Hello Again, Sydney

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

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Sports Mad

I think the anecdote I trotted out most when overseas, to describe Australians, was the one about the survey they did here on the republic. Australians' three main concerns were:

- Would we be still be able to compete in the Commonwealth Games?
- Would we still get the Queen's birthday as a public holiday?
- I can't remember the last one.

The key issues then: bludging and sport (and associated memory loss perhaps). I don't think we have such a reputation for bludging anymore, but we are still – if not more – as sports mad as when I left. That hasn't surprised me. What has is the sport that has captured the hearts and minds of Sydney-siders after what seemed an irreversible slump: Rugby League. Then you've got the AFL finals coming up, and the Bledisloe Cup. In short, no respite. Meanwhile the English Premier League has just started again, and I am at last facing the reality of being in the suckiest time zone in the world for watching European sports. Crap!

The consolation will arrive in summer: being able to watch the most highly anticipated Ashes series in about twenty years. Today I got to thinking about Don Bradman and how the very best sportsmen are so willful and stubborn that they must be able to pretty much decide when they cark it. And if they can, did it play on the Don's mind that he just missed out on an average of 100? Did he set himself the challenge of getting to his 100th birthday as a kind of rewrite of history? Stay tuned for the Don Bradman novella.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Gainfully Employed

That's right, I got a job. Yay! And it's exactly the kind of job I was looking for. Bravo!! But it's out west, which means I'm travelling over three hours a day. Booo!!! It's been a major shock to the system working full time again - I'd forgotten how little space it leaves for domestic duties, let alone writing. I'm still not sure whether I'm living the dream, or waking up from it. Lots of stuff I want to write down, so little time.

Here's a Sunday night-sized one: writing a letter to a previous address. You could let the new residents know about what it was like when you lived there, how that cigarette burn on the carpet got there, which room you had the best sex in, or the bloodstains on the... well, no, perhaps not. And I could see how this concept could turn nasty if it fell into the wrong hands. Still, I'm thinking a chain letter where every person who gets a letter writes to all their previous addresses and so on and etc. Or more likely a short story written along these lines.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Globalised snacking

The other day I was in the skygarden arcade and found a shop called Treats from Home. They sell foodstuffs from Britain like Marmite, PG Tips, Twiglets, Pickled Onion Monster Munch etc. They had Heinz baked beans too, though at $3.50 a can it's not quite the same, is it?

Anyway, I got to thinking how everyone must go through this when they move countries, and wouldn't it be interesting if someone started a shop where they sold the very best snack food items from countries all over the world - kind of a global corner shop. I'd murder a packet of De Todito right now, for example, but what about someone who's been living in Taiwan, or Norway? What is the snack food that they really miss?

Obviously one of the things I was most looking forward to getting back into on return to Oz was the junk food I grew up with. Like a good athlete, I've been pacing myself, eating myself back into the scene slowly. The salt and vinegar chips have taken a bit of a beating, but that's to be expected. It is a very warm and comforting feeling to have all of the familiar brands at my fingertips again.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

In case you ever wondered where the coins went...

Today we were at the Archibald fountain in Hyde Park, where my son was fascinated by the man standing in the fountain and collecting muck and detritus out with one of those pool cleaners. As he came near our end of the fountain, I noticed quite a few coins bobbing around in the net.

Now I've always thought that taking coins out of a wishing well ranked relatively high on the bad karma scale, though I'm not sure if it counts if

a) it's not a wishing well but a fountain, and

b) you're contractually obliged to do it.

I asked him how much he usually finds and he said between five and ten dollars. Coins from all over Asia and the USA. Enough for a couple of extra beers after work, I expect. Would the tourists still throw coins if they knew this?

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Colonial Cat Poo

Roll up, roll up. Try on these glasses, and see the world through the eyes of a two-year-old. Gasp at the sheer quantity of sticks on offer, simply lying on the ground. They even grow on trees. Delight in the workings of the escalator, the greatest invention ever. Wile away the hours standing on the square manhole cover, then the round one. Or for an extra thrill, turn on your super-powered prohibited-item vision and freak those adults out.

It's true though, that in a mountain of innocuous objects, kids have a sixth sense for putting their hand on the one thing that could do them damage. Our latest attempt at sightseeing took us to the Hyde Park Barracks where my son immediately set about cleaning the gravel off the gravel and dirt pathway. I encouraged him to check out the installation artworks scattered around the grounds, and his response was to begin excavation on one of the remoter corners of the barracks where he soon unearthed what I believe was a cat poo. What a find. I'm sure there can't be too many buried around (when was the last time you saw a cat in the CBD?) and I felt the dilemma of whether to praise or punish.

Well, I certainly wasn't going to shake his hand. We settled for washing them, which he always enjoys. So there you go. The toilets at the Hyde Park Barracks Museum come highly recommended.


Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Pub Life

I was looking forward to getting back to the pubs in Sydney, and I've done some field work in the last couple of weeks. So what's new?

Firstly, the number of beers on tap has increased markedly. Carlton Draft has taken over a huge slice of the market and I for one am glad of that. The boutique breweries have also found a place on the bar, and I'm still working through all of those. The end result is that you've got anywhere up to a dozen different beers available on tap. If variety is the spice of life, then... I don't know. But I'm sure there's a very clever way to alter the homily, and I'm sure it involves drinking a lot of beer.

Then there's the non-smoking culture. At over $10.00 a packet of fags, not many people are bothering these days and the laws are changing to outlaw public smoking altogether. Which suits me just fine; I wanted to quit anyway. But it's not as extreme as I'd been led to believe. There are still lots of people puffing away, despite the increasingly gruesome advertising campaigns they run here. In the latest one they've got a woman with mouth cancer talking to the camera. Geez. Can you imagine what the brainstorming sessions are like with the anti-smoking advertising folk?

The last thing I've noticed about Sydney pubs is the total sensory overload. Between watching the football and listening to the jukebox or the DJ and keeping an eye on the little buzzer they give you for when your meal is ready and my mobile and etc and so on... it's tough to carry on a coherent conversation. Don't we ever just talk anymore?