This substation, in Ramsay Street, Five Dock, shows the original signage, still in excellent condition. The elegant lettering sits in contrast to the harsh concrete and brick building, and is typical of substations of the era.


Here is another photograph from my book Type Town. Pictured is one of two W MacFarlane Furniture buildings. This one, the larger of the two, is in Westbourne Street, Petersham. The second is across the street on the corner of Charles Street. Both display similar signage, complete with thistles on matching curved pediments.

Dam wall

There is something fascinating about dams. I love how they are landscaped with camellias and jacarandas, now gnarly with age, and the vista of water that looks like a lake but isn’t really a lake. I get a little mixed up with the dams around Sydney: I can’t ever quite remember which one has the curved wall, which one has the art deco detailing, which one has the picnic area with the view. But I do know that this notice is on the Avon Dam wall, and that I was rather pleased to see that someone had amended the sign.



I’d like to think that the greengrocer signwriter is in cahoots with the hardware store, or at the very least has a wicked sense of humour, but unfortunately I think that this strategic and quite wonderful spelling mistake is just that—a spelling mistake. I sometimes wonder if ‘interesting’ spellings such as this are ever brought to the attention of the vendors by concerned (and more written-language savvy) members of the public, or if anyone even notices them. Depends where it is I guess. We once had a grocer/deli in the local shopping centre that went to the effort of overhauling their in-store signage. There were so many errors that the customers started writing on the signs and leaving messages, to the extent that the entire new signage was replaced with a couple of weeks of being installed.

Road to where?


According to some of those top ten lists, Honolulu is the second worst US city for traffic, and I believe it. Getting around is not hard, but geez it can be slow, and not just at pau hana—Hawaii’s afternoon peak hour. One time, driving east along the HI, we were just a couple of miles from our exit when Morgan Freeman on Waze alerted us to a problem ahead and suggested it would be quicker to drive to the other side of the island and back down the Pali Highway—a detour so long we stayed on the H1 parking lot! One time we needed to change our rental car and ended up in Pearl City because, due to a typo in the driving instructions, we were looking for an exit that didn’t exist. We also found this rather interesting direction. Where does that mystery turnoff to the west go, I wonder?

Deep water


Not only deep, but Woolwich Dock is long and narrow, a chasm-like drydock overshadowed by towering sandstone walls. Eighty-five thousand cubic metres of sandstone were excavated from the site to construct the drydock, and when it opened in 1901 it was the largest in Australia. Now, there is a raised metal walkway and a keep-between-the-yellow-lines footpath forming part of the Sydney Harbour foreshore walk, so you can walk all around the channel of water, from Goat Paddock to Horse Paddock, without having to get your feet wet.



Unless I win a greencard lottery and become a citizen of the United States, I will never be allowed an opportunity to join the Elks. Regardless, my reasons for wanting to join are far from altruistic: I’d like to become a member for the purely selfish reason that I could visit the Honolulu lodge at will for the regular evenings of Hawaiian music. Not to mention the view across the water to the glittering lights of Waikiki, which is really something. Or the comfortable and relaxed ambience, a quiet old-time haven (oh, that 60s sunken bar!), a civilised escape from the hustle and bustle of the tourist strip. I know about these charms because one night I had the rare experience of being signed in as an unaffiliated guest. But now, I need to be satisfied with admiring their rather fabulous street-front sign.

Wo Fat


I was overjoyed to come across this sign! Wo Fat is the bad guy in Hawaii Five-O! Really, this was too much of a coincidence, so I had to look it up, and sure enough, I discovered that the producer of the original Hawaii Five-O series did in fact take the name from this Chinatown restaurant. Even better, it seems that the bad guy drug lord in Homicide: Life on the Street—another of my favourite TV shows—was based on Hawaii Five-O’s Wo Fat. Wo Fat, the restaurant, opened in 1882, and was Hawaii’s oldest restaurant when it closed 123 years later in 2005. The Wo Fat building is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Considering the characters it engendered, it is ironic that the name means ‘peace, prosperity and harmony’.

Rice St


There is a marked similarity between road signs in Australia and the United States. In the US we have to remain alert driving on the other side of the road, but as far as navigation goes, it’s all very familiar. This mess of signs, on Lihue’s main street, bears a striking resemblance to those found in my own neighbourhood, where they seem to congregate, as if the more the merrier. It’s surprising that these agglomerations are not more confusing, but we seem to be able to understand this visual language and get around reasonably successfully.



This cafe, in Goulburn, is not the famous Paragon, but an unassuming place a block down the road. The Paragon used to be a regular stop on any Sydney–Melbourne drive (in the days before the bypass) because they served such a great burger. These days I am intimidated by the Paragon. It’s been renovated and glitzed up to within an inch of its life, all bright lights and so much shiny chrome on the outside that I’m too scared to set foot inside to confirm my suspicion that the lovely old laminex booths have gone the way of the once-understated shopfront.