From This Fair Country (1951)

The British journalist and broadcaster Godfrey Winn went in search of British suburbia in 1951. ‘I was in the very heart of suburbia, and isn’t life there considered by some to be the cemetery of all youthful drama, the burying ground of all ambition, the apotheosis, on the other hand, of all convention?…So the modern school of psychiatrists are never tired of telling us.’

At number 20 Firgrove, Kingston-upon-Thames, London, he found the Pegg family. Mr Pegg was a senior tax inspector who was treasurer of the Green Lane Tennis Club, Mrs Pegg was a homemaker (‘I can honestly say that I have never envied anyone anything – not even our neighbour’s show of tulips last year’); and their grown-up daughter Marion taught handicrafts at Wimbledon Art School and was saving up for a Baby Morris. One member was missing, in an exotic-sounding location:

The family produced a cable that had just arrived from their son, now married and doing splendidly as an engineer, in Australia. The cable had been sent in birthday greetings to Marion, from Turramurra. Whereupon, I found myself repeating the name aloud, like a mystic invocation – ‘Turramurra, Turramurra’ – as I asked the three remaining members of the family whether they were not eager to set forth on a visit to New South Wales themselves, to this far-off place with the strange and challenging name. We take the road to Turramurra.

At once the father answered as though for them all: ‘I shall be very happy to spend the rest of my days in Firgrove’, he said quietly.

I can understand why now.

–Godfrey Winn, British, 1906-1971

Marcell Seidler, Untitled (Rose Seidler's house at Wahroonga), 1951, Art Gallery of NSW.

Marcell Seidler, Untitled (Rose Seidler’s house at Wahroonga), 1951, Art Gallery of NSW.


Sydney-Side (1898)

Henry Lawson returns to Sydney by boat:

Where’s the steward? – Bar-room steward? Berth? Oh, any berth will do –
I have left a three-pound billet just to come along with you.
Brighter shines the Star of Rovers on a world that’s growing wide,
But I think I’d give a kingdom for a glimpse of Sydney-Side.

Run of rocky shelves at sunrise, with their base on ocean’s bed;
Homes of Coogee, homes of Bondi, and the lighthouse on South Head.
For in loneliness and hardship – and with just a touch of pride –
Has my heart been taught to whisper, ‘You belong to Sydney-Side.’

Oh, there never dawned a morning, in the long and lonely days,
But I thought I saw the ferries streaming out across the bays –
And as fresh and fair in fancy did the picture rise again
As the sunrise flushed the city from Woollahra to Balmain:

And the sunny water frothing round the liners black and red,
And the coastal schooners working by the loom of Bradley’s Head;
And the whistles and the sirens that re-echo far and wide –
All the life and light and beauty that belong to Sydney-Side.

And the dreary cloud-line never veiled the end of one day more,
But the city set in jewels rose before me from ‘The Shore.’
Round the sea-world shine the beacons of a thousand ports o’ call,
But the harbour-lights of Sydney are the grandest of them all!

Toiling out beyond Coolgardie – heart and back and spirit broke,
Where the Rover’s Star gleams redly in the desert by the ‘soak’ –
But says one mate to the other, ‘Brace your lip and do not fret,
We will laugh on trains and ‘buses – Sydney’s in the same place yet.’

Working in the South in winter, to the waist in dripping fern,
Where the local spirit hungers for each ‘saxpence’ that we earn,
We can stand it for a season, for our world is growing wide,
And they all are friends and strangers who belong to Sydney-Side.

‘T’other-siders! T’other-siders!’ Yet we wake the dusty dead;
It is we that send the backward province fifty years ahead;
We it is that ‘trim’ Australia – making narrow country wide –
Yet we’re always T’other-siders till we sail for Sydney-side.

–Henry Lawson, Australian, 1867-1922.

Arthur Streeton – Cremorne Pastoral, 1895. (Art Gallery of NSW)

Arthur Streeton – Cremorne Pastoral, 1895. (Art Gallery of NSW)