Familiar but strange

This is a photo I never thought I would ever take! There is usually a mass of people walking here, with waiters dashing back and forth across the flow from the restaurants on the right to the outside seating beyond the pillars on the left.

On Sunday I ventured out of my immediate neighbourhood for the first time in weeks. I took the ferry from my local wharf (I’ve never seen more than a handful of people of that route, so social distancing was absurdly easy) to Circular Quay, where I stepped into an alternative universe: the buildings were all there, but the vast majority of people had been stripped away. My goal was the botanic garden (still open in the lockdown, although all its buildings and cafes are closed) and the easiest route is to walk along the quay and past the opera house. All so unthinkingly familiar — but this time, also so very strange.

I generally scurry along this stretch, dodging dawdlers and tourists. No need for that now.

Where are the hundreds of restaurant tables?

The next shock was the forlorn, stripped-down Opera Bar. This place I avoid like the plague — so noisy, so crowded!

Opera Bar — no tables, no chairs, no bar, certainly no people.

Looking back at Opera Bar from the other end. I’ve never taken a photo with all the people; the one on the right, below, is from

I then walked around the opera house, rather than crossing in front. At the harbour end, I encountered one other person; there are usually dozens here.

At the harbour end of the opera house.

It was time to head for the gardens. My ferry is only hourly, and this eerie ghost town with its memories of happier times was not somewhere I wanted to have to kill time if I carelessly missed my return. I took one look at the hordes on the main path that runs along the water and chose another route.

And indeed, away from the harbour, the gardens were fairly deserted, and as lovely as ever.

Bridge and birds of paradise.

Something bushy sticking through a fence.

Bonus points if you spotted the man up the tree!

This is the approach to the cafe. A lovely spot, with good food (and it’s licensed).

These chairs and tables are usually spread all over this area, full of people.

This looks like a painting, doesn’t it? The reflections give everything an undefined look.

More reflections.

Clumps of plants, backlit by the low autumn sun.

The various little buildings where you might sit with a group are closed.

But the benches are still open! I sat here for a while.

This protea caught my eye while I was sitting. Protea Cyanoides ‘Little Prince’, according to its sign.

Usually, after a stroll around the gardens I’d finish off with a glass of bubbly at Portside, another venue at the opera house but much quieter and more civilised than Opera Bar.

No bubbly at Portside this time, alas. Certainly quiet, however!

So it was back on the ferry and home again.

Heading home.

Posted as part of Jo’s Monday Walk. (I see she has a cheese fest this week, oh yes!)



An evening at the symphony (and the theatre!)

Front row seat. My computer is linked to my TV with an HDMI cable; the computer has a much better screen, but it’s not as large. I also run the computer’s audio through the hi-fi, which has better quality sound.

You may have read how arts venues around the world have shut their doors in line with attempts to contain covid19, and that many venues are making productions free to view online.

The Sydney Opera House has a program called “From our house to yours” in which you can watch performances at 6pm (Sydney time). I don’t think they’re available on-demand, but since most of us are at home anyway these days that’s less of an issue. Last evening I watched Beethoven’s 9th Symphony by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra (plus choir and soloists), recorded in the Concert Hall in October 2018.

Da dum dum! Lots of big drums in the 9th.

Soloists and choir in the ‘Ode to Joy’.

Standing ovation.

Then, as they say, it was time for something completely different! From Sydney to London (well, virtually). Over to the YouTube channel of the National Theatre, where you can watch various plays — one each week or so. (If you’re interested, check out the details here.) I watched One Man, Two Guvnors with James Corden, filmed live on-stage in 2011. It was a marvellous way to forget the world’s troubles for a couple of hours.

Silliness afoot.

Lots of audience interaction.

Re-united lovers at Brighton Pier.

Another standing ovation.

My hat (if I wore one) would be off to all these venues and companies that are keeping the arts alive, and accessible, in these troubled times.

The view from the window: Sydney Opera House from Queen Mary 2

Sydney Opera House from the Commodore's Club, Queen Mary 2

Sydney Opera House from the Commodore’s Club, Queen Mary 2

My QM2 cruise didn’t leave Sydney until midnight, giving me the chance to take this photo of the opera house from a window-side table in the Commodore’s Club. The reflections of the club’s ceiling lighting add an interesting touch.

click for more posts of View From the Window

click for more posts of Queen Mary 2


Fountains: Sydney Opera House roundabout

A rainbow forms in the spray

A rainbow forms in the spray

This is not (to my eyes) a very attractive fountain, though it does fill the circle in the middle of the traffic roundabout in front of the opera house. It’s called the Allen Lewis Fountain and is a tribute to concrete construction in Australia.

The fountain in its roundabout

The fountain in its roundabout

November’s fountain challenge theme is Typical for your Region, but I’ve morphed it into a joint effort with December’s theme of Whatever and am going with Sydney Whatever for two months.


striped rug black and white

Geometric shapes in black and white

Shadows on a landing, Goa.

Shadows on a landing, Goa.

“Geometric: using straight lines and simple shapes, for example circles or squares.” Cee’s Black and White Challenge this week is all about geometric shapes.

Sydney Opera House during the Vivid festival 2014.

Sydney Opera House during the Vivid festival 2014.

Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto (detail).

Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto (detail).

Woven hut (and mangoes!), Vanuatu.

Woven hut (and mangoes!), Vanuatu.


Strictly no cameras

Last evening I attended the concert celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Sydney Opera House. The ticket declared “Strictly no cameras or recording devices”, so with reluctance I left my trusty camera at home.

Shuffling along in the bag check line, I congratulated myself on my wisdom. Those burly security guards would, I was sure, take grim pleasure in confiscating my Canon. However, when it transpired that the bag check consisted of nothing more than a cursory glance at the top of my rucksack, virtue turned to regret. I could easily have tucked a camera much bigger than mine in there, and no one would have noticed. Regret turned to anger once the event began: from the opening notes of the didgeridoo (part of a stunning ‘Welcome to country’ ceremony by the Traditional Owners) and the first dance steps by members of the Aboriginal dance troops, cameras and phones all around me recorded each moment of the entire evening.

It appeared that I was the only schmuck following the rules.

And what images I lost! I have attended other concerts held outside on the opera house’s forecourt, and no doubt will again, but this celebration of our beloved, iconic building will not happen again (well, not until the 50th anniversary rolls around, and who knows where I’ll be then?).

And yet …

There was something curiously liberating in not having a camera. I was freed from the compulsion to record the moment, able to simply let the music and the evening light wash over me, to revel in their inherent transience. The true nature of special moments can no more be captured in pixels than the tension in those notes in the build-up in the fourth movement of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, which closed the evening, can be captured in sound. I’ve attended more performances of this work than I can recall, but my hair still stands on end when 100 powerful voices burst forth with “Freude, schöner Götterfunken, Tochter aus Elysium” (Joy, beautiful spark of the divinity, Daughter of Elysium).

There are some things in life that you must simply experience.

Mind you, when the fireworks exploded low in the sky behind the opera house, and I was standing in the most perfect spot for a shot, I thought, “Sod the transience of the moment, I want my camera!”

(The image below is a screen grab from the ABC News website. Click the link to see a larger image.)