I spent some time this week visiting Governor Macquarie Tower, Sydney. I’ve been there a few times before and every time the view gives me a “wow” moment. I snapped a few photographs of the view this time. Unfortunately, the photographs aren’t that great (camera phone quality, window reflection), but still you can see those who normally work in this building have some damn fine views. It was nice to be a short-term visitor.
“Oh my goodness, that looks just like something I made in wordwork class thirty-something years ago” was my first reaction when I saw the shell-covered jewellery box in the second hand shop on Oxford Street late yesterday. On closer inspection, I noticed this one displayed a greater level of professionalism (you might say) than might have been evident in the craftsmanship of a 12 year old. Besides, I know THAT particular piece of child-craft (hipsters would love it) remains safely back home in Lismore. I haven’t looked closely at it in over twenty years, though I might do so when I head back home in a couple of weeks.
This particular second hand store on Oxford Street is quite an oddity. Located in the midst of a stretch of bars, restaurants and sex shops, it really stands out. As you enter the doorway, you never really knowing if you’re entering a legitimate shop or maybe the overcrowded house of someone with hoarding instincts. Like the famous overcrowded bookstore in Newtown, you’re never really able to walk very far in the shop without the need to excuse yourself as you pass by someone else. When I popped in there late yesterday for a look around there was just one other. As I left, two others were coming in.
The shop is a wonderful collection of items. Some of it is plain junk, of course. But as I looked around I saw some things I found genuinely very interesting. There’s a painting on the wall, for example, which I asked about, and told the bloke I would come back in over the weekend to purchase. There’s also some lovely old radios in good condition. If you’re ever on Oxford Street, it’s definitely worth a look.
Although I know for a fact a lot of people in my ‘hood really hate it (our Body Corporate sends regular reminders the City of Sydney has regular pickups for large items), I really quite like that people use our back lane-way as a short-term dumping ground for items they no longer need. By doing this, hopefully other people might be able to find some use in them. At the moment, for example, there’s a couch that’s in pretty good condition there for taking. If I didn’t already have a couple of very good couches, I’d consider it myself. A few years ago I remember seeing a washing machine which was also in pretty good nick. But yeah, I understand the argument discarded items like these have the capacity to attract vermin, as well as being unattractive.
What I quite like about these items is the potential stories behind them. Over the last few years I’ve tried, as much as possible, to document and share on this blog, some of the more “interesting” items, and to imagine/reflect on how they came to be discarded. The last time I wrote was when I discovered a wheelchair in the back laneway. Wow, what was that about? I also remember seeing, and being very touched, when I noticed some items discarded from the house of two older women who lived closeby when, presumably, one of them had died. But there were also some funny items. I still laugh about the furniture made from 44-gallon drums and the leopard-skin lounge.
I don’t know what to make of the cricket bat I saw in the laneway earlier today. Has Toby just grown up or has something happened that means he no longer needs his cricket bat?
In the back of my mind, there’s a vague fragment of a slither of a memory of having seen a production of “The Glass Menagerie” about twenty-five years ago (or more likely more) at a theatre in Brisbane. La Boite Theatre, maybe? Even so, my memory doesn’t extend much beyond the image of a woman sitting at the front of the stage obsessing over her small glass figurines. Without much of a memory beyond that, being Tennesee Williams, I just assumed there would have been repressed homosexual men with alcohol problems and unsatisfied women with mental health issues. I’m being silly of course, but you have to admit, these are characteristics you do find in other works by him including “Cat On A Hot Tin Roof” and “A Streetcar Named Desire” which are two of my favouite plays of all time.
As we made our way to Belvoir Street Theatre last night, Sue read out loud the article on Wikipedia outlining the plot until the point where we both decided we had reached “spoiler” territory. But in short, and without a spoiler, it’s a play set in 1910/1920s America, the South, about a woman and her two children, none of whom are very happy with their lives. The mother was deserted by her husband many years ago, forcing her to raise her children by herself, both of whom she describes as “not normal”: the daughter has a slight disability, and the son goes out drinking most nights, with a slight suggestion he might also be homosexual. The plot-line centres around the mother’s desire for her daughter to be “married off before it’s too late”.
Before the play started last night the director came out to explain this was the first public preview after an intense week of technical rehearsals. “This could be really good or you might be witnessing one of the worst, most memorable moments of Australian theatre”, he joked. It was pretty evident shortly into the production why the technical rehearsals had been so intense: this production relies HEAVILY (in the first half at least) on video effects. Screens to the left and right of the stage feature images captured from on-stage cameras in the style, I’m guessing, of a 1940s movie. Sue and I both agreed the reliance on the narrator on stage to have to move the cameras around became distracting. We both found we sometimes spent more time watching him than we did watching the action on stage. The set, although really clever, was also a little distracting, as much of the action took place at the back of the stage behind a flimsy see-through curtain. We both really understood what they’re trying to achieve with the set and video, but it just didn’t do it for us.
Which is a shame, because it’s a really good play. “It’s much more complex than I’d imagined”, I whispered to Sue at one point. If you’ve grown up in a family with any degree of dysfunctionality, you’ll immediately realise how believably flawed the characters are. The performance by the actor who played the daughter, Laura was, in particular, really good: really honest, really authentic etc.
It will be interesting to see how audiences and critics judge the production as it opens in coming weeks, being mindful of what the director said last night.
I suspect if there was anywhere else I would be happy to live in Sydney, aside from Surry Hills, it would be nearby Chippendale. It’s a suburb with a lot of cultural diversity, with an active arts scene (there are lots of great galleries in the area), and even with a lot of history, it’s also an area undergoing dramatic change (the Central Park complex is located on the suburb’s fringe).
I guess that’s why I really like the Beams Festival: it seems that it’s very much a product of the environment and the community in which it takes place. There’s edgy street art, there’s music and dance, and there’s even something for the kids. As we wandered around last night, it was great to take in and really enjoy all of the elements. Hey, we even watched and enjoyed the teenage hip-hop dancers.
This was only the third year of the Beams Festival in Chippendale, and only the second time I’ve attended, but there’s something really fantastic about the festival which already makes me anticipate next year.
Even though I live fairly close to Redfern in Sydney, I’ve never really socialised much in the area. Sure, I’ve been to a few pubs. I’ve been to Railz. I’m a member of South Sydney Rugby Leagues Club. I’ve also been to the uber-hip Freda’s. But aside from that, I’ve never really experienced much of the emerging small bar culture in the area. Partly, it’s because this small bar culture has developed only in the last few years, and now being in my late forties, friends and I tend to socialise in places which are little less-hip, a little less noisy.
And that’s the one thing you have to remember about small bars: they can be quite noisy. Like us ten years ago, these bars are full of younger types out for a night on the town with their friends. They’re probably out for a pick-up too. But that wasn’t the case for two friends of mine and I on Thursday night: we were just out for a few drinks and a catchup. We had previously called ourselves “The Boozehounds”, reflective of a time when we were all a bit younger, single, and thus able to be fairly spontaneous about our social lives. But when partners and young babies come along, you need to plan such events.
That said, it was a fairly spontaneous night. We started off at Arcadia which is a nice enough bar, though really very noisy. From there we wandered to The Beardedtit, a bar which we all really loved. The bar had a great vibe about it : there was a hip young crowd, but there was also room for 40-somethings like ourselves. On the walls there was art for sale, including one piece I almost made an impulse purchase of. You could also order take-in food from nearby restaurants : we had some really fantastic Chinese. We also chatted to the woman who runs the bar, and she was really lovely. We ended up the night at The Dock. An intimately small bar, we even had a dance to a band playing just a few feet away from us. So yeah, a night of great spontaneity, and great to get “The Boozehounds” back together.