Hello Again, Sydney

One Sydney-sider's experiences moving back to Sydney after a long absence overseas.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

"That's a deck"

This was one of the schoolkids who got on the 397 the other afternoon, as we headed down Anzac Parade towards Maroubra. They'd just watched an afterschool punch up and were buzzing.

One of the boys who'd been in the fight was on the bus. He was one of those early developers, about twice the size of all the other kids with him. It's an unfortunate situation to be in I reckon, since they're usually the ones who get most heavily into the school fight scene. They didn't mention what the fight was about, but it did seem like it was the shrimp friends who really wanted it to happen. They were already trying to organise a rematch at Maroubra Junction. Making the most of new technology, one of them had taken photos of the fight on his phone. It may have even been a video. Look out for it on myspace I guess.

This morning we went with dad to the Sydney Library which is in Customs House. In the foyer there's a model of the CBD under transparent panels which the little guy loved. He started arguing with another kid over whose bridge it was. The decor is very groovy and they got me signed up and armed with my library card in about three minutes. They also had an exhibition on Harry Seidler, but my son wasn't so keen on that. He preferred the little lights on the side of the staircase, and he took care to touch all of them on the way down. Sometimes I feel that this is an essential life lesson that I should try much harder to learn: how to take pleasure in the simplest things.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Sydney Essentials

Did many people read this supplement with the Herald on Monday? The stated goal of this booklet is to provide information for decision-makers, community groups and citizens so that they can make the city a better place.

I will admit to getting a little over-excited about finding this supplement, as it fit in so nicely with my current mission statement of rediscovering Sydney, so I read it cover to cover. Mostly it's statistics about things like population, social indicators, transport, pollution.

Sydney's biggest problems? Water shortages, public transport between the new suburban hubs and promoting growth around these new centres. Nothing there that you didn't know about, I'm sure. I'm feel a schizophrenic mix of fascination and repulsion towards the hubs: Hornsby, Campbelltown, Blacktown etc. On one hand, this is where the biggest opporunities are. Parramatta City is getting the extreme makeover in the next ten years. But it's going to be such a long process to change the vibe of these places. Someone cites the example of the Tate Modern in London and how it transformed the South Bank. But I think about where I grew up in suburban Sydney, and I don't think even three Tate Moderns would do the job there.

The "No way!" "Way." interesting stat award goes to Foreign Born Population. According to this, 40% of people who live in the Eastern Core of Sydney were born overseas.

The lies, damn lies and statistics award goes to the World Theatre and Musical Performance Index, where Sydney scores a 10, the same as London, and that other epicentre of global culture, Washington DC.

They say they're trying to emulate New York's Long Island Index. So, good start, but I reckon we've still got a bit of a way to go.

Monday, July 24, 2006

It's Monday in Sydney

and I'm not working, not yet. I've been emailing my CV out but so far no calls and I'm wavering between being stressed out and relieved about it. Stressed out because I would like to get started soon. We arrived two weeks ago, and I'm scared about that arrival date receding into the past. "I've been here for two weeks sounds" a lot better to a potential employer than "I've been here for two months".

But of course I'm relieved to have this time, time to hang out with my kid and wander around Sydney. In fact, this has become something of a project for me: to get around Sydney and rediscover it. It's partly about finding out what has changed since the last time I was here, and partly about trying to get a grip on what Sydney is. When I lived overseas and people asked me about Australia it was always very difficult to explain what Sydney was like and I'm afraid I didn't paint a very positive portrait. Usually I talked about materialistic tendencies, how people weren't very friendly under the surface, and how they didn't dance much. But being back here I'm determined to put my good head on and update my views of my home city. So here goes...

Today we went for a stroll around Hyde Park park where my son is already developing his little rituals. First is to drink from the bubbler. Next is to pick up some twigs which he will later throw into the water. It started raining while we were in front of the Anzac memorial so I decided to go in and check it out. Despite living in Sydney most of my life, I'd never done this before. I mean, it's hardly "Top 20 things to do in Sydney" material, but it is one of those places that you'll walk past a thousand times without ever finding out what's inside. And it's definitely worth a look. On the walls upstairs are the names of places where Australians have served. It's a bizarre list when you look at it and consider all the far flung places that Australian forces have gone. We started checking out the museum but the little guy began shouting a lot at that point so I moved us on.

As it happens, my son and I often work at cross-purposes. While I'm trying to take him somewhere that I think would be really cool for a two-year-old, he's just as happy going up and down a set of escalators, or playing with sticks in the park. So it was a short outing today, stretching only as far as a Boost juice bar. This is one business that has exploded since the last time I was here. Where we lived before, juice was something we'd prepare at home every night. Most families did. But here it's a little trickier it seems and if you are going to do it, it'll usually be orange juice at breakfast, or maybe some fancier stuff if you've got a juicer. So I can definitely see the appeal of juice bars like these. They've really got it worked out inside too, walls papered with suggestions for what to order and a pad at the counter so you can become a member. They're not mucking around, are they?