Posted by: dave | February 25, 2010

Farewell to Bondi

Cloudy day in Bondi

We’ve been living in our new gaff for a couple of weeks now and we’re loving it. Best of all is having our own back garden and no psychotic and aggressive neighbours. In fact the neighbours in Petersham are great – it’s one of the first streets I’ve lived on in a while where I genuinely felt part of a community, rather than a mass of transients.

But I’ll certainly miss plenty about living near the beach – first of all, the name of this blog doesn’t sound quite so appropriate any more. There is definitely a totally different quality about life on the edge of a continent – with the smell of the sea on the air when the wind is in the right direction – to life in one of Sydney’s endless suburbs. When we first moved to Oz, my friend Paul got me to do a quick segment on BBC radio about the attractions of living in Sydney, and one of the main points that came to mind was the humbling, taking-you-outside-yourself quality of living so close to something so elemental and so powerful.

I felt a little bit of that when I first started working next to the Thames in London: watching the river’s moods, the contained but brutal force of its currents swirling round the piers of its bridges. Stop for a moment to think about it, and there is something frankly terrifying about the way the strip of mud on which beachcombers sway their metal detectors in the morning has disappeared below 20ft of swirling khaki water by sunset.

But if the Thames gives you a sense of nature’s awesome power, it’s nothing next to the sea (and not just any sea: a sea you can run down to and swim in, dive into, or even surf on). The first time I swam there after arriving here, with Kate, Dorani, Dorani’s friend Diamando and her daughter, we all went body-surfing on a sunny afternoon in early summer. It wasn’t awesome body-surfing, but it was enough that if you caught a wave just right it would take you all the 20 metres in to the shore. And with your legs hanging buoyant in the water, you could pick up the force of the sea swirling around you, as if you were a human seismograph. Somewhere further out there, or on the same beach on a rougher day, that same sea could be moving with enough strength to kill someone.

Anyway, I think that’s what I will miss most and most want to return to, if we can ever afford it. Kate much prefers the people around here – fewer trustafarians with Tango Tans, a less self-centred culture generally, less chance of ending your life stuck in the grille of a Toyota Landcruiser – and I’d agree with all that. But there is something quite unique about living near the sea, and I’d love to do it again. When a big storm comes in, you can watch it darken the surface of the water as it rushes towards you; in autumn, whales often play close enough to shore that you feel you could almost touch them.

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Responses

  1. I understand too well the forcesd of nature. We are surrounded on three sides by mountains and the fourth is the sea – sufficiently far away not to cause problems. But when a storm breaks over the valley – it is something toi behold and hear.!!

  2. Not every beach is Bondi so you can have the sea with a different mix of people. Petersham is nice too though.

    Our block in San Francisco is a real community – they have a block party once a year, deck out the street for Halloween, and we’ve been to dinner with one set of neighbours and the Superbowl party of another set, all in seven months!

  3. I’m with you I would love to live near the sea and just love watching its moods and changes! So powerful and demanding our respect.


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