Hello Again, Sydney

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

Monday, February 23, 2009

Where the streets have no name

Ever had one of those "of course!" moments with song lyrics? You know when you've sung along with something countless times, could even write the words down if pressed, yet you've never really understood wtf it means? It happened to me with the U2 classic the other day. I'd always assumed it had something to do with religion - Bono was all preacherman swagger and righteous vocals back then. Probably some biblical city I figured, you know, with no street names.

Then I thought back to the video clip, where they're playing a surprise gig on top of that building, and I'm like, hang on... they don't have street names in a lot of American cities, do they? Is the whole thing just about four Irish dudes going to the USA?

Subsequent research has taught me the wrongness of that theory, but the reason I got onto the subject is that the streets do have names in Sydney - unlike Bogota. Not sure how much of a difference it makes most of the time. "I got stuck on Parramatta Road," is more or less equivalent to walking into a meeting late in Bogota and blaming it on la septima (Seventh Avenue). Everyone knows what you mean, rolls their eyes in sympathy the same way.

The numerical approach does make it easier to get your bearings. Where is 34th street? One block past 33rd, you moron! Tough market for satnavs.

On the downside, you don't get to celebrate famous plants/explorers/places as gratuitously. Some new suburbs in Sydney even go with a theme. Raby out near Campbelltown, for example, is all aircraft related - Lockheed Street, Spitfire Drive, Kittyhawk Crescent, Cessna Place. No Focker Road, which must have disappointed the schoolkids in the area.

And it's not just the streets that have names in Sydney. One thing that struck me after a short trip to Melbourne was how many words there are on buildings, shopfronts, facades...

OK, so that's a shite example (it was the best I could find between the bus stop and the office!), but it does your head in after a while - the world as an advertising placard. How about one day of the year when we cover up all words on public display? Few people would thank you for it in the current economic climate, but wouldn't the city be a nicer place without all that racket going on?