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This article is taken from PN Review 123, Volume 25 Number 1, September - October 1998.

Learning to Sprawl Iain Bamforth
I'd travelled over a thousand kilometres with my wife and infant son from the scrub on one side of New South Wales to reach Murray country on the other, through the alluvial farmland of the uninspiringly named New England (although that was the only uninspiring thing about it) and over the exhilarating cornices of the Bulahdelah forest into Taree and the lush Wang Wauk. For four months I'd learned to adjust my gaze to an empty horizon, to the red wedge of land, domain of the Boojum of Nothingness. Here, in place of the bush, was a shapely backbone of hills, clumps of weatherboard houses, a simple Presbyterian meeting hall on stilts. Flame trees and jacarandas had been in raucous blossom as soon as we crossed the Great Dividing Range. The sun was high on the horizon, its heat sank into the mantle and soft grasses and the trees dispersed it like convectors. This was Up Home.

I was tense, still sore from nights in the hospital, unable to sleep much during the day. I felt haggard, red and distracted. Worse: I felt like Mephistopheles creeping up on Philemon and Baucis in their old cottage. Forget work! Forget the hospital! The hills swimming in the sun like the sleeved landscape in an early Renaissance painting were almost too beautiful to bear. Only almost. In the back of the car I could hear our son, barely a year-and-a-half, excited by our response, becoming vocal as we drove further up the ...


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