Tag Archives: Sydney

Behind Sydney

For many years now, I’ve wanted to live somewhere that would allow me to come home to a balcony with a westerly view. And so, now I come home, plop down on a chair on the balcony, and watch the sunset, whilst sipping a glass of wine. A portion of our balcony looks out over a moderately crowded street. The other side looks out onto a side-street featuring something that, at first glance, would seem rather unremarkable. Houses. Trees. Apartment blocks. But it’s far more appealing than the main road, which features, apart from some tree-lined side-walks, a park, and some buildings built well over 50 years ago, which now sit unloved, rotting away, featuring about as much aesthetic appeal as a turd.

So it is with the main streets of Sydney. We don’t know much about how to make our main thoroughfares [outside the CBD] of any interest. Parramatta Road? It’s a dour piece of work. Unimaginative, tacky store-fronts for miles on end. One stretch of road (near the Italian quarter) features, at last count, six different stores selling wedding dresses. A whole half-mile that takes the highway car-dealership approach, and simply stuffs them close together, like members of an unhappy family. Later spots along the road? Car repair stores. Dingy pubs. Fast food chains. Houses framed by rusting fences, overgrown weeds.

Sydney, lovely Sydney, is only lovely behind the scenes. The arteries of our city feature an almost relentless lack of beauty. I wonder sometimes if the people involved in the development of these major arties thought “Beauty? When yer goin’ fohty kay down the bloody street? Whatcha be goin’ on about?” (That may have been an Irish accent, it may have been Scottish…let’s just call it a pan-anglo accent).

And the good people of Sydney, being a fairly practical lot said: “Well this is a bit shite, innit? Let’s just make sure the rest of our city doesn’t look like this” and set out to build a lovely set of side-streets alongside 19th century churches, micro-parks, and even places to barbeque near cricket ovals.

It makes me think that perhaps I should give tourists a walking map of Sydney, and say “Now, when you get a bit outside the inner city, it gets a bit suss for a few suburbs, but if you hit the side-streets, well golly it gets pretty”. Because that’s where Sydney’s prettier locations are hidden. And it’s worth taking a visit.

Luckily, my balcony looks out onto just such a set of side-streets. And it’s a pretty marvellous sight at sunset.


Filed under Ruminations and Musings

Down to the Paris End of King

It’s impossible to not enjoy life in this city. You see, I sing in a choir (sometimes two), and last night we had a concert, which did not just go well, no, it went astonishingly well, and we packed the church out and turned an excellent profit. It was an exceptional success. And so of course we went out for an hour to a nearby pub to chat and celebrate, before dispersing. And just as we dispersed, the phone-call came in, from Amanda, inquiring in her [usual] excited tone:

“Hey where are you?”

“At the pub near the church, having a drink with choir-mates.”

“Oh cool, well come out after you’re done!”

And so we agreed to go to The Salsbury, which is a relentlessly quiet little pub in Stanmore. It’s next to a train station, it’s quiet, there’s plenty of space, and the drinks are cheap. Everyone wins.  Except, as I’m on my way home, my phone beeped. I checked the message:

“Hey were at the sando, sorry changed venue :)”

Took a look at my watch. 10:22 PM. And it was cold outside too. But what the hell. Got home a few minutes later, nibbled quickly on some curry, changed into a pair of jeans and jumper and some tennis sneakers, threw on my leather jacket, and headed out for the Sandringham Hotel (The Sando), where Dave and Ainsley and Amanda were all waiting for me. And each of them had a strange T-shaped image on their wrist.

“What’s that about?” I asked, after having sat down and taken a sip of the stout they’d purchased for me.

Amanda said: “It’s for the concert upstairs. They were asking $30, but after flirting with the bouncer a bit, he revealed that if we just drew a T on our arm we could get in for free.”

I craned my head to look over at the stairs leading up to the second floor venue. It was bouncer-free. And not only that, the band? Why, it was Paul Collins, rocking out with a very distinct late 60’s/early 70’s rock sound that was very much somewhere between classic Bowie and early Zeppelin. But Ains and Amanda and Dave were having none of it. What can you do? Some people just aren’t into classic rock.

In the midst of all this, an infuriated woman who looked kind of like Brown Sugar herself, Marsh Hunt (of Howling II infamy) stalking some unknown target, pushing out of the way and yelling at anyone who dared impede her path. Deciding that there were better places to be where we weren’t (a) in the way of a woman who looked like she was ready to pull an AK-47 out of her frazzled hair (of which there was a lot!) and wanting to be around people our own age, we slipped away to the Town Hall Hotel, affectionately referred to by locals at The Townie.

Now, the Townie has to be just the craziest pub in the history of existence. Or at least Australian existence. Some people can be trashed out of their skulls and still be let in, whilst others will be completely sober and barred from entering. It is that kind of place. I once went there to meet up with a friend for a drink after work, and four nuns came in as I went to the bar to buy as second round. None of them were women. It’s a zany, zany place, and I absolutely love it.

So tonight, after head-bobbing along to ‘Throw Your Arms Around Me’* with Ainsley and giggling as only people who’re completely comfortable in their own skin can, we both found ourselves distracted by the presence of Beetlejuice, who’d just walked in with his bride, for a midnight cap. And then a computer walked in. It occurs to me that there’s something particularly impressive and hand-shakeable about a man who’s willing to not just wear shorts and a box in the middle of the Australian autumn, when it’s 10 C outside, but who’s also willing to do so whilst Goldfingering himself up in silver boy paint. That my friends, requires a certain amount of chutzpah to do when it’s cold outside.

This was then again topped by two women who came in dressed in clothing that could best be described as suggesting that they’d decided to reinterpret The Great Gatsby as a burlesque show. And they to then proceeded to the smoking section which, again, is brave, as it was cold outside (dear smokers, you are a courageous lot).

I thought to myself that Sydney never ceases to amaze me. Never could I think to myself that I’d seen all that there was to see (and I’ve lived 30 very eye-opening years). Inevitably, something new and strange will come along and add more colour to my evening, much like the Trannie Trivia did on ANZAC Day (because who can so no to that?) and the Egyptian leather domination costume (with a fully attachable Anubis head!) did during the Mardi Gras. I sipped my beer, smiled, and enjoyed the parade of colour that passed through my field of vision, and thought: “I could have been at home sleeping right now, instead of witnessing all this”.

And that’s when the Nun walked in.

*The Hunters and Collectors. You don’t know who they are? Well, don’t you think you should be fixing that?

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Filed under Telling stories