Sunday, October 24, 2010

Rainy Weather Tries to Impede Fun in Sydney But Fails

It rains a lot here. Sydneysiders claim that recent weather patterns are anomalous; it's not usually this rainy, they say. I believed them at first, but I've been here for nearly three years now, three wet summers followed by three equally wet winters. I'm from Southern California so any weather other than sunshine and pollution is still a novelty to me, but Sydney's sneaky storms have nearly foiled some recent outdoor activities.

A couple of weeks ago we had a Monday off for Labour Day (the 'u' here is useful in distinguishing the American versus the Aussie holiday) and hired the Goget car for a drive up to Palm Beach. It was pouring by the time we reached The Boathouse, a charming cafe near the golf course recommended to me by Belinda, and we struggled to find a dry table indoors. When the weather cleared and the model-like waitresses reluctantly towel-dried a bench or two, we claimed a table overlooking the Hawkesbury. I'm sure this spot is absolutely magical on a clear summer day, but rain forced us back inside before our food was served. Still, we enjoyed our meals there and a lazy cuppa in Avalon, another posh northern beaches suburb. Not even locking the Goget's card key inside the car and then setting the alarm off could spoil that day.

Another day not spoiled by rain was the afternoon that Mickey and I decided to explore Art and About, Sydney's free public art festival consisting of installations hidden in remote laneways and the statues project. Believe it or not, local artists designed clothing for the likes of Queen Victoria, her consort Prince Albert, Captain Cook and others. This looked like a challenge because statues aren't obviously as flexible as mannequins; capes and hats were common. Something about this felt really wrong. Reflecting upon Queen Victoria's mismatched knitwear, I felt that her statue's overall look veered from appropriately regal to Rastafarian homeless. And yet, the whole exercise caused me to think about these statues that I hadn't before paid too much attention. Who is that again? What did he do? Wow, had no idea that he had anything to do with the founding of Sydney/Australia. My personal favorite was the cape that Ken Done designed for Captain Cook's statue in Hyde Park.

The day we were most concerned about the rain ruining was Mickey's birthday picnic at Bradley's Head on Saturday. The forecast predicted rain and thunderstorms after midday, but we woke up to crystal clear skies so decided to take our chances. We chose Bradley's Head as the perfect picnic spot while on a harbour hike the previous weekend. It has a direct view of the city, Opera House, scores of sailboats and there was almost nobody there. It turns out that the lack of a crowd can be explained by the difficulty involved in getting to Bradley's Head. Indeed, we rented a Goget car so that we could haul our picnic goodies a bit more easily.

Before 2:30pm, the picnic was ideal. The contributions of each guest amounted to a mouthwatering spread: stinky cheeses, fluffy rolls, salty beetroot chips, basil dips and crackers, quinoa salad with chicken and cucumber, fried rice, greek salad, fresh guacamole, prosciutto, cream sandwich biscuits, fudgey brownies and more. We dug in while deliberately ignoring the storm clouds that rolled across the harbour.

The highlight was watching little James play with a corn chip and a carrot while dutifully wearing his party hat. He couldn't decide which food/toy to play with and alternated between picking one up and putting the other down. His mom and dad wisely whisked him away before the downpour, but Dan and Estee weren't quite so lucky. They got a late start and arrived just as a huge thunderclap boomed across the harbour and the first drops of rain hastened the picnic clean up. Thankfully, we made it to the cars immediately before it started to pour.

We were mildly disappointed that we weren't able to enjoy a longer afternoon at Bradley's Head, but felt truly sorry for the bride whose wedding was meant to be in the same spot. I hope she had a plan B and a determination to not let Sydney weather interfere with her joy.