Day eleven to thirteen

by stronged

As my time at the Bend comes to a close I sneak in another walk and three more interviews.

11

I trekked into RMIT today to meet with Adrian. I felt great trepidation about fronting up to our meeting without anything to show him but was surprised to find him hand-balling the responsibility of my project to me. And rightly so. After all, it is my project and I should be the one pushing myself to perform rather than my supervisor. That’s not his job. If I am not performing to the degree I believe i should be then I am the one to blame, and I should hold myself accountable rather than Adrian guilt-tripping me or creating anxiety around deadlines.

Adrian asked me about when he should expect some written material and to see my k-film. I set myself the goal to have a rough cut of my k-film done by the next korsakow group meet-up (Monday), and at least one chapter for Adrian to look at for our next meeting. I am already feeling like I will not make either deadlines but will keep my head down over the weekend in order to try to meet them.

I experienced a mini-break-through checking my emails more thoroughly at the Honours lab. I found that David Seamon had posted a new article about the phenomenological aspect of diary-keeping when recording our understanding and strengthening sense of place. This is exactly the tact I was hoping to take when piecing together my exegesis. A more informal approach to understanding the major concepts behind placemaking.

Whilst I was in at RMIT I went to the equipment loans department in building 9 to ask them to charge one of the battery packs for the marantz kit I have on loan. Out of nowhere I copped attitude from one of the techies for bringing the kit back late. I explained I had it on loan until the next day. He checked and found I was correct. No apology was given.

I then asked whether I could grab a new battery pack from him as the kits do not come with a battery charger. He refused to give me a fresh pack as he believed he already had done me a favour in letting me loan the kit for a whole week. Sigh. I don’t know what was up with this guy, but it seemed like he’d woken up on the wrong side of the bed. To explain, he wasn’t really “doing me a favour” by letting me loan the marantz kit for an entire week as it is one of the old kits that is hardly used any more. Plus, I gave him the option to call me up at any time and I would be happy to return it. He seemed fine with that deal when I originally loaned it from him.

Anyway, before he got on a roll again to guilt-trip me I stopped him and asked whether he would charge my battery or not. He finally agreed to and I said I would be back to pick it up.

I shopped on the way back out to the Bend as I was expecting friends for dinner. To prevent a Shining happening, I needed some kind of social interaction that was different from interviewing people about my project. So I am incredibly grateful for my friend Richie and his wife Erin who rocked up for dinner.

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During dinner I received a phone call from my brothers in-laws who have gotten back from the family holiday early; Ross and Cric live in the house next door to my brothers so they were checking in with me to see whether I was doing alright out here in the sticks – which is nice. I arranged to have a chat with them on Friday morning for them to take part in Placing the Bend.

12

I decided to set aside this day to compile my interview material. I already had done 11 interviews so the material I needed to sift through was enormous. Thankfully the weather was awful outside, gusts of bone-chilling wind, rain and even hail whipped through the canopy. Wasn’t the most welcoming weather to take a stroll and capture some of the environment.

When you scroll through material you have recorded, you start to understand where you have gone wrong and what is useable. I found particular keywords that I used in my questions backfired in the answers given. For example, asking Tom about whether he or his family are (or were) apprehensive about their water use considering all of their drinking water is self-collected tank water, I used the word “consumption.” Listening back, Tom uses the same word in his answer without any context around it (i.e. “So I don’t really have any concerns about consumption”). This could mean ANYTHING! Consumption of food or liquids, even consumption in regards to tuberculosis! I was pretty annoyed when I listened back to that rookie mistake. Should’ve known better.

I also found it interesting listening to my interview with Rodrigo. At the time I found it was a little strange that his partner and child in the kitchen next to us would hush down whenever I spoke and then continued banging pots and pans when he spoke. This was a funny realisation that I had, it seemed they were more interested in my questions rather than Rodrigo’s answers as I presume they felt they already knew what he would say. Plus, I guess listening to what I asked gave his partner the heads up about the project and what I could potentially ask her.

In the process of listening back to the interviews I was trying to map out common themes and topics that may act as consistent threads through the voice over. I was searching for patterns – still am. And this may also help with figuring out the keywords I should use in creating my k-film.

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I got to a stage where I was starting to lose my mind so I decided to take a walk. Especially having not exercised all day I felt a bit edgy.  I decided to walk the trail Liz and Pete recommended I take last weekend. The weather had cleared up by this stage so I wasn’t too concerned by that – although the sun quickly sinking behind the ridge was reason to set a cracking pace.

Walking down Gongflers and Catani I found plenty of debris on the roads from the wind and snapped trees that had taken out numerous other surrounding plants in it’s wake.

I soon found myself in the back yard of Liz and Pete’s facing the river. I could see what resembled a trail through the bush so decided I’d give it a red hot go.

The trail threads through the back of the lower Catani properties along the river bank to finish at Henley Road. As there is (i think) a 30 metre belt of land from the river that is Crown owned (Common land), anyone can walk within it without technically trespassing through private property. This did not remedy the anxieties I felt strolling through the back of people’s properties though!

There are some absolutely stunning blocks of property down there though. I also came across wallabies, wombats, ducks, cockatoos and all manner of insects.

It started to become dark so I cut back into lower Catani and walked back to Gongflers along the road.

13

I made my way over to Ross and Cric’s place first thing. Setting up my equipment I discovered the batteries were flat and the batteries I thought the techy charged were also flat(!). Felt very unprofessional. Thankfully I was in the company of family who sorted me out with some spare AA batteries.

I first interviewed Cric about the Bend. What was it like in the early days when they arrived in the Bend? They arrived a little shy of the time the McCallums turned up (36’ish years opposed to 40), purchasing their block of land in a strategic move to help BICA set up a perimeter around what has later become the Neil Douglas Reserve.

Cric spoke of her love of and for the natural environment around the Bend. How she finds untouched indigenous environments aesthetically beautiful and peaceful to be around. I unsuccessfully tried to fish out her understanding of the different ecological systems that she has come to know around the Bend and how they differ from other places. Or more simply, how they work. What are they made up of, etc. Considering she is a landscape architect I was interested to hear about her relationship with the flora of the Bend.

By the end of the interview I felt I hadn’t gotten anywhere speaking with Cric, but this may be due to the fragmented nature of the interview (technical problems with the batteries and picking up phone reception). I hope to find some gems when I listen back to the material.

Next was Ross. Being one of the most prolific architects of the area I started my questions focusing upon his various constructions. I first inquired “why mud brick?” Many (if not most) of the houses in the Bend are made of mud brick and I have only heard a couple of reasons why. I was interested to hear what Ross had to say. He explained that during the time of the new influx of ownership in the Bend in the 1970’s and early 1980’s mud brick housing was all the rage. It was a particular movement established by local architects and patronised by the local bourgeois (writers, artists, filmmakers). It also included scrounging around for recycled timbers and concrete that could be utilised in the construction of a new house. The Bend has always had a sense of do-it-yourself mentality.

I then captured a video portrait of them both before walking to Mia’s in the hope of interviewing her about her experience of living in the Bend. I thought I aligned it well with her daughters midday nap time but unfortunately Mia was having a bit of a hard time getting her to sleep. I also sensed some hesitation about being a part of the documentary so I shied away from setting any finite dates and times, assuring her I would be in touch.

On my walk back to my brothers I came across an echidna. I tried stalking it (ala Frank style) but it curled up into a ball and burrowed it’s way into the ground for protection. I waited for about half an hour, silent and motionless in the one spot to watch it slowly check whether the coast was clear. They are quite incredible animals. Unfortunately the footage I managed to get wasn’t that good due to the iphone having too wide a lens and the dappled forest shadows making it hard to distinguish where the echidna was.

After a spot of lunch I once again drove out to the co-op, this time to properly interview Janet. Turned out to be another epic interview that lasted over an hour and a half (like Franks and Micks). She showed me images of the ribbon being cut when the Bend officially became an ELZ in 1982. Also many newspaper clippings of Neil Douglas and the Bend in the limelight.

The interview itself ranged from clarifying BICA, Co-op and ELZ information as well as charting territory specifically related to placemaking in the Bend. Fortunately Janet was somewhat familiar with the humanist geography slant to placemaking, so we could cut-to-the-chase in some respects. I filled her in about my research revolving around the two ideas of place – the social (widely held beliefs – BOI is a patch of indigenous bush, schlerophyll forest, etc.) and biographical/personal (the subjective/phenomenological experiences that you have of a place) – in a hope to generate discussion around the juncture between the two or personal anecdotes related to either of them. She still found it hard to put into words the feeling she experiences when encountering these places around the Bend.

During these interviews, I feel at times like guiding the interviewees through a guided visualisation of each place. Have them close their eyes and “place” themselves in that environment. What does it smell like? What does it look like? What does it sound like? Go through the sensory experience of a place in this manner.

I’d imagine that would be a bit airy-fairy for many people though.

After the interview Frank offered to show me around the co-op. He drove me down A and B tracks before parking the car to show me some orchids along A track ridge. Found some fantastic orchids (spider orchids, rabbit eared orchid, green hooded orchids) and came across some areas where the CFA have conducted cool burns to minimise the “fuel” for bush fires.

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The slender green hood orchid.

Tomorrow my house-sitting duration expires and I return to inner city Melbourne. I’ll no doubt have to come out to the Bend over the coming weeks to build on my k-film as I feel the material I have captured may not present a strong enough pattern. It has been wonderful being out here for this length of time though, and I look forward to returning every now and then to fill my lungs of oxygen before returning to the big smoke.

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