravagant?  - there are many synonyms for luxury).  As I write this maybe I should have someone behind me, whispering in my ear:  “Remember, you are mortal.” (the Roman triumph’s memento mori …"remember that you have to die”).  I am reminded, forcibly, of a passage in Chips Channon’s diary – see 22/01/15 - where he finds he cannot in 1935 go shopping of a Saturday morning in Kensington without spending £200.  That was obviously said for effect, and gross exaggeration, for today the pound is worth perhaps 50-times as much, and even being married to a Guinness wouldn’t have permitted that degree of weekend indulgence, even at Harrods.  For the record, we spent $93.60 last Saturday, $26 of that on flowers - and the Saturday papers cost an outrageous $6.80.  (I am keeping a tally this week.)

06/06/15 Saturday, BONDI -

The sun came up over the golf course at 7.04 this morning, and it’s 7 degrees outside. It’s winter. Less than three weeks from now it will be the winter solstice, and through my study door the sun will reach its turning point, about an inch short of the Stink Pot, before turning around and retracing its eternal course back to the west, and its rendezvous with the summer solstice. This perennial precession I have mentioned before (see 18/04/15), but it is the Stink Pot itself that I want to mention today – what I have called “my Gloriette”, after the eponymous folly at Schoenbrunn.



Bondi Beach in July 1901. The Allen family from Glebe enjoying a visit to the seaside. Note the original Stink Pot top-right…“and all around, the lone and level sands stretch far away”.


When it was first constructed, at the top of Sewer Street – now Blair Street – it was the outlet for the sewage gasses emanating from the primitive sewerage works underground, whence Sydney’s sewage was discharged into the ocean beneath it. It is Bondi’s premier landmark, its unsung and somewhat shameful symbol of what was once Sydney’s fundamental orifice, and from where its distinctive odour – the stench of the sewage gasses – used to waft over Bondi when the wind was blowing from the east. It was, for me and many other Bondi Boys, the perfume of summer, the welcome harbinger of good beach conditions, and came when the weather was switching from the stormy south to the north-east, bringing with it the prevailing nor-easterly, the summer wind at Bondi. That snapshot above is the prospect those who access our Bondi Diary webcam will see, over a century later, much-changed, through my study door. (Now read tomorrow’s diary entry.)

07/06/15 Sunday, BONDI -

We bought this, our place at Bondi in Notts Avenue, in 1983 from my then company, Kerry Packer’s Australian Consolidated Press.  I had just been appointed London Manager of ACP, and Sandra and I were back in Sydney to be briefed by our editors, and to meet the management of which I was now a part.  Being a Bondi Boy, I wanted to try to buy a piece of Bondi – a foothold – where we could return when our time with ACP finished (which it did in 1992).  It was not the most lucrative piece of property we bought – our flat in Kensington Park Road in London has that honour – but it was the best, by a very great margin.  One day, after we returned to live here, I invited my best friend, the artist Paul Delprat, to lunch with his mother, Rosalind, who was the daughter of Howard Ashton, the son of Julian Ashton, after whom Paul’s art school in the Rocks is named.  Rosalind was born and spent her early years in Tamarama, in a house owned by her famous grandfather, before her own father Howard moved to Mosman (where Paul now lives).  She came down to our flat the back way, from Campbell Parade, and walked out on to our balcony, where she saw a vista of Bondi Beach she had not viewed since her childhood, over 70 years before.  The picture of Bondi in her mind’s eye was of what it used to be – as the Allen picture yesterday shows – of unpopulated sandhills, and salt-water lagoons going westwards to what is now Royal Sydney Golf Club.  She was gobsmacked.  (I should have asked her if she remembered the Stink Pot.)

08/06/15 Monday, BONDI -

I gave a lunch last Friday at “the golf club” for Ruthven Blackburn, to celebrate his 102nd birthday.  (Unfortunately he could not come, for his son Angus had to take him to hospital to have his chronic bad-back attended to.)  But those I had invited from our Friday Group at the Club came – we were six, including Sandra - and we had a very pleasant in absentia lunch.  Here is a truncated report of the memorable occasion:


I opened proceedings by giving apologies from several who, for various reasons, could not be there, including Ruthven's sons Simon and Angus.  We toasted the birthday boy, and wished him an even longer life.  I noted that Ruthven was the oldest member of both RSGC and our UUSC.  Proceedings were enriched with anecdotes about Ruthven and his life and illustrious career.  Sandra recalled her father, Phil Jobson's close links with Ruthven, when they were both senior honoraries at RPA.  Phil gave many anaesthetics for Ruthven, including one to Ruthven's first wife.  When Phil asked Ruthven whether he really should be operating on his own wife, Ruthven replied:  "I wouldn't trust anyone else."  I told several stories about Ruthven and his equally-famous father, Sir Charles Bickerton Blackburn, two of which involved Bill Wentworth, our Club's oldest member until Ruthven took on that mantle.  Allan Farrell spoke of attending Ruthven's lectures at RPA and remembering his booming voice.  David Chapman also had memories of Ruthven as Professor of Medicine at Sydney University, and who bestrode that institution like the medical colossus he became.  Several years ago Ruthven was awarded an AC in recognition of his lifelong service to medicine in Australia.  His full-length portrait is on the wall of the entrance vestibule, as you enter RPA.  Geoffrey Lehmann remembered Ruthven coming to his Literary Dinners at the Club and speaking there of his deep love of literature.  After he graduated in medicine - topping all his subjects - Ruthven did an additional Arts degree, and later, in his eighties, undertook a course in Fine Arts at Sydney University.  He is a lover of art as well as literature.  (And a very good cook to boot.)  I had arranged for the Golf Club to prepare a birthday cake for Ruthven, which he would have cut, had he been there.  They could not fit 102 candles on it, so instead it had but two. Next year we hope it will have three.



The birthday cake, with its two candles (Sandra blew them out for Ruthven)


I told those present that I was almost certainly the only person in the golf club – then or ever – who had been a caddie at RSCG.  Mick Dooley and I used to travel over from Bondi on our bikes to earn four shillings for carrying a member’s bag round the course.  Never could I have dreamed that one day I, too, would be a member there.  Bondi Boy makes good - as a Bondi Boy should.

09/06/15 Tuesday, BONDI -

With the death last week of Alan Bond, a great Australian crossed the River Styx (into, appropriately perhaps, Hades).   For Alan was a flawed character, great one moment, a charter member of the White Shoe Brigade the next.  I met him, first, in his prime, when he was Australia’s most entrepreneurial tycoon; and later when he was down on his luck, his wealth and fame a thing of the past, and back where he started out, an immigrant Pommy house-painter in Perth.  I also saw his signature on a cheque for $1 billion, which Kerry insisting on having when he sold the overpriced Nine Network to Bond (“You only get one Alan Bond in your life,” he said).  The first time I met him was at Cowes, where his yacht was competing in the Admiral’s Cup.  He had agreed to be interviewed by Sandra for the SMH in the harbourside pub where his crew was installed.  He arrived, late, in his new powder-blue Rolls Royce, which he had driven over from France, where he had been, he told Sandra, inspecting nuclear power-stations.  After he changed into his stubbies, she interviewed him in the beer garden, while I sat with his current girlfriend, Diana Bliss, at the nautical-themed bar.   Mine Host was telling her that no expense had been spared to make Bond’s Aussie crew feel at home, and he had even got in some Swan lager for them.  “Alan just bought that brewery,” she said, matter-of-factly.  In London in 1983 I watched him on TV, with guilty feelings of nationalistic pride, after he won the America’s Cup - which Kerry’s father, my first boss Sir Frank, had signally failed to do (at least three times).  Then when we were in Perth in 1994 we used to see him jogging along the coast-track at Collesloe.  He remembered Sandra, and would say a few words of greeting as we cycled past, with Ms Bliss still in tow.  He may have conned a lot of people, but he also did something great for Australia, and I for one will remember him for that.  At bottom he was, in my books, a decent bloke.

10/06/15 Wednesday, BONDI -

The SMH this morning ran a map of Sydney showing which suburbs (municipalities, actually) are affordable for “first-home buyers”. The point being to show graphically which parts of Sydney had been priced out of today’s “young couple” market. The usual silver-tail suspects were there – most of the North Shore and Inner Sydney, parts of the inner-West, together with scattered pockets in the Hills district, the Northern Beaches, and (for example) along the Georges-River shoreline. What, however, caught my eye was that Bondi/Waverley was not in the top-bracket, but the second-rank, in the company of such plebeian purlieus as St George, South Sydney and most of the Western Suburbs. Can this be right? Surely Bondi in particular should be in the top rank, as having some of the most expensive real estate in Sydney. Our street, Notts Avenue, is, or was, the most expensive street in Sydney, per-square-foot of residential land. (I assume the map only lists residential land, for otherwise it would be almost meaningless from a first-home-buyer standpoint.) One answer for Bondi’s comparative impoverishment might be its traditional role as Sydney’s main “dormitory suburb”, replete with low-cost blocks of flats and home-units. That rental-role now, however, is changing fast, with Bondi’s rampant yuppification. (Also, so fast is it changing that the statistics might not have caught up with what is actually happening on the ground.) Whatever the truth, that map of housing affordability is, or soon will be, out of date. I am reminded of the comment some years ago of a local Labor bigwig. He was complaining that Bondi was losing its “working-class roots” (his expression). “They’re coming over the hill from Woollahra and Bellevue Hill, and moving into Bondi!” he lamented, fearing Labor was about to lose its historic political suzerainty in Bondi/Waverley. Alas for Labor, that stable door is probably already closed.

11/06/15 Thursday, BONDI -

 [Hidden Entry #2 (re corruption in Bondi and Waverley)]

12/06/15 Friday, BLACKHEATH -

You would have thought – I would have thought – that I would have seen something suspicious, being nominally an “investigative journalist”, in the HSC results at schools like James Ruse Agricultural School.  This supposedly “agricultural” school, at Carlingford, on the edge of The Hills district, has consistently topped the State in HSC results, often having almost twice the number of top students than any other State secondary school.  That is itself an oddity, for one does to ordinarily think that potential farmers have that necessary degree of academic excellence to produce such results.  The reason, of course, was in the names of its yearly output, for they were almost 99% of Asian background, mainly of Chinese origin.  Yet I was suspicious, and I explained the anomaly by the fact that it was a selective school, and that Asian parents, traditionally interested in academic achievement, sent their children there, it being the nearest selective school.  But this Asian preponderance was not just a Hills district phenomenon.  For, more concerning, it was reflected in most of the other selective schools, closer in, such as my own Sydney High School, which is now, I know from personal observation, over 90% Asian.  I should have thought – “Hey!  There’s something wrong here.  Asian students are not that much brighter than WASP ones.”  I knew that Asian parents used commercial coaching colleges to prepare their children for the selective-school exam.  That explained all the Asian faces I pass on my way to our office in Cleveland street.  But it did not really explain the HSC results at James Ruse.  Now the truth is out.  The commercial coaching does not stop at entry level.  It continues for the whole high-school course (and even into university).  And the coaching largely consists of institutionalised, endemic cheating.  In short, the Asian students are taught how to succeed in exams and rort the system.  The coaching colleges actually write their school essays, and show them how to memorise basically plageristic text and exam answers.  Several years ago Dr Jagger, headmaster of Sydney High, found the same paragraph in the assignments of six of his students.  He cried foul, but the bien pesants in the State’s education hierarchy turned a blind eye, it not being politically correct to question multi-culturalism in the school system.   Now when I drive past my old school I won’t necessarily see intelligent Asian faces, but crafty ones.  Yet knowledge, someone said, consists of knowing something, or knowing where to find it.  These lads – tutored from kindergarten to graduation – know where to find it.  Good on ‘em, I say.  Such cleverness will probably do them more good than any academic achievement.

13/06/15 Saturday, BLACKHEATH -

Last week I mentioned this “cheating” phenomenon to the former deputy-head of one of the State’s most-prestigious girls’ school. She confirmed the outside-help trend, though this school hasn’t got a lot of Asian students (being well outside Sydney’s Asian belt). Yet it’s not only Asian students who bend the rules, she told us. In her history class was a girl whose name I cannot mention, but whose father was a very senior judge. She found evidence, well-nigh irrefutable evidence, that someone else had written her history-assignment (ie, the essay was written outside the school grounds). The girl, given her class-work, could not herself have written it. She admonished the girl, who vehemently denied any plagiarism or outside help. She also reported this to the headmistress, only to be told later that her father had written - on court notepaper no less - a letter lambasting her and the school for impugning his daughter’s honesty and truthfulness. So it’s not only slanty eyes that bend the rules. And if a judge does it, why shouldn’t our multicultural community-members?

14/06/15 Sunday, BONDI -

For no particular reason, I recalled today (on my morning stroll in Centennial Park, which is where I tend to think of such things) my early memories of television in Australia – one of the aspects of my time on Earth I believe I have a journalistic (or rather a causeristic) duty to record. At Wallis Parade we were early adopters, and my father lashed out on a big Pye TV set, one of the first brands on the market, along with Admiral and I think AWA. (I suspect he thought he might see scantily-clad ladies on the screen.) My first memory of “live” TV was in a shop-window near Mark Foys in Liverpool Street in 1956, soon after TCN was launched (by Bruce Gyngell). It was showing, to the little group of passers-by who had stopped to see the new wonder, an Alfred Hitchcock movie or maybe a series episode. Soon I was an avid viewer, and spent a lot of time sitting in front of the “goggle-box”. My favourite shows were Gunsmoke, Have Gun Will Travel, and Bilko. The first locally-produced shows were local radio “programmes” converted for television (black-and-white, of course). Several of Jack Davey’s weekly shows were transferred, but his great rival Bob Dyer’s Pick-a-Box was the most popular (he was a natural, while Davey looked awkward and stilted on TV, and died soon after anyway). TV films, of course, were the main attraction, and I became (as I describe in my life-book) addicted to the Midday Move on Channel 7. I must have seen almost every film Warners Bros made from the early 1930s into the late fifties. (These killed the cinema, hitherto my main source of weekly entertainment.) I have often wondered whether I got more out of the Midday Movie than going to university (again, see my life-book why I dropped out of tertiary education). I suspect the former. Anyway, I don’t regret that life-choice. It augmented my earlier film-going at Six Ways and Kings in Bondi. And that I would not have missed for anything.

15/06/15 Monday, BONDI -

Why am I so opposed to those who maintain, trenchantly, that the world’s climate is changing for the worse – getting hotter – due to human activity, and in particular to industries that derive their electricity from the burning of fossil fuels (so-called anthropomorphic warming)?   Mine is not really a scientific objection, but rather a gut-reaction. There is something in me, in my make-up, that is antipathetic to the concept and precepts of global warming and “climate change”. What is it? I am not going to go into the arguments one way or the other. I am more interested in what it says about me. For I seem to have a natural inclination to “go against the grain” – hence the title of my life-book. If there is general agreement about something, I want to disagree. Why is this? It must be in my DNA, my genes, for I cannot trace it back to anything specific in my life. When did this natural or innate scepticism begin?   I think it must have been in my early childhood. Here one memory stands out. We were in Oakley Road, and I must have been about 5. My mother had organised a birthday party for me. Yet at some point I left the party and went down the street and hid. There was something about the atmosphere of cheerfulness and jollification that I did not like. I did not want to join in and share the general joy (of which I was the focus). Something in me wanted to distance myself – literally – from what was happening. Was this shyness? Certainly throughout my life I have tended to shun the company of others, to the extent to which (as I relate in my life-book) I would cross Wairoa Avenue to avoid passing close to approaching people. Clearly there is something in me that wants to stand apart from the crowd, and not go along with what others might think or do. This draught of honesty came to mind because a recent storm has eroded the sand under my balcony – see picture below. Visual evidence, I thought, of the ridiculousness of the whole global warming/”climate change” brouhaha. These are rocks that have not been exposed in the now 32 years we have lived (on and off) above Bondi Beach. Yet sea-levels are supposed to be rising. Waverley Council has installed a water-level gauge on the wall of the bogey-hole at the other end of the beach, supposedly to record the inexorable consequence of anthropomorphic warming. It, too, shows no sign of a rising water-level at Bondi, which remains the same as I remember it over 70 years ago. I also think my scepticism comes from the reporter and journalist in me. If I cannot see evidence of something, with my own eyes, I do not place much credence in it. Also I am suspicious of coincidences. My criticism of global warming began when I saw what happened to “globalisation”, which was the cause celebre of the far-left in the early 2000s. Those who were demonstrating against “globalisation” (whatever that was) suddenly switched to global-warming/”climate-change” activism. And I certainly wasn’t going to follow that opportunist change of redirection.

17/06/15 Wednesday, BONDI -

I know the Friday Group relishes a good discussion, in which case you might like to catch the latest Tom Stoppard play, entitled The Hard Question (it was premiered at the National Theatre in London in April, has also been filmed, and was on at Mt Vic Flicks - our local cinema in the Mountains - a few weeks ago). Coincidentally, it was at the Old Vic in London in 1972 that I saw one of Stoppard’s earlier plays about philosophy, Jumpers. It was loosely based on the Oxford philosopher Freddie Ayer and his critique of logical positivism. This, in Stoppard’s play, turned on whether the Oxford train left Paddington Station, or Paddington Station left the train. At least that was what I thought it turned on. That, however, is a simple matter compared to The Hard Question.   Paradoxically, The Hard Question is deceptively easy to state.   “Is consciousness physiological?” Is it a biological phenomenon, or something else? It turns out that there is no mechanism in the brain, or any other part of the body, that can be held responsible for our perception of ourselves. Consciousness is, well, “just there”. When pressed for an answer to The Hard Question, most modern philosophers either cleave to the biological position - even though they have no understanding of how it might operate - or else concede they have no answer.   A goodly number opt for the latter position (some even resort to saying “it must be magic”). All philosophers agree, however, that’s it’s a very important matter, which impinges on artificial intelligence and existential risk - philosophy’s “hot-button” topic of the moment. I haven’t seen Stoppard’s new play, but I hope to soon. Meanwhile, if you should ever find yourself in the company of a philosopher, as I do fortnightly at Blackheath, don’t be put off by learned talk about ethics or morality. Ask them to answer The Hard Question (they will know what you mean). Then sit back and enjoy the fun. It’s my dinner table technique after our Blackheath Philosophy Forum on a Saturday night.

18/06/15 Thursday, BONDI -

There is another element in what I am trying to do with this new writing form, or format, and it is even older, or as old as, the causerie. It is the commonplace book. No one keeps a commonplace book nowadays (as far as I know), but in the 19th century in particular they were a quite common form of literary activity. The online dictionary Encarta defines a commonplace book as “a personal notebook used for copying down quotations and memorable passages from other books”. Wikipedia is a bit more expansive, and its entry begins: “Commonplace books (or commonplaces) were a way to compile knowledge, usually by writing information into books. Such books were essentially scrapbooks filled with items of every kind: medical recipes, quotes, letters, poems, tables of weights and measures, proverbs, prayers, legal formulas. Commonplaces were used by readers, writers, students, and scholars as an aid for remembering useful concepts or facts they had learned. Each commonplace book was unique to its creator's particular interests”. That’s pretty much what I am doing, with an additional element which were once called pensées (originally fragments, or building blocks, of religious thought composed by the 17th-century French scientist/philosopher Blaise Pascal) which I translate, loosely, as “thoughts” or casual, passing observations. But it is the concept of the commonplace book that I like – a sort of digital scrapbook, composed of bits and pieces that I come across or occur to me day-by-day (and in chronological order, hence the diary format). It seems to be working, at least to my satisfaction, and, to paraphrase my 06/02/15 entry, that’s all I want or expect.

19/06/15 Friday, BLACKHEATH -

In looking for a word to describe what I am trying to do, I have come across an unexpectedly-rich vein of such terms and expressions. What I am doing has been done before, in older or other media. In fact, every language seems to have, or have had, its word for a short essay, or causerie. I came across, searching Wikipedia via Google, such terms as feuilleton and zibaldone. The former, according to Encarta (now my dictionary of choice, because it is readily accessible on Google), defines this French term as “a section of a European newspaper containing reviews, serial fiction, and articles of general interest”. Not quite what I’m getting at, but in the general area. A more interesting, not to say bizarre word is zibaldone. It is an Italian term for a “hodge-podge” book or, as one writer put it, “a salad of many herbs”. I like that image, and also that it sounds like “zabaioni”, a rather delicious Italian dessert (and which is also, utterly inconsequentionally, a form of open-source linux software, according to Wikipedia – see below).

20/06/15 Saturday, BLACKHEATH -

I got this information about zibaldones, feuilletons, causeries, etc, via Google and Wikipedia.  They are another ingredient that makes up what I am trying to do.  In fact, THE DIARY OF A BOY FROM BONDI may well be the first diary written with the aid of Google and Wikipedia.  I could not have written many of the entries without ready – instant – access to Wikipedia, via Google.  The fact that I have an easily-found source of any information I might want at hand allows me to embellish, flesh out, and otherwise make more interesting what I choose to write about.  Example of this abound in what I have already written – the information on causeries, etc, could not have been produced without Wikipedia.  Hitherto – pre-internet – I would have had to go into town and visit, say, the State Library and search its catalogues for find what I wanted, which is both logistically and relevantly impractical.  I would not have gone to that trouble and bother.  Moreover, in searching for information on the internet, and especially via Wikipedia, I come across things which I would otherwise not have that give me other possible entries, and enlarge my knowledge generally.  Indeed, to advance your knowledge and information database, you have to have an excuse, an opportunity and occasion, to make such interesting and important excursions.  That is the additional, extra benefit of the information explosion, and February 23, 1981.  You will not go down an information byway unless you are on the prowl.  Frankly, this has given me a new lease of intellectual life (and usefulness) – at the age of 75! - and makes, I hope, this diary of more than passing, personal interest.

21/06/15 Sunday, BLACKHEATH -

A rather unsettling – in fact disturbing - thought struck me recently. Should I be so happy that Bondi is so-busily being yuppified, and coming up in the world so-quickly? I wrote recently how the Bondi I grew up in is still largely intact, and little-changed from the memories of my childhood living here in the Forties and Fifties (see 1/6/15). My research-friend (an ex-Murriverie-Road resident) John Ruffels demurred, reminding me of how much change I was so-glibly glossing over. The houses near where he lived up till about five years ago had seen a lot of changes, he told me. He sent me some of the photos he had amassed to illustrate his point. (We will include them in our forthcoming Bondi LIFE-SNAPS portal, which we will launch soon.) Understandably, I have in my mind a partly-frozen picture of the Bondi of my childhood. I see the things that are still unchanged, not noting what is new, which merely constitute gaps in my “frozen” streetscapes. This unsettling thought came with an article I read recently about Platform 9¾ at Kings Cross Station in London. Fans of Harry Potter would not need reminding that this was a fictional platform from which the Hogwarts Express departed. It now has its own niche in a wall at London’s busiest mainline station, surrounded by outlets selling Potter memorabilia. The article’s point was that London is inexorably losing its original character and turning into a theme-park travesty of itself, catering not for Londoners, but tourists and visitors and blow-ins. Is this happening to Bondi too? I think in part it is. Bondi is in the throes of becoming as much a theme park as London has become. Some years ago a Labor councilor lamented that Bondi was losing is traditional working-class (ie, Labor) roots. “They’re coming over from Bellevue Hill and taking over Bondi,” he complained, as if he could, Canute-like, hold back the tide of gentrification. Yep – Bondi is being yupped (and pupped), and like London is it the better for it. After all, we have little to thank the corrupt Labor Waverley Council for in Bondi. They sold it off to the developers for a mess of pottage, which they used to line their greasy pockets. (I am going to do something soon on the lost architecture of Bondi.)


22/06/15 Monday, BONDI -

A stimulating Blackheath Literary Lunch yesty – we 11 tossed and gored the topic, “Revolution”, prior to which the pre-lunch talk got round to art and galleries, whereupon I rode into the conversational thicket on one of my favourite hobby-horses, the Big Dot-Con. It sparked the expected politically-correct backlash (I may as well have claimed there was no massacre in Tiananmen Square - but I’m saving that one), but I more than held my own. My main point was that my The Australian colleague Nicolas Rothwell, hitherto a champion of dot-painting, now concedes that it can only be appreciated in a local, Australian context, and must have its own local aesthetic framework. However, I am grateful for the opportunity now to add my blog on dot-art to the appendices (see appendix #17).

23/06/15 Tuesday, BONDI -

At Bondi this morning the sun rose into a clear, cold blue sky a bit to the right of the second tee on Bondi Golf Course (from the perspective of my study door). It appeared over my horizon at 7.05, by my computer clock. So I was wrong about its winter solstice position. Not an inch to the right of the Stink Pot, but a good 10 inches, if not an entire foot (see 18/4/15). So now it is two days back towards its rendezvous with the summer solstice, six months hence. Today I’m attending the Pioneers’ winter solstice lunch. (They have four seasonal lunches, marking the two equinoxes and solstices.) I was to have taken Steve Barker, to introduce him as a prospective member of the Pioneers, to other members. But he’s down in Canberra on important Squiz business. He’ll come next Tuesday (the Pioneers have a regular Tuesday lunch, which I now attend in lieu of the UUSC’s Friday lunch – see 9/5/15 for why). Steve qualifies for Pioneer membership on both his maternal and paternal side, having ancestors who arrived in Australia well before 1850 (while I’m a blow-in from New Zealand – see my life-book about my Johnny-come-lately Pioneer qualifications). In northern climes it used to be the custom to sacrifice a virgin at the winter solstice, to ensure the return of the sun and spring. At Bondi I think we can rely on the course of the planet round the sun. (And I don’t think there would be too many spare virgins at Bondi nowadays.)       

24/06/15 Wednesday, BONDI -

I start my life-book by saying what a fortunate life I have led. That I am still alive and writing this diary is fortune enough (at my age, and given my family’s medical history – with early male heart attacks on my mother’s side). But I would like to pause a moment and count, or list, my blessings. (I said on 6/01/15 that I would wait a year to look back and count my blessings. So this is an interim half-yearly accounting, not so much of my blessings, as my good luck – and how things might have been different, had not fortune smiled on me, which it has.)   How my life might – would – have been different if, for example, I had grown up somewhere other than Bondi, and was not a Bondi Boy. Moving on, I was lucky to have (as I relate in my life-book) Mr Hogg as my sixth-class teacher at Bondi Beach Public.   He instilled in me a love of poetry and the sea. I was lucky to have gone to Sydney High, a GPS school - and probably the best government school in Australia. I was lucky I took up, and became good at, tennis and golf (and bike-riding), for they have made my life enjoyable, and perhaps made me fitter than I might otherwise have been. I was lucky to get my Commonwealth Scholarship, for although I did not last long first time round at Sydney University, it did open up for me that higher-level of education (and I learned a lot in the brief period I was first there). I was enormously favoured by becoming a journalist, for I could have had no better career (and I would not have met Sandra otherwise, which was probably my greatest stroke of fortune). It also allowed me to develop my writing skills, and gave me an outlet for them. Few are granted that privilege today, when journalism and books are becoming things of the past. I was lucky to have been sent down to Everybody’s (see my life-book), for that not only widened my journalistic horizons, but gave me perhaps the best 18 months of my early career and life. After we married, we were lucky to honeymoon overseas to London and Fleet Street, and to have bought into Glebe (and started the Glebe Society) on our return in 1967, and which also gave me the opportunity to return to university. It was good that we went back to London in 1971, and remained there, on and off, for the next 15 years or so. Helping Sandra with Ottoline was fortunate, for how else would we have had a glimpse of that upper- and middle-class English world (helped also by my membership of HPLTC)? Without Ottoline, we would not have gone to Austin, and my nose woul;d not have been put on to Lawrence and Kangaroo. I think I was lucky to have worked for The Australian, and covered the Dismissal aftermath. (It was certainly little short of a miracle that I got the job in News Ltd’s London office.)   Trevor bringing me back to Sydney to work on the Bulletin proved to be a mixed blessing, but it eventually led to us running ACP’s London office, and that was possibly the high-water-mark of my journalistic career (and our financial zenith, until Squiz). It was nice to be President of the FPA, but even nicer to go and work in New York, running Kerry Packer’s office there, though that’s when my luck began to run out, with the advent of Richard Walsh at ACP. Still, when Sandra did her IT course at the NY School of Graphic Arts, that introduced us to digital publishing, and eventually the Internet, which led on to Squiz and all that…and ultimnatgely to this diary. Yes, it has been a most fortunate life, and I am lucky to have lived it. And there, on that happy note, is where I think I should leave it.

25/06/15 Thursday, BONDI -

I am a comparative late-comer to having flowers about me. We didn’t have much in the way of garden at 38 Wallis Parade. There was a nice frangipani (tree? bush?) downstairs outside flat, and a strip of what went for garden along the fence between our flats and the Swarbecks at 36. I seem to recall some snap-dragons there, and maybe some pansies too. There was nothing of a floral nature in the backyard – my bailiwick. Upstairs, there were no vases in our flat 4, though I do recall some Christmas bush in December. I remember the first flower I actually admired – some carnations in the front-yard of the house in O’Brien Street, down whose side-passage Mick Dooley and I used to go to play tennis on the court behind the house. I remember thinking that carnations didn’t have much of a smell (while our frangipanis did). Roses I liked, and would sniff them when I could, just as I would pat any cat that I passed by. There was a florist down at the beachfront, and I remember seeing tiger-lilies in its window, and admiring them. Up on the golf course there were wattles, of course, and in some of the houses opposite in Wallis Parade they had hydrangeas, which seemed to me to be a very dull plant. But it wasn’t until Sandra and I bought our first house in Glebe that gardens became a matter of interest to me. We drove out somewhere in the Hills district and bought some trees for our Toxteth Road front-garden. (I remember one was a Japanese maple). Yet it wasn’t until we bought our big house in St Lukes Road Notting Hill that I took a serious interest in gardening. We constructed a terraced rock-garden outside our basement, and planted it with azaleas. I was very proud of it, until it exploded one day, scattering soil and bricks and pieces of concrete all over the place, and breaking our basement windows. I don’t think my terracing was to blame: it was probably one passing truck too many. In the back garden of our next house, in Chiswick, we had some sweet-peas, which I liked, and honeysuckle trained on the back of the front fence. I don’t recall if we had flowering plants on our two rear roof-gardens in Kensington Park Road. We had window-boxes at Westbourne Park Road, and when we returned to Bondi we had pot-plants both inside and out. Up at Blackheath we now have a gardener, Allan (see 4/10/14), and he’s doing a wonderful job both front and back (azaleas and climbers in front and a bottlebrush and herb garden at the back, overlooking Pope’s Glen).   And now at Bondi we have fresh flowers every second or third day, and they enhance our life greatly. Yesterday it was freesias, jonquils, irises, and tiger-lilies. (I also have two orchids in pots in my new study.) I am working on trying to convince Sandra that we should have a rose-garden in the front yard up at Blackheath…and I think she is weakening.

26/06/15 Friday, BONDI -

 [Hidden Entry #3 (about Richard Neville)]

27/06/15 Saturday, BONDI -

Given the previous entry, I think it would be useful, and perhaps timely, to list the various ailments I have been afflicted with over the years (most of them potentially, not to say inexorably, fatal). For I am an inveterate hypochondriac, as bad, if not worse, than the unfortunate Thaddeus Sholto, the sickly, bed-ridden character in Conan Doyle’s The Sign of the Four. (When Thaddeus learns Dr Watson is a medical man, he begs to be examined. “Have you your stethoscope?” he asks, explaining, "I am compelled to be a valetudinarian.") I cannot now recall what my earliest health-scare was. (Is my memory failing? Is this the first sign of Alzheimer’s?) Perhaps I can go backwards. What was last week’s panic? Now I remember. It was at the weekend - a spasm on the left of my chest, adjacent to that most troubled organ, my heart (see my heart-attack blog, which at least has some medical or clinical credibility to elevate it out of my semi-mystical underworld of hypochondria – go to appendix #6). Perhaps I had better ditch chronology, and note the scares randomly, or, better still, by bodily-parts. Now I remember – the most recent one was terminal arthritis. One of the fingers of my left hand locks occasionally and sometimes I have to manually straighten it out. Indeed, I’ve noticed a disturbing amount of arthritic aches and pains in both hands of late. (Paracetamol osteo has been prescribed to inhibit inflammatory attacks – but now I see that this can cause liver damage, so I had better consult our GP Beth Harris about this, soon.)   I think my feet are pretty OK, despite the disparity in leg-length (see my life-book about my locked right knee, which prevented me from winning the US Open). But I am getting a lot of pain in my right hip, when sitting in front of the TV, so a hip-replacement must be on the cards. And I’m limping more of late, which is a disturbing augury. (I have one of the biggest files at St Vincents, going back many decades to my first visit in 1945 with a severed tendon.) I once thought I had brain cancer (cancer is, of course, an omnipresent fear), but the neurologist didn’t even order a brain-scan. My biggest organ – my epidermis –- bears many scars of skin-cancer excisions and innumerable burning-offs, but that’s par for the course for a Bondi boy.   I’ve had many lung-scares, and have a drawful of x-rays to prove it. I can’t now remember why, but something must have cropped up, more than once, lung-wise (I might have had a mild attack of TB, or polio, in my childhood). I had a hiatus hernia diagnosed some years back, which prevented me swallowing properly. But that seems to have gone away. Then there was that time – it must be a few years back now – when I suddenly developed an excruciating pain in my left groin (as I was sleeping – a lot of my ailments creep up on me at night). I was carted off to Emergency at St Vincents and morphine pumped into me (and very nice it was too). I was given every test imaginable, including magnetic resonance, but nothing was found, and the pain went away a day or so later. I will spare you my ENT (ear, nose and throat) problems, nor trouble you with my prostate cancer and type-2 diabetes, but I must mention my eyes, which support a large cross-section of the medical community. I recently went to Emergency at the Sydney Eye Hospital because large bits of debris began swimming around my vision. (“Floaters” I later learned they are called.) Triage wouldn’t admit me, because they didn’t think it was a real emergency – apparently they have a lot of trouble with ocular malingerers. I was certain it was macular degeneration, which is the curse of the Darrochs, and in need of emergency treatment. Yet it was a false-alarm, though my oculist did finally agree to book me in for a double cataract operation, and I can now see as well as when I was 12. (I also have, according to my youthful cardiologist, the blood-pressure of a 14-year-old to go with it.) So perhaps I might not be as bad as I thought, and maybe last longer than I feared I mightn’t. I certainly am blessed with a remarkable rate of recovery. Interestingly, my father gave up Rugby on the verge of All Black selection because he thought – incorrectly it turned out – he had a heart condition. So perhaps it runs in the family. (I am due for a new stress ECG in a month or so.)

28/06/15 Sunday, BONDI -

That short story, The Sign of the Four (though in fact it was one of Conan Doyle’s longer Sherlock Holmes “short stories”), was the one that actually launched the Holmesian sequence, and Doyles’ career as a writer (by profession, he was a medical practitioner). His first Holmes effort had also been a longish short story entitled A Study in Scarlet. It was his second story, however, that made him famous, and eventually rich. He only got £25 for the first tale that introduced Sherlock Holmes to the reading public (and there is some doubt that he ever received that from his miserly publisher, Ward & Co). However, it did come to the notice of a prominent American publisher who had a successful magazine called, eponymously, Lippincott’s Magazine. In 1898 Lippincott came to London in search of new writing talent.   He invited two promising young writers to the Waldorf Hotel for dinner. He offered them each the then very large sum of £200 to write a story he could publish. They were Conan Doyle and Oscar Wilde. Both accepted the commission. Doyle contributed The Sign of the Four and Wilde wrote The Portrait of Dorian Gray. Neither looked back from there. (In this diary I think I also have a duty to mention things, such as the Lippincott story above, that are unlikely to see the light of day unless I shine a light on them. So in future, this will be part of what I am trying to do with this, I now think, new online literary medium – a combination of diary plus causerie/commonplace/zibaldone.)

29/06/15 Monday, BONDI -

I, like everyone else, have recurring dreams. I think I have mentioned the one about turning up at the Tele and not finding my name on the roster as chief-sub that night (see 29/1/14). Also of trying to find my way round some foreign city with Sandra in tow. Associated with this one is not being able to get a cab in town (Sydney). Another one came back to me this morning when I opened the garage door and the car was not there (it was up in Campbell Parade). That one involves not being able to find, or remember, where I have parked the car. I have a lot of “place dreams” where I am in some house (that we own) and either I find a part of it I didn’t know or remember was there, or else – and this is more in the nature of a nightmare – all the doors and windows are unlocked, and I have to get Joe (our builder in London) to put locks on everything. (Interestingly, the building is almost always a terrace house, and obviously in London. Yet that’s the only dream-legacy of our 20 years in the UK.) I dream a lot about living in the flat in Wallis Parade when I was a child, and remember the backyard – and particularly, for some unknown reason, the side-passage, for I seldom used it.   Of all those traumas involving my mother’s drinking (see the growing-up-in-Bondi part of my life-book), my dreams choose to remember nothing. Ditto school at Bondi Public and at Sydney High. Sandra now has walk-on parts in my dreams – it took yonks for her to make an appearance (also see 29/11). But I tell a lie – I do remember playing tennis in London, at Holland Park or some simulacrum of it – and finding no one to play with, or against. I’m sure Freud would have made something of my often-troubled dreams, though the only sexual part of them is the traditional one about falling, which apparently has some sexual connotation. These days, however, I am happy with my dreams, and quite look forward to them each night. In them I have another life. And at my stage of existence, we have to make the most out of living – and dreaming.

30/06/15 Tuesday, BONDI -

The University of Missouri has, the papers tell me, a Professor of Mobile Journalism (this is in the context of Apple starting its own online news service, in competition with similar news services on Facebook and Twitter). Well, why not? News is already switching from print to online, and mobile wireless communication is the way of the future. I should be welcoming this, for we some time ago hitched our wagon to the juggernaut that is the Internet. Yet it does make me wince, for I cannot so readily cast aside my career in print journalism, as if it were a mere trifle. But this can also be seen as a last gasp of my profession, for why the second word, “journalism”? He (or she) should be a Professor of Mobile Information. But I suppose all those schools and faculties of journalism have to pander to those people “who want to be a journalist”. I think it was the New York Tribune’s Horace Greeley who advised the American young: “Go west, young man.”  What advice would he give young aspiring journalists these days? Where does the future of journalism lie? With the iphone and social media no doubt. Yet am I getting an inkling of something else here? I am just beginning to get the twinkle of a feeling similar or analogous to that Charles Darwin must have had after he disembarked from the Beagle. Like Darwin, I daren’t tell anyone yet. I hardly even enunciate it to myself. (And God knows, I have jumped the gun before.) So let’s leave it at that. If it grows legs, I will return to it.      

01/07/15 Wednesday, BONDI -

I like the word “juggernaut”, and am pleased to have worked it into an entry. It’s obviously an Indian term, originally referring to a large wagon carrying the statues of various deities which was pulled through the streets of towns in central India by devotees of a local Hindu sect. It was said that people threw themselves under it wheels to be elevated to a higher spiritual state, or enlightenment.

The juggernaut

It was come down to us as an unstoppable force or power, mercilessly crushing anything that stands in its way. Charlotte Bronte used the term in Jane Eyre, where one character is described as "worse than many a little heathen who says its prayers to Brahma and kneels before Juggernaut". RLS in his eponymous novel likens Hyde’s behaviour to that of a juggernaut. Yet what is it about the Internet that makes it a juggernaut? It is certainly crushing print journalism as it rolls down the information super-highway. But will it elevate those who would be journalists, and who throw themselves under its wheels, to a more enlightened form of information dissemination? Perhaps it will. It’s either that, or front up to John Webb’s Duelling Chopsticks ex-journo’s get-together in Chinatown (which is where I will be going on Friday to dodge the wheels of the juggernaut).

02/07/15 Thursday, BONDI -

Tuesday June 30 this week was officially one second longer than a normal 24-hour day, its ultimate minute lasting 61 seconds. This was, we were told, to synchronise global clocks and other terrestrial time-keepers with the more accurate time kept by atomic clocks. The New Scientist took the opportunity to record what in fact can happen in a second, eking this information out over the fortnight or so in the run-up to the leap-second. Did you know, for instance, that the world’s fastest computer can do 33,860 trillion calculations a second? Or that in a second a photon in space will travel almost 300,000 km? Or that around 2.4 million emails are sent every second? However, the statistic I most warmed to was that the world’s richest man, Warren Buffett, earns (from his Berkshire Hathaway investments) $US402 a second. I wonder how much Squiz makes in a second? I will have to ask John-Paul, who told me yesty that Squiz now employs 62 people in our newly-refurbished Polish office in what used to be German Pomerania. And also that Squiz USA is about to move into a new office in Madison Avenue, opposite the Flat Iron Building, around the corner from Union Square in New York. So watch out, Mr Buffett, we’re right behind you.

03/07/15 Friday, BONDI -

Why do I go, as I am going today, to John Webb’s Duelling Chopsticks ex-journo’s lunch in Chinatown? I go mainly because I think I should go, as an earnest of approval or recognition for such an otherwise non-core event. Only a half-a-dozen or so relics of a bygone era turn up, and at least one is ga-ga (and several more on the verge, I suspect, of decrepitude of one sort of another). I also go because I approve of what John (whom I hardly knew when we were journalists working on the Tele) is doing, and to encourage his effort and initiative. I only learned of this event when I encountered John at a Dylan Thomas anniversary at the British Consulate-General last year [see 22/11/14], and he invited me to join them, John being the secretary or president of the Dylan Thomas Society in Sydney. As I have said before, enthusiasm is a trait I admire in my fellow human beings, and I see it as my duty to respect and encourage it, whenever I can spare the effort to do so. It is next to loyalty in my hierarchy of admirable characteristics. As Sandra is lunching with her sister Steph in town today, I will be making my pilgrimage to the past down to the Haymarket (at a rather down-market Chinese restaurant, which is, however, conveniently around the corner from a pub where the journos, honouring age-old tradition, foregather). At least John responded to my blog earlier this week about the non-extant role of the reporter [see 30/6/15 above].   (Evan Williams, ex-SMH luminary, also remarked on it approvingly at our successful Rock’s Rant lunch on Wednesday - though they are the only two of the 50-or-so I sent it out to who bothered to respond. Why do I bother, I ask myself? However, I also see it as my duty to so bother.)   I will append [see appendix #18] that blog, if only because it had a turn of phrase I rather liked – “working at the street-face”. That, and “fishball journalism” [see appendix#19] are my contribution to that bygone era, and I hope I will be remembered for them.

04/07/15 Saturday, BONDI -

In the event, we needed only eight chopsticks at the journo’s lunch yesty, for only four fronted up (and one was a lawyer called Kelly who used to do work for the Media union, formerly the AJA). But it was a pleasant enough occasion, and Kelly, whom I warmed to, was especially gossipy, so I’ll try to go along again next time (for reasons stated above). However, I should make a correction to that entry, for John is not an office-holder of the Dylan Thomas Society, but a stalwart of the local Welsh Society (or its choir, anyway). The fore-gathering in the pub was a pretty dreary affair, as the others only wanted to talk about their various infirmities and ailments. It seems that while the women of our age gather to talk about their grandchildren, the men discuss their prostates, or whatever. (Speaking of which, there was a dreadful item in the papers this morning saying that Labor “heavyweight” Graham Richardson was to have an operation to remove not only his prostate but spleen, colon and miscellaneous other organs – he’ll be disembowelled, in fact.) But the Duelling Chopsticks did yield one item that not so much pleased me as gave me a grim smirk of satisfaction. For it seems that one of my past enemies, the egregious Mungo Macullum, is going ga-ga. (He used to all me “Darroch Mouse” when I was on The Australian in the mid-1970s and reporting post-Dismissa, and he postured as a political commentator on the lefty Nation Review). Kelly also confirmed that Richard Neville has gone way too (so I can unseal my Hidden Entry about him – see 26/06/15). My arch-enemy Richard Walsh was mixing with that OZ-left-wing crowd – I think he edited the NR – so I’ll have to keep my ear to the ground for any bad news about him. Not that I would wish dementia on anyone, but I confess I feel sympathetic about some more than others.

05/07/15 Sunday, BONDI -

Our little hawk returned yesty. We were having lunch on the balcony when he – I assume it’s a he – alighted on the sewer vent across the road, and perched there for 10 minutes or more, no doubt surveying the scene below. (I have written about the bird-life outside our apartment before [see 15/01/15].) He’s not a true hawk, but another of that hooked-nosed fraternity. He may well be a windhover, for he does hover, stationary, above the cliff-face underneath Notts Avenue, presumably looking for prey. What that prey might be, I cannot determine, though the other birds – sparrows, swifts, etc – keep their distance. I don’t know what the cockatoos do, but I think they too make themselves scarce when he’s around, although almost three-times his size. In my previous “bird” entry I quoted Hopkins’ great poem, “The Windhover”, one line of which goes: “how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing”. I don’t know what that means exactly, but my little feathered friend does hang on the rein of something that might be described as a wimpling wing. He apparently has a mate who keeps a low profile (assuming we are talking about the same generation), probably on nest-duties. Anyway, we are glad to see him back again, and hope he stays a while. If we are lucky he’ll still be around when the webcam is operational, which we hope will be in a week or two or three. I am thinking of having something like a Bondi Alert, a la Google, to tell people who visit our Bondi Boy site that there’s something new worth seeing or watching. And the return of my little hawk would be worth alerting prospective visitors to.

06/07/15 Monday, BONDI -

I’ve done a lot of shopping in my time, much of it in supermarkets. Believe it or not, I once worked in the late 1960s as a sub on a supermarket newsletter up at the Cross, so it‘s a subject I know something about. In fact, that part-time job (which helped to pay off our Toxteth Road mortgage) was at the time when supermarkets had begun to replace the traditional grocery store of childhood memory (Buttles, Moran & Cato, etc). Their essence, new at that time, was self-service, which replaced the person behind the counter- the grocer, in fact. That, and packaging rather than bulk comestibles from in-store containers. I remember our local Buttles, the grocer around the corner in Wairoa Avenue. It had sawdust on the wooden floor, and most commodities were sold in brown-paper bags, which were sealed by flipping them over, creating little “ears” on either side. (These, of course, were the “brown-paper bags” of police-corruption infamy.) My frugal father used to save the empty ones, and store them in a drawer in the kitchen at Wallis Parade. I remember the grocer’s honey barrel and the wooden shelves behind his bare wooden counter. (I think the grocer wore a white apron.) Since then I have shopped at many different supermarkets, here and abroad. I remember Tesco in Portobello Road and the one in New York off Bleeker. Now we have the supermarket chains, like Aldi and, most prominently, Coles and Woolworths, which (as I have mentioned above – see in particular 20/12/14) are taking over from the High Street and local shops and stores. One day I was shopping at Woolworths in Belmore Road Randwick when I observed five or six people going along the shelves counting items and entering them into a hand-held device.   Curious, I asked one, who was on his knees, why he was doing that. “Surely you know from the checkout what goes in and what goes out,” I remarked. “It’s not what goes out through the checkout that we’re counting,” he replied. “It’s what goes out through the back-door.” He was checking up on the staff. Con, my school-friend local grocer who runs the local IGA supermarket, told me that some of those stolen goods go into the Convenience Stores that have largely replaced traditional grocer shops. So it’s an ill-wind that doesn’t blow someone some ill-gotten gain.

07/07/15 Tuesday, BONDI -

I think that “Darwinian” idea I wrote of above [see 30/6/15] is growing legs. In fact, I think I might be on the brink of something significant, not just in our lives, but more generally. In any case, it’s time I unveiled it, or released it from captivity. As I recalled to Sandra recently, when we were living in Macpherson Street Cremorne, after we returned from our first trip to England in 1966, I told her one evening that our fortune would be made if only we could invent something small, like a screw, that could be sold and marketed (rather than eking out our days as subs and lowly scribblers). Now I am beginning to think we may have come across the Internet equivalent of that screw. For what Cybersydney – specifically cyberBONDI – is beginning to shape up as is as framework or container for all information applicable to a specific subset of the city, country or anywhere in the world that has streets and blocks. That’s an awfully big claim, yet the concept is Darwinian enough for me to dare to speak of it in that evolutionary context. The watershed moment came when I realised that instead of using the Cybersydney concept to create a digital model of a specific area, its real potential is to provide a comprehensive (in the sense of completeness) “enclosure” or frame for all information pertinent to that subset. Our CXs not only construct a digital model of a geographic subset of the actual world, but also provide a digital framework into which all relevant information can be lodged, processed and accessed. If I am right – and I think, like Darwin that I am – then this has enormous ramifications and possibilities. Obviously there are logistical and manifold other difficulties in the way, and many bridges yet to cross, but I believe they are surmountable and crossable. Moreover – and most importantly – it is within our scope to develop the concept to a stage when it could be shown and demonstrated. The idea is, I think, unique, for only we could dare to do it with our GRN system and infrastructure. All those years of struggle have not been wasted, nor are they in vain. One day soon our day will come. (Let’s hope its little legs are strong enough to reach the finishing line.)

08/07/15 Wednesday, BONDI -

There is a sort of philosophy or basic concept that underlies this new approach, and without which it indeed might seem in the realm of dream and waffle. Its foundation is the distinction between data and information. All information is data, but not all data is information. Information, as I define and use it in this context, is relevant or meaningful data.  It is data informing someone. It is a gloss on data.  Its role and function is to relate to or connect with “raw” data (about, for example, the “real” world). In the context of the Cybersydney data are the street addresses and block maps which we express in the rows and columns of our CX excel spreadsheets. What goes into the designated cells is our information extracted, or linked to, what is actually happening in that real world. (The linkages and connections are particularly important – for we cannot hope to capture all information in a community, but we can identify its source and scope, and provide ways of accessing it.) That process and structure is the essence of what we are now trying to do. A specific example might help to clarify this. Take Ravesi’s Hotel on the corner of Hall Street and Campbell Parade. What we now want to do is to identify all information applicable to that “Information Node” (represented in our CB spreadsheet via its Business Id and GRN, the former linking it to the outside world via Peter’s coding – our plaza, and court, etc “listings” - and the latter representing the data we have identified and captured specific to it).   (Interestingly, the term “Information Node” is an old Cybersydney one, which we invented in the late 1990, and which is now coming back into its own.) What information can we derive (either by extraction or linkage) from the actual world about Ravesi’s? How do we find or source it? How specifically do we link to and access it? How do we display it? What use can we make of it? How can we update it? How can we derive income from it? The new spreadsheets that Peter and I have constructed, with their mew social media etc columns, begin to address some of these questions. But the very fact we are asking them demonstrates our new orientation and resolve, and where we want to go. Someone once said that there were two types of information – that which we ourselves know, and that we know where to find. It is our hope and belief that this is to become the overarching “philosophy” of the new Cybersydney.

09/07/15 Thursday, BONDI -

Do all diarists – I think I can call myself a diarist now – sit down at their desk each day and ask themselves: “What will I write about today?” That’s not a problem for the diarist who writes only occasionally, or when they only have something specific to write about, and they put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard when they feel they have something that they want to say. They do not suffer from “diaryitis”. But they are not true diarists, in my opinion. To be a bona fide diarist you have to write a new entry each and every day (a part-time diarist is a contradiction in terms, I would have thought). In fact, the true challenge, and delight, of being a dedicated diarist is to indeed write something every day. That is a triumph, an achievement, by itself. And not just anything. One must try to have something interesting to say every day. That is the challenge for the professional diarist. With each rising of the sun the question they must answer is: “What can I say that is interesting and worthwhile-saying today?” I raised this matter – finding something of daily interest – with Sandra last week. I proposed that each night at dinner we should tell each other something that happened to us, or we learned about, or thought about today and which was of interest. For no day should be allowed to pass that does not add something to our experience of our time on Earth. Yesterday, for example, I learnt a new word – “tanked”. It cropped up in a story about a rather nasty piece of work called Kyrgios who lost his fourth-round match at Wimbledon because, so it was reported, he “tanked”. I did not know the term. Yet it resonated somewhere in the back of my mind. I had heard it, but I could not remember in what context, or what it referred to. So I looked it up. It has, apparently, two meanings. The more common one refers to someone being drunk, or “tanked”. The other one is quite specific – to tennis! (Though in all my years of playing, I never heard it.) It means to lose or throw a point, game, set or match deliberately. (Which is what it seems Kyrgios appeared to be doing.) More interesting its etymology. It comes from American universities where it referred to someone going into the pool, or tank...and so “taking a dive”. A vivid and apt expression, once you know its derivation.   So that will be my fact, and diary entry, for the day.  

10/07/15 Friday, BONDI -

So what do I write about today? What can I find in the wide spectrum of my manifold interests that would justify and deserve (and provide) a diary entry for July 10, 2015? Let me do a quick survey across that spectrum, starting with my dreams last night, which are apparently most active in the early morning before I wake up. Nothing of note there. I should report on the cold I contracted last week, and which is slowly abating, thank you. A nasty bug is going the rounds, Dr Harris told us, and it inflicted me with a bad dose, which expressed it malign self beginning last Sunday (it’s a typical six-day cold – two days getting it, two days experiencing it, and two days recovering form it). Sandra’s getting it now, and I can hear her coughing and wheezing in the kitchen.   Nothing much of interest in my morning email. My Google global-warming daily alert reports that some pop group called One Direction is launching a campaign to combat global poverty, promote equality, and combat global warming (or was it climate change? but don’t get me on to that subject). The world of IT is surging ahead as usual, and Squiz is bobbing along with it (we broke even last week, and I congratulated Ed Braddock in Melbourne on becoming CEO of Squiz Australia, after JP assumed global CEO status on July 1). Nothing DHL-wise, though I have to look at a PhD thesis that a NZ researcher has sent me on trans-Tasman secret armies (looks promising at first glance). Tom Thompson has booked Glee Books for the launch of Sandra’s electricity book on August 12 (“the glorious twelfth”!), and we are launching Ian Collins’ life-book at the Club on July 31 (it will be our Svengali Press’s fifth life-book).   This morning we are going up to Blackheath for tomorrow’s Philosophy Forum (on philosophy and literature) to be given by Rick Benitez, the Professor of Philosophy at Syd UNI who was turned away from the Club when he turned up in open-shirt and jeans for our final philosophy talk there (after which we terminated holding the event there). However, the main news of the day and week is the work we are doing on upgrading the cyberBONDI site, now that we have the new “framework” concept mentioned above [7/7/15]. I am going through the spreadsheets row-by-row, and putting in the social-media and other new linkages that will produce the Digital Bondi result we are now aiming at. A busy time, a busy day, so plenty to write about today, and every other day.

11/07/15 Saturday, BLACKHEATH -

Let’s have a brief entry. Do we really need fixed-line telephones any more? I don’t think so. The future of telecommunications is (as I have said before), mobile. So we are cancelling at least our Bondi phoneline. From then on, Notts Avenue Bondi will be relying on our IPhones.

12/07/15 Sunday, BLACKHEATH -

I don’t in fact care who might or might not read this diary, and almost hope no one ever does (or at least I could not care less if no one ever did). That – applause, or impressing others (though a lifelong weakness of mine – showing off) is not why I am doing this. I am not, as I say above, writing it for anyone else. I am writing it for my one satisfaction and – yes – pleasure. Indeed, in this new information-excess era, I cannot expect it to be read. Almost everyone who wants to write – to say something – will have to come to terms with this new reality. As I told someone who thanked me for receiving a copy of my book (it was John Fairfax, actually), there are three reasons why one should write a book or compose and put up its online equivalent. The first pleasure is having done and finished it. That is considerable achievement, and one to be proud of, and to savour. Second, there is the pleasure to be gained to seeing it either in online or hard-copy format – to see the result of what you have done in real-world terms. Thirdly – and finally – there is the pleasure to be derived from knowing that someone you know has at least opened its cover or initial page and accessed it, and maybe even read some of it. When John told me he had read what I said about my account of his appearance at the UK Publishers Association centenary conference in Brighton in, I think, 1982, I told him he had given me that third pleasure, and thanked him. (Yet had he not done me that honour, I would still have thought my life-story project worthwhile, and completely satisfying.) That is the way of the future, and us writers had better get used to it.

13/07/15 Monday, BONDI -

It’s 6.30am and Sandra just came into my study and asked me to write something short and snappy about Bondi. (Last week she made a link between the cyberBONDI “home page” and The Diary of a Boy from Bondi, so that anyone who accesses the CB-site can go from there to the BBD-site.) This is to prepare the way for the webcam we will put up outside by study to provide a 24/7 image of Bondi Beach from our balcony overlooking the south end of the beach.) She thinks if there’s something shortish and snappish on the BBD-site, it might encourage people to come back to it. Good idea. As the cam is not operating yet, I turn my gaze from my computer screen to my now closed study-door. (It’s pretty nippy these winter mornings, so I do not open it until at least the sun comes up, which it hasn’t so far this morning.) Yesterday it was a lovely Bondi winter day, and the words of Lawrence came forcibly to mind, for there was (as in Kangaroo) an icy westerly blowing (there was snow in Blackheath when we left there about 7.30am) “cold as flat ice”, and the sea was “like ruffled mole-fur” that could hardly support the least “swish of a rat-tail of foam”. But on our balcony it was warm in the afternoon sun as we sat there after lunch. This morning the predicted “polar blast” has struck, and Bondi is dark and overcast, and the sea is rising. How I love Bondi in the winter, and especially in July! The water is probably warmer in than out, and it’s the best time to go surfing (though few do). So this is my Bondi entry for today – not short and snappy, but heartfelt, which is what I think she wanted.

14/07/15 Tuesday, BONDI -

I should really try to tot up how much we spend each week, or each month. I started keeping a daily record of our spending in 1972, during the Three Day Week, when we were so impoverished that I used to collect cauliflower stalks from under the barrows in Portobello Road to make my (now-one-of-my-signature-dishes) chicken ragout using them and the chicken wings I bought from the Halal barrows in the street market, for next to nothing. (This way I got our dinner costs down to under five shillings a day.) From then on I continued the practice of noting our daily expenditure, later adding such things as a record of my weight and our daily doings (where we went, whom we met, etc) and occasionally adding anything else of note that happened to me or the world that day. I have this year’s diary (2015) in front of me now, and have recorded what happened yesty and what is happening today (together with any future appointments and events scheduled). At 9am this morning my blood-sugar was 4.1. We now no longer need to be frugal, given what we are getting from Squiz in regular dividends. In fact, I think we earn more each day via Squiz than we spend, which must be something of a watershed in one’s life. I will tot up what we spend this week, and record the total next Sunday, when we will be up at Blackheath for our monthly Literary Lunch (where I keep the diaries 1972-2014). Then I will compare the week’s spending with a week in 1972, or ‘73. It will be a salutary comparison, I expect.   (We should try to do something French tonight.)

15/07/15 Wednesday, BONDI -

Yesty, as I entered the Surry Hills shopping centre, on my way to get my car, which I park there, I noticed a dog tethered by the Baptist Street door. On the side of its snout it had a brown spot, the size of an old thrippence, in its fur. My dog Nigger, a black-and-tan kelpie, had such a marking, and my mind went back to when he was a significant part of my childhood (see the snap in my life-book of me and Mick Dooley with our dogs and bikes, probably when I was 15, in 1955, in Wallis Parade.) I won’t dwell on Nigger and the circumstances of his coming into my life, and leaving it. It is a memory more painful than pleasant. (As I drive past what used to be the RSPCA “dogs home” on the Moore Park links I remember going there, foolishly, when I was doing my Leaving Certificate exam to try to see if he was still alive. He wasn’t. My mother had sent him there to be gassed, as he was almost literally on his last legs. Not a nice thing to recall.)   I suppose my later attachment to cats might stem from that sad memory. But that would get me on to Trilby, and that is a door I do not want to open. I have done my best in my later life to repress that sentimental, even maudlin, streak in my character. But occasionally it resurfaces, like yesty. (But I have always liked cats, I hasten to add, as I mentioned in my [2/2/15 entry].)

16/07/15 Thursday, BONDI -

My blog on where journalists go to die (they go and work for fringe publications, after their jobs in mainstream journalism end, so they can still claim to be journalists) which I sent out yesty met with a very mixed reception.  I thought it was one of the better things I have written recently – it’s at appendix #20 – but only those on the right sent approving responses. Yet it was pretty spot-on, as TK might say (but didn’t – for he still has to keep a small window open in case one day he will be called on to rescue Fairfax, though that’s a lost cause now).

17/07/15 Friday, BONDI -

I attended a Ure family funeral this week, up at a Catholic retirement complex at Waitara, and went through an hour of complete mumbo-jumbo with mounting – not anger, not disgust, perhaps irritation is the best word – as I sat in the chapel, trapped there, while a catalogue of nonsense and silliness was trotted out over the inert coffin, surrounded by the trappings of a religion that was never credible, but is now, in the light of scientific reality, something verging on evil (in the intellectual damage it wreaks on human-kind). The priest, a Pacific-Islander and who could hardly speak English, intoned the words of the Catholic burial service with as much conviction as a climate scientist telling us that the rising seas will soon engulf us. He asked God to open the gates of heaven and give the deceased’s soul egress. But Doreen died several days ago. So was her soul waiting outside the gates until the end of the funeral service? How could anyone with any brains believe in such patent nonsense. The thought that so much time and human effort is still devoted to religion annoyed more than it should have (for I have long known how ridiculous it all is). That it might give succour or reassurance – hope, even – to some gullible people (and those who are about to die in particular) did nothing to diminish my discomfiture. I know I only went because of politeness and family duty, and to drive Sandra there, for she is a Ure. But it will take a lot to drag me to another such function. Yet I am webmaster of the nation’s largest bereavement site, Rest-in-Peace. So at least I can put Tuesday’s event down to research, or digital duty. Maybe I could even claim a tax-deduction for it (though that’s scant comfort, as I don’t pay any tax – a GST refund, maybe).

18/07/15 Saturday, BONDI -

This week I made a huge breakthrough with cyberBONDI, and although it won’t mean much to the ordinary reader of this diary, I will note it, as this diary is also a record of my life and what I do. But those not interested in technology and the Internet should skip what follows. It happened on Thursday. In the morning I did (with Sandra’s help) a block-sweep of Campbell Parade. I then went into the office and updated the CX spreadsheet for that part of cyberBONDI, augmenting the virtual block-sweep I had done earlier, and translating it into the new excel framework I have now, I believe, perfected. I can now capture and update every address in CB that has a street-frontage (even if it hasn’t been otherwise captured). This regime will work anywhere in Sydney or anywhere else, and will last as long as Cybersydney exists. But it was what I did in the afternoon that was the big advance (and justifies the adjective “huge”). I won’t go into too much detail, but I can now, from an easily-obtained photo of a foyer tenant-directory, readily check existing entries, cull the incorrect ones, and add the new ones, just from looking at a single screen (after I have processed the jpegs).   The significance of this is that it brings into reality the “infosphere” concept I developed some time ago. (The infosphere here being all the information in cyberBONDI).   I can now build up layer upon layer of information (of varying degrees of applicability), starting with the “raw” data – the street addresses – and then being able successive tiers of additional information (such as social-Media-generated information), so creating that new information “frame” I wrote about a week ago [see 7/07/15 and appendix#21]. I don’t think I have felt more excited about anything in my life. And yet I only me, Sandra and Peter really understand its importance. Nevertheless, I feel very good about it this morning.

19/07/15 Sunday, BONDI -

This dateline (here’s a blast from the past, for every story we ran in the paper from outside Sydney had to have a dateline, like this one) should have, and originally did, say “BLACKHEATH”. For we were supposed to be up at Blackheath today, running our monthly Literary Lunch. Indeed, we started off yesty at 6.30am to drive up there. We hadn’t been able to go, as we intended, on Friday, because the Great Western Highway was closed at Lawson, due to what turned out to be the heaviest snow to fall in the Mountains for, they say, 30 years. But we only discovered this – how bad the snow was - when we reached the outskirts of Katoomba, where we were a traffic jam prevented us going any further. The highway on from Katoomba was closed, due to “black ice”, whatever that is. We managed to sneak into Katoomba via the shoulder, but the jam was stationary and immobile from there on. So, to cut a long story short, after doing some shopping (for tomorrow’s lunch) at Coles, and when I saw that the traffic was not only not budging, but it queuing up back past Leura, we drove back to Bondi. As it turned out, that was a good move, for not only did we get stuck in traffic until the afternoon (when the road wasa finally opened again) but when we got back we did some useful block sweeps in the afternoon, though it was freezing and drizzling. I am entering the material in the CB spreadsheets this morning. Moreover, driving back to Bondi I had time to think more about what we are doing with this new “framework” concept. I am beginning to see it in terms of information layers, set above a raw-data grid, each layer being an information enhancement or elaboration. Indeed, I am beginning to think of information comprising increasing levels or stages – a hierarchy of significance and applicability, in fact. Indeed I am going further and thinking of information in a more material sense, an almost physical entity/quality. Moreover I think it resides in, not the cloud, but the old-fashioned ether, in some coagulated form, made up of discrete bits (0&1s). I know this sounds vague and amorphous, even silly, but something is starting to form in my mind about the ambient information environment - of looking at it, anyway. Its significance to us is that we have the underlying information map to which the information in the ether (or whatever) is, or can be, attached, or connected. We have, if you like, the foundastion of the information. I am working on this, and we will see where it leads us. (Sandra likes it too, and she came up with the idea of bits lodged in the ether.)

20/07/15 Monday, BONDI -

As I drove past Sydney High last week I saw on its electronic notice board fronting Cleveland Street a promo for a production of “Guys and Dolls” which the two schools will put on this month. My mind, inevitably, was drawn back to the production of “The Mikado” which our year put on, jointly, with the equivalent year of Sydney Girls’ High in (it must have been) 1956. I have written about this “daring initiative” of our music teacher, Mr Billington, in my lifebook, mentioning that the two male leads, Keith Martin and David Landa, were linked to corruption in the NSW Labor Government (Keith’s father Clarrie was Joe Cahill’s bagman, and David, later Paul Landa was Wran’s bagman in the 1980s). Quite coincidentally, I recently ran across the female lead, Elizabeth Collins – of whom I have a school-magazine photo as Yum-Yum – for she is now the wife of Quadrant editor-in-chief, Keith Windschuttle. I was intending to write something about this in my diary, as I recently saw on TV an excellent production of “The Mikado” in Topsy Turvy, the 1999 film portrayal of the Gilbert & Sullivan musical partnership. I was going to say that I did Mr Billington a disservice in my book, calling him “wimpish”, and denigrating his effort to enliven our otherwise boring “music lessons”, which I now so do, for that school production sticks in my mind, and was a pleasant aspect of my time there. I had a naughty thought that the now-almost-entirely-Asian make up of the school’s complement would be more suited to “The Mikado” than “Guys and Dolls”, but then I remembered that Gilbert’s libretto was designed to satirise Victorian European society, so slanty eyes would have detracted from the intended effect. The new SBHS-SGHS production is (roughly) about a floating crap game in Manhattan, and intended to be played by Runyonesque characters speaking broad Bronx. A greater, challenge, I would have thought than “The Mikado”. (The male lead, Peter tells me, is one of his son Tim’s fellow basketball team-members, and who wants to go on to NIDA to train for a stage career.   Fair enough. The actor Jack Thompson was in the year ahead of me at High, and Russell Crowe also came from High. Who knows whom – or what - the two Highs will throw up next?)

21/07/15 Tuesday, BONDI -

In 1982 Sandra and I encountered Jack Thompson in the Spanish town of Avila, a short drive outside of Madrid. He was there making a film set in medieval Spain (to be called Blood and Flesh), and Sandra had been sent there by one of the then Fairfax magazines (Pix or People) to do a story on the Australian actors in this rather gory Dutch film (there were two other Australian actors in it – it was a pretty cheap production).   Jack Thompson (whose father had started the Paddington Society) was very friendly, and we had dinner with him one night. He told us he had an ambition to make a film about aboriginal Australia, set in 1788, the final scene of which would be the First Fleet coming through the Heads. I wish he had made it (and perhaps he still might), for it would have made a good point, and a great film scene. Sandra took the photos for the story (Keith Finlay couldn’t afford to send a photographer), and these were in the luggage we left at the cloakroom of the Prado in Madrid on our way back to London. We did not know that the gallery shut after lunch, and we had great difficulty getting them out of probably the most secure building in Spain, and only Sandra’s determination to retrieve them prised open a heavily-guarded side-door. (She tells that story in her lifebook.)

22/07/15 Wednesday, BONDI -

I went to my eye-specialist yesty for my annual check-up. All fine – 20-20 vision, and the hereditary macular degeneration no worse (it hasn’t reached the dangerous “wet” stage). Gee, my (restored) eyesight is good, now that the cataracts have been removed. I was just looking out of my study door and saw in the middle distance the big crane that is helping construct the new complex that replaced the Swiss Grand, between Curlewis and Beach Road. (I can see the sign that announces its new name, Pacific Bondi Beach.) My eyes can pick out the two cables that go down from the long arm of the crane to, presumably, ground-level. How wide would those cables be? About an inch-thick I would guess. And my long-sight can easily discern what must be almost half a mile away. If my phenomenal long-sightedness is genetic, it would have been useful at sea, or in one of the Viking boats crossing the North Sea.   (Sandra – whose eyesight is admittedly very poor - would have been hard put to see the new building, let alone the crane. But then she has synaesthesia, which probably compensates her for much.) The fact that I can see such detail in the far distance – I think I can even pick out the clubs the golfers are swinging on the golf links – makes living where we are all the more pleasurable, as I can see much more of it than most other people living hereabouts. Some natives in Africa are so long-sighted, so it is said, that they can see some of Jupiter’s moons. The human body (and no doubt the animal body) is a wonderful machine, though many of its wonders are probably lost on many of us.

23/07/15 Thursday, BONDI -

BONDI Thursday, 23/07/15 – I wished we had had our webcam operating yesterday morning, for the rising of the sun over Bondi golf course displayed a spectacle I have never seen before (see Sandra’s picture of it below). I’ve seen the half-circle of rays that sometimes accompanies the rising sun (they are depicted on the badge of the Australian army), but never anything like this. What an image! Thank God Sandra had her iPhone handy, and caught a snap of it. Beats the view from Westminster Bridge, for sure. (The webcam should be up and operational in a few weeks.)



“Earth hath not anything more beautiful to show” - Wordsworth

24/07/15 Friday, BLACKHEATH -

Earlier this week I drove round North Bondi, block-sweeping, filling in a few gaps that needed ticking off in cyberBONDI. This is a part of Australia I once knew better than anywhere else in the world. I grew up in these streets, and every one holds a memory for me. I played tennis on the backyard courts of many of them. I rode my bike around them – and, until a few years ago, I still did, on my early-morning fitness excursions. This is my equivalent of Lawrence's “country of my heart”. But as I drove round it yesty I realised how much of its streetscape had changed. Ruffels was right [see my 21/06/15 entry to the contrary]. It’s no longer the North Bondi where I grew up. In street after street houses have been demolished and replaced by very expensive new dwellings - most of them two-storeys and architect-designed. It’s as if Dover Heights has come down into Bondi, and Rose Bay encroached almost up to Blair Street (where North Bondi turns geographically into generic Bondi). I am not being anti-semetic when I say that many of these places – I call them Moshe Mansions – were built with Jewish money. And why not? Bondi was the place where the Jewish refugees from Europe first came in the ‘30s, ‘40s, and ‘50s, though since then many of these "New Australians" have gone up in the world, some of them moving on to such more-expensive purlieus as Vaucluse and Darling Point (even into the leafy North Shore). Yet a lot have remained in Bondi, and still more are now being drawn to the area because it is today Sydney's traditional Jewish neighbourhood, akin to what the Lower East Side in Manhattan once was. (Recently an eruv was erected around part of Bondi so orthodox Jews can move more freely on the Sabbath - an eruv being a symbolic barrier inside of which strict Hebrew observance rules are relaxed.) As I drove down Murriverie Road, Frederick Street and O’Donnell I remembered where my fellow Bondi Beach Public boys such as Faust, Brass and Leonard used to live. Only the latter came on to Sydney High with me – though I think Faust was sent to Grammar (his father owned Faust's, Sydney’s largest mont-de-piété off Taylor’s Square). My closest friend at High was Jimmy Heymann, who lived next to where I first lived in North Bondi, Oakley Road. Together we used to skip the religious classes (his by a visiting rabbi, mine by a rather down-market Anglican clergyman) by going down to the milk-bar on the corner of South Dowling to smoke a surreptitious cigarette. The homes they have recently built in North Bondi add lustre - and yes, a lick of wealth – to the lower-middle-class Bondi of my boyhood. So I say - let’s have more Moshe Mansions. It gives added character and colour to The Country of My Heart.

25/07/15 Saturday, BLACKHEATH -

I wrote recently that one should try not to allow a day pass without adding to one’s knowledge, and insight into life on Earth. We have not, as I had proposed [9/7/15], spent each dinner-time telling each other what new thing we had learnt today. Nevertheless, I think it is still a good idea, and I try to follow this precept daily. For example, on Tuesday this week (meanwhile I had other things to write about) I learned three interesting things from reading The Spectator. They came from a review of a book about Spain in its golden days - the 16th and early 17th centuries. The terms “blue-blood” and “the empire on which the sun never set” came, not from England, but Spain. The nobility in post-Muslim Spain used to prove their European blood by exposing the blue veins in their white arms. And it was on Charles V’s empire that the sun first never set, omce Columbus discovered the Americas. The third thing I gained was an insight into the stupendous wealth that flowed across the Atlantic to Spain – an estimated 150 tonnes of gold (worth in today’s money over $100 trillion – and six times that value in silver). Philip II wanted to use some of that treasure to glorify Spain and the Catholic faith. Unfortunately, a troublesome priest called Luther up in German ruined that dream, which led eventually to the sun going down on much of his golden empire.  

26/07/15 Sunday, BLACKHEATH -

Last week I also completed block-sweeping Bondi Junction, and in doing so noted something that brought a smile to my face (and to Sandra’s too). Large swathes of what we as kids called “the Jungo” are being redeveloped. Keeping up with the fast-moving changes is a problem for Cybersydney. On the corner of Oxford Street and the Sid Einfeld Drive a whole precinct of former shops is being demolished. One shop had been occupied by a rather strange organisation called Jews for Jesus. I had wondered who they were and what they did (in such a Jewish area as Bondi), and I speculated that they may have been there to try to convert Jews to some other Abrahamic faith. (And I was right – it’s a well-funded American organisation dedicated to luring Jews to evangelical Christianity.) The thing that brought a smile to our faces that in the course of the recent block-sweep of Oxford Street I found that Jews For Jesus had not closed down, but instead had moved across the road into spanking new premises, and in doing so had upgraded their presence somewhat. For they are now a cafe, too – trading under the wonderful name, BREWS FOR JESUS. Now that’s what I call Chutzpah, if you will excuse the expression. (Of incidental interest here is that one of Sandra’s many aunts, Aunt Masie, who spent much of her life in England, during the war was a worker for the Barbican Mission to the Jews, trying to convert the East End Jews to Anglicanism. Perhaps I should send Sandra up to the Jungo for a cup of coffee and an ad for cyberBONDI.)  

27/07/15 Monday, BLACKHEATH -

It is a cold, crisp day in Blackheath, and the clocks, if they struck any more, would be showing 7am. We are having breakfast, before driving back to Sydney. As I look out our basement windows, the sun is just below the horizon, or rather the dado that forms the edge between the other side of Pope's Glen, across the valley at the back of our house, and the clear, eggshell sky above, now tinged with pink and orange. It is not a Bondi sunrise (especially one like last Wednesday [see 22/7/15 above]), but it is very pretty nevertheless, and warrants a morning diary entry. For although my diary has an almost fortnightly Blackheath dateline, it must perforce play second fiddle to "the country of my heart" - Bondi. At this time of the year- late July - the sun rises in the quadrant to the left of what I take to be due-south, which is the direction in which the rear of our house faces. I write this entry mainly to demonstrate that we have another life, away from Bondi. This weekend marked the end of this year's Philosophy Forum on Saturday, and our Literary Lunch yesty. (We had over 100 to hear a talk on "Philosophy and Music", and very good it was too. I asked the best after-talk question, about Don Giovanni and Kierkegaard's assertion that it is the greatest work of art ever created - a view that I also hold, and gratifyingly the speaker thought so too.) Our dual Bondi/Blackheath existence brings to my mind Wilde's The Importance of Being Ernest, in which Mr Worthing was Jack in the country and Ernest in town. This weekend I enjoyed being Jack, but will be pleased to get back to town and becoming Ernest again. Next Saturday we will be back again, to hear Paul Kelly give the opening talk at the History Forum, which leads on from the Philosophy Forum. Paul and I crossed words over The Dismissal, when in 1976 I panned his book on that apocalyptic when I was the chief feature-writer on The Australian, and he was my offsider at a big Constitutional Convention in Melbourne in early 1976. This led to a very amusing incident, which I wrote about in my Lifebook [see appendix #22].      

28/07/15 Tuesday, BONDI -

Bondi can be a dark place, as well as a sunny one. Like everywhere else, it has its sinister side, and has stones it is not wise to lift up. I almost literally stumbled across one as I was walking early one morning along the path that runs from Bondi to Tamarama, around Mackenzie’s Point. Suddenly I saw what were clearly blood-stains on the path. Someone bleeding copiously had recently come up or down that path, probably in the night (for there was no sign of anyone injured or in trouble when I was there around 5.30am). Seeing it as my duty – for humanitarian or journalistic reasons – to find out more, I traced the blood back up the path to some stone steps that led up to the park above. Even on the grass I could follow the drops of blood that led to some toilets on the street-side of the park. There I found more blood, but nothing else. I assumed some homosexual encounter had gone badly wrong, and I was witnessing its consequence. (From my time in London I knew what “cottaging” was, and what it implied.) Therefore I was interested a week or so ago when I saw in the SMH a story on “gay-bashing” at Bondi. It reported that the police were offering a $100,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of what they called “a gay-bashing gang” which was, they said, responsible, not for just bashing, but murdering gay men at South Bondi in the early 1980s. On that morning walk – it could have been in 1986, after we came back from New York - what I had apparently come across was one that got away from either that gang, or some other predators who stalked men on or above the Bondi-to-Tamarama coastal walk (so the men in question were still frequenting the place, even though they must have known the risks they were taking). It doesn’t bear thinking about, and I’ll put that stone back where it was.

29/07/15 Wednesday, BONDI -

I had sent an offering this week to the now convenor of what was originally my Friday Group at the Club, but for reasons that I had better not inquire too deeply into, he could not send it out to the other “members” of the group (which came into being in the last years of the previous millennium). Which is a pity, because it had something important or significant to impart, and concerning a topical subject, too. It was about a science fiction story, The Subways of Tarzoo, which was set on an alien planet whose surface was covered in giant harps that converted the wind into electricity. As their demand for electricity increased, they were forced underground to live like troglodytes to give their harps more room to reap the wind. I depicted Tony Abbott, who is currently in the news for downgrading renewable-energy funding, tilting at wind-turbines, like Don Quixote. I added a footnote from a story in The Australian on Tuesday saying that if all of America’s fossil-fuel power had to be replaced by wind-turbines, it would take up an area equivalent to Italy. (To read my aborted blog, and see the Abbott/Quixote illo, see appendix#23.)

30/07/15 Thursday, BONDI -

Every now and again – once in a decade perhaps, or in my case once in a lifetime – a mega-storm hits Bondi (bigger even than the one I wrote about recently that exposed the rocks below our balcony at the south end of the beach [see 21/4/15 above]). My mind goes back to another mega-storm that hit Bondi when I was about 7 or 8. Gale-force winds and rain from a cyclone off the coast swept in and battered the beach for three or four days. Huge waves crashed on to the rocks at Ben Buckler, hurling spray 30 or 40 feet into the air, before surging shore-wards, to lap the entire length of the promenade, turning the beach into a single sheet of boiling, broken water. The papers alleged that at low tide gold sovereigns were being found by the beachcombers who came to exploit the phenomenon, and see what else the storm had washed up (or revealed beneath the normal level of the sand). This scene sticks in my mind, quite vividly. That storm must have been almost as powerful as the one which, in 1899, exposed the remnants of some sort of aboriginal tool factory at the north end of the beach, adjacent to the prehistoric dyke that cleaves the cliff up on Bondi golf links, and that was once filled with igneous rock (“blue stone”) from some ancient volcano out in the Pacific. The aborigines, who used the blue stone to fashion tools and weapons, called the quarry “Murriverie”, now the name of the road than runs from Old South Head Road up to what was once the army reserve above Military Road, adjacent to the golf course. That there was something of geological interest up on the golf course I can also remember from the groups of students that used to come there with their lecturer to chip away at an outcrop below the fourth tee, next to the path in the cliff that led down to “The Murk”, which optimistic (and foolhardy) fishermen used to descend to the rocks below [see 3/1/15 for an explanation of “The Murk”]. (When I get the opportunity, I will say more about Aboriginal Bondi.)

31/07/15 Friday, BONDI -

I have more than a passing interest in architecture, and triangular buildings in particular. On the wall of our office in Cleveland Street I have a framed drawing, which I rescued from a skip, of the world’s most famous triangular structure, the Flat Iron Building in Manhattan, off Union Square (near where our new Squiz office in New York is). This interest stems from a quiz I once helped my father do in the old Australian Monthly magazine. One section of it required you identify photos of various buildings, and I was able to inform him that one of them was the triangular Dental Hospital next to Central Railway, where Chambers and Elizabeth streets come to a point. There’s another I drive past every day on my way back to Bondi, opposite Centennial Park, on the corner of Oxford and Wallis streets. A unit in another one in Surry Hills was advertised this week in the SMH’s Domain supplement (the old Griffiths Teas building off Elizabeth Street). Architecture was one of the three elements of my first-year Fine Arts course at university, where my essay on Harry Seidler’s work won approval from a not-totally-disinterested Bernard Smith, my professor and fellow Glebe Society founder. Seilder’s Australia Square building is still one of the best in the CBD (I also like circular buildings), and I even like his much-maligned Blue’s Point Tower. However, I have a problem with architects, who have, I am sorry to say, a regrettable tendency towards fascism (eg, The Fountainhead), along with aviators (eg, Huxley’s “Wings over the World"). Sir Charles Rosenthal - Benjamin Cooley in Kangaroo - was an architect, and thus Australia’s most notorious fictional fascist (though Lawrence disguised him as a lawyer). My hopefully forthcoming book DH Lawrence in Australia [second edition] will argue that Kangaroo is one of the world’s great anti-fascist novels. (“Rosie” was mad about aviation too, and was on hand to witness Australia’s first heavier-than-air flight at Narrabeen in 1909. Nuff said.) But I now digress, which a diary really shouldn’t do. So it’s back on the straight and narrow up at Blackheath tomorrow.

01/08/15 Saturday, BLACKHEATH -

This is the first day of what should be spring in Australia (at least in Sydney and its environs). August 1 used to be Wattle Day - as well as the official horses’ birthday - and in Pope’s Glen below our “weekender” in Blackheath the wattle is in almost full bloom. On such a day as this I must defer to Lawrence. In the final chapter of Kangaroo he captured the quintessence of the Australian spring, as no other writer has, before or since. “It was wattle-day and spring, and hot, hot sun in a blue sky. Birds flew quickly about in the sun, the morning was quick with spring, the afternoon already hot and drowsy with summer...The frail, wonderful Australian spring,” He went on to describe a sulky drive into the bush, above Thirroul, a day or so later where he was entranced by the wattles, which he called “angel presences”...”all at once, in spring, the most delicate feathery yellow of plumes and plumes and plumes and trees and bushes of wattle, as if angels had flown right down out of the softest gold regions of heaven to settle here, in the Australian bush. And the perfume in all the air that might be heaven...the unutterable stillness, save for strange bright birds and flocks of parrots, and the motionlessness, and a stream and butterflies and some small brown bees. Yet a stillness, and a manlessness, and an elation, the bush flowering at the gates of heaven.” Since I grew up, some pressure-group-or-other has managed to arrange Wattle Day to be changed to September 1, on the ground that the wattle blooms later in other parts of Australia. Even horticulture has the dead hand of political correctness upon it. Nevertheless for me, as it was for Lawrence, today is Wattle Day and the beginning of spring, flowering at the gates of heaven, above Pope’s Glen.

02/08/15 Sunday, BLACKHEATH -

We have a new car, the Gem 4. It is a Vovlo XC 90, and it is beautiful. A much-bigger car than our previous Volvos - Gems 1,2,& 3. Gem 1, which I bought brand-new from a Volvo dealer (Lex Brooklands) in Mayfair in 1981, was christened that after we brought it back from London in 1987. I took it to a garage in Mona Vale for some minor repairs, and when the repairman looked under the bonnet he exclaimed: "What a gem!" For it was the last of the line of Volvos that had a mechanical rather than electronic fuel system (and thus could be repaired by non-Volvo mechanics). And it was a Gem, and we kept it for almost 20 years, before we realised it needed a successor. That was Gem 2, a second-hand Volvo station-waggon from Larry, our trusted Volvo dealer, whose Precision Auto has have looked after our Volvos since the late 1990s. They also sold me Gem 3, which we had up until last Thursday, when we acquired Gem 4. (Larry had owned it since he bought it, new, in 2006.)   However, we have kept Gem 3 which we have given to Dan to use when it is not taking us to work each day (for I am not going to trust Gem 4 to the parking and other traffic vagaries of Surry Hills and Redfern). Dan and I cleaned out garage #2 at Bondi on Thursday night so we can stable both Gems there. We have given Dan a zapper so he can get in and out when he wants to. He and Carlyn are taking Gem 3 for a spin this weekend, while we drove - cruised is the better word - up here for Paul Kelly's History Forum talk on Saturday night (and which I will report on tomorrow). My first car (acquired when I was Motoring Editor of Everybody's in 1961) was a second-hand Austin Cambridge. Next in 1966 we bought a new Fiat runabout, and then in London in 1971 we acquired a 3-litre Rover, which was on its last legs, but it was great to drive a big car with PAS (power assisted steering). Back in Australia in 1976 we inherited my father's Holden, and when we returned to London in 1971 I bought my first used Volvo, which was no Gem and conked out in tunnels from over-heating. But I was determined to get a "proper" Volvo, and that was Gem 1, bought with the advance I got from John Murray to write a book about Australia (which I never did, and returned the advance, to be told it was the only advance ever returned by a author - and were Byron's publisher!). Gem 4 will probably see us out, or at least into motorised wheelchairs, or else the advent of self-drive vehicles, needing no driver-input. (I hope Dan will still be around to inherit Gem 4.)

03/08/15 Monday, BONDI -

The big event of the weekend, for which we drove up, was the opening History Forum, a talk by my ex-Australian colleague (and now a star of stage and screen), Paul Kelly. He recognised me, remarking that he had not seen me for 30 years, when he was the paper's Canberra correspondent, and I was their chief feature-writer and Dismissal expert. He had no reason to remember well of me, for we had opposite opinions about The Dismissal, and I gave his first book - on that topic - a poor review, saying that I thought his opinion that Kerr had acted improperly was incorrect. I believe he still holds this view, but less tenaciously now. After he spoke I went up to where he was chatting with Bob O'Neill and told him my Vic Garland story (see appendix #24). Neal Blewett, who was also High Commissioner in London, overheard it, but didn't say anything. I did not stay for questions (we had a busted water pipe back at the house) so I did not ask Kelly the question I had been wanting to ask him for 30 years. "What would have happened if Kerr had not sacked Whitlam?" (as he had argued he shouldn't have). Presumably a compliant Kerr would have accepted Whitlam's somewhat naive advice for a half-Senate election. But then what? Fraser would surely have stuck to his guns and Supply would have run out, presumably before the election could be held some weeks later - an election that would have solved nothing, and rendered the crisis even more critical. Or did Whitlam have some Khemlanisque plan to use extra-parliamentary means to pay the public service and the Army, not to mention pensions and other expenditure commitments? Kelly, as his talk showed, has a good political head on his shoulders. However, I did not feel that it was the occasion nor place to ask such a pertinent question. Pity, for I would have liked to have heard his answer.

04/08/15 Tuesday, BONDI -

On Sunday I came close to death – or at least serious injury. I was driving sedately down Sir Thomas Mitchell Road from Francis Street when a large Mercedes careered around the bend in front of me, crossing over the double-yellow-lines, and heading directly towards our new Volvo Gem 4 at warp speed. I slammed on the breaks and the Merc swerved violently to its left, missing us by inches, then careered on. “That was close,” I said to Sandra. In that split-second, our lives were in the balance, for had he hit us, a very serious accident would have happened. We might have survived, or we might not. Was fate looking after us? However, I am convinced our time has not yet come. Yet the near-miss brought back other times and occasions when the lives of one or other of us (or both) could have ended. When we were in New York in 1986 and about to cross a road in East Village a car came tearing down the road, intent to run a red light. Sandra had already put her foot on the roadway when I snatched her back. Again, the car missed hitting her by inches. I have had many other near-misses. A bad one was on Parramatta Road, outside the university gates. The lights had changed to red, but I was halfway across the intersection. Suddenly a car on the other side of the road did an abrupt u-turn in front of me. How I missed hitting him I do not know. But he sailed blithely on. I suppose my heart attack back in 2003 was a brush with death. My father died as the result of an accident – he fell down some steps in Hyde Park [see 23/12/14], and accidents can happen at any time. I’ll just have to keep my fingers crossed - and my eyes on the road.

05/08/15 Wednesday, BONDI -

In the bus going to the Pioneers lunch yesty I sat opposite two girls in Sydney Girls’ High School uniforms (both were of Asian extraction). As they paused in their chatter I did something rather naughty. “How are things at Billy Goat Swamp?” I asked them. (Both Sydney High schools are built on low-lying land that was once a swamp with that name.) For a few moments they were nonplussed. Who was this strange elderly gentleman (I was wearing my Club attire) who was speaking to them in the bus? Then one of them – the brighter of the two, I think – realised what I was referring to. She turned to her companion and explained that the school had been originally Billy Goat Swamp. Turning back to me, she said:  “It does get very muddy.”  I would have liked to take the conversation further and asked them about their future plans, but the bus pulled up at Central, and they got out.  That girl will go far, I think. The exchange, brief though it was, enhanced my opinion of the new student mix at the two Highs, and my regard for my now highly-multicultural alma mater.  One or other of the schools should put out a newsletter called The Billy Goat Swamp News. Yet that might lure them towards journalism as a career, so I’m glad they got out of the bus when they did. I hope they go on to do science at university.

06/08/15 Thursday, BONDI -

While I was waiting yesty for Sandra to finish her regular half-hour of exercise at her gym in O’Brien Street – and finding nowhere to park in Hall Street while I went browsing (at the Vinnies) and shopping – I decided, having nothing better to do, to drive round the lesser-known streets of Bondi to see what might be available for Sandra’s sister Ingrid, who will be out from London in a week or so, and is bent on buying somewhere in Bondi, both as an investment (she and Yusef have sold the Ismail family mansion in Dacca) and as a bolthole for them and their family. (They can’t take the sale-proceeds back to England because of the prohibitive capital-gains and other taxes there.) …Roscoe, Glasgow, Wellington, Oakley, Vicars, Hastings and finally Brighton Boulevarde. What terrible houses there are in the back regions of Bondi (I will not comment on the flats and home-units), once you get away from the beach. Squidgy little places that would be hell-holes to live in – no parking, narrow streets lined corner-to-corner with cars you can hardly squeeze by, and nothing to recommend them but the fact they are in Bondi, probably the most yupped suburb in Sydney. Beautiful Bondi also has its ugly side. My street, Wallis Parade, was once nice too, lined by palm-trees, and smart bungalows, now replaced with ugly blocks of flats and home-units, and a sprinkling of moshe-mansions [see 24/7/15]. My own flats, Nepean Lodge, now has cars parked on its front lawn, so bad is the parking there. Cars are ruining the Bondi I grew up in. But that’s the price of its yuppiedom, for the yups all have cars. Thank God we are in Notts Avenue, and with garages for our two Gems.

07/08/15 Friday, BONDI -

Three members of the committee of my former Union Club, including the president Robert Bishop, came to our Rant on the Rocks this week, and I realised how far I have drifted away from them. It is now only a matter of weeks, or a few months, since the committee blackballed Peter Wrench, and as a result I resolved not to frequent the club, at least in its guise as the UUSC (and instead “throw my lot” in with the Pioneers, of which Peter is a member). I felt not the slightest pang of regret on Wednesday, as I have now come to terms with a separation and disruption in my life that should be painful for me, for many of its members are – or were – my closest friends, and people I like very much. But now I realise that it is, assuredly, not just the club I was once so proud to be admitted to as a member in 1987, but no longer a club at all, at least in the traditional “gentlemen’s club” sense. It has been reduced by a succession of changes – forced and through bad decisions - to little more than a facility, with no discernible vestige of the exclusivity and feeling of “belonging” that I used to experience, every Friday, when I entered its (still very swish) premises in Bent Street. As Harry Blackboro said, now more than 20 years ago: today it is not a club but a sort of semi-exclusive hotel, with just the facilities of a hotel. Each day its main dining-room is almost deserted, for they have given up the buffet-lunch for a table d'hôte menu, as if it were a city hotel. Its members don’t come there to meet, but merely to use its facilities. (Lord Birkenhead and the Reform in London come to mind.) Of course I am missing the Friday lunch I started in the late 1990s (as mentioned above [27/9/14]), but that has it compensations, even (dare I say it?) its plusses. My absence demonstrates, ostentatiously, my continuing displeasure at Peter’s blackballing and shows how they, in effect, blackballed me too, for they knew, or should have known, its consequences, both for them and me. And I can now throw what weight I can muster into the cause of preserving the Pioneers, which still is a genuine (though ailing) club, as it has a reason for existence – promoting the Pioneers’ history and identity – which the UUSC “hotel” now signally lacks. It has no excuse for its existence, apart from its facilities and a smattering of “events”. No – I have made the right decision and choice, come hell or high water. So this diary has taken on another role – to chronicle my efforts to advance the cause of the Australasian Pioneers Club (of which I am its only New Zealand member). At least my grandfather Robert Darroch, of Wellington NZ, would have thought well of me. (And Wednesday’s Rant went well, too.)

08/08/15 Saturday, BONDI -

Yet there is a certain irony with the above, egregious in its piquancy. My uncle Robin, a very urbane gentleman, and a pillar of Wellington society, was a member of an equivalent pioneer organisation in New Zealand, having been admitted to its membership on the basis that he had an ancestor who had arrived before their cut-off date (which was earlier than the date of my James Darroch’s arrival in 1861). The ancestor, whose precise relationship I am unsure of, was a Fairbrother, probably from Ulster (he had been, we discovered when we visited NZ for the opening of our Squiz office there, the first Mayor of Carterton). So it was with some anticipation that Robin went to see a monument somewhere on the South Island which listed all the arrivals before that crucial cut-off date. To his consternation, if not horror, there was no Fairbrother on it. I’m sure, however, he kept this news to himself, as will I about the fact that the two ancestors I am relying on to qualify for our Pioneers Club membership - George Eason and James Darroch - arrived, respectively, one year after our cut-off date (1841 in my Eason gg-grandfather's case, and 1861 in James Darroch’s instance). If necessary I will fall back on my Fairbrother ancestor, on the basis that his omission from the NZ monument was an error, and that Robin had by dint of his admission been accorded official pioneer status in Wellington, back in the (I assume) 1950s. Nevertheless, as a precaution, I will turn away any “Who Do You Think You Are” researchers who come knocking at my door.

09/08/15 Sunday, BONDI -

On Wednesday at the Rant Lindsay told Sandra a story about Tony Abbott. Some years ago – before Tony entered parliament – Lindsay was at some ACP function with the now-PM and several other Bulletin ex-staffers, including Greg Sheridan, currently The Australian’s chief political pundit. (Both he and Tony went to St Ignatius, Sydney’s Jesuit-run Catholic GPS school.) Lindsay, who is quite left-wing, made some remark about abortion, praising the reigning laissez-faire attitude to it within the community. Abbott demurred very strongly, and threatened to punch Lindsay in the face. He was so incensed that he physically grabbed Lindsay and the two were only separated when Sheridan intervened. Interestingly, we saw Andrew Richardson downstairs in the car-park yesty and he said he had just been informed that Tony, who is Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, has cut back much of the government’s grants to aboriginal organisations and redirected the money to Jesuit-run NGOs, particularly around Cape York. If true, this reinforces the Jesuit dictum that if you can get the boy before he is 12, you will have him for life (or words to that effect).

10/08/15 Monday, BONDI -

Yesterday was City-to-Surf day at Bondi, probably Bondi’s biggest day. (Pity our webcam is not yet operational.) As I observed the scene from our balcony I thought of what our building (Bondi Pacific Terrace) replaced. Before we bought our first unit in 1983 it has been a structure called “The Balconies”, and I remember it well.  

    “The Balconies” (c.1946)  

In its heyday in the 20s, 30s, 40s and even its 50s it had a rather shady reputation (it was very much like the photo above when I was a kid, and used to pass it on my way up and down from the tram to the baths). In fact, when we returned from London in 1966, and went a year or so later to live in Glebe, the cafe on its corner was an Indonesian restaurant called The Bamboo, and we used to drive over from Glebe to dine there, before we discovered the Cubura Balkan steakhouse opposite. (Today, we are in what is now an apartment below the word “HOT” on its then Notts Avenue facade.) John Ruffels, an expert on Bondi, tells me: “The jerry-built Balconies was erected as the trams brought more and more future flat-dwellers and semi- renters, to Bondi in the years around WW1. It was where an SP bookie (possibly James “Paddles” Anderson) and a brothel operated in the late Forties, early Fifties. In the storage areas underneath, shady Bondi persons stored stolen surf boards, which they systematically “re-birthed” and sold to young surfers.” Apparently it was especially favoured by older men watching young boys, such as me I suppose, passing by. (You might note in the snap above the words “The Pacific” on the building behind it. This was a pretty upmarket private hotel which was also demolished when Kerry Packer bought the land to build Bondi Pacific Terrace – hence the name “Pacific” they attached to our apartments.)

11/08/15 Tuesday, BONDI -

Last Friday we saw the final showing of Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show, which we had watched religiously every weekday since we happened upon it on Foxtel several years ago. It was the best of shows. It was the worst of shows. He was superb at what he did – satirising current affairs in America from a left-of-centre, aka “Progressive”, perspective. And if ever there was a Yellow Dog Democrat, it was Jon Stewart. (A Yellow Dog Democrat is someone who would vote even for a yellow dog rather than a Republican.) Every night he lambasted anything to the right of Jimmy Carter. But he did it with a panache and indeed comic genius that excused his every excess and derisive patter. He was Jewish and, although from New Jersey, was quintessentially Manhattan. Towards the end (and in the run-up to the next US elections) his aggressive bias and unashamed partiality mounted, and began to lose its humour. But exaggeration was part of his attraction, and his act. (Before The Daily Show he had been a professional comedian and screen actor.)   Over his 16-year reign at the top of The Comedy Channel he developed the political sneer into almost a new art-form. To mark his departure I will write something on the Art of Sneering, for it starting to dominate today’s journalism, both written and visual, here in Australia. (So see below.)

12/08/15 Wednesday, BONDI -

(The Glorious Twelfth) This evening is Sandra’s book-launch at Gleebooks in Glebe. I’m sure it will be a grouse occasion (pun – the Glorious Twelfth is the traditional opening of the grouse season in Britain). I will report on the book launch – over which I am officiating – tomorrow. I have only eaten grouse once – at a Greek restaurant in Notting Hill. (The first grouse of the season shot are flown down to London to be either bought in places like Harrods or served up, hopefully on the evening of the Twelfth, in London’s top clubs and restaurants.) I do not know the circumstances how our local Greek restaurant came to have grouse on its menu. However, let me tell you that, if the birds we ate were any indication, grouse is much-over-rated. It was tough and stringy and utterly unappetising. (Or maybe the Greeks don’t know how to cook it. I have a suspicion grouse has to be hung until it is almost rotten. Perhaps I will consult Michael Symons on this culinary point.) In my list of gourmet delights, grouse is as big a let-down as truffles. My only other memory of grouse is a scene in Sam Peckinpah's excellent Straw Dogs, when a rather scrumptious Susan George gets raped while Dustin Hoffman is away shooting grouse. (We actually met the screen-writer/author of Straw Dogs at an Alan Riddell party in Bayswater in 1972. Unfortunately he didn’t bring Susan George along.)

13/08/15 Thursday, BONDI -

Sandra’s book launch last night was an outstanding success. More than 50 turned up at Gleebooks (mostly, however, friends and relatives) to hear a very good address from Peter Baldwin and strong contributions from Tom Thompson and Sandra herself. My MC-ing skills were not much called on (in introducing Peter I described him as the former local MP "whose face you know" and former Hawke Government Minister, now the chairman of our Blackheath Philosophy Forum). Peter was particularly good and said some very interesting and pertinent things about Labor local politics. We could not have had anyone better to launch the book. Over 20 came to dinner afterwards in a nearby Italian restaurant (we had a private room) and that sealed the success of the evening, and the event. We saw Amelia Lester there, out for a week from America, and she oozed New-Yorker sophistication and almost palpable distain for anything outside Greenwich Village and SoHo. I remember her as a gauche 18-year-old going off to Harvard on a scholarship, with journalistic stars in her eyes. Well, she made good, and is now writing their restaurant reviews and running some of their IT ventures. Wow! (I told her I was very jealous of her.)   Robert Whitelaw, Antony Carr and Geoffrey Lehmann turned up from the Club (Robert Bishop did not show), but I won’t let that lack of support dim my enjoyment of the evening. It was a good as it could have been, and Tom Thompson was enthusiastic about our joint future publishing efforts. And this morning at Bondi it’s a lovely fine winter’s (early spring!) day, and the water is bluer than blue. God’s in His Heaven, and all’s right with the world.

14/08/15 Friday, BLACKHEATH -

Last week there was a Tube strike in London, and it brought back a flood of memories for me. On Sky they showed some union official explaining why London commuters had to be inconvenienced, and behind him was Farringdon Station. That was the Underground station I would arrive at from Notting Hill to go to my various jobs in “Fleet Street”. For me, Farringdon was where “Fleet Street” began, and from there it stretched right down to the Thames. Opposite the station, in Farringdon Road, was the Communist Morning Star’s office. As I crossed High Holborn I saw the mighty Daily Mirror structure on my right. (Under the Viaduct was Oddbins, where I shopped for wine on my way home to St Luke’s Road.) Sometimes I would go through the back lanes, and into Shoe Lane, where the trucks came to pick up newspapers from the Daily Express (and Evening Standard) and the Daily Telegraph. Arriving in physical Fleet Street itself I would go down the side of the Reuters building at 85 Fleet Street into the precinct dominated by the Associated Newspapers group (the Daily Mail, Evening News, Daily Sketch, and the magazine I worked at as a slowly sub, Weekend). Often I would walk up Bouverie Street past the News of the World to meet Sandra for lunch when she was working at the Fairfax office in 85 Fleet Street (where I also worked for the SMH in 1972). Three years later I myself was working in the News Ltd office in Bourverie Street, opposite the Screws of the World and later The Sun (where I had also done a casual subbing stint). On the corner of Farringdon and Fleet Street, in Ludgate Circus, was our own ACP office, though I did not go there myself until 1983, when I took it over and moved it to our place in Westbourne Park Road. Today, “Fleet Street” is no longer, but is scattered to the four corners of London (Wapping, Kensington High Street, etc). Very little of “generic” Fleet Street exists any more. And although I worked only briefly in actual Fleet Street itself, in the wonderful art-deco Express building (as a holiday casual on the Sunday Express), I soaked up its ambience and its culture, and it was that culture which the footage of Farringdon Station brought back to me. A largely pleasant reminiscence. I saw it when it was at its height (in 1965-66) but also when it was in decline.  In 1983 I took Trevor Kennedy out to Wapping to inspect Fortress Murdoch and told him it would kill off the print unions and thus “Fleet Street”.  (When I told Kerry that, he did not believe me - he thought the print unions, with their hot-metal and Old Spanish Customs, would best even Murdoch and the new technology.) This certainly deserves a diary entry now. (I go into all this at greater length in my life-book.)

15/08/15 Saturday, BLACKHEATH -

Yesty I sent out the diary entry above to some of my journalistic friends, and got quite a response. David Say, who used to be something of a big-wig in Fleet Street before he came out to Australia, said his memories of “The Street of Shame” were much the same as mine, in that we were both familiar with the same precinct and its then dominant culture. Ditto Chris Dawson, who worked on the Express Diary page, and recalled El Vino’s and other memorable Fleet Street institutions. It took Trevor Kennedy back to the Fairfax office at 85 Fleet Street, from where he got a decent breakfast in the Reuters canteen; while John Fairfax recalled the three years he worked in that eponymous office, and used to see snuff on sale in a nearby tobacconist (which took him further back to when Fleet Street was a collection of inns and taverns frequented by the likes of Boswell and Pepys - Dr Johnson’s house being in a back-lane off Fleet Street). But it was Murray Hedgcock, my ex-News Ltd bureau chief, who put what I labelled the $64 trillion question – what now is the future of the business that was Fleet Street? I took that as an opportunity to air my theory about the future of information. “I think I am beginning to get a glimpse what that might be,” I told him, expatiating on my concept of the infosphere (see appendix #25). For some, that will be a dim, if not grim, perspective, but for the likes of young Amelia Lester on the New Yorker in Manhattan [see above my report of Sandra’s electricity-book-launch], it should bring rays of hope and even – as it is for us – the exciting prospect of so many as-yet-still-unglimpsed things to come. (At least she’s now on the IT side of the new Media). Meanwhile I continue to wade my way through the local information soup at Bondi, which thickens gratifyingly by the day. For at least I can feel something of a reporter again, working the virtual streetface with our CyberXs and our GRNs and GSDs. No – there is hope, and in fact a sparkling future for those still interested in what’s going on around them...which is, after all, what journalism is all about (or should be).

16/08/15 Sunday, BLACKHEATH -

I say “as-yet-still-unglimpsed” things to come. But we do now have more than just a glimpse of one thing we are pretty sure is coming – and that is our new digital book-publishing business, The Svengali Press and Do-It-Yourself books. Of our many irons in the fire, this could be the most promising, for it taps into something we know is happening - the demise of the mass-published book, and the increasing cheapness and practicality of small-run, personal book-publishing. We are definitely on to something here, and we are going to pursue it. How far it will run is as-yet-unglimpsed. Meanwhile our ideas (for Sandra is fully aboard with this) on the Infosphere are developing fast. We are beginning to conceive the Infosphere as something pre-existing, and already there - predestined, like the aftermath of the Big Bang - and only "expressing itself" as what we think of as information as occasion demands, and an observer wishes it.   I suspect this, too, will be a major theme in this diary. (Meanwhile I am deep into Information Theory and the concept of information entropy.)

17/08/15 Monday, BONDI -

We had probably the best-ever Forum talk on Saturday, though it was not the Philosophy Forum, but the History one. It was delivered by James Brown – not a name I was familiar with (though he turned out to be Malcolm Turnbull’s son-in-law), nor I suspect to anyone else. His topic was ANZAC, and he could speak with some authority on this, not only as a former senior Army officer (who served in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Solomons) but a former lecturer in military matters at the Lowy Institute and currently with the Institute of Australia-America studies at Sydney University. Moreover he has just published a book about the ANZAC legend, in which, going very much against the current grain, he comprehensively debunks the myth of the Digger. He was highly critical of the much-vaunted quality and spirit of Australian soldiers from April 25, 1915, to the present day. (He told us, for example, the truth about Simpson and his donkey.) This was as politically incorrect as you can get, and it was only the patent genuineness of his concern for exservicemen (he is president of the North Bondi RSL Club and is responsible for them opening a shopfront in Bondi Junction to help veterans) that vitiated any possible criticism of him and his very-strongly-held views. He began his talk dramatically by showing a snap of a former soldier in Afghanistan who committed suicide last month after failing to fit back into civilian life. His death was one of many similar ones, he told us, going on to castigate the government and all and sundry for beating the jingoistic ANZAC drum while failing to actually look after the men who fight for us. But his piece de resistance was a report he held up about the disaster of Gallipoli written in the late 1930s by Colonel George S Patton, who had been sent by the US Army to the Dardanelles to find out what went wrong. (I was probably the only person in the audience, apart from Bob O’Neill and one or two others, who knew who Colonel Patton was). “It still is being used by the American military to train its officers in what not to do,” he added. (Lesson 1 – do not invade Russia. Lesson 2 – do not launch an amphibious invasion of Turkey.)

18/08/15 Tuesday, BONDI -

A Jewish acquaintance, who sends me regular emails, sent this Jewish joke recently, which comes from a fellow-communicant in Manhattan. A Jewish man walks into a bar in New York (a lot of Jewish jokes start this way). He sidles up to the counter where the barman asks him what he wants to drink. “A viskey,” he says, “but, listen, I haven’t any money to pay for it. But I can give you something else.” He reaches into his coat-pocket and pulls out a hamster. “Do your stuff, Moshe,” he says, and the hamster runs up the counter, jumps on to a stool at the end, and starts playing honky-tonk on the bar-piano. The barman nods and says: “That’s good enough for me. Here’s your whiskey.” But when the Jewish gentleman finishes his drink, he asks for another. How are you going to pay for this one?” the barman asks. The Jewish gentleman reaches into his other pocket and pulls out a large frog. “Go to it, Chaim,” he says to the frog, who hops down to the end of the bar and starts croaking out The Star Spangled Banner, as Moshe tinkles the appropriate ivories. Straight away another man at the bar comes up and offers $300 for the frog, which the Jewish gentleman readily accepts, and hands over the frog. As the new owner departs with the frog, the barman pours another whiskey and says: “If you don’t mind me saying so, that was stupid. You could have got a million for a frog that can sing the National Anthem.” The Jewish gentleman leans over and whispers in his ear: “Don’t say anything now, but Moshe’s a wentriloquist too.”

19/08/15 Wednesday, BONDI -

My entry about James Brown and his History Forum talk on Saturday [see 17/8/15 above] evoked an angry response from an acquaintance of David Say (to whom I copied the entry) called Alastair Pope, a former Army officer himself (and the father of several serving Army officers). It was an unabashed rant, and I will quote a few sentences from it before I comment further.  Aaaaaaaaargggghhhhhhhhh. James Brown [whom Pope calls “Brownshit”] was a low level Intelligence Officer.  Counting from the bottom officer ranks we have: Lieutenant-Captain Brown- umm, that's as far as he got.  He never stayed on to reach: Major-LtCol-Colonel-Brigadier-Major General-Lieutenant General-General-Field Marshal…Perhaps we should not to be too hard on Brown as he was exposed in his formative years to the intellectual depredations of Left-wing academics at ADFA.  Unfortunately, they succeeded in undermining his sense of pride in the military he served.”  I looked up Pope and he turned out to himself be a retired LtCol, now a management consultant. He is no slouch at polemic either, and writes for Quadrant on such things as climate change (he, like most of us, is a denialist). Yesty at the Pioneer lunch I spoke to ex-Brigadier Paul O’Sullivan and he backed up Pope’s claim of left-wing bias at Duntroon. (Though I don’t think Brown would have got to be Malcolm Turnbull’s son-in-law if he was too far to the left.) I must say I cleave to Brown’s side in this. This year’s ANZAC centenary was almost repulsively OTT, and I abhor jingoism and Mafekinging (and believe Breaker Morant deserved to be shot). On the other hand, I confess my heart misses a beat when I hear the bagpipes or Rule Britannia. After all, my Navy League grandfather once stood for parliament in Wellington on the platform “Mother Knows Best”. So I am as patriotic as Brown and Pope. And there we had better leave it, as Bob O’Neill did.

20/08/15 Thursday, BONDI -

How my childhood, looking back, was dominated by things sweet. I suppose that’s natural, a consequence of a young body needing sugar for growth and fuel for energy. Whatever spare money I had – as “pocket-money”, or from my part-time jobs as paper-boy, delivery-boy, and the boy on the milk-cart who helped deliver bulk-milk to the houses in Brighton Boulevard, Ramsgate Avenue, and my own Wallis Parade – I squandered on lollies, ice-cream and sickly-sweet soft-drinks. (I even use to drink sugar-laced condensed-milk, straight from the pierced can.) To this day I can recall their proprietary names…Mastercraft, Allen’s, McNiven’s, Peters, Shelley’s - and there must have been others I have forgotten (Marchants?). My most-guilty indulgence was a caramel or lime milk-shake, with ice-cream and “malt” added (they were called “malted-milks”). I also remember chocolate ice-cream sodas, dispensed from a “soda-fountain” that some milk-bars had. There were milk-bars all over Bondi, and even some dedicated “sweet-shops” too. And of course outside the cinemas I haunted were milk-bars that serviced the cinema crowds – and they were crowds in those halcyon 1950s days! Another of my weaknesses was “ice-cream Sundaes” (why “Sundae” – shouldn’t it be “Sunday”?) – a scoop of vanilla ice-cream in a metal bowl, with chocolate or caramel syrup poured over it, with malt added, and which you devoured with a spoon (and licked the bowl afterwards). The ravages it inflicted on my teeth in an unclorinated era I am still paying the price for in dentists’ bills. Today, every now-and-then I get a guilty urge to find whatever has replaced milk-bars and ask for a full-blown chocolate malted-milk - which would blow my blood-sugar through the roof. However, as Émile Coué said: Ca passé (“it will pass”), and it does.

21/08/15 Friday, BONDI -

It’s a beautiful morning at Bondi today. The sun has yet to come up, and the horizon is pink, slowly turning orange-yellow. The wind, or breeze, is from the north-east – Bondi’s prevailing warmer-weather wind – and there is just the hint of gum-smoke in it, probably from precautionary early burning-off north of Sydney.   There is a blue haze in the air, no doubt also from the burning-off.   This is as good as it gets at Bondi this time of the day, and indeed a nice day is in prospect, with a forecast 23 degrees and fine.   I am beginning to think that August is the best month in Australia – and Bondi (hitherto that accolade I would awarded to July, our driest, clearest and often sunniest month). Incidentally, that wonderful dawn picture Sandra captured a week or so ago is going to be the background for our new cyberBONDI “home-page” that Dan is designing. It is a unique image of Bondi, and I think captures “an exciting day at Bondi is dawning” message we want to get across. Can’t wait for the webcam, which is (we are told) only a week or so away. Then we’ll show the world something.

22/08/15 Saturday, BONDI -

We went to Cobbitty to have lunch with the Yates on Thursday, and a curious incident occurred there. The lunch-table conversation got round to music. Both Tim and Renate are music-lovers and opera-goers. I mentioned that we had a Blackheath Philosophy Forum talk recently on Philosophy and Music, and I told them of the question I put to the speaker (who was a professor at the Conservatorium). Did he agree, I asked him, with Kierkegaard’s view [see 3/6/15 & 25/7/15] that Don Giovanni is the greatest work of art any human has ever created? (He did.) I mentioned Joseph Losey’s video of the opera, which I said was the best I have ever seen or heard, but then I also mentioned that on UTube you can see what I described as a famous production of the opera conducted by the great Wilhelm Furtwängler in Vienna not long after WW2. “You mean Salzburg,” Renate (who was born in Vienna) corrected me. “Yes, of course,” I replied, remembering that was where it actually was. “I saw that production,” said Renate. “My parents took me to it when I was about 5. I remember telling them that, when it was over, I wanted to see it again.” She agreed it was a wonderful performance, though she was not sure that Don Giovanni was greater than The Marriage of Figaro. We agreed to disagree.  

23/08/15 Sunday, BONDI -

(An appropriate day for this entry.) I’ve Googled up “sundae” and now know where it came from, or is reputed to have come from. Wikipedia – that gift of God to people interested in the world around them – provides several rival origins. All agree, however, that the original spelling was “Sunday”, and that the confection dates from the late 19th century, in America. One version has it that in 1881 the owner of a drug store in Two Rivers Wisconsin which featured a soda-fountain decided to cut out the soda and serve the ice-cream and its flavouring as a “special” available only on Sundays. A more likely derivation comes from Evanston Illinois where consuming ice-cream sodas on Sunday was banned by local authorities due to religious pressure, but a local drug store got round the ban by also cutting out the soda. This version at least explains how “Sunday” became “sundae”, as local Methodists disliked a blatant item of pleasure being named after the Sabbath. Ithaca New York claims that a local druggist called Platt invented the confection in 1892, calling the initial confection a “Cherry Sunday” because he served the first one on a Sunday. A less-likely (but attractive) origin comes from Plainfield Illinois where it is said that a druggist called Sonntag invented the ice-cream sundae, which was then named after him (Sunday in German is “Sonntag”). Yet Sunday, sundae – what does it matter, so long as it’s served with plenty of malt.

24/08/15 Monday, BONDI -

Saturday was our DH Lawrence Society of Australia’s celebratory “A Day at the Zoo” lunch at Mosman. Although only five turned up (there were numerous apologies), it was a successful and enjoyable occasion. We did Lawrence proud. We had lunch at the Mosman Rowers Club, across from Mosman wharf, where Lawrence arrived on Thursday June 1, 1922, to rendezvous with Jack Scott (as arranged the previous Sunday on the drive back from the afternoon-tea party at Narrabeen). We saw the steps from Royalist Road down which Scott came that morning from his flat in Wycombe Road, and down which he and Lawrence walked to the wharf the following Saturday to travel down, by ferry, tram and train, to Thirroul and Wyewurk. (See photos of the wharf today and the steps on our DH Lawrence Society website The bench on which they sat while Scott quizzed him is not there now, replaced in fact by the Mosman Rowers. So while we sat at lunch we were in a sense sitting where Lawrence and Scott had sat opposite Mosman wharf that fateful Thursday when Scott tried to find out if he could entrust his great secret about the Diggers and the Maggies to this curious little stranger from England, to whom he had taken an instant but fateful liking. We then repaired to the nearby Zoo at whose gates I read out Lawrence’s poem “Kangaroo” (see Sandra’s picture below). Meanwhile I am currently adding footnotes to my third book on Lawrence in Australia (THE NIGHTMARE – Lawrence’s 100 Days in Australia) which will now be published by our The Svengali Press in time for Xmas. But we will change the day and venue of our annual lunch marking Lawrence’s Australian dalliance from May to August - the month he departed for Americas and Taos - from the Botanic Garden (where they are now charging picnickers like us) to the Mosman Rowers. It has parking, and the food and wine there are both cheap and very acceptable. Until next year, then...and the 94th anniversary of the end of Lawrence’s so-memorable 100 days in Australia.



Rob at the Zoo reading Lawrence’s poem “Kangaroo” (proudly wearing his DH Lawrence Society top)

25/08/15 Tuesday, BONDI -

There was a big storm in the night, with heavy hail, and flooding in parts of Sydney, and this morning Bondi Beach wears its scars. And they are indicative ones, for last night so much water fell on Bondi that in making its way to the beach down the natural fall in the land it coursed onto the sand, marking with its stains where it would have flowed before the promenade was built – indeed, where it would have flowed down and into the sea since time began at Bondi. The two largest stains are in front of the Pavilion (where it came down the steps to the beach) and between us and the middle of the beach, where there was once a large storm-water outlet, which used to disfigure the beach I knew when I was growing up. An enlightened government (Wran?) diverted the drain to next to the baths, below us, thus removing the open wound on the beach proper and discharging the storm-water (with its accompanying detritus) into the sea a hundred yards or so from the pristine white sand. Last night its dirty content washed up all along the water’s edge at the south end of the beach, which is now befouled by whatever the past week went down the street-drains behind the beach (this happens whenever there’s a decent storm at Bondi, though the benevolent waves, and the council beach-combing-tractor, clean it up quite quickly, and the dirty water around the new outlet is swirled away out to sea. I wonder how long it will be before that ugly storm-water outlet is diverted - like the sewer outfall at Ben Buckler - further out to sea. Before I die, I hope.   (Maybe they could link the two outfalls in some way, for the sewer one goes many miles out into the Pacific.)

26/08/15 Wednesday, BONDI -

When shopping at the Junction on Saturday I saw on the pavement outside Spotlight a brass roundel commemorating the history of the heritage building, 65 Ebley Street. The structure that is now Spotlight and Metro Storage was built in 1911 and opened in 1912 as the Centennial Roller Skating Rink. In the 1920s he became a Hollywood-type film studio, and several famous Australian films were partly shot and edited there (including 40,000 Horsemen and On Our Selection). Later it became the newsreel company Cinesound’s headquarters (see picture below), and later in the 1950s a TV studio, before it was Norman Ross Discounts, and now Spotlight. (I think I can remember it as a film or TV studio.) It’s nice that its history has been recorded. (Where have the newsreels gone? There used to be at least four newsreel “theatrettes” in town, and I frequented them regularly. I suppose they were among the first victims of television, and the information revolution it wrought.)


65 Ebley Street c1938 when it was Cinesound

27/08/15 Thursday, BONDI -

It’s going to be a great summer at Bondi this (and next) year. And it could even be more than that. For I think Bondi is poised to realise, and physically express, its emerging identity as possibly Sydney’s best and most cosmopolitan (and expensive, property-wise) precinct in - not just Sydney - but the whole of Australia. The development that was the Swiss Grand, now named The Pacific, will be opened in a few weeks – see artist’s impression below - in time for the start of the surfing season.   That alone will change the face of Campbell Parade (“The Strip”). But it will also set the seal on the new real-estate market at Bondi, for its apartments are selling for upwards of $2 million. I drove round the Warners Avenue/Murriverie Road part of North Bondi yesty, and it is chockers with Moshe Mansions [see 24/7/15]. I’ve already described Six Ways as the Montmartre of Bondi, and Hall Street is turning into its Rodeo Drive (as I also mention above). The café and restaurant (and take-away) scene is jumping [see 12/10/14]. The yuppies with their prams and dogs almost clog the footpaths. Sandra’s sister Ingrid and her husband Yusuf arrive on Sunday, hoping to buy somewhere in Bondi (they’re staying at the Adina in Hall Street). I wish them luck, of course, but I think they are at least a year too late to find what they want (for around $2.2 million). There’s a nice place up in Cox Avenue that they might get for $2.6ish. At least the $a is depreciating against the Singapore dollar, in which I suspect they have the proceeds of the sale of the Ismail family estate in Dacca. We want to sool them on to Surry Hills/Redfern, but I think that’s gone or going too (nothing anything decent under $2 million). Good thing we have Notts Avenue. 


“The Pacific” Bondi Beach

28/08/15 Friday, BONDI -

It is said, no doubt truly, that there are two types of people in the world, or at least that everyone in the world can be divided into two types or categories. There is the obvious one, and then there are those who like tripe, and those that don’t. I think I came across another one when we sent out our RSVP invitation to the next Rant on the Rocks on Wednesday. The topic we (Sandra and I) chose was “The Blame Game”. I quote from the invitation we sent out a week or so ago: “Our next Rant on the Rocks will be on just about the most politically-incorrect topic as you can raise in Australia today. It will address the question of the extent to which contemporary Aboriginal culture is dependent upon blaming ‘White Australia’ for our indigenous population's manifold problems and inequities. Are we to blame for the troubles they are in? Or are we being blamed for problems that are not our fault? To what extent does the ‘Aboriginal Industry’ rely on accusations and allegations for mistreatment that the majority non-aboriginal populace are not responsible for? Or is there such a thing as ‘the Aboriginal Holocaust’?” Immediately, we got a rush of (almost curt) “apologies”. So far we have only six acceptances and about 20 apologies. It is clear that the majority of our Ranters (there are about 50 of them) do not want to talk - or even think - about his subject. Now, these people are not your average Joe. They have agreed to be put on our Rocks Rant emailing list because they agree with its anti-political-correctness ideology. In the past 18 months or so we have had discussions on Climate Change, the ABC, the Media, Santa Claus, the Death of the Bloke, the Welfare State, etc, etc – all from a politically-incorrect viewpoint. We thought we were on pretty firm ground with our choice of topics. Then, bang! the earth under us split asunder, and now a chasm has opened between, apparently, two positions on The Blame Game. I am trying to work out why one section is on one side of the question, and another on the other bank. I will bring this up next Wednesday and report back.

29/08/15 Saturday, BLACKHEATH -

I was pouring out some milk on to my breakfast cereal (muesli and nuts) yesterday morning when it came back to me how much better the milk was when I was a kid. The stuff that was pouring out of today’s bottle was so thin it might as well have been skimmed milk, or some other derogation of what comes out of the cow. Suddenly I remembered from my childhood gold-top milk, which had a thick layer of cream at the top of the bottle. (Even silver-top was far better than today’s watery excuse for genuine milk –now no doubt homogenised and pasteurised and even diluted to whatever the powers-the-be who tell us what we should eat and drink nowadays say what should go down our throats.)   I also remember the half-bottles of milk we were expected to drink each morning at school, no doubt provided by an Education Department worried about osteoporosis or other depredations flowing from insufficient calcium. (They left the milk out in the playground, so that when you got it in summer and even spring and autumn it was lukewarm and most unappetising.) Believe it or not, I was once a milk-boy, aged about 8 or 9, assisting the milkman distribute his produce down Brighton Boulevard, Hastings Parade and my own Wallis Parade. I would get up before dawn and meet the milkman and his horse-drawn cart on the corner of Wairoa and Brighton, then accompany him for the rest of his round, down to the bottom of my street, where he gave me thrippence for my trouble. The milk was mostly in bulk, and we ferried it to each house or flat in big metal pails, pouring it into containers either left on the doorstep or in “milk safes” in the wall next to the front door. (But we delivered bottled-milk, and cream too.) This sinecure ended when the milkman’s horse fell down a steep lane in Ben Buckler and was fed to the lions on the corner of Hastings and Wairoa where the circus had set up its travelling tents (as I describe in my life-book, along with my experience on a Fairbrother dairy farm in NZ where, aged 7, I drank cream straight out of the separator). When I got home each morning in Wallis Parade my mother prepared either pancakes with golden syrup or boiled kidneys. Yummy.

30/08/15 Sunday, BLACKHEATH -

Spring is officially yet two days away, and already the bush around us up here at Blackheath is coming alive again. (Allan, our occasionally gardener, says Spring is always about a month late in the Mountains, and really doesn't start until the end of September.)   Some of the early blossom trees are out in the streets around us - we have two in early bloom in our front garden - and the trees generally are in bud. Our azaleas are still sleepy but the vines front and back are showing signs of early life. The herbs, however, (which were badly hit by a snow-storm a months or so ago) are yet to stir. The feeling in the air is one of anticipation, and I suspect by the time we return in two weeks, that anticipation will have turned to glorious realisation.   For it is only in places like Blackheath do you experience the true seasons, and life still plays second fiddle - an accompaniment almost - to the temperature and day of the year. So we will leave Islay (the name of our house) this morning for the drive back (in Gem 4) to Sydney in time for Sandra's sister and her husband Yusuf to arrive from Singapore. We will have lunch with them on our Bondi balcony, where the scene will be different, but also in concert with the beginning of spring (though a few weeks further advanced). In earlier days, virgins would breathe a sigh of relief. At Bondi today it will be warm and sunny, and I will cook Thai green-curry featuring eggs and potato, with roti and accompaniments. A pleasant day is in prospect.

31/08/15 Monday, BONDI -

Is it that your tastebuds are more acute, or appreciative, in childhood - and things did genuinely taste better then? Or is it that memory enriches them?   Some time ago I ran across an article that might explain this, and in a very nice way. I will quote its opening sentence: "I often think that the reason we seek, as we grow older, variety in food and ways of preparing it, is that we lose the recipe of the Magic Sauce we knew in youth, and never recover it; that spice which, added to the commonplace, converts it into a feast of the gods."   The Sauce of Youth. I have to confess that as I age my ability to taste things declines. Or rather I have to have ever-more-spicy food to tickle my indolent tastebuds (which I gather are mainly around my tongue). My especial regret is that I can no longer enjoy the taste of wine (nor its "nose") as I did in my quaffing days. The corollary of that, however, is that it doesn't matter what wine I buy, it all tastes and smells much the same. Nevertheless I have my memories of that fabled Sauce of Youth. As I say in my appendix #27, I can remember the first item of food I ever enjoyed as food - a devon roll at the tuckshop at Bondi Beach Public School. I also remember the taste and smell of a bottle of cab-sav at Five Doors restaurant in Surry Hills in the late 1960s. Ah, Bisto!

01/09/15 Tuesday, BONDI -

We had a very disappointing History Forum session on Saturday (although I suspect the audience of well over 100 enjoyed it thoroughly - they certainly applauded enthusiastically when the speaker, Don Watson, finished). His topic was “The Bush - A History”, and he recently wrote a book on the subject (although its title was The Bush – Travels in the Heart of Australia). And here, I suspect, is where my problem lay, for I was looking forward to a talk on the role of the bush in the history of Australia (“the frontier”, mateship, the pioneering ethos that shaped our national character, and all that). But it was more like a personal travelogue, and the “heart” was not the centre or essence of Australia, but his own heart and his bien pensant (not to say politically-correct) view of Australia and its culture...and politics, for he was Paul Keating’s speech-writer and has written a book about him and his Prime Ministership. I suspect he is a card-carrying soixante huître and he gratuitously laced his (nevertheless well-delivered) talk with sneers, slurs, and sarcastic jibes about Howard, Abbott and “Team Australia” – he even had a dig at poor old Ian Sinclair. Of course, he had a dig at Hawke, too. (He said he took the trouble to look at kids’ suggested flags for the new republic and only two had people in them, both Hawke, one with him atop of Uluru, and the other up a gum-tree.)   His main thesis - and I am writing this without having read his book - was about the depredations done to the Australian landscape by the white imperialist invaders. He gave the impression that we had left almost nothing of what originally our enlightened indigenous population had so-diligently protected and preserved for millions of years. I found that a bit rich given that where he was speaking from was surrounded by gum-trees as far as the (unbiased) eye can see (as is most of temperate and tropical Australia). Had I had the chance I would have told him the story of when I was covering the Mr Asia trial for The Bulletin in Lancaster in England in 1981. Much of the evidence was about nefarious deeds being done in rural NSW, which successive witnesses referred to as “the bush”.   The judge, Mrs Justice (Rose) Helbron, interrupted proceedings to ask: “What is...bush?” The bar table conferred, then the senior QC rose and informed her: “Not the city, ma’am.” I would have liked a better definition from Dr Don Watson. (See appendix #28 for my clash at Sydney University in 1970 with a bushy-tailed Labor historian about “left-wing fascism”.)

02/09/15 Wednesday, BONDI -

Going in the bus to the Club for lunch yesty it occurred to me how much of the world of my youth and early adult life – and my mature life too – has changed, and comparatively recently. Things are always changing, and the world moves inexorably on...the moving finger, and all that. But things are changing much quicker today, to the extent that I feel I am living in a different world to that I have lived in for most of my past...a new world in fact. Of course, the biggest change is the one I have been harping on for some time now – the information revolution that started on February 23, 1981. That revolution, which I have been professionally monitoring, is quickening, and its quickening is one element of the changed world I am talking about. Books, newspapers and magazines are doomed, as is the postal service, the letter, and the landline telephone (the NBN is using the wrong technology, for wireless is the way of the future). Squiz is at the proverbial cutting-edge of this revolution, and it is changing, too. I got our 2014-15 annual report yesty and I see that we are not just a “customer engagement” and “web experience management” company, but now a “business transformation” company. We are raising our sights from not only providing internet technology to our clients, but we are now in the business of “transforming” them, of equipping them and fitting them out to survive and prosper in the brave new online world.   Though that new digital world is still in its early stages, it is gathering pace and momentum by the day. One obvious aspect of it is online shopping and digital communication (mobile phones, “Social Media” and the Twitterverse), not to mention online education, online banking, and online commerce generally (cheques are now as dead as the poor old dodo, RIP). Medicine is surging forward rapidly (we are living longer now) with new breakthroughs in cancer and other maladies being announced almost every week (a flu vaccine that lasts forever was presaged last week).   You can buy a decent (new) car now for under $10,000. For this new world is getting cheaper, too. Australia is changing rapidly too, mainly due to multiculturalism. Ditto politics, bedevilled as it is with political correctness and “identity politics”. Physically my surroundings are being transformed. Bondi, as I have been chronicling in this diary, is fast coming up in the world, as is the CBD and the Sydney I grew up in, and reported. I feel almost as if I should reinvent myself, and be reborn again as a denizen of this new world about me, which I am seeing afresh, as I did when I emerged from my teens in the 1950s. Of one thing I am certain – I shall not shrink back from it (nor capitulate and retreat into a - ugh! - retirement home). Once more the words of Keats come to mind, for I too today am filled with a wild surmise (though I shall not be lost for words, as I gaze out from the other side of a very different ocean, upon my peak at Bondi Pacific Terraces).

03/09/15 Thursday, BONDI -

I made an important and rather dramatic decision this week. I am going to change the title of my Lawrence Scaly Back book, and its cover too (both have been in the form of a CD disc for over two years).   I now shall call it The Quest for Cooley (presently the title of its opening section) and I will ditch the present Nolan “Horrible Paws” cover illustration, and find something else – perhaps Paul’s “chasing his hat” watercolour. I will use the Nolan “Horrible Paws” painting of Patrick White for my The Nightmare book about Lawrence in Australia (second edition, and which I am currently footnoting), for I would prefer to keep that scarifying image for it, being my major work on Lawrence and Australia. Otherwise it would dull its impact and blunt its point if I left it on what will now be The Quest for Cooley, especially as it will be read second now (if anyone bothers to read either it or The Nightmare), in contrast to when I first wrote it in 2012. And The Quest for Cooley is a better title anyway (echoing as it does The Quest for Corvo).   For it was a quest, as the text makes clear. Yes, I think this is better.

04/09/15 Friday, BONDI -

Yesterday was, I think, one of the most propitious days of our lives - as significant in our lives as February 23, 1981, was in the world of information, or as were the advent into our lives of John-Paul Syriatowicz (in 1996) and Steve Barker (in 1986) – which led to Squiz and our now financial security, and all else that flowed for it. The event yesterday was a launch of Mark Moran’s mega-venture, Vaucluse Village, opposite (unfortunately, but perhaps appropriately) South Head Cemetery in Old South Head Road. Vaucluse Village is now questionably Australia’s greatest, most splendid, best-equipped (and no doubt most-expensive) retirement “village”. It puts the “wish” into “swish”. But rather go into its manifold glories (it’s like the Queen Mary ashore), I want to focus on what yesterday meant for us. But to do that I have to fill in a bit of background. Several years ago we decided to build a site we called Rest in Peace. It focussed on perhaps the last unexploited aspect of human activity – death and bereavement. In constructing the site we decided to create a section where people could tell the stories of their lives. We called it The Library of Life. So good an idea was it – and it was Sandra’s - that we decided to create a separate, stand-alone site with that name. We then got Peter to design the software to enable people to write their life-stories (either keyed-in, copied-and-pasted, ghost-written, or dictated into a tape-recorder as “oral history” - which we, using voice-recognition programs, would then convert into text, for pasting in to their lifebook). However, we had a problem - how to launch it. We decided that the ideal target for such a concept was retirement villages (where, by definition, there would be people who might like to record the story of their lives before they die). Recently we saw that an ideal opportunity to put this into practice was being built by the Moran Group at Vaucluse. Yesterday Sandra went to its launch at the Cruising Yacht Club in Rushcutters Bay and spoke to the lady who will manage Vaucluse Village, and explain, as well as she could given the ambient circumstances, what we were offering in the way of an additional service/facility at the village. Candice was her name, and she was very keen on the idea, and asked Sandra to email her with the details, which Sandra did yesterday. I may be wrong, but think they will jump at this idea, especially as we are offering it free, and, moreover we will run it, at no cost of bother to them. I think we will hear back soon from them. If, as I think, this then takes off, it will change everything, and set us on the path to…who knows what? I won’t speculate further, but await events. But exciting days, I think, ahead.

05/09/15 Saturday, BONDI -

I have a confession to make. Some time around mid-April I went off the diet that I launched into on January 1, but since then I have begun to put on weight again, and my waistline is blowing (well, creeping) out. My apostasy started up at Blackheath when I began having a sip of wine downstairs again, and continued on at the Club and then in the office and at home. Mind you – it was not on the scale of my pre-January 1 bingeing, but I was betraying the good intentions and high hopes that I started the year with. I was also having a mid-morning snack of pitta and tarama, and occasionally I resiled entirely, and had a big plate of pasta. When Kathy Samaris weighed me over a fortnight ago, I had put on half a kilo (to about 85.6 kilos). So three days later - two weeks ago yesterday - I returned to the straight and hopefully narrow again. And, I am very pleased to report, it is showing gratifyingly discernible results. In fact, I think I am almost back to where I was when I surrendered to my baser instincts. Now I am rededicating my life to the noble cause of a slimmer and fitter Rob (for I will do more walking too). Yet I will not give up all wine – for that I think was why I supped with the devil again. I will still have a glass or two (even three at the Club or on special occasions), but I will eschew mid-morning and other between-meal snacks, and restrict my food intake generally (I now have only three spoonfuls of muesli for breakfast). But pray for me.

06/09/15 Sunday, BONDI -

Much of the latter part of last week was devoted to an email exchange about “the Aboriginal problem”, which followed our Wednesday Rant at the Rocks on “The Blame Game” (essentially the campaign to make non-Aboriginal Australia feel guilty about the way our indigenous population is suffering deprivation, poverty and a multitude of other inflictions). The exchange (useful term!) was initiated by a rather hostile email from one of the people on the Rant mailing list, ex-journalist Sherry Strum, calling the Rant attendees all sorts of names for being disrespectful of our indigenous population, and in particular my report on the Rant (in which I said the only solution we could see was to treat the indigenous population was part of the continuum of Australian population, though at its lower, most under-privileged end, but not separate from it). I responded to her relating my Jack Mannix two-choices story and asked: “What would you do, Sherry?” I got several congrats from people like Peter Coleman, Trevor Sykes, Paul Sheahan, Piers Akerman, etc – but silence almost everywhere else. Seemingly it was something most Ranters preferred not to think about. But Hugh Wyndham responded intelligently, demurring, though in fact conceding most of my points. The irony of the situation today is that in the Sixties most sensible people would have opted for the second of Mannix’s choices - sympathetic integration. However, in fact we now have, both as official policy and general preference, his alternative – preserve their way of life, with all the horrors that in reality entails. Yet if you sow the wind – as Europe is now finding - you must expect some problems to blow back in your direction.

07/09/15 Monday, BONDI -

Yesterday at Bondi we had haggis for lunch (with neeps and tatties, of course). It was delicious. Forget the Sunday roast, or going out and having yum cha. For us, the best Sunday treat is a steaming globular package of Scotland’s great gift to the world of gastronomy, “the great chieftain of the puddin’ race,” to quote the Immortal Burns (though it is more of a sausage than a pudding - I suspect however that Burns never had the opportunity to taste a sausage, otherwise the line should be “great chieftain of the sausage race”). I purchase my haggi from a Scottish butcher in Mobley Road Maroubra (he makes then from his own recipe), and last time I was there - a few weeks ago to buy yesterday’s Sunday lunch (and that’s another plus for haggis - it keep almost forever in the fridge) - he stocked haggis sausages and haggis patties too...for haggis hamburgers, I assume. Maybe McDonald’s – they’re nominally Scottish – should put them on their otherwise execrable menu. I don’t know what my Scottish butcher’s recipe is, and I daren’t ask. Bismark had the best quote on this, for he quipped: “Laws are like sausages. It's better not to see how they are made.”  (He'd be even less keen to see how haggis is made – though a law like a haggis would be something the lawyers could get their teeth into.) It’s interesting that Scotland’s two great gifts to the world – haggis and the bagpipes - come from a sheep’s stomach (whisky came from Ireland and golf from Holland).   Australia rose to prosperity, so they used to say, on the sheep’s back. Scotland was more focussed in its digestive track. We tried haggis at one of our Literary Lunches a few years back, but it did not go down well. Blackheath, despite its almost palpable Scottish ambience (a bit of gorse and heather on the golf course, frankly) is inexorably Sassenach, though we have called our weekender up there “Islay”, after my ancestral Scottish home-island. Nevertheless, I have decided to keep a spare haggis in our fridges at both Bondi and Blackheath, in case of culinary emergencies. Up there I also have the kilt I bought, hopefully, at the Vinnes. So, I’ll put on another Scottish Literary Lunch soon. Then I can wear my kilt, show off my legendary legs (see my lifebook), and play some Scottish airs, with pipes. And, of course, serve The Haggis (with plenty of Worcestershire sauce). That will keep the numbers down.

08/09/15 Tuesday, BONDI -

If ever there was such a thing as “a red letter day”, yesty – as far as cyberBONDI and our fortunes generally were concerned – was it. For yesty we took delivery of our ceberBONDI webcam, and it was installed on our number 6 balcony at Bondi Pacific Terraces, and is now “live”, at least in beta-mode (for it has yet to go up on the new CB site, which is in fact still under construction). It is, quite simply, spectacular (in the true meaning of that much-abused word). I did not imagine how good it could be (it’s the latest in security video surveillance technology). This will definitely change our fortunes. It is the perfect “frame” for cyberBONDI and we are going to add to it panoply of extra features, some of which we have only just thought of (such as HELLO MUM – visitors can stand on the place opposite us and hold up signs that their folks back home, in Afghanistan or whatever, can see live). We will provide a weekly WHAT’S ON IN BONDI subsite (that Dan and Carlyn will manage) and we will sell adds too. This will be humongous. We go live as soon as Dan can give up the final format and Peter can connect it all up. (My Diary of a Boy from Bondi will be another feature.) Could not be more excited.    

09/09/15 Wednesday, BONDI -

Yesty I got an email from the Headmaster of Cranbrook.   (I am considered a member of the “Cranbrook School Community”, as I went there for one year in 1948 as a callow 8-year-old – see my account of this in my lifebook.) He said, and I quote: “As you are probably aware from media reports, yesterday at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, evidence was given by a teacher regarding historical events from the 1970s and the circumstances of his departure in 2004 from Geelong Grammar School. In the course of that evidence, reference was made to me as Principal at that time, which was shortly before my scheduled return to England to take up another position. I have been asked to attend the Royal Commission later this week where I will have the opportunity to give evidence about the matters raised yesterday.” As might be imagined, that made the front page of both the SMH and The Australian, and was the main talking point of our Pioneers lunch yesty, along with the entire Eastern Suburbs. I do not know the rights and wrongs of this matter, and I don’t much care. That homosexual activity went on in schools, some of it “inappropriate” and probably criminal, I have no doubt. Yet the Salem witch trials haunt anything to do with children making allegations about adults, so I am not rushing to condemn anyone. Sandra and I were discussing this yesty and she told me of a chant that the North Shore private school boys - Barker, Knox, etc - used to make at football games, etc, involving Cranbrook. It went “Woolla, Woolla, Woolla. If you can’t get a Woman get a Cranbrook Boy.” (I assume “Woolla” was intended to rhyme with “Woman”.) Not all the crimes are committed by the masters. (We had a good Pioneers lunch roll-up yesty – eight at table and apologies from Peter Wrench, Chris Arnott and Steve Barker. Augurs well.)

10/09/15 Thursday, BONDI -

A news item about Bondi caught my fleeting attention-span last week. It was reported that a fisherman fell off a rock ledge at Ben Buckler at 3am, and was saved by the Police Rescue Squad around 6am. As a kid, I spent a lot of time fishing off those rocks around Ben Buckler. I never caught much (nor did I fall in), but that wasn’t really the point. I think I got a few sweep and rock-cod that I would take home and my mother, bless her, would fry or grill for lunch or my dinner (there wasn’t enough for two.) I used to go down after school, and at weekends, and dangle my hook at the end of a small steel rod over the edge of the rock shelfs, and await “bites”. My bait was mainly what we called “kungy”, which was a sort of red sea creature that we extracted from soft growths (they were hardly “shells”) that grew on the rocks in shallow water. I got terribly sunburnt in early summer fishing of those rocks, and today I wonder why I did it. I suppose it was part of my Bondi Beach “lifestyle”. I also fished off the wharfs at Rose Bay and Nielsen Park, with even less success. (Of course, my great fishing triumph was over in New Zealand – see my lifebook – where aged 7 I hooked a 56lb grouper, and got a letter from the NZ Hook, Line and Sinker Club commemorating it - no doubt arranged by my thoughtful uncle Robin.) I don’t think I could fish off the rocks or anywhere else today, as my concern for animals in pain now extends to sea-creatures too (but nothing lower down the evolutionary chain than that – oysters are safe from my depredations).   At night I occasionally see the lights of people across the bay fishing off the rocks at Bondi, so some fish must be left there. (Our Beach Cam will pick them up from now on.)   I think I’ll buy something fishy for dinner tonight.

11/09/15 Friday, BLACKHEATH -

We came up to Blackheath this morning, partly for the History Forum tomorrow, and partly to see some tradesmen. Yet the big event of the day was putting up of Paul’s painting of Sandra, executed in 1963, when she was 21. It was Paul’s first commission painting, paid for by Sandra’s father, Phil. Originally, however, it was a double-portrait called “the Sisters”, for Sandra’s younger sister Steph also sat for the picture. Paul did not catch a good likeness of her. In fact, he painted her as something out of Jane Eyre – the madwoman in the attic, I think. So it has never been shown in any of our homes since we were married, and I first caught sight of it. Yet it is a very good likeness of Sandra. So, with her approval, I took it to a local framer in Surry Hills and asked him to cut it in half, so that it was a portrait of Sandra only. This he has now done, and very good it looks. We decided to hang it up at Blackheath, and that’s what we will be doing today. I will try to entice Paul up to view it, for he has not seen it, in part or whole, since he painted it in 1963. It could be quite an occasion. Maybe I’ll ask a few others for the “official” unveiling. Perhaps at a Literary Lunch soon. And we will record the occasion, too. It will make a nice snap for Bondi Boy. (LATE NEWS: Sandra has refused to let the picture be hung in the living-room, because she says it makes her feel creepy and North-Shoreish - though she thinks it is a good painting by Paul. She feels she never looked like that. However, she will allow me to hang it in our common-study. Nevertheless, if we do get our study-extension, I suspect it will hang down my end.)

12/09/15 Saturday, BLACKHEATH -

“If it feels good, do it,” is an old saying, with a lot of truth in it, I think. I’ve tried to track it down, but the best I’ve come up with is that it was a slogan that came out of Woodstock, and the 1968 generation (the soixante huîtres). Yet it is a sentiment that goes a long way back. Wikipedia tells me that almost the oldest-known writing lauded what became known as hedonism – living for pleasure. The Babylonians advised: "Fill your belly. and make merry. Let your days Aristippus of Cyrene, who held that pleasure is the highest good. What brought this pleasant thought to mind was thinking idly what I might do next today. I had various options – I could go into the study and do some more footnoting; I could watch TV (but there was nothing much on); I could go downstairs and listen to music, and perhaps have a glass of wine; I could go and do some shopping; or I could start to prepare a BBQ lunch out on the patio with Sandra, and have a chat about something interesting we had read or thought about lately. Which would make me feel best, I pondered. What measure of feeling good could I apply to my decision?   I decided that the most pleasurable thing I could do was to write this hedonistic causerie, and that’s exactly what I decided to do. I agree with Aristippus. What other point is there to life than making every moment as pleasurable as possible? There, I feel even better now. 

13/09/15 Sunday, BONDI -

The History Forum talk yesty was, in contrast to the previous one by Don Watson, excellent. It was announced, however, that Watson had won this year's NSW Premier's History Prize, which served to confirm all my prejudices about the integrity and efficacy of arts grants and prizes (see my lifebook re my notorious 1976 series of articles in The Australian on the Australia Council). The speaker yesty was Mark McKenna, Professor of History at Sydney University, and his address was about his award-winning 2011 biography of Manning Clark, An Eye for Eternity. It was in fact this year’s Forum VERE GORDON CHILDE MEMORIAL LECTURE, which was originally my idea when I was on the initial History Forum committee - until I clashed with Babette Smith over Sandra's involvement in the then planned Forum.   But that's now water under the bridge (though I also noted that Babette, whose forte is politically-correct history, had with her history of the Irish in Australia won some minor element of the 2015 History prizes, which is par for the course, on whose verdant links it literally pays to be Irish or pro-Irish). But, begorrah, I digress. Although Manning Clark was chairman of our original Save Wyewruk Committee - and we were very grateful to have his support as Australia's most eminent historian - his reputation as an "academic" historian is more-than-somewhat tarnished by his politics, which were very much out of left-field. So the interesting thing in McKenna's talk was about his own biographical techniques, rather than about Clark himself, and how he dealt with the almost-too-voluminous, hothouse-cultivated, source-material he had at his disposal (and of which he is sole custodian) – daily-diary, letters, two-vols of autobiography, publications, interviews, memoirs, etc, etc, etc), and how to deal with his over-riding challenge - which he freely admitted to – of his icon's self-indulgent way of telling his own personal story of Australia, as if it were history. Manning, of course, must have been the apotheosis, if not the progenitor, of the current generation of "Labor historians", which now infest history departments around Australia, many of whom he trained and "inspired". (I'm sure Don Watson must have been one of his students.) I recall Manning asking Margaret Jones, somewhat pathetically, how he could make his - presumably last volume - more relevant to current thinking about women's issues and other politically-correct matters. McKenna told some telling tales about Clark's cavalier treatment of his wife, and his even more cavalier treatment of fact and truth (I am not sure which is the more reprehensible). McKenna ended by quoting Manning saying he would have preferred to be a story-teller, and half-implied that that was not a totally-disreputable way of going about history. (So Sandra's superb history of electricity – 20 years in the making - did not get a guernsey at the History Prizes. Given that essentially it was about corruption in the NSW Labor movement, and that its hero Forbes Mackay was a dour Presbyterian Scot, it didn't have a snowball's chance in whatever Hell ideologically-driven historians finish up in.)

14/09/15 Monday, BONDI -

It was the Festival of the Winds at Bondi yesty. It was a lovely day for it, and the kites were very good. Bondi was packed, and there must have been over 30,000 on and around the beach. The streets leading to the beach were clogged by long queues of cars trying, unsuccessfully, to find parking places. We had intended to pick up Sandra’s sister and brother in law – Ingrid and Yussuf – in Hall Street, take them to see the Francis Street semi they bought at auction on Saturday, and then find somewhere nice around Six Ways to have a celebratory lunch. (They had come out from the UK specifically to buy something, hopefully in Bondi.) We drove round unsuccessfully for some time, then bought some comestibles at Con’s and came back here to lunch leisurely on our balcony, and observe the kites in comfort.   They will never regret buying that place - for a remarkable $1.8 million - and were lucky to get it at that price. (I thought it would go for between $2.2 and $2.4 million.)   With the half-million they saved, than can turn it into something nice – it comprises two flats – either as a Bondi bolt-hole, or an investment. But now they are part of the neighbourhood, and I think we will see more of them in coming months and years, and that will be a good thing – both for them, and us.

15/09/15 Tuesday, BONDI -

Over eight months ago – on the first day of the year – I wrote a diary entry that predicted what transpired last night. “The unthinkable has happened,” I began. “Tony Abbott, until, as of few weeks ago, a cast-iron certainty to win the next election, has blown it – in spades.” The occasion, of course, was his “Captain’s choice” of a knighthood for Prince Philip. I wrote: “He has catapulted republican Malcolm Turnbull out of the wilderness and back into leadership contention. Malcolm is now an eminently-credible alternative. I did not think he had a snowball’s chance in Hell of ever coming back. Now he is on the verge of realising his life-dream – Prime Minister of Australia. There is a lot of bad blood to go under the bridge yet, but my money is on Malcolm, whose political skills are undeniable. I think Malcolm, with whom I worked with on The Bulletin and later at ACP, will prove to be a very good PM. Perhaps even a great one, for he has the seeds of greatness in him.” We watched it happening live on Sky TV, and there was almost something Shakespearean about the drama that unfolded in front of our eyes, and swags of Macbeth came to mind, from: “If it were done when ‘t is done, then ‘t were well if it were done quickly” through “Is this a dagger I see before me, the handle towards my hand? Come, let me clutch thee” to “I will advise you where to plant yourselves/Acquaint you with the perfect spy o’ the time/for it must be done tonight”. And finally Malcolm himself: “We shall not spend a large expense of time/Before we reckon with your several loves/And make us even with you/My thanes and kinsmen, henceforth be earls.” Arise, Earl Morrison (a Scott).

16/09/15 Wednesday, BONDI -

The sun rose at 6.05 am yesterday morning, just to the right (from my balcony perspective) of Ben Buckler, or to put it another way, the sun is now free of land and can rise from the sea until it reaches its summer solstice turning point, and then has to go into reverse, and swing back to its winter solstice position to the right of the Stink Pot. Next week is the spring equinox, when day and night are the same length, so this breaking free from Ben Buckler is an important event in my Bondi year, marking the half-way point in the sun’s journey from east to west, across my horizon. I thought its occurrence should be noted.

17/09/15 Thursday, BONDI -

The UK Labour Party has gone out of its cotton-picking mind. It’s just elected Jeremy Corbyn as its new leader, which is the political equivalent of putting a pistol to your temple and blowing your brains out. He’s England’s Donald Trump, except at the other end of the political spectrum. Corbyn is not just on the left – he’s a throwback to the days of, of, I can’t think of anyone further to the left (not Attlee or Aneurin Bevan - maybe Arthur Scargill?). Ah – I’ve got it now...he’s Tony Benn’s scatter-brained brother, with the dress-sense of Michael Foot and the electability of, of,, I can’t think of anyone less attractive to the voting public in the UK. Even Crikey’s Guy Rundle (who strives to see good in anything to the left of Mark Latham) hasn’t a decent word for him, suggesting he’s a stalking horse from his now sidekick called Watson, who will replace him in time for the next general election in 2020. Of course, this is what you get if you hand over the election of leaders to the rank-and-file of the party (rather than the MPs in parliament). The rank-and-file have no political sense whatsoever, and would elect a clown with a propeller hat so long as they sang The Red Flag and believe that what England needs is to go back to 1920s-style socialism, which to Corbyn means re-nationalising the railways, banning the bomb, and making The Road to Wigan Pier compulsory in comprehensive schools...which, come to think of it, is what Jeremy Corbyn is – a political clown with a red nose and a propeller hat. Is that a headless chicken I see running round the backyard? (Punchinello has just appointed a feminist vegan, who believes that farting cows exacerbate global warming, as his Shadow Agriculture Minister. Words fail even me.)

18/09/15 Friday, BONDI -

An interesting sidelight – literally - to the elevation of Malcolm to the Lodge was the photo of what is now The First Family on the steps of Yarralumla after the swearing-in ceremony. The snap of happy, smiling faces had on the left Malcolm’s father-in-law, the eminent barrister Tom Hughes, and on the right his son-in-law, James Brown, about whom I wrote on 17/8/15 after he gave the History Forum talk up at Blackheath (and which I lauded). I got an angry feedback about my item, calling me and Brown all sorts of names for sullying the sacred memory of ANZAC. I suspect that First Family will be Malcolm’s kitchen cabinet, and James Brown – who is very bright, with firm ideas about important matters - will be in a position to wield some considerable influence in what’s going to happen in coming years.   I suspect that influence will do Australia a great deal of good. Not an éminence grise, but an éminence khaki. Historical note: the original éminence grise was Père Joseph, a Capuchin friar who was Cardinal Richelieu’s personal envoy in his diplomatic dealings with other European powers. As a Cardinal, Richelieu wore red – he was the éminence rouge – while Joseph wore the grey Capuchin habit of a monk, hence éminence grise. Joseph used to travel round Europe in a closed carriage, doing his master’s bidding, which made his position even more mysterious. So an éminence grise is not, historically, the “power behind the throne”, but a little-known player in what’s happening behind the scene, who keeps his head down, and his mouth close to his leader’s ear. (Is Malcolm another Richelieu? We could do worse.)

19/09/15 Saturday, BLACKHEATH -

Richelieu is one of my favourite historical figures, alongside Cromwell (Thomas) and, from a rather different generation, Akhenaton. (I wonder what that says about me?)   In the latter case it is obviously because of my propensity to go against the grain (hence the title of my life-book). Cromwell, a History 1 essay on whom gained the highest mark Hazel King had given to a first-year essay, and exempted me for lectures when I repeated History 1 (though there may have been another reason for that - again, see my life-book re my father and young Hazel) I like because of his Machiavellian mind and his role in the English Reformation and the foundation of the British political system (Churchill called him "the architect of our great Departments of State"). Richelieu I like because, like me, he suffered from migraine, and liked cats (like me). He was also probably, short of Napoleon, the greatest figure in French history, and was largely responsible for the making of modern France, geographically at least. He also ordered the construction of France's first great canal, the Canal du Midi, down which Sandra and I cruised in 1986, before we went over to New York to take over the ACP office there (I like canals too). Richelieu used to closet himself in a darkened room and howl like an animal when in the throes of a migraine attack (as did I, less the howl). If only I had been around at the time, for I could have told him what to do - place the side of your head that hurts on a hot-water bottle, and the pain will gradually disappear. (But it wasn't until I was in my twenties that I stumbled on that "cure"). Oddly, given that the priests of Amun later tried to erase all evidence of Akhenaton's reign as Pharaoh, he left behind a number of quotes, or aphorisms, such as: "The wise man doubteth often, and changeth his mind; the fool is obstinate, and doubteth not; he knoweth all things but his own ignorance." Yes, I like Akhenaton, and am very sorry that the new city he built, Akhetaten, was razed to the sand by hisreligious enemies. Yet perhaps what I admire most about him was his taste in art, for it falls to few people to change the human image as he did (see below):


No other Pharaoh looked like that. Akhenaton changed the face of Egyptian art.

20/09/15 Sunday, BLACKHEATH -

Last week, while doing the footnotes for my new book on Lawrence (The Nightmare - Lawrence's 100 Days in Australia) I made a rather dramatic - and unsettling - discovery. I had occasion to look up the letters I received over the years from Gerald Pollinger, until he died the agent for the Lawrence Estate. I had wanted some item of information about Lawrence, and he replied that Dr FP Jarvis would have known, but he had been murdered, and suggested someone else who might help me. (Jarvis was an American bibliographical expert who in the early 1970s had written an important article on the differences between the UK [Secker] edition of Kangaroo and the U.S. [Seltzer] edition, and which Lawrence's bibliographer Warren Roberts sent me to help my submission to the CUP to edit Kangaroo for the forthcoming critical edition of all his works. In the event, I didn't get the job, for it was given to Bruce Steele, who went on to rubbish all my Lawrence in Australia research - but who managed to get the ending of Kangaroo wrong.) So who murdered Dr Jarvis, and why? I have written to Polliger's daughter, who now runs the agency, to see if I can find out more. Meanwhile, my mind boggles with possibilities. (Agatha Christie could have made something of this - "The Lawrence Mafia Murder", or "The Mystery of the Murdered Bibliographer".) I should have wondered why Jarvis was not given the role of editing Kangaroo - especially as the CUP edition's general editor was his fellow bibliographer Dr Roberts. If only I had been more curious, my friend Warren Roberts would surely have told me. I wonder if Roberts' correspondence has been preserved? I will ask the HRC in Texas.    

21/09/15 Monday, BONDI -

Some place-names I like more than others. Apart from "Bondi" (for home-town reasons), my favourite Australian place-name is Gulargambone. You don't so much say it, as gargle it. To me, it is the quintessential Australian place-name, edging out Woolloomooloo and Wagga Wagga (to cite only those in the Ws). Actually Gulargambone is near where my Eason/Killeen family hail from in the mid-west, around Coonamble, Gilgandra, Cobar and Coonabarabran. Apparently Coonabarabran means "the place of much shit", for the local indigenes liked to play jokes when the invading white man asked what the local camping ground was called. (Bondi, by the by, is translated as "sound of breaking waves" or "place where a fight with nulla-nullas took place" - like Paul Keating, aborigines had a habit of repeating everything they say.) Overseas, I like Tallahassee, Timbuktu and thirdly Travencore, which, when I was collecting stamps, seemed particularly exotic, redolent with the smell of spices and images of waving palms along the Malabar coast. My own name, I found out recently, means in Gaelic someone whose family came from Jura (so we should have named our place in Blackheath "Jura" rather than its bigger neighbouring island, "Islay"). If ever I go across the seas to Scotland, I'll make a point of visiting Jura (where George Orwell largely wrote 1984) and seeing the Paps of Jura, the island's most prominent feature, so named for obvious reasons (see below).

22/09/15 Tuesday, BONDI -

Why are newspapers going down the gurgler? Why are their circulations dropping – to the extent that some experts predict that the last daily newspaper will roll of the presses sometime in the 2020s...within our lifetimes? What are they doing wrong? The general answer is, of course, the internet. However, up until yesterday my answer (and I have spent my professional life in the newspaper business, and know as much about it as anyone) was that date I keep harping back to – February 23, 1981: the watershed 24 hours when information flipped over into excess supply (the day the Reuters Monitor service, the world’s first digital financial information source, went live). Yet note that date: 1981 – that’s a good decade and more before the internet came into popular use. So surely there’s a startling paradox here. Since 1981 the vast, almost exponential increase of information flowing around the world, and the community, has not sated people’s appetite for information - rather the reverse. It’s made them more aware of the information about what is happening around them, and hungry for even more about it. So what’s gone wrong with the business of disseminating information? It should be booming. Mr Murdoch should be on his way to becoming a trillionaire. Yet the online – internet - versions of traditional newspapers (and other information sources) have not taken up the slack, by any means. They have not solved the Media’s revenue-sapping dilemma. Even though they’re free, the public isn’t clamouring use and access them. More than print, yes, but they are not taking full advantage of the information revolution. There’s some other factor that’s operating here, and what it is came to me only yesterday, which is why I am writing this diary entry today. Yet it’s so obvious that an old hack like me should have seen it before. It isn’t information as such that is causing the demise of traditional information sources, but the type of information they are attempting to disseminate, and make money (mainly via advertising - for you can’t sell something the law of supply-and-demand has rendered intrinsically free) from doing so. And this is the crux of the problem, for there is, I believe, a new inverse-square law here. The more general the information, the less people are interested in it. The public want more information, yes, but increasingly mainly about what is of interest to them - targeted information. It’s the very triumph of the information revolution – more and more information – that has blunted people’s appetite for it. To quote Milton: “The hungry sheep look up, and are not fed.” Why yesterday? Because yesterday I was putting together a brief for a job we are putting out to be filled: the position of a trainee journalist for a local subset of our Cybersydney website to be called BONDI TODAY. I detailed what we want them to do, which is to try to keep track of what is happening in Bondi, on a daily basis. As I compiled the list (fortunately I know Bondi as well as anyone) it dawned on me that I was putting together the sort of daily duty-roster my old deputy-chief-of-staff Harry Sherring used to produce every day – the various rounds, reporting jobs, and so on (and which – and this is highly significant – papers like the SMH no longer make any attempt to cover).   Things like local courts, the local council, local police-rounds, what’s happening on the beach (“the beaches story”), what events are occurring, what’s new locally, etc, etc, etc. Their news-sight has been blurred. They are focussing out, not in. The mistake everyone is making is thinking too big, and trying to report/record what is happening beyond the local community, and outside the interests of local people. Yet – and this is the supreme irony - the power of the internet is to be able to tap into information sources than can, properly tweaked and focussed, increasingly find out what is happening locally (such as, for example, “the social media”). And that is the ultimate paradox that is escaping everybody – except, now, us. Wish us well.

23/09/15 Wednesday, BONDI -

Speaking as I was of stamps, and girls, why doesn’t the feminine side of the species collect stamps? Is this a boy-thing? Sandra she tells me did not collect stamps, neither did any of her (female) friends.   The only thing she could remember girls collecting was "scraps", which are small items of paper illustrations depicting things that girls like or can identify with. They went into "scapbooks" which girls kept to show other females what they were interested in (before boys loomed on their horizon). It goes back, Wikipedia now tells me, to the commonplace books people of all ages and sexes kept in the 18th and 19th centuries and which were compendiums for things people thought worthwhile to save and remember. When I was a cadet reporter I (and my fellow cadets) maintained scrapbooks into which we pasted the stories we had written, and were published. So what was it about stamp-collecting that appealled to boys but not to girls? According to a philately expert, there are three main reasons. Stamp-collecting is a hobby, and girls don’t go in for hobbies, and collecting things. If you asked a girl what her hobby was, she would know what you were talking about. It’s a male thing. Second, it’s a solitary hobby. Girls tend to be more social, and stamp collecting is not a social hobby. Third, stamps are mainly about foreign places – geography – and girls aren’t into geography. (After we married, I was astounded that Sandra didn’t know how the countries of Europe were arranged. She hadn’t the foggiest idea where Germany was vis-a-vis, say, Greece.) I know I learnt about the world from my stamp collection, and from my Stanley Gibbons world stamp catalogue, which was the equivalent of a global encyclopedia. After a while, I concentrated on Australian stamps, and had quite a decent collection. There was an arcade between Pitt and George that had a number of shops that sold stamps, and I used to visit them whenever I came into town. (In fact, that was one of the reasons I came into town.) But I grew out of stamps, and sold my collection of Australian stamps to buy a cricket bat (a bad bargain, for I got nowhere near its proper value). Yett I do have my father’s stamp collection, which I inherited after his demise. It’s on the occasional table behind me in my study. I glance at it sometimes, to remind me of the collection I once had. I don’t think it’s worth anything. And now stamps are dying out, in the face of competition from the internet. “Would you like to come up and see my stamp collection?” wouldn’t have been much of a come-on line, except for girls who were very keen.

24/09/15 Thursday, BONDI -

It is now one year since I started this Diary of a Boy from Bondi, and it’s time to look back on the past 365 entries, and take stock. Well, I can start by confessing that my good intention to be brief has not played out in practice. I have resiled. I have been, as is my distressing wont, more prolix than I had intended. On the other hand, the entries have been reasonably succinct (or succinct within reason), and I at least am happy with the format. The causerie aspect has, I also think, been worthwhile, and has led, I hope, to a body of writing that might be worth reading – which is the ostensible purpose of a diary such as this. (Others may well have, to the extent they might be interested, a different opinion.) I hope I have got the mix of the personal and the more discursive about right, and I will continue along this track. It’s certainly been an interesting year, and I hope that is reflected in the entries. Squiz has spurted ahead, and our various internet and publishing projects have advanced successfully. The webcam and BONDI TODAY will go live soon, probably after we return from our trip to China, starting on October 10. It’s been a good year, and there’s an even better one in prospect (health always permitting). However, I will strive to be more circumspect in the coming 365 days. That’s my new-diary-year resolution. (I hope I keep it better than the one about my waistline.)

25/09/15 Friday, BONDI -

As I say in my life-book, from a very early age I had a good opinion of America, and everything American. I remember the young US naval officers with their white uniforms and silver buttons who came to our house in Oakley Road and gave me strips of chewing gum, and spoke to me in their soft southern drawls. (But see my life-book for my subsequent suspicious about the purpose of their visits.) They had come to Australia save us from the Japanese, and my initial admiration for America was later enhanced by the Hollywood films I lapped up in the local cinemas in Bondi. America dominated my childhood, much I suspect as Britain did for my father and grandfather in the days of Empire. When I joined the Tele and found that the house-style (“Telegraph Style”) favoured American spellings, I went along with that quite happily (though “program” with one “m” always worried me). Now, however, the American-spellings that spell-check wants to impose on what I write irks me (I know I could use the Australian version of presumably Word, but my machine keeps reverting to American spellings, no matter how often I tell it to do otherwise). The single “l” in words like “traveller” annoys me, as does the insistence of “z” over “s” in words that end, for example, in “ise”. These intrusive “z’s” are like a mosquito or a bumble-bee buzzing round my keyboard. I like the American intransigence on avoirdupois, and I, like them, still prefer to think in inches, feet, yards and miles. I don’t really mind if America – as my friend John James tells me – maintains 300 military bases round the world. I’m happy to have some of them in Australia, for we need the long arm of Uncle Sam to protect us from the Asian hordes that are, apparently, poised to descend on us. (There – it’s done it again. Word wants to spell that “defence”. But, bugger Word. I’ll go along with the English spelling. You can take things American so far, but no further. Give them an inch, and they’ll take a yard.)

26/09/15 Saturday, BLACKHEATH -

I may have mentioned this somewhere above, but I am a luddite as far as the metric system is concerned, and refuse to think in metres (my preferred spelling), and the other legacies of the Napoleonic system of weights and measures. I'm still an avoir du pois person, as I say above. I am particularly annoying that this change in the way we describe and think about the world around us was imposed on us, without consultation and our consent, by government (or public-service) fiat. Had I been consulted, I would have opted to either keep what we had, or make the sort of minimal changes that America did. One of the chaps at the Club - Bob Johnstone - was (as Reserve Bank Governor) an architect of this dictatorial - no, fascist - action. He's openly proud of how this was got through without public consultation and consent. "Look how we fooled the stupid people" seems to be his mantra. OK - long-division of pounds, shillings and pence was a bit difficult, and metric currency is fine by me (that's the American system anyway). And I am used now to ordering food in grammes (my spelling, Word) and kilos. I don't miss the stones and hundredweights, pecks and pinches, chains and rods, and poles and perches.   "Five kilometres on, Five kilometres on, Five kilometres on/Into the valley of death rode the 600" loses something in the conversion. (A league was roughly three miles - the distance a man could walk in an hour.) Yes, now I remember - I have mentioned this before, on finding a box of 10 eggs in the supermarket (12/12/14). OK - so I'm irked again. But my position hasn't changed, nor my annoyance diminished. I think and operate in dozens, inches, yards, miles, and half-acre blocks. That decimal system has a role, I do not deny, but the base-12 is superior to base-10. (I'm watching the golf on TV at the moment, and they still drive the ball in yards and putt in feet and inches. And I don't think that is going to change soon, thank God, rose plot, God what.)

27/09/15 Sunday, BLACKHEATH -

We had a very good meeting with the Vaucluse Village people on Friday, and I think they will go ahead with our idea - proposal - to set up a branch of The Library of Life at the Village when it opens mid-next-year. If so, this could be the start of something big for our Lifebook concept (and Rest-in-Peace). I discovered during our meeting with Candice at the Moran swanky VV office - shop - in Vaucluse Village (the shopping area at the end of New South Head Road) that she is the great-grand-daughter of Sid Barnes, the Bradman-era batsman who once scored 234 in a Test match in Sydney while Bradman scored the same number of runs. Barnes later became a cricket writer for the Telegraph, before I joined it. He wrote a column in the Sunday Tele in which he castigated the current generation of cricketers, calling them "pie-eaters".   I do not think I did our cause much harm by being knowledgeable about Candice's, obviously well-remembered, great-grand-father.

28/09/15 Monday, BONDI -

Another interesting History Forum on Saturday. The speaker was David Horner, who has just published the first of a three-volume history of ASIO. He spoke well and informatively about a subject I knew a great deal about – at least the pre-1949 (the year ASIO was set up) era, going back to the foundation of its predecessor, the Investigation Branch of the Federal Attorney-General’s Department in 1917(under Major Harold Jones). He mentioned Jones and secret armies, but only briefly. Afterwards I bought a (discounted) copy of his book and read what he said about this in it. He mentioned the 1920-40 secret army period in a few brief sentences, but gave no hint of knowing (or being interested in) anything about the Old Guard’s predecessor (“the Garage”) in the period I am interested in - and which Major Jones certainly knew about. As I told Gary Werskey, the History Forum convenor, Colonel Charles Spry, a former (1950-70) head of ASIO, apparently knew something about Lawrence, Kangaroo and secret armies (see my secret army notes on our DHLA website), and I suspect that somewhere in the ASIO files a document exists that could supply my “smoking gun”.   It would be nice to have it, but I now have enough for my new book (THE NIGHTMARE – Lawrence’s 100 days in Australia), which I am busy footnoting – a surprisingly pleasant experience. What impact it might make I do not know, and don’t really care. I have been out in the wilderness for so long – almost 40 years now – that it seems like home to me. Some years ago I read somewhere that no truly revolutionary theory can be accepted until all those who initially rejected it are dead. Well, they’re getting on, and I am hoping to stick round for a few years yet.

29/09/15 Tuesday, BONDI -

Last night, at dinner (with Jo and Arnold), a large chunk of one of my front teeth fell out. I had bitten on, of all things, a dried fish – it was a Malaysian curry – and this was one of the condiments. I suspect this will prove one of the most expensive fish I have ever attempted to consume. I will have to ring up my local dentist and plead for an appointment today, for it will have to be repaired in some fashion before we depart for China next week. (At the moment there is a large, unsightly gap in the middle of my toothscape.) The original fault-line was probably created when I fell off my tricycle when coming down the hill in Wallis Parade when I was five or six, and smashed my two front teeth on the concrete pavement. Over the ensuing years the affected teeth have been repaired and patched, as they deteriorated, by literally generations of grateful dentists, here and overseas. God only knows what Dr Ruttner down in Curlewis Street will decide to do to restore some semblance of order or respectability to the demolition site that is now my mouth.   It is not a prospect I am looking forward to, for I hate dentists and all their works. (As a race they have done my mouth some considerable harm over the years.) Yet I have no option but to grin and bare it (sorry for the pun)...though in the meantime it would be best if I did not try to grin, for it is not a pretty prospect on the other side of my lips.

30/09/15 Wednesday, BONDI -

Frank Tyson died on the Gold Coast last week, aged 85. Not a name much remembered today – he rated a filler on a back page – but when I was 14, his was a name that struck fear into Australia’s Test team, for then he was “Typhoon” Tyson, the fastest bowler in the world (and, according to some, the fastest bowler of all time). Bradman rated him faster that Larwood, and he won the 1954-55 Ashes series for England, to my juvenile desolation, for that was when I began to take a greater interest in what became my favourite sport (as mentioned above, it was also when I sold my precious stamp collection to buy a cricket bat). He was an unlikely-looking “demon bowler”, with a balding pate and a burley physique that gave him an almost-ugly “heaving” action. He looked for all the world like an aging, medium-pace trundler. But he flashed across the mid-50s cricket world like a fiery comet, before swinging out back into obscurity again. His bowling partner Brian Statham – actually a much better bowler, technically – was to remain on the scene for some years after the ‘54-55 series. Yet Tyson will be the name to be remembered, helping England retain the Ashes (which they had won in England the previous year) by a decisive 3-1 - and despite winning the first Test in Brisbane by an innings! It was his bowling in the third Test in Melbourne, where he took 6/16 off 6.3 overs, that destroyed Australia and earned him his fearsome “Typhoon” nickname. The ill-fated Australian captain Ian Johnson also lost the following Ashes series in England – which was perhaps the nadir of Australian cricket in modern times. Tyson hardly bowled a ball in that next 1956 series, and took only 1-38 in the final Test at the Oval, before vanishing from the scene (as had Larwood before him). So it is only apt that, like Larwood, he ended up in Australia, finding a final resting place in the country of his cricketing foes.

01/10/15 Thursday, BONDI -

The dentist yesty was not as bad as I had feared, and he put in the foundations for the crown that will replace my missing front tooth in quick time, and with minimal pain and discomfort. Not that I am melting towards dentists. But Dr Ruttner is, next to the legendary Dr Hing (see 15/4/15), the next-least-Torquemadaish.   I have my final fitting next Wednesday, in time for our departure for China on Saturday morning. He had an interesting new machine that scanned my mouth to establish the shape of the crown – very hi-tech. It was a musical upgrade on the machine-that-goes-ping, and played a tune as it explored by toothscape...the music of the molars. (The various tunes it played apparently meant something to Dr Ruttner.) But dental technology is improving since the days of Mr Lewis on the corner of Blair and Wallis Parade, whose slowly-grinding drill did the initial damage (in those pre-fluoride days), and set me on the path of hating dentists. (Oh! Those memories of dentists past!) However, I’m now back home and have taken a couple of extra-strong pain-killers. The numbness of the novocaine is wearing off, and I’ll go and have a stiff Lagavulin before dinner. God isn’t quite in His Heaven, but the world is looking a bit rosier now.

03/10/15 Saturday, BONDI -

Ruskin – a hairy man, see photo below – was one of the great figures of the Victorian era. Writer, painter, critic, essayist, he grew up in an era when sex was not a subject of polite conversation. In later life he married a childhood friend, Effie Gray, but the marriage was a catastrophe. For Ruskin only knew the female body from Greek statues and paintings of classical nude figures. On their wedding night – both were virgins – he discovered to his surprise that women had pubic hair. So horrified was he at this revelation that the marriage was never consummated, and was later dissolved on that ground. Aestheticism can be taken too far. (However, I owe Ruskin a debt. As I describe in my lifebook, my father had, for an engineer, a surprisingly extensive knowledge of poetry, especially pre-Romantic poetry. Probably the only help he gave my academic career was to introduce me to Milton, and in particular Milton’s great elegy, Lycidas. And he told me about Ruskin’s essay on Lycidas and its anti-Catholic passage “Last came, and last did go…”. I memorised that passage and when I got a question on Lycidas in the Leaving, I was able to quote those infamous lines at length, and cite Ruskin to boot. That must have impressed the examiners, and so I got a high mark in English, which in turn earned me my unexpected scholarship to Sydney University.)


Hair tonight, and gone in the morning

04/10/15 Sunday, BONDI -

Yesterday was a lovely Spring day at Bondi and from our balcony, “Earth had not anything to show more fair,” to paraphrase Wordsworth (writing about a rather different view from Westminster Bridge). As I sat watching Salute to Vienna on Foxtel Arts, sipping a glass of excellent chardonnay, I said to myself: “This is as good as it gets. Life on Earth doesn’t get much better than this.” On screen a tenor was singing Franz Lehar and the orchestra played The Blue Danube, conjuring up in my mind a picture of Fin de siècle Vienna, probably the greatest era of the greatest music city in the world. Tauber came to mind – Vienna, City of My Dreams…Vienna, the great Imperial capital of Old Europe, of Klimt, Freud, Strauss, Mahler, Art Nouveau, and the Kunsthistorisches Museum, with its great Hapsburg collection of paintings and other treasures, which we saw when we visited Vienna in 1971 (and took in The Barber of Seville at the State Opera House while we were there). Yet I would not swap Bondi for it, not for that and all the tea in China. Yesterday the beach, bathed in warm sunshine, the water sparking blue, and the waves curling in to shore in a white-capped crescent across the bay, was as beautiful and soul-satisfying as anything anywhere else in the world. Today we will be lunching on our balcony on a mushroom risotto I am already planning in my mind, and I hope there’s something equally good watch (if not, I’ll replay Salute to Vienna).

05/10/15 Monday, BONDI -

Journalist Paul Kelly, at a recent History Forum in Blackheath, had a nice story about Peter Bowers, who, as I relate in my life-book, was my first “teacher” when I was a first-year cadet at the Tele in 1959, and who played a role in the later careers of both me and Sandra. Kelly and Whitlam’s Press corps were on a flight to Peru, because for some reason The Great Man had decided to pay a State visit to Lima, from where he intended to tour the Inca ruins in the Andes. Bowers had written a piece on the visit, and brought along a copy of the paper to show Gough. But when he showed it first to Kelly, who was there for The Australian, Paul had to point out to him that the Aztecs were in Mexico, not Peru. (Fortunately for Bowers, Gough didn’t read the piece.) When Bowers was news editor at the SMH office in London, he did us both a bad turn. He refused to give Sandra a vacant job “because there are too many birds in the office”, and when I took the job, he made my job so unpleasant that I resigned. My abiding memory of him was at the 1976 post-Dismissal conference in Melbourne (as I relate in my life-book). The Press covering the event were invited to a formal dinner at the end of the conference. We sat round a Press table in our dinner suits (and a long dress for Michelle Grattan). Whitlam spoke first, and the Press table applauded warmly when he sat down. The new PM Fraser got up to speak, and Bowers and most of the Press table (including Kelly) hissed him. Only I and Alan Barnes didn’t, and Alan (whom I admired greatly) turned to me and said: “I am ashamed to sit at this table.” My opinion of Bowers, who died recently, can be imagined.

06/10/15 Tuesday, BONDI -

I was watching a “red carpet” event on TV and noted a “star” signing “autographs” for the waiting fans. I once had an “autograph book”. That was back in the days, when I was a kid, when collecting autographs was a popular hobby – for boys, for I don’t think girls collected autographs. I do not remember how many I collected, and can only recall two of them. One was from a former Mayor of Waverley called Hogan who was related to the boy (David Hogan) up the street with whom I used to “play”. (“Play” deserves an entry in itself.) The other was of a former Mayor of Sydney, Ernie O’Dea, whom my mother must have known from somewhere, and managed to get his signature in my autograph book. Ernie made a name for himself as Secretary of the Shop Assistants Union, and the sworn enemy of Saturday and other irregular shopping hours. (Something to be remembered on yesterday’s Labor Day holiday, which used to be called “Eight Hour Day”.)   I don’t know what happened to my autograph book, for I didn’t keep it for long. Later I did manage to acquire two better-known signatories, though not in my autograph book. One was of a former Australian cricket captain, Bert Collins, whom my mother also must have come across, and he signed the flyleaf of my two-volume 1903 Cricket of Today book (which my grandfather had sent over from NZ for me). Someone later tore the page out, and snitched it, for it is no longer there, though I still have the pageless book. I seem to recall Collins said something encouraging about my cricket ambitions, which, alas, were never realised. (See my stamp-collection diary entry, 29/12/14 above.) The other, and much-more-famous autograph Sandra acquired for me in America when she was working (briefly) for Sixty Minutes. I had asked her to look out for a copy of the Seltzer first-edition of Kangaroo, and she managed to find one in a bookshop in San Diego (for $US13.50). It was a good buy, but how good I did not know until I opened the flyleaf, which was signed “Raymond Chandler/Los Angeles 1923”. This was more than a decade before his first novel, The Big Sleep, was published (in 1938). That was an autograph coup of the first order, and now has pride of place in my collection of Lawrence first-editions.

07/10/15 Wednesday, BONDI -

CORRECTION!!! I read the above entry to Sandra and she told me, sharply, that she had an autograph book too. In fact, most of her Abbotsleigh school-friends had autograph books. We had dinner last night with her school-friend Angela Barker, and she too had an autograph book. However, their autograph books were primarily for the signatures (and brief messages/comments) of other girls. One popular generic entry was “By hook or by crook/I’ll be the last in your book”, inscribed on the autograph book’s final page. Their autograph books were not for famous or notable people, but for friends, relatives and classmates. Not the same sort of thing, I think. Yet Angela did collect other autographs (and stamps, too!). One day she managed to get the signatures of Lew Hoad and Ken Rosewall at the Killara Tennis Club, though she didn’t have her autograph book with her. That’s the equivalent of my Herb Collins and Raymond Chandler – see above. So I am prepared to stand corrected.   I arise this morning from by study chair for that purpose. (It should be a good Rant on the Rocks today – Peter Baldwin on existential risk – and that should give me tomorrow’s entry.)

08/10/15 Thursday, BONDI -

It was our best Rant ever. I think we had 24 (Paul Delprat was a late, and unexpected, attendee) and it was a quality audience for Peter Baldwin’s talk on existential risk. I don’t know what they were expecting, or what they knew or thought about the subject. There were some stunned faces around the table (as there should have been – you don’t hear about the end of life on Earth every day of the week). Peter covered the ground very well and authoritively, and made some very strong points. I supported him and made one telling point myself, pointing out that human intelligence is rated on a scale in which the average or median intelligence level is 100, with the most intelligent humans on Earth rating over 160 (the Mensa entrance level), and genius-level being 190-210. “But once artificial intelligence can start improving itself (which is the existential threat), we could have entities on earth with intelligence levels above 1000, or higher,” I pointed out. That sent them home with something to think about. Paul was particularly good, injecting a welcome element of humour into proceedings. (Geoffrey Lehmann was also good, though was sceptical about the time-scale of the threat.) We will skip the November Rant – we return from China a day before the due date - and have a religious topic in December, in time for Xmas. (Could God be an artificial intellect, controlling the universe with an IQ in the thousands? That is not entirely beyond the bounds of possibility.)

09/10/15 Friday, BONDI -

I was footnoting my new book on Lawrence and Australia when I came to the section in chapter 3 of Kangaroo where there is a singalong next door to where Lawrence and Frieda were staying in Thirroul (Frieda was teaching her neighbour Fanny Friend the German words of some Shubert songs). In my footnote I explain that “singalongs” were a popular social pastime in Australia in the 1920s. When I was a young journalist in the 1960s they were still popular, and I attended many parties at which songs from the ‘40s and ‘50s in particular were sung (with some gusto). I remember we used to bawl out a version of Harry Belafonte’s Jamacian Farewell to risqué lyrics composed by one of our magazine’s star writers, Larry Boys (“I had to leave a little girl in Palmer Street”). This came to mind as I was having coffee at a café in Surry Hills and a song was being played over the muzak whose lyrics consisted of the words “Soul Searching” repeated over and over again. This, apparently, is what goes for pop music these days. I don’t think you could have a singalong today, for there are no songs worth singing along to. Repeating “Soul Searching” a hundred times to a tune that has no melody would get very boring after a while, and would not support much of a singalong. (Hence my footnote for modern readers.) Sadly, when we took over Kerry Packer’s London office, I had to sack Larry, who must have been approaching 70. But he was a drunk, and had been kept on only because he had been there since he went over to London in the early 1960s, and no one had the courage to tell him his time was up. I had to grit my teeth to do it, but we could not support a drunk in our new ACP office in Notting Hill. (Somewhat coincidentally, his son is the husband of Sandra's hairdresser across the road from us in Bondi. Fortunately he doesn’t know who I am.)  

10/10/15 Saturday, BONDI -

(off to china tonight) I thought I should not leave Bondi without seeing if it has any interesting China connections. Having grown up in Bondi, no obvious Chinese links come to mind. Was there a Chinese restaurant in Bondi? I don’t recall one. (My mind’s eye is scanning Campbell Parade and adjacent streets). No, China did not loom large in my childhood. (At Sydney High we had one Chinese boy, called Wang or Wong, but of him I remember nothing.) I recall aged 9 or 10 going to a Chinese restaurant in the Haymarket – on the edge of Chinatown in fact – but my only memory of it is being sick afterwards, and a distinctive smell that went with its interior. There was, I now recall, a Chinese restaurant up in Bondi Junction – in fact I used to have a prawn curry there on my way to night-tennis in Randwick (and very nice it was too). Later, of course, when I became a cadet journalist I often used to go down to Dixon street and have something Chinese – spare black-bean pork ribs with sweet-and-sour sauce was a favourite of mine. There was even a restaurant (the New Southern Inn) that opened early for the markets, and we used to go down there for a late meal after the second edition went to Press, around 2.30 am. Googling up BONDI + CHINA was pretty fruitless. Only Chinese eateries and Chinese massage came up. There is a bloke called David Bondi who runs expos in China, and has a Facebook page, and a Rabbi Samuel Bondi who has (appropriately) a large family of Bondis scattered around the place (mainly Mainz, in Germany). Sam is, however, no kin of Herman Bondi, the famous UK physicist, whom I think I met at one of Harry Messel’s science symposiums in 1959 or ‘60. Today there’s an excellent yum-cha place up in Hall street, and I think I will say farewell today to Bondi by having lunch there (to gird my culinary loins for our arrival in Beijing tomorrow morning, local time).

11/10/15 Sunday, BEIJING -

An exotic dateline, if ever there was one (and a very long way from Bondi). We set off late on Saturday night and after an excellent overnight flight (in comfortable Cathay Pacific business class) arrived in Hong Kong about 5am today. Then we flew on by Dragon Airlines to Beijing, arriving as expected about 11.30 am local time (three hours behind Sydney). Descending towards Beijing airport, the landscape below was, not unexpectedly, highly cultivated, and we could imagine some of China’s 1.3 billion people beavering away in their neat little fields producing the food for the country’s unimaginably-large population. As we got closer, the huddles of little villages, linked by roads and canals, became outer suburbs, recongisable as such by the clusters of tall apartment blocks, which increased as we came in to land. Everyone in China seems to live in clusters of tall apartment blocks, which, outside our hotel window, are lit up at night, showing that people (whole families, no doubt) are in fact living in them. (I doubt there’s a single–dwelling surviving anywhere in the whole city.) Although we had some alarums and excursions at the airport and arriving at our spankingly-modern hotel somewhere in this huge metropolis (mislaying handbags and travel-documents), we were efficiently and effectively settled in – no mean feat - and could take stock. WOW!, so this is China, about which I have read so much, and imagined for so long what it woiuld be like. A modern-day shangri-la, like in Hilton’s Lost Horizon, except it’s not lost in the foothills of the Himalayas, but is elbowing its way, assertively, out into the wider world. It assaults the mind and the senses, and it’s going to take some time to come to terms with, and absorb. That will play itself out over the next few weeks, as we travel around, first Beijing, then China further afield. Already I am acclimatising myself via the food and cuisine. (But I’ll have to revise my drinking intentions – a bottle of wine at dinner last night cost the proverbial motza.) Yet a good start to Bondi Boy Goes to China. So a very promising – indeed exciting – first day in the land of Marco Polo and Morrison of Peking.

12/10/15 Monday, BEIJING -

Yesty we had our first full day in (mainland) China. The first thing that needs to be said about Beijing is that it’s not polluted nor clogged with traffic, which pleasantly surprised us. It was a lovely sunny day yesty with as good an air quality as – well, not Bondi – but Sydney, and it dawned this morning fine, fresh, and like any great city waking up to a new week (except it’s full of Chinese). And that’s the first thing of significance that struck me. Here is a nation – a civilisation – that has not had (except derivatively, ie from America and Europe, and comparatively recently) the benefits given to western civilisation by the glories that were Greece, the grandeur that was Rome, the Renaissance, the reformation, the wars of the roses, Henry VIII (with Thomas Cromwell’s   invention of the nation-state), the French Revolution, the industrial revolution, Homer, Plato, Shakespeare – Christ, for God’s sake - and, in fact, the origin of much of what we take to be the modern world, my world. It’s got here very much by itself. (OK, it’s also contributed to western civilisation – paper, printing, gunpowder, porcelain, silk, tea probably, not to mention possibly the greatest cuisine on Earth.) Yet it’s now the second biggest economy in the world, and will soon not only become the biggest, but will dominate this century, as America did the last, without the benefit of capitalism and its “invisible hand”. Moreover, its political system (and one of the reasons I have come is to see how it works – what’s its equivalent of Adam Smith’s invisible hand of market forces might be) also seems to be working, and perhaps spreading its political philosophy elsewhere in the world. Rule by the politburo and the one-party state. What price democracy? So much to see, so much to think about.

13/10/15 Tuesday, BEIJING -

Our hotel is rather swish and appears to be constructed almost entirely of marble (even the plughole in the shower has a marble cover on it). I never dreamt I would have dwelt in marble halls, but last night we did. The staff is efficient and very friendly, but few of them speak or understand English, which is a problem, as our Internet communications, at least as far as our expensive new laptop is concerned, have broken down, and we can’t get across to them what our problem is, precisely. Which is that WiFi (a very Chinese-sounding term) seems to have abandoned us, or turned an electronic incarnation of the Laacoon. We spent much of yesty struggling, fruitlessly, to escape its silicon coils (so I am eschewing Dropbox, and will continue my diary of Bondi Boy goes to China, parochially, in My Documents). We undertook a mini-tour of Beijing yesty by taxi with a tour guide called Lilli (she learnt English at school) who took as first to Sun Park (a combination of Central Park and Luna Park) then on to the CBD (at least part of it) and an adjacent upmarket shopping precinct, where he had an ill-chosen, pricy lunch. I am going to have to severely revise my culinary ambitions in China, for I find I cannot readily tell from the menu what will turn up on the table. I did not anticipate this, and was looking forward, very much, to a Marco-Polo-like gastronomic exploration of the Chinese cuisine I have for much of my adult life hankered after. Believe it or not, last night we were reduced to pizza and spaghetti bolognaise to ensure we got something we could eat – what an abject surrender! Yet I have not abandoned my gastronomic hopes, not by any means, and will try, try and try again (and hope to have better news on this important front soon – so watch this space). The CBD is gob-smacking, and the architecture mind-blowing. Even the apartment blocks, which are everywhere, resemble a residential version of Chicago’s skyscrapers – seriously! – as if Sullivan has been reborn here as a domestic architect, writ tall. There are 23 million people – the same population as Australia – living and working (and commuting) in this city, and yesty we got a glimpse of it, and them. That is the new city, and today we are off on the start of the tour proper, first to Tianamen Square, then hopefully the Forbidden City. It will be nice to see a bit of old Beijing.

14/10/15 Wednesday, BEIJING -

Yesty we went to Tianamem Square and the Forbidden City, whose entrance, the Tianamen Gate (aka The Gate of Heavenly Peace), abuts the famous – or infamous – Square. Mere words are hardly sufficient to convey this one-in-a-lifetime experience (imagine dying and not having seen it!). First, the Square, of which I thought I knew quite a bit - given what I have written (see my lifebook) on the Massacre that did not happen in Tianaman Square.   But now I realise how the foreign Media could have got it so wrong. Yesty there were more than a quarter of a million people milling about in this huge public space, which must be more than a mile long, and half as much wide. There is no vantage point from where you could look down on the Square, which is the size of a small suburb (think Hunters Hill). You could only look across and into the vast crowd that must have been there on that fateful June evening in 1989. The western journalists, almost all of whom could not speak or understand Chinese (and were lapping up the propaganda of anti-government expatriate activists from Hong Kong and elsewhere) went to bed, or back to their hotels, in the late evening, writing stories presaging a bloody outcome. They woke up in the morning to find the Square empty and troops cleaning up the student encampment, after having negotiated a bloodless evacuation of the Square. Of course there must have been a massacre – otherwise where were the do-or-die protesters? – and so they reported what they expected to happen rather than what did. Yesty the first thing we saw was a slow-moving queue that snaked for what seemed to be several miles through the centre of the Square, towards the entry to Mao’s mausoleum, on one side of this vast concourse. Mao is still revered in China, as the founder of the modern nation, and his image is almost everywhere (on the banknotes, for example, and dominating the Square itself, over the Tianamen Gate). We engaged a wheelchair and driver for Sandra – otherwise she could not have gone further – and, jostling with many thousands of other tourists from all over China and the world, squeezed through the Tianamen gate and into what is questionably one of the Wonders of the World, modern or ancient (it was built in 1406 by a Ming Emperor, of whom the west – ie, me - has never heard, and took but 14 years to construct, and is largely as it stands today).  Inside there are not one but 12 palaces, and many more halls, pavilions and other structures, all built to house the Emperor and his court (plus his official wife - usually a cousin - and innumerable concubines, with their attendant eunuchs). From here of all China was administered, in theory at least. It was, and I cannot avoid the clichés, mind-blowing, gobsmacking and denuded one's vocabulary of superlatives. One small detail can attempt convey the splendour of it. Every walkway – and there are miles of them – is lined by a balustrade made of pure white jade. I will let that soak in before I resume tomorrow, when Bondi Boy goes to see The Great Wall of China.

15/10/15 Thursday, BEIJING -

I have known some great walls in my time…the Wailing Wall, Hadrian’s Wall, the Berlin Wall, and have seen the wall they play the Eton Wall Game against (no goal had been scored since the end of WW2 when I passed by it in 1982). I used to play tennis at the Wall Street Racket Club, and when I was a kid in Bondi I hit a ball up against a wall for hours at the North Bondi tram terminus. I have had a beer in the City Wall pub in the Free City of Derry, and so I can claim to be something of an expert, if not a connoisseur, of walls. However, The Great Wall of China leaves all other, lesser, walls in the proverbial shade. This is the wall to end all walls. It starts by whatever the local version of the Pacific is, and meanders its way westward into the Gobi Desert or wherever. Built by various Emperors over many centuries, and now largely derelict, a section of it has been restored for tourist purposes a convenient distance north of Beijing, which is where we went yesty...along with several hundred thousand other (mainly Chinese) tourists. We did not essay a walk along the wall – we took it was walked. Part of it was closed as a visiting dignitary (he was the President of Croatia, I think) was convoyed in to do his Whitlam Wall bit. I hope the earth moved for him, too. Interestingly there was a bit of a history walk along the main access road, and on it was a bas-relief portrait of Dr Sun Yat Sen, the founder of the Chinese Nationalist Party, which Mao overthrew in 1949. It seems he is being rehabilitated too. Maybe Chiang Kai-shek will be next cab on the rehabilitation rank?             

16/10/15 Friday, BEIJING -

Today we went to see the Summer Palace. The Emperors came here by canal from their Forbidden City to escape the heat and dust of Peking in the warmer months. It consists of lakes and pagodas and pavilions and palaces, and is rather swish, although intended only for the enjoyment of the Imperial family (wives, concubines, eunuchs, etc). In the afternoon we went to see the hutongs. This is all that remains of old Peking, and is retained as a tourist attraction (though it’s also the place where the new trendies of Beijing try to live, as if it were Paddington or Balmain). We were taken around its ancient alleyways by bicycle-rickshaw and saw the inside of one hutong, also revamped for the tourist trade. Set around an internal square it was presently occupied by a young professional couple and a guest artist. Like the rest of the hutongs, it had no ablutionary facilities, and shared a common toilet with the rest of the alley. Where the waste went, I cannot but speculate, though the name “night soil” comes to mind. The waste products of 1.4 billion people is a problem for China. I think much of it must be recycled, which is probably why the water in the tap in non-potable. I will not dwell on this, except to say that for the nation that invented paper, there is little enough of it in the vicinity of what they call “WCs”. (It’s even worse for women, who have to squat awkwardly over the ubiquitous, inelegant hole in the ground.)

17/10/15 Saturday, XIAN -

A two hour flight from Beijing, Xian, an ancient capital of China, is more than twice the size of Sydney, and, needless to say, a long way from Bondi. Its main claim to fame is its terracotta army, one of the top-three tourist attractions in China (alongside the Great Wall and the Forbidden City), and we will go to inspect it tomorrow. If anything, Xian reminds me, oddly, of Chicago. An inland city – it is in the middle of China – it has tower-block skyscrapers set beside, not Lake Michigan, but a tributary of the Yellow River. It is, like the rest of China, in the throes of rapid development, and resembles a frontier town, with building cranes everywhere and the first of eight new planned subways under vigorous construction. The traffic is even more chaotic than Beijing’s, and why its streets were not littered with corpses of pedestrians being run over while weaving in and out of the moving mass of vehicles is a mystery to me. The only rule of the road seems to give way only if someone manages to push into the traffic ahead of you. We are here in China at an important time in its modern history. It is emerging as a new major global power, both politically and economically. President Xi (pronounced “Zi”) is off on a State visit to the UK next week, after just coming back from Washington.   This week China put forward a three-point plan to solve the Syrian crisis. It too is pushing in there. Next weekend its new 13th Five Year Plan (2016-21) will get an airing at a Party get-together in Beijing, prior to being implemented next year. It will inaugurate a new era for the country. Already it has a bigger middle-class than America and more billionaires. But America is stagnant, and can’t grow much further, while China’s middle-class is only 2% of its population (compared with America’s one-third). A lot of scope for growth there. In a few years – perhaps less than five – it will become not only the world’s largest economy, but the most powerful nation of Earth. Then we foreign devils had better watch out.

18/10/15 Sunday, XIAN -

A seismic shift is taking place in global politics, and you can feel it happening in China on an almost daily basis. You can almost feel the geo-political ground moving under your feet. Each day some new initiative is announced as the Chinese Government barges its way on to the world stage. I should have said “back on to the world stage”, for you get the impression that China is in the process of reclaiming what it sees as its rightful place as the dominant power in Asia, and perhaps in the wider world too. Today the main news story on the English-speaking CCTV channel was about China’s new “Belt and Road” initiative. The Road is the Silk Road, the historic link between China and the west, and the Belt is the ring of countries to the immediate west of China – the various “Stans” – which China wants to take under its new geo-political wing. This is Bismark’s drang nach osten in reverse – China’s push, in the opposie direction - to the West. China is talking to Turkey about a new rail link from Istanbul to Beijing, through the various Stans. This is also part of China’s championing of a new central-Asia power block and is talking about an alliance with not only Russia and the Stans, but Iran and India. It is even putting a tentative finger into the Middle East turmoil, suggesting a new three-point plan to resolve the dire situation in Syria, Iraq, etc. If China gets its way – and I think the world would be very foolish to imagine otherwise – a new world order is in the process of emerging, with China, if not at the helm, then standing beside the helmsman (who may well be Vladimir Putin). We could not have come to China at a more interesting and significant time.

19/10/15 Monday, XIAN -

Yesty we reviewed the terracotta army in the tomb (or at least its ante-chamber) of Emperor Quin, who around 210 BC became the first Emperor of a united China. Rightly claimed to be the eighth Wonder of the World, it consists of four “pits” containing the remnants of over 6000 life-sized pottery soldiers and horses, stationed there to guard the Emperor’s main tomb, which has yet to be opened and excavated. Only a fraction of the original guarding army has been dug out and stuck together again (it was all smashed by in a peasant revolt shortly after the Emperor died, and was only rediscovered by a farmer digging a well in 1974). It is probably the number-3 tourist attraction in China, after the Forbidden City and the Great Wall, and equally gob-smacking (and packed with tourists from all over China and abroad). No obvious Bondi connection, and we are off to board a boat down the Yangtze tomorrow. (We are beginning to distance ourselves from our tour companions – or them from us – with whom we have nothing in common, and nothing to talk about. They think we are snooty and snobby – and we probably are - which is OK by us, for they do not add to the enjoyment of the tour, which otherwise is all we could have hoped for.)

20/10/15 Tuesday, ABOARD MV YANGTZE 2 (cruising down the Yangtze) -

Yesty was our first full day aboard this cruise boat (300 passengers and 120 crew), and by a stroke of fortune we are in one of the two Presidential Suites (we wanted a cabin upgrade, and this was the only one available). And very nice it is, too – luxurious, in fact. We even have our own, private deck, shared only with the resident of the other Presidential Suite, a Swiss tourist and his girlfriend). This position of privilege was especially appreciated when, late yesty, we entered the first of the three giant locks of the Three Gorge Dam complex, raising our huge vessel up about 100 metres to the level of the now-dammed river. It was, especially for canal-buffs like us, an experience to savour and remember. We have decided to remain on the boat and not join the various excursions on offer. With accommodation like this, who would want to leave it for a bus tour of some local point of possible interest? Besides, the scenery along the river-banks is spectacular enough to satisfy the most discerning and demanding tourist. The food is excellent and the service of the highest standard. Last evening the sun was setting much as it did when we were going through the Squz Canal on our honeymoon voyage to London in 1965 – 50 golden anniversary years ago. A pleasant memory, and an equally pleasant experience now.

21/10/15 Wednesday, ABOARD MV YANGTZE 2 -

A shipboard day today (why go ashore to see another pagoda, or whatever, when we can spend the time in our sumptuous Presidential suite?). Today was massage day, and we both availed ourselves of the massage facilities available on board – Sandra of her feet, and me a full-body massage. It was my first massage – of any part of my body – Chinese or otherwise, and it was most enjoyable. I can begin to appreciate why all those Chinese and Thai massage places are starting up in Bondi Road. I will seriously consider patronising them when we get back to Bondi. The scenery we passed through today, through a series of deep gorges, was truly spectacular, with mountains rearing up on both sides of the river, some over 1000 feet high. Occasionally we would see a pagoda or mini-monastery perched high up atop one of the passing peaks. We passed through an entire city, with sky-scrapers and bridges both suspension and arch, no doubt with a population of many millions, as if it were just another riverside town. Yet the place seemed deserted of people, or perhaps they were all indoors (it was about 5pm). Our companions are improving, and at least becoming more amenable, though still as stolid as I suppose most other Australians are. It just that we have not been mixing with these people for a number of years now, and it is a bit of a shock to see and hear how what uninteresting lives they lead. The only topic I can share with them is Rugby League – at least I know who Des Hasler is. The food continues to be excellent, if repetitious, but the wine is execrable (so I drink weak beer). Today the Chinese President Xi Jingping arrives in London on a State Visit, with all the bells and whistles. Another step in the re-emergence of China was a global power.

22/10/15 Thursday, ABOARD MV YANGTZE 2 -

Again, aboard all day, and relaxing on our private deck, enjoying the passing scenery, which is spectacular. We eschewed the offered land tours and watched TV in our Presidential Suite, and sipped (in my case) the local beer with a German name and minimal potency. This evening we will reach and disembark at Chongquin, China’s biggest city (pop. 34 million). I was going to say I had never heard of it until I realised its older, pre-Mao name is Chungking, and that is a name I do know. This was the wartime HQ of Shang Kai Shek and where he retreated to in front of the invading Japanese. The supply road from Burma came here, bringing allied aid to the Nationalists’ resistance. America’s General Stilwell was stationed here and even Lord Louis Mountbatten came here to see how the Chinese were getting on. But, oh, how it’s grown since those adventurous days. Today its skyline is crowded with the ubiquitous skyscraper apartment blocks, and there are construction cranes everywhere. It is one of China’s four “municipal” cities, along with Beijing, Shanghai and Tianjin, and has its own metropolitan government. After a tour of this megalopolis, we will be off by bullet train tomorrow to our next megacity, Chengdu.

23/10/15 Friday, CHENGDU (Hotel Mercure) -

Today it’s raining – our first wet day in China. After disembarking from our excellent Yangtze 2 (and saying goodbye to our Presidential Suite), we spent yesty morning in the great square in front of Chongquin’s Great Hall of the People, occupied mainly by parents taking their children for walks – for there is little space for that in theiur cramped apartments, and little public space outside (reminding us how lucky we are to be living in Australia and at Bondi). We had a disappointing hot-pot lunch, then off through the choking traffic to the spacious railway station, to board the 200-kmph bullet-train to Chengdu, a town of 14 million (a mere village by Chinese standards) in south-west China. Our new hotel is OK, but not of the five-star quality we have been accustomed to on our trip so far, and having been spoiled by our previous shipboard Presidential accommodation. No sign of any Bondi presence in Chengdu, and we felt as out of place as no doubt the Chinese tourists do in Sydney and Bondi. But now that, according to China Today (the excellent local English-language newspaper), the Chinese middle-class is over 400 million (2% of the population), I expect we’ll see more of them, perhaps from Chengdu or Chongqing. We should make them welcome, for they will be the masters of the world in the 21st century.

24/10/15 Saturday, CHENGDU (Hotel Mercure) -

Yesty we spent mainly travelling by coach about 200 km further west to the city of Lushan to see The Great Buddha. Why we came I don’t really know, except that it is on the tourist trail, and is largely the reason we came to Chengdu and Lushan. And large he is – over 76 metres high, cut as a bas-relief into a mountainside down-river from Lushan. (His ears are seven metres long.) He has to be viewed by boat to appreciate his overall effect, though there is a road cut into the river-side – it is beside the River Ming - so some intrepid tourists can get to him that way (and even climb into him). However, our trip was not entirely wasted, for we learned that he is the second of the three standard Buddha images. The first and original one is the Indian Buddha and has, apparently, an Indian countenance. This is the second, the Asian Buddha, who looks very serious and severe, and whose enigmatic “smile” reminded me of the Mona Lisa. Yet the Buddha everyone else knows is “the laughing Buddha”, the fat little fellow (only the Asian Buddha is monumental) with the fat tummy and the happy smile on his face. (This, I assume, is the Chinese Buddha.) The trip from Chengdu to Lushan took more than an hour by road, and at least it gave us the chance to see quite a bit of the ordinary non-tourist Chinese countryside. However, the main point of interest in our visit to this part of China has proved to be that other major tourist – I won’t say “attraction”, for it is not very attractive to be trapped in a traffic jam for hours at a time – but “experience” – the traffic in a big city like Chengdu. It was peak-hour when he got to the approaches to the city, and there must have been more than a million cars on the roads into town. The cars, by the way, are very modern – the latest models – and our jam was speckled with Bentleys, Jags, BMWs, Land Rovers, and Porches (not many Volvos, I was disappointed not to see). As we inched our way hopefully forward, a man on a bike pushed in in front of us - that’s the only way to progress in Chinese traffic, for no one gives way except to someone who has already pushed in. On the back of his bike several glass aquariums were somehow perched, with live goldfish in them. He pedalled past us on the inside lane, oblivious to the peril he was putting his cargo in. I quipped to Sandra – this was the first time in traffic I had been passed by a goldfish.

25/10/15 Sunday, GUILIN (Grand Link Hotel) -

Yesty was Panda Day in Chengdu, as the main reason we came down this way was to see what is probably China’s number-four tourist attraction, the “Panda Base” in Chengdu. Certainly the panda is Chengdu’s main claim to fame and tourism (traffic apart), and the ubiquitous panda image is all over the place. (I think it is also China’s national animal – or should be anyway.) The “base” itself is a mini-zoo occupied by two sorts of panda, the giant one and the smaller red panda, who pales into insignificance alongside its black-and-white ubiquitous and iconic relative (no one would come to see it if it were Chengdu’s only panda attraction). As usual, the “base” carpark was packed with tourist buses and their content, and it was not easy to elbow your way through the (mainly Chinese) visitors to actually see a giant panda. They are well-named, for big they are – larger than a sheep but smaller than a cow, and can best be likened to a very-over-weight wombat. Yet the normally slothful wombat is fleet of foot, or claw, compared to the giant panda, who seldom, if ever, moves. People crowded around one of the enclosures containing one giant panda, in the hope of seeing it move, which it did not. It just draped itself over a stout tree limb and slumbered after its morning repast of bamboo stems, which are especially trucked in from its natural habitat, high up in a nearby mountain chain (it is a creature from above the snowline). It has, we were told, an extra digit which it uses to (leisurely) strip off the outer covering of the bamboo, so it can get at its less-husky husk. The main purpose of the Panda Base, tourism apart, is to encourage the notoriously celibate panda to mate, which again it does seldom and also excruciatingly slowly. Yet at least the female of the species is smart, for it often feigns pregnancy to get the extra ration of bamboo that expectant pandas are rewarded with. Once again, part of the zoo was closed off for the visit of another dignitary (not Croatia this time), so we did not get to see the panda nursery, where some juvenile panda activity occasionally takes place, before adult sloth sets in. Last night we flew here, a minor city with only 700,000 pop. – a hamlet by Chinese standards. Tomorrow we go off on a river cruise to see God knows what. I hope it’s more interesting than the Giant Pandas of Chengdu.

26/10/15 Monday, YANGSHUO (Jasper International Hotel) -

Yesty we travelled 63 km down the Li River from Guilin to here at Yangshuo with a sort of ferry-flotilla, through the most spectacular scenery we have seen – bigger and better than the Yangtze Gorges. In fact, so spectacular is it that a section of it is depicted on the 20-yuan banknote. Each of the several hundred ferries in our flotilla had an open-air kitchen on its stern to supply lunch on board (and quite good it was too – including soft-shell crab). Fishermen from local fishing villages along the way would tie up at one of the boats to sell its catch to the travelling kitchen. The banks of the Li were dotted with picnic areas and holiday shacks, for this stretch of the river is obviously a major holiday venue in this part of south China. Some of the fisher-folk had trained cormorants they employ at night (we were told) to catch their fish. The passing mountainsides, despite their steepness, were intensively cultivated with citrus trees and other crops (wine?), with the occasional pagoda on their peaks, a thousand feet up. (The Chinese will cultivate any vacant land, even the spaces between footpaths and buildings.) Yangshuo is a tourist town, a bit like Byron Bay, with backpacker facilities (and strangely named hotels – I saw a Fawlty Towers Hotel and, believe it or not, a James Joyce Hotel (for Irish backpackers?). The image of James Joyce in Yangshuo is something to think about (River-run?). Tomorrow we bus back to Guilin via some caves and other tourist spots. We continue to roll with the punches.

27/10/15 Tuesday, GUILIN (Grand Link Hotel) -

We returned here from Yangshuo by road yesty – a road that is being reconstructed into yet another major highway, and along which the small businesses that are the most obvious manifestation of China continued their no doubt age-old commercial activities of selling everything imaginable to their local clientele. Each shop along the road – indeed, along any road in China – has exactly the same frontage to the street, 14 feet, I would guess. Those roadside shops will be my abiding image of China, which must be the small business capital of the world. A lot of misconceptions have been dispelled by this visit. Our picture of China is perhaps 20 years out of date – 20 years in which a new China is emerging, first as a new global power, and now second as the world’s biggest economy. This is the Chinese century, just as the last was America’s. I came in particular to see how Adam Smith’s invisible hand was either still directing things, or what had replaced it. Well, China is undoubtedly a market economy, but the invisible hand is not that of capitalism, but the Party. The person responsible for the new China is Deng Xiaoping, and his pair of black-and-white cats. He established what has turned out to be a successful combination of market forces and one-party rule. In fact we are here at an historic moment with the end in December of the party’s 12th five-year plan and the start of the 13th next year. The last plan’s goals (according to the Media, of course) were exceeded, and the growth rate of 7% maintained. The next plan will change China’s economy into a consumer-led one, which in turn will boost its middle-class (now bigger than America’s, though only 2% of the population, compared the America’s 33%). I realise I am sounding like Lincoln Steffens, but I have seen modern China, and it works (unlike Russia in 1920). It’s also, apparently, a pretty contented place, and the populace seems to be happy with the world around them. No politics intrude on their contentment, and the Media is not continually carping and criticising. A refreshing change from free, democratic Australia. Makes you think though.

28/10/15 Wednesday, SUZHOU (Grand Metro Hotel) -

In some ways, this was the highlight of our trip to China, for Suzhou - the City of Gardens - contains probably the most beautiful and memorable thing we saw on our trip. Known for its "classical" Chinese gardens, one emperor build a canal from Peking to here just so he could visit the gardens of Suzhou. (That's not quite true, now that I Goggle it up. It was indeed begun by a king in Suzhou in around 600 BC, and he built it northwards for military and trade reasons. And even then the gardens of Suzhou were famous throughout what was then China. Later kings and emperors extended the canal, and it finally reached Peking, allowing subsequent emperors to travel down what became known as the Grand Canal to, among other pursuits, visit the gardens - and also, our tour guide Jackie told us, the see the girls in Suzhou, whose beauty was also legendary.) We visited the Lion Grove Garden, one the best of Suzhou's nine world-heritage-listed classical gardens, built in the 12th century by a Buddhist monk (but enhanced over succeeding centuries). Its centre-piece is a large pond, surrounded by rocks fashioned to resemble mountains and animals, including a lion and a horse. Sandra and I sat in the small pavilion put there so you can contemplate the reflections of the surrounding features of the garden - a walkway covered in wisteria, a bridge and the rockery. As you gaze at the pond, bubbles from the goldfish come to the surface, creating concentric ripples that break up the reflections and create a continuously changing series of images, to delight the eye. That was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen - a piece of Old China, preserved for more than 1000 years in the middle of a country modernising as fast as the Party can drive it. (We also had a short trip on a section of the Grand Canal, which, alas, is but a dirty, polluted shadow of its former grandeur. But you can't have everything.)

29/10/15 Thursday, SUZHOU (Grand Metro Hotel) -

Our second day in Suzhou (pop. 14 million), not really a beautiful city (I doubt if any city in modern China can be called "beautiful"), but a most attractive one. It is, like most Chinese cities, bursting at the seams, and has doubled its population in the last 20 years - which was when things started to move in China. As well as being China's "garden city", it is also a city of canals - not just the Grand Canal, but a number of canal-like waterways, including an ancient moat, of which it is justly proud. Today we went to a silk factory, and bought a magnificent silk bedspread (c. $3000), which will look nice in our bedroom at Bondi. After a decent lunch in an ancient-looking (reconstructed for the tourist trade) tea-house, beside one of the waterways, I explored an adjacent collection of old alleyways, lined with tourist souvenir shops and stalls (all 14-foot wide) where my magpie eye caught sight of somewthing that should not have been there, on display among an array of down-market bling, or, to be less polite, crap. It was large plate with two faces on it - that of Chairman Mao and the other of (believe it or not - and I could hardly believe it) - Lin Piao. One of Mao's marshals during the Long March and the civil war that brought the Communists to power in 1949, Lin rose to become Mao's deputy and designated heir. But in 1971 there was some falling out, and Lin tried to flee China with his wife and family, only to be killed in mysterious circumstances when his plane crashed on its way to Moscow, after which he became a non-person, and was erased from the history of China. So to find a plate with him next Mao and holding a Little Red Book is something of a coup, and certainly a highlight of my visit (I bought it for about $20, and brought it back home). My legendary eye for bric-a-brac did not desert me in Suzhou.       

30/10/15 Friday, SHANGHAI (Hotel Wyndham Bund East) -

We arrived yesty at last in Shanghai, a name redolent of China in western imagination. The very name reeks of the exotic, slightly sinister, East (to be "Shanghaied" means to be kidnapped or snatched away from some nefarious purpose) by wily Orientals. Today, it reeks of the new China, and China's commercial and financial success. It reminds me, with its skyscraper office blocks and wide streets, of Manhattan (Sandra thought of Mayfair). It is obviously China's most westernised city, and China's second biggest after Chongqing, with about 27 million. We drove down its famous Bund to our luxury hotel, where we have been upgraded to a sumptuous suite, thanks to Jackie's solicitude. Unfortunately we have both contracted the flu, and feel very low, and so stick close to the hotel. However, we did venture out to an oriental carpet place and bought two magnificent Chinese dark-blue matching silk rugs (costing a motza - but we will not get another chance to acquire two such rugs, which will grace our Bondi apartment, and it is after all our 50th wedding anniversary). We were too ill to get out of our taxi and inspect the art-deco Bund buildings, and declined a night-time cruise of the Yangtze, which joins the Pacific at Shanghai. Our enforced immurement meant we did not say goodbye to our touring companions, who were pretty sick of us, and we of them. Nevertheless, the new China continues to dazzle us, and we plan to become Sinophiles on our return to Australia, and will follow its rising fortunes with now an added, and educated, interest. A meeting of the Central Committee, which is being held in Bejing to rubber-stamp the next Five Year Plan, has announced the abolition of the one-child policy and a universal old-age pension. With its new policy of consumerism and ending poverty by 2021, China is poised for a true great leap forward, starting next year. We will be watching its strides forward.

31/10/15 Saturday, SHANGHAI (Hotel Wyndham Bund East) -

Our second-last full day in China. Both low with the flu, and eschewing outside activity. It's a good time to sum up our trip to China. It's been enormously enjoyable and educational, though tough going, with Sandra's walking capacity limited, and night-time activities restricted because of her poor vision in bad light. Our bad relations with our tour companions brought home to us how far we have diverged from the ordinary Australians our tour companions so obviously represent. They are simple folk whose interests are restricted and very limited. We are intellectuals of a sort, and, as mentioned above, have almost nothing in common with them..We think it is alos a class difference, hateful though it is to raise class in the modern world. Our 20 years in middle-class London have stripped us of our Australian roots, and we no doubt sound English to ordinary Australians like our now erstwhile tour companions. But that can't be helped, and we will get on with our lives. We are preparing for our departure tomorrow and, our colds notwithstanding, it will be good to get back. (We diced the Hong Kong stopover.) Shanghai is not a bad memory to leave behind, as it is ostentatiously the shape of China to come. Will we come back? Not soon, and if so in a very different mode.  

01/11/15 Sunday, SHANGHAI (Hotel Wyndham Bund East) -

Our last day in China. Tomorrow, much invigorated by his trip to China, Bondi Boy returns home, with a lot to tell everyone. Not to have been to China would have been a tragedy. It has given a new dimension to our lives. I will drive past my old school in Cleveland Street with new eyes from now on. And when I see all those Chinese faces at the bus-stop, and in the street, I will think that at least my old school is playing its part. (I wonder what happened to Wong, the only Chinese boy in my year?)

02/11/15 Monday, BONDI -

We had a good flight back, on Cathay Pacific, despite our coughing and spluttering. (We flew Cathay business-class the whole trip back, and very nice it was too.) When you are ill, you have to be pampered, or at least not inconvenienced. The service was excellent, though I wonder how I would have been treated if I were still Sir Robert Darroch (see my lifebook). I am sure Lady Darroch would have enjoyed the upgrade in status. Sometimes honesty is not the best policy.

03/11/15 Tuesday, BONDI -

Bondi Boy got back home from China yesty morning. The place looks very much the same as he left it more than three weeks ago. Meanwhile Australia has abolished knighthoods – again – which leaves Tony’s various elevations to the ranks of chivalry the proverbial shags on the rocks. Tomorrow we start building The Bondi Daily, our new daily newspaper based in Bondi. The first step (of many) will be to get the new CyberBONDI “home page” with its webcam and image of dawn at Bondi up and at least of the starting blocks. How far it can run remains to be seen. Meanwhile we are introducing a distinct Chinese ambiance into our Bondi apartment (with the rugs we bought in Shanghai and the silk bedspread from – was it Suzhou?). We are still bubbling over with our impressions of China, thought I think we are in danger of becoming boring on the subject. No matter. It has added an important new dimension to our lives. I will keep my op-shop eye open for more Chinoiserie, if that is the right word. I’m sure the Jewish Vinnies won’t let me down. I’ve also begun scanning the papers for items of potential Bondi interest. A horse called Bondi Beach is running in today’s Melbourne Cup. We will see how it runs – at least it will give me tomorrow’s diary entry.  How far it will run remains to be seen.


04/11/15 Wednesday, BONDI -

It turns out that the horse in question is part-owned by one of our Bondi Pacific Terraces neighbours, ex-hotelier Les Williams. In the event, it did not trouble the judges, and finished well back in a race won by a female jockey and a horse called Prince of Penzance, which may or may not have had some Native Dancer blood. (I haven’t had a chance to check its lineage.) Given our proposed trip to Cornwall next September (for a DHL conference there), perhaps I should have put my two-bob on it. After the race a straggle of ladies with fancy hats came up the street from the Icebergs, where clearly there had been some sort of Cup function (with a prize for the best hat and tie, no doubt). Some of their money would have gone (and lost) on the local favourite, Bondi Beach. Still, it was good to see that The Race That Stops The Nation had a Bondi dimension this year, however pedestrian it proved to be.  

05/11/15 Thursday, BONDI -

A wet and windy Bondi today, the beach almost deserted, and only the hardiest art lovers breasting the southerly down Notts Avenue to see the last few days of Sculptures By the Sea (now in its 19th year at Bondi). Of all the art-forms in Australia, sculpture suffers most from lack of the patronage that encourages and fosters excellence. The late Tom Bass is the only professional sculptor of any note, though others such as Brett Whiteley did some sculpture alongside their more saleable and popular works on canvass and other mediums. Tom’s sea-creature that used to be on the P&O building in Hunter Street (unkindly liked to a urinal) is no longer, but I hope his piece near the gate to Sydney University is still there. Our friend Paul Delprat (presently in hospital with a broken leg) did a nice nude, which we still have, and I think Garry Shead also showed some figurative works. But we have no Rodin or Moore or Brancusi or any other work of significance. Yet at the club we have an excellent marble nude in the foyer and a stunning laocoon in the former Smoking Room (both by foreigners, however). The Sculptures by the Sea are more installations than representations of the real world, and fairly typical of what goes of art in Australia, which is not saying much.

06/11/15 Friday, BLACKHEATH -

We came up here to facilitate Nepean Blinds installing our new shutters (and very nice they look). They were made in china and sent down under by container. If you or your builder wants joinery done, they send off to China to have it made and shipped to Australia (at a fraction of the cost of home-made). Our nice shutters at Bondi came thus from China. Apparently there is an entire city somewhere in central China that is the shutter-capital of the world, according to our Nepean Blinds shutter-person. And I can believe that, after driving through the sanitary-ware section of - was it Chengdu? Why does anyone bother making anything locally, when you can have it done in China? There is a deep observation to be made here, but I'm almost afraid to make it.  

07/11/15 Saturday, BLACKHEATH -

Rhododendron Day in Blackheath, and what goes for the centre of our little village is en fete. But they have missed the boat, for the rhododendrons are past their best, and the whole shebang is a bit of a flopperoo, not to say a let-down. They crowned a Rhododendron Queen, but we missed that highlight of the festivities too. But it was a nice day, and our sometime gardener Allan came to discuss the new Chinese garden we are planning to go with our small extension into the front garden, inspired by our visit to China. We will have a small pool, with goldfish. It will be our little bit to connect Australia with China, and the future of the world. Back to Bondi tomorrow.

08/11/15 Sunday, BONDI -

All roads lead to Bondi today, for the final day of the Sculpture by the Sea. The streets to Bondi were jam-packed, and the flow of visitors down our street – and what a polyglot lot there were – towards the baths and the start of the “sculpture walk” a river of art-lovers. We were still too jet-lagged and in flu-recovery mode to go down and join them, but we reviewed the passing parade from our lunchtime balcony, nodding like royalty to acknowledge the occasional wave or glance of envy from the plebs below. Little could they know that we were here when Kerry Packer, who built our “units” could sell them for love or offer, and we had every right to be here. You do some things right in life. Tomorrow we start serious work on The Bondi Daily. An even more pleasant prospect.

09/11/15 Monday, BONDI -

I was wrong. The Sculpture by the Sea is still on, for another week apparently. The crowds are thinning, however. At the weekend our new Prime Minister came to award what they called “the people’s prize” to one of the works. How that was determined, I do not know, but Malcolm flashed his now trade-mark Prime Ministerial smile, and the cameras flashed and recorded another significant Media moment for our local Member-cum-national-leader. Yet I knew him as a callow reporter on The Bulletin, straight out of university, and the mantle of a future PM draped casually around his shoulders. And, yes, I did think that here was a future PM, so obviously did his talent and ambition shine forth. Am I jealous? Not really. Malcolm had it, and I never did. He had charm and ability and was destined for greatness, which he has now achieved. His eye in now on the history books and fashioning a legacy he will be remembered for. What he needs now is to grasp God’s hem as He passes by (as Bismark said he had). Which is what he was trying to do in Marks Park on Sunday. Swish, swish, Malcolm, swish, swish.

10/11/15 Tuesday, BONDI -

As I was watching the dawn out of my study door this morning, a line of poetry came to me. The morning star paled slowly, the Cross hung low to the sea... I must have learned that line from Mr Hogg, my sixth-class teacher, who introduced me to poetry when I was 11 or 12, and for which I have been ever-grateful (as I described in my lifebook). He must have read that poem out in class, as he must have recited the other lines I remember so well – the poems of Lawson, Paterson, Kendall and John O’Brien. Beyond the hazy dado...That’s Lawson, the “Song of the Drover” (as I now see from looking it up). Today at Bondi the dado is clear as crystal, and diamond sharp, in a clear blue sky, with a rim of grey clouds above the horizon. The Morning Star (at least I think it’s the Morning Star, but it would be a satellite or some other man-made heavenly body) has indeed paled, and another fine Bondi day is in prospect. It’s good to be alive and living in Notts Avenue.

11/11/15 Wednesday, BONDI -

The eleventh day of the eleventh month – Remembrance Day, remembered this year mainly as the 40th anniversary of The Dismissal. I had a letter on this published in The Australian on Monday, commenting on a new book by Paul Kelly and Tony Bramston on The Dismissal. Not unexpectedly they push the anti-Kerr barrow, based on their new research into various documents that “prove” Kerr either did the wrong thing (in whom he consulted, for instance) or was criticised by higher authorities (“the Palace”) for sacking Whitlam. All very predictable, and had the strong whiff of a dead horse being flogged. So I thought I would put my tuppence in. I asked the question: what would have happened if Kerr had accepted Whitlam’s advice (which he brought with him to Yarralumla that fateful day) to resolve the blocking of Supply by calling a half-Senate election...and Kerr had not sacked him? Fraser would, I speculated, have continued to block Supply, and if the recommended election took place, Labor would have been crushed, and so nothing would have been solved. What would have happened then? Did Whitlam have another rabbit in his hat? And what would Kerr have done with Supply having, presumably, run out, and the nation on the brink of anarchy? In fact, Kerr had no choice once Whitlam refused to hold a general election (which would have unblocked Supply). The only other person who could resolve the impasse was Fraser. And once Whitlam proved intransigent, he had to be sacked and Fraser appointed interim PM. But Labor and the anti-Kerrites would never agree with that, and so the constitutional plot simmers on. It will be good to see the end of this ill-starred anniversary.

12/11/15 Thursday, BONDI -

The future King of England (and Australia) arrived in Australia yesty, with his Consort. I am not by any means a republican, yet I must concede the whole brou-ha-ha is a trifle ridiculous, and archaic. I suppose he must come, as an animal marks its territory with its scent. To give him credit, he carries it off with some dignity and considerable aplomb. However, he has some experience in that regard, even here in increasingly-republican Australia. How far have we come since we stood up for God Save The King (and Queen) when the film ended, and at Assembly at Sydney High and I went up to Bondi golf links to see the Queen sail past towards the Heads on her first State visit in (was it 1952?). Apparently the royal couple will be driven round town today so the populace can see their future monarch and his Lady. We are having lunch today in the Rocks with our trusted solicitor, Chris McCaffery. Will we but see Them passing by? I will report on this tomorrow.      

13/11/15 Friday, BONDI -

Well, I do have something to report – see my letter yesty to the Editor of The Australian: “Sir - I came out of my office in Cleveland Street at precisely 11.08 am yesterday and, hearing the sound of sirens, turned in time to see the Royal motorcade speed past me, escorted by a wedge of police motorcycles, followed by the Media bus. I could not see inside the limo, which had the numberplate C1 (so Malcolm must have lent his car to the Royal couple for their visit to the NSW Mounted Police Barracks in Baptist Street). As the Royal Standard whizzed past, no one cheered or jeered, nor waved a flag. We did but see Him passing by” - Robert Darroch, Redfern.

14/11/15 Saturday, BLACKHEATH -

My letter wasn't published. Boo-hoo. They probably didn't get the reference to Menzies and "I did but see her passing by." At least Sandra thought it was a good letter. Up at Blackheath today, and it's cold and foggy. Nice. This is what the Mountains are for. Tomorrow is our Literary Lunch (on literature and homosexuality). The lunch will also "christen" our new mega-table, that can seat 12 comfortably (but only eight tomorrow). I will launch it with a paella, which will look good on the big table. So now it's off to Katoomba to get the makings. Nice though Bondi is, I do like it up here.

15/11/15 Sunday, BONDI -

A bad day in Paris yesty. Seven terrorist targets hit, and over 100 killed by the eight Jihadists, seven of whom blew themselves up. This heralds a new phase in terrorism, and more attacks are almost certain. The world is becoming a very unsafe place. Europe opening its doors to immigrants from the Middle East and elsewhere will prove to be a major turning point in history. Germany must carry a lot if not most of the blame for this, for the immigration is not a push but a pull fostered by "humanitarian" policies that we in Australia realised the stupidity of. Germany and Europe has sown the proverbial wind, and now they will reap the whirlwind.

16/11/15 Monday, BONDI -

While we were away in Blackheath, a “beach” pop concert was held at Bondi, at the south end of the beach, beneath our balcony. This morning its stage is being dismantled (as our webcam would be showing) and its detritus is being taken away. It would, I imagine, have been a noisy affair, and I am glad we were absent. (Our Sunday Literary Lunch was a great success, with our new table and what is being acclaimed in my morning emails as my best paella yet.) The star turn - assuming they turned up - at Bondi was the Beach Boys, now surely well past their best. Yet their best was very good, and featured in the beach-music culture that we at Everybody’s championed in the early 1960s. I remember we had a party in the flat I had left home to share with my Everybody’s chief-sub, Graham (“Benny”) Goodman. We called it “Benny’s hootenanny” and it too must have been a noise affair (we had complaints from neighbours five floors down in Edgecliff Towers in New South Head Road). The stomp was the dance of the day, and I think we did quite a bit of stomping that night. I hope there was a bit of stomping at Bondi on Saturday night, despite the rain. (Is Little Pattie still alive? I hope so.)

17/11/15 Tuesday, BONDI -

We left home in Bondi today a little later than usual, and so were entangled in a traffic jam up Bondi Road and later in Cleveland Street. Usually this would greatly annoy me, but since returning from China I can bear such traffic vicissitudes with, if not equanimity, then with a new-found patience, if not serenity. When you have seen a goldfish pass you (see 25/10), a few Toyotas or VWs is but a trifle, and nothing to get worked up about. I hope as the other drivers pass by, they see a smile of contentment on my face. “You should be in Chengdu,” it says.

18/11/15 Wednesday, BONDI -

I sent out to a few of my email friends a Club blog about the Syrian crisis. Here is an edited version for my Bondi Boy audience. It is headed WHAT IS RUSSIA DOING IN SYRIA? “Coming back from China, where I had daily access to overseas news sources, I am appalled how poor our Media's coverage of overseas events are, and how little we know of what is happening in the world. ("What do they of the world know, if only Australia they know?" - to paraphrase Kipling.) As a supposedly inquiring journalist, I should have wondered what Russia is doing in Syria - and why, for example, John Kerry was sitting next to the Russian Foreign Minister at a Press conference in Vienna on Saturday after a UN meeting there on the Syrian crisis. Indeed, why is Putin supporting Assad, and bombing those trying to topple him (in the teeth of American support for those very same rebels)? Fortunately, while in China, I read an article explaining this, and saw at the weekend on that excellent news channel Russia Today an interview with the Grand Mufti of Syria. So I am better-informed now. It goes back to the Fall of Constantinople in 1453. Until then, and for the previous 1000 years, Constantinople was the capital of the (primarily Greek) Orthodox religion, the main rival to the Catholic Church further west. When it fell to the Ottoman Turks, that left a gap in the world of Orthodoxy, and the Russian Orthodox Church took over de facto leadership of that brand of Christianity. Since then, and up to the Russian revolution in 1916, Imperial Russia regarded itself as the main protector of the Orthodox world. When trouble broke out - for example, persecution of Orthodox communicants in Syria in the 19th century - Russia dispatched its Baltic Fleet to the Mediterranean to invade Syria and occupy Damascus. However, when the Communists outlawed religion, the Orthodox church in Russia went into hiding. Now, with the fall of Communism, it has reasserted itself, and is today Putin's staunchest support-base. Russia is reasserting its leading role in Orthodoxy, and in the Middle East, too. That is why Russia is in Syria and Vienna now. The Grand Mufti - the nominal leader of Islam in Syria - not only supports Russia involvement in his benighted country, but Assad too (his son was killed by an ISIS bomb). His view is that outside regimes (in particular the Saudis and several Gulf States) are behind the anarchy in Syria and are helping both the rebels and ISIS.   Interestingly, China is also assuming a role here, and has put forward a three-point plan to resolve the Syrian crisis (as mentioned above). China is emerging as a major global power. Of all this, you will hear nothing in our Media, whose main interest is weepy stories about inconsequential matters set in our own backyard.   Shame, shame on us.”

19/11/15 Thursday, BONDI -

I think I have been too censorious about sewage in China (see various above).  At least they make some considerable efforts to treat it and process it into, if not potable, then usable water.  At Bondi we discharge it into the Pacific, albeit now some distance offshore, and partially treated in the Bondi Treatment Works under Bondi golf links.  (See my wonderful picture of the Allen family from Glebe making an excursion to Bondi for a day at the beach.  The "stink pot" is clearly visible on the horizon, at the top of what used to be Sewer Street (now much-more-salubrious Blair Street, in which there are quite-expensive houses and flats now, oblivious of what goes on beneath them). 


[take in picture]

19/11/15 Thursday, BONDI -

I think I have been too censorious about sewage in China (see various above).  At least they make some considerable efforts to treat it and process it into, if not potable, then usable water.  At Bondi we discharge it into the Pacific, albeit now some distance offshore, and partially treated in the Bondi Treatment Works under Bondi golf links.  (See my wonderful picture of the Allen family from Glebe making an excursion to Bondi for a day at the beach.  The "stink pot" is clearly visible on the horizon, at the top of what used to be Sewer Street (now Blair Street). 


[take in picture]

20/11/15 Friday, BONDI -

As someone who saw my first topless bather at Bondi way back in the late 1980s, I was interested last evening, observing the south-end of the beach from our balcony (and our webcam would have caught this, too), my first bottomless bather at Bondi. Well, not totally bottomless, but as close to it as you might get without being arrested for indecent exposure. (Bondi is not yet a nude beach, so presumably the lifeguards would put their foot down if total bottomless were to break out at Bondi.) All the young lady in question had on was a length of string between her (admittedly very attractive) buttocks. I did not see what she did or did not display up front, but I cannot imagine there was much more there. I think this will be a trend at Bondi this summer, and no doubt provide yet another reason to visit the beach and Bondi. (The sound you hear is former Beach Inspector Abe Laidlaw turning in his grave.)

21/11/15 Saturday, BLACKHEATH -

It was a very hot day in Sydney yesty - over 40 degrees - and so we were looking forward at Bondi to the coming southerly change forecast by the Weather Bureau. It arrived at precisely 7.14pm and I observed its effect on the beach from our balcony. Suddenly most of the people - particularly in the middle of the beach and down to the north end - got up and started to make their way back up to the promenade, and presumably home. Then two sail-boarders arrived and walked purposefully towards the water to launch their craft into the freshening breeze. Soon they were streaking across the bay in full flight. Yet it was not the traditional "southerly buster" that often comes at the end of a hot day in Sydney. It closed my study french-doors, but not with the bang that gives its name to this welcome wind of summer. It was more a brisk zephyr than anything more busterish. The temperature dropped 20 degrees in a few minutes, and we got a good night's sleep, before coming up here this morning to our weekender overlooking Pope's Glen, where it is damp and cool today. The words of perhaps my favourite Hopkins poem came to mind:

"What would the world be, once bereft. Of wet and of wildness?

Let them be left, O let them be left, wildness and wet;

Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet."

22/11/15 Sunday, BLACKHEATH -

It was not Bondi but Brussels that was in the news last night and today. The Belgian Government upped its security alert to the top level of “imminent attack”, shut down the Metro, and told everyone to stay indoors. This is getting serious. As I remarked at our Philosophy Forum committee yesty, the attack on Paris last Friday week marks a new phase in the terror that Islam’s militants are visiting on modern civilisation. The world will not be the same again. We must expect a permanent fear of terrorist attacks in Europe and anywhere else in the world (they attacked Mali yesty, besieging a hotel in the capital and killed 20 hostages, before they were shot themselves by French-led “special forces” who stormed the building).   How long before we see something similar in Sydney? Not long, I think. Is Bondi safe (or Blackheath)? In the short term, yes. But I am not so sanguine of the future. We, too, will pay the price of unfettered multiculturalism, and come to curse the ludicrous euphemism “family reunions”. I hope Al Grassby is rotting in his grave.

23/11/15 Monday, BONDI -

Waverley Council, which is apparently pulling out all the stops to appear go-go and with-it, is lending its imprimateur – ie, giving its permission - to a New Year’s Eve “fireworks display” (and other attractions, including a licensed bar andf a jumping castle) at the Dudley Page Reserve on Military Road Dover Heights on (naturally) December 31, 2015. This, apparently, is the alternative to the (up till last year) traditional New Year’s function at Bondi Beach (whose absence puzzled us last year). But you can see the thinking behind this – for this eliminates the need to have your own fireworks display, as the Reserve affords a good view of the fireworks on the Harbour. Clever. I wonder who the promoters are? They should make a motza. (The good burgers of Dover Heights might not appreciate the attendant noise and traffic, not to mention the hoi-poli.)

24/11/15 Tuesday, BONDI -

Speaking of fireworks, yesty’s entry brought back memories of many “cracker nights” I enjoyed as a kid growing up in Bondi. There were usually bonfires on the many vacant lots that then flourished in Bondi – and in the park between Hastings Parade and Brighton Boulevard, on the corner of Wairoa. For weeks before we amassed our collection of fireworks, to be let off on the night of May 24 – Empire Day. (No longer a holiday, I regret to say. It was set to mark Queen Victoria’s birthday.) Sandra and I were recalling the names of the various fireworks – Roman Candles, Catherine Wheels, Mount Vesuviuses, sparklers, double-bungers, tom-thumbs, and (best of all) skyrockets! I can still conjure up in my mind’s nose the smell of the fireworks, mingled with the smoke of the bonfire. Ah, Bisto! (Firecrackers are now politically incorrect – they start bushfires – and probably illegal.) When we were in London, it was November 5 that was celebrated as Guy Fawkes night. (“Remember, remember, the fifth of November. Gunpowder, treason and plot.”) The Irish street urchins used to bail us up outside the Tube station, poke an imitation gun in our ribs, and demand: “A penny for the Guy!” The “Guy” was a doll dressed up in a pram they were pushing. If it was a good Guy, we surrendered a few coins (but got no thanks for that).

25/11/15 Wednesday, BONDI -

But why Bondi? Why did I grow up in Bondi (rather than in some other – much less pleasant – part of Sydney)? How and why did my mother and father come to Bondi? I do not know where they resided prior to moving to Boonara Avenue, off Bondi Road, where they were living (in a bed-sit) before I was born. My mother grew up, to all intents, in Glebe, and my father came over from New Zealand, I presume in the mid-1930s. Yet, as I have recently discovered from our Eason Mystery research, the Easons and Masons and probably the Rileys had connections with Bondi. My Eason grandfather spent time in a private hospital in Park Parade, opposite Waverley Oval (where I used to man the scoreboard). (He died, of a heat attack – the curse of the male Easons – in Mudgee in 1942.) That hospital might have been run by a nurse from Coonamble or Coonabarabran (where the Easons dwelt). I certainly remember visiting Eason cousins (Ina and Ita) in Denham Street. Presumably they were Ryans or Masons (or Hurleys) , and related to my mother’s aunt, Maud. Another Ryan – Johnny -- lived in a place in Bondi Road, opposite the Council Chambers. (Another one lived in Chaleyer Street, North Bondi/Rose Bay, and we visited them, too.) So I must have had a lot of family connections with Bondi, and it must have been more than coincidence that I was born and grew up in Sydney’s best suburb, and next to Australia’s - indeed, the world’s - greatest beach. Luck, lucky, Bondi Boy.

26/11/15 Thursday, BONDI -

As some birds fly south for the winter, so do backpackers arrive at Bondi for the summer surfing season. With their (presumably hired – though I saw some surfboards coming through Customs when we arrived back from China) boards under their arms, they come down from the various backpacker havens back from the beach, and plunge into the waves like ducks (also a bird that sometimes flies south in northern climes) taking to water. Increasingly they are of both sexes, though the males still vastly outnumber the females. For a dedicated surfer in Britain, Bondi must seem like a watery Xanadu, or seaside Shangri-La, with some of the world’s best waves. (They make a pleasant change from the Christmas-Day Poms, who invade the beach every December 25 with their distinctive white skins and red upper-torsos.) Yet the backpacker surfing influx probably comes from all over the Northern Hemisphere, not just Pomland (we met two backpacking Canadians last year from the backpacker hostel across Campbell Parade who helped us move some furniture in our apartment). It enriches the Bondi scene, and no doubt helps the local shops and cafes. I hope they will fly back again next year.

26/11/15 Thursday, BONDI -

As some birds fly south for the winter, so do backpackers arrive at Bondi for the summer surfing season. With their (presumably hired – though I saw some surfboards coming through Customs when we arrived back from China) boards under their arms, they come down from the various backpacker havens back from the beach, and plunge into the waves like ducks (also a bird that sometimes flies south in northern climes) taking to water. Increasingly they are of both sexes, though the males still vastly outnumber the females. For a dedicated surfer in Britain, Bondi must seem like a watery Xanadu, or seaside Shangri-La, with some of the world’s best waves. (They make a pleasant change from the Christmas-Day Poms, who invade the beach every December 25 with their distinctive white skins and red upper-torsos.) Yet the backpacker surfing influx probably comes from all over the Northern Hemisphere, not just Pomland (we met two backpacking Canadians last year from the backpacker hostel across Campbell Parade who helped us move some furniture in our apartment). It enriches the Bondi scene, and no doubt helps the local shops and cafes. I hope they will fly back again next year.

27/11/15 Friday, BONDI -

I am in two minds about what is the best time of day at Bondi. It goes without saying that it’s always nice at Bondi. In the middle of a sunny, warm summer’s day, the prospect of the beach filled with sun-bathing beachgoers and water-borne surfers is hard to better. (Though for me, a Bondi Boy, the beach in winter, with a stiff southerly blowing, and tossing white-caps all across the bay, is preferable.) However, if I had to be pinned down, in my opinion the best time of day at Bondi is either just after dawn, at sunrise, or in the evening, with a full moon glinting across the water. On our CyberBONDI website (BONDI NOW!) we have two images of these two occurrences, which I show below. Which is the better? I cannot decide, so you be the judge. (These wonderful shots were taken by my partner Sandra from our balcony at Bondi.)



28/11/15 Saturday, bondi -

We were driving through – I suppose it must have been Sydenham – on our way back to Bondi from our yum-cha place in Marrickville when I remembered Murray Sayle, who “retired” to a small, single-storey house off the Princes Highway, a few blocks away from where we were. I picked him up there one day to take him to a History Lunch at the Club (it could have been the one on Harold Holt’s briefcase). Unfortunately he was ga-ga and ailing, and he died not long after. He was also more than usually hard up, and I had to pay for his lunch. His passing was not, as far as I know, even mentioned in the local Media. Yet he was probably the most eminent and famous Australian journalist – and perhaps the best - ever to leave Australia for Fleet Street. But I certainly remember him, though I don’t think our paths ever crossed in London. One day I saw him cycling down Gray’s Inn Road to his job on the Sunday Times, where he was their “star” reporter. He later went off to Hong Kong and eventually Japan, where he saw out his journalistic days, still reporting and writing. (I remember a story he wrote on the downing of that Korean airliner by a Russian jet.) He had a impish sense of humour, such as when he was going to sail solo across the Atlantic and insisted Harry Evans paid for some second-hand “sheets” for his boat, telling everyone it was “money for old rope”. When he was leaving the Sunday Times, after decades of working for the paper, Evans said he hoped he was getting a good severance package.   Murray said he wasn’t, because he had never worked for the paper and he was never on the staff. Evan was astounded – he was their top-gun. With some satisfaction Murray told him that on his first day he had gone up to the business office and told them he was a freelance. From then on he negotiated the price for each story he wrote with his friendly contact in “accounts”, who took his word for its worth (plus expenses). I suspect that as a result he paid little or no tax, so it was a good arrangement for him. He was a great journalist and a great Australian.      

29/11/15 Sunday, BONDI -

Australia’s other great expatriate journalist is Phillip Knightley, who worked with Murray on the Sunday Times, and who is a fairly-close friend. I wrote his citation when Sydney University awarded him an honorary PhD (so he’s Dr Knightley now). I suppose he is most famous for the thalidomide/Distillers exposé and his tracking down Philby in Moscow. I played a lot of tennis with him, both on his visits to Sydney, and in London, where he is a member of Queens. We are both getting on now, and I am certain we won’t play tennis together again. We keep in email touch. He is a very good journalist, and an ornament to our profession. I will do my best to ensure he is not forgotten when he passes on to the great reporter’s room in the sky.

30/11/15 Monday, BONDI -

We had a little visitor to Bondi yesty in the shape of a drone that hovered over the south end of the beach, beneath our balcony, for some time, apparently watching or taking images of the surfboard riders catching waves into shore. I had seen that, or a similar, drone before (much like the “windhover” or sparrow-hawk that visits us every year – see 5/7/15), but paid more attention to it yesty because we have in mind getting a drone of our own to augment our webcam view of the beach from our balcony. It seems (from googling up DRONE+BONDI) that we have had visiting drones at Bondi for some months, perhaps more than a year. One enterprising drone-owner is offering to hire out his drone (inquiries: Our local Bondi art gallery, Aquabumps, is advertising drone-images of Bondi, but when I visited the gallery last week I was told the “drone” images were in fact taken from a helicopter. (They were not all that spectacular.) Still, it’s an addition to the vibrant scene at Bondi (it might help the Festival of the Winds, whose balloons and kites might be better seen from a drone). I hope our sparrow-hawks don’t feel threatened by these mechanical hover-craft, or else attack then in mistake for a sparrow and their other prey. Meanwhile I’ll keep an eye on the drone invasion of Bondi, in preparation for our own drone-launch next year some time.

01/12/15 Tuesday, BONDI -

It is 4.30 am on the first day of December (aren’t you supposed to say “rabbit” on the first of every month?) and the sky in the east is turning a lighter shade of grey, with just a hint of pink above the horizon. A gibbous moon is high in the sky. A fine, warm (33 degrees) day is forecast. Yesty Sandra went along the promenade photographing the Bondi Beach-Wall murals in preparation for our new Bondi Now ARTS module. The main feature of this new element in our revamped CyberBONDI site will be this open-air, ad-hoc graffiti-inspired gallery (a modern example of plein air painting). Some of them are rather good – the standard of graffiti has improved in recent years. We will monitor our new Beach-Wall Gallery and try to capture its changing “exhibition”, at least on a monthly basis. We met one of the artists yesty – he was doing his second Beach-Wall work – and he told me he went to Scots and lived in North Bondi/Rose Bay. He now owns the Raw Bar in Campbell Parade. Things are definitely looking up in Bondi.

02/12/15 Wednesday, BONDI -

I don’t know whether our webcam captures this, but something is going on at night on the other side of Bondi Bay. Very often when I look out at night across to the “rocks” at North Bondi I see strange lights moving around. I can only assume some nocturnal fishing is going on (there is little enough of it going on in daylight hours). The activity seems to start at what I know is the fishermen’s shed below Ramsgate Avenue above the shoreline, then move up towards the point at Ben Buckler. Is this connected with the shed? Some years ago, when we had our Internet-café-cum-cyberbondi office at what is now called North Bondi Village (formerly “the terminus”), we used to have lunch at a nice Chinese restaurant on the other side of the road. We sometimes encountered a group of men there who said they were all that was left of the fishing community that used or owned that shed (which, when I was a kid, was lined with the teeth and jaws of sharks).  I also at night see what appears to be the occasional boat, with light, apparently fishing off Ben Buckler. Maybe the fish bite better at night? Perhaps these are Asian fishermen pursuing their traditional piscatorial activities at night? It’s a bit of a Bondi mystery, and one day I must try to find out what’s going on.

03/12/15 Thursday, BONDI -

I have sad news to report. My little friend – the spider by our grille-gate front-door - is gone. I looked this morning at the hole he (and I use the masculine third-person terminology) used to occupy - see 30/10/14 above - and it is vacant, and there is no web to be seen. I do not know if he has gone of his own volition, succumbed to old age, or been consumed by the other spider I observed across the other side of the verandah (though he has disappeared too – perhaps they ran off together? – that’s a romantic thought, assuming they were of different sexes). Anyway, his hole is now vacant. I speculated that it might be family property, passed down through the generations, and maybe a younger-generation spider will soon take up residence there. I hope so, and will keep an eye on things, and report back if there are any fresh developments.

04/12/15 Friday, BONDI -

Sandra has been photographing the murals – they have risen above mere graffiti – on the wall along the southern end of the beach (their “gallery” goes up to the steps in front of the pavilion). We plan to include in our CyberBONDI site an art module, and we want the “Bondi Wall Gallery” to be its main feature. She was down there this morning, with her trusty Iphone camera, clicking away. We will try to record the changing “hang” (as they say in the art world – though “daub” might be the better term) on at least a monthly basis. We hope art-lovers from other parts of Australia, and hopefully form overseas, will visit our site and view the mural panorama. It will add to the BONDI NOW aspect of our site (which is still very much in the planning/beta stage – we won’t go “live” for some time yet).

06/12/15 Sunday, BONDI -

Returning to Bondi this morning, Sandra went down to get some more shots of the murals along the promenade (we are now thinking of calling it “The Bondi Graffiti Gallery”). As I was waiting for her, I saw passing by on the pedestrian crossing leading down to the beach a number of very attractive young women, scantily clad. A naughty literary thought occurred to me. “Ou sont les boobs of yesteryear?” echoing François Villon (Bondi is certainly not a very snowy place). We used to be a topless beach. Now there is not a bare boob to be seen.   Just a passing thought, as I waited for Sandra. Shall we ever see bare boobs on Bondi again?

07/12/15 Monday, BONDI -

On to more wholesome matters today. Yesty I decided to buy an English lettuce for our lunch. What, some of my readers might ask, is an English lettuce (and why did I choose it over the more patriotic iceberg lettuce of my native land)?   Perhaps in keeping with our image of the Poms, it’s a more flaccid (that’s pronounced “flaksid” by the way), not so say effete, and much greener. Crisp it is not. Yet it has quite a distinctive and different taste to the good old Aussie iceberg…more lettucey, in fact. Also it goes much better in a mixed salad (and presents better too, as it looks what you might think a lettuce should look like). Anyway, it was nice in my mixed salad yesty which accompanied our lunch on the balcony of smoked salmon on horizontally-sliced-and-toasted Turkish flat-bread, plus accoutrements of white onion rings, capers and sliced dill pickles. (I will do a future diary item on pickles.) While we lived in London I favoured the English variety over the iceberg (which was equally available), and so there was a bit of nostalgia – for we still miss some of England – in our Bondi lunch yesty. I remember our first taste of English lettuce. It was in a sandwich shop near Charing Cross soon after our first arrival in London in April 1965, and was in a side-salad. We did not eat it, wedded as we colonials were to the Aussie iceberg, and I was somewhat taken aback to see the sandwich-hand remove it from our leftovers, wash it, and put it back whence it came. They did not do that back in Sydney. (I took it as the first sign of English decadence.) I will send this item to Michael Symons, my long-time gastronomic friend, who recently organised a gastronomic seminar in New Zealand where he delivered a paper on Liberalism and gastronomy (“How big was John Locke's spice drawer? An inquiry into whether liberalism favours diversity, equality or both.”) I am not quite sure what Michael’s politics are these days – he accuses me (unjustly) of being conservative – so I will be interested to read his paper. If it says something interesting about Locke’s philosophy, I will suggest him as a speaker at our Philosophy Forum next year. We haven’t had one yet on Philosophy and Gastronomy.

08/12/15 Tuesday, BONDI -

Yesty I bought a new suit. Well, I paid what remained of the purchase price (about $1300 – quite cheap, actually) and took delivery of it from the tailor (Argy’s) round the corner in Bourke Street. It is made from a light-woollen fabric whose design is called “The Prince of Wales”. I had it made because of a photo I came across in a magazine of the future George VI, and wanted the same sort of suit (see photo below). Mine is not exactly the same design, but it’s pretty close. (Perhaps it should have been called “The Duke of York” design.) I, too, had a matching tie made, and I will wear the ensemble to lunch at the Club today. I am not a fashion plate, but I think this will enhance what little reputation I have for sartorial elegance in the Club (ie, none). I may report back on this.



Nice suit, your Royal Highness

09/12/15 Wednesday, BONDI -

As it (and I) turned out, it made a most satisfactory impression. My lunch companion Steve Barker commented on it, and asked where I got it. Even one of the Club servants – Elliott, the wine waiter -- remarked on it. I will wear it again to the Club on Friday (this time with the pants held up -- so they do not come down over my bootlaces -- by the pair of second-hand braces I bought at the Jewish Vinnies in Cleveland Street). If, as I expect, I gather further plaudits, I will report further.

10/12/15 Thursday, BONDI -

I have written before about the smells – the odours – of Bondi, particularly about the one that comes when the wind is in the east, and we get a whiff of what used to come from the “stink pot”, now much diluted since the sewerage outfall was exiled many miles out to sea (see, eg, diary entry 03/01/15, and my childhood delight savouring that intoxicating scent, which heralded the switch from the southerly to the nor’easterly, and the onset of beach weather). The other memorable smell comes with summer, when the wind is from the north-east. It is the whiff of burning gums, usually (unless there are bushfires) from early-summer burning off – the only way to ameliorate the effects of bushfire, as I well know from my time writing a report on the terrible 1994 bushfires for State Forests). On going out on my balcony early this morning I detected, for the first time this summer, that smell of burning gums, mixed in with the tang of the sea-spray. Ah, Bisto! (see entry 03/01/15 above)

11/12/15 Friday, BONDI -

I am going to write today a news item for The Bondi Daily about the danger from skin cancer contracted at beaches like Bondi. (The news angle being an article in today’s Australian – “YOUR SKIN DOESN’T FORGET” – on melanoma.) Well, I hope my skin can forgive me for the ravages of the sun I subjected it to when I was growing up in Bondi. As I record in my life-book, I seldom if ever wore what is now called “sun screen”, a dab of zinc cream on my nose being all the protection I got. Each summer I got so sunburnt that my skin peeled off in sheets. (Calamine lotion was the only amelioratry treatment applied.) My mother, as I say in my book, had a sun-lotion concoction made out of kerosene and olive oil – one of her “country recipies” – but even if it was applied, I don’t think it did much good. Down on the beach you used to be able to get sprayed with coconut oil for a few bob (it is a smell of the beach I can still remember), but that would have made things worse, not better. My skin specialist regularly patrols my epidermis and freezes off what he calls “sun spots”. I hope that is all that my childhood melanoma ignorance has left me with. At least I wore a floppy hat at tennis (and golf) – and gave up going to the beach when I was about 14. And I was in England for 20 years, where the sun shone only sporadically. Fingers crossed, then.  

12/12/15 Saturday, BLACKHEATH -

I said I would report back on my appearance at the Club yesty in my new suit. Well, it was an almost spectacular success, and I made quite a hit with it. Several of our Friday Group made favourable comments, but the most gratifying response came from Tarquin (who was making, coincidentally, one of his rare visits to the Club). There are various levels of praise, but praise from someone who knows what they are talking about is the highest form of approbation. For Tarquin is by far the best-dressed man in the Club - his wardrobe verges on the foppish - and praise from him (he used to have, when more affluent, his suits made in Savile Row) is that of the connoisseur of clobber. He recognised the pattern as the Prince of Wales and knew it was favoured by the Royal Family. As I left, his words of appreciation rang across the entrance lobby. I walked out of the Club standing a good inch taller.

13/12/15 Sunday, BONDI -

On our way back from Blackheath yesty we popped into the State Library to check a reference for my Lawrence book (a final one, for it must go to the printers before January 31). And what we found was a gem of the purest ray serene. (I append below the relevant footnote.) Had Bruce Steele and his CUP Kangaroo text a feather of credibility left, this will pluck it out. (Moreover, he could not have missed this reference in The Bulletin, for he quotes from a page further on. Whatever condemnation might come his way once my book is out, he surely deserves, for this is very reprehensible academic behaviour.)

A choice [of Sir John Monash rather than Sir Charles Rosenthal as the model for Benjamin Cooley in Kangaroo]somewhat undermined by Lawrence’s description in K chapter 6 “Kangaroo” of Cooley as someone “they like on The Bulletin” [K p104]. There is no sign of anything Lawrence could have read in The Bulletin praising Monash. However, on page 7 of The Bulletin of Thursday June 8 – the issue from which Lawrence extracted the Cape York tiger-cat story – see above] was an article that praised Rosenthal specifically as “one of a whole herd of highly qualified business and commercial [parliamentarians] with bright records as fighting soldiers”.

14/12/15 Monday, BONDI -

I had promised not to chronicle my failing body’s various ills and infirmities (who wants to read about other people’s problems?). But I think I should record my fall on Sunday, taken as I walked across Macquarie Street to the State Library. My father died after falling down some steps in Hyde Park, and I know of at least one journalist acquaintance who fell down some steps at the Cross. And, indeed, I have mentioned this matter before, in the context of holding on to the railing as I descend stairways (see 23/12/14 et seq). So I know I have to be careful. The fall on Sunday, however, was a serious one, not because of the damage it inflicted on my body – I was a bit battered and bruised, and ache a bit now - but for its ramifications. It happened because I was dodging between cars halted at the lights and had my eye, not on the road, but on the possible movement of the cars. I had a pair of old scuffs on, and the right-hand one turned over as I took a misstep, and I fell to the roadway. I have taken falls before (on the tennis court, for instance), but I was younger and more supple then. Now – and this is the point of this entry – I am getting progressive more clumsy and less agile. However, it could have been worse. I fell between cars, and could have been seriously injured had the moved forward. This I take to be a warning (I am getting a lot of such warnings lately). I will be very careful crossing the road from now on. Very careful.

15/12/15 Tuesday, BONDI -

I wrote a letter to the OZ yesty and a item on the same subject for our Friday Group. Both were rejected. But it was a good story, and so I will repeat it, so at least posterity will appreciate it. Lindsay illustrated it, and I include his illo too.



Illustration by Lindsay Foyle

This is the heading Private Eye put on a story about Hugh Gateskill’s opposition to a UK Labour Party conference decision to oppose, adamantinely, the deployment of Britain’s Unilateral Nuclear Deterrent, aka Trident. (He had said he would fight, fight, and fight again for Trident.) The heading came to mind when I read this week a report from Australia’s CSIRO that our greenhouse gasses had been overestimate by perhaps 20%, because our climate authority had exaggerated the amount of methane emitted by Australia’s cattle industry by up to 24%. Our cows are not farting as expected.  (One is also reminded here of the story about the English nobleman who exiled himself from the court of Queen Elizabeth because of a social embarrassment committed in her presence. When finally he returned to court he was graciously received by the Queen: “My Lord, we have forgotten the fart.”) Our climate-powers-that-be calculated that our reprehensible contribution to climate change on the basis that the guilty farters were dairy cattle (who fart a lot). It was now been discovered (who said climate science was prejudiced?) that beef cattle fart less than those fed on grass for milk. A timely piece of good news as Australia signs up to the Paris climate change treaty. We can rest a little easier in our beds knowing that our cattle are doing their bit to keep the rising seas at bay.

16/12/15 Wednesday, BONDI -

I said I would say something more about pickles (and other gastronomic accoutrements – chutneys, soused and salted side-dishes, or other culinary embellishments). A paraphrase of one of Hopkins’ greatest lines comes to mind. “Glory be to picked things”. Traditionally, pickling is a way of preserving what otherwise would perish through organic decay. The word comes from the Dutch – pekel, meaning “brine”. (And very good the Dutch are at pickling, as their famous soused herrings testify.) There is a wonderful world of pickles, and every cuisine has its range of pickles. I can’t list or pay tribute to them all here, but my favourites are dill pickles, kimchi, the various Indian chutneys, lardons, gherkins, the many types of salted marine life, and picked vegetables of various types and ethnic origins (Turkish pickled turnip is particularly good). Pickled chillies and peppers are also a particular favourite of mine, and I could not face ham and pork pies without pickled accoutrement. I suppose chutney is not really a pickle, but a sauce, but it is usually on the same table as the Indian pickles, and are closely related to them. Let me end with the last lines of that Hopkins poem, Pied Beauty (and again I paraphrase):

All things counter, original, spare, strange;


  Whatever is pickle, pickled (who knows how?)


    With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;


He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:


                  Praise him.


The sweet and the sour, the ying and the yang. Glory be, I praise them all.

17/12/15 Thursday, BONDI -

A big storm hit Bondi yesty. Not a southerly, but a south-wester (more west than south) and it assaulted the coast from the Harbour south to Kurnell with tornado-like ferocity.   We saw it on our webcam (rather than “live”) and when we came home we found the beach scarred with its impact. What must have been old creeks and other watercourses that fed into the bay had reasserted their suzerainty, they flowed again, depositing their gutter-sourced detritus over the pristine-white sand, from the shoreline back to the promenade. Their main waterway must have once come down where Hall Street now is, and debouched through the big storm-water tunnel outlets at our end of the beach, now blocked off and redirected into new drains next to the baths (and which still disfigure the beach with their filthy debris, washed down from the street-drains back up the incline to Bellevue Hill). No matter what they do to “civilise” Bondi, at times like these all their building-up has to give way to the elemental forces of nature. More power to its revenge on the efforts of puny, invading man. The ghost of King Canute hung over Bondi yesty.

19/12/15 Saturday, BONDI -

BONDI Saturday, 19/12/15 – The big news of the day is the announcement yesty by the NSW government that they intend to legislate to abolish Waverley Council (and many other councils across Sydney). Not a moment too soon, I say, for Waverley Council is corrupt, and has been more decades. Coincidentally, I am going to add a new section in our The Bondi Daily online digital newspaper, to be called (and I just invented this) THE BONDI DAILY INVESTIGATES. Our first investigation will be the Sam Fiszman Park on Ben Buckler, about which I have already written an article, but failed to interest the SMH investigative team in it. Watch that space.

20/12/15 Sunday, BONDI -

I am back on my diet again, in preparation for Xmas and the anniversary of my going on it on January 1 last summer. I will cut back on everything, especially wine. (The colonoscopy I have to have on January will assist this cause, as I have to fast several days before that.) I’ve only been on it for one day, but already I’m feeling, if not slimmer, then more virtuous. It will be a test of my willpower and determination to get through the next two weeks. Wish me luck.

21/12/15 Monday, BONDI -

The summer solstice, and the longest day of the year. The sun rose this morning into a clear blue sky from its fartherest point to the west, emerging above the horizon (to the right of our units, as I observed it from my study balcony) at 5.40 am. Its sweep from its winter solstice position, next to the “stinkpot”, across to today’s position takes up what I assume is its quadrant in the sky, occupying a quarter of my circle of diurnal existence. Today is one of, quite literally, the year’s great turning points, for tomorrow the sun will begin its return journey eastward to its winter station to the right of Bondi’s Gloriette. In the northern hemisphere – the other half of the world – the winter solstice there will dawn (if they can see the sun, which is problematical) later today, our time, a day when it is wise for virgins to stay indoors. How these annual events – the progression of the seasons – determine much of what is life on Earth, and our culture and daily life. No wonder Arkenarton chose the sun – the “Arten”, the sun disc - as his god in Armana.

22/12/15 Tuesday, BONDI -

[Take in HIDDEN ENTRY #4]

23/12/15 Wednesday, BONDI -

A rather dramatic incident happened under our noses yesty at Bondi. We didn’t see it happen (our webcam doesn’t have a playback function – so we will get that now), but today’s papers report that at about 7am a shark jumped out of the water at the south end of the beach and landed on a surfer’s board. Apparently it was a juvenile bronze whaler just over four feet long (though it came and went so quickly that positive identification would have been difficult). The surfer, local estate agent Dean Norburn, was uninjured, but made for the shore post-haste. The shark alarm was sounded, but the flighty shark disappeared as suddenly it had emerged from the briny. Maybe it took the surfer for a relative, and just wanted to make friends. “First I thought it was a seal,” said Norburn. “Then I looked down and saw it was a shark.” That’ll make a few surfing backpackers think twice about hanging five at Bondi over the Xmas break.

24/12/15 Thursday, BLACKHEATH -

It was the day before Xmas and all through the house it was chilly enough to have our gas-heater on, for it was foggy and cold outside (in the evening). We are hoping for another cold and foggy Xmas tomorrow, as we have enjoyed here for the previous couple of years. That is the point of celebrating Xmas in the Mountains. The plum pudding is almost a necessity. I should, however, explain the "all through the house" reference (for otherwise anyone who read this diary will not get its point). When Sandra and I were living in London in 1965, we were comparatively impoverished. Our flat in Goldhurst Terrace was not heated, and Xmas that year was, if not a Bob Cratchit affair, then a cold and minimal one. We could not go out, and the laundry was piling up. So I paraphrased the first line of the famous Xmas poem, "The Night Before Christmas"...Twas the night before Christmas/And all through the house/Not a cloth was clean/Not even a blous. We still remember it every Xmas eve, as we did today. (I realise my opening sentence doesn't rhyme, but, heck, it's Xmas, isn't it?)

25/12/15 Friday, BLACKHEATH -

Xmas Day. It was Christmas day in the work-house... Another line comes to mind this morning (and, yes, it is cold and foggy outside, so we'll be having our traditional Blackheath Xmas).   And ours is a work-house today, for we will be at it hammer-and-tong on my book, on CyberBONDI, and on a new project - a spin-off from the Lifebook - which I will describe if it, as I expect it will, becomes more than a Xmas idea. But to return to my line of the 1877 poem by George Sims, which (I now find via Google and Wikipedia) started:

It is Christmas Day in the workhouse,
And the cold, bare walls are bright
With garlands of green and holly,
And the place is a pleasant sight;
For with clean-washed hands and faces,
In a long and hungry line
The paupers sit at the table,
For this is the hour they dine.

We will dine today on roast pork with baked potatoes and a salad. And, yes, Xmas pudding to follow. I suppose they put $2 coins in them now (it was sixpences in my youth).   Dentists might have a lot of work when they return from their Xmas break.

26/12/15 Saturday, BLACKHEATH -

Boxing Day. I have mixed feelings about yesty, Xmas Day. It's nice to have a day of the year as "off" as Xmas Day is. The TV was appalling, with wall-to-wall mush and gush. No newspapers, nothing to relieve the universal dullness of the day. And indeed nothing happened, not even a small earthquake in Peru, or wherever such things on such a non-news day don't happen. (Fox News broadcast the results of a poll to see if "Happy Xmas" was more popular than "Merry Xmas", but I didn't tarry long enough to discover the result.) Our Xmas lunch was OK, though I buggered up the baked potatoes. The pud was good (Coles, to a Heston recipe), and we didn't indulge over-much. A snooze occupied an hour or so in the late afternoon (still cold and foggy, thank God). I remembered Xmas Days past. I used to like working on Xmas Day when I was on the Tele and acting News Editor or Chief Sub (how I miss those days, that era of my life). It meant departing the Xmas festivities early, going into town, and trying to fill the paper with inconsequentialities. Bondi, apparently, had its traditional Xmas Day. The sun shone and the Poms got sunburnt as usual. I'll write a piece about this for The Bondi Daily later today. They apparently filmed a special Bondi Xmas Day episode for Bondi Rescue. No doubt a few Poms got out of their depth and had to be pulled in. Today up here we have a Boxing Day lunch with a few guests (Peter Baldwin, Bob O'Neill). It will be nice (still cold and foggy). And so it went.          

27/12/15 Sunday, BONDI -

Our Boxing Day lunch went well. Far from what I assume was the madding crowd on Bondi Beach (up here it was cold and foggy again, but I gather it was fine at Bondi) we had a very pleasant meal – a cold collation - and some good conversation. My stuffed eggs literally went down well, and my new poached nectarines, which recipe I invented in the morning, was especially appreciated (I’ll try that again tomorrow, when we have the Delpratarama for lunch at Bondi). I find that I agree with everything Bob O’Neill says, and he agrees with everything I say, or at least I think he does. Of course, that’s a testimony to his towering intellect and wide knowledge of world affairs. We talked about China, India and the Middle East, and also what Australia stands for in this new century. (I cited my discussion with Phillip Knightley on our way to see the bicentennial celebrations on Sydney Harbour, when we decided that multiculturalism was the new national ethos, replacing our previous British Empire one.) Robert thought that Malcolm’s new mantra about “our innovative nation” was a possible candidate for a new national ethos, but then I told them about the ATP and what a disaster that turned out to be. The best ethos I could come up with was “a fair go”. We agreed to disagree. The house at Blackheath put up a good show too, despite the building works in the front garden (our study extension with formal mini-Chinese garden, with goldfish). Gus resumes work on this next week, and by the time we return a few weeks hence, it will be almost fit to occupy. That’s something to look forward to in 2016.

28/12/15 Monday, BONDI -

Today, in mid-afternoon, they were apparently filming an episode of Bondi Rescue on the beach below our balcony. At least I think that is what they were doing, for one of the lifesaver’s beach-buggies was parked just short of the water’s edge with what looked like a camera team surrounding them. While I think Bondi Rescue is doing a great job publicising the beach and my beloved Bondi, I found the sight of such blatant commercialisation of what is, after all, a vital emergency service for the beach, rather off-putting. Does all that fame and notoriety (and I presume appearance money) adversely affect their beach duties? It must at least go to their heads. Yet I see no evidence that they are neglecting their life-saving and patrol duties. The beach, as far as I can see, is not losing anything from what they are gaining. I wonder what the council thinks of it (they pay for the upkeep of the lifesaver service)? And who am I to begrudge them making the most of their good fortune of being part of the fame of Bondi Beach? More power to their beach-buggies I say.

29/12/15 Tuesday, BONDI -

These are the dog days between Xmas and New Year, when there’s nothing decent (or new) on Foxtel, no news worth reading or watching, and not much to do apart from partaking of the pleasures of the table (and also, in my specific case, working on my DHL book). This morning at Bondi the sun rose at a quarter to six into a slightly cloudy sky. It promises to be a nice Bondi day, temperature 25 degrees, and a coolish breeze from the south. It will warm up later this week, probably in time for the weekend. The sun has begun its post-solstice swing to the north-east, its satellite on which we live observing, in its elliptical path round the sun, Newton’s laws of planetary motion. Actually there was something decent on TV last night – a History program on Newton (which brought this to mind). I think he vied with Darwin as history’s greatest scientist, and probably its greatest mind. He was certainly a genius of the highest rank, and, like most geniuses, a very strange human being, devoting half his life to physics and mathematics, and the other half to the nonsense of astrology and a fruitless search for the philosopher’s stone. Still, he invented calculus, discovered the nature of light, and worked out how the solar-system operates. He lived a long life and was showered with honours at its end, dying a grumpy old man in his eighties. If the object of life is to make the most of your years on Earth, then he should have been a contented soul looking back on what he had achieved. But what a lonely life it must have been (he was a lifelong bachelor, and probably homosexual). He had no one to talk to except a toy boy from Switzerland, who abandoned him in middle age. On second thoughts, Plato was probably the greatest mind. Was Plato happy? It seems he did not have much of a love life, for the expression “Platonic love” has come down to us from him (nothing definite is known of his own personal life). His teacher was Socrates and his student Aristotle. My guess is that he wasn’t lonely as Newton was. I think he died happy.

30/12/15 Wednesday, BONDI -

One of the features of a Bondi morning is the sight of joggers jogging along the beach. As I look out from my study, the sand is alive (in The Sound of Music sense) with jogging. Soon they will be joined by other dedicated joggers, along with the various parties of organised exercise freaks who (as I have described) go into various contortions on the sand and in the park above the beach to, presumably, keep fit. The point I am making is that they don’t run, but jog. (Has anyone thought of making jogging an Olympic sport? I suppose it would be hard to define the gait, which is half-way between walking and running.) I wonder how many joggers below me know that jogging is, to all intents, a New Zealand invention. I quote Wikipedia: “In 1962 the New Zealand Herald reported that a group of former athletes and fitness enthusiasts meet once a week to run for ‘fitness and sociability’. Since they would be jogging, the newspaper suggested that the club may be called the Auckland Joggers' Club—which is thought to be the first use of the noun jogger." In fact I think the wife of my NZ cousin Tony Darroch was one of New Zealand’s original joggers. (My imperialist grandfather never forgave his eldest son for naming his eldest son Tony instead of the family name Robert. So I became his favourite grandson and inherited his books on Britain and the Empire, along with a crisp $NZ1 note on my birthday.)  

31/12/15 Thursday, BONDI -

The last day of the year. Has it been a good year? Yes, I think it has. No major health alarms, so I might last another 12 months (my endoscopy next Friday notwithstanding). Our new CyberBONDI site (with its The Bondi Daily component) went live yesty, and looks very good indeed. Our balcony webcam is operational and going well, delivering a Bondi Now appearance and functionality to our Bondi websites. Squiz delivered a couple of good dividends, and so we have no financial worries. Bondi and Blackheath are both in fine fettle, and we have started our new study extension on “Islay”. That will be something to look forward to early in the new year. The trip to China was obviously the highlight of the year, and it went off surprisingly well (given Sandra’s mobility difficulties). Everything’s fine clubswise, and our Rant on the Rocks is working well. Peter is happy in the office and with his share of Cybersydney  He is taking on more responsibility for that end of our affairs, which is good, as we want to wind back our working activities in the coming months. We have a lot to look forward to in the coming year, including our trip to Cornwall in September to give papers at a DHL conference. But the highlight of 2016 will be the launch of my book on DHL in Australia, which has occupied a lot of my time in the last 6 months or so. It will be very interesting to see if it makes any impact, here and overseas. I also suspect we will see some action Squizwise, so it could be an interesting year in that direction. And so on to tomorrow and 2016.     

01/01/16 Friday, BONDI -

This morning the first day of 2016 dawned brightly at Bondi, with new year revellers waiting on the beach for the first sunrise of the year. (There must have been several hundred there, scattered all over the sand, in various stages of undress and hangover-recovery.) This is becoming a bit of a tradition at Bondi, rounding off the night’s celebrations. There were no fireworks on the beach last night to herald in the new year, which was a disappointment for us, the council having relocated the traditional new year festivities to the Dudley Page reserve up at Dover Heights (as mentioned in an earlier Bondi Daily news item). Pity, as it used to provide a rather spectacular introduction to Bondi’s new year, which would have looked good on our CyberBONDI webcam. (We watched the Harbour jollifications on TV, which I must say seemed pretty much like last and previous year’s. No doubt an upgrade, however, on my first Harbour fireworks display, which I viewed, aged 12, from the roof of what was then the Dover Heights Domestic Science High School up Hardy Street in Dover Heights – so in that respect this year’s fireworks were returning home – then put on in honour of the Queen’s visit to Sydney during the 1952 Royal Tour.) How Bondi Boy’s world has changed since then, especially, in Bondi’s case, for the better. This year Bondi is going to kick further ahead, as it continues its inexorable yuppification and climb up Sydney’s social ladder. The “strip” along Campbell Parade, in particular, will (I predict) see a significant upgrade, for it will become one of Sydney’s most active and expensive precincts. Which is a nice new year thought to take forward into 2016.

02/01/16 Saturday, BONDI -

Yesterday Bondi was packed with a holiday crowd I estimated at between 20,000 & 30,000. It was certainly the biggest crowd I have seen at Bondi since we acquired our apartment in Notts Avenue. Crowds are always – notoriously – hard to estimate, but I think my estimation is better than most, for I have something few other estimators would have. Firstly, I know Bondi Beach as well as anyone. I have seen and been part of crowds at the beach since childhood (see my 11/10/14 entry re this). As a young reporter, I did the beaches story on the Tele, which involved ringing up surf clubs up and down the coast and asking for an estimate of the crowd at their beach that day, so I have some idea of beach-crowd numbers. Also my mathematically-inclined father once told me that you could estimate the number of grains of sand on Bondi Beach by taking a small sample, counting them, and then extrapolating that to whatever section of the beach you wished to estimate. I tried to do that yesty, counting the number of people in an area below our balcony (a hundred or so) and extrapolating that across the entire beach. I came up with roughly 25,000, to which I added those who had left the beach, or were still to come. However, the number on the beach yesty was nowhere near the number that used to come to Bondi when I was a kid (when the trams brought them from all over Sydney). I know this because I had to weave between people as I made my way down to the water on a hot weekend summer day. The beach yesty did not have that density of beachgoers. In those days figures of between 50,000 and 80,000 were touted, and I could believe them. (See my last year’s New Years Day diary item 2/1/15.) We won’t have anywhere near that density today or tomorrow, as cloud and even rain are forecast. But it was a pretty good day at Bondi yesty.

03/01/16 Sunday, BONDI -

Although there may not have been as many on the beach yesty as there were when I was growing up in Bondi, one aspect of Bondi has become more populated – the “coastal” walk from Bondi to Tamarama (and beyond). Yesty it was like what George Street used to be at lunchtime on a busy weekday (before the powers-that-be turned it into half-a-mall). Yesty there were so many people coming and going down past the baths that they couldn’t fit on the pavement, and there was a considerable overflow on to Notts Avenue. I suppose the sculpture “walk” has made that Bondi attraction more popular, but it can’t be the only reason. The fact that the walk has been extended (in both directions - for you can now take it northwards to Sydney Harbour, with a few minor detours) has also played a part. There were certainly hundreds, if not thousands, “doing” that Bondi-Tamarama walk yesty. It’s a pity our beach-cam doesn’t pan that far to catch the busy pedestrian traffic in Notts Avenue. However, we are still planning to promote a “Hello Mum” facility on the lookout-cum-roof-of-the-washroom platform opposite us – and our webcam can show that (we could place such a sign on the platform, with instructions to wave at the camera). I think that would be a valuable addition to Bondi’s many tourist attractions. We could promote it in the various backpacker places in Bondi.

04/01/16 Monday, BONDI -

We’ve had two day’s rain so far this week, and Bondi – as it usually is – is scarred at the waterline by debris from the storm-water outlet near Bondi Baths. This is a great pity, for it disfigures not only Australia’s most famous beach, but one of the world’s greatest beaches. No doubt an incoming tide will soon wash at least some of the debris out to sea (though that’s not very satisfactory, as it can hang around for days offshore until the sea finally disposes of it). What’s left is usually swept up by the council “beach comber” that now visits the beach every night to go over the sand and prepare it for the next day’s beach-going. Of course, it used to be much worse, when the storm-water outlet was under the promenade, down our end of the beach. Then it really disfigured the beach, and was not only an eyesore, but a public pollution hazard (and which its new offshore exit hides). Is it too much to hope for that it will eventually redirected further out to sea (as the sewerage outlet under the stink-pot now is)? Maybe the two outlets can he joined underground. (See my life-book re the storm-water outlet in North London that led to my returning home to Australia’s – and Bondi’s – cleaner, improvable environment.)

05/01/16 Tuesday, BONDI -

We’ve now had three days of stormy weather at Bondi, and if it wasn’t for the calendar you would think it was mid-winter. (So much for Paris and global warming.) I went out on my balcony last evening and the southerly was blowing a near-gale. But that’s the way I like it, in summer or winter or in-between.   As I say in my life-book, Bondi is at its best, not in the summer surfing season, but in winter when the prevailing southerlies whip up the white-caps, the rain scuds across the bay to the near-deserted beach, and I could be on my ancestral island of Islay, looking west towards Ulster and the wide Atlantic. I feel best in this weather, and I am sure it’s my Scottish (if not Scandinavian) genes that are cooing with pleasure at the smell and sound of the “the sea, the sea, the open sea/the blue, the fresh the ever free”. (Googling, I find that these are the opening lines of a poem called “The Sea” by a poet I have never heard of, called Barry Cornwall.) Yet I learned those lines from my 6th-class teacher, Mr Hogg, at Bondi Beach school, and have remembered them ever since. (But it’s nice to know, over 60 years later, who wrote them. “Without a mark, without a bound/It traverses the world’s wide regions round”. Strange how things stick in your mind.  

07/01/16 Thursday, BONDI -

Still raining at Bondi. Last right I gingerly ventured on to our rain-soaked balcony because I saw something on the beach (through my study door) that attracted my attention.   It turned out to be someone struggling down the sand against the stiff wind with what turned out to be a para-glider. He managed in the shallows to put it up (it was still blowing a mini-gale), then set off through the surf across the bay, being pulled along by a parachute about 30 feet above his head and at 45 degrees to the surface of the sea. It’s one thing to ride the waves at Bondi, it’s quite another to ride the wind at Bondi. I closed the door and went back into the cozy warmth of my study. I felt cold and wet just watching him. I hope he has a hot shower when he gets home.        

08/01/16 Friday, BONDI -

Today the sun shines at Bondi. The unseasonal spell of wintry weather – four days of it since the weekend – has broken, and Bondi returns to its languid summer ways. But there’s a big surf running, and only the bravest board-riders are venturing out to where the big ones are breaking, off the Bondi Baths. I can see the waves rising further out, parallel with Ben Buckler, and as the sweep shoreward they make a spectacle that must make every board-rider’s heart beat faster. (Our webcam comes into its own on such days as this, as we are sideways to the waves, and can view them rising, while the other beach-cams are front on.) The big surf has also washed away almost all of the stormwater detritus caused by the downpour, leaving only a thin rim of debris washed back from where it no doubt sits under the waves further out, waiting for wider dispersal in the coming days and weeks. The forecast temperature today is a mild 25 degrees, with the warmer weather to come on the weekend. It should be a good weekend at Bondi tomorrow and Sunday, when we will be staying down here while Gus gets on with our extension up at Blackheath. How lucky we are, having our two places, here and up the mountains. I would feel guilty were it not that we have earned it, after almost 50 years in journalism (and no superannuation). Still, we got Bondi through Kerry Packer and ACP, so we have journalism to thank for that. More power to your celestial polo-stick, Kerry (if you are up there, rather than down below).

09/01/16 Saturday, BONDI -

Today sees one of Bondi’s most pleasing events – the swing round from a southerly to a nor’easterly, via the rare Bondi easterly (about which I have written before in connection with the distinctive smell – no, perfume – of Bondi: the whiff of the sewerage outlet that used to waft from the Stink Pot, but which is today many miles out to sea, and now only detectable to an educated Bondi nose like mine.) As I have related previously, this was the smell Bondi Boys savoured, because it heralded fine beach-and-surfing weather to come. I went out on my balcony this morning, expecting to experience such a phenomenon, and indeed the wind was a gentle zephyr from the south. I went back into my study, leaving my study door open, hoping to catch the first tell-tale whiff of sewage. Alas, it has not yet come (I am in the office now in Surry Hills). But I hope on my return this afternoon I might find it, before the prevailing nor-easterly sets in for the weekend. I will report back on this tomorrow.    

10/01/16 Sunday, BONDI -

It’s a lovely summer’s day at Bondi today, and the wind is now in the north-east, presaging a good beach day ahead. It must have switched round during the night (for it was still from the south when I went to bed just after 9pm). So no whiff of my Bondi perfume. What I did notice last evening was a remarkably low tide at Bondi. I seem to remember we get big tidal changes around Christmas and New Year. At high tide the water might creep up a few millimetres on the global-warming “danger gauge” the council has installed next to the bogey-hole at North Bondi to show the gullible public the inevitable water-level rises from the melting glaciers in the Arctic. Where is Tiny Tim (“The Icecaps are melting”) when we really need him? One thing I did notice at around 5pm was the swimming “hole” in the rocks below our balcony, which only evinces itself at a very low tide. If I were younger and fitter, I would go down and take a dip in it. Crabbed age and youth, and all that. If I had been less sedentary, I could have gone down to the beach and ordered some take-away food on my mobile phone via an enterprising new delivery service that promises to take your order from a local eatery and deliver it to a popup outlet next to the Pavilion, paging you when it is ready to pick up. I noticed also (see our The Bondi Daily news reports) that there’s yet another “reality” TV show based on a tattoo parlour in Campbell Parade (it’s called Bondi Ink). Bondi is certainly coming on.

11/01/16 Monday, BONDI -

Our units in Notts Avenue Bondi were built by Kerry Packer (or at least with his money), the father of James Packer, who is in the news this week. He apparently was stopped from entering his casino in Melbourne by an “islander” security guard. I do not know how bright islanders are, but James is a pretty identifiable figure, and you would have to be pretty thick to stop him from entering his own casino. Let me tell you, that guard was lucky James’s father Kerry was not still alive. He would get angry if the lights were against him in New South Head Road. I have had the privilege of being “monstered” by Kerry, and it is an experience you would never forget, nor want repeated. James used to live in our units, before he built his own place further down Notts Avenue, which he gave to a former wife or girlfriend, before building his present Bondi pad opposite us in Campbell Parade. So he definitely counts as a Bondi Boy. It’s nice to see, however, that he is apparently a chip off the old block.

12/01/16 Tuesday, BONDI -

A lot of what you would call “sport” takes place on Bondi Beach. This morning, looking out on the beach, it’s alive with its usual exercise activities, but there’s also a beach volley-ball “game” taking place half-way between our end of the beach and the Pavilion. Beach volley-ball is an increasingly popular activity on Bondi Beach. At weekends three, four and even five “courts” are set up, apparently ad-hocly (ie, the participants brought their own net, etc, down to the beach). Apparently these “teams” are got up informally by someone and you can join one of them if you care to. It’s probably organised through social media. If, as seems likely, this “sport” continues to grow, they may soon have to “book a court” or space so they can have their time at the beach. It’s now part of the fabric of life on the beach, and, who knows?, it may become an event at one of the dwindling number of surf carnivals that are held – infrequently – during the summer surfing season. (It will be a warm day at Bondi today, with temperatures forecast to rise into the mid-30s. It’s fine and sunny – good Bondi Beach weather. Should be a good crowd later in the day.)

13/01/16 Wednesday, BONDI -

We are back now into the rhythm of a typical Bondi summer. Yesty morning it was hot – 35 degrees in the city, and more in the west. Then, around midday, a southerly change hit Sydney, and when I got home about 4, there were four para-gliders riding the waves in-shore and a sail-boarder further out (a long way out in fact) tacking across the bay, before running diagonally shoreward before the stiff southerly. This morning it is overcast and still cool, but the wind is dropping, and the temperature will rise during the day to its forecast 28 degrees (and much hotter away from the coast). And so the weather pattern will repeat itself at Bondi in the coming weeks. It will be good beach weather on the weekend, but we will be up at Blackheath for our monthly literary lunch. There it will be cool in the evenings, but as warm as Sydney and Bondi during the day. Australia is a great place to live (especially with the terrorist outrages taking place overseas). I do hope our immigration officials keep this in mind when making up their annual intake. Let’s have a few more Scots. The only damage they do is to themselves.  

14/01/16 Thursday, BONDI -

As we were sitting on our balcony after dinner yesty, enjoying the sea-breeze as dusk made way for early evening night, Sandra remarked that the Stink Pot on our eastern horizon seemed to have been painted recently, and looked whiter. I hadn’t noticed anything different, but it then did occur to me how phallic a symbol of Bondi it is. I think I have mentioned before in this diary that it is Bondi’s Gloriette (the “folly” that improves the view at Schoenbrunn in Vienna). But it does stick up somewhat blatantly. The only person to elevate it to something more than a sewerage - note the correct usage - vent was Martin Sharp (RIP) who some years ago dressed it up with lights, etc, for some festival or other. As a pop-artist, he appreciated its sexual connotations. (I had the naughty idea that they should position two larger-than-life balls on either side of its base to emphasise its erotic connotations, perhaps as a feature of some future Bondi celebration.) But I suspect the feminists would object to such a glorification (if you will excuse the pun/analogy) of masculine erectness. (Here I will stay my flighty fingers else they might be tempted to speculate where an analogous symbol of femininity might be placed, in the vicinity.)      

15/01/16 Friday, BONDI -

A curious incident happened yesty. I was just about to get into my car outside our bank in Crown Street when an aboriginal lady of disreputable appearance dashed out and hailed a passing taxi. It did not stop. It reminded me of the story of a black man doing something similar in New York, only to see the taxi pull up ahead and take in someone dressed as a gorilla. As I watched from my front seat I saw the Sydney taxi stop about a hundred yards up the road for someone who was taking something out of his parked car for transfer to the now double-parked taxi. Obviously my aboriginal friend saw this too, and ran toward the taxi, opening the rear door as the prospective passenger closed the front door. The taxi drove off with them both. It would have made for an interesting taxi trip into (I assume) town.   As I too drove off, my only meeting with Bea Miles came back to me. When I was at university I used to go into the NSW Library to read the books I could get at the Fisher. On the steps outside Bea Miles used to sit with a notice round her neck saying “Shakespeare Readings 6d”. One day I caught a taxi back to Bondi and, as I closed the front door, Bea Miles jumped in the back. She was notorious for harassing taxi drivers and damaging their doors by slamming them violently when they eventually managed to eject her.   Bea tried to bet me how many Holden we would see between the Library and Bondi. I refused to do this, claiming student poverty. (Once Bea got on a cab and demanded to be driven around Australia. And she was, and paid the driver for the trip - she was the equally disreputable daughter of WJ Miles, who owned Peapes clothing store in George Street, and thus could afford such luxuries, though she mostly eschewed them in favour of the life of a down-and-out, or “bag lady”.) But I really should have paid my 6d and listened to what she had to say. It would have made a better story.                   

16/01/16 Saturday, BLACKHEATH -

This is incredible weather. This morning it's very cold up were, and we have our gas-heater on full-blast. It's foggy and wet outside our windows and frigid in the rest of the unheated house. Sandra's iPhone says it's 9 degrees at Blackheath, but it feels even colder than that. I am tempted to take a hot bath, just to warm up. And this is the 16th of January - high summer!   Bugger it. I will go and have a bath. What are baths for if not to wallow in their warm water? If it makes you feel good, do it. Not a bad motto. And I'll spend the rest of the day also doing things that feel good. A bit of shopping at Katoomba, then a nice lunch, a bit of my book-revision, then a bit of TV, dinner and so, like Pepys, to bed. We diarists have to look after ourselves, for posterity's sake. (I joke!)

17/01/16 Sunday, blackheath -

What an enormous amount of information is coming at us every day nowadays. This morning I have just finished reading Saturday's papers (put off from yesty because of the enormity of the task). "Reading" however is not the right word. In fact, I did not read in the Gutenberg sense any of their content. I just glanced at the headlines, and perhaps a blurb or two, and skipped further along. I think I got through the three main
Sydney papers in less than 15 minutes. I am not sure they increased my knowledge or picture of the world by one jot or tittle. Why do I bother? I suppose it's my journalistic training and experience. I am a Media groupie and a sucker for new facts and information, and I suppose - despite my IT credentials - I always will be. My sixth class teacher at Bondi said I was a "bookworm". But it was more that I was an information-worm. I was as hungry for new information as I was for sweets and condensed milk (swigged from the pierced can). And I still am. It has stood me in good stead, too. There is hardly a thing around more, or that I come across, that mystifies me. I think I can recognise and identify almost everything I see. However, when something new does swim into my ken, I am like the little boy I was at Bondi listening to the radio or reading to books that indeed made me a bookworm. So I tell a lie. There was something in yesty's papers that did catch my eye, and I read about it. It was a small low-double on page 7 or later that reported that astronomers in America have detected the brightest (what they assume is) super-nova even recorded. It is over 500 billion brighter than our sun. Or if it isn't a super-super nova, then it's something new for which they have no explanation. I will be most interested to see further stories on this.         

18/01/16 Monday, BLACKHEATH -

Crikey ran a piece a day or so ago about Media couples. They listed 30 or more couples, each of whom had a prominent position in (mostly) rival Media outlets. The usual suspects, as Claude Rains would have said. (“Round up the usual suspects” he said memorably in Casablanca.) But I can’t get too worked up about this. I have seen no evidence that it is harmful in a Media context, and it’s pretty much to be expected, as people who work together often go out and get married together. (Look at Sandra and me!) That’s was why girls on reporting duties often married photographers, usually with dire results (propinquity and opportunity). I would be more worried about reporters marrying political operatives (of which I can name a few examples). There would be some serious conflicts of interest there. Meanwhile we’re back to Bondi today, and looking forward to it. Yesty we had a literary lunch – 14 at table! – and it went off well. The star of the occasion was my Green Goddess Sauce, with the poached salmon. This will become one of my signature dishes. I will look forward to another opportunity at Bondi to trundle it out. It’s finger-licking good.

19/01/16 Tuesday, BONDI -

No one else came to the Tuesday Pioneers lunch today. I just sat there in the Dangar Room, alone, like the proverbial shag on the rock. Eventually, at 1pm, I gave up waiting and went next door to the tapas place on the corner of Bligh Street, where, sitting outside on a lovely summers day, I had a very nice lunch, observing the passing parade (which, alas, lacked any Pioneers). This is the last time I will do this, and will not come on a Tuesday ever again unless I know for certain others will be there. I had suggested that I be given a list of members so I might invite some of them to come and join me of a Tues (as I used to do with my former Friday Group). But that suggestion was ignored, or spurned. Enough. I am afraid that the Pioneers are moribund, and the brink of dissolution. I will go to their “gala” events, when I can. Steve Barker is now on the committee, and I must support him. But that’s where my commitment to the Pioneers now ends. Pity, because something could have been made of it. Sic transit gloria.

20/01/16 Wednesday, BONDI -

After these diversions and excursions, I must get back to Bondi. Specifically, I must get back to cyberBONDI, which I have not updated for almost a year now. The new development where the Swiss Grand stood (I think it’s called The Pacific) is currently being occupied with tenants, and is starting to come alive. The new boutique hotel there (it’s called QI, I think) opened a week or so ago, and a couple of the Campbell Parade-frontage shops and stores have opened up. The big Woolworths supermarket, which I went into, looks promising, but I wonder if it will attract enough custom, the parking outside being so restricted. Upstairs, where I have yet to explore, there seems to be some sort of art gallery, and that is a promising development. I’m sure there are some eateries up there too. I must investigate, as I update our CB database. I will report back soon.      

20/01/16 Wednesday, BONDI -

After these diversions and excursions, I must get back to Bondi. Specifically, I must get back to cyberBONDI, which I have not updated for almost a year now. The new development where the Swiss Grand stood (I think it’s called The Pacific) is currently being occupied with tenants, and is starting to come alive. The new boutique hotel there (it’s called QI, I think) opened a week or so ago, and a couple of the Campbell Parade-frontage shops and stores have set up business. The big Woolworths supermarket, which I ventured into, looks promising, but I wonder if it will attract enough custom, the parking outside being so restricted. Upstairs, where I have yet to explore, there seems to be some sort of art gallery, and that is a promising development. I’m sure there are some eateries up there too. I must investigate, as I update our CB database. I will report back soon.      

21/01/16 Thursday, BONDI -

I must say that the council seems to be doing a good job revamping and re-turfing what they call Bondi Park (it never had that name when I was a kid). They have finished returfing and landscaping the area to the south of the Pavilion, and it’s already attracting a clientele. When I was growing up in Bondi, this area, and the rest of what was then Bondi Park, was coved with stately Norfolk Island pines. Alas they are gone, replaced first by ugly “natives” like banskia, then now, much more attractively, by smaller non-native trees, which are in proportion to the new turfed area. I think they’re planning soon to do the rest of the “park”, and this will improve its ambience. I don’t have much to praise Waverley Council about, but they get a plus from me for this.

22/01/16 Friday, BONDI -

The council, however, will have to do something about the footpath in our Notts Avenue. It’s too narrow for the vastly increased number of people who want to walk up or down it between the beach to the baths and beyond. This means they are forced to walk on the road, which is dangerous to them and to the passing traffic. The present footpath can only take two people either walking side-by-side or in opposite directions. As well, it’s sloping a lot, and obviously will soon have to be torn up and rebuilt – no doubt wider than it is now. But this will make the traffic problem worse. It’s already difficult for two cars – let alone something bigger – to pass each other. They will have to eliminate parking in the street. No skin off our nose, of course, as we have underground parking. It may take an accident, however, for the council to focus on the problem. Looking over our balcony at the passing parade, that will not be long in coming.

23/01/16 Saturday, BONDI -

A hot, sticky, typical January-February summer’s day at Bondi this morning (with the promise of a southerly change in the late afternoon). If it weren’t for my pierced eardrum and its grommet, I should be down on the beach breasting the breakers. (The surf looks good, as our webcam shows.) Yes, I miss the surf. But it’s a longish walk down to the sand, and it’s nicer to sit on our balcony and watch the waves from this vantage point, outside my study door. At our literary lunch last Sunday I had to explain what “vicarious” meant. (I put the view that Treasure Island was one of the most vicarious novels written – it was where I first came across the expression – for its appeal, especially to the young male reader, was in imaging yourself in Jim Hawkins’ role in Stevenson’s great novel.) So it is with me at Bondi. I surf vicariously at Bondi. I don’t need to go down to the beach. I can visualise what it is like from up here on my balcony. God knows, I’ve caught a lot of waves at Bondi in my younger days. But no, like my tennis and golf, I prefer to remember when I was good at it, rather than go down and flounder around as an ungainly 75-year-old. I only wish I had learned to ride a surfboard, for I would like to imagine I was one of those agile youngsters who “hang five” on the waves beneath me. (Wait a moment - isn't that the Hispaniola I see on the horizon?)

24/01/16 Sunday, BONDI -

Why don’t I dream about Bondi Beach? I dream a lot about other parts of Bondi, particularly 38 Wallis Parade, where I grew up. Only last week I dreamt about returning there, and seeing how little it had changed (though the bath was in a different place in the bathroom). I also dream about Oakley Road, where we lived until I was six. I dream about Bondi Golf course and about the various tennis courts I used to play on in the Bondi area. But not about the beach, where not only did I pass a lot of time in my childhood and youth, but which is the most distinctive – and memorable – feature of Bondi. It is something you would expect to make an appearance in one’s dreams. Thankfully, I no longer have nightmares, which scared me when I was very young. In fact, I look forward to my dreams every night – it adds an interesting (and enjoyable) facet to my latter years, when I seem to be dreaming more. Funny things, dreams. I believe they are a function of the story-making facility we all have in our brains, touched off each night by something when we are asleep, and which the mind then makes up a “story” about. I believe Lawrence used this facility to compose much of his fiction. He called it his “little devil”. (And, of course, we have the famous precedent of Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan”, the dream of whose lines were interrupted by “a person from Porlock”.) And so to sleep, perchance to dream – aye, there’s the rub, said Hamlet (and Pepys). But alas not, to my mind, Bondi Beach.

25/01/16 Monday, BONDI -

Soon Waverley Council will have to think about charging for the use of the name Bondi (and no doubt they would if they could). This morning’s Daily Telegraph reports that some celebrity or other was the star of “the Bondi Sands Australia Day Weekend Cruise” on Sydney Harbour. Who or what was “Bondi Sands” I wondered? (keeping as I do a watching brief on the use of the word “Bondi” in the Media, etc). It’s a new tanning application, apparently. I quote from its website: “A dry tanning oil that requires no wash off or walking around with no clothes on while you dry off. We have changed the way we tan forever!” Beats the coconut-oil spray we used to get outside the surf-hire-shop down on the beach (Mac Bondi I think the place was called). The promotional cruise (which was booked out early) was linked to two Bondi businesses, Miss Chu (who supplied the Vietnamese food) and The Bucket List, the oh-so-trendy café attached to the Pavilion on the beach. (Also yesty I saw a drone hovering adjacent to our balcony. What it was doing there I can only speculate. Probably making a pass over the south end of the beach for some reason or other. We’ll probably get Bondi Drone Patrol soon.) If you could copyright the name “Bondi” you would make a fortune.

26/01/16 Tuesday, BONDI -

Australia Day.  For some reason – and I think I know that reason – Australia Day rubs me up the wrong way. It sets my teeth on edge, as if a sharp object were being drawn across a pane of glass. Yet I am as passionate an Australian as was ever born. I love Australia and genuinely believe it is the greatest place on Earth - particularly in the vicinity of Bondi. But I am not patriotic in the John Bull sense, not that of the younger Pitt (“My country, my country, how I love my country”) or Stephen Decatur (“My country, right or wrong”). For it is patriotic effulgence like this that puts me off Australia Day and the glorification that comes with in these more nationalistic times. It is that which grates on me. It smacks of jingoism and mock sentimentality. So we are going to do our best today to avoid overt expressions and instances of pseudo-patriotism. I began by skipping anything in the morning papers to do with Australia Day and its celebration. Today we will lunch in the new French restaurant in Crown Street and imagine Edith Piaf is singing Je ne regrette rien. Tonight I will cook something exotic, and avoid anything in TV to do with Australia Day. And thus I hope to get through to Wednesday and avoid the waves of republicanism such a day as this inevitably engender. I might even read some of the Romantic poets after dinner, or at least John O’Brien. I am sure Keats was not a republican (though Hanrahan might have been).

27/01/16 Wednesday, BONDI -

And so OZ Day has come and gone. The newly appointed Members of the Order of Australia and the Republican anti-monarchists have departed for another 12 months. I am sorry to report that I did not keep most of my anti-OZ Day resolutions, mentioned yesty. The French place in Crown Street was closed, as was an alternative bistro in Darlinghurst.   So no Edith Piaf. We went to the Bondi Trat instead (and had Italian food, and very nice it was). Last night we had a cold collation, all of it, alas, locally-sourced. Then we watched a Danish-Swedish drama (The Bridge), avoiding most of the OZ-Day mush on the news and elsewhere. (We also caught the triumphal march scene in Aida, and although filmed at the Opera House, it was suitably exotic.)   After dinner we sat out on our balcony, and although I did not read Keats, we did not mention nor think about the day’s nationalistic excesses. (At least there were no Dames in the OZ Day “honours” list.) Malcolm came on and told everyone that the Republican debate was a dead-letter, and that was a good note to end the evening on. Now we look forward to Bastille Day in July and The War Song of the Rhine Army. All together now, Allons enfants de la Patrie... (However, it was indicative, I think, that I did not hear a single note of our own National Anthem. Of course, we should have chosen Waltzing Matilda – that would have been an appropriate anthem to hear yesty.)

28/01/16 Thursday, BONDI -

It has been, if I may say so (and it being my diary, I can say so), a remarkably, not to say peculiar, Sydney summer these past two months or so. I woke up this morning to yet another coolish (though humid) overcast Bondi morning, with a light drizzle falling, like Shakespeare’s gentle rain from Heaven. The place below – Bondi Beach – was its usual busy self, with the usual suspects going through their customary contortions on sand and turf. I suppose the climate alarmists explain this unseasonal less-summery weather as due to El Nino, which is busy undermining their predictions of global climate catastrophe. But I don’t want to get polemical this morning. After all, they might be right, and the world is inevitably turning into a terrestrial version of the hot-house planet Venus (or a warmer than usual version of antipodean Scotland, where north of Glasgow it rains two out of every three days). This reminds me of the remark of a Scottish sociologist who categorised the social history of my ancestral homeland in terms of “thick legged men thinking about sex in the rain”. That puts the gentle rain from Heaven in a more-upbeat perspective.      

29/01/16 Friday, BLACKHEATH -

Our 51ST wedding anniversary. We are spending it up here at Blackheath and having a celebratory anniversary dinner tonight at the Hydro, which will be nice and appropriate. Utterly coincidentally, the subject of Geoffrey Lehmann’s Literary Dinner at the Club next Tuesday is “Marriage”. I, of course, will be discoursing – at Geoffrey’s semi-invitation - on the marriage of Lawrence and Frieda, probably the most famous marriage in literary history, certainly the most written-about. It was a stormy relationship, but I believe a happy one for them both. It provided Lawrence with a lot of literary fodder. Its ups-and-downs are reflected in Kangaroo, most particularly in a whole chapter devoted to it – “Harriett and Lovatt at Sea in Marriage”. I will not be lost for words on Tuesday.

31/01/16 Sunday, BONDI -

Yesty we did something I had wanted to do for some time – we drove down into Megalong Valley and tried to find the winery that was supposed to be there, but which had eluded me before. This time there were signs that directed to what turned out to be (at the end of a long, dirt road) a delightful small boutique vineyard that had just been taken over by a young couple from – yes! – Bondi. (Hence the new signposting.) It’s called Dryridge Estate, and it was started in 2000 by a chap called Tyrrell (no kin) who died of a heart attack while gathering the vintage (not a bad way to go). The new owners are very go-go and this will prove to be a significant addition to life up the Mountains. I bought, after a tasting, three cases of quite good white wine (a riesling, a chardonnay and a pinot gris), and this will add to the enjoyment of our weekends up there. I will serve some at next month’s literary lunch (on spies and spying) on February 18. They serve a cheese-and-meat platter at the smart little eatery-drinkery next to their “cellar door”. We tried to have lunch at the tea-rooms further back up the road, but it was packed with cars and lunchers. Very popular is the valley getting. So we had a quite nice (I am overusing that word) lunch at the Victory Café back in Blackheath. Life is very – no, I will not use the “n” word – amiable up there, and we look forward to returning soon for a whole weekend, after Gus finishes work on the study.

01/02/16 Monday, BONDI -

One thing I should ask myself is: what did I learn today (or yesty or even this week for that matter)? Because I am still learning things – about the world around me, how it works, how to live in it, and also about myself…how I interact with the world and life on Earth. For that’s what happens throughout one’s life. There is always something new to learn. And I think I learn something new about the world or myself almost every day. And that’s something I should record in this diary – did I learn anything today? A minor lesson – when turning left on a corner into two lanes of traffic, get in to the right-hand lane before you cross into the left-hand lane. This morning, driving (in heavy Bondi Road traffic) to work about 8.45 am, I turned right from Ocean Street when the lights changed, and tried to get into the left-hand lane nearest the kerb. As I did so, cars turning left from Ocean Street south dashed past my half-turned car, and I almost hit them. I certainly had to stop half-way into the nearside lane and let three or four cars go through. Did I have to give way to them, or them to me? I suppose I should have given way to them. Or, rather, I should have turned into the outside lane, not the inside one. I will remember that lesson from now on. Yes, you do learn something new every day. I suppose that’s how you survive in this risky world.

02/02/16 Tuesday, BONDI -

Looking out last night from our balcony after dinner (it was about 7.20pm) it occurred to me how little we appreciate one of Bondi’s most outstanding features – its clouds. That is not only the most prominent aspect of the beach (which is normally pretty static, spectacle-wise) but it’s most changeable feature.   And often its most beautiful. Sandra’s wonderful image of sunrise at Bondi Beach, which graces our CyberBONDI home-page, shows how dramatic and spectacular the cloud-cover over the beach can be. After all, the sky takes up almost half of the prospect of the beach from most people’s point of view. It presents a dynamic panorama that delights the eye and lifts the spirits (at least of a Bondi Boy). It changes by the moment and the hour. Last night there were storm clouds gathering in the north-east, and flashes of lightning before the rain came. This morning we had a clear blue sky with hardly the wisp of a cloud. Who know what it will be like when we get home tonight. It needs a Hopkins or a Wordsworth to do it justice.

I wandered lonely as a cloud.

That floats on high o'er waves and dunes,

When all at once I saw a crowd,

A host, of suntanned surfers

(with apologies to William Wordsworth – who could thyme verse properly)

03/02/16 Wednesday, BONDI -

Here is my Bondi rant. The traffic in Bondi is becoming intolerable, at least in peak-hours. Because we had to wait for the chemist to open at 8am (and he was 20 minutes late), we got caught this week in something approaching a New York gridlock from below the Hotel Royal right up Bondi Road. I tried to take a “back-route” up Francis Street, but it was gridlock again when I tried to get into Penkivil and up OSH Road. I turned left into Ocean but the traffic was backed up from the church to Bondi Road again. (It was then I made the mistake of turning into the wrong lane, as I mentioned on Monday.) There are now too many cars in Bondi-Waverley, and this can only get worse. In a diary entry last year I told of trying to find a parking place neat Bondi Golf links, but had to give up, as the parking was solid right down to the end of Wallis Parade (how the golf course can survive with no opportunity to park is beyond me – probably it doesn’t). After our experiences in China, I no longer get upset about being caught in a traffic jam. Even so, it’s making Bondi a less-pleasant place to live. At least it makes the council happy, as they now get almost as much money from parking fees and fines as they do from rates. It’s an ill wind…

04/02/16 Thursday, BONDI -

BONDI Thursday, 04/02/16 – Cannes, France, is a long way from Bondi (though we have our own mini-film festival here). However, our visit there in 1985 came back to me today when I read in the newspaper that former French film-starlet Beatrice Dalle had admitted eating a human ear when she was working (before she became a starlet) in a morgue in central France. She made the confession on a TV interview program, much to the astonishment of the presenter, who was lost for words for at least half-a-minute. On the way from Nice airport to Cannes in 1985 we found ourselves in the same minibus as Beatrice and her boyfriend. She was going to Cannes to publicise the film that made her famous, Betty Blue (the uncut version of which is now showing in Paris). I must say, she was rather nice, and had I not had Sandra with me, I would have been happy to offer my ear to her to nibble on, if she felt peckish (only joking!).

05/02/16 Friday, BONDI -

As I have said so many times before, Bondi Beach is at its best when storm-tossed. Last night, as we sat out after dinner on our balcony, it was literally a sea of broken water, with waves beginning to rise opposite the point of Ben Buckler. The slowly darkening bay was being criss-crossed by several para-gliders and at least two sail-boarders, bent on harvesting the breaking waves and the wind gusting from the south. Than this, life at Bondi hath not anything more beautiful to show. Whenever these riders of wind and waves sense a southerly is brewing, they come out, like rabbits emerging from their burrows, or sea-wolves from their wintry dens, and set out on their irregular pilgrimage down to the beach. There they catch the stiff breeze as their close-relatives the hang-gliders do, riders of the wind. I am reminded, inevitably, of Hopkins’ great poem, The Windhover.      


CAUGHT this morning morning’s minion, king-


  dom of daylight’s dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding


  Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding


High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing


In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing,


  As a skate’s heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and gliding


  Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding


Stirred for a bird,—the achieve of; the mastery of the thing!




Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here


  Buckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion


Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier!




  No wonder of it: shéer plód makes plough down sillion


Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,


  Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermillion.


...rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing - the English language does not get much better than that.

06/02/16 Saturday, BONDI -

BONDI Saturday, 06/02/16 – On Thursday evening, before the riders of the wind turned up, we saw on the beach something that reminded us of England and the painter LS Lowry. He was famous for his “stickmen”, matchstick-like figures, usually set in a grim industrial cityscape reminiscent of Manchester of Liverpool (the north of England at least – perhaps even Burnley, Phillip Morrell’s clog-wearing constituency, of which Ottoline once said, memorably: “They don’t feel any passion there.”) The figures on the beach below us at Bondi looked for all the world like Lowry match-people, an impression no doubt engendered by the lowering sky and the bleak whiteness of the sand.


Lowry’s match-people

We have remarked on his before. Lowry is now highly-collectable, and even the quick ones he dashed off for beer-money (featuring one or two figures – he called them his “oners”) fetch many thousands. Lowry is also famous as the person in Britain who turned down more honours than anyone else. A very modest man.

07/02/16 Sunday, BONDI -

It was a fine summer’s day at Bondi today, and the beach should have been crowded. But after the morning surf races (when it was indeed populated outside the two surf clubs) the crowd thinned out surprisingly early, and when Sam came to lunch (after attending the mayor’s “community meeting” at the Pavilion), the beach was unusually sparcely-patronised. It may be that potential beach-goers were put off by news items on TV that the surf was going to be “dangerous” and that an infestation of bluebottles (technically Portuguese man o’wars) was, or would, afflict Bondi today. There was a good surf running in the morning (the baths looked quite rough, and the smaller pool was being used by regular swimmers, but looking down from our balcony I could detect no evidence of bluebottles along the shoreline. And certainly no one running from the water after being “stung”. Such infestations at Bondi are very rare, and I have only been stung once or twice in my surfing days. It’s painful, but it wears off quickly (our cure was to rub wet sand over the affected skin-area). I think I was also once stung by what I think were called “sea wasps”, which, if I recall, was a painful experience. Up north, of course, there are deadly stingers, and some surfers wear panty-hose to protect themselves when surfing. It was probably such a stringer as this that was the subject of one of the best Sherlock Holmes stories, “The Lion’s Mane”, where someone on the English coast was (fictionally) stung to death by a sea-creature that left a sting-scar that resembled a lion’s mane (which were the victim’s last words). When as a cadet I did “the beaches story” of a Sunday, bluebottle infestations rated the lead par. So, though somewhat negated by observation, that gives me my Bondi diary item today.

09/02/16 Tuesday, BONDI -

As is my practice now, when Sandra is going through her contortions at the gym in O’Brien Street – and a very friendly crowd they are there too – I drive round Bondi, patrolling my territory. I do this mainly to monitor what changes are happening throughout my bailiwick, as Bondi is undeniably in the throes of dynamic and dramatic change, and is going upmarket as quickly as local estate agents can bring it to market. This is no more apparent than in Ben Buckler, at the eastern ends of Hastings Parade, Brighton Boulevard and Ramsgate Avenue. (And I have remarked before on the fact, unbeknown to me when growing up in Bondi, that these streets are each named after seaside resorts in Britain.) To my credit, I had always maintained that Ben Buckler was the natural and obvious place in Bondi to come up in the world, and become – what analogy can I use? – the Antibes of the Sydney Riviera? Yet Ben Buckler has a big problem, which it is currently overcoming in various ingenious ways. When its housing stock was built, mainly in the 1930s and 1940s, Bondi had slipped down in the world, and Ben Buckler, instead of becoming the best place to live in Sydney, was built primarily of cheap blocks of flats, with no architectural pretentions at all. This is seen in particular in the big blocks in Ramsgate that front Bondi Bay (one of which was recently demolished and replaced what should have been put there in the first place). Yet what we see now at Ben Buckler - and what I saw this afternoon on my drive round there - are the results of almost desperate efforts to make opulent silk purses out of Bondi’s flatville sows’ ears. To this most praiseworthy end we get awkward balconies jutting out from where there were none before, new glass picture-windows, and a general upgrade that calls to mind a raddled old crone trying to look younger by putting on make-up and trying on a miniskirt. In Hastings I even saw two vacant building-sites, where something more in keeping with the Cote d’Azure is obviously being essayed. (This may well be the shape of things to come, first in Ben Buckler – which, our Notts Avenue apart, is now the most desirable place to live in Bondi – then more widely.) Of course, the worst legacy of the 1930s flat-building era is Bondi’s chronic lack of parking, which must be a daily nightmare for the yuppies who are now repopulating and tarting up Bondi’s hitherto apparently irredeemably-ugly buildings. By way of compensation, however, they are within easy walking-distance of the beach, which is why they have come here in the first place. At least in Ben Buckler we didn’t get a Margate Street - London’s down-market working-class seaside resort – and instead got where the Brighton Boulevard line terminated (to misquote Oscar Wilde).

10/02/16 Wednesday, BONDI -

I saw yesty the first (at least it was first to me) beach-fisherman of the year, casting his hook into the surf below our balcony. I take quite an interest in the piscatorial aspects of Bondi, for in my younger days I was a keen fisherboy (at to around 12 or 13, soon after which I almost stopped going to the beach, for reasons I cannot recall now – but it saved me a lot of exposure to the sun, and I am thankful for that). I was a rock-fisherkid, and dangled my line over “the rocks” at the eastern end of Bondi Bay. I never caught much, yet like golf, it’s not so much what you catch or score as the ambience of the pastime that constitutes its main attraction, and its enjoyment – at golf it’s the courses you play on, and with fishing it’s being near the surging sea, the sun and breeze, and being on the wonderful interface between the land and the ocean. I caught toads, rock-cod, sweep and the rare trumpeter, which (toads apart) I took home and tried to get my mother to cook them. But, again, it wasn’t the eating of my small catch, but how I got them and where they had come from, that mattered. I had my favourite spots, off the little boys’ bogey-hole, off the point, and off the big men’s bogey-hole further round the rocks. I used “cungy” (a type of shellfish without a shell) for bait and used a very cheap metal rod that could not have handled anything big in the way of sea-creatures. (I also used a float, so I could fish further out from the rocks.) I never had a beach-fishing rod, and am not sure what those who did were trying to catch. When surfing, you would see small fish darting under the waves, but nothing very big or edible I would have thought. Perhaps like me the fishermen are just enjoying a day out at the beach (though I do see them reeling the occasional one in – I think in fact they are trying to catch sand whiting). I will not go into what they caught in “the Murk” where the sewer outlet used to be beneath the Stink Pot. I have told that story before (see 3/1/15). I also used to fish off various wharfs (Rose Bay, Nielsen Park) for baby snapper or bream, but with as scant success as my rock-fishing efforts at Bondi. (See, however, my lifebook for my New Zealand fishing triumphs, aged 7 – a 56lb grouper, no less!)

11/02/16 Thursday, BONDI -



12/02/16 Friday, BLACKHEATH -

Up to Blackheath this morning to see how Gus is getting on with the new study extension (and to pay him – a lot, but it’s money very well-spent). I’m taking up the first tranche of my DHL library, which I will transfer there piecemeal in the coming weekends as the new study is completed and fitted out (with our computers, etc). I’m glad I didn’t throw any of it out, but stored it down in the garage at Bondi. I will need to refer to its contents in the coming weeks and months as I complete by final DHL book, and prepare for the talk I am to give on The Nightmare chapter in Cornwall in September. We also have a Blackheath Philosophy committee meeting tomorrow at our place, which is the other reason for going up there (where we will be incommunicado until we get wired up again, probably in two-three weeks time). But no matter what the reason, I always look forward to Blackheath, as I think this diary reflects. Meanwhile we have most reluctantly decided to say goodbye to Gem 3 (too expensive to repair, says Precision) and will now rely on Gem 4 for all our transportation needs. RIP Gem 3.

13/02/16 Saturday, BLACKHEATH -

Gus is going well. He has the structure of the study extension up, and the new bay-windows put in. It is looking good – better than we had hoped. When it’s finished (in about four weeks, I would guess) we will put in our mini-Chinese garden in what will be the mini-courtyard (shrunk from the former front garden), with fountain and goldfish. Then we will have one of Blackheath’s most desirable residences. (Prices are rising here – there wasn’t anything under $300,000 in the local estate agent’s window, and our place must be rising into the $500,000s). We came back in the late afternoon after a philosophy committee meeting at Peter Baldwin’s place. (We can’t work up there because we haven’t any computers connected – so this is written at Bondi on Sunday morning - Valentine’s Day.) We look forward to going back next weekend, when the study roof should be on, and I will take up another tranche of my DHL library.

14/02/16 Sunday, BONDI -

It’s a lovely morning at Bondi today. Not a cloud in the sky and a gentle breeze blowing from the north-east – beach weather. Temperature a forecast 31 degrees. The water, so I am told, is in the 20s, and perfect for swimming and surfing (not many waves, though). This no doubt will be reflected in the now-almost-daily blog I get from local Aquabumps owner-photographer, Eugene Tan. Not only does he produce wonderful images of Bondi, but he writes what can only be described a daily paean of praise for the Bondi both he and I love so much. He claims (and I have no reason to doubt him) over 50,000 “readers” world-wide. (See his Aquabumps website at and sign up for his blog.) Here’s what he said on his blog yesty: “Around 50,000 read this daily thing that I’ve now been doing for 17 years. A lot of our readers are overseas. A lot are in the northern hemisphere where it’s freezing cold right now. For some it’s a life line…for others it’s a love/hate thing…some get it and have no idea how they landed here but love pretty pictures. For those in a office cubicle and it’s snowing outside – well – it’s real nice right here, right now. And these pics will rub it in a lil’. You should be here. The water is special. 24 degrees. There are small and fun waves. Big crowds.” Great stuff, Eugene. Long may you continue to sing your song of Bondi.

15/02/16 Monday, BONDI -

Has anyone written any poetry about Bondi? Has anyone else sung a song of Bondi? The answer is “yes”, as I mentioned in my diary entry for 28/4/15. The self-styled poet-laureate of Bondi is Adam Gibson, who has written a book of verse entitled, prosiacly, Bondi: Poems. As I commented last April, he does not make it into Geoffrey Lehmann’s magisterial book of Australian poetry, and indeed I do not think Geoffrey has ever heard of Adam Gibson. Nor had I, so I Googled him up. Here’s what he says about himself on his website: “Adam Gibson is a Sydney writer, performer, lyricist, musician, journalist and artist whose work covers music, songs, spoken word storytelling, installation art, performance works, sculpting, video work, painting and photography… He performs regularly solo and with his band The Aerial Maps…he has performed and/or exhibited in many venues, galleries and spaces around Australia, China and Finland, was an artist in residence at the Arteles Creative Center in Finland and is actively involved in a wide range of artistic endeavours.” A man, indeed, for all seasons. Here is his song of Bondi:

The last milkbar has closed its doors,
no milkshakes available here anymore.
No Bates’, no Marg’s, no Bill’s, no Valis’s
no more.

And no comment. Bondi is still waiting for its Wordsworth...“Earth hath not anything more beautiful to show...”

16/02/16 Tuesday, BONDI -

How wrong was I. Not only has Geoffrey Lehmann heard of Bondi’s putative poet-laureate, Adam Gibson, but he knows him personally. Geoffrey told me yesty that his daughter Lucy used to go out with Gibson, and was her boyfriend for some time. Geoffrey, perhaps out of parental solidarity, even had a goodish word for Gibson’s “poetics”, as he described them (which, however, evidently did not rise to a stardard deserving for inclusion in his compendium of Australian verse). Nor should I by imputation poke borak at Gibson’s memories of Bondi milkbars. I, too, remember them well, and can place along Campbell Parade the ones he celebrates in his “poem”. At the time I was growing up, Bondi was a place of many milkbars. Along “the strip” there must have been almost a dozen or more, established there not only for the summer beach crowds, but to service the King’s Cinema in Roscoe Street. There were ones on either corner of Hall Street, and in fact the last to close – only a few years ago - was on its northern corner. (I think this was Bates’.) So why aren’t milk-shakes, the raison d’etre for milkbars, popular any more? Indeed, their other “products” – ice-cream sundaes, Eskimo pies (chocolate-covered ice-cream on sticks), ice-cream sodas, and, of course, the banks-and-banks of “sweets” on offer. (See my diary entries for 20/8/15 and 23/8/15 for more on this, and where the word “sundae” came from.) My favourite milkbar was across the road in Hall Street from the Six Ways (Hoyts) cinema, which was, along with King’s, my weekly haunts in the era when “the pictures” were the primary form of non-domestic entertainment. And I haven’t been to a cimema for over a decade! TV has a lot to answer for.

17/02/16 Wednesday, BONDI -

How well I remember that Six Ways “picture theatre”, and how much a place it played in my growing-up years in Bondi. Today, I find it most strange how its site – now a set of shops with a couple of floors of units above them – could have accomodated the big picture palace of my childhood memory. For then – aged 10-12 – it was HUGE…in my memory perhaps three-times the size of what’s replaced it. My God, the vestibule alone occupied by the ticket-booth and the stairs leading up to the “dress circle” above, not to mention the big in-house milk-bar it boasted, could hardly fit in to what’s there now – and that’s not to mention the seats inside and the screen, the projection booth and the toilets. Do things shrink in your memory as you grow older? That’s the only explanation. It was here I saw the Gene Autry and Hoppalong Cassidy serials, the 20-cartoon Saturday matinee (for kids), and the hundreds of feature films I used to see there, religiously every week, both at weekends and on weekdays (unless there was something better at the Kings cinema down by the beach in Roscoe Street – which was often). Some I remember to this very day, for one reason or another. I recall one called The Ants, others include The Halls of Montezuma, The Day the Eath Stood Still, and even Blue Moon – the first “adult” film. Yes, TV has got a lot to answer for.

18/02/16 Thursday, BONDI -

A really big surf at Bondi this morning, which is slightly odd, as the weather otherwise is pretty calm. This is the sort of surf you associate with a southerly gale. There were cameras trained on the waves up and down Notts Avenue. Had I not been on my way to work I would have driven over to Ben Buckler, which is where you get the best view of a big surf like this. I will wait to see what Eugene has to say about it on his Aquabumps site (hopefully he’ll have some snaps of it). Bondi looks magnificent in these conditions – it is, after all, the place for waves to rise, and break, and sweep up the sand as far as their momentum can carry them. This morning they probably made it to the promenade down the north end, for they were within 40 feet of it down our end. Not the biggest surf I have seen at Bondi, but in the first 15 I would say. (Last night, as we watched the surf rising, I could see one intrepid board-rider catching the waves from off the point of Ben Buckler. He didn’t perform any tricks, and just managed to stay ahead of the wave almost to the bogey-hole, before going out again to catch another.) That would have been fun. Vicariously I was in the water with him. This morning, however, the waves were too big for that sort of thing. I will be interested to see what Bondi is like when we get home late this afternoon, and perhaps report further.         

19/02/16 Friday, BONDI -

Well, the waves were still big, but abating, and there were a lot of board-riders catching them. I can’t resist, therefore, citing what Eugene Tan said of yesty on his great Aquabumps site, and I quote him: “Some real beef out there today. Sets are tipping over 8 foot and pounding. Leave the fishes and mals at home, grab a shorty and find somewhere that is holding big surf. The swell will peak this arvo. It’s clean and offshore.” No, he was wrong, it was abating, but you must dip your lid to his enthusiasm and love of Bondi and its waves. Go visit his site: and see his superb pictures of the waves at Bondi. It was in fact a wonderful late afternoon and evening yesty, with a gibbous moon high in the heavens, and not a cloud in the sky (and an abating surf). Off up to Blackheath this morning, to liaise with tradesmen. There seems there will be a big skateboard-festival here over the weekend, and we will miss that. Back to Bondi on Monday morning.

19/02/16 Friday, BLACKHEATH -

Bondi has one major drawback, for me at least. And it is this month of February, when the hot, humid weather traditionally sets in. This, however, is the price we pay for living where we are, in a temperate zone. Actually, the weather is close to being perfect at Bondi (and in Sydney). It hasn’t got the heat of the tropics, nor the icy cold of northern climes. That’s why spring and autumn are the best times of the year in Sydney and at Bondi - the between-seasons climate.   It’s also one reason why we have our weekender up here at Blackheath…to escape the heat of summer (such as it is in Sydney) and February’s oppressive humidity. So that’s why we are up at Blackheath this weekend. And true to form, today is cool and misty, and you need to switch on your headlights to drive up to the shops. I won’t quote Keats about “the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness”, but I can’t resist Hopkins’s Pied Beauty

Glory be to God for dappled things –

   For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;

      For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;

Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;

   Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;

      And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.


All things counter, original, spare, strange;

   Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)

      With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;

He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:

                                Praise him.


There is a lot of dappling at Blackheath today, and thank Hopkins for putting it into words.

21/02/16 Sunday, BLACKHEATH -

The new study up here is going great guns – the roof is on and the walls and windows in. I cannot praise our Glaswegian builder Gus enough. He is a miracle-worker (though pricy). I thought Granadian Joe Baker in London, who worked on our big house in Westbourne Park Road for 15 years, was a great builder, but Gus I think is even better. For one thing he’s quicker. And his finishing cannot be bettered. We are most fortunate to have found him (he did a superb job on our basement kitchen-cum-living-room). And it was there we had our literary lunch today, on “Spies and Spying”. Not a big roll-up (seven, with one apology), but what we might have lacked in numbers we made up with the lively and informative discussion. Antony Carr was particularly good, and read the KGB episode from Yes, Prime Minister to excellent effect. Next month it will be historical novels, and I will do my gripe on Wolf Hall and Cromwell. Hopefully by then, autumn will have come to Blackheath. Bring it on.

22/02/16 Monday, BONDI -

I should record the fact that today I started writing another book. (Well, I and my co-authors, Lindsay Foyle and Robert Whitelaw, did.) It will be a biography of George Augustine Taylor, and if ever the time was ripe for such a book, it is now. (When I say “writing” I mean, of course, beginning the research for the book.) Taylor, I now know, was Benjamin Cooley - the ideological half of Lawrence’s primary character in Kangaroo – and thus the person who was the main object of my Quest for Cooley (which book will also be published by The Svengali Press later his year). But he had many other claims to fame and a biography – too many to list here. This will be a major project, but at least I will not be alone (though probably I will do most of the actual writing). I even have a provisional title for the eventual book – THE MAN WHO WAS NOT HERE. Lindsay likes it, and I will see what Robert thinks. More grist to my Lawrence mill, and all the better for that.

23/02/16 Tuesday, BONDI -

A bit of drama on the beach this morning. Awoke to find a TV crew on the viewing platform across the road preparing to cover something. There was a reporter with a mike and a remote van with-giant-arial-extended parked up the street, obviously waiting to cut to the studio somewhere (I didn’t see the name on the van). Then we heard sirens and an ambulance pulled up in front of the pavilion in the middle-distance. Obviously a serious incident had happened on the beach, and a small crowd had gathered, with attendant lifeguards, at the bottom of the steps down to the sand. Then we heard more sirens (I say “we” because the TV reporter had suddenly switched his attention from what he was supposed to be covering to what was happening down on the beach). Then a second ambulance arrived, followed by a police car. We had to depart Bondi for work, so we will have to wait for the news tonight to get any clue as to what was going on, both on the platrform and the beach. Coincidentally, I witnessed what I think was a fatal heart attack in the Surry Hills shopping centre yesty with ambulancemen desperately trying to revive a man outside Coles. They were pumping his chest vigorously, and I remarked to the chap in the nearby wine shop, who was watching, that it’s serious when they have to do that. (I wonder why they didn’t have a Packer-Whacker with them.) Also I must not let today pass without remarking on what a wonderful moon-rise we had over Bondi Beach last night - see photo below. To sit outside on our balcony with a post-prandial glass of cold chardonnay and see a sight like that makes life worth living, and especially living at Bondi.





Noon-rise over Bondi

24/02/16 Wednesday, BONDI -

Somewhere like 800-1000 people in Bondi have diabetes, though that figure might be higher, given the lifestyle of most Bondi residents. It adds up to around one in 12 people…and I am one of them. I went to my endrincologist at St Vincents this morning, for my quarterly check-up, and I am pleased to report that my blood-sugars are in the 6-7 range, and Dr Samaris is happy with that. I am normal – for a diabetic. That is excellent news, and has indeed made my day. (I was up a couple of kilos, but given I suffered from an ear infection for much of the last two months, that is explicable, and I think I can get back to my “fighting weight” by the time I go to see Kathy Samaris next time.) I mention this only to keep a proper record of my life, and because I have nothing better to write about today. My diabetes was diagnbosed about 13 years ago, and has done nothing to alter my liferstyle, except to make me a little more careful with what I eat and drink. I suspect, however, I had the afflication for many years before it was diagnosed. I used to be plagued by hot-flushes and heavy sweating in bed at night – a sign of high blood-sugars. But I am lucky it was diagnosed before it wreaked greater havoc with my ageing body. Fortunately it has not affected my eyes, which is the greatest peril from diabetes - macular degeneration. I had an eye-check (for my licence renewal) last week, and came through with at least fluttering colours. I think I will cling to the wreckage a bit longer (that was the title of someone’s biography - almost as bad as Leonard Woolf’s Downhill All the Way).

25/02/16 Thursday, BONDI -

A blast from the past yesty (or at least a gust). A few weeks ago I sent an email to the Sydney High Old Boys Union asking if they would like to talk to The Svengali Press about a possible I WONDER WHAT HAPPENED TO… feature/archive, like that other GPS schools such as Kings have - ie, a combination of school memories and what the ex-SHS pupil did subsequently (we had in mind a sort of SHSOBU selfie). I also sent it to Gilbert Case, who was at school with me, and with whom I have kept in sporsadic touch over the intervening years. Partially to jog the SHSOBU’s unresponsive memory, I sent another email this week asking, tongue-in-cheek, if the school haka was still in use, and what its words were. I copied this to Gilbert. He replied with the words (the first line of which I did recall) and also mentioned the school song, whose text he also sent me, and which I could now recall too. So I was also able to tell our Cybersydney staffer Peter Jeffries, whose son Tim is in 4th-year at High, about these former glories of schooldays at High. He in turn told me that at the school’s “awards night” (I suppose this was equivalent to our Speech Day) last week there was a rare awarding of what Peter thought was “the school hat” to some deserving lad. I will check with with Gilbert, but I think in our day this was called “the School Honour Cap”, and was also rarely awarded to a boy called Allsopp (not sure of his lls and pps), who was in the year ahead of us, for outstanding sporting prowess. Peter, however, tells me that it is no longer awarded just for sport, but now academic excellence also comes into it. Had that been so in our day, then Gilbert would have been in the running for it…but not, alas, I.

26/02/16 Friday, BONDI -

BONDI Friday, 26/02/16 – I don’t know if this has been done (and I suspect not), but someone should make a doco or film about “A Day in the Life of Bondi”. Were I a film-maker, I suppose I would be the best person to do this, for many reasons. I know Bondi as well as anyone, both the old and the new Bondi. Perched as we are overlooking the beach, I can see and monitor from our south-end eyrie what is happening on and around the beach. Mine is an educated, experienced (and alert) eye. It would start before dawn and record Bondi Beach waking up, with early signs of life – cars arriving, etc – and the sunrise. Then the customary early-morning beach activities, depicting the numerous exercise groups doing their various contortions and exertions. The joggers jogging along the water’s edge. The swimmers, paddlers and surfboard riders. The delivery vans, garbage trucks, the morning traffic headed into town. The lifeguards, starting with their placement of flags, beach notices, and cris-crossing the white, freshly-coiffed sand astride their various beach-buggies. Then, as the exercise brigade depart, the beach assuming its primary role, as Sydney’s city-beach, and the start of its quotidinal beach-culture. I would like to show Eugene Tan taking some of his wonderful photographs, and perhaps cut to our beach webcam. It would have to be shot in summer, so that we would see the beach being fully used by its patrons and customers. We might have a fisherman at the north end dangling a line fron the rocks; some mothers bringing their prams down to the north-end for a gambol in the sand and shallow water; somone opening a picnic hamper on the grass above the bogey-hole. A shot of one of the beach cafes at North Bondi and the North Bondi RSL Club. Cut to the two Surf Clubs (and even show a glimpse of the Rose Bay Surf Club on Campbell Parade). The Pavilion, of course, and the parking along Queen Elizabeth Drive (I wonder if they’ll change that, come the republic?) The Bondi Baths, with its pricy Icebergs Restautant. A panning shot of the golf course with the Stink Pot in the distance. Then, as afternoon turns into early evening, the return of those coming home from work, and coming down for a late-afternoon “dip” before dinner and TV. The beach that was unwrapped in the morning now starts to be wrapped up again, as the day goes into reverse.   A lovely sunset and maybe an early moon-rise, as the beach darkens into night, as if it has been switched off. The final scene would be the arrival of the nightly beach-combing vehicle, preparing for the following morning’s rise-and-shine…when another day in the life of Bondi will begin over again.  

27/02/16 Saturday, BONDI -

BONDI Saturday, 27/02/16 – Yesty I had lunch with my reptiles – my former journalistic colleagues – at the monthly Friday lunch John Webb, to his eternal credit, arranges in the Haymarket for retired journos. He says he has a list of 30 or 40 of them, but yesty only John and I and two other reptiles turned up. (“The reptiles” is what Prince Phillip used to call – and no doubt still does - the tabloid media in what was once Fleet Street.) I make a point of going along to these get-togethers because I believe I have a duty of loyalty (not to mention nostalgia) to do so. We met as usual in the pub on the corner on George and Ultimo, and adjourned to the Chinese eatery aound the corner in what I suppose is Dixon Street. I am sorry to say that the food, as ordered by John, is not up to culinary snuff, but I bite my tongue and wolf it down appreciatively. He is in the chair, and I know better than question his choice. The conversation was rather desultory, but what can you expect of four 70+ hacks like us? John had suggested, to make the gathering a bit more interesting, that we bring along stories we have written that we are proud of. One of those present showed us a photo-copy of a front-page lead he had written for, I think, the Sun-Herald, and it had a very good intro, and I congratulated him on it. Later I sent my Col Allan story to John, and sugggested he send it out to the reptile vivarium. (I will attach it.*) I hope it might provoke a larger roll-up next month.


* As a news hound, one must always be alert for the scent of potential stories


And be prepared to take advantage, even, of what is dug up by one’s Media running-dogs


In the cause of entertaining and informing one’s readers


Such an opportunity has presented itself this week, quite unexpectedly


(for today I had planned to write something completely different, as Monty Python used to say)


But then on Sunday, at Bondi, I heard the startling news that Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd had, reportedly, been caught visiting a raunchy strip club in New York


Where he had, allegedly, engaged in some inappropriate behaviour…


…touching up the girls, I think it was – though he initially claimed to have no recollection of that


(but then, as Mandy Rice Davies, who had experience in such matters, famously observed: he would say that, wouldn’t he?)


Yet, for a politician, one’s memory is a precious asset – putting names to faces, and so on – so it was good to learn that Kev’s memory showed signs of returning later in the week, when he recalled that, in fact, he did not touch up any girls, but on the night in question had behaved himself impeccably, and after the briefest of stays in the night-club, went straight back to his hotel, and had an early night


Moreover, his companion, Mr Snowden, a Northern Territory Labor MP, who was with him on the excursion, and who also suffered an initial memory loss, now confirms this


And we have no reason to disbelieve them, have we?


However, I find myself in a position to throw some extra light on this story


And I could write what I know in a number of different ways


For example, I could start by telling you what happened last Sunday morning


When, after watching The Insiders on ABC-TV, and learning about Mr Rudd’s alleged fall from grace, Sandra and I went to Greenwich, to attend a function marking the birth of a daughter to my Squiz CEO (and fellow-club-member), John-Paul Syriatowicz


As I sat among a group of relatives and friends, I remarked, during a pause in the conversation, that Scores - the NY strip club that enjoyed Mr Rudd’s patronage - was hardly the place to find oneself, if one were a politician abroad


Blank looks greeted this opening gambit


And I suddenly realised that no one in the room had heard or read the morning’s news story


So it came to me to indulge what is the essence and delight of being a journalist


Which is to be the first to tell people something they would like to know, but don’t yet know


And so I broke the news of the potentially election-determining story…


…that our Kev, hitherto a model of Praise-the-Lord, home-loving, squeaky-cleanness, had, apparently, done a Malcolm Fraser in America


(we all remember what happened to ex-PM Fraser at the Admiral Benbow Inn in Memphis, Tennessee, in September 1986, when he and his trousers inexplicably parted company)


I got on Sunday the reaction that all journalists salivate for – “Wow! Really? Are you sure? What happened? Gee! That’s fantastic…etc, etc”


(If I were John Howard I would call an election within two weeks – he surely can’t afford to let this political gem lose its lustre, and waste its sweetness on the pre-election air)


On the other hand, I could write the story I am about to tell you in terms of politicians being incorrigibly licentious (overactive libidos seem to go with their territory)


When, for example, I was President of the Foreign Press Association in London, our premises were Gladstone’s old house in Carlton House Terrace, which had a back door through which the then Leader of the Opposition used to sneak out into the night and “befriend” prostitutes up in Soho, allegedly endeavouring to “convert” them


(one wonders how an 80-year-old, whose appearance was fairly well-known around town, might have imagined he could keep his bewiskered identity a secret in the back lanes behind Shaftesbury Avenue…“Ho, ho, ho, dearie – look who’s coming up the road again!”)


The GOM was, in truth, a DOM


And we don’t have to go far past Bill “Big Cigar” Clinton, Billy “I lust too” McMahon and JFK (who once told Harold Macmillan - no mean pants man himself - that unless he had a woman once a day, he felt physically ill) to appreciate that politics and sex go together, like, as the old song says, a horse and carriage…


…or was that love and marriage?


However, I am most fortunate to have a photo – having kept it for many years, in the expectation of having just such an opportunity to use it - to illustrate my anecdote today


And a picture is worth, if not a thousand words, then provides a good way to launch a story like this


(I recall, speaking of photos, the tale about the bushy-tailed, young, college-educated journalist in America, who was dispatched south to report a flood, and sent back a story beginning “God sat by and watched the rising waters…” - upon which, his hardened old news editor back in Chicago cabled him: “FORGET FLOOD STOP INTERVIEW GOD STOP SEND PICTURE STOP”)


So now look at the picture below…



…I direct your attention in particular to the fourth figure from the right


(I, incidentally, am the second figure from the left)


Do you not observe his rather seedy - indeed, sickly - appearance?


Does he not look, well, a trifle remorseful?


He had every reason to do so


For he was, at the time, considerably under-the-weather


His name is Col Allan, and he is the journalist who, four years ago, lured our innocent young Kev to the infamous Scores (geddit?) strip club in New York


And it is he, Col Allan, the journalistic Svengali who cast his seductive spell over our political Trilby, who is the subject of my anecdote today - which has, despite its early-eighties date, contemporary relevance


In 1981 I helped found, in London, ANZCA - the Australian and New Zealand Correspondents’ Association (which was how, as I have related before, in the context of my MI5 adventures, I went on to become President of the FPA)


One role that ANZCA played was to arrange with foreign governments trips to familiarised ourselves with their countries and cultures (at the time, there were about 40 Australian and NZ journalists stationed in London)


The German Government, the FDR, was especially keen to play host to us


Thus late in 1981, when the above picture was taken, we were on the Continent, enjoying our inaugural trip to West Germany


I was there representing Kerry Packer’s Australian Consolidated Press. Col Allan represented New Ltd. Peter Smark and Bill Mellor represented Fairfax. John Hamilton was there for the Herald and Weekly Times. We had a chap from AAP, another from the ABC, several New Zealanders, and so on – there were, as you can see, 10 of us (Peter Smark is fourth from the left).


We had started off in Nuremberg, where there was a Xmas fair, then moved on to inspect the Mercedes factory in Stuttgart, then to Bonn, thence to military manoeuvres in Munster (where the photo was taken, in front of a Leopard 2 tank, which the Germans were trying to sell to Australia), and we ended up in West Berlin


However, it was in Bonn that Col Allan did the damage


At that time Bonn was still the capital of West Germany


It was, as befitted its role as a European capital, filled with embassies and diplomats, as well as politicians and public servants


The best hotel in town was the Steigerberger Grand – a 20-storey, five-star hotel in the centre of the city


It was here that the beneficent German Government had lodged us


The first intimation I had that the hotel was more than just a hotel was when I went up to the room I had been allocated


I put the key I had been given into the lock, and turned it


But nothing happened


I rattled it around, thumped the door, and generally made a racket


Suddenly, from inside, I heard muffled noises


I thought they had given me the wrong key, so went back down to reception and apprised them of my problem


There was some consternation, and some telephoning


“Would you mind waiting a moment, Herr Darroch?” a chap at reception said, in the perfect English most educated Germans have


A hotel functionary ran to the lift


He returned some minutes later, and said something in German to the receptionist fellow


“Please, Herr Darroch, you can go up to your room now.”


I shrugged my shoulders, and did what he said


This time the key worked, and my room was ready for me


At the time I wondered what was going on


I was to learn next morning the answer to that question


During the day, we went the rounds of various government departments, learning what a great job the German Government was doing in all sorts of areas


We lunched at the Press Club, where I sat next to a high Foreign Office official


We visited the Bundestag, and saw a session of parliament…


…before returning to the Steigerberger and enjoying a drink, or two, or three, in the bar prior to dinner


I do not know how much the name Peter Smark means to people these days


But before he died a few years ago, he was one of Australia’s top journalists


A formidable character and an excellent writer


But he did have, let’s say, a weakness to his character


Which took the form of exploiting his expense account to a degree hitherto undreamt of in the long history of journalism (indeed, I suspect, in the history of expense accounts)


He regarded it as a matter of professional pride to pad out his expenses to the precise point where what was conceivable turned into identifiable fiction


He once confided to me: “They [the accounts people at Fairfax] know I’m cheating – but they can’t tell where.”


His expense sheets were, he maintained, little short of works of art, up there with Blue Poles, or The Raft of the Medusa


This night, in the expensive, top-floor dining room of the Steigerberger, he gave full rein to his flair for extravagance, at other people’s expense


No wine was too expensive for him to deny us, given that this time it wasn’t Fairfax, but the entire resources of Federal Republic of West Germany that were at his disposal


He did not hold back, nor, in his generosity, stint us in the slightest degree


He regarded exploring the full repertoire of Germany’s top vineyards as an essential part of our familiarisation with Germanic culture


Ditto the food – I had never had Beluga caviar before


And the wild boar was quite exceptional


And the icewein!


By the time 11 or 12 rolled around, we are all pretty well sloshed


“Let’s go to the night-club!” Col Allan piped up brightly


That seemed an excellent idea


So we rode – some of us, for I think we mislaid several of the group on the way down – the lift to the ground floor, where the night-club was, and partied on


Champagne – vintage Krug - was ordered (Smarky being still in the chair) and girls began to attach themselves to what remained of the by-now rather rowdy group


It may not have been Scores in New York (if the descriptions I read of it are indicative – for I can’t specifically recall any lap-dancers), but there was ample female company on offer


I decided to call it a night around 1am, as did several others (by that time I had lost track of who was or was not there)


I staggered back to my room, and collapsed


The next thing I knew the phone beside my bed was ringing, and I was told that our bus for the train station and the 3rd Panzer Division’s camp in Munster was to leave in half an hour


I quickly got my things together and, still hungover, went down to reception to check out


There I found a curious scene


The rest of the group were hanging around with their bags, etc, but Col Allan was involved in a heated conversation with our German “minder”, and the two were talking animatedly with reception


I could not work out what was going on, but soon Col sidled over to me and asked if I could lend him several hundred marks


“Why?” I asked, for the German Government was supposed to be paying all our expenses, including hotel expenses


“Oh,” he replied, “I incurred some extra charges last night. Please give me what you can.”


I managed to scape up a hundred marks or so, and Col went over to Bill Mellor – who was there for the Sun-Herald - and put the hard word on him too (Smarky had given him short shrift)


Finally, with our minder champing at the bit - for we could not be late for the train - money was handed over, and we departed


In the carriage afterwards, I asked Col – whom I liked – what had happened


He told me an extraordinary, and salutary, story


(alas, if only our Kev had known about this – maybe I should have written this story some time ago)


Apparently Col had remained behind in the night-club after we all left


Somehow he had attracted the attentions of two ladies, whom, hospitably, he had invited back to his room


Then, around 4am, there was a knock at his door


An older lady was there, and she demanded money for the girls’ “services”


He gave her all he had, and although that was less than she wanted, she realised that it was all he did have, so she left, accompanied by the two ladies


He managed to grab a few hours sleep, before he got his call to come down to the waiting bus


However, when he tried to check out, reception demanded several hundred more marks for the use of his room for “extra services”


He had no more money (these were the days before journalists were trusted with credit cards), so he told reception that the ladies in question had been “his amanuenses” - stenographers to you and me – and that he had been giving them dictation


What he had to say, at 3am in the morning, that was so important that it required the services of not one, but two amanuenses to commit to paper – one assumes they worked in relays - he had some difficulty in explaining


And the hotel would have none of it


So Bill and I had to lend him the money (which, to give him credit, he paid back when we got to London)


Of course, I realised then why my room had been occupied when I first checked into the Steigerberger


The hotel was also a part-time brothel, letting out its rooms whenever it could to the town tarts


No doubt providing an invaluable service to the local diplomatic community, etc, in Bonn


And extracting an hourly rate for the use of such amenities (thus boosting its occupancy rate gratifyingly)


Col was a randy little bugger


And I can appreciate how, now heading up Murdoch’s New York Post operation, he would be familiar with such louche Manhattan venues as Scores


But Kev should learn his lesson now


If you are going to have a night out on the town


Beware the words: “Let’s go to a night-club”


Particularly if you are in the company of Col Allan




UNSTEADY FOOTNOTE – unfortunately, Kev has apparently not learned his lesson, or else forgot what happened on that less-than-memorable night in New York in 2003, for I am reliably informed, by a News Ltd contact, that, earlier this year, he again found himself in the (almost as bad) company of another, Sydney-based News Ltd editor, and enjoyed a night out, if not on the tiles, then on an outing that he had cause to regret the following morning - so different, to paraphrase the famous 19-century quote, to the home life of our dear Prime Minister

28/02/16 Sunday, BONDI -

After such a long entry, I’ll keep this one short. I realise, of course, that Bondi Beach has a night-life, too. In fact, I think it had night-surfing, or at least swimming, some years ago. (There were floodlights on the Pavillion, I seem to recall, to illuminate the beach in front of that structure.) What brought this to mind was the floodlit area of water in front of Bondi Baths which I observed last night. For when I was a kid, night-swimming in the lit-up pool at the baths was popular. I swam there at least once. I should go down Notts Avenue one evening and see if that Bondi facility is still operational. It’s a good way to cool off these hot-and-humid February nights. And it would be fun, too. I hope to report back.

29/02/16 Monday, BONDI -

This leap-year’s extra day. (“Thirty days hath September...etc”)   It is my 19th leap-year, for I was born on one in 1940. Pity it wasn’t February 29, for then I could truthfully say I am 19 years old (well, semi-truthfully). So it’s an Olympic Games year, too (in Rio). In 1940 the Summer Olympics were due to be held in Tokyo, but were cancelled. Rio at the moment is under seige from the Zika virus, which causes birth deformities. (See my lifebook for the mosquitoes in Rio.) At the moment I am for a Svengali Press client reading a hospital history, with a view to report on its need for editing (we will publish the book). I think I will recommend it go ahead as is, for it reads well and bringing it up to Daily Telegraph Style standard would be a daunting task, which I am not anxious to undertake. But I’ll send it to Edwina to get a quote, and we will take it from there.         

01/03/16 Tuesday, BONDI -

March is my birthday month (sandwiched officially between the Ides of March and St Patricks Day), and it’s also my favourite month of the year, and not just because of that. It heralds the end of the hot, humid weather of late summer and the welcome onset of autumn, the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, as Keats put it so well. The leaves turn orange and red and start to fall, the afternoon light turns yellower (especially as the sun sets over Bondi), and the evenings begin to close it. Now the Mountains put on their winter garb, and the siren call of Blackheath beckons us every weekend now (though the actual start of the colder season up there is April 1). Our Blackheath Philosophy Forum begins in early April, and together with the History Forum takes our intellectual year up there through to the end of September. It’s something we look forward to each year, made all the more alluring this year in our new, expanded study, which I hope we can take possession of before April Fools Day. A lot to look forward to this month of the Roman God, Mars.  

02/03/16 Wednesday, BONDI -

Rant day in the Rocks (on Australia’s population policy), but had I been giving the Rant I would have said something about the current witch-hunt in Rome – a good place for a witch-hunt by the way – in pursuit of Cardinal Pell and his possible (I would say probable) culpability concerning the sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests in Ballarat and elsewhere. Instead, I wrote a letter to The Australian on this, and I can think of nothing better to write about today than cite the text of my letter (of which I am quite proud):

To watch Cardinal Pell squirm in front of the TV cameras (and a hostile audience flown in from Australia, with their attendant Media minders) is painful to the point of excruciating. Pity alternates with the thought that, somehow, the Cardinal has brought this on himself, and his church.        

Then another thought intrudes. Why isn’t there a Royal Commission into child abuse in the aboriginal community?   The damage done there is far worse – and certainly more extensive – than in the Catholic school system.

The duty a parent owes their child is far higher than the duty a priest owes to a student.

I hope they print it – they should.

03/03/16 Thursday, BONDI -

(They did – without a single word changed. Now the “victims”, as they call themselves, want to confront the Pope. No doubt His Holiness will consult his chief media advisor before agreeing to this - his media adviser being, however, Cardinal Pell.)  Back here at Bondi it’s pretty quiet, and a lovely late summer’s day today. Last night we sat on our balcony, as we now do every evening after dinner, and let the sea-breeze waft over us, as waft it did. The waft is one of Bondi’s nicest winds and greatest pleasures, and one not often remarked on. If the waft comes form the south, it carries the scent of the sea. Last night’s waft came from the north, and was as balmy as a tropical breeze on a Pacific Island at sunset. I sometimes envisage Bondi’s crescent bay as a Pacific lagoon (as once it was, before the white man and his bungalows came), and the land behind as an amphitheatre, whose lights come on when night closes in, as glow-worms switch on in the dark. Tomorrow we are up at Blackheath, inspecting the building work, and planning the wiring for our computers in our new, enlarged study. Something to look forward to very much.

04/03/16 Friday, BLACKHEATH -

One of my pet hates in jounalism is “I was right” stories. So I hate myself for what I am going to write today. Apparently my letter to The Australian yesty about Cardinal Pell struck a chord. There were two Letters to the Editor today saying they agreed with I said about child sexual abuse in the aboriginal community. It was also interesting to see the change of tone in the Press about Pell’s culpability in the much-vexed (and over-hyped) matter. A lot of people are climbing down from their high-horses and adamantine condemnation of Pell’s testimony in Rome. On the contrary, many commentators (including the editorials in the Murdoch Media) are praising Pell for his demeanour and what he said (and didn’t say) before the cameras, the “victims”, the Royal Commission, and the hungry-for-blood reptiles. He has come out of the ordeal surprisingly well. Flawed, yes, but by no means seriously wounded. Some are expressing sorrow for what he had to go through. Personally, I think he put on a very effective and professional Media performance. I think the Pope, for one, would have been pleased.

04/03/16 Friday, BLACKHEATH -

One of my pet hates in jounalism is “I was right” stories. So I hate myself for what I am going to write today. Apparently my letter to The Australian yesty about Cardinal Pell struck a chord. There were two Letters to the Editor today saying they agreed with I said about child sexual abuse in the aboriginal community. It was also interesting to see the change of tone in the Press about Pell’s culpability in the much-vexed (and over-hyped) matter. A lot of people are climbing down from their high-horses and adamantine condemnation of Pell’s testimony in Rome. On the contrary, many commentators (including the editorials in the Murdoch Media) are praising Pell for his demeanour and what he said (and didn’t say) before the cameras, the “victims”, the Royal Commission, and the hungry reptiles. He has come out of the ordeal surprisingly well. Flawed, yes, but by no means seriously wounded. Some are expressing sorrow for what he had to go through. Personally, I think he put on a very effective and professional Media performance. I think the Pope, for one, would have been pleased.

05/03/16 Saturday, BONDI -


06/03/16 Sunday, bondi -

Following Steve’s expression of interest in jointly purchasing premises in Millers Point, we had a look round this old stamping ground of ours this morning, to see what might be available, if we were to go forward on this. Plenty of places of varying size, shape and position available. It’s very early days yet, but we are warming to the idea – but only if Steve is also interested (otherwise we are quite happy to stay where we are). However, our publishing operations are looming ever more important for us – they are the only thing that’s generating at least some revenue – so a move to more suitable premises has a lot of attractions. And we would be returning to where we began, or more accurately developed, our publishing operations, before the Internet swam into our ken, bringing Squiz with it. Early days certainly, but exciting ones in prospect.    

07/03/16 Monday, BONDI -

As we drove back to Surry Hills yesty I was forcibly reminded of the great stores that used to populate what later became known as the CBD (but for us was just “in town”). We passed Fays, the big shoe emporium on the corner of Liverpool and Pitt, just down the road from Snows, a medium-sized department store. Above that was Mark Foys, the big Catholic department store between Elizabeth and Castlereagh streets. There was a small department store further down Castlereagh (I think my mother was a “buyer” there) whose name I can’t remember. Down on Brickfield Hill (a purlieu forgotten now) was what was claimed to be the world’s biggest department store, Anthony Horderns. It occupied almost an entire city block, but fronted Liverpool and George streets. (Its motto was “While I live, I grow”. But it died in the 1970s, I think.) Further up George Street we had the furniture emporium Bebarfalds, then Waltons menswear, Murdochs (ditto), then Farmers on the Market Street corner, down from the two big David Jones stores (one of which is currently for sale). And there were many others (Nock & Kirbys hardware, Orchards “where the watches grow”, and a bevy of department stores in Oxford Street, above Macquarie Street – Buckinghams, Wynns, and several more - almost all of them now consigned to the dustbin of my childhood memory. Down memory lane, indeed.

08/03/16 Tuesday, BONDI -

Good news – excellent in fact – from my cardiologist (the young, well-dressed, Professor Cameron Holloway) yesty. I had to go and see him last Thursday for a check-up, including the dreaded “stress test”. An abnormality showed up, and he was just about to schedule me for an angiogram, with the possibility of more stents, when I told him I thought my chronic shortness-of-breath might be a factor in his diagnosis. It was a possibility, he said, and prescribed a five-day course of steroids, to see if that affected the tremor, or whatever. I was retested on the treadmill again yesty and the abnormality had, almost miraculously, vanished. He said I am OK for at least another year, when he will see me again.   Meanwhile I am to have a steroid-laced “puffer” to help keep my lungs clearer. I left his clinic in Oxford Street striding out (to quote Lytton Strachey) like a gazelle or a special constable.

09/03/16 Wednesday, BONDI -

Interesting History Lunch (jointly with the Pioneers) at the club yesty. The speaker was Paul Brunton, formerly in charge of the manuscription collection at the Mitchell Library. He spoke knowledgeably on Cook’s second voyage, which disproved the possible existence of an undiscovered Great South Land. Someone brought along a box said to be made out of wood from the Endeavour. At question-time, I asked how it got off the bottom of Boston Harbour, which is where the remains of Cook’s ship are said to reside. Paul tried to mumble some explanation about other pieces of the ship being elsewhere and available for conversion into boxes and the like. “Like relics of the True Cross?” I suggested. Much hilarity in the audience. Meanwhile it looks as if we will be commissioned to publish a book on the history of Crown Street Women’s Hospital, which I will edit. I may be getting older and more infirm physically, but my subbing skills are still in good working order, and can probably earn us as much as we want or need form our Svengali Press operations. (For the sad fact is that most people can’t write passable English. But they do want their books to be in as readable state as possible. So I have a job until I drop off the twig.)

10/03/16 Thursday, BONDI -

Something strange and wonderful is happening to my body, as a result, I am sure, of taking the steroids prescribed last week by the suave Dr Cameron Holloway, my cardiologist (see Tuesday’s Diary entry). Not only am I feeling more active and alert (and my chest is certainly less congested), but I think it’s affecting my mind, or rather brain, too. I am thinking clearer and remembering things that I thought I had forgotten, or mislaid in cerebral cells that hitherto (and for many years now) I could not open, even though I knew there was information in them that I needed to access. Several weeks ago I was trying to recall the name of the owner of the supermarkets newsletter I worked for in Cross, back in the late 1980s. Yesterday his name came back to my mind, as if the door to the cell that contained it had suddenly sprung open. His name was Phillip Luker. And I am remembering other things that I thought I had forgotten. I hope this keeps up. My subbing skills, presently called on with our Crown Street Hospital project, also seem more enhanced than they were a week or so ago, pre-steroids. I am now taking half a steroid tablet a day, and I will continue this dosage for perhaps another week or more, when they will run out. Then I will be faced, if the effect wears off, of what to do. Should I try to find illegal steroids, like the athletes do? The answer, of course, is a resounding YES!

11/03/16 Friday, BLACKHEATH -

Still basking in the warm afterglow of healthy contentment engenderd by this week’s (somewhat surprising, I must confess) news that my heart is OK, and I won’t have to have another check-up for 12 months. I sent yesty’s diary item to the suave Dr Holloway and got back a delightful reply counselling me, teasingly I suspect, not to get over-excited while on steroids. He also waxed lyrical about my health, life-expectation, etc, in a letter copied to Dr Harris, Dr Samaris, Dr Biggs, etc, and which he copied to me too. We’ll be going up to Blackheath in an hour or so – to see how Gus is getting on with our new study - and I’ll drink a toast to him while I prepare lunch. But life is looking very rosy at the moment.

13/03/16 Sunday, BLACKHEATH -


Gus is going well, and we might be able to move our books and computers in to the new study before April (I certainly hope so). I am struggling to use the laptop up here, mainly due to the fact it has a later version of Windows, which is incompatible with my Bondi CPU. But I persist, and did two chapters of the Crown Street book today, my admiration for which increases as I edit it. It is a very good story, and an important one. Judith has done an excellent job, both in the research and the writing. It needs polishing and the rough edges taken off, of course, but I am pleased to be making it even better using my (considerable) editing skills. The fact that it gives me a very useful (even important) task to do makes me realise how much humans need to have something to do in life. It makes life, quite literally, worth living. I appreciate now why women, some of them, are so desperate to have children, for it gives them something to do, when otherwise their lives might be pointless and rudderless. (And it’s a good thing for humanity that this is so.)        


13/03/16 Sunday, BONDI -

There was some sort of food festival on the beach yesty evening, and very swish it looked to have been. They constructed what amounted to an outdoor restaurant – with perhaps 60 or 70 tables - on the sand below us, with small pavilions (prersumably to prepare the food) and large coloured globes to illuminate proceedings. Sandra tells me they charged $200-a-head. I hope it went well, and that the patrons were pleased, for I would like to see that sort of thing more often. It gives a new dimension to the Bondi I love, and shows how Bondi and its iconic beach are continuing to come up in the world. In fact, it reminded me of nothing less Cannes, during the film festival, when its beach becomes an extended outdoor restaurant. The last time we were there we saw David Niven lying on the sand next to the restaurant we were lunching at. (He died shortly after that.) Bondi – Sydney’s Cannes. I like that image.

14/03/16 Monday, BONDI -

We travelled up to Warriwood yesty to have lunch with Paul Lancaster, who brought the doctors book to us, and then led on to the current Crown Street project. But, my God, the trip back to the Northern Beaches reinforced our conviction that we did the right thing moving back to Bondi (from The Basin at Collaroy, where we lived from 1989 to 1999). Imagine having to make that trip, perhaps twice a day! We were glad to get back home to Bondi, where we counted our lucky stars (in the evening, after dinner on our balcony, with a glass of chardonnay). I have the utmost sympathy for Peter, who lives up at Collaroy Plateau. Every day he drives from there into Surry Hills, drops off Tim at Sydney High, then comes to work in our office. More power to his dedication and endurance. The Northern Beaches are nice, and we enjoyed our time there in Anzac Avenue, opposite Long Reef. (And where Sandra wrote her history of the Basin area.) And of course living there was invaluable for my Lawrence research. Little did I know, however, that when I walked down to the shopping centre to get our morning papers, I was actually retracing the steps Lawrence had made that first Sunday after he arrived in Sydney (something I would never have realised were it not that I too used to take that short-cut to Beach Road). So I should not be too hard on the Northern Beaches. They have very fond memorires for me.

15/03/16 Tuesday, BONDI -

One day last week the last two fingers on my left hand started to go numb. This worried me at first – what new degenerative complaint was afflicting my aging body? Then I suddenly realised what was causing it, and that I should be thanking my lucky stars for the numbness. For this has happened to me before. Some years ago I had to consult my GP when numbness attacked my final two sinister digits.  It turned out that a nerve in my spine was being squeezed between (I think) my sixth and seventh vertebra. It was probably caused, Dr Harris told me, by leaning over the handlebars when riding my bike. And indeed, when I sat more upright, the numbness gradually went away.  So why am I so happy now?  Because since I began taking steroids, among the many other pleasing effects, I am walking more upright. I actually feel taller. In recent years my way of walking had become more crabbed, and Sandra often told me to stop bending over. Now, apparently, my more upright gait has altered the orientation of my spine, and this has affected the nerve in some way. (Oddly, I believe my writing is also improving, on top of be able to think more sharply.) Is this my Soma? [“Soma…the hallucinogenic drug in Aldous Huxley's Brave New World.”]

16/03/16 Wednesday, BONDI -

My 76th birthday. I don’t feel an old man, but the date tells me I am. In fact, I haven’t felt better for, well, years (thanks to the steroids, God bless their little white hearts). Wasn’t that a dainty dish to set before…my birthday. Not only that, autumn and the cooler weather arrived during the night, and it’s wet and a touch wintry this morning. So it will be a double celebration tonight at the new fish restaurant at North Bondi, with a storm-tossed surf outside the window. But the big news of the day is that we will send off the first volume of my new dual-set of Lawrence books to the printers (we are having 200 copies printed). Now I have to finish my second volume (though I can’t do that until I get into our new study at Blackheath, sort out my library of Lawrence books, and write the appendix on Lawrence’s Dark God for volume 2. But I’m a busy little bee at the moment - and feel all the better for it.

17/03/16 Thursday, BONDI -

I had a very nice 76th birthday yesty, topped off with an excellent birthday dinner at the North Bondi Fish Restaurant, lured there by a new “celebrity” seafood chef. It is on the ground floor of the revamped – rebuilt – (and now very upmarket) North Bondi RSL Club, which I had known in my younger, beach-going days as “Toubruk House”. It used to be one of two such exservicemen’s establishments fronting the beach, the other being the Bondi Diggers Club up in Campbell Parade. (It was demolished some years ago when it merged its dwindling – and no doubt now completely-defunct - operations with the Bondi Golf Club up in Military Road. I used to play tennis against the “Diggers” men’s-team on their courts in O’Donnell Street. Come to think of it, it probably served the same function for its membership as the Rose Bay Surf Club did for its swisher clientele a few doors further down Campbell Parade.) My father was a member of Toubruk House, when it was little more than a ramshackle two-storey tin-shed, across Ramsgate Avenue from the beach. (When he died they thoughtfully placed an obituary notice in the SMH.) The meal last night – I had Balmain Bug tagliatelle with extra chilli - was very good, though the first glass of wine was almost undrinkable, and I should have sent it back. Later I told the manager that they should pour the wine at the table, so patrons might see where it came from, and be given the chance to reject it if – as was the case last night – it’s not up to snuff (if that’s the right word, which it isn’t). But we will go back there for Sandra’s birthday on April 5. It might even become our favourite restaurant in Bondi, and the place we go to celebrate special occasions. The fact that it is within sight and smell of the surf makes it even more attractive to us, being closer to the actual water, instead of looking down on it at the other end of the beach.

21/03/16 Monday, BONDI -

Busy with the final revise of my Nightmare text. (Last week my Quest text went off to Melbourne to be printed.) In the afternoon we presided over Jan Smith’s book launch at Glee Books in Glebe, which went surprisingly well. More than 40 turned up and Jan spoke quite well, if a bit stream-of-consciousness in content and delivery (like her book). Dimitty Torbett, whom I had not seen for over 40 years (but recognised her - which is more than can be said of her recall of me) was there. We had an exceptionally good dinner afterwards at the nearby Fountain restaurant with Jan, Edwina, Tom and the Carr brothers. I think this will become a fairly-regular occasion/venue, as our book-publishing empire expands, which it is so-gratifyingly doing. Earlier, we came back yesty from Blackheath with some new ideas about Cybersydney, which we will discuss with Peter at lunch tomorrow. Things are going well, as I hope to get my second box-set DHL Nightmare book off to Melbourne, perhaps next week (all it needs an index and cover-illustration now).

22/03/16 Tuesday, BONDI -

Very little of any interest happened today, so this will be a short entry. It rained in the morning and I continued with my DHL revision at the office and at home at Bondi afterwards. I bought a nice Chinesey lamp at the Jewish Vinnies (it was supposed to be a pair, but the other one turned out to have been sold – weep.) Sandra went to the gym, and I bought some flowers (and groceries) at the excellent Harris Farms Hall Street mart. Jason Day won the Arnold Palmer PGA event in Florida (Arnie looked very old in his golf-buggy at the 18th). More DHL revision late into the night. And so to bed - as day and night became the one. (To be marked by the Pioneers’ Autumn Equinox lunch at the Club tomorrow.)

23/03/16 Wednesday, BONDI -

Good Pioneers Equinox Lunch yesty.  I got up and did my spiel about the new Pioneers Tuesday Lunch, which I will convene (starting in two weeks).  Lots of plaudits, which were both gratifying and encouraging.  I am now cobbling my Tuesday lunch invitation list together, for I am determined to make a success of this, in large part because it is something I can do – and do well – to help continue the (otherwise fading) tradition of the gentlemen’s club in Sydney, and preserve the Union Club in at least some vestige of its former eminence.  As some people have remarked in the past, I have the seeds of leadership in the cracked-mirror of my makeup, and this is my chance – maybe my last chance - to deploy it (and which I perhaps first evinced at Cranbrook, back when I was 8…see my Lifebook on this.)  I suspect this new role will play a significant part in future diary entries.

23/03/16 Wednesday, BONDI -

I don’t want to dwell too much on the past, but a van passed me this morning with the name “Sargents” on it, and my mind flew back to when the Sargents pie was an important part of life in Sydney (in the ‘40s, ‘50s, and 60s).  It was so ubiquitous that it had its own Sargents Pie factory in Burton Street in Darlinghurst (or East Sydney), a block down from Taylors Square.  (The van this morning had nothing to do with that Sargents, which went out of business zonks ago.)  They were good pies, too.  So popular were they that there were not one but two Sargents Pie restaurants near where I worked at Everybody’s (in the old Bulletin building) in George Street.  There was a big one just down to the street (cavernous, in fact) and a smaller one around the corner in Bridge Street – and I frequented both, for the food there was cheap, and I was more than usually impoverished (to quote Oscar Wilde) at the time.  Actually, I think the pie – the Sargents sort of pie – is coming back, after an unfortunate interregnum when far-inferior pies like Big Ben (ugh!) and Four-and-Twenty pies (ugh, ugh!) tried to fill the gap left by Sargents (but failed miserably, and put me off pies for decades).  I never had a better pie than a Sargents one until, surprisingly, we got our place up at Blackheath, where there is an excellent Vietnamese bakery in the main shopping centre that sell pies as good as I remember that Sargents did (they make them at the back of the shop).  I remember dear old Sid Barnes used to call the Australian cricket test team “pie-eaters”, implying they were below the salt with bat and ball.  (I must, however, mention Harry’s Café de Wheels, which did have a decent pie (traditionally sold, late at night down in Woolloomooloo, with mushy peas).  Harry recently opened a branch in Campbell Parade.  So the pie is still alive and well in Bondi.

24/03/16 Thursday, BONDI -

My “Quest” book proof-copy came up from Melbourne late yesty, and very good it looks too.  A few minor tweaks (cover, mainly) and it will be back to Melbourne later today, ready to roll off the presses in a week or so.  That is a consummation I have devoutly wished for…the product of more than four decades of intensive research (and latterly, writing and editing).  I am now in the final stages of completing its companion volume of my Lawrence’s 100 days in Australia, and that should be ready to go to Melbourne in a few weeks.  Then I can die contented, knowing I have left behind something for which my name will be remembered for a long time to come (and not too many people can say that – especially those born and bred in Bondi).  But it’s not so much that, as knowing that I have finished it, and successfully so…as well as anyone could have (but indeed few could have).  So I am happy now to leave it to the vagaries of posterity to determine its place of its two volumes (a boxed-set-to-be) in literature and literary history.  I know that sounds self-congratulatory, but it is something that I had to record in this diary, and now it is.  (I should also pay grateful tribute to Sandra’s role in this – a role the importance of which, as I say in my Acknowledgements, that only she and I could appreciate.)  On a less-boastful note, yesty I saw Dr Yates about my breathing difficulties and she confirmed this probably caused my poor performance on Dr Holloway’s treadmill. She has not taken me off steroids, but given me a smaller dose to wean me from their potentially perilous side-effects.  We shall see, we shall see.  (But I am keeping the bottle of my little white friends in the bathroom cupboard, just in case).

25/03/16 Friday, BONDI -

Good Friday brings back memories of Easters past.  And of course the main memory here is of The Royal Easter Show.  This was the major event of Easter each year, and every child in Sydney looked forward to going to the Royal Agricultural Society’s Sydney Showground in Paddington for its manifold attractions, events, performances, and other jollifications and displays.  But for the kids the main draw were the “sample bags”, “show-bags” containing selections of “samples” of proprietary products that could be bought - they were given away in former times - in the Royal Hall of Industries (one of the Showgrounds main pavilions), comprising miniature versions of various - mainly retail - products from companies like Kellogg’s (cereals); Allens and Mastercraft (sweets); Arnotts (biscuits); Fountains (various sauces); etc.  The “serious” part of the show was the judging of the various agricultural products, alive and dead (or soon to be dead).  And there were competitions like the wood-chopping and prizes for craft-work and elaborate displays of fruit and vegetables from various NSW country centres.  A section of the Showground was set aside for carnival-like “sideshows”, featuring boxing and dare-devil displays (plus clowns with revolving heads, coconut “shies”, the ghost-train, dodgems, hoopla, and all the fun of a traditional Luna Park).  The climax of it all was The Grand Parade in the Showground “ring” where much of what was on display was paraded around the dirt-track (used for speedway racing when the Show was not in town), many with the ribbons they had been awarded for being the sexiest bull, or whatever.  (You knew the Show was on when you saw around town men wearing country-style hats and leather boots and a piece of straw in their mouths – metaphorically speaking).  One favourite was The Police Musical Ride when the mounted constabulary from their barracks in Redfern strutted their stuff in the show-ring to various popular airs, broadcast over loud-speakers.  In fact this was a clever PR effort to make what was actually the anti-riot element of the police state appear warm and cuddly to the unsuspecting populace.  Alas, now all this is no longer (at least in Paddigton), the Show having been sent into exile to Homebush, so it can be closer to its target audience of westies in the ever-spreading suburbs.  (At least it’s a bit closer to the country.)  Needless to say, I am not tempted to try to relive some of this nostalgia by revisiting the Show in its new (and far-far-too) remote site.  I remember only too well what happened to Lot’s wife.

26/03/16 Saturday, BONDI -

A rather balmy Easter Saturday, with autumn seemingly having second thoughts about making its accustomed debut.  I went out on our balcony this morning to see what sort of sunrise it might be (but it was a bit cloudy for anything spectacular).  At the top of the steps leading down to the beach I spotted a balding chap, perhaps in his late 40s, standing next to a tripod.  He caught sight of me, and stared at me for half-a-minute or so.  I suspected it was Eugene Tan in person, also waiting for the sunrise and perhaps to capture another of his wonderful images of the beach and sky at Bondi.  (I emailed him our shot of sunrise at Bondi that we used on our Cyberbondi home-page, and he would have known where that had been taken from.)  If I see him again, which – if it was him – I will no doubt do, I will nod to him, and hopefully he will nod back.  (I am sooling Sam on to getting an interview with him for The Bondi Daily – and perhaps permission to link our site with his. Together we could provide a spectacular window on to Australia’s – and the world’s – greatest beach.)

27/03/16 Sunday, BONDI -

(Easter Sunday) – I went out on to our balcony this morning to find we had a haar at Bondi.  It is not the first haar of the year, but it is meteorological evidence that autumn – ‘the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness” - is indeed upon us.  A haar (or “har” or “harr”) is a Scots word for a fog.  Yet it is more than just a fog (as our haar was less than it).  It refers specifically to the sort of damp mist that comes in from the North Sea and invades the coastal regions of Scotland (specifically its “links” – the area of dunes that links the land to the sea).  We first came across a haar on Islay – not in the form of a local fog, but watching the British Open on TV at Muirfield (it must have been in 1987, when Nick Faldo won).  A haar – identified as such by the ever-knowledgeable Henry Longhurst - had drifted in and enveloped the course, halting play for a short period until the sun cleared it away.  It’s a good word, and Bondi Beach deserves the best-possible word for its morning mists, or haars (particularly a Scottish one – though, given it’s probably a Scandinavian or German word originally, perhaps “haars” should be “haaren”).

28/03/16 Monday, BONDI -

As we went out our front (back?) door at Bondi this morning I asked Sandra about the lovely white bougainvillea on the back balcony, which is in flower.  “Have you hosed him recently?” I asked.  This was a dig (sorry!) at her recent information that two of our gardening sources refer to their plants in masculine terms.  (Allan, our gardener up at Blackheath, and the helpful chap in the gardening section of Bunnings in Randwick.)   This I think is a curious – and if true, interesting – phenomenon, and I wonder if the masculinisation (to coin a word) of plants is more widespread.  I know of course that plants have a rich and varied sexual life of their own (too complex to get into here), but why are plants, to some people anyway, he’s and not her’s?  There is food for much thought here.  Is it a reflection of the sexual orientation of the observer?  Do men tend to treat plants as members of their gender?  Sandra says she has no such predilections, and I certainly don’t.  Perhaps some plants, of themselves, are more male or female than others.  I feel that if plants did have this sort of morphology (technical term) then I would say the frangipani is possibly female, while the lily, with its phallic centrepiece, is more masculine.  But let’s stop there, lest we go to seed.  For I’m sure that a rose by any other sex would smell as sweet.

29/03/16 Tuesday, BONDI -

I got my first confirmed reader today.  Yes - Sandra’s cousin Richard Ure emailed me this morning about my Royal Easter Show diary entry (see 25/03/16 above).  He asked me about one of the exhibits he had seen there as a kid – a very-incorrect cigarette-making machine from British Tobacco.  I didn’t remember seeing it, though I did tell him about my short interregnum at Raleigh Park in Todman Avenue, just across Moore Park from Sydney High, prior to getting my – unexpected - Commonwealth Scholarship, and going off to halls of ivy to pursue my brief and ill-starred university career (before I wisely quit and got a decent job as a journalist).  But a reader, a genuine, real-live reader!  I now have at least a circulation of one. Thank you Richard.  You make what I do feel worthwhile.  (Tell your friends – or at least your relatives.)

30/03/16 Wednesday, BONDI -

Very pleasant tripartite birthday dinner at the Club last night, marking Sandra’s (5/4), Paul’s (21/3) and my (16/3) birthdays (Sandra’s is next Tuesday and Sue’s later in the year).  This is now an annual occasion (the Club lets one guest eat free, and so we get four dinners – suppers? - but pay only for two).  It’s a nice excuse, anyway, and the Club puts on a good show for us (food, wine, ambiance, etc).  Also had a good meeting yesty at the Pioneers Lunch (five came) with Steve Barker, and talked about Squiz, etc.  I told him about my plan to take over the two Pioneers’ rooms on the third floor for my expanded Pioneers Tuesday Lunch, and he approved (he’s on the committee).  I also sent it to Peter Wrench yesty (he’s vice-president) and if he says yes – which he surely must, as we got those two rooms when the two of us negotiated the original “merger” deal – then we can push it through (Paul approved last night too).  I am working toward the room being renamed - it presently has no name - “The Darroch Room”.  Well, why not?  It would be my creation, and it just might breathe some new life into the failing, ailing Pioneers, and keep us going for another century.

31/03/16 Thursday, BONDI -

A quick entry.  Busy day today, coming and going between the office and Bondi letting in and paying plumbers, etc.  (Air-conditioning being installed this morning.)  Big – huge - Lawrence breakthrough made last night, and got up to start writing it before 2am (when the idea woke me, with a start).  Very dramatic, but I can’t reveal why, for, as Sandra warns me, it could be stolen and used by someone else.  So readers (or reader – see Tuesday’s entry) will have to wait to relish it.  But it is something that will shake the Lawrence and literary worlds.

02/04/16 Saturday, BLACKHEATH -

Busy, busy, busy. Today was probably the busiest and most hectic day in my entire life (well, one of – for I can’t remember them all).  Dashed up to Blackheath at 10.30 after a busy morning in the office in Cleveland Street, first helping Sam with his Rose Bay Surf Club article (which was excellent), then getting off a postscript to my Quest proofs to Lazarus in Melbourne, after having got the money to pay Gus for his work on the new study.  Once up there, we dropped off a load of Jewish-Vinnes stuff, including a good second-hand verandah-runner and some nice, mountable plates, plus a few useful kitchenware items.  Quick lunch, then to Peter Baldwin to drop off some poster-prints.  Then dashed back to Bondi - the car playing up – to do some brisk shopping at Coles, then had a late after-8pm dinner, before TV, answering emails, and bed (oh, yes, and agreeing to make Svengali Press a company and our new Blackheath study its head office).  Busy, busy, busy.  (But very pleased with Sam.)

02/04/16 Saturday, BONDI -

BONDI Saturday, 02/04/16 – Obviously my mind is still being fired up by the steroids, though I am now on a reduced dose (they are trying to wean me off them).  For I forgot to mention yesty that Peter Wrench rang to say he agreed – pretty enthusiastically – with my plan for the future Darroch Room (I jest, but…).  We will discuss it and how to proceed prior to next Tuesday’s inaugural first Tuesday Pioneer Lunch.  I will outline my ideas in an email to him later today.  (Another busy day).  (A great shot of Ben Buckler by Eugene Tan on his Aquabumps site yesty – a truly wonderful shot – and I think we will buy a copy of it for the space above the coffee machine.  He is a photographic genius, and Bondi is very lucky to have him as its visual Pepys.)

03/04/16 Sunday, BONDI -

BONDI Sunday, 03/04/16 – The clocks went back last night, and another of the year’s great turning points has passed.  We had a big drama at Bondi yesty evening, with a helicopter hovering overhead with a searchlight, looking for someone in the water, and police cars, etc, driving up and down the promenade, and lights flashing on the beach, and two boats out in the bay.  This morning on the news it was announced that the body of a women was found in the water, and efforts are being made to either identify her, or contact her relatives.  Presumably someone raised an alarm, so she shouldn’t be too hard to track down.  This sort of thing happens at Bondi now and then, but usually it’s a false alarm, someone missing someone as dusk closes in, and thinking they have been swept out to sea and lost in the dark.  But it wasn’t a furphy this time, so the public money expended on the search was probably justified.  We were watching our PM on TV this morning and I remarked to Sandra that Malcolm is looking more like Robert Menzies almost every day (as no doubt he is trying to do), while Bill Shorten is looking more like Arthur Calwell by the hour.  Malcolm would probably like that analogy too.

04/04/16 Monday, BONDI -

I sent an exocet to various people at the club yesty about my discovery that we now have a “Membership and Disciplinary sub-committee”.  This is what it said (in part):  “It is a sad reflection on the depths to which our once-great Club has sunk that I found out last week it now was a Membership, Nominations and Disciplinary sub-committee.  Certainly it is no longer a Gentlemen’s Club, for Gentlemen’s Clubs do not have need of disciplinary sub-committees.  The only vestige we still have of what was once the Sydney’s best club – better than the Australian Club for many decades in the past century – is our Friday Group (which I inaugurated in the late 1990s).  The club’s main activity now is to host functions, or as a place some members occasionally drop in, probably not knowing anyone else in the club.  (When I joined in 1987 – 30 years ago next year – it was almost obligatory to know every other member in your club, at least by face, if not by first name.)  It was not just a meeting or function place – it was a place to see and join and enjoy the company and congress of your fellow member - all of them proud, as I was, to be elected to such an august, indeed illustrious, fellowship.  It is now my hope that I can help keep the Pioneers, into whose cause I have thrown my lot, as a traditional club, and allow me to enjoy our (I say “our” deliberately) wonderful premises and facilities, for many years to come.  However, I can assure everyone that the Pioneers will never, while I have breath in my body, have a Membership, Nominations and Disciplinary sub-committee.”

05/04/16 Tuesday, BONDI -

Sandra’s birthday.  The rising sun at Bondi has gone behind Ben Buckler – another of the year’s great turning points.  Yesty I bought at the Aquabumps Gallery in Curlewis Street Eugene Tan’s image of the sun shining through a gap in the clouds on to Ben Buckler ($150 – a good price for such a great shot).  It will go on the wall of our dining-room at Bondi.  Tonight I am taking Sandra to dinner at the Bondi Tratt for her birthday, and it’s such a nice day that I hope we can sit outside and celebrate al-fresco.  It’s also a big day for my book, for we began pasting in the text of volume 2 of my Lawrence’s 99 Days in Australia, preparatory to final polishing, editing, proof-reading, etc.  And today’s also the first day of my Pioneers Tuesday Lunch at the club.  Big day all round.  (Bob Ellis died yesty or the day before.  Despite his personal appearance and pretty-disgusting habits, not to mention his appalling politics, I once liked him – he had a very good and lively mind which he deployed in his less-debauched days.  He lived at our place in Kings Cross for several weeks with Susan Anthony, and we enjoyed his company – but that’s another story.)




A joint pledge by Woollahra and Waverley Councils to maintain trees hanging over Sid Einfeld Drive has broken down after both councils disclaimed responsibility for their maintenance.


During recent rains in Sydney, the Bondi Junction bypass has flooded, due primarily to tree leaf-litter clogging the drains.


Woollahra Council maintains that the trees were planted on Waverley Council land, while Waverley Council says it’s not their problem.


NSW Roads and Maritime Services has promised that the work to fix the flooding will begin in April and finish in early June.  (However, NSW Roads Minister Duncan Gay has promised it will finish before May.)


08/04/16 Friday, BONDI -

Very brief entry.  Spent the day shuttling between Bondi, the office, St Vincents (where Sandra is having her gall-bladder procedure) and Blackheath (taking up the provisions we bought this week for the first Forum).  In between I had to work out how to deal with my new homosexual insight/discovery re Lawrence.  I decided I will have to, partly at least, rewrite both texts.  It is too important to be left as a footnote-appendix.  The enormity of what I have discovered and its implications are slowly dawning on me.  If they think I am mad about the secret army stuff in the Darroch Thesis, I run the risk now that they will lock me away in a literary asylum, and throw away the key, for revealing (and there is no doubt about this now) that Lawrence had a homosexual – what is the correct term? Affair?  Encounter? Assault?  Rape? – in Sydney in 1922 (and recorded it in Kangaroo!).  Much indigestible* food for thought (* ie, hard to swallow).

09/04/16 Saturday, BONDI -

Sandra’s procedure went well (several “large” stones were successfully removed – extracted – via mouth-surgery) and she is up and about, though confined to floor 8 south of St V hospital.  But she can venture out of ward 10, and we read the morning Saturday papers together in a sort of mini-lounge next to the lifts.  I suggested Sandra should turn it into her temporary office, for it looks as if she will be there in all week, if not the following weekend. But she’s keeping her pecker up and is in good spirits, considering everything.  (She’s washing her hair, which is a good sign.)  I’m in the office keeping that part of the ship afloat, answering emails, paying bills, etc.  Yesty I got a nice email from Eugene Tan acknowledging mine congratulating him on one of his iconic shots of Bondi.  So at least we have made contact.  I will continue to keep in touch with him, and hope that leads to a strong link with him (I want to link to his site and even run one of his famous shots of Bondi each day, so long as he adds some every day).  I’m taking the laptop in to Sandra tonight, so she will have a mini-office anyway.  (It proved to be a good buy after all.)  You can’t keep a good girl down

10/04/16 Sunday, BONDI -

In and out of hospital all day, visiting a now very-bushy-tailed Sandra (her pecker is well-and-truly up – she wants to go home ASAP).  The rest of the day I was composing and writing the new ending to my (what can I call it?) “queer dark god” Appendix of my main book (volume 2 of Lawrence’s 99 Days in Australia).  I think I now know what happened (I thought this up in the car going to the hospital this morning).  It goes back, not to the June 17 Saturday episode in Rosenthal’s rooms, but further back to the first meeting on Wednesday June 7, when Scott departed to go back to his Pitt Street office, leaving Lawrence and Rosenthal a deux in his Castlereagh Street study. That’s when Rosenthal discovered Lawrence’s “Dark God” – his homosexual streak or trait.  One problem though…alleging that Lawrence had a homosexual “affair” with Rosenthal in Sydney in June 1922 will make me persona non gratia when we go to Cornwall in September.  Awkward.  Those whom the Gods would call mad, they then destroy.  (But, like Luther, I can do no other.)

12/04/16 Tuesday, BONDI -

I should remark on St Vincent’s, in which general section Sandra has spent the past five (and a bit) days.  Who would go private when you see what St V provides?  (I remember Tony Miller – the sports medicine guru I used to pay tennis with – saying always go public, you get the best treatment there – he added that if anything goes wrong, that’s the best place to be.)  And Sandra’s treatment this past week proves that.  I had to do as double-take to realise I was in a “public” hospital, for it had none of the things you normally associate with public hospitals.  In fact, it looked like St Luke’s or Vinnies Private, and I’m sure if you woke up there you wouldn’t know the difference.  (Of course, my most recent experience of hospitals was in London, on the National Health, so perhaps I’m prejudiced here.)  I have told in my Lifebook my experience when I spent a month in St V aged 5, “the darling of the wards” when I severed my Achilles tendon on VJ night (and I have never feared hospitals since).  If I have to spend my last days in hospital, I will be quite happy to spend in a public ward in StV (with a view through the window into Paddington).

13/04/16 Wednesday, BONDI -

Well, the Pioneers Tuesday Lunch is a cracking success, and its future (and my future in the Pioneers) is now secure.  We had 10 yesty to hear John Harris relate how Ultimo got its name (from a Dr John Harris, his great-something-grandfather), and he brought the actual deed that granted his family the land (all 34 acres of it, where Pyrmont and Ultimo now stand).  The document, which he brought along a pair of white gloves to handle, actually had the name Ultimo pencilled in by Governor King, Harris’s patron.  His relative was court-martialled and got off on a technicality when the charge was described as “Ultimo” rather than “Inst” (last month instead of the current one).  It made for a pretty dramatic lunch, and set the standard I have got to try to follow from now on.   But that’s exactly what I wanted.  I can take it from here

14/04/16 Thursday, BONDI -

BONDI Thursday, 14/04/16 – My craving for food and sweet things is evaporating, now that I am off steroids (weep, weep – though I have kept the bottle, just in case).  So now I am on a diet to try to lose the weight I put on while taking the little white happy pills.  I think my mind is working slower, and my body ditto.  But it was the right thing to do.  I will not go on a crash diet, and give up everything I like eating and drinking.  I have only a certain number of years left, and I am not going to spend them as a monk, or whatever.  I will cut back so that I am eating and drinking less each day.  That way I will at least feel rectitudinal, if there is such a word (I think it should be rectitudinous, thought I think my word is better).  A diet in the mind is sometimes as good as the one in your stomach, or so I am trying to convince myself.  Tomorrow I still stay in town – Sandra is having her gall-bladder out – and will go to the club for lunch, where I intend to rise and say a few farewell words about Ruthven Blackburn, who died this week, aged 102 (our oldest member).  A great man, a great life, and a great club man.  We shall not see his like again, particularly in that latter respect.

15/04/16 Friday, BONDI -

For me, the closure of suburban “paper shops” (newsagencies), and/or their amalgamation or absorption into other businesses, is almost as sad as the decline of my profession (newspapers and magazines publication).  And, of course, the two decline-and-falls are interconnected, both being a result of the digital revolution (and I do not regret that happening, for it has given me a future in a profession that is otherwise doomed, and