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They say you can never go home… [Jul. 20th, 2007|08:14 am]

I was unprepared for the effect of seeing Newcastle again after ten years. The stories I’d been lead to believe are that it’s undergone steadily increasing growth during that time.

Situated on the Pacific Highway, Charlestown was the city’s boom suburb when I left, and rumours are flying that it’s still a hive of economic activity. However the corporate event I was participating in confined me to the older districts of Hunter Street and the Entertainment Centre at Broadmeadow. (Incidentally I erroneously described that earlier as an Annual General Meeting, but shortly before leaving Sydney learned that it was a Scheme of Arrangements).

Several of the staff described the area as a "ghost town." I wouldn’t have been able to disagree with them if I’d wanted to. Especially after arriving in the main street. What I saw there was eerie. The sight of closed shops with "To lease" signs is something I was well accustomed to, but not buildings that were boarded up, utterly derelict, graffiti smeared and disintegrating. At the same time there were numerous large buildings that looked brand new, towering above the city’s general skyline. The place had a feel as if it were in the process of reconstructing after a war. There were new multi-story motels all over the place. The old wharves had been converted into waterfront apartments, and one of the smart alecs in our group claimed that some of these were selling at $900,000 per property. Don’t ask me what was fuelling this growth; I haven’t a clue. One sight of the derelict buildings though reminded me that there was an undeniable gulf between rich and poor.

We arrived there around 6:30pm on Wednesday (yes, it’s taken me this long to resume my internet activities). The corporate dinner we shared was exquisite, although we waited well over an hour to be served, on the excuse that "the kitchen had received several large orders." As an easy demonstration of the ability for a herbivore to gorge himself I ordered TWO meals; roast pumpkin penne and a char grilled vegetarian pizza which despite being one of the last served I consumed long before anyone else had finished eating! Ha!

Some of us (myself included) had wondered how the client company was able to afford individual motel rooms for us. That was easily answered; they were minuscule and had poly-eurothane shower stalls.

We’d placed bets on the number of attendees for the S of A, with a predicted range of 150-900. The arrivals fell well short of my predicted 600, as we only had about 260 people arrive (I’m still waiting to hear the exact figure at work today). Mostly old fools with nothing better to do than gripe and whinge. The schedule included a Q & A session that was supposed to last no longer than 30 minutes. The grumblers extended this to 75 minutes.

All of my team was eager to leave, but none more so than I. The hope that I would not find Newcastle familiar any more proved untrue. Every direction I looked brought back various memories, mostly unpleasant. With the career strife I’ve endured I’d spent much time wondering if leaving the city of my childhood had been a wise idea. Now I have no qualms that it was the ONLY answer, and yet something in the back of my mind was trying to hypnotise me into wandering on autopilot into those old deserted streets.

Returning to the suburb I currently live everything seemed vague and less familiar than the places I’d not set foot in for the better part of a decade. I’m back in my regular routine now, and although it’s not ideal I’d rather be here than a city which doesn’t appear to know what its doing with itself.


[User Picture]From: dhlawrence
2007-07-20 01:19 am (UTC)
It's happening all over the Western world. Rather than appreciating the picturesque downtown areas, residents are moving into super-expensive flats and mini-manors and driving their tanks to big box "everything under one roof" shops on the edge of town.

Towns in the English-speaking world (and no doubt the non-English) are trying to reverse the trend by regenerating their downtowns and marketing them to young middle-class professionals, but it's an uphill battle.

I'd rather live near a downtown anyway. Everything's within easy reach.
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[User Picture]From: thefoxaroo
2007-07-21 11:53 am (UTC)
Mmmm... not so picturesque. The place looks like a demilitarized zone. There was one building near the railway that had half burned down, and on the main street the structural awning of a shop was holding up small bits of rubble from where part of the upper floor had collapsed. I saw shops that had been out of business since I left, and remember that was 10 years ago. Now they're so covered with graffiti that you couldn't tell what was their original purpose.

Most of this I saw either from inside the bus, or on the night that I walked back from the restaurant, so there was no opportunity for me to take pictures (my 2mb pixel toy camera can't do anything at night). I should make another visit. The pictures are worth hosting on the net.

Incidentally, Kaustic auZzie Notes is partly set in Newcastle, starting in the year 2050. Michael & Patrick live in Newcastle, and Michael commutes to Sydney for work. It would be worth my while extrapolating the city's shape by then, although the current storyline wont need me to involve the suburbs for a good long while yet.
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[User Picture]From: alaskawolf
2007-07-20 01:42 pm (UTC)
its quite amazing to see how much can change over time especially in places where we once lived

ive never had or even heard of roast pumpkin penne but now i would like to try some
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[User Picture]From: thefoxaroo
2007-07-21 12:11 pm (UTC)
The experience was both frightening and very depressing. If I'd chosen not to leave Newcastle in 1996 I'm certain that I'd never have found any work. I lost touch with a lot of people though, after a hard disk crash in 2000.

The roast pumpkin penne and char grilled pizza were the only vegetarian items on the menu unless I can be content with salad, but that's nothing unusual. Australia is a difficult place for a herbivore to live. At any restaurant I'm thankful to find anything at all to eat, and both those meals were delightful. The roast pumpkin penne was simply pumpkin chunks with a mixture of veges and pine nuts mixed with pasta and a light cheese sauce. I don't enjoy eating cheese, but until I find a vegan subsitute that provides adequate calcium and B12 it's a necessary evil.

By the time the meals were finally served I was felling like this: http://freefall.purrsia.com/ff700/fv00607.gif . The waitresses (who in an anthromorphic world should be thankful I AM a herbivore) served a few entrees during the hour we were kept waiting. I had to control myself to prevent behaving like a pig, but to my lasting relief everyone was so busy with conversation that they took mere nibbles and let me have the Lion's share. Even in spite of having downed several slices of herb bread and crackers with capsicum dip I was still able to devour two entire meals and not feel bloated...
...now I only need to exercise those kilograms off... :roll:
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[User Picture]From: secoh
2007-07-23 08:38 am (UTC)
you can never go back to places that live in memories.

Newcastle has changed, but more changed around than regressed in any way. Charlestown is the economic hub now, Cardiff and Beresfield the industrial zones. Beaumont St and Darby St are the restaurant and cafe strips.

After spending so many years in Sydney I really appreciate living here.
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[User Picture]From: thefoxaroo
2007-07-23 10:00 am (UTC)
I'm not sure I could come back to Newcastle. Too many _unpleasant_ memories... for one thing that's where I studied my (worthless) Associate Diploma with the geek who I later discovered went on to spend six years slandering me.

Charlestown was already turning into the economic hub in the mid 1980s. If they'd had the foresight to extend the railway from Kahibah into Charlestown they'd have a far better transportation system. I've heard a rumour that Charlestown Square shopping complex has grown even larger than it already was in 1996. I remember the 1970's when the whole suburb was houses and the main shopping centre was "The Store" up on the hill at Charlestown Road. They had a decorative waterfal under the concrete footpath ramp. Nowadays something like that would be vandalised every single night.

Cardif had a few light industries while I was living there. Is the Tooheys brewery up and running? Are there new industries at Beresfield, or just the Steggles poultry factory?

If I had a choice of where to live in Australia it would be Katoomba or Lithgow.
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[User Picture]From: secoh
2007-07-23 10:07 am (UTC)
I hate Lithgow, but to be fair I haven't been there for 10 years myself.

Charlestown square is huge now, and going to get even bigger. There's a massive block of units across and down from the cinemas (which are still small and still suck BTW), not sure what used to be there now.

Not sure about Toohey's. There's a lot of small to medium industry in cardiff, but Beresfield and Thornton...oh man, it's exploded with industry! Both sides of maitland rd is now huge factories. (I work in one of them making mining equipment LOL)

I have lived in lots of places, and I keep coming back to Newcastle. Each to their own but this place has a lot to offer me. If I was to move, it would probably be to somewhere like Canberra, or a quiet country town somewhere.
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[User Picture]From: thefoxaroo
2007-07-23 09:01 pm (UTC)
Lithgow appeals to me because of the cold, the quiet and the mountains.

I'm trying to recall what the Charlestown cinemas were like. I think I only went there once. If memory serves correct that's on the OTHER side of Charlestown road from the monster supermarket? Don't tell me it's grown across the road?!?

Ah, mining industries. No surprise there. Primary industries are the only safe bet in this country. Are these factories supplying machinery and equipment for the Musswellbrook mines? If yes, I'm surprised they're not closer to their customers.
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