My Sunday Cronulla adverture really started the night before. Having a drink at the Coogee Beach Palace Hotel, I started talking to a Sydney girl. When I asked her where she was from, she said she was from Cronulla. I then mentioned the riots from December, and asked her for her thoughts. She leaned back a little and pointed to the bottom part of her chin like a soldier pointing to an old war wound. "See that," she said with only the slightest bit of paraphrasing from me to suit the story, "I got that scar when I was 17. A Lebo bloke slapped me." Whilst the 'scar' itself was obviously much greater in her head that it was on her chin, the fact that such a story is told reveals plenty about the suburb.
After spending over an hour on the train this afternoon, I finally reached Cronulla. Rather than being just another suburb, Cronulla feels like a beachside resort town, with shorts, t-shirts and thongs forming the unofficial uniform. After a short walk from the station, I spent an hour walking along the path just beyond the beach, frequently being passed by attractive couples of various ages, mostly Anglo in appearance. There are a fair share of arrogant surfie kids, with impossibly blond hair and a fuck-you look in their eyes. Still, it wouldn't be a surf town without them.
Despite plenty of negative press following on from last year's Cronulla riots, Cronulla is actually a very peaceful place: the most threatening thing that I saw were some three metre waves that meant that most of the beach was off-limits. Kids play happily in the sand, surfers make the most of the waves and couples do coupley-things. The supposed simmering tension between Anglo and Lebo seemed non existant. It is, of course, entirely possible that the events of last December has meant that Mid-Easterners stay away from the regional altogether. After all, the outcome of a war is often said to be peace on different terms.
Cronulla looks like it would be a damn fine place to retire, or at least head for an extended holiday. The city is close enough, the retail district is interesting and varied, the views and world-class and the surf is always up. It's a shame you can't find a decent kebab, though.