Tuesday, 4th April

It was quite bright when we woke up, but the spell of sunshine and showers continues, so we did not rush out but eventually headed to the City to continue our perambulation of the Rocks area and to walk over the Harbour Bridge.  

We reached the City and took the now familiar walk to Harrington Street where we had seen steps up to the Bridge.  Sydney Harbour Bridge is the largest and heaviest (but not the longest) steel arch in the world. It links the city centre with North Sydney, crossing the harbour at one of its narrowest points.  The two halves of the arch were built outwards from each shore. It took 1400 workers nine years to build. It was completed in 1932.  

We have obviously crossed the Bridge many times by car, but you get a much better sense of it and a very different perspective on the harbour, from it. We walked across and back again.  Although it is no where near as challenging as the climb that people do across the span of girders that are an integral part of the structure that is the very essence of Sydney, the walk has its own challenges when you feel the ground under your feet shudder as a train or large truck travels past just a few yards from you. Keith did well.

having left the bridge behind us, we wandered down to the Quay where, for the first time since we’ve been here, there was no huge cruise ship to mar our view across to the Opera House.  We wandered past The old waterside warehouses……..
and along the riverside buildings.
We visited the gallery of the Australian Artist Ken Done.  His rather childlike, but very colourful  pictures are displayed in the old Australian Steam Navigation Building.  His older work was more to my taste as it had more clarity of form – the more recent paintings seemed ‘naive’ in the extreme!!  I am probably doing him a severe disservice by my comments!

Leaving Mr Done’s etchings behind, we were back into the history of the area as we came across John Cadman’s house.  Front – 

And rear.  Right on the harbour side – an estate agents dream commission! 

John Cadman was sentenced to death in London in 1797 for stealing a horse. His sentence was commuted to transportation to the colony.  Initially, he worked in Castle Hill as a convict labourer and then transferred to the Government Dockyard in 1809. He was later appointed Coxwain of the Timber and Lumber Boat and received a conditional pardon the following year, in 1813. He eventually received a free pardon after working as Coxwain to the Antelope for four years, from 1817 to 1821. He was then promoted to Master of the 30 ton Cutter ‘Mars’ until this was wrecked in 1826.  He was then appointed Superintendent of Government Boats.  It was at this point that he was given this house.  In 1830 he obtained permission to marry another convict, Elizabeth Mortimer and continued to live in the cottage with his wife and two daughters.  When he retired he had worked for 45 years in Goverment service and he was awarded £182!    He died in the Steam Packet Inn in 1848, a pub he had bought in 1844.  Not bad for a horse thief!!

Nice spot!  A little bit further along, there was a statue of Captain Bligh of Mutiny on the Bounty 

fame.  I had no idea that he was once Governor of New South Wales.  It would seem he was no more popular in this role than he was on the Bounty.  Fifteen years after the Bounty incident, he was appointed Governor with orders to clear up the corrupt trade of the New South Wales Corps and some influential settlers.    His actions to follow this instruction resulted in the so called Rum Rebellion, during which 400 soldiers of the Corps marched on Governent House and arrested Bligh, effectively deposing him. Bligh spent two years in prison, before he was told the the British Foreign office had declared the rebellion another Mutiny!  Sounds like a bit of a trend……..

After a drink at the Opera House, we decided to set out for home, passing a very impressive sculpture marking the course of the Tank Stream that runs under the pavement on the harbour side. 

Monday, 3rd April

We were still ruminating on The Castle and its messages as we got ourselves together for the day.  It was certainly an iconic Australian film.  

The forecast was for showers again, so we walked down the hill and set out for the Rocks area again, this time to visit some museums.  We had done our homework and set out for the main Rocks Discovery Museum to start.   This is tucked away in a side road but contains a wealth of information.  We arrived there having cut through one of several narrow ‘alleyways’ that have survived attempts to redevelop the area over the years.  I loved the play on words on the name of one of these thoroughfares – Suez Canal (Sewage Canal ………!?!) 

The Rocks formed part of some the earliest settlements around the harbour.  One of the first enterprising merchants was a chap called Robert Campbell.  He initially shipped food and equipment over from England and his warehouses – now a pub complex – can still be seen today. In 1805 he sent off his first shipment from Australia to England.   

By 1850 there were more than 50 pubs in the back streets of the Rocks. 

By the late 19th century the area consisted of middle and working class people generally of Irish, European and Chinese descent.  They were frequently craftsmen and women involved in  baking, brewing and sewing.  From blacksmiths and butchers to publicans and taxidermists, here Sydney’s history was built brick by brick, sewn into cloth, baked into loaves, served up in meals and pints.  Artists also gathered at the Rocks.  However, alongside the trades people there were gangs of local thugs known as the Rocks Push who gave the area a very bad name and made the alleyways a place to be avoided. 

Members of The Push were defined by their dress, apparently.   The larrikins (men) by their heels and pointy boots and the donahs (women) by their large and  colourful hats.  Sounds very colourful!   They must have cut quite a dash!

The Cadigal tribe of aborigines originally lived in the area around the harbour. It is thought that they may have lived there for more than 50,000 years.   Sadly, all but three were wiped out by smallpox. 

Those who joined the community as convicts were assigned to work for free settlers or other convicts who had set up successful businesses.  When convicts were accompanied by their free husbands or wives, they were often assigned to their spouses as a servant.  A number of Irish political prisoners were among the first to arrive.  There was a tale of a particularly enterprising convict butcher called George Cribb who arrived in 1808, and had a number of assignment convicts working for him.   He came over with a female convict, who he married even though he had left a wife in England.  His wife subsequently came across to Sydney and Mr Cribb paid for the Australian wife to return to England and gave her £300,  a small fortune I guess in those days.  Sadly his English wife died the next year and he then married a third wife,  however she could not save him from bankruptcy in the end, following a life spent as a supplier of meat while dabbling in cattle stealing, illegal meat trading and smuggling in addition to his bigamy.  He became a bankrupt in 1829. 

We had a look at an archeological site called the Big Dig. This was started in 1994. The area they have excavated is a bit further over towards the bridge and incorporates the area where Mr Cribb had his meat business.  A number of artefacts have been found in the area,  some in a well full of all sort of excitements including contraband spirits.  

We had a tour of a Terrace of houses built in 1844 called Susannah Place.  A family called Reilly had the houses built.  They lived in one and rented out the others.  The rooms in the houses have been furnished as they would have been in the different eras during which the houses were occupied.  We were told of the histories of a number of the families who lived there, as people alive today have been able to talk of their life in the houses and those of their ancestors. 

One hundred families lived in the houses during the 150 years they were occupied.  They were lived in until the 1960’s and survived a number of attempts to demolish old buildings in the Rocks.  A particular threat occurred in 1900 when the government used an outbreak of bubonic plague to pronounce the area unfit for habitation and a slum,  although only 3 people from the the Rocks actually died from the plague.  The government bought up all the properties on the harbour foreshore and proceeded to start to knock everything down.  This ‘redevelopment’ stopped in 1924.  Plans for demolition met with great opposition from the local community again in the 1960’s.  In the end a union called the Builders Labourers Federation got involved and a chap called Jack Mondey introduced what was called the Green Bans, effectively ensuring that union members would refuse to knock the old buildings down.  

To get back to Susannah Place……..

In their day these were considered very modern and one of the first tradesman tenant families paid £26 per year to live in one of the houses.   At this stage there were two rooms downstairs and two rooms upstairs.  There a small back yard with a toilet.  The yard ended at the toilet wall. 

It appeared that the landlord continued to keep the houses up to date and  in 1860 running cold water and a sewage system was introduced (the sewage of course ended up in the harbour).  In 1868 the outhouses were added and a boiler for heating water joined the outside toilet.  Later still there was accommodation for an outside bath!

Over time, gas lighting and eventually electricity came, some initially preferring to do without electricity as  they could not afford the cost.   Cooking was done on a range, initially fuelled by coal and later wood.   By the 1960’s there was a gas meter to pay for the gas.  

Beyond the yards there was an area for hanging washing ……..

(Apologies for the standard of photography here, but I thought the pictures were useful to portray the feel of the place)

Children would play in the street as the houses were too small and the families too large to accommodate them……..

Later the end house in the Terrace became the corner shop.  Now it has an interesting display of replica equipment, cleaning items and confectionary.  In its day the corner shop was a vital part of the neighbourhood.  In the back room there was an ice chest to keep things like butter cold.  A block of ice was delivered every day apparently…….

It was an interesting tour.  It was also an indication of our increasing years that a number of ‘historic’ aspects of the terrace living portrayed formed part of our own childhoods!  

We left the area initially with the thought of going to have a look around the Museum of Contemporary Art on the harbour front, but decided in the end to leave that to another day and to return home for a Wightman family evening…….

Sunday, 2nd April

What a difference a day can make!  Sunday dawned dull and breezy.  Nevertheless we set off for a walk around the Narrabeen Lagoon. We were all dressed against the weather except the optimistic Mr Wightman…….

We clamboured into the car, Coco with her electric scooter and Mickey with umbrella and parked the car by the side of the water. We then set out to circumnavigate the Lagoon.  

 Although it started out dry, we got caught in several heavy showers.  The worst sent us under a bridge until it passed.  It was not until afterwards that we realised we had been sitting on a giant ant nest.  

The shower having past, the flora and fauna were very evident – giant spiders suspended by their webs over the pathway above our heads …….
 A rather damp pelican perched on a lamp post, and ducks rather worryingly walking away from the water……..
There were large stones on the lake edge ……

Coco scooted along and we walked – happy to be out. 

After a coffee stop to warm us up we walked the final kilometre back to the car and headed home, hopeful that we could get back later in the day for a barbecue on the waters edge.  

It was not to be.  The day refused to clear, so we had excellent steaks cooked on the barbecue on the balcony and watched a classic Australian film called The Castle.  

Saturday, 1st April

We are really on the last lap now – we leave for home on the 12th.  It was a beautiful morning and we were encouraged out of bed by the news that it was to be a barbecue breakfast on the beach…….  within no time at all we were all in the car and heading down the hill to the Colleroy Beach.  It was already busy with walkers, swimmers and birthday party preparers!

Justine and I went for a stroll, after buying a coffee from the nearby cafe for the chaps, while Tony, Keith and the girls got started on the breakfast and setting up the table, complete with gingham cloth!    By the time we returned things were more or less ready.  Mickey was on sausage turning duty and we all took a turn before we settled down to breakfast.  

How amazing!  It was just lovely! These free barbecue spots are fantastic and unimaginable in England.  
After breakfast we watched the people for a bit before gathering up the equipment and setting off for home. It was not yet 11.00 am!

Everyone went their separate ways later – Mickey went to a film with a friend, the boys took Coco to her dance class and took the shopping list to do the shopping and Justine and I went for a walk along the headland, passing the golf course to Long Reef Beech. 

It was a lovely afternoon.  Justine and I just did not stop chatting.  So good to catch up.  The sun shone.  The views were amazing.  A marker showing the different beaches along the coast was interesting.  

Eventually it was time to turn back and tackle the hill.  There were guests for dinner. 

We arrived back at about the same time as the chaps.  Food prep commenced. A young couple from England visited and before we knew where we were, we were on parade and the dinner guests – David and Lesley who we met on our last trip – were arriving!  Dinner was great, the conversation hilarious, fuelled by some great wine.  Another excellent day.  

Friday, March 31st

An unexpectedly bright and sunny day!! Great news! The weather forecast has been so dire for Sydney and to wake to sunshine was a real treat!
We decided to walk across the Sydney Harbour bridge. It is possible to climb the bridge and walk across it on the metal work so much a symbol of the Sydney Harbour scenery.  Fresh from the Walpole High Tree Walk experience Keith was quite clear that he was not going to climb the bridge, but that we would walk across it. Fair enough.  
So we set out to walk down the hill to get the fast bus route rather than take the lengthy bus ride from the Collaroy Plateau to the City. The route down gave us another view of the sea.  

 We found the venue identified as our rendezvous with Sarah, Wendy and Peter and had a brief wait before the bus arrived and we were off to Sydney centre. 

We decided to head for the Rocks area initially, the original location of the city settlers. First we came across a large church and buildings associated with an early Irish convent. Today Harrington Street is a busy thoroughfare but there were two huge murals depicting early days in the area, in stark black and white. Views of them are marred by the line of motorbikes in front of them. I felt it was an interesting juxtaposition of old and new.  

We wandered along the road and passed a couple of the rare older buildings – Sydney probably has the least original buildings than any place we have visited in Australia.  

They were surrounded and somewhat overpowered by ‘new Sydney’ rearing up behind them. Just down the road the Rocks Friday food market was well under way – against the background of an enormous cruise liner docked in the harbour. 

It was really buzzy. We wandered along the stalls and decided that we would walk over to the opera house to see if there was anything we wanted to go and see and then return to have a snack for lunch.  

All sorts of foods were on offer. Tourists milled with office workers who were making the most of the sunshine and daylight in their dash to get their lunch and return to their desks.  

We wandered through the harbour crowds, swelled by the people joining the Emerald Princess. They were easily identifiable by their large wheelie cases and slightly anxious air. They need not have worried – there was a long queue forming at the ship – boarding was going to take some time!

We passed the aboriginal musicians on the Quay

And trundled round to the Opera House where we found we had just missed La Traviata and there was no indication of what was going to take its place. We had an alternative view of the cruise liner which more or less eclipsed the bridge behind it……….

Back at the market we joined the longest queue to a food stall on the basis it would provide us with the most tasty street food.  We had made the right decision.  We had a great Gozleme, a Turkish flat bread stuffed with spinach, feta and meat.  It was very good……,,.,

As the time was getting on, we decided to abandon the bridge walk for the day and head back home.  People eat early in Australia and we were due to meet our chums at 6.30.  By this time the weather had taken a very wet turn.  Justine gave us a lift to the bottom of the hill so we did not get too wet and we had a great evening with our chums, getting  up to date on goings on since our last sighting and getting their input on the next Australian trip………!!

Two bottles of Champagne and a southern Indian meal later and Keith and I clamboured up to the plateau very happy bunnies if a little out of breath!  

Thursday, 30th March

We were not up early.  The Wightman’s had left long since when we got up.  As predicted it was raining and expecred to continue to be wet for the whole day.  

We had volunteered to do the cooking, so set off on the bus for Westfield, the nearest shopping Mall.  This has been greatly developed since we were last here.  Regrettably the developments, which are not yet finished, have not been built with rain in mind.  Throughout the complex, there were buckets on the floor to collect the drips from the ceiling.  Oops!

The weather was so bad that we decided to get the bus back after having a bite to eat there. 

So something of an uneventful day.   Keith cooked and we ate supper with Tony and the girls.  Justine had been caught up in the cyclone further north and delays meant she was unlikely to arrive home until midnight.  

We adjourned to bed.  Hopefully a better day tomorrow from the weather perspective. 

Just before bedtime we learnt that our planned trip to meet our train chums would have to be cancelled due to the early arrival of a grandchild who had been expected later next week.    Disappointing for us, but wonderful for them.  I am confident we will meet up with them some time in the future. 

We had also learnt that correspondence between us and Wendy and Sarah has not been getting through and they have been trying to arrange to meet up with us with Peter,  who we thought we were not going to be able to see again this trip.  We are now connected again, thank goodness, and will have dinner with them all on Friday in Collaroy. Really great news.