Newcastle grows up

Newcastle today:  The dog and I often walk the foreshore of the city.  For him there are so many fresh and interesting smells.   For me it is watching the port in motion, checking out the waves on the beaches.   The smells of salt water and sea.   Gentle winds.   The sounds of the seagulls.   Looking over fences into gardens. And a coffee to round it off.

When I came here to live nearly 20 years ago I wanted to pack my bags and leave straight away.  But this is a place that sneaks up on you, and one day you actually realise you are a Novocasatrian – you care about the Knights and the Jets; hate the council; want the fig trees back and enjoy Darby Street and all the little “hole in the wall” coffee places that seem to appear over night.

Twenty years ago “the BHP” was still the biggest employer in the city, it was a coal town, and industrial town.  Smog lay over the city.  Development was at a stand still.   It was as Mark Twain described it “one long street, a graveyard at one end and, at the other, a gentleman’s club with no gentlemen in it.”

There was a cringe in the city.   Anyone who came to live here from anywhere else was regarded with suspicion.  And if you were from Sydney that was twice as bad.  Travelling overseas people I know would say that they were from the Hunter, or even, two hours north of Sydney.  An espresso or a cappuccino was viewed with distrust (what was wrong with a cuppa).   It was a white Anglo city, and the Greeks and Italians who ran the milkbars and the green grocer’s were exotic, and marginalised.

How times have changed.  

Gordon Weiss in his article in the Global Mail says “Newie is a must see http://www.theglobalmail.org/feature/psst-on-the-qt-newies-a-must-see/137/

The Lonely Planet lists Newcastle as one of the top ten cities in the world to visit http://www.lonelyplanet.com/australia/new-south-wales/newcastle/travel-tips-and-articles/76165

Its even a cool hipster city. Surprise!  http://www.seattleglobalist.com/2012/04/13/five-global-hipster-cities-cooler-than-seattle/2296

And a place for bloggers to “100% cross-my-heart-and-hope-to-die” be in love with http://thedesignfiles.net/2012/04/tdf-hearts-newcastle/

The girl came home for a weekend and said that she thought Newcastle had a groove going that was better than Sydney.    I spent months and months trying to work out where I belonged.   I stopped after a while when I realised that this is as good as it gets.

Newcastle yesterday:  In 1821 this is what Newcastle looked like.  It was a penal and coal settlement at the mouth of a river.  The local land was the home of the Awabakal.   The hills are now covered with houses, the flour mill is gone, and the island in the middle of the port is now joined to the mainland.

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