Thursday, 22 April 2010

A Solid Response

My mother is friends with a couple who manage a small shopping mall in Goulburn - and run a café within it. When I took her over there to hospital, we went to visit them first. It turned out they’d had a disaster. One of the tenants of the shops in the mall, having not paid their rent for months, had done a moonlight flit over the Easter weekend, leaving thirty thousand dollars of unpaid rent – plus unpaid utility bills and none of the fittings that had been part of the shop they’d occupied. ‘It didn’t matter if it was nailed down or not – they took it,’ mum’s friend explained.

So, good riddance to bad rubbish, you’d think. But no. After a few days, there started to be problems with the drains. Some kind of blockage from tree roots, it was thought. An electric eel was brought in and sent down underground to do its stuff. It blew up, unable to shift the obstruction. Diggers were called for (to the delight of the local small boys, I imagine [see yesterday’s post]). The floor was pulled up. Finally, all became clear. The moonlight flitters, as a parting gift, had dumped a load of concrete down the drains, which meant total replumbing for the whole complex. Such nastiness – cutting off business to all the enterprises in the place, damaging other people’s livelihoods – and of course not causing any real strife to the owners of the mall, since they were fully insured.

So no coffee for us. While mum had a yarn with her friend, I looked at a display board showing photographs of historic Goulburn and chronicling its rise to prosperity in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The town’s good times were founded on the wool trade and times must have been very good at one stage, for a lot of the civic architecture is on the kind of confident scale you usually only see in gold rush towns like Bendigo. Many fine buildings have survived but the pictures showed plenty of others that have disappeared. There was the long-gone Gillespie’s Boot Factory, with all 80 or 90 of its staff lined up outside; the vanished wonder of the time ball tower, which was essentially a tower with a ball in it that would fall at precisely 1 p.m. each day, triggered by a telegraph from Sydney (to what end I don’t know – just for the thrill of the thing perhaps?); and the auctioneers where the first Goulburn wool sales were held in 1933.

I wanted to get a closer look at the faces of the men lined up in their three-piece tweed suits outside that sale, but couldn’t get near enough to make them out properly. I looked down to see what was in my way – a line of zimmer frames belonging to the chemist opposite, chained together and locked to the wall. How miserably appropriate for poor old Goulburn – instead of the swagger of the era of wool wealth, it does have a slight air of staggering along these days.

(That’s enough about Goulburn for this blog – ed)


  1. I wonder what fate lies in store for all these rural (agrestic) australian towns, once the current generation of oldsters have moved on?

    Now that all australians require to live near to the coast, will even the larger outback towns fade away to dust in a few generations? Or will the be re-discovered and colonised by trendy hipsters, a la Palm Springs or Santa Fe?

  2. Goulburn awaits you worm. I look forward to your first annual festival of...blogging?

  3. Could be an appropriate place for the obelisk too.

  4. true Gaw - Nambour Queensland has the giant pineapple, Ballina the big prawn. Gippsland even has has it's own giant worm.

    I think its time that Goulburn has the giant blogelisk

  5. Worm and Gaw: It's a big thing to overlook but I did - the Big Merino { is Goulburn's contribution to the monumental world. Not sure if the town can deal with an obelisk as well. I think Goulburn will be all right because it's got the jail (what a damning thing to say about anywhere) and also it's not too far from Sydney and also fairly close to Canberra. But maybe that is its destiny now - to be a satellite rather than a boom town in its own right.