Tuesday, August 07, 2007

The Best House in Melbourne

Irish Jayne 375 Clarke St Northcote
The Park The Back Lane

While I was in Melbourne I got to spend an hour with Irish Jayne who used to live in Busselton. In fact she was about to fly to Perth and go and visit Busso. In the limited time we had I decided to take her to the best house in Melbourne. The house in question, at 375 Clarke St Northcote, belonged to my Nan and Pa for about 50 years and we visited them there all the time throughout my childhood. It is the place of many precious memories for me, something like a sacred site. Pa had a small push bike which we all took turns riding around the neighbourhood, up and down the many back lanes so common in older Melbourne suburbs, up to the park, around the grounds of Westgarth State School, and down to Vicki Rd or round to the newsagent opposite Dennis Train Station if we were getting milk for Nan or the paper for Pa. The lane at the rear was the scene of a disaster for me. I crashed the bike into the fence, breaking my leg, which had only been out of plaster for four days following an initial broken leg, the result of running onto a road and into the side of a passing car in Geelong. The driver was pretty traumatised by the incident, it was the first day he had ever driven home from work for lunch! An reckless 8 year old boy ruined his day! In all I spent about 5 months in plaster and became so proficient on crutches I could hop along as fast as other kids could run.
The park was a multi-purpose playground. The paths made great racing tracks, including the gravel road that went around the perimeter. There was steel playground equipment including a rocket with a fireman's pole running down the middle of it affording quick escapes in games of chasey. I related to Jayne, who like me is a mad Tottenham fan, that I played my first ever game of soccer in that park. As an Aussie Rules nut soccer was a game played by immigrant kids from Italy and southern Europe but there was a game happening one day and I asked if I could join in. I don't remember much else but I resisted the urge to pick the ball up.
I was shocked and disappointed to discover on this trip that the sleepout, an outside bedroom in Nan and Pa's back garden had been demolished. This was a place to play, to sleep, to take refuge against the Melbourne weather and to hang out with my brothers and sister. I have clear memories of reading the official record book of the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games while laying on the bed in the sleepout. Why anyone would remove it is a mystery to me. In fact the whole back yard has been let go to a terrible state, and a large dog prowls the domain that was once ours, complete with gnomes, mushrooms and a concrete Aboriginal figure, all of which were popular at the time. I loved Nan and Pa and I loved going up there to visit.
Years later in my late teens when I started travelling and hitch-hiking around the country I loved going to stay with Nan and Pa. Nan would always have something yummy in the pantry, yo yo biscuits or my favourites, Lamingtons.
Christmas was made extra special with Nan's famous Christmas Plum Puddings, complete with sixpences.
When I was staying up in Cairns with some mates, at about 18 or 19 I rang Nan and asked her to make us a Christmas pudding and send it up to us! She happily did so but to my great disappointment and shame, we had left Cairns before it arrived and it ended up being returned to Nan's address several weeks later and no longer fit to be eaten!!

I guess our kids have similar feelings and memories associated with going to Mum's (their Nan's) place at Bridgetown. I hope so.

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Anonymous said...

I am glad that you have such fond memories of 375. The sleepout was put up for Pa's sister, her husband and two kids, when they were transfered from Adelaide to Melbourne. Houses were almost unprocurable after the war, in fact there was even a black market operating. Nan & Pa paid 150 pounds over the asking price to get 375.We actually started out in 373, but when I was about 9 moved next door, sleepout & all. You forgot the mexican hat.
I have wonderful memories of grandparents farm at Hurstbridge, the smell of soapy water, especially in a tin dish, takes me straight back to Nan's fernery, where had to wash our hands as they only had tank water.
There are a lot of other evocative memories that I have from there and one day I hope to find the old house again.

Jim said...
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