BBQ Brekky, Bowls & Cricket – Not a Beach: 30 October 2011

It began inauspiciously but developed into a nearly perfect Sydney Spring Sunday.  Rain was falling at the appointed hour of departure but in the nature of plans made for Sunday morning by the time we rolled away on our bicycles it was more like midday.  By then the sun was shining.  Its heat had a summer bite but in the shade it was still jumper-cool.

When Mitch, Mac and I arrived at St Leonards Park we found Erin threatening to mobilise her Twitterverse behind an #OccupyBarbeque movement.  A gaggle of parents and costumed toddlers had commandeered the only public barbecue in the park, and quite possibly the only one in North Sydney.  They had arrived first, so fair enough, first dibs; but while their sausages cooked on one plate the other was serving as a marshalling area for their food.  Despite our inquiries and hungry stares they refused to share.  It seemed, frankly, downright un-Australian.

The tide turned when Mitch asked the bloke at the North Sydney Bowls Club if they had a barbecue we could use.  In short order, we all had drinks in hand, the bacon, corn fritters and potatoes were grilling and Mac had set us up with four sets of bowls.

Corn fritters, bacon, potatoes and stuff

Hunger sated and joined by Jim and Evelyn we set to roll a few ends on a green with as impressive a setting as any in town.  The Opera House, Bridge, all of the CBD and Eastern Suburbs floated just beyond the edge of the ground.

Best bowling green view in the world?
Mitch explains the game to Mac.
Erin sends one down the rink.
Beer, bowls and spring sunshine.

We made it to the cricket at North Sydney Oval, the original goal of the day, with a couple of hours of play left.  The Victorian Bushrangers had amassed 317 runs on seven wickets and the NSW Blues were doing the job of chasing that down.

We drank cold crappy beer from cans as Daniel Smith got his century, then his 150.  Kids played cricket around the ground.  Drunken, shirtless blokes sprawled on the hill and hurled abuse at the nearest Victorian fielder; he returned it in kind.  We had soggy end-of-day meat pies and made use of Erin’s iPhone to learn the difference between ‘jerseys’ and ‘guernseys’ – in the sense of something worn as part of a sporting uniform.  (Evidently jerserys can be machine-knitted while guernseys are strictly hand-knitted.)

A couple of wickets fell and several booming sixes cleared the fence – one left the ground entirely.  The Blues had the Vics in their sights and ultimately finished them with 49 balls to spare.  Smith was 185 not out from 123 balls – a record for a NSW batsman in the One Day series.

Rolling down Miller Street toward North Sydney station it seemed too lovely a late afternoon, by now six-ish, to just get on the train there.  Mac had yet to ride over Sydney Harbour Bridge so that settled it.  The sun, still bright and warm on the western horizon, bathed the bridge in a warm golden light.  The yachts that peppered the harbour earlier had long headed home; the only boat I saw was a ferry chugging from Balmain to Lavender Bay.

Pedalling the approach to the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

To round the near-perfect day off with a near-perfect ending we introduced Mac to the Hero of Waterloo for a Guinness and to listen to the first few tunes of the Sunday evening band.

Guinness is Good for You.

A Bush Walk and Apple Strudel (No 28: Flat Rock Beach – 12 May 2013)

At the Austrian Club.
At the Austrian Club.

Here’s an interesting and unexpected story from Killarney Heights, the suburb where you’ll find Flat Rock Beach:

In February 1979, a Lithuanian couple who believed they were being chased by Soviet agents were discovered in bushland adjacent to the suburb. Stepan Petrosys (81) and his 68-year old wife were discovered after having lived in a cave for 28 years.

That small discover was too good to bury deep in my post. Now that is out of the way, let me tell you about Flat Rock Beach.  This is the last of the beaches I visited with Mitch and I have contemporaneous notes to work from – which is good because it’s just been so long and really feels like a lifetime ago. Just to make it feel a little closer I’ve put this in present-tense.

The day dawns cool and very foggy.  I wish the fog will remain to give our bushwalk and beach visit an atmospheric air but know it won’t.

Crossing Sydney Harbour Bridge
Crossing Sydney Harbour Bridge

We leave home around noon to collect Sabra – fighting Mother’s Day traffic en route.  Flat Rock Beach is in Garigal National Park and on the upper reaches of the Middle Harbour. We park and join the Flat Rock Track climbing from the waterside to a ridge-line overlooking the harbour. We have views of the water all along the walk and it is glorious. The sun in warm in heat and light; it sparkles. Sail boats, motor boats, kayaks and canoes crowd the calm green water.

Middle Harbour
Middle Harbour

The track is busy with families and groups of friends. Strangely, for a track that seems pretty obscure, most walkers we encounter do not have Australian accents but hail from Europe and North America.

On Flat Rock Track.
On Flat Rock Track.

We negotiate the stairs down to the beach and find there are three or four boats at anchor in the bay of the beach. Across the water is a rising green landscape peppered with suburban houses.  A waterfall of a sort sounds in the bush behind us, trickles onto the beach, and into to the harbour.

We sit and snack and look.  It is a glorious autumn day.  We wade into the still-warm water and it is lovely.

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On the drive over I’d spotted a nearby little black square marked ‘Austrian Club’ on the map.  I think ‘Let’s see what that is.’

We find a typical Australian club building but with Tyrolean touches and a big Austrian flag dancing in the breeze. Emerging from the car we hear Austrian music playing and we think this is promising. Entering, we find a large hall with a stage, dance floor and a bistro on a platform looking out on the park. There are hand-painted plaques in German, a mounted deer head and a big display devoted to the World Cup. The far wall is decorated with the club shield flanked by the Australian and Austrian flags. An old tv in the corner is showing Austrian music videos.

Say it with me: Austrian-Australian
Say it with me: Austrian-Australian

There are a couple of families in the bistro including one with one bloke in lederhosen and another in an awesome sort-of Tyrolean cap with a feather.  A woman greets us in German to which we reply in English.  A bloke wanders over from another table – a fellow in his 70s, maybe 80s.  He proves to be a bit of a fly who hovers about us chattering away but moves on when our food comes only to return when we finish.  He is an Austrian-Australian – which I like a lot, just to say it: Austrian-Australian.  He’d come to Australia, then went back to Austria, then to New York for a time, back to Austria then moved here permanently 57 years ago.  He goes back to his village between Salzburg and Innsbruck every year.  He was wearing a very Austrian-looking green sort of cardigan.

They have Stiegl and Erdinger Weissbier on tap – wunderbar.  The food comes – Sabra and I both have the goulash with spätzle while Mitch has roast pork with sauerkraut and potatoes. I love my goulash.  The beef just falls apart and the sauce is spicy and gravy-like.  The spätzle is buttery with a few crisp bits which are very nice.We don’t need to have dessert but we do: Sabra and I have the apple strudel, Mitch has the Sacher torte.

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We speak with one of the waitresses – they’d just had some new people take over the kitchen – I see on-line its Erich and Kitty Koenigseder.  It is all good reviews for them and we can only add our own.  I explain how we’ve been at the park and spotted them on the map so came to see what they were about and how glad we did.  It is really like a little quick trip to Austria in a lot of ways.

Flat Rock Beach is in Killarney Heights, part of the Warringah Council Local Government Area. It’s in the Wakehurst State Electorate (Brad Hazzard, Liberal) and Warringah Federal Division (Tony Abbott, Liberal). It lies some 32 kilometres (20 miles) from Croydon Park, where I was then living.