At the end of my first year at Wesley, I was forced by illness to return to stay with my family at 13 Girilang Avenue, Vaucluse. It would be the last time I lived with my mother, and it only lasted about 8 weeks.
I remember little of January. By mid January I could just about
get around. I thought I was up to going for a walk one day.
I did not manage to reach the garden gate.
By late January I was able to survive being taken out for social
activity. A group including me, Big Lou, Little Lou, Ming, Garry,
Mark, Brett, Tony Carnovale and Eric went out to dinner and wound up back at
Tony's house in Mosman.
Little Lou was there for me, too. This photo was taken in the
old VW fastback that Brett and I were sharing. I assume Brett
Eric and I visited Roger Smith.
I imagine that Eric and Brett were chaufferring me around
quite a lot---thank you, my friends.
Around this time my relationship with Big Lou
sort of evaporated. We had been conducting it by telephone,
since she was desperately trying to finish her BSc/Med Honours
year, like Ming, and did not want to risk infection.
At the end of January, Rosie invited me and Eric to come to her
farm in Albury. She and Eric were in the process of becoming an item,
and maybe I made a good excuse and good cover.
At any rate, I remember having a ball.
Eric and Rosie went horse riding a lot...
we rode motor bikes...
and drove a wonderful go-kart fashioned in true Australian outback
fashion from old lawnmowers and similar appliances.
It was a quintessential Australian Farm experience,
right down to the dog on the bike,
and maybe the only taste of farm life I will ever have!
While down there I also met Lyn Habermann. She lived in nearby "Walla Walla", which is as exciting as it sounds (not at all). Walla Walla (meaning "place of the crows") is one of those small towns created by the simultaneous immigration of a small number of families from a single place in Europe. I think Lutheran was the town flavour, but I could be wrong. The word that springs to mind is "inbred".
As an Aussie girl with an Aussie nurse's education,
she must have felt pretty trapped there, and she was dead keen
to find a way out of Walla Walla for good.
Lyn was to be the first in a succession of "crazy women", a topic
of notoriety that will probably follow me to my grave.
Lyn had the genes to fill the job.
With hindsight, I would have settled for "mixed up" as the diagnosis, but others
assured me much later that crazy fitted better.
Anyhow, I got back to Sydney in time for University to start again for the 1978 academic year.
Dave Roberts, Ming, Philippa and I managed to get the rooms that opened onto the Callaghan Balcony, while Rosie and Mark got rooms immediately adjacent. Dave was in 252, I was in 254, the room that Brett had previously occupied. This was a strategic move to put us at the heart of the action, as the balcony overlooked pond, courtyard, library roof and common room.
These rooms were not in the best of repair, as the door here shows, but
they were provided with a lot of private balcony, and they were close to the action.
As always, Dave was photogenic. Here he is relaxing on the said balcony.
Friends came to help us cook a meal in my electric frypan, again
on that balcony. We had a TV there too, and eventually a fridge.
On the morning of the official Wesley College Photo that March, we started with a Balcony
Photo of the room-holders:
Then there was the official photo:
Pulling in a couple of photos that were actually taken later on and
including Vicki Parrish, you can see that we used that venue well:
Speaking of photos, some of the lads set up a special photo session
for the freshers. They were told that there was to be a special photo session
for the freshers one morning later that month.
What they did not know was that there was a special
welcoming deputation on the roof above them...
but they soon found out.
This was college life as it should be!
There were days of simple lawn games;
There were lunches... Philippa Stone hated to be photographed, and it often took some ingenuity;
There were pondings of course, and we had the bird's eye view;
Here some of the freshettes were ponding Cliff and the bench to which he valliantly
I continued to tinker with photography (hence this visual history
after so long);
Here Dave and Philippa were posing for some flash experiments, again on that
There was a concert, with music serious and frivolous...
though nothing quite up to Brett and Nick's "word music" based
on the word "frivolity", which brought the house down.
One of the sports was pea-shooting, using aluminium or rigid copper tubes. The range was quite spectacular. We used to go chasing each other in cars ("fox hunting") using 2-way radios and yes-no questions, then ambush the hound as he closed on the fox with the pea shooters. Eric's Alfa grew seedlings in the back carpet after a water ingress....
Well, we had our first balcony party this month, and pea shooting down into the courtyard seems to have been popular.
April was even busier.
The month started with the traditional Night of the Long Pond. Herewith Chris, Jamie and Ming pond some fresher with Philippa and I as escorts. The picture captures the euphoria.
Here Chris and Gordon are ponding Jackie Findeis ("The Engineer").
As a testimony to the resiliance and sportspersonship of the freshers,
most went along with the ritual humiliation. Indeed, the "Fresher Introduction"
where they told people about themselves was carried out while some were
still seriously wet, and requiired to stand in a bucket to minimise
carpet dampness. Spirits were not so damp. I am not sure that Americans
could manage this stiff-upper-lip behaviour, even if they actually invented
We must have retired to my room later for a nightcap. Philippa still
did not like being photographed.
In the days after, there followed a series of room jackings. This is a process where the contents of someone's college room is displaced to another location, with points for effort, ingenuity, plus setup of the furniture and belongings in the new location. The return of the jackee is usually closely anticipated. It is also considered gentlepersonly to assist in their repatriation after the humiliation. One room was reassembled on the roof of the Blackburn lecture theatre block; Jackie's room was "arborised" wardrobe and desk included, Cliff's was assembled bunk-like over the cubicles in a Purser bathroom.
We travelled to Ming's 21st in Canberra.
His father was a professor at ANU, and so it was to
the ancestral home that we all trekked.
I organised for him to get a speaker kit, each piece from a different
person. His reaction of curiosity when first handed a single
loudspeaker driver was memorable, but was sadly not captured.
We played zoom (Eric! Pointing!), and generally had a good time.
We subsequently fooled around Canberra foxhunting or whatever.
A group went to the park by the lake one day. We had the
idea of making furniture out of people. Here Philippa's brother
and I sit upon female furniture.
Here we provide restaurant furniture for the women.
I think that was me as the stool on the right....
Around this time the VW fastback died. We were en route to Rosie
and Lissa's places in Albury and Wagga,
presumably after Ming's party but maybe on a later expedition,
when the main engine bearing failed catastrophically.
Eric was in convoy, fortunately, and he eventually observed that we
were no longer behind him. This is a picture of him cresting a distant hill
in search of us.
Melissa's father Lance was a great help, and got the car trucked back to Sydney.
I remember pushing it back to the Wesley car park from the street where
it was dropped off, and I finally sold it for $250.
Back in College, parties were the go at that time of year, exams being distant; Here is Ming at a big party held in Wylie Wing by the longer-term residents.
It was quite a dress-up job.
By virtue of access to the kitchen stores, provided by the brother
of one of our number, we continued to have
slap-up meals on the baclony....
The next morning Garry Wilton turned up, in full work regalia.
He was feeling particulary frisky, it seems.
Then there was the annual regatta, for which Wesley held a Ferry Trip. I do not recall us winning anything, but I bet we fielded the most suave team.
This woman must have caught my eye.
I was invited to the 21st birthday of my old girlfriend Rosemany Fine. I am told she eventually married a missionary. Probably quite appropriate.
Louise was there. It must have seemed an awfully boring party. I cannot
remember the slightest thing about it.
Then followed the college formal. By then Eric was a solid item with Rosie. I had remained in communication with Lyn, and she decided to come up to Sydney for the event.
Lyn certainly looked appealing. What was she looking for? I guess I never even addressed that question. Lesson one in how it works that relationships at a distance do not work. I guess she was desperate to trade life in Walla Walla for life in Sydney.
Now here is a telling picture! Ming and Philippa had become an item
(conspicuously, during a party in Melissa's room in lower Pursar),
but Ming reads an Electronics Magazine and Philippa hits the flagon.
Hints at desultoriness in relationships were amusing to me. A male view.
Anyway, Lyn spent the night in Rosie's room despite a perfect opportunity
to spend it in mine, which just about summed up the intensity and abandon
on her part. (The words "mixed up" came into my vocabulary about this time.)
Next, we had another major balcony party; it was a sort of "average 21st", since the average of Philippa's and my and Rosie's age was 21 that month, and we all had May birthdays... well, any excuse. I can't remember what the dress requirements were like, but I am sure it was unusual and intense. Lots of external friends turned up, including Philippa Nolan (pictured below with me), whom I had not seen for ages. No idea how come, perhaps through my mother.
That woman from the ferry trip turned out to be Fiona Hamblin. We started to get together. Of all the crazy women I am accused of dating, she was the one with the best credentials; she turned out to be a genuine, card-carrying schizophrenic. Having said that she was the most "sane", that is to say the least neurotic of all. Schizophrenic, yes, neurotic, no. The perfect example of insanity as a disease not a fault. In coming times she would tell me of what it was like to share your head with another personality, especially if you did not like them much and they never shut up.
The story of how I discovered this is interesting. She told me that she would be away for a month. OK, where? She gave me the address so I could post her a letter or two. The address was in Bondi. Being me, I was out driving around one day and I thought how close to Bondi I am, so about 7PM I looked up the address. Looked like a big house. Upon entering I arrive at a desk manned by a nurse. I tell her I am looking for Fiona Hamblin. We wind up going for a walk and she tells me what is going on. When the skull company got too unbearable, she would check herself in for a spell alone. The drugs that cure the schizophrenia have lots of nasty side effects, so you need to be in a safe place. Sadly these drugs, Nicholas later told me, eventually fry your brain. I do wonder what became of Fiona, I have not heard for over a decade.
Also it was at that party that Eric gave me one of my "prized
pieces of paraphenalia", a Klein bottle that he had had blown
June brought the College Fancy Dress Party.
Dr Who was in high favour with us, and it turned out that I
resembled Dr Who no.4, Eric resembled Dr Who no.2,
Chris Holland could be made to resemble Dr Who no.1 and we had
access to a couple of Daleks. The balcony was pressed into service
as a workshop, and we made a telephone booth.
We got Karen and Philippa to drive the daleks, Mark and Rosie did support.
Here is the full cast and crew.
As usual, there were a great many innovative costumes.
When Fiona was in good spirits she could be such fun.
Though it was now Winter, we still breakfasted on that balcony.
Here Philippa and I enjoyed a weekend morning.
Also, pondings, pranks and jackings still continued, though they tended
to be only for special occasions like birthdays and jiltings.
Here some poor fresher is tied to a chair in the pond, and
I bet it was chilly.
Now it may sound as if I was not paying much attention to my studies. Not so at all; I never missed a single lecture or lab except possibly for illness! The problem was that it was dreadfully socially dull.
Herewith a picture from the 1978 Sydney University Electrical Engineering Excursion,
a supposedly-light-hearted jaunt to look at a few power stations or radio sites or similar.
This was about as exciting as it got. My peers there were not children
of the Jet Set,
not the Beautiful People. It is little wonder that I left with the view
that I could not possibly follow the career of an engineer!
The prank was "snow" (beanbag beans) being pumped over high table.
Evidently a few found it amusing.
Mark, Dave, and Brett got a gig at the Toucan Cafe in Glebe.
We went to bulk up the audience.
Dave had a War in the Crypt with his long-time enemy Peter.
There must have been a fancy dress party somewhere...
Ming ended the evening in customary fashion.
That month saw a group of us climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge one night.
I wrote this event up in an old Photo Exhibition/Soapbox combination
on the question of What Makes a Thrill?.
It was a dark, wet, windy night, and a very worthwhile experience!
We were still enjoying that balcony.
Eric and I both had Godfrey Lucas as our thesis supervisor.
To stir Godfrey, we decided to paint shamrocks on the side of the
huge model waveguides that Eric had built as part of his thesis.
Here Paul Hinds does the spraying.
Paul and Eric would become housemates the following year. A few years later, Paul
would commit suicide. In the meantime he was as strange as us,
and we got on well.
Now Ming and Philippa were still a couple at this stage, and for some
sentimental reason or other they came to have a mouse as some sort
of symbol of their arrangement. He lived in this cage
in Ming's room. One night he got out of his cage.
Ming, with his usual mechanical aptitude, closed the door of his room
supposedly to contain him until he could catch him, but inadvertently
squashed the poor little fellow in the hinge end. Ming was so upset
he asked me to deal with the late little fellow.
Andrew married Jane. They had been living together for a year or
so. I was the best man. I recall that my speech started with a line
the the effect of "I have only known Andrew and Jane for a year
of their married life...". I recall that the laugh was delayed...
they had not expected humour, I fear.
What is interesting with hindsight, is that this must have been the
first time I laid eyes on the woman who would, almost 20 years later,
become my wife. Here you see Andrew embracing someone, with me as his
best man to the right of frame, and Kay as a 12 year old bridesmaid
standing to the left.
This event of which this is a photograph may also be infamous, for all I know.
The celebrant finished with something like "you may now kiss the
happy couple", so Peter Bismire races up and kisses Andrew.
Tony Green (middle photo) was at the same event. He would be Kay's partner for a few years in the early 90s. In the meantime, I became entangled with Cathy Smith (last photo).
September saw my grandmother's 80th birthday.
Cathy and I joined the family.
We ate at the Imperial Peking in Double Bay.
Work was getting pretty intense, with Ming typing my thesis up to pay off a dept. Theses were typed on manual type writers, drawings and so forth fashioned the hard way with pens or photographic processes.
Nevertheless, I found time to throw the first of a series of "psychological" parties. This was a "Silent Party", no talking allowed.
People used writing pads or sign; Peter Toluzzi brought a typewriter...
It was one of those very memorable events that clicked...
Much fun was had by all!
My thesis was on the design of antennas for Air Navigation systems
(specifically applying Godfrey's ILS design to VOR)
and I spent a lot of time on the EE rooftop antenna range
with a 5GHz (a 20x) model.
Richard Lesze had a Puch (Daimler) 49cc moped that he wanted to sell.
It had various oil leaks, and he wanted $50 or something similar.
I bought it. It was superb. Ming and I both got our
motorbike driving licences on it. It could never quite get
Richard up the steepest streets, but it did me fine. Of course it
lived... on the balcony.
The Garden Party was held that year on Paul's oval.
Seth had had a bit more than his share of the gross of cases.
Here you see Philippa, Lissa, Vicki and Karen falling all over
Gordon, in his customary clothes, rode my (very unisex) bicycle onto the oval later in the proceedings. I felt an affinity with him... he had no taste in clothes and I had few nice clothes.
Here Ming loses his and Lissa's balance. Even through the
decreasing steadiness of my camera you can feel Lissa's
annoyance. Looking at this photo 25 years later, I
notice that Melissa has always had a tendency to get
annoyed... she won't speak to me because I live in Bush's
America and she interprets my writings (incorrectly) as condoning his lunacy.
October concluded with a few pondings (here the girls are ponding Shane to
work off some exam tension)...
... and a visit from my mother, seen here on the inevitable balcony.
Our clique took it in their stride.
There was drinking and singing and the evening is muddied by
that dragging on that follows the desire on the part of the
sentimental to keep it going on and on.
Somewhere in November my thesis went in, and my remaining exams were still weeks away, and not expected to be very taxing. Life was quiet, the strategy for the future was the new primary task.
A very old connection, Geoff Winder, visited me. I do not think I had seen him for at least a year and a half, and this would be the last time I ever saw him. He and Philippa and I drank wine on the library roof, and spent the afternoon getting wasted. Do you remember that day, Philippa Stone?
The College Valete having long gone, the time eventually came for the first of us to actually leave. Then we had a more meaningful, typically Australian farewell dinner, just our clique. Here we started.
The event degenerated into full acquatic combat! Food fight!
Hostilities extended... then there was the cleanup...
...but in the end I guess we wound up snacking and nightcapping on that balcony.
There was also an exceedingly tiresome Engineering Farewell dinner,
the dullness broken only by the nervous and obvious pickup of
Godfrey's secretary by one of the students. They wound up getting married,
having kids, getting divorced, the whole catastrophe, I understand.
One last November story.
Some of us, including Philippa and I, had got tickets to the open-air Bowie concert that month. It proved to be scheduled on the Saturday before my very last exam, set for the next Tuesday. We queued all day and got prime seating, if it can be called that. The guilt of not studying hard has stuck with me all these years, though I doubt it had any material effect. It was increased---set in my mind perhaps---by the fact that I discovered I don't really think open-air concerts are worth the trouble. Even with the Angels as support, though I did not really know them as a band at that time.
I approached Gordon, told him I appreciated his level headedness,
and suggested we set up a house. We found that we both wanted
even numbers of girls, and we both wanted to get Philippa and
Lou to join us. Lou wanted to have Garry on board as well (not
a good decision with hindsight), and we agreed.
December saw five of us actually move: We moved into
216 Pyrmont Bridge Road, Glebe.
The rear of the house backed onto a "private" car park, with decently
secure parking for Lou's and my bikes, Gordon's and Garry's (and
eventually my) cars, and it cost each of us $26 per week.
Garry needed to build his furniture. So did I. I took days. He took months
and never really finished. He also needed to get better at cooking
and a whole lot of things as well. Garry was not house trained!
I had some work at Macquarie University; I rode there on my moped, eventually bought a larger bike, then a car. I applied for a postgraduate scholarship, and looked for work, finding a job as a journalist on the staff of "Electronics Today", a magazine for which I had always had a great deal of respect. The year 1979 would continue at 105% of maximum thrust.