Monday, May 31, 2010

Further chair

A major development in respect of the chair. Using his new laptop computer and a wireless internet connection, Uncle Tony writes from a caravan park at remote Charters Towers in Far Northern Queensland: “I definitely remember that chair. I cannot remember in which room it was, but it was definitely at Huntingtower Road. It may even have been at Portsea at some stage.”

The pretty house in Huntingtower Road, Armadale, was where our grandparents raised their family of four Trumble boys in suburban Melbourne between the wars. Portsea, by contrast, is at the very end of the Mornington Peninsula, hard by Point Nepean and the treacherous mouth of Port Phillip Bay. There in the 1920s Nan and Pa built a boxy weekender, set back from the main road along a sandy winding dead-end track that was rather ambitiously dubbed “Macgregor Avenue.” Macgregor Avenue ran roughly parallel with Campbell’s Road, which I believe was named after our mining great grandfather, Alexander Campbell of Argyll, sometime director of the Broken Hill Proprietary Block 14 Company, Ltd., and chairman of its useful subsidiary, the King Island Scheelite Co. Presumably he surveyed it. The old house at Portsea occupied a cheerful rise (essentially a sand dune). I vividly recall Nan’s garden, with its somewhat counterintuitive sloping lawn, vigorous hedges of oleander, the sumptuous but exceedingly thirsty rhododendrons, and above all the background noise of fragrant, crunchy, untamed ti-tree scrub that encroached upon the perimeter, and seemed to stretch all the way to the ferocious ocean beaches. There cannot have been any neighbors until comparatively recently, just dense, crouching ti-trees, and the never less than deafening summertime uproar of local birds and insects.

Uncle Colin and Uncle Alec may have more to add, but at this early stage I like to think of Pa sitting in my chair at Portsea, quietly pondering on behalf of his clients, the National Bank of Australasia, Ltd., and the Australian Bankers’ Association, the pertinent and crucial free trade provision of the Australian Constitution as it bore upon the trade in dried fruits—in other words crafting his brilliant legal argument in the famous case of Commonwealth of Australia v. The Bank of New South Wales, which at Whitehall in 1949 was decided on appeal in favor of the banks by their lordships of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, a stunning cold-war victory over the creeping, grasping talons of socialism.

Uncle Tony is on his way to Mareeba in the Atherton Tablelands, not too far west of Cairns, whence he will head west into the Northern Territory, to attend the annual race meeting at the approximately three million-acre Brunette Downs Station at Threeways in the Barkly Tablelands, 220 miles northeast of Tennant Creek. By my calculation this epic journey from southern Tasmania and back again will cover not less than 5,200 miles by road.

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