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Newtown

It’s a wonderful day in the neighbourhood — let’s go for a stroll …

2042_graffitiwall.jpgThis is where I live and work. Newtown is a small neighbourhood just southwest of the centre of Sydney. A fairly old part of Sydney, these days Newtown is a cosmopolitan area populated by a huge variety of people — young, old, students, working class, yuppies, hippies, blacks, whites, straights and queers of all varieties. Centred on busy King Street, Newtown is one of Sydney’s two main gay areas, but unlike Darlinghurst (the other one) it’s a very relaxed and somewhat esoteric place.

I am glad I have lived here.

St Stephen's churchyard.There are at least seven bookstores within a few minutes walk of my front door, plus about 70 restaurants, 40 cafés, a cinema, a couple of queer pubs, numerous queer-friendly pubs, and all manner of funky shops. There are trees in the streets and parks, and there’s no shortage of sexy lads cruising up and down King Street.

In fact, King Street probably has more doable boys per mile than any other street I’ve known … and that’s saying something. We’re not talking muscle gods or supermodels here (you’ll find them in Darlinghurst if that’s your trip). We’re talking about shaven-headed, goateed, tattooed, aware, down-to-earth, adventurous inner city lads. My kind of boys.

Welcome back to the games of the 24th Olympiad.Newtown is also a hot bed of seething revolutionary anarchism, as you can probably tell from the graffiti in many of these pictures, and you gotta love that. The annual Newtown Fair is a festival of everything that is not mainstream, with environmental groups, anarchists, Marxists, human rights groups, queer community organisations and many others offering salvation, inspiration or just a selection of petitions to sign.

But you don’t have to wait for the fair day. Any Saturday morning in King Street you can sign up with the Democratic Socialists, give a few dollars to Greenpeace or get the latest copy of Green Left Weekly.

One of our many quality businesses :-)So what’s wrong with Newtown? Well, King Street, for it’s many delights, is a major traffic thoroughfare which makes it a high-noise, high-pollution area. And there’s no direct bus service from here to Oxford Street, which means I have to take two buses to go out on the town. But these are minor annoyances.

Newtown still has a bit of light industry (not all the factories are as cunningly-named as the one at left) which means noise and pollution, but really it’s pretty gentle nowadays.

The fig tree in St Stephen's churchyard is over 130 years old. It gives good climb.Walking Newtown’s back streets, there’s always something new around the corner. Despite the narrow streets and vestigial footpaths, almost every street is lined with trees and plants, and in the spring there’s jasmine, bougainvillea and frangipanni. The houses are mostly small, old terraces originally built as workers’ cottages in the last century, many of which are now renovated yuppie palaces.

But what makes Newtown Newtown isn’t the bookstores, or the houses, or the trees. It’s the people. A diverse and extraordinary bunch of people they are too.

So, next time you’re in the neighbourhood, watch out for me. I’ll probably be in Corelli’s Café reading the newspaper, or browsing the shelves at Better Read Than Dead, or just working the street. Say hi.

More Newtown

Summer holiday – day 4

It’s rather an odd feeling to be back in our old home town. Going on holidays normally engenders a spirit of adventure and energy which is lacking here. We’re having a fine time but the partial familiarity of the environment interferes with the holiday spirit in weird ways.

We’ve spent the last couple of days buzzing about town, mostly in Newtown where we’re staying but also in the city and in Darlinghurst. We visited the MCA yesterday and had a jolly outing to Watson’s Bay on a whim. We have been to numerous gay bars and drunk too much draught VB. Yesterday was Brent’s birthday so we had a celebration dinner.

Looking around this old town, some things have changed (Gowing’s is going out of business!) and some things never change (the lads on King Street are as spunky as ever). C’est la vie (en rose).

Tonight is New Year’s Eve, a big date on Sydney’s calendar with the mandatory pyrotechnics from the bridge. Along with Will and Aaron we’ve been invited to join some new friends, Michael and Jason, on a boat in the harbour for the show; we’re very much looking forward to that and to saying goodbye to a difficult year in style. We’ll need to be reasonably restrained tonight as we have to get to Wollongong tomorrow for my Mum’s birthday, but it should be a fun night.

Here’s a photo I took yesterday of Brent’s feet standing over the scale model of the city that’s set into the floor of the Customs House in Circular Quay. I call this one King Kong in Thongs.

Happy new year. Travel safely. Don’t let the bastards get you down.

King Kong in Thongs

Au revoir (you old slag)

My city of Sydney,
I miss the warmth of you.
Miss the heart of your people,
That little church steeple in Woolloomooloo.

Tonight is my last night as a Sydneysider, at least for now, and it’s hard not to feel a little melancholic. Continue reading

Sorry

(Recycled from the House of Love)

Today is National Sorry Day.

Some Australians will take a moment today to make a personal apology to the ‘stolen generations’, the thousands of aboriginal Australians who were forcibly removed from their families from the beginning of European settlement in Australia in 1788 until as late as 1970.

"… I just couldn’t stop crying. All I could see was our little camp. My baby brother’s bottle was laying on the ground. And I could see where my brother and sisters were making mud pies in a Sunshine milk tin that we used for our tea or soup. I didn’t know where my parents were. I was sad, crying, lost; didn’t know what I was going to do …"

— from Rose’s story in Bringing Them Home

Below is my personal apology.

Continue reading