A Little Bit About Leichhardt

Leichhardt is an inner west suburb of Sydney, surrounded by Lilyfield, Annandale and Petersham. On a spring afternoon I was enticed for an outing, motivated by the prospect of visiting an excellent new and second-hand bookshop – Berkelouw Books. The second-hand books are well organised in sections, kept in alphabetical order and located on an airy first floor. When we arrived, there was an animated book group in attendance, and there is also a learning and educational play space for children.

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Norton Street, Leichhardt with school, town hall and post office in view

I was vaguely aware that Leichhardt was named for the lost explorer, Ludwig Leichhardt, but it was originally known as Piperston as large land grants had been given to Captain Piper and Ensign Hugh Piper in 1811. Land was later sold to Walter Beames, who named it Leichhardt in honour of his friend, Ludwig.

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Leichhardt Town Hall

Leichhardt’s achievements included an expedition from Brisbane to Port Essington (4800 kilometres). During his second expedition, an attempt to cross the continent from east to west, all members of the expedition were lost with search parties failing to find any trace.

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Leichhardt Post and Telegraphic Office

Originally the area consisted of large estates with extensive gardens and paddocks. In the 1850s and 1860s, a trip to Leichhardt was like a day in the country, even though it is less than 10 kilometres from Sydney.

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Leichhardt Public School, Norton Street entrance

The arrival of the railway at Petersham provided easy access to Leichhardt and subdivisions of property quickly followed. The area evolved into a working class suburb, and it continues to evolve. There are many cafes and restaurants along with boutique shops and a steady stream of cars of pedestrians on the move.

Have you had a wander around an inner city suburb lately?

[Photo: detail on Leichhardt Post Office]

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Book Mountains

A perpetual task is sometimes compared to painting the Sydney Harbour Bridge. When you finally finish, it is time to begin again. This is how I feel at times about keeping my growing collection of books in some sort of order. I go through phases of being Very Stern with myself about adding anything, and have tried approaches including ‘one in, one out’ but this never lasts. I wouldn’t say that I’m addicted to buying books, but they do provide me with inordinate joy and satisfaction and it is only when the piles begin to totter that I tend to go through and have a good clean out.

I have started a methodical sorting, the first big clean out since I moved here. Books have left the house in the past four years in spits and spurts, but not quite on this scale. It has been good to group together books by the same author and books of similar themes. The non-fiction books are generally kept separately, and I try to keep my extensive collection of short story books together, although they do seem to flare up in other spots without much encouragement.

A friend’s passing comment about minimalism tripped the current clean out, as it coincided with an end-of-the-year-and-start-of-new-year compulsion to tidy things up a bit. On a show about living with less stuff, there was discussion around emotional attachments to collecting things which is fine if it brings you pleasure, but not so good if it is just for the sake of keeping up with the everyone else. Whilst the books in my life usually aren’t purchased to impress anyone else, quite a few are bought on a whim or are read and are no longer required. Better to let them move on into someone else’s life.

A few years back I won a large box of new books in a competition in a bookshop and I have carted these books with me, reluctant to let them go as they were new. And free! Never mind that the books haven’t been read as they weren’t of interest to me. I did give a few away – it was a large box of books – but now I am finally ready to let the rest of them go. One of them was a beautiful book about a collection of Dior dresses with exquisite drawings and a felt dress on the cover. I’m sure someone else will actually appreciate it, rather than keep it and never open its pages.

How would you manage mountains of books that need sorting?

Inner City Musings

Over the weekend I had the chance to have a wander around Leichhardt in inner Sydney. It is one of the many city suburbs that hums with life throughout the week and weekend with lots to see and do as well as outdoor cafes for simply enjoying the passing parade.

After an extensive and enjoyable trawl through a bookshop, we stopped at a cafe for lunch. I was struck by the sensory landscape: the traffic crawling past, low flying planes skimming the tops of the buildings, the hubbub of conversation. There was the clatter of crockery and clash of cutlery as the sun streamed in and around scudding clouds. The heady aroma of coffee – one my favourite smells. The chatter of children. The flash of a silver necklace adorned with fettered butterflies. People ambling past with the air of those with plenty of time on their hands, just a relaxing Saturday afternoon stretching out ahead of them.

The houses around the shopping area are a mix of old and new. The suburb’s origins as a working class area remain evident in the terraced houses and semi-detached dwellings. Space is at a premium, and there are several large parks which provide a green oasis of trees, grass and gardens around the streets and footpaths.

I have been lucky to live in a variety of places, from the suburbs of Sydney to miles outside of a small country town, to a large regional centre and now in the mountains. I’m yet to live in the inner suburbs and I can’t see that changing in the near future, but I can appreciate what it might be like to have the conveniences of frequent public transport along with a variety of shops and vibrant restaurant scene within an easy walking distance.

It was nice to visit and to imagine a different kind of life. It was nice, too, to come home to space and an abundance of greenery and views that still take my breath away.

Do you enjoy the metro lifestyle or do you prefer the quieter life?

[Photo: Sydney Harbour on Australia Day, 2014]