Sunday, November 15, 2009

Weekend Respite

Whoa! Time to take a breather.

In October I increased my work days to four days a week. At the same time, there was an influx of work so I've been struggling to fit my work into four days. It's funny how working one additional day seems to have completely upset my routine. Throw in some weekend events and it feels like I've been on the go for weeks. The massages Tony and I had yesterday, booked seven weeks ago, could not have been more timely.

We have been out every weekend for the three weeks—very unusual for two homebodies.

Seven Bridges Walk

Dad and Tony on the Sydney Harbour Bridge

The Seven Bridges Walk started in 2006 and is a 25 kilometre walk around Sydney Harbour. Dad and I first attempted the walk in 2007 and managed to walk about 17-18km. We started at Pyrmont Bridge, crossed six bridges, trudged through back streets and bushland, before hobbling into the Wollstonecraft Village at Brennan Park where we caught the free bus back to Circular Quay.

This year, Dad, Tony and I planned to walk the seven bridges then catch the free bus back. We started at Milsons Point so Dad and I could tick off the ‘missing’ bridge, the Sydney Harbour Bridge. A huge team was clearing the road after the Breakfast on the Bridge. The only evidence of the grand picnic was the lack of traffic, a small carpet of grass and stray blades in the middle of the bitumen and long trailers piled high with coils of turf. From the bridge we walked down Hickson Road and along the Barangaroo foreshore. As we looked across Darling Harbour, the skies darkened and it started to spit. As we neared King Street Wharf the rain built to a steady drizzle so we stopped for morning tea in the boardroom of the office where Tony works and watched as the rain got heavier and heavier. After Pyrmont Bridge, the course meanders through open streets and bushland so we decided to abandon the walk. Instead, we spent the next couple of hours at Jimmy's Recipe in the TGV, sheltering in an artifically-lit, tiled ‘laneway’, tucking into hainanese chicken rice and laksa and occasionally being splashed by the rain as it fell in the small courtyard behind the Art Hotel.

The Food and Wine Fair

Food—a seemingly integral part of all our family outings! The following week Tony and I were in Hyde Park enjoying the Food and Wine Fair. It was a lovely sunny day. People streamed past the stalls that lined the paths around the Archibald Fountain or sought out tables or shady grassed areas to enjoy their meals and listen to the music.

We started with a dish each from Tabou: rabbit rillettes (similar to paté) with pear chutney and a baguette. Delicious! However, we quickly learnt that if we wanted to sample more dishes we were going to have to share.

That was a novel task. Try sharing a trio of hors d'oeuvres:a finger-sized duck pancake, a bite-sized piece of wagu beef and a cupcake-sized tart. Or what about a betel nut leaf, spicy ground nut or mince wrapped in a green heart-shaped leaf and served in a shot glass?

Afterwards, we explored the laneways of Sydney looking for the exhibits in the Laneways by George! Hidden Networks public art exhibition. My favourite? “Forgotten Songs”, empty bird cages suspended above our heads with bird calls echoing in the stillness. For me, it conjures up visions of Asia: I've always wanted to see the gathering of bird owners in Singapore and this exhibit is how I imagine those gatherings to be.

“Forgotten Songs”

The annual family picnic

71 years is an important birthday in the Chinese lunar calendar and, as the Chinese believe that a person is one on the day he or she is born, the 71st coincides with the 70th in the Western calendar. For my Aunt's birthday last year all the cousins from the Sydney, Newcastle and the Hunter Valley regions gathered at Budgewoi. It was such a great day, we held a second picnic last weekend. The park where we meet is on the shores of Lake Munmorah. There are picnic shelters, electric barbecues, lots of shade-providing trees, and a playground and plenty of open space for the kids to run and play. My cousin, Wilma was the ‘official’ blogger for the event (she's a more reliable and regular blogger than I) and she has posted photos on her blog.

Nutcote, the home of May Gibbs

And to top off the busy weekends, I spent a great day with Mum last Wednesday negotiating Sydney's public transport system (a feat in itself) to visit Nutcote at Neutral Bay. Our outing from Sydney's north-western suburbs and around the harbour encompassed three train trips, a ferry ride across the harbour, two buses from Neutral Bay to North Sydney, a tour of Nutcote and a walk through its gardens, morning and afternoon tea at different Circular Quay cafés, and lunch at North Sydney. (I did say that food is an integral part of my family's outings).

The front door of Nutcote
It was another perfect day: warm and sunny. Inside Nutcote, it was cool and airy. The rooms are filled with photographs and pictures, May Gibb's work, and her and her husband's possessions (or similar items). The pianola looked very familiar; it looked like an upmarket version of the 1926 pianola on which we learnt to play the piano. And in one of the display cases was May Gibbs's travelling art kit and it looked exactly the same as my grandfather's kit. I could swear that even the tubes of pain were the same as the tubes that were left in my grandfather's.
Nutcote was built in 1925, the same year as our house. So as Mum and I are walking through I'm thinking “That's how the picture rails should look in our house ...”, “That's the type of door knob I need to buy ...”.
The house sits in the middle of a steep, sloping block that runs down to the harbour foreshore. The views from the balcony and the back garden were perfect postcard views. A small group of volunteers were busy in the garden, preparing it for the planned garden display on the weekend. Although May Gibbs's stories relate to Australian native flora, the plants in her garden are English because she was an “English girl at heart”. However, as one of the gentlemen was telling us, the garden can be difficult to maintain because those “English plants do not like the Sydney climate”.
* * *
So, we finally get a weekend at home and some time to relax. Can't put the feet up for too long though—I'm attending a conference in Melbourne and we've decided to fly down early for the weekend. So we have another busy weekend ahead!

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