Story by LindyP
Born in the 1940’s in the cold grey north of England, I grew up under bleak dark clouds , chimney pots spewing out thick black smoke, the coal man delivering big sackfuls of black chunks into the coal shed, leaving trails of dust that hung in your nostrils for days.
Walking to school, I passed men with scrunched up blackened faces and caps, on their weary way home , their empty ‘bait ‘ tins huddled under arms , shoulders rounded and bent towards the bitter breeze.
They were on their way home from a night down the pit -brave men, each with his own challenges in life . Night after night for most of their lives, they scratched a living collecting health problems along the way. Accidents would happen day or night and I would hear the alarm go while I was at school .
I was young and had little sensitivity towards my surroundings. I thought this was a normal way to be – to live in a grey looking council house that was the same as every other, to play outside under the cold foggy street lamps at night so I didn’t have to go inside to a sad place . Outside the house was a patch of grass -the only substance of any colour in my life on the housing estate.
A 20 minute ride ( in good weather ) on the double decker took me to Durham city where I walked on cobbled streets, claustrophobic cramped footpaths and narrow roads. Noisy lorries and buses nearly mounted the pavement, and gown-clad uni students flurried by in animated conversation .
It is a beautiful city , but in those days I didn’t know . To have so much history on your doorstep was also normal -I thought.
Sometimes I would wander into the cathedral and listen to the organist practising . He was my first serious art teacher and an eccentric from top to toe with his crazy mop of flying black hair, his black buttoned waistcoat barely covering his ample frontage, bulging pockets full of mints and a limping shuffle that made him look like a Dickens character hurrying along.
I still love church organs .
As I stepped onto land into Australia in 1973 I was assaulted by the light, big beautiful dazzling light . Looking back I think my experience was not unlike a William Turner moment when he first experienced the light of Venice. His paintings became nearly void of subject matter -light took precedence and anything else almost disappeared into a mass of ethereal and weightless translucence. He became a forerunner of abstract art.
My awareness expanded over the years ; now I see the sparse beauty of the outback, almost unworldly, the long quiet land and the night sky full of stars going on forever.
I smell the gumtrees through the wind: I am awed by the silence of wildness and vast untidy wilderness .
I feel a strong connection to the ancient backbone sprawled across landscape and moving like an endless piece of music, and I feel honoured to be part of this.
The rhythm of this land climbs under my skin and bites into my bones…….
This is my home and I am a proud Australian .