General

Leaving Sydney

After two solid days of rain and wet, and having been treated to largely the same menu at every meal, the sky opened up, but not before my friend had cancelled another game of golf for the morning.

At morning coffee, we learnt that Sydney had more than the average precipitation for February in the first four days; and the Observatory promised more rain and thunderstorm.

I managed to make contacts with a few old-time friends. They all insisted to meet me. Luckily, some of them knew each other, so that I was saved the agony of saying no to some, for one can only eat that much in a day.

A friend – this is really an old-timer – asked to meet me at Four Seasons Hotel at George Street and have lunch. It was early and it was not raining, so I decided to walk. I walked through a bit of China Town and the Sydney Business District. Memories of the past flashed back. I recalled the hotels I stayed in some ten years ago; I recognized the Sydney Tower up which I must have paid for like any tourist, Queen Victoria Building, Market Street, the Town Hall area and the City Centre. I could even recognize the junction where I waited to meet a colleague to take me to the Hong Kong Government Economic and Trade Office, and the shop from which I bought some expensive and signature body lotion for Rosita.

The Rocks actually looked very pleasant under a slightly overcast sky. I took some pictures around the Museum of Contemporary, and of course of the two main icons, namely the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge. There was a bigger than life outdoor display of a woman figure assembled with peaches, yes, edible peaches. It was all rather interesting.

It was almost 3pm by the time I got back to the hotel. My travel-mates have just gone to their first golf game since here, without me. There was very little I could do; so after looking at the city map, I decided to do more walking. I found a few churches, and I came across the Australian Museum, the Hyde Park and the Saint Mary’s Cathedral. Once again, I recalled that I had been to all these places before, in between meetings and work in Sydney.

The rain in Sydney had actually given me more time to catch up with my emails. I wrote to my children on this my latest trip, and was pleasantly surprised to receive quick responses from both. I am glad that they both appear to be doing well and are communicating with each other. I relayed to my daughter, for example, that the two sons of an old-time friend had joined me for dinner in Sydney. The elder son recalled a meeting more than ten years ago at our flat and what happened then. My daughter could not recall the boy, but my son could. More interestingly, what my friend’s son said to me on the way back to the hotel reminded me of a roll of film which got stuck in Rosita’s camera for some tens years until I took it to the photo shop to have the film taken out and developed. What came out proved to be a highly charged and emotional recall of the past. The film, mostly damaged, must have recorded that meeting referred to by my friend’s elder son. There were Rosita, my friend’s husband and all the four children sitting behind the bar, in very happy times. Their father has since left. Indeed, he died more than ten years ago.

I cannot remember who said this: at the end of the day, only the memories remain. The interjection, I believe, was made in the context of life and relationship in general. They have made use of such and similar associations in fiction and cinemas. It does not always work, but when it does, it could affect the audience, in different shapes, sizes and proportions.

I came across a magazine programme on TV recently about commercialized art and art forms. Apparently in China, certainly in some cities, they are producing paintings, sculptures and artifacts in increasingly large numbers, on demand, and artists typically retain managers to market their products. There was even a reference to Chief Executive Donald Tsang visiting one of these cities for ideas to be explored for the Kowloon West Corridor. Well, I don’t know sufficiently about art to offer any constructive comments; but I don’t think I am ready for that yet.

I have yet to make out what all these re-visiting of places one has been to would do to the individual in general and to me in particular. My immediate and first-line response is Buddhist or spiritual. It is a reminder of the impermanence of life and such unsatisfactory states with which one is inevitably enmeshed.

There were some evenings – at least three or four – on Star Princess when I found myself inexplicably caught up in discussions with self-professed agnostics on the one hand and scripture-based Christians on the other. Both groups had problems with the Catholic faith in which I professed to believe; and were ready and armed for confrontation. Well, I have come a long way since, and I had not made those thousands of miles and nautical miles for discussions without conclusions. On the positive side, it afforded me opportunities to clarify and consolidate my beliefs and thoughts within. It also offered me glimpses of my friends’ beliefs and values. I have neither the intention nor the stomach to analyze theirs or their logic. Life is too short for that.

I need to pack for my flight to Hobart where we hope to begin with a game of golf; and I hope to talk to you from there.

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