Monday, 5 February 2018

A windy late summer’s day

The other day in the Botanical Gardens there was a temporary display of wildflowers that you could photograph with the multi-storey buildings of the CBD lofting skywards in the background. European honeybees vectored in and out of the tall stands of metre-high zinnias, paper daisies and marigolds, homing in on a blossom here or there in a thoughtful manner like spaceships landing on varicoloured docking pads, the yellow stamens bright in the sunlight. The bees minded their own business as they went about the tasks of collecting nectar to take back to the hive and pollinating the pink, orange and purple blooms that nodded contentedly in the drifting air currents.

Further down the path toward the harbour a group of catamarans were visible anchored in the middle of Farm Cove with their sterns oriented together to form a flower shape in the water. Coloured dinghies sat in the water tethered to the cats, each of which was big enough for many people to travel about the harbour on. The five or six cats moored there rested largely immobile though in the stiff and gusty southeast wind blue flags fluttered from a stay that on each of them helped hold up the mast. The dinghies bobbed about in the ruffled water and from where the boats were you could hear loud music that was amplified from an invisible source on board at least one of them. Presumably there were people on board.

A larger pleasure craft navigated around the border of the bay. The women walking on its landward deck wore skirts that they held down with their hands to stop them being blown up by the breeze and showing their underwear. This catamaran made a wide arc as it progressed in a stately manner from west to east, then headed back out north into the main body of the harbour.

Around the corner the sheer tan-coloured wall of the Opera House podium rose up precipitously from the level of the area’s canonical element – the harbour’s dark green water (darker when a gust of wind disturbed it) – with its concrete and ceramic sails poised tantalisingly in grey and white on top. On the macadam of the park’s path, a young woman wearing white slacks and a brown T-shirt the wind plastered in ridges and folds against her torso was standing with her back pressed against the creamy sandstone parapet. She was blonde and could have been English or American or Scandinavian or German, it was impossible to discern where she was from, and she had a selfie stick extending from her right hand. She oriented her head and her upper body in a variety of different attitudes as she took photos next to the landmark. She complacently tried this angle and then that one.

A group of men wearing mid-blue suits walked purposefully east on the path, the wind blowing their jackets open so that you could see their white shirtfronts and the blue satiny cloth that their jacket linings were made of. A man wearing the same kind of suit walked in company with a woman wearing an orange evening gown that showed a significant quantity of the volumes of her breasts, which moved discernibly as she went by.

Further along, on the building’s forecourt, hundreds of other people mingled and sauntered from one part of the plaza to another. Many were walking in the sun north from the Quay and near the guards’ pill box on the public road there were three police motorcycles parked facing north toward where bollards have been installed to stop traffic from entering the building’s grounds. A guard wearing a uniform and a high-vis vest stood outside the box talking to someone. A policeman standing next to one of the motorbikes tapped the helmet on his head as three young Asian men in front of him mounted yellow rental bikes, making sure to put helmets on before heading off.

In among the heavy throng, three policemen wearing dark blue uniforms were walking slowly north carrying food in their hands. They were talking to one another and eating as they moved through the crowd of people. People bought ice cream and sat at the restaurant tables set on the pavement in the colonnade of the residential building situated next to the harbour. Thousands of them moved slowly along the promenade heading north or south, taking their time as they moved past on a temperate Saturday afternoon in late summer.

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