Though a straight line appears to be the shortest distance between 2 points, life has a way of confounding geography. Often it is the dalliances and the detours that define us. There are no maps to guide our most important searches; we must rely on hope, chance, intuition and a willingness to be surprised.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

A Week In Sydney

(Sydney's memorial to the victims of the 2002 Bali bombings.)

What to do when you arrive in a city you love and haven't seen for some time, with three whole months to spend, and with no pressing engagements?

One option must be to just chill-out and do nothing. And what better place to do that than in a city with some of the best sights and most famous beaches in the world. A city famous for it's laid back attitude to life. And a city currently enjoying the height of summer.

Given the hectic schedule of working and travelling I've had over the last few months, I expected to do just that. But since I've arrived in Sydney I've been a whirlwind of activity. I don't feel able to relax completely. And I don't feel any desire to.

Instead, I feel like I need to make the most of my time in Sydney in the same way I've felt the need to make the most of my time everywhere. On reflection, that need feels even more pressing here because there is even greater opportunity to make something of this trip here than anywhere else.

Sydney has been a place of great opportunity since 1788 when the first fleet arrived in Botany Bay. One amazing story of opportunity - but just one of many - was that of Francis Greenway, a fraudster who was shipped to Australia as a convict in 1814 having narrowly escaped execution in Britain. After arriving down under he was pardoned and became one of the most renowned architects of the 19th Century.
(Francis Greenway was convicted for producing counterfeit notes in Britain. And ended up on the Australia AU$10 note!)

On Wednesday I had the priviledge of a personal tour of Greenway's St James church from the church's verger. (The friendliness and generosity of the verger and another friend of the church just reminded me of how impressed I was with the hospitality of Australians when I was last here in 2004.) I was particularly interested to see the fantastic sandstone crypt of the church, designed and built by Greenway using only convict labour. The quality of the design and sandstone construction are superb. Greenway went on to create many of the most beautiful and architecturally impressive buildings in the city and I plan to see many more in the next few months. The story, however, has a less than happy ending. Greenway fell out of favour following a change of governor and eventually died a pauper and was buried in an unmarked grave.

Hopefully the opportunities I myself find in Sydney won't lead to such an unfortunate end. I have spent several hours each day pursuing different options for voluntary work in the city. Keep your fingers crossed that I may be close to securing something. I have an interview for a very exciting post on Thursday. Won't say any more for now.

It hasn't been all work though. I've experienced fantastic Japanese dance and theatre at the Sydney Opera House and organised a course in photography. I've been to an evening of Australian wine tasting and visited some of the best pubs in town. I've walked around large stretches of the harbour's paths and through beautiful parks and gardens. I've been swimming at Sydney's fantastic beaches and outdoor pools and booked an advanced course in scuba diving.

I've also had a great time with Chris and Caroline, though Chris has been employing me as a slave labourer on his new house. I'm hoping that - like Greenway - I will eventually have my sentence commuted, though probably not before I've retiled the bathroom and laid some slabs in the back garden.

(One of Sydney's beautiful beaches. The bright sandstone from which Greenway built many of his impressive buildings can be seen in the foreground.)

Finally, I can't sign off without a mention of the Indianapolis Colts fantastic 29-17 win over the Chicago Bears in Superbowl XLI. I've followed American Football for 12 years and only ever supported the Colts, but have seen them fail to reach the superbowl year after year. Well done to the team and Tony Dungy, the first black coach to coach a superbowl winning team. Go Colts! Go Cards!


Adam and Jo said...

Tony Dungey and his assistant coach are both african-americans, and they are both Christins as well!

Adam and Jo said...

Hey Calum, how come I don't get a reply? Not as good looking as Addie eh?

Calum said...

Ahhhhh. Sorry mate. As you know I was always impressed at how you had to fight the ladies off with a big stick way back in the old days. Not that you always fought too convincingly... (heh heh!)