Walks and Thoughts

of Michael Simes

An old Man's Tale:

Shelf

Brighouse

West Vale

Clay House

Ripponden

Cragg Vale

Todmorden

Heptonstall

Pecket Well

Luddenden Dean

Jerusalem Farm

Catherine Slack

Stone Chair

It's Just Like Home:

Hong Kong

Auckland

Rotarua

Napier

Picton

Marlborough Sounds

Kaikoura

Milford Sound

Sydney

Manly

Blue Mountains

Northern Beaches

Thailand

A City Of Revolution:

Paris

Versailles

Sacré-Cœur

Notre Dame

Discovering Australia

Travelling Round Sydney Sightseeing and Exploring


Sydney


Early shuttle bus at 6:30am for departure to Sydney. Lots of travellers with bustle, anxiety and excitement at the airport. Tea Tree drops into ears for pressure relief. Luxury will be in one place for three weeks and unpack.

Screens show 10,000 protestors in London outside Israeli embassy. Thrilling that there’s still a few of us left. Bye to the City of Sails. Captain Valerie’s smooth and expert take-off and landing gets us to Sydney. Land of my father and grandfather. Something in your genes draws you, unfinished business.

Arrived in Sydney on time. Booked shuttle bus to apartment hotel, Maestri Towers. Shuttle is hot small mini-bus sweltering with exhausted bodies. Room not ready so explored Darling Harbour. Sun felt fierce but crowds friendly. Excellent Italian pasta on the harbour. Street entertainment, music and dancing ongoing as festival season has started.

Room not ready on return as lift broken. Asked for top apartment overlooking harbour. We’re allocated third floor inner courtyard. Impression they don’t go the extra mile for your comfort and enjoyment. Carolyn consumed with disappointment, jet lag and sea legs collapsed on to bed.

Studio apartment of high standard. Spa is not being mended till next Friday. We have washer, dryer, TV, microwave, dishwasher, music centre, fridge, CD player, bath, shower and air conditioning. More than we’ve got at home. Carolyn continues to sleep despite exhortations to wake.

Do not understand instructions for cleaning or arrangements for locking external door overnight. Not used to this rigid security. Laying on floor by balcony door looking upwards you get a small chink of L-shaped sky. A few palms amidst air conditioning machinery does not compensate. Unpacked in a spirit of optimism. Carolyn sleeps on.

There’s been a great migration of 6 million people from over 100 nations. Welcome Wall by Maritime Museum is a tribute to our migrant forebears. For over 40,000 years people walked this land, not as owners but custodians. Captain Cook was a busy man. Here his Endeavour is moored in Darling Harbour. There’s a harbourside memorial to merchant seamen in 1940’s. As a boy sailor my dad jumped ship to stay in Sydney. Later he rejoined, pardoned for the war effort. To my father, a special place. To my grandfather he gave his life here to aspiration and commercial travelling.

Ran around Darling Harbour. Turning corner from a distance, huge arch of harbour bridge is visible. You cannot take your eyes off, an icon revealed before your fixed gaze.

Morning ferry from Aquarium to Circular Quay for $5.20 cents. Ferry conjures up magnificent pictures of bridge and opera house. Carolyn’s stomach upset by ferry ride. Walked round Opera House, finished in tiles and changing perspectives.

Quayside latte and raisin bread watching the gangs climb the bridge. Carolyn tearful as missing kiddiwinks. Norman Aubrey was here for six months before pneumonia consumed him. Sydney is a sprawling city of four million. All our kiddiwinks have been here. Opera house opened by Philip and Elizabeth in 1973, an architectural and aesthetic wonder. Strolling through botanical gardens on the promenade seeking rest, shade and recuperation. Herds of joggers striving for fitness and body beautiful. Return to apartment for siesta, coolness and tuna on rye.

The Rocks is Sydney’s old town frequented by sailors, whalers and famed larrikins. Bridge is 134 metres above the harbour. In last 24 hours been three shark attacks, two at Bondi. Sixty attacks in the last year. 2009 is the year of the shark. Man depletes fishing stock forcing sharks closer to shore for food.

Letter delivered as farewell present from colleagues. A gift voucher for harbour bridge climb. Surprisingly Carolyn offers to join our bakers’ dozen. Nothing appears fearsome after whaling expedition. A three hour ascent, for the climb of a lifetime. Michael Caine can do it. I should be alright. Couples become engaged on the bridge. Climbers need to be ten years of age. No maximum. Record held by 100 year old woman. There’s a ghost wailing on the bridge.

Carolyn had cold swim in basement pool. Lack of privacy in our courtyard, views over looked by fellow residents and office workers. They spend all day crouched up to windows staring at us. We’ve cracked the exit and entry systems and used lift without tragedy.

Overseas tourists are down by 5%, rising to 10% for economy related tourism. Explore Chinatown and discover $16 special on tables in billowing streets. Greeters enjoy their success in enticing more custom. Sydney a potpourri of ethnic groups in acerbic manners.

Set off to locate grandfather’s address in Upper Pitt Street, North Sydney. Booked bridge climb. Carolyn will accompany and support tomorrow. As a pilot, walked pedestrian footpath across bridge. Only moderately terrifying with stunning views over opera house with its soaring shells. Norman Aubrey’s house demolished. Replaced by modern apartment block. Rather pleasant area with views of bridge, the Olympic pool and art deco Luna Park funfair. Ferry back to Darling Harbour.

Rhapsody of the Seas, the giant cruise liner docked adjacent to the bridge. There’s a lot of captains round here. Out in the mid day sun again.

Bridge can carry trainloads, overweight lorries and convoys of cars without a murmur of discontent. Surely it can carry me up and down. Fear not dissipated by rational argument. Anton Chekhov and Complete Works of Shakespeare appearing at Opera House.

Our apartment a grounded skyscraper chute where all light shaded and whirlwinds skip around a pair of palms. Harbour Bridge is secured by two patrolling officers to deter suicide plungers and paragliders whose non-life is punctuated by shots of adrenalin fix. We have two frappé by bridge topped with cream and ice cream. Carolyn suffered stomach upset all day.

European settlers were questioned “When we asked to see god the missionaries refused to introduce us”. Me and god have a playful relationship. I pretend he doesn’t exist and he leaves me alone.

Skyline reveals dark clouds puffing from bush fires threatening Sydney suburbs. Will they evacuate Sydney? Please congregate at Darling Harbour. Look in Sydney directory and find nineteen namesakes. There’s none in my hometown. Genes don’t always carry names.

Matthew Haydon the Colossus will retire tonight at the Gabba. We’re all Aussies now. I never got a lap of honour. My centuries were detaining my friends in hospital. Cheese and tomato omelette in self-catering.

Day of the Climb

Morning of the bridge climb. Taxi to start line for 7:30am. Briefing and measured for jump suit. Just like space shuttle astronauts camouflaged in two-tone grey to avoid distracting motorists. No water or toilet for 3 ½ hours on one of hottest days of summer. Preparation and safety elaborate and comprehensive by Neil. Tempted to scream “all very impressive but can I go now?”. Owned up to my terror so put at the front with Neil. I don’t do heights. High fives with Neil with one hand locked onto rail.

Three hours of sustained and contained horror mediated through determination to accept the challenge. Us professional athletes face challenges every day. Pausing for views, landmark photographs and stories need extra resolve. Inclined to get up, over and down as quickly as possible. Some people enjoy exhilarating views of harbour region, Blue Mountains and Tasman Sea. Summit crossing is exposed within narrow bounds. Perspiration glistens in the sun as breathing forced deep and restrained. I could have excluded myself on the count of asthma, blood pressure, headaches and shit-scared. Incongruous dialogue with climbers on the edge discussing their plans for globe trekking, if they survive. Woman from London at this summit conference in the sky confides she gave up her job and sold her house to do this.

Neil leads applause at the end, it’s brave when you’re terrified. You get certificate, photograph and memories to keep. Carolyn comes to support but wobbly legs evidence of the strain. We’re all a family now. “I wasn’t scared till I got out on the bridge”. Looking back it’s so high, 1439 steps to conquer. I didn’t need my glasses and passed the breath test.

Lashings of boiling sugared tea, copious water and sleep starts the recovery. Everyone should do it. Shared experiences enjoyed by clapping home the next entranced gangs. Took on stores of crisps, oranges, bananas to combat cramp after heat excitement. Watched Phantom of the Seas being tugged between bridge and opera house on its sail around the world. We tasted Italian pasta at the Rocks – site of the infamous pushes terrorising natives in 1880’s.

Ocean Baths

Hotness surrounds us at 33°C, shade offers little respite. Sweat pours out, cannot replenish quickly enough to avoid cramp.

Ferry to Cremorne Point on north shore to soak in MacCallum’s saltwater pool. Art deco gem on ocean edge splashing up landscape of bridge and opera house. Famous as a pool with a view. There’s a series of saltwater hygiene sea pools for local workers. Chlorine free it can leave you itchy all day. There are open air showers. You get fit, healthy and clean workers for the market. A stimulating therapeutic swim enjoyed by all.

Over one hundred pools scattered along perimeter of coast of New South Wales. You could become a serial pool hopper. I like this North Shore, it’s where Norman Aubrey lived and where my Dad came as a baby. He spent four infant months in his abortive return shipping trip to Sydney . Could Norman Aubrey imagine his grandson retreading his path?

Tropical storm with thunder and lightening empties the pool. Sea planes, ferries, yachts, and jet-boats pass by unconcerned. They abort bridge climb if electric storms within 10k. The Prime Minister’s house is just round the corner. Rain doesn’t worry us professional athletes. Carolyn shares weather forecast with locals.

Met London woman living in Sydney. Her husband is building the new container port in Botany Bay. Disparaging of social housing residents who may have criminal tendencies to threaten middle class aspirations to sterility. She’s a nice woman enjoying her three year sojourn in Sydney. We know more about mass transport. She soaked up the free proletarian pool.

Homemade meal in our apartment. Stayed in watching Italian film with subtitles. Rex the dog played a good part. It was the minister who did it. Still not managed to open the dishwasher.