As I made my way to the Giant Dwarf Theatre on Cleveland Street tonight, I walked through the park near Central Station. In the midst of people playing sport, running around, and those sitting, enjoying the late afternoon/evening sunshine there was a bloke playing bagpipes.

On closer inspection, he wasn’t what you might stereotypically think of as a regular bagpipe player: he was youngish and he had an obviously Asian heritage. On top of that, his repertoire included “Advance Australia Fair” and “We Are Australian”.

I wasn’t the only one who stopped to enjoy his work. There was another bloke video-ing his performance, which I presume will eventually end up on Youtube. If you see the video, keep an eye out for me, the bloke who pulled out his phone to snap a couple of shots also.

Bagpipes near Central

Bagpipes near Central

When I posted this photograph to Twitter earlier tonight, a colleague noted he was probably forced into the park by annoyed neighbours. “No doubt the neighbours complained about the practice at home – nothing worse than badly played bagpipes!”, she commented. Actually, this bloke was pretty good I thought. He was tuneful.

Cleveland Street

Cleveland Street, Surry Hills

Cleveland Street, Surry Hills

It’s one of my worst nightmares: standing at the corner of Cleveland and Crown Streets (Surry Hills) and witnessing someone being knocked over and killed by a car. If you’ve ever stood at the lights at one of the four corners you’ll know it’s not a crazy fantasy.

In the last hour or so I’ve crossed the intersection twice (to and from the supermarket) and have seen people on both occasions walk out from the kerb into the middle of the oncoming traffic. It wouldn’t have taken much for either one of them to have been swiped, especially since Cleveland Street is reasonably busy on the weekend, and since they were probably a bit “out of it”.

Drug and alcohol abuse is most likely the main reason for this phenomenon. Sometimes they’re walking really slowly, weaving in and out. Other times they’re walking really quickly, with a determined look in their eyes. It’s a very weird and scary thing to witness.

According to some figures I saw a couple of years ago, about 9 or 10 accidents involving cars and pedestrians occur on Cleveland Street every year, though I don’t recall how many of those result in deaths. And yet oddly enough, since I’ve lived in the area for almost twenty years, I’ve never witnessed one. In fact the only accident I’ve witnessed involved myself, when I mis-stepped the kerb and fell to the ground with my shopping bags being sent asunder.

4 Fourteen for Lunch

“The last time I ate bone marrow was in France with David”, I told Damien over lunch. Unlike many other Frenchman, David has quite conservative tastes in food. I remember staying with him and his mother, and while she had a taste for lovely cheeses, he thought they were plain smelly. “He hated it”, I told Damien.

I’ve been to 4 Fourteen only once before, for my birthday last year, at Michaela’s suggestion. Damien too suggested this as a belated birthday lunch (my birthday was Sunday).

In summary, we both really enjoyed the meals which consisted of said bone marrow, kingfish and pork belly. One large course and two smaller ones was definitely enough for two.

It was a relatively quiet day at the restaurant, and we were somewhat surprised that was the case so close to Christmas.

There was another surprise though that Damien told me about on his way to lunch. “I’ve lived in Sydney fifteen years and I thought I’d seen it all until today. There was a guy totally nude crossing the lights at Taylor Square.” Maybe it was the warm weather?

I Chi Ban Japanese Teppan-yaki BBQ

Even though I’d warned my inter-state colleagues there would be some food-throwing involved, I don’t think they quite appreciated how much there would be until we visited I Chi Ban Japanese Teppan-yaki BBQ on Wednesday night. It was my suggestion we had dinner there, and today I received quite a few thankyou emails to say it was probably one of the most enjoyable “conference dinners” they’d ever been to.

It’s been several years since I’ve been there myself, but have some fond memories of the last I visited the restaurant with some colleagues. I remembered the food throwing, but I didn’t remember the care and precision with which the food was prepared: how the prawns were so beautifully de-veined, how the eggs were so beautifully prepared.

And then of course, it was “show time” with the chef leading us in a series of adventures where we had to catch bowls of food. One poor guy missed catching it and ended up with a shirtful of fresh egg. Another poor woman ended up with some rice in her hair. While not exactly covered in food, I’ve never been very good at catching things (have always been a little bit unco) I also ended up with a bit of rice decoration. But despite the apparent indignity of it all, we had enormous fun. “This was probably the best team-building activity I’ve ever been involved with”, one of my colleagues half-joke. So yeah, a great night.

And my favourite final comment was this : “I think a little karaoke after dinner could have taken it to a new level”. We kept ourselves nice.

Preparing for the Sunday night Red Eye

Maralinga by Lin Onus at the Art Gallery of Western Australia. A stunning work about the atomic tests conducted in Australia during the 1950s. A young woman holds tightly to her mother, as the winds blast from the explosion. A shameful part of our history.

Maralinga by Lin Onus at the Art Gallery of Western Australia. A stunning work about the atomic tests conducted in Australia during the 1950s. A young woman holds tightly to her mother, as the winds blast from the explosion. A shameful part of our history.

It’s Sunday evening. It’s been a warm day in Perth. I’m sitting on the balcony of the hotel I’ve been staying in. I hope the people on the cruise boat down below don’t mind that I’m sitting here, wearing just shorts, and sipping on a glass of wine. Because frankly, the last week has been super-super-busy, and if they do mind, I don’t care.

First, there was a reasonably intense two-day work conference in Sydney (with associated socialising/working at night).

Then on Tuesday night, there was an evening flight from Sydney to Perth, arriving in Perth at 9.30 local time (after midnight back in Sydney).

That was followed by a two-and-a-half day work conference in Perth which involved a lot of training, a lot of talking and some after work socialising where we continued to talk about work.

I figure I did my 38 “rostered hours” in record time this week.

“A week of highs and lows” is how I described the week to a colleague and friend in a text message. We were both supposed to go to another work-related social activity on Friday night, but by Friday afternoon/evening I was exhausted, and so I retired to my hotel room.

Though I could have gone back on Friday, I decided to tag on a few extra days in Perth at my own expense. It’s such a long way to travel (five hours), that I figured I couldn’t miss the chance for some friendly catchups, a bit of tourist exploration, and some relaxation.

Aside from yesterday’s food tour, I also paid a visit today to the Art Gallery of Western Australia and caught up with a friend for lunch today at Little Creatures.

So yeah, despite the busy times I’ve experienced over the last few weeks, I feel like I’ve had a weekend. I feel quite relaxed. I’m catching the red-eye back tonight (leaves Perth at 11.35pm, arrives Sydney at 6.55am), so I’m hoping for sound night’s sleep. Hoping…

International Food Tour of Perth

You know how when you meet someone and they introduce themselves, but within five minutes you’ve completely forgotten their name? That’s how it was with one of the blokes on the International Food Tour of Perth which I undertook today. Thankfully, I knew he was the father of Justin, our tour guide. We shared a few interesting stories throughout the day, including memories of condensed milk. He also told me a little of the background to these tours which are reasonably new in Perth.

The idea came from a visit to New York last year, and a tour called “Food On Foot”. He spoke with a real passion about the tour; it must have had a real impact. He and his family have been passionate about food and wine, and his son Justin had spent about half his life working in hospitality. And so when Justin returned to Australia after living overseas for a while, it seemed like a logical connection between his working life and his interests. On top of that, Perth has probably been crying out for something like this.

It’s a decade since I lived in Perth, and to be honest, I don’t have great memories of a particularly strong food culture here. Sure, there’s Margaret River, and other places like that. But I always remembered Perth as a bit of a surf and turf kind of town. Memorably from a couple of years ago, Perth was also a town I began to associate with overpriced meals, and particularly overpriced coffee.

But Perth seems to have changed a little bit in the last couple of years. You can see it instantly as you walk through the city: the town is far less Anglo and far more culturally diverse than it was ten years ago, even two years ago. This is reflected in many more interesting places to eat, and, thanks to legislative change, a far greater small bar culture. So in some ways, it sounds like Justin and his aunt (who co-owns the business) have tapped into the wave of change.

Today’s tour covered a range of food establishments around Perth, ranging from the older established businesses (an old Greek supermarket) to more modern ones (enjoying Banh Mi and Vietnamese coffee, and a toasted sandwich at a laneway hispter bar). The tour was well paced. Justin (the guy in the cap with a beard) was a really good tour guide, displaying both knowledge and passion. Highly recommended.

Clovelly Beach

As I made my way down to the beach, I suddenly realised (through the unfamiliarity of the landscape) I’d never visited Clovelly Beach before. Sure, I’ve been for quite a few (mostly birthday) lunches at the Clovelly Hotel before, but never the beach.

I was at the pub again today for a terrific birthday lunch for a friend. After food, wine, some great stories and a cracking thunderstorm, I was beginning to feel a little tired. The busy week I’ve previously written about was beginning to catch up with me, and so I bid everyone a fond farewell.

With twenty minutes before the next scheduled bus, I figured a brief walk to the beach was in order. An opportunity to sober up a little too :)

Wow. “What a beautiful little inlet”, I thought to myself. What a great personal discovery. And next time I go for a birthday lunch at the Clovelly Hotel, I’ll definitely schedule a visit to the beach as well the pub.

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