landscape and engineering

Another way to look at today is our progress out of the city: under the Harbour and up the expressway to Naremburn with its Victorian workers cottages; down through Sailor’s Bay Creek and up through Willoughby and Roseville with their California Bungalows from the 1920s and 30s; down over Middle Creek and up to Forestville and Frenchs Forest with their houses beginning in the 1960s. Successive waves of development further and further from the city, depending on the construction of Northbridge and Roseville Bridge respectively.

Then Scotland Island and Kuring-gai Chase and Cottage Point, all aristocratically inaccessible and beautiful. My own early-childhood-imprinted wilderness, my goanna sprawled insouciantly across the road. Wooded fjords and sailboats and Pittwater full of flashing fish.

“It takes a real commitment to self-dramatization to have an unhappy childhood in a place like this,” I said to Jeremy.

“You put a lot of effort in,” he said.

Barraba is similarly indebted to engineering marvels, in its case Split Rock Dam and Woodsreef Mine. The dam and the controversial tailings pile were separated at birth, as I pointed out to my brother-in-law after he’d graciously driven us all around and explained what he knew about them.

“Piles of dirt,” I said. “Men never grow out of your Tonka toys, do you?”

Woodsreef, when it was being mined, let Barraba grow to a population of 3000. The town has since dwindled to a third of that size. The missing pipeline from Split Rock Dam, if it is ever completed, would allow the lost population to return. The downside of Woodsreef is that the miners were mining asbestos, a mineral now so reviled in Australia that my sister asked us not to visit the mine, or if we did, at least not to get out of the car. I made sure when I got back to her house to cough theatrically. I am obnoxious.

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