Holiday snaps

This is a photo of me in 1988, age 13, on a family holiday in Australia.

Sydney, 1988

I look miserable, like I was having the worst day, worst holiday, worst life ever. Or maybe I’m just squinting from the glare of the overcast sky. Or perhaps was I being a full-on 13-year-old girl and therefore too cool to have her photo taken by her dad and so was obliged to pull an aloof ‘wotevz’ pose.

The thing is, I can’t remember having this photo taken. I can’t remember sitting at a table outside the Sydney Opera House and sullenly looking at a camera to provide evidence of having been there. And I can’t remember the view from that table, though, having been there a few times since, I can mentally imagine what that would look like.

I can, however, remember that sweatshirt – lilac with black polka dots (it was a fave) – and I can remember when my hair was golden blonde all by itself without any chemical intervention needed.

And I do have one very specific memory of that day, but it takes place well out of range of that photo.

After arriving in Sydney, I’d had a stomach bug and had spent a day or so feeling ill and throwing up a bit and watching a weird Canadian children’s TV show called “Today’s Special“. But that day at Circular Quay was the first day where I’d been feeling well enough to get back in to the spirit of the holiday.

At Circular Quay, I’d gone to a gelato shop under the Cahill Expressway. I’d asked for a small cup of lemon sorbet, but the charming Italian bloke there had cheerfully scooped a big cup, and told me I was a beautiful girl, in that jovial Italian way.

That nice experience and the sweet sorbet cheered me up and made me feel much more energetic, and I enjoyed myself again. (Until I got sick again in Brisbane, but that’s another story.)

The whole idea of taking holiday snaps, it seems, is to record where we’ve been to help trigger happy holiday memories when we’re back home.

But even in this modern world where almost everyone has a camera on them, it’s usually not not possible to capture those lovely moments. A camera can take a photo of a cup of lemon sorbet, but does that capture the experience of a happy holiday? Would a photo of me with a mouthful of sorbet have captured my nice feeling more than I remember it?

15 years later I was in Sydney. I took the ferry over to Manly and went for a walk along Manly Beach.

I stopped at a picnic table and took this photo on auto-timer.

Robyn and the little people

I didn’t know it when I took the photo, but the camera’s position made me look like Gulliverette in Manlyput. (And I’m annoyed that the little people won’t play with me. And my hair isn’t naturally blonde any more. And a seagull pooped on the table.)

I was just mucking around with my camera. The resulting photo isn’t even something I experienced there. It’s like a special bonus experience that happened solely inside the camera.

If I’d wanted a typically Manly photo, I could have taken one by the ferry or along The Corso. Instead this almost anonymous seaside photo is my happy holiday memory snap.

Without directly showing it, the photo reminds me of my favourite thing to do when I travel – going for a bit of an explore. Jumping on a ferry, walking down a street, turning a corner and not quite knowing what will be around it.

And in turn, I think that also serves as my holiday photography manifesto. Instead of taking photos as evidence I was there or attempting to manufacture a memory, I let the photos be their own experience and form their own memories.


The Virgin Megastore on George Street had “BMX Bandits” on DVD for $15. Excellent.

I went to the Museum of Sydney this morning. It’s small but interesting and makes much of its location on the site of the first governors house. There was a special exhibit about Jorn Utzen, the fellow to designed the Sydney Opera House. In the midst of that I realised why the SOH is so excellent: it has no backside. It looks good from all angles – from streets, footpaths, highrise buildings, the harbour, the bridge, the north shore. Even the potential dead space of fire exits has been incorporated into the design.

All this put me in a Opera House mood, so I took guided tour of it. Not enough has changed since I last went there a couple of years ago. I thought about seeing a play there tonight, but the one I wanted to see was sold out.

I decided to wander over to the Sydney Art Gallery, but I somehow ended up getting lost and ended up in Wooloomooloo at the Harry’s Cafe de Wheels. I have fond memories of the Harry’s in Newcastle, so I had to partake of the Tiger, a pie (mate) with mashed potato (mate), mushy peas (mate) and gravy (mate). The only way it could have been better is if it was 2am and I was on my way home from the pub.

With my intuition refuelled, I found my way to the art gallery and moseyed around there. I discovered more paintings by my New Favourite Artist, Brett Whiteley, which made me happy.

Next I got a train to Newtown. I knew I’d got off at the right stop because a) 90% of the people walking down the street were hipsters, and b) upon leaving the train station I narrowly avoided treading in a puddle of spew. I looked around the shops and then walked back to the city, or rather, the general direction of. I managed to intuit my way back to this internet cafe. (Auckland’s lucky with the Sky Tower being such an excellent navigation beacon. Sydney Tower is dwarfed by a number of taller buildings.)

I need a few more days here, but that’ll have to wait until some other time.

Another bit of Princes Highway

After a brief visit to the Wollongong art gallery (complete with an impressive selection of indigenous art), I had to leave the ‘Gong and return my rental car to Sydney. I should note that I <3 that rental Toyota and would happily keep it and continue driving around Australia, were it not for lack of funds to do so and the need to return to Aotearoa and do that employment thing.

I didn’t know where I was headed, I didn’t have a map of Wollongong so I just intuited my way out of the city. I had two requirements: a McDonald’s to get some lunch and a route to Sydney. I found myself approaching an intersection where a sign pointed to Sydney at the left, and there was a McDonald’s at the right. Welcome relief for a weary traveller, indeed.

However, getting to Sydney proved to be another matter. I got on a motorway but missed the Sydney turn-off and ended up in a place called Figtree. I somehow ended up back in the ‘Gong and continued to, er, intuit my way around the streets until 30 minutes later I ended up back on the motorway and this time I got on the right road to Sydney.

On Triple-J, John Saffran came and introduced his song of the week, which was “Keep It In Your Pants” by Young MC. His reason for picking it was why, why, why did Young MC pick a pro-abstinence song as a follow-up single for the hot “Bust A Move”. But I didn’t care because it’s one of my favourite songs ever, so it provided my soundtrack as I toodled along the anonymous roads of Sydney, following the little aeroplane signs as I made my way to the airport.

Car was returned, train taken to my hotel here, and crikey it’s hot. I don’t know what the temperature is here, but it’s like Auckland on a really horrible summer’s day. Just walking down the street causes me to sweat. And here’s something – I brought my iPod along with me, but I’ve not listened to it once because somehow it seems more enjoyable to listen to the call of a galah (Yeah, I’m getting into birds. Shut up.) than some random music. But walking down the street in Sydney is so big city-ish, so noisy and bleak and disruptive that I really feel like listenin to my iPod. I see the white headphone cords here. Oh, I see them.

Also seen was the film “The Interpreter”. It was adequate but I don’t think it took full advantage of being able to film in the United Nations. (One of my favourite films ever (totally up there with “BMX Bandits”) is the Hitchcock film “North By Northwest” which had to sneakily film the UN after being denied permission.)

Tomorrow I will attempt to move about Sydney solely through air-conditioned shops, subways and public transport.

The dire effects of sleep deprivation

I didn’t get much sleep last night, but that’s ok. I woke up, took the train to Circular Quay, bought a gelato and wandered around down to the Opera House and then back. It was a lovely, warm, sunny New Zealand summer’s day.

Oh, wait. Circular Quay isn’t in New Zealand. It’s in, uh, Sydney. Hey, how did I get here and what am I doing using this crappy internet kiosk with abrokenspacebar?

I’m going to have to investigate this further. Jeez, that’ll teach me to get a good night’s sleep.

09, feelin’ fine

I’m back in 09, yo. Nothing seems to have happened since I’ve been away.

I should mention that I found the coolest bag today. It’s been my year-long mission ever since my current bag started needing bits of duct tape to hold it together. I spent many hours looking for a bag when I was in England and Ireland. I’d spent about two hours bag search and I was heading back up George Street to get the train to the airport. Then I saw the Mooks store and remembered that Mooks do quite cool bags, I walked in, saw the bag of my dreams, it was $60, I bought and I’m so glad.

Ok, here are some photos from my recent adventures.

1. This is from the MC battle in Newcastle. It was open to anyone, so these two fellows entered and after the preliminary solo round they were paired up to face off each other. The guy in the South Park t-shirt (who wasn’t wearing any shoes) had walked off during his first go, but had come back for more. The fellow in the waistcoat did lots of leaping about the stage and high kicks. He was late to the second round because he was apparently out in the park getting high. These two guys battled each other and it was way more entertaining than many of the serious MCs. The audience was divided as to who the winner was. Three out of five judges were in favour of the waistcoat guy, so he won, but really, they were both winners. Yay!


2. This is me posing in the Pompadour Room in the State Theatre. It’s a very extravagantly decorated ladies powder room. There’s that wallpaper with the gold background and furry red shapes, gold and red all over the place. The best thing about it is that the room, like all the ladies powder rooms in the State, is only accessible from inside the theatre auditorium itself. So I guess the idea is that if you’re in the middle of a particularly thrilling film and you find your nose getting shiny, you can quickly pop off and powder it without missing much of the film.

Robyn poses

3. This is an art work from the State Theatre. It’s found in the art gallery on the gods level. Back when the theatre was being built an art competition was held so part of the gallery is filled with all this really excellent Australian art work, but then on the wall just inside the door I saw this and I knew it was better than all the other art works put together.


4. This is me sitting at a picnic table in Manly looking out at the ocean beach. I was really just mucking around with the auto-timer on my camera (said the bored housewife to her internet boyfriend) and I really liked the composition in this one.

Robyn and the little people


The train from Newcastle to Sydney was beautiful and scenic and it was so much better a) going during the day and b) not having the train ride turn into a bus trip.

Once I arrived in Sydney late yesterday afternoon, I didn’t feel like doing much other than seeing a movie. It was tight-arse Tuesday, so I saw “Matchstick Men” at the Greater Union multiplex on George Street for $10. It’s a really good film. It’s like the classic conmen scam story elevated to a higher level. At times the emotion relationship side of things gets so involving that it’s easy to forget that there’s a scam going on. I had the scam figured out, though.

Today I went on a tour of the State Theatre. It’s a magnificent, opulent 1930s picture palace, like the Civic Theatre in Auckland, but even more extravagant. The best thing about the State is that it was build primarily as a cinema. It has an art gallery, paintings, statues, mosaics and – OMG – the largest chandelier in the southern hemisphere! All this extravagance was designed so that the ordinary working man or woman could get away from it all when they went out to the movies.

According to the tour commentary, during the 1970s Greater Union, the theatre’s owners, were considering selling it. The builders union put a “green ban” on it, meaning that no builders would work on any construction work. Like, how cool is that. Sometimes Australia seems too unionised, but that sort of thing makes up for it.

Actually, thinking about the Civic Theatre, there are no tours available of the Civic. I think the Auckland City Council complains that it would cost too much, but really, how much would it cost to have an audio guide self-tour? Especially when you make the tourists pay for it.

Next I visited the Museum of Contemporary Art. I love it so much. My favourite thing this time was part of an exhibit of works by young Australian artists. It was a film called “Welcome to the Jingle” made by a group of drag kings called Kingpins. Dressed as blond athletes, they four drag kings ran around the streets of Sydney, visiting various Starbucks and performing some formation dancing. Kind of like the lesbian lovechild of the “Praise You” video.

Then I got the ferry over to Manly and wandered around there for a bit. I walked around bay and took some photos. Then I got the ferry back. Yay. Oh, and the sun was setting as the ferry came back into Circular Quay. Steel grey and orange sky!

I gave in an saw “Freaky Friday”. It was everything I wanted and more. It has a way better ending than the original, and in this one Anna-as-Mom gets the makeover, not the other way.

I had dinner at one of those conveyor belt sushi places. All the plates cost $2.50, which was far better value for money than the sushi place I went to in Manchester where a plate of two pieces of sushi was 2.50 pounds.

This internet place is pretty cool. I’m in a private booth (oo-er) sitting on a couch while the computer is on a glass-topped wooden table. I keep hearing geeks over in the gaming area yelling out stuff about giant moths. Ah, such ambience. And the best bit is, it’s really reasonably priced – much better value than the crappier touristy interweb places up the hill.

Ok, tomorrow I return to Aotearoa. I’m not sure if I will be able to manage to attend Mobile Stud Unit’s 10th anniversary hooley on Friday. The thought of more travel and unfamiliar beds isn’t so appealing at the moment.