When I was a child, I would run into my grand-parents’ backyard garden in Sydney near Botany Bay and sense the soil of crumbling dark sandiness, the indomitable energy of a rising, prickle-leaf banksia, the faint salt breath of the sea.

The square patch of garden was hemmed with gray palings of dry, splintering wood.  At the back stood an old white-washed fibro tool shed with a battered, rusty, galvanised-iron roof.  Beyond that was a small grassy space where mint and nasturtiums and rosemary grew lush and disorderly in discarded cement laundry sinks.  In this space the skeletal remains of another small building (perhaps an outhouse) lay gently, slowly splintering and crumbling as it lay open to the sky.  Orderly ranks of Grandpop’s potted orchids sit beside the wall of the shed under a shade laced with cabbage tree palm leaves.  Inside there are tools and machinery for polishing gemstones on a grey, splintered, wooden table and a host of garden implements.  Inside it is dim, cool, quiet, dusty.

Spiders live secret lives there, beneath stacks of discarded wood palings, under garden tools standing unused for weeks, between bricks and stones jumbled together under shrubs, and the cool recesses of tree branches:  the Daddy Long-legs, the Wolf spider, the huge spectacular St Andrews Cross spider and skulking in the most secret places of all, the venomous Red-Back spider.  The one we rarely saw.  The one we were warned about and expressly told not to go looking under piles of wood, forgotten pot plants or old garden boots…


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