Tuesday, September 12, 2017


Pier at Altona Beach. Photo: Julie Clarke (c)2017

The reasonably pleasant spring weather last Saturday inspired  me to take a short trip to the end of the Alamein line. A train ride from Hawthorn Station with a change at Camberwell. I'd been to Ashburton before and knew there wasn't really anything much to see except the surrounding trees, so I ventured along the Walking Trail and took some photographs, all the while promising myself that I'd go somewhere else as soon as the weather improved.
I finished reading Kris Hemensley's book Your Scratch Entourage this morning and underlined  passages I appreciated, then decided that, given the Bureau of Meteorology had forecast 19C degrees, sunny with patches of rain for Melbourne, that I'd go to Altona Beach where I lived for a short period of time between the ages of eleven and thirteen.
I rode the tram to St. Vincent's Hospital and then the 402 bus to Footscray Staton, where I caught the train to Altona. I struck  up a conversation with the coolest young man on the  station who was going to the Star Theater in Yarraville to see IT (which I saw last week). His name was Billy and I doubt whether he'll remember the name of this blog, but I said I'd mention him as he and I have the habit of seeing films by ourselves.
I was looking forward to seeing the beach and in particular the pier (as I had swam the length of it when I was eleven). I also wanted to see St. Mary's Primary school near the station (that I attended in years 5 and 6) and the house in Civic Parade where I'd lived with my two siblings and grandmother. 
Photo: Julie Clarke (c) 2017
Whilst I was on the train I was surprised when it approached Seaholme that it was in such proximity to the Altona Oil Refinery, which parents and teachers had made us fear back then, with their stories about fine particles spewed into the air and strange odors obviously (they thought) attributed to some concealed accident at the refinery. To my eyes and everyone else the refinery was a small structure in the distance, but whose intermittent  siren sound would be carried  on the wind and fall not so gently upon our ears.
Part of Altona Oil Refinery (photo taken through train window). Photo: Julie Clarke (c) 2017
And here it was, not so far away from the railway tracks as the train throttled towards it and then just as suddenly as the refinery became closer the train slowed as if not wanting to wake the giant structure with its long, tall pipe and flame that seemed to, even now herald possible disaster.
Part of Altona Oil Refinery. Photo: Julie Clarke (c) 2017
Why is the word 'possible' so potent, all these fears locked together in an embrace with all other possible or real disasters?  Yesterday was 11 September and I had thoughts but briefly about associations as I photographed all that was possible as its exoskeleton spread thick amidst an expanse of vacant land.
It looks futuristic to me. Altona Oil Refinery. Photo: Julie Clarke (c) 2017
I found the oil refinery, with its knotted pipes and abstract forms aesthetically pleasing, so much so that when I walked from the station down to the beach, Hobson's Bay's slumbering seaweed decoratively gracing the sand, appeared benign. Perhaps I've seen too many science fiction films, but the oil refinery looked futuristic to me. Still, it was the beach I'd spent much time at when I was young and I appreciated walking along the pier and seeing Point Cook on the distant horizon.
View of Point Cook in the distance. Photo: Julie Clarke (c) 2017
The best thing about the old pier with its uneven wooden slats underfoot was the pylons that reminded me of the graveyard of those that lie beyond the old Princess Pier at Port Melbourne.
Altona pier. Photo: Julie Clarke (c) 2017
Pylons underneath Altona Pier. Photo: Julie Clarke (c) 2017
It was cold. There was no sunshine and I spent much of the two and a half hours in Altona walking in light rain. I vow to make no more journeys until the weather is more reliable, but is that really possible in Melbourne?

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