homeabout meplaysmusicals and cabaretother writingsart?

Et cetera > Letters to the Sydney Morning Herald

Sydney Morning Herald

Letter writers are the last true democrats, a group of selfless public-spirited individuals dedicated to keeping the bastards honest through their vibrant veracious vox populi. Anyone suggesting we're a lot of egotistical, opinionated wind-bags does so at his/her peril.
May 1, 2000

My first letter to the Sydney Morning Herald was published September 1, 1995 and I never looked back: I've been whining and opining ever since.
On January 24, 2002, I celebrated "The Ted", named for the late Ted Matulevicius of Goonellabah, with the publication of my 100th letter.
Finally, after years of endevour and many failed attempts, October 17, 2018 saw me scale the Epistlographical Everest that is the QuinTed with publication of my 500th letter…  then onwards to the SexTed on February 2023. It's a chronic condition…

On October 20, 2012, an editorial oversight resulted in my becoming the second epistlographer ever to achieve the quinella: two letters past the post on one day!

To celebrate its 175th anniversary in 2006, the SMH published two volumes of "Best Letters". I'm proud to say I rated two in Volume One, and five in Volume Two.

In 2013, Allen and Unwin published "Pardon me for mentioning…" a collection of unpublished letters edited by Julie Lewis and Catharine Munro. Read all about it here and here and here. As it turns out, the title comes from one of mine:

Pardon me for mentioning it, but bogans are even more snobbish about elitists than the well-voiced versa. Watch the reactions around the water cooler if you forget yourself and mention a night at the theatre, reading a book, or downloading an awesome jazz track. You won't get the polite interest you showed during their recap of last night's must-see episode of Fat Bogans Can Sing, Dance, and Cook.

A few favourites from over 500…

Not in Kansas any more (#600)

As it bedecks everything from corporate logos to online-shopping delivery cartons in a frenzy of temporarily proud pink-washing, I reluctantly conclude I’m now officially “over the rainbow” (Letters, February 18).
February 20, 2023

Head of State

Why would Australia have to be like everyone else and have just one potentially divisive head of state? Imagine instead a council of elders, an inspiring and eccentric collection of national aunties and uncles, who jointly share the role of head of state. Each state governor could be on the council, as well as a couple of federal appointments, including at least one Indigenous elder. And for the really big occasions, we could roll out the whole mob to really show visiting dignitaries what a plural democracy looks like.
Sure, we’d need some clever rules to manage reserve powers and the balance of the council, but as an innovative country with a history of trying out truly democratic ideas (like secret ballots and universal suffrage), don’t we owe it to ourselves to do something original and representative of a land that has fervently resisted being symbolised by just one of anything?.
April 08, 2021

On buzz words of which some folk have grown tired

The increasing catalogue of words in need of negative transitioning from ongoing participation in our regular lexicon sounds like an opportunity to consider a capability uplift to sharpen the foundations of our communication enablement inventory to strategically align the maximising of synergies to leverage stakeholder delight as part of the cartographic framework encompassing our future direction (Letters, September 10).
September 11, 2020

The statues of limitations

Until we topple all the statues of the dead white guys we'll remain their unwitting slaves.
June 11, 2020


Dame Nellie Melba is living proof that impeachment is not always a bad thing.
December 23, 2019

AFL grand final

Like GWS, Collingwood once scored only 25 points against Richmond in a grand final, but in the tough times of 1927, that was enough to defeat Richmond, who managed only a paltry 13 points, clearly demonstrating there’s an AFL fact or statistic to prove almost anything.
September 20, 2019

A minor bunfight between David Williamson, the STC, and Barrie Kosky demanded a bard-assisted riposte, described by Terry of Gordon as "insufferably pretentious" (Letters, May 18, 2009)

I write to bury Kosky, not to praise him. 
The evil that directors do to a nice night’s entertainment lives long after we return home, so it was with Kosky.
The noble Williamson hath told us Kosky is Theatre with a Capital T. 
If it were so, it is a grievous fault, for Williamson is an honourable man.
Kosky was magnificent, awesome, inspiring, just to me, but Williamson says not, and Williamson is an honourable man, who hath bought many captives to the theatre, and whose ransoms did many company coffers fill.
Did Kosky do this? 
He stirred imaginations instead, believing we were made of sterner stuff, but we have fled to brutish beasts with easy laughs and happy endings. 
And men have lost their reason!
My heart is in the theatre with Kosky, and I must pause till he come back to me.
May 15, 2009 

Following the announcement of a new anti-terrorism policy…

Until the Opera House can protect us from suicide performers dying for art in interpretations hijacked by political ideology causing us to flee at half time from the bombs onstage, then we'll never be truly safe from terrorism under its sails.
August 15, 2005

During celebrations of 50 years of rock…

While we sleep through the anniversary of baby rock (Letters, July 8), don't care about childish jazz, and ignore the sullen operatic teenager, let us pause to forget the august veteran of the performing arts: theatre, proudly numbing audience posteriors for at least 2542 years.
July 9, 2004

On Election 07's most insufferable cliché…

The term "working families" describes the ultimate passive wedge in Australian politics, the one that sounds inclusive but isn’t.   A quick run up my street demonstrates just how exclusive it is.  There’s single me, the working Grandma next door and the self funded retiree next to her.  All excluded.  On the other side are the lovely lesbians with a baby, who will remain excluded until the federal laws are fixed up.  Then there’s the professional couple, no kids, and the daughter caring for her aging mother...  all excluded by the working families wedge.  
It's time the poll-driven big parties stepped onto the streets of their electorates and discovered the diversity that is our strength, and started governing for "all Australians" that instead of just "working families".
3 September 2007


Congratulations to the newly oppressed minority of "expensive private school users".
You now qualify for membership to the Australian League of Wedges, an elite and illustrious group with includes indigenous Australians, gays and lesbians, women, the unemployed, the mentally ill, art lovers, ABC watchers, academics, refugees, asylum seeks, health workers, environmentalists, civil servants, pig farmers, self-funded retirees and Margo Kingston.
League membership entitles you to be used as a political football by all parties, stereotyping by the media and vilification on talkback radio. Unfortunately you are no longer afforded "battler" status and forfeit your right to a fair go, but you'll soon discover it's a small price to pay when compared with the privilege of being democratically misrepresented by those who apparently know more about you than you can ever hope to understand yourself.
September 17, 2004

Why does Sydney have criminals and Melbourne have gangsters? — John Swanton

John Swanton (Letters, May 9), Sydney does have gangsters, but we call them merchant bankers.
May 10, 2007

Why "apartments" when they are together? — George Cotis

George Cotis (Letters, July 27), they're called "apartments" because, as you lie awake to the sound to the neighbours living happily ever after, you wish they were further apart.
July 28, 2005

How come the plural of opus is opera? — Joe Dwyer

"Opera" is the plural of "opus" for reasons known only to dead white males from cultures long since returned to dust, the same men who hold the secret of why we continue to fund it.
June 28, 2005

If the plural of hippotamus is hippopotami, why isn't the plural of campus campi? — Pip Denton

The plural of campus isn't campi for the same reason it's two buses and not two bi: declension, as in declension of the teeth, which is what elitists do when folk say platypi or platypuses instead of platypodes.
June 25, 2005

Anyone can be a pundit or a boffin (Letters, March 31). I want to know how I get to be a raconteur. — Robin Saville

How do you get to be a raconteur? Walk into a bar with a boffin and pundit. While the pundit tells you which beer is best and the boffin tells you why, drink your beer. Then, if you can convince them to buy you another, you're a raconteur. Mine's a pint.
April 2, 2004

Could someone tell me, what is a "sequitur"? Then I may be able to visualise a "non sequitur". — Len Elvery

"Sequiturs" are the shears used to prune the blooms of argument in the manicured rose garden of reason.
It follows then, that a "non sequitur" is the unaided wrenching of a ripe, delicious, and juicy fruit from the wit tree growing over the back fence.
April 17, 2002

On tea…

Tuesday's Heckler omitted one of tea's greatest virtues: a sense of community. The egotistical coffee drinkers make an individual order: double-shot decaf skim soy cappuccino with no chocolate; it's all about them.  
Meanwhile, community-minded tea drinkers make a pot, to share.  Then someone offers to "be mother" and serve others.  Only when everyone has a cup does personal preference, a little sugar maybe, come into play.  It's all about us.
"Tea or coffee?" may well be the defining question of our age.
March 2, 2011

In the 175th anniversary Herald, Robert Willis asked "Did a great-great-great grand parent of Bill Carpenter, Rosemary O'Brien, or Peter Fyfe have a letter published in the first Herald?" Naturally, all three of us responded. (And don't think I didn't relish being named in such august company!)

Robert Willis, in 1831 my great-great-great grandfather was in Scotland dreaming about migrating to a yet-to-be-proclaimed South Australia where he hoped to farm stolen land, raise a family, and send an epistolographer east to take on the illiterate convicts of Sydney.
April 19, 2006

Responding to a rather indignant letter about the allegedly mediocre state to letter writing, I relished forcing the author to eat his own words, slightly spiced of course…

I wonder what Oscar Wilde would make of a devastating and insightful riposte like Kevin Rugg's "I'm sick of reading this crap" (Letters, July 9). Would Shaw dare reply to our esteemed epistler's barbed cry of "Who cares?" Surely even Shakespeare would hang his head in shame, for are his plays not all too replete with "brief question" and "lame, 'witty' utterance"?
In his famed anuran epic, Aristophanes pits the smart-alec retorts of Euripides against the tragic utterances of Aeschylus. Permit me to use the same device to reply to Mr Rugg: "Bring back the old-fashioned, long, literate, painstakingly furnished, quality…" little bottle of oil.
In times as dry as these, we need the lubrication.
July 10, 2003

On the death of Edward Albee…

Scene: Heaven
The Pearly Gates open
Enter Edward Albee, late of New York
Albee: What a dump!
September 19, 2016

On the death of E. Gough Whitlam…

Dead at 98? Well, we could hardly expect Gough to wait around for a telegram from the Queen. Vale.
October 22, 2014

On the death of Malcolm Fraser (well, since I did the 'other one')…

It appears that after only five months of Gough's heavenly reforms, the Almighty had to dismiss him and call in Malcolm as caretaker. Vale.
March 21, 2015

On the death of Harold Pinter…

Is Harold Pinter really dead or just in the middle of [a] long and meaningful pause?
December 27, 2008

On the death of Marcel Marceau…

If you listen carefully, you can hear the angels laughing themselves silly at the ultimate mime routine: Bip at the pearly gates. Vale Marcel.
September 25, 2007

On the death of Graham Kennedy…

Let crows and fans keen one last subversive "faaaaaaaarrrrrrkk" as we remember how dull the box is without its King.
May 26, 2005

On Australian plays…

Looking down the theatre directory today I noticed something I believe is noteworthy: all our major theatre spaces are currently running Australian plays. Sydney Theatre Company (two shows), Griffin (an outside hire), [Belvoir], Ensemble, Marion Street and Glen Street, as well as at least six other venues (some amateur) are all presenting plays by Australian playwrights. And, as far as I know, all those playwrights are alive. In my 10 years in Sydney, I've never seen this happen. What a contrast to this time last year (during the Olympics) when there was no Oz theatre to be seen.
September 27, 2001 (in spotlight, not the letters page, but worth noting!)

On the Reconciliation walk across the Harbour Bridge

As I walked across the bridge today, I couldn't help thinking the land itself had sent that strong cold westerly wind to blow the colonial cobwebs from our minds and invigorate our stride for reconciliation.
May 30, 2000

On the death of the Princess of Wales…

I feel the last shred of my childhood has been torn from me: my fairytale princess didn't live happily ever after.
September 2, 1997

And that fateful first letter…

I notice the lack of any Father's Day sale including a food-processor, a sewing machine or a new moisturiser and declare the fight against stereotypes as far from won.
September 1, 1995


This page was last updated on 20 February, 2023.

Home | Bio | Stage | Art | Etc | Contact Me © Peter Fyfe