A city’s bright, sparkling eye blinks on New Year’s Eve

​In countless nooks and crannies around Sydney, locals come out onto the streets for a glimpse of Sydney’s New Year’s Eve fireworks. To see the Sydney Harbour Bridge while just wandering around the corner in bare feet brings a kind of suburbly pride that mixes with warm humid midnight air, mobile phone photography and a temporary congregation of neighbours. Some carrying glasses of champagne, many with their kids and we with our step-ladder and a milk crate to see over the crowd – a trick learned from the Parisians at a Bastille Day parade we once stumbled upon.We are joined this Sydney night by our little grand daughter whose passion for life never ceases to amaze but who nevertheless nearly falls asleep as Sydney’s one great eye sparkles, eyebrow raised, blinks several times, then calls it a night.

Sydney New Year's Eve fireworks 2016, Lilyfield

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Sydney Central Pedestrian Tunnel #4

For nine months of my life I walked this tunnel twice a day and sometimes I wrote down the snippets of conversation as a kind of random urban poem. I decided to do it tonight for old time’s sake. And something unexpected happened at the end.

central-station-pedestrian-tunnel-sydney

Two male office workers, in Friday casual:

‘Yeah yeah yeah. Yeah exactly.’

Twenty something female to friend, both with headphones:

‘And I was like, “My mum made the decision.'”

Man to women wearing hajib and looking skeptical:

‘Don’t know, probably.’

Twenty something man in high-spirits to two friends:

‘Yeah but actually she doesn’t live there anymore.’

Curly haired young woman on the phone at the bus stop:

‘I’ve just hopped off at Central and I’m waiting for the bus… actually I’m pooped.’

Man who approached quietly and is standing close to me:

‘ I don’t like to do this but my son and I haven’t eaten… I lost my job and… [hand out clasping gold coin].

Me: [reaching for wallet deciding with joy I’ll surprise this man with a note]. What’s your son’s name?

Begging man: ‘His name is Sean. S-e-a-n.’

Me: [Giving meagre $5] Well my name is Peter and I’m a Christian and God loves you whatever the story. [I don’t believe his spoken story and I don’t care].

More than a label

image

I was walking in the sunshine at University of Sydney with my little grand daughter who needed a short break from church in the old Geology building.

We came across a tree (pictured) with beautiful patterned bark, soft and flakey, and gentle spindly branches that were almost silhouetted against the blue sky.

I laid my hand against the trunk and felt its warmth and encouraged Maddison to do likewise. She reached across and rested the palm of her hand on the tree.

I stepped back to photograph the tree which had won my heart and as we began to move on I noticed a tag or label nailed to it.

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At six minutes and 14 seconds into the new year…

Sydney, New Year's Eve, Fireworks, 2013, Leichhardt, photo, time, new year

At six minutes and 14 seconds past midnight on January 1, 2013 I took this photo.

I didn’t know this at the time, but my phone did, on which I captured the image.

At the same moment a person in front raised their hand also to take a photo so that it appears they are balancing an explosion on their fist.

Here we all are, leaning forward toward the new year, counting down the solidity of year with the stuff of split-seconds.

We have so much information at our fingertips without trying, down to the unconscious moment of tapping for a photo… and yet faced with a new year we know nothing at all, not even today, not even tomorrow.

If the psalmist David was among the crowd on this balmy Sydney night, passing through the crowd with reflective gaze, he may have strolled back up the hill in his shorts, thongs and a Tigers t-shirt, typing as he walked:

“The life of mortals is like fireworks,
they flourish like a sparkle in the night.” *

And at the same time, sensing Someone eternal, walking alongside.

* Psalm 103:15-17 – The life of mortals is like grass,
they flourish like a flower of the field;
16 the wind blows over it and it is gone,
and its place remembers it no more.
17 But from everlasting to everlasting
the Lord’s love is with those who fear him,

 

 

Armageddon arrives with emotional depth and musical perfection

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Guy Sebastian brought his Armageddon concert to the Hordern Pavilion tonight and showed again why he will continue to be one of Australia’s leading performers.

Not only was the show energetic, fun and original, it was also faultless with Sebastian using his voice like a well tuned, well loved instrument.

His vocal precision was matched by a ‘killer band’ by his own estimation and no one could argue.

Carmen Smith of The Voice fame had a large vocal (and groovin’) role, often stepping up from backing singer to take the lead with Guy.

And while the all-age audience loved his pop and soul favourites, the night belonged to the deeper, more telling music off the yet to be completed Armageddon album.

Perhaps it was the recent birth of his son or a natural progression for this man of talent and faith, but the new songs he performed all have an edge of strength and emotion that will earn Guy Sebastian new fans and recognition.

Big Bad World is a song for his son but is a song for all parents and all children while title song Armageddon is a love song that collides with thoughts of the end of the world, more than a little beyond some of the catchy but light tunes of the past.

It was all class and even the somewhat tired Hordern couldn’t contain the sheer pleasure of the audience.

Armageddon the album is just a few weeks away from completion, Sebastian told his fans tonight. And after two years in the making it will be worth the wait.
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Vividness is in the eye of the beholder

Some days sights stand out like an artwork or cherished memory. They weave together like poetry and I wonder if this is the result of sunshine, a good night’s sleep or a trick of the eye.

Walking past the sandstone of St Andrew’s Cathedral, a man looking like a troubled disciple urinates against the wall, hidden by a low, non-burning bush. While some find comfort within, he’s found relief outside.

Two pastel green motor scooters sit side by tidy side on Clarence St except one is within the parking area and the other without. A female parking inspector stands upright in judgement like a robot from a sci-fi movie and separates the two on a point of law.

Later an office worker strides down Kent, security card swinging, and a hand held to her face, covering tears. She walks on looking sideways in anguish but not slowing, tears not moving a busy soul.

A young Indian woman with flowing hair sits on the ground in the foyer staring at a water bottle in front of her, lid off. I think she might be hit by the door if someone comes down the stairs but I leave her to her vigil.

Unless a tomato falls into the ground…

Lying forlornly in the dirt, like a yellowing tomb slit open, is the remains of an early season tomato from my garden that didn’t quite make it to the plate.

Sydney’s unseasonally damp summer has meant the vigorous tomato plant this specimen came from is long gone, afflicted by various diseases and my lack of care on occasions when life got too busy.

This shell-of-a-tomato was most likely not picked and taken inside for human consumption because it was marked or damaged or being eaten by a worm… In other words, it was rejected.

I know a Man who takes rejection, accusation and being cast aside and turns them into new life. He did it with his own life, saying, ‘unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains alone’.

February is late for growing tomatoes but no one mentioned this to my cast-aside tomato and without any assistance from myself, a veritable forest of tomato seedlings have emerged from their yellowing tomb.

With Sydney’s weather finally providing some sunshine and still plenty of rain, the young seedlings are thriving.

It’s not easy growing vegetables in an inner city town house. Pots are used, mainly, and these have to be carefully positioned to find sun and escape birds and the occasional visiting rat. (And Leroy our dog is known to occasionally pluck a tomato or strawberry for his own illegal consumption…)

It also means carrying pots and soil and shovels through the house to get to one courtyard or another, making an exercise such as repotting tomatoes a logistical challenge.

During the process I carried one of my new self-sown seedlings to another courtyard and realised I was carrying life in the palm of my hand. I also realised it was one of those ‘stock-photo-moments-of-hand-with-seedling-depicting-new-life’.

There is something about gardening that is renewing. Or perhaps the renewing comes first and then the energy to garden emerges. A bit of both I think.

As the cricket starts, and the sun bites, I’ve finished my little project and that pale shell of a tomato womb has birthed an array of seedlings, some already flowering, ready to greet the final month or so of summer warmth in Sydney.

There is not a soul among us who has not had at least a moment of being cast aside, left for dead, and lying in the dirt alone.

There is a God who showed himself as one of us, who placed  pictures of death and resurrection among us as reminders and who died an earthly death so he could share a heavenly life with many, many sons and daughters.

No doubt he is enjoying my tomatoey resurgence and if even one of these offspring is as productive as the original (bought from a stall at Leichhardt Public School fete), then we will enjoy a feast of home-grown tomatoes as the seasons approach change.

John 12:24

 

News recalls the absurd and points to the perfect

Sometimes the news gets the better of me either because it is shockingly bad, relentlessly tedious are downright absurd.

If ever there was a news cycle that would lead you to covert to nihilism and start whispering ‘everything is absurd’ then the past 24 hours might just do it:

  • A boy walks from his bedroom to show his mum a bullet after yet another Sydney drive-by shooting.
  • Soldiers urinate on dead Taliban fighters and say, ‘have a nice day buddy’.
  • News readers sound thankful that an Australian man only received 75 lashes while wearing a leather jacket
  • Mexican transplant staff drop a heart on the tarmac while rushing for the benefit of cameras.

This is the tip of the iceberg. I’m not even mentioning my own strange behaviour, or yours.

It reminds me that when looking for an explanation of a world where there can be so much that is beautiful, profound and wise and so much that is absurd, evil and tedious – all at the same time – the ancient texts of the Bible answer the call.

God created a good world and made human kind in his image which includes love, truth and choice. Humanity falls from the place and introduces chaos, absurdity and evil. The goodness and image of God still tarry in a world steadily succumbing to fallenness.

The dividing line for it all is a perfect life surrendered to the imperfection in all its manifest extremes. Take a hold of this life and you find a way out of the absurd.

That’s the simplistic version, but still the best…

And the moral (s) of the current news cycle – don’t rush when holding someone’s heart, keep your head down in Sydney’s suburbs, always love your enemies and never take off your leather jacket…

Dear 2012, it’s nice to meet you

Dear 2012,

We haven’t met yet. My name is Utterance and I’m a blog. Sorry I haven’t said hello earlier but it has taken a touch of insomnia from my mate Pete to get things going this year. Um, that’s you isn’t it. This year that is. Well look, I’ve never talked to a year before so if I get a bit muddled, please forgive me.

Anyway, we have a bit in common, me (Utterance) and you (2012). Being a new year, as you are, you’d be interested to know that I pretty much began when my mate Pete made a New Year’s Resolution involving your colleague 2010. This was that Pete would write a new post on me every day during 2010.

Well he managed 266 posts which is not bad, I think 2010 was pleased, and he reflected on this here. He kept going in your other colleague, 2011, and I had my busiest ever day on August 17, 2011 when nearly 700 people dropped by to read my account of Kate Bracks winning Masterchef. Strangely enough, my most popular post of all time is to do with food as well, with 8632 people dropping in on MasterChef’s seven sins; God’s endless forgiveness.

Sorry to say there appears to be no such resolution this you, as here it is your 11th and we’ve only just met. But I’m sure we’ll get better acquainted as the year, sorry, as you progress and to help I’ll give you a bit more background.

As a blog I’m rather hard to define, deliberately so I think, which is a bit like my writer who has never been comfortable in a box, sometimes to his detriment. You know you can get further sometimes just by fitting in but he’s one of those early sixties babies who was never quite Boomer, never quite Buster and then had three Gen Y kids and so it’s all over the place.

I’m quite reflective at times, possibly a bit sentimental and even a little regretful. Please 2012, give me a slap around the ears if I go to far down that path.

I love the news – bit of the old printers’ ink in the blood  – well that would be his blood I guess as technically blogs have bytes and hits and posts but not so much of blood. But yes he was and is a journalist so there’s a newsiness to myself.

I especially like spotting God in the headlines, little signs of faith and the divine that manage to emerge in the daily dust of the world’s happenings. That’s why I might talk about Tim Tebow or job ads or Ayrton Senna or buggity, buggity, buggity or the Amazing Race.

Sydney’s a favourite, this great sprawling city of broad beaches, tense traffic, drive by shootings and colourful characters. And the occasional dead body, rainbow or pedestrian poem.

And if I try and get a little wise, a little insightful, bear with me, this too will surely pass.

So dear 2012, I hope we get along okay and catch up more than occasionally. For your part, could please slow down a little as it’s hard enough to find a moment without you being in a rush too, insomnia aside.

Oh, and as you are just at the beginning, here’s mine, it might help complete the picture of what I’m about.

Fare thee well and remember the advice I give everyone – breath, speak, breath and don’t forget to jump.

Much love
Utterance

PS Mr 2012, you can also follow my friend Pete on Twitter.
PPS Mr 2012, I’ve heard rumours that you are meant to be associated with the end of the world, something to do with Mayan calendars etc. Anyway, just to reassure you I have much higher hopes for you than that and in any case, the world won’t end until He says so.

Lady Gaga describes herself as a ‘traditional Catholic’

After urging her young fans to let their voices be heard in support of gay marriage, Lady Gaga described herself as a traditional Catholic, in an interview with Tracey Grimshaw on Nine’s A Current Affair.

In a remarkable display of pluralism, Gaga saw no conflict with her ‘untraditional’ views on marriage and her identification with Catholicism.

Clearly Ms Grimshaw was less able to undertake the mental gymnastics required and began a line of questioning on religion by suggesting Gaga must be a lapsed Catholic.

Gaga laughed, saying she’d never heard the term and went on to explain she was very traditional, praying every day, praying before every concert.

She reminded her audience of her lyric that says “God doesn’t make mistakes” and linked her Catholicism to her Italian heritage, saying her parents had no objections to her music or concerts.

Overall Lady Gaga came across as an intelligent and talented young woman who displayed the prevailing post-modern views on morality, referring often to her song “I was born this way” as affirmation of people as they find themselves.

While agreeing with the positive impact of encouraging self-acceptance and tolerance of others, the logical extension of the view is the abrogation of personal responsibility allowing murderers and paedophiles to equally claim “I was born this way”.

At the same time, she made it clear that she had taken personal responsibility to change from being “hell on wheels” to having nothing to with drugs or to do anything to jeapardise the relationship she has with her fans.

Previous Gaga post

Faith by billboard conversation continues

If you happen to commute along the M4 and also Victoria Rd (you are to be deeply pitied for that commute) then you may feel like you’re in the middle of a friendly, billboard-sized banter between a Christian and a Muslim. And the topic? Jesus.

Check out the full story at Australian Christian News.

Original billboard post
Forget billboards, they want to ban the  Bible

Forget billboards, Islamic leader calls for Bible ban

At a time when Christians and Muslims are conducting (mainly) respectful debates about large billboards with Islamic messages in Sydney, there has been a call in Pakistan for the Bible to be banned because it is blasphemous for Muslims.

The Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam party’s leader, Maulana Abdul Rauf Farooqi, at a press conference on May 30 in Lahore, informally petitioned the Supreme Court, complaining that the Bible includes stories about some of the biblical prophets that include “a variety of moral crimes, which undermine the sanctity of the holy figures.”

Pakistiani Christians, estimated at 3 million, fear the call for a Bible ban is a sign of a trend of deepening persecution against them.

Now might be a good time for people of Islamic faith enjoying democratic rights and freedom of religion in Australia to raise their voices against this call.

Read the fully story in Christian Telegraph

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Central Railway Pedestrian Tunnel #2

‘Get your copy of the Big Issue’.
[Sees me]
‘C’mon big fella,
We’re looking for a good
second rower…
Just five dollars
All proceeds to help the disadvantaged’.
[Nervous laugh – mine]
Girl to girl, ‘You don’t want too?’
Voice in the air, ‘See ya dude!’
[Exit up the stairs]
Pool of thick, red substance near the bus stop
And two reddened tissues
Could be blood
But seriously looks like the remains of a jam donut
[Second rower? What was he thinking!]

Central Railway Pedestrian Tunnel # 1

Murmur of walking feet
Warm, very warm
‘He’s a great vocalist, but he’s just not pulling his weight’
Two Asian girls standing in a sea of walkers
‘And she’s consulting him
Two nuns, one speaking, Canadian, flourish of the arm
‘It’s good karma’
Young, white, with long dark hair, and not a clue about Hinduism
Cool near the end of the tunnel
Murmur of walking feet