We recently moved from the coast where we were an hour or so from the city, to a cosmopolitan suburb a few minutes from the heart of Sydney. I didn’t think there would be many differences, but I’ve found a few.
This area contains great cultural diversity; there are stockbrokers and bankers and accountants. Fathers are occasionally seen dropping their children to school in upmarket 4Wds with European badges while wearing pressed shirts and smart suits. This contrasts with the fathers on the coast arriving in utes that advertise their plumbing, electrical, carpentry or air-conditioning businesses.
While used to being in the local supermarket with women dressed in swimsuit cover-ups and Havianias thongs, women wearing lots of pressed white linen now surround me. Instead of single bottles of San Pellegrino moving from the shelves to the trolley, here it’s sold by the case by not only the supermarket but also the greengrocer next door.
Housewives are not ‘wives in the house’, they are managers of micro-corporations. There’s talk of dropping their husband’s shirts off to the dry-cleaners, going to the bank to get the cash to pay the cleaner, the family pet needs to be dropped off at the groomer’s, they’re running late to meet the trainer at the gym, they must call in to the local deli to pick up the ready-made meals that are ‘heat and serve’, they’re on their way to the Farmer’s Market to pick up armfuls of fresh flowers, they have to communicate with the gardener about the styling of the hedges, they’re dealing with the pool man about the noises coming from the filter box and endless talk about that major event, the child’s birthday party.
I heard this morning about Evangeline’s party. Her mother wasn’t booking, Bop ‘til you Drop disco again this year because ‘Oh, the noise!’ but instead had found someone with a vintage fire truck who will drive the children around Centennial Park for a few hours while allowing her house to stay in order. Adults are welcome but ‘because we’ve just had laid limestone floors, we won’t be serving red wine’. She didn’t want to try Luna Park again because some of them were ‘bolters’. The clown party worked well but because ‘the backyard’s being renovated and is now entirely upside down’, the party would have to be inside and remember how he fired around a water pistol so that won’t do. The cake’s been ordered from that patisserie heavily promoted on Master Chef and the ‘girl up the road’ is coming to give her a hand in the kitchen.
There are some with Au Pairs and others with Nannies but most manage with a ‘helper’ who comes in the afternoon to assist with the ‘bewitching hour’ that actually lasts four hours. Thomas’s mother has done very well because her ‘helper’ is a qualified teacher and Joshua’s very fortunate because his ‘helper’ has been with the family since he was four months old. One ‘helper’ is in a lot of trouble because she didn’t cook the veal schnitzels properly. It’s the second time this manager of a micro-corporation has had to tell her. She burnt the butter so the veal was ruined. ‘Everybody knows you have to heat the butter with olive oil so it doesn’t burn when you bring it to a higher temperature’.
There is a lot of dog walking that goes on in both areas but these dogs are ‘designer doggies’ – labradoddles, poogles, schnoodles and springerdoodles. Their owners sit at the outside tables of the village cafes and these dogs sit under their tables where waiters bring them water served in stainless steel bowls – not the re-used ice cream containers I saw on the beaches. The dogs on the coast are typically the ones you see strapped to the back of a ute – great big ugly ferocious looking creatures with stumped tails, short hair and huge unsightly swinging scrotums.
Swim squads in the ocean pools are a popular form of exercise for beachside residents but not the sport of choice in this village. Walking around the shops in gym gear with a rolled up yoga mat under your left arm while balancing a latte in your right hand is the acceptable way to be seen.
The local primary is a government school so as such, provides a free education. But I’ve just received the invoice for Alfie’s first semester and it’s provided me with a list of disbursements like it’s come from my solicitor’s office. There’s a ‘paper levy’ and a ‘technology levy’ and ‘word card’ fee. What are these things? There’s also a pretty hefty ‘P & C’ fee that I believe is not compulsory but the word ‘optional’ has been left off the invoice. The school on the coast sent home the fees with an attachment like a letter of apology stating that the fees were optional and perhaps every family at the school could think about making a contribution. There weren’t any attachments to the invoice from the cosmopolitan school.
There is a difference with children’s names as well. The boys on the coast have names like Kai, Cale and Kyle while the boys here are called Jasper, Casper and Oscar. The girls on the beaches have names like Kiara, Taylor and Hayley but in this part of town you hear mothers calling out for their Olivia, Isabella or Amelia.
They don’t go camping for their holidays. None of this loading up the station wagon and dragging a trailer halfway up the coast. No, in the summer they go skiing. The flights are booked on points. Sometimes the accommodation is too. There’s Aspen of course, but ‘Whistler is so pretty at Christmas’, but if skiing in Canada, ‘Silver Star is our family’s favourite.’ Virginia takes off on Boxing Day every year, ‘we always go to Cortina in Italy. It’s so beautiful and the streets are trafficless’. After all those weeks whizzing around on the slopes they ‘stopover’ on the way home and recline in deckchairs so they can even up their tans in places like Hawaii, Singapore or Thailand.
Their schedules are demanding. Fatigue is a common complaint. ‘There’s just so much to do and not enough hours in the day’. Some of these micro-managers are so stressed they have to book themselves into health spas. ‘I’m so stressed I can’t cope’, exclaimed Rowena, ‘I’m leaving my husband and the kids for a full week. I’m booked into The Golden Door and I leave tomorrow. I’m so stressed I’m drinking too much and I’m not sleeping well and I’m just exhausted all the time.’ Poor Rowena, it’s six weeks since she came back from Silver Star and another four weeks before she goes to Fiji. Time to squeeze in a mini-break!
But I think I’m going to fit in well here. In fact, I’ve got a few of these micro-managers coming over for lunch today. We’re having Chicken and Antipasto Stack.
Chicken and Antipasto Stack
1 large eggplant sliced thinly
2 large red capsicums
4 Free-Range chicken breasts
Extra virgin olive oil
Make the hummus and the pesto and set aside. Brush the eggplant slices with olive oil and cook in a frying pan on medium heat until well browned, set aside. Cut the flesh from each capsicum and grill under a hot grill, skin side up until blackened. When cool, remove the blackened skin and discard. Heat a frying pan on medium heat. Toss the chicken breasts in some olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Cook the chicken breasts on each side until cooked through and then remove from heat and allow to rest for 5 minutes.
To assemble, dollop a lge tblspn of hummus onto the centre of each plate. Add 2 slice of eggplant and top with a couple of slices of capsicum. Cut the chicken breast on the diagonal into 2cm slices and place on top of the capsicum. Dollop a lge spoonful of pesto on top of the chicken. Scatter with a few pine nuts if desired. Finish with a few drops of extra virgin olive oil and serve.
800gms canned chickpeas
3 tablespoons tahini
2 cloves peeled garlic
Juice of 1 and a half lemons
1 heaped tspn gnd cumin
100mls olive oil
Rinse chickpeas and put in food processor with the tahini, garlic, lemon, cumin and olive. Blend to a smooth paste then add 1/4 cup water and blend again.
Leaves from 1 lge bunch of basil
2 cloves of peeled garlic
3/4 cup parmesan
70gms toasted pine nuts
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
Place the basil leaves, garlic, parmesan and toasted pine nuts in the food processor and blend until you have a smooth paste. Then with the motor still running, slowly pour in the olive oil and blend until well incorporated.
Note: I didn’t add as much garlic to the pesto and hummus as I normally would as these were ladies coming to lunch and I didn’t want them going home with garlic breath. Feel free to adjust as desired.
Degree of difficulty: 2 out of 5