SYDNEY – A CITY YOU CAN REACH

It may be twelve thousand miles away from my home in the UK, but Sydney makes you feel as if you belong. It’s an inclusive metropolis; not too big and and not too small. As Baby Bear said, Sydney is just right.

The city is extraordinarily clean. While there may be run down areas, I didn’t see them. The Kings Cross quarter has a reputation of being a late night drinkers paradise, with all the problems that stem from crowds of young people downing too many ‘tinnies’ and perhaps some unnecessary and illicit medication, but as I only passed through the area on a train, I wasn’t party to any such libertine excesses.

What I did note was that this is a city with 70 beaches and they are a focus for young and old. Beach life is life in Sydney and I guess for everyone living beside the gloriously beautiful coast line that edges a huge and totally unique island that is Australia.

I tried the transport system that Sydneysiders often moan about and found it excellent. The trains were on time and the majority were clean and air conditioned. 16587_10152368886665237_638607259_nThere is a wide choice of transport, too. You can hop on a bus; there is always one stopping at any bustop, or you can take the train to Central Quay and board one of the several ferries that float you safely and pleasantly, the wind in your hair, down numerous waterways to destinations with romantic aboriginal names or just plain English ones, like Darling Harbour. How endearing to name a place Darling. But that wasn’t decided by an elderly group of thespians. The indiginous people of the area, the Cadigal, called the area Tumbalonna, which meant a place where sea food could be caught, until the Europeans appeared and Ralph Darling became the Governor in 1826 and gave the Harbour his name. A bit of an imposition, considering that the Cadigal people had lived there for thousands of years. Sydney was founded in 1788 and much has changed since those early days.

Something that is probably still the same today as it was hundreds of years ago, is any newcomers introduction to the urban wildlife and I don’t mean badly behaved foxes, as we have in London. I mean the serious stuff – Funnel Web spiders, Cockroaches, snakes, not to mention a whole plethora of ants that include Bull Ants, Meat Ants, Funnel Ants, Spider Ants, Sugar Ants – the list goes on and on.

Wasp varieties are also many and various. But it’s the poisonous critters that you really have to watch. Funnel Web Spiders are big and black and terrifying. And they can bite. These days it’s unlikely that a bite from one of these little devils would kill you as Australia has developed an antidote and if you get to the hospital quickly enough, you should be okay, but I wouldn’t take the risk. I saw a live Funnel Web in the Sydney Museum.

The house we were staying in had a small, pretty outside space, where Myna birds and Lorikeets and a dozen or so other noisy, brightly coloured chorus boys and girls took up residence in the over hanging branches of the Eucalyptus trees. We decided that the space was too pleasant not to use, and placed a couple of garden chairs on the patio area, sitting outside with our glasses of Australian red in the late afternoon, to watch the sunset. One such evening, I was just about to sit on my chair, when my eye caught something lying quite still on the canvas seat. It was a big, black Funnel Web. Transfixed, I could hardly speak. I managed to yell and after a moment or two and my husband appeared to see what the kerfuffle was about. He too, was speechless. He circled the chair, examining the beast from every angle, only to proclaim, after some time, that it was plastic. And so it was. We still have no idea who put a plastic replica of a Funnel Web spider on our garden chair, but it made for an exciting interlude to Happy Hour.

Another jolly house mate was the Huntsman Spider. Large but harmless, they like to stash themselves away in lofts and behind beams, coming out when they feel the urge and scaring the pants off you. Here is our jolly lodger. He appeared one morning after a few days of torrential rain. No doubt  his digs had become a bit wet.

We named him Henry although he could well have been a Henrietta…Image

To be continued…

HOME FROM A DISTANT SHORE

So that was Australia.

IMG_0072I have been living in this amazing country for the past three months and loving every minute of it. From the moment I landed Down Under, I knew it was a special place. It was worth all the discomfort of a flight that seemed to go on forever, and the fear of growing a blood clot in my legs. It was worth knowing that the aircraft I was flying in was at least 20 years old and had loads wrong with it; this was related by a charming member of the cabin crew called Claudio, who was as caring as any parent of a premature baby might be, but determined to let me have it – the truth, I mean. Oh, said Claudio, there is no need to worry at all. My face must have told him I was about to need the loo. Oh, said Claudio, the maintenance of this old girl is very good. Just like me, I thought, smiling stoically at him. It’s just that she will be retired soon and she’s getting a bit rough round the edges. Again, just like me. The air conditioning wasn’t working too well, and I was about to expire from the heat. Not to worry, said Claudio, I will give the knobs a bit of a twiddle and see what happens. Off he went and I stared out of a window, waiting for a wing to fall off. It didn’t and after 21 hours, I landed at Kingsford-Smith Airport in the wonderful city of Sydney.

Maroubra is a suburb of Sydney and it has beaches. Now, I live in Devon and we have one or two great beaches here, but this was something else. The water was azure and the sand was yellow and I mean yellow! And it was hot. November is the start of the summer in Australia and the temperature was rising. The apartment I was staying in had tantalising glimpses of the beautiful coastline from the window. It was only after I emerged from two days of jet lag, able to actually set foot on that golden sand and put a toe or two in the sea, that I realised how different this beach was from the Strand at Exmouth!

To be continued…

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