Compare and Contrast

Note: This entry has been restored from old archives.

It is a mantra from my highschool days studying English Literature, we were always asked to “compare and contrast.”

When travelling between places I’m always compelled to do just this, though it is mostly futile — the world is far too complex. Travelling to Sydney brings in yet another dimension, I’m comparing Sydney now to my bits of the UK now and also to Sydney then. I lived in Sydney for around 6 years, from early 1999 to late 2005. The subsequent 3 years have mostly been spent in the UK.

Sydney of 2005 is a little different to Sydney of late 2008. In no particular order:

  • It is now possible to travel from Kellyville to the City in a single bus ride which takes just an hour.
  • Some shop fronts have changed, but mostly everything looks the same.
  • Ferrari’s on William street are replaced by art.
  • Oporto’s chilli sauce has changed, for the worse, it just isn’t right any more.
  • It is finally possible to get near perfect espresso in the heart of the city, thanks to Mecca Espresso on King street.
  • Sydney University is looking good.

That last point is worth further words. When they first built the Eastern Avenue building I thought it was pretty awful. Then again, Carslaw and the Chem building are downright ugly (from a more utilitarian era of building.) Now that it has a friend in the new Law building, the road has been paved over, and the landscaping improved that whole stretch looks brilliant. Some of the improvement even seems to rub off on the old Chem building, amazing what some well thought out landscaping can do.

Stand on Eastern Avenue in the early evening, sun still just in the sky, and look through the large glass section of the new law building. It is a painting of Sydney, featuring the UTS building, done in shades of gold. Unexpected beauty.

The new school of IT (etc) building works well too. Standing in the foyer looking up. It is, certainly, less personal and friendly than Madsen was. Little sign of humanity, a small box with a screen to greet and guide you. Perhaps appropriate for a house of techno-worship.

The masterpiece, in my mind, is the refashioning of the lawns between Wentworth and Eng. Smooth lines drawing the eye to the old schoolroom, rather than away from it. A very Australian blend of modern design, curves, sandstone, and bush.

There’s still work in progress, I look forward to visiting again next year.

How about comparisons with England? I’ll wander into these waters, though they be muddy and maybe even dangerous.

Eating out in Sydney wins. The seafood cannot be beaten, the prices are insanely good. People living here are unbelievably lucky in the seafood stakes, and eating out in general.

Sydney isn’t safe on a gourmet pedestal however. While the UK lets us down, severely, in the seafood stakes it makes up good ground for just about everything else. Money buys your dearest desire, so they’d have us believe, and the brute financial power of London draws in everything. You name an ingredient, you can get it. Lamb from New Zealand, oranges from South Africa, apples from Australia, herbs from Israel. I find it hard to believe. This is not the good stuff though, it is merely a guilty convenience. I can leave the lot of it.

They can do meat over there, Australia may be known for its beef but the UK really knows about it and does it right. I’m let down by what I can find in supermarkets, and even butchers, in Sydney. The local produce movement in England is also brilliant. I can usually know exactly what town my fruit and vegetables came from, and how far they’ve travelled. I know where my pork grew up, and what mountainsides my lamb enjoyed. Quite often this is even so in the supermarkets.

I’m sorry to say that the UK wins on food, as far as the environmentally conscious home-gourmand is concerned. If eating out is more your style then stick to Sydney, unless you have money leaking out your orifices.

Beer? Here be dragons. The beer in England, the good stuff, Real Ale I mean, is astounding. Australian beers, even some of my old favourites, are flavourless fizz by comparison. Now, I don’t mean to say that Aussie beer is bad … is just isn’t beer to me any more. More like a beer-flavoured fizzy drink, it has its place.