Thursday, December 29, 2005


loch and oar!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Neilson goes to London

Peter Neilson: The flittering, fluttering nightworld on show

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Tokyo: Tetsuro Tanaka wins rights award

Tetsuro Tanaka being awarded the Tada Yoko Human Rights Award on the 17th of December at Sohyo Kaikan. Tetsuro Tanaka has protested daily outside the gates of OKI in Takao since he was unfairly sacked 24 years ago.

Tada Yoko was a young lawyer who struggled relentlessly against abuses of power and, tragically, died young.

The Tada Yoko Human Rights Award is presented to three people each year by a foundation set up in her memory .

read more about Tetsuro Tanaka

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Katoomba: clearing and mulching

ivy creeps in everywhere and has to be cut back...

newspaper and wood chips keep in the moisture...

the treefern breaths a sigh of relief...

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Katoomba: garlic harvest

thanks Paul!..

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Little Hartley: Collit's Inn

out for dinner at ....
Collit's Inn

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Friday, November 11, 2005

hidden gold

Hidden gold: Australia’s Union Songs

The long tradition

Perhaps it began when Frank the Poet, Irish convict Francis McNamara, decided he would not work as a miner for the Australian Company in its Newcastle mine back in 1837 wrote ‘For the Company Underground’ (

He declared at the beginning:

When Christ from Heaven comes down straightway,
All His Father's laws to expound,
MacNamara shall work that day
For the Company underground.

When the man in the moon to Moreton Bay,
Is sent in shackles bound
MacNamara shall work that day
For the Company underground.

And ended

When Christmas falls on the 1st of May
And O'Connell's King of England crown'd,
MacNamara shall work that day
For the Company underground.

When thieves ever robbing on the highway
For their sanctity are renowned,
MacNamara shall work that day
For the Company underground.

When the quick and the dead shall stand in array
Cited at the trumpet's sound,
Even then, damn me if I'd work a day
For the Company underground.

Nor overground.

The tradition was to grow and include some of most interesting poetry and song. Looking back, we can see evidence that every major event in the history of unions in Australia has been accompanied by verse or song. Many of what are called bush songs, the songs and poems associated with itinerant shearers, bullock drivers, drovers and bush workers in general present a dissenting view from that which would be in the papers of the day, from what some like to describe as the mainstream.

While many of the poems appeared in print for the consumption and entertainment of what was from the start a highly literate workforce, others were collected by folklorists armed with tape recorders, preserving the oral history and culture of working men and women, a collection that was unaided by any government grants or institutional support. This was hidden culture that would have remained hidden had the concerns of the collectors been those of the state. Nor was there a great deal of interest from the music industry as it became more and more a global corporate entity.

Australian unions often had an international outlook, with concerns about the political storms that and they played a very interesting role in our history.

During the Great London Dock strike of 1889 Australian workers collected and sent unprecedented support funds

In all over £30,000 was raised by the Australian dockers and othe unions. It arrived at just the right time and meant the end of worries about feeding the strikers and their families. The London dockers could now face a longer strike and the leaders knew they could now concentrate on the picket lines. Defeat through hunger now seemed very unlikely and the dockers scented victory.

This union interest in union and political events around the world never looked back. Unionists were at the forefront of the anti conscription campaign in the First World War, particularly members of the Australian branches of the IWW the Industrial Workers of the World. Although short lived as a union organisation the wobblies, or wobs as they are often called here, had an effect far bigger than their number. During the the First World War they sold the famous Red Song Book with its slogan Fan the Flames of Discontent. A member of the wrote "Bump Me Into Parliament". He was Bill Casey destined to become Queensland Branch secretary of the Seamen's Union of Australia

Bump Me Into Parliament (

Come listen all kind friends of mine
I want to move a motion
To make an Eldorado here
I've got a bonza notion

Bump me into parliament
Bounce me any way at all
Bang me into parliament
On next election day

Some very wealthy friends I know
Declare I am most clever
While some can talk for an hour or so
Why I can talk for ever

I know the Arbitration Act
As a sailor knows his riggins
So if you want a small advance
I'll talk to Justice Higgins

Oh yes I am a Labor man
And believe in revolution
The quickest way to bring it on
Is talking constitution

I think the worker and the boss
Should keep their present stations
So I will surely pass a bill
'Industrial Relations'

Wobbly political attitudes come very strongly through the works of post war poets right up to the 1930s depression. Many soldiers and soldier poets returning from the carnage took up the wobbly hatred of war in and the hatred of the munitions manufacturers in particular. The idea that war was a means of pitting workers against each other for the profit of capitalists. The idea that workers would be much better off if they got together to take over the means of production.

Henry Weston Pryce


Heroes? O smooth false faces - avid - yet grey with fear!
Flag in the rifle muzzle - rose in the bandolier -
Guns in the poisoned valleys - graves on the crying hill -
These were your profits - profits! count them, aye, count them still -
Hark to the guns! Behold them! Thumbing your discs of gold ...
Gold? we were honoured! For silver the contract was closed of old ...
Golgotha bristles with crosses, but fair lies Potters Field ...
Ha, Judas! The business prospers ...

(Pizer, M ed. Freedom on the Wallaby Poems of the Australian People 1953 p. 153)

While this poem appeared in the 1953 anthology of Australian poems titled after Henry Lawson's "Freedom on the Wallaby" there are plenty that still need to be unearthed and added to the corpus we can describe as Union Songs

I found a booklet of 22 of them by a wharfie poet called Ernest Antony. Some of his work had been published in union and radical newspapers in the 1920s and he was most known for is late 1920s poem 'The Hungry Mile'

Katoomba: rhodie again....

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Katoomba: our Rhodie is out

One day later.........

Two days later.........

another view.....

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Garrison Church: sketch by Peter Neilson

The Garrison Church: sketch by Peter Neilson on the 150th anniversary of the eight hour day in Sydney

see also

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Mona Brand: Playwright turns 90

She may not be a household name here, but Brand is a significant figure in Australian arts history, a pioneer of theatre who was unafraid to lace her stories with radical ideas.

Brand turns 90 today and to celebrate, NIDA and Newtown's New Theatre are hosting a birthday celebration tomorrow night, where her colleagues and friends will offer tributes, and excerpts of her work will be performed.

"I must admit that I do most of my thinking sitting down and either knitting or darning socks. Although darning socks has gone out of style, hasn't it?"

She never set out to change people's minds, but doesn't hide her pride at the thought that she may have done so anyway.

"I think I was just dealing with people and their situations and their problems. I was reading one of my plays for the first time the other day, all about the situation in Malaya," she says, pulling out a copy of her 1950 play Strangers in the Land. It follows a young white woman who travels to British-controlled Malaya and is shocked by her host family's treatment of the locals.

"I haven't heard about Malaya in recent times but I do know they don't have British there any more, owning everything. So when I read it again, I thought, well, I'm glad I did that."

But her main objective, says Brand, was to entertain. "I didn't want to push ideas down people's throats but of course I suppose it worked that way. But the most pleasant feeling was to be sitting in the audience hearing laughter from time to time," she says.

read more

see also Happy Birthday Mona Brand!

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Monday, October 10, 2005

Katoomba: Seville oranges

We discovered Seville oranges at the green grocers last week (they only appear for about one month each year) so we just had to buy some. Seville oranges means marmalade and 2 Kg makes 11 jars

... one jar down ... tastes good! Our recipe was from the 1940s but very similar to this one from The Independent

Friday, October 07, 2005

Katoomba: cherry blossom time

.... past the school

.... down the lane

.... and this is Sydney but still spring!

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Sydney: traces of past union activity

The Rocks area was earmarked for "development" (bulldozing) back in the 1970s. The members of the NSW Builders Labourers Federation placed a Green Ban on the area which is why it's so refreshing to walk through today!

Up the road close to Observatory Hill is the Garrison Church, much used for weddings. 150 years ago the stonemasons working on the church downed tools and won an eight hour day, eight hours for work, eight hours for rest, and eight hours for themselves.

No plaque commemorates this historic event, however the fact that this weekend is a long weekend (Labour Day ... formerly Eight Hour Day) is a fitting tribute.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Japan: mobile phones

One thing absent from the guide books (or any online searches) was an economic way of getting a mobile phone for a few weeks in Japan. Don't buy an expensive phone at the airport!

The answer we discovered (or our friends told us about!) was to buy a prepaid mobile from 7-11 shops. These cost about 3000 yen (maybe you need to be Japanese to buy one?), and we used one for local calls (and to receive an international call... thanks Geoffrey) and keep in touch with our local friends.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Hiroshima: Italian food then trams and trains

We tried to go to the famous Marios as recommended in the Lonely Planet but they were full, so we went to another Italian restaurant just round the corner and had a fine spaghetti marinara and lasagne.

Then we climbed aboard a tram (a true sign of civilisation) to take us to the Hiroshima Station

and waited for the Shinkansen to carry us at gliding speed back to Tokyo


Hiroshima: World Friendship Center

We stayed one night at The World Friendship Center, highly recommended to anyone wanting to explore the Peace Park and Museum and other parts associated with the Atom Bomb.

The World Friendship Center is a nonprofit organization run by a Japanese board of directors and operated by two American volunteers. It was founded 40 years ago by Barbara Reynolds, the wife of a doctor who was studying the effects of radiation on A-bomb survivors. The center arranges peace exchanges, offers English language classes, and organizes a peace choir.

Barbara Reynolds wrote:
"World Friendship Center is based upon the belief that an individual can and must do something to create peace, and a faith that there is an ultimate power of truth and love that can help each of us to develop a center of peace within ourselves which will be highly contagious."

Visit the website at

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Hiroshima: Crane on dome - Iraq war protest

Paper Cranes are the symbol of Hiroshima so it seemed approprate that we saw two cranes atop the dome

Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum

Pavement art on the Promenade of Peace

... and a contemporary protest against the Iraq War (part of world wide demonstrations on 24th September ... we heard of large demos in Washington, London as well as small ones in Tokyo)

the demand for peace never rests ....

.... below is the poster for this years rally in Sydney


Thursday, September 22, 2005


Icecream: cocoa on a stick

We discovered this icecream in the supermarket. Barely sweet cocoa icecream fingers on a stick. Hard to resist

Gone before you know it