Thursday 31 January 2013

Blokes, cars and a story about the Holden Kingswood, Australia Day

Every Australia Day, College and Macquarie Streets in central Sydney are closed to traffic to make way for some serious pieces of machinery. Vintage and exotic cars of every era from all over Sydney and beyond arrive and line up for inspection.

The cars are polished to a high gloss finish. They bear stickers from their affiliated clubs: Coogee for Chevrolets, Oatley for Morris Minors, Menai for Holdens, Roselands for Valiants. Some are plastered with jokes such as: ‘Mother-in-law in boot’ or: ‘If you don’t run your hands over my Hudson I won’t run my Hudson over your hands!’

Owners sit behind their vehicles in their deckchairs and wait to be approached. They will oblige an enthusiast by opening the car bonnet for a view of the engine. The enthusiast will then bend over to inspect it nice and close. Serious talk will ensue, arms crossed, akimbo, or folded neatly behind. Sometimes their women join them and lay out picnics on makeshift tables.

Loves those Volkswagons!

I watch son Brian and father John linger over a Holden Kingswood. They have a good story they agree to share.

John and Brian's Holden Kingswood Story

John used to be a spray painter and smash repairer and helped raise his kids from the proceeds of doing up cars then selling them on. One day he came across a Holden Kingswood and was told it was a write off. Undeterred, John took it on. He can remember his daughter was a babe in arms at the time and he minded her while doing the repairs. John and his son Brian confer over the date –two years after Cyclone Tracey, Brian was in Year 9 at Leura School, so this makes it 1974.
Brian reminds me back in those days it wasn’t a matter of ordering another spare part as they weren’t available. Inventiveness was therefore required to repair them from scratch or if beyond repair the part would have to be sourced from the wrecker’s yards.
Well John was old school perfectionist. When his Holden Kingswood was finished, people’s jaws dropped. This Holden was the cleanest shiniest white Brian had ever seen. He said it was whiter than white, it was Captain white.  John had made the car look better than when it had rolled off the production line.  
Heads turned when John took his family out for a drive in it the very next Sunday. He bought them all ice creams and chips. It was hunky dory for a little while, ‘til those ice creams began to drip and the greasy kiddy fingers started to fingerprint the Holden’s perfectly buffed surfaces. This caused John a great deal of angst and by the time they got home, John thought to himself: “Bugger it! I’ll put the car up for sale tomorrow morning.” Why? Because he didn’t want a car that made him feel like yelling at the kids every time they made a mark.
So up for sale it went. A bloke from Lithgow rang. ‘Is it as good as it says in the ad?” He asked. John suggested he make the trip to look for himself. Well the man from Lithgow came around the corner and his draw dropped like all the others. ‘Is that it?’ He asked? “Mate, I don’t want to touch it. I’ll go to the bank now and pay you right away.” He did and off went the Holden. It broke the family’s hearts, especially Brian’s. He remembers retrieving the little white lion with bobbing head that sat on the back seat. He kept ‘til it fell apart.
This former Daimler used to belong to King George VI.
A couple of Cadillac lovers.
Patiently waiting for her man.
So if you want to see blokes earnestly chewing the fat, reminiscing, or standing in silent yet rapt attention, then come along next year.

Wednesday 30 January 2013

All things bright, beautiful and Australian, Australia Day Celebrations

After the performance of Korrobori I stay around Hyde Park to see what else is on. Virtually the first person I bump into is the gorgeous blue Wiggle, Anthony Field.

And here's a patriotic looking Bill.

Australian citizenship ceremonies are a big part of Australia Day celebrations. This year over 17,000 took the pledge. I catch this family from France just before they step onto the stage.

Lord Mayor Clover Moore has time for a quick smile before she starts.

The ceremony is brief and straightforward but it's still poignant. This woman and her son came from Siberia,

this family from the U.S.,

and voila, we now have French Aussies!

After looking at the vintage cars I catch the last of the formal celebrations on the harbour

and watch the ferry race finish under the bridge.

The Botanical Gardens are looking a lot browner since I posted 'The Morning After' at the start of January.

Roman is visiting from Ireland. He lets me capture this patriotic reflection.

I overhear Sean giving Yimei and Changzhi a running commentary about white Australia's history. He is explaining how the British jails had become overcrowded after the U.S. Civil War so in 1788 it was decided prisoners would be sent here, to establish a penal colony. He tells how Arthur Phillip, Captain and first Governor had written in his diary that he had just sailed into the finest natural harbour in the world. Sean knows where the Tank Stream is - the fresh water stream in Circular Quay which is the main reason Phillip decided to settle at Sydney Cove. He says it's near the Four Season's Hotel near George Street, that there is a fountain that commemorates it, and you can go on a tour to see it.

I'd forgotten this but Sean reminds me the Chinese Gardens near Darling Harbour were a present from the Chinese Government to commemorate our bicentenary. He tells Yimei and Changzhi (originally both from China) that Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam established a strong relationship with China in the '70s and visited long before any U.S. President. He says the Chinese were sufficiently impressed to send the gardens over, piece by piece eighteen years later.

A tourist stops to ask Sean something and Yimei and Changzhi explain that no, he's not some official tour guide. They met Sean at Strathfield train station that morning and he'd joined them on walk around Sydney today. Sean is the king of free stuff, they tell me and he's amazingly knowledgeable - well he certainly is.

Briefly interrupted, Sean gets back to it and proceeds to describe how the first fleet were made up of 900 male prisoners and 100 female prisoners who were brought out on a separate ship. On the first night, they came together for the first time and Sean says the campfires were burning that night, for sure. Basically, there was one hell of an orgy and Phillip read them all the riot act the next morning.

I ask Sean how he knows all this stuff. He says he's lived in Sydney for ten years and just picks it up  says he used to be a journalist. I leave them happily chatting on and catch a ferry home.

Sunday 27 January 2013

Korrobori, Australia Day Celebrations, Hyde Park

It's early in the big day and I manage to catch the end of this stunning dance performance, created by the directors of Woggan-ma-gule. It is based on the Dharawal or Tharawal story of the creator spirit woman Korrobori and her daughters Warra-tah and Wirid-Jiribin.

The story starts when the world is just water. Korrobori comes down from the sky from the morning star. She lifts the land from the seas and creates the valleys, mountains, trees, plants, fish, birds and animals.

Korrobori makes two daughters from the clay of the rivers to look after the world. She teaches them about the spirits and how to look after themselves and the land.

Then with sadness, Korrobori returns to the morning star, leaving Warra-tah and Wirid-Jiribin a beautiful white flower she has caused to grow. She tells them the flower has grown to remind them of their time together and one day, it will bring them great happiness.

After some time, spirit children emerge from the flower. Warra-tah and Wirid-Jiribin care for them and their children's children become the people of this land.

Afterwards I meet Gavin, one of the dancers and congratulate him. I rue the fact I'd missed some and it was all too brief. He says it felt the same to him - the rehearsals seem to drag on forever, yet the performance goes in a flash. Ah yes, always the way!

Saturday 26 January 2013

Redleaf, Double Bay

On a sultry afternoon last Friday we headed for the harbourside pool of Redleaf, a hidden treasure in Double Bay. It was renamed the Murray Rose pool after the Olympic swimmer last year, but as with the case of Albion instead of Sydney, the new name might not take. The pool is big enough for good long laps and netted off from sharks and other creepy crawlies. There’s plenty of room for sprawling in the sun on its sandy beach, boardwalk and pontoons. It offers panoramic views yet is peaceful and unpretentious.

Patrick, Max, Tom and Danny are diving and somersaulting off the boardwalk.

Their flips are graceful but there's an occasional bellyflop, signalled by the sharp smack of flesh on water.

Kids being towed from their parent's speedboat give them the finger as they zoom past. One of the lads says; 'Welcome to Sydney', and they laugh about the cheekiness of the young ones.

Back on the sand Tom approaches me for a chat. Originally from Slovenia but now living in Edgecliff, he's here for his daily walk. We compare photographs of the lads somersaulting.

Kookaburras unleash their strange stacatto cries as dusk descends and an almost full moon rises. Crickets and frogs replace the cicada song of the day.  

Sebastien is enjoying his last evening in Sydney with friends. Tomorrow he will fly to France and travel on to his home town of Lyon.

We walk bare foot up the concrete steps that still carry the warmth of the day. Couples  descend, wine bottles and glasses in hand and greet us as they pass. I overhear a boy tell his friend "In all this time I've come here, I've never done a front flip..... 'til now."