From The World of Charmian Clift (1966)

The novelist Charmian Clift returned to Australia in 1964 after over a decade overseas, chiefly on the Greek island of Hydra, with her husband George Johnston. As a columnist for the Sydney Morning Herald, she visited Roselands, Australia’s first shopping mall:

I know that I am being idiotically romantic to pine for the intensely personal in commercial transactions. The supermarket is probably cheaper really and the range is wider and what does it matter anyway if the lady behind the cash register keeps her eyes and her hands on the keys and doesn’t waste time with idle gossip? She’s got her job to do and nobody’s going to pay her extra to learn the names of your children.

Last week I had occasion to visit Babylon. I met my party at the Raindrop Fountain, between Household and High Fashion, I think, but it could have been between two other departments because I was lost for about half an hour and there were a number of other fountains of equal magnificence as well as a profusion of statuary and a bewildering number of escalators ascending and descending tirelessly between an assortment of heavens – food heavens and fashion heavens and beauty heavens and book heavens and kitchen heavens and Heaven knows what else, but I am certain a particular heaven for every particular taste.

It all tired me rather, and it seemed to take hours to get home after and I was stupidly depressed by such overwhelming scale and thinking that perhaps I am unfitted basically for life in this society when there was a discreet knock on the door and it was Mr Mannall carrying a cardboard box of groceries and we had a pleasant chat while he unpacked them on to the kitchen table and the docket was handwritten and itemized in pounds shillings and pence as well as dollars and I was so cheered that I sat right down and wrote to my friends the Katsikas brothers in Greece. I hope they are both Lord Mayors at least.

–Charmian Clift, Australian, 1923-1969

Rain drop fountain, Roselands Shopping Centre, ca 1960s (City of Canterbury Library)

Raindrop Fountain, Roselands Shopping Centre, ca 1960s (City of Canterbury Library)


An Absolutely Ordinary Rainbow, from The Weatherboard Cathedral (1969)

Les Murray shows us the unimaginable – a man crying in Martin Place in 1969:

The word goes round Repins,
the murmur goes round Lorenzinis,
at Tattersalls, men look up from sheets of numbers,
the Stock Exchange scribblers forget the chalk in their hands
and men with bread in their pockets leave the Greek Club:
There’s a fellow crying in Martin Place. They can’t stop him.

The traffic in George Street is banked up for half a mile
and drained of motion. The crowds are edgy with talk
and more crowds come hurrying. Many run in the back streets
which minutes ago were busy main streets, pointing:
There’s a fellow weeping down there. No one can stop him.

The man we surround, the man no one approaches
simply weeps, and does not cover it, weeps
not like a child, not like the wind, like a man
and does not declaim it, nor beat his breast, nor even
sob very loudly—yet the dignity of his weeping

holds us back from his space, the hollow he makes about him
in the midday light, in his pentagram of sorrow,
and uniforms back in the crowd who tried to seize him
stare out at him, and feel, with amazement, their minds
longing for tears as children for a rainbow.

Some will say, in the years to come, a halo
or force stood around him. There is no such thing.
Some will say they were shocked and would have stopped him
but they will not have been there. The fiercest manhood,
the toughest reserve, the slickest wit amongst us

trembles with silence, and burns with unexpected
judgements of peace. Some in the concourse scream
who thought themselves happy. Only the smallest children
and such as look out of Paradise come near him
and sit at his feet, with dogs and dusty pigeons.

Ridiculous, says a man near me, and stops
his mouth with his hands, as if it uttered vomit—
and I see a woman, shining, stretch her hand
and shake as she receives the gift of weeping;
as many as follow her also receive it

and many weep for sheer acceptance, and more
refuse to weep for fear of all acceptance,
but the weeping man, like the earth, requires nothing,
the man who weeps ignores us, and cries out
of his writhen face and ordinary body

not words, but grief, not messages, but sorrow,
hard as the earth, sheer, present as the sea—
and when he stops, he simply walks between us
mopping his face with the dignity of one
man who has wept, and now has finished weeping.

Evading believers, he hurries off down Pitt Street.

–Les Murray, Australian, 1938-2019.

City Engineer’s Department, George St & Martin Place, 1969 (City of Sydney Archives)

City Engineer’s Department, George St & Martin Place, 1969
(City of Sydney Archives)