Thursday 23 March 2017


My taxi driver this morning was a Kiwi - no surprise there, really, there are 650,000 New Zealanders living in Oz - but it was a coincidence that he was from Greenhithe, where I lived until recently. So we bonded, a bit, as we sat in Sydney's morning traffic. He was taking me to the Royal Botanic Gardens to see the exhibition there in The Calyx. That's a rather impressive new display venue built on classical lines with a curve of pillars outside and an airy space inside that is currently focused on chocolate. So, universal appeal, then.
I worked my way through, obsessively reading storyboards and studying the greenery and glass cases, and learned a lot that I almost immediately forgot. Thanks to my notebook, though, I can tell you that there are a billion cacao trees out there supplying the world's needs (cocoa is a misspelling that has stuck, by the way). It's been cultivated for 5,000 years - not that we would be tempted by its gritty, unsweetened early incarnations. Nevertheless, Montezuma, the Aztec king, got through 60 cups of sludge a day - connection there with the term 'Montezuma's revenge' I'm thinking... I can't say I was tempted by the seventeenth-century Italian dish of fried liver dipped in chocolate, either. But it was a nice touch to provide a jar of the real thing at the end (though - can you believe it? - one teacher with a party of primary schoolkids ate his and then shooed the kids away. So mean). One final fact for you: the blood in the shower scene in Psycho was chocolate sauce, because it was just the right thickness to swirl down the plughole. Good exhibition - but only temporary, sorry.
My next appointment was with a Destination NSW person in the new restaurant district of Barangaroo, across from Darling Harbour. It was really busy, full of business people sitting on the terraces despite the grey weather, and I did enjoy both my lunch at and the company of Jess, who was full of good ideas for tomorrow. Then I left all these ultra-modern skyscrapers for a Barangaroo Cultural Tour with Mary back into both nature and history - although they were new, too. There used to be a huge concrete container port on the point here, beside the Bridge; but before that it was home to the Gadigal people, for just the 14,000 years before the Europeans arrived.
Now it's been restored to kind of its original state, umpteen tonnes of soil replaced and planted with 75,000 big native trees, plants and grasses, and edged by 10,000 blocks of beautiful mottled sandstone cut from the site. They've done a good job: it looks lovely and is already well used by people inserting a dose of nature into their city lives. 
Mary was a good guide, very knowledgeable about the history, the plants and their indigenous uses, and full of hope that the big open space underneath might "one day" become a national centre for Aboriginal culture - which Australia does not yet have. No comment.
In the evening we walked to the Capitol Theatre for one of the last performances of the Broadway show Aladdin before it moves to Melbourne. Fabulous! So much energy and talent on stage, and the dancing, sets and costumes were wonderfully done. It was a brilliant performance, the audience was standing-ovation enthusiastic and - than which there is no higher praise - despite having had the video on repeat for a fair chunk of our daughters' childhood, I scarcely missed Robin Williams at all.

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