Story telling from Australia
There’s a big red bench in Broken Hill, planted on top of the slag heap that divides north from south. The treeless expanse of broken rock is studded with old mining gear; metal cages, train carriages and rusting hulks. If you didn’t know better you’d swear they’d been left there by mistake. There’s no mistaking the oversize bench, it’s the colour of a London bus or an old fashioned English phone box. Pillar box red, the colour that used to brighten the dullest winter’s day in England, flowering on every street corner and in every village, vivid against a backdrop of yellow daffodils and bluebells in spring, shaded by canopies of spreading oak, beech and yew in summer and subdued under a milky sky in autumn, when the constant block of colour was shrouded by leaves that dropped and gently mellowed.
The big red bench in Broken Hill is a cheerful sight under an open blue sky, inviting you to lose your inhibitions and clamber up the wobbling breeze block steps to sit child-like on the outsize wooden slats, legs pointing straight out in front. It asks you to sit purely for the pleasure of sitting, giggling as your hair is blown by the wind that skitters and shears along the exposed ridge, a reminder there’s joy to be had in the simple act of sitting.
I had a bench in England and never once took the time to sit on it, always too busy weeding, digging and planting, cutting back or potting on; frenetic bursts of activity designed to force the garden to grow. In Broken Hill I’ve learnt to sit. It’s quite simple, in order to see you have to look, really look, so now I sit in the garden and look, seeing beauty in the unfurling of a single leaf.
There’s beauty to be seen from that big red bench on top of the slag heap, Broken Hill draped across the desert below like a patterned scarf. The Miners’ Memorial in the background is a reminder of decades of toil and struggle and hundreds of lives lost in the darkness underground.
It’s worth sitting a while to enjoy the view, for their sake if nothing else.