Postcards from Abroad: Sydney

Balancing a love of pies with the burden of keeping Australia beautiful, Ebony Lawless gets to grips with local crazes

I know that people would expect someone currently living in the land down under to speak of sunshine, surfers and BBQ’s. Unfortunately, I cannot. This is Sydney in springtime and accordingly all of the above delights appear to be in hibernation. It’s October, it’s cloudy and temperatures are barely reaching fifteen degrees; certainly not what I signed up for. Worse still, locals feel the need to consistently remind me that this is the worst spring in decades. Murphy’s Law I guess.Don’t get me wrong, BBQ’s have been had, surfers on Bondi have been spotted and there has been a good dousing of sunshine, but that is all in the past. On these somewhat lacklustre days, as I struggled through an extortionate number of end of semester research essays, I sought solace in something which will never leave you. Even after abandoning my mammy in search of kangaroos (and of course an education), there remains a common comfort - food.In this respect, Australia is a rather odd place. Sausages are made from beef, cans of soft drink are supersized and pints are shrunk into schooners. Ridiculously, a pepper (or capsicum in the local lingo) costs almost as much as a beef steak and significantly more than fillet of ‘roo. Doesn’t sound all that amazing, does it? Well, thankfully there is one saving grace – the pie. Pies are defined as a traditional Australian food, something few food types can boast given the ethnic and cultural melting pot that the land of crocodiles has become. Historical claims aside, I can tell you that the Australian pie is a masterpiece.Now there is probably many a UCD student shaking their head, wondering what on earth I’m talking about, incredulous as to how any pie could beat a Charlie’s after a night in the Palace. Believe me, I was once such a person. The first time a classmate told me to try a Pie Face (essentially the chipper of Sydney) I thought to myself “give me a three in one any day”. However, that first post-night out eating session may have changed my life, and the lives of all those with me, forever.Our devotion to the humble pie is such that I’ve witnessed fully rational human beings (well, drunken Irish students in particular) get off that last bus home because the driver, in the absence of good faith and general human decency, forced them to choose between home and the pie. Let’s just say the long walk home is worth it every time.In addition to a love of pies, the Australians also have a great love for exercise. This forms a rather unlikely paring. It was with great dismay that, shortly after the consumption of copious amounts of pies, I began to notice a new advertising campaign entitled ‘Keep Australia beautiful’. Building off the back of such classic shows as Australia’s Top Athlete, this campaign emphasises the importance of (lord help me) the gym.The University of New South Wales, you see, is conveniently located in the rather affluent suburbs of Eastern Sydney. Unfortunately, as per similar areas across the world, I find myself surrounded by a rather unsettling mixture of yummy mummies, ladies who lunch and, worst of all, joggers. The height of fashion is upmarket jogging gear, and it’s worn by women who are unbelievably toned for those who coffee and lunch daily. I blame the ridiculous ‘toning footwear’ technology.Similar outfits would be a source of shame back home where exercise is, and will remain to be, an activity for the exception rather than the rule. I mean, I doubt you’ll see herds of fitness fanatics swarm Grafton Street any time soon. Yet on George Street, the Sydney equivalent, just avoiding the joggers is quite a workout.In an attempt to keep up with the general population (otherwise known as peer pressure), and to avoid the shame of letting the Australian side down, I found myself buying jogging gear. My end goal is of one day running as beautifully and gracefully as only the truly fit and toned can. Needless to say, after the grand total of two completed runs, I have massively improved my beauty over the past three months. In fact, if you ask me, my job is done, which means it’s probably right about time for a pie by now. I wonder if Pie Face is still open?