Dunedin, New Zealand, my city - my people

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Open spaces

Reflecting on my big overseas trip still....

I have, since I was a boy, enjoyed this poem by Banjo Paterson.

Clancy Of The Overflow

I had written him a letter which I had, for want of better
Knowledge, sent to where I met him down the Lachlan, years ago,
He was shearing when I knew him, so I sent the letter to him,
Just `on spec', addressed as follows, `Clancy, of The Overflow'.

And an answer came directed in a writing unexpected,
(And I think the same was written with a thumb-nail dipped in tar)
'Twas his shearing mate who wrote it, and verbatim I will quote it:
`Clancy's gone to Queensland droving, and we don't know where he are.'

In my wild erratic fancy visions come to me of Clancy
Gone a-droving `down the Cooper' where the Western drovers go;
As the stock are slowly stringing, Clancy rides behind them singing,
For the drover's life has pleasures that the townsfolk never know.

And the bush hath friends to meet him, and their kindly voices greet him
In the murmur of the breezes and the river on its bars,
And he sees the vision splendid of the sunlit plains extended,
And at night the wond'rous glory of the everlasting stars.

I am sitting in my dingy little office, where a stingy
Ray of sunlight struggles feebly down between the houses tall,
And the foetid air and gritty of the dusty, dirty city
Through the open window floating, spreads its foulness over all

And in place of lowing cattle, I can hear the fiendish rattle
Of the tramways and the 'buses making hurry down the street,
And the language uninviting of the gutter children fighting,
Comes fitfully and faintly through the ceaseless tramp of feet.

And the hurrying people daunt me, and their pallid faces haunt me
As they shoulder one another in their rush and nervous haste,
With their eager eyes and greedy, and their stunted forms and weedy,
For townsfolk have no time to grow, they have no time to waste.

And I somehow rather fancy that I'd like to change with Clancy,
Like to take a turn at droving where the seasons come and go,
While he faced the round eternal of the cash-book and the journal --
But I doubt he'd suit the office, Clancy, of `The Overflow'.

I like open spaces..

This poem came to mind when I was in London and in the cities of Europe and the UK. In our London Hostel and Hotel there was the constant noise of "London" coming through the window. I would describe it as being like the sound of a hive of angry bees buzzing continuously. Of course this was punctuated by the odd siren or screeching of brakes.

In every city I visited there seem to be row upon row of tenement-street-front type houses with little or no back-yard. You could not help but notice their chimneys lined up. There was concrete, brick and/or stones every where with few areas of green. I saw schools with virtually no play ground, except perhaps the concrete roof of one of the school buildings.

The footpaths, the transport and buildings seemed to be loaded with people. The volumes of people remind me of crowds coming out of a rugby match here in NZ, but always there was nothing special happening, the place is just like that all the time.

There is something exciting and edgy about it, but after several weeks of such city scenes I longed for the openness, the bush, the soil, the bird song and "emptiness" of NZ. It is wrong and counter-productive to go overseas and spend your time comparing, you have to accept and enjoy the "personality" of each city. I enjoyed the sights and sounds, but they also made me appreciate the life I have here. For me, NZ is OK.


- scene from the old city wall in York

- my home town of Dunedin NZ

- An Edinburgh Street

- The London Tube

- Amsterdam street (Concrete, bricks and cobble stones.)

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