Sunday, May 25, 2014

Sydney old and new

20140525_144907-14 Dawn Fraser Pool
After watching an episode of the BBC program Coast -  now turning its attention to Australia – we were inspired by its Sydney episode to go looking for the Dawn Fraser Baths in Balmain. Although I’ve passed by here many times, I wasn’t aware that the baths were an enclosed harbour tidal pool until seeing this program. When you’re in a country that takes plentiful swimming pools for granted, there’s nothing in a name that will lure you to make a special visit.

While we’re enjoying a decadently sunny autumn – one that seems to get warmer as we get closer to winter – the baths are closed from April to October. Approaching it via Elkington Park we passed a group of people picnicking by the harbour, with a Munson-coloured malamute lying on its back, paw in mouth, enjoying the sun. Oh that Munson had been with us for this outing!
20140525_145042-48_stitch Dawn Fraser Pool
Scouting for coffee after this we avoided downtown Balmain’s spreading network of parking meters and looped back to Chippendale. From there we walked up Broadway to look at the new Central Park urban village development. We’d had a brief look at it in November on a wet and windy day – this time with Munson in tow – and had not had the opportunity to look inside ( that Sydney limiting factor of having a dog ).
Central Park or Centra Park?
In my first year out of university I lived a few blocks away from here when the site belonged to Carlton United, with the smell of malt from the brewery carring up Broadway and Parramatta Road.

The old brewery building remains with its internal workings restored and space given over to a combination of energy generating facility and public space. Around that is a belt of parkland, and a major retail and apartment development wrapped in living vegetation – the world’s highest “green wall”. This sits directly across Broadway from the brutal monolith of UTS (University of Technology, Sydney) which may be cloaked in even more futuristic fashion in a few years.
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The inner commercial space is still a work in progress, and far from busy on weekend afternoon. There are video walls, eccentric spinning chairs and a skylight washed in water to create a dappled light on the foyer floors below. What I did like was that you could stand in the central open space and look out through a number of windows of the encircling shops and see sky and greenery.
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Also facing Central Park is a new UTS Information Technology and Engineering (ITE) building enveloped in perforated aluminium screens. For anyone who has not seen this southwestern approach to the city in a few years, the combination of new structures will come as quite a surprise.  In Google Maps you can currently make a quick comparison, by starting here to see that stretch of Broadway in recent months, and then moving a little to the left and seeing the original view.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Park portraits

2014-05-17 Munson at Sydney Park
Late afternoon light spilling off a cloud shaped like a bird in flight turns it into a phoenix … and a nice opportunity to capture Munson on the grassy slopes of a Sydney Park hill.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Autumn on the beach

Munson at Silver Beach, Kurnell (2)
We found Silver Beach at Kurnell two months ago and Munson romped with para-skiers and pelicans. You’d hardly know we’ve moved from summer into autumn, although none of the other dogs playing today seemed to take to the water as much as Munson.
Munson at Silver Beach, Kurnell (1)Looking across Botany Bay to central Sydney

Saturday, May 03, 2014

Strictly Benjamin

Ben at the piano - Concert HallA couple of years ago Ben made his backhoe debut on the French farm, and it is with nearly as much excitement that Gustav and I took our seats at the Sydney Opera House this evening for his concert debut at that venue. The program “Strictly Luhrmann” was principally comprised of classical pieces featuring in Baz Luhrmann’s films, with some suites of soundtrack edits rounding out the mix. Ben’s major contribution was as pianist for Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue as used in the score for The Great Gatsby – both here and in the actual soundtrack.

Reference score Ben soothes the savage beast
Ben stayed with us for his first few days in Sydney, moving to hotel digs closer to the Opera House for his final nights. On Saturday I found a set of his scores left in the guest room, and brought them along to hand over post concert. When he and Leah visited Sydney last year we hadn’t yet moved back into our house and couldn’t offer them accommodation, so it wasn’t till this week that Ben got to stay with us again, and adjust to seeing the farmhouse furniture in new surroundings, although of course with Munson still on the sofa.
Artiste and familiar in repose
Earlier in the week I had a dinner out with Ben and conductor Matt Dunkley at a great Thai restaurant in Newtown. Not only does the Thai Pothong have a wicked menu, but it has a gift-shop with scrap-metal recreations of Alien, Predator, and Optimus Prime. I’d not met Matt before, but over dinner conversation learned that we shared a common experience of listening to Rick Wakeman’s prog rock keyboard music in our teen years.
Matt and Ben with fellow lifesized monsters Gustav, Daniel & Aaron at Opera House bar
Back to the concert – while settling into our complimentary box seats, a look at our Facebook feed revealed that some friends, Aaron & Daniel were also at this concert, and by the angle of the stage photo they’d posted, not far away. I took a look over into the next box, and sure enough, they were only sitting a few metres away. This was great for Gustav at intermission, as chatting with them helped fight against his jetlag from his Copenhagen to Sydney flight yesterday.

After the concert, Ben had other musical duties, having arranged to participate in a free post-concert program in the northern foyer. This SSO Night Lounge event began with some works that Ben had commissioned years earlier, followed by a movement from Brahms’ Piano Quintet (below), and then a recomposed version of  Rimsky Korsakov’s Scheherezade with DJ JayKay Mystery.

Ben and SSO members play Brahms Piano Quintet