Friday, January 1, 2010

suburb No 16: Clovelly

Okay, so this is a little odd. Not the fact I’m posting late – apologies but I knew that would be the case 
and as much as I hate being late for anything, I can live with it – Christmas and all.

What’s odd is the fact that this week’s suburb is my own – Clovelly.

It’s a little strange to be exploring my own suburb when the premise of 52 Suburbs is to explore the 

undiscovered or at least the unfamiliar. (And just to explain, it was either Clovelly or miss a week as 
there was no time to venture any further than my own backyard).

But what’s really odd is that I should know my own suburb like the back of my hand, right? What I 

discovered is that I don’t, not really.

For example, I’ve lived in Clovelly for almost three years but until this week I’d never once stuck 

my nose inside the spectacularly sited Clovelly Bowling Club. Never peered into the water of Clovelly 
Bay long enough to notice how beautiful the patterns are. Never walked slowly enough through the 
neighbouring cemetery to appreciate how old and sad some of the graves and their stories are.

Who doesn’t know their own suburb?! When I thought about it I realised this is the clearest example 

in this project so far of the way people can walk around with eyes half shut, not really alive to it 
all – even in one’s own blooming suburb.

Which is exactly why I started 52 Suburbs and why I’m so relieved to have found a reason – an excuse – 

to get out of my own head and move through the world. Slowly. Taking the time to really look. 

Anyway, ‘Cloey’ - a smallish beachside suburb squeezed in between its possibly better-known 

neighbours, Bronte and Coogee.

There seems to be two major themes in this gentle seaside suburb – life and death. The life bit 

largely takes place down at Clovelly Bay, where you can swim with the fish and feel so alive you’d 
swear you could live forever. When you discover that was a little optimistic and you’re about to 
cark it, at least you know it’s just a short trip up the hill to the bowlo for a few final bevies and 
then a little further to the local cemetery where you can spend the rest of eternity staring at the 
view you’d always wished for but could never afford.

Speaking of money, Cloey was once a poor suburb with the local school filled with kids in bare feet. 

Things are a little different nowadays, but there are enough ‘average’ families and shabby apartment 
blocks to stop it putting on too many airs and graces.

Part 1: The bay

A small beach at one end with two long concrete platforms that run the length of the bay - ideal for 

those who dislike the feel of sand in their swimmers. The bay is filled with fish, including the famous 
blue Groper. I remember the first time I dove down into the depths of the water to see this whole 
other world. Fish everywhere, lit up by beams of sunlight stretching down to the sandy bottom. If 
only I had an underwater camera I could have shown you. As it is... 

swim with the fishes

look mum, no sand

fly free

life aquatic

long lines of early morning

nice corners of the world

in rude health

fluid motion

what a difference a day makes

scary wave

saviours in uniform

enough to make you feel ten feet tall

different paths to heaven (St Anthony's Catholic Church)

as the sun sinks slowly

do fish sleep at night? (Clovelly Surf Lifesaving Club)


by the light of the moon and the torch

Part 2: The bowlo

Beautiful old stone building perched on the edge of the Australian eastern seaboard. Yet despite its 

million dollar views no-one's got to it to ruin the laid back atmosphere - its edges are nicely frayed, 
the walls are covered with nostalgic memorabilia and the vinyl seating is luxuriant indeed.

A fine place for an afternoon tipple - or even a game of bowls.


up in the clouds


ocean views in every direction


hardy souls



the royal treatment

the inspiration?


Part 3: The cemetery
The cemetery is technically in the next suburb, Waverley. But it has such a dominating presence,

visible from much of Clovelly, it feels wrong to leave it out.
When I was there the other day a friend remarked how creepy she finds cemeteries. I quite like

them - some of the headstones and assorted angels are beautiful. And they serve to remind the 
living to get on with it - million dollar view or not, life's a lot more interesting when you're 
above ground.
Of note: Waverley Cemetery is considered to be architecturally significant thanks to its 19th 

century stone work and funerary art. Walter Burley Griffin designed one of the tombs. And the 
poet Henry Lawson was laid to rest here (as was a dear friend of mine, the beautiful Inarchi).

life and death


or you could end up here


in heaven


the messenger and the messages

nice place to be pushing up daisies

Beauty? By the sand-bucket load. Largely because of its bay but also because Cloey's not all tarted up 

and has remained relaxed and unpretentious. And can I just say, I'm so glad I visited my own suburb - 
if it wasn't for 52 Suburbs, who knows how long it might have taken me to get to the bowlo. 

By the time you read this, 2009 will be no more. Aside from the GFC and a lack of progress to save 

the planet, it was a good year - made more so for me by this little project. When I started 52 Suburbs 
four months ago I thought perhaps a handful of friends and family might check in now and then to see 
what I was up to.

Never did I think every week 2,000 or so people from all over Australia and the world, places as far 

flung as Lithuania, Mexico, Canada and Vietnam, would find the time to scroll through an eclectic 
assortment of images that married together the oddest of subjects, with a fondness for tattoos, old 
lettering and rusty garden gates.

So thank you - and I hope you can stick around for 36 more weeks of discovery.

I'm a suburb behind so I'll post again this Sunday - then it'll be back to normal Fridays. See you then - 

and Happy New Year!


  1. Thank you Louise and I can live with a 'little late' as well so long as the Suburbs keep coming, It's always a thrill to see your Blog has been updated so I can open it and find out where you've been this week.

  2. clovelly was always my favourite beach to go to when i lived in sydney.. such calm water.. just like a big swimming pool and so buoyant and relaxing. another great post & photography :)

  3. Love the hydrangeas in "hardy souls," "the inspiration?" and "fly free"

  4. Oh yes, i will be here for the next 36 weeks. Or so. I hope you keep going forever.

  5. Looks like we're neighbours - I was there yesterday arvo for a pint in the drizzle, watching the barefoot bowls. Happy new year and I look forward to what more far flung places you'll capture.

  6. Hi Louise,
    Thank you for your wonderful blog - not just the lovely photos but also the wonderful words. I really enjoyed your latest entry and even though I'm a Sydney girl born and bred I'm enjoying sharing your discovery of our wonderful suburbs. Thanks so much for a lovely gift each week and have a wonderful 2010!

  7. Thank you from an Aussie-Norwegian living in Norway and continuously missing Sydneys light.

  8. Thanks everyone for your comments - I'm thinking the Clovelly bowlo might be a good place to celebrate at the end of this project - all welcome!

  9. Another gorgeous post, and perfect that it's your own back yard. Thank you! I put up a small fan post on my blog today:
    Have you ever been to Bundeena?
    Can't wait for the next one!

  10. There will be a 52 Suburbs book, right?

  11. MissBuckle - I can imagine how much you miss Sydney's light - glad I can bring a little of it to you.

    liftandseparate - thanks for the fan post.

    katiecrackernuts - A book? I hope so!


  12. Hello Louise, i am an Australian who now lives in Christchurch New Zealand and have done so for the past 16 Years. I am from Clovelly and you have taken a photo of the block of flats where my home used to be,this was across the road from the Clovelly Bowls Club. the bowls club was all made out of a rock that we played on as Children( the rock was called the Cowboy Rock) and of course it got its name as we played cowboys on it around it and over it.
    there is also the boogie hole which was a great place to swim. we played on the Army Fort just near the Bowls Club on top of the cliff.not one of us fell over it but could climb it up and down all on how you wanted to get to the beach .in Ocean Street and the start of Boundry Street (145) there would have been over 30 children to play with ( the no shoe clan).
    the place was so safe and we use to play in the Waverley Cemetery and my family trained the Police Dogs and we used to help train them in the night as well. I am so happy that i found this site ,here i am sitting in a Sunny Christchurch New Zealand Looking at my Clovelly a little sad but so happy to see it all again . if anyone would like to drop me a line please do to i would love to hear from you. Again thanks so much I could not add this to your site for some silly reason you maybe able to add this for me .
    Cheers Del Le Breton

  13. Such a great idea for a blog! I love it! I lived in Sydney for almost 15 years before I moved to the south island of NZ, and it's lovely to see some familiar places. Your photos are just glorious!

  14. Del - So glad your comment made it! I love that history - sounds like such a carefree era.
    Kerri - Thank you, happy to give you a trip down memory lane.

  15. I really, really wish 52 Subrubs was an SBS tv show. I would tune in every week.

  16. scream4noreason - Now that's an idea! "Dear SBS, a follower of the blog has a great suggestion..."

  17. I will never forget swimming across Clovelly beach in October 1969 in a bid for my bronze medallion. The water was freezing and debris-filled. Unforgettable!