Ye all which it inherit, shall dissolve

Leon managed to do it. About five years earlier, I had tried to demolish the old water-tank lying in a corner of our property. It lay, leaking, slightly rusted, in a shallow drainage culvert adjoining our neighbour. It had to go. But we needed to reduce its size, bend it, fold it, to fit in the trailer. After 45 minutes of wielding a large sledgehammer, I stopped, beaten, and the tank, now sporting two small bruises on its surface, remained. It looked ‘rustic’, my wife and I rationalised.

But last Saturday, Leon did it. We agreed it had to go, because a large cypress hedge adjoining our property line had been removed and burned, opening up our land with Leon’s, and the tank stuck out like, well, you know what. Leon is everyone’s perfect neighbour. Retired, ex-Navy, strong as an ox, a perfectionist, and he has every agricultural and workshop tool ever made, as befitting someone who could survive a disaster in rural Australia.

Thirty minutes, three angle grinder discs, a crowbar, and a smattering of old Navy terminology later, the tank lay in four large flat pieces. “If you take it to the tip, you won’t be charged, because it’s all metal, it’s recyclable” Leon said. Yes, the tip. Is that word used in other parts of the English-speaking world? The rubbish dump. Well, that’s what it was called when 50 years earlier my father and I regularly took stuff to the Musca Street tip, in the (then) outer Melbourne suburb of North Balwyn. Musca Street now sports million dollar homes, but in 1963 you drove into Musca Street with a trailer full of building, house and vegetable waste, no one cared about the contents, you turned into the tip drive and 2 minutes later there was this 100 yard low barrier overlooking a small valley filled with steaming refuse, swooping seagulls, busy crows, and yes, it stank. It was great. You backed your trailer to the bar and chucked everything in. The flies crawled into your ears and nostrils and down your shirt. Does anyone living in Musca Street now know that Musca domestica is the common house fly? There were one or two bulldozers at various angles, and three or four men at various angles, in the tip, doing stuff to the waste. Later this area between Musca Street and the Yarra River would deliver the Eastern Freeway which straddles the river, and the Musca Street Reserve, where children now play, but don’t get dirty.

But it’s all different now. Tips ain’t tips. They are recycling depots, and the last time I went to the one in Camberwell, in the suburbs, my rubbish was carefully inspected by a pleasant fellow in a safety vest and hard hat, and after taking $30 from me, he directed me to the appropriate lane, where I unloaded my trailer (not garden refuse, not builders’ rubble, not recyclable bits, is there anything left?) on to a conveyor belt.

So last Sunday I took the collapsed tank to the Hastings tip, about 20 minutes drive away, on the marshy coast of Western Port Bay. Determined to enjoy at least the drive, and unencumbered by a wife who cannot understand that certain music must be played very loud, I plugged the iPod into the radio and started with The Amboy Dukes “Journey To The Center Of The Mind”. Does anyone else in the world listen to The Amboy Dukes, circa 1968, the genre is pre-punk-garage-psychedelic, around for a decade or so from 1965, from Richard Hell, the Velvets, through Sam Gopal, Shadows of Night, the Stooges, culminating in the first foray into punk, the best example of which is Australia’s own Saints with “Erotic Neurotic”, those Ed Kuepper riffs were pure class. Leon was right, no charge, and the dead tank was left in the metal section of the tip, no conveyer belt yet where we live.

On the way home, I remembered that Radiotherapy on 102.7FM was on, where a bunch of young doctors and guests natter about twin studies, health policy, psychosis and so on, serious but fun and often funny. I caught their interview with Melbourne GP Dr Joe Sherman, an amateur actor who had a part in an adaptation of The Tempest currently playing at Theatre Works in St Kilda, and as I drove back home through Hastings, with it’s authentic grungy Aussie streets, boat harbour, pelicans grouped on the beach awaiting scraps, Joe reminded us of Prospero’s speech near the end: “We’re all spirits and are melted into air, into thin air; And, like the baseless fabric of this vision, The cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces, The solemn temples, the great globe itself, Ye all which it inherit, shall dissolve And, like this insubstantial pageant faded, Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life Is rounded with a sleep” Yes, I know what Bill Shakespeare was saying, but you know, when Joe Sherman said “Ye all which it inherit, shall dissolve”, all I could think of was the old Musca Street tip.


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