Monday, January 02, 2006


New Year's Eve had the bright idea of walking the kids down to Ashfield Park where, from Ormond Street running parallel on the eastern border, there is an improbable view of Sydney Harbour Bridge, around which the annual fireworks display is concentrated. Having discovered they were not interested in Elvis (there was a re-run of the excellent program Classic Albums on TV), at about 8.40 we gathered up our sparklers and went out. It was a balmy night, heavy with the scent of frangi pani. We crossed Liverpool Road and went up Pembroke Street to the park, to find an amazing scene in progress. Ormond Street was packed with people who'd had the same idea as we did ... and the playground in the park adjoining, the one presided over by Mary Poppins, was packed with children, lithe dark shapes swarming in and over and around the equipment. The crowd was about half Indian and half Chinese, with just a sprinkling of Anglos and one or two Polynesian families. I was surprised by the number of Indians, only because in Ashfield itself I'm less aware of their presence than I am of the Chinese and Polynesians. Anyway, it was a very nice atmos, about as far from the usual boozing, boasting and brawling as can be imagined. The fireworks display itself, at that distance, was as if seen through the wrong end of a telescope: perfect, far away, miniatures. The much vaunted heart on the bridge we could not see at all, or perhaps that went off at midnight, whereas this was the nine o'clock kid's show. After it was over, we lit up our sparklers, giving one to a small Chinese girl of about two who had perhaps, from the way her eyes shone, not seen one before. Then my boys dispersed among the great crowd of other children. Jesse soon linked up with a Polynesian kid called Dillon, then they were joined by a chubby Chinese boy and started roaming round in a gang; while Liamh tagged along when he could, with frequent visits back to home base for reassurance. I was sitting up on a bank on some grass under a tree when a young Indian couple with two kids came and sat down nearby. I'd been watching the father helping his son onto the flying fox, just as I'd been helping mine a few minutes before. He made a greeting, I replied, saying I hoped 2006 would be a good year for him. He laughed. I've been hoping that for ten years now, he said. For me, it's longer than that, I said. That is what we live on, he went on, hopes, and laughed again. His wife, who was plump as he was thin, gathered her sari around her. Their children were small and it was time for them to go. We hung around for another hour or so I guess, before ambling home again. It was such a calm, happy, even joyful, occcasion. Pure joy, like you don't often find.