On The Street

“It’s pretty confronting”, a friend and I concluded about our (separate) experiences of visiting the red-light area of Amsterdam. As you walk around Amsterdam there are half-dressed women in shop-fronts offering themselves to (often) groups of men. I don’t have an issue, at all, with sex work as a legitimate form of employment, but sex work doesn’t come without its problems, including drug abuse, exploitation, and (sometimes) slavery.

“Most sex work now happens via this”, Elliot, our tour guide noted today, holding up his mobile phone. We were standing outside the infamous “Wall” in Sydney. During the 70s-90s, the “Wall” was a location for male sex workers and their clients. I still remember now seeing younger men on the footpath and road getting into cars with older men. Further away in Darlinghurst, there were the transgender sex workers, and there were also quite a few female sex workers too.

A few years ago, I remember a family member from the country was “disappointed” when she came to Sydney, only to discover there was little evidence of sex workers on the street anymore.

Although, I thought I knew a fair bit about the history of Surry Hills/Darlinghurst, but today I learned something new: there was an “Amsterdam-like” history of sex work.

There is an area of Darlinghurst that was known as “The Doors”, I learned today on the “Darlinghurst: Sex, Scandal & Murder Walking Tour“. In a 19th-century workaround to the prostitution lawns, Elliot explained there were limits on the number of women who were “allowed” in a house. Thus, there was a “one woman per house rule” which effectively saw a lone figure stand at the door of many homes in East Sydney/Darlinghurst.

East Sydney

As part of the tour, we also visited a pub that, during World War 2, was often frequented by American servicemen, especially African American servicemen. In that particular case, the hotelier banned women from the bar, though one (the notorious underworld figure) Tilley Devine was allowed in. Or perhaps more accurately, forced her way in.

Tilley and Kate Leigh were larger-than-life characters in Sydney back in those days, specialising in sex work and illegal alcohol sales. And during the tour, there were some wonderful stories about their interactions. There was one story, in particular, where Kate punched Tilley in the face and literally “sat on her”.

East Sydney
Walking tour of Darlinghurst

The tour was very interesting, and it was great to see the evolution of Elliot as a “tour guide”, having seen him during one of his very first, early tours, exactly one year ago.

Tour guide, Elliot

From there, we headed off to lunch at The Oxford, and a wander around the Shimmer Festival.

Less bitter, more glitter at the Shimmer Festival in Darlinghurst

After a couple of years of lockdowns, it’s great to see a few more street festivals emerge.

I don’t really have plans for the rest of the weekend, as I’m gearing up for further travel, home to Lismore.

In other news, there was a moment this week when I was genuinely concerned about my fellow blogger, Andrew. His blog was down, his email was deleted. I thought something very bad may have happened. I dropped an email to another (former) blogger, Victor who knows Andrew better in real life than I do. Thankfully, all was okay.

As it turns out, his email and blog are linked, via Google, and he had “breached their terms and conditions”. He still doesn’t know what he did.

Also, recently, I’ve noticed long-term blogger, Carol has taken her blog down. She’s been blogging for as long as I can remember, and we’ve actually met once in real life (quite by accident).

It got me thinking about my own blog, and the treasure trove of life experiences (and genealogy) I have resided here. It’s been a while since I’ve backed it up, so this weekend I resolved to have a hard copy, as well as have it all in the cloud.

The recent problems with Qantas and Woolworths haven’t turned me into a flat-earther about all of this stuff, but have made me a little more conscious of the need for multiple backups.

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