Since I’ve shaken a little of my beginners anxiety, let’s recap the last few days. There’s no way I can cover everything, but some highlights at least…


Mum comes to visit. She’s been to Venice on a tour, and is stopping in for a few days en route back to Perth. I pick her up from the station and we head to Big Brekkie for scrambled eggs with gruyere cheese. Yowzer. Big Brekkie’s the only place for this delicious stuff in the ‘sham, and it’s always packed. Tables scattered on a grassy empty lot in the sun. I spy Helen across the way. I wave to her, but she doesn’t recognise me. Later, when I use the loo, I realise why: I look haggard, scruffy, and unshaven. It’s like I’m running from the law. (I must see if I can get a shave from “The Locals Barber Shop” soon…) Helen is off overseas, but promises to catch up when she returns…

A garage sale over on Newington. Two families combined – the old parents who’ve been there forever, and the son and his family, who now live in Paddington. The son(now in his early 40s) is a friendly fella who explains that they tried living in Alexandria, but it wasn’t easy for the girls to go to school there. In Paddington, they can at least walk to school.

I sift through some of the clothing the girls have outgrown, and pick out a few tops to send to my niece Pippa, who’s four and a half. It’s good quality “kids fashion” and I’m hoping it’ll further my ambition to be “favourite uncle.” I also pick up an aluminium spirit level, an old Nikon lens for my 1975 camera I’ll probably never use again, and a set of dominos with handpainted vegetables instead of numbers.

Someone arrives at the sale with trays of oysters. They’re left over from a restaurant delivery business, and damn they’re good. A Greek priest shows up and buys a clock (or something, I forget) and although he is quoted three dollars, he hands over five. I explain to the garage salers about the ‘sham. They tell me that the dad of the house makes his own Mead – honey wine. He learned this trick from a guy up on Stanmore Road. This guy runs a second hand shop which is hardly ever open. He keeps his own bees.

In the evening, Anne visits, and we are joined by Bec, Stuart, and Lisa for the Great Petersham Pub Crawl. We start with dinner at the White Cockatoo, looking over the Petersham books Lisa got out of the Library. (The juiciest story is the “Great Tuckshop Debacle,” which I will reproduce in full in another installment). Bec and Anne peel off home, and the rest of us hit the RSL. It’s Greek Night, and there’s relentless eardrum perforating old-school Greek circle dance mania going on. It looks pretty exciting. I ask Stuart what it must be like to be in another country, and to get together with all the ex-pats for some home-style dancing. He shudders. Stuart came out from England at the age of 14.

Next stop is the Oxford Tavern, winner of many recent “adult industry awards”. It looks shady on the outside, three bouncers smoking in the dark entryway. But they’re cheerful enough. Inside, it’s not all that different to the RSL. Plenty of pokies, fairly uncomfortable tables. The front bar looks fun, though the ladies are just packing it up. We’ve arrived too late. The girls serving beer are scantily clad, but certainly not “skimpy” by any stretch. Stuart says he is “disappointed, but kinda also a bit relieved”. Well, we’ve crossed that threshold, and all that remains is to come back another night when its a bit more pumping. Wednesday night, say, for the Oxford’s trademark jelly wrestling(!)

It’s nearly midnight when we arrive at the Newington. The guy behind the closed glass doors makes a bodily signal, a bit like the line umpire in a baseball game. It’s pretty clear this place has already closed up for the night.

The only place left is the Livingstone. It stays open til six in the morning, though it’s not clear why, since the place seems totally empty. But we find a hidden cache of poker machines.There must be thirty people in this electronic Aladdin’s Cave, sitting on stools in the neon gloom and ceaselessly feeding coins into coinslots.

We sit near the door where we can still get a sense of the outside. We’re nearly finished our beers when Mickie and Ammo arrive on their bikes, to celebrate the end of the crawl with us. Mick gets in a beer, and we talk about Reclaim the Streets, which apparently blocked off the new cross city tunnel today. But it’s getting late, and the Livingstone has a very soporific atmosphere. By now it’s clear (even to Stuart, who is always last to leave a party) that we’ve squeezed all we can from the night.

interior, livingstone hotel, 1.30am

[Postscript: Pubs we missed: the one on the corner of Parramatta Road and Crystal Street, they do comedy there I think; and the Huntsbury, which is really close but falls into the Lewisham zone, unfortunately.]

Luciana drags me along to an early Pilates class up at Yoga Togo. Man it’s just what I need. Some serious stomach muscle workout. Sitting at a desk all day makes for some slack action in the abdomen, I can tell you.

Bec heads off to the Tour of Beauty and I stay home to work on my essay. I pretending my desk is a sovereign state all of its own, the “Independent Republic of Study”, and not in Petersham at all.

Still in the IRS, I stay here all day. Luciana’s studying next door, and she puts together a delicious lunch for us. At half four, Mayhem rings, and we do a radio interview about the ‘sham for her spot on 2ser. During the show, Sonia from Ciao Magazine calls up the station. She wants to do an article about the project. I take Sonia’s number and promise to call her back.

I speak to Chris on the phone, and we untangle some of the problems I’ve been having with my Petersham “method”. I feel a lot better afterward.

More study. My dad comes around for lunch, and we sit, very sad, together in the kitchen for a couple of hours. I make him a coffee, but he says he can’t eat anything. I devour his sandwiches as well as my own.

I pick up Wolfie, and we drop Dad off at the station. I walk around the north side a bit, checking out if the job’s still going at the Palace Pantry. It is, but the owner is busy talking to builders out the back. I figure I’ll check back again in a quiet moment. Do I really want a job anyway? We pop over to see if Lisa’s home. She’s not, but in her doorway I spy an old copy of Ciao Magazine. I can’t work out if it’s just a “lite” lifestyle mag intended to generate advertising, or if it’s a marketing front for a conglomerate of real estate agents. Either way, it’s published in Petersham, so I guess I’ll find out…

One thought on “ketchup

  1. Georgie

    As a former resident of Petersham I was please to come across your mention of Sydney’s best kept secret, the Petersham RSL! Love that place!


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