More Tamworth then on to Sydney
More on the Tamworth Country Music Festival
One of the highlights of the week was the free Australia Day Concert
with fireworks to follow. We were lucky to bag a front row position.
The concert kicked off with a song from each of the eight Telstra Road
To Fame award winners. These awards are designed to give young talent
a leg up. The first winner to sing was cute little Kirsty Lee Akers.
Pam and I wanted to adopt her and take her home. The award winners were
followed by a host of other acts including several songs from Jimmy
Little and Keith Potger (pictured below).
The Australia Day Concert included Jimmy Little, Kirsty Lee Akers and Keith Potger of Seekers fame . . .
. . . and ended with a firework display.
On this occasion a bit of camera shake enhanced the images. Incandescent jellyfish, perhaps?
On the second Friday we attended another free open air concert starring Kasey
Chambers. Kasey is very popular and 15,000 people packed into Bicentennial
Park to listen to her. We didn't count them ourselves, we got the figure
from the TV so it must be right. Let me just tell you this - if we hadn't
been totally blocked
in by the crowd there would only have been 14,998 after Kasey's first number.
The rest of her audience were wildly enthusiastic so the fault must have
been ours, but to us she has the most boring, unmelodious voice imaginable.
The volume was deafening and she seemed to shout rather than sing.
Another big name, Troy Cassar-Daly, made a guest appearance.
listened to several 'stars' of country music and - at the other end of
the scale - dozens of very talented buskers, I can only conclude that
ability has little to do with who succeeds in country music.
Kasey Chambers singing a duet with her father, Bill Chambers. Not too bad a picture from 100 metres back in the dark.
On the second Saturday we drove into town for the Big Parade. That morning
there was also an attempt to break the record for the world's longest
line dance which we thankfully managed to miss. In fact, we managed to
miss the best part of the parade too as the police had blocked off the
road into Tamworth and we were forced to walk the last bit.
parade the crowd in the town centre was denser than ever and the temperature
around 37° C. We decided that we were all 'festivaled out' and went
leaving we watched Walk The Line
, a special showing of the new movie on
the life of Johnny Cash. It's been made as a love story and depicts JC
as a weak, pathetic, sad figure. The drug and alcohol dependency in his
life were emphasised - probably over emphasised. Hey, this man was my
hero, leave him alone. Pam, on the other hand, enjoyed the film very much.
So there you have it.
from the cool of the cinema we walked into a wall of heat. However, . . .
. . . the Peel River provided some with a way to keep cool.
Sunday, the last day of the festival, dawned fine and sunny once again. It was
cool in the morning but promised to be another stinker. We decided that,
the best of the festival being over, we'd give Sunday a miss, enough being
the Tamworth Country Music Festival came to an end for another year. Would
we go again? Without a doubt! Even if we weren't keen on country music
it's worth going for the fun and atmosphere.
Shall I tell you what was
really heartening about the Country Music Festival? It was the behaviour
of the people. Despite daily temperatures in the mid to high thirties,
consumption of large quantities of alcohol, and the extraordinary volume
of people, in a week we never saw any rowdy behaviour, violence or drunkenness.
In fact, we never even heard any offensive language. True, hearing anything
was difficult. Never-the-less good humour abounded and litter on the streets
was practically nonexistent. All credit to the Tamworth Council for providing
adequate numbers of wheely bins, both for general garbage and recycling,
as well as to the country music fans for using them.
The police, too,
were evident in numbers on foot, on bicycles and on horses. They were
good natured and friendly and their very presence, perhaps, ensured they
had little to do.
hope you're not too sick of all this country music stuff, valued Reader.
For a change of subject I'll tell you about a visit to the Tamworth Powerstation
Museum where they had three wood fired steam engines running for the occasion.
(I can hear my brother Andrew groaning already. He hates country music
and mechanical stuff so the pictures below are dedicated just to him.)
The power station enabled Tamworth to boast
the first municipal
electric street lighting in Australia
. The lights were switched
on with great ceremony way back in 1888. On Friday, 9th November, if you
want to be precise - not sure what time. The existing gas street lights
had been converted to electricity. This was fast progress as only twelve
years earlier the town had but one street lamp and that was an oil lamp
outside the Post Office.
Left: Crankshaft a blur, this beautifully restored Fowler compound, double
acting steam engine was a wonderful site.
Right: The spinning flywheel of a second steam engine, its belt driving
The power station went from strength to strength until it was providing electricity
to much of north-west New South Wales and some of Queensland. In fact,
it was not until 1958 that Tamworth was connected to the main power grid.
Prior to that, the guide said, they had to 'engineer' power cuts as the
local supply was much more reliable than the main system and it wasn't
acceptable for Sydney to have blackouts while country towns didn't. I
don't know how 'tongue in cheek' that remark was - many of the staff at
the museum were previous employees of the power station and very proud
of the fact.
Apart from the engines and generators there were many, many other exhibits in
the museum which ranks amongst the best I have seen of its type. (I use
the first person singular as my darling spouse left me to it and went
in search of a coffee shop.) One item immediately struck a chord with
me. It was an old Hotpoint washing machine almost identical to the one
my mother passed on to me way back when. I knew more about it than the
guide did, having battled to keep one working for years past its use-by
date. It's a worry, finding things you used to use in a museum.
Tamworth After The Festival
We moved the caravan into town the morning after the festival ended. It was
hard to believe Tamworth was the same town. The streets were open again
and the crowds, the buskers and the stalls had all gone. And so had the
noise. We liked the 'real' Tamworth as much as we'd liked the festival
Tamworth. It is a very laid-back little town where the traffic stops as
soon as you even look like approaching a pedestrian crossing.
Tamworth in the Peel Valley
I'd like to share with you an incident I witnessed as I sat under a shady
tree on Peel Street, the main shopping street, one morning. As I watched
the world go by, a burglar alarm went off in a nearby sports shop. It
made the most deafening wail and, as usual, nobody took the slightest
The siren had been screaming for several minutes when a large
police four wheel drive pulled up outside the shop. I watched with interest
as two burly officers eased themselves out of the vehicle looking very
commando-like with their pants tucked into their boots and wearing baseball
caps. Their heavy leather belts were festooned with guns, radios, handcuffs
and heaven knows what else in pouches all around their waists. They hoisted
up their belts and, without so much as a glance towards the screaming
siren, strolled across the street and entered a Gloria Jeans coffee shop.
They emerged a few minutes later carrying packages and take-away cups,
got into their car and drove away. That's Tamworth.
We remained for two or three weeks after the festival had finished but gradually
the itchy feet syndrome returned and we planned a move to Port Macquarie
on the coast. From there we intended to go south to Newcastle and then
Narrabeen. A few days before leaving we scrubbed the Port Macquarie visit,
then decided not to go to Newcastle either - yet.
The day before we left
for Narrabeen we received an email from an old work associate - sorry
Bob, a former
work associate - suggesting we visit the Warrumbungle National
Park. It wasn't too far out of our way and was worth seeing. So the Wednesday
morning found us packing up and preparing to drive to the Warrumbungles
as thunder grumbled in the distance. The morning was quite cool but very
humid and soon I was sweating like a pig - do pigs sweat? - whereas Pam
was 'glistening attractively'. We heard a warning on the radio that a
band of heavy rain was approaching from the west with thunder storms and
the danger of flash flooding.
, we thought,
heading straight into it. That'll make life more interesting.
As we left Tamworth, lightning flashes ahead contrasted vividly with the
dark, threatening sky. In the event, however, there was just an hour of
heavy rain to contend with and then we were out on the other side of it.
The sky brightened and the sun shone warmly. Alice had been instructed
to guide us to Warrumbungle National Park and when we reached the nearest
town, a place called Coonabarabran, she diverted us off the main road
and through a series of twists and turns on side streets. To say we had
complete faith in her would be a 'porky' but, sure enough, as we emerged
from the town we passed a sign telling us the park was straight ahead.
Good old Alice.
Warrumbungle National Park
The scenery, as we drove into the park, was quite striking. Towering rocks
and almost sheer mountains rose skywards. The Siding Springs Observatory
is situated on top of a mountain and, from the caravan park, its dome
could be seen on the skyline. It is Australia's largest optical telescope
and there are several smaller observatories dotted around, their white
domes looking out of place in the beautiful landscape. Surprisingly the
observatory is closed to the public at night but we visited it during
the day. There was no tour available at the time we went so we wandered
around on our own.
Towering rocks rose skywards.
The caravan parking area, when we finally found it, was not at all as the
guide book had indicated. What had happened to the advertised showers
and water supply? There was electricity, however, which kept going off
and on. But that may have been part of widespread power problems caused
by the storms. I kept smelling that 'dark brown' smell that emanates from
something electrical which is hotter than wot it orta be, however everything
kept working okay.
We'd joined a couple of other campers who ignored us, otherwise the place was
deserted except for a tame kangaroo which came to the caravan door and
sniffed at my hands to see if they contained anything edible. Finding
to the contrary he lost interest and went and lay down, just far enough
away to show his disdain, but close enough should there be food on offer.
No handouts so Mr Roo had a sulk.
At dusk the wind picked up alarmingly, whipping up clouds of dust. We quickly
closed the caravan windows and vents and secured everything outside. Then
the rain came lashing down, accompanied by flashes of lightning and crashing
thunder. The storm passed but the rain continued, off and on, for most
of the night. In the morning we found that the shady tree under which
we had parked the caravan, its foliage now heavy with rain, was resting
its lower branches on our roof. That wasn't all we found in the morning
- we found the shower block. It had been there all along.
around we discovered that we were alone - the other campers had gone.
This made us uneasy about leaving the caravan unattended while we explored
the park. We did have a drive around in the afternoon and walked up to
morning we left for Narrabeen, stopping for a night in a free rest area
in a pretty park in a town called Broke. Again we relied on Alice who
was in a playful mood taking us up hill and down dale along narrow, twisting
roads, and even down six kilometres of unsealed road. However she did
take us the most direct route and when we entered the Sydney metropolitan
area she was invaluable. It was like having a passenger who had lived
in the area all her life and who was able to direct us unerringly through
a maze of busy streets without a single problem, delivering us to the
entrance of the caravan park.
What a culture shock! After living in so many small country towns, suddenly
there we were in the great Sydney metropolis.
Right: Sydney's harbour and skyline - a beautiful,
thriving city. The Opera House
just made it into the picture on the far right.
right: Another side to the city.
The caravan park was very large and well organised with a concrete road network,
green grass and shrubs. On one side of the park was the beach and on another
During the week the park was quiet and peaceful but on Friday afternoon
an invasion of young parents and their kids began. All Saturday and much
of Sunday the place swarmed with children under ten, screaming and shouting
and speeding around on their bikes.
Children are okay, I suppose, but
they have two major design flaws - they have neither a volume control
nor an on/off switch. Come on, now, admit it; wouldn't it be marvellous
to point a remote control at them and, at the press of a button, turn
the noise down to a subdued murmur? And instead of the usual drama at
bedtime, just point the remote and press the 'off' button then pick them
up, drop them into their beds and leave them there until it suited you
to wake them.
was only when we ventured out of the caravan park that the fast traffic
and congested roads reminded us of where we were. Most campers used the
very convenient public transport. A bus from right outside the park connected
with the ferry from Manly to the city. Because I am a 'senior' I could
purchase a day ticket valid for all the buses, trains and ferries for
just $2.50. Pam had to pay $15 for the same ticket. So what price youth?
first journey into Sydney was to visit the famous Powerhouse Museum. We
decided, on that occasion, to drive and try Alice out in that very busy
environment to see how she faired. She took us over the Harbour Bridge
and straight to the museum without a problem. It was going home that she
struggled because the tall buildings all around her in the city kept screening
the satellites. When that happened she politely informed us that she had
lost satellite coverage then went quiet while she tried to regain contact.
Her map was useless during those short periods, it kept rotating and showing
us in the middle of buildings. If we took a wrong turn before she got
her act together it didn't really matter much, Alice brought us back on
course once she'd found enough satellites.
only other snag was when there were two course changes close together,
then the delay in giving us the second change might mean we'd already
passed the turning. To avoid that we once kept driving round and round
a roundabout, receiving some strange stares from Sydney motorists. As
Pam said, once they'd spotted our Western Australian number plates they'd
shake their heads sadly and drive on. Just another redneck from a backward
of Alice. The Powerhouse Museum didn't disappoint; we could have spent
all day there. Pam wanted to stay longer but we had things to do that
evening. I had very much wanted to 'catch up' with Greg and Bob, two friends
from a previous life that I hadn't seen for many years. A reunion had
been arranged and there was an added bonus. Don from Adelaide, another
friend of long standing, was in Sydney on business and was able to attend.
The four of us used to work for Tektronix many years ago. Don brought
his wife and daughter, Greg brought his partner and I took the Leader
of The Opposition. It was a fabulous evening at a Thai restaurant where
the food was almost as good as the company. The smiling faces in the picture
below might give that away a little.
From left to right: Bob, Don, Lois, Kim, Bev,
Pam, Greg and me.
next day Pam and I went sight-seeing around Sydney and forgot the camera.
We therefore had to retrace our steps the following day when we took the
picture of Sydney (above) from outside the Taronga Zoo. The lower picture
was taken near the Powerhouse Museum.
at The Rocks near the Sydney Harbour Bridge one afternoon we made the
mistake of popping into a bar for a drink - a glass of wine for Pam and
a beer for me. The bartender relieved me of $26.50! We'd been paying $5
for the same drinks in Tamworth. So much for the saving my Seniors Card
won me on the State Transit system. Then the bartender asked if we'd like
another. As if!
same evening we heard of a piece of land near Bondi Beach being sold at
auction. The area of the land was 125 square metres. That's approximately
twelve paces by twelve paces and it sold for $3.5 million. The buyer could
have bought a half decent caravan for that.
Prices aside, I think Sydney must be the most beautiful city in the world. I
don't think I'd like to live there - too busy, too fast, too crowded -
but it's just an incredible city to visit.
Left: The Diamond Princess cruise ship.
At the time, the largest cruise ship to ever visit Australia, the Diamond
was tied up at Circular Quay. Too high to fit under the
Harbour Bridge, this 116,000 ton megaliner is just four metres lower than
the Sydney Opera House (seen under the bow). She is 2.5 times bigger than
and carries 2,700 passengers and a crew of 1,100.
She was cruising between Sydney and Auckland. The twelve day cruise (including
return air fare) cost from $2,769 per person for a twin share cabin.
next time we visited Circular Quay the Diamond Princess
In her place was another cruise ship, the Oriana
. Had we not
recently seen the Diamond Princess
we would have marvelled at
the size and grandeur of Oriana
(pictured below). She was certainly
a beauty but not quite in the same league as the Princess
advantage of our 'all day' tickets we took a high speed JetCat ferry from
Circular Quay to Watsons Bay. I felt quite sorry for the skipper as he
tried to avoid all the yachts, large and small, that seemed to have a
death wish. Their crews appeared to believe that the old maxim,
gives way to sail
, would save their lives as they continued on a collision
course with the fast ferry.
The yachts pictured had nothing to do with the incident described below,
they just looked spectacular as they raced, three abreast.
one occasion the skipper had to cut the engines and swing sharply away
from an approaching yacht which passed a few feet ahead of us, seemingly
oblivious to our presence. Had our skipper not acted as he did, a collision
would have been inevitable. He vented his spleen with a long blast on
the ferry's siren - but only after the yacht had safely passed. Habour
rage. The yacht crew ignored us.
A couple of times we visited the peninsula south-east of Manly - a part
of Sydney Harbour National Park. The park is fragmented, being made up
of several foreshore reserves and at least one island. A lookout at the
tip of the peninsula gave us a great view of all the ocean-going ships
entering and leaving the harbour as well as many pleasure craft. It also
seemed to be on the flight path of several DeHavilland Beaver floatplanes
which operate joyflights from the harbour.
were surprised to find a plaque attached to the ground at the side of
a park bench and almost obscured by grass. We were a little intrigued
by it and decided to show it to you so I have included a picture (below
right). Who were Ralph and Adele? Presumably Ralph wanted Adele to marry
him though perhaps he just wanted her to be his 'partner'. Did she accept?
He'd certainly gone to a lot of trouble so I hope she was impressed. And
if she did marry him, how do they feel about one another now, almost five
years down the track? It would be fun to trace them and find out. Perhaps
someone who reads these pages will know - stranger things have happened.
Left: One of several Beaver floatplanes operating joyflights off Sydney Harbour.
Right: Ralph's plaque beseeching Adele to make him
the happiest and luckiest
man in the world.
I expect the plaque would have been highly polished when Adele first saw it.
I must just mention this while I think of it. Pam noticed that there are
not nearly as many obese people in Sydney as we've seen in other places
we have visited on our travels. Once she'd mentioned it I took notice
too. She was right, Sydney people are not nearly
on average, as people in other towns. Why that should be we have no idea
unless Sydney-siders burn more calories in their hectic, high speed lives.
Alternatively, perhaps holding a mobile phone to one's ear has some as
yet undiscovered effect on body weight. At any one time, whether in the
street, on a bus, a ferry or a train, about 10% of the population has
a phone held against one ear. Another 10% sits on public transport tapping
a mobile phone keypad, presumably 'texting'. Almost everyone else (under
thirty) has iPod earphones plugged into their heads with wires disappearing
into a convenient pocket.
The Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House
Circular Quay (which isn't circular) is simultaneously a very busy transport interchange
and a beauty spot. The ferry terminus has a railway station built vertically
above it, and higher still, above the railway, runs a motorway, the Cahill
Expressway. The sky overhead never seems to be clear of helicopters. On
the land side of the terminus is the Sydney central business district
with buses and taxis discharging and collecting passengers against a backdrop
of towering glass office blocks. On the water side you have Sydney's two
most famous icons, the Harbour Bridge to your left, and the Opera House
to your right. On the water between them, ferries and harbour tour boats
are constantly arriving and leaving. And next to the ferry terminal, resting
in splendid majesty, was the gleaming white 'Oriana', dwarfing all other
The 'Oriana' with her yellow funnel and colourful bunting fluttering in the breeze.
On the day that we saw the Oriana we had decided to take another ferry up
the Parramatta River to Parramatta. Pam was very keen to look at historical
The town was disappointingly strewn with litter, especially
in and around the school grounds, and graffiti was much in evidence. We
decided it would be a great idea if the schools organised a clean up of
their grounds by the students. But then the little darlings' parents would
be up in arms about it.
on foot and not knowing the area, we didn't find any significant old buildings
to look at though Pam discovered - on the train back to Sydney - that
we'd almost walked past the door of the oldest building in Australia!
the subject entirely, I recently read in Reader's Digest that as long
as the first and last letter of a word are correct, the order of the other
letters is less important, the text is still intelligible to a reader.
Try reading this:
rlealy eyneojd our vsiit to Sdeyny but otefn the waheetr was jsut too hiumd.
you read it? Most words are easy. In fact, you may not realise that they
were misspelled until you look a second time.
Hours later. God, I'm tired. Don't know why, I've done sod-all all day except
play with this computer. Some guy called Bill Gates thought it desirable
that I download all sorts of update files which took three times longer
than he said it would. Then some guy called Norton thought I should scan
the C:\Drive for 'threats' and after 173,000 files he's found nothing
but is still looking. I hate technology. The sooner we get back to coal
and steam the better.
Outside, the traffic noise has stopped and I can
hear the breakers on the beach. What a lovely sound to go to sleep by.
Pam's asleep but here I am waiting for bloody Norton. He's up to . . .
wait while I check . . . 178,000 files and he's finished. Found nothing,
of course. What a waste of time. At least I can go to bed now. Oh-oh,
there's a car passing on the road with its stereo full up and bass at
maximum. Moron. He's gone now and I can hear the breakers again. Goodnight.
The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras
For years we'd heard about this parade in Sydney and seen it on television.
This year we happened to be in Sydney when it was held so we went to have
a look. Naturally everyone will have their own views on this sort of event
and we can only tell you our opinions and show you some pictures. The
parade was held on a Saturday evening in Sydney's Oxford Street which,
from our caravan, was a bus and ferry ride then a (much needed) three
There were many strange characters wandering about ...
Hey, Miss Blue, you
missed a bit. And as for you, Red Devil, bet your parents are really proud
We arrived early, having been briefed thoroughly by the lovely couple in
the next caravan.
Take a folding chair, go early and find a spot
with a toilet nearby. If you leave it too late you'll see nothing.
It was sound advice and we followed it, getting a front row spot but at
the cost of having to wait several hours for the parade to start. However,
the wait was quite amusing as there were many strange characters in the
most outlandish outfits - or lack thereof - wandering about.
As the start time for the parade approached, the crowd increased until we
were hemmed in on all sides. The apartment balconies of the nearby tower
blocks were crammed with people hanging over the walls and the roof parapet
of one building was lined with heads. The roads had been closed and police
and paramedics patrolled up and down. There were many parade marshals,
mostly girls, who assumed the role of crowd warmers and later, cheer leaders.
Their T-shirts bore the motto:
I believe all love is equal
I found the behaviour of the three hundred thousand strong crowd very
strange. They were overly good humoured, almost like excited children.
I swear if someone on the street had blown his nose they'd have erupted
into cheers, screams, whistles and applause. We had a long wait for the
parade to start but the crowd was perfectly happy to do Mexican waves
(badly) at the instigation of the marshals, and to throw giant beach
balls back and forth.
Looking at the people lining the barriers on the other side of the street two
things struck me. The first was that I couldn't see a single person even
remotely as old as I am. This was depressing. The second was that I could
hardly see a face that looked Anglo-Saxon, they nearly all appeared to
be of Asian extraction. I turned and pointed this out to Pam who hushed
Keep your voice down!
What's the matter?
Look behind you.
I glanced behind then all around. It was the same on our side of the street
- Asian features everywhere. I don't have a problem with that, it just
seemed . . . disproportionate.
parade started with a ride-past of large motorcycles ridden by lesbians.
Dikes on Bikes. I don't suppose watching a succession of half naked women
with bare breasts would do anything for you, would it dear Reader? Well,
that's where you and I differ. The 'ladies' were followed by their male
counterparts, many very skimpily dressed in black leather. Still, the
bikes were worth looking at.
Asian features. Everywhere.
There followed a long procession of floats, marchers, banners, bands and dancers.
Not too many were very clever or talented though a lot of work had gone
into some of the costumes. All were noisy, most were attired in the most
bizarre outfits, some really spectacular, many miniscule.
from female was often well nigh impossible. Many floats had a message
to impart; some were political but most appealed for understanding and
tolerance for their sexuality and lifestyle.
From a purely personal perspective, if they abide - within reason - by society's
codes of dress and behaviour they can do what they like behind closed
doors, just like heterosexuals. But if they want to be 'in your face',
and dress and behave like freaks, then that's how they can expect to be
treated. This Mardi Gras, in my not-very-humble opinion, does no good
whatsoever for their cause. So much of it was blatant and frequently distasteful
exhibitionism, the worst being a pair of males enthusiastically simulating
anal sex on one of their floats. Another pair did the same in the centre
of the street.
The event was, however, very good natured. The police were very much in evidence
at all times, even to having a march-past of uniformed gay Federal Police
and another of gay State Police. And that's something else I'm not too
sure about. Obviously there will be homosexuals in the police just like
any other occupation, and they should be free to join in the Mardi Gras
if they so wish. But as private individuals, not as uniformed officers.
What's your opinion, dear Reader? I see no problem with homosexuality
being legal and same-sex couples having equal rights. Just don't make
it compulsory, okay?
Left: Nice boys.
Centre: Up close and personal with a police officer's side-arm.
Right: Male or female? Who knows.
Once the parade was over and the crowd began to disperse it became apparent
what an appalling mess Oxford Street was left in. Litter, cans and bottles
covered the footpath. We contrasted that with the Country Music Festival
in Tamworth where, with an equally dense crowd - albeit covering a smaller
area - litter was conspicuous by its absence.
We were given to understand by one of the marshals that the Mardi Gras is
in financial difficulty. This bears out the opinion of many who, having
seen the parade previously, said that it has deteriorated in both quality
and quantity. The one we watched may be the last, we were told. Would
it be possible, I wonder, for the event to continue as the Sydney Mardi
Gras, removing the overall Gay and Lesbian influence? It has become a
traditional annual event and it would be a pity to lose it altogether.
The gay and lesbian community could still contribute with a float.
To see twenty more images of Sydney's Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, click:
Mardi Gras Pictures
Note on terminology:
The term 'Mardi Gras' has become associated with homosexuality in Australia.
There is no such link. The Macquarie Dictionary defines the term Mardi
Shrove Tuesday; the last day before Lent which is celebrated
with special carnival festivities. The Oxford Dictionary concurs.
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