Scenes from Sydney, the town that grew

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An old water reservoir has been turned into a sunken park. In some ways, this is representative of Sydney, which reinvents itself every ten years or so. It’s a city of aspiration and also a lot of regret. It’s scarred by bad planning though these mistakes also maketh the city.

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Paddington Reservoir is like something from the gardens of Pompeii. Ambling through its arched corridors, the air is thick with humidity. Birds scream (yes, they scream) overhead and it all feels very primordial.

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The back streets provide peace from the madness of people, cars, buses and trains. The topography is clumsy and terraces look like they have been inserted into spots like a jigsaw puzzle providing streetscapes that constantly tantalize. Oh, here’s another way to do a terrace. Was there any regard for planning? Then, this is what makes it so interesting.

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Sol LeWitt is showing in one of the main galleries …

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Ironically, his work is all about exacting geometry, the magical effect of the shimmering line. You would think this American artist would’ve shunned a place like Sydney but he often came here to produce large site-specific works. Perhaps he sought to order the frenzy.

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We drop in to the National Art School, which is housed in the old Darlinghurst Gaol, once the home of convicts. There is a fantastic exhibition called the Art of Science, which includes wonderful original paintings by John Audubon who was responsible for defining North American birds to print. Equally interesting are the first paintings of animal life from New South Wales. The book is opened at an image of a possum, evidently called a Squirrel Opossum in the late eighteenth century.

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Last night, Mardi Gras parade was on. Oxford Street was packed to the rafters watching floats lampooning Putin and the odd pink Dalek (why not?).

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The best part were the impromptu street parties. A DJ played from his terrace and revellers stopped to dance as they walked by. ‘Impromptu’ is a good word, accurately describing this city.

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