Skeletons of disused public toilet blocks and discarded shopping trolleys mar the landscape, but down on the corner of Abbotsford and Bleeker, away from the main road, there is a large block of land, and on it a large old house. The house was built soon after invasion and has been renovated as far as the local heritage laws will allow.
At this house there is a series of Eucalypts – towering, smooth-barked and speckled – that stand in front of the property like a sentry. It can be quite pleasant to stand under these trees and find relief from a hot day. These are the only trees in the area with a canopy large enough to serve as an umbrella, and you can walk almost half a block under them, bathed only in softly dappled light.
It is difficult to walk past these trees and, having identified them (Eucalyptus propinqua) and having found them so useful, not try to invent a story that will serve as an aide-mémoire so that you’ll never, ever forget them – much as the unnamed protagonist of Murray Bail’s Eucalyptus did to win the heart of the beautiful, speckled, Ellen Holland.
The area is wholly representative of most modern Australian suburbs: as you walk through the streets, the crickets and the frogs hesitate at your approach and become silent as you pass; here, fences are made of metal poles topped with fleurs-de-lis and are painted Federation Green; and, once, we found a little baby bird, a Noisy Miner, that had been blown out of its nest by the strong winds that day. Discovering these trees, however, was exhilarating: like reading Murray Bail for the first time, like learning Howard had lost Bennelong.
Written on Tuesday, 2 November 2010