Friday, October 25, 2013

Sydney and South Pacific

Instead of just visiting the Sydney Opera House, we thought we should also take in a show.

We vaguely recalled South Pacific the movie and decided to give the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical a go. It was staged at the Joan Sutherland Theatre with a cast of 40 and 33 musicians and we got centre seating to boot.

When the orchestra struck up the South Pacific overture before the curtain was raised, quite a number of the audience in the front row got up to swarm around the pit to investigate the source of the music.. Being a little rough around the edges myself, I was tempted to join but was prevented from embarrassing my wife because centre seating meant having to negotiate more than 20 seats with “short-haul, no-frills airline” legroom to reach the aisle on either side.

An excellent musical, the highlight of our holiday down under!

Still, I have a little rough around the edges comment to make.

When the male lead, Teddy Tahu Rhodes opened up with his booming baritone I thought it was a mismatch to the sweet female lead, Lisa McCune (who like Sarah McKenzie, is a graduate of the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts). But there was great chemistry between these two on stage. In fact, the pair is being considered for the lead roles in another Rodgers and Hammerstein classic, The King and I, which will be staged late next year. Things seem to be runningsmoothly offstage too for the married pair. 

During intermission, I ended in a long queue to the gents. Jørn Utzon must have not factored in baby boomers when he submitted the winning design for a national opera house in Sydney in 1957. The crowd that night were mainly ageing baby boomers, I am sure it is the same for most performances, many with larger normal prostate glands that accounted for the slow turn around at the 'little room'
Among the many excellent performers, I was particularly attracted to Christine Anu who played the role of the enterprising Tonkinese called Bloody Mary. Bloody Mary had to tackle racism, sexual discrimination and bondage in her quest for a better life. Her body language, accent and areca nut stained teeth bear an uncanny resemblance to a Mak Ee Poh (eldest maternal grand aunt in Peranakan-speak) in the extended family of the people who once lived next door to my grandmother in remote Teluk Anson. The last I remember of this Mak Ee Poh was of her trying to match make one of the many nieces to a widowed senior clerk of a tin mine in Ipoh to give her a better life away from this backwater.

From her dark complexion, I had assumed Christine is South Indian. Well, Anu or Anusuya in full, was my Locum pharmacist and she is Indian Malaysian. Thus I am pleasantly surprised to know that Christine is of Torres Strait Island descent.

Christine Anu studied at the National Aboriginal and Islander Skills Development Association (NAISDA) and graduated with an associate diploma of dance in 1992. Since graduating from NAISDA, Christine has performed both in Australia and overseas with Bangarra Dance Theatre and the Aboriginal and Island Dance Theatre. Christine is a multi-award winning recording artist, including ARIA Song of the Year for My Island Home

Well done Christine!


The Tonkinese are people from north Vietnam who were brought to the island to work with cows and coconuts as indentured servants to the French planters. Their lives were extremely hard, and their five-year contracts were unilaterally extended indefinitely by the French after the start of the Second World War.

Peranakan Chinese and Baba-Nyonya are terms used for the descendants of late 15th and 16th-century Chinese immigrants to the Indonesian archipelago and British Malaya (now Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore).

Monday, October 21, 2013

Pre-iPhone Era Public Bench?

We flew into Sydney from Melbourne two Wednesdays ago and, immediately after checking into our 'harbour' hotel without out the harbour view, we went for a walk towards the iconic Sydney Bridge via the Circular Quay promenade.

As we approached the Museum of Contemporary Art, a lady rushed from the long concrete bench and pleaded to my wife, May, "you've small hands, could you please retrieve my iPhone from the narrow gap on the concrete bench".

We immediately empathized with her, having nearly left our own mobile behind in Tullamarine when it slipped out of my pocket as I slouched waiting for the delayed flight.

The narrow longitudinal gap which runs along the interface between the backrest and the seat of the concrete structure leads to a shallow gutter to drain water and litter. Unfortunately the depth of this 'shallow' gutter is bigger than the width of the iPhone and that was where the phone rested on its side after slipping out of the lady’s pocket.

May did her level best but just could not lift the mobile out with two tiny fingers. Then came my turn and with a rolled page from a tourist brochure as a prod and lever and, I must admit, with lots of male ego I squeezed my finger through the tiny gap and eased out the mobile.

Here's my 'battle scar' and the grateful ladies as proof of my ‘chivalry’.

The Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority is nearing completion of a strategicframework for the future of Circular Quay, followed by further stakeholder and public consultation. You may want to input on the iPhone unfriendly public bench ;-)

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Meet Jasmine, the rescue dog

The rescue dog who has become a surrogate mother for the 50th time.

Edwin Ng sent us the following story complete with photos. We thought it is too good to be true. So we goggled Snopes which confirmed its authenticity. We also looked up the Daily Mail of 31 December 2008 for further confirmation.

Perfect mum: Jasmine the greyhound with Bramble, the roe deer fawn she is currently caring for
Perfect mum: Jasmine the greyhound with Bramble, the roe deer she is currently caring for
When Jasmine the abandoned greyhound arrived at a wildlife sanctuary shivering and desperate for food, she needed all the love in the world to nurse her back to full health.

Now it appears the kindness and patience shown to her has rubbed off - for the rescue dog has become a surrogate mother for the 50th time.

Seven-year-old Jasmine is currently caring for tiny Bramble, an 11-week-old roe deer fawn found semi-conscious in a nearby field.

She cuddles up to her to keep her warm, showers her with affection and makes sure nothing is matted in her fur. In short, the perfect foster mum.

But then again, she has had plenty of practice, having cared for five fox cubs, four badger cubs, 15 chicks, eight guinea pigs, two stray puppies and even 15 rabbits.

Jasmine was brought to the Nuneaton and Warwickshire Wildlife Sanctuary by the police in 2003, having been found dumped in a garden shed.

She was cold, filthy and malnourished. It took a few weeks for her to fully trust staff at the centre but with tender loving care she was nursed back to full fitness.

Five years on, Jasmine is now the one looking after stray waifs.

Geoff Grewcock, who runs the sanctuary, said: 'She simply dotes on the animals as if they were her on, it's incredible to see.

'She takes all the stress out of them and it helps them to not only feel close to her but to settle into their new surroundings.

'As soon as an animal is brought in, she walks over takes a sniff or two and then licks and cuddles them.

'It is quite amazing, particularly as she is a greyhound breed and they are usually quite aggressive, That is why they are used for racing.

Jasmine with another one of her 'babies'. She has cared for 15 rabbits in total
Jasmine with another one of her 'babies'. She has cared for 15 rabbits in total
'Jasmine was abused when she was younger, the police brought her to us after discovering her whimpering in a garden shed.

'She was very nervous around us, she was caked in mud and dust and very thin. It took a while but gradually she got used to us and has been at the centre ever since.

'Having been neglected herself, it's a real surprise to she her show so much warmth and affection to other creatures.

'It's not just animals, she is great which children too, she is such a gentle, big-hearted dog.'

Bramble the fawn arrived at the centre two months ago after a dog walker came across her in a field dazed and confused.

Until she is old enough to be released back into the wild, she will continue to be cared for by Jasmine.

Geoff added: 'They are inseparable at the moment, Bramble walks between her legs and they keep kissing each other.

Happy family: Pictured from left to right are Tobe, a stray Lakeland dog; Bramble, an orphaned roe deer; Buster, a stray Jack Russell; a dumped rabbit and Sky, an injured barn owl
Happy family: Pictured from left to right are Toby, a stray Lakeland dog; Bramble, an orphaned roe deer; Buster, a stray Jack Russell; a dumped rabbit; Sky, an injured barn owl, and Jasmine
'They walk together round the sanctuary. It's absolutely marvellous. It's a real treat to see them.

'But she is like that with all of our animals, even the rabbits which greyhounds usually chase down the track.

'I remember we had two puppies that had been abandoned by a nearby railway line, one was a Lakeland Terrier cross and another was a Jack Russell Doberman cross.

'They were tiny when they arrived at the centre and Jasmine approached them and grabbed one by the scruff of the neck in her mouth and put him on the settee.

'Then he fetched the other one and sat down with them, cuddling them.

'She has done the same with the fox and badger cubs, she licks the rabbits and guinea pigs and even lets the birds perch on the bridge of her nose.

'It's very touching. Her maternal instincts take over all the time.'

Jasmine passed away in October 2011. She will be sorely missed.