Sunday 30 December 2012

A Moreton Bay Fig

At Balmoral Beach the other day, I noticed this tree across from Bertoni’s and couldn’t resist the entish lusciousness of its trunk and branches. The Hobbits appeared to be missing, though.

A weirdly wonderful adventure at The Rocks

For three Friday nights prior to Christmas a quirky festival called Village Bizarre took place in the laneways at the Rocks. In place of thugs who once preyed on drunken sailors were curious performers, eccentric characters, open air markets, musicians, street food and other amusements. There was ping pong, a puppet show and silent disco. White rabbit masks were handed out to be worn at rabbit only drink venues. Jazz and burlesque stars by turns belted out their torch songs and related intimate stories.

The last Friday evening before Christmas had a celebratory air. Many had just finished their work for the year and schools had closed two days prior. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one to have that luxurious sense of release knowing that my holidays were now stretched out before me and I could indulge in pleasure.

Queens of the Turkish Gozleme

Japanese dumplings anyone?
Annabel Lines from Cabinet of Curiosities
These two were really going for it at the silent disco
The lovely women from Umbrella Theatre and one of their favourite puppets
And here is a man who knew his hula hoops. After watching lame male attempts at The Friend in Hand, I was heartened to see Ben and a few others strutting their stuff –a big thank you to Ben’s hippy mum!
Ross Brown, the 'Masked Man' from Dark Side Masks
On my way to the ferry I walked past an enormous liner docked in the harbour. From the viewing platform I peered into the layers of portholes revealing people eating their dinner. The evening felt a little surreal.  

Saturday 29 December 2012

Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race

A trek past a Moreton Bay Fig armed with food, drink and a destination in mind screams Sydney summer to me.

And here we are at Middle Cove Mosman to see the race. The sun is out for a bit, and some are willing to go the extra mile for a better view.

I’ve arrived reasonably early and overhear a boating adventure which Chris kindly agrees to share.

Chris’s story

Chris was in a Hood (small yacht) with his close friend Rod, heading from Sirius Cove in Mosman to Pittwater. They were offshore from Palm Beach and owing to almost windless weather were reliant on their outboard motor when it happened.

Chris had been looking at yachts closer to shore when all at once a girl rushed onto the deck of one and suddenly started taking down its sails. Then the yacht disappeared. Realising they needed to act quickly he started taking their sails down too. He can’t remember if he managed to get the jib down or not when the squall came up from nowhere. It violently ripped the mains and Chris clung onto the mast.
Using the outboard motor, Rod only just managed to steer the boat into the wind. The roar of the weather made it impossible to talk. It was just them and this tremendously deep sea. Chris thought they’d had it – that they’d be swamped for sure. The freak weather lasted fifteen minutes or so then cleared. He looked out to the other yachts and they’d been completely scattered out to sea. All had survived it.

This is a good entrĂ©e to a race that’s notoriously difficult to navigate in harsh, sometime freak weather conditions, particularly through the perilous Bass Strait. Yet the supermaxi Wild Oats XI out on Middle Harbour seems like a panther on a leash in a pond. While Chris has been talking, she’s been prowling up and down, seeming to be everywhere at once. How’s that Old Spice ad go? Look at me now look at your man? Well she’s like that.

And then they're off! The Southerly breeze makes conditions exceptional for the sail down the harbour and they move at speed.

Wild Oats sweeps out of the heads past Watsons Bay, having gained a comfortable lead, bound for Hobart and her third win in a row.

Friday 28 December 2012

Under the Tree

I’ve been invited to watch an extended family gather to unwrap their Christmas presents. Most of the family have an Italian background although there are some Swedish and American members amongst them. You can tell they take their Christmas seriously as the home is decked out beautifully.

The children’s excitement is palpable. They’ve been waiting all day and it’s now just after 3.00 pm.

Every one moves to the room with the tree.  

Presents are handed out one by one.....

so each recipient’s reaction can be taken in.

Parents and older members joke among themselves.

There are classics for the children such as Monopoly and Cluedo.

‘I’ve always wanted Lego!’ says this delighted recipient.


A pause in proceedings for a beloved aunt.

Warmth, sharing and delight shine through.

Thursday 27 December 2012

Mass for the Irish Diaspora

On Christmas morning, hundreds of Irish emigrants come to St Patricks at ‘County Bondi’ for Catholic mass. For most it will be the only mass they attend all year. Many wear their football jerseys which mark their patch of Ireland in Gaelic on their backs.

Karen (in orange) from Co. Westmeath and Aishling from Co. Down help me with translations: Diore for Derry, An Dun for Arun Islands, Ciarria for Kerry, Tir Eoghain for Tyrone.

Karen has just spoken to her folks. They’re in lock down at the local pub after midnight mass – a desirable situation where a special few are invited back for a bout of drinking after hours.

The church swells to maximum capacity with standing room only at the back.

Mass is led by Irish priest Tom Devereux, a Galway man. He serves as chaplain to Sydney’s Irish backpackers and started this tradition some eleven years ago. Fr. Tom gently chides the congregation for their lacklustre performance of Oh Come all ye Faithful, saying; 'next time, pretend you're at the Cock and Bull.' 

He talks about the time he was showing fellow countrymen around, letting them know that here nobody asks you whether you're Catholic or Protestant; they just want to know where you come from. His mother, aged 82, flew out on her own from Ireland two days before and gets a big round of applause. To finish, Fr. Tom leads with the folk ballad The Fields of Athenry. This time the singing's more Cock and Bull. 

Before leaving, many take photographs of themselves to send home to their mothers as evidence.