Sydney with Taylor

Sunday Blog 124 – 25th Feb 2024

The last time I was in Sydney was before Covid. Finally I’m back, travelling for work, accidentally coinciding my visit with Taylor Swift. As I wait at the Artisan Hotel off Pitt Street for my dinner companion I think about it all. The Sydney streets had become smudged in my memory, and I was still getting my bearings, glued to the phone for directions all the way there. And then upstairs through the rooms at Artisan, bypassing memories of dinners I’ve had there in the past.

One of travel’s great mysteries and appeal to me is that a body can return to a place that it once was. Travel measures change, a bit like re-reading a book. The words are the same; the reader is not.

The last time I was in Sydney Dad was alive. Mum was still a wife and not a widow, and they were living in their home for 65 years. Yes, we still had the family home then, although it was crumbling around my parents, invaded by ants, blowflies, cranky plumbing. Busting at the seams every Christmas, Easter, family birthday. Quiet all other times, with simple daily routines of the paper, cups of tea, rotating carers on shifts patching Dad up and prepping and serving meals of over-boiled vegetables. Sure, the clouds of aging and death were gathering around, but the shit storm was holding off.

But time does mark changes in a place as well. This time I could ride the new Sydney trams, travelling the long length of George Street to Sydney Harbour at a bit more than walking pace.

Perhaps a book is the wrong comparison for travel, and a better one is a labyrinth. The labyrinth’s design mimics the brain or intestines, depending on your imagination. You walk into the centre, you walk out again. The paths are adjacent and circle around so here you are again, passing the same ground but a bit farther in, or farther out.

So I wait in the Artisan, re-treading the paths back and forth in my mind, then my companion arrives and new memories are laid on old.

We talk about Taylor Swift, because we have to. The streets are full of women and girls in sequinned outfits, out of their minds with excitement about the concerts they have flocked to Sydney to attend. Hotel costs are even more heinously expensive than usual, and Taylor’s music is piped through the speakers of almost every hotel or cafe. At the entrance to my hotel there’s a couch in the shape of pink lips, with two life-size cut-outs of Taylor. I catch glimpses of fond parents taking photos of their children on the lounge as I pass through.

At the end of my stay I text my Artisan dinner companion to say that I have left all the Taylor Swiftness behind, but it’s not true. The plane is awash with smiling people wearing her merch.

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