Now, I live on a hill in the Sydney suburb of Coogee. I'm sitting in my office as I write, looking out at the wedge of ocean visible between my neighbour's red-tiled roof and an annoyingly magniloquent Magnolia. I'm very keen to increase the size of that ocean wedge, but the branches I would need to cut down contain a beautiful nest, and - although I haven't seen anyone occupying it for a whole year now - I find the ethical arithmetic of trading a chunk of tree and a beautiful nest for a few more inches of blue complex enough to paralyse me. Arboreally.
This, by the way, is how I write when I have a one-hour deadline; rather like a wanker.
So, Sydney. It's pretty sweet, eh. It's the end of May now and although it's chilly outside, the water temperature hasn't dropped too far yet, so we can still pop down and swim across the bay if we're feeling ballsy. At this time of year there are whales whaling their way along the coast, and every now and again a blowhole-spray interrupts my wedge of blue, so I rush to my scope and squint through the sight to see if I can get a closer look, but they've always dived by the time I get the focus right. Stupid bloody whales.
Next year it will be two decades since Sarah and I got married, and this is the sixth house we've lived in, not counting countless Airbnbs. Six houses in 20 years isn't too weird, but it's perhaps unusual that they have been in five major cities. Perth, Melbourne, London, Los Angeles and now Sydney. We've loved them all, and have come to the not-particularly profound conclusion that one's experience of a place is defined much more by the people you meet and the things that happen than weather or town-planning or opening hours.
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Melbourne is a wonderful, artsy city, bursting with galleries and chic laneways, touting its winery-adjacency and big-ticket sporting events… but our Melbourne is a tiny pub in Fitzroy North; is Friday nights gathered around the kitchen bench of besties; is Sarah's daily walk from cracked and crumbling rental townhouse down Nicholson St to chat to the heart-attack survivors at St Vinnies; is playing cover-band keyboards till 2am in pseudo-Irish pubs.
London is a huge, ancient, everything of a city, a grand, gilt, termite-tunnelled survival story… but our London is the birthplace of our babies; is toddler singalongs in a Priory Park cafe; is Alexandra Palace frosty jogs; is a snow-locked train halfway to Stratford-upon-Avon; is a little girl, hands on hips, storming the West End; is our saddest ever goodbyes.
Los Angeles is an in-your-face, adolescent, chinos-and-vanilla-latte, narcissist of a town, hiding herself from newcomers, demanding you do your time before she shows you her cracks and crumbles, her subtleties and sunsets and mountain lions… but our LA is a particular trail from front door to Griffith Lookout; is our kids' first bunk bed; is a stupid Mustang I'll never regret; is Sarah discovering blond; is the place we ended our youth, drinking too much in bars we were too old for, falling in love with new friends, falling in love with each other again, maybe.
And now, Sydney, so much like an Aussie LA: convinced of its superiority while never quite knowing how to do a pub.
Three and a half years we've been here now, and we're just starting to settle. Counter-intuitively, we have found that the older you get, and the more places you've lived, the harder it gets to settle again.
Let's call it Integration Fatigue. But we're finding our feet now, and our Sydney is starting to reveal herself as a place of sisters and nieces, of teenage hardships, of new eras, and new songs, and - as I look towards New Zealand from my window - of heart-soaring, tear-inducing blue, and elusive goddamn whales.