Living in the past
Alex the forester’ was the owner of a sizeable bush block and had been selected by his State Government to be the recipient of an experimental self contained prefabricated small dwelling suitable for bushfire prone areas.
It was the prizewinning design in an architectural competition and it was obvious that the hide-away had been architect designed and engineered. It looked like a medium sized cargo container with some inconsequential randomly placed sunshades.
The gossip in the profession had been that when the prize for this structure had been announced, Mies Van der Rohe, famous inventor of the glass box had turned over in his grave, but this was obviously untrue. It had been Frank Loyd Wright the crabby exponent
of romantic suburbia who had moved.
Well the aesthetics may have been doubtful, but the engineering of the unit was most impressive:
It was a dwelling for 2 people no more no less.
Its waste was totally recyclable.
All necessary appliances were fitted and electrically operated.
It had its own wind and solar power supply that generated enough reserve power to fully charge a small electric car.
It captured the rain and purified and recycled the water
The external walls were surfaced in such a way that they supported the growth of vines and lichen that would eventually hide the design.
There was unfortunately one problem with this highly sophisticated structure; its carbon
footprint in the construction had been so large that a lifetime of carbon savings would never make up for the original expenditure.
Actually there were two problems.
The second problem the designers had not envisaged was that Alex did
not want to live in the unit. You see he was an ‘I pitch my tent and boil the billy’ man, a heritage Aussie still walking in the footsteps of ‘the man from Snowy River’ and Chips Rafferty, a perfect example of a man frozen in time.
So every day after finishing his daily tasks Alex would return to his bush block, light his campfire, prepare his bush tucker meal, boil his billy, open a bottle of beer, and then tuck into his sleeping bag. A happy untroubled existence that might have
gone on forever, until one day on a day of total fire ban Alex’s campfire got away from him, burned a sizeable hole in his tent, destroyed a decent area of his bush block, and brought out two rural fire brigades.
They extinguished the fire with
some difficulty, left one fireman behind to keep an eye on the embers and took Alex away and locked him up.
The next day he was brought before a magistrate charged with arson and lighting a fire on a day of total fire ban and put away for 2 years.
The irony of it was that the fire left his beautifully engineered hideaway untouched with all its appliances and safety systems intact and in working order, and with its security code ready to receive the man who was not there.
In the two years that
followed the fire the bush block’s vegetation regrew, the wild life returned, and the hideaway remained operational, thus providing moisture for the plants and water for the creatures that came with the regeneration of the bush.
attitude in prison and half-hearted approach to the rehabilitation programs had not been helpful towards any reduction in his sentence. It was therefore fully two years later that he hitchhiked his way back to his property to try and make peace with the local
people and the rural fire brigade.
Not an easy task but on the promise that he would never light a campfire again the Council allowed him to return to his bush block. When he arrived he looked at nature’s repairs with loving eyes, followed the
overgrown track to his hideaway then keyed in the security code, opened the door and looked around in amazement. There were all the gadgets he had learned about in his largely unsuccessful rehabilitation program, the electric cooking appliances, the refrigerator,
the air-condition unit, the taps with clean fresh water, and above all the generous interior dimensions of the hide-away. The unit so much larger than his cell of the last two years had been and after a try-out he found it large enough to swing his billy.
It was then and only then that he felt he had a home.