When I told several Sydney-based friends I would be living in Newtown when I arrived in the New South Wales capital, they gave verbatim responses about how I would find it.
“Newtown’s pretty out there,” one told me as I packed up my life in south-west Queensland.
“It’s different but I think you’re gonna fit right in.”
I wasn’t sure how to take the comment at the time, but ever since my maiden stroll down King Street almost three weeks ago, it now makes sense: Newtown is a place you really can come as you are.
In 1992, I was an angst-ridden, overachieving 11-year-old. Like thousands of others, I honestly believed a subdued Kurt Cobain was singing about my life when he slurred the lyrics of “Come as You Are”. At the time, I thought it was my personalised theme song. I was wrong. The song is a musical tribute to the inner-west suburb in which I currently reside.
At a cursory glance, Newtown strikes you as a place where downtrodden creative types come to escape the judging stare of the real world. In the past week alone, I’ve spoken to two unemployed journalists, a musician preparing to busk her way to dinner and a dishevelled, 50-something writer who has been working on a manuscript since 2002. Everyone here has a story, from the well-dressed corporate type frantically hailing a bus, to the barefoot bohemian couple who seem to be celebrating a 46-year Summer of Love as they walk their Labrador.
It doesn’t matter what you look like, how you dress or how oddly you behave here – the grand Lady Newtown has seen it all before on her bustling main thoroughfares and narrow, terrace-lined backstreets. She won’t judge you and, because of her unique allure, neither will the people who call her ample, culture-filled bosom home. If you don’t believe me, just ask the bearded, tutu-wearing guy who was sobbing hysterically on King Street last Saturday.
Even the non-human aspect of Newtown is a multifarious mix of calm and chaos. As I write this from the relative silence of my courtyard, it’s hard to believe the lights, sounds and manic pace of Enmore Road are only 200 metres from here. Only the constant, near-deafening whine of descending planes overhead reminds me I’m sharing a city with almost five million people.
To me, it’s Newtown’s ability to offer both solitude and a strange sense of community and belonging that makes it so appealing. You can walk along the street wearing flippers and a tin-foil hat if you want to, safe in the knowledge you’ll retain relative anonymity.
Despite offering an eclectic range of cafes, restaurants and stores, as well as a vibrant lifestyle that is probably unmatched anywhere else in Sydney, the real lure of this historic suburb is that it provides a venue for people from every corner of the globe to listen to Cobain sing their personal theme song.
Within the invisible, council-determined boundaries of Newtown, you can be anyone you want to be, even if you aren’t sure who that is.
Just don’t try to be anyone you know you aren’t. If you do, the eccentric, welcoming old dame will eat you alive.
If the lovely people at Hallmark are to be believed, Christmas is a time for giving, indulging and sending out vibes of goodwill towards all men, women and house-trained animals.
The reality of the festive season could not be further from the clichés, corny poems and pictures of goofy-looking reindeer the marketing gurus expect us to embrace every December.
While the David Jones catalogues and Coles billboards depict well-dressed shoppers with Joker-esque grins peacefully perusing the aisles, apocalyptic scenes are playing out on the ground.
Is there a get-your-fucking-hands-off-that-last-trampoline-before-I-lose-my-cool card?
It’s all well and good to espouse the spirit of season but the fact is all textbook theory about appropriate Christmas behaviour takes a back seat to retail guerrilla warfare in the lead-up to December 25.
Those who doubt me should have been in the Townsville bottle shop I happened to be in at midday.
As I was filling my trolley with enough vodka and cider to anaesthetise a three-year-old gelding, I witnessed two women swap the Christmas spirit for a verbal stoush over spirits.
Basically, the second woman – let’s call her Little Miss Swear Jar – objected to the first woman – who we’ll call Mrs Three Bottles – taking what appeared to be the last three bottles of an unidentified dark rum off the shelf, even though the former obviously wanted to buy one of them.
Unfortunately, it was at this stage Little Miss Swear Jar forgot all about those warm Christmas card messages and launched into a tirade that would have made both elves and seasoned sailors blush.
Bearing in mind that I made a beeline for the opposite side of the store when the argument started, I’m pretty confident it went something like this:
Little Miss Swear Jar: You’ve gotta be fuckin’ kiddin’ me.
Mrs Three Bottles: What?
Little Miss Swear Jar: Why the fuck are you takin’ all of them?
Mrs Three Bottles: We’re having a party and I need three bottles.
Little Miss Swear Jar: Fuck off. Everyone’s having a party tomorrow. Give me one of those fuckin’ bottles.
Mrs Three Bottles: Get fucked.
Little Miss Swear Jar: Fuck you, moll. You’re ruining my Christmas* and you can go and get fucked right up.
* Author’s note: Apparently, spirits really do maketh the occasion.
What were those morons at Hallmark saying about goodwill and compassion towards our fellow man?
After witnessing what should have been a pay-per-view event, I left the bottle shop thinking the advertising boffins should forgo the soft, heartfelt approach to Christmas marketing and focus instead on promoting a range of retail rage cards and light battle armour.
In 2012, it seems the key to Christmas is just surviving the supermarket skirmish.
Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, I hope you have a fantastic festive season and stay safe while enjoying the company of friends and loved ones.
I’ve got a strong feeling my name will turn up in Santa Claus’ naughty book this year but the fact you guys and girls –this blog’s raison d’être – keep coming back day after day negates the lump of coal that will be stuffed into my stocking* hours from now.
* Author’s note: This is not a euphemism.
In theory, the individuals we elect to represent us at a political level should be the cream of the crop.
Lamentably, somebody forgot to inform the Newman government of this fact.
What we currently have governing Queensland is a collection of Christmas geese, turkeys and those wind-up toy monkeys that clap cymbals together.
As 2012 draws to a conclusion, voters in Queensland seem to be realising that the goose has been overcooked, the turkey is a touch on the dry side and that the toy monkey is just a cheap, annoying novelty.
Following its landslide victory in the March election, the Liberal National Party held 78 seats in Parliament and took a stranglehold on politics in the Sunshine State.
After only eight months with Campbell Newman at the helm, things have gone decidedly pear-shaped.
Former ministers David Gibson and Bruce Flegg fell on their swords in controversial circumstances, while the stench of nepotism surrounding the appointment of Science, Information Technology, Innovation and the Arts Minister Ros Bates’ 25-year-old son to a senior AO8 public service job is nothing short of rancid.
When you throw Health Minister Lawrence Springborg’s apparent reluctance to admit that he – not the health boards – is ultimately responsible for health delivery in Queensland into the mix, it’s hard not to feel short-changed as a voter.
Things don’t get any better as you move up the LNP food chain.
The Premier rules the roost with a seemingly dictatorial attitude to democracy and has demonstrated his predilection to move swiftly against those who question the state of affairs.
Any lingering doubt about the internal dissent towards party decisions should have dissipated after Member for Condamine Ray Hopper defected to Katter’s Australian Party, and Carl Judge and Alex Dawson were read the riot act before being given no option but to exit stage right.
Even mining magnate-cum-conspiracy theorist Clive Palmer – a man who has poured some serious money into the LNP coffers – has spoken out about the apparent turmoil, swapping his life membership for rumours of starting a political party of his own.
Titanic II jokes aside, the rats seem to be deserting the political disaster that is the Newman government.
If the current rate of attrition continues, the 78 seats the LNP held in March will be whittled away to about 64 by the 2015 election.
Queensland deserves a better level of governance than it is currently enduring.
You and I deserve better from the people we elect to represent us.
Is it conceivable that our state’s political saviour could materialise in the form of an eccentric billionaire with a penchant for dinosaurs and blueprints for a big ship?
The last time I went to a circus, I was in Brisbane and paid about $75 for my ticket.
My most recent visit to a zoo was while visiting Perth and, from memory, the privilege cost me somewhere in the vicinity of $20.
Why does it cost so much more to watch dancing bears, juggling clowns and those dopey-looking penguins when the show’s in Canberra?
When you consider what we pay our Federal politicians to carry on like petulant children, it’s easy to see why so many people become disillusioned and why our elected officials rate somewhere between journalists, used car salespeople and serial killers on the scale of professional trust.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard hasn’t been able to use any words other than sexist, misogynist and offended this week.
For that, Australians paid almost half a million dollars.
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott achieved the seemingly impossible and sunk lower than broadcaster Alan Jones when he slipped the old “died of shame” nugget into a speech during question time.
That will be about $350,000, thank you very much.
You have to feel sorry for Peter Slipper, the disgraced former Speaker of the House of Representatives.
When Mr Slipper fell on his controversy-plagued sword on Tuesday night, he took a pay cut of more than $140,000.
Hopefully, he won’t struggle too much on his adjusted annual salary of a touch under $200,000.
Am I the only one who feels like we are currently getting short-changed on the Federal political front?
We need the best people representing us – being our voice – in Federal Parliament and I am all for paying top dollar to attract them, especially when you take into account the salaries individuals of that calibre would command in the private sector.
What we are presently seeing and reading about day after day in Canberra suggests that, in many instances, we have fallen well short in identifying the best candidates when we went to the polls in 2010.
There’s an old idiom that suggests if you pay peanuts, you will find yourself surrounded by monkeys.
Unfortunately, the peanuts the Australian public are feeding the current residents of Parliament Zoo cost hundreds of thousands of dollars per bag.
Worse still, once you have purchased a bag of the exorbitantly-priced legumes and realise it was too much to spend on the political animals performing behind the smudged glass, you can’t get a refund for three years.
If our Federal politicians continue to carry on like angry five-year-old chimpanzees, I for one will be advocating covering our nation’s capital in Nobby’s nuts.
I’m sorry, but I’m not lolz-ing.
The Oxford University Press announced the latest inclusions to Oxford Dictionaries Online this week, some of which defy logic.
I used to enjoy perusing the quarterly updates of “current English” but now, the three-monthly read leaves me with a numbness in my special place and a strong desire to stick my head into an oven.
How the hell does formally acknowledging nonsensical words – or in the case of “mwahahaha”, a stupidity-inducing sound – as part of our lexicon make us a more evolved society?
If anything, recognising words like “douche” and “photobomb” demonstrates humanity is now officially catering to the lowest common denominator.
It’s almost as if we’ve waved the white flag and submitted to an army of faceless, iPod-toting, monosyllabic overlords who communicate with grunts , fist bumps and group hugs.
In a nutshell, it’s fucking ridic.
If an alien race was to attack the earth tomorrow – which would be a pretty douchey thing to do – the first laser-wielding ET wannabes to hear us communicate could be forgiven for assuming the zombies had already eaten our brains.
When I discussed the list of latest inclusions with a friend, they played the “our language is dynamic and ever-evolving” card.
Until they reached the word on the list that pays homage to genitals that resemble rhinestone-emblazoned disco jackets.
Ladies and gentlemen, could you please stand and put your hands together for “vajazzle”.
Mankind has not only conquered space, it has also made room in Oxford Dictionaries Online for a verb that means to “adorn the pubic area (of a woman) with crystals, glitter, or other decoration”.
I feel like I’ve woken up after sleeping for 20 years to find out Kim Kardashian is the president of the world.
Despite my friend being more than 1000 kilometres away and on the end of a scratchy mobile phone connection, I could pinpoint the exact moment when their eyes locked onto the word that describes genital crystals.
If you ever want to pull out a lay-down misere on somebody’s argument about how the current evolution of our language is a good thing, show them an Oxford University Press reference to pussy glitter.
While the vodka-loving boozehound in me approves of “dirty martini” getting recognition, the inclusion of “vote” – as in a specific reference to reality television – saddens me and reinforces my belief that humanity has pushed boldly past the point of being astronomically fucked.
It can’t be long now until Skynet becomes self-aware and the living dead commence their attack.
The moment you see “ROFLMAO” in a dictionary is the very instant you should descend into your Judgement Day bunker and wait for the language-destroying hoi polloi to succumb to our zombie masters.
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