Getting in touch with my inner mer

I don’t know why I find water so attractive, perhaps it is due to me being born in the Chinese year of the Water Rabbit. Alternatively, it might be due to growing up in the middle of the country without easy access to anything other than canals filled with rubbish and the odd boating lake. 

In rather than on

Admittedly, I have limited experience of being on water, this is for good reason. I have a few memories of ferry trips and the like that were okay. Taking me out through the Heads of Sydney Harbour, to be bobbed around in a craft like a cork, in the swell of the Pacific results in dizziness, nausea and profuse sweating. The best I can manage is the taming and riding of inflatable devices, such as lylos, pink flamingoes and noodles; in the safety of a pool.

Early life

My fascination with swimming pools started early in life. The primary school I attended would run double decker buses, once a week, to the local public baths in Harborne. Opened in 1923, to a child, this drafty old building, with an interior of cathedral like proportions was awe inspiring. Patrons were greeted with an acrid chlorine smell that pervaded throughout. An arched entrance followed by a gloomy ticket hall opened onto the shallow end of the pool area. 

The delighted shrilled shouts and screams of small voices and the high pitched sound from pea-whistles echoed around the honey coloured brick interior. Dark wooden changing cubicles were arranged regimentally, along either side of the length of the pool; girls on the left, boys to the right. Cubicles consisted of a bench and hooks, where you would leave your clothes. As children, we had to share a cubicle.

Either no one explained swimming pool safety before my first visit or I wasn’t listening. After exiting my cubicle, dressed in saggy red trunks, I ran towards the large arched window at the far end of the pool. Shafts of sunlight from skylights set high up, in the apex of the roof, danced on the surface of the water. Jumping high into the golden Autumn air, I plunged into the chilly water. The sound of the water swooshed past my ears. My sinuses responded in pain to the rapid intake of liquid. The silky water caressed my skin, turning into a peaceful embrace as I sank rapidly to the bottom, in the deep end.  

I had not thought through the implications of my impulsive behaviour, being unable to swim. Only the recollection of that first exhilarating jump into the unknown remains etched into my memory. How I reached safety and the rest of the lesson has faded into my dim memories of the late 1960s/early 1970s. After this episode, I was only allowed to swim widths in the shallow end. I’m sure I was a disappointment to my mother who had won awards for her swimming prowess.

Today

Even now I am not a strong swimmer, I get by with a hybrid form of breast stroke with my head out of the water. I also enjoy floating on my back and treading water.

Whenever we holiday in our favourite Far North Queensland destination, Port Douglas we spend hours in the pool. The calming effect it has on us has inspired our annual ritual of putting up a temporary pool at home. It is here every Summer that I get back in touch with my inner mer.

Not for me. Really?

Being the product of a broken home and seeing so many failed relationships, led me to believe that marriage wasn’t for me. In 1993, my thirtieth year I fell in love with my future husband. Within two weeks of our first passionate encounter, we were living together. 
At that time in the U.K. I had the perception that being gay was something that brought shame to the person and their family. I grew up trying to conceal the part of myself that was largely unacceptable to society. I became expert in hiding in plain sight. Doing everything to avoid the spotlight. The opposite was true in circumstances where I felt comfortable in being myself, to the point of outrageousness. Perhaps this is an insight into what might have been if I had explored this side of my personality. 

A couple of trips to Sydney showed us a completely different culture. When interacting with staff in shops and banks we were engaged in conversations together, not individually. People generally appeared to be more friendly and accepting of differences. Having said that I remember conversations about boycotting products from the island state of Tasmania because sex between two consenting adult men was still illegal. This was decriminalised in 1997. 

Combine blue skies, sunshine, and the Harbour with a lifestyle that offered freedom; this was an opportunity that should not be missed! With the the intention of giving it a go for two years, in 1998, we upped sticks to literally move to the other side of the World. By facing challenges together, we learned to depend on each other. 

We have embraced Australia as our home for almost twenty years. Over that time the World has changed, dramatically, including same-sex marriage becoming a reality for one country after another. 

In our twentieth year together, legislation came into effect that allowed same-sex marriage in England, Wales and Scotland, but not in Northern Ireland. On Saturday morning over breakfast in July we chatted about reports in the news that same-sex British citizens would soon be able to marry at the British Consulate. This coincided with a planned visit by my partner’s family, in October. We both commented at the same time time that this would be an ideal time to celebrate our love and the support of our family and friends. We then realised that we had proposed to each other. 

Much planning and organising occurred from that moment up until Friday 24 October. My husband has kindly agreed that I can share the following post from his private Facebook page. It describes how we became part of the above picture by Zest Events International :

“As I have been asked to share this again…amazing chalk art picture, the largest ever created in Australia in the forecourt of Customs House. 

The night before our wedding in 2014 we walked past the proposed location of our wedding photos and found the area barriered off. At the same time we bumped into a former work colleague, Andi, who explained her new company was creating the amazing artwork. She explained it was a comment on the current political situation in Australia. The mechanical head spewing toxic liquid and consuming books was the then prime minister, Tony Abbott (who was always a NO to same sex marriage and even at the eleventh hour yesterday was trying to derail it). The toddler in the picture, based on Andi’s niece, was left with nothing but mechanical creatures as the ones in nature had been destroyed. A sad picture indeed. 

When we explained about out wedding, at the time only possible at the British Consulate, Andi insisted we should be part of the installation and be photographed on the picture. The artwork took two weeks and seven artists to create and as you can see it is 3D, a no mean feat on something so huge.

So the day of our wedding, we had an amazing lunch, went to the Consulate where numbers were limited to 20 guests. I fluffed my lines I was so overwhelmed with excitement, I ended up with both rings and we all cried with happiness. Drinks afterwards in the Customs House forecourt and pictures on the art work. 

Now I admit I was concerned as to people’s reactions…I am sad to say I was concerned someone might say something nasty and spoil the day. One of Andi’s team had made us a chalkboard heart with “Just Married” which we had clipped to our lapel. We stepped out onto the picture and played around with where to stand, guided by someone located high above on Customs House. People started taking photos and asking if we had indeed got married, I beamed “Yes” more people gathered. Instead of insults the comments were nothing but congratulations and praise. A little old lady walked past thrilled for us. It couldn’t have been more perfect.”

We were also blown away when a bottle of Veuve Clicquot in an ice bucket arrived at our table. A generous gift from a group of people on there way back to Melbourne after visiting a production company on the North Shore. 

Over the next two days, we shared our joy of being married with family and friends. The golden light that seemed to touch our lives after this special occasion lasted for over a year. 

Our marriage will now be recognised by the county we have chosen to call home. 

Unreachable, not


The first time Norwegian Cruise Lines sailed to Australia and New Zealand. This picture was taken at the end of that trip. 

Our friends from the UK spent two weeks cruising to Melbourne, Tasmania, New Zealand’s North Island and back to Sydney. It was great to catch up with my college companion after nearly 20 years. 

Due to visit three years ago, ill health and earthquakes in New Zealand delayed the dream. 

So many things in life seem so far away. Sometimes, the belief that something is unreachable is proven wrong. This thought reminded me of the song, The Impossible Dream, lyrics below:

To dream the impossible dream

To fight the unbeatable foe

To bear with unbearable sorrow

To run where the brave dare not go

To right the unrightable wrong

To love pure and chaste from afar

To try when your arms are too weary

To reach the unreachable star

This is my quest, to follow that star

No matter how hopeless, no matter how far

To fight for the right

Without question or pause

To be willing to march

Into hell for a heavenly cause

And I know if I’ll only be true

To this glorious quest

That my heart will lay peaceful and calm

When I’m laid to my rest

And the world will be better for this

That one man scorned and covered with scars

Still strove with his last ounce of courage

To fight the unbeatable foe

To reach the unreachable star

Songwriters: Joe Darion / Mitchell Leigh

The Impossible Dream lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

Colour compensation

There was a time when I would make a point of going for a walk at lunchtime. Since the construction of the light rail has picked up pace, the dust, sounds of heavy machinery and pavements being closed have stymied my weekday routine. 

This week I had to go to the bank. Something I used to frequently do, before my dependence on online transacting. 

While the journey up High Street to Randwick was noisy and visually unpleasant, I was rewarded with this glorious scene while ambling along Blenheim Street, on the return trip. The combination of textures, colours and shades was compensation enough for my weary senses. 

Before the parade passes by

Yesterday was momentous. It was the day, at precisely 10:00 am that the head of the Australian Bureau of Statistics began sharing results of the recent marriage equality survey. I was fortunate to be able to share the moment, with work colleagues and friends. We were gathered around an iPhone, intently watching, as it was streamed live by the Australian Broadcasting Company. 

A majority of Australians said yes to marriage equality. It’s now up to the politicians, to debate and determine if equality will truly be reflected in the legislation. 

Later my husband and I joined friends to participate in the celebrations on the Middle Bar balcony of Kinselas Hotel. Our friend, Meryl anointed me with a glittering rainbow lightening strike. It brought back memories of our excitement of moving to Australia, almost 20 years ago. And of the vibrant and seemingly liberated LGBTIQ community.

In recent years we have increasingly enjoyed the familiarity of our home suburb. Occasionally tasting the declining nightlife, due Sydney’s lock out laws and online dating. 

As I stood looking up at the rainbow flag, gently fluttering over the crowd in Taylor Square, a song from Hello Dolly popped into my head. I could not shake that song for the rest of the evening, it was still there this morning. 

This rendition is outrageous. Resplendent with marching band, a heavenly chorus and Barbra Streisand belting out the lyrics. It reflects so many moments in my life. 

Today is one of them. 

When the parade passes by

Tyree Energy Technologies Building

Tyree Energy Technologies Building, UNSW

Alighting at a bus stop on Anzac Parade, the Tyree building, on lower campus is the first one I walk past each workday morning. This facade faces the main walkway. Trees and a canopy shield patrons of the Navitas cafe and passersby, on the ground floor. 

According to the Engineering website the building has won many architectural awards and

It is home to the Australian Energy Research Institute (AERI), the School of Photovoltaic and Renewable Energy and the School of Petroleum Engineering, providing a space where research, education and industry can collaborate in the development and implementation of sustainable energy technologies. A roof-top area is set up for the testing of photovoltaic arrays, a key component of the research of the facility. 

The building was named after Sir William Tyree, a UNSW alumnus, successful innovator, businessman and major philanthropic supporter of Australian engineering and educational research. Sir William generously donated $1 million towards the new center and pledged a further bequest of $10 million.

First bottlebrush of Spring

We have spent the last two weeks mostly in doors. For the first time in 24 years we have both been ill at the same time with the most horrendous virus. 

How heartening it was today to spot this plump red beauty with yellow tips. The first botttlebrush I have seen in Spring 2017!

Relative grandeur

The landlord has let us know they will be increasing the weekly rent by $15. After viewing a daggy* house for rent yesterday, that is $130 cheaper than the current weekly sum, I have renewed appreciation for the relative grandeur of a current dwelling. 

The above is tile from the backroom fireplace. 

*Daggy – Australian origin. 

adj. not stylish, out of fashion, not trendy, not cool, untidy, unclean, not neat. 

Friday adventure

After our second visit to the gym this week, I am buzzing, and ready for whatever life throws at me. Rather than checking the TripView app for the time until the next bus arrives, I throw caution to the wind, knowing they run every ten minutes. As I cross the road at the Norton Street pedestrian crossing I see the red bus. I run to catch it. Passengers who are slow to board, delay the departure of the bendy vehicle. 

Phew, I end up on a seat with little leg room; at least I’m sitting. My mind gets caught up with work emails and planning for my meeting with the new Director, who starts next Monday. 

I realise the bus is not following the regular route. After the driver passes the second turn that would have rectified his mistake I realise I’m on the wrong bus. We are heading north instead of east. I alight to look for a toilet under 201 Elizabeth Street, I’m sure I’ve used one here before! Aiming to make my way to the M10 bus stop on Oxford Street, I’m delighted to see signs to the subterranean Museum Station. 


Knowing that a diversion through the station will take me under the busy road I head off on a voyage of discovery, into a network of tunnels, shopping areas and railway platforms. 

Amazingly, I arrive at work only ten minutes later than expected!

Walking

Untitled bronze sculpture, group of figures by Bert Flugelman, 1964, UNSW Sydney, Australia. Taken while traversing the University campus. 

In a previous post I wrote about my dilemma of finding the best way to travel to work on public transport. I think I have the answer. 

The M10 from Leichhardt runs around every ten minutes in the morning. The journey time is between 45 minutes and one hour, depending on traffic. This trip pays a dividend in the form of exercise time. Ten minutes walking from home to bus stop on the flat followed by ten minutes through campus, mostly uphill. 

According to The Conversation I need to walk at a moderate pace for at least 30 minutes for five days per week. The remaining 10 minutes can be achieved on the trip home by either alighting two stops early or catching buses whose routes don’t pass the end of our road. 

Any walking I do during the day is a bonus!