In today’s “Daily Telegraph” there’s a report that Hugh Jackman and Deborah-Lee Furness (and family) arrived at Sydney Airport yesterday. While Hugh works on a new film, the Tele reports they will spend the next six months living in Australia. It didn’t take today’s Tele to tell me they were in Australia, however, having spotted them walking along George Street in “The Rocks” yesterday. I was walking along with my friends Graeme and Grant when, suddenly, we noticed the presence of three “paparazzi” photographers with their trademark long-lens zoom cameras. None of us had ever seen anything like this before in Sydney, so we instantly assumed it might have been Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban. It’s a well-publicised fact that Nicole has remained in the United States while Keith has been back in Australia on a promotional tour. But no, it was just plain old Hugh and Deborah. “Maybe she’s pregnant?”, Grant wondered, curious as to why there would be paparazzi dodging and weaving behind lamp-posts on the other side of the street for a shot of Deborah and Hugh. “Maybe they were on the verge of divorcing, but are now back together?”, I proffered as a possible explanation. But no, it’s not that exciting, though it gave me the opportunity to take my own paparazzi-style photograph.
The three of us had just been to a “70’s Festival” at Susannah Place in “The Rocks”. Susannah Place is a series of four terraces located at The Rocks in Sydney which were built in 1844 by an Irish family. The houses were kept in the family for many years, and were mostly rented out to working class families. The terraces are now owned by the Historic Houses Trust of NSW which has maintained them. Inside the houses, which have been restored, but not renovated, there is period furniture, representing the style of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Even in In the backyard, there was an outside toilet and a copper washing basin, much like the one I remember bathing in as a child.
Many of the houses were still inhabited in the 70s, and for the festival, were temporarily decorated with a range of 70’s style clothing and furniture. There were also a number of stalls selling old records, books and clothing. We spent maybe half an hour there before wandering on, and then noticing Hugh, who of course, has become famous through his portrayal of 70’s singer-songwriter, Peter Allen.
Outside one of the shops at Circular Quay I noticed a stand displaying those miniature number plates with first names on them, also popular back in the 70s. I remember as a child desperately wanting one for my push-bike. And from the look of things the display probably hadn’t been updated since the 70s. Looking closely at the names on offer, you soon discover names such as Glenda, Graham, Carol and Fiona, which are no longer popular. A quick check on the website of the Registry of Births, Deaths & Marriages reveals that it’s really old-fashioned names, like Jack, Toby, Sophie and Isabella that are common these days. Of course there’s the well-documented and often joked about Dakota, Montana (and other US states) and the stupid spellings of proper names (J’aymz), but the evidence suggests the more traditional names remain popular. James, of course, is one of those classic names, and to my parents I’m eternally grateful they didn’t go with “Kenneth” (as planned), and named me after my grandfather instead.