The New South Welshmen-and-women complained about the autumnal ‘cold snap’ (the softies). Anyway, Sydney is exactly the reverse of Adelaide in being a sensational place in which to visit but challenging to live. The Mardi Gras and election nonsense sums it up: ultra conservative. They’re still doing the first (!) and in the (mandated) second, they are debating the privatisation of poles and wires (how September 10th).
We arrive on a Friday and search for food on Circular Quay (for our U.S. friends, that’s pronounced ‘KWAY’, very loudly) – we meet Opera buddy Lindsay, for Faust. We see Germaine Greer at Café Sydney in the old Customs Building, with glorious views of the world’s best harbour. We shop for books in Glebe, Paddington, Woollhara, Newtown. We eat Hyderabadi Biryani at an Indian restaurant full of folks just in from the sub-continent for the World Cup (cricket) who are not yet acclimatised to ‘Australian food’ . They are Shane Warne in reverse. We go with guest reviewer Margaret to the Museum of Contemporary Art.
Bearing in mind Matthew Arnold’s observation that culture is or ought to be the study and pursuit of perfection, we go to the NSW Library and visit the Shakespeare Room with its triangular chair and stained glass windows featuring irregular triangles of smoked blue glass, so as not to offend God by seeking perfection. We see the NSW Art Gallery and then go to ‘Skin Deep’ for the best retro duds. We buy an Elvis Presley bowling shirt. On the way back, the cabbie has Margaret Throsby on the radio, conversing with writer and ‘bad feminist’ Roxanne Gay, about high heels. Roxanne is 6′ 3” so doesn’t need them. Our cabbie nails it: “If high heels go out of fashion, I’m out of business.”
We cruise Sydney Harbour. We go to the Opera House for Suddenly Last Summer and The Sixteen, separating in the interest of our readers. We see David Marr at the play and Alan Jones on Macquarie Street, celebrating both ends of the philosophical spectrum.
We have champagne and martinis. We watch the storm come in over a Cunard monster like from an Elvis Costello song.
Consider the findings of the Australia Council, as reported by Matthew Westwood in ‘The Australian’, setting the value of arts experiences at $4,349.00 per person per year. TVC was at the Sydney Opera House twice this month: if you add alcohol consumed at both ends and the middle of the diverse arts experiences, we can confidently add a multiplier of 5 to this notional figure. Think of it! It means that in order to achieve parity in government funding, the arts community should get a BER or NDIS level cash injection. To fund this worthy cause, we could wind up the Federal Department of Education (which employs no teachers and teaches no students), the Federal Department of Health (which employs no doctors and treats no patients) and the Federal Department for the Environment (we do not know what they do or do not do).