I don’t remember any of these houses. Not one. I’m driving down the first street I lived in. My home town. Where I rode my first bike.
Nothing is familiar. The picture in my mind of Britannia Street is so different. The homes were bigger. More impressive. These images don’t match.
I returned to have a look last week. The house that Dad built so long ago, when the street was bare, is tiny. Almost box-like. My mind had it as big as a castle.
I’ve been back before over the years, and never noticed. Or didn’t want to. Now I do.
I tried to peer over a fence, without getting arrested. Dad’s old garage was mostly intact. But the rest of the yard was unrecognisable.
It shouldn’t be a surprise. We’re going back more than four decades. What was I expecting?
It sent me on a mission, to see what else had changed. And what remains, in the place of my childhood.
A few streets away, I found a lovely brick home. Right where our old fibro rental house use to sit. Where we moved to when Dad’s business collapsed.
That wonderful backyard is gone. No more cricket games. The orange tree, so handy for shade while having a cool drink, is no more.
Somehow, the old laneway behind all those modern homes, has survived the area’s revamp. The short stretch where the Old Man taught me how to steer his beloved Holden. I drove down it again. Slowly.
Across the road, sits the primary school I went to. Now surrounded by a giant, imposing, dark green fence. Keeping the vandals out, and the students in. We never needed a giant fence.
My journey took me a little further up the road. The short stroll I made to catch the bus to high school. It’s all different.
There was a milk bar I used to stop at each afternoon. A strange old man and his wife ran it. There would be extras in the lolly bag. It’s now a real estate agency.
Around the corner, I would spend time in the local bike shop. Nothing like the smell of new rubber.
The bloke would show me his latest skateboard. Spin the wheels. I’d imagine how cool it would be to own one. But it was too expensive.
The bikes and skateboards are now but a memory. Replaced by a Homewares shop. Whatever that is.
Keep going down that road, take a right, and you’ll find the oval that I did laps of. The place where Dad took charge of the Under 7 soccer side. Even though he’d never seen the world game played.
What made that field stand out from everywhere else, was it’s old, creaking grandstand. About ten rows of solid wood. We’d sit there when it rained. Or when it was too hot. Or when there was a schoolboy secret to be told.
It’s gone now. There’s no-where to sit. The adjacent van park has swallowed it up. Room for one more holiday cabin.
Next stop was my old high school. Which I discovered is no longer a high school.
It’s been re-branded as a Secondary Campus. Whatever that is. But some things don’t change.
I snuck down a driveway, and found two blocks, that are exactly the same as the day I walked out, more than thirty years ago.
They haven’t been touched. Not so much as a lick of paint. The adjacent toilet block, where we fought off being flushed on a daily basis, is exactly the same.
It seemed to be the only place of my childhood that hadn’t disappeared. Even though it was the one that needed change the most. So much for progress.
I wanted to check out one final location. A place that gave us lots of fun, for very little outlay.
Plenty of Sundays were spent on the magic waterways of my home town, riding around in small, wooden hire boats. If we were lucky, we’d get one with a half cabin.
A group of us would carry on a carton of cool drinks and a hot chook, and leave our problems on the shoreline. How we didn’t end up on a beach in Fiji is beyond me. But somehow, we always returned safe and sound.
The homes surrounding the boathouse have all changed. Those little holiday shacks have been replaced by expensive coastal cottages.
But tucked behind them, is my boat hire place. Exactly as I remembered it. And those original boats are still there. Right down to the colour, and the names. I almost danced a jig on the end of that little wharf.
Things change. People, too. I get that. Especially over such a time frame. The price of getting older.
We can’t stop progress. Even if it’s painful sometimes.
But while the buildings might be gone, they can’t demolish my memories. Even if I’ve built on them a little.
That’s the beauty of reminiscing. Things get bigger and better with time. Except when it comes to hire boats. They stay exactly the same. Bless them.