Saturday, November 17, 2012

Anchorage at Willy

If only something about today had gone right, I've been thinking, as I left Zara at home, to venture out unguardedly...
perhaps I'd never have left my breakfast uneaten to see the world, or some balmy, un-bicycled, leashless fragment of it. And have shambled and chugged my way along, due to railway repairs, on a total of ten rail journeys, not to mention the bus trip and the bus trip that didn't happen, meaning I spent an hour walking home, and got myself over to the other side of the bay, to Williamstown, named after William IV, to this site of respite, pleasantly green as it vibrantly is...

I have much feeling for this beautiful garden, though my last visit had been during the drought, when so much was dead and derelict. Williamstown Botanic Garden, way over woop-woop, on the other side of town, is "one of the oldest municipal gardens in Victoria. In 1905-6 the original layout was supplemented by the addition of the Jubilee Fountain and lake. The massive Glasgow-built entrance gates came from the mansion "Fairlea", South Yarra in 1907." Suffice to say it has been re-born.
Designed by Edward Latrobe Bateman, a cousin of our then governor, and opened in 1860, it remains a significant part of Melbourne's cultural and maritime heritage. Getting there, for me, was difficult. If only I had some sort of boat that could sail effortlessly over poor public transport systems. A boat that would take doggies...
I'd imagine no-one much knows much about Melbourne's significance. But it does swing. Or sometimes swings, given the appalling traffic conditions. It also slumps, as it did for me, feigning indifference, reading the Saturday paper, staring out of the window, dogless. Nonetheless, the Victorian geometry is striking. No, I forgot to bring a cool drink, so I kept on snapping...
at the pool of water,desperately empty on my last visit, where there were ( not shown ) ducks.
No-one visiting could fail to be impressed. Everywhere there were, or are, agaves, succulents, palms, unexpected tokens of the past - ( I didn't notice a Golden Elm, by the way, not that that matters ) -
  such as this bit of signage, a legacy of prior days, still here, still nailed into place, as I was, all Saturday.
Williamstown situates itself on a little peninsula to the south-west of the CBD and was at first considered as the site of the fledgling capital. It has a character like no other part of Melbourne, full as it is with Victorian doll-house abodes, enormously wide streets, a riveting nautical swagger and the wift of salt-laden breezes so suggestive of intriguing Mediterranean-ish garden-scapes.
The Victorians went mental for exotica like this. Myself, I still go mental.
And even more mental to come across statuary like this, behind which plies the ocean, reminding fey visitors to this tranquil sanctuary that however difficult it was to arrive, the greenery will assuage all.
Isn't it wonderful to travel some rather troublesomely circuitous way to find the past smack bang and alive?
A gorgeous tree, this West Australian flowering gum. I could live here. That's what I was thinking, the whole of my hurried trip: I could live here, if it wasn't for the fact I'd be a sort of vagrant.
And the pretence of living a sort of 19th century vagabondish man-of-the-trees-cum-hermit life, no longer able to shave, let alone have a decent bath, except with ducks in the full glare of publicly civic perambulations, would probably gall me more than Melbourne's laggardly, inexplicably discomoding public transport system.
If I were to be galled. This sapling, though, reminds me of a finer continuity, where gall belongs to wasps, or those being waspish,
not to me here, in this particular piece of real estate, re-made and re-articulated for a new century.


  1. Dear Faisal,

    I did enjoy this post. It made me smile.

    I often used to think that I would like to live in a park and then, when the gates were closed come out and do exactly what I liked - a sort of botanical gardens Peter Pan. I particularly felt like this in the Melbourne Botanical Gardens and at the gardens at the base of Maroondah Dam.

    But now, as an ageing adult who likes comfortable arm chairs and cups of tea, I take a differing view. . .

    Bye the way, whose statue is that? He appears to have a big beard but I cannot read the inscription.


    Some time ago we found out that AGA's ancestors arrived at Williamstown in 1838 - I bet it looked rather different back then!

    1. Hello Kirk,
      the statue represents the Hon. Alfred Thomas Clark, MLA, "Representative for Williamstown in the Legislative Assembly of Victoria from 16th March 1871 to 11th October 1887."
      If only they'd let you stay in a Botanic Garden as long as you wanted AND serve cups of tea on request!
      Cheers Kirk,

  2. It sure was nice to have this walk with you. Among many things you had me bathing with ducks! I feel a lot better!

    1. That's great Roger! Ducks always seem to be smiling, so swimming with them must be fun. Much better that their plastic cousins!

  3. looking at this post and the last, the thing that keep whacking me upside the head is the similarity AND difference of the flora between your here and my here. egad, and yet so familiar. how is that possible!? reminds me of reading perelandra. (did i remember that spelling right?)

  4. Hi Velma,
    I've not read Perelandra yet. They say we're upside-down here...I guess that means it's the same as elewhere, you just need to twist yourself around a bit to see us.

  5. Replies
    1. Hey James, it was my favourite photo of the lot. I didn't think anyone would notice.

  6. There is something very special about botanical gardens. I'm sorry that the drought destroyed so much. I think botanical gardens should have exemption from water regulations. Of the photos, my favourites are the gates, because they are so delicate and magical looking, and the last picture, because of the rhythms and movement in the shapes.

  7. Thankyou Jenny! I too liked the last photo because of its rhythm.
    The drought knocked alot of gardens out, and it knocked alot of gardeners out! It also showed how we can respond constructively, and continue to make gardens, in new ways.
    I too wouldn't want to be without botanical/public gardens!

  8. A beautiful park, Faisal despite the unwelcoming signs. Well done for triumphing over the Melbourne transport system! Mind you shambling and chugging is a fine mode of transport. Dave

    1. Hey thanks Dave. Got there, eventually. Yeah, you've got to go with the flow, however constipated.

  9. lovely garden, very distinctive character, quite different to all the others. never been there, which is ridiculous.

  10. Utterly ridiculous Catmint! You have no excuse whatsoever! AND you have a car!
    Seriously - you'd love it. It's quality is high, given that it's essentially a suburban public space.
    Take a picnic basket or get some fish and chips down on the Esplanade. Give yourself lots of time.