Dave grew up in the suburbs of Perth, and he now lives in Sydney, but he’s still just a suburban boy at heart.
MY FIRST experience of Manly was circa 1979 when my band, Dave Warner’s From the Suburbs, played at the Manly Flix. It was a huge, throbbing gig with 1500 to 2000 punters gyrating wildly. The band played as well as it ever did with a version of Kangaroo Hop that had the whole audience hopping on cue like some demented variation of the Mexican wave. I’m pretty sure Midnight Oil played too, and for once we held our own.
The first time we played with those guys was at Bombay Rock in Melbourne. We were the headline band and they were the support. They were sensational. They “blew us off stage”, in rock vernacular. But Manly was the heart of their territory so it was satisfying to deliver the goods on their turf. As we arrived late at night, I remembered little of the area, just the fire station on Sydney Road and the Spit Bridge. Now, 20 years later, here I am, knocking out books in the back room of my Balgowlah house.
Growing up near Fremantle (WA), in a river suburb called Bicton, I was always near water, one minute from the river and 10 minutes to the ocean. We lived high on a hill overlooking the Swan River, and from our house you could see the mouth of the harbour and Rottnest Island in the distance. Once I moved to Sydney in 1988, I suppose it was inevitable I would wind up living on the northern beaches – especially with the lifestyle. I am a suburban boy after all, and I got my fill of city living in London in the mid-70s. The Northern Beaches area is less pretentious, and more laid back than the inner western and eastern suburbs where most of my peers live, and I’m just fine with that. Mind you, it took me a while to get here from the lower north shore.
When I first toured with the band, I used to stay with friends in Milsons Point. Later, in 1980, I moved to Sydney for a year and lived in Rockdale. That was depressing. I developed asthma so badly from smoky gigs and the dusty house I was in, that I quit playing full time and went back to Perth. That’s when I decided to make a career as a writer. But Perth was a little too blinkered for me, and I returned to Sydney in 1988. Over the next nine years I lived variously in Cremorne, Neutral Bay and Cammeray.
But the reason we wound up here was all to do with the Manly Swim Centre on Balgowlah Road. My wife, Nicole, and I like to swim every day, especially in a 50-metre pool under the open sky. For years we had swum at North Sydney, and then one spring, when it was closed, we sought out an alternative venue and discovered this great pool with a terrific staff. We began to swim at the pool regularly, even though it meant a bit of a drive. When our first daughter, Violet, was born in 1995, we knew we needed more space than we had in our Cammeray flat. Seeing as the only activity we did every day of our lives was swim, we looked for somewhere near Balgowlah Road. We found a nice little house with a big backyard for the kids. A place where you can walk into Manly for an eXXXpresso.
A place two minutes from the pool where the staff like Ian, Jill and Ross are all mates. I’ll take that any day over trendy terraces bathed in exhaust fumes. I’m in the suburbs, and I love it!
Article copyright © Dave Warner, 2000