THOUGHTS ON A SILVER JUBILEE
14 July 2018
Today is my private little anniversary: my silver PhD jubilee. I must admit: that makes me feel very old all of a sudden! 25 years ago I travelled back to Konstanz University on the afternoon before the day of my viva voce, stayed in a hotel close to the ferry wharf where the Konstanz ferries depart for the scenic journey across the Bodensee to Meersburg, and set my alarm, as my exam was quite early in the morning. After breakfast I felt it was a good idea to calm my nerves with a German sekt from the hotel mini bar, before taking the lovely walk along the lake shore to university. Of my actual exam I remember little, apart from the intellectual banter I had with my Latin professor, my mentor Manfred Fuhrmann, with whom I had a great bond and enriching correspondence over many years, as well as various mutual visits either at his house at Lake Constance or in my home town Heidelberg, where he was a member of the Academy of Sciences. I have missed his letters and his company ever since his death in 2005. Correspondences like ours (real letters, not emails) are fast becoming a dying art.
To celebrate the occasion, I set my alarm early today as well, walked down to my local wharf (ferries seem to be a theme in my life!), crossed over to Circular Quay, saw my favourite ferry “Friendship” docked there and mused about friendships past and present, especially those friends I miss so much. It was freezing (6 degrees I think – not an everyday occurrence in Sydney, not even in winter!), but I took another open deck ferry ride to Watsons Bay for a little wander to Camp Cove and Hornby Lighthouse, very still and peaceful. After such a beautiful and relaxing start to the day, I made my way back to Circular Quay, soaked in the French atmosphere at the Bastille market and treated myself to French saucisson and a bottle of French champagne to have a toast with myself later in the evening. Bastille Day is probably the only reason why I always remember my PhD anniversary!
As always, I marvelled at the beauty of Sydney, but I have noticed that Sydneysiders seem to moan a lot. These are some paraphrases from recent social media comments: that Sydney has become “unliveable”, that it is a “dump”, that the quality of living has “deteriorated significantly”, that Sydney is “overrun by foreigners” (apologies, Sydney!), that the B-Line buses are a failure, or that queuing for transport is terrible. I suppose everybody is entitled to their opinions. To me, Sydney is an immensely mesmerising city, and having tried for some time now to find a way to stay and make a meaningful contribution in this wonderful part of the world, I have little tolerance for those who moan without justification. When I hear the screeching of the cockatoos or spot a little kookaburra in the trees, when my local parrots rest on my balcony, when I see the sun rise at Balmoral or behind the Opera House, or when I watch it set from Kirribilli or Dover Heights, when the sea begins to swell as the Manly ferry traverses the Sydney heads, when there is a silver moon over Balmoral, when the ferrymen throw their ropes to secure the boats or the “Friendship” approaches Old Cremorne to pick me up (I am often the only passenger!), the world seems a beautiful place. If only it were a world without prejudice, without narrow territorial thinking and without vexing visa requirements!