About This Time Of Year…

I get antsy.

It’s not the calendar and it’s not the temperature. It’s the approach of an interstate holiday trip. I’m going to Melbourne and Sydney in a few weeks. And the mental engine is starting to rev up.

It is not like a trip to either of those cities is great wampum amongst other people – there are no end of Facebook posts from my 223 contacts that list trips to Europe, North America, or Asia and glory in the tourist sights that will be seen. Melb. and Syd. do not have that bragging pressure.

Yet…they have a real place in my psyche. I am comfortable in each city, having visited them annually for years. I know the shops, galleries, and restaurants. I know the transport system. And yet…I do not know them…there is still adventure enow.

There are always shops that wink out of existence – sadly. And others that appear. I adopt the wise Western Australian practice of never assuming anything I desire in shops will ever be there again – and I make sure that I have enough money saved to swoop while the swooping is good. Oh sure, I make some duff choices, but I also make some brilliant ones.

The same goes for the amusements and the nourishments of the towns. Not every plate is a winner, but there is a memorable event and taste somewhere each day. All you can ask is one per day – and in Syd. and Melb. you can find them.

Parochial? Dull? Staid? Why thank, you, don’t mind if I do. Please let me have a glass of water that is not a swimming pool for guardia and a sandwich that does not wriggle. I have the money to pay for it. And the hotel room? The one with the clean bed and bathroom…? Fine, and I shall be down at the bar in an hour.

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You Can Make A Hot Rod Out Of Anything

When you read the title of this column, you might think that I’m being snitty to the builders of hot rods. Or that I’m being elitist. Far from it – I say exactly what I mean and I mean it as a compliment. The people who have opportunities to go outside of the mainstream…and take those opportunities…are the ones I especially treasure.

I see it here in the west occasionally – builders select a classic Japanese or British car and re-think it in the same vein that the American rodders would. In most cases it is awesome, and fully rewards all the work that its put in. And the work seems to be even harder than it might be for Ford or Chevrolet  builder – fewer re-made parts are seen and a much smaller stock of historical parts is available. There’s a lot of parallel thinking for the out-of-stream rodder.

This is a preamble to viewing the powder blue International pickup at the NSW rod show. Every part of it looks like it presented a challenge – not the least of which was the tilting bed. The classic lines of the cab have also been wisely preserved – it is a mini-truck and has been left to look like a mini truck. The complexities under the bed aft of the passenger compartment are what they are – the builder chose to go this route and at least we were spared hearing the bad language as he worked his way through them.

 And what do you think about the chromed rack that holds the bonnet halves up to display the engine…is that clever or what? I’m usually a fan of closed side panels but these look so professional that I love them.

I guess the crowning bit of pride is the radiator surround – so very different from the average run of repro or fibreglass Ford shells. It immediately tells us that we are seeing a one-off.

 

The Cat’s Library

A chance remark over coffee last year alerted me to the existence of a new old bookshop in Sydney. This isn’t a rare sort of business in a large city, but there are degrees of good in the trade and it pays to investigate whenever you can.

Gould’s Book Arcade – King Street in Newtown. Not all that far from one edge of the University of Sydney and served by an at-the-door bus from outside the Central railway station. Could not have been easier to find.

One big open door and then a maw of shelved books – ground floor and three-side mezzanine. I had been given to believe that it would be a maelstrom of paper stacks on the floor, but not so; the staff have been assiduously racking the stock into the metal shelves and putting up divisional signs. I was directed to the section I wanted for the first purchase and then it was way-hay and into it for the rest of the afternoon.

The original owner, now passed away, had definite political opinions and a fair bit of the stock on the left wing of the mezzanine reflected this – perfectly appropriate positioning, as it happens. I treated myself to a 50’s Soviet picture book with added propaganda and will enjoy baiting my friends with quotations and statistics from it. It will make a nice counter to their rabid support of Trump and Trudeau. I was tempted to get some Christmas presents in the political section but decided to go to the medical shelves for that.

The cat? Well, not quite right now – there has been a cat for some time but a replacement will be need to be sought. The special door arrangements are still in place for the new candidate. I’m sure it will be comfortable and certainly won’t lack for something to read.

Neither will I – the parcel of polemics arrived today and will keep me going for some time. Sydney has heretofore not been quite as productive as Melbourne in the book line – I usually average a metre of shelf space for each Victorian trip – but now that I know how easy it is to find Gould’s, I think this disparity can be erased.

Note: The Elisabeth’s S/H bookstore down the road in Newtown is pleasant but not a patch on our own Elisabeth’s in Fremantle.

Hidden Garden – A Surprise In Sydney

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Some years ago I visited Sydney, New South Wales, for a week. It was a holiday with my daughter and included the usual touristy items – the stay at the fancy hotel, the visit to the casino, the rounds of the museums. I believe we took in a couple of shows, but I can’t remember where. At one part of the week the daughter was off burning up a credit card in the shoe shops and I was at a loose end – I cast about for something to fill a morning.

I had seen a walled park off to one side of the monorail track on a street that sloped down towards the water. The sign said it was the Chinese Friendship Garden. The price for admission was reasonable so I paid and walked in. The following photographs show what was hidden there behind the wall.

They were taken on a 35mm rangefinder camera – a Voigtlander Bessa T with either a 21mm or a 75mm lens. I used to carry quite a light pack even in those pre-op days and I found it worked just as good as carrying a big assortment of lenses. I wish I could tell that to the aspiring landscape shooters today – Heck, I DO tell them, but they never listen. In any event I think the film was a simple 160 ASA colour negative sort and I processed it when I got home.

The morning spent in the garden was one of most delightful I have ever spent in Sydney. I don’t want to make that seem like I am criticizing the city – every visit I have made there has had good moments – but the time spent in the gardens was really a restorative in the urban rush.

It might also be said that one could also find equal pleasure and peace in the more English setting of the Royal Botanic gardens  up near the art gallery and the Domain. Indeed, but a different flavour. I might also recommend the bonsai section of the gardens to those interested in miniature worlds.

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