Having taken repossession of the girl child, we left Melbourne and flew to Sydney. We had booked our accommodation, a small cottage in Bondi Junction, via Air B&B, the first time we had used the service. It seemed to work reasonably well, though once again we were slightly stunned by the prices being charged for fairly modest lodgings. However, having realised what property costs in that city, we realised that though expensive, it was unlikely that we were being ripped off.
For those used to living in the first world, high property prices may seem understandable and even affordable. But when one considers the relative purchasing power between Sydney and Cape Town say, it comes as something of a shock to the country mice that we have become. We learned that the tiny 2 bed cottage, no more than 60sqm of living space, tops, and a token patio would sell for A$1.3 million. The equivalent sum in Cape Town, ZAR 13.5 million, would get you a house like this. https://www.property24.com/for-sale/constantia/cape-town/western-cape/11742/106508623?plId=272928&plt=2
Of course, salaries are much higher in Australia (minimum wage equivalent to A$36,000 per year) than they are in SA and there is considerably more confidence in the country, not just economically, but politically and socially. Still, the housing differential does explain why some people choose to live where they do.
There is another point that I should make about relative house sizes in Australia and Africa. It used to puzzle me that a country as big as Australia with as much land available should build so many relatively modest-sized houses. However, having spoken to friends who had moved from Zim or SA to that part of the world, they gave a very practical justification. In colonial Africa, domestic labour is very cheap. It is not unusual to employ at least one house worker and a gardener who reduce the levels of drudgery that are experienced by others around the world. But, when you have to do all the cleaning and gardening yourself as well as face long commutes too and from work, small is sometimes very good. Having said that, here we lack many of the labour saving devices that others take for granted.
One thing that Sydney and Cape Town have in common is their natural beauty. Both are spectacular. But both are also under-catered for the growing levels of road traffic. At least Sydney has an efficient public transport system. Cape Town has a heavily vandalised and dangerous metro rail road and a lethal network of pirate taxis that I would not dream of attempting to board. Thank heavens for Uber.
The best aspect of Sydney we felt was scenic beauty of the place including the Botanical Gardens which we visited on a gorgeous sunny day. My brother who lives out of town came to visit with his relatively new wife, whom I had never met before but with whom I got on very well, though we sit at different ends of the political spectrum. They took us for a walk along the coastal path that leads from Bondi towards Bronte Beach. And very pretty it was too. However, we were hugely disappointed by the Aquarium which turned out to be a cynical sausage machine designed to rip off tourists and which could not begin to compare with aquaria in Cape Town and Durban. Likewise the Museum of Sydney, which we had specifically chosen to see because we wanted to learn more about the history of the city, was equally disappointing.
I had made contact with several of my numerous friends whom I have scattered around the world, (Janus, are you paying attention?) One of these was a former work colleague with whom I shared a couple of beers in a bar in Darling Harbour. Another was a class mate from school whom I had known since I was 10. He arrived in Australia in the mid 1980s and had done very well for himself having introduced pilates to the country, or certainly one of its pioneers. He took us out for a fabulous meal at restaurant called Doyles in Watson’s Bay. Delicious food and wine and stunning view of the city across the bay.
Of course while we were in Sydney there was a coup-d’état of sorts. See Bearsy’s post. I am afraid that I do not have Christopher’s knowledge of Aus politics so I was not familiar with all the intimate details, though I had never liked Turnbull, rightly or wrongly, because of his involvement in the Spy Catcher Trial of the 80s. My new sister in law was an ardent supporter of our Malcolm and horrified by the prospect that Paul Dutton might become the new PM. Liberal people always seem to think that they have unfettered right to express their views in a social environment and that naturally everybody else must agree with them. I had to make it clear to her that I was very right wing and without being fully aware of the alleged evils of Dutton she should not necessarily think that I agreed with her and that I would denigrate him to the same degree that she felt was necessary. As it was, PD miscalculated and ScoMo got in. I don’t know much about Morrison either, but I would be wary of anybody who belongs to a church like his.
There is no doubt that Sydney is a wonderful city with a myriad of charms, but unless you are real high-flyer on a mega salary, I think there are other places where it would be better to live.