Thursday, 2nd October 1986
Mark the Canadian was heading out to Bondi Beach for the day and, although he was not in the market for a place for himself, he agreed to accompany me to Bondi Junction to give me a second opinion on the house. I rang the number that Victor had given me and I got an appointment for a viewing at 11am.
Mark and I got the train out to Bondi Junction and found number 159 in Dennison Street. Dennison was a secluded little street just up the hill from the station. The curtains were drawn across the windows and, even though we tried to see in, we saw nothing. We had got there around 10am, much too early, so we walked up to the end of the road and into the nearby Centennial Park and back again. When we got back it was about 10:45 and the curtains had been drawn back. We peered in and saw a guy inside painting a cupboard.
We announced ourselves and he introduced himself as Eric the owner. By two amazing coincidences he had lived both in Canada in the same town as Mark was from and in the UK near the town I had been living in just before I left. He showed us around. That didn’t take long. It was a one storey house and was probably better described as a flat with a roof.
There was a very small garden at the front. It was more of a very thick bush than a garden really. On the left side of the house, looking from the street, there was a front entrance that opened out into a large room. This was obviously meant as a sitting room and it had a window looking out onto the bush and the road beyond.
From the sitting room there was a corridor leading down the left side of the house. There were two bedrooms of equal size leading off this corridor to the right. Both had very small windows on the far right wall and were consequently both a bit dark.
The corridor opened out into a small kitchen at the back of the house, and there was a toilet and shower room to the left tucked behind the kitchen. The back door was on the right hand side of the kitchen and it opened onto a path running up the right-hand side of the house to the front. Finally, there was a window at the back of the kitchen that looked out on to a small scrappy turf garden.
Mark and I walked around alone whilst Eric waited outside. It certainly wasn’t a luxury place. The walls were pretty thin and the whole place looked as if could do with a lot more care and attention than Eric was giving it. It was unfurnished too and looked at lot worse without furniture to hide the thread-worn carpet and the badly painted walls.
Outside, Mark and I did our “we have a lot more places to see” routine whilst Eric did his “I have a lot of people coming to view” routine. We suggested that if he reduced the rent from $175 a week to $170, we would accept. Eric agreed without a second thought but told us that he would insist on a deposit of 3 weeks rent, $510 up front. We would also need to sign the lease the next day. I promised I would be there by 9am.
Mark and I headed over to the Bondi Hotel and had a drink and a bite to eat. I rang the others. Victor was pleased. Declan and Simon were elated. I spent a bit of time trying to sleep on the beach but decided to leave Mark to it. I got the bus and train back to Kings Cross.
After describing the house in more detail to the others at the hostel, I got on the train out to the bakery. I hadn’t slept all day so I took 2 caffeine tablets on the train at 6:30pm and then another two at 9:30pm. I had a few more at 12:30am and managed to stay awake the whole night.
Friday, 3rd October 1986
I left work at 6am and went straight back to Kings Cross. I met Victor and we got straight back on the train to Bondi Junction. Eric was already waiting outside the house in his BMW at 8:40am. He laid down 3 rules: rent on time, no drugs and no dogs. We both agreed, signed the contract and handed over the money. He gave us a lift down to a second hand furniture shop, picking up his cousin on the way.
Victor told me he had the measure of Eric and his opinion was not very positive.
There was nothing cheap enough at the furniture shop, so we gave up for now and I went back to the hostel. I had a quick apple strudel and then hit the sack.
I got up at 3pm and went back to the house to wait for an electricity man to come by and turn our electric on. He never turned up.
I went back again to Drakes to pick up my cheque, back again to Kings Cross for a meal at the Rex and then back again for the third time to the house with Declan, Simon and Victor to take some of our stuff. By the time we got there the electricity had been switched on.
We sat around in the empty house and celebrated with some gin we had brought. Then we went back to Kings Cross for more drinks at the Rex, drinks on the roof of the hostel with Heather, Amanda and Josie and our last ever night sleeping at the Traveller’s Rest.
Saturday, 4th October 1986
We started moving into Dennison Street during the morning. We decided to designate the front room as a sitting room. Victor and I would have the room behind it with Simon and Declan in the room nearest the kitchen.
We had secured 4 old mattresses from the hostel and Guy and Helen came with us dragging them down the street onto the train and then up the street at the other end. Once they had helped us place them in the rooms, Guy and Helen went off to the beach
I went off with Declan in search of furniture. We found an address for a St Vincent Paul charity shop in the phone book and went to their shop on Oxford St. in Paddington. We ordered a table, six chairs, a kettle, 4 cushions, 2 wardrobes, and a sofa all for $135.
We took the kettle with us and they promised to deliver the rest by Monday morning. We got a taxi back to Kings Cross, picked up the last of our stuff and then returned to Dennison Street.
In the evening all of us, except Victor who was working the night shift at the hotel, met up and went out and watched the fireworks in Sydney Harbour to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Australian Navy. They were tremendous and particularly wonderful when viewed with the beautiful bridge in the background.
By 8pm the whole party, Heather, Amanda, Jez, Helen, Guy and Josie were traipsing through our new house admiring the mattresses on the floor. As we hadn’t even got a table, we invited them down to the local pub we had found at the end of the road; “the Cock and Bull hotel”. It was in a faux English style and even served beer in authentic British pint sizes rather than the Australian schooners.
There was also a disco on but it was crammed, it seemed as if it was the only place to visit on Saturday night. We hung around until midnight and we all went back to our new place.
We found Jez, who had run ahead, had broken in through the toilet window and we quickly locked it to prevent a re-occurrence. We drank the one box of wine we had left and then we all fell asleep. 8 people on 4 mattresses.
Sunday, 5th October 1986
Victor came back at 9am and woke us all up. We had 2 coffees each, pushing the new kettle to its limits, and then headed off around 10am to the beach.
We spent the whole day on Bondi which, we were pleased to see, was now less than a half hour walk away.
We had fish and chips for lunch on the sands and then had a beer in the Tea Rooms hotel. Heather, Helen, Josie and Amanda said goodbye and headed back to the hostel leaving us to get the bus for the short ride home.
When we got home we played cards together.
We also discovered the local McDonald’s at the end of the road.
It felt good. It was the first time the 4 of us had been alone in the new house together.
We got an uncharacteristic early night at 11pm.
Monday, 6th October 1986 – “Labour Day”
Victor left for work at 6am, but I managed a longer lie in. At 9am the SVP people called round to say our furniture was on the way and would be arriving at 12 noon. I slept again almost until they arrived.
After they had gone, we spent a couple of hours rearranging everything, tidying up and having several cups of coffee.
I had a shower at 4pm and then caught the 4:18pm train with a lot of screaming kids and surfboards. It got me to Buttercup by 5:40pm. It was not a journey I would have to make for much longer as I had told Bronwyn on Friday that I wanted to quit. Tonight would be my last night there.