It’s taken me thirty-and-a-bit years to get back, but here I finally am. I am now a resident of Sydney.
It’s sweltering. The streets are dirty. Suits are everywhere. Chinatown is perfectly stinky. Bondi is crammed with ugly architecture and beautiful bodies. The McMansions of the outer West are a long way off from the trifecta vista of Harbour, Bridge and House known so well the world over. I hope to dip more than a toe into Sydney’s offerings and so I find myself sitting in the NSW State Library, surrounded by students, whilst trying to absorb inspiration from the stuff that surrounds me. Strip lighting, orange formica-esque tables and drug awareness notices, then. It’s pretty hopeless, although the adjoining Mitchell Library is as close to an Oxford library as you’ll get in this neck of the woods.
Much better to hit the streets and start my time in Sydney with a bowl of steaming pho. This isn’t the first time I have oozed over the artistry of a bowl of pho and, no doubt, nor will it be the last. For pure inspiration value, though, a punch from chili, lime, fish sauce, mint and star anise on a 40C day is unbeatable, in a sweaty kind of a way.