Bill York: Surry Hills local

I have lived in my home in Surry Hills since 2004. I originally lived here in 1993/94 when renting and promised myself if I ever bought a home, it would be in Surry Hills. I love its convenience, rarely do I need to use my car. I also love the people. I often describe it as the smallest country town I have ever lived in. Even this morning whilst waiting at the bakery, I ran into three of four locals that I know and stayed chatting. I’m always late because I constantly run into someone. The majority of those people I know here are from the dog park. I used to have a Great Dane cross, called Sally, and she was beautiful. I used to liken walking through Surry Hills with Sal, to walking with a celebrity. People would always stop and talk to me to enquire about Sal. So I met so many people through her. In saying that though, there are even people here from my school days in Tamworth. I love it.

The light rail is my biggest concern with the changes going on here in Surry Hills. I think Clover Moore has worked hard to create ‘a city of villages’ and to her credit, has succeeded. But sadly I think the light rail will undo all her hard work and sever our village in two, putting a line right through its centre. I think the size of the trams are too big for a village like Surry Hills. I loved how free Surry Hills had been in the past, with kids and dogs wandering the quiet streets without concern. Now we will have to take into account a 45metre long train going right through the middle of our suburb. That simply has to have an impact. There was such a nice community that had been established between the Bakery and Book Kitchen. You’d catch up with half the neighbourhood at The Book Kitchen cafe. And now, sadly, that has gone. It’s already changed Surry Hills dramatically. I hope, at the very least, the landscaping will be pleasing. It was heartbreaking to see so many trees go, but hopefully once the work is completed they will resurrect some of the lost street gardens and parks.

Even though I could not imagine living anywhere else, I have to admit that the only thing that would make me leave Surry Hills is that light rail. Sadly, many of my friends have already left.

The death of my mother was the hardest crisis I have ever faced. It’s something I had dreaded my whole life, and unfortunately it only happened two years ago. Having local community around me really helped me through that time. My mother had visited Surry Hills a lot over the years, so a lot of locals knew her. That was a great support. I think the dogs were also a great part of that, especially Bentley, who joined our little family when Sal she was five. A month after mum was diagnosed with melanoma, and I lost Sal, the Great Dane cross. We were in Newcastle with Mum for an appointment with her specialist, and Bentley was left in Tamworth at my parent’s home with Sal. Sally had passed away due to natural causes and Bentley was found in the backyard guarding her. I had to leave my mother’s side and drive home to bury Sal, who was, as Mum said, …”part of the family”. Then I had to come straight back to Newcastle to help with Mum. Not long after I then had a medical procedure myself. What got me through that time was my concern for Bentley. He grieved so much over Sal, that my concern for him overshadowed my own grief (he’s staring at me now). He played a huge part in helping me through that time.

What is important in life, I think, is family and friends. I would say to my younger self, spend more time with Mum. Even though I thought I did, it was still not enough. I simply would have just done that. In hindsight, even the little things like picking up the washing and going to Coles, was special. Just doing those basic chores we had so many conversations. I wish I’d spent more time. You have this surreal sense that your parents will always be there and then when something happens, it’s a real awakening of how valuable those small moments are.

12th May 2018

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