Has Sydney lost the plot?

Yes. It. Has.

Sydney’s a bit of alright for a weekend fling or as a place to show off to overseas visitors, but basically Sydney is not a place in which to live an actual life.

Here’s why Sydney ain’t working so well anymore:

It’s too tribal – east, west, north, south are all separate kingdoms and never mix.

It’s too expensive – a meal out is the same as a small Pacific Island’s GDP without the smiles. Also finding a park for said overpriced meal will involve yet another mortgage.

People aren’t that nice here – but in fairness no-one who spends at least two hours a day commuting to their boring job is going to act all that nice.   

Speaking of which …. the city is now an apartment ghetto, with none of the requisite schools, transport, roads, infrastructure. No planning. Zilch. How very Sydney.

It has no arts soul. Unlike Melbourne, it is a follower not a leader in the hipster movement, it slavishly follows overseas trends. It hasn’t had an original idea in its life.

It’s good looking but that’s not enough anymore. No conversation, no soul, no originality, no purpose. As a place to visit, there’s no better. I really believe that but living in Sydney has lost its gloss.


Sydney drivers are bamboozled by rain

What is it about a splash of rain that makes Sydney drivers wet their pants?

A spot of rain and Sydney drivers act like a new life form has arrived on our shores, specifically our roads. Rain takes on biblical proportions, it’s like a plague of soggy locusts teeming down on all the land, which must be defeated by Team Australia, car by car, windscreen wiper by windscreen wiper.

When it rains, Sydney motorists, with their sad wet weather faces (a cross between dentist appointment face and airport queue face) take driving to new passive aggressive heights. They slow down, then weirdly speed up. Like they think the weather will be better on the M2 if only they could get there by driving fast through puddles.

Windsreen wipers sound like some kind of manic water feature. At traffic lights you can see a little windscreen wiper malfunction action going on, as drivers try to find which wiper does the back windscreen.

As for buses, a little rain and they get even more bumfuzzled than usual. They drive aggressively past entire bus stops filled with umbrellas but then they approach roundabouts slower than a wet week.

Of course, you can try to pretend that everything is fine, and turn on the radio. Only it doesn’t help. In a stroke of breathtaking originality, Sydney radio stations play any song mentioning rain on high rotation, just in case you hadn’t noticed IT’S RAINING!

There’s only so many times I can listen to Belinda Carlisle’s Summer Rain. There’s only so much a girl can take of It’s Raining Men. Especially when I have on my wet weather face combined with my rain hair, which I have to go and fix up now. But that’s a whole other blog.


How to get ’em queueing

It’s easy to make money in Sydney. All you need to do is not do anything people actually need and instead buy a struggling old business, do a Mexican streetfood refit and then advertise your new eatery.

There are virtually no post offices, old-school garages and butcheries left in this town, they’ve already been transformed into The Garage, The Butcher’s Block or La Stazione or Il Postino. Bookstores have already turned themselves into cafes, and next will surely be newsagents and banks.

Meanwhile the owners of the themed cafes are laughing all the way to the bank. People are queuing up faster than you can say doppia macchiato to get a slice of contrived action.

As for menu, well, basically sorted. Pepe butter, Sonoma bread, Hanks Jams. There must be macaroons, vine-ripened tomatoes and hay-fed pork sausages from Bangalow. And it must be overpriced.

Then – cue stroke of genius – the business doesn’t take bookings, giving the impression that they are really popular, cool, hip and in demand. And sit back let em queue, let ’em queue and sit back and walk to the bank. Hold on, it’s already a new cafe, La Banque. Heard it’s good.

American diner food is a real cheek

It’s ironic that for years we have pilloried American food and now in Sydney, American diner food is the new hip food at any half-trendy restaurant.

It’s hard to swivel sideways in a Sydney nosherie without seeing corn gritts, pulled pork collar butt (I am not making this up), waffles, wings, sliders, ham slow-roasted in Coca Cola, Mac ‘n’ Cheese and Whooppee Pie.

If you go to the site www.thisiswhyyourefat.com compare it with Sydney’s haute, hip cuisine, you’ll see it’s basically the same thing. KFC Deep Fried Soup featured on This Is Why You’re Fat will be Sydney’s next go-to dish – you heard it first here!

I could care less (as the Americans would say) but it’s just so weird. Since when did hot dogs become hip? What was wrong with the foam of 2009? Or the tonka bean of 2010? Why did we have to go to the pulled pork butt cheek? I know most chefs are whackjobs, but they are on way too many drugs this time.

Some might say it is a nostalgic return to the Yankee comfort food of the 1950s. I reckon it’s junk food for grown ups and a nice little earner for restauranteurs – how expensive can corn with a side of mayo, Mac ‘n’ Cheese and miniature burgers be?

All I can say is, please stop! And next time I see a piece of meat infused in Coca Cola with a $45 price tag, I’ll pull my own pork cheek.

Katoomba roadworks now part of the landscape

For twenty years, give or take, there have been roadworks on the way from Sydney to Katoomba. It doesn’t matter what year, what season or what economic crisis of the day is going on, the road to Katoomba is well, not exactly paved with good intentions. All I can say is thank goodness there is hot chocolate at the end, otherwise I would never get there.

It starts at the base of the mountains when Emu Plains morphs into Emu Heights and then becomes the lower mountains. The road narrows, turns from three to two then one lanes, then tantalizingly back to two lanes again until the next traffic lights whereupon lo, roadworks signs appear again and the traffic crawls.

It’s hard to believe that after 20 years they still haven’t got the Blue Mountains right. Blaxland, Wentworth and Lawson managed to do it in a week, so why can’t we figure it out.

Sometimes I think it must be a plot by the Katoomba Council Workers Union to have an excuse to lay around smoking on the side of the road all day. Sometimes I think it is a Blue Mountains passive aggressive community plan to keep the mountains for the mountaineers. Either way, fix the road Barry O’Farrell! And start mixing that hot chocolate.

Baby, it’s cold outside

Sometimes there is truth in journalism. Last week the Sydney Morning Herald’s Heckler column mouthed off about Sydney-siders not embracing winter, sartorially-speaking. I’m not talking about Frank Sartor, Eddie Obeid or the failed state of New South Wales, but about fashion.

The column, written by a Canadian, who should know a thing or two about freezing his nuts off, argued that Sydney-siders are in denial about winter and they dress just like it’s a cool summer’s day. For instance, a hoodie and thongs and cargoes. Or thin summer dresses and bare legs. Or trakkies and a moth-eaten coat. Tick, tick, tick. Take a hike around any shopping centre or go out on the town, and that’s what you’ll see.

The Canadian columnist lamented the fact that Sydney peeps just don’t get into winter, when in fact winter has some of the best fashion opportunities: red coats, kick-ass boots, scarves, tights. And that’s just for men. Ok, he didn’t mention dagorama skivvies, but the point is it is possible to look hot when it is cold.

And it is cold in Sydney in winter. OK, not in a New York subway freezing kind of way, or a Siberian wind kind of way, but when the sun goes down or doesn’t bother coming out at all, it’s cold, damn cold. And, especially as our homes are not set up for it, it’s colder still.

I believe the situation is worse in Brisbane, a city in complete denial that it never is not complete sunshine 24 by 7. When the temperature gets down to 18, they still gad about in shorts and the world’s biggest goosebumps, but I think Sydney should collectively up the ante on its winter wardrobe.

Because it’s OK to feel the cold when it’s 17 degrees, it’s OK to wear something other than a hoodie in winter and it’s OK to look just as good as Melbourne-ites. Or better. (But that’s a whole other rant).

M2 widening –

I see that the state government is widening the M2. That’ll be nice – an extra 3 kilometres of extra lane should go a long way to soaking up 1.3 million Sydney cars (the approximate population of people who live in new housing estates in the north-west called Opus Heights or Perkins Mount). Oh yeah, that should do it.

Because definitely what the northwest does not need is a trainline. What would all those millions of people in Sydney’s fastest growing area need a boring old train line for? Not when they can sit in traffic for two hours just to go to work. Well, that’s why they go to work isn’t it? So that they can buy a car – they may as well get to use it.

I know there’s a bus – Fatty O’Barrell if you are reading this blog – have you tried crossing two lanes of freeway to sit in the middle of 4 lanes of freeway waiting for a Sydney bus? It doesn’t work so well.

All ranting aside, the widening of the M2 won’t ease traffic anyway. It’s a rule of traffic that the traffic expands to engulf that extra 3km. After about 2 weeks the difference will be negligible.

In fairness, the quagmire that is Sydney traffic is not Fatty O’Barrell’s fault and nor was it Kristina Keneally’s. They say we get the government we deserve. Sometimes I think we should be more like the French and protest more.  Protesting certainly hasn’t done the French any harm, eight weeks holiday and a 35 hour week and a bit of me time at lunchtime … or is that you and me time? Trouble is, unlike the French, we are all too weary to protest – the M2 can do that to a person.

Driver on board – oh, really?

I really hate these car stickers:

  • Baby on Board
  • Princess on Board
  • Princess-in-training on Board
  • Little People on Board
  • I Shoot and I Vote
  • I Fish and I Vote
I mean for God‘s sake, is there any kind of person, not to mention princess or baby who votes, shoots or fishes or rides in a car and wants to tell the world, or at least the person stuck behind them on the M5 about it. I’m thinking Magic Happens stickers are a whole lot less sick-making.
And don’t get me started on the My Family series of stickers.
What about we combine all these stickers into just a few all-encompassing slogans, like:
I Breathe and I Vote
I Pay Taxes and I vote
I Drive and I Vote
I Park, Drive and Vote
I Believe Magic Happens and I Vote
Taxpayer on Board
Pissed-off Sydney Driver on Board
There’s a million of them when you think about it. Taxpayer on Board – that’s got to catch on, don’t you think? Then add a hibiscus and you have a fad worth patenting.

Brrr – personal winter feels like arctic thaw

I’m worried. The temperature is 23 degrees Celsius and I’m shivering in my trackies, uggies and a chunky jumper that looks like it was designed by the people who brought you the Snuggie blanket.

To be honest, I’d kill for a Snuggie right now. But why is it that anytime the temperature drops below 25 degrees it feels like arctic thaw is camped off the coast of Sydney?

The thing is I normally love autumn and winter. When else can you sink red wine and chow down your own body weight in carbs and hot chocolates and have it feel so right? When else can you not worry about spiders invading your personal space and enjoy the smug reassurance of a person who knows it’s at least 180 shopping days till Christmas. That’s my kind of season.

But 23 degrees and reaching for the Snuggie and dressing like a Santa Claus version of Barry O’Farrell? It’s enough to make you want to hide in bed in the foetal position with the electric blanket up on high and have someone bring you hot chocolates.

On the seventh day God created Parramatta Road

The other day I was driving through the Sydney traffic carpark, when I was sandwiched behind a car with the sticker: “Slow Down. Take in God’s Creation”. With the exception of “I’m a locovore and I vote”, this is quite possibly the most moronic sticker on the planet today. 

It got me thinking – WTF? God didn’t create the roads – this is our little creation. You name it, we built it – the M’s, the F’s, Parramatta, Sunnyholt, James Ruse, Silverwater and all the others Vic Laruso rattles off in his sleep every morning as giant parking lots, best avoided.

Ok, so I know what this self-annointed slow laner was trying to say – check out your surroundings. But here’s the thing, God doesn’t particularly care one way or another. The proof? Look at a forest of trees – not one of them has a sign saying, “Actually the rosewood’s not bad – I made this.” Not one set of initials, no I woz here, no pawprint, nada.

Don’t slow down, it’s bad for traffic flow and causes accidents. Let’s keep creationism off the roads instead.