I was made aware of how easily we can be led astray by words, particularly if they are used by the media, when I recently made a trip to Sydney to see the spectacular Ben Hur. I’m not sure if I would have gone if that word hadn’t been used in the advertising for it! Actually I was glad I had seen it although I, like all the audience around me, were equally disappointed. Maybe it improved on the second night.

This production originated in Paris and I couldn’t help feeling that an Australian production might have really been spectacular. We seem to be a country where people are encouraged to ‘have a go’ which tends to favour invention and new and daring ideas. Maybe I have been here so long I am becoming biassed!

I think that there were something like 80000 people at the show but the way the railways handled that number of people all leaving the stadium together was much more spectacular, particularly as they are a service which is usually much maligned. Had anything gone wrong it could have been quite frightening but it was perfectly timed. I think that as an older person I have become much more aware of my personal safety.

We hear a lot about congestion in our cities with roads carrying more traffic than they were intended to do and more and more people being squashed into a small area. What struck me on this visit is that the congestion and feeling of being hemmed in isn’t just on the horizontal level. I went on a ferry trip to Fort Denison on the harbour. The whole time there seemed to be a constant stream of helicopters overhead. I felt even more claustrophobic with the space above me no longer being free and open. We really should take more seriously what we are doing to people when we squash them into our rapidly growing cities, even filling the air space above them. What psychological problems are we creating? I suspect that this all happens so relatively slowly that the residents don’t realise what is happening. It is only when a visitor revisits a city they once lived in that changes are seen for what they are.

Sydney is noted for its beautiful harbour but it relies for this on its peace and tranquility. Let’s not pollute the air space above it.

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