Words || Brighid Goodbun
I met my partner in 2018 on Discord. It’s okay, we don’t need to pretend that’s normal. We bonded over our mutual interest in Doctor Who, niche filmmaking YouTubers and the 2004 film adaptation of ‘A Series of Unfortunate Events’. He just recently moved to another part of London, but before that he lived in West Hampstead. I took the photo on the walk to what we called “the big Sainos” (a supermarket).
Even though I only visited that house twice for a couple weeks at a time, the second time I came back felt like coming home. The actual area itself was far too lovely for my taste. Kids in their posh uniforms walking past the front window like clockwork every weekday at 3-4pm, a local pub that, although boasting a gorgeous cat and friendly staff, was certainly overpriced. But earlier this year, before everything became uncertain and scary, I lived here for just over a month, and it was that: living.
I learned the bus routes, the best price for a meal deal, when the Dominos across the road would have their “once in a lifetime” sale which we would get a text about every week or so. We had people come over to inspect the house the morning after we had been awoken in the night to the sound of a rat rummaging, and opened the door with eye bags down to our mouths. I learned some of the slang and when to conceal my accent to avoid conversation (“I just need to grab this sandwich and go because I am late due to my own poor time management and don’t want to be rude. No I’m not from New Zealand”) and when to use it to excuse my complete cultural ineptitude (“Oh, this is the one-pound coin? Sorry, I thought you gave me two. I’m from Australia, you see”).
Though it became a familiar and comforting place, each day I would notice something new and picturesque begging to be captured. The opportunity for a photo seemed to present itself at every corner, down every back alley. My partner would often ask me why I was taking photos of bins. They had personality, I would explain. I hope to visit Spike the pub cat again someday, when the world returns to some semblance of normal. When it is safe to do so.
I was born in Sydney in 2000, the year we held the Olympics. This isn’t particularly significant to me as I don’t follow sport but it’s still a cool fact. I also lived in Melbourne and Darwin when I was a kid, but Sydney was where I spent the majority of my primary school years, and where I’ve called home for the past decade now.
Even though I know Sydney is technically my “home”, whenever I venture into the city, I feel a disconnect between myself and my surroundings, a kind of impostor syndrome, like I don’t really belong and I’m just waiting for someone to realise and kick me out. I’m not academic enough for the business district, not culturally educated enough for the museums and galleries and too much of a lightweight and too set on my 10pm bedtime for the nightlife.
I think a lot of Australian-born people who have grown up here know how lucky we are to live in a place like Australia. But still we itch for more—London doesn’t have our weather, but it conjures up images of big old buildings, Christmas markets and fashionable coats; Los Angeles has arguably too much of our weather, but we think of Hollywood and big music labels and “making it”. For some reason I have this idea of anywhere but Sydney being the place to be. We hear of all our biggest celebrities moving overseas, where the work is, where the real world is.
We don’t take ourselves seriously enough, have too much cultural cringe to believe that we will be respected by our peers if we have ambition. So we think we need to leave. But whenever I am just about to leave Sydney and travel elsewhere, the city decides that now is the time to show itself to me. Some of the best days and nights I’ve had in Sydney have been the day before I’m about to leave for weeks, when I decide to be spontaneous and let myself choose where I want the city to take me, when I am willing to see what it has to offer. There’s a song by Death Cab for Cutie called “You Are a Tourist” which has a lyric I think about all the time: If you feel just like a tourist in the city you were born, it’s time to go. I think I disagree.
This was the view out my bedroom window in the house I lived in for the majority of my childhood. Granted, it didn’t always look like this, but over the ten years I lived there I saw my fair share of beautiful sunsets (which weren’t always obscured by that building in the middle I might add). My room was positioned in a way that I would always catch the best of the sunset, and it was not uncommon for my family to gather in my room to soak up the last of the light. It wasn’t usually intentional, it would just so happen that we all ended up there, and one of us would look around and exclaim, “The whole family’s here!” I would nod adding, “…even the cat”.
My parents separated about three years ago, during my HSC year. Finding out was one of those moments that felt like a movie. We went to dinner up the road to the local pub/bistro and everyone was uncomfortably quiet. My mum said she needed to tell us something. I joked and said “What, are you guys getting a divorce?”. It was a particularly ‘Fleabag-esque’ moment that as a film student I feel inclined to include in a screenplay one day, as pretentious film students do.
The last few years in that house were defined by the strange feeling of not seeing my mother when I got home, starting university, my first job, my first boyfriend and breakup – it felt so detached from my earlier memories of the place. After all, it was also the house where my friends and I made movies using the video mode on my tiny pink camera, discovered Club Penguin and spent hours writing stories I never felt confident enough to share with anyone. It sheltered me through some of the most pivotal years of my life, when I flickered through different interests like the pages of a book, deciding I would be a singer one day, a fashion designer the next, or maybe an astronaut or an artist.
Through the multiple identity changes, friend groups and schools, the house was a constant, even when my family couldn’t be. It’s since been done up with a nice new bathroom and kitchen, but my bedroom walls still bear the faint markings of Blu Tack from the 5 Seconds of Summer posters that 14-year-old me hung up.
It’s nice to know that I’ve left a mark on a place that left a mark on me.