To be honest, when I left the Australia in 2010, I had never had a plan to set my foot in the country again. But there I was, taking a trip in Sydney for three weeks last year. Something inside me made a quest to go back to where I spent my life for almost ten years—my second home.
My then departure was quite a bitter change from an uncertainty in Sydney to another life chapter back in Bangkok. But then again, I decided to take another big turn taking a job in Washington DC. Living in the States triggered me to explore myself what I was made of. In another word, it was a homesick, not just for Bangkok but also Sydney.
Over the years, I have developed a fondness of craft beer. It could not be possible to resist exploring Australian brew when I got down there.
My drink list wasn’t as long as food craving mission. The very first beer I got had to be Coopers pale ale at the Bank Hotel, one of my favourite spots to watch the world flowing by. Coopers and James Squire were the two established breweries I was longing for. There were also my new-found favourite local craft beer, especially Young Henrys from Newtown. Shame that I didn’t get a chance to visit their bar.
That was simply because my the pub time was in the regular one, Kelly’s on King. And another one that I went more often this trip was the Townie, where I stopped for variety of Young Henrys and to write travel journals.
It was good to see that Kelly’s, the Townie, and Warren View Hotel still had as the same vibe as when I left the city. Most of others in the local has changed. The Duke and Newtown Hotel became so hipster. The Sando was renamed to Newtown Social Club even tough it got the same spirit.
Closer to Sydney’s CBD, Lansdowne Hotel is gone. The Clare Hotel turned posh. However, Stonewall Hotel on Oxford Street were still the same gay bar. And fortunately, Brighton Up Bar were as a dive bar as I hoped it would be.
Although the pub wasn’t my usual spot because of the location but it always have a special place in my heart. It was where I started transitioning works. One day in winter 2007, I randomly sat down there to write a script for Anywhere Chairs while sipping beer. Since then, I found pubs have been my preferred choice of writing environment.
These materials were actually pivotal for my creative works. They transitioned me from photography into making videos. It started from a short film about abandoned chairs, then ambient videos on a red sofa. When I got into COFA, broken TVs were used for a looped video assignment. And it concluded with video installation about torn mattresses.
No one would care how they got there or how they would end but they were so intriguing to me that I needed to exercise my imagination to tell their stories. Having explored them again reminded me how beauty could be discovered from discarded lives on the streets.
On another aspect, I was thinking of doing urban landscape comparison between my old photography and the latest visit. But there was no concrete plan for it and I enjoyed drifting in the streets and back lanes. However, I got a chance to do only one properly.
When you have lived somewhere in a long time, you developed your own local comfort food. That absolutely happened to me in Sydney.
In fact, the first thing I did was getting to Happy Chef for their Crispy Skin Chicken. And through out the Sydney trip, it was my quest to soothe my cravings for food I used to have.
It was a big list from Aussie big brekky to Indian diner and late night kebabs. And I barely got a room for something new. But some dish could be done somewhere new, like lamp shank in Manly Beach or fish & chips in Bondi. Nevertheless, I got to have a real good Turkish ice cream for the first time.
I tried to avoid Thai since it became redundant for me in Bangkok. However, Stilgherrian introduced me to the best of my all-time favourite dish, tub waan. Yes, tub waan at C Bar was better than average shop in the original Thailand. And when I had a night out with Thai friends at the very same pub, they also ordered it. That just confirmed it.
It is fair to say that Australian food has its own characteristics. I used to question it about Australian food. But I look at the variety of cuisines it offered just in Newtown/Enmore area. (And King Street never fell short of Thai restaurants and that’s a fact!)
Furthermore, my cooking also evolved around it with Aussie twist. When I got frustrated that there was no Thai dish my family used to cook for us so I had to make it myself. Then, it gradually had the spin of its own. For examples, kangaroo panang curry and roast chicken stuffed with rice in home-made curry paste. And it went further than Thai cuisine to, to name a few, Fijian-Indian curry, minestrone, cauliflower & blue cheese soup, beetroot & feta salad, my own spin of bolognese sauce. Like they do in Australia.
I officially met Tony Hollingsworth at the previous Sydney Social Innovation BarCamp after ran onto each other at Cupcake Camp Sydney in 2009. I shared my own experience of depression in a session on mental illness and later sent him a link to my film, Memory of You | Reflection of Me. When he announced that he was going to have a fundraising and awareness-raising event, Black Dog Ride, I certainly was interested to get involved but was not able to join the convoy. So I put my hands up to edit his footage in the trip from Sydney to in the centre of the continent in Alice Spring them around up to Queensland and back to Sydney in 16 days.
I put my hands up to edit Tony’s videos he had taken in the journey, to show it in his session at the latest Social Innovation Sydney. I got a bunch of his footage and photos and some of them were publish on his blog but had no idea what I was going to with them yet. My aim was to summarise his 16-day riding into a comprehensive video.
The rough approach I made to this work:
Sort the media there were taken from both a DSLR camera and a mobile phone Line them up chronologically. With the time frame, unfortunately, I had to exclude the photos in this video.
Select good shots on each clip to review it later. At this stage, an idea what I could with it started to form. It was decided to go with a music clip in a rough 16-mm, easy-rider-esque style.
Pick a music licensed in Creative Commons. That gave me a framework for the visual. Luckily, I found The Thunder That You Are by Comma the perfect fit for the work.
Cut down the 22 minutes of the first selection into 4.30 minutes of film roughly synced with the music and choose a snippet of Angry Anderson’s speech in Alice Spring as the hi-light. An extra rule was to keep all the footage in chronological order.
Roughly top and tail the video. Then the arduous tasks of exporting and compressing.
In Australia, suicide rate is higher than the death from road accident, ever more in the remote outback areas. Having the first hand of experience of depression and anxiety, I find that support is an essential part for a person with the illness to get through it and discover their own strength again. In men, it is even harder to admit it, let alone talk about it. Having bikers, who have their own stories about depression, riding across Australia to let the people know that they are not alone and it is ok to seek supports, which are available in many organisations in Australia, is not just blokes are having a fun time on the road. And I am glad to edit this video and enjoy the ride even I was not there.
Thanks to Tony Hollingsworth for letting me access to his videos, Stilgherrian for helping us transfer the chunk of data, Comma for releasing their wonderful music in Creative Commons and, most of all, all the people that made Black Dog Ride happened.