The Beast’s Monthly Mailbag – December 2017
PRAGMATISM AND COMMUNITY
A great opportunity now exists for a practical physical upgrade of Bondi Pavilion, incorporating top-shelf digital technology. It is with a great sense of relief that the totally impractical vision of the $42million+ upgrade, which ignored its beach location and weather dependency – not to mention its potential unavailability to the ‘salty’ people – is dead and buried. It is also with a great sense of relief that the Bondi community prevailed.
Real estate agents can ‘talk up’ our beach and be instrumental in racking up house prices, they can bring in ‘non-salties’ (who ultimately either join us or leave in a huff), but they can’t kill our deep and abiding commitment to our community.
We look forward with great anticipation to the results from Mayor John Wakefield’s hierarchy of needs assessment.
Convenor, Bondi Beach Precinct
HERE’S TO ‘THE HEAD’
The article by John Hamilton in the November 2017 edition of The Beast is very fortunate for both the writer and The Beast. Simply put, you cannot defame the dead. Yes, parts of it were true and Kevin was a great surfer in smaller waves and also a thief. Yes, he came from a broken family and grew up on the streets of Bondi with a limited education, and he was in many respects naïve. Surfing gave him hope and, via the hangers on and ‘wannabes’, also led to his early demise. He was not very bright and fell into a hedonistic pit, from which he could not escape.
It is also clear that the writer, together with that bloke from Celibate Rifles and many more, never knew ‘The Head’, so what do they base their lies and innuendo on? Your scribe, John Hamilton, quotes some unreferenced “hazy surf forum sources,” saying, “Legend has it Kevin could pick your pocket… and betray you within one hour.” What a load of crap!
Kevin did not have the subtlety to pick pockets. Some also confused him with his brother Phillip, also known as Phyllis, and he never gave anyone up – we never did that at Bondi. There may not be many of us left at Bondi who actually knew Kevin – who grew up and surfed with him. We tried unsuccessfully to pull him from that pit yet failed, but at least we know the word ‘respect’. You should show some and check your facts before you print lies and innuendo. RIP Kevin.
John ‘Red Ted’ Sullivan
KEVIN ‘THE HEAD’ BRENNAN – BONDI SURFING LEGEND
Dear Editor – It is sad that the article by John Hamilton regarding the late Kevin Brennan had to resort to innuendo and hearsay rather than stick to facts (The Tragic Tale of Kevin ‘The Head’ Brennan, The Beast, November 2017).
Those who knew Kevin will all agree that Kevin was the product of an abusive and traumatic home life. Kevin was often in trouble for antisocial behaviour and, sadly, experimentation into substances that led to his early demise. However, the article didn’t really capture the fact that Kevin sought and found solace and comfort in his beach, his friends, and often their families. Good Bondi people, such as the Brock family, set aside a bed in their home for Kevin so that he would have somewhere to go when he was violently forced out of his own home and left to roam the streets. The Elders at South Bondi, led by respected legends such as Barry ‘Magoo’ McGuigan, attempted to assist Kevin in facing his demons and at the same time marvelled at his skill as a surfer when he had only just become a teenager. These are the true facts and they can be substantiated, as many of those involved are still alive today.
To belittle a champion who can’t fight back, and use hearsay to do so, is not what I would call good journalism.
Nearly half a century on from Kevin’s passing and Mr Hamilton is making unsubstantiated, disgusting and defamatory statements about a Bondi legend based on “some other hazy surf forum sources”. I would suggest Kevin deserves better than such a cheap shot, and he should be allowed to rest in peace. He was a Bondi kid who did it tough and, sadly, got involved in a scene that he could not handle. He wasn’t the first and won’t be the last person to die in such a tragic way. That doesn’t mean they can be belittled by innuendo and fantasy statements from people who didn’t even know them.
Kevin’s lifetime mate, Ronny Silcock (now an artist), captured Kevin on canvas with his trophies (and grin) after Kevin had conquered the best surfers in Australia – including a world champion and later to be world champion – at Bondi in 1965 when he was only 15. He had already won the junior title, before stepping up to win the senior title. This has never been done again and was the happiest day of Kevin’s sad life.
I know Ronny’s painting of ‘The Head’ will one day take prime position in a surfing museum in the Bondi Pavilion. Kevin’s success on this particular day is factual Bondi history, witnessed by thousands, and that is how Kevin should and will be remembered.
Tony Rule, a South Bondi pioneer and surfing elder, said to a group of us at Bondi recently (all of us knew Kevin), “I always wondered whether ‘Head’ could swim, as I never saw him fall off his board.” That comment caused much laughter as we remembered the surfing prowess of a true Bondi surfing champion. I’m sure Kevin would have enjoyed hearing Tony’s recollection and the laughter that followed.
Nationals MP John Williams’ sudden passion for regulating mobility scooters because of a private encounter with an errant gopher is symptomatic of a wider problem (Don’t mess with Pearl’s Grey Army, The Beast, November 2017). Instead of employing a rational, needs-based, comprehensive methodology, it seems politicians of all persuasions are prone nowadays to hyperbole, conjecture, rumour, and dare I say it, vested interests (including their own) to inform policy.
Consider Pauline Hanson’s glib statements about the health of the Barrier Reef based on observations at one site which happened to be unaffected by bleaching, Tony Abbott’s callous assertion about people dying in cold snaps versus heat waves to validate his known bias against climate science, Annastacia Palaszczuk’s over-reliance on dubious assurances from the Adani Group, despite its troubled corporate history, and the list goes on. This is lazy, knee-jerk politics, which we tolerate at our peril.
Australians deserve more from our elected representatives. Good, fit-for-purpose lawmaking requires diligent enquiry, attention to detail, consultation with all stakeholders, and wise decision-making. Anything less is to our collective detriment and, frankly, just not good enough.
VALE NESTING SWALLOWS IN BRONTE BEACH CHANGE ROOMS
Dear Editors – Imagine if you will the joy and smiles in the ladies’ changing rooms at Bronte Beach after a pair of nesting swallows built a nest on a ledge high up above the showers.
The devoted parents came and went with food for their hungry chicks and occasionally swooped on people who came too close. The littlies too were absolutely fascinated by the whole thing.
Imagine, then, a couple of days ago when a group of us realised the nest, birds, and chicks were no more. How could this be? Well, it seems that someone had complained about the ‘dirty conditions’ in the changing room, so the council, in its wisdom, called in the contractors, and they, in their (very limited) wisdom, took the high pressure hose to the room and hosed the bejesus out of it, totally destroying the nest.
What were they thinking? For goodness’ sake, these birds were doing their best to raise chicks in an environment that is already under pressure from habitat destruction, people cutting down trees to get a better view, and cats and other introduced ferals.
I am truly disgusted, and I hope that Waverley Council gives the contractors, whoever they were, a dressing down, and gets better information than it clearly has on how to deal with birds like swallows (not exactly a common sight) that happen to nest in ‘inconvenient’ places.
MORE IDIOTS ON BIKES
As if there aren’t enough idiots on bikes already. At least the lycra set wear appropriate (sort of) gear and adhere (sort of) to the rules of cycling. These ‘casual jump on a bike with no helmet, thongs, or shoes’ warriors are a nuisance and even more of a hazard than the bikes they ride and leave lying around everywhere. If they Google a bike with no helmet so be it.
I am dreading the day that children’s deathtrap bikes are available. I have been advocating the ban of kids on bikes forever and, living near Arden Street, I watch kamikaze bike riders every day. It’s like the big dipper – weeee! God, parents, do you know how your kids are cheating death every day by allowing them to ride bikes home in the name of clean transport? Had my rant…
FISHERIES MANAGEMENT NOT AT WORK
I enjoy your magazine immensely, but this particular article made my hackles rise. In Fisheries Management at Work (The Beast, October 2017), Dan Trotter purports to care for the sustainability of our fish stocks, while the accompanying image shows someone standing next to a huge bluefin tuna – one of the last denizens of our oceans. Is the child in the photo, totally oblivious to this lack of respect for the planet, supposed to add credence to this deplorable picture?
Perhaps The Beast may be more discerning with their choice of magazine contributors.
FOX ON COOGEE BEACH
I am the principal of my financial planning practice on Maroubra Road, Maroubra. To keep fit and alert, I have been regularly running laps of Coogee Beach with a few mates. This includes the southern steps near the surf club. In the early hours of this morning, as we were running down the steps to the lower promenade, my mate Richard pointed to the sand before the toilet block and said, “There’s a fox running along the beach.”
I thought he was joking, but then I saw the fox running up the beach towards us and onto the promenade. It seemed like no one else had noticed it on the beach. It then leapt up the wall into the bushes near the outdoor shower, and I lost site of it for a short time. Then it walked along the grassy edge in front of the stone wall and stopped to look at us before taking off into the bushes. You don’t see something like that every day.
BEARDY IS SPOT ON
Dear James and Dan – I just wanted to comment on Beardy from Hell’s priceless advice in the star signs each month. He’s always spot on, and I usually find at least two or three that I can incorporate into my life immediately. He has a real gift – insightfulness on this level is extremely rare.
I used to see the heading ‘Star Signs’ and ignore the contents, but then one month I read one and realised what a treasure trove of valuable advice I had been missing out on. Is there any way we can access previous issues? Love the rest of the mag as well!
As a resident of Bon Accord Avenue, Bondi Junction, for many years, each year I am still baffled by the closing off of the street during Central Synagogue celebrations for four days each year surrounding Jewish New Year.
Residents are advised in advance by mail from Waverley Council, and are told that, if driving into the street, they must show their drivers’ licence with a Bon Accord Avenue address to be allowed to enter during the hours that street is closed.
The street is barricaded at either end with large water-filled red plastic construction-style barricades, and also concrete barricades out onto and along Old South Head Road, and a car is often parked across the road too, which is typically moved to allow vehicles to enter and exit.
The barricades are typically manned with local police officers, Waverley Council staff, and amateur security volunteer staff from the synagogue. The synagogue also has paid professional security guards at the front door, who I have always found to be exactly that – professional.
Although it appears that the whole ‘blocking off the street’ thing is really quite a strange and bizarre misuse of public resources and total overreach of common sense security protocol, I consciously choose a ‘live and let live’ approach to this show of force each year.
It is with specific reference to the volunteer amateur security staff that I seek to voice objection, dismay, and disdain, for their recent actions as I entered the street to return to my flat after visiting the supermarket in Bondi Junction.
On foot and carrying a small backpack with groceries on the Bon Accord Avenue footpath at around 1pm, past the barricades, I was confronted quite intensely by a voluntreer amateur security staff member (not one of the paid professional security guards), asking if I was a resident of the street. I replied politely but directly: “Who’s asking?” to which he replied, “I am.” I heard him immediately radio other volunteeer amateur security staff, saying, “Front door, front door,” as I walked towards my flat past the synagogue on the opposite side of street.
Upon arriving at the front gate of my property, which is well past the synagogue, almost at the other end of the street, three volunteer security staff were following me at a distance of 5-10 metres behind, clearing bystanders away on the footpath as if I was carrying weapons or a bomb, which I obviously wasn’t – just produce from the Woolworths fruit and vegetable section.
I went to enter the door to the apartment block and noticed three amateur security staff near my front gate looking in, to whom I said, “You need to go away!”
Anyway, I went inside. When I went back outside to see if they were still there 15 minutes later, they were still hanging around, so I called the local police for advice.
Speaking to another resident in the apartment block at that time, she recounted how her flatmate had previously been refused entry to the street by the volunteer security staff because she was not carrying ID with her residential address on it at the time. She was also carrying shopping bags full of groceries.
This type of behaviour shown by the amateur security staff is a ridiculous display of insecurity and overreach that has no place here. Acting out of paranoia and antiquated programming must be replaced by a coherent professionalism, especially in a role like this where voulunteer security staff are supposedly representing what is perhaps the largest synagogue in Australia, and acting as one interface with the local community.
I would encourage the individuals concerned, if they are to remain in a role as volunteer security staff, to consider some professional security training and raise their standards to be on par with the professionals who are employed by the synagogue on a regular basis. I have only ever had positive interactions with these professional security guards in over ten years living in the street. Amateurs playing toy soldiers just creates unnecessary friction with residents who may already be stretching to accommodate the blocking off of the street, which is obviously owned by all of the community, not just one group. Peace be with you all.