Anyone for a Game of Table-tennis?

28th February, Sydney CBD, Australia

Manda writes:

Ian and I visited the Chinese Gardens in Darling Harbour today. We have been here before when we came to watch the Olympic Games four years ago. It's nice to know that the gardens are still being maintained and are looking as lovely and tranquil as ever.

Inside this beautiful enclosure, it's difficult to imagine that the gardens are in the heart of the city, surrounded by skyscrapers. The local Chinese community had proposed it to mark Australia's bicentennial, New South Wales government approved it and it was built in collaboration with Guangzhou province in China. Looking around, the Chinese influence is apparent with attention paid to incorporate the numerous pavilions, lotus ponds, coy carp, bamboo, rockery etc.

When you visit the Chinese Garden, you can really fit in with the surroundings by dressing up in traditional imperial costumes and acting the fool (as you do) - and that's precisely what we did. With that in mind, here is a comic strip of the Mysterious Ching Dynasty lantern maid (aka Mischievous Mand) and Dragon claw, monkey foot Emperor (aka Severe Ian).

Mischievous Mand
Mischievous Mand: 'Fancy a game of table tennis?'

Table tennis queen
Mischievous Mand: 'Hey, I'm pretty good at this game!'
Severe Ian
Severe Ian: 'No table tennis games allowed here'
Innocent Mand
Mischievous Mand: 'I wasn't playing - honest!'

Stern Ian
Severe Ian: 'Just don't let me catch ya'
Flying Mand
As the killjoy turns his back, Mischievous Mand flies away!

After the visit to the gardens, we went to watch a film at the IMAX theatre. We watched 'Cirque du Soleil' the last time we were here and that was truly excellent. This time we opted for 'Titanic 3D - The Ghosts of the Abyss'. Along with James Cameron (director of the film 'Titanic') in his pod, the audience was transported two and a half miles down to the bottom of the North Atlantic Ocean to where the Titanic lies.

Two ROVs (Remote controlled vehicles), which are basically two mini cube-shaped robots, filmed the interior of the vessel. Together the ROVs, Jake and Elwood, brought images of the interior which could not be otherwise reached. We got to see, in amongst the tapestry of detail, the grand staircase, steering column, anchor, brass beds, wrought-iron gates, a 4-storey-tall engine and the place where a passenger heard White Star Line owner Bruce Ismay discuss with Captain Smith about arriving to New York ahead of schedule etc.

With one of the ROVs shining a light through a stained glass window and the other on the other side filming, James Cameron said something along the lines of 'it's amazing to think this is the first time in 90 years that human eyes had seen light streaming in through these windows'.

One thing that was surprising was a glass in a unit of one of the 1st class bedrooms. It was still standing upright and looked undamaged. Most of the crockery had smashed on the way down but this particular glass remained rooted to the spot next to a decanter.

James said that from the point the boat had hit the iceberg to when the Titanic actually sank, people had a couple of hours to decide how they wanted to go: - fighting to the end, stoicly, pure acceptence (no resistence), helping others etc. It made me wonder how I'd react in similar circumstances. I couldn't come to a conclusion but just thinking about it further reinforced how terrifying the situation must have been for the hundreds on board that night.

Towards the end of this 3D film, there was a little rescue mission of its own. Elwood, one of the robots, lost battery power and got stranded in the middle of the ship. The crew had to devise a rescue plan which came down to Jake stabbing Elwood with a fork attached to a rescue line, then turning around and charging for the exit. Both ROVs eventually emerged free. It was strange, but the crew were treating them like other crew members and didn't want to leave them behind in such a remote location. And besides, it gave a great excuse for some more 3D computer graphics [showing their rescue mission] for the Imax audiences!