Tag Archives: street art

More Than A Walk….Newtown to Broadway, Sydney.

Time has a habit of flying around here mysteriously escaping before I manage to grip hold of it. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that an entire week has passed since I went to Newtown.

Last Monday, I met up with my friend Stephen at Sydney’s Central Station to catch the train to Newtown and leisurely wander and cafe crawl our way along King Street, past Sydney University and onto the Seymour Centre where we were supposed to be attending a talk by eminent science communicator, Dr Karl Kruszelnicki about stem cell research and the brain. Stem cell research could be something I’ll be relying on down the track with my lung and muscle troubles and my brain isn’t in top notch working order in some ways either. I was born with hydrocephalus or fluid on the brain and have what’s known as a shunt managing the pressures and keeping things in working order. So, this lecture provided a great opportunity to find out more. However, in the meantime, it was a great opportunity to catch up with Stephen.

Love

We spotted this sign at a pub just near Newtown Station.

These days it feels like I’ve known Stephen beyond my own eternity. We were part of a group of friends who used to attend St Barnabus Anglican Church Broadway around 1994 before my hydrocephalus was dramatically diagnosed in my mid-20s and St Barnabas (or “Barneys” as it is known) was equally dramically burned down. Both of us thank goodness have both risen from the ashes and rebuilt. However, I wonder whether there was some kind of bad omen with my friends from Barneys, as I have not been the only one been dealt an atypically difficult hand. I’m not sure whether I believe in this from a Biblical, Christian perspective. It’s just pure observation and associating all our troubles to the physical burning down of a much loved and historic Church provides some kind of external visual for our hidden, personal suffering.

vegan fried chicken

I took this photo for my son who hangs out at KFC after school. I think he’d be disappointed, although I have many vegan friends who’d be thrilled to go there. 

Anyway, getting back to Newtown.

King Street Newtown historic

Newtown is 4 kilometres South-West of the Sydney CBD and was established as a residential and farming area in the early 19th century. The area took its name from a grocery store opened there by John and Margaret Webster in 1832, who placed a sign atop their store that read “New Town Stores”.

I Have A Dream

Street art – King Street, Newtown. 

The main street is King Street which winds its way along the spine of a long ridge which rises up near Sydney University in the North and transforms into the Princess Highway in the South. This elevated position gives King Street a imposing appearance and also explains why it’s tributaries (or side-streets) run down hill. As you walk along King Street, it’s easy to understand why its main shopping strip is the longest and most complete commercial precinct of the late Victorian and Federation period in Australia. The architecture really is quite different and a tad ghostly even compared to other areas populated by ancient terraces houses. After all, in this country with just over 200 years of European history, terrace houses assume a misplaced sense of history.

Although I lived in the inner city many moons ago long before marriage and mortgage took me over the Hawkesbury River Bridge and onto the Central Coast, I’ve never lived in Newtown. I lived in Chippendale and Glebe and my last haunt was a converted warehouse just off Broadway. I always knew that lifestyle couldn’t last. However, I never anticipated my catastrophic health problems and how you could literally be blown up and yet somehow still standing with seemingly no visual sign anything’s happened at all. Marriage and kids also brought blessings, change and challenges which were also unexpected and difficult to grapple with. My time in that converted warehouse in many ways were my last hurrah. Well, at least of the person I was before surgery.

So in many ways, while Stephen and I were walking along King Street we were walking along memory lane. The weather wasn’t great. So, I didn’t take my SLR and was photographing with my phone which is deeply unsatisfying. It just doesn’t have the same clarity and I’m sure it’s only a small step up from the Kodak aim and shoot I had as a kid. You know the ones where you shoved a cartridge in the back and dropped the thing off at your local chemist for processing. Humph. These days that all sounds so archaic, and I don’t feel that old even if there are additional lines I choose to ignore in the mirror.

Biscuit Sandwich

Anyway, given that I was catching up with Stephen, walking down memory lane and didn’t have my SLR, my photos of King Street are hardly representative and I’ll need to go back and explore the place more fully. I guess what I’ve captured is more along the lines of street art, than architecture and there’s also a rather sumptuous photo of something which might be described as a biscuit sandwich although it was called a “birthday cake”. It was exceptionally yum and I’m needing to find a recipe to replicate these at home. Not good for the waistline, but pure indulgence for the soul.

Sourfest

Newtown has changed a lot since I was living in the area from 1988 through to around 1996. To be perfectly honest, I don’t know if it’s been for the best. The place has been gentrified and the grungy, crumbling edifices along King Street have been spakfillered and restored. Of course, these buildings look clean and beautiful but when you know what went before, there’s that same sense you get when you see an old face without lines…too much character and personality has been removed. I look at these buildings and wonder where they went, although they’re still standing and I know from a popular aesthetic point of view, they look so much better, even if they have been given cosmetic surgery. Yet, that doesn’t deny something’s missing. History is important. It shouldn’t be whitewashed away.

Gould's

Inside Gould’s back in the day.

Back in the day,  Gould’s Book Arcade wasn’t quite the epicentre of Newtown, but it definitely made a significant contribution to its intellectual, bohemian yet working-class character. Walking and talking,  I wasn’t scrutinizing every shopfront we walked past. Yet, there was this awareness that Gould’s could well be missing. Lost. Gone. Obliterated. Along with it, this dejected sense that a wrecking ball had gone through Newtown’s heart and wiped it out. Fortunately, a quick Google search revealed that Gould’s is not dead. Rather, due to rising rents it was forced out of it’s traditional location to 536 King Street on the Southern side of Newtown Station, which meant we missed it. Meanwhile, an interview with Mairi Petersen, the first wife of bookshop founder, the late Bob Gould is enlightening:

“Books have little place in the lives of people moving into Newtown these days…Once Newtown was students and the working class. No more. Now they are paying millions to buy in and when you look at real estate agent photographs of houses for sale there is not a book to be seen.”

I’d be interested to explore the homes beyond these real estate photos to see if that is true. Mind you, a lack of books, doesn’t mean the locals are not reading. Space is these ancient terraces is at a premium and even a Kindle-reject like myself who’ll one day be found buried under piles of books in our place can understand the possible need to make the switch.

By the way, if you saw our house, you’d say that it has a certain Gould’s feel to it, especially after the roof leaked like a sieve last night and we’ve had to shift close to a hundred books and these were just the stacks and not the contents of the shelves.

Anyway, we kept walking passed Sydney University my former stomping ground. Indeed, I was the third generation of my family to study there and belong to the place. Clearly, there’s a lot of history there, but not for today. We couldn’t be late.

We arrived at the Seymour Centre and the place is empty and the theatre still locked up. We were half an hour early to avoid the stampede. However, my antennae have gone up. Something’s wrong. Very wrong and when they tell me nothing is on that night, panic sets in. As person living with hydrocephalus, it’s not uncommon for me to screw up dates and appointments. Turned out we were a month early.

Above: We walked past the contemporary Barneys (where Stephen and I first met) on our way to Central Station Barney’s as we knew it looked more like the 1872 version. This part of Sydney is known as Broadway and the sign in the footpath is a tribute to the  sign battle between Rector Rob Forsythe and the publican across the road at the Broadway Hotel, Arthur Elliott. 

Above: Street art, Broadway.

While I hate making mistakes and chastised myself for not reading through the email I’d printed out before I left, I knew Stephen and I were meant to catch up. That we both needed to revisit our old stomping grounds. Not just in terms of place, but also the history we share from all those years ago. Given the profound changes in personality which may or may not have come about with the deterioration of the hydrocephalus and subsequent brain surgery, it’s a me who is difficult to resolve, not really knowing if I’ve ever been myself and what that ultimately means. It’s something I need to explore further somewhere beyond that stretch of King Street.

Holy Duck & candle

We travels detoured to the Holy Duck Chinese restaurant just off Broadway. As a fan of Australian cartoonist  Michael Leunig, I loved he positioning of the duck alongside the candle. 

Do you have any memories of King Street Newtown or a similar street which seemingly has a life and character of its own where you live? Or, perhaps you’ve had something life-changing happen to you and grapple with what that means. I’d love to hear from you, although I may not reply promptly as I’m researching and writing a book at present, which is rather time-consuming.

Best wishes,

Rowena

For another take on changing Newtown, you might like to read this from the Sydney Morning Herald: King Street Is Dying

Sources

Last Chapter For Gould’s Book Arcade

Newtown- Wikipaedia

Photo of the current St Barnabas Broadway: By Sardaka (talk) 07:34, 19 March 2014 (UTC) – Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=31688133

Photo of “I Have A Dream” street art: Hpeterswald [CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D

Surry Hills, Sydney… Through the Lens.

If people can walk and text, then I can walk and do photography simultaneously. Or, so the theory goes, although my daughter just told me that I kept stopping, with the implication (of course) that it wasn’t appreciated. I should also be more careful. Looking through the lens instead of where our feet are going, renders photographers easy prey for accidents. Indeed, I’m lucky that the cracked and bumpy footpaths of Sydney’s Surry Hills didn’t swallow me up. I was only seeing in 6 x 4.

Yesterday, my daughter had an audition in Sydney’s Surry Hills, and either side of that we managed to walk the streets with my Nikon SLR dangling round my neck like an elephant truck with it’s extra-long lens.

Surry Hills is a photographer’s dream. While it used to be a rough slum area, like many urban residential areas, it’s been gentrified and prices have gone through the roof. It has a strong gay community and is arty, a bit lateral, alternative and it’s also a dog’s paradise. That has to be a good endorsement. Oh yes! I shouldn’t leave out the cats. There’s even a cat cafe in Foveaux Street.

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We spotted this man wearing  an American flag running down Crown Street.

 

Although I’ve been to Surry Hills many times before and this is just the latest installment, I wanted to share what I’ll describe as a random cast of characters, who roamed the streets.

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My daughter called out and said someone was wearing a box on their head. On closer inspection, it turned out to be the Easter Bunny. 

DSC_9084

DSC_9137

I guess too many dogs can be a bad thing!

We also spotted a cat cafe in Foveaux Street:

All of these unconventional sightings, all made me feel like packing up my bags and moving to the Surry Hills, or elsewhere in the inner West. I used to live not far from here in various terrace houses in Glebe and Chippendale culminating in a loft apartment in a converted warehouse. However, I also love the beach and the clean, fresh air and being able to spread my wings (and park my car). I also wonder whether I would notice all these details if I lived here all the time. Or, whether you need the eyes of the interloper or visitor to truly take it all in. What are your thoughts?

Stay tuned for dinner off Broadway.

xx Rowena

 

The Eye Beside the Sea, France.

“Let my soul smile through my heart and my heart smile through my eyes, that I may scatter rich smiles in sad hearts.”

Paramahansa Yogananda

“Behind the most beautiful eyes, lay secrets deeper and darker than the mysterious sea..”

-yld

Last night, I was trawling through Facebook, when I stumbled across this fantastic image of a big blue eye staring out to sea with a sense of the ocean being swept up inside and the waves crashing within.

Of course, I had to investigate it further. Investigate it via the only means at my disposal…Google. Sadly, there was no spontaneous trip to France for this little black duck. Yet, coincidently, I’m watching a travel doco set in Paris at this very moment. Well, I was until the ads started up.

eyestreetart3-900x505

French artist Cece painted “The Eye” on a WWII blockhaus on the beach of Siouville-Hague, Normandy, France. The village of Siouville-Hague is located in North-West France, in the department of Manche in Basse-Normandie.

Normandy Landings

These days, it’s hard to imagine the scenes this blockhaus witnessed during WWII. I have no sense of direction at the best of times and it is difficult for me to get a real sense of the geography and the action it actually witnessed. However, I  gather this blockhaus witnessed The Normandy landings (codenamed Operation Neptune), which led to the liberation of France from the Nazis.

Getting back to the artwork, Cece explained:

“The basic idea was to revitalize an abandoned place full of history: a world war 2 blockhaus, collapsed, almost lying on its side. At first it was about to humanize this place with some poetry : before, the eye of the soldiers were watching the dead coming from the sea, and now there is this big blue eye, looking at the life and moves coming from waves movements, talks and answers , interactions of two creations coming from man and nature .. and then also I’ve wanted to point out the damage that may make human at some sites (into the pupil, the silhouette of the nuclear power plant from la hague).”

Yet, clearly “The Eye” also stands alone, divorced from the past. The eyes are the window to the soul and with this eye staring out and being washed by the sea, it’s redolent with meaning. I would love to stand there on the sand in front of it, peering deeply almost through the eye, and see what comes back to me. What mysteries would be revealed? Would “The Eye” reveal hidden, inner parts of myself? Or, perhaps even lead me into some kind of dance with its creator? Either way, I have no doubt,  that there’d be magic.

“Let my soul smile through my heart and my heart smile through my eyes, that I may scatter rich smiles in sad hearts.”

– Paramahansa Yogananda

Coincidently, a new TV series is about to start up here in Australia. Seasoned journalist, Ray Martin, will be hosting: Look Me In the Eye in which two estranged people sit in silence for five minutes, looking at each other. I’m looking forward to seeing how it pans out. Although we know eye contact is very powerful, is it enough?

By the way, if you have seen this magnificent artwork in the flesh, I’d love to hear what it was like. 

xx Rowena

Our Magic Climbing Tree in Byron Bay

How many of us had Enid Blyton’s Folk of the Magic Faraway Tree read to us when we were young? Listening wide-eyed as they climbed up past Moonface, hopefully avoiding Madam Washalot and finally reaching the cloud at the top of the tree, wondering which land would be there today? What fabulous adventures lay ahead? I know my imagination was working overtime. Actually, it wasn’t my imagination because as a six year old, The Magic Faraway Tree was real and indeed could have been at the back of my own garden in suburban Sydney.

The Magic Faraway Tree.

The Magic Faraway Tree.

“I don’t believe in things like that – fairies or brownies or magic or anything. It’s old-fashioned.’
‘Well, we must be jolly old-fashioned then,’ said Bessie. ‘Because we not only believe in the Faraway Tree and love our funny friends there, but we go to see them too – and we visit the lands at the top of the Tree as well!”
Enid Blyton, The Folk of the Faraway Tree

The Faraway Children With Moonface.

The Faraway Children With Moonface.

While I don’t remember actually trying to find the Magic Faraway Tree itself, I do remember trying to find that perfect climbing tree. Being knee-high to a grasshopper, all the branches were too high and I still haven’t forgotten the frustration and disappointed heartache when I was stuck on the ground…especially when older kids had made it up!.Ouch! I still contend that I was meant to be a bird. However, in keeping with my poor sense of direction, I must have joined the wrong queue and somehow became a person instead! Yet, I still feel the makings of wings, of song and a bird’s eye perspective in my heart. This thing of being stuck on the ground still doesn’t feel right.

Our Magic Climbing Tree lives in the Railway Park in Byron Bay. I believe it is a kind of fig and occasionally we’ve seen it covered in yellow flowers but a Google search hasn’t helped me identify the tree in any further detail. However, what makes our climbing tree particularly special and extra climbable is that the tree was somehow damaged and knocked over and so instead of growing up, it’s growing on its side, which make it so easy for little people to find a footing and go climbing among the leaves and dream.

“remember what had happened. ‘I’ll just peep up through the hole in the cloud and see”
Enid Blyton, The Magic Faraway Tree Collection: 3 Books in 1

Naturally, for a child reared on Enid Blyton, our climbing tree reminds me of the Magic Faraway Tree. I watch the children climb up and disappear in its branches and find little hidden treasures and I remember that cloud at the top of the tree and all those revolving lands and I wonder if we could just climb high enough, where we would end up.

“Folks—please, please read this book. Not because it’s about Happy Children and Delightful Tree Folk. Not because it’s about Queer Lands and Strange Spells. Not even because it’s about White Clouds, Slippery Slips and Jersey Wearing Cushion Carrying Red Squirrels. But because it’s time to stop growing up, and grow down just this once; to cast aside the reality of a world that is so material, and even more cynical, and thus enter the Delightful Magic of a Blyton Dimension, one in which Silky the Fairy will haunt you wth her beauty, Saucepan Man will deafen you with his noise, and Moonface will overwhelm you with his beaming smile. And if you have to endure an occasional kettle of water or dirty washing all over you… well, it’s worth it.”

http://www.enidblyton.net/others/the-magic-faraway-tree.html

The other special thing about our magic climbing tree is that it gets things hung and drawn on its branches. I’m not talking about glitzy fairy lights but people leave little bits and pieces in the tree, which creates that experience of the unexpected. Every time we go to the tree, I wonder what’s going to be there today just like the changing world of the Enid Blyton’s The Magic Faraway Tree. We’re found empty milk crates dangling upside down on rope like a sculpture, a stuffed toy dog and sunflowers thumb-tacked to the trunk. Reminiscent of Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree, there have also been ribbons in the tree.

We’ve also met many fascinating and intriguing characters under the tree and in the park. Although we haven’t Madam Washalot, Saucepan or the children, we’ve met a variety of travellers, including those who are “living free”. There’s a bit of that around Byron Bay and in the park but council is taking action and confiscating tents etc. Communities groups also come to the park and feed the homeless, which has also included us a few times this week and we truly appreciated it. It was lovely to be looked after! Some times you really need that bit of TLC and community care. You appreciate a breather and my cough certainly hasn’t been letting up.

Mister's Sunflower painting 2015.

Mister’s Sunflower painting 2015.

On this trip, we ran into Mama Dee again who was running a Free Art in the Park program. The kids did a few beautiful and inspired paintings while I chalked the pavements, thinking back to my days as a student politician writing chalk slogans around the footpaths of Sydney University. Dee’s son passed away in the park a few years ago and she has been committed to helping young people find their way.

Art in the Park, January 2012.

Art in the Park, January 2012.

Although Byron Bay has it’s breathtaking, postcard beauty, it has it’s underbelly. Young people in particular turn here not just for the surf but also for answers or place to turn when life is spiraling out of control and there’s seemingly no way out of the maze. When your life has no particular destination, Byron Bay somehow is somewhere to go. Find other seekers and that merging of souls can be a precarious mix. There needs to be somewhere to turn at such times and Dee is going her bit…along with local Churches and community groups. the Adventist Church across the road has been running a soup kitchen across the road for many years. Too many young people are falling through the cracks.

Painted onto one of the park benches in Railway Park, a dedication to all the young people who have suicided in the region.

Painted onto one of the park benches in Railway Park, a dedication to all the young people who have suicided in the region.

We also spotted what looked like a full-blooded Dingo in the park. I’ve never seen a Dingo outside a zoo before and while it seemed friendly enough and was some kind of community pet, I wasn’t entirely comfortable. Dingoes haven’t had good press in the past.

My tea cup in the park. These

My tea cup in the park. These “grannie cups” remind me of talking, listening, sharing…taking time for each other. We could all used another cup of tea.

While I’m here, I should also mention that the council has put up some new, very touristy toilets in the park. Something called an Ezyloo, which is pretty space aged. I’ve been to one in North Sydney and thought it was incredible but Byron Bay is Byron and I’ve always enjoyed reading the philosophical graffiti on the walls of the toilets here. Strangely, a robotic voice telling me I have 10 minutes to do my business isn’t quite the same…even if it does play “love sweet love”.

Graffiti on the wall, Railway Park, 2009.

Graffiti on the wall, Railway Park, 2009.

Philosophy adorning the toilet wall.

Philosophy adorning the toilet wall.

Do you have any memories of Enid Blyton’s Magic Faraway Tree Series? Or, perhaps some great stories of climbing trees, falling out of trees etc?

Hope you are having a good week!

xx Rowena