I live in Coogee, five kilometres from the centre of Sydney (‘downtown’), and one hundred metres from the beach. We are in the process of placing a dozen framed historical photos of Coogee in the lobby of our building, which is named ‘Kanimbla’. The building next door to us is now a motel, Coogee Sands, and next to that is the recently refurbished Coogee Pavilion. We have always lived near water, mostly near the beach in Coogee. Water is a salving part of my relationship with my husband.
History of Coogee
In the thirties, Stones Milk Bar, stood next to our building. It is where the legendary Australian rock star, Johnnie O’Keefe, first performed, and where dignitaries, such as the bachelor Prince Phillip, mingled with guests. Trams used to pull up at its doorstep.
The Coogee Pavilion, underneath the blue-and-white dome, once housed an indoor aquarium, which later became a swimming pool. The Coogee Aquarium is infamous for the story of the shark that regurgitated a tattooed arm in front of a horrified crowd of spectators in 1935. Ironically, the shark was put on display to celebrate ANZAC Day, when young Australians and New Zealanders went off to fight in the two great wars overseas. Young Coogee men, like those who would have fought back then, celebrate by spending the day on Wedding Cake Island, a rocky outcrop off the Bay, picnicking and drinking beer until dusk.
Coogee Pier built in 1924 to model an ‘English seaside style’ amusement pier, reaching 180 metres out into the sea complete with a 1400-seat theatre, a 600 capacity ballroom, a 400-seat restaurant upstairs, small shops and a penny (machine) arcade. Unfortunately Coogee’s rough surf damaged the pier and it was demolished in 1934. Remains of the pylons were recently washed up by two king tides that hit Coogee Beach and caused much damage to the surf club and swimming pool at the south end of the beach.
The photo below taken in 1900 shows the very location of our building, as well as a toboggan that was erected here in the early years. Coogee has always been a site for pleasure and amusement, it seems.
Other points of interest nearby are the Bali Bombing Memorial, and the shrine to the apparition of the Virgin. And of course the busy Coogee Bay Road further to the south with its coffee shops and restaurants.
The name of our suburb is said to have been taken from the Aboriginal word koojah meaning ‘smelly place’ or ‘rotting seaweed’. The ancient Dreamtime creation myth of the Rainbow Serpent spoke of the importance of water in human life. Aboriginal culture and their myths have been around for tens of thousands of years; theirs is the oldest continuous culture in the world. Some of the Eora peoples’ words have survived in place names, including Bondi and Coogee.
Coogee and Me
I like to go for walks along the clifftops, overlooking the Pacific Ocean, from Bondi to Maroubra, passing by Bronte and Clovelly, our neighbouring seaside suburbs. If I continue southwards from Maroubra, it brings me to the 177 hectare Malabar Headland, part of which is National Parkland. It was first used by local Aboriginal people for fishing and cultural activities, and was known as Boora to the Gadigal people who lived there. Here, rock engravings, grinding grooves and middens can be found. There you can have a sense of what our country was like when the first inhabitants lived in perfect harmony with the land. (See post on this site: Malabar Headland in Sydney)
These days, those large tracts of rotting seaweed washed up on Coogee Beach by the heavy tides, are cleaned up early in the mornings by the local council, before most of us are awake. The sand becomes silky soft and white again, as if by magic. We don’t even mind paying the high council rates to live here.
My Life: a work in progress
Before I got married, I lived in France for four years, and travelled around Europe and into the Ukraine during the Cold War years. It was the ocean and the golden sands that I missed while I was living in landlocked Paris. When I got back from abroad, I studied French at postgraduate level, and tutored in the French Department at the University of Sydney. See my Travel Journal posts on this site.
After I got married, I taught English to migrants for twenty years, firstly supporting my husband through his studies. When I found time to give birth to our two children, I had to put writing on the back burner for a time. Now I’ve retired and work full-time on my writing. It’s payback time and I’m in the supported role at last!
I struggled for a long time with emotional problems from childhood trauma, but I finally overcame it through years of depth psychology, and writing for therapeutic reasons.
One of the main purposes for my writing and keeping a blog, is to destigmatise emotionally based illness. Having been brought up in a dysfunctional family, I had to find my own pathway out of depression during the early years of my career and marriage, and especially when I was giving birth to my children in the eighties. I was determined to be a better parent than mine had been. As a result of finding the right therapists, I was successful, after intensive work, in healing from long-term depression.
I discovered that nature, as well as nurture, is sometimes the culprit in serious mental illness. If you suffer from diabetes, you receive nothing but sympathy from others around you. However, it is a different story with admitting to having suffered from anxiety, depression or bipolar illness.
It is for these reasons that I have no shame in taking up the challenge to support and encourage those struggling with debilitating emotional problems. I have been there and know that there is a way out of the dark.
I am grateful to all those brave people who have communicated honestly with me about mental illness. I continue to learn such a lot from them, and hope that some of my comments are helpful, too.
What I know about: mental illness, mythology, psychology, craft of writing (still learning), and French. I started off as a primary school teacher and ended up teaching adults and overseas qualified students.
In this blog you will find writings on a wide range of themes and topics, such as the craft of writing, book reviews, and excerpts from my own and others’ creative writing endeavours. Things I love: photography, writing, reading, food, movies, music, creative people, and, of course, the grandkids.
Getting published in book or e-book form is one of my goals as well.
Please link back to my page when quoting from this blog and respect content and pictorial copyright of myself and contributing authors.
Thank you for visiting and stay in touch.
Welcome to my blog!