“You will never hear a lawn mower in Kings Cross and that, for many of us, is entirely a sufficient reason to live here. Give me sirens any day.”
Anne Summers: “In the Gutter … Looking at the Stars. A Literary Adventure Through Kings Cross (Edited by Mandy Sayer and Louis Nowra)”
Following an appointment in Sydney today, you could say I was lured off by the pixies. By the way, this is a rather common scenario whenever I have appointments in Sydney. I love going off the grid, wandering into other worlds and exploring through my camera lens which gives me vision, not simply sight. As a mother of two gorgeous children and host to a few medical annoyances, I also love going, doing, being myself without anyone else in tow. Or worse still, towing me off somewhere else.
I was able to go on today’s detour, as usual, because my mother was picking up the kids and I am incredibly thankful. Mind you, today’s detour was a bit of an indulgence because Mum hasn’t been well lately and she made a point of saying: “Come straight home”. She knew I wouldn’t come straight home, but I did say I’d be home by 6.00 PM so she could get home early.
Today’s destination was an exhibition of letters by Otto Frank, the father of Anne Frank, at the Sydney Jewish Museum in Darlinghurst.
I caught the train to Kings Cross Station and while walking along Darlinghurst Road into neighbouring Darlinghurst, I had my SLR camera with its huge and heavy zoom lens dangling around my neck. That is, when I wasn’t peering through it.
If you have read anything before about my relationship with my camera, you’ll already know that I see so much better through my camera lens. Or, even just when I have my camera with me. I’ll spot some teeny weeny detail and zoom into it, in a sense blowing it up into a world, filling the shot. It is all I see…this tiny piece of detail. It resonates so strongly with me in photography mode, yet I would’ve missed it looking through my own eyes. Walked straight past it.
So before I take you to the exhibition, I thought I’d take you on a brief photography tour from Kings Cross Station into Darlinghurst, which coincidentally, is where I was born.
This is a view of Kings Cross by day, which I can assure you, is totally different from Kings Cross by night. Kings Cross is Sydney’s red light district. I have experienced the distinction between Kings Cross by day and Kings Cross by night personally. My first job after graduation was working for Dun & Bradstreet at 100 William Street. This was a very corporate job and if I worked back, I’d leave the office in my navy to suit to see a line up of “working girls” of a different sort lined up along William Street. Naturally I felt uneasy waiting for my boyfriend to pick me up after work…even though my knee-length blue suits put me in a different league.
I wonder where this door came from? It really intrigues me.
Other than working in Kings Cross for a year, it’s not a place I’ve spent a lot of time. That said, after clubbing we used to go to Dean’s Cafe in Kellett Street which had exotic lounges, a surreal fish tank the best nachos back when nachos were a thing. It was and remains a cosmopolitan, bohemian hangout a world away from Sydney’s conservative North Shore where I grew up.
While Kings Cross has attracted sleaze, drugs, crime and everything on the wrong side of the law, it’s also been a creative haven, particularly during the 1920s. POet Ketheth Sleesor lived there and wrote his famous poem about The Cross, William Street:
The red globe of light, the liquor green,
the pulsing arrows and the running fire
spilt on the stones, go deeper than a stream;
You find this ugly, I find it lovely
Ghosts’ trousers, like the dangle of hung men,
in pawn-shop windows, bumping knee by knee,
but none inside to suffer or condemn;
You find this ugly, I find it lovely.
Smells rich and rasping, smoke and fat and fish
and puffs of paraffin that crimp the nose,
of grease that blesses onions with a hiss;
You find it ugly, I find it lovely.
The dips and molls, with flip and shiny gaze
(death at their elbows, hunger at their heels)
Ranging the pavements of their pasturage;
You Find this ugly, I find it lovely.
St John’s Anglican Church, Darlinghurst Road, Darlinghurst.
In his essay My Kings Cross Slessor reflected:
“For whatever happens to its landscape, Kings Cross will always be a tract apart from the rest of Sydney, still contemptuous of the rules, still defiantly unlike any other part of any other city in Australia. And, though its skyline keeps on changing in an unpredictable and bewildering way, its essence of individuality doesn’t change, its flavours, noises, sights and smells remain the same immutably. For this reason I find as much pleasure in contemplating it today as I did when I looked out of a Woolcott Street window in 1922- indeed with its unending flux of lights and colours and its gaudiness and reticence, its sunsets and midnights, it seems (to me) a good deal more beautiful than the highly advertised stones and sand of Central Australia. To me, the Chevron Hilton Hotel, with its glittering windows and huge verticals, is as awe-striking as Ayers Rock.”
He obviously loved Kings Cross!
My thoughts are that you can find joy, beautiful, love, inspiration anywhere as love as your eyes are open. That is, the eyes of your heart. You just need to look, keep an open mind and not judge.
Have you ever been to Kings Cross by day? Perhaps, your Kings Cross is in London or somewhere else? I’d love to hear your G rated stories!