When the Need Strikes, Shelter in the Muddies
When winter brings rain and grey skies, I have always found pleasure in being outside. I love to wander by the bulging rivers and creeks of the Eastern suburbs and enjoy the freshness and life of the world. When the rain turns from not much more than a mist to a deluge, I take pleasure in sitting below a tree and waiting for respite, huddling for warmth, but feeling the cold penetrate my clothes and skin. Sometimes a tree just won’t suffice, a fact that led our ancestors to find shelter in caves or build their own.
Perhaps it’s this romantic weather and the wont of humanity that leads us to still feel the urge to build our own protection, when heated car or home is not much more than a soggy 2 minute run from the wet wild that we find ourselves in at times. Whatever it is, there is little I find more joy in than using the local environment for protection, especially when it combines with a misguided sense of accomplishment.
Louis and I found ourselves riding on the banks of the Swan River in a part of South Guildford colloquially known as “The Muddies”. Once BMX riders would gather at the Muddies, building and conquering jumps, some filled with fire. No doubt the City of Swan was more alive to the dangers of this youth hangout than those who frequented it, and with paternal care they expediently removed all the jumps, which promptly removed all the youths. Louis and I still revel in the history and natural beauty of the place, and ride around the tracks that exist now for walkers and dogs.
As we found ourselves open to elements as the drops piled down, we ran into a thicket growing on the edge of the water, and as we pushed deeper under the canopy of the trees, we discovered a ramshackle cubby house with planks of wood strewn about on the needled floor. Realising the inadequacy of the structure, we set about trying to improve it as best we could, until we had a seemingly far superior and satisfactory shelter. Sitting awhile under our creation, we breathed in the river, before light, cold and mosquitoes conspired to drive us away to the comfort of four walls.
Returning a few weeks later, we found that our house among the trees had been improved upon in haphazard fashion, superior perhaps to our first changes, but now blatantly underwhelming. Immediately we hoisted the logs that suspended the roof onto much higher boughs, both to give us more room underneath and to increase the challenge for our competing builders, this necessitated a wide search for more suitable additions throughout the Muddies, and we were well aided by the various flotsam and jetsam that wash up when the tide is high.
We both collected a large pile of plastic rubbish, Louis remarking “You could easily fill a skip bin with all this shit”. Amongst the by product of our consumer culture we found three syringes. I focused on building an inadequate wall for one side of our shack, whilst Louis mischievously set about trying to fashion the junk into some kind of occult shrine to unnerve our industrious friends, or any straying walkers. The syringes proved suitable for an Anarchist symbol.
We came together to marvel at what we had done. Here, amongst the trees we had managed to build something that was probably not even as effective as the foliage above us in keeping the water out, but it looked interesting and felt like an achievement. Louis put a strange photo into the roof, sliding a cassette in there as well and we gathered as much of the rubbish as we could and walked away fairly certain that if those punk kids destroy our work they will at least be mildly impressed.
Tom Camp and Louis Hooper