Newy: God’s (forgotten) country?

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Ruth Hodge explains why Newcastle is awesome:

Look at all you busy city people with those smirks on your faces. “Newy, God’s Country?” you pssshh, readjusting your arm that is currently being squashed by the loud, overweight business suit-wearing man beside you on the bus, who is cursing his more accomplished younger doctor brother on the phone to his colleagues on the way to a 9-5 (8-9) job in the city.

We Novocastrians get a chronic bad rap from you “city folk”. It’s a ~2 hour drive from Sydney, so apparently there isn’t any real point in coming here. I can understand what you may be thinking, but I’m here to tell you that, like Justice Kirby in practically every judgment he has been involved in in Australia’s legal history, I am dissenting your decision.

In the time that I’ve left Newcastle, gone on a year-long stint in Paris and the surrounding Europe and come back, this little city has seriously cleaned up. It’s looking sharp. It’s lost that awkward-teenage bulge and has ditched the Supré mini skirts (wide belts) for a new, dare I say “trendy” feel. Our little city is growing up.

2300 itself, the centre of the city, has quadrupled in sights, sips and soirées. But suburbs like Hamilton, Merewether and Islington also have been new go-to places with cafés, concept stores and quirky and classy establishments popping up all over the joint. And because every man and his dog isn’t blocking up the roads to get to his unrewarding office job, you can zip around quickly and easily in your 92’ Daihatsu Charade to all of Newy’s gorgeous offerings.

NewyLet me break it down for you. Living here pretty much rules. I pay less than 200 a week to live in the centre of the city, in a two bedroom terrace, within walking distance to my Law School Hub, three beaches, King Edward Park, Darby Street (did someone mention all day breakfast and boutique shopping?), Terrace Bar & Coal & Cedar (two of Newcastle’s finer places to drink with the funkiest tunes around), a theatre, and most importantly, Aldi. The centre of the city is full of delights and surprises. It has a decent coffee shop on practically every bend and supports local art more than any other place I’ve seen, whether in galleries, or on brick walls. Trevor Dickinson and Grizzle are just two of our big street art names, and they’ve made a name for themselves and Newcastle itself.

Whether you think it’s a good or a bad thing, everyone knows everyone here. I am not even originally from Newcastle but I’ve managed to move into the same street as three mutual friends and now we have loads of parties. It really is a young person’s city. That said, I share a fence with an old single woman with a foxy terrier who likes Van Morrison and warms my heart with her whistling. It’s a place where family is still so infinitely important and that really rubs off onto people and shows a kindness in character that I’ve not really experienced living anywhere else.

NewyWhilst I admit it’s becoming quite trendy, it still has that small-town feel that allows it to not seem wanky. You know what I mean – those arty-farty try-hard soirées that everyone mocks yet will turn up to wearing their mom’s high waisted Levi’s and a velvet crop top and creepers, or oversized parkas and top knots with beards. If anyone here actually rocks up to a party or to The Lass O’Gowrie Hotel dressed like that, it’s because they’re literally the quirkiest people from within – and you should probably buy them a schooner and get to know them because they’ll be some of the humblest people you’ll ever meet.

Our city is Fun Size. But without the caramel nougat. In fact, the only thing it’s lathered in is gorgeous sunsets, not chocolate. Get your butts here sometime real soon and just chill. It’s the best thing you can do for yourself and you probably will end up slashing your tyres to stop yourself from having to drive back home, or just park somewhere dodgy and we’ll kindly arrange someone to do it for you (that was totally a joke).

ruth hodge


Words and pictures by Ruth Hodge.