December 2012 – January 2013

Essays

Robyn Annear

Ballarat–Colac Road

After our daughter flew out of the country, we took three weeks’ holiday. We’d thought of going to New Zealand but changed our minds. If, in her early weeks away, she should need money, need something, need us, it’d be better that we were close to home. The habit of abiding: it was hard to shake.

For the first week we pottered, savouring sweet freedom. Our girl, since the age of 14, had taken the kinds of chances with life that are hard for parents to witness, let alone to mend. Now, with her gone, our watchfulness began to ease. Maybe, we permitted ourselves to think – and even to say – it was going to be okay.

In the second week we bought a new car, with a CD player that worked. This was living.

As the third week approached we said, How about the beach? With no firm plan, on the Tuesday morning we packed the car and pointed it at the coast. We dawdled, stopping at op shops and for coffee along the way.

We ate lunch – sandwiches from home – at the hamlet of Corindhap, where an Avenue of Honour ran parallel to the main road. Of the pines planted back in 1917, not many remained. But the dead trunks of some had been left in place and chainsaw-carved to form great raw-boned sculptures commemorating Corindhap’s human contribution to World War I. A wounded light-horseman slumped on his steed, a woman holding a telegram. A memorial plaque listed 76 locals who went to the war, 11 of whom died there.

It’s tempting to write, in that salute-the-flag style of war memorials, 11 of whom never returned. Only you got the impression that few of those who left ever returned to Corindhap, and that the town never recovered from the generational rupture of the Great War. Now, there was the husk of a house fronting the road and, further on, a shanty pub with a straggle of houses and a church. Mainly, though, it was all farmland, where once sprawled (we later learnt) a gold-rush town called Break o’ Day. Hard to believe there were ever enough homes to send 76 souls to a war.

We pulled off the highway at Cressy to inspect an old iron bridge, above and below. We walked its length, admiring the latticework, and clambered down a bank to see its bluestone piers up close, set in hard mud beside a summer-shrunk creek.

At Colac, we were happy just to loll in the park awhile and watch the mainstreet traffic. Then we turned, unhurried, for home. So much for the pull of the sea.

Back well before dark, we unpacked the car with relief, as if we’d sidestepped an irksome obligation – which we had. Over an improvised dinner, one of us said, That’s the best holiday we ever had. And the other one agreed.

Robyn Annear

Robyn Annear is a writer and historian based in Castlemaine, Victoria. Her books include A City Lost and Found: Whelan the Wrecker’s Melbourne and Fly a Rebel Flag: The Eureka Stockade.

Cover: December 2012 – January 2013

December 2012 – January 2013

From the front page

Six years and counting

There is no hope in sight for hundreds of people on Manus Island and Nauru

The Djab Wurrung Birthing Tree

The highway construction causing irredeemable cultural and environmental damage

Detail of 'Man, Eagle and Eye in the Sky: Two Eagles', by Cai Guo-Qiang

Cai Guo-Qiang’s ‘The Transient Landscape’ and the Terracotta Warriors at the National Gallery of Victoria

The incendiary Chinese artist connects contemporary concerns with cultural history

Image of Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese and CFMEU Victoria secretary John Setka

Judge stymies Albanese’s plans to expel Setka from ALP

A protracted battle is the last thing the Opposition needs


In This Issue

Image from ‘The Last Diggers’ by Ross Coulthart. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

Lest We Inflate

Why do Australians lust for heroic war stories?

Words: Shane Maloney | Illustration: Chris Grosz

Richard Neville & Charles Sobhraj

John McTernan, Parliament House, Canberra, 20 April 2012. © Penny Bradfield/Fairfax Syndication

The Strategist

Julia Gillard’s hard-nosed director of communications

‘Love Story’ by Florian Habicht (director), In limited release

‘Love Story’ by Florian Habicht (director)


More in Summer Reading

Children performing for tourists in Sinuiju, North Korea. © Linda Jaivin

A day in North Korea

Big statues, high swings and a ‘Sound of Music’ sing-along

 Warrego Highway, Miles, on the Western Downs. © Nicholas Purcell

Pianos of small-town Queensland

A tour of instruments and their owners

Ocean Drive, Miami. © Virginia Duran

Back to Miami

A dip into childhood

Vincent van Gogh, The Night Cafe (1888). © Wikimedia Commons

To Holland and back with van Gogh

In search of home


Read on

Image of Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese and CFMEU Victoria secretary John Setka

Judge stymies Albanese’s plans to expel Setka from ALP

A protracted battle is the last thing the Opposition needs

Image from ‘Booksmart’

Meritocracy rules in ‘Booksmart’

Those who work hard learn to play hard in Olivia Wilde’s high-school comedy

Image of Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg

The government’s perverse pursuit of surplus

Aiming to be back in black in the current climate is bad economics

Image of Blixa Bargeld at Dark Mofo

Dark Mofo 2019: Blixa Bargeld

The German musician presides over a suitably unpredictable evening


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