This week

By Vita Forest

Barangaroo

Barangaroo

This week I have been

READING (voraciously, finishing one and immediately picking up the next.  My head has been in turmoil…)

  • The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante
  • Those who leave and those who stay by Elena Ferrante

WRITING

WATCHING The Princess Bride with Lucy. Ah Inigo Montoya!

REMEMBERING Year 8 Algebra with Max (exams this week).

TEACHING in front of my Professional Learning group – we agree it’s always a little unnerving having anyone watch you…

EATING slow cooker roast pork after a tiring day at work – love coming home to the smells of dinner!

VISITING Barangaroo for a Sunday picnic.

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A big space full of nothing

By Vita Forest

View from Barangaroo

View from Barangaroo

“Smog is a mixture of smoke and fog,” Lucy informed me today as the train sped into the city through the smog.  They are doing a lot of back-burning around Sydney at the moment and the smoke was thick again.

We walked down to Barangaroo to meet our pals for a picnic, the smell of smoke in the air.  But over the course of the day, the air cleared, the sun shone, the sky was blue.  Another summer day at the end of autumn.

“Is this north?” Lucy asked, pointing forward.  When I answered in the affirmative, she observed, “So we are walking towards the Arctic circle.”

Which we were, I supposed.

We waited near The Cutaway.  Lucy saw something bright and yellow floating in the water and bounded down the sandstone blocks to see what it was.  When she reached the sometimes-submerged rock, she kept going, despite the green moss, despite the slipperiness, and so slid and fell.  She stood up gingerly and inspected her hands and her seat as she climbed up again.

“It was a lemon,” she announced as she watched the heel of her hand swell and purple into a bruise.  She’s a tough one.

We sat in the sun and waited for Sui-Sui and Alessandro, for Saskia and Rowdy the dog.  The phone pinged, updating us on their progress, closer and closer.  Sui-Sui and Alessandro arrived first, hauling treats in an esky.  It was their first trip to Barangaroo.  I advised them to check out The Cutaway while we waited on Saskia, and in they went.

“What’s so good about The Cutaway?” asked Lucy, “It’s just a big empty space full of nothing.”

“Like my life… ” she added,  “Just kidding!”  Brat.

They returned and the phone rang again, Saskia was around the coastline minding a shady picnic spot by the water.  We joined her and Rowdy, spreading out picnic rugs and food.

Our colourful lunch

Our colourful lunch

We lazed in the sun or shade and watched the boats streak past around the headland and caught up on news.  We ate quinoa salad, tuna and corn fritters, mandarins and grapes and my new favourite chocolate cake that Lucy and I had made yesterday.

Rowdy made friends with the steady parade of promenading pooches and their owners that passed by.  Lucy recovered from her fall and climbed trees, leaped on rocks and did cartwheels.  She took Rowdy for runs around the headland and up and down stairs.  In the process she earned a fourth piece of chocolate cake (it was very tasty).

We talked about books and movies, parents and friends with babies, markets, studies and future trips.  The cake got smaller and smaller.

That pretty salad

That pretty salad

“Look!” shouted Saskia pointing behind us, “A native mouse!”

“It’s a rat!” corrected Alessandro.  But we agreed it was still cute.

The thermoses were empty, the tea was drunk, the last slice of cake disappeared.  We rolled up the picnic rugs and said our goodbyes.

“Now we are walking towards Antarctica,” said Lucy.

And we were.

Barangaroo

Barangaroo

This week

By Vita Forest

Jacaranda progress

Jacaranda progress

This week I have been

READING The Transit of Venus by Shirley Hazzard (and savouring every word).

WRITING

MAKING a drawing of Totoro and drawing lines across his big circular belly.  I then photocopied the drawing and my class used it to write up their descriptions of the forest spirit.  (Tia “he has a silky white tummy.”  Marvin “the littlest Totoro looks like a tooth.”)

VISITING backstage at the Sydney Opera House to supervise our students for their big upcoming combined schools performance.

FIXING costumes for the event above with needle, thread, safety pins and cut up pieces of a glittery bowler hat.

WATCHING  the new Australian film The Dressmaker.

STRETCHING at yoga on the Statgazer lawn at Barangaroo Reserve.

Flame tree - imagine one of these next to a Jacaranda.

Flame tree – imagine one of these next to a Jacaranda.

Yoga with a view

By Vita Forest

One of the views from Barangaroo

One of the views from Barangaroo

Today I did my first ever outdoor yoga class.  How lovely it was – the breeze on our bodies, the grass beneath our feet, the harbour wrapping around the hill – because, that’s right, it was at Barangaroo Reserve on the Stargazer Lawn.  (It does seem a little that I spend a good part of my free time at this park…)

Last week when we were there for a birthday picnic for Lucy, my sister pointed out that they were holding yoga sessions there every Saturday through October, so today I managed to make it to the last session.

I got up early (for a weekend), slathered myself in sunscreen (this is Australia people), and packed my backpack (deciding on a beach towel rather than a yoga mat as I also planned to do some walking).

I caught the train to the city.  Occasionally, I fret about writer’s block, but then I catch a train.  Apart from the people engrossed in their phones, this is what I saw;

  • a flash of mauve, scarlet and magenta – Jacaranda next to Flame tree next to Boganvillea.
  • wild weedy daisies bobbing their golden heads along the strip of grass beside the train track.
  • a trio of fisherman fresh from their exploits on a ferry wharf on the harbour, carrying all their equipment.  This included a fishing rod, a bucket sloshing with their catch, and some folding chairs.  Their chairs being more comfortable than Sydney Rail’s, one of the men opened his up and proceeded to sit and relax in it among the poles of the train’s standing area.  As we passed over the Sydney Harbour Bridge, he flipped his cap backwards too.  He could have been at a barbecue.  (Being a witness to these sort of events are one of the reasons I love public transport).

I walked down from Wynard, joining the yogis on the lawn.  Some of them were sunbaking on their mats as we waited.  I picked a spot in the shade of the Harbourmaster tower, which cut a blade of shadow across the lawn like a giant sundial.  As the practise went on and time passed, some of us had to peel off and move to the other side of the group to stay shaded.  We downward dogged, warriored  and lion-posed it (sticking out our tongues to Balmain as we did the last one).  On one downward dog, I glanced behind me and saw a familiar black schnauzer tied to a pole.  Scanning about on the up dog, I saw that Saskia had joined us.  I noticed the ferries and the spinnakers of yachts as we saluted the sun, but most of all,  the changing layers of wispy clouds above us in the blue sky.

We lay on our backs for savasana and closed our eyes.  I felt the wind on my cheeks, and heard a train on the Harbour Bridge, the clanging of cranes, and then, the clicking of a camera shutter moving in a circle around us.,

I suppose we were a sight to behold.

This week

By Vita Forest

Stairs at Barangaroo Reserve, look at that sandstone!

Stairs at Barangaroo Reserve, look at that sandstone!

This week I have been

  • READING The Transit of Venus by Shirley Hazzard.  For the third time.  Oh my goodness… It really is an experience.
  • WRITING
  • MAKING cupcakes with lemon icing for Lucy’s birthday.
  • VISITING Barangaroo Reserve for one of Lucy’s birthday celebrations and a barefoot rock scramble.
  • WATCHING The Beautiful Lie on ABC. (Anna Karenina set in modern day Australia.  Very good indeed).

In The Cutaway, Barangaroo

This week

By Vita Forest

Sandstone at Barangaroo Reserve

Sandstone at Barangaroo Reserve

This week I have been

  • READING The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (recommended).
  • WRITING
  • WATCHING a preview of the new movie Holding the Man (recommended).
  • MAKING a birthday present for Saskia.
  • LISTENING to my students sing When I grow up from the musical Matilda.
  • HAPPY ABOUT the fact that Spring is in the air.
  • VISITING Barangaroo Reserve

Paul’s Big idea

By Vita Forest

IMG_2624[1]

Looking north.

This weekend a brand new park has opened in Sydney. Right on the water. Right in the middle of the city, between the Harbour Bridge and Darling Harbour. It is land that had been used for maritime ventures for a hundred years, but has now been returned to the public after much debate, compromise and controversy. It is part of former Prime Minister Paul Keating’s grand vision for Sydney Harbour. (Remember when we had a Prime Minister who had grand visions?….)  Keating insisted that rather than referencing recent history, the focus should be on a return to what the land looked like before the invasion of the Europeans. He wanted the impression of a “naturalistic” headland as would have been seen and used by the Indigenous people of the Eora Nation.

So today, on its opening weekend, my sister and I jumped on a ferry and went to check it out.  It was glorious summer weather even though it is officially still winter.  (Sometimes we get lucky).

The headland rises to a large open grassed area (aptly called Stargazer Lawn) and is terraced by meandering garden beds containing hardy indigenous plants including gum trees, grevilleas and banksias.  As the terraces curve around towards Darling Harbour, the vegetation changes to rainforest plants – tree ferns, palms and Lilly Pillies.

The hill-top lawns give new vistas out over the harbour, down over Balmain and the Parramatta River, and sweeping around towards North Sydney. It is quite magic. You look across to Goat Island, or Me-Mel as it was known traditionally. Me-Mel was the home of both Barangaroo, and her husband Bennelong. You can imagine her paddling across the water to the island in her canoe.

The shoreline undulates around the headland like a meandering amphitheatre from which you can look out over the water. This was my favourite part. It is built using thousands of huge blocks of sandstone arranged to step down right into the water, like a giant cubist sculpture. At this point, we left the path and scrambled over the rocks, it reminded me of being at the beach exploring rock pools. The massive sandstone bricks were deliberately arranged with their topmost surfaces left rough, uneven and sometimes pitted with oyster shells.

Sandstone blocks at Marrinawi Cove.

We explored the paths and ended up in a small patch of shade overlooking Marrinawi Cove, where they just happened to be interviewing some of the creators of the park. We learned that the sandstone was dug out of the site itself (from what is now a car park). Each block was labelled and allocated to a very particular spot in the park, so the wide range of colours in the sandstone would be spread over the whole area to give a “natural” look. We heard how this “naturalistic” headland was really achieved through a great deal of planning and engineering and deliberation. Apparently, a large part of the hill on which we were sitting had been built up on a kind of giant bridge buried under the earth. As well as the car park, the headland hides an underground water system which is used to recycle water over the entire site. In the future when the plants are more established, this water will be available for other uses too.

People picnicked, strolled, rode bikes and walked dogs through the park. They sat contemplating the harbour from their seats of sandstone slabs. I look forward to visiting again.