Beyond the Covid bubble

Arncliffe Park, Arncliffe. File photo.

Like all Sydneysiders, Sunny Grace found her world contract during lockdown. But now, with restrictions easing, she’s getting out and about – and discovering new strands to our multilayered city.

After all those months of isolation and restrictions, I didn’t realise how small my life had become. Three streets, really – my street, the park, shopping centre and occasional journey to the farmers market when they reopened.

However, in the past few weeks, as Sydney reopened, my work has taken me back into the world beyond my bubble – and comfort zone, in some ways. As I venture out, I find myself in parts of Sydney I am unfamiliar with and I feel heartened to know we can travel in our own city in some ways.

My first journey came about when my son was given a shisha for his 18th birthday. Sadly, it was also accidentally broken that same night by one of his friends.

Being a soft touch of a mum, I researched where to get a replacement and found a shop in Arncliffe. After popping it in Google Maps, it only took ten minutes from my home in Alexandria, with the new roads recently built.

I walked into the store and was greeted by two men asking if I needed help, as I stood amongst a forest of shishas. I replied that I sure did, as I was way out of my area of expertise. One the men saw my black eye (see ‘The Shiner‘) and asked what had happened to it. They were both so helpful and funny. They were genuinely worried about me and my dog.

We chose a red shisha and they encouraged me to give it a try too, to help me relax. They invited me to come back again and expressed hope that my eye would get better soon. I walked out of the store smiling and appreciating the village of Arncliffe.

My next adventure came while searching for a location for my upcoming film shoot. We need a beach with gentle waves. Not too steep a drop off. One of my cast members suggested Freshwater or Warriewood, so with my producer, cinematographer and underwater cinematographer, we went to check them out. A surf check, so to speak.

As we stood on the headland over Freshwater, the underwater cinematographer noticed a breaching whale out to sea. He pointed out to the spot and before long we all saw the unmistakable spout of water and then a tail launching and thumping back into the ocean. Mesmerised, we stayed there a while pondering our tiny selves in the grandness of the universe.

Next stop was Warriewood. After nearly missing the hidden turnoff, we drove down the narrow track to discover a beach unlike many of the other suburban beaches. With a carpark right on the sand and cliffs towering either side, it was hard to tell we were in a city at all. It felt more like a sleepy coastal village. My cinematographer’s enthusiasm for the location inspired me to feel we had found our spot.

Last week, I found myself working on an advertising campaign in Kings Cross in an old building in the process of being renovated. Spread between the strip and Kellet Street, the building is having its many layers of life stripped away, revealing a beautiful old set of bones from the early days of Kings Cross when it was a prestigious area to live in the 1920s.

The photographer who is converting it into a studio revealed it used to be a brothel. I imagine, too, that at some stage it would have housed artists or poets during the bohemian days. So many lives and stories in those walls.

I lived in one of the old deco apartment building in Potts Point above the fountain in the early 1990s and have often felt the spirits of Kings Cross as I walked through the strip on my way to catch the train to work. I was taken back to my own past, where I became pregnant with my first son and the smells of the Cross in the morning assaulted my heightened sense of smell.

I often stop and wonder as I walk through Sydney about the layers of its past. Much like I do when I am traveling overseas. It is such a varied city. Made in such a haphazard way, with so many waves of colonisation and immigration.

And then I wonder what it was like before colonisation. Without these buildings and changes to the waterways and roads. These layers I have scratched in the past few weeks are not even one coat of paint thick on this, the land of the Gadigal people of the Eora nation, the oldest continuous civilisation on Earth. Some of their stories can be found at the Sydney Barani website: www.sydneybarani.com.au.

While we may lament the opportunity for international travel at this time, perhaps we can take this opportunity to discover the many layers of this city and its history.

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