End of decade – or not

Well obviously not quite, and it is a moot point whether decades start with 00 or 01. Whatever, we are closing on the end of the first decade of the 21st century, so let’s idiosyncratically run the last ten decades by…


In Australia, according to Anthony Barker’s What Happened When: A Chronology of Australia from 1788 (Allen & Unwin 3rd ed 1996) the population was 4,323,960. Chips Rafferty, Reg Ansett, Robin (I am not corrupt) Askin and Robert Helpmann were born. In January the pinnace of HMS Encounter sank in Sydney Harbour after colliding with a collier. 15 sailors were drowned. On March 12 was a historic Arbitration Court decision reinstating the wages of striking Broken Hill miners. In June Deakin became Prime Minister.  In July Old Age Pensions began. (Glad of that!)  In October NSW surrendered 2,400 square kilometres to the Commonwealth for the Australian Capital Territory. Strikes dominated the news in November and December, along with defence: Kitchener arrived in Australia in December to advise the Commonwealth Government, and orders were given to build the battle cruiser Australia. G A Taylor made the first unpowered heavier-than-air flight in Australia on 5 December at Narrabeen, and four days later Colin Defries made the first powered flight at Victoria Park Racecourse in Sydney. (There was a racecourse at Victoria Park?) 


Red Revolution in many parts of Europe, generally squashed, and a world-wide flu pandemic that took more lives than World War I.


Yes, we know. Spooky, isn’t it?


To quote Auden:

I sit in one of the dives

On Fifty-second Street

Uncertain and afraid

As the clever hopes expire

Of a low dishonest decade:

Waves of anger and fear

Circulate over the bright

And darkened lands of the earth,

Obsessing our private lives;

The unmentionable odour of death

Offends the September night.

I was born during that war…



More like 1945, I would say. That’s me second from the left.


Oh my God! My final year at Sydney Boys High!  By 1965:

try 008

I had just had hepatitis…


My final year, as a teacher, at Cronulla High. Sometime around then I took this photo of my mother and father.

wed15 004

They were really struggling by then in all sorts of ways, you know, a fact I didn’t comprehend at the time as much as I do now…


We had Malcolm Fraser as PM, which doesn’t look as bad now as it did then… I was teaching in Wollongong again, after a couple of years seconded to Sydney University. I remember the end-of-year news was very depressing: Russia in Afghanistan. But the CIA knew how to fix that, didn’t they?


Tiananmen. M arrived in Australia. I and the Jewish school parted company, partly because of health issues of my own. And other issues. My friend Rob killed himself in September. My father died in December. It wasn’t a very good year, but 1990 was much better. Met M in July 1990.


Is it really that long ago? Met The Rabbit under different circumstances; now he’s an English teacher, and I am sure a good one… And M was in India or Nepal or Pakistan… Well at this time of year he was… I was here in Elizabeth Street, Surry Hills.


One of M’s pics from that 1999-2000 journey

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