In Yarralumla there is an old brickworks. This brickworks enjoyed its heyday somewhere between 1913 and 1976. Today it is closed for business, though the recycled timber merchant, Thors Hammer, operates out of the ramshackle old building.
When I was a wee lass most of the houses around Yarralumla were that trademark red of the bricks from ye olde brickworks down the way. As I grew into my teens they began to drop like flies and they are still dropping. My Nonna’s place is one of the last. She is the embodiment of the neighbourhood that once was; industrious Europeans living in their 3 bedroom houses with their 3 -4 kids, growing bountiful kitchen gardens and enveloping their blocks with friendly hedges.
There once used to be no T.V. Do you remember this time? It was not so long ago. My Nonna was reliving those days in my company recently. Apparently the whole street (or a good portion) would exit their homes and gather at one of these tiny houses for evenings of frivolous fellowship and good strong coffee (those good Europeans brought their coffee and their wine drinking to our sunburnt land), apparently the art of talking about the weather was refined back then and nothing dull about it, I guess it would be if you couldn’t just google it. Maybe they used to take bets.
I hope, hope, hope at least a few of these iconic houses last into future centuries. If they cannot carry their culture with them – that culture of neighbourhood conviviality and togetherness – then they can serve as a relic of Canberra’s heritage.
My Nonna’s house is past its prime. My Nonno was the gardener and had avenues of grapevines wherever he could fit them. Two impossibly, tall and inconveniently placed Sequoias stood in the front yard and many more fruit trees were growing and thriving and producing bountifully. I remember it being a little bit more of a jungle, though everything had its place, this could well be that I was much smaller back in the day. He kept three beehives, several hens, several more free ranging pigeons (of which nothing was done to or about, they were simply transitory guests, fed and housed) and had a large food producing garden and several more berry bushes.
It really was a suburban oasis.
With time comes age and the shed is drooping, the cubby house is boarded shut (and I daren’t enter), the chimneys represent fireplaces, but these are no longer in use.
But it still stands and there is still beauty all around, an unsculpted, natural beauty which I think those tiny over-landscaped gardens often lack.
There is one thing (among other things) that remain and that is those warblers, the Australian magpie. I vividly remember waking up in my mum’s former bedroom on a sleepover one day to the sound of that beautiful native cockerel crow, I thought it was an exquisite way to wake up. My Nonna is forever feeding the birds and they still come in their dozens and they still warble outside the windows waiting to be fed.
(The Cellar, where my Nonna made his own wine.)
And the house, it still stands. But some of these rickety structure are slowly returning to the soil with the grace of old age and still with the handprint of their maker all over them.
The former vege garden, returned to grass.
Monolithic, modern structures dwarf their predecessor, having crushed its neighbours.