Santa Matey (an Aussie Christmas song)

I didn’t get a chance to do an Aussie Christmas song last year but I thought I’d do it again this year. I wanted to do a fun song and Santa Baby was one of the first songs that came to mind. It’s just such a fun, cheeky song and I could immediately see how I could make it more Australian, unlike with some other songs (I’d still love to do an Aussie Frosty the Snowman at some stage but it’s not the easiest to make Australian, for obvious reasons!).

This version is called Santa Matey. It was a lot of fun to write and play around with and definitely helped to make it feel like Christmas again. I hope you enjoy it. And Merry Christmas 🙂

image

Santa matey, leave a beer under the tree
For me
Been a really good bloke
Santa matey
So hurry over Sydney tonight

Santa matey, maybe a gift voucher too
Or a few
I’ll stay up for you champ
Santa matey
So hurry over Sydney tonight

Think of all the work I’ve done
Think of all the times I could’ve been having fun
I’ve really been very good
So won’t you leave me an Xbox One

Santa matey, I wanna Ford
And maybe I won’t get so bored
Been fair dinkum all year
Santa matey
So hurry over Sydney tonight

Santa ripper, there’s something else I’d love to see
A TV
To watch the Swannies next year
Santa matey
So hurry over Sydney tonight

Santa beauty, and stuff my stocking with a new phone
And tones
I’ll text you every day
Santa beauty
So hurry over Sydney tonight

Come and try my Christmas cake
It’s just like my mum used to make
I saved a slice just for you
I hope you saved something for me too

Santa matey, there’s just one other little thing
Some bling
Like a gold barbeque
Santa matey
And hurry over Sydney tonight

Hurry over Sydney tonight
Oh hurry over Sydney tonight

Coogee Memorial

Blue ocean
Holds my heart and tears
Reminds me of you
So far away

Today is the ninth anniversary of the 2002 Bali Bombings. The bombings killed 202 people, including 88 Australians, and Bali is often considered our version of September 11, the moment when our part of the world changed forever.

Many of those killed and injured in the attacks came from Coogee, very near where we live in Randwick, and this memorial was erected in 2003 as a place of remembrance and reflection. It’s a beautiful, quiet spot overlooking the ocean and I often find myself spending time there when I’m in Coogee… I can’t think of a better tribute to their memory. I actually took this photo a few months ago, the day after Osama bin Laden died, and I thought I’d save it to post today.

In many ways it’s hard to believe it’s only been nine years since the bombings as so much has happened since. But even with Amrozi gone & so much time passed, it’s amazing how quickly the memories come back. I still remember that day so well… hearing about it on the news, seeing the fires burning, reading the names of the dead and missing in the local paper. Those memories will be with me for the rest of my life.

When I think about Bali I’m mostly filled with sadness now; for the suffering that was caused; for how the world has changed. But most often I find myself thinking of this memorial and what it represents, a place of peace and reflection, and I find myself hoping that one day, perhaps, the whole world might be as peaceful… that would be the true memorial.

Photo and haiku © CJ Levinson 2011

Update: I wrote this poem as well for the fifth anniversary. I thought I’d share it again in case anyone would like to read it.

10 Things I’ve Learnt This Month

Favourite Pen

Image: A Writer’s Best Friend ~ © CJ Levinson 2011

Been busy writing the last few weeks, so haven’t had much time for an update until now. The novel’s coming along quite well; I’ve had to rethink how to approach it a bit as some of it wasn’t working but on the whole I’m happy with how it’s progressing. Looking at having the first draft finished around late-June with a little luck.

The main development is that I’ve settled on a working title at last. At the moment I’m calling it The Forgotten Kingdom. Not sure if that will be the final title yet but it suits the story quite well. I’ll be posting a new video about the novel in a few days – the title will probably make more sense then.

Unfortunately I’ve been struggling with writer’s block and staying focused as well, so that’s made the writing go a bit more slowly than I had wanted. I was expecting to run into a few problems though as I haven’t written anything this long before, so I’m not too worried about it overall. Actually one of the good things is that it’s let me try out a new writing exercise that’s helped a lot and I’m very happy with.

The idea’s quite simple really: every time I find myself stuck, I stop and try to think of something new I’ve learnt that day. It can be anything – an interesting fact, a funny or personal observation, a joke, a unique thought – as long as it’s something I learnt or realised that day. Then I write about it; sometimes just a short description, other times a short story or a poem inspired by it. The length isn’t really important; it’s that it distracts me but still allows me to keep writing so I don’t lose the flow and when I come back, I feel much more focused and the writing seems easier.

I’m not sure how well it would work for other people but it’s worked very well for me so far. And as a bonus it’s given me a list of all the new things I’ve learnt each day as well, everything I’d normally just end up forgetting.

So as I haven’t posted in a while I thought it’d be fun to share some of them. I won’t post any of the writing samples as they’re too long but these are are some of the more random things I’ve learnt and thought about during the past month. Some are obvious, some are just fun or silly observations, some are things I’ve learnt about myself, and others are just interesting facts I’d never heard before.

I hope you enjoy the list. I might even turn this into a monthly feature. So what have you learnt this month? 😉

Continue reading

Lest We Forget

ANZAC Cove and New Zealand Point by Frank Hurley

“When You Go Home,
Tell Them Of Us And Say,
For Your Tomorrow,
We Gave Our Today.”
Epitaph at Kohima memorial cemetery

Yesterday was ANZAC Day in Australia and New Zealand, commemorating the Gallipoli landing on April 25, 1915. Of the more than 44,000 Allied deaths at Gallipoli almost 11,000 were ANZACs; over 130,000 soldiers died on both sides.

This year was the 95th anniversary of the campaign and Gallipoli is still seen as a defining moment in Australian, New Zealand and Turkish history. The operation was a strategic and military failure but it was the moment both Australia and New Zealand started to emerge and forge our own identities, separate from Britain, in the wider world, and it also laid the groundwork for the formation of the Turkish Republic eight years later under Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, a commander at Gallipoli who became Turkey’s first president.

There is a dawn service held at ANZAC Cove in Gallipoli each year to commemorate the fallen and ANZAC Day has expanded over the years to remember all  those who have died and served Australia and New Zealand; from World War I and II, to Korea, Vietnam, East Timor, Afghanistan and Iraq. Usually there are services and veterans’ marches in every capital city.

I’ve always been fascinated by the Gallipoli campaign but I must admit I have slightly mixed feelings about ANZAC Day. As a day of remembrance and reflection it’s something I value greatly, particularly knowing how lucky I am to live in a free country and the sacrifices many Australians have made in her name. What I don’t like about ANZAC Day, however, is the  way we often overlook New Zealand and Turkey in the commemorations, and particularly the nationalistic fervour that sometimes overwhelms it.

In recent years ANZAC Day has become more like a day of national pride in Australia. That’s not necessarily a bad thing except sometimes it’s seen more as a national holiday than a day of remembrance and some Australians think if you don’t wrap yourself in the Australian flag and wear green and gold, you’re being unpatriotic. Personally I try to commemorate ANZAC Day in my own way, looking at old photographs from Gallipoli and reflecting quietly on the losses on both sides and what it means to be Australian, but that attitude has begun to intrude on ANZAC Day more and more. It’s got to the point where the role of New Zealand is often overlooked in Australian commemorations and some Australians almost consider ANZAC Cove to be Australian soil, even though Gallipoli is still Turkish territory. I often wonder if we’re starting to lose what ANZAC Day is really about: remembering the cost of war.

Worse, though, is when people seem to have no respect for the ANZAC legacy at all. A war memorial in Sydney was vandalised on Saturday night, with a flag pole broken and garbage strewn around the Cenotaph. Why? What kind of person would do that? There was also a furore recently over the suggestion that because ANZAC Day fell on a Sunday this year, there shouldn’t be a public holiday in lieu on the Monday as it would be disrespectful (something I agreed with). But there was a public outcry against the idea and so the holiday stood. Likewise Kmart and other retailers recently applied to be able to trade on ANZAC Day morning, which RSLs were outraged by. Both cases show that people are beginning to associate ANZAC Day as more of a holiday than a day of reflection, which is troubling.

 

I’ve come across that kind of thing myself. I caught the bus home from Bondi on Saturday and a couple stood next to me, about my age or perhaps slightly older. Their language was vulgar, so much so that I won’t repeat most of it, and they spent most of the trip talking about an all-day party they were having on Sunday, planning to get so wasted they’d need Monday and Tuesday to recover and to “fuck like bunnies” all night. I have no idea if they even knew Sunday was ANZAC Day or not. Worse, though, they were standing in the way of the door and when an elderly woman stumbled into them as she was getting off, one of them called after her, “Fucking bitch. I should hit you so fucking hard for that. I hope you drop dead.”

They really got under my skin. First, I don’t see why such abysmal language is necessary in public. There was a little girl in front of me who heard all of it – and believe me, most of it she definitely wouldn’t have heard before. But much worse was the way they treated the woman. She was old enough to have been a nurse or war bride in World War II; is this the way we talk to our elders? To abuse them the night before ANZAC Day? Who knows what she has seen or done in her life. And what about the party? Getting that wasted on ANZAC Day of all days? Don’t you have any respect?

Maybe I’m off the mark but I think the ANZAC legacy deserves more respect than that. I know the original ANZACs wanted ANZAC Day to be as much a day of celebration as commemoration but I think the very least you can do is to spare a few minutes to think about how lucky we are for all we have on this one day of the year – and perhaps to abstain from getting so drunk that you won’t be able to remember any of it in the morning.

But perhaps it’s ignorance that is the real problem. After all, how can you really respect something if you don’t know the true story behind it? I wonder how many Australians actually know the true story of Gallipoli? Not the legend that has arisen since but what really happened? Somehow I doubt many do. There’s a famous quote by Alan Bond after winning the America’s Cup; his crew had been behind at one stage and he commented afterwards “it was just like Gallipoli, and we won that one”. That is simply wrong (not to mention insensitive). The Gallipoli campaign was a complete disaster from the beginning, ending when the Allies pulled out in January 1916 – yet it’s a misconception I hear again and again. Likewise many young people believe the first ANZACs gave their lives to protect Australia from invasion. Again that’s not true. The Allies were the invaders; the purpose of the campaign was to capture Istanbul (then Constantinople) and provide sea access to Russia, a campaign in a war we joined because of our ties to Great Britain. Also, Gallipoli is often referred to as the birth of our national consciousness, but the Western Front was just as important. Some Australians don’t even seem to know that New Zealand was part of the ANZAC Corps as well: at least one student at Queensland University was “shocked” recently when a New Zealand professor told them what ANZAC really stood for.

I can’t say any of it surprises me. I’m convinced the majority of Australians (and perhaps it’s true for other countries as well) don’t know their own history well enough. If we did there would be more sympathy for Indigenous Australians in particular and figures like Ned Kelly and Jimmy Governor wouldn’t be so notorious. I guess I can understand why; history is often dull and legends tend to take on lives of their own. But I don’t believe you can know who you are unless you know where you truly come from. That’s why I’ve always been interested in learning about the colonies, and Gallipoli, and why I began to research my family tree as well. I think most Australians would be surprised by how different much of our history really is. I doubt many people even know the extent of our deployments outside of Gallipoli, or just how close we came to being occupied by Japan in World War II.

I guess I’m just afraid that we’re slowly losing what is really important about ANZAC Day: remembering the fallen and our troops around the world, and the true cost and horror of war. Instead some people barely seem aware of it; for others it’s becoming more a day of national pride and while there is room for that as well, it shouldn’t be the focus. Each year ANZAC Day is being commemorated by more young people, at their schools and with their families, so that is a good sign at least. It shows they want to remember, to hear the stories and know what happened. If we can pass on the true history of Gallipoli to them, then the real Anzac spirit should never be forgotten.

In any case, I wanted to do a post to commemorate the 95th anniversary but I thought I’d post this on the 26th instead as I didn’t want my views to seem disrespectful. I thought I’d do something special as well, so I’ve put together another photo post, to show what the world and war was really like at that time.

The photos are from the Australian War Memorial, the State Library of NSW, the National Library of New Zealand and the National Media Museum on Flickr. They are all from World War I and II. Lest we forget.

And to all of our troops around the world, stay safe. We’re thinking of you, always.

Click here to see the photos

Historic Sydney

This is my first post in a while. I haven’t been feeling well and to make things worse I’ve been having computer problems as well. I can barely use my computer at the moment; it makes a constant grinding noise and just crashes without warning. I even lost some of my work yesterday when it crashed. No backups. Ouch. I’ve been putting it off but I’ll have to get it looked at later this week. Hopefully it won’t be too expensive to fix.

I’ve got a pile of emails and comments in my inbox I haven’t been able to get to yet (sorry!) but one good thing is it’s given me more time to write. I’ve finally been able to develop a few ideas further and I also started an early draft of a new story which is going well so far.

One of the stories I’ve been working on is based on an older idea, about a man who wakes from a coma only to find that the world he knew is gone. I haven’t had much time to work on it previously but I’ve always liked the idea and wanted to develop it further. At its heart it’s about exploring our world through the eyes of a stranger and it’s still only in the early stages but already it feels quite different to anything I’ve written before. I could see it being a novel one day.

I’ve been doing some research for the story (when my computer’s been working anyway), looking at how different trends change over time, and The Commons on Flickr has been an excellent resource. If you don’t use Flickr, The Commons is a photographic archive from different institutions around the world and it’s been fascinating looking at the collections, seeing how things like architecture, fashion and hairstyles have evolved over time.

The Powerhouse Museum and the NSW State Library are both part of The Commons and some of the images of Sydney are incredible; they date back to the beginning of the 20th century, some to even earlier when the colony was still forming. Most of the buildings don’t exist anymore and it’s an incredible insight into what life was really like back then.

The photo above is one of my favourites. It dates back to around 1920 and is of Marie-Celeste de Villentroy, the daughter of a photographer in Sydney at the time. It’s a beautiful portrait, hand-coloured. It’s also one of the few times I’ve seen the Red Ensign flag used so noticeably.

I spent Australia Day looking through The Commons last week and as I haven’t posted in a while, I thought it’d be fun to post some of my favourites photos. To share a little history. Most are of common landmarks in Sydney and should be familiar to people overseas.

There are quite a few photos, so I’ve posted more after the break. Enjoy.

This photo is of Market Street in the CBD, around 1875. The buildings were made of weatherboard and sanitation was a notorious problem in the area. You can see how the plague spread so rapidly a few years later. Rent was 21 shillings.

A view of Sydney from the old General Post Office in Martin Place (1900), in the central CBD. Many of these buildings were knocked down for development during the 1900s. The GPO was privatised in 1996 and now houses shops and cafes.

Martin Place, circa 1900. Martin Place was originally Moore Street and has changed a lot in 100 years but much of it is still recognisable. It was closed to traffic in 1971 and is now a pedestrian mall.

Queen Victoria Markets (1900), now the Queen Victoria Building. The QVB is one of my favourite buildings in Sydney; it’s mostly untouched and the inside has been carefully restored with many of its original features.

More photos after the break