An ode to a place, and a sense of place.
This place. A moat rings it; of refineries, chemical plants, sewerage retention ponds, a forgotten munition dump, an artificial hill built of rubbish, an artificial lake two feet deep. Soon a plant will open to process the nation’s contaminated soil. On this place’s doorstep.
The moat keeps most out, the same people who rely upon what that in the moat provides for their living standards. But the moat also holds us in, we of Altona. This place, ours, that we see, grabs a piece of our soul and clutches it tight.
The sweltering summer days bring the hordes. The pier juts into the bay, kids somersault off whilst the tiny life-saving club keeps watch. Down the western end, the sun bakes the seagrass that washes up, creating a powerful aroma only we of Altona can smile at.
In the short, gloomy days of August, the bay and sky merge in grey. On a calm day, the pelicans, black swans, egrets and terns all cluster to feed in the shallows of low tide. When the wind from the south whips up a frenzy, there isn’t a soul about; just the occasional surfer riding the storm waves from the end of the pier to the beach.
Walk into the local dry-cleaner, and you will find a signed photo of a past prime minister thanking the proprietor for looking after her pant-suits with such diligence. Walk into the Bowls Club, and a foghorn will sound when your order from the Bistro is ready.
This place, that we of Altona have loved for four years. A place that for me nurtured the building of an achieved identity, without having to ascribe it. A place that was there in dark times to help the healing. A place where with aching longing, we welcomed our first child.
Now we must go. Back to whence we came from, with aching longing to the family we originally left.