Moving from inner-city Manchester in the winter to suburban Perth in high summer was like staggering out of a dark, dank cave into dazzling sunlight – both figuratively and literally.
Alright we didn’t live in a cave in Manchester, but we lived in a shoebox of a terraced house where a kid barely older than our eldest had been shot dead a few months before just yards from our front door.
Living in ‘Madchester’ ‘back in the day’ had been a raucous ride, fuelled by pills, thrills and bellyaches, through a pulsating nocturnal jungle alive with vibrant, pubs, clubs and ‘shabeems’ – underground drinking and dancing dens thick with ganja smoke run by the local West Indian entrepreneurs. By day the city was our playground where we’d happily spend our time and money on cool-as-fuck clothes and record shops, cheap-as-chapatti curry houses and on long football days of drinking, chanting, singing and talking shit.
But with the arrival of parenthood there weren’t many thrills to be had in changing smelly nappies and working all hours that God sent to pay the mortgage. Especially not come those God awful eternal winters of freezing, rain-lashed darkness – weekday wage-slaving, while staring down the barrel of yet another wet weekend wondering to which new level of hell we could plummet in another sweaty, crowded, ear-splitting indoor play centre to which we’d drag the kids just to escape our four walls.
Manchester’s star began to fade for us and was shot out the sky altogether when that kid got clipped on our street as I sat upstairs reading a bedtime story to our boys.
We had to get out….
We moved to WA on the back of a Samson fish.
A number of years ago when Mrs C was pregnant with our first son, we visited her brother and his young family in Oz. At the time they rented a house on Loma Street in Cottesloe – a stroll from the Cott front and one of the best urban beaches in the world. It was a pretty uplifting stroll too, along streets lined with mighty Norfolk Island pine trees – the branches and needles of which angle upwards to the sky as if giving thanks for their location. And I could concur with the trees – the space, the light, the shimmering silver expanse of the Indian Ocean and the sweet clean air – it made this, if not heaven on earth, a pretty magical stop-off on the way there.
On the day of my 31st birthday, I was treated to a day out on a little charter boat going out of the Fremantle boat harbour. That day I caught my biggest fish to date – a slab of a ‘Sambo’ (Aussies shorten every word going). On the way back to Cott, we stopped off at Freo’s (see what I mean?) famed Little Creatures Brewery to pick up a few ‘stubbies’ (bottles) of their heavenly pale ale to celebrate our piscatorial prowess.
That evening we witnessed yet another majestic sunset over the ocean from the Cottesloe Civic Centre terrace, as we quaffed the ice cold ale, chilled down in an ‘Esky’ (ice box) and feasted on our catch cooked up on one of the centre’s municipal ‘barbies’….a municipal barbeque! If you had one of those in Manchester, it would get hammered by punters smoking drugs on it – “I’ll skip the hot dog, thanks, and go straight for the hot knives.”
You know Lou Reed’s Perfect Day? Well that birthday was mine – and I was so glad I spent it in WA. That night I vowed we would one day move here. The psychic toll of six more long dark Manchester winters, combined with my pleading and whining, and finally Mrs C consented to the move.
It would be almost impossible in a thousand blog posts to convey the radiance of some of our experiences here since, let alone in what little there is left of this post – and that’s partly why I have set up this blog site – to relate at least some of what life is like here for a former English cave dweller like me.
But to give you an idea, Indigenous Australians talk of the ‘dreamtime’ – in which the world and everything in it was created through ‘the dreaming’ by cosmic dream beings. And everything – animals, plants, trees, the earth, rivers, the ocean – everything in the natural world including us – is alive and connected in the dreamtime. Every time we dream – we connect with the dreamtime and all that was created there.
I can relate to that – it’s certainly not all sweetness and light here – there is always turbulence wherever you are – but for most of the time?
Most of the time, I feel like my sleeping and waking hours are spent in a dream-like state.
So, as Hugh Cornwell from the Stranglers once sang, “come and share my dreamtime.”