Justin Simpson, a familiar face around West Hill in general and the Duke of Wellington in particular, lived in Buckingham Road and has been going back and forth between the UK and Australia for donkey’s years as he’s a dual passport holder. He left Brighton recently for Sydney but fears Brexit might finally end his love affair with the Poms! We may or may not see him back again on these shores, but, in the meantime, he has sent us this observation of life in Sydney vs Brighton.
Sydney is totally different to Brighthelmstone – or is it?
There are many people living here who have English roots (or Pommies, as we delicately refer to ourselves), plus other Brits and Irish. We might even have started off the whole invasion thing in 1788 with another, now retired, Cook.
There is the same devotion to coffee and good food; gin distilling and craft beer brewing; cricket and ‘footie’; country walks and cloudless blue skies.
Yesterday I met a woman from Kemptown who had emigrated so recently that her skin was still pale from the English winter followed by an Aussie one, but she was rejoicing in the onset of Antipodean Spring and 25ºC warmth and sun, although after the recent Northern summer, even the weather is not that different.
There are ginnels and twittens here, too, as Sydney was settled by Poms in the era of laneways and before the infernal combustion engine; and interesting places to explore in the centre that is the oldest part of the city. There is no modern Jubilee Library but a lovely nineteenth-century restored Customs House at Circular Quay; there is no Royal Pavilion but there is the Victorian Town Hall and the QVB, a well-preserved shopping mall; there is no Marina but a harbour with a bridge and an interesting-shaped music venue near where the ferries dock.
Oh, and we both speak English, although there is no hiding one’s accent and manners (when you’re in a strange town) but this is an everyday occurrence for many Sydney-siders, just as hearing a Mediterranean or Arabic accent is hardly unusual on Western Road in Brighton.
There are many streets just like the North Laines, with café after café after local artisan shop; many places where weekends spring to life with tourists and locals strolling under warm sun or wide awnings.
It’s rather disconcerting that Sydney feels so similar to Brighton (obviously not physically, although water is never far away) but rather like a picture that’s just out of focus, but not displeasingly so . . . and even we Poms are accepted as a necessary part of the scene in this very cosmopolitan city.
Blimey – there are numerous Premier League shirts walking around town alongside local rugby league clubs and Wallaby Guernseys (Oz-speak). I expect to see a Seagulls one any day soon!
Tonight, I’m off to the pub with another group of Poms and Irish to watch sport on the TV: could be just like in Brighton!