AS a former Sydney-sider and later Central Coastie, I have to admit sometimes I find some things very weird about Newcastle.
As long as these things remain a mystery to me I don’t think I will be able to call myself a local.
To begin with, there’s an above-ground train line running right into the middle of the city. Whether you want it to go or to stay, it’s a defining feature of the city.
When a Newcastle person talks about Souths, they’re not talking about the South Sydney Rabbitohs. As I discovered the other day, the only Souths known to the Newcastle man is the South Newcastle Rugby League Team and leagues club of the same name. The same goes for Wests.
The term Novocastrian. Who made this up I don’t know, but when I first heard it I thought people were talking about a whole city of people aged in their 90s. Not even Wikipedia can explain it.
The ‘‘Our Town’’ phenomena. Look up ‘‘Our Town’’ in the white pages and you will see it is a prefix business name for everything from car batteries to mobile dog washes in Newcastle. When I bought a house I went to “Our Town Conveyancing”.
The exceptionally insular and parochial nature. I had never heard of the Newcastle Herald until I went to university in Newcastle, even though I only lived about an hour away.
There’s a nightclub called ‘‘Fannys’’. Its main landmark is “Nobbys”. And people like to go swimming in the “Bogey Hole”.
There’s more than one ‘‘Great Northern Hotel’’. There’s one in Newcastle and one in Teralba. It can’t be too great can it? There are at least six Great Northern Hotels in NSW and more than 10 around Australia.
The council runs its own zoo, that is, Blackbutt Reserve. It’s nice, but an odd thing to do.
What is Mattara and why is there a festival celebrating it? Not to mention a registered club named after it?
Coke isn’t just a soft drink. Apparently it’s some kind of by-product of coal.
There’s an “old gasworks” and apparently everyone knows where it is.
Newcastle really likes the name “Lambton”. There’s Lambton, North Lambton, New Lambton and because they couldn’t get enough of it, New Lambton Heights.
Henny Penny. I thought this place went out of business last millennium, but here it is, alive and well in Newcastle.
The Hunter is festival mad and even more market mad.
It even hosts a World’s Biggest Car Boot Sale.
There’s a place called The Store but its shelves are mostly empty.
There’s a Newcastle Post Office but you can’t buy stamps there.
There’s The Royal Theatre but no movies playing. Beer is not actually brewed at The Brewery anymore.
Customs House is not part of the port and, apparently, ‘‘nine-ways’’ is not a brothel. There are no gardens at Garden City, it’s actually a Westfields, and Charlestown Square is a shopping centre not a town square – or square-shaped for that matter.
It’s one of the few places outside Egypt with an obelisk, but it’s much less cool.
The Knights are a religion but people only care about the Jets when they’re winning.
Super Hubert. Non-Novocastrians may recognise him as the guy who used to do Captain Snooze ads.
But here is a guy who has never had his own show or any reason to be famous but just turns up in a Superman-style suit at community events.
Big Dog. Talk about your HumphreyBBear rip-offs.
The university is its own suburb. If you live at Callaghan then chances are you’re sleeping in a lecture theatre.
If you go up the street behind the Anglican Cathedral there’s a turret. A big old-fashioned medieval turret, just standing there between all the wealthy houses. No sign, no explanation, nothing.
People call Newcastle a town. I’m pretty sure it’s bigger than that.
And worst, most worrying of all, the longer I’m here the less weird it all seems.