The end of place

Any long-time half-listening reader of this blog would know I’m fascinated by place. The placeless of the place. Where things were. What happened here. Maps. The uniqueness of these coordinates: where the battle was fought, where the rivers converge, where the babies came home.

I write often about specific places, landscape poetry sometimes, landscape-memoir my daughter calls it. I try to capture some of these in my poems, or photos. A kind of preserving.

So, I was a little sad on a long holiday walk last week to find our old house, our first house, falling into disrepair. It’s in roughly the same area we live now, only a few kilometres away but I don’t go up that way often. So, I was saddened to see what had become of it.

We weren’t there very long; less than five years, but it’s where we started as a real family. We bought the kids here when they were born, thirty years ago now. My grandfather and my father helped me build bookshelves and extend the verandah. We planted trees, I was proud of a native frangipani that somehow thrived in the sandy soil. We built a sand-pit, a barbecue and put up a tin shed. My daughters hid letters and drawings in the structure of new cupboards and bookcases for the future. Which is here now it seems.

It looks like the place is being pulled down. The fences are gone and it looks like it’s being dismantled bit by bit, the materials being stacked up to be sold. Maybe a block of flats next? To paraphrase Dylan Thomas: Place passes. Have a look. Place passes.

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Below: a long time ago, when the house was new.

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Another river; the Yarra after rain

I can’t believe it’s over a month since I blogged here, and I have been writing and reading all the while. I did buy a new camera too; a Canon 60D, much better in low light than the old Canon 450, and I’ve enjoyed getting to know how to use it, drawn all the time, of course, to rivers, streams and the edges of things.

So, after a incredibly wet Saturday I was interested to see what the Yarra was looking like and whether it was wild and flowing and bursting its banks or, as it was once I remember, swirling and whirlpooling brown and ominous like the Mississippi in a Twain novel.

Not so. Even after only twenty-four hours the whole thing had settled down, moving quickly and ruffled somehow, but almost back to normal. I could see the debris and rubbish from the high-water mark the night before but I was surprised just how quickly it had come down. Another (local) thing to know.

River walk

Below: Fairview Park on dusk.

River walk

Great Uncle Nat

Waking up on a bleak ANZAC morning in Melbourne today with the parade about to begin and the media talk all this week about Gallipoli and the meaning of all that, you can’t help but think about history, wars and the young men nations throw at these things.

My grandfather went to World War I. France and Belgium; the Western Front.  He never talked about it. And I never asked him. I remember him a rather imposing figure in his special chair in the house watching World of Sport. I’ve written about him a few times, especially that World War I connection in poems based on photographs that found their way to me or, as I blogged about here recently, my childish, simplistic ideas of what war meant in a recent poem, R.T.A.,  in the anthology: Metabolism.

So, I’m thinking about him this gloomy morning, those other men too from both sides, and my own Great-Uncle Nat who, I found out recently was also in World War I, and at Gallipoli. That’s him, third from left, next to my grandfather, William Francis, second from left, as men who came back from the war.  On my family history web site I recorded that:

Nathaniel Wynne received the Military Medal for his deeds on July 15, 1915 at Anzac Beach, Gallipoli. He rescued a wounded Indian Sergeant-Major from a dump of burning ammunition at risk of his own life.  He was later hospitalised with wounds to both arms. He lost his Lance-Corporal stripes later on for allowing gambling in the barracks.

You can read a little more, and see a couple of those war records on the family history site here. It’s not ancient history. That’s my grandfather, and his brother.

Morning Coffee

Morning. Coffee. This time of year there’s a kind of grey light in the kitchen around 7am with the day struggling to begin. But you don’t turn the light on. It’s a kind of silly challenge to put these pieces together in the half-light. You put the coffee on, and the thin blue flame of the gas cooker licks around the burned looking bottom of the coffee maker. Somewhere outside there’s a bird, or the wind rustling in the oak. A couple of times, a hot air balloon has filled the sky outside. Mostly the sky is empty and you stand looking out at it, trying to make sense of the day, and waiting for that reassuring whoosh as the coffee makes it way from the bottom of the pot into the top. That sound, and then that smell of fresh coffee, is when the day really begins.  There’s a poem there somewhere.

Gerald Murnane

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As a long time fan of Murnane’s writing, I was pleased to read in the AGE today that he’d won the Melbourne Prize for Literature. His new novel, The Barley Patch, now heads my wishlist, or it would if it was listed on Amazon. For anyone yet to discover the strange and beautiful world of Murnane, you’re in for a treat.

Full AGE story HERE

Michael Epis AGE blog piece on Murnane’s new novel  HERE

Fading Victoria

For a long time I’ve been interested in the changing landscape. particularly the changes at the suburban margins as development overpowers the old lines of the land. I’ve documented some of those ideas in the Suburban Margins project on my poetry web site.

So, it was nice to see some connections with those ideas in Fading Victoria, which is a collection of images of change, more semi-rural than suburban, but great images and ideas all the same. They’re from Rowan Crowe who writes:

Consumer hunger for residential land and infrastructure is slowly destroying many historical sites located near the steadily expanding fringes of suburbia. Weather also takes its toll on beautiful rural buildings that have been abandoned by their owners. What causes them to just walk away?