Friday, 6 December 2019

Visual disturbances: Six

These photos were taken, on 3 August 2008, while I was visiting the capital of the state of Victoria. At some point during the afternoon or late morning on that day I walked from Melbourne’s central business district to the suburb of Fitzroy. Later that day, in the evening as it was getting dark, I walked to Carlton, another inner-city enclave.

This photo of a burning motorcycle taken that day at 1.07pm, from the doorway of a restaurant on Johnston Street in Fitzroy, neatly echoes the theme of armed revolt that emerges in what follows below. (I don’t remember, unfortunately, what I ate for lunch.)

The rest of the photos that are shown below were taken between 5.37pm and 6.15pm. The final shot shows Drummond Street as seen from the front door of Carlton’s La Mama Theatre, where I went to see a play. I don’t remember too much about that day, but the play’s title is ‘Three Oaks’. Its final performance at the theatre was on 10 August, so this must be the one (I looked up the details online). The playwright’s name is Monica Raszewski.

That evening’s migrant theme fits a pattern as my grandfather, who came to this country from Africa in around 1925, was from the earliest parts of his sojourn in Melbourne – which would last until his death in 1979 – a staunch supporter of the Carlton Football Club. He died a few years after the revolution in what is now Mozambique but which, when he had lived there, was called Portuguese East Africa. 

"Self taught to speak and read English and proud of it," wrote my father Peter in his memoir (which he started in the early 90s in his retirement), "I understand that my father’s view of the world was that the British knew the best way to govern and both he and Maria Nazaré (his sister) desired to have English spouses and live in English speaking countries.” This expressed sentiment could, of course, merely indicate the bias that influenced my father’s memory. We’ll never know.

In 2011, dad died from septicaemia stemming from refractory (stubborn) urosepsis which, it is recorded on his death certificate, existed for two years prior to his demise. Before entering the nursing home in 2009 he been forced, for a period of about two years, to empty his bladder using catheters inserted into his penis. Eventually, he had a permanent catheter installed so that he could micturate. Dad also had Alzheimer’s disease, which had marked his life for at least three years.

So we never knew for sure why Joao Luis left the home he grew up in, although he did go on a long trek overland when he was 18, visiting different countries, including South Africa, where his sister ended up living.

There were more mysteries about my father’s parents that in time I learned about, but this one remains intact. No-one in the Portuguese arms of the family knows the answer to the question. Joao Luis’ father had been the chief of police in the colonial capital, so Joao Luis had been practically guaranteed a comfortable life if he had chosen to remain at home but perhaps, in addition to admiring our British heritage, he anticipated by 50 years the upheavals.

I was born in Melbourne but grew up in Sydney. When I was 10 days old my mother, with me in her arms and my brother in tow, relocated to the capital of New South Wales. In these photos you can see some of Melbourne’s wide streets which, when the city was designed, were set out in a regular grid. This pattern extends right across the city and contrasts starkly with Sydney’s disorganised road network, which grew haphazard from a tiny core at the end of the 18th century. 

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