Penrith is to Sydney as Mordor is to…
Bill is sitting on the front lawn of his suburban brick house on an orange plastic chair, stubby resting on his beer gut. His white moustache has the familiar yellowing stains of a cigarette addict. He is looking at the skid marks left on the lawn by his teenage son with a souped-up Holden.
Bill’s daughter stands on the verandah*, fish net stockings torn from a late one the night before. Her stylist is Britney Spears in rehab. While these Penrith clichés are standing about, a third named Bruce is busy with a crowbar and balaclava, opening their back door to retrieve a TV so he can support his wife Sheryl and three kids with mullets*.
Penrith – it might not say much to you, but to Australians, Penrith is to Sydney as Mordor is to Middle Earth. Penrith is on the ‘other side’ of the bridge. Penrith people have funny accents. You need a vaccination to visit Penrith.
The Penrith Panthers footy* club is so famous it made it into Bill Bryson’s Down Under, as a cesspool of vegas-like poker machines. The original pokie paradise sits on Mulgoa Road, which houses McDonalds, KFC, Krispy Kreme, Burger King, Hungry Jacks, Lone Star, Silver Spurs and Chillis all in the space of a kilometre. The Taco Bell closed down.
The Nepean River divides Penrith in two; those on the other side belong to the more affluent Emu Heights, where gold-plated fences protect three storey mansions from Penruffians. There are no architectural wonders in Penrith, unless you count the Penrith Plaza, a shopping centre so popular it was recently extended to cover a fourth block.
I lived in Penrith for the first twenty-one years of my life.
It’s hard to come from a place with a reputation and still be taken seriously. “You come from where?!” was a question I faced through my university years. I was once told I had “great hair for a girl from Penrith”, as if my shampoo was different.
I don’t get the question so much now because I don’t live there any more. My answer: I live in Annandale or Northbridge or Eonyang (not to be confused with Pyongyang, another city with a reputation). Anywhere but Penrith. Traces of home still come out, like the moments when my accent slips into strine*, but now my friends come from places that also have reputations, like Canberra (boring) and Bellingen (pot smoking hippies).
I spent half my life despising my home, but as I grow older I miss my parents house, looking out over the creek. I miss the fresh autumn mornings where the kangaroos would come up to the fence and eat. The family fun days at the ammunitions factory. Walking to the petrol station to get milk on Christmas day in 45C weather. Dad shouting at the television when the Penrith Panthers actually won the 1991 grand final.
Ahh Penrith. Home Sweet Home.
Verandah – Porch
Mullet – Hairstyle, short on top, long on bottom
Footy – Similar to Rugby but not
Strine – Strong Australian accent, think Crocodile Dundee