Monday, September 03, 2007

Another Good Day

Photo: The famous APEC fence.

Yesterday (Sunday) was both Helen's (eldest) birthday and Father's Day. It turned out to be rather a good day.

The day began with a visit to the city.

We had all heard so much about the security precautions being introduced for the APEC meeting including the APEC Wall - the wall being constructed to protect the visiting dignitaries - that we thought that the city would be dreadful.

In fact, the opposite was true. There was almost no one there. The roads were clear in a way I had not seen for years. Parking was a breeze. We began to think that a repeat APEC meeting would be a bloody good thing!

Our immediate target was a pair of sunglasses for eldest. When we arrived at Chanel they were still shut. So family went for Dee's coffee, while I wandered off to see the wall. I walked a fair bit towards the quay, but did not find the said object. Perhaps just as well, given that a pair of poor innocent German tourists who tried to photograph it were briefly held and had their photos destroyed.

I do love Australians. Wall jokes are already proliferating. Indeed, one Sydney radio station wondered if we should all rush down with sledge hammers to get a piece, working on the principle that such bits might be worth a fair bit of money.

A caller suggested that the wall was the southern edge of the Great Wall of China.This made me wonder, and this comment will only have meaning to those who can get Australian commercial TV, if the purpose of the wall was to keep the rabbits out of Sydney!

I realised as I wandered through the city that I had not been into town for several months. So in some ways I saw it afresh, a bit like a visitor. There seems to have been quite a bit of tarting up. Certainly I noticed a fair bit of new building as well as small decorative things.

Like many Australians, I find elements of the official security response to APEC including the purchase of the infamous water cannon quite over the top. However, I do not share the apparent umbrage about APEC itself.

APEC plays a useful role, especially at the unseen, below the top, level in facilitating links. Like it or not, Australia has to live in a globalising world. Business, trade and inter-Government cooperation all depend upon overlapping contact networks.

People think of this in terms of head-line relationships, Bush-Howard for example. In my view, it is the links at business and officials level that are of longer term importance.

Australia is a small country in population and economic terms. We are also in some ways an increasingly insular country. We actually need the links created through bodies such as APEC far more than bigger, more important, places.

I rejoined the family at Chanel, before moving on to David Jones' Elizabeth Street store. For the benefit of international readers, this is one of Sydney's iconic department stores. Again, few people, making the visit very pleasant. I noticed the overseas visitors stopping to listen to the pianist playing in the foyer, one of DJ's trademarks.

Sunglasses selected and put on lay-by, down too Dymocks in George Street to look at books. I browsed the shelves looking at, among others, social researcher Hugh Mackay's latest book on changes in Australian society. Here I was struck by the suggestion that Australian society is now beginning to apply the same exclusion suasion techniques previously used on smokers to children.

While I am not normally a great supporter of Hugh Mackay largely because I often do not agree with his value sets, this suggestion did resonate. I still smoke, so I know all about this side of the equation. But children?

Thinking about it, I have seen a sharp decline in tolerance towards children and young people.

There are now gated communities where children are not allowed. People are less tolerant about the presence of children in public places, far less likely to smile indulgently, far more likely to complain about noise and disruption. Children are classified as a good thing, but only if they are both unseen and unheard.

With my interest caught, I will buy the book.

From Dymocks to Fatima's for lunch with some of Denise's family. Founded 38 years ago by a Lebanese family fleeing civil war, Fatima's is one of Sydney's best known Lebanese eating places. The place sometimes gets mixed reviews, but we have been eating here for a very long time and have always found the food good and reasonably priced. And it's certainly children friendly.

My family still laugh at me sometimes because of the way I get chatting to people. I just like finding out things. It's fun. Anyway, in this case I got chatting to the grandson and found out all sorts of things about the family's flight from Lebanon. Fragmentary stuff in a short conversation, but it all adds texture.

Then home for a short nap. In all, a very good day.


Lexcen said...

Excluding smokers, now children. What next, animals? the disabled?

Anonymous said...

Interesting questions, Lexcen.Animals are certainly a possibility target, aleady being banned from many areas.