It feels like gloating, to go on and on, about how beautiful Sydney is in summer. Especially through the week when most folk work. The parks and beaches are relatively deserted. This is my hard-earned payoff for working weekends. Time off through the week which allows me to enjoy our glorious weather. If I’m not bushwalking, I’m on a pushbike, recovering lost condition, from too many nights of sedentary cab driving, and blogging.
Once a fortnight, I take an old mate to see a specialist in Mosman. This gives me an hour to kill around the Harbour, on the north shore. Yesterday evening I returned, this time choosing Balmoral Beach to visit. Located on Middle Harbour and facing east through the Heads, Balmoral is one of the most exclusive neighbourhoods in town. Traditionally an old-money enclave, it has in recent times, been overtaken by a brash, sexy Sydney.
This area of Sydney in particular, attracted a lot of Hong Kong bucks in the 80's, kickstarting an architectural revolution. It now appears mandatory, all new developments are of commercial size. Developments of a scale, bordering on the ridiculous. Whatever happened to respect for the existing built environment ?
Some of these monster houses - pill-boxes is a better descriptor - are built fence to fence, with multi-stories and basement carparks. Last century, I worked on an Bellevue Hill property which had a 28 vehicle carpark. I mean, what are the owners planning - to raise small armies in there ? Bullshit, they have more cars than kids ! In a salute to the wonders of civil engineering, these pill-boxes arrogantly infest the steep hillside, overlooking stunning, Balmoral beach and Middle Harbour.
The beach area is moderately busy at 6pm, though with no parking problems. A strip of grass, separates the footpath from the beach. It is shaded by ancient Morton Bay figs, Sydney cheese trees, and other eucalypts. It's a colourful scene of children, families, exercisers and strollers. Women sunbake, kids play at the waters edge and men lazily stroke through the calm waters off the beach.
A senior couple enjoy an early dinner on a picnic bench, under a tree. Amoungst the fare, I spot beetroot, asparagus, bread rolls and red wine, laid out on a tartan rug. It must be one of the best, free dinner locations in town. They gaze across the beach at passing yachts, sails brilliant white in the late afternoon sun. It’s all very civil and genteel down here. Very local.
There’s a commotion at the south end of the beach, so I wander down. A large police boat has beached itself, in a hurry it would appear, and is now attempting to reverse off. Rather than get their feet wet, they're reving the guts out of the twin outboard motors. It's tempting to call out, 'Mate - have some respect - that's tax-payers equipment !' But they wouldn't hear me.
In the car park is a patrol car, and an unmarked car. Uniformed officers are questioning 3 young adult males in boardshorts. They have olive skin and sharp, split-level haircuts. One is handcuffed and lead away, grinning and backchatting, whilst his mates endure a thorough vehicle search. Exhibit A appears to be a boogie board. The cops tell the mates to piss off, and so they wander off reluctantly, past me. I’m about to engage them in chat, until hearing their Persian language. Not speaking Persian, I leave them alone.
Bored with that, I stroll around the broadwalk of the nearby horseshoe baths, eating an ice cream. Stopping to watch a father teach his boys swimming in the shark-proof enclosure, I reflect on my early childhood, swimming with my parents, at the Brighton Le Sands baths. And in turn, the times spent swimming with my own son. Whilst those days went all too fast, it is easy to recapture snapshots of a time/place/feeling, wandering along a beach in summer.
One side of the enclosed baths is a jetty. A film crew bustles, loading a charter boat with shitloads of equipment. They are filming a late afternoon commercial for Woolworths, on the Harbour. The amount of gear seems excessive, most appears to be catering. A support zodiac waits nearby, motor ticking over. What a job. On the best harbour in the world. Bastards !
A policewoman appears on the broadwalk, to question a young woman in a bikini-top. Ignoring the copper, she leans on the railing, looking out to sea and using a phone. She appears Mediterranean, and I overhear a broad Aussie accent, as she is lead away. The police evidence seems to be a boogie board, a drifting windsurfer and a few other floating objects, amongst the moored boats off Balmoral Beach. My intuition says somebody, didn’t respect someone elses personal property, stored in a public place.
That’s beautiful Balmoral Beach, on another late, summers afternoon in paradise.