In 1986, I moved to Bailey Street, Newtown. This is a little one-way street which runs off Enmore Road just a block back from King Street. The shops fronting King Street roughly opposite the Greek church were over the back fence. I can’t be sure now what the rent was, though at one stage I think it was $150 and then $165 per week. I lived there for just on three years.
Here is another picture which gives slightly fuller context of the row of terraces:
By way of comparison, below is a shot from 1988 or thereabouts.
After a few months, Hx moved in as my sub-tenant. ”Sub-tenant” suggests something rather hierarchical about our relationship, though of course, so far as ultimate responsibility under the lease was concerned, it was rather the other way around. I knew Hx through her [I had misremembered: see comment below]
brotherboyfriend, Fx. Fx moved into the house in Crown Street, Surry Hills which I first moved out of home to, though after I had moved out. (Are you following me here?)
Hx was involved in running “Poetry in the Pub” at the Harold Park Hotel. The poet, John Forbes, whom I also knew through Chris Burns (they worked together for China Bear Removals, which operated out of the Wheat Silos now turned into apartments at the end of Station Street) used to hang around a bit. I thought he was coming round to see me, but in retrospect I suspect he was trying to crack on to Hx. This didn’t stop him borrowing $300 from me – a proposition which astounded me at the time. More luckily than I then knew, he paid me back. I don’t know how many Sudafeds or how much cough mixture you could buy with that.
My bedroom was upstairs at the front. Hx’s was the very tiny rear bedroom.
Downstairs the house had a terrible smell, which I intermittently attempted to mask with drops from a product misleadingly called “Nilodor.” The wall had been knocked out between the corridor and the downstairs front room, but this was the room where the odour was probably the worst, so was scarcely used.
Inside and on the ground floor externally, in a misconceived act of 1970s decoration, the paint had been removed from the bricks, which constantly shed sandstock on the floor. I’ve sometimes wondered if this wasn’t also the origin of the terrible smell. There was a very groovy wall-paper mural of an autumnal forest scene in the back room which gave quite a trompe-l’œil effect. The effect is compromised in these photos by the Advent calendar, but you can get the general picture:
The toilet and bathroom were out the back. It was when lying in the bath, with my head resting against the cold, wet tiles, that I first came face-to-face (or rather, cranium-to-tile) with the fact that I was losing my hair. That was a sad moment.
At some point, Hx moved on and Sx, who was doing philosophy honours [Trad & Mod, for the cognoscenti] at the time, moved in. I brewed my own beer using a home-brew kit and the Coopers cans which you can still see in the supermarkets. The empty bottles were stored outside in the corridor leading to to the back yard and bathroom. There was an elaborate ritual required to clean and sterilize the bottles. Sx joined me in this. He had a particular fear of being poisoned by a snail in a bottle by reason of his exposure to Torts and the famous Snail in the Ginger Beer Bottle case. If I had only known, I could have told him that although the plaintiff in that case succeeded in the House of Lords in maintaining her claim, the jury remains out, or rather, never even retired as to whether there actually was a snail, because the case was settled. But I suppose we were wise to be vigilant all the same.
Later, Sx and I were at law school together, and we still see each other. Hx went overseas at some stage, and I have lost touch with her.
Later still, before I finally moved out, my sister KR came to stay and was joined by her then boyfriend, Gg. Their love was forged when they were working together at Coorow just south of Geraldton in WA at a native nursery. For some years I had a Sony walkman whose plastic outer case had been fused together on the memorable occasion when their shared bunkhouse caught fire on account of romantically lit candles. KR arrived from the West on Good Friday, 1989. Gg turned up a month or so later. He rode his Harley across the Nullarbor to follow her – I think this was a little test of love she imposed on him.
KR and Gg lived with me for some months while they got the money together to leave Australia together. On Gg’s part his critically entailed selling the Harley. This was a long and rather involved saga as it was not a perfect specimen and took a bit of shifting. Ultimately it was sold on consignment at a not entirely satisfactory price. I got the impression that this was phase 2 of the test of love. Greater love hath no man than this, as they say.
Most of my time in Bailey Street coincided with my turbulent years as a high school English teacher, but by this time I had started at law school. The prospect of intervals without housemates prompted me to consider moving somewhere cheaper where I could be sure of being able to meet the rent on my own. When the chance came to house-sit a friends’ (much larger) house in Marrickville for six months in exchange for keeping up their mortgage (which was less than the rent on Bailey Street) I took it up and KR, Gg and I moved there together. In due course KR and Gg took flight to see the world. My friends returned from overseas and I found a single bedroom flat in Brighton Street Petersham.