Jousting (in the 21st Century)

An official watches as a contestant’s lance goes flying. (And in the foreground, a photographer — much closer to the action than I was — films the encounter.)

Did you, like me, think jousting was dead? That the days were long gone when men donned 75lb of metal armour, carried 12ft of long pointed weapon and thundered at their opponent on a horse? Then you, like me, have been living a sheltered life. On Sunday I went with two friends to the St Ives Medieval Faire [sic] — and if having pseudo-medieval revels in modern-day Cornwall seems odd, it will seem even odder when I tell you that this St Ives is a suburb of Sydney. Australia. A country that didn’t exist in medieval times.

Two opponents gallop closer together on either side of the tilt.

Weird as the whole thing was, there is no denying that the jousting was pretty amazing. People were standing four deep, making it impossible to see anything. I joined other spectators standing on the tables and benches of ye olde tavern (it ran out of cider and didn’t seem to ever have the promised mead, leaving only beer or water as options — which in itself may be quite authentically medieval!).

Two more participants in the tournament. You can spot the flying pieces of the broken lance on the right.

It’s a curious sport, not unlike cricket in that long stretches of inactivity are punctuated by a burst of action (and dust). This was the inaugural World Jousting Championship, with participants from England, Norway, Canada and Australia (other countries that I forget, too). It was also not unlike Eurovision, with points awarded after each encounter — even “nul points”.

Men and horses were all gorgeously kitted out.

This horse surveys the world through mesh eye protectors while his rider has a helmet touchup.

Seriously cool head gear!

Tiramisu slice from Wellington Cakes (Bondi)

Luscious layers of cakey scrumptiousness

Tiramisu slice from Wellington Cakes (Bondi)

Layer upon layer of sinful delight, topped with an cheeky little disc of white chocolate.

When I read that the theme for this week’s photo challenge is layered, only one thing popped into my head: cake! (Though to be honest, cake needs little prompting to pop into my head.) So I stopped by my local bakery on the way home (the dangerously tempting Wellington Cake Shop on Bondi Road) for a slice of something layered.

I ended up buying two — the second one purely as a backup, for photographic purposes, of course. Just look at these cakes: tiramisu (above) and hazelnut (below). The richly textured cake layers with their flecks of nuts and chocolate, the silken melt-in-your-mouth creaminess of the filling. Oh my.

Hazelnut slice from Wellington Cakes (Bondi)

Small flakes of nuts cling to the cake like mountain climbers scaling Everest.

Hazelnut slice from Wellington Cakes (Bondi)

Eat me. You know you want to.


Marriage Equality: Vote Yes

The “YES vote” campaign is highly visible in Martin Place (downtown Sydney).

Here in Australia, we’re in the throes of an emotionally charged postal survey to discover people’s opinion about changing the law to allow same-sex couples to marry. The YES camp and the NO camp are putting their messages in front of the voters. The survey is not a referendum, not a plebiscite — the result will have no binding consquences and will not force the federal government to take any action.

It’s not just banners, there are ads in Martin Place too.

“This means that even if a majority of Australians vote ‘yes’ in the postal vote, it doesn’t ensure same sex marriage will be legalised. Instead, [Prime Minister] Turnbull says that a ‘yes’ vote will prompt a free vote based on a private members’ bill in Parliament. A ‘no’ vote will not trigger this action.” (source)

I walk through this avenue of banners every morning, just one more faceless drone scurrying to the office.

So we have our say in order to determine whether Parliament will even consider passing a law. Tortuous, but the only option at the moment.

Quite apart from the serious message, the banners are, well, pretty! Their bright rainbow colours are a cheery sight.

I don’t normally take an overt political stance, but this issue is a no-brainer. Love the person you love; marry the person you love, if that’s what you want. The state should have no right to dictate such matters.

An Australian flag behind a YES banner.

Update: How did the vote turn out?

The results were announced on 15 November: 61.6% of the votes were for yes (including mine). Almost 80% of eligible voters took part.
So, we’ve taken a step towards ending at least one kind of discrimination in Australia.


Random Fridays: Wisteria

Wisteria at an entrance to Waverley Park, Bondi Road, Bondi.

Wisteria at an entrance to Waverley Park, Bondi Road, Bondi.

It’s spring here in Sydney, which means the wisteria is giving us its annual brief blaze of glory. The temperature on Wednesday was 32C, which won’t have done these delicate blossoms any good! But while it’s blooming, it’s beautiful.

Wisteria at an entrance to Waverley Park, Bondi Road, Bondi.

Wisteria at an entrance to Waverley Park, Bondi Road, Bondi.

Wisteria at an entrance to Waverley Park, Bondi Road, Bondi.

Wisteria at an entrance to Waverley Park, Bondi Road, Bondi.

Sadly, the flowers are already starting to drop.

Fallen glory.



Waiting for the train

Lamy station, New Mexico.

Lamy station, New Mexico. Not a lot to do.

I spent a few hours at Lamy train station, waiting for the westbound Southwest Chief to take me from Santa Fe, New Mexico to Williams, Arizona (for the Grand Canyon). It was hot. It was dusty. It was endless.

Every now and then, the station master would add a new figure to the ETA post-it note.

Delay after delay after delay.

Lamy station Indicator board.

Lamy station Indicator board. About as low tech as it gets.

Peering down the rails. Still nothing. Still waiting.

Still no train.