Wednesday, 16 March 2016.
It had been almost four weeks since my last job had ended.
Since then, it had been back on the job-hunting trail via my PC at home.
And once again, as I’d experienced during a previous spell on this trail, I’d had enough.
It was time to devote a day to hitting a long-walk trail instead.
And fortunately, today I had two more good excuses to do so.
Shortly after noon, I got on a train at Town Hall station.
Barely 15 minutes later, I was across the Sydney Harbour Bridge and getting off at North Sydney station.
For most of the 2000s, I had worked in North Sydney and spent a lot of time there. In 2009 (I think), I was relocated to Pyrmont, and since then I had only passed through North Sydney a few times.
But today, as North Sydney was on the way to where I had to be by 6pm that evening, I decided to spend a little time there.
And as always, whenever you revisit a place from your past, it’s often astounding to see what has changed.
After I got off at the station, I walked through the Greenwood Plaza shopping centre and observed how much it had changed indeed.
A few minutes later after I emerged at Mount Street, I smiled when I saw that the book exchange I had visited many times during the 2000s was still there…but not for much longer, as it’s now closing down.
Shortly after that, I saw that a building that had once held a bar I had visited several times back then was now occupied by a Coles supermarket.
But fortunately, the place I had especially come to visit in North Sydney was still there (although I had confirmed this online during the past few days).
And when I entered the Had To Happen Mexican Restaurant (WARNING! Make sure your sound is not too loud), my smile widened when I saw that it was still very much as I remembered it from my last visit…good grief, over five years ago?
Back in my North Sydney working days, I had had many lunches at Had To Happen – sometimes with colleagues, and sometimes by myself.
In particular, many Fridays I had treated myself to end-of-working-week lunches there.
Today, though, I didn’t have to hurry back to an office, so I could spend as long as I liked at Had To Happen – or until 3pm, when they closed for the afternoon.
I was shown to a table I had sat at several times before; marveled that the menu and paper place-mats still looked like how I remembered them; and ordered two dishes that I had previously ordered at many of my old Friday lunches – corn ships with salsa dip, and all-you-can-eat fajitas.
Shortly after, though, what I found that I had forgotten was how big the serving of corn chips was.
And shortly after that, the first of two large lunch parties arrived to remind me of another aspect of Had To Happen – its fun and relaxing atmosphere.
I would keep to myself and read on my iPad, but I enjoyed others around me enjoying themselves.
Soon, after I’d made a good stab at the corn chips I knew I wasn’t going to finish, my fajitas arrived.
I pleasantly took my time eating my way through those.
An hour passed.
I debated about getting a second jug of diet cola, and eventually decided, Why not?
Another hour passed.
I debated about getting some dessert, and eventually decided again, Why not?
Eventually, it was not long after 2:30pm when the two large lunch parties finally decided to leave.
And as Had To Happen suddenly emptied, I decided to leave as well.
I visited the bathroom – especially after all of that food and drink, but also because I didn’t know how far away the next bathroom would be.
I knew my bill was going to be big, and I did pause for a second when I saw that it was a little bigger than expected – but I didn’t regret it.
I had spent just over two-and-a-half hours relaxing with a very pleasant and satisfying meal in a place that had brought back a lot of fond memories.
I paid my bill, and walked out of Had To Happen smiling.
I felt very satisfied, and also very tanked-up for what lay ahead.
I headed back up Mount Street, and then to another place where I had eaten many lunches years ago – Berry Square shopping centre.
It was partly how I remembered it – but I was also a little stunned to see that it was now half-empty with vacant retail spaces, especially its first floor. Was business that bad, or was some sort of redevelopment coming?
I made my way through Berry Square until I reached Berry Street on the other side, and soon after that I came to the intersection of Berry and Miller Street.
I crossed Berry to the landmark Rag & Famish Hotel, to where the day’s walk would begin.
It was a warm day with a suggestion of rain – but after the recent weeks-long heatwave that Sydney had endured, that was very welcome.
My objective was an hour or so away (or so I thought), and a couple of hours after that should be a pleasant surprise (or so I hoped).
I began walking north up the very long slope of Miller Street.
TO BE CONTINUED