March 2015

I arrived in the big metal tube heading for Australia wrapped in an overcoat, scarf and gloves against the European weather.
The problem is winter in Europe means summer down under.
The twenty-one hour flight, which included two dinners and breakfasts plus a two-hour stopover in Changi Airport in Singapore, saw me arriving in Sydney feeling like the wrath of God.

I got a “G’day” from both the man at Passport and Visa Control and the custom’s officer, who, dressed in a short-sleeved shirt, understandably raised his eyebrows in astonishment at my winter garb. He dutifully checked my ‘Incoming passenger card’ that affirmed that I was not carrying any forbidden fruit, had not been in any wilderness areas over the last 30 days, had no animals or parts of animals on my person and that I had no criminal convictions – which is ironic given how the British first peopled Australia in 1788.

The next day, feeling vaguely human again, I visited one of Sydney’s ‘musts’ – the massive Art Deco Queen Victoria Building in Haymarket that was built in 1910 to replace the older market for tailors, mercers, florists, hairdressers etc., that dated back to 1898.
The Queen Victoria Building has undergone two or three really expensive facelifts since then and now houses more than 160 shops, boutiques and restaurants on five levels. There are magnificent stained glass windows, a quite extraordinary glass dome and of particular interest to me, two very large hanging mechanical clocks: The Royal Clock and the Great Australian Clock.

The Royal Clock by Neil Glasser
The Royal Clock by Neil Glasser
The Great Australian Clock by Chris Cook
The Great Australian Clock by Chris Cook

The Royal Clock was designed by Neil Glasser in 1982 and made by Thwaites & Reed of Hastings in England. It is activated on the hour and displays six royal scenes including King John signing the Magna Carta and the execution of Charles I – whereby the head of the king rolls off the block every hour – all of which is accompanied by Jeremiah Clarke’s ‘The trumpet Volontary’.

The Great Australian Clock, designed and made by Chris Cook over four years and was completed in 2000 for the Millennium celebrations. It weighs around four tonnes, is ten metres high and has 32 smaller clocks displaying the times in cities around the world along with 33 illustrated scenes from Australian history from Aboriginal and European perspectives with more than 130 hand carved figurines.
The dome, doors and numerals are coated with 23-carat gold leaf and an Aboriginal hunter continuously revolves around the clock symbolizing the never-ending passage of time.

Needless to say I heard several humorous Australian stories during my trip, most of which I certainly cannot print here. However, there is one I heard about a devout Australian who lost the Bible he always carried with him when he was admiring the wildlife in one of the many forests.
Some weeks later he decided to go into town and purchase a new one. He opened his front door to leave when he saw a small koala standing there with his Bible. He bent down and took it from the koala, clasped it to his chest and, looking skywards, said, “It’s a miracle.”
“Not really,” replied the koala, “your name and address is written inside the cover.”
Well, you’ve go to laugh haven’t you.

Source: Europa Star March 2015 Magazine Issue