Berowra: Leaving the Big Smoke for Real Smoke

March 12, 2011

berowra290.jpgThe moon gives up and sinks its visible half into a red bed then vanishes altogether. As I watch, the Milky Way slowly becomes more milky as the sky deepens, highlighting more and more heavenly lights. I’m on my back on a rock ledge and quite comfortable thank-you.  As I gaze up a couple of “shooting stars” scratch their lightening flash of white across the blue grey black, as if to thumb their noses at the efforts of the moon to keep them invisible. Read more

Sydney Fringe – The Allure of Disgrace

September 19, 2010

fringe290.jpgDiary 15 September 2010. Sydney Fringe Festival  – bursting out of the inner west suburbs. Or something like that which is the tag line. Bursting out into the art deco Petersham Town Hall which is echoing with the voices of the few who have shown up. The ceiling is magnificent. The tiling is gorgeous. Mr Jacket and Scarf nicely tells me the Blue Room i s now open and I am welcome to move out of this echoing chamber and to take a seat. A personal invitation no less. Best I do, but the thin crowd is unlikely to crush me to the door. I take a seat near the sound box. I don’t think I have been in a theatre this small since I sat in the Ipswich Little Theatre – interestingly enough also from the art deco period and designed by Burley Griffin, the chap who designed the layout of Canberra. It was once a crematorium – the Little Theatre that is, not Canberra. Though that is debatable I guess. But on that occasion I knew what I was getting into. Here, well who knows what is about to unfold. The sound guy is also the lighting guy and he has just been stage whispered to start when the music stops. It is an intimate place after all. It’s cute music. Sort of Frente like. Read more

An Elephant, a Duck, and a Community

June 20, 2010

asimplerlife.jpgWhen is a book launch not a book launch? When the author writes about his family and his upbringing then invites all those, and some, over to lunch to celebrate his parents, their love and tuition, the memory of them and all those (immediate family and others) who had some part in creating his story. Not the written one that is, but the knitted one. The one that binds everyone in a community together. I was very privileged today to have lunch on the family farm of Peter Fitzsimons (here listening to his uncle) and to meet not only family but to chat with people from the Peats Ridge area, be served a cup of tea by a lady wearing a CWA apron (when was the last time that happened? When I was fighting bush fires in Bamawm I think, in 1980!) and to have earnest conversation with old friends I had only just met. As only country folk seem to be able to do.  When Peter spoke to the throng (using the elephant as a pulpit) he spoke about family and community and of bonds that sadly we let fray and separate too quickly in our city lives. There was a book signing too but that was not really the gift of this afternoon. Or the point I suspect. Rather, it was about a community fabric that allowed a perfect (actually not so perfect) stranger to be woven into it and to enjoy some of its warmth and love. The duck snuggles in at the foot of the elephant. Fitting somehow.

Notes in a Sydney Train

May 11, 2010

train290.jpgScrubbed timber has no smell. The burnt brake pads and the metal wheel flange create their own dust and heat and smell which lifts in the warm afternoon, hangs in the humid air and is pushed aside by the train as it sighs up to the platform. I watch the handful of people who angle towards the last carriage. They walk past the second to last to align with the trailing one as if there is something lucky by being there. Or not being somewhere else. Read more

Lyrebird Track

November 1, 2009

ffbc-recon-290.jpgSeven days ago more than 4 inches of rain fell on the suburb between 1030 in the morning and dinner time. Today the creeks are back to normal but the thrumming of insects in the canopy is a hard, driving buzz and the reptiles are out and about in a warm, damp and sometimes sodden bushscape. We were alert for snakes but fortunately saw none – but five or six water dragons of various sizes. It’s been three weeks since we have been out. Some of us have to confess to creaking joints – out of form already. But 11km on a hot sunny day in four hours was a reasonable effort on what is graded a “hard” track. And we took the time to “smell the roses”.

Sunday Jazz

October 10, 2009

geoff-bull-blues.jpg‘I have got a lolly here if anyone needs any sugar. Pass them down to the really old people’.
‘None old here. Not when I was playing with Thomas The Tank Engine this morning’.
‘By yourself?’
‘Yes, actually. Grandkids left it lying out last night. Couldn’t help myself this morning’.
I was delivered from more of this wandering conversation between the two old girls sitting next to me by the piano that led us into some jumping 12 bar blues.  Though it did take a while for my neighbours to wind down and I heard about her 94 year mother making quiche even though she has had a fall and should not be on her feet.  The drummer joined in and added to the jump, then so too the curly headed chap with the profile of Baloo the Bear who picked up the double bass. By now Thomas the Tank and quiche recipes had faded into the background and the trumpet of Geoff Bull finally put the lid on it completely. Such are the vagaries of attending a jazz concert at a retirement village! Read more

Make Like a “Tawny” Stick

October 9, 2009

tawny290.jpgThere was always some wag who would whisper “make like a stick” when we were playing with guns in the bush (and earning the Queen’s shilling) – an oblique way of saying “stay still and hope your camouflage efforts are up to scratch”. The Tawny Frogmouth does a great job looking like a stick. In fact they freeze on a branch hoping you will only think you are looking at a broken stump. They lift their chin and stretch their necks out and peer at you through a narrowly slit eye – quite a different look to when they are active at night when you might see one hanging around the back porch light waiting for an insect or two. Their large orange eyes and round, fat look is more akin that of an owl. Which, by the way, they are not.   A frogmouth is a frogmouth. Not an owl. His “make like a stick” is formidable discipline (this guy allowed me to within a metre or so without a blink), far beyond any of that displayed by my military colleagues. And of course, much he’s more cute than any of them ever were!

Great North Walk

September 26, 2009

graffiti-lane-cove-bridge.jpgThe Great North Walk is great because it starts in Sydney and not because it links you to Newcastle 200km away. Sorry Novacastrians, cheap shot. We knocked off 10km of it today – from Thornleigh to Lane Cove. Here are all the usual sights and sounds of walking through the Sydney bush, though on this leg the M2 motorway is not too far away so we caught the sound of the occasional Harley running away from the speed cameras. Always alert to something different (apart from adders or red bellied blacks) we were struck today by the high quality graffiti under the Bridge. This is not exactly in the middle of suburbia but I guess someone just could not resist those grey concrete slab canvasses crying out for some work.

Sydney Flora

August 30, 2009

fringe-myrtle290.jpgWe tend to think of the Australian environment as a pretty harsh and unforgiving one. And its bush as monochrome, brittle dry and full of things that bite. All true enough. But spring is a comin’ and some of the smaller, finer and daintier elements of the flora scene are out to impress right now.Like this Fringe Myrtle. And a couple of others below. Read more

Bantry Bay – Middle Harbour

August 30, 2009

bantry-bay290.jpgNamed after an Irish bay in southern Ireland, Bantry Bay in Sydney is an odd spot. Standing on “the Bluff” at its head you can see Sydney CBD in the middle distance and aircraft letting down into Mascot. If you are paying attention you can just see the top of the Harbour Bridge. You would think idyllic waters this close to the city would be heavily populated and built around but it remains isolated and green despite the residential areas surrounding it and its proximity to the city. The area was used as a munitions storage area from WW1 through WW2 and into the 1970s when it was finally closed. Apparently still contaminated by explosives the old facilities are closed to the public but walking tracks get you close. And if you own a hull you can of course drift in here on a balmy late winter Sunday afternoon that feels more like early summer, drop anchor and break out the chardonnay.  There is something surreal about this sort of idyll in the midst of the city. It is one of Sydney’s best kept secrets. But now you know.

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