Friday, 29 February 2008

Free Art

Fig tree in The domain, behind the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

Now, here's something interesting I read in the paper yesterday. Apparently, the Art Gallery of NSW, with 1.3 million visitors last year, was more often visited than the Guggenheim in New York, Vienna's Kunsthistorisches Museum, the Pergamon Museum in Berlin and the Getty Museum in Los Angeles. More here. (But wasn't the Guggenheim closed part of last year? And the Getty's visitors are self-restricting because it's hard to get to by public transport and you have to book a parking space ahead. Surely this can't be Australian cultural cringe/hype?)

Best of all, the AGNSW is free for permanent exhibitions. Every year the AGNSW has a coompetition for portraiture called the Archibald prize

Are art museums free where you are? For me, the greatest free museums in the world are the British Museum and the National Gallery in London. The Metropolitan in New York suggests a donation, but it is not compulsory.

I'm one of those people who believe that culture, education and knowledge should be free for all - paid for by a progressive tax system - public libraries, art museums, museums.

[And apropos of none of that - today is the last day of summer; our seasons here change officially on 1 March, 1 June, 1 Sep and 1 Dec. And in Sydney, autumn is my favourite].

Thursday, 28 February 2008

When it rains it pours

This summer has been about the 3rd or 4th coolest on record in Sydney. The highest temperature in Sydney has been 31 degrees. And rain! Lots of it. After years and years of drought, the La Niña weather pattern has set in on Australia's east coast. In Sydney during February so far (28 days) we've had 230mm of rain over 14 days, including one day with 77 mm! Average for Feb is 117mm over 9 days.

Who'd want to ride a motorbike under those conditions? Not me. The thing to understand is that we rarely get soft, misty rain in Sydney - when it rains it tends to bucket!

I captured this guy through the side window of my car as he moved past. The rain was bouncing around all over the place. It's just an Impression, really.

Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Swings 'n ' ladders

Looks like a scene from an idyllic rural hamlet; in fact Turrella is a semi-industrial suburb (with some good bushland on its doorstep) 8.5 kms from the heart of the city. So, not all our houses are close together like yesterday's! Suburban sprawl is a feature of Sydney, which is now as spread out as London with about a quarter the population! There's lots of apartments replacing traditional suburban blocks in many of the inner and middle distance suburbs. This will PROBABLY disappear under medium-denisty redevelopment one day.
Can anyone spot something traditionally Australian under the house? You may need to click on the pic and enlarge it to see...

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Victorian cottages, Arncliffe

Wollongong Rd, Arncliffe. You can see some more grandiose examples of local Victorian architecture if you click here.

Monday, 25 February 2008

Blackburn Gardens, Double Bay

Blackburn Gardens, set above Redleaf Pool and Seven Shillings Beach, where we have visited in the past two days. The young man with the towel over his shoulder (he'd probably just had a swim) was inspecting the sundial.

The name comes from Blackburn Cove, the setting of Seven Shillings Beach. David Blackburn was sailing master of the HMS Supply, one of the two warships accompanying the First Fleet to Sydney in 1788. The gardens were originally part of St Brigid's, bow Woollahra library. They were landscaped and opened to the public in 1955.

Sunday, 24 February 2008

Seven Shillings Beach, Point Piper

I acknowledge the traditional owners and custodians of this land, the Gadigal people of the Eora nation. Along this shore, now mostly destroyed, or, apparently, hidden from view, boarded up under the foundations of the houses are Aboriginal stone engravings and carvings.

There are several stories as to how this harbourside beach in the exclusive suburb of Point Piper got its name:
1. Named as such when a Mrs Busby gave an Aboriginal seven shillings compensation for fishing rights, or for a catch of fish;
2. A nurse, employed by Captain Piper, lost a purse containing 'seven shillings' on the beach.

Seven Shillings Beach is not one of Sydney's most beautiful, but it is certainly one of its most disputed. Private beaches are not meant to exist in Australia, or so we like to believe. However, some of the country's most well-heeled live in this little enclave (ghetto?) of Sydney.

Walking volunteer, Graham Spindler (2007 ) *explains that restrictions limit access to "below mean high water mark during daylight hours", as he calls it "a classic piece of legal compromise".

Spindler continues wryly: "...the beach remains privately owned, although glances across into the private realms are permitted (or inevitable), some of the backyards having long been owned by the fairfax family."

Point Piper
Now here's a classic Sydney story of wealth, harbour views, a beyond-their-means lifestyle, and corruption. But there wasn't an ICAC (Independent Commission Against Corruption) 180 years ago!

Graham Spindler again: " Point Piper's European history began as part of a 76ha land grant by Governor Macquarie to Captain John Piper in 1820. Piper had had control of customs and all harbour matters, a lucrative position which enabled him to vastly increase the size of his land-holding and build the finest house then in Sydney on the point. He named it Henrietta Villa, after the second name of Gov Macquarie's wife, Elizabeth, and it quickly became the most prestigious social venue in town. However, the flamboyant and extravagant lifestyle exceeded even his resources and he was soon deeply in debt. In 1827 it became apparent that he had embezzled 13 000 pounds from the customs revenues which together with other debts amounted to millions in modern value. The mortified Piper made a curiously grand suicide attempt, having himself rowed out into the harbour, and to the strains of his naval band, jumping overboard. He survived to retire to a more modest rural life." (near Bathurst) More here.
More about Captain Piper (and below, a portrait)

* Thanks Graham, with whom I trained as a school teacher-librarian in 1981!

Saturday, 23 February 2008

Redleaf Pool, Double Bay

A lovely harbour pool at the end of Seven Shillings Beach. Foot access only, down the stairs behind the Woollahra Council Offices on New South Head Road.

The small island is Clark Island. It's part of Sydney Harbour National Park. It can only be accessed by private vessel. You can book it for weddings and other functions. In 1789, Lieutenant Ralph Clark, a marine on the First Fleet, tried to cultivate a vegetable garden on this one hectare island. He abandoned the idea when his crops were repeatedly stolen.
There's more pictures of Redleaf pool here on my "Swimming" blog.

Friday, 22 February 2008

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Camperdown Cemetery sandstone pediment

According to one source, this stone pediment came from the original Maritime Services Building built in the 1850s and commemorates the numerous naval personnel buried in the historic Camperdown Cemetery in inner Sydney. One mass grave holds the remains of the 1857 shipwrecks of the clipper ship the Dunbar (20 Aug 1857) and the barque Catherine Adamson (24 Oct 1857).

The Dunbar was a fully-rigged ship that was wrecked near the entrance to Sydney Harbour, with the loss of 121 lives. See here

The cemetery surrounds St Stephens Anglican Church in Church St, Newtown, just off the busy main road, King St. There are 18 000 people buried there, mainly between 1848 and when it closed (full) in 1867, Many of the graves were of paupers.

Monday, 18 February 2008

Sydney Park wetlands 2

Realised I had some better pics of the wetlands than the one I published on Saturday, so before we leave the park, here they are. We used to take our son here to feed ducks when he was little. It has been made much nicer since then.

Sunday, 17 February 2008

Brickpit chimneys, Sydney Park

Over the last two days I've showed a couple of different aspects of Sydney Park at St Peters, in the inner southern suburbs of Sydney.
This park is less than 20 years old. The site was used for clay extraction for making bricks, and then rubbish disposal. These are the brick pit chimneys (which are just visible on the skyline in yesterday's picture.)

Saturday, 16 February 2008

Wetlands, Sydney Park

The "other side" of Sydney Park to that shown yesterday. This is the other side of the hill.

Wednesday, 13 February 2008


Photo above from the Sydney Morning Herald

Montage above (left to right, top to bottom):

Welcome ceremony, Parliament House Canberra Tue 12 Feb 2008 (Sydney Morning Herald); The Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, delivers the apology and faces around the country (SMH); My artist trading card "Reconciliation"; detail from poster; detail from poster; woman wearing "Thanks T-shirt, Parliament House crowd (ABC TV); detail from poster; Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags; Kevin Rudd with Matilda House, who delivered a Welcome to Country at Parliament House 12 Feb 2008; art work; 'Sorry' in skywriting, over Sydney Harbour; Midnight Oil perform at Sydney Olympics wearing "sorry" clothes; march; didgeridoos; Redfern Park - an important venue in the history of "Sorry"; cleansing ceremony, Australia Day 2008.

An amazingly emotional, and unprecedented day in Australian history. The new Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, presented the first motion of the new Parliament. It was to say "Sorry" on behalf of Government and Parliament to the Stolen Generations, their families and communities. The Stolen Generations were those Indigenous people taken as children from their families because of government policy between 1910 and 1970. Their "sin" was to be born Aboriginal. Official policy of the time was to "breed out" Aboriginality. The forcible removal of children was meant to effect this over time.

You can hear the Prime Minister's speech, which includes much of the history of these institutionally racist policies, and see a lovely multimedia presentation here.

In 1997 a report titled "Bringing Them Home" documented the harrowing accounts of many who were stolen. Amongst other things, it recommended that as a first step towards Reconciliation an apology be made to the people for the wrongs and traumas that had been endured. The previous Prime Minister refused to utter that most simple and eloquent of words - "Sorry" .

On May 28 2000, 250,000 people walked over Sydney Harbour Bridge to express their support for Reconciliation between Australia's Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. Read about that moment here.

On 10 Dec, 1992 then Prime Minister, Paul Keating, who commissioned the Bringing Them Home report, had gone to Redfern Park and made a speech which set the tone for Reconciliation. Read the speech here. Keating, along with other former Prime Ministers, Gough Whitlam (1972-75), Malcolm Fraser (1975-83), Bob Hawke (1983-1991), Paul Keating (Dec 1991-1996) were present to support the apology. The only living ex-PM who didn't attend was the immediate past one, John Howard. His party, however, supported it today.

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

New turf

The cricket pitch in Arncliffe Park has recently been re-grassed. What luck we've been having so much rain to help things along.

Monday, 11 February 2008

Roll Out The Rollers

I bet you have never seen so many Rolls Royces in one place! I was passing by this Rolls Royce hire business, saw the ones parked out in the street, so stuck my head inside the garage for a sticky beak. The convertible in the foreground of the second pic is a Morris Minor. The owner told me that the stretch in the front of the line of three Rollers is the only one of that model in Australia.

Sunday, 10 February 2008

FC Holden

Any old car fans out there? (Old cars, not old fans!)
Produced by General Motors Holden, 1958-60. See more about them here. It is said that during 1959 the Holden FC commanded more than 50 percent of the Australian car market. This one is from Queensland, by the look of the number plate.

Friday, 8 February 2008

Illegal shop

This "back door" shop (at the back of a house in a residential area) operates selling blankets and other manchester. The salesperson got very shy when she spotted my camera, as you can see at the left hand side.

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Tuesday, 5 February 2008


In the twelve hours between 9am and 9pm (Monday), Sydney received 70.3 mm of rain. That's 2.75 inches in old money.

Forecast for Tuesday: Rain periods, heavy at times; Wednesday: Shower or two; Thursday: Showers; Friday: Showers; Saturday: Showers; Sunday: Shower or two; Monday: Chance shower.

Monday, 4 February 2008

Beers in Newtown

It seems every cafe in Newtown has these huge windows opening to the street. So does this pub. A great place to watch the world go by, and these fellas obliged me with a photo.

Sunday, 3 February 2008

Hot Summer Night

As I write this, my son is playing video games with his friends in their open-doored garage across the road. A great place to be on a hot summer night!

Saturday, 2 February 2008

When people think of Sydney . . . Take 2

Yesterday's photo featured the Harbour Bridge and a ferry, in response to the theme "when people think of my city..." It prompted quite some discussion about the place of the Opera House. (I recommend you scroll down and have a look at that post)

My theory runs like this: the OH is more important in overseas thinking, because Sydney "came of age" internationally with the Opera House. Prior to the 1973 when it opened, Sydney was hardly on international radar. It helps that it was designed by a European, an architect with a major international reputation.

However, the bridge has long been lodged in the Australian psyche - since it was built in the 1930s. It featured in many works of art at the time it was being built, and was integral in Sydney's inexorable development towards the city it is today. When I was a child in Melbourne in the 1960s, Sydney WAS "The Coathanger".

And this: we've always been a bit ambivalent towards the OH. The building of it was mired in political controversy, and it took a LONG time for Sydney-siders to fully embrace it and stop whingeing about it being a "waste of money". Though you'd be hard pressed now to find someone who doesn't like it, or take pride in it. But everyone acknowledges it is far more spectacular on the outside than inside. And many many Sydney-siders would never have gone in.

In short, the OH, as far as many (?) some(?) Australians are concerned is a flawed wonder. The bridge is beyond reproach!

Now look at the picture. The buildings on the right, on the promenade toward the OH are also controversial. Built in the 1990s, and dubbed "The Toaster", they hide the OH from view from this vantage point of Circular Quay. These are a testament to developers - they are multi million dollar apartments. Instead of opening up the OH to view, we hid it from the very place most visitors arrive at the harbour! Sure, the colonnade below The Toaster is reasonably pleasant - expensive restaurants and cafes and art shops, mostly geared at tourists - but not celebrating the landmark most linked with Sydney by many!

(And I haven't even got wound up about the shabby tin rooftops of the wharves...they deserve so much more. I'll spare you that rant for now).

Friday, 1 February 2008

When people think of my city....

Keen to avoid all the usual clichés I undertook in-depth research by asking people on the Lonely Planet travel discussion boards what they think of when they think of Sydney. Here are the results:
From Sydney-siders: Southerly busters on a sweltering hot day, the harbour (3), home, bloody traffic (2), mixture of people, art, restaurants, shops, fun, eastern suburbs beaches, jacarandas, thunderstorms, ferries, whales, Moreton Bay figs, cockatoos, ugly suburban sprawl, cockroaches, surfing all year round
Other Australians: The harbour (2), harbour ferries, Harbour Bridge, unaffordable waterfront dreams, excitement, The Big Smoke, smelly, Olympics, frangipanis, jacarandas, how much better Melbourne is
Non-Australians: The Harbour (2), Opera House (2), Harbour Bridge, sunshine (2), Melbourne is better, unfriendly people, friendly people, heroin, Kings Cross, Glenn Murcutt, ferries, The Rocks, Beaches, Darling Harbour, San Francisco (but less interesting), Florida, great big bats, Circular Quay

The most popular from a disparate range: The harbour - 5; Ferries -3

So, here you have it,the usual clichés: Sydney Harbour, ferries, and the bridge for good measure.

To see what other bloggers think people are thinking about their cities, visit the cities listed below. Remember, different times, diferent places.

Portland (OR), USA - Menton, France - Monte Carlo, Monaco - Memphis (Tennessee), USA - Manila, Philippines - San Diego (CA), USA - Anderson (SC), USA - New York City (NY), USA - San Diego (CA), USA - Mexico City, Mexico - San Francisco (CA), USA - Mumbai (Maharashtra), India - Mainz, Germany - Weston (FL), USA - Minneapolis (MN), USA - Turin, Italy - Las Vegas (NV), USA - Hobart (Tasmania), Australia - Bicheno, Australia - Durban, South Africa - Joplin (MO), USA - Nashville (TN), USA - Stockholm, Sweden - Kyoto, Japan - Tokyo, Japan - Brussels, Belgium - Chicago (IL), USA - Montpellier, France - Seattle (WA), USA - Mazatlan, Mexico - Saint Paul (MN), USA - Sharon (CT), USA - Sesimbra, Portugal - Toulouse, France - Tuzla, Bosnia and Herzegovina - Susanville (CA), USA - Maple Ridge (BC), Canada - Saint Louis (MO), USA - Prague, Czech Republic - Helsinki, Finland - Pilisvörösvár, Hungary - Lisbon, Portugal - Mexico (DF), Mexico - Trujillo, Peru - Dunedin (FL), USA - Albuquerque (NM), USA - Port Angeles (WA), USA - Cottage Grove (MN), USA - Saint-Petersburg, Russian Federation - Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia - London, UK - Baziège, France - Jefferson City (MO), USA - Greenville (SC), USA - Selma (AL), USA - Mumbai, India - Naples (FL), USA - Norwich (Norfolk), UK - Silver Spring (MD), USA - Setúbal, Portugal - Stayton (OR), USA - Bellefonte (PA), USA - Sofia, Bulgaria - Arradon, France - Montego Bay, Jamaica - Athens, Greece - Austin (TX), USA - Singapore, Singapore - West Sacramento (CA), USA - Jackson (MS), USA - Wassenaar (ZH), Netherlands - Budapest, Hungary - Rotterdam, Netherlands - St Malo, France - Chandler (AZ), USA - Melbourne, Australia - Port Vila, Vanuatu - Cleveland (OH), USA - Nottingham, UK - Kansas City (MO), USA - The Hague, Netherlands - Crystal Lake (IL), USA - Wrocław, Poland - Chateaubriant, France - Cheltenham, UK - Moscow, Russia - Monrovia (CA), USA - Saigon, Vietnam - Toruń, Poland - Grenoble, France - Lisbon, Portugal - New Orleans (LA), USA - Sydney, Australia - Boston (MA), USA - American Fork (UT), USA - Boston (MA), USA - Montréal (QC), Canada - Wichita (KS), USA - Radonvilliers, France - Buenos Aires, Argentina - Christchurch, New Zealand - Rabaul, Papua New Guinea - Wailea (HI), USA - Aliso Viejo (CA), USA - St Francis, South Africa - Port Elizabeth, South Africa - Seattle (WA), USA - Pasadena (CA), USA - Vienna, Austria - Orlando (FL), USA - Torun, Poland - Delta (CO), USA - Santa Fe (NM), USA - Minneapolis (MN), USA - Haninge, Sweden - Paris, France - Stavanger, Norway - Niamey, Niger - Le Guilvinec, France - Bogor, Indonesia - Saarbrücken, Germany - Auckland, New Zealand - Wellington, New Zealand - Budapest, Hungary - Juneau (AK), USA - Bucaramanga (Santander), Colombia - Glasgow, Scotland - Chicago (IL), USA - Jakarta, Indonesia - Adelaide (SA), Australia - Sydney, Australia - Riga, Latvia - Subang Jaya (Selangor), Malaysia