MY SYDNEY – why I love it
I was seventeen when I first saw Sydney. I’d arrived on the train after four days’ travel from Western Australia. I was green as grass, having come direct from the minute township (population 50) in which I had grown up. Perth was the biggest city I had ever seen, and that only a few times.
I was petrified of this huge place. In WA people talk about the Eastern States, or Over East. You can almost hear the capital letters and it is always pronounced with some kind of wonderment.
Even now my relatives introduce me as ‘This is Sally. She lives in the Eastern States.’ And there is always that sense of incomprehension in their voices, an undertone of ‘why on earth would she?’
I was captivated by Sydney almost at once – or at least as soon as I got over my trepidation. I felt guilty about this switch of allegiance for years. In Australia, home-state (or city) loyalties are possibly stronger than patriotism. Check out the Melbourne-Sydney divide if you don’t believe this.
Yet here I was a born-and-bred West Australian and without warning I found myself infatuated by Sydney!
Years and years later I began researching some family history and realised that my earliest ancestor to arrive in Australia, a little English ‘feef’ – all five foot and a quarter inch of him, a cobbler, deported to the colonies for seven years for stealing (I believe) a lady’s bonnet – had sailed into Sydney Harbour in 1820. What he thought of the place, who knows, but at least I could at last explain my inexplicable attraction for the place.
Of course there is so much more to my appreciation. Like any large city – population around four million-plus and counting – Sydney is constantly evolving. Soon that Sydney-Melbourne thing will be no more as each city is slowly changing and moving further away from the other as they individualise and grow with their own strengths.
Like any shallow lover I am impressed most by Sydney’s looks. The harbour, the bays, the beaches, the sunlight – ah, yes, the light. It is the first thing I notice on arrival home after a trip overseas.
The weather is not bad either. While summer can be muggy and stormy, the radiantly clear sunny winter days when the sky is cloudless make up for that. Even when the clouds come over and the temperature plummets, the locals shiver and complain if we hit a maximum of 14C. Hardly anyone needs an overcoat here and thermal underwear is saved for a trip to the Blue Mountains or the snow. Sydney just plays at having winter.
But there is so much more. How good it is to go for a drink or dinner at a bar or restaurant high above the harbour? Especially so, on a long summer evening as the lights wink on, or a dark night when the blackness is striped by lights dripping down, reflected in the water.
By day, what’s better than waterside dining on squeaky-fresh local seafood, or tucked up in an inner-city cafe putting away that impossible to define Mod-Oz fare? Or the coffee? Melbourne would disagree, but the baristas here are OK.
I could go on and on. The nightlife, street entertainment, inner city terrace houses tarted up with lace like old ladies out on the town, ethnic enclaves where you feel as if you’ve been sucked away to another country without your passport – and yes, the traffic, the congestion, the stupid tolls and crazy roads and tunnels we don’t need.
This is Sydney. My Sydney, and I love it.
Keep an eye on this section. I want to share my city with you.