Monday, April 21, 2008


I saw a kangaroo on my morning walk today. A big old forlorn grey kangaroo, the last of its tribe.

I was walking in the grounds of the suburban university over the back fence, a small rectangle of green surrounded by houses and busy streets. The kangaroo looked up startled from the one remaining clump of river red-gums, a half-hearted effort at bush regeneration.

Seeking an escape route, it hopped onto the footy field, across the car park, and along the edge of an arterial road, where it stopped, gazing bewildered over the blaring cars. My last glimpse was of it bounding, powerful tail beating up and down, back to its tiny patch of bush.

One last old man kangaroo.

We live near the urban fringe, creeping steadily outwards year by year. Not all that long ago, we could take the children for a walk down the road in the early evening, and watch mobs of kangaroos grazing in nearby paddocks, fringed in gold against the setting sun.

But the paddocks are gone. For a while, we visited the building site instead, sneaking through a gap in the wire fence to explore the exposed innards of the Coles before they put on the ceiling. These days, we walk to the supermarket.

Don't get me wrong: I love the new shopping strip. I chat with friends in the European coffee shop, browse in the Greek delicatessan, and buy heavy spiced fruit-loaf from the Italian bakery for Sunday lunch. I occasionally treat myself to lillies or gerberas from the tiny florist, and the kids to bizarrely flavoured ice creams (Snickers! Bounty!) invented and made in the local ice creamery.

Instead of paddocks and bush, there's a spotless Coles and Priceline, and a shiny office building all windows and reflections, standing among rows of stunted newly-planted trees. Cranes swing languidly over a discount warehouse in the process of construction, and excavators bite out a gaping hole for the artificial lake which will bring its hint of nature to the new housing development. Rows of over-sized billboards line the road, proclaiming "You deserve this!"

Perhaps we do.

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