Walks and Thoughts

of Michael Simes

An old Man's Tale:



West Vale

Clay House


Cragg Vale



Pecket Well

Luddenden Dean

Jerusalem Farm

Catherine Slack

Stone Chair

It's Just Like Home:

Hong Kong





Marlborough Sounds


Milford Sound



Blue Mountains

Northern Beaches


A City Of Revolution:




Notre Dame

Discovering Australia

Travelling Round Sydney Sightseeing and Exploring


John flies off to San Francisco to-day for 4 weeks in the States. Bob phoned from home. Apartment is next to Seafarer’s Mission where Dad may have retreated after jumping ship in Sydney. They can furnish seafarers with evangelistic mini discs. There’s 300 around the world. A gospel for every port. On our doorstep are the bells of St Andrew’s Cathedral built in 1819. Bells installed by John Taylor of Loughborough. You can join one of their liturgic gatherings.

Ferry to Manly beach by the Coat Hanger for $17 daily pass. It’s loaded with excited youngsters. An army of ants in procession towards surf beach.

A Manly broad sweep of white sand bounded by headlands. Cooling breeze off the sea. Regular signs announce unsafe to swim. Hundreds surfing and riding waves. Loud hailers advise to swim between flag areas. Who has jurisdiction here?

Joggers in skimpy trunks progress slowly round the curve. Bring your own surfboard. Manly is 7km north east of Sydney city, gateway to the northern beaches. There’s a salty air to this seaside town. Lifeguards start recalling people from the sea. “It’s just like an Australian surf beach”. It gets more than 5 million visitors each year.

Manly Scenic Walk. For 10k you can peel back the tourist brochure veneer and discover the appeal of things you can’t buy tickets for. Within a few metres you leave behind the packed bustle.

At Grotto Point you’re invited to the Aboriginal occupation site. It’s a sacred place symbolically concealed at the top of the mountain.

Past the Fairy Bower Pool in Cabbage Tree bay. Locals use to escape intensity of Manly, a space to relax, not preen and stare. A bohemian retreat you can join without a subscription. A place to return.

An immersion in Sandy Bay to cool off, paddled to the spit. Delightful inaccessible assortment of sandy and rocky coves. A varied bush coastal walk, up and down, not recommended for worn out knees.

There’s Manly Surf beach for fit, lean and bronzed. Town beach by the wharfe for family and obese. Shame about the discrimination. We enjoyed both. Shark nets used on town beach.

Seaside fish and chips on Manly beach watching surf boat training. Return ferry to Circular Quay in dark shows a different light.

Taronga Zoo

Walked to Circular Quay for ferry to Taronga Zoo. Carolyn disturbed by early morning ferry before digestion. Relaxed perching on observatory hill above the harbour. Here’s a memorial to Aussie volunteers in South African war. A shame to share. Another multi storey cruiser from P and O sits in the harbour.

We’re in the midst of a wedding gathering at the Pavilion. It’s an opportunity for heels and hats on your weekend activity. Guests have to sign in. Hosting surfeit of weddings and hen parties – where are the stags? Lots of weekend parties on circulating boats with loud noise, music, booze and good humour. “Sydney is a young lady content in her skin”.

Regular ferry takes us under the bridge. Confide our climbing expertise with woman from Wellington and her young son. Posted photographic evidence of bridge climb to colleagues back home. Difficult to relate to colleagues and clients in a world standing from their daily lives. Holidays defined as breaks from work. Retirement the long holiday stripped of meaning. Don’t retire, just change! Its alright being an elder but the tribe need to have value added. I wouldn’t be writing this if not retired.

At Taronga we watch back flipping sea lions and fix on Indian elephant disinhibited by dangling phallus. Crowds noisy, chattering and heated. Jokes about five legged elephants titillate young women, a sort of female envy.

Fleeting peek at tigers, bears, meercats and giraffes set in the Sydney backdrop. There’s red and grey kangaroos. “Mind the kangaroos, they’ll beat the crap out of you if you’re not careful”. A buck may reign for only one year in which time he can mate with all females as “boss of the mob”. Do they have access to the Gregorian calendar? The doe makes do with a pouch and portable nursery.

Emu, wallabies and dingoes tired and sleep in the shade. We should emulate. Dingoes interbreeding with domestics means there’s few pure breeds now in Australia. We’ve still not seen any dolphins.

Newly released figures report there’s been 200 shark attacks in New South Wales. Sydney shark nets installed in 1937. There’s no longer a guarantee of safety. There’s no permanent barriers just messages to stop sharks establishing their territory. Two young men drown in Shelley beach carried away with the rip and alcohol.

Join the Koala walkabout for feeding time. They’re permanently stoned on eucalyptus to sleep for twenty hours. Feeding time is a lively interlude gorging on eucalyptus leaves. Koalas are marsupials and cousins of the wombat. For the aboriginal Koala means no drinking. Joeys stay in the pouch for six months. Us and them share unique fingerprints.

Chimpanzees suck partner’s armpits, both parties have hypnotic appreciation. An exhibition of mutual masturbation, pleasuring each other in public. Orang-utan plays peek a boo. “That’s one hell of a hairy animal”. It pulls its comfort blanket as cover. Who’s in control of their environment? What is an orang-utan house? Freda and Freddie arrived in 1935. They are an endangered species.

Natives are captured, dressed to perform, procreation allowed in captivity, reserved and circumscribed in their freedom. Kindly keepers may take care but no longer masters of their own universe.

Closure at five as heat withdraws the day. A long enjoyable day out for all the family. Day ends as it started overlooking from observatory. Roses and marital photographs not yet finished. A day of the senses.

Bondi Beach

Bus to Bondi beach takes half an hour and costs $13.20. Bondi is original word for tumbling waters. Smaller than Manly its not overcrowded. Thirty-five thousand flock here on a hot summer’s day for a big swell. Strong currents make hazardous swimming. Lifesavers rescue up to one hundred. They are busy and coiled for alertness. Ocean pool for Bondi Icebergers is roped and laned excluding the novice and casual. There’s classes for yoga by the sea, no time for this at the moment.

There’s no big breakers from Pacific today. Not sure if professional athletes fit enough to parade on this icon. In running vest and shorts you’re overdressed. I could be adorned with a compulsory surfboard. A few months toning programme precedes entrance to Bondi. Classes for pubescents guarantees next generation of graduate surfers. Beach is for taut sculpted precious bodies. Sagging bulges outlawed and alienated. Beach is mowed regularly by tractor to keep pristine. Bondi’s an excluded alien custom.

What would they make of George Freeth, the Irishman who invented the art of surfing in 1907. Man of Hawaiian heritage whose prototype surfboard a thick plank of wood weighing 200lbs, later customised. The man who could walk on water became the patron saint of surfing. He wowed thousands on Californian beaches in 1907. George died prematurely at the age of 35 in 1918. One of the 225,000 victims of the flu pandemic in 1918 – a disease widespread by the war. He won the congressional medal of honour for bravery in rescuing Japanese fishermen.

Friendly café overseeing beach provides delicious coffee, raspberry muffins and enthused welcome. Maybe this place could captivate. We’d have to liberate for the fat and elderly. Ionising sea effects for depression and asthma needs to be available for all. It’s young and lively but needs to be brochured for young at heart.

Weather forecast as sunny mid 30’s all week. Circular rainbow predicts storm coming in a couple of days. Noticeable there’s no boats, no adverts for cruises or tours. We all know it’s just surf and display. There’s no silver surfers, handful of black bodies and no bare chested women. We paddled edge of Pacific. You’re no longer charged to enter the beach.

Walked coastal path to Bronte beach, named after Horatio Nelson who was the Duke of Bronte in Sicily. Bronte is an inviting place with gentle embrace. No surfers and more relaxed atmosphere on same white sand. You could enjoy yourself more here. Two lifeguards patrol the twenty metre corridor saved for swimmers. You could feel at home here. You could sleep on the beach.

Body boarders manically paddle out to swell. Swimmers rush into sea and crawl out beyond breakers.

It’s a local beach that belongs. You have more kinship here. Clutching intimacy in shared silence. You may keep your icons. Bondi has the loud intensity which excites young blood. It need not detain you.

Rock pool and bogey hole to savour. Legions of joggers in packs launched on coastal track. Bobbing, weaving and scrambling for space. Single file and keep to the left is survival rule. Have joggers become the new cyclists? Proper athletes pound the streets at the crack of dawn, and then to bed.

Back in Sydney, a time to dawdle doing light work. Hiding from the sun. Obama to be inducted tonight at 11.00pm. Book rail tickets online, London to home. Fleeting thoughts would like to be home.

Walk on the South side discovering other sector of harbour. Calmness descends as sun bends towards 5:00pm. Siesta and sleep to recover from red wine and red steak.

Central station was designed by British engineer, John Whittaker. He was the English father of New South Wales railway who emigrated in 1856. He retired in broken health and unappreciated until his death in 1898.

Bought weekly Guardian reporting on credit crunch and great crash of ’07. The system teetering permanently on a knife edge. Where risk shades into outright fraud. What was touted as wealth creation was wealth capture on grandest scale by robber bankers, aided and abetted by monetarists. How could that coalition clean up its own mess? Pubs are closing at rate of thirty per week. It’s time to be angry.

Spanish restaurant for paella. So noisy you had to bark your orders. A long wait for delivery. There’d be 40 minutes without food or communication so leave without being fed. Went for a Japanese and noodle bar. Not an aficionado of raw fish or strange textured mysteries. World’s menu is my oyster. Carolyn enjoyed but she’s allergic to uncooked fish.