Once again Louis Nowra takes a loving look a suburb of Sydney where he has found, much to his surprise, a place where he belongs, a place that fits, a place that although it appears to be largely dysfunctional has a great sense of community, is crowded with history and the ghosts of times past and present.
But perhaps most or more importantly, a place that has survived the best and the worst the various Governments of the day have managed to thrown at it ever since it was dubbed a suburb, and yet somehow always treated as the poor relation; a place where the lower levels of society lived and died, all overlooked by the residents of Potts Point perched high above.
Woolloomooloo was created as a suburb of Sydney, way back in the early days as a docklands, becoming home to the seafarers and workers earning their living from the docks areas. Rubbing shoulders with the notorious Kings Cross, the suburb soon developed a fearsome reputation, one which until recently has held true.
Nowra discovered, over time, there is far, far more to this much maligned area of Sydney than its reputation would have one believe and although colourful and violent at times, it has a heart, a soft side, a side that struggles to be seen and heard.
Discovering the Old Fitzroy Hotel one afternoon, he arrived at the bar in his black suit and white shirt, with his Chihuahua Coco, who somehow seemed to know where she was going, ordering a gin and tonic. He admits he felt rather out of place surrounded by tradies, labourers, and locals.
He again set out for his evening ramble through the streets the following day, only to once again find himself being led determinedly to the bar at the Old Fitzroy, which was to be the beginning of a long and seriously enjoyable association with not just the hotel, but the locals and the history of this much beleaguered part of Sydney town.
As the months went on, Louis Nowra found he was beginning to settle in at the Old Fitzroy, becoming considered as a local, as one of the crew, a ‘regular’ to be exact. This is his story of what has become his beloved Woolloomooloo and in telling his story, he has entwined the present with the past in a narrative that is as fond and loving as it can be critical and almost scathing at times.
As each of the characters unfolds, both past and present we are introduced to a world we generally know little about, a world where acceptance is the norm, change comes slowly and often with unexpected consequences. We see the charm, the degradation, the resilience and the very heart and soul which make up a community that is more like family, who, in spite of what can often be significant differences, look out and care for each other.
By writing this loving look at Woolloomooloo, lumps, bumps and all, Nowra has definitely placed it and the Old Fitzroy on the map, a place where the ‘real theatre of life’ is played out, where you can get a cold beer on any given day and rub shoulders with the locals, enjoy a conversation or two with many and step back, just a little in time, to what is perhaps one of the last remaining icons of ‘old Sydney’ as inevitably, just like Kings Cross, it too will become trendy and expensive, morphing once again into its new identity.
Unforgettable and absolutely enjoyable, Nowra’s words bring to life a place, which if you never, ever get to visit there, makes you feel like you already have been to that place with the almost unspellable name, the name that rolls off your tongue, Woolloomooloo!
|Publisher||New South Publications|
|Distributor||New South Books|