Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Pepper the dog, Bay Street, Glebe

I stopped and gave Pepper's owner five dollars and asked if I could take her photo. He said it was ok but I didn't get too close because Pepper had already growled at me when I went to give him the money. The man said he lives in Wentworth Park. I asked him if he ever went to Martin Place of an evening for a feed and he told me that there are people bringing food to the park where he lives, in the evenings. I have seen a Missionbeat van down there and people with tables and chairs.

Swifts on an unseasonally warm winter's day

Today I headed off through Wentworth Park to Glebe to go to the office supplies store, and on the way I saw dozens of swifts skimming the grass, banking, and turning in tight circles. I went under the railway viaduct through the empty opening you can see in the photo, and there was a deep pit in the earth under the arch, big enough to cause someone to fall and hurt themselves if they crossed through there in the dark of night.

It was a windy day. On the other side of the viaduct the topsoil was blowing off the ground where the grass has been denuded by the soccer players who use the fields on weekends. The grass gets wet with rain, and the ground stays boggy, then the people play their games and all the grass is destroyed.

Further down near the racetrack there were men and women setting up tables and chairs and awnings. I asked a man why they were doing this and he said, "We've got the movies. They're shooting somewhere down there," indicating with his hand. On one table was an espresso machine. On my way up St Johns Road I saw in Darling Street a truck with its back doors open, and witches hats set up to cordon off some parking spots, as well as some tents, so I guessed that one of the terrace houses in that street was the place they were doing the filming.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Roxanne the dog, Pitt Street Mall

Yesterday I stopped in Pitt Street Mall and gave five dollars to a man who had his dog in his lap and was stroking her head. Just before I came up to him the dog shifted position and got up to stand on the pavement. I asked if I could take a photo of the dog and the owner warned me that the dog had eaten the mobile phones of other people. "She's eaten mine too," he said. The dog's name is Roxanne.

I stood back and took this photo, then asked if he had trouble getting food on the street. He said he went to Martin Place in the evening, when the food truck comes, but that hundreds of people were there for that reason every day, so that there was competition for available food. "Even people with homes and that," he said. "It's unbelievable."

Monday, 14 August 2017

Brutalism two: Town Hall House

This post is the second in a series of blogposts on brutalist architecture in Sydney. I took the first photos of the building, shown below, from Pyrmont Bridge, then I walked south along Kent Street and came to Town Hall House from its major street frontage.

In 1970 architects Archer Mortlock and Woolley were engaged to design a building to replace the nine-story office block the council had built in 1927, which housed the council’s Electricity Department, and a group of older buildings. Construction started in early 1972. In December 1974, the council accepted a tender in the sum of $8.9 million from Max Cooper and Sons for the completion of the building. The NSW governor, Sir Roden Cutler, opened the building on 28 June 1977. He said in his speech on the day:
Council saw the opportunity of providing a Civic Precinct in keeping with the importance of the City as the Capital City Council of New South Wales and the largest City in the Commonwealth. 
At the same time, it saw the need to house its staff in modern accommodation to enable Council’s obligations to its ratepayers to be made more effectively and efficiently.
The building won a Royal Australian Institute of Architects’ merit award in 1979.

At the time it was built Town Hall House was to house council staff on the first ten levels, with levels 11 to 23 leased to businesses. There was to be a public restaurant on level four. In May 1975 display ads for the restaurant lease were taken out in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian. Level four now houses the Marconi Room and Southern Function Room, both of which can be booked for functions by the public.

Level four is connected to Town Hall by the Marconi Terrace, which contains a sculpture by Mike Kitching installed in 1976, and a pedestrian walkway. The building also includes part of the underground Town Hall Square Arcade, which connects Town Hall Station with St Andrews House (completed in 1976).

The foyer to Kent Street and the interior of the building were refurbished in 1997.

When he worked in the NSW Government Architect's Office Ken Woolley designed the State Office Block, which was opened in 1967 and demolished in 1997.

To research for this blogpost I visited the council’s archives on level 21 of the building. The staff there were very helpful, getting records for me and helping me to take photos of the building’s interior. I had to get one of them to go with me to the lobby to supervise taking of the interior shots because the security office asked me to do this.

We need a refugee processing centre in Jakarta

Former journalist Mike Carlton tweeted this morning: "Before we disparage American society [for the riots in Charlottesville] we might reflect on the brutal cruelty we Australians inflict upon our refugee prisoners on Manus."

He joined editors at The Age in voicing support for the detainees on Manus Island and Nauru; they published a comment piece two days ago on the subject. And the government's control over the camps has anyway been weakened since the immigration minister removed legal gags preventing people employed to look after inmates from talking about what they see there. This means we can expect to see more reports about the terrible conditions refugees are forced to endure in the camps.

But offshore detention however unappetising for certain sections of the community remains a bipartisan policy. In fact it was reintroduced by the ALP in 2012 because after the Rudd government dismantled it the boats started coming from Indonesia again. I hasten to say that there is nothing wrong with people coming to Australia claiming refugee status. But while there remains a lot of ambivalence in the community about locking people up when they are doing nothing wrong, the unorderly arrival of people by boat causes many people discomfort. Which brings us back to Mike Carlton's comment, because it is this fascistic impulse in Australia for things to run in an orderly and predictable fashion that keeps both major political parties on their toes. And keeps the Pacific Solution alive.

So how about we open up a refugee processing centre in Jakarta? Clearly, refugees have no trouble getting out of the countries where they face persecution, or worse, such as Iran or Afghanistan. If they can make it to Indonesia then we can instead go there, where they are arriving by aeroplane, and help them to get across the last bit of ocean in safety, instead of on a dangerous, flimsy fishing boat.

Such a solution would help people currently stuck on Manus Island (which they have to vacate soon because of the 2016 ruling by the Papua New Guinea Supreme Court) and Nauru, because they could then be sent back to Indonesia for processing in an environment where their basic needs could be catered to efficiently and where they would not be subject to abuse. The governments of the two countries could work out how to support refugees who had made it to the archipelago, since we have very good relations with Indonesia. This option would also save a lot of money, money which is currently being wasted on border protection and incarceration.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Fountain, Darlinghurst Road

Fountain on Darlinghurst Road is next to the El Alamein Fountain and the Kings Cross police station. There's a paddy wagon parked outside the cop shop sitting on the footpath so that you can't possibly miss it. Inside the cafe, you can sit next to the window. I had the Fountain duck fat hash, which is latkes (potato cakes) cooked in duck fat and stacked on the plate with interleaved layers of smashed avocado, finely chopped tomato and bacon. There's also an egg on top.

It's a filling meal and the coffee is good. You can see past the fountain to the local street markets, where people come to shop. We wandered down to Potts Point a bit then turned back and made our way up to Victoria Street and on to Oxford Street. Everywhere you looked in Darlinghurst today there seemed to be police cars cruising by. There were uniformed officers on foot on Oxford Street and further down on Liverpool Street also. Cop city weekend!

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Rare example of Sydney brutalism

The Molecular Bioscience Building at the University of Sydney (known as G08 within the organisation) received National Trust heritage listing last year. It was listed after three staff members submitted an application for listing with the Trust. The building was designed in 1970-73 by Stafford Moor and Farrington Architects and is one of three brutalist buildings heritage listed by the Trust in 2016.

Brutalism was in the news recently because a court in Sydney decided that the Sirius Building in The Rocks could not be demolished.

G08 is connected to the Wentworth Building by an elevated walkway. When I worked at the university my manager and I would go up to Wentworth for a coffee on most mornings, and we would stand talking and drinking the coffees in the space under the elevated walkway. This space has now been decorated with murals and they have set up table tennis tables for students to use. Some of the concrete walls in the space have been painted white.

But this style of architecture is gaining more attention in the community as people start to appreciate it as having a distinctive and unique visual vocabulary that signals its era strongly, and that offers a visual experience in contrast to the often unremarkable towers of glass and steel that are very common in Sydney. Another good example of brutalism is the University of Technology, Sydney main tower on Broadway.

Chopper the dog, Bay Street, Glebe

Just off Broadway in Bay Street, Glebe, you can see Chopper sitting on the pavement next to his owner, who makes drawings of cars. I was up there today and gave the man five dollars before asking if I could take a picture of his dog. He said ok. He said, "He's named Chopper because when he was born his ear was in-turned." His mother used to lick the gammy ear, the man told me as he stroked the dog's truncated left ear. People went streaming past us on their way to and from the Broadway Shopping Centre, which is just down the road.

Friday, 11 August 2017

Young dandy, Kent Street

This man was walking west down the hill on Market Street when the words on the back of his jacket and on his trousers caught my attention. I maneuvered myself into position so that I could snap this photo, which I finally managed to do as he turned south on Kent Street. Young Asians are the most fashionable people in Sydney and they sometimes wear the most incredible clothes. Not long ago I saw a young Asian woman wearing a pair of trousers that had a fart embroidered on the seat. You see some odd things in the city, which can be refreshing, because most young people seem to wear clothes purchased from the same handful of international brand outlets. (But what do I care, all my clothes come from Myer.)

Nala the dog, Pitt Street Mall

I gave a few gold coins to the young woman sitting on the pavement in Pitt Street Mall as the lunchtime crowds flowed thickly around us. The woman had a dog lying next to her on a red rug and I asked if I could take the dog's picture. She said it was ok. The dog's name is Nala and I asked her why. "My friend called her Nala. Originally it was Princess but she's adjusted to Nala."

The woman agreed that it was easy to find food on the street in Sydney, pointing toward Hyde Park where a truck comes in the evening. She also said that there was a drop-in centre at Wynyard Station at 7.30am.

Tent city residents take down their camp

On ABC local radio this morning while I was driving home I heard that the Martin Place residents were taking down their camp voluntarily and so when I got back home I quickly put on my jacket and headed into town. It was very warm as I walked in the sun across Pyrmont Bridge and I reflected that the sudden change in temperature made everything seem a little bit strange, even the sounds I could hear. I wondered to myself how animals cope with such changes in the natural environment.

In Martin Place there was a group of people protesting against fracking and collecting signatures on sheets of yellow paper from passers-by and I talked for a while with a woman there about the gas industry before heading up to the top of the thoroughfare to where the camp has been.

The tents were mainly still in place but there was also a large pile of camping materials and milk crates placed at the bottom of the steps. Up on the section of pavement where the fountain is you could see empty space where tents had been, and I saw Lanz Priestley getting read to talk with a reporter from the ABC. I asked a man with a camera slung around his neck where the residents were going and he told me it wasn't specific yet where they would move to. "There are a few options I've heard," he said before moving away to take photos elsewhere. I stayed around to hear Lanz talk with the reporter but unlike her I couldn't hear clearly what was being said, although I did hear her ask him where people were going to go now that the camp was being dismantled. "We're looking at opening a space between two weeks and a month," said Lanz at one point.

He said that people in Martin Place are visible - turning and pointing to the Reserve Bank next to the camp and to Parliament up the street - "that's why something is happening." "This problem can only be solved nationally," he continued. I went up to Lanz after the interview had finished as he was standing next to the street kitchen and asked him where the residents were going to go. He started to say something in the high-energy way that he has but he seemed to be overwhelmed by the question. His eyes veered away toward Macquarie Street and a woman standing next to us told me to leave him alone because he had been talking to the media all morning.

Later, I saw him walking up the thoroughfare accompanied by the two policemen who had been hanging around the camp. There was also a group of trade unionists talking to the media in the square near the kitchen, some of whom held flags. Lanz would walk off to one side of the square with a few of these men later on and talk with them by the bank building. I decided there was already enough material for a blogpost and headed off to find some food.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Tent city won't be in Martin Place tomorrow

Yesterday the state government passed a law through the New South Wales Parliament that will allow them to dismantle the homeless camp that has been in Martin Place for eight months. Today, when I went up there to have a stickybeak, there were two policemen walking slowly east in Martin Place getting the vibe of the camp. They stopped at the east end of the thoroughfare and stood talking with some people.

As I stood talking with two cameramen who had been taking footage of the camp, its residents, and passers-by, a man wearing a red-and-gold tracksuit who had yellow teeth came up to me and asked what was going to happen. I told him I didn't know. He went off toward where the police were standing and about ten minutes later returned to where I was. "They'll be gone tomorrow," he said to me. "Who told you that?" I asked. "The cops just told me," he said.

Not long after this exchange the two policemen made their way back through the camp heading west, and went down the steps to where the government officers were still serving people. I stayed for a bit longer and was interviewed by the guy from Streetwise Media who has been filming people in the area of the camp for the past week or so, then I left to get some food because it was lunchtime.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Beef kebab, Taylor Square

Today I went up to Taylor Square to the Five Star Kebab shop. Kebabs are a favourite of mine because they are tasty as well as nutritious, with lettuce, tomato and onion as standard in Australia. At most kebab shops you can also get tabouli and cheese added for an extra dollar. So at eleven dollars it also makes a cheap meal.

I asked the guy behind the counter if the Five Star Kebab places in Kings Cross and on Eddy Avenue near Central Station are part of the same company but he said that the owners are different in each case.

Tye the dog, Market Street

On the way into town today I saw that this dog and his owner were on the corner of Kent Street and Market Street, so I stopped and gave the man five dollars. I asked the dog's name and he told me, but then when I asked him to spell it for me I could sense that he was a bit surprised. He wasn't voluble like Buddy the dog's owner had been the other day when I had spoken to him in Pitt Street Mall, so I didn't ask any more questions apart from the dog's age. Tye is six years old. I had seen Tye and his owner on Monday on Market Street. When I left him today I told him to take care and he said, "You too mate, you have a lovely day."

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Martin Place homeless camp remains intact

A report this morning that the Martin Place tent city would be dismantled "as early as Tuesday morning" turned out to be premature. At lunchtime the camp was still all there, although the media, I was told when I went up there this morning, had been around since 2am. At 11.30 there were still TV trucks from Channel Nine, Channel Seven and the ABC parked nearby and I saw a reporter getting ready to shoot a segment just as I headed back down the hill to get some lunch.

There were also a half-dozen or so NSW government employees wearing badged jackets moving between the tents and the kitchen, and talking to people next to tables and chairs that had been set up on the pavement nearby.

Lanz Priestley, who is a spokesperson for camp residents, said that people from the Department of Family and Community Services come to Martin Place on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but that there are people in the camp who are not eligible for housing support. He said that the department had placed 70 people in permanent accommodation over a period of eight months.

He added that the camp in Martin Place was just the most visible aspect of the homelessness problem in Sydney, and one that gets the most attention. "It's a much bigger problem," he said.

"Everyone expected the trucks," said city councillor Angela Vithoulkas, who is seen standing in the photo below, on the left, with Priestley on the right.

"You look like you're in remarkably good spirits," Vithoulkas told Priestley, who said he was "optimistic". Vithoulkas said that the agreement that the lord mayor, Clover Moore, had made with the NSW government the day before was "very ambiguous". "We don't know what the agreement was," she said. "For two hours we asked questions last night and there were no answers."

No-one at the camp this morning knew where the lord mayor intended to move residents to. "Unless people want to use it it won't get used," warned Priestley. "The city has a lot of property," said Vithoulkas, adding that she wanted to invite him to visit the council to talk with councillors.

"I'm going to make your council visit happen and very soon," Vithoulkas told him.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Documentary maker, Martin Place

The guy on the right in this picture is making a documentary about the tent city in Martin Place. I met him last Friday when I was up there nosing around and we had talked then about the rights of people capturing images under Australian law. His name is Blake. I told him that making videos of people in a public place is perfectly legal, because he had mentioned something about getting release forms signed.

Today, he shook my hand and gave me a quick "G'day mate" before turning back to the important conversation he was having with the two other young men who can be seen in the photo. He was running a camera up and down a track that was set on the pavement, and talking with his new friends. I didn't see Lanz Priestley in the camp so I wandered off, heading down the hill to find some lunch.

Bear the dog, Pitt Street Mall

On Thursday I mentioned meeting Bear the dog in Pitt Street Mall and today he was there again with his owner, a young woman. I gave her some coins and a five-dollar note and asked if I could take the dog's picture. She said it was ok so I did. I asked her to tell me again the reason for the dog's name, because she had told me before but I hadn't heard her clearly, and she said, "He was very fluffy when he was a puppy. He's grown into his fur now."

I asked her about getting food because Buddy the dog's owner had told me on Saturday that it was easy to do in Sydney if you are living on the street. Yes, she said, a food truck comes to Martin Place at 8.30pm of an evening and to Central Station at 10pm. I asked about Wynyard but she wasn't sure, and thought that Buddy's owner might have been thinking of Martin Place because both locations are down the north end of town. She said that she hadn't eaten yet today, although it was past 11am.

I told her about my meetings with Tanner and his owner around town, and she said that you have to brush out the fur of young dogs for their health.

On the way back along Market Street as I was heading home I saw a man who had been begging on the corner of Kent Street and Market Street earlier walking with his dog down past the QVB. He was holding a disposable coffee cup and some other things in his hands. As I walked past him I heard someone say, "Hey mate, you've dropped ten bucks." I turned to see a ten-dollar note on the pavement, and the man with the dog turning back to collect it. The older man who had called out to him had been heading into the building.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Jehovah's Witnesses, Fish Market

Two men stand near racks of religious literature on Bank Street, Pyrmont, outside the Fish Market while two women wait to cross at the lights. Jehovah's Witnesses are very visible on the streets of Sydney, usually at places where there is heavy foot traffic. I have seen them also in Union Square, Pyrmont; at the end of the pedestrian bridge on Market Street in the city; and on Dixon Street between Goulburn Street and Hay Street, Haymarket. They stand near their literature dressed in neat casual clothing waiting for people to show some interest, although I've never seen any of them talking to anyone. They're like those fish with lures attached to their heads. The racks here had tags on them. One of the tags read "Annandale Cart 6".

Nike advertisement, railway bridge, Newtown

Two weeks ago I took a photo of the Nike ads on this wall next to the railway line in Newtown, when they had been completely painted over with white paint. Now, the ads have been restored to their original pristine condition, but grafitti artists continue to use them for their tags. In Newtown, it seems, it remains a battle of wills between the owners of the spaces where ads appear and the companies advertising their products, on the one hand, and the grafitti artists on the other.

Rough sleeper, King Street

I passed by this poor devil at around 11.30am on my way down King Street, Newtown, and he was still there under his blanket when I came back toward home an hour later. He was sleeping on the pavement outside a fashion retail outlet; next door to the left there is a whole foods shop. On the way back there were a lot more people on the footpath, of course, but it didn't seem to phase him, he just stayed put.

Mixed meat plate, Cairo

This is my usual lunch at this Egyptian restaurant located on Enmore Road, Enmore. For a change today I asked what the different items on the plate were. At the top of the image you can see a small dish of garlic dip sitting on what they told me was "soft bread", or a disc of pita bread. Under that is a small dish of tahini. Then to the right of these, going clockwise, you have pickles, mahsa'aha (deep fried capsicum and eggplant mixed with sauce), salad, chicken, and lamb kofte. With the meal I ordered a can of Grifter beer, which is from a brewery just down the road here in Marrickville.

Playing with drones, Victoria Park

A man and three children play with two drones in the popular weekend spot, while another man relaxes in the sun. The man minding the children controlled a small drone, which is visible in the air near the head of the small girl standing to his right, while one of the boys had a larger drone, one which looked to be about 50cm in diameter. This is the first time I have seen people using drones in this park. Or any park, for that matter. Drones are still a novelty in Australia, although the University of Adelaide announced recently that it would start teaching classes in drone use.