The Wesley College Years: Part 1 - 1977

January and February of 1977 were busy but not memorable for me. I was doing uninspiring work at Fairlight Instruments, and I was earning some extra money coaching maths. I was socialising most nights of the week, getting 6 hours of sleep on average on weeknights, sleeping in until noon on weekends to catch up. I was anticipating my move at the end February to Wesley College, where my friend Brett lived. Actually I was anticipating getting away from living with my mother. I kept a diary sporadically in 1976, diligently in January and February 1977, for some odd reason. I noted in it that I was trying to have a good relationship with Mum, but I did not share her values and I did not like the lifestyle she wanted.

I recorded in that January diary that my friend Andrew was seeing one Jane Ramsbottom. This picture was taken in the Blue Room at UNSW, at an FRP game. I spent a lot of time in the Blue room playing Dungeons and Dragons.

Nick and his lady had a visitor from England (Helen) and we went on a trip to the Hunter Valley. One night on this trip Garry found himself trying to locate the plumbing fault that was giving rise to a regular metallic tonking noise in the hotel corridor when the penny dropped as to its source. Brass beds had a lot for which to answer.

It was a time of 21st birthday parties, Garry Wilton's at the end of 1976, Tony Carnovale's and then Roger Beck's early in 1977. Roger had grown a beard since high school, but I imagine he has not changed much since then. We lost touch about this time.

Demetrious Cominos was another nice person who passed from my ken at this year of change.

At the end of January I met and dated Michelle Elias, who was also destined to move into a College, but at UNSW, not Sydney. It would be the first relationship I ever observed to be quenched, at least in part, by geography. I recall feeling some relief at having the distance upon which to put some of the blame.

Sociologists, by the turn of the millenium, came to refer to this phenomenon as "the Turkey dump", because Thanksgiving (at which turkey is traditionally eaten) is the first break in the American college fresher's calendar, and the moment they take to dump highschool lovers obsoleted by college connections.

Embarrassingly I recorded after a date with her that she lived 7.5 miles away, compared to 16 for Cheryl, 14 for Lois, 28 for Rhonda, and 1 for Rosemary. Did that information reside in my head?

Peter Toluzzi got around, his parties had lots of people from different threads of life. I took the attached picture not knowing at the time who this Lane fellow was and I suppose I left the party no wiser. In the 90s we were to become friends, through Kay. Could this picture be of our man Lane? I showed it to him in 2003 and his reply ran "Where did you get THAT!! My only excuse is the chemicals, I swear it! I'll have to go & have a large martini now to get over the shock."

Tony Carnovale visited and I described him as "seemingly back together with Julie"; I have the impression he was hooked on her, but there are no other photos so I suppose it came to nothing. Tony was not to prove lucky in love, as they say, though of all my friends he probably deserved it the most.

I have the impression that we thought a lot about such things. I am sure I had no idea what might be good for me then. I have no idea of whether I realised that at the time.

As I prepared to leave my mother became more friendly. I infer this from the frequency of our havng dinner together, and the tone of my notes. I did not realise the depth of the reaction at the time, but she must have been feeling that sadness parents feel when children leave, no matter the state of the relationship. We had dinner out and she told me about her life before she married my father. Her first husband (Flt. Lt. John McIntosh) had been a pilot in "Coastal Command Rescue and Reconnaissance". He went MIA during WWII and she miscarried. This was the first I had heard of the miscarriage. She had taken her time telling me about herself.

She had an uncle Bill. His wife Alice, my Grandmother's sister, had died, and my mother and a friend called Jean ran his house as a boarding house for the airmen on leave, while he went to stay with his wife's family. She loved that time, being young enough not to worry about death, forever in the company of pilots and RAAF people, plenty to do, plenty of excitement. Now her only child was about to leave.

I drew my friends from many pools: From school, from university, from the church groups that represented the only social reservoir in Vaucluse, from technology connections such as amateur radio, Fairlight Instruments and ETI, from the Tolkien Society, and from wargaming. However, the move to Wesley was to provide me with a vast flux of people at close range. For two years it would be the dominant source of connections and activities. There would be a number of events that called me back to my old haunts, but they grew increasingly scarce throughout 1977, and by year's end only the pools based at Sydney University still counted me as an active connection. I made many new friends in this year.

Let me tell two stories to set the scene:
I moved into Wesley College at the end of February, into room E2, in Chan Wing. Shortly after I moved in, an incident occurred. A fellow nicknamed Chan (afer the Wing in which he had lived) drove a bulldozer into the front doors. I missed the event, and I was dismayed. Brett saw it all. "We were on the balcony, and we saw this bulldozer coming. `Why, it's Chan!' someone said. `Gosh, he's driving right up!' said someone else. `He's crashing through the doors!' observed another. `I wonder why we didn't stop him?'", said Brett.

In this photo Brett is pictured above the stone steps, gouged by the caterpillar treads. The doors had been put back on by the time I got home and got my camera going.

The second story comes from my first meal at Wesley.
I was chatting to Tim Jay who lived nearby. The lunch bell rang. Now the photo depicts the dining hall, in this case prepared for a formal dinner, but my first meal was a plain weekday lunch. We wandered down, and were presented with a couple of the benches piled high with cold ham, salads, and so forth.
"Wow", I exclaimed, "are all the meals like this?".
"Yes, pretty much", said Tim.
"Well, I'm gonna like this place", I replied, "It's a pity I don't like salad. What do you think we will have tomorrow?".
"Ah", said Tim, "When I said that the lunches were all pretty much like this, I should have said that they are all exactly like this."
I went during 1977 from a boy who could hold his own in a Pizza-eating contest, accustomed to cereal, toast, bacon, eggs and maybe steak for breakfast, to a person whose breakfasts are preferably continental, and preferably taken late, and who eats very modestly.

I have no record and no memory of the formal in March (this is roughly when the college holds its formal party), but here we were set to go, Brett, Guy Verney and I.

On the eve of April Fool's Day occurs the Night of the Long Pond. Roughly speaking, all the freshers get their baptism, as it were. Somehow I found out about this, and I was one of the roof people, spectators. I would get adept at scaling the roof in the next couple of years.

Later that night, Ming and I were taking coffee in my room, realising that it was about 2AM, most of the place was asleep, and we felt mischievous. Let's put coffee in all the shower heads, one of us thought. "Instant or granules?", I asked. After some deliberation, we figured instant would dissolve too quickly, so we proceeded to visit all the bathrooms.

We returned about 3, and sat imagining how people would smell at breakfast. Then Jenny from next door came out to have a shower... and commented as she returned past my open door that the shower head had exploded. Sure enough, the granules blocked the holes and the pressure did the rest. By 4AM we had reversed the process, and were ready for bed. My later pranks would be more successful.

This was my fourth year at University; I had come to regard March as the first month of the year, not from emulating the Romans, but because it was the first month of lectures, the first month of the academic year, and that was what mattered to me. By April things had settled in, and Wesley people got down to partying seriously. The Intercol Regatta was accompanied by a Ferry trip, a rort of some magnitude.

Even the unflappable Prapon Kovitya got his camera out for events like this.

Tony visited me one day when I was experimenting with black-and-white film. What makes this picture interesting is that it includes the car battery I used as backup power for my room door interlock. I had constructed an electric bolt assembly triggered by a magnet I carried on my keychain, as double security.

One day I left someone in my room while I went downstairs and they goofed around with the lock, the solenoid jammed and overheated. It caused quite a lot of smoke to be emitted and then quite a stir, since my friend panicked. Peter Single (resident engineer) was called, and he shut down the mains power... which of course had no effect. Somehow I escaped serious consequences.

Amongst all this I had started a Diplomacy Game. The situation was ideal: Lots of competitive people living close so that negotiation could be carried out, handy for moves to be executed weekly.

Once the who's who was out---mid April---I organised an "Embassy Cocktail Party". Here is the Turkish contingent.

A good deal of liquor was consumed that night...

The evening degenerated. C'est la guerre.

The college photograph was taken in April. Everyone was supposed to pile out at about 07:30 to the front of the building. Most made it.

I wonder how many still have their college photos somewhere in a dark draw?

I organised an even earlier session on the Chan Wing Balcony.

I remember Tim, Gordon, Kim, Cliff, Rosie, Fen, then the memory fades... Judy at extreme right, and Jenny left at front. Fortunately, that year I had Ming use his copperplate hand to draw up a sign listing the residents and facilities, to give the wing some character. At some stage the sign was removed and we found it in a rubbish bin nearby, but I photographed it, crumpled though it was. It read:
E1: Madame Wendy Gilchrist
E2: Mistress Jenny Pitty
E3: Sir Jonathan Breteton Scott
E4: Wing-Commander Timothy James Jay, DFC
E5: Baron Gordon von Weiss
E6: Princess Rosemary Prosser
E7: Lord Clifford Turner-Off
E8: Lady Fiona Fenwick DeCameron
E9: Patricia Stanton, Duchess of Chan
E10: Contessa Kimbalie Worner
Chan Auditorium and Consulate, Water Closet.

You can sort of see why it might get trashed!

Outside Wesley, the science fiction people were putting on Syncon not far away. Melissa and I went to the fancy dress party. I had made a headband with chasing LEDs on it, very avant garde for the time, and I won the costume prize, a very excellent dress sword, modelled below by Melissa. I have it still.

The Chinese Exhibition was in Sydney that month too. Ming organised a group to go to the National Gallery. I sneaked a small camera in with me. It was very impressive considering the age of the work; not quite the treasures of Dresden, but quite as spectacular for its era and origin.

May was busier still than April. I turned 21, as did Nick Repin, Rosie Prosser had a birthday, I graduated BSc, a group of us went to the South coast, and I discovered the photographic potential of the Autumnal fog that settled on the WSC playing field next to Wesley.

I think my 21st birthday was actually rather awful. My mother arranged it, it was at her house, that all seemed fine, but the guests represented my past, not my present or my future. In fact I think Judy and Brett were the only Wesley people there...

Altogether too much family, too soon after I managed to get away. Here is my Gramp, talking to Tony. A typical image from the party, so it was not my idea of a party. Few of the 21st parties I attended in 1977 were, as you will see.

Actually Gramp was my step-grandfather, I am not sure if that is the correct term for my grandmother's second husband given that he married her, becoming my mother's stepfather, before I was born.

One other photograph is worth showing. Seated here is Mark Berriman, a friend from high school, my old French teacher Keith "Rock" Husdon, and Mark's mother.

Mark and I never got close, though we had things in common, and we drifted apart. I recall him becoming actively left wing. I was leaning left, then, though I have never had any particular political conviction you can't get from Hitchhiker's. Now Mark and I could have a good argument!

Keith was a lovely person. Gay, though I don't suppose that was visible at school. I have tried locating him several times since the advent of the web, but no luck. He is probably living on a yacht in the Med, with neither phone nor login.

Nick Repin and his twin sister Jane turned 21 three days after me. Like me, Nick drew on various disparate pools for connections. Their party was rowdier; not exactly force-9 on the Brunner or magnitude 9 on the Rortsworth scales, but higher.

Rosie Prosser had a birthday that May as well. It was a sedate affair with her friends from Chan Wing; she had moved from Albury to Sydney, leaving her old world out of range. It was probably at least as much fun as mine. Her 21st would prove to be more extravagant.

Somewhere in amongst all this I graduated. At the time I was not impressed with ceremony, and only went for my family's sake. Garry came to provide moral support and photographic assistance. Thanks, Garry.

The year before there had been a frenzy of sign lifting with Andy Adams. I wound up with the sign of the company whose products I most respected: Hewlett-Packard. I would go to work for that company in 1998, shortly before it split into Agilent and HP; I work for Agilent in 2003 as I write this.

This picture was taken in front of the college. I wear my HP45 in its leather holster, and I am wearing an HP67 T-shirt, and holding the cedar-and-perspex sign. The picture hangs in my cube at work. The sign? Last seen in the storage space under the floor of what was once Air Navigation, on the 4th floor of the EE building at Sydney University. Perhaps it is still there.

Ted, Gordon, Fiona, Tim, Kim and I went on a holiday to Durras, on the coast. Gordon and Ted went skindiving, we played on the beach, went horse riding (I discovered how allergic I am to horses), and generally messed about.

We goofed about in the bush. As I recall, we made an 8mm movie---"The Seaing". I must look for that old film one day....

Driving home one night I observed that the fog had collected in the depressed region of the playing field outside the Women's Sports Centre. What would it look like with beams in the fog? Well, I found an access point through which the car would fit, in I went, out with the camera... and here is the test result.

There would be a number of occasions....

June saw the Tolsoc play "Farmer Giles of Ham", in which I was playing the king, take up a lot of time.

As best my memory serves me, you see here Gregor Whiley, a page whose name I cannot remember, myself, Rosemary Fine, Jack Herman, William Good, Tony Green, Warren Taylor, Peter "Balrog" Bismire and Brenda Beebe all hamming it up, rather literally I suspect.

There was a cast party afterward, of course. It was held in the ante room of the Great Hall, as the play was in the Great Hall itself. My mother and grandmother must have come to see.

I vividly recall the time I came to know Dave Roberts. This fellow was apt to use one of the rooms in Chan for guitar practice, it being closed and damped. One weekend day I was leaving the Chan Wing bathroom and Tim Jay was there filling a bucket with water. We exchanged pleasantries, and he then hurled the water into a shower cubicle where someone was showering.
"Who's in there?" I asked.
"I dunno." says Tim.
""Rubbish", says I, "nobody throws cold water onto a person in a shower if they don't know who it is!".
"Yes they do." comes Dave's voice, calm as you like, from the cubicle.
I guess I figured this must be someone worth knowing.

The previous master of the college, Norman Webb, had a magnificent reputation with the students and throughout the university. The current Master, James Udy, had been brought in by the Methodists to clean up. He was something of a clot, but he meant well. He had things like metaphysical weekend get togethers to play mind games. My kind of game, and Guy and I attended one.

There was a lot of evidence the Morals Committee missed. As Cliff Turner, owner of the only room whose largest dimension was height, room E1, moved his furniture about in an attempt to give the illusion of more space, he uncovered a plaque, hidden behind the wardrobe. Reading (for the search engines) "This room is treasured in the memory of Marian and Norman who made love here many times between March and August 1974". I think I would have appreciated Master Norman Webb.

A stream of pilgrims came to see the plaque (and I to photograph it) before it was unceremoniously removed by the establishment. Who talked? Nobody knew, I might guess at Karen....

I was still loving university, loving college, loving all my friends, loving engineering, it was almst a shame to waste time sleeping. Here I am not sure what had taken us out wandering, but Brett and I found ourselves in the quadrangle. Not bad for a Winter evening.

The major event of July was the college play. Ming put on "The Physicists" by Freidrich Durrenmadt, and I played Einstein.
Here is almost the whole cast and crew.

Here you see the physicist-cum-spy in action with his nurse whom he murders. I cannot remember who played my nurse---Dee Wilson?---but she was rather gorgeous.

Putting on a play was a massive effort, all hands on deck. Favours were pulled in, publicity arranged, we even did our own illicit postering around the University late at night.

Mostly, we did a bloody lot of rehearsing.

I started seeing Nicki. I think she had also come from the Eastern suburbs of Sydney, but she lived and worked now at The White Horse pub. She had style.

August, a month of respite from lectures, a month for parties.

I had a party, in my college room, I think I had moved into E3 which was larger. It was an ultimatem party, attendance demanded, clothes to stun. For many years this picture of the group hung in my house.

I got everyone down to the square. No fog...

...but fun was had by all.

Andrew and Jane had their engagement party. Andrew had that sense of humour that has served him so well.

Eric and I had an electronics project, and we made a metal detector. Here we are testing it. The nude beaches such as "Lady Jane" were the best for hidden treasure.

Eric says that 2003 sees less pollution in Sydney!

September brought more rorts. Wesley College was the only college that was co-ed (save oddities like International House who did not participate in traditional ceremonies). We had an "intergender" football match at the silly end of the season. Here Pat Lane was getting iced. I wonder occasionally whatever happened to Pat.

I recall nothing of the match, but the day was reminiscent of a St Trinians outing in reverse. Here I am with my camera. It is not clear if the match was still going.

Ponding was the favoured rite. It was much like being called "you old bastard", and would be delivered to all who had a birthday in term time. It evidently took a lot of hefty lads to pond Morrison, and brought out the camera-weilders.

September---Spring---also saw the major intercollege social of the season, the Intercol Garden Party. This was an event for which people dressed over-the-top, and drank over-the-limit. Around 1000 people consumed in the order of a gross of magnums of unspeakable fizzy intoxicant, while parading about a sports field.

I cannot remember the name of the woman in the white sun cap, but I recall her vital statistics. How rude.

I am glad I did not have to clean up after these events. The aftermath could be ugly, and it was not uncommon to find stragglers waking the next morning in a variety of odd perches. The good Dr Udy devised a safety plan in later years whereby dinner that evening would be served on the hardy lawn outside the building....

The lads were eager to embarrass Gordon Weiss, who had moved into Chan Wing. Note the water carefully placed under the chair. Hard to concentrate on one's work when your neighbours are feeling frisky.
They called on me to document. I must have gained a reputation, camera-wise.

October saw the birthday of a small blonde woman who had arrived late in the year. I think it was her 21st birthday, and she seemed rather lonely. She had few friends at college but I sorted them out and got them to come to my room. I pretended to be taking her out for dinner, and then sprang the party on her.
The party was getting warmed up, when my friend Garry called in unexpectedly. He looked at this diminutive blonde and says "You!". She looks at this stranger and says "You?". It seems they had met when Garry was chatting up some old school friend of Lou's. In 18 months time we three would form 3/5 of a sharehouse, along with Gordon and Philippa. Do you remember all this, my friend?

October also saw the Wesley College fancy dress dinner and party. I was surprised at how seriously people took this event!

Somewhere about this time I dated this woman who was doing a masters in psychology. This seems to be the only photograph I have of her. I vividly recall Roger Smith's line as we walked down a city street to a movie one night: He said "Where did you get your friend from?", just out of her earshot. I knew she was an unusually inert person, but I had not realised how obvious this was to others. She was genuinely abnormal, in a personality sense, though I imagine she was quite sane. Most of her colleagues seemed equally far from the usual, but I think that came from spending most of their time dissecting other personalities. She seemed to have given hers up as a waste of time.
She also swore her breasts were perfectly natural, so the evidence was clear that something was not.
She was the first in what hindsight identified as a long line of crazy women. So much so that people were keen to examine Kay regularly to see if I attracted crazy women or whether I drove them crazy. (I have experienced a lot of flavours of crazy in my women over the decades.)

Janette Trenchard-Smith had her 21st birthday this month, and I went back to my old haunts for it. Digitising these films I was reminded of many people I had forgotten, and a quick Google uncovered a web site telling me that Janette is now an artist who also runs classes on how to get your life together. I think this party was the last time I saw her.

Things quietened down in November, the month when finals started. A couple of pondings...

...well technically a bathing, it must have been a cold night, or perhaps Melissa deserved something special.

I got to know Peter Single, who had been that year doing his thesis with Godfrey Lucas in Air Nav, where I would next year do mine. I think it was Peter's recommendation that brought me to Godfrey's shop. We remain good friends.

This photo, from the adornments of the room to the expression on Peter's face, are wonderfully classic Single.

December saw the end of lectures, people started returning to their home towns. Brett and I lived in Wesley all year, Eric lived full time in Glebe of course, and some students left later than others. Holidays, and we grew restless quickly.

Eric still had some practical chemistry supplies. What you see here is a simple orange being blown into tiny pieces. Next year would see experiments with contact explosive and paper airplanes, but for now, it was fruit. Eric was good at bangs.

The next experiment was much more satisfactory. What is a good big fruit? Well, a watermelon, of course. How big a bomb will obliterate one. This big. After the explosion pictured (captured with the sacrifice of my old flash gun, triggered by the snap of a wire wrapped around the melon), we heard a rustling in the trees overhead. This proved to be remnants of skin, leathery in texture. It was the only remnants we ever found. To give the picture scale, the melon is sitting on a park bench. The night smelt strangely sweet for a while after the bang.

The rest of that night was anticlimactic for me. Brett and Dave were working on their band. The physios were not yet finished for the year, and Rosie was around. I think this was the night Eric first became interested in Rosie. They would go out with each other for the next four years.

Peter Toluzzi had a Christmas party at his mother's place. This photo does not show it, but no clothes are being worn. That was unusual in my circles then.

Pam Mitchell had her 21st party on a Ferry in the harbour. We collected at Rose Bay to catch it.

Here Andrew, Jane, I, Pam and Bruce McNanamy posed. What a sad-looking picture!

Andrew and Jane would get divorced, Bruce and I would have our ups and downs (the web say he is a barrister in Sydney now) and Pam would die of misadventure in about two year's time.

Nick Repin had a Christmas party too. I remember none of it, I must have simply passed through, though it looks quite exciting. Where were you living then Nick, and with whom?

Tony Kemeny was there. We see each other briefly about once per decade. Nick and Garry were the only people I kept in touch with from my old School, Scots College. Tony left Australia with his parents who returned to somewhere like Switzerland.

During the Christmas break most of the college shut. We who lived on there moved into "New" wing, which had sinks in the rooms and a kitchenette per floor. This is a picture of Eric in my room; it is interesting for the wristwatch he is wearing. He and I had both bought one of these new-fangled LED watches.

About this time I started going out with Louise Baur. We met on the lawn of the quadrangle during a recital of the newly-restored Carillion. She was doing her Honours year of a BSc-Med, just like Ming, and would work through December in the Anderson-Stuart building. We would meet on the lawn between Anderson-Stuart and MacLaurin Hall to catch a quick lunch.

We spent a day on Andrew's father's yacht with Andrew, Jane and Tony, Andrew's brother. Oh dear, we looked very 1970s...

The year ended not with a bang, but a whimper. I took this picture on New Year's Eve, 1977. Taking it probably took all my strength.

On Christmas Eve, or thereabouts, I returned to my college room and fell asleep. I woke up about three days later, having barely managed to pee and drink water in the interim. I had mononucleosis, or glandular fever. I caught it quite badly. Nick reflected later that the severity with which one gets it seemed to be proportional to how long you have it before you find out. I was burnng the candle at both ends that month....

I managed to telephone my mother, and she collected me. It was weeks and lots of blood tests before I could reach the front door of the house. I do not think I ever thanked Mum and Nan properly for taking care of me.

I would recover slowly, and never, I believe, completely. My relationship with Louise would be limited to the telephone until February of the following year, and then it disintegrated somehow, probably for the best. Eric and Rosie would be there for me in 1978. In one sense the timing was good, I lost January but I was back, free and eager, before the next academic year started.