Newcastle: revisiting the place of my youth

I visited Newcastle last week, the city I was born and grew up in. It’s strange that this place where I spent so many wonderful years and which is so very familiar – the geography and our shared history etched deeply into my brain – is now quite foreign as well. It’s a place I know and loved well but it no longer feels like home. Not even close to home.

It was to spend time with my ageing Mum, as she slowly recedes a little further away from us and into herself, though she’s in total denial about that. It’s a trip that’s fun in some aspects and very hard in others.

The beaches where I spent so much time at in my youth—in various bikinis baking in the sun in the company of friends, a little transistor radio set to 2NX, a can of Coke and a pack of Malboros (oh, how disgusting, I think now)—no longer beckon me to visit during the day. They’re far too hot for me now in summer and the waves I once gleefully jumped over and dived under seem far too cold. I’m only inclined to wander there as the evening starts to cool to try and capture a sunset or, very infrequently, a sunrise. Very early mornings and I don’t get on, which is unfortunate as that’s when the light and beaches are at their glorious best.

I walked past the Ocean Baths, teeming with people enjoying an evening swim even at 8pm. That’s a time when I’m normally at home sipping on a glass of wine happily ensconced on my couch. I spent many an early morning in those ocean baths in the bracing water taking swimming lessons, from a cross male teacher in white shorts with a long wooden stick which he used to push you back out away from the roughened pool walls if you ventured in too close. I’m sure that wouldn’t be allowed nowadays, although I did learn to swim pretty well. I still associate those swimming lessons, and the ones at Lambton Baths, with the zing of freshly squeezed orange juice and the scent of grilled sausages that greeted us for breakfast when we got home.

Every time I ventured out in the car, memories abounded. The library we borrowed books from as kids, the roads we took for family Sunday drives with our 10-cent bag of lollies in little white paper bags, the shopping centre now transformed into a massive beast that had me lost inside, school yards, the pub we hung out at en masse every Friday night as teenagers (when IDs weren’t so important). They’re very fond memories from a pretty blissful childhood and a carefree and happy youth, but they’re not enough to make me want to go back. And the heat at night is something I’m glad I’ve left behind.

It’s not my city anymore. I enjoy my visits and catch ups but now I feel a bit like a visitor who just happens to know her way around the ‘burbs and understands the landscape.  While I can admire the beaches, I don’t yearn for the coast. I prefer the hills and the trees, and I’m certain that’s been kinder to the health of my skin.

I was born a Novocastrian but my heart’s elsewhere now. After 35 years in Canberra, that’s now the place that feels right and I can’t imagine living anywhere else.

What about you? Are you living in a place that feels like home?

Published by BoomingOn

Hi. I'm Christine. Writer, traveller, mother, grandmother, wife, friend, foodie and lover of life - embarking on life after working, taking notes and photos along the way. Booming marvellous. I live in fabulous Canberra and am a proud grandma (we prefer ' Marsie') to a growing tribe. I've written for years in different ways and now, as a recent retiree with more time to travel and embrace living, I'm keen to share those adventures. This is a pretty amazing planet we live on, and my aim is to see and do as much as I can, be involved and open to new adventures and experiences, and inspire others to do the same. BoomingOn is my way to share this and connect with others who are doing the same. I write about travelling, my home town, arts and entertainment, kids and family, and getting older and retirement. The fun things and sometimes the serious things. I keep it real, and try to make it fun. Life's too short not to have a giggle. I'd love to share adventures with you and hope you'll join the ride.

16 thoughts on “Newcastle: revisiting the place of my youth

  1. I have exactly the same sentiments about Brisbane. Except I miss the heat. My Brisbane life was very different to this Canberra life but I prefer the latter. My early life was similar to yours, sunbaking in bikinis, going to nightclubs and telling the guy on the door I was 18, etc. Thanks for writing this post and especially for the sunset beach photos.

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    1. You’re welcome! I try to get sunset pics wherever I go. I must say in our own defence, no one ever asked us how old we were at the pubs and for the most part I wasn’t even drinking as I was often the designated driver. It was certainly a great life growing up. Probably like Brissie and lots of fun in the sun.

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  2. I am just getting to learn more about Newcastle as it’s the closest big city to us now we live at the northern end of the Central Coast. It is so not the Industrial centre it was and has become very gentried and darned expensive! I grew up in Wollongong. At 10 we then moved to Balgowlah Hts near Manly so Northern Beaches was my teen place. Went teaching to the bush in 1970 and really don’t think of anywhere that is home…generically Sydney I guess because we settled in north western Sydney from 1978 and sold up in 2015. Home is an interest concept! Glad you love where you are now! Denyse

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    1. Well, they say home is where the heart is so it’s up to us to pick where that is and can be different places. I always think it’s a pity to live somewhere you don’t like though. And yes, real estate around the beach areas can be pretty crazy in Newcastle now. There’s some lovely places there.

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  3. It’s fun to revisit places. I was born in Sydney, my family hails from Tumbarumba, as a kid we lived in Merriwa (in the Hunter Valley), Bombala (south of Cooma), and Springwood in the Blue Mountains before coming back to Sydney when I was in my last year of school. After uni I moved to Canberra for a few years before coming back to Sydney for 25 years and 4 years ago we moved to the Sunshine Coast. Here I feel at home. Weirdly I also refer to Tumba as “home” – maybe because that’s how dad always referred to it – and I do feel my roots there. Sydney though? Even though that’s where my parents and siblings still live, it’s never felt like home.

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    1. Yes, always nice for a visit but glad I don’t live there. You’ve been all over. I lived in Bombala for six months and my grandfather and other ancestors came from Merriwa. My great great grandfather built the Royal Hotel there, which you may remember. I’ve never been there but I believe the outside was renovated some years ago. Glad you’re now in a place that feels like home.

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      1. How coincidental is that? My dad was the local Bank of NSW manager in each of those towns. I certainly do remember the Royal Hotel – the wheat trucks used to park outside and leave their engines running in the summer while they got a beer (we lived upstairs in the bank premises).

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  4. Thanks for taking us on your nostalgic trip back to Newcastle! I’ve been there before but don’t know it well. I have relatives in that part of the world – Karuah, Maitland, Sydney. I have a friend and old neighbour who lives at Merewether. It’s funny how we change. I too used to bake myself on the beach during the day and dive amongst the waves. Now I enjoy walks along the beach in the early mornings (I wake early) and late afternoons and cannot cope with lying on the beach during the heat of the day. I’m also more aware of the dangers of that nowadays! Sadly, I don’t yet live in a place that feels like home. I would like to get out of the suburbs and live near the beach or up in the hinterlands a short drive from the beach. One day!

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    1. Just about my whole family lives in Merewether now, which is where I went to high school for a few years. Yes, we do sometimes change as we get older. I can’t cope with the hot sun now but do enjoy snoozing in the very mild winter sun here, but covered up. That’s my latest place of paradise on my verandah, but not in the middle of summer. That’s a pity you’re not living in a place that feels like home – maybe one day you will. I think we should all strive to live somewhere we love.

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  5. This was a trip down memory lane for me too Chris, as I spent 11 years living in Newcastle after we were first married, and had my three daughters there. I loved the beaches and parks and could imagine how you felt driving around. I must get back there one day, although it’s never been ‘home’ to me it was an important part of our life. I enjoyed reading your thoughts and hope your mum is doing OK.

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    1. You would have arrived pretty much when I left to go to uni in Canberra though I did go back for all the holidays and another six months in 1986 before I got married when you would have been there. Mum’s okay but could be so much better. Getting old sucks. Thanks for asking.

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