"Sydney Harbour remains one of the Earth's truly beautiful places. Apart from the startling Manhattanisation of its business district, the city was more or less as I remembered it, except that for the twenty-one years I lived there I never really appreciated it — one of the big things that can be said in favour of going back, partly offsetting the even bigger things that can be said for remaining an expatriate once you have become one.
The late Kenneth Slessor, in his prose as much as in his poetry, probably came nearest to evoking the sheer pulchritude of Sydney harbour. But finally the place is too multifarious to be captured by the pen. Sydney is like Venice without the architecture, but with more of the sea: the merchant ships sail right into town. In Venice you never see big ships — they are all over at Mestre, the industrial sector. In Sydney big ships loom at the ends of city streets. They are parked all over the place, tied up to the countless wharves in the scores of inlets (‘You could hide a thousand ships of the line in here,' a British admiral observed long ago) or just moored to a buoy in mid-harbour, riding high. At the International Terminal at Circular Quay, the liners in which my generation of the self-exiled left for Europe still tie up: from the Harbour Bridge you can look down at the farewell parties raging on their decks. Most important, the ferries are still on the harbour. Nothing like as frequent as they once were, but still there — the perfect way of getting to and from work." Clive James, Postcard from Sydney
For the first few month of my life in Australia, I worked in North Sydney, which meant catching the ferry to and from Balmain. The job, though I was grateful for it, was awful beyond words; but the daily journey! The details of it are etched in my memory: the waters of the harbour, glittering in the morning light, criss-crossed by boats of all sizes and speeds; that moment when the immensity of the Harbour Bridge came into view and you had to suck in your breath.
This was also the time that I finally heard Ryan Adam's Heartbreaker and fell for it completely. I would sit on the wooden platform at the North Shore ferry point, listening to "Oh My Sweet Carolina" and try to guess which of the distant twinkling lights were going to turn into my ride home.
"Oh My Sweet Carolina"