A shared heritage comes up trumps

Friday 7 August 2009

The suitcases are packed and the TimTams procured.  We are almost ready to leave Australia behind, to return to reality.

While this Pom could whinge about a few things (lack of public toilets in Sydney for example), the welcome and hospitality we have received has been fantastic. 

Most of the people who have given up their time to enlighten our visit (and in many cases have welcomed us in to their homes) we know through Ann’s family history research.  They are not relations, but have ancestors from similar places to where Ann’s came from.  They however do feel like family, because that is how they have treated us. 

A big thank you to you all – too numerous to list but hopefully already mentioned somewhere in this blog – you have made our holiday so much better than it would have been if we had just arrived with a year’s reading of the Lonely Planet and other Guides.

But before we go, I just thought I’d share one of the  shop signs from Oxford St, Darlinghurst which made us laugh:

lick-her shop


Leave those flies alone, they are your only friends here

Thursday 6 August 2009

I was allowed out again on my own today.  You can probably guess the destination – The Sydney Cricket Groundrichie benaud statue SCG 

Some great names played cricket for New South Wales – such as Fred “The Demon” Spofforth, Victor Trumper, Don Bradman, Tiger O’Reilly, Keith Miller, Alan Davidson, Richie Benaud, Steve Waugh and Glen McGrath, to name but a  few!

Like Melbourne, most of  Sydney’s major sporting stadia (except the Olympic Stadium) are gathered together in a discrete area – Moore Park.  My tour included the Sydney Football Staium too, which was where we started.  This is the nearest of the stadia to Paddington suburb, and has been built into the ground, to reduce the environmental impact, so the pitch is about 15 yards lower than street level.

sydney football stadium players tunnel

This means that the players’ tunnel slopes downwards and enables them to hit the ground running at some pace; of course it also means that they have to climb back up that slope at half-time and the end of the game!

We then moved on to the Cricket Ground, via the state of the art indoor nets – each net has a different surface equivalent to those found in Australia, England, and the Indian sub-continent – and apparently matching light conditions to boot.

SCG members pavillion

The pavillion is still the one built for the original ground for the soldiers at Paddington Barracks.  The Long Bar (also known as the Bradman Bar) provides a fantastic view of the ground (as long as you stay sober).   The dressing rooms are of similar age and have the usual Test Match honours boards which made interesting reading.  The home dressing room has one-way glass (so you can see out, but not in), except for one panel of the door.  This was apparently broken by a certain left-hand opening batsman who has recently retired from Test Cricket and also publishes cookery books, who broke it on his return from the crease by way of expressing his dissatisfaction at getting out.  There was no one-way glass immediately available, so clear glass was used by way of replacement.

Once the Sydney Swans AFL team had finished their practice, we want out on to the hallowed turf; it was a mess, but Danny, our guide, said that all the scuffs and marks from the AFL would be repaired in time for the cricket season.

Yabba at the SCG

We then walked over to the Trumper stand which used to be the infamous Hill.  At the foot of the stand was a bronze of a character called Yabba who was a pretty constant feature on the Hill during cricket matches at the SCG between the two world wars.  My favourite Yabba-ism was allegedly directed at the hated (by Aussies) England Captain Douglas Jardine during the notorious bodyline series in 1932/3; Jardine started brushing away the flies and Yabba shouted “Leave those flies alone, Jardine, they are your only friends here”.

Paddy’s Markets

Thursday 6 August 2009

paddys market

Last full day in Australia, so almost the last chance to do some shopping for those things you can only get over here.  So it’s off to Paddy’s Markets in Sydney’s Chinatown. 

While much of what is on sale is tat which might well have been on the latest boat from China, I did manage to find a few nice aboriginal art t-shirts and a few other bits and pieces.


Wednesday 5 August 2009

On the train again! We’re going down from Sydney to Wollongong to meet Phyllis and Len, who live farther down the coast at Berry. The meeting place is of interest to Ann – this is where her great great grandfather’s brother emigrated to from County Monaghan in the 1860s.

double decker sydney train 

The train is a double decker – seats upstairs and downstairs. Like the old trams, you can move the seat-back so that you can face the direction of travel whichever way you are heading. The trains again are clean – but not that quick. Whether that’s an issue with the curves on the track or the height of the trains is unclear. However the mostly coastal journey provides a good view from the upper deck to compensate for the dawdle (compared to a Sheffield to London inter-city 125).

Wollongong is an industrial city by the sea, and is on a quite narrow coastal plain beneath a long ridge of high ground. As Len pointed out, the early settlers would have looked inland towards a daunting combination of bush and hill – which would have been uncharted territory.


Both Len and Phyllis came to Australia before they were adults.  Len told me of his journey as a teenager from Treviso to New South Wales, only to find that his father, who he was to join, had just died prior to his arrival.  With hardly a  word of English, suffice to say Len’s early time in Australia was very eventful, but he established himself through his hard work and developing skills.  His story would make a great movie. Phyllis came as a child from Crianlarich in Scotland – another major contrast.  The world, 50+ years on, is now a very different place – those arriving now in Australia will not necessarily appreciate the challenges their predecessors faced.

 Len and Phyllis 

No Worries?

Tuesday 4 August 2009

This is my favourite Australian expression.  Not only does it fulfill the role of “Ok”, “right away”, or “No problems”, but, for me, it seems to encapsulate the Australian philosophy.  I hope I’ve caught some of that approach to life in this blog.

There’s a range of reasons I decided to do a blog of this holiday.  I guess it was my niece, Grace, who made me think of postcards in a different way after her regular newsletters home from her “gap year” in South America.  I wrote a weekly missive last time we were in Australia, and thought a blog approach would be a good idea this time round.  Not quite sure whether Pepys came to write his diary in the same way – but I’m sure we share the characteristic of being opinionated blighters!

I was also keen to set myself some disciplines of a challenge.  I had been out of sorts under the spell of the old black dog over the last year, including some time off work. I had just hit a brick wall and found it difficult to get anything started, and even more difficulties in completing it.  So the blog seemed a good idea from that side of things too – to get something done to short timescales.  It didn’t have to be a work of art (as if!) – just making sense would do.

It’s been harder than I thought – less so from the discipline of sitting down and writing something quickly (which was where I wanted to maintain some personal progress) – but more so from finding the opportunity to type up the blog, organise photos off the camera and on to a memory stick, and get online to make new posts etc.

For most of the time I’ve been using Ann’s notebook, which is fine except there’s no good photo manipulation software on it, and all the family wants to use it!  I wish I had downloaded IrfanView before we left as that would have made cropping photos and making them smaller (in bytes) easier.

However, I have now caught up with myself having had a good tippy tappy session on the 4 hour flight from Perth to Sydney (before the battery went low).


So this picture of me enjoying a glass of wine last night is probably a fair summary of where I am right now – No worries, mate!  Let’s hope it lasts.

Australian Icons (4)

Tuesday 4 August 2009

We were a bit shocked to find that a bottle of Yellow Tail tended to retail at $10.99 a bottle – back in Blighty it’s usually about £5.99 – so we weren’t getting the value we expected.  So the hunt has been on to find the best buy Red Yellow Tail in Australia.  So far Canberra (3 bottles for $25) has been the best.

Bobby Dazzler’s Ale House & Eatery

Monday 3 August 2009

We’ve enjoyed Perth.  Chrissy said it has a bit of a country town feel to it – and that’s right – but it is a thriving city in many other ways.  The warmth of welcome has been outstanding; we felt appreciated for visiting (because it is a little bit off the generally beaten track).

Tonight we ate again at Bobby Dazzler’s Ale House & Eatery.  We had gone there on our first night and were bedazzled by our waitress Queen Meadhbh of Connacht (from Omagh really, but let’s keep the pretence up) and the fine tucker on offer.  So we decided to introduce Roy to the delights served up there.

husband creche

As you can see from the above, the sense of humour is alive and well at Bobby Dazzler’s.  Unfortunately, Ann didn’t take the hint!