Climbing Mount Steele

“You timed that well”, came the message from a colleague late this afternoon. There were several others, too, referencing the news that Lismore has gone back into lockdown. “Yes, I KNEW Lismore was going to head back into lockdown. Too close to the anti-vaxxers”, I replied. Hopefully it will only be for only a week, and Lismore will return to “normal”, along with Sydney next Monday, October 11.

“I know this sounds very ‘hippy'”, I’ve said to a some friends this weekend, “But I think COVID is the earth giving us all a message to do something about climate change, and generally lead a more simple life”. Of the small sample of four (two couples), there was no disagreement. Even though there have been some very negative things about the last eighteen months, at least it’s meant people have slowed down a little. They haven’t been able to spend more time with friends and family, but hopefully these times have allowed people to be more thoughtful about them, and about the simpler things in life. Like picnics!

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many people in this park, let alone people having a picnic”, I said to a couple of friends yesterday. We’re still not out of lockdown yet, but we are allowed to catch up with friends in public places, like parks. So that’s exactly what half of Sydney seems to have done this weekend.

It was the first time I’ve seen them since June, and the first time I’d seen one of them, since he had been previously living in Canberra. We embarked on a mid-morning walk around Surry Hills and Darlinghurst, taking into the various sites, and discovering new places. My friends moved from Canberra to Sydney earlier this year, and though one had previously lived here, he noted “Sydney has changed dramatically. It’s a much better place than when I lived here in the 80s”, he said.

We spotted this awesome garage on a street in Darlinghurst. In the midst of a fairly ordinary street we spotted this open garage, and at the end of a laneway of about 25 metres, we spotted this rather flash car being worked on.

And that’s when it was time for a picnic lunch. Well, not so much a picnic in the sense of having brought prepared food with us; we popped in and bought some very, very tasty chicken burgers, and found ourselves a spot in a nearby park, next to the Surry Hills police station, along with a couple of hundred others.

“I read the other day some of the native fauna has been really struggling with the lockdown”, one of my friends commented. “There’s just not enough waste food around the place”, he added. It was then a lone white ibis (known in Sydney as bin chickens) came close to us. There were a few lettuce scraps in my cardboard lunchbox container, which the ibis must have smelled even though the box was closed. Using its pointy beak, it was able to reach into the closed box and and pick out the small pieces of food. After a while, we decided to open up the box to allow for greater access.

Sydney’s ubiquitous “white ibis”, otherwise known as “bin chickens” because you’ll often see them circulating around garbage bins.
“Don’t you think the mural looks like Lenin? That makes sense for the bread queue”, one of my friends said today about the Bourke Street Bakery.
I hadn’t known before today the hill near Centennial Park is actually called “Mount Steele”.

Those “picnics” and catching up with friends were a lovely way to spend the weekend. And there’s a whole day left, with the Labour Day Holiday tomorrow.

Aside from those activities, I’ve listened to a fair bit of music and watched some television.

Last night I watched a film about the life of Robert Mapplethorpe. Interestingly, I discovered I’ve been mispronouncing his name for at least forty years. It’s “maple” not “mapple” apparently. I also hadn’t realised that he was once in a relationship with Patti Smith, or that his brother was also a photographer. Or that he was a complete arsehole! The film portrays him as as very flawed individual. “Despite his obvious talents, he didn’t have to be so awful to other people, or to be so manipulative of other people”, I thought to myself as I watched the film. The portrayal by Matt Smith (aka Dr Who and Prince Philip in “The Crown”) was, nonetheless very good.

8 Replies to “Climbing Mount Steele”

  1. Hello James,
    You might be right about COVID and climate change. I can’t disagree. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem to have made any difference to the way Barnaby and his National Party mates think.
    Over the last three or four years we have seen more White Ibis down this way during the summer months. We never had them down here at all before. Maybe that’s to do with climate change also, and they are now coming further south during the warmer months. There are none at the moment – they seem to disappear for the winter. COVID won’t stop the White Ibis crossing state borders. Ha!
    Glad to hear that you have settled back into life in Sydney.

  2. Hi Rod, I don’t think I’ve ever really noticed the white ibis outside of Sydney, though of course they must be everywhere. They just seem to be so ubiquitous here. COVID and climate change? There would be little/no scientific evidence, but it’s just “the vibe”.

  3. Ibis make an occasional appearance in our suburbs. I had forgotten and yes, his name is pronounced Maple.

  4. We walked the Anzac Bridge / Blackwattle Bay loop yesterday and were astonished at the absence of the usual huge flocks of seagulls at the fish markets. I’m guessing because there aren’t busloads of tourists outdoor dining. I wonder if it is the same at Circular Quay.

    Welcome back!

    1. I was at Circular Quay the other day and witnessed a flock of seagulls descend on a man eating a burger. He laughed and said, “I probably shouldn’t have been eating it anyway”.

  5. I’m puzzled by your Canberra friend’s unfavourable comparison of 1980s to contemporary Sydney. Over all, owing to the impact of increased population, I’d put the respective advantages overall very much the other way.

    I tend to suspect that views of how good or not a city is are mostly formed by one’s own circumstances at the time one is there.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: