Sunday, April 12, 2009

I'll just pop over and ask for half a cup of sugar...

We're staying with L's sister Samantha, in her gorgeous old apartment in Sydney. Her place is all my preconceptions of Sydney rolled into one. Her apartment is a fabulous old late nineteenth century (?) building, all high ceilings and pressed metal ceiling rosettes. We can walk to the Opera House, to Oxford St, and to children's playgrounds where sexy nannies with exotic accents talk on their mobile phones while their charges run around. Yesterday I got talking to a real live mother at one playground and it turns out she was just back from her foreign embassy for Easter to visit her family. Confessing I was visiting from Brisbane didn't sound quite so impressive! At the front of Samantha's apartment, the bay window overlooks steep rows of convict era architecturally renovated bluestone cottages and fancy new houses across to sailboats and ferries skimming across Sydney Harbour. From the bathroom at the back, I can discreetly look down onto the back of a stylish although tiny double storey terrace house and its topiary-filled courtyard, where on summer evenings gatherings of sculpted men mingle and flirt. From the bedroom windows I gaze over a three storey mansion with extensive grounds, turrets, a tennis court, a swimming pool, and stone verandahs wrapping around all three levels with little nooks filled with wrought iron dining settings. On previous visits to Sydney, I haven't seen people there. This weekend, the lights are on.

I asked Samantha, 'Is that a private hospital?' It looks like the kind of very discreet, restful place society matrons might go if they were on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

She thought that was very funny. 'Oh, no, that's the [insert boundlessly wealthy mogul family name here]. It's not [insert name of matriarch/patriarch]'s house, it's one of the kids.'

It's not a flattering picture of me, but I'm terribly impressed by this. This is the closest I've been to real, proper, international standard money. (When I was eight, I got Normie Rowe's autograph. I was terribly impressed then, too). As the sun sets and I'm putting the babies to bed, I watch them going about their business in their lounge/drawing/sitting room (they don't have the curtains drawn, but they're far in the distance, across at least half an acre of garden - that's a lot of garden in inner Sydney. All I can see are silhouettes - although Hitchcock plots have been built on less). Actually their business doesn't look all that interesting - sitting in their loungeroom chatting, occasionally getting up for a refill of wine - but it's famous, fabulously wealthy business.

I'm not quite sure how to finish this post but there's something very grounding about real live fabulously wealthy people right in my backyard (okay, it's their backyard). It reminds me of the first time I went to a writers' festival and realised that writers were people, not articulate gods. Look, there they are! So normal!

I think it leads to something about my childhood messages about money - bad (camel through eye of the needle and all that), but also enviable. But today's not a day for introspection.

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