Sunday, March 25, 2012

The coat hanger

Captain Hans De Groot of the New Guard
When you blog you're supposed to make your posts timely and topical, yet I'm only getting around to writing this now. Last Sunday marked the eightieth anniversary of the opening of the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge.

New South Wales Premier Jack Lang officiated at the opening ceremony, and was supposed to perform the ceremonial ribbon cutting. Things didn't quite go to plan when Captain Francis De Groot, a member of the New Guard, an Australian fascist movement, disrupted proceedings. Riding on horseback, he slashed the ribbon with his sword, and was promptly arrested by the police and taken away for psychiatric examination. The New Guard was one of several paramilitary groups that formed in Australia in response to the Great Depression and the rise of Bolshevism.

No visit to Sydney is complete without crossing or seeing the Harbour Bridge. In 2005 I visited Sydney for a conference, and afterwards stayed on for a couple of days of sightseeing. From my hotel near Hyde Park, I walked through the Botanic Gardens, then making my way past the Opera House and then to the Rocks. After exploring this historic precinct, which dates from the nineteenth century, I mustered a little more stamina to walk across the Harbour Bridge.

My walk finished in Milsons Point. This suburb is home to Kirribilli House, the official Sydney residence of the Australian Prime Minister. Visitors are not permitted, so I could only take pictures of the front gate, and not the house itself. Its backyard probably has the best views of the New Year's Eve fireworks, as former Australian Prime Minister John Howard discovered during his tenure in office (1996-2007).

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