general impressions


Go west, paradise is there, you’ll have all that you can eat of milk and honey over there. As San Francisco’s produce is fresher and better prepared than New York’s, so Sydney’s surpasses San Francisco’s. A word on cafes may be necessary for my American readers. Good cafes are everywhere. We just walked up Glebe Point Road, where they sit cheek-by-jowl for about five blocks. The average standard of coffee equals the excellence of Ritual Roasters; a really good cafe, like Big’s new favourite Single Origin, has no comparison in America at all. Cafes serve hot, savoury meals as well as sweets: breakfast fry-ups, subtle pastries, wonderful sandwiches, maybe a bowl of pasta. Chai is not out of a box. It’s made with boiled milk, black tea, sugar and spices, by someone who has tasted real chai and liked it. Tables are tiny. You may be sitting on the footpath (sidewalk), breathing exhaust. Sydney cafes are slaves to fashion. On Thursday a particular treat will appear in one – I remember the birth of foccacia, the friand, the Portuguese custard tart – and by Tuesday every cafe in the greater Metropolitan area will serve it.

real estate

I always forget this. Sydney is incredibly, gobsmackingly beautiful. You can’t even imagine. Glimpses of the sapphire-and-emerald harbour through buttressed Moreton Bay fig trees. The smell of the sea at Bronte, salty-sweet. My childhood. On Monday, driving home from the Zoo, warm torrential rain pouring from a butter-yellow sky. Long roads lined with liquid amber trees, their autumn leaves turned to flame. Thussy plans to build an eco-friendly house on her incalculably valuable Northern Suburbs farm with its sea view. Our friends move out and out in search of affordable mortgages: Newington, North Ryde, Cheltenham. Owning a home and having children means leaving programming and development for enterprise architecture and management.


I think the economy here is in trouble. Unemployment is up, expensive storefronts in Double Bay lie empty, the vendors of luxury goods being unable to afford the rent. Technical people tend to work for huge companies – Bankers Trust, Optus, Oracle. It’s not particularly good fun. The exceptions are Bill, who seems to be relishing the responsibility for the billing system at his telecommunications giant, and Big, whose dot-com may be very well positioned for the return of Stupid. It’s hard to imagine what, if anything, Jeremy and I would do if we moved back here. We daydream about bootstrapping an angel fund that would help talented programmers make connections in Sili Valley. I could keep horses in Centennial Park and ride after close of business on the West Coast.

recurring themes

The Sydney Morning Herald is truly awful. (On the trapped miners: “The earth beneath Beaconsfield is hard and greedy. It does not want to give up its prizes.”) Politicians are still(!) talking about mateship. Apparently John Howard is popular because he is “a good money manager”. Not caring about money is seen as immature. Even so, plenty don’t. As in San Francisco, we-and-everyone-we-know are liberal and progressive, but the country as a whole is bewilderingly, self-defeatingly reactionary. Cars are ridiculously expensive. (Practically all manufactured goods are, because they’re imported. Oh, and you can’t buy music from the American iTunes store, only the Australian one, because the music publishers are still milking the regions for all they’re worth.) Drivers have become very rude. Girls can be tough and sensitive now, but boys are still bullied unmercifully. The Anglican church is as good as established, and is run like the large and profitable business it is. I pointed out St Barnabas to Jeremy: “That’s where the horrible archbishop started out.” Someone burned the church down that night. To Jeremy, guiltily: “It wasn’t me.” My friends here are awesomely gifted: Mark D and Jamie have books out, Neal’s latest is apparently wonderful, Mel is going to be a fantastic doula and how great would it be to learn cooking and design from Rachel H? My friends’ children are all delightful. Graham Greene is the best and least appreciated novelist of the 20th century: discuss.

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