Ashes Poetry - cricket

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David Fine, Ashes poet in residence in Australia 2006-7

England vs Australia.
Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, Melbourne, Sydney 2006-2007

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Monday, December 25, 2006

Perth & Freemantle

Sorry Western Australia, can't say I was taken too much by Perth.

"Sheffield has never much cared for its history and buildings, and one day it will regret it" Sheffield Telegraph 1907.

“Darkness insists that Sheffield is a city, a metropolis; daylight reduces it to its component parts, to a series of bloated villages, unfolding across the undulations, linked only by sewers and roads. Perhaps this is all Sheffield has become: an infrastructure in search of a city, a system of services and administrative units sprawling across an intractable landscape.”
Richard Burns, The Guardian 1991.

Unlike Adelaide, Perth has denied its grand design. True the civic vista along the Swan River still exists, but that's about it. For the rest, it is a hodge-podge of high-risers and malls dotted here and there without rhyme or reason, as though the civic planning authorities after a good night out came back to the office, stuck a map of the city on the wall and threw darts at it backwards over their shoulders. Where they stuck in, new development. It is appalling.

You can see glimpses of the 1890s to 1920s Perth here and there, rather like valuable antiques in a scrapyard. But the original gold-rush boom town, which all Australia, never mind Western Australia, admired, has been destroyed, buried and gone.

Worse it's been replaced by the worst of modernist male architecture.

This is the Fire Station. If ever a building wore raybans, this is it.

More recently Perth planners have acknowledged some sort of past but instead of locating and refining it, it's just a mantelpiece ornament.

This building is going up next to Rayban Fire Station. It gets the Totally Naff Retro-Facadism Award, and all the architects and planners involved in this slur upon their profession should be neutered to ensure no progeny devise anything similar.

They should also do penance by looking after homes and children for at least the time it takes to design and build this thing. You see, Perth is Malesville.

Outside St Martin's Business Centre, another phallic tower, this piece of pub(l)ic art is a monument to two centuries of businessmen. Forget the glass ceiling, women, you can't even get through the door.

The way Perth works reflects this abysmal architecture and city planning. There is no public transport to its International Airport. In case that didn't sink in, or you think I've made a gross typo, there is no public transport to its International Airport. Just a moment, congestion, global warming.....

Service is dire, almost as bad as England on a bad day. 'That bad, eh?' Not just my opinion, official surveys state levels of service in Perth are the worst in Australia. They put it down to the mining industry - West Australia is booming on providing the iron ore for far east economic development - taking the best people. Not so sure myself. Why isn't the same true in Brisbane? I reckon it's something to do with the extreme isolation of Western Australia. Not just the two hour time difference, but a basically male dominated society. There is nothing soft, cuddly, warm, graceful, feminine or caring about Perth, all the key attributes which lie behind good service. In Malesville feminism doesn't seem to have happened. Apparently Brits like to retire to Perth, maybe those who like a world where men are men and women don't count.

The construction sites are accidents waiting to happen. No one wears hard hats, no one obeys basic rules. Here's a site supervisor who can't be arsed to do up his bootlaces.

I used to be a field archaeologist and was a bit of a tartar about health and safety, hence no serious accidents on any site I was responsible for. Perth needs to do up its bootlaces and get its act together.

It wouldn't be so bad, (well no, it is that bad) except a dozen miles downriver is Fremantle, Perth's harbour, which remains a truly beautiful city. Imagine Tilbury and London reversed and you've got the picture.

Wouldn't you love seeing this at the start and end of your working day as you took the train to work?

If cities are works of art, pace Plato, Adelaide is Athens. Whatever Perth was, it's now become Sparta. It needs a Lysistrata to withold sex, especially to its architects and planners in order to bring any sense to the place. Aristophanes knew what he was talking about. In Lyistrata the men wore phalluses. In Perth they wear high-risers.

If as A N Whitehead said, the history of western philosophy are footnotes to Plato, then the history of western civilisation are scatological references to Aristophanes. Methinks the difference between contemporary Perth and Adelaide may well have something to do with the lack of (phallo-centric) party politics in Adelaide's local government.

Next stop Melbourne and Sydney.