I've been reading a few blogs as people in the northern hemisphere enjoy road trips to their quaint past, re-visit their childhood villages in England or prepare for the old fashioned delights of French cottage holidays or indeed just live in picturesque little country towns where there is a sense of unchanging community. People know each other, chat with each other. Go to their 'local' to meet and greet and the same man has owned the sweet shop or the little bakery for ever and ever. Nothing much has changed over past decades.
Working for Landcom has been an education in urban planning for me. With the recent budget stimulus to encourage 'affordable housing' Landcom is madly creating subdivisions in Sydney's outer suburbs. Planned recreation grounds, integrated shops and businesses, sweet little houses that are oh-so-modern and all with predictably kitch names such as Cecil Hills, The Ponds, Newbury and Red Gum. "Excellence in social and environmental sustainability" because they have 'people' in mind. And yes, they're lovely but much like the environs in which I now find myself . . totally without soul or the things that 'make' a community - People actually coming together, interacting and enjoying the facilities built for their use.
My neck of the woods was once all market gardens and bronzed Italians labouring over their brussel sprouts and flower fields and now it's just huge, clean, characterless urban sprawl. Man- made beauty that all of a sudden looks decidedly ugly.
I took my dog and my camera for the Sunday walk was along the usual route. What was once picturesque fields with kiddy constructed cubby houses and arm breaking tyre swings, huge gum trees, winding creeks, riding tracks and ramshackle abandoned homesteads, is now pristine light commercial industrial 'park' and over-priced McMansions but nobody seems to mind building an expensive house in the middle of an office complex, around a fake lake and where all the trees have been felled to maximise land usage. They don't seem to 'enjoy' a sense of community . . .at least on a warm Sunday afternoon.
We left through the back paddock fence. I think Laurie would have liked to come with us but having just had his rug taken off after a week, he promptly found the dirtiest patch in the paddock and rolled in it . . I'm not taking him anywhere dressed like that!
We headed about 200 metres through our back fence onto the yellow brick road which now wends it's artificially planted way towards Bella Vista Homestead . .
To the right, there are expensive McMansions right in the shadow of the Woolworths Head Office, an absolute towering monstrosity. I wouldn't want to be the person who delivers the mail to each department, they'd need a golf cart to get round. Who pays for these $800,000 - $1.2 million houses next to an office block?
We are a "Tidy Town" The place is littered with rubbish bins that nobody uses . . .
Playgrounds so ergonomically correct and risk-free that children don't want to play on them.
I have never seen this one used.
Barbecue / picnic tables that have never hosted a red and white chequered tablecloth let alone a snag in a bun!
Suburban park benches that nobody sits on . . well there's no view, just a park bench on a man-made path lined with man-made gardens, looking over man-made roofage.
The streets are bare. Nobody walking, nobody gardening. Where are they all? And the most significant thing is the lack of sound. Not so much as a dog bark or a child's laugh. Of course these places are so expensive that their inhabitants' children have probably all grown up and moved away. Peering into back yards, I saw lap pools and pergolas, shade cloth entertainment areas and water features but not a single child's plaything or swing.
Oh it's very pretty with a man-made lake and a man-made fountain which is adjacent to a man-made 4 lane boulevard streaming with so much traffic hey had to build a walkway under the road so that people can cross . . .
Man-made offices and man made shops and a bunch of man-made restaurants and we're supposed to believe this emulates a 'harbour' view. Hey, chuck a few ducks on it and we'll have the punters eating out of our hands.
Man-made roundabouts that nobody goes round and man-made gardens with carefully contrived, maintenance-free, drought-hardy native plants and dyed pinebark so that it retains it's red colour. The natural stuff goes grey in days and that would never do.
Back past the roundabout, along the man-made path around the man-made lake and back to my little piece of country. We walked about 5kms and barely saw a soul apart from the Chinese fisherman trying to catch the introduced decorative carp in the man-made lake and a nice elderly couple taking some stale bread to feed the ducks.
Laurie's still there, standing at the back paddock gate an hour or so later . . not happy but eager to check out the camera . . hey, it might be man-made but it could possibly be edible!