Thursday, November 20, 2014

Concrete, a love song

It was while watching a big concrete mixer pull up outside a nearby house the other day and wondering if they were going to get their backyard neatly concreted over that I first thought of writing this. Lalor, Epping, the whole vast expanse of outer northern suburbs out here are largely exercises in concrete. Days after we moved here we learned that P. and M., a couple of doors up from us on this street, had recently got their backyard jacketed in a neat grey coat of concrete. We are a concrete suburb, a suburb that would provide joy to grey and stony hearts of developers and town planners and politicians everywhere. There may even be someone out there now, in some remote street of this obscure suburb, that is getting their whole yard neatly paved over with the good grey stuff, rubbing their hands with pleasure at the thought of what it will look like once they are done.

Many and plentiful are the charms of concrete. It is hard, it is neat, it is grey, it is.... I can't think of any more of its many and plentiful charms right at the moment. But one thing I do like about it is the way this neat and useful substance neatly and usefully records its past. I walked over a footpath the other day that had the form of a leaf finely imprinted within it; other footpaths around here have purposeful lines of cat- or dog-paws printed in them. These sights, like that car I may have mentioned that has been parked for so long in someone's front yard in Preston that is now encrusted with several layers of lichen, or that astroturf lawn down the road from us that has Oxalis poking up through it, bring me an inordinate amount of pleasure.

Does it ever end, this gradual concreting-over that is happening to Lalor? Are we tending to a final end point where the entire suburb will be a uniform grey stretch of this landscaping material, a calming horizontal surface useful for parking cars on, or driving cars over, or otherwise levelling out land that would otherwise be rough and stony and otherwise dirty? Perhaps, though sometimes the process goes in the opposite direction, like that time when my brother came round here with a mallet and cheerfully pounded up several flagstones of concrete in our back garden, yielding us several more feet of rough, stony and otherwise dirty soil for doing gardening in. I know, we're perverse that way. My brother got so excited that when we ran out of flagstones for him to pound, he took out an axe and started chopping up the parts of a tree that had been felled previously. He went off, originally presumably to find more flagstones with his mallet back home.

And that, surprisingly, is the last thing I have to say about concrete for the moment.

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