Sydney - Last morning
It is raining heavily when we rise, a joyful reminder of what to expect when we get home: who would want to leave this place if the sun was shining? This provides us with our first opportunity to use the umbrella as we make our way down hill to the Museum of Contemporary Art. This sits opposite the Cruise Ship Terminal. One disappointment is how those huge vessels are allowed to dominate the harbour precinct. No sooner does one leave than another arrives, disgorging the population of a small town.
The museum contains a large number of exhibits, painting, sculpture and video. There are many either of Aboriginal art or by others, highlighting the Aboriginal experience: a wall of delicate baby shoes symbolises the 'stolen generation'. Australia is exorcising its guilt for past sins. One picture, a pastche of an historical tableaux, portrays Cook and his sailors as pirates. There is an engaging video installation which shows on five screens a mother talking about prayer, only her hands are shown holding Rosary beads, while the faces of her eight grown-up children are shown, switching from screen to screen, reacting with laughter, empathy, sadness, discomfort. We spend a good couple of hours in the museum, before exiting through the gift shop.
This is our last day in Australia and the last of the blog. The holiday has been a wonderful experience. We've seen amazing sights and met some great people - not all recorded here.
So what have we learned that we didn't know before?
Australians are uniformly friendly: "no worries" typifies their approach to life's challenges. But I'm sure we knew that.
This is their Lucky Country and they're proud of it. They must be world leaders in conservation: the scale of their national parks and the efforts they take to preserve their indigenuous flora and fauna are indicative of their serious intent. And even in Sydney, great care is being taken to preserve their European and Aboriginal heritage - witness the fact that our hostel sits on stilts over archeological workings, exposing the early Rocks' settlement. Every day parties of school children are introduced to this history.
Aussies love words that end in '-ies' e.g. schoolies (encountered earlier), boardies (long swimming shorts), pokies (slot machines, advertised everywhere), Woolies (reincarnated as their Tesco's), Pommies (who else?), and barbies. The list is endless.
It will soon be impossible to get lung cancer or become an alcoholic in Australia. Whenever one attempts to buy cigarettes (not us, of course), one is confronted with a stark warning and a helpline. Soon all cigarettes here will be sold in plain wrappers. TV adverts are explicitly discouraging. What about the drinkers? Beer is extraordinarily expensive. You'd need a private income to get drunk. I once had two bottles of beer and spent the evening wracked with remorse. I could have bought a small Picasso for the money.
Every Australian pub has at least one television showing test cricket. All Australian cafes will sell sandwiches with a slice of 'tasty cheese': ham and cheese, beef and cheese, tuna and cheese, and so on. It's like the Monty Python spam sketch, except with cheese.
We feel we've seen Australia but all we've done is skim the edge of Queensland and spend a few days in Sydney, a few hours in the Blue Mountains. As you can see this doesn't stop me from generalising about the people or the country. What do they say about travel? It broadens the mind. We must come back sometime and have a look at other parts, and do a bit more broadening.