Textures are my guilty pleasure. Cockatoo Island, Sydney, NSW, Australia.

Over the years I have given quite a bit of thought about what I want to photograph. I take photographs for different reasons. Sometimes I shoot a subject only because I want to record it so I can use it to illustrate a point I want to make in text.  Other times, I like to shoot photographs because I want to capture a phenomenon, which could be anything from a rainbow to the interaction of people on the street, with each other. 

I have mixed feelings about phenomena.  Capturing some phenomena like sunsets, seems so pointless, as it is like shooting fish in a barrel. Just be there and push the button.  Do things have to be difficult to be worthy, I wonder? On the other hand, some phenomena, like capturing a decisive moment has much honour and is what I consider to be probably the most difficult and worthy form of photography. 

For me, textures are almost like sun sets. It’s almost like walking into an art gallery and photographing a Rothko. Just be there and push the button.

what does it all mean?

I went to an exhibition of landscape paintings earlier on this year, and I can remember being struck by the thought that a landscape without some clue of when it was made, decontextualizes the subject so much that it is almost rendered into a pointless decorative exercise. This was particularly brought home to me when I looked at a painting in the romantic style of the early 1800s of a sunset in the Yosemite Valley. Not only was the image kitsch, but because there was no sign, other than its style, of when it was painted, it could have been painted yesterday. I can remember thinking to myself, “what is the point?” 

“Why bother?”

The reason why I am so concerned about setting images within time is because photographs that capture a slice of life from a time passed, fascinate me.  I just love looking at photographs taken in the street years ago, with crowds of people.  I find myself thinking about how they are probably all either old or dead. I also wonder about what sort of lives they had plus the historical context that they’d lived in. I look at the faces of the children and wonder about the world they lived in and how it has all gone for ever.

Photographs of textures don’t really say much about anything other than the nature of the surface, that one has recorded.  Sure enough, textures can show marks made by people much the same way as a photograph of petroglyph can. 

I remember walking in the bush up in the blue Mountains, just outside of Sydney when I came across some aboriginal hand stencils in a protected rock overhang. I had no idea when these stencils were made and they looked so fresh that I thought they might have been the work of a modern-day vandal. Perhaps they were made recently, or perhaps they were made hundreds, if not thousands of years ago by an aboriginal with a mouthful of red ochre that he spat over his hand that he had placed against the wall. In short, I couldn’t place them in time.

what does it mean?

Every time I see evidence of a human made mark on rock, I begin wondering why it is there.  What was its purpose? What were they trying to say or achieve by making such marks?

When I was on Cockatoo Island recently I saw many painted marks made on sandstone that had been chipped away by convicts 150 years ago.  I suspect that these enigmatic marks had some sort of purpose that helped the shipbuilders but their meaning has now been lost.  I wonder if some future archaeologist will spend some time trying to figure out what they all meant and what was their purpose.

Although I don’t really respect images of textures or sunsets for that matter, and I have tried to swear off taking pictures of such things, I don’t seem to be able to help myself. To me textures and colourful things are like chocolate chip cookies in a cupboard. I know that for my own good, I shouldn’t take them, but they know my name and they call to me.

why was the yellow painted near the ring?

And I am weak.

Deck class (part 2). Gulf of Siam 1974

This is part two of a two part story.
Click here to read part one.

After hellish day and night in Hat Yai all three of us (a Belgian guy I met called Beet, my girlfriend at the time and I) resolved to get out of town as quick as  possible first thing in the morning and go to the nearby coastal town of Songkla. I had heard that you could get passage on tramp steamers up to Bangkok.  Since I’d never done a sea voyage before, I thought it would be a great chance to try something new. The other two I was with, thought it was a good idea as well.

When we got to the Songkla port area we made a few enquiries to find that there was a steamer leaving to take timber to Bangkok that afternoon, and that although they didn’t have any cabins for passengers, for a small fee they offered to take us “deck class”.

Deck class literally means that one sleeps outside on the deck. Since it was so hot in the tropics, we didn’t mind the idea sleeping outside at all and being out at sea, we knew that there wouldn’t be any mosquitoes to bother as.  So the prospect of sleeping alfresco seemed quite attractive.

The ship we travelled on from the bow

When we boarded the boat, we were taken to the deck at the stern. We were told not to go anywhere inside of the boat and to keep out of the way of the sailors as they went about their work. 

Luckily, the aft deck had a small awning that gave us some protection from the sun, and there was also a rickety old table with a couple of chairs, that we could sit at. Most of the deck had a guardrail, except for one section where the top railing had been bent and broken from one of the posts, to shiver in space, rhythmically to the throb of the boat’s engines.

The boat or should I say ship, didn’t have much freeboard and its gunwales were disturbingly, only about 1.2m (about 4 feet)  higher than the water, but luckily, the aft deck was about five meters (approximately 15 feet) above the water.

It was quite a nice afternoon, as we sailed out of Songkla. There was a pleasant breeze that kept us moderately cool as the sun went down.  The price of our passage included food, and since we hadn’t paid too much, we weren’t very optimistic about the quality of the cuisine, we were going to receive.  Our pessimism was well founded when we each received a (thankfully) small portion watery rice gruel with a wilted boiled piece of lettuce and fish heads for dinner.

Ya pays ya money and ya take ya chances!

Although the surface was hard, sleeping on the deck was surprisingly comfortable. Unlike the land, we were not enclosed, and there was a comfortable breeze that blew over us as we slept. It was nothing like the usual sweaty, ordeal by mosquito that we usually endured on land.

For a breakfast we were brought….. you guessed it, more watery rice gruel!  But with a difference. This time it didn’t have any fish heads. I guess they’d seen that we hadn’t eaten much of what they had offered us the night before. They probably thought we didn’t deserve the best bits.

Now when one travels deck class, there aren’t a plethora of activities one can indulge in, other than just look over the side and watch the fishing boats go by. One thing that did surprise me was the amount of sea snakes (Stoke’s sea snake Astrotia stokesii ) and we saw. I’m not exaggerating and I am certain we saw hundreds of them. I’ve read that although sea snakes are very poisonous they don’t usually bite people unless they are touched. I have met people who have said that sea snakes are very curious and will swim right up to you for a better look, but they won’t bite. All very comforting to know now, but at the time I can remember looking at all the snakes and thinking to myself that I hoped I wouldn’t
have to go into the water for any reason.

By about lunchtime we arrived at Koh Samui. Back in 1974, unlike nowadays, there wasn’t very much at Koh Samui. We had heard that it was a nice place to stay but to tell you the truth we were both so over the whole tropical beach with coconut trees and grass huts thing. Lazing on a tropical beach might be great if you only get one or two weeks holiday a year and you have a stressful job.  But I’d already been in South-east Asia for about three or four months and to tell you the truth, one tropical beach is pretty much the same as another.

After some cargo had been un-loaded and some more timber loaded we headed north, up to Bangkok.

As the day wore on, the clouds rolled in and it became very overcast.  By nightfall is was starting to rain and the sea was beginning to get rough. Our little awning kept the light rain off us as we had more watery rice gruel for dinner. Later in the evening out little bit of rain turned into a full blown thunderstorm.  The wind had picked up and the rain was being blown horizontally under the awning and we were saturated. We thought for our safety that it would be prudent to move inside to one of the passageways but the crew blocked our way, pushing us back outside and locking us out. So we had to stay on the deck as a storm raged. By now, it was starting to get ridiculous, the occasional wave would break against the side of the boat, and we would get hit with its crest.

To give us a bit of protection, we turned the table on its side and put the legs against the wall where the door was and the three of us huddled behind it. We were still getting wet, but at least the full force of the waves weren’t hitting us directly.

One of the fears I had before I had boarded the boat was that I might get sea sick.  People had told me horror stories about how they had been so sea sick, they didn’t care if they lived or died at the time. I wasn’t looking forward to that sensation.  Strangely enough, even during such a rough weather I didn’t feel seasick at all.  I guess I was distracted by the fact that I had to try and stay on the deck and not get washed overboard.  Although I wasn’t getting seasick the same couldn’t be said for my girlfriend (Mala).

We were all huddled behind the table, sopping wet and frightened when Mala started to vomit. She suddenly got up without warning, and ran to the guardrail and leant over the edge and puked her guts up. She was in such distressed state that she was totally oblivious to how dangerous her situation was. It took me a couple of seconds to register what was going on, and to my horror I can see that Mala was leaning over the broken guardrail and it was bending under her weight and leaning out over the water a short way with her attached to it. I quickly ran out and to pull her back. The sky and sea had merged into one dark heaving entity but the large incoming waves could be seen due to the onboard lights.  The scene struck me with fear as I knew that anybody who fell over board would be lost for sure and there would be no way of saving them. Mala didn’t even realise the railing was broken, and she struggled against me, because she wanted to stay there and continue being sick. Luckily I was much bigger than her and I was able to wrestle her back to behind the table.

So there we spent the rest of the evening, all wet, curled up behind the table, while poor old Mala dry retched for the rest of the evening and I constantly replayed in my head what I had seen when I had gone to pull her back.

I kept thinking over and over again, about what would have happened if Mala had been washed overboard. What would I have done? Jumping in to save her would have only meant that two lives would have been lost. The visibility was so bad that there was no way that even if I could convince the captain a turnaround to look for her that we would have ever found her again. There were no life jackets or preservers. Maybe I could have thrown in the table, if she hadn’t been swept too far away by the time I could get it. I sat for hours wondering what I would have done. It made me almost sick with worry and fear at how close I had come to losing a friend.

Some time just before dawn, the storm broke, and we were able to get a modicum of sleep and some badly needed rest.  It had been a very stressful night and oddly enough Mala wasn’t enjoying herself any more. Trouble was, we were out sight of land and in the middle of nowhere. It wasn’t like we could just step off and walk away. We had to just sit tight and wait until we got to Bangkok.

Fortunately, the next evening wasn’t as bad as the night before. We did get some rain but it was child’s play in comparison to what we’d already experienced. Mala was sea sick again.  Maybe that was the function of the watery rice gruel. It gave the body something to chuck up instead of just trying to turn itself inside out, dry retching all night.

On the morning of our fourth day, we arrived at the estuary of the Chao Phraya river that the water craft follow up into Bangkok.

We finally arrived at Bangkok in the early afternoon but since the ship we were on couldn’t get a berth straight away it anchored in the middle of the river, so we caught one of the amazing long boats that ones sees in Bangkok (click here to see a similar, smaller type of boat at the floating markets). The boats are basically very long canoes with small car engines mounted on the stern like an outboard motor with very long propeller shafts down to the water.

Funnily enough, I haven’t felt the urge to ever go on an ocean voyage again.

Been there, done that, didn’t like it!

Biennale of Sydney and camping on Cockatoo Island. Sydney, NSW, Australia

This weekend, my wife and I visited the Biennale of Sydney exhibits on Cockatoo Island. The Biennale is so large with about 180 artists participating, that its venues are all over town.

Cockatoo Island is an old shipyard that started off as a prison during the convict days of early European settlement in Australia. 

Cranes along Fitzroy dock

It’s a fascinating place that is a mixture of convict made sandstone buildings and heavy industry which used to be out of bounds to the public up until very recently. The fact that the shipyard was on an island meant that it became no longer economically viable due to the high cost of bringing in materials. The shipyard was closed down over a decade ago and has been allowed to fall into disrepair. 

The neglect of the buildings on the island has led to the creation of what can only be described as a bonanza of textures.

 Peeling paint, rusted iron, decaying cement and manually chipped sandstone relics of brutal utilitarianism.

Luckily Cockatoo Island has been recognized as being culturally important, and there has been an effort to preserve and restore many of the machines and buildings. Interestingly, one of the really amazing things about Cockatoo Island (which is in Sydney Harbour) is that you can camp there. At $45 a night, it is not cheap, but the facilities are amazing, with hot showers, clean coin operated stainless steel barbecue areas, a communal refrigerator, even a microwave oven. The icing on the cake is that it all comes complete with views of Sydney Harbour that people pay millions of dollars to own houses near.

Prime real estate open to the masses to enjoy rather than being sold off to the rich so they can wall it off and exclude the hoi polloi.

Our friend Peter had invited us to come and camp on the island with him and his friends, several months ago and we had said yes.  By the time Friday came around, and it was time for us to go, I was having second thoughts because it is the middle of winter here and it had been raining. As luck would have it, the weather was unseasonably warm, and we had the most perfect conditions. Two beautifully clear and warm days divided by a perfectly still and calm evening.

Because it is winter, there was hardly anyone else in the campground and we more or less had it to ourselves. At dusk, a campground employee came around and lit a large fire in a brazier, for all of us to sit around. It was all so civilised and comfortable. The really incredible thing about staying overnight was that we were able to roam around the deserted island at night and go just about go anywhere we liked to take photographs.

Water tower with tree shadows

Another advantage of camping on the island was that we could take our time to look at the exhibits.  Most of the exhibits were video installations, and while I’m not really a fan of such things, there were several pieces that were quite powerful.

I think that the piece that both my wife and I enjoyed the most was a projected video installation on two large screens by the American artist Mark Boulos which deals with the plight of the disenfranchised Nigerians living in the Niger River delta area that is currently being plundered by international oil companies.

On one screen we see young Nigerian men with machetes and guns, wearing balaclavas declaring how they are prepared to fight the Nigerian government, which they see as robbing them of resources and giving them nothing but poverty and oppression in return. On the other screen is video of traders in the Chicago commodities market yelling and screaming to make deals as they frantically make their arcane hand signals to other traders across the room. As the videos progress, the Nigerians become more vehement in their declarations of animosity towards a government that they feel has betrayed them and white people, who they see as robbing them. Meanwhile on the trading floor, tempers start to flare and the hub-bub from the trading increases in intensity until it becomes an almost deafening crescendo.

Boulos has made a very powerful statement about what a large disconnect there is between the exploited and the exploiters.

Another interesting video installation was by Chen Xiaoyun from China, which had an enraged man in the middle of a large muddy field with a whip at night. The man cracked his whip as several trucks circled him. The man seemed full of all of this pointless to rage and the trucks were going around under his direction in the mud not really achieving anything other than making a total mess of the place. To my mind, it seemed to be a metaphor about the Chinese leadership. A lot of misdirected rage and the pointless exercise of power that was not achieving anything of worth. It was almost funny, whilst being ultimately very tragic.

Probably the most confronting work that we saw was that of Mike Parr and his work “MIRROR/ARSE”.  One of the videos was of Parr, sticking his little finger into a candle to see how long he could hold there, while it was being burnt. It was absolutely horrific to watch his finger as it turned black and shook violently as he screamed. Parr also videotaped himself as he had his lips sewn together in solidarity with the illegal immigrants and refugees held in detention here in Australia. It was excruciating to watch.

I felt very conflicted as I watched such painful things. 

On one hand, I can understand Parr wants us to think about the nature of brutality being committed all around the world.  On the other hand, I wonder about the nature of people’s desire to see such things. I found myself thinking of Fellini’s Satyricon and the scene where an actor, cuts off one of his fingers for the entertainment of a bored audience, who toss him a couple of small coins for his pains. I was also reminded about when I saw a Chinese acrobatic troupe which came to Australia in the early 1970s.  It was quite interesting that in the program for the show, the Chinese government had made a point of stating that they weren’t going to risk any of their performance lives in any death-defying feats without some form of safety harness or net, because they thought that the desire to risk people’s lives for entertainment was a bourgeois concept.

As we headed back home by ferry the good weather came to an end and the rain came. During a lull in the storm a rainbow formed over the city.

A rainbow over Sydney looking from Balmain

Ooops! Can we do that again? Isla Mujeres, Mexico. 1983

There have been quite a few times in my life where I have wished that I could replay the previous 5 or 10 seconds. It has happened a few times when I bumped into things with my car.  That horrible feeling of “oh no what have I done?” You get out of the car and have a look at the damage and you think to yourself, gee, I wish I could have that few seconds over again.

When I smashed my car in the desert, I kept wishing that I could somehow miraculously have the recent past back again. It seemed like such a small thing to ask for, I was actually surprised that I didn’t get my wish.

But… but… if only?

As the wise old Omar Khayyam once said:

The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all your Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it

Or as my old grandmother used to say:

“If, ifs and ands were pots and pans, there’d be no need for tinkers.”

Back in 1983 I was in Isla Mujeres, Mexico, walking along the shoreline at night when I saw this truck backing up on a pier to unload its cargo onto a boat. A couple of guys were behind the truck guiding it as it backed down the pier, when it suddenly broke through the timber decking.

Can we do that again?

It’s a pretty sure bet that the truck driver wished he could have had those few seconds over again.

Women hauling water. Morocco. 1982

I had to change the washers in my shower taps today and it got me thinking about how we take household running water for granted.

Back in 1982 I stayed in Morocco for about three or four months and one of the things that I really hated doing was getting water from wells. Many of the places I stayed didn’t have running water. Because Morocco is quite a dry place most of the wells are very deep, and it takes quite a bit of effort to haul up a bucket (about 4 L or a gallon) of water  50 m (about 150 feet). I never saw a well in Morocco with a windlass and the water in a bucket on the end of a slimy rope had to be pulled up by hand.

The people in Morocco wipe their backsides with their left hand (no paper) and one has to use both hands to pull up a rope. You can’t drink un-boiled water from the wells for the reason that they are all contaminated with E.coli.

In the town of Tarrazout where I stayed for about a month and a half it was always such a drag to go and get water, because there was only one well, and there would always be plenty of other people in front of you. It was usually women that had to haul the water and to me, it seemed to be quite a social event for them. Everybody would take their time just yakking away with each other, and quite often it would take me about an hour or two just to fetch one jerry can (25 L) of water.

What made matters worse in Tarrazout was that the village idiot used to turn up with a donkey, loaded with very big barrels and spent about an hour or two filling them up. Every time he turned up at the well all the women’s eyes used to roll.  They couldn’t stand him and you could tell it wasn’t because he was retarded.  It was because they had waited so long on so many occasions in the past, while he filled up his barrels.

Moroccan women getting water from a well out in the middle of nowhere

I took the picture above when I was travelling between Tarrazout and Goulimine. The women were pulling up water from a well out in the middle of nowhere.  I couldn’t see any buildings nearby, they must have walked for miles and a very hot wind was blowing.

World Youth Day. Sydney, NSW, Australia

I’ve recently bought myself a new single lens reflex camera, and I’ve been itching to try it out.  So I went down town to photograph the young Catholic pilgrims that have come to Sydney for World Youth Day.

Let me state right now that I’m not a religious person, and that I’m not anti-religious either.  I wanted to photograph the pilgrims, because I knew that they would be colourful subject matter due to the fact that many of them had wrapped themselves in their country’s flags, and it would be interesting to document the phenomenon.

Spanish pilgrim

I have to admit that my preconceived ideas, led me to believe that I could go and look at the pilgrims dispassionately as though they were just some picturesque folk who follow some anachronistic dogma rather than decent people with deeply held beliefs.

African pilgrims

On the television news, I had seen a few reports showing the pilgrims playing music and it all looked a bit lame. So when I went down to Hyde Park near St Mary’s Cathedral in downtown Sydney it came as quite a surprise to me, how much I enjoyed the music and watching the people dance to it. 

As I was watching a Spanish group of pilgrims playing the guitar and singing while about 50 people danced in a circle around them, a young neatly dressed Spanish woman came up to me and told me in broken English, that she was part of that group and that she wanted me to know that Jesus loved me the way how I was. I have a standard reply that I tell such people so that I don’t get involved in some long and tedious discussion about the Bible.  I always say, ” thank you, I know”. That always puts a smile on their faces, and they leave me alone because they think I’m one of them. All the same, it did it gave me a warm feeling that someone wanted to share some joy.

Strangely enough, later on, I found myself thinking about why she had said what she had, to me, and the thought occurred to me that maybe because I was unshaven and sporting the generally unkempt look that I cultivate, she might have thought I was some kind of bum, full of despair and she wanted to up-lift my spirits. 

This thought occurred to me because I know that in Europe most people take pride and care in the way how they look and they tend to dress a lot more fashionably and neatly than many people here in Australia. To compound matters, I tend to dress even more casually than most other Australians.  I can imagine that many of these straitlaced young Catholics from Europe must think we’re so poor here, because so many of us just don’t bother spending that much money or time and effort on our grooming.  Sydney is a generally a very relaxed and casual place, and many people have transcended the need to dress up all the time.

In my travels to various parts of the world I have seen series of painted statues on display in cities.  In Denver, USA, a couple of years ago there were differently painted fibreglass cows, all over town as part of a series called “cow parade”. In Vancouver, Canada there are painted orca all over the place. The cows in Denver, were quite interesting, but the orca in Vancouver were lame, lame, lame!

Here in Sydney for World Youth Day, much in the tradition of the cow parade, there are Jesus Christ statues all over town that have been painted in various ways.  I found that most of the painted Jesus Christ statues weren’t very well done, but I did find one that I thought was fantastic. 

Reflection

 Covered in mirrors, this statue was called “Reflection”.

I suppose it is trying to communicate that we should reflect upon the life of Jesus Christ and the Scriptures.  As I looked at this mirrored statue, I found myself thinking about how we as human beings tend to project our own concerns on the world. Although the Bible says God created man in his own image, I have a sneaking suspicion that man created God in his own image, and the mirrored statue seemed to be a metaphor of how our religions reflect who we are and how we see our place in the world.

Not very far from the reflection statue was a group of Filipinos who are being led in song by a Spanish priest, who played the guitar.

Philippino pilgrim singing

The priest had a beautiful voice, and the Filipinos sang along with him with a result that wasn’t as polished but not too different to the video below.

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If the city of Sydney is to be inundated with large crowds of people from overseas, you really couldn’t pick a better bunch than young Catholics. So very different to the hooligan English soccer fans that plague continental Europe every year.

IMAX Cinema in Darling Harbour, Sydney, NSW, Australia.

The IMAX Cinema in Darling Harbour is one of my favourite buildings I’ve ever seen anywhere. 

I love this building

Designed by Australian architect Lionel Glendinning, it’s an architecturally striking and perfect solution for a nightmare design brief. 

Even though it's between two overpasses it still looks great

Situated between two overhead freeways (the red area on the satellite photo below) on an oddly shaped block of land usually wouldn’t help most architects come up with such an amazing design.

The red area shows the location of the building

Glendinning has created a building that not only serves its purpose as a large screen cinema he has also designed a landmark that just yodels with the rapturous joy in amongst all the other bland buildings downtown.

Yodeling in the valley of the bland

It’s a masterpiece of aluminium cladding and a brave colour scheme. The building seems to be a combination of an aeroplane’s wing and a commentator’s stand at a motor-sports event. It looks fantastic as you drive by it on the overpass, and it almost makes you feel like you are on a race track on your way to the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

[youtube DN8WzCP5YDg] 

Every time I see this building it puts a smile on my face to think that such courageous and inventive design can occur on such an ugly and difficult site.

Mosaics and tilework in Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam.

When my wife and I were in South East Asia last year I took these photos of some of the various mosaics and tilework that I came across.

This first example is of a Persian style, moraq tile mosaic from the front of the excellent Islamic Arts Museum in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia.

Persian style moraq tile mosaic

Just about everywhere you look in Thailand there is a temple adorned with mosaics and tilework made up from porcelain, mirrors and tiles. The most stunning examples can be seen in The Temple of the Emerald Buddha in Bangkok.

Temple entrance

Below is a close up of the patterns on the corners of the columns created with mirrors.

Detail of mirror tilework

Below is an example of the Thai use of purpose made ceramic tiles.

Ceramic tilewrok

In Vietnam much of the mosaic and tilework was made with broken porcelain and glass.

A qilin made mostly out of broken glass and porcelain

A modest use of broken porcelain

 

Claude & Jade’s Chinese wedding. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. 2007

Back in October last year, my wife and I went to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia to attend the Chinese wedding of our friends Claude and Jade.

As part of the Chinese pre-wedding ceremony tradition, Claude had to bargain his way into Jade’s family home. This involved arriving at Jade’s house with his groomsmen to haggle with her bridesmaids for entry through the front gate. The bargaining began with Claude, saying that he wanted to marry Jade, to which the bridesmaids began their demands.

Claude is a very quiet and thoughtful person who doesn’t have an extroverted bone in his body. The bridesmaids knew this about him and required that Claude declare his love for Jade at the top of his voice in five different languages. Claude was fairly easily able to comply with the language component of their demand but the bridesmaids like sharks sensing blood in the water kept calling on him to declare his love louder and louder. Whoever said that Asians are inscrutable and quiet doesn’t know Asians.  Jade’s Chinese bridesmaids were howling with laughter, with each attempt by Claude to satisfy their wishes and they raucously cajoled him into greater heights of embarrassment. The bridesmaids were merciless.

Finally, the bridesmaids relented and let Claude and his grooms through the front gate only to stop him at the front door. Jade was behind the closed front door and the bridesmaids told Claude that he would have to answers questions asked by Jade, and that if he didn’t get them correct, his best man had to apply make-up to him. Needless to say Jade asked so many questions that Claude was eventually covered in very badly applied makeup, accompanied by the very delighted shrieks of the bridesmaids.

Claude gets made up

The girls were loving it! Claude looked like he was going through a trial by ordeal.  It was very hot and humid and Claude was being dragged way out of his comfort zone.

The next step in Claude’s trials was to cross the living room to the bottom of the stairs, where he was once again stopped by the bridesmaids with their new demands.  I could see that Claude was starting to flag, and his spirits really dropped when he was told that he would have to sing a love song in French at the top of his voice to get up the stairs.

Claude gets gets told he has to sing

Luckily, Claude is a Francophone (which the bridesmaids knew) so he knew the words of a French song. The bridesmaids really enjoyed themselves as poor old Claude embarrassed himself once again at their pleasure.

After the song Claude and his entourage were allowed to the top of the stairs to the door and outside of Jade’s bedroom. The next demand by the bridesmaids was for money.  Basically they didn’t stop until they had everything in his wallet and only then did they let him through to see Jade.

The actual Chinese wedding ceremony was a surprisingly simple and brief affair.  The father and mother of the house, lit joss sticks and made offerings to their ancestors after which Jade and Claude did the same thing.

Offerings were made

Tea was then made and Jade and Claude offered it to each other and then to Jade’s grandmother.  After tea, Jade’s grandmother then presented Jade with some gold, and that was it, they were now married.

Jade and Claude

The wedding reception was another thing altogether. It was held in a very grand hotel, and there were about 300 guests.

In February this year Claude and Jade had a lovely western civil wedding here in Sydney