Hello Again, Sydney

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

Friday, November 24, 2006

Jingle Jingle Jingle

Last night we went out to catch the lighting of the tree in Martin Place. It was lovely to get out on a school night and, as always, fascinating to see lots of people doing something together. Obviously there were loads of kids, most wearing Santa hats and flashing red noses that were sold in showbags with profits going to the RSPCA. Then there was the St Mary's Cathedral choral choir, the Hoolie Doolies, Santa coming to town accompanied by mounted police (with the horses dressed up as reindeer), the lighting of the tree and some fireworks at the end.

And generally, it was a great success. I won't bang on about how it was much too early to start Christmas festivities. Suffice it to say that singing Silent Night on the 23rd of November is enough to bring out the inner Scrooge in anyone. Mostly it was great to see the kids loving it and dancing. The adults could certainly learn a thing or two from them.

With all the prams and parents it was quite crowded in Martin Place, which is always a nice test of Christmas spirit. You know, "God bless ye merry gentlemen, but sit the fuck down - you're blocking my view." When the Hoolie Doolies came on and one guy behind me started yelling out for people to sit down, it took some self-restraint not to turn around and say, "no mate, you stand up." He had his rug laid out and a special little picnic chair and all these deli treats in front of him. If you want to sit down with all your creature comforts and watch it on a screen, buy the DVD and stay at home I think. If you want to get the vibe, come in and be a part of it. Dance, get your toe trodden on, say sorry, say hello etc.

And at the end, as the fireworks went off, I got to thinking how a lot of entertainment here follows a very business-like model: the performer (the supplier) gives a product (the performance) to an audience (the purchaser). But it's a broken circuit; we're missing the feedback loop of energy that makes a performance so special. The real fireworks are still in here (points at head), here (points at chest) and here (points at hips). I hope that's something my son will understand.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

When will I be famous?

How can we forget Luke Goss, asking us the question back in, let's see ... (sound of fingers on keyboard) ... 1987? Putting to one side any metaphysical debate about what fame actually is, one possible answer could be 'when you appear in the Macquarie dictionary'. As my boss says: "love it or loathe it, the Macquarie Dictionary is Australia's standard reference."

And, no Luke, I'm afraid you're not there. Nor, might I add, is Rick Astley, nor Wham. Kylie Minogue is, however, as is Michael Hutchence. I suppose they are/were Australian and on another level of popularity. But I challenge anyone to explain what Duran Duran are doing in there. In fact, the more you delve into it, the more inconsistencies you'll find. And before you tell me to get over it, may I point out that dictionaries should be the last safehouse of the pedant, and yes, I may indeed be turning into one. So if you're not up for the ride, I suggest you leave now, because I'm going to split this hair, all the way down to the epidermus.

What possible use could this have?

Rockford noun a town in the US, in northern Illinois. Pop 135 900 (1988 est.)

Have people in the US even heard of Rockford? And do they care? If it was famous for something then why not mention it? It even breaks their own stated criteria of only mentioning cities if their population exceeds 500,000 (or 1000 in Australia). And so it goes on, with mountains, rivers, athletes, actors, Greek Orthodox archbishops etc. If, like me, you spend a lot of time flicking through the dictionary, you can't help but wonder how much time you'd save and carpal tunnel sydrome you'd alleviate if you simply got rid of all this stuff.

Of course, if I ever actually get my name in there, I'll take it all back. When will you be famous? When you're in the dictionary.

Monday, November 13, 2006


I've been invited by friend and tremendously talented writer, Becky, to participate in a kind of hand-holding and bonding session in the blogosphere. I link to five blogs and divulge five little-known facts about myself. Ahem ...

1. My parents are Czech, which makes me a typical Australian, I guess. I was born in Sydney, and sadly, don't speak Czech at all. The only words I understand are words that parents say in moments of panic or rage: pozor (watch out), poćkej (wait), do prkvanćic (say it out loud, you'll get the gist). When people use the adjective Bohemian, I sometimes think of my mum and dad. It certainly puts a different spin on the word.

2. I was arrested once for... vagrancy. When I was 17 and holidaying on the Gold Coast, three of us decided that it might be a good idea to explore a building site, and when we went to leave we were stopped by police with dogs. The dogs were big, and the cops were from Queensland. They took us to the station, strip-searched us(!), charged us with whatever they could think of I suppose, and took all the money we had with us at the time as bail. Years later it stands out as the highlight of a pretty forgettable schoolies week, though I tend not to mention it at interviews.

3. I have seen Wham, Bros and Rick Astley, all live in concert, all at the Sydney Entertainment Centre. Usually at a gig there is a great moment or song you remember, in these cases I don't. All I recall is lots of wardrobe changes, and one of my friends - Jon Pardi (where are you now, man?) - wearing white shoes without socks.

4. I am a very hairy person, and although I've never been teased at the beach for wearing a sweater ("but I've got my shirt off!") it was a source of great discomfort for many years and I've tried many hair-removal methods including shaving, depilatory cream, using one of those sadistic hand-held automatic plucking gizmos, and waxing. As painful as waxing is, it is definitely the way to go. TBH, I'm a bit over the whole thing now, and these days I only do it for special occasions, such as ...

5. Earlier this year I did a strip show with some male co-workers, for our friend (and boss!) Jill who was getting married. Instead of hiring a male stripper for the hens' night, another of our colleagues, Sole, had the bright idea of organising a Full Monty-style show, with us. We didn't actually go the full monty, which I think was right – we left the room as gracefully as you can in nothing but a thong. Somehow we got all the choreography right, backed by the classic house track French Kiss by Lil' Louis. A nice memory.

And now it's time for more revelations of the personal and hopefully embarrasing sort. Welcome:




Sunday, November 05, 2006

What is this?

If you answered "ibis", you get five points and a golf clap. If you said "sacred ibis" you get the same thing, but remember, nobody likes a know-it-all. And if you threw caution to the wind and said said "the scourge of Sydney's parks and rubbish bins", you get the whitegoods, the holiday to Dunk Island, the Rav4 and the John Karandonis shoes.

Since I've been away, there has been an ibis population explosion, and some people aren't thrilled about it. In a recent study of Hyde Park's least-liked features, "Ibis removing rubbish from the bins" came in at number eight, tied with rats. Number one, incidentally, was homeless people.

If you just looked at the rather attractive specimen above, you might wonder what the problem was. But most of the ibis around Sydney have dirty grey feathers in place of that white plumage. Combine this with the vulgar beak and their persistence in waiting for food scraps, and it's enough to put you off your chicken sandwich. If anyone is considering remaking The Birds (and reading this blog - har!) they could shoot it in Sydney with an ibis twist. Just imagine it -a flock of ibis in a Westfields shopping centre, sucking the brains out of terrified shoppers.

And before you ask "what brains?" let's move right along to the Egyptians. Why did they revere the ibis? And why the hell are they classified as 'sacred'? If I had even a skerric of investigative instinct I'd look it up on Wikipedia, but really, it's late, and I've got an early start tomorrow. If there are any modern-day Thoth worshippers out there, please do fill me in.