Thursday, December 13, 2007

Aunt Ursula

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.


  1. We had an old house around the corner from where we lived but we were never game to sneak in. The only place we went was up in the plum tree when they were ripe. You've got me thinking now just when it was pulled down.

  2. Lovely story Andrew

    There was a spooky old house around the corner from us in Drummoyne (Sydney) when I was a kid. The block's probably on its third set of apartments now.



  3. Anonymous9:23 am

    When I was a child there were quite a few semi-derelict houses scattered around my area. One in particular was opposite my house and it was always seen as magic in some way. All kids have a 'witches' house don't they? Sadly this grand two storey mansion was felled for flats over twenty years ago. My father tried to save the stained glass around the frontdoor and the foreman of the demolition crew agreed he could have it (buy it) I am not sure which. When he came back to retrieve the glass it had been smashed anyway. Sad, because it was very ornate old glass.

    Gee, you bring back memories. I love the story Andrew and I just want to dive into these gardens and explore. Some things never change.


  4. If you could sneak into Hide's house, what would you steal on the 1st place?

  5. I love old houses too!


  6. I will find out all about Sydney trams in Drummoyne now.

    There are still a few around LiD, but as many as there used to be.

    Answered in your blog Bbb. Not gonna let the peeps here read what I said.

    You ever have houses overgrown like that where you grew up Keshi?

  7. So looks like the house my great grandma lived in in river Street Newport..what a mint it wouldbe worth today!

  8. Sure would be Cazzie. If only we had known.......

  9. Anonymous4:11 pm

    Andrew, such a beautifully evocative post. The imagery of tea and biscuits in fine china, on beautiful furniture in an old house surrounded by (once) rambling gardens sounds like something from a novel.

  10. Thanks MD. The place was pretty shabby though. Everything was so worn out.

  11. This one escaped my google reader! But the name Ursula brought it to my attention - is that her real name? That's the name my parents were going to call me. Rosanna / Ursula... hmm.

    But I digress. The house is stunning!

  12. Yes, it was her real name Rosanna. I vaguely recall you writing about your possible alternative name.