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Bondi takes to the heir, with no help from above

Prince Charles, Prince of Wales attends an event hosted by NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell for Emergency Services personnel during a visit to Bondi Icebergs on November 9, 2012 in Sydney, Australia. The Royal couple are in Australia on the second leg of a Diamond Jubilee Tour taking in Papua New Guinea, Australia and New Zealand. Click for more photos

Charles and Camilla in Sydney

The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall continue their Australian tour in Sydney today. Items on their itinerary include meeting Defence Force personnel and their families during a visit to Garden island, an event hosted by NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell for Emergency Services personnel during a visit to Bondi Icebergs, a NRL community program event at Bondi Beach and the Diamond Jubilee Reception hosted by the Governor of NSW Marie Bashir at the Opera House. Photos by Peter Rae, Janie Barrett and Marco Del Grande. Follow us on http://twitter.com/photosSMH Photo: Janie Barrett

SYDNEY Harbour appeared to be adorned with cut crystal, light dancing from its depths, as the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall sailed aboard the royal barge from Admiralty House to the navy's Garden Island, a military band in blinding white waiting in the sunshine.

Idyllic, really. But it was merely the morning. Sydney, it turned out, would be a city of all seasons for this royal visit.

By early afternoon, as the Prince arrived at Bondi Beach, the gods of the heavens turned mutinous.

Lightning flashed, thunder rolled and cracked, and the ocean itself disappeared behind a wall of torrential rain. Thousands who had lined the barricades above the sand scattered.

It looked, for long minutes, as if this leg of the vigorous royal tour was to be a spectacular disaster. A spot of wild weather, however, was not to be allowed to get in the way of the Heir Apparent. As if by sorcery, the storm fled, the crowds returned to the barricades and the Prince emerged from the Bondi Surf Bathers Lifesaving Club, perfectly dry, and sauntered over to shake a hundred outstretched hands and grin his lopsided smile, flashes popping on smart-phone cameras everywhere.

''Look at all these fantastic telephones you've got - amazing,'' he said, as if he had never seen such instruments before. And perhaps such modern wizardry is not personally familiar to Prince Charles, who has a battalion of servants to do everything.

Heading for the beach, the Prince was button-holed by an old acquaintance. Charlie Christensen was president of North Bondi Surf Lifesaving Club in 1966 when the Prince - then a student at Geelong Grammar School's Timbertop campus - visited Bondi. Mr Christensen, 92 now, came equipped with a photograph of that long-ago meeting to jog the royal memory.

The Prince came to Bondi this time to see a game of touch football - the National Rugby League variety - on the sand among young indigenous players.

Earlier, he had circulated, glass of Pimm's No. 1 in hand, among firefighters, police rescue members, emergency workers and volunteers, and all the others at the swanky Bondi Icebergs restaurant. It was all in the cause of the theme of his mother's diamond jubilee, ''Service to the Community''.

With the week-long royal visit to Australia winding to a close on Sunday, the pace in Sydney was furious.

After the reception for servicemen and women at the Royal Navy's Heritage Centre during the morning, the Prince and the Duchess split up to cover all their commitments. They will visit Canberra on Saturday before flying to New Zealand.

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