Thursday, December 13, 2007
My stepmother was raised in a bark humpy on the banks of the Murray River, the river that divides Victoria and New South Wales for you o/s folk. It was a humble beginning. Her best childhood friend was a black original Aussie lass. Stepmother has done ok and is now comfortable as an old age pensioner. She knows her Murray Cod from her Yella Bellies.
Somewhere along the way, her family must have divided. She had an Aunt Ursula who lived in a large old house in Brighton, a posh, very old and expensive Melbourne suburb.
The call must have come from either my stepmother's father or mother to go and help Aunt Ursula with her garden.
My father, stepmother and myself arrived at Aunt Ursula's and her house had almost disappeared behind vegetation. Trees, shrubs, climbers and creepers had covered the garden and a good bit of the house.
Aunt Ursula made us tea and served it with biscuits, all served in fine china and we sat on fine but shabby Victorian furniture. Aunt Ursula made herself another gin and tonic and smoked her Albany Trims incessantly. "I am cutting down my dears, they are shorter, and no young man, please do not open the (heavy velvet) drapes". (Shades of Dame M here)
I can vaguely recall her kitchen which looked like it had not seen a reno since 1930. The lavatory was a high cistern with a chain to pull.
We attacked the garden with gusto, saws, clippers, hatchets, axes and anything sharp we had thought to bring. It looked incredibly ugly be the time we had finished. Lots of bare trunks and branches. But at least the house could be seen and accessed.
I was reminded of Aunt Ursula by three houses in Glenferrie Road, Malvern. I think only one is occupied but all three are so overgrown. The single storey one disappeared behind vegetation and then a council order to clean up must have been enforced.
One developer has already tried and failed, but I am sure the three blocks will eventually be turned into apartments for the aged wealthy. While the small house is of a modest size, the other two are very large and would have been quite grand houses.
As a kid, I loved spooky old overgrown houses. I find them pretty interesting now.