“Sorry!” I repeated the apology to yet another driver, as I dragged myself, my backpack, and my five year old labradoodle, Lucy, out of the middle of the road. It was difficult to judge from the look on the drivers’ face, whether he was angry that such a strange combination of man, dog, and luggage was blocking his progress down Wilfred Avenue in the Sydney suburb of Campsie, or shocked that they had suddenly appeared from nowhere as if by some form of supernatural transposition. He had disappeared down the street before I had chance to explain to him that we were seeing if we could get around the world in eighty word changes to our what3words geolocation code, and the simple replacement of the word “change” by the word “quite” had plucked us from a most enjoyable tour of pubs and bars in Dublin, Ohio and landed us on the other side of the world in the middle of a road. “The thing about these what3word location”, I explained to Lucy, “is that their precision is great if you want to deliver a parcel or rescue someone, but potentially hazardous if you are experimenting with the possibilities of virtual travel” Lucy ignored me, she’d picked up an interesting scent and was dragging me down the street in the direction of the main road.
Today Campsie is a busy suburb of the city of Sydney in New South Wales, Australia, but just over 100 years ago this area, about seven miles south-west of the city, was still mainly agricultural. It was the coming of the railway – the self-same railway that Lucy and I were now walking alongside – at the end of the nineteenth century that led to a period of growth and development. Beamish Street, the main street that Lucy was now eagerly propelling me towards, has always been one of the busiest streets, being not only the site of the railway station but also endless shops and restaurants.
I was intrigued to know what was attracting Lucy. I asked her, but she was going through one of her uncommunicative phases in which she pretended to be a dumb creature. As we progressed along Wilfred Avenue and the houses turned into commercial premises, I searched for clues. The “Vibe Health Clinic” (“get fit, get healthy get the vibe”) – no, that won’t be the attraction. Thai Massage, only $49 – hopefully not. My Vitamin World and the Campsie Denture Clinic – surely not. We eventually turned into Beamish Street and the reason for Lucy’s distraction became obvious. Aromas assaulted us without any pretence of restraint. There were Chinese restaurants, Vietnamese restaurants, Japanese restaurants – restaurants of every category with the possible exception of Australian restaurants. It was sensory heaven for a dog.
She eventually settled on the Chinese Dumpling Hut and following on from a substantial take-away, she became a little more communicative. “I could live here”, she said. “Forget that, we’ve got another seventy two words to go, and if you insist on eating any more dumplings you’re going to finish up at ///obese.dumpling.dogs, which, it might interest you to know, is in the middle of a lake in Northern Canada”. She returned to her normal “ignore the old fool” mode and made a bee-line for the Golden Territory Seafood Restaurant on the other side of Beamish Street. A determined yank on her leash corrected her trajectory to the VIP Lounge of the Station House Hotel where I enjoyed a reasonable pint and a read of the newspaper.
It was the newspaper that accelerated our departure rather than the quality of the beer on offer or Lucy’s over-indulgence in Chinese dumplings. The headlines showed a now reasonably familiar map, with many of the places Lucy and I had just visited marked on it. “COVID STREET, CAMPSIE!” the headlines declared, and the story went on to claim that it was the street with one of the worst infection rates in the country.
It was clearly time to move on and it was Lucy’s turn to choose the next word. She had just found a bit of dumpling that somehow had got stuck to her tail, and was desperately trying to nibble it off. “Come on, let’s have a word”, I said. She was too engrossed in her task and merely let out a kind of pleasurable growling sound as she located the dumpling remains. “Did you say ironing?” I asked in the kind of astonishment that is fitting for any conversation with a dog. “So be it”, I concluded as we set out co-ordinates for ///ironing.wink.quite. See you there.