I’m going to Summer Hill on the recommendation of a friend. Apparently, there’s a good place to lunch and grand old houses. Apart from that I have no idea what to expect. At Summer Hill Station, I have a vague feeling of deja vu. Then it comes back to me. I alighted here for my Haberfield discovery.
I cross to the other side of Carlton Crescent and look around, getting my bearings. An art deco doorway catches my eye. I spend time trying to get a half decent photo. A passer-by gives me an odd look. Further on, Sweets Workshop looks interesting, but is still closed. I’ll return when it’s open.
A man is sitting in the porch of one of a row of small old houses. We exchange greetings. A red rose stands out against a cream wall. Down a side street white roses catch my attention. I am not alone in admiring the spray. Another woman has her camera out. Back on Carlton Crescent, a large giraffe is painted on a roller door of Giraffe Removals. A surprising name for a removalist.
I cross the road to Grosvenor Crescent and walk under the railway bridge. My attempt at arty photos of the lines and shadows just doesn’t work. At Cadigal Reserve, instead of finding the bronze plaque naming the reserve, I find “concrete graffiti”. Perhaps the balaclava replaced the plaque. The local bush care group has been busy in this little park. I stroll through, before returning to the path where backyard fences line my route on one side and a canal with brightly painted graffiti on the other.
At Parramatta Road, a woman strides towards me, her walking poles click clacking on the pavement. I ask her if she is training for the Camino de Santiago. She isn’t sure she could manage it. I think she could. Looking through the window of an upholsterer, women sit at their sewing machines. Three boys are delivering pamphlets and brochures. I seem to be following them, but they are much faster than I am. In Dover Street, some houses have bull nosed verandas. In Kensington Street, there are fine, old, detached double storey homes. They have beautiful cast iron filigree on the balconies.
I divert down Bogan Street, wondering what the residents think of living in a street with that name. At the end of the street is a park. Each brick of a house wall bordering on the park has been painted to create an interesting mural. Back on Kensington Street, blocks of units have replaced houses. A small piece of land is now an empty playground. With no trees, it’s a sun trap. I wonder how much use it gets. Along the far side is what was once a basketball court. The line markings are faded and a vine creeps along the cracked concrete floor.
On the corner, I recognise a temple that I have passed on another discovery. This time I stop. Two men and a woman are outside with several coloured plastic bowls spilling leaves of red and gold paper. The man in a white tunic must be a priest. They start to feed the paper into the mouth of an elaborate incinerator. I try to converse but they don’t speak English. Instead they indicate that I should go inside. There, things are a bit of a jumble. Overflowing cardboard boxes line the walls. There’s a big altar and shrine and another smaller one. And a man, probably a priest by the looks of his dress is seated behind a table talking to a young woman. With a wave of his hand he agrees to photos and indicates that I should look around. He gets back to the task at hand. I think he’s telling her fortune.
Along Gower Street, a few impressive houses stand out from the unit blocks. One built in 1890 has been restored beautifully, but others need a good dose of TLC. The upkeep on these old mansions must be costly.
Back on Carlton Crescent, I drop into the Summer Hill Hotel. It’s not yet midday yet a few men are already seated at tables nursing beers. Another stands with a rifle under his arm. He is playing some sort of arcade game on the screen in front of him. This world is quite foreign to me. I return to browse through Sweets Workshop. Emma Simmons is in attendance, her artwork among the pieces on display. I particularly like those depicting places I know – The Sydney Olympic Milk Bar and the Valhalla Cinema. We chat a bit and then head to Heritage Coffee Brewers for a coffee. It seems popular with locals. The menu looks good but I’m not ready for lunch.
The Darrel Jackson Gardens are buzzing. Children ride bikes. Others refine their skills on the skateboard ramps. Some are trying their hand at cricket and a tennis lesson is in progress. No one is interested in the large chess board. I’m reluctant to take photos. Photographers are not usually welcome around children. But I do photograph the painted feature wall which leads on to Summer Hill Square. There I find a painted rainbow outline. It was painted by Ashfield Council in 2013 after chalk rainbows, drawn by the community in response to the removal of the rainbow crossing in Oxford Street, were repeatedly removed by Council and then redrawn by the community.
I smile at the butcher’s name: “Two Fat Butchers” and wander through “The Trading Circle”, a not for profit enterprise whose mission is to “empower women to trade out of poverty”.
Anyone with an interest in architecture would, like me, enjoy the stroll up and down Smith Street. Some of these buildings are heritage listed with old facades dating back to the late 1800s or early 1900s. The front yard of one of the homes has a fine collection of garden gnomes. The Temperance Society Bar is not yet open, but I make a mental note to return for the live music.
One Penny Red, a restaurant in the old Post Office, is my planned lunch spot but my backpack and shorts won’t fit in with the linen napkins and wine glasses. Instead, I poke around a few gift shops before tucking into a delicious salad at Envy Café.
Suitably sated, I meander through the suburb passing an old corner shop with faded advertisements and corrugated iron awnings. Seaview street has no view of the sea that I can make out. Just one of chimneys and rooftops. Unfortunately, Delmar Gallery in Victoria Street (part of Trinity College) is closed. Last on my list is The Vajrayana Institute (a Tibetan Buddhist Centre), on Victoria Square. I walk back and forth until I eventually find a sign on a gate right where it should be. I don’t go in but spy a bumper sticker on a car outside. It says “my religion is kindness”.
Well, that’s it for today. I reflect, as I return to the station that a day expected to be short and perhaps not too interesting has turned up some lovely surprises.
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