I've kept this blog, on and off, since 2006. In 2015 I used it to chart daily encounters, images, thoughts and feelings about volcanic basalt/bluestone in Melbourne and Victoria, especially in the first part of the year. I plan to write a book provisionally titled Bluestone: An Emotional History, about human uses of and feelings for bluestone. But I am also working on quite a few other projects and a big grant application, especially now I am on research leave. I'm working mostly from home, then, for six months, and will need online sociability for company!

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

My Year with Bluestone: On the Street Where You Live

Poor old bluestone project has had to take a back seat for a bit, while I taught this semester, and wrote and delivered papers on other projects.

Today I walked home through Carlton, keeping an eye out for initials carved in the long bluestone edges to the pavement. We had walked this area a few weeks ago, but I wasn't feeling so well that day and had no energy to stop and take photos. Today I was already laden with a heavy backpack, and also stopped to buy bread and apples on the way, but I was determined to photograph these initials. I walked along Canning St in Carlton, and all along, from around Princes St and all the way up to Richardson, where I headed east across to St Georges Rd, there are many many carved initials and arrows. There is one, I realise, about fifty metres from my front door.

The arrows are signs of convict work; and the stones themselves were probably dug out of the bluestone quarry under what is now the park in Rathdowne St near the Kent Hotel, and the stones were probably dug by the prisoners in the "Collingwood Stockade" where the Lee St primary school currently sits.

The most common initial is a big square letter T. It's amazing to me that after a while I began to be able to distinguish T's signature cutting from other Ts made less securely and less squarely. Was T a prisoner boss who had his minions working on his team and cutting his letter? There were a few Vs. And a few E.s, perhaps. Some of the stones have both a big T and the arrow.

These long rectangular stones are expertly cut, for the most part. They are much flatter than the smaller and rounded cobblestones that fill up the gutters or the lanes: these are firm edges to the street. I had to step carefully, sometimes, between folks sipping coffee in little cafes, or parked cars, or the bikes whizzing home along the long north-south stretch of Canning St.

After twenty or so minutes, I was feeling a bit dizzy from walking along looking down, but was getting a bit mesmerised by the contrast between the straight lines of arrows, Ts and Vs, and the long lines of air bubbles in the stones, the wear and tear of the occasional smashed edge, the cuts and patches where driveways have been cut in to the path, the metal rings to hold shades and chains on shopfronts, and the leaves and dust and stones scattered across the street. Towards the end of my walk it began to rain, so the last few images are also speckled with rain.  (There may be a way to process my images a bit better than this video: but for now I just wanted to capture the sense of how many initials there are.)

So, about 150 years ago, a man with the initial T had to cut long rectangular pieces of bluestone into sharp-edged flat planes. But he took the extra time to make two more neat cuts on lots of his blocks. I wonder if anyone knows anything about T. He is all over Carlton and Fitzroy, it seems. Keep an eye out for him, you locals, and let me know if you see him, or V, or anyone, anywhere else.