Rewind twenty years—I’m ten years old and it’s Christmas day. My family and I are living back in Combine Street, a long section of road that stretches down from the Pacific Highway, snakes along the edges of a gently sloping valley, and then curves up the wall itself and back around like a hook, encircling the base of Robert’s Hill (no relation).
The land on either side of the street has been cleared into neat, regular quadrangles of dirt, newly planted ‘For Sale’ signs standing proudly, advertising raw potential. When our family initially moves into the area only a smattering of houses dot the landscape—we have no immediate neighbours.
The street itself and surrounding empty blocks combine to coral the undeveloped scrub land—a combination of chest high grass, creeks, snakes, and ticks—as yet unconquered by the more adventurous neighbourhood kids. At first rough tracks are forced through by tentative first explorations, but as more families move in and rapid development kicks off these tracks expand into beaten byways, leading to cubbyhouses, local ‘bases’, and a handy shortcut in the direction of my local primary school, Narranga. When I become old enough to walk to school by myself, desiccating in the summer heat, this saves me a good fifteen minutes travel time.
Flick a few years into the future and beaten scrubland becomes bulldozed hills, converted mounds of dirt for additional development that are suddenly the perfect shape for my sister’s skateboarding friends. As the empty blocks become scarce, the local population swells and a child’s playground is demolished and forgotten—devoured by Progress. I can remember feeling sad at the time, but in the manner of small children everywhere, I soon forget.