Along long lazy streets the treetops radiate like red-gold beacons lit by a sun now low in the western sky. It is Autumn in Woolloomooloo and the trees are turning yellow and russet as they prepare to shed their foliage for the coming of the cold. This is how it has been for so many Autumns in this little valley between the CBD and Potts Point where generations have been born and grown up in old houses, and before that where generations were born and lived when all this was bushland by the water.
Many buildings are already in shade as if preparing for the night and past these I wandered in an unplanned, spontaneous sort of way. There is much to be said for unintentional wandering. No plans. No direction known, as the fuzzy-haired singer once sang.
I walk and take side roads and lanes when the urge comes unbidden and end up down by the wharves when my eyes are stabbed by the flash of a neon light, as those others singers of the time sang. It was Harry’s Cafe de Wheels, an icon of Sydney’s past now playing to its own self-referenced history with old photos on the walls attesting to its authenticity as a landmark, and its radiant red neon sign in a bright script font.
Harry’s still sells pies. At the end of day I sit on the nearby seat watching people around me scoffing those round pastry-and-mystery-filled delicacies like so many have done over the years, the decades. I gaze out to the grey waters of the harbour.
Having participated in the living history of Harry’s and its pie scoffers I ascend that long line of stairs as I did so many decades ago and end up in Potts Point above the navy wharves. To ascend that long steep wide stairway is to ascend the stairway of wealth, but maybe it was always that way.
Day moves towards dark as I make my way through the gloom along Victoria Street. And, yes, there is a halo around those street lamps and the bright signs and I realise I have walked this way before, for here is the street home to the Wayside Chapel and here the nondescript building where once was The Village, that little square with its bookshop with the prints of Aubrey Beardsley drawings decorating its walls where I would spend time browsing but seldom buying.
I cross to the William Street corner where in those long gone times we would wander up from Cathedral Street in Woolloomooloo for a meal at whatever-the-cafe’s-name-there-was… Bron and Rob and Sol and Yvonne and I. And here I stop to look back across the Darlinghurst/Bayswater intersection to where I would disembark the bus from the city where I worked and wander along Darlinghurst to the old building and ascend its many steps to my lonely attic room.
Now I turn down desolate Williams Street with people coming and going uphill and down, and at the bottom I stop to look back and I think, yes, it was good and maybe it still is though it is not what it was.
I turn and walk on.