Tuesday, 7 June 2005

the Weather

It's the 7th of June, and by rights it should have been drizzling from low, thick clouds, cold wind whipping down your neck and around your ankles, damp umbrellas and puddles everywhere and everyone smelling of warm damp wool - but today was one of Melbourne's loveliest. Climate change, uh huh. I think it has rained once or maybe twice in the last six weeks.

Walking from my department building to the library this afternoon, I felt again the full force of how good it is that they gave me this teaching job for the next two years. I really, really love this campus and I am far from being ready to leave it behind. It took me a little while to see its beauty - maybe three years - but I did see it in the end. I think some Melbourne readers will recognise which university I'm talking about: I wonder how many of you have been down my path of thinking it the ugliest, godforsakenest spot in the state but ending up actually liking the way it looks? At first it looked to me, as it looks to most students when they first get here, like a collection of piles of flat suburban bricks trimmed with bronze aluminium window frames and square concrete pillars. Then, I started to notice the trees, the meadows, the birds, the water. The no cars. The near-complete absence of haranguing advertising signs. It's hard off-hand to think of another place I spend much time in where you can walk around and think, or not think, just as you choose, without having to worry about being run over or trying to block out media interference. The worst that can happen is a duck might try to bite you if you walk too near its ducklings. And that's only in spring.

The older parts of the university are all built of the same plain light brown brick rising in columns, with long windows between them, and simple flat roofs. The grass and trees and waterways run right up to the buildings. Being in these grounds year after year teaches you something about what style of living is intended, or aimed at, by classical architecture.

These photographs were taken in March, but other than the brightness of the light having mellowed a little, nothing much has changed.

One day when I was a fair bit younger and sillier I stood on a bridge watching a gardener row a long flat shallow-bottomed boat up this body of water. "Just like in Brideshead Revisited" I thought to myself. "Eights and Blues and punts and tea on the river Isis." But then he stopped in the shallows, picked up a mean-looking metal hook, and proceeded to wrestle a weed-covered supermarket trolley up out of the water.

I am overjoyed to belong to the most bogan university in all the nation. Maybe in the world.

So yes, the weather is nice here at the moment. I hope my weather-enhanced feeling of contentment lasts....


Mel said...

Surely the most bogan university in Australia is ADFA!

Lucy Tartan said...

After reading the article in this month's Monthly (which mag is really pretty good overall, I'm considering retracting my premature dismissal), I totally have to agree with you.
Still, a dismembered corpse was fished up out of the moat here not long ago, that's a bit bogan surely?

dogpossum said...

i was staying on a university campus in the south of england last year at this exact time of year (actually the weather was exactly the same as today) and i had a moment of confused 'where am i?'. university campuses are the SAME where ever you are in the commonwealth (i almost wrote world but chicked out). especially when they have that red/orange brick 60s/70s thing going on....

i'm fond of this melbourne campus too, laura. i like the trees and grasses. reminds me of UQ's st lucia campus. sort of (for more descriptions of that campus try nick earls' books).

Zoe said...

oh me too on the monthly. I really liked the 2nd one

Ben.H said...

Laura, the old saying round that Uni is that you know you've been there too long when you can tell the buildings apart.

Having spent quality time there a few years ago busily flunking a second degree, I agree I found it very relaxing, although I had a yearning to wear brown velour when wandering round the campus.

boynton said...

I was always impressed by it as a visitor, having spent too long in the cramped one with the 50's Library and a coupla Gumtrees.
And better looking than the wind tunnel on the side of town? (in fairness I haven't seen that campus for years)

An interesting question about Design for Thinking. I wonder if there's been any comparative studies of campuses.
Even 'the phenomenology' thereof?

FXH said...

Is that La Trobe - that French University?

R H said...

When I worked at Mont Park psychiatric hospital, a tall wire fence separated it from Latrobe university. Some of our patients would crawl through a hole in the fence and stroll the grounds of Latrobe campus. They'd use the cafeteria there, and the computers too.

One of these patients was a young, big fat bloke.

"Mont Park, car park. Car park, Mont park. My mother's sending me down a ticket to fly up to Sydney."

That's what he'd yell, over and over.

One night he went missing. Next morning we found him dead in the grounds of Latrobe, covered with an inch of frost.

If it is Latrobe you're describing, the body fished out of the water was probably ours as well.

Mallrat said...

god i love this thread.
I didn't stay at that uni long enough to love it the way you do, Laura. but i like dthe students better than at the sandstone one i went to.
hey that is such a wonderful anecdote about the shopping trolley (well of courdse i'd love it).

Arty said...

Someone I work with here just told me she was thrown in the moat at that very spot; later on they saw the moat drained and full of big spikes she had luckily missed. So there you go.

tony said...

It's very bogan. Walking back from an linguistics assessment, I strolled past the amphitheatre over the moat and spied 5 blokes sucking back on a whole slab of Bundaberg Rum cans on the top step. Kinda felt like joining them but I had to drive home.