Hello Again, Sydney

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

Sunday, October 04, 2009


This pic was taken at one of my favourite Sydney stomping/sploshing grounds, the beautiful Coogee beach. The beaches are possibly the best thing about this city. How lucky are we to be able to consume and pollute to our hearts' content, and then still stroll down the street to stretches of golden sand and crisp clear water? This is where we go to connect with the essential Australia - to get seriously laid-back and enjoy our home "girt by sea". Welcome to Sydney!

But, just before you kick off your thongs and rush out there, I will ask you to take a moment to read the rules and regulations:

Still feel like swimming? Perhaps, like me, you feel more like leaping into the waves and drowning yourself. As long as you do it between the flags, I don't think they've got a sign up for that one yet. And I'm not sure what gets to me more: the sheer negative weight of so many items with red lines through them, or being described as a "user of this facility". Dude, I thought we were just going to the beach. I recently read Death Sentence - Don Watson's lament on the state of public language in Australia - and this is precisely the kind of thing that would get him riled up.

I also wonder what chain of events led to the council putting up a little picture to prohibit the use of kites. Did someone get hit in the eye? Tangled in the string? Or was it just a case of locals who have nothing better to do than ring up and complain?

It makes me reminisce with fondness about the relative chaos we lived with in Colombia. In Cartagena, the way the buses veered towards the curb and the conductor gestured madly out the open door, trying to coax people onboard. A couple of times I was almost shocked into getting onto a bus going who knows where. It was comical, but here we have the other extreme - drivers won't let you on if you're not standing at the bus stop. One morning I saw a man sprinting towards the stop as the driver closed the doors and rolled the almost empty bus about five metres forward to a red light. The passenger mimed his pleas through the safety glass of the door, while the driver looked at something very interesting on the other side of the street. It's almost like they don't want you to get on. And why? I'm guessing, but I'd say it's because if they let you on somewhere other than the bus stop and you have an accident, State Transit becomes liable.

I still remember the little thrill and the frescura of jumping into the back seat of a taxi in Colombia and not putting on a seatbelt. Meanwhile, in Australia, my mother-in-law who is visiting at the moment is slowly learning to buckle up every time we go out in the car. "Nos pueden poner una multa", we explain to her ($253 dollars and 3 demerit points), more to poke fun at the way things are done here than to convince her. And obviously it's not about money, but safety. Still, it does raise the question of where basic common sense and self-preservation leaves off and legislation begins. At what point do you say that people are allowed to take acceptable risks, and are we starting to go overboard?

I could go on to talk about new laws on car child restraints and caesarean sections, but hey, it is a beautiful day out, and despite all those warning signs, the water is calling. And for the first time in quite a while, I'm actually starting to feel like there might be a viable middle way.


At 9:57 am, Blogger Becky Willis Motew said...

People in my mother's generation smoked and drank and did about everything while they were pregnant. It always makes me smile when I see how careful everyone is today. Not that that's a bad thing, of course. Good analysis, my friend.


At 8:22 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sydney is full of surprises that will never disappoint the visitors taking Cheap flights to Sydney.


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