Thursday, March 06, 2008

Reflections on City: (1) Leaving the City behind.

For the last three months my wife and I have been living on the 12th floor of a brand new apartment block, which is over 40 storeys tall. Beside us, within our sight, rear two other apartment blocks, and between them we catch a glimpse of river.

The noises of road and street traffic, near and far, are with us all the time, bouncing off the buildings and wafting across the river and the city, sometimes even from the distant airport, depending on how the wind blows.

It was an educational experience, living here, because, though Brisbane probably qualifies as a 'pretty city', it is still 'City'; and though there is very little squalor, it is easy to imagine, at least for me, what it would be like if there were.

The curse of an imaginative dystopian. Blade Runner is not that far away, despite all efforts of those running the city to keep such developments away.

In less than two weeks at the latest, we will leave this temporary domicile behind us and move to 'the suburbs', specifically one called 'Arana Hills', which to Spanish speakers should indicate the presence of many spiders. And if you look up right now, at the power lines strung along the streets, you will find many of their nets strung between the cables. Life making best use of what humans have wrought.

This one doesn't live up in the power lines, though his siblings do, but at eye level. I love this guy. He just sits there, waiting. Every now and then he moves very fast, and then somethingsmaller and creepy-crawly usually dies and gets sucked dry. And then he sits there and waits again. What a life!

The house we have bought is surrounded by greenery. The land area isn't large, but large enough. We have Lorikeets and other flying entities in the trees, and cicadas at nightfall. Plus I've already been bitten several times by whatever, which means back to the use of insect repellent on my bare ankles. A small price to pay.

The move away from 'City' and into suburbia, for that's what it is, has caused me, as such things tend to do, a different look at what we are leaving behind; at the environment and what it is and what it means for humankind to now have passed the point where more than half of all people live in cities. What the City actually means.

I know, this is hard to define, and you could probably write tomes about it, and people have and will continue to do so. I've tried it in fiction, at least a little, in an extended episode in Tethys.

I'll try to add to that just a few impressions in some following blogs, or maybe just one. At this point let me just say that what I'll miss about living in the city are the bats.

For months, from our balcony, we have watched these not-so-little suckers wing their way past in the evenings, occasionally swooping quite close through the canyons formed by the buildings, silently swishing past with barely a beat of their wings. Small versions of stubby Batmans outside the window.

They're out in the suburbs as well, and indeed the other day, one basically dropped out of a tree above out and flapped away, with that characteristic sound of skin-wings, which is very different to feathered ones. Gave me quite a jolt, because it was dark and because of the sudden percussive opening of the wings.

Still, we won't have quite the panoramic view of hundreds of them flying past in the evening as we were having dinner.

And that exhausts what I personally will 'miss' about living in the city. I'm not at heart a city-dweller, I guess; unlike the tens of thousands of other denizens of central-city apartment blocks.

It was useful to find that out.

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