Advance Directive of Romaine Rutnam,

6/2 Chapman Crescent, Avoca Beach NSW 2251 Australia

If I should lose a meaningful quality of life, and if I do not have a reasonable chance of regaining a meaningful quality of life, then I refuse medical treatment that will have the effect of prolonging my life.


For me, a meaningful quality of life is one where I can recognise and respond to the people I love, and where I can contribute to their wellbeing as I have in the past.  This means that I do not accept the prospect of continuing to exist if I cannot think, speak, write, hear and listen, eat or look after my daily needs.


If, due to any accident or development of any illness, I lose the quality of life I have just described, and the chance of regaining that level of ability is less than 90% within three months, then I request that all medical treatment (that is, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR); supplemental, intravenous or tube feeding; or limited, surgical or intensive care) be ceased.  Any distressing symptoms (including any caused by lack of food or fluid) are to be fully controlled by analgesic or other treatment, even though that treatment shortens my life.


Since the early 1990s I have been a member, and am now a life member, of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society of New South Wales.  In 1996 I first signed and had independently witnessed the first Advance Directive form then distributed by the society.  My views have not changed since then; if anything, they have strengthened towards preferring to die rather than continue to exist in a situation described above.


To indicate that my views are enduring, I here note that I have appointed two enduring guardians in Gosford, NSW, on 17.6.2003, and I ask them to be guided by my wishes as stated in this advance directive.


I ask that if I end up in hospital as a result of an accident, a copy of my advance directive be placed prominently at my bed and also that it be given to my care managers.  Further, if any physician attending me is unwilling to accept my guardians’ directions, I direct my guardians to release such physician of the responsibility for my care and to arrange to transfer me to the care of a physician who can accept such directions.


(Verna) Romaine Rutnam
31 October 2006

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Dimitris Tzoumakas, Merry Sydney. Melbourne: Owl Publishing, 2005.
Presentation at the 1st Hellenic Week organised by the Hellenic Community of Central Coast Inc. 18 November 2005.

I want to start by acknowledging the Indigenous peoples whose lives were disrupted so tragically by the first European migrants to settle on this land where we meet today. I also congratulate my friends Phocion and Anastasia Vouros for their inspiration, energy and commitment in organising this inaugural Hellenic week to celebrate their culture and its recent developments on the central coast of NSW. We first met through our mutual interest in protesting against the Australian government’s decision to join the 2003 war against Iraq against the wishes of the vast majority of its citizens. Since then we have discovered other shared interests in humour, politics, music and cinema.

When Phocion first brought Merry Sydney to me in early October, along with a copy of Greek Voices in Australia published in 1988 to celebrate Australia’s bicentenary, I trusted that his judgment in choosing me to present this to you today would be a wise one. He knew that I was also a migrant to Sydney, but from a different – Ceylonese/Sri Lankan – culture. I hoped he knew what he was doing when planning to give you an unusual perspective on this example of modern Hellenic culture in Australia.

I am a great believer in the significance of first impressions and instinctive reactions. As I usually do with new texts I have to study, I decided to read through Merry Sydney quickly and then put it away for a while. I read that Dimitris Tzoumakas was born in Athens in 1945 (2 years before I began my life in Colombo) and lived in Paris during the years of the Greek military dictatorship (1968-1974), studying sociology under a French scholarship. He then migrated to Australia in 1974 (I had arrived 5 years earlier) and after a first year with Standard Telephones and Cables, he worked for the Greek community as a journalist for the newspapers Panellinios Kirykas and Eleftheri Foni and also in their afternoon schools till 1983. In 1979 he went into business opening a shop which he kept until the end of 1982 when he returned to his studies which ended with a PhD from the University of Sydney in 19?? (which I also achieved, in 1990).

The title Merry Sydney implies a joyous, festive city. But the first short prose sketch in the book is headed Fear of Lifts.


It reads, in total:

It’s a big problem for me near the centre of town. When they open their metallic jaws and lob you up to level twenty or thirty to pay your taxes or to pay the police to get off your back. Always the fear that the movement will stop and leave you stuck in mid-air, hanging onto a hook or a body of some other species. The fear of exploding like a football with the suspense before the firemen arrive. Without ever getting to see The Ministry of Fear, Spinalonga, L’enfer des gosses, Floods and seismic plants, Threads of lava. With your face unshaven and in exile over the first deathbed poem.

Okay, no joyousness there. But lots of allusions which I did not understand, and an overall sense of unease and threat.


Headings of the prose sketches in the original text are shown in bold. Text in italic here copy the translator’s use to indicate the author’s original use of words and foreign words.


The second sketch is called Our own concept and it is nothing about Sydney or merriment either. There are references to a father sitting weeping at the kitchen table from evening until sunrise in ’56; executions coming to an end; the big German radio broadcasting marches and searches for missing persons via the Red Cross.

The last two sentences on the page read: Villages carried away by landslides, springs drying up, incursions by foreign locusts, father’s inadequate pension and the dictatorship of ’67, all this opened the way for a new migration. We had our own concept of pride.

The third page is titled The first evening and its opening sentence reads “When I first descended upon Sydney in 1974, I liked the airport café and the vegetation.” My instantaneous reaction was to remember my own emotions on flying into Mascot in February ‘69. My eyes had looked for, but could not see, the tropical green vegetation that was familiar to me. I was remembering the deep thrill I felt at my first experience of flying over the dense jewelled cover of coconut trees over southern Ceylon as Peter, my husband of one month, and I took off on our emigration journey three days earlier. Now all I saw was a mass of red roofs and the occasional blue swimming pool but no green that I could recognise. I felt my heart breaking.

(It took me more than ten years to get used to the grey-green of Australia’s eucalypt tree lines, and to even welcome them on my return to this country. This happened after making my first overseas trip alone, to Europe, when I had attended a conference in Yugoslavia, and then visited Germany and The Netherlands. I remember clearly that it was on my hearing the Customs official saying “G’day” to me that morning in September 1981 as I handed him my Australian passport and entry card, that I felt for the first time that I was an Australian and so happy to be ‘back home’.)

But while my first impression of arriving in Sydney made tears fill my eyes, the rest of that day was indeed merry for me. My sister Sonia, who had come to study at the National Institute of Dramatic Art in 1962, met us at the airport. She drove Peter and me to Willoughby, to lunch with my favourite aunt and my closest cousins whom I hadn’t seen since they migrated to Sydney in 1958. Sonia then took us to an old-fashioned boarding house in Neutral Bay where we stayed for a week before renting a single-bedroom flat with amazing views north and west over the North Sydney expressway. Our two weeks of job-hunting involved us taking those glorious ferry rides across the harbour, until we both found our first jobs that we could walk to. I was just 22, newly married, and excited about making an independent life in this new country which had treated so many of my extended family so well.

My initial reading of the rest of the book confirmed for me that the experiences of migration and settlement described here were very different from mine. (Readers are warned on a special page before the Translator’s Preface that “Apart from obvious historical references, all characters and situations in Merry Sydney are to be understood as fictitious.”) The overall impression was one of great pain and sadness. Listen to the power of these words:

(p17) …I gaze upon my loved ones. Felicity is moaning in her sleep, the boy is crying in his sleep, and the little girl is babbling in an unknown language. No foreigner and no comrade has ever stroked my kids’ hair. They have shown them contempt, jostled them, insulted them…

(p29) …You are here and you are not there. I’ve tried to say it but it is impossible. I don’t understand their language and I don’t even want to understand, I don’t like their music, I don’t like their dances, their ironical manner, I have no taste for their food or their sports or their races or their poker machines – the cars go on the wrong side of the road; everyone’s killing themselves to get there in time, the cats are like animals fattened for slaughter. I don’t like their eyes, the rejection, the contempt which I read there. I am becoming misanthropic and antisocial. Every presence is itself a foreign presence. You are foreigners and I am a foreigner, that is an idea which I must maintain, I don’t need you, my Culture is French, my mother could have been Parisian, my dreams and plans are of escaping. Goodbye.

(p43) …We had some crazy times, Felicity and I, and all the rest is mere detail… In the morning we would put our heads on the train lines and at mid-day we would eat slices of watermelon… on moonlit nights we would swim naked without flippers among historic wrecks… Then they took us into the factory and timed us. That’s where I lost my tongue.

(p49) Felicity remembers her father… He worked as a cobbler in the army boot store. He kept threatening to cut the captain’s throat with his paring-knife. At night he would kick the pillows, tuning in secretly to Radio Moscow on the radio. They lived in a basement in Athens and Felicity would climb on to a chair to try to reach the window, but she couldn’t. Felicity came top in reading Aristotle, but she worked as a seamstress in a Sydney factory…

(pp58-59) A universal desire. Just recently there has been a universal desire among immigrants to return home. They are going back. They are taking with them their furniture, the Danish-style lounge suites, the towels with kangaroos on them… There is a tendency to want to escape, I thought as I went home on the tram. There’s exhaustion in the factories, deadly boredom in the clubs, a vacuum at home, a kind of neutralisation. We are alive and not alive, in an exotic land, we’re sad, under the powerful sun, at risk from skin cancer. There’s no chance of anyone listening to you and understanding you, and so there’s no reason for a Revolution, not yet…

(p85) …When I’m dying my kids will sing hymns to me in English. “Be brave, Jim”, they’ll say. And I feel sick when people call me Jim, and brave is something I’ve never managed to be… ‘Certainly we had dreams. We were great people. We had a History. A great History which ended up by emerging from the sewers like a snake and winding itself round our necks…’

What more could I tell you about this book? When I talked to Phocion about my doubts, his reaction was, ‘Well, it’ll be a short meeting!’ I left it aside, having to meet other obligations and make visits to relatives, doctors and the Tax Office in the coming weeks.

I am a great believer in luck, or serendipity word I prefer and have adopted for my life, using it to name the house I designed and had built in Canberra in 1994, and then the philanthropic foundation I established in 2002. While visiting relatives and friends in Victoria

Serendipity is a word coined by the 18th century English author Horace Walpole in his The three princes of Serendip to mean ‘the faculty of making happy and unexpected discoveries by accident’. Serendip (or Serendib as I learned it in my native country) was the name given to it by the early Arab traders. In researching this paper I (re) discovered the fact that “Ceylon has almost as many names as India has religions. Some of Alexander the Great’s companions who visited the Island around 300 BC called it Taprobane; Ptolemy, the Alexandrian astronomer, geographer and mathematician, drew the first map ca AD 150, using the names Simundu or Palai-Simundu, and Salike… another form he used was Sila-Diva (from Sinhala-dvipa), which later became Serendib… [Roloff Beny, Island Ceylon. London: Thames and Hudson, 1970: 9.]

I listened in the early morning of 16th October to the Encounter program on ABC Radio National, something I would regularly do before I stopped being a practising Christian and became a Marxist. The topic was Tragic Vision: the Abandoned Vision of the West? I knew I had to listen carefully since I felt instinctively that it would give me the framework I needed for this presentation.

I had read the translator’s preface to this book, but had to return to Avoca Beach to
re-read these words:

‘I write in a dead language’. As with so much in Merry Sydney, the perception of life behind that declaration is basically tragic. Not in the classical Greek manner, involving the fates of kings and heroes, but tragic in a broader sense: the life experiences of ordinary people who came to escape poverty and oppression, and who did indeed escape, but at a very heavy price… The alienation, the jostling for dubious status in a closed community, the paranoia, but equally the quiet stoicism: ‘Zoe is not worried about dying. The problem for her is who will take the kids to school’…

The radio program was a superbly edited “exploration of the idea of tragedy … given originally as a lecture at Boston College” by David Tracy, whom Margaret Coffey introduced as “amongst the most renowned of contemporary theologians … at the University of Chicago”.

Tracy says of his lecture title, “Tragic Vision: the Abandoned Vision of the West?"

…And the question is Nietzsche’s question and Simone Weil’s question, namely, for Nietzsche as you know famously in The Birth of Tragedy, he maintained that the tragic vision of the Greeks – he meant Aeschylus and Sophocles, he didn’t like Euripides – was the greatest vision that the West had produced in terms of understanding suffering and joy, and ability to say in the midst of that what he loved to call a yes, not a no, to life in all its complexity.

And he thought it had been undone principally by two forces, first what he called the optimism of reason, a philosophy as it emerged in Socrates and in Plato’s reading of Socrates, and what he also thought with Judaism and Christianity was a kind of resentment of the tragic vision. And he thought it was terribly necessary for modern Western culture to recover that vision.

I love to put him with Simone Weil because she too thought that Western culture had foolishly let go or abandoned the tragic vision at the heart of the culture. But unlike Nietzsche, and I am much more with her on this, she did not think that Plato had abandoned it at all and she certainly did not think that Christianity had – especially in the Gospel of Mark and in other moments in Christianity like John of the Cross or Pascal, many others. I agree with her on both of those. But I agree with both Nietzsche and Weil on the import for all of us, no matter what our other position, not to let the element, I’ll say, of tragedy be lost, whether it be philosophy, theology, religion or art. If we do, we lose something both peculiar and deep in Western culture.

The afternoon before I listened to these words, I had visited one of my former Philosophy lecturers from the University of Ceylon. He had migrated with his family to Melbourne in 1988 after being threatened and hounded out of his job because he was a Tamil who opposed the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam. After that visit I had felt a sense of regret that I could no longer keep up with his still-vibrant interest in philosophy. But after hearing that radio program, I was reminded of my own philosophical groundings, which began with Judaeo-Christianity throughout my childhood. They were strengthened by my first university studies in 1965-66 of early Greek, Indian and Buddhist philosophies as well as my personal readings of Christian theologians including English versions of the work of French woman Simone Weil. I had to wait till my Masters studies at Sydney’s Macquarie University in 1976 to read and appreciate Nietzsche, in translation.

I now felt that I had something more useful to contribute to this celebration of Hellenic culture than a first-brush reaction to Alfred Vincent’s English translation of Tzoumakas’ book.

On the radio, David Tracy described what he sees as the three basic elements of tragedy.

First, necessity. Second, intense suffering, sometimes as a result of that necessity. And something like an active, I call it, human response to that suffering – it need not be heroic, but active. Together these involve a yes to life as it is, as one actually tries to live it, as involving necessarily suffering and joy and often both together.

First, necessity, or as Simone Weil nicely called it, the reality of force that is present in every human life. We will all die, those we love die, disease comes, pain comes, separation comes… It is for Weil what the tragic vision starting with the Iliad would never turn their eyes away from…

If one believes in a strong sense of providence, as the ancient Stoics, the Jews, the Platonists, the Christians, later the Muslims clearly did and do, or alternatively if one believes in a strong sense of fate, as the Greek tragedians did, as Nietzsche tried to do and perhaps succeeded with his famous amour fate – to accept your fate, to love your fate, to go forward with it – we still in most such accounts have enough free will to respond to whatever comes to us as chance, fate, providence, fortune, as necessity in our lives…

Now I am aware that there are strictly…determinist positions in the West – classical Calvinism, for example, on double pre-destination, some readings of Freud on the power of the unconscious as our fate, some readings of Stoic providence, some readings of the last writings of Augustine, some readings of fate or kismet in Islam. These latter positions I believe, however, are in fact rare in Western culture… And they are not, at least in my sense, tragic. If they are true, we are in effect as Plato says in the Laws perhaps mere puppets in the hands of the gods who use us for their pleasure…

If chance rules, necessity…and therefore a tragic sensibility is hardly eliminated… I did not choose to be born; indeed my existence or yours is, as you well know, statistically most improbable. You can call it fate or chance or providence, but you have to deal with it.

For here I am or you are, born into a particular family, a particular culture, language, moment of history, society, with particular genetic structure, all of which can be part of that original chance, fated, providential beginning; all of which become necessities that poorly, or at the limit, or almost wholly if I don’t respond – tragedy is always response – determine who it is I will become and how I will respond.

It is, I repeat, merely a further reflection on what I consider Simone Weil’s brilliant comment: it all depends on what word you use if you are thoughtful about what you say, for what you do and to what happens to you – chance, fate, providence…

These have been long quotations from David Tracy’s lecture but I think they are so apt in describing Dimitris Tzoumakas’ carefully chosen words in his creative response to Hellenic migration experiences in Sydney. I want to add just a few more of Tracy’s thought-provoking views on the tragic vision, before finishing with a recommendation to you all, and a question to Dimitris.

…in my judgment one of the greatest attractions of the original Greek tragic vision of life…is it does not attempt an answer to the question as its principle response: why do we suffer?… Tragic vision tends to shift the ground from answer to question, from thought even to feeling, and reflecting on suffering from ‘why?’ to ‘how can I respond, whatever the why, with yes as a human being to the suffering as well as the joy in life’?

…Tragedy should never be an occasion, as it has been used of course, to just speak of fatalism or what can you do anyway or there’s no use resisting. The tragic ‘yes’ is also a yes that demands resistance, that demands resistance to any of the evil that one finds in life but clear headed, realising that one must do it but one must not assume one should succeed…

…the tragic vision is a vision that can be borne by an honest facing of what happens to us and how we respond to chance, to fate, to providence, to necessity – active, not necessarily heroic…

…Simone Weil…says that “This vision that helped to determine the West, for her first in the Iliad, then in the Greek tragedies, then in the Gospel of Mark, then in other text she says is usually forgotten. But it should not be and it keeps re-emerging happily in our culture. And it will last, as long as people know that there is fate, there are things that happen to one and especially to others, and there is such a thing as compassion and justice…

In concluding, I’ll give you some of the few, less tragic and even fairly merry, descriptions of Sydney I found in Tzoumakas’ book.

(p63) Sydney summers are torture: like a multicoloured [I found an interesting Freudian slip when I came to re-read my first typing of this word, which I made multicultured] umbrella, the little parrots wake you at five with their merry calls.

(p89) Heat after rain with the window open and the night-flower’s scent heavy like a hammer…

(p21) …the kids will come home by themselves at the hour when Australians begin to hang their bellies over pub bars.

And the last sketch in the book is actually titled Merry Sydney and since it is as short as the opening one, I will read it to you in full, so you appreciate the strength of Tzoumakas’ imagination.

Snow has fallen in Sydney. The city has put on its bridal dress. Armies of the unemployed are working now to clear the snow in Turramurra and Wooloomooloo [sic]. The German SS assault brigades are retreating, leaving boot-prints in the snow. Lithe first-years from the model Bilingual Christian Girls’ High School are out on skates, throwing crumbs to the birds, reciting cancerous verses by the Reverend Brother Ambrose and discussing the writings of the cabbala. All the faces are shining with happiness in the sawn-off light of alcohol and the moon, I am, I do not exist, I have no possible solution, no outlet, no ally, no company, what does exist is apathy and bitter cold, what does exist is the pipe of a melted snowman.

My recommendation to the non-Greek-speaking listeners here today is to do yourselves a favour and buy a copy of this book.

My question to Dimitris Tzoumakas relates to the “I” in the sketch titled Like a painting, who says “I don’t like … their ironical manner”. Am I correct in presuming that “I” is not you, since I found all of your text an excellent example of eironeia, another gift of Hellenic culture which I think is well absorbed in Australian humour. Would you agree with me?

Romaine Rutnam
Avoca Beach
12 October 2005

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MY MUSIC HISTORY for 2 January 2007


This is an explanation for the compilation of the music which Saratoga sound engineer Peter Little recorded onto 4 CDs to be played as background music for my 60th birthday party at the Museum of Contemporary Art’s Circular Quay Terrace.  The idea for this celebration, and the musical history, came out of the wonderful holiday my new German friends Rosmarie and Sigi gave Tony and me last year in Brisbane and North Stradbroke Island.  It turns out I share this birthday with Rosmarie’s husband Eberhard Wenzel, an important PHAA colleague who sadly died prematurely in 2003.  Some of the years below are arbitrarily chosen, especially the earliest years before 1951, my first clear musical memory.  But all the music chosen for the years 1947 to 2005 has some significance, as I outline briefly below.

1947 - 1964

1947 Johannes Brahms, Wiegenlied.

This is taken from a wonderful compilation of songs by Victoria de los Angeles which I recorded onto cassette before giving the CD to brother Brian when he bought his first CD player.  I chose this lullaby for my first year because I remember trying to play the piano version as a reluctant pupil of Irene van der Wall in Colombo.

1948 Namo, namo, Matha           

This is the year of Ceylon’s independence from British rule, so I placed its national anthem here.  I loved singing the anthem at all our Bishops’ College prizegivings.  This version is recorded off uncle Ben (Chappie)’s 45rpm single.

1949 Nat King Cole, Mona Lisa

For some unclear reason I associate this with my aunt Bianca, but all of the songs on this cassette are full of memories of Radio Ceylon.  I bought it when sister Sonia was at Brindabella Gardens Nursing Home in Canberra and I was trying to find music she might enjoy listening to.  In the end I brought the cassette home after several of her other tapes had been stolen, and because I still love listening to all the songs on this collection.

1950 All people that on earth do dwell
This is from a cassette of Favourite Hymns from the Temple Church, with organist and choirmaster George Thalben-Ball.  I bought it to listen to on my drives from Austinmer to partner Graham’s Royal Park unit in Melbourne in 1986-87 in a vain attempt to find a replacement for the wonderful compilation of Bach’s music and hymns which his father Dick and I had worn out through overplaying.  This particular hymn reminds me especially of Chappie whose wonderful bass voice always led our Ferdinands family lunches’ grace after he married Bianca in 1958.

1951 “The Lone Ranger” theme
This is the last part of Gioachino Rossini’s overture to his opera William Tell (borrowed from Brian) which I associate with one of the gifts our parents, Walter and Doreen, brought back to Colombo after their big overseas trip this year – three vinyl records telling stories to musical backgrounds.  The Lone Ranger was for Brian, and Sonia’s was a red vinyl story about Treasure Island.  I found it interesting, when Brian was helping me to put years to my Colombo music in July 2006, that I couldn’t remember what my story/record was – until he sang Alice in Wonderland in an American accent.

1952 Maurice Ravel, Bolero
None of my Sydney family can vouch for the accuracy of my memory of hearing this played interminably on Radio Ceylon after the accidental death of our Prime Minister DS Senanayake in this year after a fall from a horse.  Brian, whose memory I (and most of our family) have marvelled over, couldn’t believe that they’d play such a sexy piece on such an occasion.  However, Tony agrees with me that it is funereal (and boring, in his view) so I have limited this excerpt to about 5 minutes.  Of course the other connection I have to this music is its choice for their brilliant ice-skating competition winner by Torvell and Dean, whom I went to see at the Sydney Entertainment Centre in, perhaps, the late 1980s, with my (Wollongong) Illawarra Area Health Service colleague Pam Poultney.

1953 It’s a long way to Tipperary
This is one of the many songs I associate with Doreen, Brian, Sonia and I whiling away long car rides on our annual holidays out of Colombo.  (Daddy was NOT a singer, his deafness in one year caused by a basketball injury when he was at Antioch College only adding to his tone deafness.)  Brian and I only discovered in October 2006 our Irish ancestry through our Canadian Granny Rutnam’s father who was born in Killyclare, Co Cavan in 1843.

1954 Paul Robeson, Trees
The year my father bought what became our much beloved four bedroomed holiday house Craigbank in Nuwara Eliya, I remember this as one of the many wonderful 78rpm records we inherited, along with the wind-up gramophone (which needed copper needles which, when blunted, we threw into the hydrangea bushes in the garden) and all the furniture, from the returning British colonial owners, the Layards.

1955 Bill Haley, Rock around the clock
What a revolution in my musical tastes began with this song and film! 

1956 Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan, Three little girls from school, The Mikado

I have chosen this as the most significant memory from the annual Gilbert and Sullivan performances by the Colombo Singers (from 1955 to 1968 before I left Sri Lanka), because it was sung this year by Doreen and my two aunts here, Carmen and Bianca.

1957 Tom Lehrer, The Wiener schnitzel waltz

While Brian brought Tom Lehrer back with him after his visit to Camp Rising Sun, New York in 1956, I’ve chosen this one for its connection with our wonderful Colombo family friends Max Beck (Czech born), Mimi (Viennese born) and Eva (born in India), with whom we visited most Sunday evenings and every Christmas Eve till 1962.  Mimi has continued to treat Tony and me to her superb Wiener Schnitzel on each visit we’ve made to her home in Palo Alto since 1993.

1958 Elvis Presley, Jailhouse Rock

Of the many songs I could have chosen (I was a devoted fan in Colombo), I picked this for my happy memory of Sonia singing this in her deep bass voice, playing air guitar.  This was the year of the fantastic film which I think we saw at The Majestic cinema on the Galle Road.

1959 George Gershwin, Rhapsody in Blue

I associate this with the visit to Colombo (also 1958) by Walter’s former Antioch colleague’s widow Rache Wilcox, son Bob and daughter Mary.  Mary played this on our piano, and after Brian bought the record, I loved dancing to it on the blue/grey living room carpet in Bullers Road.

1960 Noel Coward, I like America

This choice is for my father who loved America with a passion. (I will always regret not knowing him after I became an adult – he died in 1963, and I’d particularly have liked to know what he would have made of the US role in Vietnam, and my protests in Australia against the war.)  This song is also special because in 1970 or so, when my Sydney boss offered me a trip to Time-Life headquarters in Chicago for further training, one of my reasons for rejecting was “In Chicago, Illinois/ every girl who meets a boy/ giggles and shoots him dead!”

1961 Johnny Mathis, The twelfth of never

Sonia loved Johnny Mathis and this was one of her favourite songs, as it is of mine, though I also love his When Sunny gets blue.  I was thrilled when Pam Poultney gave me this CD of his greatest hits after one of her house sits for us in Canberra.

1962 Léo Delibes’ The bell song from Lakmé, sung by Lily Pons

I loved all the highlights of this opera which Brian would play frequently.  I remember him telling his Aquinas College friends that I could sing it and hold the final top note.

1963 Vaughan Williams, Greensleeves

It was a hard task choosing between this, the Fantasia on a theme by Thomas Tallis, and The lark ascending, but I ended up with Greensleeves for its connection with Simon and Garfunkel’s version included in the marvellous film The Graduate, and the musical box with this tune which was the gift I chose for niece Anusha when she was born in 1988.

1964 The Beatles, A hard day’s night

Brian reckons this was the year he and I and several Aquinas friends dressed up like the Beatles (our hair brushed over our faces) to see this film at The Savoy cinema.  Brian put a flower on the back buckle of his chinos.  I wore a long floppy sweater of my father’s, and since my hair was below waist length at the time, I had to part it once the lights went down, in order to see the film.  I was so envious of my cousin Denise who, in Australia since 1958, saw and heard the Beatles live on their tour in this year.

1965 – 1979

1965 Leonard Bernstein, I feel pretty

By this year, I knew every word of every song from the soundtrack LP which Brian brought back from the US in 1960.  I particularly identified with this one, and would sing it in front of my dressing table and mirror in the Bullers Road house.  I think the film of West Side Story is the last one I saw in Colombo, with Peter, just before we married and left for Australia in February 1969.

1966 The Beatles, Good day sunshine

So many songs to choose from, but I particularly loved all their songs about sunshine.

1967 The Beatles, Penny Lane

I remember singing this at the top of my voice when walking alone through wonderful tropical rain under aunt Carmen’s gift of a white umbrella, from Hilda Obeyesekere Hall to lectures on the Peradeniya campus of the University of Ceylon.

1968 Mikis Theodorakis, Zorba’s dance

I saw the film in Kandy with University balcony-mate Naomi Iijima (now Kondo), and we both loved it and this dance.  I now enjoy dancing to it each year with Phocion and Anastasia Vouros and their friends from the Hellenic Community of the Central Coast.

1969 The Beatles, Rocky Rackoon

The year Peter and I married and emigrated, we received two copies of The White Album as wedding gifts.  This is one of my favourites and it stands in for others with similar quirky characters and stories which I’ve had to leave out, particularly Eleanor Rigby which I remember talking about in an English tutorial at Peradeniya.

1970 Daddy Cool, Eagle Rock

I remember hearing this in every shop in Melbourne Peter and I visited when we travelled from Sydney there to visit his brother and family.

1971 Dave Brubeck, Take five

This was on one side of the first single I ever bought.  I was fascinated by the 5/4 rhythm.

1972 The east is red
I think this is the year Gough Whitlam, as opposition leader, visited China, and when the Sydney Morning Herald started covering China’s Communist developments in some detail.  I started to read everything I could about China from that time, until my shock at seeing the doctoring of a photo (with and without the Gang of Four) in the China Reconstructs magazines I used to subscribe to.  I don’t remember when I started studying Chinese at Sydney Tech at Broadway, but I first heard this anthem for Mao ZeDong during one of those Chinese classes.

1973 Joan Baez, There but for fortune
I think Peter received the album from which this came from his parents before we married, but so many of her songs I associate with our anti-Vietnam protests prior to 1972.  I decided to pick We shall overcome first, but thought it too dirge-like for this party.  “There but for fortune” is very much my feeling about my life(lives) – I’ve often thought I’d have been a great member of the Hitler Youth because of my childish love of marching, order and need for firm boundaries.

1974 The Band, Rockin’ chair
One of my favourites from two of Peter’s The Band albums I taped before we finally separated in 1977, I was privileged to sit in an old American (Kentucky) rockin’ chair in 2005.

1975 Janis Joplin, Me and Bobby McGee
I don’t remember when Peter bought the great album Pearl, but I do remember seeing the film of her short and troubled life at Macquarie University, to which I won a scholarship for my MA (coursework) at the end of this year.

1976 Planxty, As I roved out
This is the year I met Graham at Macquarie, and I loved him for loving this song when he first played it for me at his 25th birthday party the following year.

1977 Jimmy Cliff, You can get it if you really want
This is from the first album I ever bought, just after I left Peter in about July the year of my 30th birthday.  I remember dancing madly to this at a Glebe party organised by my Macquarie lecturers Ross Poole and Liz Jacka.

1978 Sara Gonzales, Viva Cubana
This is to remember the marvellous year Graham and I went to Cuba in a party of great Young Communists, for the USSR-sponsored World Festival of Youth and Students.

1979 The Bushwackers, And the band played Waltzing Matilda
I remember Doreen’s bemusement at hearing Graham and me singing this and other Aussie songs from this album of Graham’s when we visited her in Eastwood.  She used to say to me, when I stayed with her in Eastwood, “How angry you are!” – her way of protesting my communist views.


1980 Dolly Parton, 9 to 5
What a great film this was!  As a radical public sector unionist at the time, I encouraged lots of my colleagues to see it.

1981 The Internationale
A song I enjoyed singing at each triennial congress of the Communist Party of Australia while I was a member from 1977 to 1986, this was the year I first represented the Party at an international conference at Cavtat, Yugoslavia.  Neither Graham nor I can remember the exact year (perhaps 1982) when, to my amazement, we heard this sung at the end of the wedding ceremony of our friends Kathie Gibson and David Tait conducted by her brother at his Uniting Church near their parents’ stunning home in Clifton Gardens.  Regrettably this version, sourced by Peter Little, differs from the words I sang.

1982 Violetta Parra, Gracias a la vida
This is for my years in Wollongong’s Chile Solidarity Committee, 1981-1988.  It was recorded from Tony’s cousin Carol Cockburn’s CD, a gift from her daughter Pip and Chilean son-in-law Marcelo.

1983 Irene Cara, Flashdance – what a feeling
Graham introduced me to Countdown on ABC TV and I was absolutely bowled over by this videoclip.  I remember watching it, barely restraining myself from trying to dance as well as Irene Cara, at a Wollongong pub after a WRC (Workers’ Research Centre) meeting.

1984 Georges Bizet, Carmen (Habañera)
I absolutely loved Francesco Rosi’s film of this opera which came out this year, and remember coming from Wollongong to Sydney to go with Brian and Doreen to see it.  I bought the cassette of the highlights from the film with the stunning Julia Migenes Johnson, my first opera purchase.

1985 Gabriel Fauré, Messe de Requiem (In Paradisum)
I bought this cassette (with the choir of St Johns College Cambridge and The Academy of St Martin in the Fields) after Brian chose this piece to end the funeral service for Doreen, three weeks after Dick’s death.  I remember hearing the Colombo Singers singing the whole mass at St Michael’s and all Angels, Polwatte, the beautiful church I chose for my wedding in 1969.

1986 Lionel Ritchie, Hello
With this song I remember many phone calls to Graham in Melbourne after my Austinmer return.

1987 Paul Simon, Diamonds on the soles of her shoes
The wonderful Graceland album is associated for me with my fabulous 40th birthday party for 40 friends at the Railway Institute hall in Thirroul.  As I explained to those friends there, they were all different to the five other people at my 30th birthday party.  The pattern remains.  Only 4 (5 if Cathie makes it) of those 40 friends are here today.

1988 The time of my life (theme song from the film Dirty Dancing)
I have to thank Cathie for telling me to see this film, which I ended up seeing 10 times, taking different friends.  This is taken from the cassette made for me by Scottish born New Zealander Bill Cowie whom I had met at the end of 1987 at the Epidemiology workshop at Westmead Hospital.  I bought the video of the film just before moving to live with Tony in Canberra in early 1989.

1989 Pointer Sisters, Slow hand
From their Greatest Hits I bought shortly before I first met Tony, I associate this with that meeting thanks to Heather Saville.

1990 Richard Strauss, Im Abendrot
This last of the Four last songs is forever linked for me to dear friend Laurel Quillen (whom I met on the trip to Cuba) since Brian gave me this cassette of Jessye Norman’s singing to me at the time I first heard of her brain tumour.  This is for the year she eventually died, on the day I finalised my PhD thesis.  If someone decides to have a memorial service for me I want this played then, because it signifies the important change of my life from minor to major.

1991 Hector Berlioz, Nuits d’été (Villanelle)
I don’t remember when I first heard and grew to love this suite of songs, but it was definitely in Colombo.  I was distraught when I couldn’t find a cassette of the same singer, Eleanor Stéber, and was reluctantly persuaded, in Melbourne in 1985, to buy this version by Régine Crespin.

1992 WA Mozart, Concerto for flute and harp K299  (Andantino)
I first heard this amazing music in Milos Forman’s film of Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus, the last film I took my mother to see when she was staying with me in Melbourne for cousin Desiree’s wedding in 1985.  I remember playing this at full volume in Tony’s Cornish Place home to begin to get over the grief of Rolf’s death in Miami that Easter and Tony’s absence in Geneva shortly after.


1993 Glenn Miller, In the mood
Three weeks after Rolf’s death, Graham’s mother died and I remember Louise playing this at her wake at Toxteth Road.  This is from a CD I bought at Woolworths, Weston Creek.

1994 Cecilia Bartoli, Caro mio ben
Tony’s lovely accompanist Juliette Eagar introduced Cecilia Bartoli to us, and this is from the first CD of hers, of 18th Century Italian songs accompanied by pianist Gyorgy Fischer, Tony bought.  I regret that Doreen never lived to hear her stunning voice and see her beauty just as I regret she never met Tony or heard him sing with all the family at Sonia’s 50th birthday party in Canberra.

1995 Franz Schubert, Quintet in C Major (Adagio)
Four wonderful associations here:  I bought this version (by the Alban Berg quartet with Heinrich Schiff cello) after having to sing the opening bars of this movement on a visit from Canberra to Mollie Shelley in Artarmon, who identified it for me.  I had heard it in a truly lovely (non-violent) Canadian film The company of strangers.  I played this for David and Jim Adams, Tony’s cousins who visited us in the de Graaff place house in this year.  Finally, we heard it played live for us by the same quartet in the beautiful Theâtre aux Champs Élysées in Paris when we stayed with David and Jim’s sister Lyn Adams and her husband Carlos Widmann in 1998.

1996 WA Mozart, Zaïde (Ruhe zanft, mein holdes Leben)
This exquisite version sung by Kiri Te Kanawa turned out to be a favourite of other friends of my Wollongong and Canberra days, only one of whom is here today: Susan Lewis, Clift Barnard and Liz Furler.

1997 Fred Astaire, Fascinating rhythm
This is the year I learned to tap dance to this tune.  I began tap lessons in April the year before, as a remedy for the clinical depression I fell into after the end of my wonderful 18 months unpaid work leading up to the 3rd National Women’s Health Conference, held in Canberra in November 1995.  The dancing, learned with at least one other migrant (from Scotland) whose mother like mine had disapproved of tapping, was a very effective anti-depressant intervention, until the Howard Government’s policies (or my menopause) really began to bite later that September.

1998 Aaron Copland, Simple gifts
A cassette of Thomas Hampson’s wonderful singing of Copland’s American songs was the last gift from Juliette Eagar before her ghastly and premature death from cancer in 1996, a month after Tony’s mother Joan died.

1999 Richard Strauss, Zueïgnung
Tony sang this to Stuart Hamilton’s piano accompaniment at one of the Hamiltons’ wonderful soirèes in Campbell between 1997 and 2001 when they left Canberra for Melbourne.

2000 WA Mozart, Cosi fan tutte (Soave sia il vento)

This was the year of NCEPH’s Festschrift for Bob Douglas, and Tony sang in this trio as part of the NCEPH choir’s musical offerings on the wonderful occasion.  This version is taken from Brian’s highlights CD, sung by Charlotte Margiono, Delores Ziegler and Thomas Hampson with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Amsterdam.

2001 Benjamin Britten, Wolcum Yole!           
What turned out to be our last Christmas in Canberra, Carol Cockburn invited us to her friend’s concert conducting Britten’s Festival of Carols at Canberra Grammar School, Red Hill.  I first sang along with Brian’s record of all these carols in Colombo.

2002 Stephen Foster, My old Kentucky home
I was thrilled when Tony’s last concert in Canberra, of Stephen Foster songs, was at Manning Clark House, to Carol’s piano accompaniment.  The cassette of Thomas Hampson’s wonderful recording of these songs accompanied us on many happy long drives from Canberra to and from Erik’s Funkey Forest property at Upper Main Arm in the decade to this year.

2003 Georges Bizet, Les Pêcheurs de Perles, (Au fond du temple saint
This version, sung by Jussi Björling and Robert Merrill, is taken from my gift to Tony of his first CD and CD player in 1989.

2004 Victor Borge, Night and day
A wonderful antidote to depression in Canberra, I thought this brief excerpt appropriate for a birthday party.

2005 Johannes Brahms, Liebeslieder (Weiche Gräser im Revier)
A gift from Brian in the Canberra days, I was thrilled when Tony finally sang these fabulous lieder at the Central Coast Conservatorium last year.  This version is sung by Edith Mathis, Brigitte Fassbaender, Peter Schreier and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau.

2006 Timothy Rees, …)(chimera)(fantasia)(…

An original composition commissioned by me for this occasion, it is a trio for horn, cello and piano, first performed at the Central Coast Conservatorium’s Robert Knox Hall on 22 December 2006 by Paul Stiles (horn) and Timothy’s brother Peter Rees (cello) and father (Philip Rees) to an ovation from friends from the Central Coast branch of the Australian Federation of University Women, central coast people for peace and justice and the Avoca Beach Lantern Club.


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Living with depression July 2007

Hello X

Thanks for the opportunity to think about your questions.  Not sure if I'll come up with any bits of wisdom but here is what comes to mind after a good night's sleep and welcoming the sunshine this morning.

Actually, those are two very important things (for me, and apparently for most people) in “dealing with depression”.)   Not being able to sleep well was an early indicator of depression.  Sunshine has always been important for me, perhaps because it was a daily occurrence for the first 22 years of my life in Sri Lanka.

I’m still on the medication, but just 50mg of Zoloft each day, and am managing pretty well on that.  Since going off the trial CPAP treatment for apnea and snoring (when we went to Tokyo for those 2 weeks in May), my sleep patterns have worsened once more and I need to make a decision about whether I will invest in that machine or not.  It has worked very well for my brother, who has had much more severe depression than I, and who had a harder time of finding good treatment for his condition.  There definitely is family history of mental illness on our father’s side, but we don’t know what the diagnosis would be in today’s conditions – perhaps schizophrenia. 

In terms of interventions (rather than “treatments”) that have helped me:
exercise has been the most important on an ongoing basis.  I started learning tap dancing soon after taking my first bout of about seven weeks of leave (this time it was overdue recreation leave) from my paid work in 1996, and loved it.  Even though I had to drag myself to the weekly class on some of my worst “down” days, the happy music and the other women in the class (the kind of people whom I would never otherwise have met in my usual circles) made me feel better at the end of the hour.  After giving that up after a couple of years (because I felt the women wanted to chat more than dance!) I took up Tai Chi and loved that too.  Here in Avoca, I do two classes of 45 minutes of aquarobics each week, and try to walk for an hour or so on the other days of the week.  I am looking forward to my first Qi Gong class through U3A tomorrow.

Counselling was very important in the acute phase (and more so after I took a friend’s piece of advice that I should “sack” any therapist whom I felt wasn’t helping me).  3 of the 4 counsellors I saw in the first year or two were psychologists, and a third was an older man who had worked in Personnel and then as a Welfare Officer, and was recommended by a psychologist friend.  I also had 2 sessions with a psychiatrist (I had to wait 6 months to get in to see the person recommended by my GP, in Canberra) but I found him very unhelpful so didn’t pursue that avenue further.

Medication.  I first tried St John’s Wort (after my partner returned from a WHO meeting in Geneva and told me he’d read something about its effectiveness in an airline magazine).  It worked for a few months, but after a particularly stressful period at work (when the Howard government first started sacking the 10,000 or so public servants in August 1996 despite its election promise that PS numbers would be run down voluntarily by about 3000 over its first term of government) it didn’t work any more.  After I found myself spending about a month of my four day weekends (I’d been a 3-day-a-week part-timer since 1991) crying in bed, I woke up one morning and found I just couldn’t make myself go to work.  I finally agreed with my GP to go on Zoloft after starting on an eight week bout of sick leave, and I was very lucky that it worked for me within two weeks.  I have tried weaning myself off the Zoloft but have had two relapses since, so have resigned myself to staying on the lowest dose (50mg) per day for the time being.

Diet.  I read somewhere that an ideal meal to beat depression is a can of red salmon (with bones mashed up), tofu and baked beans, and have lived on that (as a weekly option) ever since, especially since this is also excellent for osteoporosis prevention.  Almonds, dark chocolate and a glass of red wine are also helpful treats.        

I am glad you will be covering prevention.  I have read Gabriel Cousens’ book Depression-Free for Life but have not (yet) taken it to heart.  Tony’s son Erik is one of his students and he is on his way today in fact to finalise his Masters’ course in Nutrition with him in Arizona USA next month.  I’m happy to lend the book to you if you do not know of it and think you would find it useful.

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