living with ghosts

As my walking program continues, I'm getting to know my neighbourhood better and better. The less I focus on the fitness aspect and the more I think about where I want to go and what I want to see, the more enjoyable I find it and the less I feel like piking.Today  I decided, on the spur of the moment, to catch the bus up to Coburg, have a look around at the old buildings on the corner of Bell Street and then walk back home through Pentridge Village. My new favourite walk. It has everything I could want, trees and plants, big sky views, history (quite old post colonial history even by Australian standards), derelictia, great plays of light, strange new suburbia, suburbia that has been there for a while and is growing into itself, very new and under construction dwellings. It's also the sort of place where you think you'll get lost or enter a dead end but is actually very pedestrian friendly. This afternoon I discovered a whole new series of vistas and painted walls. The walls are my favourites I think, hinting at stories I can only imagine.

I'm somewhat ambivalent about Pentridge Prison being redeveloped as a housing estate. According to the wikipedia entry, the developers of the top, northern half which contains most of the bluestone are trying to sideline the history of the site so that they can make it more marketable as housing. And I get why they would want to do that. Not saying that it's necessarily right, because the less pleasant aspects of our history are just as important as fun things like pools and lovely buildings, but you know, who wants to live in a place that looks like a prison? The old Pentridge doesn't look anything how I imagine a modern prison would look and I suspect would be quite unsuitable as a prison these days. And yet, it doesn't quite work as a housing development site either. I think if I were going to live there, I would prefer to live in either a modern apartment or in one of the suburban houses in the more cosy/daggy southern end. Not in one of the old buildings that have been refurbished. There's not that many of those, but there is a row that although they look quite funky, have a distinct prison like feel. I found myself wondering if the history would seep through the walls. Would you lie in bed at night and feel the ghosts of convicts and felons drifting across your slumber? Or would domesticity and new energy dominate?

On another topic, have you seen 52 suburbs? No? Then pop on over. I love this site. It's a beautiful photo tour through a different Sydney suburb each week. I get very excited when this pops up on my feedreader.


Laura said...

I'm afraid I would be feeling the ghosties way too much. Especially in the refurbished restored bit. I remember the building from when I lived in Melbourne 23 years ago.
There's one, two actually, in that pic of M13. I just know they're there. One is hurt and misunderstood. The other one is soothing the first one's feelings, and reassuring them.
Call me weird. Its just a flash of feeling I get.
Nice to walk past though....

Kel said...

building mcmansions or high density townhouses on that site seems plain wrong
i guess because of it's proximity to the city, some people will find it attractive, as for me, no thanks
thanx for telling us about 52 suburbs, i'm a sydney girl by birth, a melbourne girl by choice :) [well, used to be a melbourne girl, now a 3-hours from Melb girl!]
so shall follow that one with interest

M said...

I love walking around my area. I've been on a walk nearly every morning this week and it's amazing how much more connected I feel.
I couldn't live in an apartment inside old Pentridge Prison. No siree.
But I love 52 Suburbs. 'specially as I am a relative newcomer to Sydney. Thanks for highlighting the site!

suse said...

God that 52 suburbs site is just fab, thanks so much! And won't she have a magnificent coffee table book at the end of the project ;)
I reckon YOU should do the Melbourne version, you've got the same knack of seeing snippets of life and capturing them.
ps. a bloke died at the Pentridge site 2 days ago - a building site accident. Was that the day you were there? Another ghost to add to that den of grim histories. Shudder.

librarygirl said...

I did a lot of reading and research about Pentridge for a job I was doing a number of years ago. There is no way I could live there - even if it were exorcised, feng shui'd whatever.
That place is so haunted.

sherrin said...

I've yet to wander through the Pentridge estate, but I'd be interested- my great Grandfather was a chaplin there for some time. I don't think I could live there. I think the vibe would be all wrong. Imagine what's happened there over time.

Kate said...

I listened to this yesterday. As someone who has never driven, who walks around a lot and bikes, I found a lot to identify with. I love exploring new places.

Susan said...

Hello Janet,
On a completely different tack: I am a big fan of abandoned, sad and crumbling buildings.
That top photo, I love it. May I have permission to use it for a painting? You, as photographer, will be named in the title of the painting (eg. possible title "A Part of Pentridge From a Photo by Janet x---x", well, that's how I name my paintings).
That sounds all very grand from a TAFE student. I will have a solo exhibition in about 18 months, give or take a few.
Hope your holiday is a joy.
Sue M. xx

CG said...

Being a foreigner or stupid( call it what you like), I am renting a place in a new developement of Pentridge.....
Its been good so far, but the locals say they wont live here.
Its pretty, line with trees and has lotsa families.
Having a job that keeps irregular hours, Ive been out and about and have yet to see a ghostie...not that I would want to anyway.
Its actually very peaceful and although I firmly believe in negative energy or call it what you may - the spirit of God prevails in any corner of darkness.