Sunday, April 29, 2007

Sunday morning, blue sky

City of Sydney Councillor Marcelle Hoff has contacted me to say she received my letter and is all for doing something about the Three Proud People mural! O how I am giddy with power!

Actually, I now realise that I don't really know what the best path of action is. Part of me wants the exact same mural painted in the exact same place on the concrete wall, preferably by the exact same artist. I love its understated impact. But maybe this is an opportunity to do something more informative, with a memorial aspect to it. Anthony, who knows a lot about concrete sound barriers, suggested they could replace the concrete in the section blocking the mural with perspex, which would be cool, like a little window. But it sounds expensive, and wouldn't do anything to support new public art.

If anyone has any ideas, or knows someone who could be commissioned to do a new painting, or replicate the old one, please let me know! Also, if anyone has any idea who might have done the original mural, it would be great to find out.

It is such a lovely autumnal day today. Here are some sunny Sunday neighbourhood photos to celebrate.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Two windows

The smallest window in Newtown, on Erskineville Road.

View from the highest window in Newtown, 13th floor of the Silo Apartments.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Cake update

The cakes in Porccini have finally disappeared. So has the coffee and the banana bread. The rest remains untouched.

Stars of Track and Field

The 'Three Proud People' mural on the side of a house near Macdonaldtown Station is one of my favourite pieces of Newtown street art. Not two proud people, but three.

The white guy in the picture, the third proud person, is Australian Peter Norman. He knew the African-American athletes, John Carlos and Tommie Smith, were planning to give the black-power salute during the ceremony and supported them by wearing a badge for the Olympic Project for Human Rights. He also suggested to them that they share their one pair of black gloves, which is why Smith has his left arm raised and Carlos his right. Norman died last year, and Smith and Carlos came to Australia to be his pall-bearers. They were quoted as saying that Norman deserved to be more famous that Steve Irwin.

I can't imagine any Australian Olympic athletes making a political statement like this today. Certainly not if it meant risking offending the United States. Carlos and Smith were expelled from the Olympics for this salute, and Norman was officially reprimanded. Despite qualifying, Norman was not picked for the 1972 Olympic athletics team.

RailCorp has recently erected a massive concrete sound barrier along the tracks at Macdonaldtown, completely obstructing the view of the mural.

I have written a letter to the Lord Mayor and the Minister for Transport calling for them to reproduce the mural on the other side of the barrier so you can see it again while trundling past on the train. If you'd like to voice your support for repainting the mural, feel free to write to me for a copy of my letter which you can conveniently modify and send on.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Birds of Newtown

An ibis prowling the lane behind Green Gourmet.

Typical ibis behaviour to willfully ignore the 'private' sign. I don't think I've seen an ibis in Newtown outside of a park before. Doesn't bode well. Although I'm a bird-lover, I'm not particularly keen on the idea of gangs of ibii loitering in the alleyways.

However, I am particularly keen on the pigeons which have made their home snug inside the anti-pigeon spikes on The Urban Store sign on King Street.

The spikes have actually enabled them to make a spacious, luxury nest lined with cosy feathers. Pigeons: 1, Urban Store: 0.

This poor guy is tucked away in a corner on Camden Street:

Breaks my heart.

Nosey finds a friend

Thanks to Lloyd for showing me Walk Sydney Streets, a site documenting 92-year-old Alan Waddell's mission to walk all the footpaths in Sydney. So far, he has walked every single street in more than 230 suburbs, and has taken great photos of local features such as letter boxes, fences and signs. He is a 92-year-old after my own heart.

Alan hasn't covered Newtown yet, but he's done Enmore, Erskineville and Eveleigh, and Camperdown is one of his works in progress. He's even documented a couple of the same things as me, such as the Francis Street mosaic hopscotch and the letter box on Wilson Street that likes junk mail. However, his commentary is far funnier than mine.

Actually, the letter box that likes junk mail doesn't anymore:

Maybe with all the publicity it was getting, the influx of junk mail was just too overwhelming.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

In situ

Porccini Cafe, wedged between Enmore Road and King Street, has closed down.

In fact, the premises have been repossessed by the landlord because of unpaid rent, according to the notice in the window.

If you peer inside, you can see that the cafe has been abandoned untouched, stopped Pompeii-like in a moment of time. The blackboard menu is still there, the tables are still there. There's piles of banana bread near the till, right near the coffee loyalty cards. Even the half-eaten cakes are still on display in the fridge.

I don't want to encourage looting, but that's good cake going to waste right there. Although the cafe has been closed since just before Easter (they still have their Easter trading hours sign in the window: oh, the poignancy!), so it might be on the turn. It just seems rather odd. Surely if you had the dismal job of repossessing the property of failed businesses, you'd brighten your day a bit by also repossessing the cake, and maybe a bag of coffee beans for good measure.

As when any local business closes, I feel a bit guilty about its demise, even though I never really liked it. For starters, I always thought the name should have been spelled Porcini, but I was never entirely sure, so every time I walked past, it evoked a kind of cocky annoyance in me. Plus, they played loud, irritating music outside which pedestrians waiting at the lights were forced to endure. I ate there a couple of times and wasn't really impressed. But it was nice to see tables out on the street (although I couldn't understand why anyone would want to eat their breakfast sitting on a traffic island), a rare sight in Newtown.

I'll keep you posted on the decaying status of the cakes.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Signs & wonders

On Railway Street:

Maybe the student lost their biology book while studying this ammonite fossil discovered on a nearby letter box, most likely by an archaeological team on a routine letter box dig.

Or maybe they had hurriedly dashed off to the North Indian Diner for their special student offer, which is presented on a SCROLL. I don't know how any student could pass it by. It even looks like you have to sign ye olde scroll to get your discounted thali.

And while on the subject of inquisitiveness, it disturbs me that Fantasy Futon are able to live with this sign:

Maybe this is how Newton's Cucina (the Mexican place on on south King Street) got its name.

Monday, April 9, 2007


A little while back, Lucas said it behooved me to leave a note on the spooky Mad Max truck. And I have finally done it. In fact, I am now behooved to a lifetime of note-leaving, having crafted these Nosey calling cards:

There's more info on the back, so they're not as stalkerish as they look. I hope you can tell that's supposed to be a nose on there. Maybe I should have done a nostril.

Anyway, I'm not hugely optimistic about a response from the truck owner (I kind of flung the card through a crack on to the passenger seat, and I'm not sure he'll even find it), but it was exciting nonetheless.

Easter in the 'hood

The Easter bunny paused outside a house on Railway Street, looking a bit shabby chic.

The Urban Store attracted customers by associating food with the inside of sneakers. This combo didn't win me over.

Elizabeth's Bookshop hedged its bets with promotion of books, chocolate and Neil Sedaka.

The Fallen Angels brothel on Enmore Road pulled out all the stops for those looking for love over the long weekend.

But it's Yoshi Jones who won the Nosey in Newtown Award for Best Easter-Themed Window Display with their scrum of hollow paper bunnies.

I rewarded them by buying an over-priced red hoodie.

Friday, April 6, 2007

The cult of co-op

I do have a favourite Newtown thing. It has actually changed my life, and probably inspired me to write this blog. No, it's not the double chocolate-honey-malt milkshakes at Hercs. Though I really do like them... It's the organic food co-op, Alfalfa House opposite the Enmore Theatre.

I lived in Enmore for four years before I started shopping there. I had stepped inside a couple of times, but was intimidated by all the signs about jars, weights and food handling. It seemed only to have brown hippie food. I think it still seems this way when you first go in, but I exhort you to rise above this and see the light. Behold!

Now when I go in there I swoon. The food is so glorious I positively get off on fondling the custard apples and and button squash, smelling the lemons and stroking the mustard greens. They only stock fresh food that is in season, produced ethically, and preferably locally. The shop is tiny, but I've been shopping there for a few years now and am still discovering new things on the shelves, like Juniper berries.

And the rules of shopping aren't as intimidating as they sound. Bring your own containers, weigh them empty on the scales, write the weight on the container with the texta provided, scoop stuff into them, and pay by weight without paying for the packaging. It means you can buy just a table spoon of baking soda or miso paste if that's all you need, or go wild and get two litres of apple cider vinegar.

So how has it changed my life? Watching a jam jar woozily fill with yellowbox honey, shoveling billows of cocoa powder into an old Chinese take-away container and delicately placing imperfect eggs in their cartons, my perception of food production and consumption completely changed. I'm now a Co-Op evangelist. I dream of vats.

I spent today at a working bee for the Co-Op, scrubbing these flour buckets (wholemeal, rye, spelt, maize, soft, hard, bleached, unbleached...):

I chatted to other volunteers about the best way to cook quinoa, which shelf was our favourite shelf in the Co-Op (the one with the dried mango!), and whether or not you could use rancid sunflower oil in massage therapy. I felt a very long way away from the IGA.

Visit the Alfalfa House website for a complete product list, info on how to become a member, the co-op principles and the story of how the Co-Op went from a house in Erskineville on rent-strike, to Alpha House to Alfalfa House!

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Meeting the neighbours

The mint plant that I got for free from the Sydney Park open day, is now housed in an old tea tin I found in a pile of junk on Wilson Street. Free stuff on free stuff action.

The inquisitive New Zealand pigeon wasn't free, and isn't even from Newtown (he's from Tiritiri Matangi), but he likes fruit and foliage, so he was naturally drawn to the photo set up.

Speaking of inquisitive pigeons, I've stumbled upon some other lovely blogs which are the geographic neighbours of Nosey, who, in comparison, has just moved into the street. Have a squiz at Marrickvillia, Life in Chippendale and Bilateral Petersham. The latter records Lucas Ihlein's artist-in-residence year, during which he didn't ever leave The 'Sham. Pretty impressive, eh? Makes me feel a bit guilty for failing to even stick within the boundaries of Newtown just for subject matter for Nosey (New Zealand pigeon being a case in point). Let me know if you know of any other inner west neighbourhood blogs.

And thanks to Braddon for the gardening!

Monday, April 2, 2007

Cordless phone

Spotted by Suzy, on Juliet Street, Enmore. Thanks for the tip off, neighbour!

Bug on wheels

On Saturday I rode the chocolate and fine foods tour of the inner west led by the Marrickville and South Sydney Bicycle Users Group (MASSBUG). It was one of those things that you find out about quite completely by chance, and you think you're very clever for discovering such an obscure, delightful unassuming little experience like a local bicycle tour. And then 20 other people turn up, and you think 'Did they all find out about this by Googling dairy+bell+newtown?!' And then you discover that the Herald ran a story on it.

It was fantastic that they did, because with so many bikes riding together it really felt like a giant, chocolate-eating, peddling creature (a massbug maybe?) was roaming about the place, taking over the road for a morning, in a ramshackle kind of way. An old man watching us pass near the Cooks River observed, rather optimistically, 'It's just like the Tour de France!'

Only two stops of the Tour d'Inner West fell within Nosey's domain. The first was, amusingly, Alfalfa House, which is my beloved local food co-op. I felt kind of sheepish 'touring' its aisles in my bicycle helmet. The other was TIM Products opposite Enmore Park, which sells heavenly continental sweets. The tour was supposed to be calorie-neutral, but it definitely wasn't. I was eating baklava and Dutch chocolate gelato before 10am.

Here's some pictorial highlights.

First two photos taken from the MASSBUG website