Like all good westerns

November 28, 2016 at 12:34 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , )

Let me get this straight: I didn’t much like it at first.

I’d asked a friend who worked out west what the area was like and she’d told me ‘Well, it’s a bit stabby.’

A bit stabby. Oh, good. Northcote, my home of 25 years, had been that way when I first moved in, but was now resplendent with cocktail bars, vintage clothing stores, and tattoo parlours. It was known as being home to more musicians and lesbians than any other area of Melbourne, a fact which pleased me greatly.

The west, in comparison, was gritty and industrial, houses dwarfed by enormous petrochemical vats and factories, right at the base of the gigantic West Gate Bridge.

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There was only one thing that could get me to make weekly visits out there.

His name was Chris.

Most of the men and women I’d dated were from my inner northern enclave of dirty martinis and bluegrass beer gardens. Chris lived in Sunshine, a suburb out west that I didn’t find quite as lovely as its name. Each Wednesday I took the train out there and waited at the station for him to pick me up. More often than not I would have a slew of essays to correct in my bag, a bottle of red wine, and a spring in my step that meant I would be seeing my lovely British wolf. And then a flash of blue, a door swung open, and a cheeky ‘’Ello darlin’!’ as I climbed into the car, and my new adventure.

I’d never dated a writer before. On our first meeting we spoke of the blissful solitude of snowy lands, with my novel set in Iceland, and his in Sweden. It wasn’t long before we were trading drafts, delighting in each other’s ink and talking long into the night about point of view, tense and setting. He shared my love of research, and we happily traded stories of pagan solstices, the sinister beaks medieval doctors wore when tending to plague patients, and ancient cartographer symbols.

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I’m not sure when it happened. Week after week I would listen to the blues as I watched Melbourne’s city streets give way to the west, on my way out to Chris. Sometimes I’d meet him at his studio, which he shared with laughing and lovely dressmakers from the Ivory Coast. I got to know the African shops near by, and the best place to buy fresh Vietnamese rolls. And then one day I found myself leaning forward in my train seat, eagerly waiting for the first glimpse of the West Gate Bridge. When it came into view I felt a surge of familiarity and joy; an actual rush of pleasure. The bridge, and the red-ringed stack of the Newport Power Station below it meant I would soon see Chris.

These symbols of the west used to feel so alien to me after 25 years on the other side of the city. Somehow, at some point, they had become beacons of comfort, landmarks of an area that was no longer ugly and industrial, but edgy and exciting. Slowly, they’d come to feel like home.

And now they are.

View of the West Gate Bridge from the end of our street

View of the West Gate Bridge from the end of our street

I thought I’d feel the melancholy swirl in packing up my Northcote flat after ten years of living there, but it was mercifully absent. Once the bookshelves were empty, I knew I’d already moved. I did stand on Northcote hill with my favourite view of Melbourne to smile goodbye, but I didn’t linger.

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We’ve been living in our new house out west for two weeks. There are still a few boxes in the garage, but my antique writing desk is set up, my taxidermy laid out, and my cat has finally come out from under the bed. After ten years with a tiny kitchenette, I’m loving cooking for my man and his son in our huge kitchen: tonight it’s a three hour slow cooked Jewish feast. I work on my deadlines while the boys fight with foam swords. We walk to the Stony Creek Backwash, an old bluestone quarry right under the bridge that’s now a wetlands sanctuary. And though it still surprises me, the industry and sheer scale of things out west brings me comfort and joy.

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Reading nook one.

Reading nook one.

Reading nook two.

Reading nook two.

Chris just told me that from our lounge room window, we can see the Australian flag on the top of the West Gate Bridge. I had to stand on a chair to see it (his six foot frame greatly exceeds mine), but I’m going to take it as a sign anyway.

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3 Comments

  1. tony proudfoot PHOTOGRAPHY said,

    Did I inadvertently teach you a thing or two about photography?

    Those photos are lovely.

    • inkymouth said,

      Thanks, Tony. Bec’s given me lots of tutorials over the years, but the west itself is such a lovely subject.

  2. gretchen said,

    My lips stretched to a wide smile reading this, congratulations again on your new place babe! I can’t wait to come visit you in the wild west, Manhattan misses you. xoxox

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