Thriving in Armidale…

Hey, don’t blame me for the awkward post title — it’s the current advertising campaign for the town of my birth. You don’t believe me, do you?

Thrive in Armidale

See?

Anyway, we’re just back from two days in Armidale, city of my birth. A time to catch up with old friends, let the children play with the children of old friends — and that’s when you know that you’re getting really old — and do some photography. Specifically, I wanted to do a quick bit of photography of the bits of Armidale where I’d lived, or significant “stuff” had happened to me. Little was I to know that I’d end up doing it all rather quickly…

My photographic journey got off to a good start in the morning, as it so happens that the middle daughter of the friends we were staying with goes to the same preschool that I last attended in the 1970’s. So I grabbed an early morning lift and took a quick photo (of the buildings only — one looks rather odd as a man in his early thirties photographing children, and I wanted a trip down memory lane, not a trip to the prison cells of Armidale Police station…)

Hobbit House

Hobbit House hasn’t changed much. You can’t tell that from this awful photo (that’ll be a theme later on, so keep an eye out for it), but you can take my word for it. I’m an honest looking kind of guy… I think.

Later on — much later on, in fact, after lunching with a good friend of mine who I only recently got back in touch with, thanks to my brother getting wildly drunk — I knew we kept him around for a reason — we headed over to Di’s brother’s place, so that Zoe and James (and to a lesser extent, Luc) could play with thier uncle and Aunt.

Zoe. Pamela. Puppies. Michael in the background.

Zoe likes puppies. In fact, that’s an understatement — she’s OBSESSED with puppies. So visiting someone who breeds puppies is rather like having multiple Birthdays, all at once.

Uncles bruise easily

Plus, if you get bored, you can always just attempt to kill your Uncle. For the official Police record, Mick survived. Somehow.

While all this was going on, I headed around the corner, to:

ACPS

This was keeping things nicely chronological, as ACPS was where I did my primary schooling after attending Hobbit house. Now, those keen-eyed readers I’m always so fond of mentioning — yes, all three of you — may recall that I wrote a lengthy bit in my old blog about a tree at ACPS I used to play under as a nipper. I was very keen to see if I could grab a photo of it, and memory suggested that it should have been just to the right of this sign… but it wasn’t.

No tree. No tree at all :(

For the purposes of historical accuracy, I’ve drawn one in. Badly. Very badly. And to the wrong scale entirely. But that’s where it should have been, anyway.

By now, the day was getting away from me — it was 5pm, and the light was starting to fade. And I hadn’t photographed most of the places I’d lived, or my secondary schooling options. So, stopping briefly to save Michael’s life and drop the kids back where we were staying for all the joy of bath time, I set out on my own personal race against time. Two sides of the same town. Thirty minutes of available time left before the sun set and made my photos all but worthless.

First stop, the house in Kentucky Street where I lived for most of my Armidale time. Well, OK, we did live out of town for a long period of time, but time didn’t permit me to make the 20km trek to the Bundarra Road house (or, for that matter, the houses on the other out-of-town side where my father lived), so that had to be left behind, as were the house/houses that we lived in when I was truly tiny, as I’ve no idea where they were anyway, so their memory value for me was negligible.

A house with a blue roof. The stories it could tell. If it could. Which, of course, it can't.

Changes that I could spot were minimal, and the roof’s even been restored from the last time I saw it, when for some reason they’d painted the roof tiles orange.

Just round the corner, with about twenty-five minutes of light left, was the first of my secondary schools, Armidale High:

AHS

If I were to sum up my time at Armidale High — 1986-1987 — I’d use one word. And that word would be miserable. I hated my time at AHS. Loathed it, in fact, and it made me very depressed, a couple of years before I should have hit my normal teenage depression years. Why, exactly, I chose to photograph it is a mystery for the ages, but it’s a mystery that’ll have to wait, as I’ve now got about twenty minutes left, and most of what I wanted to shoot was over the other side of Armidale.

But first, a minor digression. When the people finally rise, riot and burn Armidale to the ground, only one building will be left intact. And it’ll be this one:

Neville's

You probably have to have lived in Armidale for some time to get that particular gag. It’s not a good joke, but I couldn’t resist it.

Anyway, my chronology of schooling/living falls to ruin here, as the next obvious photography target was a house in Rusden Street that I spent most of my first year of University (1993) in. A house that a good friend of mine at the time — where are you, Dominique Cowd? — described as being “The colour of baby poo”.

How right she was

How right she was. That’s our car in front, by the way. Walking models provided by Random Strangers Walking Through Armidale Streets Pty Ltd. A minor diversion here again: With one notable exception (which is my next stop), I had a number of people ask me what I was doing. The beauty of Armidale is that it could be answered (and in some cases, suggested by the enquiring party) with the words that it was a “University Thing”… and that seemed satisfactory. 🙂

Ahem. There’s about fifteen minutes left, tops. Round the corner and down the street to the house that Di and I rented in ’95 — I believe I did mention that the chronology was all out the window, didn’t I? — in Niagara Street.

Flats. Yesterday

Ours was the middle flat in this photo. I don’t think we left those cardboard boxes by the window, but anything’s possible. Anyhow, this was also the site of my only slightly nasty experience, as two shifty looking dudes in a ute pulled up and then spotted me taking photos. One of them looked very nervous all of a sudden, and they started having a classic “let’s-talk-under-our-breath-so-that-the-guy-who-I’m-sure-is-the-world’s-
weediest-undercover-cop-doesn’t-spot-we’re-talking”
type of chat. I looked at them, told them I was just taking a photo — why not tell the truth — and rather quickly drove away. Ten minutes of light left, and I headed around to the flats where I lived for most of my second year, what used to be called the Claude Street flats.

Claude Street. Yesterday

This is — or was — Flat 51. Technically, I paid rent on a room in the University Annexe — now a Backpacker’s hostel, and *cough* allegedly *cough* drug hotspot, so no change there — and in Flats 13 (for as short a time as possible) and Flat 4 — but if you wanted to find me on any given day, I’d be in Flat 51. At first, this was Chris Miller’s fault, as I’d be busy engaged in classic geek activities (remember: Be proud of your nerdy behaviour), but later in the year my reasons changed. Five years later, I married those reasons.

At that stage, I reckoned I had about five minutes of light left, and made a quick decision to nip up to the University to photograph the Arts building. So I did:

Yup, that’s the one.

Ramp

I have very long-term memories of the University, which kind of comes with the territory when your father’s a University lecturer. This photo was taken from a very distinct perspective, as I can recall as a very young nipper running up this ramp to visit my Father’s office — the French department was, if memory serves (I’ll prepare a space for Gus to correct me here, as it’ll save time) on the top floor, and his office was about 2/3rds of the way along).

I’ve now got about two minutes of light left. Thankfully, Armidale is pretty quiet by now (5:58pm), so I nip through the streets to:

Duval High

You can almost, but not quite, make out that it’s Duval High School. I was here from July 1990 to November 1992, and in stark contrast to my experiences at Armidale High, I had a great time here, and made some lifelong friends. Sure, I was still a somewhat repellent teenager (who wasn’t?), but I was at least a happier repellent teenager.

The light’s almost gone, but thanks to some road rearrangements — essentially, a terribly unsafe road at the bottom of Crest Road that wound through the lookout park had been closed without notifying me — saw me go past the lookout itself. So I popped out to grab a quick snap:

Armidale

The light was pretty much gone by now — this is the result of some heavy brightness adjustment, and I’m still not happy with it. But I’ll take what I can get.

After all that running around — well, OK, driving around — I figured I deserved a good meal. So that’s what was done, once the kids were in bed and a suitable nearby teenager found to look after them.

dinner

I know, it’s a pretty ordinary photo. Quick snapping will get you that.

Remember how earlier on, I said I’d made some lifelong friends at Duval High? Well, one of them was unlucky/unwise/silly enough to call herself my girlfriend for all of about two weeks, before very wisely dumping me. Like I said, I was a very repellent teenager, and it was the right decision at the time. Anyway, sixteen years later, at dinner, I exacted my terrible revenge:

Annalisa and Luc.

By dumping my newborn son in her lap. She didn’t seem to mind 🙂

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5 Responses to Thriving in Armidale…

  1. Annalisa says:

    How could I mind? 🙂

  2. Alex says:

    Testing, testing…

  3. julie says:

    I am from Armidale and went to AHS and UNE about the times you did. I really enjoyed seeing your photos as I have been abroad since 1994. Thanks

  4. Alex says:

    Awesome — I’m glad you enjoyed them 🙂

  5. Alexei says:

    Awesome blog man! I always love to read about peoples visits to Armidale, it’s always an interesting perspective on my fair town. Tell me more of this terribly unsafe road, these days it’s just an overgrown walking track, most people now can’t even believe it was a road!

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