Friday, March 5, 2010

A sense of Place

Great sense of place ........ that's become an expected element of crime fiction. Rebus is Edinburgh, VI Warsahwski is Chicago, George Pelecanos dissects Washington.

In The Old School, I was equally determined that Sydney would be more than just a backdrop to a story. I wanted it to be central, an important character, an old, old player, ever present, holding the secrets and the clues. Here's a glimpse of just a few of the places that inspired some of the events.

I stumbled across this wall carving in the cafe on the country platforms at Central only a couple of years ago. It has been there at lot longer than that, but on the few occasions I'd been in there I'd never raised my eyes to the walls behind me. It encapsulates so much about Sydney's past, and about the way we have told that past to ourselves.

Central Railway Station cafe, Sydney

The scene on the left is dated 1787, and the "noble savage" iconography is pretty clear; a simple happy life, but tough, the bare essentials, even just the struggle to make fire occupies two men. The next scene is dated a year later. 1788, and there is no trace of those original inhabitants. They simply disappear, swept away by the progress of the next scene. Interestingly there is no sign that these industrious, hearty and healthy looking men, bringing ashore barrels (of rum?) from the ship riding at anchor in the harbour behind them, are actually convicts, transported for life. No sign of a chain, or a lash, or scurvy, or despair at being transported to the modern day equivalent of the moon.

There are still a few places around Sydney Harbour that allow us to glimpse how Sydney once appeared. These are the places Ned Kelly goes running, passing the middens and rock carvings of the first inhabitants of this beautiful place.

Sand and stone on Berry Island, Sydney

A view of Berry Island from Greenwich

Beach on Berry Island, Sydney

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