Six Weeks of Sydney

It’s hard to believe I’ve already been in Sydney for six weeks; time flies when you’re having fun as they say.  I’ve been promising a Sydney specific piece for a few weeks now, so here it is.  With the international break coming to a close I thought this would be the perfect opportunity, something to help you pass the last few days of boredom before the real football returns on Saturday.

You may have noticed I didn’t write anything post Olympiacos or post West Ham, meaning it’s been a while since we last spoke…or should I say since I last rambled and you last read.  The reason for this is that I moved apartment or unit as they call it here.  This meant no Foxtel (Aussie Sky) and no laptop, and as a result I’ve only seen brief highlights of both games, so there didn’t seem much sense in writing any match reviews.  However, suffice to say that after the disappointing result against the Russians it was nice to see us bounce back with two good wins.  Here’s hoping for more of the same this weekend, which I will be able to watch as I now have Foxtel again; so match reporting will be back to normal moving forward – lucky you!

I now have Foxtel again after I had it installed in my new apartment last week.  The apartment is in Oatley, a south-west suburb of Sydney, which if I’m being honest I didn’t see myself staying in.  But the village has grown on me; it’s small and peaceful, a quite lovely suburb.  It has everything you could need in terms of supermarkets, banks, etc, is close to my friends, and what’s more it was more affordable than renting in the city, a city which is only 30 minutes or so away by train, from the choice of two stations.  Also only 30 minutes away by train is the beach.  So all in all I’m very pleased with my new unit.

As mentioned the city and beach are close by via train, or tin cans as they’re called on the basis they look exactly like an old tin can.  They’re tin cans with three tiers which is rather odd.  The middle tier, which is normal train or underground carriage level back home, doesn’t have many seats; it’s more for the elderly or buggies.  This means having to sit on the top or bottom tiers nine times out of ten.  The top is usually my preference as the lower tier is so low your eye line is just below platform level, which means when you pull into a station you’re looking at people’s feet or left feeling uncomfortably creepy as the train grinds to a halt where you’re left inadvertently catching a glimpse up some ladies skirt!!  What’s also unusual about the trains is that nobody seems to like sitting backwards, so the seats have the ability to be flipped over allowing passengers to always sit facing forward.  In summary, tin cans are a little weird and commuters in London should grumble a little less.  For the locals who don’t enjoy public transport they stick to their cars, which seem far less fancy than back home and are  driven on the widest roads you could ever imagine; which might explain why everyone feels it’s ok to parallel park a foot or so away from the curb (I shit you not).

If I asked a local to describe the width of the road they’d no doubt say they’re “heaps wide”.  Not very wide, or really wide, but heaps wide.  Just as they’d say there were heaps of people at an event, or that they’re heaps tired, or that something was heaps good.  I find the use of the word heap very odd.  What’s wrong with very good, or lots of fun, or really tired?  Or maybe I’m just blowing this heaps out of proportion.

Moving on, and another little quirk I don’t get is pricing in shops.  As is the norm things will always cost X pounds / dollars and 99 pence / cents, on the basis that some idiots will see something priced $499 and think it’s ‘heaps’ cheaper than if the price tag said $500.  This is all well and good when you have 1p and 2p coins as we do back home, but when you don’t have a 1c or 2c coin (as is the case here) it means you’re screwed.  So what do they do?  Well they round-up or down of course, to the nearest 5c; so when my bill at the supermarket came to $27.31 I only had to pay $27.30 – bargain!!

Continuing the theme of ‘things in Sydney I don’t quite understand’ is why doors have two handles.  Front doors, back doors, room to room doors; they all have two handles.  So when you’re carrying something in one hand you’re buggered, you can’t open a door.  I think I’ll be putting my back out any day now as I’m forced to lift something up from the floor, which is only on the floor in the first place as I needed both hands just to open a bloody door.

But please don’t let my grumbling mislead you.  In spite of all these little quirks (which I actually find quite endearing) I’m having an excellent time.  Sydney is a beautiful city filled with some wonderful people.  Excluding all the oddness mentioned above, which overlooked how vegemite is just a poor man’s marmite, I love it here.  I have described it to some people as a hot and quiet London.  Given it was British settlers who set up camp here in the late 18th century it’s understandable that things will have a certain feel of familiarity about them.  But Sydney by population (just over 4 and a half million) is ‘heaps’ less than London (over 8 million), so when you walk down George Street in CBD you can breathe, you can move about the pavement, you can over take the slow walkers; unlike Oxford Street in London where you’re just about ready to kill everyone and anyone.  It’s like London, except its spacious, and relaxed, and the sun is nearly always shining.

My favourite spot in London is Southbank.  I love the vibe, the waterfront, seeing the London Eye, the Houses of Parliament, and St Paul’s Cathedral.  In Sydney it’s the harbour.  You’ve got the Harbour Bridge, the Opera House, the Royal Botanic Gardens, a breath-taking waterfront with its ferry boats, seagulls instead of pigeons…I just love everything about the harbour.  Whether it be night or day Sydney Harbour has a soft and stunning elegance, a welcoming feel, with a backdrop of the CBD overlooking it.  It’s perfect.

Equally perfect is the weather; it’s hot.  Sounds obvious I know, but it’s great.  I will admit it resulted in me getting sun burnt at the beach this week, but I’ll try not to complain.  After a miserable summer back home it’s nice to feel the warm sun upon your face.  This week saw days of 25 to over 30 degrees, and as spring eventually departs and summer arrives it will only get hotter…let’s see if I’ll be able to handle it!!  Of course such weather is a time for flip-flops and t-shirts, or if you’re a local ‘thongs and a singlet’.  If you don’t own a pair of thongs then fear not, you can buy some from the Havainas vending machine I saw in the city.  Crisps in a vending machine?  Drinks?  Chocolates?  Yes, we’ve all seen that.  But Havainas flip-flops in a vending machine?  That’s a new one on me.

The relaxed tourist approach to my time in Sydney is due to come to an end, however.  I’m really happy to say I have found a job which I will start on Monday.  It’s a great opportunity with a great organisation, so I’m very excited and really looking forward to getting started.  The income will make life easier and will also enable me to start planning some trips further afield, including visiting friends in Melbourne and Adelaide.  It will also mean the chance to meet new people and hopefully make new friends, which is a good thing for many reasons, but in particular for the fact it means I can start to dial down my need to talk to cashiers.  Back home in London I didn’t talk to cashiers, why would you?  You put your items on the counter, you enter you card and pin when asked, and you say thank you as you leave.  When you’re new to a city, and still making new friends, a conversation with a cashier can surprisingly add to the fun in your day.  I imagine its how old people feel about life.

So that’s Sydney so far; six weeks of Sydney in a nutshell.  My final update brings me nicely back round to football, as this weekend just gone I went to my first Sydney FC game at the Allianz Stadium.  It was the home debut of Alessandro Del Piero which resulted in an atmospheric crowd of over 35,000, which for football in Australia is big, very big.  Sadly Sydney FC went down 2-3, made worse by the fact that Emile fucking Heskey scored the second of the Newcastle Jet goals.  But given my affiliation to Sydney FC is not yet at an emotional stage it was good to see an entertaining game of football, with 5 goals, and a good crowd which included many flags, banners, and a man with a megaphone.  It also included people drinking beer in their seats and experiencing the standing / drinking section behind the goal, which is where I was.  Needless to say when Sydney scores the beer goes everywhere.  It doesn’t matter how much beer is remaining in your plastic schooner (Aussies don’t do pints), you throw it as high as you can in the air and celebrate the goal under the resulting shower of beer.

So there we have it.  Back to today.  A today which is ruined by the final game of international football, thanks to a Polish man who forgot to close the roof (or so I hear).  Does anyone really give two shits about international football these days?  I certainly don’t and I can’t wait for the return of The Arsenal this Saturday.  With Foxtel back in town I will be watching, and it’s a game we really must be looking to win.  Norwich have looked very poor this season and don’t seem to be handling the post Paul Lambert affects very well.  With a 5pur2 man as their manager I’ll be only too happy to see Arsenal pile on the misery.  Here’s hoping.

Until next time, up The Arsenal; come on you reds.

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