Saturday, September 09, 2017

Return to roots


At home in Darwin, I don't get much opportunity to walk... there are places I can walk but I never feel inclined and rarely have the time, also it's usually too hot!

While visiting family in Melbourne, it's a different story. I walk!

There are so many places I like to visit but this time I only had four days. 

On my first free day I caught the train out to Sandringham and walked the coast to Black Rock/Half Moon Bay. Then doubled back and walked from Brighton to St Kilda 

On the walk from Sandringham to the Black Rock yacht club there is a  picnic table with a view over Half Moon Bay, the Cerberus and the familiar red clay bluff that I love. It used to have an old leather briefcase with a pen and some paper for poets and writers who feel inspired, to share their work... It was gone, I suppose it would end up soaking wet at this time of year anyway. It didn't really matter, this is a personal thing anyway, I'd brought my own pencil and paper. 
Poets table

I sat and wrote a letter of appreciation to the Red Bluff and beach, to the Cerberus and the coast. As a youth this place was my shangri-la, it was my romantic bohemian retreat from Bogania. I wrote my inadequate and poorly written poem/letter, folded and stuffed it into a crack between the boards on the table top then sat for a while in contemplation. I looked across the bay and remembered the dreams I'd had, the excitement I felt escaping the constrictions of my unsatisfying life and considered how little I had changed. From lofty dreams and a wild heart I have progressed no further. OK I managed to evade death by misadventure and alcoholism... but essentially I have not progressed the man very far beyond the state of that fifteen year old boy who first ventured to this place.  

This is the place I will always return to measure my progress... It is my mirror, the hopeful spirit of that boy who dreamed is always here waiting to see what I have made of his life.

Clock Tower @ StKilda

Brighton Baths

It was a cold grey and windy day, perfect for a long walk.
I'd only ever come this way by foot once and on that occasion I was in the familiar state of intoxication which used to demand I set my bare feet to walking. I can vaguely recall trudging without my shoes along the coast, through the sand and across the coastal rocks. Back then I was mesmerized in a romantic spell of myself and the city. My feet hurt but I just walked hoping that something wonderful would jump up and embrace me! 
I had blistered and bruised feet.

This time was different I was sober and a little less desperate. It was an odd experience to move from the familiar environment of the coastal reserve full of trees and shrubs along the coastal path which passed some of Melbourne's most wealthy homes facing the sea. It felt very strange, and overwhelming to see such wealth, I looked to the sea and saw the wind whipping up small waves, wild grey clouds tumbled over each other to spread rain across the coast. I began to feel quite emotional, a sense of dissonance between nature and the exploits of man, the altered coastline and the people. I was among them but not one of them.
The fruits of our endeavors will be consumed by the sea. Isn't it ironic to see these bricks from early Melbourne settlement used to hold back the inevitable.

Dispersed along the coastal path are plaques which describe the lives of the original people of this place and give some explanation of the effect colonization had on their society. I read plaques and looked at the mutated landscape around me. I was the observer and I was connected to the place but not the culture. I felt overcome with compassion for them all and and odd kind of love that just made me smile to myself and the people I passed. I loved them and held them in contempt equally and without conflict. 

It was all too beautiful and terrible at the same time. I still had a few kms to go. I had time to resolve my feelings before arriving at St Kilda. The experience was exquisite and painful full of longing and empty but somehow complete.

The Espy looking a bit worse for wear after decades of iconic service
 Arriving at St Kilda I continued straight to another romantic icon from my past. 'The Espy'. I remember the illusion and excitement, the pretense of rumbling up the gutter with half a dozen mates on our Harleys on a Saturday night. Chests out strutting around like leather clad peacocks trying hard to make an impression, me secretly hoping to blend in but feeling like a fraud. I remember the dark crowded rooms full of noisy and beautifully ostentatious inner city punks an exciting mix of guys and girls and barely a bogan to be seen. Some nights the bar was so full I have no idea how the barmaids managed to keep track of the orders, orders were yelled across the heads of jammed in patrons, a bizarre combination of English, profanity and sign language was used to convey what was wanted and somehow the drinks kept coming and the correct change was always given!
I loved riding my motorbike but part of me just wanted to sink into that old gaffa taped couch and become one of the decadent majority. 
The espy was a great place to visit, thankfully I never did transition from visitor to resident. By 1996 I stopped going to the Espy all together when my attention became more focused on the services of other establishment such as the Galiamble men's recovery centre just around the corner... but that's another walk.

No comments: