Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Don't Take That Attitude to Your Gravy

Melbourne Cup
Once a year you can walk around the streets of Sydney and see some of the most glamourous and bizarre outfits all at once.  Women dressed as if they were heading to Ascot with bright hats and facinators and men looking as though they are out for a stag do with pink tights and very stretchy neon leotards.  It is of course the day of the Melbourne Cup; Australia's major thoroughbred horse race.  Melbourne gets the day off as a holiday but the rest of Australia has to either sneak off of work or take an extended lunch break from which they are unlikely to return.  There is a real buzz as I walk through the city to meet Jen and her friends at a nice Italian cafe where we have great seats in front of the cafe's TV.  There are lots of races throughout the day but there is only one that everyone seems to care about.  As we tuck into some deliciously juicy mozzarella,  Italian waiters come round to top up our wine glasses.  Two o'clock hits and everyone is gathered round the TV, even people come in from the street to watch the race.  Suddenly everyone is screaming and shouting at their horse and I holler out my horses name even though I have no idea which one he is or how well he's doing.  The race is over in minutes and the crowds either commiserate or celebrate their bets with more wine as the main course is brought round. As I tuck into my zuccini salad images of Camilla and Charles pop up on the screen. Oh, Blighty!

Ben Harper does the robot
Ben Harper is a man who doesn't need a support act, especially because he decides to play for nearly 4 hours with no interval (and no water I observe, is he even human?!).  Not that I'm complaining;  this gig turns out to be one of the best I've ever been to.  'An acoustic evening with Ben Harper at the Sydney Opera House' suggested something  a bit special and when we arrived and saw 13 stringed instruments lined up on stage we knew we were in for a treat.  The instruments ranged from acoustic and electric guitars to lap steel, ukeleles, and a strange cello-type instrument  that Harper had created and is yet to name.  This is his first ever acoustic headline tour and in between songs he entertains us with anecdotes of his childhood working in a meat shop and hanging out with Jeff Buckley at festivals.  Despite his long career, two broken marriages and many celebrity friends he doesn't seem at all jaded and remains a very humble and affable character throughout the night.  I feel his personality really comes through in this intimate setting, and yes, I might have a slight crush. When members of the audience shout out songs they want to hear he happily obliges.  I managed to pipe up at the end of the night and ask for Waiting on an Angel and he finishes his set with it.  I had a little moment but it was ok, because everyone else was having a little moment too.
Great views
The only way to finish off a week like that is to walk 10km from The Spit to Manly and ruminate on music and nature and then celebrate with some tasty beers.  There are lots of great views along this walk which takes your through the bush, up cliffs and across beaches.  Make sure you get there early when the tide isn't on it's way in or else you get soggy knees.  We finished off the day with mussels in a rather strange sauce that was a cross between tomato and gravy, home brewed beer at the 4 Pines and a lazy ferry ride back into Sydney. Bliss!

Next time: my trip to Melbourne and a gig!

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