Last Friday I had a taste of Australian culture in Northbridge, courtesy of my Aussie friend Robyn and her mates. We began at the Ezra Pound, a pub named for the American poet, stopped for Japanese noodles at the Tokyo restaurant and wound our way round to Rosie O’Grady’s complete with “Oirish” bartender. I was rather thrilled at the idea of having officially done a “pub crawl”, although Robyn rather deflated my pretensions by pointing out that visiting just two pubs didn’t really count.
I must say enjoyed my first night at Northbridge though. I discovered my first pothole in Perth – in a parking lot near the Pound. This was a Moment for me, since the last pothole I saw was in Mumbai…in fact, back home I would have had a Moment if I had seen a stretch of not-dug-up road without a pothole. I’m sure my Australian companions think I’m crazy.
Still, I rather liked wandering past Perth’s Chinatown, right beside the train station, and down James Street where the restaurants range from the posh and pricy to Oriental and spicy. I was rather taken with the Outback Grill with its cowboy-hatted waitresses, much to Robyn’s horror. This, I thought was very touristy – pure Australian culture. Robyn thought not. Ah, well.
Costumed customers bounce into Rosie’s – a couple of clowns and a boxer. People watch a movie in a little park with an open air cinema. Clearly, not everyone comes to Northbridge for food, drink and dancing. The young and the restless are queuing up outside the Mint night club. We walk past.
I ventured across the river for a second time the very next night. This time we did queue up, but for food at the Annalakshmi, an Indian restaurant at the Barrack Street Jetty. It was a novel experience to have to decide what was appropriate to pay, as the Annalakshmi doesn’t charge for its food. The food was South Indian and the restaurant manager was instructing his cooks in Tamil. Almost like home, but not quite. We were rather an international assortment – the Australian from Darwin, a Chinese, an Iranian-German, a Namibian, and yours truly.
Life stops in Perth on Saturday night. After dinner we walked into an empty mall (yes, such things exist outside Mumbai). The only signs of life were a few teenagers practising dance moves in front of the polished glass display windows. I tried my reflection on a few expensively dressed mannequins. Doesn’t someone do that in a movie? Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s? I don’t know what amuses me more…my reflection in a little black dress, or the thought that I am part of Perth’s nearly non-existent Saturday night life.
But then, there’s something restful about being in a city without people…you notice the buildings more. The lights are beautiful, and the parks are quiet with shining lawns. You remember to look up and notice the stars. I notice things I’d like to revisit in the clear light of day.
As our little group breaks up, Darwin thanks us – very nice of him, I think. Time spent with friends is always time well spent. As for figuring out Australian culture….well, I’m still working on that.