The Manly Ferry Cuts Its Way To Circular Quay
I woke at 4 this morning, and when I got around to turning on the telly the US ABC news was on, complete with a ticker announcing Alistair Cooke's death. The 717 hours of his 15-minute weekly BBC radio show Letter from America probably did more to make the United States fathomable and palatable to English-speaking nations around the world than any other piece of media. It always astonished me that he could keep seeing the States with a stranger's wry eyes for so long.
Peter Ustinov, another wry old wit, died this week too, his work for UNICEF rightly remembered as his greatest contribution in a life lived well. And in a totally unrelated bit of news, Washington DC's famous cherry trees are in bloom. I was actually going to be there this weekend to see them, but instead I'm in a city still full of summer, watching dawn arrive over Hyde Park and the blue and white buses roar by.
Many of those buses are powered by natural gas, but the more curious thing to me is that on the two occasions I've boarded one to go from where I'm staying to the hospice my friend is in, the drivers have expressed incredulity that I'm going to take the bus to go only three stops. Well, the first time I got on, I didn't know that my destination was only three stops away, and the second time it was too damned hot to walk up hill in the middle of the day. They don't seem to be being rude; just trying to save me money.
The stops are much farther apart here, and you actually pay money to the bus driver, which is not an option where I come from in the States. There, you have to put the right fare in the fare box, and the only time the driver speaks to you is to tell you off for bringing a coffee on board. Unless you say good morning and smile, acknowledging a fellow human being doing a job you depend on. But even then, you risk getting no reply and a surly look.
My only other bits of public transit travel so far have been a monorail ride around the city center to get the lay of the land, and an evening rush hour underground trip out to Bondi Junction. On the latter, a gentleman with a large bag was sitting opposite us yelling in a strange language at nobody in particular but looking very menacing. On the former, a giggle of eight-year-olds got on, accompanied by three mums as they went on a field trip. Their school uniforms proclaimed they were from the Holy Saviour School, and at first I thought they were Italian, but when their mums had some of their conversations in Arabic, I figured they were probably from Lebanon. Fifth generation Aussies by now, I should think.
Time to go - Manly ferry, here I come!