The Long & Winding Road…Thursday Doors..

Welcome Back to Thursday Doors.

The long and winding road
That leads to your door
Will never disappear
I’ve seen that road before
It always leads me here
Lead me to you door….
The Beatles
279 Abercrombie St

279 Abercrombie Street in 2018.

This week’s door is personal. Indeed, back in 1988 as a 18 year old university student, this was my front door. Home for this once grungy terrace is 279 Abercrombie Street, Chippendale. Talk about location! Location! Location! This place was a hop, step and a jump away from Redfern Station and just around the corner from Sydney University my former stomping ground. Back in our day, it was parked right on top of the pedestrian crossing used by hordes of university students walking to and from uni. This was fantastic because we could sit out on our front balcony and spot our friends walking past and call out. It used to confuse the hell out of them, and we’ll see them looking around baffled by where the voice was coming from. However, this crossing was rather treacherous, and was removed, replaced with traffic lights further down the road. Party poopers!

Rowena 1989 bedroom

Typical student. Couldn’t even be bothered making my bed for this photo. If you look in the top right corner, there’s a print called “Understanding”, which still resonates with me 30 years later. I spent years trying to find that person whose mind overlapped my own, but it’s an impossible quest. Each and every one of us is unique.

Of course, it goes without saying that our student digs were far from glamorous and had a sort of rustic charm. We had a semi-outside toilet. There was also no running hot water. That meant we had to boil the kettle to do the washing up and the shower had a gas heating contraption to heat the water up. You had to be a bit careful because you could burn your bottom on it, which at least happened once. Our backyard from memory was an industrial wasteland of rugged concrete. At one stage there, I was selling chocolate cakes to the Reasonably Good Cafe across the road, which was also the scene of my very first public poetry reading  with the Sydney University writer’s group, Inkpot (what a cute name!) This was before you needed an industrial kitchen, and let’s just say we’re lucky no one died.

party kitchen 1989

Party in the kitchen. Check out the oven. How did we used that?

Needless to say, our place was the scene of numerous parties, get togethers and pretty much had an open door policy. The party I remember most was called: “An Interstellar Overdrive Spider Gathering”. Not surprisingly, the word went out that it was an acid party. I’d never touched the stuff and barely even needed a drink to get into party mode. However, at least 80 people packed out the terrace and most of them were in varying degrees of other-consciouness. One such friend thought my lime green beanbag was attacking people and I have a photo of him carting the offending beanbag upstairs to lock it up. That dear friend used to rate his day by how many bottles of Guinness he’s had after Manning Bar opened at 12.00pm. However, to be fair he’d been in a nasty head-on car accident and was only trying to find his feet. We all were. I don’t think many of us knew who we were. What I do recall, was at the end of first year, we were just praying for 51% in our exams. It was too late to hope for brilliance. We just wanted to pass right under the radar into second year.

After all, there was far too much to do on campus than attend lectures, tutorials or even study. I won’t mention the birds and bees. Mostly, that was all hype or heartbreak or an unbroken chain on unreciprocated love. By the way, there were no mobile phones back then. So getting someone’s number and calling them up was a feat in itself and you could simply text when your vocal cords were paralyzed with nerves. I distinctly remember writing down phone conversations before I called up. I also remember trying to get through the St Paul’s College switchboard. It was worse than trying to get through to the Sydney radio station. Another aspect of the phone back then, was that if you were still living at home, your entire family knew there was “a boy on the phone.” The modern generation have it way too easy.


Abercrombie Street, 2018.

My days at 279 Abercrombie Street ended abruptly after the house had been extensively burgled. They clean swept my room, even stealing my school formal dresses and seemingly everything but my undies. I’d been paying off this really groovy hand-made ceramic t-set which I’d bought from this incredible, never-to-be forgotten shop in Glebe called Aho Doddo. Even the guy who owned the place was a treasure. He drove one of those big old citroens where the exhaust pipe rises and falls. This wasn’t Paris. It Sydney’s inner-west. Sadly, it had closed its doors before I even graduated.

This burglary was our second strike. One night I was woken up by the rattle of chains on the front balcony which opened into my bedroom. Much to my horror there was a burglar staring me right in the face. No doubt, we’ve all watched at least an episode of the Brady Bunch where Carol anxiously taps Mike on the shoulder: “Did you hear that?” Truth be told, I wasn’t quite on my pat malone and had a friend staying over. Friend. I swear moving into that terrace cursed my personal life. My memory, I was eternally single, although perhaps I complain too much. It was 30 years ago. Anyway, the burglar must’ve had a delicate constitution and disappeared back over the balcony and that began a lengthy vigil of keeping my ears open through the night in case of further trouble.


By the way, since we’re talking about doors, I should mention that we were often listening to The Doors back then as well as David Bowie. So I’ll sign off today with their haunting anthem: The End

This has been another contribution to Thursday Doors hosted by Norm 2.0. Why don’t you come and join us and share a few of your favourite doors. It’s a lot of fun and helps you see parts of the world you’ll never get to visit.

Best wishes,





13 thoughts on “The Long & Winding Road…Thursday Doors..

  1. Prior...

    Enjoyed flashing back to the 80s with you and that is a special door! So personal – and wow – 51% is passing enough to advance? Ours is 65
    Also – sorry about the robbery – just awful

  2. Rowena Post author

    Thanks for joining me, Prior. It has been fun to revisit such a different time in my life. Just needed to pass back then to go on. However, is second year, I managed a credit in History and so picked up honours and went on to get distinctions in third year.
    The robbery did shake me up and we had no insurance either. This part of town around the uni was pretty rough and until very recently Redfern was a no go zone, especially after dark. I will be posting a tour of Redfern soon.
    Best wishes,

  3. Prior...

    Good for you wothbthe accolades – but I was curious that 51 was passing – seemed low and was wondering if it was still that way.
    And sadly – higher ed has become so expensive since the 80s and it is such a big business – whew – anyhow – congrats again on the honors

    And wow about the area being a “no go zone” – that is crazy how certain areas can go down.
    I hope I am around blogosphere when your redfern post comes out (if you don’t see me maybe you could drop me a quick note when you post it- if not I totally understand )
    Anyhow – thanks for the reply and wishing you a good weekend

  4. Rowena Post author

    You’re welcome Prior. Will try to do that. BTW when I started out my degree, uni was free and it was only in my last year that we had to pay. I’ve heard that students are working much harder these days and that having a gap year in between school and uni is much more common and I could’ve done with that. Uni was just so exciting. It was lie someone had lit all my matches at once.

  5. Norm 2.0

    Thanks for taking us on a fun stroll down memory lane.
    Having your place burgled is no fun is it?
    It happened to me once when I was still living alone many years ago. It rattled me enough that I had to move the next year.

  6. Junieper/Jesh stG

    No running hot water was roughing it, even in the 80ties! In the mid80ties I started my grad. training, so that was a whole other kind of crowd (also because by that time I was married with kids) – C was the pits and was the norm I operated on, because with 3 of those , you were kicked out of the program.
    You are one of the lucky ones with all your faculties intact, since you were smart enough to avoid acid. Sorry, that that burglary had such an impact on you and lived with fear for some time. Yes, let bygones be bygones, and enjoy your present:):)

  7. Rowena Post author

    I look back on that time in my life like watching a movie. I was such a different person in positive and negative ways and I guess all the good and bad which has glowed under the bridge has defintiely wisened me up and made me more resilient. Much of that I’d happily go without and take the easier road. However, it has given me greater empathy and a voice to speak up for those who potentially can not.
    Since going back to uni this week, I have found out that a friend’s son at college very deliberately took his life and I’ve also been reading the current edition of the uni newspaper and the loneliness and isolation is oozing out of every page. It deeply troubles me and I’m going to follow it up. The stories are very sad without any hope and a real sense of being resigned to the way things are. I find it hard to understand this way of thinking, especially for uni students who are supposed to be the visionaries. I have a young friend who is currently living on campus so I’ll check things out with her. Will keep you posted.
    Best wishes,

  8. Prior...

    Wow – cool analogy to light all
    The matches at once –
    And you know – it breaks my heart to see how expensive universities and colleges have become – my fried D has a daughter who went to penn state and with a masters degree she has over 100,00 in debt and works at Starbucks – she went to a corporate job right away and hated it – and sadly her story is common these days

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