Nicholas Quirke was full of plans for his day on 23rd January which included meeting a friend, more ancestor research, finally, on a third attempt, seeing the Intrepid Women exhibition at the S H Ervin Gallery and going to the theatre. It was a day with a schedule and he did not anticipate any surprises. After spending his early morning wrestling again with technical problems, his day started properly at the fountain in Hyde Park meeting with the lovely Deb Broughton. They had a breakfast and chatted over old times, travelling and living in Sydney. He hoped to get another opportunity to see her before he headed back to Brighton. It was a greyer, humid day so he was grateful to be spending a couple of hours inside the library. The Librarians at the Mitchel Library were very helpful and engaged in helping him trace the required, and slightly elusive paperwork which involved letters from Professor Alexander Morrison Thomson, regarding his science, to a Rev. William Betheridge Clarke. Once it was discovered, Nicholas was sat down at a desk and given the catalogue references to look through while they gathered the appropriate file. As he looked through these he suddenly spotted that there were letters from Lydia Martha Thomson, the wife, written around the time of death and he also found one from a W D Thomson, whom Nicholas suspected to be Alexander’s father. Excitement at this discovery coursed through him as these would be letters of a very personal nature relating to his sickness . He asked for these too and was thrilled to read them. He acknowledged to himself how extraordinary it felt to be reading of their grief and gratitude and particularly to be handling something, over which his Great Great Great Grandfather had toiled; his DNA once again commingling with the past. Some of the letters were indecipherable but he took photographs to see if he could unearth their secrets at a later date. After a surprising and engrossing 3 hours he left the Library to find it had rained and there was a fresher feeling in the air. He set of to see the Intrepid Women exhibition but the GPS directed him to Sydney Observatory. ‘You have arrived’ ‘Google’ kept telling him, feeding Nicholas’s frustration and self doubt. When he finally reached the gallery the curator, a bitter looking woman, who ignored his cheerful banter and relief, barked ‘there’s only 20 minutes before closing’. Nicholas said that was fine but maybe he could have a discount on the entrance fee. The lady was intractable and her lack of humanity angered him too much for him to enjoy himself. ‘Thank you so much for your kindness and help” he said. He made use of the time and went to look at the views from the Observatory instead. He noticed he was very close to Sydney Harbour Bridge and took the opportunity to see the views from there, though not before releasing the tension that had built in him and shouting, ‘For God’s Sake I just want to ask a question’ at an aggressive Nazi guard on the bridge. ‘Sydney customer service could do with some development’ he thought. He enjoyed the views though bemoaned the huge cruiser ships that dominate the harbour. A walk through the old and compelling ‘Rocks’ and slowly made his way to the Opera House to meet Ollie for another evening at the theatre, ‘The Wide Earth’ a drama, with puppets about the 1831 voyage of The Beagle which was part of the Sydney Festival. It was an exhilarating, epic and magical piece of theatre. At home Jen and Libby from upstairs popped in for a late night glass of wine and chat, Nicholas loved the open door policy in the ‘commune’. But tired he finally retired to his bed.
Nicholas Quirke was aware he had been moving at a fast pace and hadn’t really given himself much time for contemplation and relaxation which meant it was with some relief that he found himself with time on the morning of the 22nd January, Harvey’s Birthday, to collect his thoughts and focus on travel plans; particularly now he had put Cambodia on the table. Armed with his travel card he set off to explore some of the city sights. His trip into the city was made particularly entertaining by the conversation with an old man His first stop was Angel Place where a permanent ‘Bird Cage’ instillation had been set up, complete with birdsong to remember, mourn, the bird life that had been pushed out of Sydney due to the European settlers and the subsequently vast growing city. His plan was to see the Art Gallery Of New South Wales, but he stumbled across the Sydney Museum which was holding an Exhibition titled ‘Underworld’ exploring the ‘Mug shots’ Of 1920s Criminals in Sydney. This was an engrossing and stimulating collection of pictures and stories. It was an eye catching walk through Sydney to the gallery which housed some really beautiful works by Australian artists. He noted as he walked through the galleries of 19th Century art the significant number of female artists from this period that were represented. A walk through The Botanical Gardens which were wonderful, the temperature was perfect and it gave him a real buzz to see the Sydney Opera house unobtrusively sidle once again into view. It seems to be the perfect spot and a tremendous tribute to the planners and the Architect, Jorn Ulzon, that despite its vast size it is not obstructive, fitting the landscape perfectly. He bought some tickets s for Tuesday Night for him and Ollie, enjoyed a tea on the harbour side and then left to see the Observatory and the Garrison church. He checked google maps and it seemed a very straight forward and easy walk. Why was it then that he seemingly, wilfully go left instead of right and get lost, adding 30 minutes to a 10 minute journey. He had run out of time to see anymore as he had to get to the theatre to meet Ollie for ‘Darlinghurst Nights’, a musical based on the poetry of Kenneth Slessor at the Hayes Theatre. Ollie was impressed by the amount of Sydney Luminaries that were attending. It was a really wonderful piece of theatre, a memory play that was haunting and passionate, echoing the ‘Underworld’ exhibition he had seen earlier. Neither had eaten so they went back to Glebe and had a very satisfying supper at a Lebanese restaurant.
Nicholas Quirke was enjoying a more laid back day on 21st January in Austinmer. Despite waking early after a late night he got up and sat chatting with Martin enjoying a papaya, pineapple and raspberry breakfast being entertained not only by the conversation, which to his satisfaction erred on the macabre, but also by the wild King and Rosella parrots that were breakfasting on the vegetation in the garden. As Ang was still asleep ‘Skipper’ the puppy was allowed to roam freely through the house. It took a long time to get everyone up, fed and ready for the beach and when they got down there it was fairly packed with holiday makers. They found a space and went into the water. The tide and undercurrent felt really strong and Nicholas was a bit nervous. So it took a while for him to be encouraged to go in. Ang finally convinced him and he then had a great time swimming and frolicking in the waves and on the shore. Being battered by the waves and thrown into the beach had caused sand to stick in the pockets of his swimming shorts and ever part of him so it was a shower when he got back. A delicious late lunch and they headed back to Sydney. They were driving through the National Park but due to a couple of Bush fires, apparently an arson attack, there was a lot of smog which obscured the view and some roads were closed. The traffic was bad once they hit Sydney but the route took them to Botany Bay and Tony gave a sparkling rendition of the famous ballad. Ollie was not in when he returned so Nicholas went to the Supermarket and got some food for dinner, which he decided would be Dhal. On Ollies return they prepared supper and regaled each other with tales of their respective weekends as well as agreeing to use the phrase ‘Crook as Rookwood’. Nicholas had some photos from 1980 of them all together at a party in Monks House, Ollie was overwhelmed to see these photographs from as idyllic a time as he was having now. Halcyon days.
Nicholas Quirke was seeing New South Wales from a train carriage window on 20 January as he travelled from Sydney to Canberra to see Drama Centre friend Tony Knight give a talk at the National Portrait Gallery on Australians in the Hollywood Film Industry. After Ollie drove him to Central station and the train sped him onto Australia’s Capital City, he enjoyed his vegan avocado croissant, read ‘Holding The Man’ and he watched the landscape change rapidly from, wide open spaces, dense woodland, suburbs, valleys, a herd of Kangaroos. Lakes, stations and farmland till reaching his destination. He was surprised to see no tower blocks dominating the sky line and took a taxi straight to the National Portrait Gallery. He bought a ticket for the Starstruck exhibition and decided to see this straight away. It was a deeply engrossing look at Australian cinema and the film making process and he was delighted to see many of his ‘friends’ and people he had met on this trip represented, though he was disappointed not to see an image of Kim in her ground breaking film Mouth to Mouth. This excellent collection led him to the gallery’s permanent exhibition and he could not tear himself away from the from the video stories, including amazing footage of an 80 year former exotic dancer going through some of her moves. It was exquisite. He realised that time had run away from him an he needed to eat so he ordered a falafal wrap and a green tea. He became concerned about his digestion, when he realised he had eaten the paper wrapping the wrap was presented in.He really enjoyed Tony’s lecture and finding it engaging and enlightening. Nicholas had to wait for a short while as the groupies demanded Tony’s attention at the finish but once they had reconnected it was talking all the way and he surrendered happily to Tony’s Tour’s. With Tony’s boyfriend Ang, they embarked on a whirlwind and playful tour of the National Art Gallery seeing Contemporary Aboriginal Art, David Hockney’s work, Jackson Pollack’s Blue Poles, Sidney Nolan’s Ned Kelly series. an exhibition of Indo-Chinese art, along with many examples of Dada and the surrealists, impressionists; it was a really great collection. In ebullient mood they took many photos of them at play in this impressive gallery. The tour finished with a walk round the sculpture park to find some Rodin and a mini version of the Angel of the North. As they finally left Canberra to head for Martin’s home, Austinmer, in southern NSW they took in the National War Memorial which was at the end of an avenue of memorials to the Boar War, Korean War and the Vietnam war. It was a beautiful drive to Martin’s, which took about 3 hours, giving Nicholas and Tony, plenty of time to catch up, reminisce and contemplate life and death. The views, as they descended the escarpment of the MacQuarie Pass; named after the first Governor of New South Wales, were simply breathtaking. Ang has a dog phobia so when they arrived at Martin’s beautiful home by the ocean, his new pet, Skipper had to be confined to the bedroom. A lovely meal, entertaining conversation and company bought another action packed day to a close.
Nicholas Quirke was exhausted by his days activities. It was hot and sticky and under the sun’s glare for much of the day, as beautiful as it made everything look it resulted in draining him of energy. He started the day by going to yet another Vegan he discovered restaurant on Glebe Point Road called ‘Gathered Kitchen’ where he consumed a Turmeric Smoothie and Breakfast at Vi’ssanys’. The dish was delicious and rather than photograph the food he captured the colours left on the plate. They needed to make an early start to get to Rookwood Narcopolis to find his Great Grandfathers Grave. Once they had arrived he was able to get the information at the trusts offices on the location of the grave 0148. It was a really stunning location but finding the exact grave was a problem as the number had eroded and when they finally found it, the headstone was down and it was impossible to lift it and see any inscription. Hardly surprising as once he was interred on 16th November 1871, his family were returned to England and there had been no one to care, tend, visit the grave since then. Nicholas and Ollie took the opportunity to explore the cemetery and they were amazed by some of the monuments, tributes, obelisk and mausoleums. They were relatively close to Homebush Bay where Nicholas was aware of an interesting shipwreck from the war which had been colonised by Mangroves. They found the wreck which was really compelling and magical in its setting. They felt compelled to go home before heading into the the City for a Ferry Trip and a visit to a Gallery. There was some problems topping up his Opal card and once resolved they got the train to Central which then was changed and they had to get off at Pyrmont Bay where they could get a Ferry. Ollie took them a little out of their way and time was starting to slip away. They got to the departure point and were advised the boat would leave in 7 minutes but then the moored vessel suddenly left without anyone getting on. They finally got on but it immediately looked like they would miss the exhibition so they decided to do a round trip. The sights around the harbour were magnificent and Ollie invited much mockery and laughter when she tried to get Nicholas to stop filming and come and look at Luna Park. Nicholas sensibly ignored her suggestion as at the point one of the worlds most iconic sights was slipping into view under the Sydney Harbour Bridge; The Sydney Opera house, looking utterly resplendent in the sun. It was at this point Ollie became the worst tour guide ever. She made up for it though by pointing out the other gorgeous landmarks in the Harbour, Lady MacQuarie’s Chair, Government house and the Botanical Gardens, Kirrieilly House, Port Denison, and the eastern suburbs, Elizabeth Bay, Manly, right to Rose Bay where the boat turned round and headed back. It was a really wonderful and educational trip and he even caught sight of walkers climbing the Bridge. When they finally docked he was excited to see Captain Cook’s boat ‘The Endeavour’sitting in the harbour outside the Maritime Museum. They headed back to Glebe and they went for dinner at Soul Burger, a Vegan burger bar. Back at the house that sat out in the garden enjoying the company and conversation of Libby, Sue and Jan before attempting to retire early.
Nichols Quirke was revelling in the conceit that he was some kind of academic on 18th January. After a morning tea with Ollie before she set off to work, he retraced their steps of the previous evening and went back to Sydney University to attempt to learn more about his ancestor. On his way he discovered another Vegan restaurant ‘Real Grounded’where he enjoyed a smoothie and a BLAT. He went for walk around the University in daylight before heading to the Fisher Library and on his way, encountered the Nicholson Museum which was full of amazing ancient artefacts, Mummy’s, sarcophagus’s, masks, busts and statues and he really enjoyed a trip into another world. Despite the library requiring photo ID to look at rare books they held regarding Professor Thomson, which he didn’t have, they still managed to let him examine the documentation. First he looked at a book compiled and written by his fore-bearer and then he was bought manuscripts from the vault. He was actually holding in his hands notebooks written and compiled 150 years ago by his mother’s father’s father’s Father. and his DNA briefly commingled with this brilliants man’s across the decades as his finger tips traced the historic writing and drawings . It was a surprisingly emotional time and he spent nearly 3 hours studying the paperwork, notes on lectures, notes on discoveries, feeling the ghost of him alongside. Part of Nicholas hoped to find something more personal but they were purely academic, though certainly gave him impression and insight into the breadth and scale of his knowledge. Mineralogy, Geology, Anthropology, Palaeontology, he was a true Natural Scientist. When he finished with the rare books he had an appointment with the archivist to look at the senate notes of meetings pertaining to the career and the early death at 30 of Alexander Morrison Thomson. Nicholas felt illuminated and like he had really achieved something and he was now feeling research and academia suited him. There was still more to see and do and he had plenty of time to do it. Ollie cooked supper when they were both back in her Glebe home and then they went for a walk around part of the harbour. It was cool and beautiful and they ambled for about an hour,rewarding themselves with Gelato. Oddly here in Sydney, for the first time he was under attack from the insect world. Some ugly swellings were appearing but thanks to his Sister, Kate and the medical kit she provided, he was able to smother himself with Mopiko and the bites began to subside. It was time for bed and an onslaught of cockroaches began. he turned off the light and thought what he couldn’t see couldn’t hurt him.
Nicholas Quirke was surprised on his first night in Sydney to be brought so close to the spirit of his Great Great Grandfather, Alexander Morrison Thomson who inaugurated the Department of Geology at Sydney university. It was a far cry from the glamour of the Gold Coast where Pete and Fi took him for a final walk at the beach. This path through a beautiful creek took them through some scrub land, beach and a past some really lovely shore side properties. It was then back home to pack, lunch and a final tour around the lovely home and garden. Fi got him set up on Uber to ensure he had an additional option to get Ollie’s door. Nicholas had been made to feel really welcome by the whole family and he felt a little sad to be saying goodbye. But it was off to the Airport to fly to Sydney. The journey seemed to go very quickly despite losing an hour as they crossed into a new time zone. Nicholas decided to take an Uber; the thought of train, bus, walk defeated him. Ollie was there to meet him looking almost exactly as he remembered her despite the 35 years since he had last seen her. Nicholas immediately felt at home walking through the gates of the commune where Ollie lived. He he found the atmosphere and look was almost exactly what he imagined Barbary Lane in ‘Tales of the City’ to be. There was a lot of catching up to be done and Ollie had organised for them to do that at a Vegan restaurant, The Green Mushroom in Glebe. It turned out that they were less than a 10 minute walk from from the University and after dinner they walked to the campus. The night was full of flying foxes and Nicholas spotted a possum. As they approached the University and walked the Quadrangle, Nicholas felt the pull of the past as he imagined his ancestor, in 1870, walking the paths, arches and corridors of this historic site. They were able to make enquiries at the Fisher Library about research and were directed to the Archive block for the next day. Kim had made some suggestions for the weekend so phone calls were made to try and put these plans into place. Finally they walked back to Ollie’s atmospheric apartment and retired for the night.