I recently submitted to my publisher, Australian Scholarly Publishing, the manuscript of my forthcoming book Melbourne Circle: Walking, Memory and Loss. The book originated in posts on this blog – it is an account of a journey on foot around Melbourne in the years 2014-16 which I made with my wife, Lynne. On the way we observed the kind of things you’ll find in these posts – ghost signs, derelict buildings and lost places – and we uncovered countless forgotten stories and characters from the past.
In 2018, after I’d finished writing this blog, I experienced another kind of loss when Lynne died of cancer. Writing the book about our walks became a way not just of exploring the history of Melbourne but of coping with my grief by telling our story. The book Melbourne Circle is a personal memoir as much as it is travelogue or social history. In addition to some sections which originated as blog posts, the book reflects on how our lives unfolded in the Melbourne suburbs, and how we built meanings together through our relationships with these places.
As the title suggests, the themes of the book are loss, memory, connection to place, and regeneration. All of this adds up to what I understand as ‘psychogeography’, meaning a recognition of our connection with place as a key to the meanings of our lives.
The book will be published in late 2020 – for more updates, check in again here or follow me on Facebook or Twitter.
I had a great chat with arts reporter Fiona Gruber about some of my favourite Melbourne ghostsigns on Radio National’s Blueprint for Living program on 23 May. We talked about medical clairvoyants, signwriting, and the way intriguing stories are hidden behind public typography. You can check out the audio here.
After two and a half years of circumnavigating the city, and more than 60 walks through more than 40 suburbs, we have reached the final walk, and today we are completing the circle. Beginning at Westgate Park, just below the West Gate Bridge, we are going for one final stroll around Port Melbourne and Fishermans Bend before jumping on the Punt back to the western side of the bay and returning to the point where the circle began in 2014. Continue reading
You get used to typical streetscapes in Melbourne – rows of small Victorian cottages, red brick Edwardian houses in established middle-class suburbs, clusters of oversized mansions in newer developments here and there, occasional hip architect-designed boxes, and the Housing Commission towers that punctuate the city like exclamation marks. Most of it is pretty familiar after a while. But heading east from Graham Street and south of Williamstown Road in Port Melbourne, we came across streets like nothing we had seen before – at least, not in this city. It felt as if we had stumbled through some time-and-travel machine into a British housing estate. (The fact that it was raining as we walked probably added to the illusion). In fact it was a utopian social experiment from the 1920s. Continue reading
This blog isn’t just about ghostsigns, architecture, and quirky tales of local history. It’s about an experience of the whole city – including the areas that might not be thought of as attractive for a recreational walk. The most unprepossessing parts of town can be as intriguing as any other. With this in mind we walked through the Port Melbourne industrial zone and headed towards the Westgate Bridge. Continue reading