City of wonders
Outside my window, Lane Cove National Park lies green and glossy. I’m sitting in our caravan, Gloria, while rain patters down on the roof and the muted roar of Sydney drifts across the parklands. Sydney is simply amazing. A crazy juxtaposition of landscape and architecture, harbours, rivers, rocks and lush bushland.
My first visit to Sydney was in January 1974. As my dad drove through the city, I hung out the window and breathed in the hot, heady odour of a place that seemed the polar opposite of my hometown of Melbourne. Sydney smelt of steamy heat, sweat and beer (six o’clock swill). The doors of every pub were flung open and the footpaths were crowded with men in blue singlets drinking glasses of ale. Everything seemed golden and larger than life. Last night, just after the Professor and I arrived, we walked through Lane Cove National Park and the air smelt as foreign as I’d remembered it – sweet and heady, of winter wildflowers and damp earth.
In the early 1980s I spent eighteen months living in share houses around Sydney. I was a bit of a punk and Sydney suited me down to the ground. The landscapes of Sydney seeped into my imagination and decades later became the backdrop for my novel Vulture’s Gate. The wildness of the north shore provided plenty of hideouts for the runaway kids in Vulture’s Gate and a base for a tribe of Festers and the scary Sons of Gaia.
Tomorrow, the Professor will perform two Punch & Judy shows at Vaucluse House. I haven’t visited Vaucluse for a long time but I took elements of it to create a house used by the corrupt Colony to house young children in Vulture’s Gate.
When the Professsor told me about his shows up here, I decided to tag along for the ride. I didn’t expect so much of my past to come back to me nor how many scenes from the imagined future of Vulture’s Gate would come back like flashes from a life I’ve never lived. Stories do that sometimes, the past, the present and the future all intermingling to make for a much bigger life, a brighter canvas, a different way of seeing the things you take for granted. It’s hard to take any aspect of Sydney for granted. Definitely, a city of wonders.
(Apologies to my beloved hometown, Melbourne).