I had read  that the Lake Macquarie art gallery has an interesting exhibition on at the moment:  a possum skin cloak made in the traditional aboriginal way —  lots of decorated skins sewn together.  Apparently the aborigines would make it for a new baby, then as they grew they would decorate their own skins and add to it, and finally it would be their burial shroud.

The gallery is wheelchair friendly and has a cafe attached, so I thought it would be a nice outing for Australia Day.  Of course, we were still in the middle of the heat wave so it was a bit of a struggle getting Don in and out of the car at 40 degrees (about 108 on the old scale) but we went to the airconditioned cafe first and had a leisurely lunch.  Unfortunately, with the heat and the exertions of getting there, the lunch was enough for Don and he wanted to go back straight afterwards.  I was keen to see the possum cloak so over his protests we did a quick gallop into the gallery but I wasn’t able to learn as much about it, and see as much, as I would have liked.  Thought I might go back on my own another time, but it’s hard to get that motivated to go to something on your own.  It’s on for another month I think.

I think I also wanted to stay longer because I was putting off the slog of getting back into the car (and then out again at the other end). But we managed it OK despite the heat.


But don’t you think this is a beautiful setting for an art gallery?

The buskers at Circular Quay were brilliant but there were only three of them.  Well, only three that we could see, could have been dozens but the crowd on Australia Day was so thick it was hard to move.  Hyde Park was even more jam-packed.

It’s disappointing if crowds are poor (“Why is everyone so apathetic, why can’t we be more patriotic, like the Americans?”) but when the crush is so great that you keep getting lost from each other, and the four-year-old is getting tired of just looking at thousands of knees (“let’s get out of here!”) you try to escape.  So we took a ferry-ride to Darling Harbour, proving once again that a ferry ride is a solution for pretty much everything. Afternoon tea and a stroll back to Town Hall Station.

So the three that we saw were the aboriginal musical group complete with didgeredoo and clapping sticks (sold CD’s), an acrobat, and that motionless guy on stilts with the painted purple painted face and cape.  All so professional, nothing amateurish or home-made about any of them.  How do you get to be a busker at Circular Quay?  Do you have to audition?  Is there some standard?  Must be, or we would be falling over hundreds of them.  After all, they apparently make quite a lot of money, especially on a day like this.

Ten years go, when Don was chaplain to the Liver Transplant Unit at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and we were living in Sydney, he threatened to go busking on Circular Quay and fill a yawning gap in the acts there.  He was going to be the True Blue Australian, with a bushman’s hat that had corks on bits of string dangling from it, and recite poetry.  (Why corks, you ask?  Well, to keep the flies away of course – traditional, apparently…) 

I’m not sure how serious he was about doing this and how much he was just trying to embarrass our son, who worried that some of his school mates might see and recognise his father. (To which Don reassured our son that he would wear a T-shirt printed “I am NOT Stewart Dufty’s father!”)  But he did save the corks and he did get me to sew the string on the hat.  And he worked hard at learning “The Bush Christening” and he planned that when he was word perfect on that he would learn “The Man from Snowy River”. That was as far as the project ever got, because rote learning had become impossible, and looking back I think that was the first sign that the multiple sclerosis –  still not diagnosed at that time – was affecting Don mentally.  He would start off confidently, “Out back of Barcoo where churches are few, and men of religion are scanty… ” and then peter out.

He used to say, “My brain has gone foggy” or more often, “I feel clouded in my mind”.  That, and the occasional loss of balance or being what we called a little “staggery” were at that stage the only signs.  Ten years ago.