You are where you live.
As you are all of the things that you do and love.
For the last eight years I’ve been lucky enough to live in the village of Double Bay on the eastern shore of Sydney Harbour.
One of the things I’ll miss about living in this part of the world is the wildlife. I don’t mean the partying going on into the early hours of most nights at The Golden Sheaf. I mean the wildlife. For example at 4:30am, if you happen to be asleep, you’ll be woken by the sad song of loss sung across the misty marshes by our very own nightingale. Actually there are no misty marshes, just a whole lot of old flats surrounded by trees, but that doesn’t deter this bird. Maybe it’s a fox or possum returning to its burrow that has disturbed it. Yes there are foxes in Double Bay, I’ve seen one whilst out on a 3am walk, but that’s a whole other story.
Then at sun rise the chorus of currawongs begin volleying their curlicues, back and forth, back and forth as the world lights up. That’s when the parrots begin to chase and chatter through the trees eliciting warning laughter from the kookaburras in the garden next door. And at sunset I can’t hear myself speak if I make the mistake of making a phone call while the currawongs are lined up in the trees around us singing into the dusk.
I’ll miss the birds.
And then there are the arboreal marsupials. Like the possum which wasn’t happy with its nightly forage in our attic. Deciding that it wanted to explore our living room it spent an entire night trying to get in through a small door that accesses the gas tap; despite someone stacking boxes and chairs up against this door it persisted, only a rap on its paws at 4am with the spaghetti ladle eventually convincing it to cease and desist.
And there was the rather large antechinus whose claws clipping on the wooden floorboards woke us up over several nights. What was it doing under the bed? Someone, who claimed to have surprised it in the kitchen in the early hours, called it a rather large rat, and suggested it snarled at them. I never saw it but I did find a beautiful object under the kitchen sink a few weeks later. It looked like a hand woven felt basket worthy of display in an art gallery. Someone insisted it was a common rat’s nest.
And then there’s the sea life. I’ve spotted a manta ray and an eel while walking along the esplanade at Rose Bay. And there are the little dinner plate stingrays in the shallow water next to the ferry wharf, hoovering their way over the sand, hunting for even smaller sea life than themselves. And of course the dolphins that now regularly make their way into the harbour and I’ve heard have been spotted all the way up the Parramatta River.
One of the most fantastic things about living in this part of the world is the ferry commute to work. While on the ferry the other morning I remembered the day the Captain announced, “Attention passengers. Dolphins ahead. Brace for impact.” He didn’t actually say the last bit. After the first moment of surprise we all rushed to the front and there they were; a pod of dolphins in the water right in front of us. The ferry continued to barrel towards them and just as the bow of the boat reached them, and I thought I was about to witness a massacre of marine mammals, they all dove deep, neatly swimming under us, still visible through the clear green water. They’d been playing with us! Making magic, these imps of the sea.
As I was remembering this I noticed a fishing trawler up ahead, returning late with its catch. There were a whole lot of silver gulls jostling above the boat. That’s when I saw the pelicans flying fast and low, only about a metre above the water, straight past us, landing right behind the little trawler. They dipped and splashed, having a little rest, by which time the trawler had moved on and we’d caught up with them. But they continued to splash around oblivious to the danger bearing down on them and just at the last minute the captain swerved the ferry to starboard narrowly avoiding the silly birds who alerted by the sudden swell took off; once again chasing the trawler loaded down with fish, and shrieking, snapping seagulls.
But it hasn’t just been the wildlife, there have been a few domestic animal incidents too and some foul play.
Like the time that I was bed bound because my back had decided to pack it in and someone went down to the clothes line leaving the front door wide open just as the pups next door were being taken on their daily walk. Well they saw that open door and they’d dashed inside before their owner could say French Boxer. They ran straight into the bedroom and were circling the bed like sharks circling a life raft, only their ears appearing above the waterline.
And of course there was the tragedy of the geese. The day after we moved in we walked down to Double Bay, got a coffee and walked to the little sandy beach near the wharf. The night before as I’d fallen asleep I’d been able to smell the salt in the air. I’d never lived this close to the sea and couldn’t wait to explore. As we approached the water we noticed some really strange shapes sitting on the sand and as we got closer we heard honking. There on the beach were four big white geese. I felt like I’d accidentally wandered into a children’s story.
For the next six months, as I walked to the ferry wharf each morning, I’d be greeted by this gaggle of geese. And then one day an article appeared about them in the local paper. It was written by the work experience student who’d been fascinated to discover these animals on a city beach. A week later the geese were gone. Who knows what happened to them but sadly I doubt that they’re charming the locals on some other harbour beach.
I’ve loved living in Double Bay. Wildlife aside, there are many things I’ll miss when we move. The sheer physical beauty of the harbour in all its moods; summer dips at Redleaf Pool or Neilsen Park; the breathtaking cliff top walks at Watson’s Bay. And I’ve loved the bold brashness of the eastern suburbs; it’s inspired a lot of theatre and a lot of writing.
These have been just some of my favourite things. I look forward to meeting the local inhabitants of my new part of the world – Redfern.