Wednesday, 29 February 2012

On my day in Sydney

It has taken me a long time to get around to writing this one.

I don't know if I should thank or curse my friend James. He is a friend I call brother. And as such I readily accepted his request that I buy a Driza-Bone riding coat for him while I was in Oz. His request did come with appropriate qualifiers along the lines of that he would pay me back and that if one didn't cross my path, I didn't have to worry. However, given the esteem I hold him in and my desire to wear one of these Australian icons, I decided that my time in Sydney might well include a search for one of them. Using the Driza-Bone website, I worked out where these coats might be found in central Sydney.

Armed with this information, I proceeded along George Street, which is more or less equivalent to Montreal's Ste-Catherine's street, at least in my frame of reference. The first place was in the Queen Victoria Building which was an experience in and of itself. It had a wonderfully and pointlessly complex clock.The shop in the Queen Victoria Building didn't have a Driza-Bone in the suitable size, colour or style, so I proceeded along George Street to the Rocks area. The Rocks is not unlike Old Montreal or Gastown in Vancouver in that it is one of oldest parts of the city and fell into disrepute before being tarted up for the tourists as an historic district. A short section of street held no less than three stockists of Driza-Bones. The first two proved to be slightly sketchy operations very much aimed at the tourist trade staffed and likely owned by Chinese immigrants with a vaguely shaky grasp of English. They also lacked riding coats in the size (XL) and colour (black) that James wanted.

The next place was very much what was required. The owner and staffer was an middle-aged American expatriate woman who was very well versed in the arcana of Driza-Bone and Australian GST rebate regulations. The store was called Natural Selections and deserves this overdue shout-out. The woman was extremely helpful in making sure that the coat for James was indeed the right size (James is about my height, but has an additional 40 lbs or so of muscle compared to me, but doesn't have my overly long arms) as well as explaining to me the official way of folding and rolling one of these coats for transport. In addition, she explained to me how to apply for an Australian GST rebate on the coat as well as providing me with a can of coat treatment for the coat. As she was so friendly, and the price of the coat was well below the suggested retail price of the coat, I let myself buy one for myself. This had the added benefit of further lowering the price of both James' and my coats as it let me apply for the GST rebate. James had asked for the riding coat which is quite long. I wanted the same, but alas the store only had one in the XL size. (I would normally be an L size, but for my very long arms.) I settled for a short coat in black. (Interestingly enough, when I went to the Driza-Bone website to write this entry, I couldn't find an entry for a short coat in black. Apparently, I have a rare model!)

Anyway, I spent quite a lot of money at the store and emerged with not one but two of the classic Australian coats. Unfortunately, one of the characteristics of these coats is that they are a trifle heavy, so I had to lug them in a bag that ended up making my hands feel very raw by the end of the day. This is part of the reason why I might curse James. Another is that if not for him, I might have spent less money in Australia. While Natural Selections does retail its Driza-Bones at a discount compared to the MSRP, they aren't cheap. The final reason is that my quest did eat up most of my one day in Sydney.

However, the Rocks are just the other side of Circular Quay from the Sydney Opera House. This meant I could pose in an iconic Australian garment in front of the iconic Australian building!
I also got to see something rather like a 12 meter yacht passing under the Sydney bridge. Unfortunately, this photo makes the bridge look small. It isn't. It is the yacht that is bloody big!
There were parrots hanging out near the bay. I took photographs of them.
Unfortunately, they aren't perching on the masts of a sailing ship. They are perching on ornaments of waterfront condos meant to look like the masts of a square rigger!

I didn't take photos of some of the very few Indigenous Australians I saw on my trip. At least, I assume they were Indigenous Australians, certainly they looked the part. However, that is what they wanted to look like. They were fairly actively attracting attention to themselves as "local colour" for the tourists. Had they been First Nations here in North America, I would have said they were "chiefing", e.g. posing in "authentic traditional" outfits for photographs. I have issues with "white" guilt, not in the least abated by the fact that my last name means "white"! There is also that not entirely silly Indigenous Australian notion that having one's photograph taken adversely affects one's soul. Come to think of it, posing for tourists like definitely corrodes the soul!

I headed back toward the Youth Hostel, via the Sydney Aquarium which was a disappointment as I didn't spot their platypus. Along the way, I had supper at an overly expensive restaurant (given the quality of the food). However, it did have a very nice view of Sydney Harbour. Possibly in light of this, someone was having a 18th birthday party thrown in her honour. This someone ran in a crowd with more desire to show off than real sense, evidenced in their choice of footwear.That is way too much heel!

I made my way back to the YHA where I met my roommates. One was a slightly clueless chap from Burma/Myanmar(!) I don't remember where the other one was from (somewhere "British" e.g. the UK, Australia or New Zealand), but he was amused by the note I had left on my bed. If I may explain, the beds in the four bunk room aren't officially assigned. I had made my chosen bed up when I arrived, but there wasn't any very clear indication that it was "mine". Consequently, before I left for the day, I had left a polite note saying that that particular bunk had been claimed by me.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

On how one of the barriers to blogging has been removed

One of the reasons I have haven't been blogging was that my 8 year old computer was getting very sloooow. I remedied that by buying a new computer this weekend. It is probably more computer than I really need but then if you are going to buy only one computer every 8 years, you might as well buy a good one. Actually, even adjusting for Moore's Law, it is probably the most powerful computer I have ever bought.Quiet too!

Really quiet!