Lots of text and lots of photos for you to enjoy this week.
Monday 5th January
We were up early today. Bev n Pete left at 6 am for their flight to Adelaide.
After breakfast I drove to Wollongong to visit an old workmate and squash teammate Bob T and wife Sharon. Bob had a difficult 2014 having to go under the knife and endure chemotherapy for cancer of the stomach. He is confident he has beaten the big C and apart from losing some weight, which he could afford to lose. He looks well and has a positive attitude.
Next on my visit list was Wayne and Narelle M and their adult son Jarrod. We shot the breeze and enjoyed lunch and Wayne showed me his two story garage filled with boys toys. I enjoyed looking at his latest prize, a Bathurst 1,000 Race winning Holden Torana.
Gee, these cars had no frills, are uncomfortable to drive, no air conditioning and no power steering. They could however cling to the racetrack while achieving incredible speeds. They were once upon a time King of the Mountain at Mount Panorama near Bathurst. Also in his toy shed was a slot car race track
and a genuine pinball machine. I had fun alternating between the slot car and the pinball machine. It was great for Wayne and I to turn 18 again!
Tuesday 6th January
The Government has announced heightened terrorist alerts and has warned citizens about travelling to Indonesia. Both Australia and France have issued similar warnings.
Come and join me as I make a nostalgic journey through time and space. From the time when I was a young boy, a teenager, a father and now, as a grandfather, I wanted to explore parts of the Sutherland Shire. It is affectionately known among the locals as “The Shire”. No, not the other famous “shire” in the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings novels and movies.
Specifically today I started with the “Tom Ugly’s Bridge which spans the Georges River and links the suburbs of Blakehurst to the north and Sylvannia Waters (in the shire) to the south.
I was always intrigued by the name and location of the bridge atop steep typical Sydney Sandstone cliffs. Years of travelling both ways and I had never stopped to have a look. Well, today I did. Originally opened in 1929 the three lane bridge began life as a toll bridge. At peak hour in the morning two north bound lanes were used. In afternoon peak hour two south bound lanes were used. A series of orange cones were used to designate lanes. The toll was discontinued in 1952. The bridge was the only link to The Shire and especially Cronulla Beach and Wollongong and the south coast apart from a car ferry operating from Sans Souci to Taren Point on the south side. This car ferry was a shorter option to Cronulla than Tom Ugly’s – if you could afford the ferry fee. Captain Cook Bridge replaced the ferry – eight lanes, no toll – was opened in 1965 in much the same location as the car ferry.
Today I took the time to stop under the Tom Ugly’s Bridge and take a walk around the area and note the detail in the sandstone buttresses.
I have not been able to find a satisfactory reason for the name Tom Ugly’s and I guess like millions of other bridge users I will never know the origins of the name.
While still in the shire I visited Wanda Beach and Greenhills Beach, both on the northern fringe of Cronulla Beach.
As a high school student and in my early teens I visited these beaches first to sand ski the tall and often very steep and very hot sandhills. Later I went with friends to surf the unpatrolled beach especially at Greenhills. The only access to these remote beaches was to trudge up and down and over several sandhills carrying a surfboard – without a hat!
Sadly progress has crept across the land and devoured much of the sandhills leaving housing estates in its wake or shutting off access to the remaining sandhills or the beach. Now the sandhills and beach have been turned over to commercial ventures and a National Park. Standing atop one of the few accessible sandhills I was struck by just how hot it was and wondered how we managed to trek these hills carrying a sand ski or surfboard and towel but no water. How did we survive and not collapse from dehydration?
The Charge of the Light Brigade scenes from the 1940 Black & White Australian movie, The 40,000 Horsemen were filmed on the beaches and sandhills of Wanda and Greenhills. The sandhills were an ideal location to represent the Sinai Desert of World War I.
Finally I drove to the end of the road to far Kurnell and paid my respects to Captain Cooks landing place.
He was credited with discovering Australia in 1770 although local aboriginals had been here for around 40,000 years.
Wednesday 7th January
Today, the Government issued a travel update to now include India as a location to be avoided in respect of terrorist attacks.
Today I drove to Wollongong to visit Errol, Nicole and the grandchildren.
On the highway on the escarpment which towers 1,182 m over Wollongong is the Bulli Lookout. Today, as is often the case in the early morning, the top of the escarpment is blanketed by cloud or fog.
At the lookout it was brilliant sunshine and on the coast below it was also brilliant sunshine. The band of cloud hovering just below the cliffs obscured all vision of Wollongong and the suburbs below.
First up was a visit with Errol and Nicole and grandchildren Amelia and Hannah. I spent a few hours with them before moving on to visit an old workmate Barry H and his wife Kathleen. Barry was a workmate with Bob T who I visited on Monday but Barry also knew Bob when he was in the Army. Barry was diagnosed with Duodenal cancer – within a day of Bob being diagnosed. Barry’s cancer is incurable and inoperative. He has been on Chemo for most of the year and the cancer has shrunk. Unfortunately he has to eat food which has been pureed. Yuck! I came away from my visit greatly impressed by Barry’s attitude and strength of character. He and Bob are both inspirational.
Thursday 8th January
A group of three terrorists stormed a magazine office in Paris, France and killed 12 employees, critically wounding another 5.
Visited Errol N Nicole again and used my time with them to tidy the installation of venetians requiring the removal of excess slats and reducing the length of adjusting cords so they do not become a child choking hazard.
Friday 9th January
Come with me on another nostalgic traipse through my memory lane.
I was born and spent the first 14 years of my life in the Sydney Harbourside suburb of Balmain. At the time I thought Balmain was the centre of the Universe. Of course I later learned that was not the case. The centre of the Universe is wherever I happen to be at that moment in time. Of course dear reader from your perspective the centre of the Universe is wherever YOU happen to be at that moment.
In 1800 a parcel of land of 550 acres on the shores of Sydney Harbour was given to William Balmain, New South Wales Surgeon General and also principal surgeon of the First Fleet. Somewhere along the line the parcel of land was given to somebody else – in payment of gambling debts – and eventually parceled up in smaller lots and yet still smaller lots and yet still smaller lots. The suburb became a working class area and developers built lots of terrace type houses on small plots of land to accommodate the workers . Of course the huge harbourside houses were owned by persons a bit further up the income scale, much as they are today.
First I visited my old terrace house which seems mighty small compared to when I lived there. In fact walking from the terrace house to the corner pub and on to my old school – Gladstone Park Public School or as it was known by the locals the Pigeon Ground Public School – everything seems smaller and closer together than I remember.
I digress. My old school as I discovered this morning was really the girls school! It seems of the several buildings, one of which was built in 1861, in sandstone and the newer buildings in red clay brick, were built in 1917 was an infants school and girls school. At some point the sandstone building was given over to a boys school and boys and girls were segregated until we went to high school where the segregation was maintained. No more. All those schools are now Co-educational!
Walking around the nearby streets I was reminded of how many of the original houses were built from local sandstone and are still not only standing but still habitable. I also realised how narrow the streets are, some of which are barely wide enough to admit a small truck one way. The streets are a hodge podge of no planning and the houses often reflect that lack of overall planning. Many houses were built beside factories and shipyards and sawmills etc (or vice versa)and those businesses are now gone and the reclaimed land is now called public green open space and are delightful harbourside parks. Many places in Balmain can boast harbor views including Sydney skyline, Luna Park and the Sydney Harbour Bridge. I saw the bridge every day at school and thought nothing of it.
The suburb is no longer a working class domain and those houses are fetching prices well in excess of $1,000,000 (if you can find an old house for sale – one bedroom units with no car accommodation are around $900,000) and the suburb is now a trendy “IN” place with old buildings now an endless sea of bistro’s, wine shops and coffee houses with a few upmarket dress shops thrown in.
I visited the end of Darling street which is a bus and ferry terminus commanding grand views across the harbor and to Goat Island a once munitions storage facility.
Among its many uses was as a sandstone quarry and convict gaol and the first Sydney Water Police Headquarters to name a few. It is now taken over by National Parks who provide guided and self- guided tours.
From there I went to Morts Dock and nearby Thames Street Ferry Wharf. The Morts Dock which in the 1940’s built ships for the Navy. My uncle was a small sailboat builder in the area. The docks are now closed but the land and some of the docking facilities are converted to open green space and it is a welcome change to the dreary dockyards I knew. All this area was my playground but I concede it would be nicer to run around these days.
Adjacent to the docks is Thames Street Wharf. This was once my playground where I would scamble on and around the docks and could take a ferry ride around the Sydney harbourside for only a few cents.
Driving away from Balmain I felt it was a nicer, cleaner, greener and in some respects more open but more crowded than the industrial dusted suburb I left all those decades ago.
Saturday 10th January
I had planned to drive to Nowra today. The weather forecast last night was for showers/rain increasing to heavy at times and in fact flooding in some parts. Hmmm! Not a good forecast for driving for near 2 hours in the predicted rain. That plan was abandoned and I decided to stay home. Mid morning was overcast but in no way did it look like rain. In fact it looked more like a haze had settled across the city. It was dry and hot. Plan B was put into action. I decided to drive to La Perouse, Malabar, Maroubra and other beachside suburbs to Bondi and return. I had not counted on the volume of traffic and every other resident of this city, all 4.5 million of them would be on the road and going to the same places as me. At least that is the way it felt. I managed to find a parking space about half a kilometer from La Perouse and trudged my way back.
Lieutenant (later Captain) James Cook landed in Australia in 1770 at Botany Bay on the southern shore of what is now called Kurnell. The first fleet of settlers and convicts arrived in January 1788 and found Cooks original landing place as unsuitable for a new colony. They moved a short distance further north after finding an opening in the seemingly impenetrable sandstone cliffs to what is now known as Sydney Harbour and decided this was the best place in the whole world to begin a new colony. Botany Bay was abandoned. The land was claimed in the name of the British Empire and the settlement begun. A few days after landing a small boat was dispatched to Botany Bay to scout for flora and fauna and surprise, surprise, a French ship had sailed into Botany Bay with the intention of claiming this new south land in the name of France. A meeting was arranged between the two captains, Arthur Phillip for the Empire and La Perouse for France. It seems they came to a gentlemanly agreement that as the Empire had eleven ships and crew and marines and settlers and convicts totaling 1332 persons and had already claimed the land and documented such in their logbook, the land belonged to the Empire. La Perouse only had the one ship so agreed the English had first choice and after a short stay moved on. Due to the civilized manner in which the meeting was conducted, the English declared the area on the northern area of Botany Bay where the French had landed would be called La Perouse in the Captains honour.
My trudging took me passed the cliffs above Congwong a Little Congwong Beaches where La Perouse was reportedly anchored.
Then I walked to Bare Island which is accessible to the mainland via a short timber bridge.
The island became fortified when in 1885 a Russian invasion was expected. The fort was decommissioned in 1902 and became a retirement home for war veterans home until 1963. Since then it has become an historical site. The area around the reef is especially rich in sea life and is a busy fishing, snorkeling and diving location. In certain conditions a reef wave break known as a bombie attracts surfers as well.
Next stop was Malabar where the beach rarely has a surfable wave due to the deep water and faces the wrong direction for a swell to enter.
It is a popular location for professional and amateur fishermen to launch their boats. Malabar also has a sewerage treatment works a large garbage dump and a rifle range in the hills between Malabar and Maroubra. Despite the no surf and nearby unpleasant treatment works it was still difficult to find a parking spot. Next was Maroubra Beach and even the surrounding streets were choked with parked cars. ( as a teenager I lived at Maroubra and a short walk to the beach allowed me to learn to surf both board and body surf) At this point I decided to cut short the drive to even more popular Bondi and head home. Along the way I stopped at a dreary old shopping centre at Eastlakes. This shopping centre was one of the first in Australia and at the time was a role model. Today it is decided badly designed, poorly lit, archaic parking facilities, poor building construction and with many of the shops closed presented as a sad place to be. Shortly after arriving home the forecast rain began.
Sunday 11th January
What do you do on a rainy Sunday.
Oh apart from watching a movie from the collection beside the TV.
I watched a movie called “The Descendants” starring George Clooney. In a way I am pleased I could not go anywhere in the rain. The movie was released in 2012 and of the many critical comments, some good, some not so good here is an example “A thoroughly rewarding assembled-for-adults dramedy that benefits immensely from both its island locale and one of George Clooney’s finest performances.”
I tried to visit the Miranda Fair Shopping Centre and after spending near enough to 30 minutes trying to (a) find a parking space and (b) try to get out of there I managed to park in the street and walk back in the rain. The food court was bedlam. Everybody else had the same idea. I betcha it was the same 4.5 million people at the beaches yesterday were at the shopping centres today!
Tags: Balmain, Balmain Public School, Bare Island, Blakehurst, Bulli Lookout, Captain Cook Bridge, Captain Cooks Landing Place, Charge of the Light Brigade, Congwong Beach, Darling Street Wharf, Dry Dock Hotel, Eastlakes Shopping Centre, Forty Thousand Horsemen, Georges River, Goat Island, Greenhills Beach, Holden Torana, Kurnell, La Perouse, Little Congwong Beach, Malabar, Maroubra, Morts Dock, Pigeon Ground School, Sans Souci, St George Motor Boat Club, Sylvania, Taren Point, Thames Street Wharf, Tom Ugly's Bridge, Wanda Beach