Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Belshaw's World - the ever-changing face of Sydney

At the moment I am working on site in Parramatta. I have therefore been interested in the stories in the Express about the links between the University and the Eels. However, that’s not what I wanted to write about in this column.

Each day, it takes between one hour ten and one hour forty to get too or from the office. This is the story of one such trip.

The journey begins in the leafy suburb of Kingsford between six thirty and seven in the morning.

This is older Sydney. Each morning I pass older people exercising their dogs or just walking. We often say hello, for we pass each other all the time.

This used to be a heavily Greek area, with the Greek Orthodox Cathedral only a few blocks away.

Sometimes I stop to chat to an older Greek lady. We discovered by accident that we have the same birthday. She is upset about the state of her country.

Walking on, the world changes quickly as I near Anzac Parade. The apartment blocks now rise suddenly. I have entered country dominated by the ever spreading influence of the nearby University of NSW.

On Anzac Parade, a few Greek establishments remain. My barber is Greek and has been in same shop for over fifty years. His walls are covered with photos of him in the navy, his band and the various people he knew.

The Greek shops that were once such a prominent feature have largely been replaced by a variety of Asian restaurants and food stores. The local IGA is Chinese owned and has Chinese staff. Students from multiple countries and different faiths wander the streets.

The many buses that feed into Anzac Parade all carry students to or from the University. It’s a very big business indeed.

Past UNSW, the bus continues down Anzac Parade past Sydney Girls and Boys High Schools. As is so often the case, there is an Armidale connection.

On 9 June 1928, the present Sydney Boys High School was officially opened by the Honorable DH Drummond, Member for Armidale and Minister for Education on land formally known as 'Billy Goats Swamps' but renamed 'Moore Park'. Today, Sydney Boys High sporting teams regularly visit Armidale to play TAS teams.

Depending on the exact bus, the bus turns left into either Cleveland or Gresham Streets travelling downhill towards Central. We have now entered very different territory.

The arc of inner city working class suburbs that swung in a great arc from Ultimo and Glebe through Newtown and Redfern into Surrey Hills and surrounding areas have all been undergoing gentrification.

The old factories and most of those who worked in them have long gone, replaced by a mix of students and younger professionals wanting an inner city metro life style. This is entertainment Sydney.

In recent weeks, I have spent time helping eldest look for a house in these areas.

She and two friends are looking to rent a three bedroom house. They are all students with reasonably well paying part time jobs.

I knew this area well during my younger days. As we drove from place to place, I thought how much it had all changed. Who would have thought that competition for relatively small three bedroom places would drive their rents to $720-750 per week?

At Central, I join a train travelling north west, first passing though what is now called the inner west. This is Green socially progressive country, looked down on by many of those living in the inner city suburbs even when they share many of the same views.

Past Strathfield, the train enters melting pot Sydney.

The passengers are often poorer, less well dressed. There is huge variety in national groups, as well as a very strong Muslim presence. The striking Gallipoli Mosque at Auburn is the largest mosque in Australia.

The school children who crowd the trains during term time wear the same clothes, but look very varied.

I shut my eyes and listen to the chatter. The variety vanishes. The language is the same down to the ever ubiquitous like. They are all Australian.

The train has arrived in Parramatta. It’s time to stop.

Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express on 22 February 2012. I have been repeating the columns here with a lag because the Express columns are not on line. You can see all the columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012.

This was, in fact, the last Belshaw's World to appear in the Express. After 164 columns, Belshaw's World and the Express have parted company. However, the column will continue here every Wednesday in similar format.


Mark said...

Great Thursday morning read Jim. I feel blessed that I don't have to compete for space to live and travel every day. The odd day down there is enough for me.

What a shame for the Express and their readers too. Will you approach another paper?

Jim Belshaw said...

Probably not at this stage, Mark, for there is a fair bit of Armidale specific material.