Sydney – A Tale of Two Mates

He did, in totally non-salacious fashion, warn me; Chris did. But I didn’t expect it to be so in your face. Specifically, in my face, literally.

Chris was mates with my lovely Leigh before I came on the scene. Chris built houses, marvellous houses on the sides of mountains and in the Tassie bush. Chris is very clever, both with his hands and with his mind.

Our paths continued to cross at intervals, over the years, since those early days of my relationship with my wonderful partner-in-life. Chris has put down roots in various places, away from us, since then, only to uproot and move somewhere else. But these days he’s a cat/house sitter up and down the East Coast of Oz. On a recent visit to our abode by the river, in Hobs, he invited me to spend some time with him during his commitment in Sydney over the summer of ’18 – to stay a few days at Coogee by the sea.

So I rocked up to a small, but stunning, 1.8 million dollars worth of luxury pad there that he’s responsible for, caught a whiff of briny and settled in. After a while, in response to a query as to what I’d fancy doing, I replied a visit to a mecca of hedonism would be the bees’ knees. In my 66 years I have never had the pleasure of experiencing that mecca – Bondi Beach.

He did warn me that, although he himself was no great fan of that iconic strand of sand, there may be some eye-brow raising sights to be had in the environs of Bondi as far as the clothing choices were concerned, or lack thereof, from some libertine-like young ladies. Now that wouldn’t faze me, would it? After all my experiences of the French Riviera and local hot spots Noosa and Byron Bay in my lifetime, I’m a man of the world aren’t I? A parade of comely youthful flesh wouldn’t be a hassle, surely.

Now, contrary to Chris, I was just so impressed by the beach in question, scenically. Until the completion of our bus trip there the Sydney skies had been gloomy. But as soon as we alighted from our conveyance the sum broke forth and the golden sands were soon covered by an array of hedonists disporting themselves in supine fashion, or parading up and down. We soon joined the latter group, although I, at my age, have lost the ability to disport very much at all. I had my camera at the ready, but I was ultra-conservative in terms of where I chose to snap so as not to cause even the slightest hint of impropriety towards the sunworshippers. But on that Monday they, too, were being very conservative. There was nothing to get even the most prudish of onlooker excited. To me it didn’t matter a jot. I loved being there.

After our perambulations to both ends of Bondi we took to the local retail outlets. They were, with a couple of exceptions, nothing exceptional – generally dreary and predictable.

We then took the bus back up the hill where Chris’ intention was to do some grocery shopping at the Junction. He was quite excited about showing me Aldi and that was a revelation. Why haven’t we got it on our fair isle to give the big boys a run for their money? I’d doubt I’d ever go back to Woolies or Coles. And the world is a small place. We lined up behind an attractive woman and as there was a bit of a queue, we took to chatting with her. And would you believe it? Turns out she was Burnie born and bred. By this stage I had recovered from a sighting, in more ways than one, of the over-exposed skin Chis had originally cautioned me about. There was little of it where I expected it to be, but the ride from Bondi to Bondi Junction was a different matter.

The No.333, grinding its way up the incline, was extremely crowded, perhaps even dangerously so as the driver refused to take on passengers after we had left the shoreline terminus. Chris and I were quickly jostled apart and I was thinking I’d be standing the entire journey until a gorgeous Asian girl offered up her seat. I didn’t refuse. The seat proffered to me was quite low to the floor. That fact created the serious issue that was about to befall me. No sooner had I accepted it than the driver was yelling for all those upright to move towards the back of the vehicle. Shuffling followed, thus commencing my unsettling confrontation with a pair of sun-kissed bum cheeks.

She came towards me in reverse. The slim figure was attired entirely in denim blue. On her top was a singlet stretched over small shapely bosoms, but it was the bottom half that was coming increasingly closer to my face. This part of her shapely contours was wearing cut-off shorts – very, very cut-off denim shorts. Wholly the lower half of her tanned posterior was fully exposed and was reversing in a direct line to me. She was tall, with golden brown pins right up to her armpits it seemed. I feared a collision between that attractive, but way too close, part of her lower anatomy and my equally exposed face. I had no where to go as she manoeuvred ever closer and realistically, I had no where else to look except at that comely rear end an inch from my probiscus. Oh dear! Oh dear! Out of the corner of my eyes I could see a couple of fellow male passengers with bemused grins on their faces, obviously transfixed by my predicament, just waiting to see what the outcome would be. One possibility could be that any lurch by the bus and my nose would be embedded. Thankfully that never occurred and by the time the 333 had breasted the hill the crowding diminished and my non-cognizant tormentor at last removed her quite mesmerising buns away from any danger of direct contact. But it was a closely run thing.

Mate Chris was completely unaware of my situation when I related the tale to him later. But he recalled her and had had a view of the opposite side of the beauty and reckoned she was an out and out stunner. I was totally discombobulated by the whole affair. For poor me it was anything but sexy.

So, from a scantily clad maiden, let’s move on to those wearing no clothing at all. Chris did a great job showing me the sights of Sydney. I enjoyed visits to Paddy’s and Manly Market in his company. We had a tasty repast at the ever interesting Fish Markets. We wandered China Town and the Art Gallery of NSW impressed with a Robert Mapplethorpe exhibition. And then we ferried to Watsons Bay.

It was a delightful journey out to the quiet hamlet nestled under South Head, home of the famous Doyle’s Seafood Restaurant. We had fish’n’chips at one of its various outlets. But this treat came after our hike up to the lighthouse at the entrance to the harbour. Now my friend had another warning. We would be passing by a nudist beach. After the Bondi incident I was very wary of what could befall me in doing so.

It was a delightful amble. I thoroughly enjoyed it and passing by Lady Jane Beach, yes, I espied a naked male wading around in the water. On the return journey the view of this little strip of sand was more revealing (hum). There was a dozen or so souls without a stitch covering their bits, but the aspect that shocked me was on the ledge immediately above them, almost within touching distance from all the nakedness. Squatting on the narrow precipice were a handful of men, not unclad at all, having an up close and personal gawp at the naturalists. I was appalled at this, but should I be surprised? At least there wasn’t a recording device to be seen.

It was terrific being at Chris’ temporary digs, but now it was time to move on. I had three more nights to put in at the Travelodge, Wentworth Avenue, in the city.

I was pacing. I found myself pacing on the platform. Clearly I was nervous. I only pace when I’m nervous. Yes, I had, for me, a complicated train trip to get right, but that wasn’t the reason. It was that I hadn’t seen Anthony for, I guess, close to three decades. Old uni buddies, we were being bought together in memory of another dear mutual mate. Just before Nev’s passing he’d gone to Sydney and reconnected with the third member of our close campus threesome when he was up there for drug treatment. But Neville H and I had always planned to venture north together. That, obviously, was now impossible, but I needed to do it because, well, you just never know. So I was nervous. At the end of this journey Anthony would be waiting for me.

I met him after alighting from the train at Pymble, his stomping ground. He’d changed. Of course he had, physically. But I had very much done so as well. But that was only the externals. I soon realised, as we began chatting, that the inner AJ was still very much present. My nerves dissipated as he drove me on a tour of the Northern Beaches – fresh and marvellous territory for me. We ended up at the Newport Arms, overlooking Pittwater. It was a massive eatery/watering hole and here we raised a glass of Kosciusko Pale Ale to Nev and all the magic memories he’d provided for us.. Red wine would have been more appropriate as that was his favourite tipple, but the day was hot and we were in need of something more quenching. Soon I was at Anthony’s home, meeting his gorgeous daughters and wife. And it all felt very right to me as we reminisced and caught up on respective life journeys during the long hiatus. And I discovered my old pal is a dab hand at, from scratch, making chai and with Thai cooking. I’m hoping there’ll be plenty more comings together between the two of us through the years ahead.

Sydney now seems more accessible to me these days after my two recent visits. I can now zip around the transport system with my reliable Opal card. There was a bus trip to Paddington Market and a meander amidst the ace terraced housing there. I boarded the light rail to take me to a photographic exhibition at the National Maritime Museum and the ferry took me across the harbour to Manly. I revisited the delightful art gallery there, taking in a showcase for the senior art students of the area and also a remarkable solo range of watery works from Martine Emdur. I also was drawn in by the police mug-shots on display at the Museum of Sydney from the days of Squizzy Taylor and the razor gangs. They operated in the underbelly of the metropolis in the twenties.

I had chats with random other people, as well as my two hosts. There was a very loud, almost deafeningly voiced American who told me how he’d just been to my city and was ‘totally blown away’ – his words, not mine – by Mona. There was the lovely lady Chris and I met whilst we lunched in Manly who was making her first foray to Tassie and wanted advice on what to see and do. And then there were smiles from the unknowns that lit up my days in our nation’s first city. There was the friendly lass who took my coffee order at the Art Gallery of NSW and the young lady, rapt in her job, at Harry Hartog Books, Bondi Junction. And I loved returning to breakfast again this trip at the Joe Black Cafe, a few doors up from my hostelry. The cheeriness of the waiting staff there and their scrambled eggs always got the day off to a positive start.

But it was Chis and Anthony who made this trip the joy it was. My thanks go to the both of you.

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