Saturday, October 06, 2007

Some of their drivers enjoy high-speed duels!

When you're writing for a major international magazine like The Spectator, it's usually pretty safe to make up columns about weird foreign people living in foreign countries. The only problem I see with this particular column, by Tim Heald, is that it's about Sydney and parts of Sydney that I know fairly well. And it's all crap!

He starts off on safe ground, whinging about the public transport system, something that we all do from time to time. 'The trains are unreliable' he moans, 'and Central Station is a nightmare.' I don't see anything wrong with Central Station myself, but we'll let him have his whinge.

I love this bit:

buses swirl past stops during rush hours because they’re full, and some of their drivers enjoy high-speed duels with each other.

I wish I'd been in one of those high-speed duels. Whenever I caught a bus in Sydney, I seemed to sit across from a raving alcoholic, and the buses hardly ever went anywhere.

The preferred form of travel for those venturing out of town is by air — as anyone visiting the Italian-dominated suburb of Leichhardt can testify. Leichhardt is on the flight path not far from the airport and every few seconds a big jet thunders overhead...

He should try visiting Marrickville. And what's with this 'air travel' being the preferred form of transport? Perhaps he should take a drive on the Pacific Highway.

And how about this bit?

St John’s College, where I’m spending a half-semester, is an imposing Victorian Gothic complex in an otherwise grotty part of town. My wife and I are living in the old gatehouse on the busy Parramatta Road opposite what appears to be a groovy house of ill-repute and near to more dealers in white wedding dresses than even Barbara Cartland could have imagined. The College and the university feel, to me, ill at ease with their environs.

I'm not sure how he can see this as an 'otherwise grotty party of town'. Perhaps if you take out the university, the colleges, the few statues dotted around the Prince Alfred Hospital, the various libraries, the Anglican college on the corner of City Road, and the sporting ovals... And if the university is 'ill at ease' with its environs, what does he make of the cafe and bookshop culture on King Street or Glebe Point Road? I guess university students or professors don't need to eat, talk, or read books.

Hey, maybe I'll take a trip to England and write an article about it for the newspaper. I'll be sure to talk about the 'dilapidated suburbs of Old Blighty' and the 'ramshackle tenements' in which I stayed, as well as the 'neurotic combination of the groovy West End types' with the 'anxious Tweed-and-Tennyson set'. Throw in about twenty more adjectives, and I'll have my column.


Blue Valentine said...

Yes, all quite wrong, except I have to admit to having been in buses which were speeding and did mount the pavement, although they did not duel with other buses. Raving alcoholics are indeed plentiful.

Tempe/Sydenham is your hotspot for aircraft noise, but Kurnell has been known to stake a claim.

He seems to have taken things which are much further down and shifted them up the road to the university precinct. I quite like the idea of a compressed Parramatta Rd. The "high-class" brothel is indeed across the road from the college, however. It's where the Student Prince used to be (this may have happened after your time).

All your whinging about the UK would be about the cost of things and it would all be true!

TimT said...

It's in a good cause: he also grumbles, quite rightly, about the restricted liquor licensing in Sydney. He's obviously a traveller had one or two bad experiences and generalised. And to be fair, he gave me a few good laughs at the hilarious badness of his column.

blue valentine said...

the restricted liquor licensing

It would certainly be very interesting if The Spectator were to involve itself in that campaign. They liberalised the laws in London in the last couple of years (pubs used to have to close at 11pm and now they don't seem to close). The laws in Sydney are silly, but the Hotels Association is very powerful.

nailpolishblues said...

Tim defending Sydney...?

The busses do duel on freeways [or are they highways? I never know] and speed like no-one's business. It's pretty awesome though.

I find the aircraft noise charming, mostly, an old topic though. I do resent the helicopters at midnight though. They make me paranoid.

TimT said...

Bloody hell. Now I'm jealous I never got to ride on one of those duelling buses.

It's pretty funny on trams when the drivers abuse people in cars.

Email: timhtrain - at -

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