Sydney and Nepean

(long but hopefully interesting) The Nepean and Hawkesbury Rivers circle the Sydney metropolitan area and surrounding countryside to the south-west, west, north-west and north. I live in a suburb on the banks of the Nepean and last weekend went photo-hiking to four lookouts about 20 minutes’ drive south of here, in the small part of the greater Blue Mountains National Park east of the river. An online friend from Canada commented “Your Nepean is a lot more photogenic than ours” – “ours” being a major suburban centre of Ottawa, Ontario.

The former British colonies, big and small, are strewn with names commemorating places and people from Great Britain and Ireland, alongside names from other colonial powers (most notably Spain, France and the Netherlands) and indigenous names. Canada and Australia both have a Sydney and a Nepean. (And a Toronto – Australia’s Toronto has a population of about 5000; Canada’s Toronto … doesn’t.)

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C’mon, it’s only 16 years ago!

Oh now I feel old! The topic in the textbook was science, and as a filler I showed the students some science-related movie trailers, starting with the ‘based on a true story’ movies Hidden figures, The theory of everything and The right stuff. Then I showed some science fiction, starting with 2001: A space odyssey. I said ‘How many of you remember 2001’? I was expecting a few hands. I don’t know how old my students are, but I would guess late 20s or even early 30s for some of them. (Others are much younger, possibly late teens or early 20s.) No-one (but me) remembers 2001???? At least they could have said ‘Oh, that was the year I started school’ (as indeed one of my nieces said when I posted on Facebook about this later.)

Then I showed them Back to the future 1 & 2, and 1989’s imagining of 2015 made much more sense to them than 1968’s imagining of 2001. (In general, BttF got more right than 2001.) Along the way I found 10 Things Back to the Future 2 Got Right, 10 Things Back to the Future 2 Got Wrong and a parody by CollegeHumor made in 2015 with the benefit of nowsight. I also tried to find the American talk/comedy show which snared Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd as guests on 21 October 2015, but I couldn’t find it and couldn’t remember whose show it was on. A Facebook friend later told me it was Jimmy Kimmel.

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Kosciuszko

(PS I don’t like giving any free publicity to corporate entities, but in this case it’s impossible not to.)

Some years ago (soon after I returned from Korea the first time, I think), I bought a quiz game made by a company called BrainBox. The shop had several in stock, but the one which I bought was of the countries of the world, which seemed most applicable to English language classes.

IMG_4069lowresI have used it several times a year since. On Tuesday I was browsing through a local shop and saw another game from the same company, about Australia. I went back and bought it on Thursday morning and used it that evening in class.

IMG_4071lowres

 

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Marching together

In 2000, the chamber choir I sang in and one other similar choir were invited by Sydney’s biggest concert choir to join it to form the choir for the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games. We got the best deal of any of the performers – we got to see the whole ceremony from high up in stands. (We sang one verse of the national anthem and an excerpt from the Te Deum by Berlioz during the entry of the flame and the lighting of the cauldron. RIP Betty Cuthbert (d 6 August 2017).)

There were two rehearsals – a closed one, with some stops and starts, the previous Saturday, and an open one, essentially continuous, on the Wednesday. The entry of the flame and the lighting of the cauldron were omitted, and the parade of nations was represented by the placard and flags bearers only.

On both occasions I noticed that South and North Korea were missing from the parade. They weren’t filed under ‘K’ or ‘N’ and ‘S’. (This was six years before I went to South Korea, but I have always been interested in the countries of the world.) There was an announcement for ‘Individual Olympic Athletes’ immediately before Australia (the host country always enters last) and I vaguely thought the Koreans would be marching there.

On the night of the ceremony (15 September 2000), after Kenya had entered, I noticed a lot of people standing at the entrance who obviously weren’t Kuwaiti. (Kosovo now also comes in between.) The announcements were given in French first, then English. There was a long announcement in French, and the digital screen was filled with writing. My French was just good enough to get the gist, but I wasn’t sure until the announcement in English came:

The delegations of the Korean Olympic Committee and the Olympic Committee of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, marching together as Korea.

 

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‘To the egress’

At a railway station in central Sydney, I saw a door marked EMERGENCY EGRESS ONLY. I guess that at least 99% of such doors in the English-speaking world are marked EMERGENCY EXIT ONLY.

Egress is the slightly earlier word, dating from the 1530s. Exit as a stage direction (technically, a verb) as in ‘Exit, pursued by a bear’ dates from the 1530s, but from the 1590s it was used as a noun, as in ‘All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances’ and (occasionally) a ‘real’ verb.

From about 1650 to about 1850, the two words were used more or less interchangeably, but then the use of exit grew and egress declined, probably corresponding to the growth in public railway travel. Then in the early 1970s, the use of exit skyrocketed, for reasons I can’t think of, but curiously declined from 2000 to 2008. Most of this was due to the use of exit as a noun; exit really only began to be used as a verb in the 20th century.

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When is the Queen’s birthday not the Queen’s Birthday?

Last week I told my students that today was a public holiday. One student said ‘Is it Queen Elizabeth’s birthday?’. I said ‘No, it the Queen’s Birthday’. Queen Elizabeth’s birthday is 21 April. The Queen’s Birthday is today. The June date (the second Monday in June) is a holdover from George V, whose birthday was 3 June. The short-reigned Edward VIII’s birthday was 23 June, but George IV’s was 14 December (too close to Christmas/New Year and Elizabeth II’s is too close to Easter and Anzac Day (25 April). (If George V’s birthday was 3 June, why didn’t they settle on the first Monday in June?)

In Australia, there is very little, if any, official commemoration of the day. (It’s not even celebrated on the same day in each state.) Previously, awards in the Imperial honours systems (for example, MBE, OBE, KBE) were announced on the Queen’s Birthday. Apparently, awards in the Order of Australia still are; if so, it is a much smaller event that the announcement on Australia Day.

In New South Wales, all but one of the public holidays  fall in a span of less than six months, between 25 December and the second Monday in June. After this, we have only Labour Day (the first Monday in October).

We built this city

I can’t remember when I bought this puzzle. The last building on the chart dates from 2007, so it’s obviously after then (indeed after 2009, when I returned from Korea). It has three components – a standard cardboard jigsaw of the land (with buildings as at some unspecified earlier time) and water, a foam jigsaw of the land (with buildings generally as at 2007) and plastic buildings which slot into the foam layer. Some details are worrying (like the cricket ground and football stadium being there, and buildings across streets) and some have been superseded (the Entertainment Centre/Convention Centre area (now and Barangaroo). (The manufacturers are 4D Cityscapes Inc, in Markham, Ontario.)

I have done this with my students several times. The foam layer is easier (because it covers less area and has larger pieces) and more interesting. The cardboard layer is much harder. We did this in the last class of last year, and completed about 3/4 of it. Getting it home was a challenge, but I set it up on the dining room table and continued occasionally for almost two months.

I finished yesterday. This person finished quicker, and included stirring music.

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