Cronulla was another of the famous beaches in and around the Sydney area. It wasn’t on my list of must sees, but we decided to do it anyway. My current pub job normally means I have two full days off (or one over Christmas and New Year!), and so at the start of December I had a Monday and Tuesday off. The day before, Daniel and I had walked to Parramatta train station (our nearest station) to meet my mate Neil Macey.
Neil has been one of my mates for about 6 years now, he’s a big Millwall fan and had spent the previous year living in Taiwan. You’ll see various stories involving Neil from my time in Taiwan and England. We arranged on the internet to meet at 12 noon at Parramatta train station. I’d wear a Norn Iron tap, Neil would wear a Millwall tap and we’d take life in Australia from that moment on. Suddenly there were 3 of us living together and sharing a room in our wee flat. As Dan said “and then there were three…”
Sure enough there was Millwall Neil complete with two bags and a guitar spot on, on time and we saw him straight away at the modern but small Parramatta station. That day involved welcoming Neil to Australia. He needed some sleep to recover from “climbing on elephants in Malaysia” only 24 hours earlier. I also had to go to work that day, and so during work, the guys came in for a beer. It was Daniel and Neil, plus one of our other cool flatmates, Aussie Pete. I finished work at 10 pm that night (a Sunday) and had the next two days off, so on the Monday we planned to go to Cronulla beach and then take Neil round Sydney.
It was up early and down to Parramatta station where we caught the yellow Blue Mountains line train into Sydney Central, changed there and got on to the Blue line down south east towards Cronulla. It was a lot longer a journey than we all expected, as the train seemed to stop at every station, and was fairly slow. Never matter, I kept my notes of my travels up, listened to my iPod and read the few maps and magazines I had with me. But before we had even boarded the first train, Neil came off with a revelation. He had bought Time Out Sydney and was reading the gig listings. He said to me “Jonny one of you favourite bands of all time are playing live in Sydney tonight.”
Naturally I thought it was a wind up. I guessed Oasis, Blur, Dire Straits, Bon Jovi, Manic Street Preachers, Ash…they were all wrong. He said “the band starts with a P” I still couldn’t think of it, though so he told me: PULP!!! No way I shouted! Pulp?? The band I never saw and Jarvis Cocker their lead singer was playing live in Sydney that night. No kidding. I grabbed the magazine off him and sure enough he was right. Pulp split up around 2001, but Jarvis Cocker had since released two solo albums (one of which I bought and it was called ‘Jarvis’ closing with the cheekily titled “Cunts are still running the world”). And that very night, Monday 7th December 2009, Sheffield’s Jarvis Cocker was playing a live gig in the Metro.
Not having an Australian phone here has often worked against me, but this time, on the train I borrowed Dan’s phone and called up to book 3 tickets. Then came the sad news: incredibly the gig was SOLD OUT! I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t even think Jarvis Cocker gigs sold out in the UK, never mind in Australia. It was a sad moment, but later on that night we planned to go to Sydney anyway and I was going to be on the lookout to blag my way in, or buy an over-priced ticket from a tout, just to see Jarvis Cocker. It would have been a nice end to the decade, and ironically the same year that the much loved Michael Jackson died. Famous of course because Jarvis mooned at wacko Jacko back in 1996 at the Brit Awards!
It was onto Cronulla anyhow, passing a station called Sydenham! This of course would be the same train station I’d get off at in Belfast, Northern Ireland to watch my local team, Glentoran FC play at home. The coincidence seemed lost on Dan and Neil and soon we got off at Cronulla station – also the end of the line. From there we saw a pedestrian precinct, many shops, restaurants and cafes. We were hungry and in search of a cheap food. Straight away Dan and I thought of a $10 steak option, which is very common in all pubs in New South Wales (the pub I work in does $10 steaks, any time before 7 pm). All the first restaurants we saw were charging at least $12 for any type of meal, but at the end of the pedestrian precninct, we saw the hill down to the beach.
I said there is bound to be a bar near here that does the $10 steak, and right enough, at the bottom of the hill on a corner, facing the beach there was a sports bar. It was called Northies and was part of the Cronulla hotel. Low and behold they also advertised the $10 steak so we were in! The offer also included a drink, so we all had a schooner of VB (Victoria Bitter) in there. They had the live Fulham v Sunderland match on so we watched that while we waited for our food. The match finished 1-0 to Sunderland.
We had a mobile style portable device which started buzzing to say our food was ready, so then we headed into the next room. I had a lovely steak, medium-well done with gravy and chips. After eating and seeing that Everton v Tottenham was on TV, we headed straight to the beach. I think that match finished 2-2 but I couldn’t really care – two pointless commercial football clubs.
We were at Cronulla Beach North and it was hot. Suncream and water were the essentials. The beach was much nicer than Bondi or Manly, much longer, less touristy and the world seemed to slow down to nothing. It wasn’t full of Australian families, wannabes or back packers. We had a lot of room there to relax and chill out. After a brief swim in the Pacific Ocean of a New South Wales bay, I drifted to sleep for an afternoon nap. I also saw a jellyfish in the ocean. We spent 2-3 hours chilling out on the beach, then it was time to head back into Sydney.
On route though we walked past the main Cronulla beach and happened to see that a local TV station, Fox 8 were filming. There were some scantily clad ladies (and one bloke) on rollerblades filiming a mini advert for Fox 8. We watched for a while and I filmed. Then it was ice cream and sweets at a wee shop before we boarded the train back into Sydney. It was Neil’s first full day in Australia so we planned to show him round some of the sights of Sydney.
On the train from Cronulla, there were free newspapers called mx. This is basically Sydney’s version of the London Lite or thelondonpaper – two free nightly newspapers I used to read daily while living in London (as well as the two early morning ones – City AM and The Metro). It reminded me of a busy London rush hour tube – more and more people boarded as we headed towards King’s Cross. There, we got off at King’s Cross so Daniel and I could call into our old hostel, Chilli Blue and see if they had any post for us. They didn’t, but we said hello to Hendri there, the guy on reception who we knew from staying there. After this, we walked down past Wooloomooloo harbour and on round through the Botanical Gardens to the edge of the Opera House.
On route we passed some statues, some couples mating and the awesome sights of blind bats flying from tree to tree and hanging upside down. There are loads of bats in Sydney’s Botanical Gardens. Once we got round to the Opera House we posed for photos as the sun set remarkably into the Sydney skyline.
The photo to the left was taken by me – its a postcard shot! I savoured the amazing view and thought how life had led me all the way to Sydney, Australia. I wasn’t totally happy, but I had to just get on with it…From there we decided to go inside Sydney Opera House and check it out. I had never been inside before. We went in and were on the bottom floor, so we had to get the lift up to the main foyer and entrance to the auditorium.
It was a whole lot different and much more classy than the awful “Pavilion Theatre Bournemouth” I used to work in (a theatre which I’ll mention again sometime – holes in the roof, rats in the kitchen, english staff who steal). We got into the lift to go up – there was only the 3 of us in there. The lift had no roof on it, which was strange and Daniel jumped up and set off the alarm. Suddenly the lift stopped and the guy was talking to me on the speaker system saying “you’ve breached the security.” It was pretty funny, but after 30 seconds the lift was back up and running and went up to the next floor. We got out there. Marble steps and elegantly dressed people were rushing about to get into that evening’s show. We couldn’t get any further, but were in a bar area with a shop. We mingled there for a while, had a browse in the shop and briefly considered buying a drink just to say we’d had a drink in Sydney Opera House. But for the price it wouldn’t have been worth it.
So we wanted a drink and instead headed to Sydney’s oldest Pub, near The Rocks area and facing into the harbour. I had been in before, the pub is called the “Fortune of War.” I had a PINT of Guinness in there (yes, a pint amongst all these schooners and middys). In there I spoke to the Scottish barmaid – she remembered me from the time before which was nice and I told her I was now working in Parramatta, in an Irish Pub. The Fortune of War is a decent wee pub – one of the best I’ve been in in Australia, but after that it was time to see if I could get into the Jarvis Cocker gig!!
There was a massive queue on approaching the Metro, I went straight up to the bouncers and asked if there were any spare tickets. The first answer was “no”. I then asked another guy by the ticket office that if not all of the sold tickets turn up, would there be any more? He again said “no.” I lingered for another few minutes before conceding that I wouldn’t get to see Jarvis Cocker that night. Instead we had to settle for going next door into the Star Bar to watch the live Premier League football and enjoy the $4 Schooners of Toohey’s New. We stayed in there for a while, grabbed a quick McDonalds meal and then headed to the Irish pub, Scruffy Murphy’s for the live music.
The band in Murphy’s played a good range of cover versions: Blur’s Song 2, Green Day’s American Eejit, U2’s With Or Without You amongst others. The drinks were dear in there, I had a few rum and cokes but we decided to call it a night and get the night bus home. We boarded the N70 night bus to Parramatta and our day of Cronulla and Pulp (almost) had come to a close.
I never knew that you’d get married, I would be living down here on my own. On that damp and lonely Thursday years ago…
FOX 8 FILMING BY CRONULLA BEACH:
FAKE OASIS LIVE AT SCRUFFY MURPHY’S:
FAKE U2 LIVE AT SCRUFFY MURPHY’S: