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Sydney Hong Kong

14th March 2012

A Maritime and Art Fix Day

Paddy's Market
    I had a bit more oomph this morning - amazing what they dish out for breakfast in this country. I headed out to the city, passing through Paddy's Market to buy a jumbo pack of paracetamol.
    The sun was out in force again, but a gusty wind made for a pleasurable walk. My destination was the Australian National Maritime Museum by Darling Harbour.
    The large, modern building gave a good account of the European Navigators who arrived in the 17th-19th centuries in search of knowledge, new lands and trade. The "great south land" took shape as New Holland and finally Australia.
James Craig
    Whilst immersing myself in the stories of the great navigators, umpteen parties of school children were being guided around the same section by an army of museum guides. I couldn't help but overhear how the individual guides' accounts varied. One such guide, with a booming voice, had his entourage enthralled.
    "...... Captain Cook was killed, cooked, and turned into a sandwich in the Sandwich Islands," he told them, "and what do you think of that?" The response from the kids ranged from absolute horror to endless hilarity.
    Of course, being a long distance from other lands necessitated long sea voyages. One section of the museum was devoted to how millions of people crossed the seas to make new homes in Australia: convicts and settlers in sailing ships, migrants in ocean liners, and more recently refugees in frail boats.
    Commercial aspects were also covered since the island continent had always depended on the sea, prospering with the development of ports, whaling, fishing and shipping.
    Much of the ground floor was devoted to Australia's Navy, established in 1911, it had served around the world. Today it takes a varied role, patrolling a vast coastline and supporting international allies.
HMAS Vampire and HMAS Onslow
Monorail Crossing Pyrmont Bridge
    To be expected, the Australian love affair with the water was also covered, as voyagers, sailors, rowers, swimmers and spectators. One exhibit where I had a personal guided tour, was a 37' yacht, the Jamie Mac, named after the sailor's father, but also named Blackmores First Lady, Blackmores being a sponsor. In this vessel in 1988 Kay Cottee became the first woman to circumnavigate the world alone, without touching land or receiving any physical assistance. An experienced yachtswoman, Cottee spent months preparing her yacht for the voyage. To set her solo-sailing record she survived being washed overboard and being battered by massive seas.
    The craft was quite spacious inside, with a cargo net on the cabin port side holding together most of her loose gear, and a bunk on the starboard side. Apart from radio, the most hi-tec equipment available to her at the time were a couple of early versions of solar panels and a radar alarm that would sound if she was within 7km of another vessel.
    Floating outside in Darling Harbour was the destroyer HMAS Vampire (1959-86), the last big-gun ship built in Australia before the introduction of guided missiles. Moored alongside it was the submarine HMAS Onslow (1969-99). In addition there were the 1888 racing yacht Akarana, and a traditional Vietnamese junk Tu Duo (Freedom) which sailed into Darwin in 1977 with 39 refugees.
    Earlier times were represented by the tall ship James Craig, Sydney Heritage Fleet's 1874 square-rigger. Sadly, the replica of HMB Endeavour was out of port at the time.
Work by a Final Year Student - Made Entirely From Paper
    Having saturated myself with maritime history, I made my way across town to the Domain where the Art Gallery of New South Wales was sited. I needed an art fix.
    Here I was treated to a collection of 15th-20th century European art, and of course from the 19thb century onwards Australian art. For some reason, only 20th century Aboriginal art was on display. Perhaps such art was never collected before then, or it never survived.
    An Asian gallery displayed exquisite Chinese ceramics and brush paintings. I have a lot of respect for Chinese culture and philosophy. The Chinese Garden of Friendship I had explored the other day, which revealed a great deal about their balance with beauty and nature, and their approach to art in general, makes me think the west could learn a lot from China. But there again, examining some of China's human rights issues makes me think they could learn a lot from the west. For how many years will culture clashes exist?
Parrots for Tea
    As with most contemporary art I see, I found some of the Australian version interesting and quirky, but some completely beyond me. One exhibit by an artist comprised two 2m square canvases, painted black with a barely discernible texture in the paint. One was titled "Stephen Hawking", the other, "Stephen Hawking Thinking about Space". Perhaps I'm thick, but it was beyond me.
    What I did find refreshing was a floor allocated to the work of final year art students. These youngsters had a wide range of originality in their offerings, and undisputed talent. This display was also popular with the public, and they can't all have been relatives.
Street Full of Bird Cages
    Having been on my feet for hours, I took a break in the gallery cafe. A previous customer had spilt some sugar on the adjacent table, and had also rolled up a small sheet of paper into a cigar shape, and left it on the table. A woman sat at the table engrossed in her coffee, cake and book. Two multi-coloured parrots swooped down onto the table, completely ignored the woman, and started to hoover up the sugar and tried to dissect the "cigar" of paper. The creatures were very tame and their amusing antics were a pleasure to behold.
    As I left the gallery, two women dressed in yellow and purple stopped me to bring to my attention the government's plan to pass the responsibility of handling child abuse issues to outside parties. "To save money I guess," I said. I followed up by asking, "Then the big question is who vets these outside parties and their policies?" "Initially the government would vet them, but once contracts have been won, there would be no further checks," said one of the women.
    "This could be a dangerous path to follow, and with a wide and diverse set of outfits, there would be no uniformity of care," was my response. The women agreed, and that was why a rally was currently being held in the Domain to raise the public's awareness.
    "I have no idea about your political system, but would the opposition party stand up to this?" I queried. "Well we have primarily Labour and Liberals, and in the wings the Greens. There is little difference between the Labour and Liberals, so much so that people are now starting to show their apathy. People have so little confidence in either party that the last election was kept informal," they told me. I responded by saying, "We have similar problems in the UK too. I would like to see a system where it is compulsory to vote. Many people whinge about political parties, and it is often the case that they didn't vote for a party anyway. But I can understand people's apathy about voting if they have no confidence in voting for any of the parties. It would be progress if one of the boxes on the voting slip was there to provide feedback that there was no confidence, i.e. include a "No Confidence" box on the voting slip." The women laughed at that, but could see the merits. I left them wishing them a successful campaign.
    I walked down through the Domain, through Circular Quay, and around the Opera House, taking my last lingering views of the graceful curves of the latter, and the magnificent Harbour Bridge, just as the sun was setting.
    I treated myself to a meal at the Rocks, my last evening meal alone on this trip.

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Sydney Hong Kong

Uploaded from Ipswich on 26th March at 12:50

Last updated 26.3.2012