DRIVING through the outer Melbourne suburbs recently, we passed one of those new monolithic subdivisions of two-storey houses packed together like a tray of cut sandwiches at an office get-together. Very white bread.
This one had one of those grand entrance streets with the green median strip down the centre of the road. Palm trees and oversized gate-looking things flanked each side of the bitumen. And the name of the street?
Henry Lawson Drive. My god, Lawson would turn in his grave to think his name had been given to such a place.
Lawson was for the little people. The outback people. For life free from social and political restraint. When he had to spend some extended time in a city, he came up with this little gem...
“I wear my life on pavement stones
That drag me ever down,
A paltry slave to little things,
By custom chained to town.
I’ve lost the strength to strike alone,
The heart to do and dare—
I mind the day I’d roll my swag
And tramp to God-knows-where.”
So I don’t think he’d at all like Henry Lawson Drive, with its homogenised ideals and backyard tennis courts.
It reminded me how many street names carry connotations, hopes and promises that can never be filled because reality will always get in the way.
A few years back, as part of an urban renewal project in Shepparton, some of the town’s notoriously rough streets were renamed.
When I say rough, I don’t mean potholes. Tradesmen allegedly refused to attend to jobs in these places out of fear.
As such, Goodlet Court was christened Inspiration Street and Jeffrey Court was changed to Glory Way. I wonder if it had any effect? I know words can be powerful, but only when they’re backed up with something real and true.
There are a number of new subdivisions in Bendigo that have been given aspirational, evocative street names.
They conjure up tranquil days spent living at one with nature. But is this a true representation of what life will be like in them?
Granted, something like Water’s Edge Way has a nicer ring to it than Bog Street, but in some cases the latter is certainly truer.
Just on that, I once had the job of naming the streets in a new Kyneton housing estate.
At first I thought, oh ripper, the power I wield! I’ll immortalise my nearest and dearest in street signs... but no, the brief was a little stricter than that.
Every street had to be named after the natural flora and fauna of the area. Boring. And sad, too, considering the natural flora and fauna was bulldozed to make space for the brick veneers.
On name alone, there are plenty of Bendigo streets I’m drawn to, for obvious reasons.
There’s Happy Valley Road in West Bendigo, Honeysuckle Street in Golden Square, Waterloo Street in the middle of town – if only for the private ABBA party it puts in my head every time I hear it. See? You’re humming internally now, aren’t you.
Oh, and Lauren Court in Kangaroo Flat. That would be a lovely place to live I reckon.