A salutary exercise for Class 7 students enjoying their The Book main lesson is for them to select a book, either fiction or non-fiction, to read and then write a review. The following is one of my own – albeit tongue-in-cheek – efforts; a street directory being an unlikely subject for review (but someone had to do it!).
2005 Sydney and Blue Mountains Street Directory 41st Edition
Universal Publishers, 554pp, $39.95
“I tell you there’s no Brookhollow Road in Baulkham Hills!” I snapped in irritation.
“Give me the street directory then – I’ll find it.” My wife replied with feigned patience.
“No way! Women can’t read maps.”
“Maybe it’s a new street – how old is our directory?”
“Er, fairly recent, I think. Let’s see, this is Edition number 18, published in Nineteen…eighty…one!”
Later I was happy to discover that Brookhollow Road, obviously built sometime in the last 24 years, was indeed in the spanking new UBD 2005 Sydney and Blue Mountains Street Directory…41st Edition! Edition One of he now ubiquitous UBD was published in 1964, over four decades ago. However, prior to 1990, the streets of Sydney belonged largely to the Gregory’s directories; since vanquished by their bigger, brassier rival, UBD, alas. I felt the imperative for a diversion from the ridicule my ‘fairly recent Edition 18’ was sure to attract as I returned with my brand new directory from the service station convenience store.
“What a nice shop.” I proffered cheerily as we set off in the general direction of Baulkham Hills “You’ll see, the $45 investment will be worth it.” (Not so cheery later though, when I discovered the RRP to be $39.95 – what a rip-off shop!) MW looked askance “Let’s see…hmmm, it should pay for itself many-fold with its new ‘Fixed Speed Cameras’ listing.’ She muttered glumly. Other features of this newest UBD, that describing an ever-sprawling metropolis, even included roads still in the planning stage, or under construction; like the cross-city tunnel, the Westlink M7, and many suburban streets (including over 4000 new ones). As well, there is the Parramatta-Chatswood rail link; and even brand new suburbs, like Beaumont Hills and Pemulwuy.
After a gourmet lunch (and a quick review-reading of my new UBD) at McDonald’s on the M4 (Map 188-E8), I reflected on the encyclopedic information between the heavy laminated covers. In fact the title is misleading: this is not merely a ‘street directory’, but an airport directory, a blowing club directory, a car park, camping area and churches directory – right through the alphabet to a weighbridges and wineries directory (sorry, no Xs, Ys, or Zs).
A churches directory? Sydney’s Christian heritage is acknowledged by the ‘Churches and Other Places of Worship’ linting in the 2005 UBD (actually published January 2004) employing a black cross iron for the former, while a mere small, black square is used for mosques, synagogues, temples and other-faith establishments. These are then lumped in with all kinds of secular black-square places like community halls and court houses. Still on churches; the clearly organized index of this 554-page thesaurus surprisingly reveals that there are fifty two Christian denominations in Sydney and surrounds. What a leap of faith from the nominal bipartite division of Catholics and Protestants from my childhood. Almost any map in the directory is liberally peppered with little back crosses. The eponymous ‘street directory’ section is immense, with 96 pages each with six tightly set columns. This represents over 57,000 streets in Sydney, not counting the outlying areas! Of interest to at least the residents of Aaron Place, Carlingford and Zuttion Lane, Tempe is the fact that their respective domiciles are the very first and last of the Great 57,000.
Due to the limited poetic potential of the Directory’s text, I must reluctantly resort to the many colorful advertisements for examples of literary merit; like this sapphire amongst the information gravel: “This directory will get you from A to B. Your Holden retailer will get your Holden from A to Z.” (Actually, I’m not sure what it means – Aaron Place to Zuttion Lane, perhaps? But it’s extremely well written – well, written, anyway!)And a cunningly clever sales vehicle it is, with its picture of the ad., within its picture of the ad., within its picture of the ad. …ad infinitum, as it were!
For my obligatory reviewer’s cavil, I can only expose a mere production defect (apart from ‘accommodation’ on Page 5 5 V). Here the banner advert. For “Rum Corps Barracks Golf Center and Driving Range” is slipping off the top of the page. (Surely a small discount for the Rum Corps folk?) But to return to the positive: who would think to access one’s humble street directory for emergency first aid? As well, CPR and other vital information, like accident reporting and tunnel safety, can be found at the back of the tome. I suppose the loftiest paean a reviewer can sing for a book is that it may save lives!
In the traditional settings-plot-characters trinity of literature, the 2005 Sydney Street Directory has, as one would expect, a strong emphasis on ‘setting’. In leafing through the colorful pages, the imagination so easily takes wing; to alight at evocative locations form the historic (Parramatta park – Map 24), to the hysteric (Luna Park – Map 216). Then there’s Sydney’s famous ocean frontage! Map 278, featuring the glistening South Pacific, its pale blue unblemished by land of any kind, begged the question by my wife.
“Why include a page of nothing but ocean? It’s supposed to be a street directory…submarine streets?” I turned to her.
“Nothing? What about the stylish Coogee Dive Hotel advert. Right in the middle of it? Look at its comely lass, resplendent in striped neck-to-knee. You must admit, she adds a certain élan to an otherwise pragmatic publication. At least we know where to find her toes – here at L8, ha, ha! And her bathing cap’s at F5, ha, ha, ha – and her…”
“Coogee Beach?” my wife interjected as she leant across for a better look “That sounds nice; why don’t we nip over for a swim? It doesn’t look far from where we are here at Eastern Creek. We can be there in a few minutes.”
“A few minutes! That’s over sixty kilometers away.”
As I said, women can’t read maps!