Commingling with the Past

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.




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