Sydney is my past,I grew up in one of its suburbs by the harbour then moved to other locales where I lived until I moved to the Blue Mountains. I could say I know it well but only in how it used to be. How it is now and how its becoming are very different cities.
I remember having to wear white gloves when visiting the city with my mother and grandmother as a child. Dressing up in your “good” clothes was de rigeur for an expedition into the big smoke and although it was only four miles away, the imperial system was still in use then, it was a mysterious world away from our daily lives. I used to overhear the adults talking about areas I knew nothing about and when very young, mistook the name “Surrey Hills” for “Sunny Hills”. Whenever I would have a fight with my sister or mother-I have to admit I was feisty for a time- I would threaten to move there.
Sunny Hills! Where the sun always shone…a place to run away to!
“Off you go then!” My mother called my bluff one day and packed me some soggy tomato sandwiches (my favourite) in my school suitcase. I got half way down the street started crying and returned home.But one day I would run away to those magical hills where the sun always shone.
Years later, I discovered the truth. An inner city suburb comprised of terrace houses squashed together with rag trade factories. It was the home of the working poor, mostly Irish as typified by Ruth Park in books such as “Poor Man’s Orange” and “The Harp in the South” . But by the time I visited it was in the process of gentrification with some streets being home to students digs.
Still, its always remained Sunny Hills to me and the grit and grime that flows from nearby Central Station, gives it a certain sophisticated inner city patina. I like a bit of grime, it helps to keep life real.
Today you can see the past poking through the new edifices and underneath the refurbished funky shops and cafes.With other parts of Sydney you have to look deeper to discover the past. Take Chatswood for example. It used to be a sedate Northern suburb half way up the North Shore train line. My grandparents lived there for fifteen years then settled at Narrabeen on the Northern Beaches Now its a city and an Asian one at that. But this makes sense really when you think of the proximity of Indonesia, Malaysia and China in comparison with the distance to England and Europe.Its a natural progression.
Celebrations for the new lunar year of the green Sheep were in full swing in both Chatswood and Sydney when I visited and compared favourably in colour, light and sound in with the celebrations of my childhood past such as Commonwealth night when we lit fireworks to commemorate our membership of the British Commonwealth and the attempted blowing up of the English Parliament known as Guy Fawkes night.
So I would like to wish you all a Kung Hei Fat Choy ! May it be a prosperous, peaceful and healthy year ahead for you, your family and friends.
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