"Shipwrecked in the Antarctic" in the 1860s ( my mother's cousin wrote in 1978, after visiting Denmark ), my great-great grandfather, Thomas Chistensen Kragh, of the Royal Danish Navy, was rescued and soon put down in Adelaide. I mention this only because I too seem to have an aptitude for Incidents Involving Boats, and am grateful to be on dry land.
But here I am in the present, on an autumn day, in the Alexandra Gardens, on the southern bank of the Yarra River. I've temporarily turned my back on the CBD, across which they look to.
First laid out in 1901 by Carlo Catani, the gardens belong to a vast stretch of green space called the Domain parklands, which include our Royal Botanic Gardens.
The Alexandra Gardens were built for the visit of the Duke of York in May 1901, and named in honour of the beautiful Alexandra of Denmark, wife and queen consort of Edward VII. We are not related, I am disappointed to say, my ancestor having been born on the tiny island of Samso, off the Jutland Peninsula, now famous for its development of renewable energy. I hope he'd have loved stone-work like this, as I do.
Tiered with locally-found basalt, the beds are full of succulents, palms, Euphorbias, grasses and Echiums.
Turning my camera behind me, see here a view across the river to Federation Square. It was never there, many years' ago in my youth...
...but this was, this boathouse, belonging to my school. It was from here, three times a week, that this very unable seaman, now remembering different pasts, rowed out on the muddy river, without any real hope of navigating his way back. I belonged to a crew known as 'The Gentlemen's Eight,' expert at floundering mid-river, coming last in any race and needing rescue. Oh, Thomas, at least you made it to the other side of the globe!
Steps, such as these, just after you cross Princes Bridge, are made for those who come after those who came before.
Have I found my feet? Would I rather not sail away to a farm in Denmark? This country, down here, has been 'made' by newcomers, by stragglers, by adventurers. If it wasn't for its gardens, for its landscapes, I'd almost be back in that "Gentlemen's Eight,' meandering out to sea, prepared to hit an ice-shelf...but there's too much here moving forward to feel stranded.