Friday, 8 August 2014

In This Neighborhood - A creative writing exercise

Well, Ladies and Gentlemen, I am very pleased to showcase another writing exercise for you- This time courtesy of the 20Lines.com website, where they asked their writing community to write a short piece that included in it the concept of 7 Happy Days. I hope you enjoy this piece.


In this Neighbourhood.

There is quiet on the outskirts of town as dusk comes, and along with it the rising of the ill midwinter wind. Quietly I trudge through the clumpy dry grass, towards the hill with the walking track, past the lone eucalyptus tree on my right that overlooks the field with muddy tyre marks encircling it. Behind me is the grey cul-de sac, with little driveways without houses, and large metal structures, designed to be streetlights without the lights fitted. Unusual as that is, they don’t seem out of place, here on the outskirts of this town.

So onward I trudge past another soaring eucalypt, taking an unknown path to a side of the hill, that I have never been to. There is an entrance here- a path made clear through the dominating backberries- a path of rocks and a slightly muddy hollow that connects to the main path. Looking southeast up the hill, I see the water tower- a symmetrical grey monolith contrasting the array of yellows, browns and greens. The path going towards that way winds upwards to where the the tank itself stands, surrounded by security gates- the giant grey structure stands alone with only the huge steel ladder at the top and side of the structure protruding from it, but I am not going to that side of the path today.

As it is midwinter, the shadows are starting to creep in already, reminding me of the need to be home. The sharp pebbles squelch under my feet as I walk on the cleared path, under the tree arches and avoiding the blackberry tendrils, growing in oddly similar lengths alongside the pathway, jutting out noticeably in the grey and dark yellow long grass and bending in their prickly array in metre high arches. At eye level are the trees, dispersed among the path- the one with the splendrous and spindly leaves which name always escapes my mind and the rough barked and bold she oak which stands out above the blackberries and long grasses.

I descend the lightly sloping hill, finding myself enjoying the last stretch before I reach the road- past the roughly cut down tree and the lonely disused swing set to the neatly council mown grass, past the woodchip playground to beyond where the canopy of big trees ends and the townscape begins. As I emerge past the last of those trees there is only suburban townscape - little homes and units punctuated by the green lawns and little frontyard trees and above them the skyline of turquoise and pink- a sunset made even more brilliant by the soft long grey clouds that seem to sit in between the bicolour skyline.

As I head home on these streets, past a sparsely littered field, walking parallel past the little units and under the big streetlights, I think about the residents of the little houses. The pensioners and single mums as their lights turn on as they retire to their kitchens and loungerooms. Families will have their dinners on the table, men will probably be home if they are part of the picture. As the chill wind blows my ears this time I think about this little suburb- and how it is defined by what it is not. It is the outskirts of the small city on a small island- a place known for violence, yet a violence restrained, now only one that stretches to a few streets and a few families, but no-one really knows what goes on behind closed doors. It is no longer the Bronx of Launceston, but it is not the ‘nice place’ middle class people want to live either.

Perhaps the outskirts suits them- My neighbours are a mixture of people- some richer, most poorer- and most on a government benefit. Marginalised, stigmatised, and stereotyped, there is a sense of wandering amongst those who live here- wandering from place to place- without really knowing the destination, and a rough and tumble courage and closer knit community not seen in the nicer suburbs. There is the frustration of powerlessness here- one of having a voice, yet one that no-one wants to hear. There s a bitterness for the cops and politicians here, and a suspicion too, over all who live in this area in this slightly uneasy place.

As I walk the final street to the wide cul-de-sac on which my house stands, I think about the beauty, the chill wind and the enormity of the frustrations of the people who inhabit this place live with. I think about my other friends in other suburbs who believe in a hope, are driven about something and are perhaps not hogtied to this generational feeling of poverty, and hardly understand the subculture of frustration and hopelessness. A few of my neighbours might take their kids on their trailbikes down to the track on the weekend, watch the football or the racing and maybe have 2 days of happiness, surmising wrongly or rightly people with more money are likely to be having 7 days of happiness. Mostly, my neighbours are like me, and value their families more than trudging to their 9 to 5's.

As I stand now, at my front door I think about how I felt happier on the top of that hill, and I thought about how happiness exists amongst trees and fields. These things create a joy in my soul as I looked out along the panorama of bushland, reminding me of an adolescence walking through the scrub or ascending the small mountain outside my home that was surrounded by the huge trees. Here though here, at my front door, 4 metres away from the bill on my table, I realise the best things in life are indeed free, but everything else someone’s got to pay for.

Thank you for reading,
Ben Mathewson.

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