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.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Over the Hill and Under the Waves

Sydney CBD


As I start a second week at work I recall that, one of the things that attracted me to living and working in Sydney, was the atmosphere in the CBD (Central Business District). There’s a liveliness in the city-centre at all times of the day and night. Back near the start of the year I mentioned on this website how I thought that this great atmosphere was in part due to how young the general population appeared when you wandered around the city at lunchtime.

And now statistics have been published which back this up.
The Sydney Morning Herald this week included an article on plans to make the city-centre more accessible to children and old people. Surveys were done, which showed that these groups were very poorly represented in the city centre:

“In a survey of people and activities taken on a summer weekday at Circular Quay, Pitt Street Mall and George Street, 57 per cent of people in the city were found to be aged from 15 to 30…

The middle-aged made up 37 per cent, and the elderly and the very young both registered slim minorities at 3 per cent each.”

Now, I take two things from this. Firstly, almost 3 in 5 people are between 15 and 30. No wonder Sydney’s business district has such a young and lively feel to it.

Secondly, who the hell are they calling middle-aged???

Alive on the Ocean Waves

Last weekend I found myself with a few spare hours and decided to head down to the Eastern Beaches. This would be the first time I'd been back there since getting back to Sydney. The main stretch of beaches runs from Bondi in the north, down to Coogee in the south. A little further south from there, is Maroubra beach, and having seen it featured in the national newspaper in the past week I thought I'd pay a visit.

A favourite topic of conversation in the Eastern Beaches, aside from surfer fashion (this isn't the most culturally aware part of Sydney), is shark spottings. And any concentration of sightings also greatly interests the national newspapers. Here's an excerpt from Monday's Sydney Morning Herald (one of the best selling papers in Australia):

Swimmers were evacuated from beaches in southern Sydney and on the South Coast yesterday after 17 sightings of sharks close to shore. A lone hammerhead was observed off Wanda Beach at Cronulla. An Australian Aerial Patrol crew sounded the alert and a dinghy was dispatched to coax the shark into deeper water. Meanwhile, two large sharks seen at Cudmirrah Beach near Sussex Inlet on the South Coast were thought to have been either white pointer [aka great white] or tiger sharks, authorities said.

So it was with some interest that I made my way down to Maroubra beach. I wasn't surprised to find aussies and tourists getting on with it, with a large number of people in the surf. I had a pretty uneventful swim myself. However, about half-an-hour later the shark-patrol were out with a dinghy out in the water and a chopper making a few passes overhead. Not sure if they'd spotted anything but either way, it wasn't discouraging people from getting in the water. That's the aussie spirit!

Which brings me nicely on to my latest hobby - ocean swimming. Ocean swimming has become increasingly popular in Australia over the last few years (though this doesn't appear to have dampened enthusiasm at Sydney Council for building yet more Olympic sized swimming pools - Surry Hills is the latest area cited for a new pool). This popularity will only be stoked by the recent announcement that a 10km open swim will be an event in Beijing for the first time in Olympic history.
I've been a bit slack on the photography front recently, so all the shots in this update are nabbed from the web. Here's an awesome pic of a surfer at Maroubra beach.

In Sydney, there are frequent 'big event' swims such as Manly beach to Shelley beach and Bondi to Bronte, which typically measure more than two kilometres. I really like the idea of competing in one of these events. I'm attracted by the challenge and social-ness. Factors that enticed me into doing a couple of triathlons a few years ago.

Bondi fitclub runs Saturday morning courses for people to learn to swim with confidence in the sea. This Saturday is the first day of the course and I'm very much looking forward to it. Lets hope the shark patrol are on top form!

Wine-ing Pommes

The Hunter Valley got a brief mention on this website when I went up there for the Lovedale long lunch in May. Being a truly beautiful stretch of countryside, with rolling vineyards and hills, I was keen to go back asap. On Saturday I went back up on a day-trip, which - somewhat bizarrely - started with liquers and then moved on to three different authentic Aussie wineries.

Though the trip was well organised and the winery visits were interesting, I didn't go a whole bundle on the wines. They were not bad, but I don't think we were sampling at the higher-end of the wine range. Fair enough - I don't usually shop at the finer end of the wine range, but when on a wine tour I do like to sample some of the more luxury wines. There were a couple of cheeky reds that I liked though, so I took the opportunity to stock-up a bit for Christmas.

So I wasn't actually that impressed with the wine on the day. And I'm not the only one with reservations about Australian wine. The Sunday Herald reported at the weekend that the head of Tesco's wine-buying division - Dan Jago - has criticised Australian wine-makers for their lack of innovation, warning that Tesco will be forced towards fast-changing and refreshing Chilean wines.

I just love the response of "Hunter Valley winemaker" Bruce (yep, Bruce) Tyrrell:

"He's a wanker."

Bruce goes on to fulminate thoughtfully on Mr Jago's challenge to the Australian wine industry:

"He should go back to selling dog food.

For years the Australian wine industry has been supplying the British with technically correct wines that have good colour and are full of flavour, compared with the Europeans, who have been supplying them with technically poor wines with no colour and taste like cat's piss"

Though not reported in the paper, I'd like to think that Bruce went on to question Mr Jago's parentage and sexuality before challenging him to a game of cricket and stomping off to shoot a kangaroo, or perhaps throw another prawn on the barbie.
I couldn't find a picture of Mr Jago, but I'm sure Bruce would feel similarly about this substitute. (And you can't see this picture too often...)

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