Tuesday, 25 August 2009

My Week In Bondi

And so, after a week strolling the streets of Sydney, it is my final day in this land of perpetual summer. It is, technically, winter here, but as every day but one has featured blue skies and sunshine far outstripping Aberdeen's summer best, I feel winter is somewhat of a misnomer. "Lo-summer" would be a better term for the season.

Aside from a couple of days spent admiring the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge, and enjoying the very relaxed and attractive area around them, this has been a trip more of relaxing than of sight-seeing. I've been staying with Handsome Matt - don't worry ladies, his looks haven't faded one bit in the last four years - and he lives in Bondi, just fifteen minutes walk from the famous beach. So a couple of daytimes have simply involved wandering down there, having a large all-day breakfast, hoping to see a topless girl sunbathing (failing, sadly), and then meandering back to Matt's to take it easy after a hard day. One time I took a longer walk, all the way to some distant and very large cemetary, filled with Sydney notables of a century before, just about all of whom seemed to die before age 50.

Matt has lost none of his charm, but alas my visit has captured him at the tail end of a nasty bout of whooping cough, of all things. This has left him in a weakened state, and at fairly frequent intervals he starts coughing in a very feminine way. It sounds very silly. Illness, I feel, is bearable when it's visible and ghastly and elicits sympathy from those around; alas, when the discomfort is manifested in a girly cough no-one can take seriously, well, what's the point in being ill?

His cough is so puny that even Matt's children have deeper, more robust coughs. Yes, that's been the shock of the trip: Matt has children. Kind of, at least. He's hooked up with a NZ divorcee called Gina, who has a big apartment and two children. All are very nice, and I've seen quite a bit of them over the week. A number of evenings have been spent at hers, supping wine and dining, and on Saturday we all went out as a pseudo-extended family to a Korean restaurant. I encouraged the daughter (7 years old) to try kimchi: she started crying and I don't think has forgiven me yet.

Despite Matt being ill, the good news is that he now drinks alcohol (for a whole year during our time in Korea he didn't drink... I wasn't very impressed). By all accounts, he enjoys considerable amounts, although his illness has curtailed any heavy sessions. In fact, the heaviest was last week, when I'd just arrived, and we ploughed through a case of 24 lagers. Since then it's been moderate, well, mostly, I've still tried to drink at every opportunity. Saturday night was one such: we went down to a large bar with a number of Matt's friends and watched a surprisingly entertaining game of rugby between Australia and NZ, the latter winning by just one point. Then we ended up at a party, where my memory becomes distinctly hazy, but Matt assures me we had excellent banter. All I can remember is giving some shockingly sub-standard chat to a pretty but vacant little blonde girl, and stealing a bottle of wine.

I've enjoyed my time in Bondi. It's a pleasant place to be. Obviously and evidently very wealthy, the chic apartments and ultra-modern shopping centres tell a story of money. The place feels safe and open, and although architecturally modern still retains a definite charm - no two buildings are alike. It's the sort of place I could live in, not forever or even that long, but for a year or two. The quality of life is good, if expensive, and the pleasant sunshine is uplifting.

So, one final evening, and then a flight tomorrow morning to Korea. Where the frantic Asian-style mania will be quite a shock to the system after a week of gentle idling.

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