Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Darlinghurst: Street Art: Sad-Eyed Fella of the Lowlands

Why you so blue? This sad-eyed man was on a hoarding of the St Vincents Hospital development on Liverpool Street. I'm assuming he is depressed because he is tired of the concrete-dust and noise that this seemingly endless construction-work keeps throwing up. Or maybe he is just unhappy about being posted to the Emergency Assembly Point.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Darlinghurst: Food: Mad Pizza e Bar

For the past few weeks my horticulturalist girlfriend Ruby Molteno has been talking about the impending bonus she was due to receive from her employer. She couldn't wait to spend it on new frocks, home-wares and a video camera.
Well, the money arrived in her bank account yesterday and wasn't quite as much as she had budgeted for her shopping spree, but to celebrate she offered to shout me dinner.
Ruby also lives in the neighbourhood, down at ''Darlinghurst Flats'', which for me is the area that sprawls down from Darlinghurst Road (the Ridge area) to the Sydney CBD. I tried to book a table at a newish (six-months-old) tapas place in the flats, called Lot 40, but I only made it through to their message service, so instead we met at the Darlo Bar (on the ridge) and from there we went looking for an outdoor table.
It was a perfect Spring evening in Sydney: balmy, the smell of salt in the air and no annoying wind, so we stopped and sat at the first available al fresco table, which happened to be at Mad Pizza e Bar, at 312 Victoria Street.
We ordered a crispy and fresh, rocket, pear, walnut and Parmesan salad to share, and because I only had my iPhone camera, the picture is a little blurry:

When Mad Pizza first opened they sold square pizza by the slice, but now it is circular and much larger. Their pizza is the truly Italian pizza, with a thin base and minimal toppings, rather than the thick-crusted, greasy, cheesy American pizza (New York pizza is closer to the Italian-style so doesn't fall under my US generalisation in this instance).
I didn't feel like pizza and I had read an article last week about the fettucine and meatballs at Fratelli Fresh's Sopra restaurant. Apparently the dish is so good, grown men cry if the kitchen has run out. As a result I had pasta and meatballs on the brain, so that's what I ordered:

The serving was so generous, I took half of it home in a plastic container to have for lunch today. Ruby ordered penne with chicken and there was nothing left to take-away.

Both dishes tasted authentically Italian and were full of punchy flavour, but they were luke-warm, as if they had been put on the kitchen servery and forgotten about. Ruby had a glass of white wine, while I had a Peroni beer and the bill came to about $70 - but what did I care? I wasn't paying.
Mad Pizza e Bar
312 Victoria Street
Darlinghurst NSW 2010
02 9020 7186

Darlinghurst: Fashion: The Back Room

What, with its pop-up bars, pampered pets and retro-perm hair-dos, sometimes Darlinghurst is so hip, darling, it hurts. Especially when you come across scenes like the one above from Saturday, which was set to a hip-hop music track.
At first I thought the crowd of young people, who were dancing in the day-time and generally being joyful, had gathered for an impromptu party on Langley Street. But then I realised the music was coming from inside men's clothing shop, The Back Room at 17A Langley Street, and then I nearly stumbled over this sandwich board:

I suppose it was the launch of a new pair of trousers or something, but I still loved seeing people take over the street to make music and have fun. And I hope they didn't need to gain planning approval from the City of Sydney Council to do so.
Here is a better view of the party looking across Albert Sloss Reserve children's playground on Palmer Street:

If you look closely through the blue, barred window, you can see the DJ in action.
The Back Room
17A Langley Street
Darlinghurst NSW 2010

Monday, September 27, 2010

Darlinghurst: Detritus: Batmobile

There are always plenty of boy-racers cruising the figure-eight circuit of Darlinghurst Road and Victoria Street in their hotted up hoon-cars, but until tonight I hadn't seen Batman's wheels in the neighbourhood.

Darlinghurst: Food: Le Petit Creme

This French cafe has been a staple breakfast haunt in Darlinghurst for as long as I can remember, yet I have never darkened its door. It always looked a bit grotty and in need of a fresh coat of paint and a makeover and besides that, I usually went to the nearby, Sel e Poivre, at 263 Victoria Street, for my French cafe fix. But a girlfriend, Ruby Molteno, and I made a last minute date for brunch last week and Le Petit Creme, at 118 Darlinghurst Road, was halfway between us so we decided to meet there.
We sat outside on the terrace where we could watch the traffic flood by, but that is not us in this picture:

Le Petit Creme has no paper menus, just a blackboard hanging behind the counter inside, which features all the usual French-breakfast suspects: eggs Benedict, baguettes and croque monsieurs, as well as the retro-sounding chicken and mushroom vol au vents.
When the young Australian waiter came to take my order, he quietly and knowingly said, ''the croque monsieur?''.
Amazed, I asked, ''How did you know that?''.
To which he replied: ''Because we are connected''.
It was kind of weird. ''Anyway'', I told him, ''I really want the croque monsieur boum boum'', (which is the usual ham and cheese toasty with the addition of fresh tomato). So off he went.
And soon after - about ten minutes - our food arrived:

I was so hungry I forgot to photograph my dish before I dived in. It was a pretty average croque monsieur and the tomato was a bit soggy, but it wasn't horrible. Ruby, who is one of those people that seeks out cafes with all-day breakfasts, ordered scrambled eggs and bacon. You can see her glowing yellow eggs in the background of the picture above. She said they tasted funny and suspected the chef had added turmeric to make the eggs look more intensely yellow.
I finished my croque monsieur but was yet to eat the melon and pineapple garnish when the waiter came to take our plates. He looked at my plate and said, ''Shall I take it, although I think you want to eat the fruit . . .''
''Oh, yes, I'll eat the fruit,'' I said.
And as he turned to go, he said, ''Yes, you'll eat the fruit, the fruit is good.''
Again, kind of kooky.
Le Petit Creme
118 Darlinghurst Road
Darlinghurst NSW 2010
02 9361 4738

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Darlinghurst: Art and Culture: King Street Gallery on William: Kensuke Todo's Time, Distance, Speed

The King Street Gallery on William was an oasis yesterday from the 27 degree thick heat and the hoon parade on William Street. The gallery was hosting a swell opening for Kensuke Todo's Time, Distance, Speed and was serving sparkling wine and oysters, so my girlfriend, Ruby Molteno, and I popped in to have a look - and a swill.
There was a friendly crowd of well-wishers, which included a couple of toddlers and a dog:

Not many people see the beauty in our freeways, expressways and bridges, but Todo obviously appreciates their grace and design, which he translated in to smooth, ''mild steel" sculptures. The Japanese-Australian artist honed in on intersections, junctions and exits, and then made a dozen or so obviously labour-intensive works that had elements of Escher's mind-bending, graphic mazes.
This work in the picture below is called William Street, Sydney 2010, and was selling for $4400. I loved it so much, I bought it - see the red dot:

Well, I didn't really buy it as my apartment is just too small, but there were many pieces that I could have wiled away the days and years musing on. The show closes on October 16.
King Street Gallery on William
177 William Street
Darlinghurst NSW 2010
02 9360 9727

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Darlinghurst: Detritus: Saturday Morning Street Sign

Someone's not happy about the new parking meters in Nimrod Street.

Darlinghurst: Street Art: Ruins

I was mooching around the back-streets of Darlinghurst today with my girlfriend, Ruby Molteno, when she spotted this spooky stencil of a man's face hiding among the ruins of a terrace on the corner of Bourke and Stanley streets. As usual, the Horizon manages to sneak in to the shot.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Across the Border: Kings Cross: Club Swans and the Astoria Hotel

I had time to kill in Kings Cross today while waiting for some photographs to be printed and it's at moments like these, I'm glad I'm a card-carrying member of Club Swans:

Club Swans: Good Times. Great Food. My Place.

I have only ever watched one game of AFL in my life and that was a couple of years ago when my friend won a box seat at the Australian Cricket Ground at Moore Park and we drove there in a vintage Holden. Mad, bad Barry Hall was still on the Sydney Swans team and he was such an amazing and fierce player, moving across the field with stealth and grace . . . oh, what do I know? The only thing I really liked about Barry was that he was big, tall and bald, which meant he was easy to spot on the field and I could confidently yell out, ''Go, bad Barry!'' when he had the ball, knowing for certain I at least had something right about the game, because typically, it was only by the end of the match that I finally understood the rules.
Interestingly, after the players had run off to their change-rooms, a bunch of Buddhists in orange garb started walking across the field and someone screamed out, ''It's the Dalai Lama!'', so we all started taking photographs of this small orange dot-man in the distance. The Dalai Lama was in the country at the time, so maybe it was him. He might be a friend of bad Barry.
Anyway, AFL is not why I joined Club Swans, at 28 Darlinghurst Road, on the strip in Kings Cross. The reason I pay $10 each year to be a member is because they have the cleanest toilets in the cross:

See how they sparkle? They are always clean, stocked with soap and paper towels and another nice touch is that music is piped into the room. I recommend everyone who frequents Kings Cross should become a member and then you can use the pristine bathroom whenever you like, without wasting time signing in. Show your support for the team.
Sadly Club Swans was closed for much of this year - and the bathroom was unavailable - when the building's roof was torn off by a February storm that also caused the ceiling to collapse at neighbouring drinking-hole The Bourbon (formerly known as The Bourbon and Beefsteak). But while Club Swans efficiently mended itself and re-opened in June, The Bourbon is still boarded up, disappointing many of its regular drinkers.
Club Swan's other great asset is the sun-catching deck on level one where today I enjoyed a lemon-lime and bitters ($2.80):

If the sun is out, the deck is always bathed in its rays and if there is a storm on the way, it's a great place to watch it roll in - or perhaps run for cover. But the deck is also a good vantage point for spying on people on the street below, and even better for watching the curious goings-on at the Astoria Hotel, at 9 Darlinghurst Road, across the road. I took this picture of the hotel from the deck today:

The Astoria Hotel is a mysterious place and I wonder about its marketing techniques because it manages to attract a diverse clientele, from German tourists and Japanese businessmen to prostitutes and junkies. A pay-phone is suspiciously located right outside the Astoria's entrance. It is fascinating to watch random people slip in and out of its shady doorway. Who are they and why are they going in there and coming out just minutes later?
It is also great to try and see through the windows of the hotel, especially at night when the lights in the rooms may be on. Then you can catch a glimpse of someone's profile as they move about inside, or see a flash of arm as they go to close the curtains because they have had enough of that weirdo pervert at Club Swans.
I also wonder if some people actually live permanently in the Astoria Hotel. If you look closely at this picture below you can see a pile of books in the smallest window:

Fiction or non-fiction? And who do they belong to? A permanent resident or just a traveller who happens to like reading? I have my theories, but I'll never know for certain and I quite like it that way.
Club Swans
28 Darlinghurst Road
Kings Cross NSW 2011
02 8061 2300

UPDATE: The club was placed into voluntary administration on May 17 and ceased trading. The story I have heard is that the building has been purchased by the owner of the neighbouring Bourbon, which has been closed due to storm damage for almost two years. Apparently the new owner is going to convert the two buildings into a ''super-club'', similar to Justine Hemmes's The Ivy building in the Sydney CBD.

This statement was posted on the Club Swan's website in May:

''The Board of Directors of the Sydney Aussie Rules Social Club Limited (trading as CLUB SWANS) advises that the Club was placed into voluntary administration on Tuesday 17 May 2011. The Club has experienced difficult trading conditions since the storm damage occurrence in February 2010 which caused the Club to forcibly close for a three month period.
''Additionally, the Club's landlord has sold the building with settlement due to occur on 31 May 2011. Disappointingly, the Club has not been successful in negotiating a new lease with the incoming landlord and accordingly the Board appointed Ferrier Hodgson to administer and manage the affairs of the Club.
''Under the terms of its lease the landlord was to provide vacant possession on the settlement of the property which left the Club to negotiate with the incoming landlord however, the Club was not able to do so on satisfactory terms leading to this event.
''Following a review of the financial position of the Club and viability of the business, the voluntary administrators took the decision to cease trading the Club from close of business on Wednesday 18 May 2011.
''The Board would like to sincerely thank the management and staff for their dedication to the Club and to the members for their excellent support and would also like to thank the suppliers to the Club for their past services.
''Any enquiries should be directed to Ferrier Hodgson:
Ferrier Hodgson
GPO Box 4114
Tel: (02) 9286 9999.''

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Darlinghurst: Food: Sushi Yachiyo

Sushi Yachiyo is not one of my usual Darlinghurst haunts, in fact, I went there for the first time about two weeks ago on my first Saturday night home from overseas. The tiny Japanese restaurant at 13 Kirketon Road is tucked away beneath the Art Wall building, whose rusty-looking facade fronts William Street.
I don't really like Japanese food and I especially loathe nori because it smells so disgusting. I hate sushi, but I do love sashimi. And no, I do not like endamame, even if it is complimentary.
I have also never been a fan of the Art Wall, which is essentially a plain office building with a lace-like, oxidised-metal rectangle mounted on its street-facing side. It used to have a billboard-sized Aboriginal artwork perched across the top of the lace-work, but at the moment it just has a blank space with the words, ''Buy this space for art-advertising'', or some such wank. Anyway I don't like it because it looks, well, rusty, and dirty, even when it was freshly unwrapped in 2004. Here is a picture of the Art Wall, with Harry Seidler's Horizon in the background, which I took today:

Nevertheless I was with two female friends, Ruby Molteno and Nina Ricci who is pregnant, and I was happy for them to decide on our dinner location. Sushi Yachiyo opened last year and despite its remote location and small space, is very popular with the Sydney sushi-set. On the night we visited, we called first to book a table, but after arriving we then had to wait about 10-minutes for the previous diners to vacate theirs. It wasn't a big deal and once inside I was rather happy with the cosy and darkly lit space.
There is an open kitchen along one wall, so that if you sit at the bar you can watch chef and owner Mitsuhiro Yashio slicing up the sashimi. The waiters, especially the older mama, were friendly and attentive and we had drinks - lychee juice in a can for me - within minutes. We ordered three dishes to share between the three of us, and the first to arrive was this yumbo grilled salmon dish, which didn't really taste very Japanese at all:

We ate it all up, while struggling to keep our bowls, plates, glassware and chopsticks from falling from our tiny, round table. Soon after, our plate of tempura arrived, causing more traffic problems at the table, but it was eaten quickly too:

The tempura included prawns, fish and vegetable pieces, as well as an oyster, which I didn't dare go near! I prefer my oysters raw. We had decided upon the next dish while standing outside the door waiting for our table. There was a Sydney Morning Herald food-review taped to the window in which Helen Greenwood raved about the ''kami-nabe'':

''A pale clay brazier with a low blue flame is placed on a small wooden plinth and has a fretwork metal, pleated bowl lined with pleated paper called washi on top. We watch as slices of salmon and kingfish, resting on enoki mushrooms, chopped chinese cabbage and a few shiitake mushrooms, cook slowly. The textures of the fish, mushrooms and cabbage are mesmerising."

Tempted by the idea that food could be mesmerising, we ordered it:

Yes, it looks rather odd doesn't it, but my bad flash-photography does not really do it any favours. Sitting inside that paper-fan bowl was a blandish Japanese broth along with mysterious and not-all-that mesmerising mushrooms with pieces of fish.

It was all a bit too much like a lucky-dip for my liking and it was just my lucky-dip-luck that when I dived in with my chopsticks I came out with something white, with the texture of scallop, but curiously flavourless. Good god, what was it? I wasn't sure if it was mushroom or flesh from the sea. I had a few more goes with the chopsticks but realised I am not so brave with food after all. Ruby proved more adventurous and knocked back a broth-soaked oyster, but later, with a bad taste on her tongue, wished she hadn't.

I was more concerned about Nina as I'm told there's a long list of what expectant mothers can't eat, including soft-cheeses, nuts and raw fish. Because of the brazier-style cooking of the kami-nabe, none of the pieces in the broth were evenly cooked, so that food at the bottom of the paper-fan bowl was well-cooked, while the fish and mushrooms sitting near the top were only cooked in parts. I pointed this out to Nina but she wasn't too worried and just poked her chopsticks in to the broth and fished out some more salmon.

Both Ruby and Nina ordered desserts: one looked like a flying saucer and was comprised of a chocolatey-bean paste sandwiched between two crispy round discs that tasted like dried rice-paper. The other was like a vanilla agar-agar and deliciously refreshing.

When we left the restaurant I noticed these wise, slightly unintelligible, but strangly appropriate words chalked up on the rusty-facade outside Sushi Yachiyo's door:

Whatever you do/Whoever you are
It don't make a difference too much/Whan make any difference
Sushi Yachiyo
1/13 Kirketon Road
Darlinghurst NSW 2010
02 9331 8107

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Darlinghurst Blog: History: Barcom Conservation Area

This history is taken entirely, with only small edits for style, from 
the NSW Government's Heritage Branch Website *
I have included it as a reference for myself and for readers of 
My Darling Darlinghurst who may be die-hard history buffs.
*If you believe I have infringed copyright, please contact me and I will happily remove this page.

Eora was the name given to the coastal Aborigines around Sydney. Central Sydney is therefore often referred to as Eora Country. Within the City of Sydney local government area, the traditional owners are the Cadigal and Wangal bands of the Eora. 
With the invasion of the Sydney region, the Cadigal and Wangal people were decimated but there are descendants still living in Sydney today. 

The Barcom Conservation Area incorporates much of a 71 acre parcel of land granted to Thomas West in two parts in 1812 and 1844. 
The area is defined by Craigend Street to the north, Barcom Avenue and Boundary Street to the east and south, and to the west, St Vincents Hospital and Victoria Street.

West, an Essex millwright, was transported to NSW in 1801 as a convict. Governor Macquarie granted West some 40 acres to the west of the creek that fed into Rushcutters Bay. The estate was known as Barcom Glen.

West erected Sydney’s first water-powered mill on his land in 1812. The mill was located off Boundary Street in Lindsay Lane (where the A is on the map above), downstream from a dam he built near Liverpool Street. He built a house and established an orchard by the mill just north of Liverpool Street.

Three generations lived at Barcom Homestead until the house was acquired by St Vincents Hospital in 1863. West also ran cattle on his property and operated a dairy - Macquarie donated a cow from the Government herds in appreciation of West’s milling operations, which continued into the 1890s.

In the 1820s, Governor Darling made 15 small grants at Darlinghurst and Potts Point to powerful civil servants to build homes. One of the earliest residences in the precinct, Craigend, was one of these homes.
Craigend was a fine house built by NSW Surveyor-General Sir Thomas Mitchell in 1828-31, and stood on about 4 hectares in the area bound by Victoria Street, Surrey Street and Kings Cross Road.

Land around Rushcutters Bay Creek was swampy and consequently West’s Estate was one of the last estates to be subdivided in close proximity to the city. The good water supply coupled with the undesirability of much of the area for residential development saw development of industry. Produce such as fruit, meat and butter were refrigerated in Barcom Street near the back of St Vincents Hospital on the premises of T.S. Mort, where ice was made, hence Ice Street.

The conservation area also incorporates part of the Riley Estate, the eastern boundary of which runs long the alignment of Little West Street. The Riley Estate was subdivided from the 1840s. The earliest residential subdivisions and development occurred in the vicinity of Craigend, along Surrey Street by the 1850s.
Improvements in William Street in the 1850s, coupled with the gold rushes, encouraged development in the area. St Vincents Hospital moved from Potts Point to Darlinghurst in 1870. Barcom Avenue was surveyed in the 1880s.

Early plans show the Barcom Glen divided into large allotments either side of Barcom Street. The Barcom Glen Estate was subdivided for auction sales from 1880-81.

The south-western section of the area was subdivided for sale in 1883, including allotments fronting Leichhardt Street (formerly Campbell Street). At this time a weatherboard building is indicated at Barcom Street.

Rushcutters Creek ran along the south-eastern edge of the area, later resumed for road purposes, and Boundary Street was formed.

The Darling Heights Estate, bounded by Victoria, Surrey and Caldwell Streets, was subdivided in the late 19th Century.
The area surrounding Lindsay Lane was subdivided with allotments south of Boundary Street in 1913 as the Barcom Homestead Estate.

Royston Street was a later overlay, subdivided from the Craigend Estate after the demolition of Craigend in 1921, and sold in 1923 and originally called Mitchell Court.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Darlinghurst: Fashion: Kookaburra Kiosk

I have good memories of the Kookaburra Kiosk, which once occupied the shopfront at 112A Burton Street, across the road from the National Art School.
I first visited the vintage clothing store in the 1990s when it was run by Sally Hammond, who established the kiosk around 1975.
Hammond, a friendly dark-haired brunette who always wore red lipstick, kept a first-class collection of vintage dresses from the 1920s-70s, all impeccably dry-cleaned and displayed.
The prices were quite high for my meagre budget, but I do remember buying a classic black '50s handbag with a clasp, which I dragged around for years until it fell to pieces.
I'm sure I remember hearing that Hammond used to loan some of her clothes to big-time filmmakers, such was the quality and authenticity of her collection.
Hammond sold the store around the turn of the century and sadly died earlier this year.
Kookaburra Kiosk was then run by a young woman who was quite eccentric and always fabulously and colourfully dressed. She kept a different kind of stock that was less collectable but much cheaper. I was a frequent visitor to the store by then and befriended the woman but I have scratched my memory and can not remember her name!
Fortunately I do have some photographs that were taken around 2005-07.
Here is a picture of the woman without a name but a lot of style:

Her then boyfriend worked as a chef next door at Recess Cafe and I think she is holding up a plate of food he has made for her.
This next photograph was taken on another lovely Darlinghurst summer day when I brought along sparkling wine and glassware for us to celebrate life. The woman on the left was a friend of the Kookaburra Kiosk woman. They are both whistling for some reason.

The last time I saw the woman without a name, she was walking along Darlinghurst Road in her typical peacock colours. I was driving by in a car so couldn't say hello. When I moved back to Darlinghurst last year, the Kookaburra Kiosk was gone.
This picture is rather sad and shows the Darlinghurst Express, which moved into the Kookaburra Kiosk site (because no town can ever have enough quick-e-marts):

I was walking past the old KK site last week and noticed this painted calligraphy on the wall of a doorway in the same small block:

So perhaps the Kookaburra Kiosk lives after all?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Darlinghurst: Comics: 2002

I made this comic about Darlinghurst soon after settling in Hardie Street. The day I moved in there was a big poo on the front doorstep. It wasn't a particularly good welcome sign.
A few weeks later my family paid me a visit and there was another poo near the front doorstep. So I suppose I was a little shocked (after the relatively sweet homeliness of Surry Hills) and also disappointed about the amount of rubbish that overflowed from people's garbage bins and on to the streets.
I think I was also saddened by the number of old, male alcoholics who used to rant and rave on the streets. Are there less of these men around today or have I just become immune?
The comic was published in the Spring 2002 edition of Strewth magazine, a small, independent publication that no longer exists.

For those without sharp eyes, the text reads:

On her way home very late one night / Violet Tingle found the city was not quite right.
A sour stench of urine hung in the air / And a plague of pigeons shook dirty feathers everywhere.
The ageing gum flowered fast food wraps / While beneath lay a bed of syringes and scraps.
She thought Oh perhaps I got lost on the way / But no! With relief she saw it was familiar as day.
A weak homeless man trying to put up a fight / And a sloppy brown poo glimmering in the moonlight.

Yes, I know, it's terrible, but I still make these hopeless little comics when I'm inspired and have the time.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Darlinghurst: My Story

I first moved to Darlinghurst in 2002. I had been living in share-houses in East Redfern and Surry Hills but so desperately wanted a place of my own. The reason for selecting Darlinghurst was because it had, and still has, so many more studio apartments than Surry Hills or Redfern, which have mostly terrace houses and one- and two-bedroom apartments.
I only looked at one studio apartment in Darlinghurst and I was smitten. It was at 7/40 Hardie Street, next door to Flash Auto Repairs - run by the charming Peter - and just a skip away from the Darlo Bar, Green Park Hotel and the 311 bus stop.
The picture above is one of the few photographs I have of apartment number seven and was taken on a special day (face flowered for privacy) and here is a photograph of 40 Hardie Street (to the left) that I took the other day:

The rent for apartment number seven was $170 a week and $5 less than I was paying in the share-house. It was small but I didn't know any better. The kitchen was an afterthought, the bathroom had a sliding-door and the windows looked out to brick-walls and a light-well, but I loved it because it was my own.
The 12-room apartment building sold for $1.56 million two years after I moved in and was purchased by three young, and very clever, men (Arthur, Lans and Sava). They were good landlords and never put the rent up. One of them even kindly came to remove a huntsman spider that had made itself a home in the corner of the room above my bed.
I lived at number seven for five glorious years, hosting cosy (squashy) dinner parties for six, befriending the local cats and falling in love with the neighbourhood.
But my book and dress collection was steadily growing and it was clear I needed more space, so when the apartment next door - number eight - became available, I asked if I could have it. The following week I carried all my possessions about 2m to the place next door.
Number eight was a dream. It had beautiful windows that looked out on to Hayden Lane and to the rear of French restaurant Sel e Poivre, so that the kitchen staff's musical Gallic accents came floating up into my home. Another positive was that the apartment also had a bathtub.
Here is a picture of number eight:

I loved that apartment to death and even had it painted a gorgeous shade of yummy, rich clotted-cream before I moved in. I also installed a paper blind in the kitchen and thick-cream, light-blocking curtains in the main room. Sadly I wasn't to stay there for very long.
After just six months of living in luxury I accepted a job far, far away and in April 2007 moved out of Darlinghurst and gave up number eight for someone else.
Here is a picture of my last day at number eight, when I had to hand over the keys:

To be honest, I was actually glad to be moving out of Darlinghurst and Sydney. I was frustrated by my job and needed to move away from the stinky city I had grown to hate. I especially loathed the excessive planting of Plane trees, which shed fine, pollen-coated hairs every Spring and cause so much grief for my poor throat and nose. I was tired of hearing about rising property prices and the fact that every time I stepped out the door, life seemed to cost me $50.
So I moved to the seaside where I had ocean views, a car-space and a verandah for only $170 a week - 1990s prices!
For the first 18 months I was fine. I returned to Darlinghurst and the surrounding suburbs regularly to see my then lover-boy and other friends and it was almost as if I had never left.
Almost. After that first honeymoon phase I began to miss my old neighbourhood. I missed walking the streets at night, the noise and the characters.
There was one particular scene of the neighbourhood that I would replay in my head. It was walking home at dusk from Taylor Square and then alongside the National Art School, towards Burton Street. There would be a sense of peace about the neighbourhood as fruit bats in their thousands flew overhead from the Royal Botanic Gardens to search for their evening feast, while the city's workers also made their way home for dinner.
The strongest, most memorable image of that walk though, is of a large gothic-looking house on the corner of Forbes and Burton Streets, which would be in silhouette against the dying day. I loved that house at that time of day. It thrilled me for some reason. I'm sure I have a photograph of it somewhere too. (I was pleased to see today that the house is still there. Although it looks like the Caritas psychiatric hospital across the road is soon to be demolished to make way for a fancy apartment block - more on that another day.)
So anyway, I missed old Darlo and badly wanted to be back in number eight, as if the whole move out of Sydney had never happened.
I set about plotting my return and in September last year began looking at Darlinghurst studios and discovered that rents had gone up by $100 a week in the 2.5 years I was gone. It was sad, but there are worse things to spend your money on.
I trawled through the rental ads on every waking hour for weeks and it was on a Saturday morning when I finally found what I was looking for. I am very picky. It had to be a 1930s-40s build, so that I would have high ceilings and none of that porridgey stuff they started spraying on ceilings in the 60s. It also had to have light: don't want to be depressed. And polished floors. A built in wardrobe (I don't want to own another piece of furniture). And a bathtub would be dandy too.
The place on Royston Street appeared to have everything. I dashed to the real estate agency as soon as they opened up shop and put in an application, which was approved by Sunday night and on Tuesday I inspected it and the keys were in my hands.
Here is a picture of Royston Street:

It is not the greatest street in Darlinghurst. One has to hike up Oporto Hill (or Vomit Hill, as it appears on Sunday mornings) to reach it, and it is surrounded by the dastardly plane trees, but it will do for now. Secretly, I still want number eight back.
Here is a picture of the view from my sunroom across the rooftops of Paddington with St Vincent's Hospital to the right:

Here is a picture of the view from my kitchen window, down to Rushcutters Bay and over to Darling Point. I can actually see the Moran family's mansion, Swifts.

Happy, happy to be home...

UPDATE: October 2011: I am now employed by the City of Sydney and feel that I should declare my interest here in case I should ever by accused of bias.
I have just left an industry that I loved for 10 years to embark on this new adventure and I am very excited about my new position at Town Hall, especially because I will be able to pop down to the City of Sydney Archives in my lunch breaks. And hopefully this can only be a good thing for my My Darling Darlinghurst.
Opinions, thoughts and adventures will remain my own and I still make no money from this blog; it has and always will be a labour of love. 

Friday, September 10, 2010

Darlinghurst: An Introduction

Located on the eastern edge of the Sydney CBD, Darlinghurst - with a population of just over 10,000 - is bordered by Woolloomooloo, Kings Cross, Paddington and Surry Hills.
William Street, known for its street prostitution, borders the neighbourhood on the north, while Oxford Street, famous for its gay bars and night life, runs along Darlinghurst's southern end. To the east are the posh suburbs of Woollahra, Darling Point and Double Bay.
Linking William and Oxford Streets, running north to south, are Darlinghurst's main streets - Victoria Street and Darlinghurst Road, which are home to cafes, pubs and boutiques.
I have names for all the different parts of the neighbourhood, such as The Ridge, The Flats, and The Lowlands but I won't go into that now, suffice to say that I live on "Darlinghurst Hill", the highest point of the suburb on Royston Street.
Darlinghurst is home to writers, musicians and artists, including actor Hugo Weaving, filmmaking couple Baz Luhrmann and Catherine Martin (who live in the suburb's historic mansion, Iona), author Peter Robb and novelist Mandy Sayer, whose husband, playwright Louis Nowra, lives across the border in Kings Cross.
The neighbourhood's prominent sites include St John's Anglican Church (the steeple of which I can always see from the window of a plane):

and the Sydney Jewish Museum (which I used to live across the road from).
Another famous landmark is the Harry Seidler-designed, 43-storey Horizon building, which casts a shadow on the neighbourhood and can also be used to pinpoint Darlinghurst by air.
The suburb also hosts a fire station, a Ken Unsworth sculpture (unaffectionately dubbed "Poos on Sticks"; shown in the photograph at the top of the page), as well as the Stables Theatre, Darlinghurst Courthouse and the National Art School.
Darlinghurst does not have a train station (Kings Cross Station is nearby) but is serviced by the rogue 311 Bus (more on that another day).
For a history of Darlinghurst read Larry Writer's fine book, Razor, and for the suburb's Wikipedia entry click here.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Darlinghurst: How I Love Thee So

I dreamt up this blog last Thursday evening after a month of travels in Alaska, Canada and California. It was my last night before I was due to return to Australia and I was lying awake in my Hollywood hostel bed, unable to sleep because I was consumed with thoughts of home.
I so missed my little apartment on a hill in Darlinghurst. I missed my bed, the view of Rushcutters Bay from my kitchen, the patchwork of Paddington's terrace-house rooftops spread out before my sunroom, and the stamp-sized squint of Sydney Harbour from another window. I wanted to sit in the sun in my favourite cafe. I longed to walk the streets. I even missed the 311 mystery-bus.
And I'd only been gone for one month.
So this is my little ode to the neighbourhood I love and long for.
Perhaps it will also be a small picture of a place and time.