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.
Below: a long time ago, when the house was new.
I was pleased to hear this week that a photo-essay I wrote a while ago for Thylazine magazine, on the suburbanisation process on the Mornington Peninsula, has been picked up by an Irish website called aughty.org The site says:
aughty.org aims to provide a focus for
information and discussion about the Slieve Aughty uplands in
Counties Clare and Galway in the west of Ireland. The site was
launched on Earth Day, April 22 2006 at a gathering in Crusheen
called Aughty People and Earth Day, hosted by Heritage
Inchicronan. People from around the region and further afield
explored ways in which the heritage of the Aughties could be
recorded, protected and enhanced by considering the region as
At first I thought that the Irish site wanted to use an essay I wrote while in Ireland a few years ago, called Entering Irish Landscape, which talks about my impressions of that place. So, I was surprised, and pleased too, that they wanted to use my piece about suburban Australia,and that they saw some connection between the landscapes they’re working to celebrate and preserve and the landscapes around me here.
The original version of the essay, with photos is HERE. The direct link to a PDF version of the essay on the Irish site is HERE
Almost finished the Thylazine essay about the disappearing landscapes; took me longer than I thought trying to balance the bits about the development and what exactly it was that was bothering me about it. Also, didn’t want the thing to sound all doom and gloom about the changing nature of the place.
One thing that did help was I bought a little Optimus Micro-cassette recorder which I’ve been using to take note of things I see as they happen. Not exactly ground-breaking technology (I couldn’t afford a digital one) it’s been useful already.
Holiday time at last, and a bit of a chance to reflect and put time into the writing. I’ve been working on a new essay for ‘Thylazine’ magazine about the changing nature of the landscape at the suburban margins. I drove around the edges the other morning, taking some photos, and taking in some of the images. One that took me was the small paling fence enclosed block of the first house in the new court, a kind of Shane-like pioneer family with the bright white washing waving bravely in the breeze while around was just the desolate places between suburban constructs and the old (but not ancient) farmland.
I hope to finish that essay this month, and a new bunch of poems, which I’ve shortlisted in my diary as ‘finish these or trash them forever’ so long have they been hanging around!
Received an email from Coral Hull from THYLAZINE mag this week asking me to pull together some poems on landscape (is there anything else) and animals for possible publication in a future online issue. Thylazine is a really interesting magazine focussing on arts, ethics and literature.
There’s also the possibility of an essay/article on the nature of the suburbanisation process that’s occurring around my place. I’d like to put together prose, poetry and photos somehow and Thylazine are interested in this too.
Which is a good thing to write about on my birthday!
A hot day and, weirdly, reading ‘The Best of Betjeman’ on the beach between last swims for the summer maybe. I was surprised how much of it I liked too, esp. the lost things kind of ideas that have always fascinated me, the sense of change in them and the passing of one kind of life. And the industralization and change that is blotting his landscape is a bit like the suburban margins stuff I’ve been thinking about. I enjoyed some of the poems about those ordinary moments too; a child going to a party, bullies, seaside excursions, the death of ordinary people like the secretary of the golf club.
John Betjeman Home Page