Brighton Street, Petersham


This is what ultimately should be the eighth in my series of posts about the homes I have lived in – that is, eighth by order of home rather than order of posting.

In 1990, after house-sitting for six months for some friends (in the end, I went overseas for about two of those months myself), I found a flat in Brighton Street, Petersham. For the previous 5 years I had lived, for the most part, in Newtown. With the move to Petersham, my gritty mean-streets youth came to an end.

Apart from times between housemates at Bailey Street, this was the first time I had lived on my own. As I was a student at the time, it was important to me that I should find a place which I would be able to afford on my own no matter what, and this fitted the bill. The initial rent was $110 per week.

The flat was part of a house which had been divided into four flats in all. Judging from the bathroom fittings, this had been done some time in the late 1940s or early 1950s. The flat consisted of a bedroom, a living room, an area at the end of living room (beneath a different roof and ceiling line) which served as a kitchen (there was a stove and a sink), and quite generously proportioned bathroom and laundry with double tub. The flat opened at the back to half of the original back verandah. The living room opened to the side of the house onto a side porch. 

The flat had a pleasing westward aspect. There was a jacaranda over the fence in the next yard.

brighton Street jacaranda

On the skyline a few houses further up was a massive camphor laurel in which flocks of birds gathered at sunset.  This fell a victim to urban consolidation, and was felled shortly before I left just on ten years after.  That was heartbreaking.

The flat’s situation, on the edge of the green basin of Petersham Park, was also favourable.  The nearby park seemed to affect the air quality, particularly at night (and more so in winter). There was also the added attraction, in summer, of Petersham Pool (now the Fanny Durack Aquatic Centre). I could walk across the road, down the avenue of trees which ran directly opposite our driveway (just visible in the top picture), have a swim, then come home and have a hot shower in my own home.  This sometimes attracted curious glances (to put it mildly) as I stood waiting to cross the road in my cossie and with my towel over my shoulder, particularly as from the street the proximity of any swimming pool would have been far from evident to many.

Beneath the driveway and the avenue was a stormwater drain which was presumably a buried watercourse. When it rained hard, the flow of water would excitingly lift up a large round metal plate at the foot of our driveway.

Life in the flat wasn’t entirely idyllic, of course. I was reminded of this when I recently visited NC, who still lives in flat 1. With no prompting at all from me, she recounted at length the numerous conflicts she had had with other residents. Most, though not all of these, involved noise; others involved use of the “common property.” Police had been called; letters written to the landlord’s agent.

I, too, had my share of such difficulties about which I was less assertive than NC is, and there were periods when they made my life there a misery.

Aside from this, the bath which had lost its enamel and certain inadequacies in relation to security, the flat’s main drawbacks were the lack of a proper kitchen and, partly because of this, that there never seemed to be sufficient places to keep things.

As to the latter, I should probably acknowledge that this was as much an excuse as a reason. I have never been a particularly domestic person, and living alone I indulged to the full my capacity to allow things to descend into squalor, principally by the simple strategy of never putting anything away.

It should be with diffidence that I offer the following pictures of the living room. I took them at the end of my final law school exams, when, even by my own low standards, things had got particularly dire.


Brighton St Interior 1991 - 2

Brighton St interior 1991 - 3

Shocking, aren’t they? I am wondering if I have taken the confessional urge too far, a bit like the game “Humiliation” in David Lodge‘s Changing Places. I may have to make this into a private post. Perhaps the Australian government will block this page with its impending Great Firewall of Australia.

That was probably the worst point, though as the years went by the water-table, metaphorically speaking, of grime rose. I grew accustomed to it. At least one friend periodically urged me to move somewhere better, and told me that my environment was having a depressing effect on me. I think, in retrospect, he was right, though moving may not have been the answer. I was lonely.

On this account (see here at 8) my time at Brighton Street almost came to an end after about four years when, on account of a rashly ventured contemplated marriage which was abandoned before it began, my partner-not-to-be and I rented a house on the other side of Petersham Park. Notice was given, cupboards were dismantled and moved up the narrow staircase of the new house. When the joyous day was called off, I revoked my notice (which had still not run its course) and moved back, still single.

In my final year of my music degree, D, who was facing eviction from a similar flat on the other side of Petersham, moved in with me. By then, the brick and plank bookshelf in the pictures above had been supplanted by a piano lent to me by a friend, and the books mostly lived in the garage in a by-now deregistered car – my immobile mobile library.

D transformed the flat. He tidied up the junk in the back verandah and turned it into a work area for his sewing things. After a bad run where bicycles and one sewing machine were stolen, he semi-enclosed the verandah with a lattice-work made out of metal packing tape. In the second of the pictures below, poorly composed because I wasn’t in a position to impose on the present resident’s privacy, you can just make out this lattice work behind the silver-grey cloth which is pegged to it.  You’ll probably need to click on the picture and view it at the largest possible size to make this out.



Then I took a job in Perth. D came with me. The flat had to be given up.

It was a traumatic departure, far more difficult than the usual fairly gradual move that you can undertake when moving within the same city and also a wrench after so long. I slept the last night in the flat alone before throwing the mattress and the last chair out on the pile ready for the council removal service. Unsurprisingly, the cat got wind of something peculiar going on and it was touch and go whether we would be able to catch it in time to make our flight.

It was some months before I was able to arrange for the car to be towed away for a fee. A few other possessions, some treasured, somehow got left behind in boxes in the garage.

I also left behind an unused spray-can of oven cleaner. The agents deducted $40 out of the bond to clean the oven.

6 Responses to “Brighton Street, Petersham”

  1. wanderer Says:

    Silver. The winner is still the Gs, who lived in the street of my childhood house, and where the kitchen’s horizontal surfaces, all of them, were completely invisible.

    Gerontius on Wednesday, east, circle. I’m sure I wont recognise you from your photos. Blue hair would help.

  2. Crime and punishment « Stumbling on melons Says:

    […] are under siege, though not so much as at one time (December 1991, I believe) when I lived at Brighton St Petersham (where with a little difficulty the same table can be identified beneath considerably more […]

  3. Tintin or Asterix? « Stumbling on melons Says:

    […] Tintin or Asterix? By marcellous According to an article I read a few years ago, you’re either for one or the other, and certain other choices line up with that. I’m a Tintin man myself, though I don’t think the rest of the hypothesis holds very well. For one thing, if you prefer Tin Tin, you’re supposed to be neat and tidy. […]

  4. Bailey Street, Newtown « Stumbling on melons Says:

    […] 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. […]

  5. Memory card full « Stumbling on melons Says:

    […] to sentimental – for about ten years, from aetat 30 to 40, I lived opposite Petersham Park and swam at this pool regularly. Now the pool is to close for (they say) a year and a half, to be […]

  6. RF Says:


    I am the current owner of the property on Brighton St and loved your blog on your time there. We’ve changed a fair bit since we purchased the property, your old flat is much cleaner than the photos! Keep up the great blog!



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