any worse than the subdivisions depicted by John Brack
(1920-1999) in the nineteen fifties?”
There are the same raw edges, unsoftened by vegetation, monochrome colours and the starkness of powerlines and fences. The backyards are smaller now and the houses grander – four bed, 2 bath is the norm, with extra prominence given to the family cars. The airconditioners are new and so are the solar panels and the perfect square of lawn probably has an automatic reticulation system. Perfect of course, for those migratory flocks of fly –in/ fly out workers who have no time for gardening or community involvement.
It is all very neat, modern and clean with thick stone walls to keep out the gaze of the vulgar public. But it’s the public spaces, where they exist, which disturb me most -the private golf courses, the safe bicycle and jogging tracks with an artificial lake as their crowning glory. Beach access where it exists, is restricted to a bare carpark neatly laid out in angle parking – no toilets, no seats, no shade, no little shops for icecream, a paper or bait for fishing rods. The joggers all wear headphones. The dog walkers don’t speak. This is about personal fitness and very private lives.
There are no wild places here. No places to hide. Nowhere for the imagination to take flight. No chance of surprises. No secret lover’s lanes. Not even clothes on clotheslines. It looks like a computer simulation or the inside of the movie set used in The Truman Show- that film with Jim Carrey in which every aspect of Truman’s life from infancy to his thirties is scripted and televised until he begins to seek freedom from his perfect life. It makes me miss those old little old towns – a little scruffy around the edges now, with their village halls and scout troupes, Rotary Parks with creaky swings, old pubs and swimming holes. Where those older subdivisions eventually grew together, I suspect that these never will.
My unease is about about the loss of the commons, about the loss of community and the loss of individuality. We are a nation of transients with an eye on resale values, because we don't know where we'll be tomorrow.
I long to see weeds, children playing in the streets, decent climbing trees, wild fruit, little tracks to the beach. All that neatness makes me want to be willfully disobedient –smoke a cigarette, toss a tinny, or paint Eternity or maybe Get a Life on those bland walls.
One place intrigues me. It looks like all the others, except for one thing. All the letterboxes in this street are square pillars identically placed but this one is shaped like Ned Kelly. I'd like to meet the person who lives in this house.