The Localist

The Great Divide

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“North of the Bridge? I better not forget my passport then.” So remarked my friend when I invited him to visit my new home, a dear little art-deco apartment. I’d just signed over the next 25 years of my life to the bank for an apartment that had lovely steel framed windows, original decorate ceilings and gorgeous top floor views overlooking neighbouring treetops, all perfectly positioned in a tranquil street in Neutral Bay… north of the Harbour Bridge (gasp).

The Harbour Bridge. It’s a Sydney icon that we know and love so well, especially when viewed alongside its stunning sister, the Opera House. When the fireworks kick off to bring in the new year, Sydney is one of the first places that launches the world into a year of new beginnings and hope, and I really do believe that it is one of the most spectacular sights to behold. The bridge that spans the Sydney Harbour, linking Sydney’s northern suburbs to the east and south, also realised its own potential a few years ago when it began to operate “bridge climbing tours”, for a fee. The fee that most locals see as a tourist trap and just more evidence of Sydney’s ludicrously high prices.

In the past five years, I’ve moved house from the inner west (Newtown) to the inner east (Darlinghurst) to the lower north shore (Northbridge and Neutral Bay) and just six months ago, back to the inner east (Elizabeth Bay). Each time losing a good few boxes of clothing and household goods to friends, charities and the Council pickup. Anytime you need to move house, give me a call – I’ve become very good at culling and packing (my partner disagrees; he still thinks I have way too much stuff after having suffered the trauma of assisting with my last move).

For the two years I lived in Neutral Bay, I was subjected to some highly amusing remarks from my friends, all of whom lived south of the Bridge:

“I’ll probably never see you anymore, now that you’re moving north.”

“Wow, it really didn’t take us that long to get here, we thought it’d be at least an hour!”

“Do you think you’re having a rough time at the moment because you live so far away?”

I might have strangled my dear friends if I didn’t love them so much.

I should note that Neutral Bay is about 7km from the city and is just north of the Bridge. In driving terms, that’s a 10 minute commute in good traffic. Or 13 minutes to the city by ferry.

In short, it’s really not that far!

The ferry commute is what I miss the most. It reminded me of what a beautiful city I live in.  Is there a more civilized way to commute to work?

Like in most cities, it seems that we are all a little stuck in our ways, and our ‘burbs’. The Bridge is just a large physical structure, yet it’s also a psychological barrier that cements this reality.

I recently went on a meditation retreat in Byron Bay where my fellow meditators were clearly divided into three camps: those from Bondi, those from Elizabeth Bay / Potts Point / Rushcutters Bay, and those from the Northern Beaches. An hour’s flight north of Sydney, I formed new friendships with girlfriends who live within walking distance from me… Where we lived, where we went out to eat and drink, where we went for fun – we shared tips, woes and stories amongst newly met local neighbours.

So now I am a local living in Elizabeth Bay. Whilst I was utterly in love with my apartment and its tranquil and charming little ways, I couldn’t bear the Harbour Bridge traffic at peak hour. And wanted to be close to my friends again…

MEET THE LOCAL: CHARMAINE PANG

Image. Photo by Fraser Mckay.

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