Gone

Vacant land. It’s becoming more common throughout the suburbs of Melbourne. Properties are cleared of any existing buildings to prepare for new houses. As a town planner, I deal with this on a daily basis and it is part of the process of change in a city. Progress and regeneration – it is the way things work.

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I wrote here about the home I grew up in, the home which had been part of our family for many generations. My parents sold it a couple of years ago, in order to move to smaller accommodation. It was a great decision and one we all supported. We also knew, based on what had been happening around us, that it was likely that our (former) home would be demolished by the new owners. And I thought I was ok with that.

The idea of our home being demolished was one thing. But when we drove past about a month ago to see that nothing, absolutely nothing, was left – well, I didn’t know quite what to think. Or how to feel. I knew it wasn’t our home any more. I could accept that. But now it was no-one’s home. It was no more. It was unsettling. I felt slightly disoriented – a key connection to my past was gone.

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Tonight, I read this poem. It hit a chord, and shifted me from my unsettled state.

My end – by T.S Eliot (Collected Poems 1909-1962)

In my beginning is my end. In succession

Houses rise and fall, crumble, are extended,

Are removed, destroyed, or in their place

Is an open field, or a factory, or a by-pass.

Old stone to new buildings, old timber to new fires,

Old fires to ashes, and ashes to the earth

Which is already flesh, fur and faeces,

Bone of man and beast, cornstalk and leaf.

Houses live and die: there is a time for building

And a time for living and for generation

And a time for the wind to break the loosened pane

And to shake the wainscot where the field-mouse trots

And to shake the tattered arras woven with a silent motto.

Property – ownership – stuff. These change over time. Even houses are transient. In the end, they are things only – to be enjoyed while you have them, but not to be clung to too tightly.

I am grateful that we had our time for living and for generation in this home.

And I am grateful that, in the future, others will have the change to create a new life. In their new house – their new home.

Joining The Weekend Rewind list, hosted by Maxabella loves and Kelly Exeter

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17 thoughts on “Gone

  1. I have mixed feelings about this. Especially when period homes get demolished! In the area I live ever second blog is vacant – or that’s how it seems. It’s prolific and I really don’t like it. Soon the entire area will be full of houses that all look the same. I know it’s a reality of the times, but I really struggle with it.

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    1. I know, I know (as I said, I deal with this professionally all the time – in a previous role, I was coordinating an approach between state government and local governments to increase the supply of housing within existing suburban areas, and it tugged at me to think of lovely buildings being knocked down). The hardest thing is when they are like for like – ie. no extra housing but just new for the sake of it, but often without the architectural charm. I’m going to be branching out in writing more about ‘everyday planning issues’ and this is definitely a core one.

      I also want to think about the role of things – and how housing fits into ‘things’ – or is it something more? Housing is home. How can we make this fit with change? (especially if we don’t, ourselves, own it?)

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    2. PS – I oversaw the strategy for your area (and mine) too – so hard to separate personal issues from the broader strategic ones 😦

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  2. Thank you Helen. There are so many things we have had to say goodbye to with all the transitions we’ve made, that this resonates greatly with me. In th end it is the relationships that are the important things, the thing that lasts. But even in this, in a sense we have had to distance ourselves from some key family members now living so far away.
    Neels and my attitude has always been to embrace the time and space we’re in at the present. However, I must say it seems to get harder as one grows older….

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    1. Yes, you would have had to go through this a lot. And in some ways, I can imagine that, while you become more used to it, it can become harder. Particularly in terms of relationships – we are so grateful that, even if you end up moving, you will always remain a part of our lives xx

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  3. It’s a tough one. I’m all for progression, but as long as there is respect for the history of the streetscape. My husband and I do a couple of developments each year and we always try and keep this in mind. In a lot of places you can retain the integrity of the home without demolishing it. Sadly, though not all developers think like that. Houses have once been homes, I like to remember that, but you’re right – we can’t hang onto that, but we always have our memories.

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    1. Great to hear about your approach, Jodi – always good to hear a perspective from someone involved in the development side.

      Although it isn’t our home anymore, so we don’t really have a right to be too possessive about it, two things have helped offset the shock of – it’s all gone! One was the time they took to remove all key features – the windows, many of the tiles, the blackwood lining the hall, the leadlight windows, etc. We are hopeful that means it will go to a salvage yard and someone else can use it. The other is that the design (as posted on the front of the site) is not a monolithic thing without any sensitivity. Yes, it is modern, but modern done pretty well. And (frankly), there were some pretty major structural problems with the house, particularly the foundations (and not enough clearance to address this easily), so we have to be pragmatic. And yes, we have the memories 🙂

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  4. I can imagine how hard it would have been Helen. I remember driving past our old house & seeing they had pulled out my favourite tree & put cement down, I was quite stunned!! I didn’t notice the lovely veranda they’de build.

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    1. Yes, it’s quite stark at the moment, but I’m actually looking forward to seeing the well designed aspects of the house (based on the display board showing the house that is to be built). It’s nice to know that there will be something lovely in place of what WAS lovely, but needing a lot of work.

      Plus – as we knew, in our hearts, that the house would be knocked down – even though the current owners said they were planning to renovate – we took lots of photos, just of elements that wouldn’t mean much to others but did to us (ie. this was what it looked like from my favourite hiding spot, here’s the standard ‘Christmas Day around the fire’ pose, tiles we loved, etc. We have those – and truthfully, I haven’t actually looked at them since. Just nice, for the moment, to know the photos are there if I want to look.

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  5. This post is quite timely for me. We have been in discussions with a property developer who wants to buy our house. Our family home. The home my husband and I created and where we have raised our three children. And I know the developer will want to knock our family home down. I’m totally torn. Not sure what to do. I do love that poem though.

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    1. Thanks Deb – I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer, and you’ll ultimately do what is right for you. It’s just hard to let go sometimes, but sometimes that’s what we have to do. I loved the poem too – great timing to read it!

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  6. It’s very sad to see your family home demolished. Our family home has just been reclaimed by my brother (long story), but it doesn’t really feel like our family home any more, as Dad has passed away and it was such a big part of him (he designed and built it). Suppose we all have to move on at some point and create our own memories.

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    1. Absolutely we do (we have some similarities too then, as our house was built for my great grandfather, and many of the modifications were done by my grandparents and Dad – down to the way Dad tended to be a bit slapdash in his work!)
      It is nice to have a base though – I hope someday soon your brother’s home will again feel more like home for you, too x

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  7. That poem really says it all, doesn’t it? Our old house has been renovated and we still drive past from time to time. My initial sense of jealousy and envy at the current owners being able to do what we could not really did take me by surprise at first. Homes, even though they are not human, always seem to seep into our souls and become a part of us. I hope you can come to terms with what has occurred and look towards all the possibilities of the future x

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    1. They really do, don’t they? I hope you have reached your peace with your former home. I think I have too (although it will be interesting when we see what is built in its place!) x

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  8. So beautifully written. My childhood home still stands but after my parents leave it, it will be razed to make way for two or three houses where one once stood. As you say, progress and need, but it will be sad when the place where memory lives is gone.

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    1. Thanks Robyn – yes, it’s a bitter sweet process. I guess if it didn’t happen, things would be stagnate, to a degree, and none of us would be able to put our mark on anything. But, ah well, we have the memories still.

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