All of us need to frolic sometimes. With the weather finally normal, I headed off today to The Children's Garden at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne. Above is the wonderful sculpture by Louis Laumen "unveiled by the children of Victoria, Thursday 16 November 2000, in the presence of Norman Lindsay's grandchildren" of the key characters from Norman Lindsay's runaway classic, The Magic Pudding, published in 1918.
Most immediate entry is though The Observatory Gate. The Observatory itself, no longer state-of-the-art, has become instead a splendid folly, setting the tone.
You're met by this glorious sculpture, which I'd almost steal if I had a shopping trolley large enough...
...past this, a former residence, which I like for its subtle colouring and humility.
Outside the Visitors' Centre, the wackiest of wattles, Acacia glaucoptera, from Western Australia.
The Gardens are beautifully maintained. Since I used to nip in here while still at school, I still find them disarmingly gracious.
Outside The Children's Garden are these inexplicit, organic topiary. The creeper here is a Muehlenbeckia species.
Enter all. I've not seen children so naturally playing, without tantrums, as I did here, for a long time. The idea is to get involved with the landscape, a hard thing not to do.
You would, wouldn't you, with a tree trunk like this to explore? I remember we had something like it as children, my brother being the only one brave enough to defy the spiders.
These are gardens specifically designed that children feel free to run and play. Most of the planting is soft, muted, inviting...
and native. A flowering Corymbia, closely related to the Eucalypts, above, shows itself as a colourful, encouraging personality.
Not everything's softly, softly - nor should it be. The world is the world, and to grow and become capable, children need to be allowed to encounter a certain realism. Here, children can climb and run and muck about. I remember having that right. It seems to me, today, in this fearful world, that's something that's being denied them, some naturalness.
This is Australia, after all, land of the robust. "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger" sounds callous, but who would want to become feeble? Here, in this gentlest of spaces amongst the snow-gums, where mothers chat, children are allowed to be themselves.
This wonderful cubby house is made from bamboo. Perfectly suitable for any adult too, I'd say.
Here's the hapless, surly pudding himself, "Albert", known in this rollicking story to prefer to be eaten, having the propensity to re-form any part taken from him, and being able to be whatever type of pudding its eater would like.
And here, along with Bill Barnacle the sailor and Sam Sawnoff the penguin, is Bunyip Bluegum, koala, a protector of the unending pud.
This aint Disneyland, no offence to all of you who prefer your culture with saccharine. This is where the strong evolve and the meek are welcome.
From outside of the Gardens, and in the domain of the neighbouring Shrine of Remembrance, where the fallen of Australia's battles are honoured, this statue represents innocence worth fighting for. If I were a guardian angel, this is where I'd like my realm.