Shelley: Himalayan

Jo Thornely
3 min readMar 26, 2023

There’s so much I can (and will) write about being a twin, and being Shelley’s twin. It’s a privilege that I’ll never stop appreciating — and by ‘privilege’ I don’t just mean that I’ve been lucky to have Shelley as the other half of a split ovum I participated in — although that’s very lucky indeed. It’s that being a twin gives you experiences that non-twins, or at the very least non-very-similar-siblings, don’t usually have. And this is one.

When Shelley and I moved out of home we lived in a rented townhouse with our brother Mike in Wollstonecraft in Sydney’s inner North. When Mike drove across the country to live in Broome in Western Australia, Shelley and I moved into a smaller flat near the train station — one of those classic 1960s Sydney red brick apartment blocks with tiny tiled iron balconies and pale pink bathtubs.

Later, when I was dating the excellent Dave and Shelley started seeing later-to-be-husband Andrew, we moved, with our partners, to Naremburn and Crows Nest respectively. Both homes were within easy walking distance of each other and of the highly affordable, globe-sampling food outlets of Willoughby Road in Crows Nest, including a favourite of all four of us, the Himalayan Chargrill in Crows Nest Plaza. The Plaza was a dinky, run-down little shopping centre that had mostly abandoned retail outlets in favour of small restaurants, and included Nepalese, Japanese, and Malaysian places that have now closed that I’ll miss forever and ever.

I’d never eaten Nepalese cuisine before living near Himalayan Chargrill and have had little to compare it to since, but for all we could tell this place was the world leader in producing momo dumplings, grilled marinated lamb backstrap with a spicy relish, and slow-cooked goat curry. I want to eat it all right now, and my whole digestive system is sad that I can’t.

In a time before food delivery phone apps, Dave and I would often stop in and pick up Nepalese take-away, or grab a bottle of something from George’s Fine Wines up the road and eat in, frequently enough to get a smile and nod of recognition from the restaurant staff. Shelley and Andrew often did the same thing.

One night sometime in the early 2000s Dave, Andrew, Shelley and I thought we’d all go to dinner together and mutually agreed on momos. It didn’t occur to us that after about two years of regular patronage of Himalayan Chargrill, we’d never all been there together. Having ordered our food and poured our wine, we noticed that the waiters were giggling in our direction. They noticed that we’d noticed, and one of them rushed over with an apologetic gait.

“Sorry!” he said.

“We never realised there were two of you!” he added, gesturing towards Shelley and me. “We just thought it was one girl dating two different guys for a couple of years. We thought you were a bit of a legend, and now we realise…” he trailed off.

We’d disappointed him by being two people. We’d ruined the restaurant staff’s favourite bit of gossip by not being a two-timing hungry lady with unusually broad taste in men who would rather risk discovery than miss out on a goat curry.

After that, whenever I stopped in to pick up food, I would get an “ayyy ha ha!” with a half-hearted finger-pistol from the waiter, but there was definitely a trace of anti-climax in his eyes.

It was bloody marvellous.

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