The Escape from Suburban ennui.

It makes you think when an seventeen year old boy escapes home and joins IS in Syria. He could be concentrating on his stamp collection or help dad prise out unwanted grasses from the front lawn, couldn’t he? Surely there must be ways to escape from our much praised ‘own home on own block’ in those endlessly anonymously sun-lit streets of suburbia, without going to that extreme.

photo 3Kalancoe enlarged

I remember well my introduction to an Australian suburb after my parents in 1956 decided to buy a fibro asbestos dwelling in Sydney’s western suburbs. It was a devastating experience which, now at the age of 74, am finally accepting that it did happen, it was not their fault. I have conquered and overcome! It all came back last night when watching the excellent ABC TV documentary on writers/comedians/artists who not only overcame but became national Icons of art and culture precisely (bar for Robert Hughes)because of the dreariness and desolation of the Australian suburb. They escaped but used the experiences in ways that enthralled millions around the world for decades. There is nothing like a mirror being held up in front of us.!

It must seem like typical responses from the incorrigible Jerimiah Jacobson to finally have escaped England and rejoice in the sun and warmth that greeted Howard Jacobson in 1965 after sailing into sunny Sydney harbour. The gleaming whiteness of the Opera house a cheerful greeting card. He visible recoiled when ruminating over the dreariness and greyness of England’s skies heavy with sombre souls of past leaden Lords and hollowed out Timothy Thatchers. The cricket score on a Sunday afternoon, as exciting it could ever get. Waiting for the dreaded mid-night knock on the door. What Howard took delight in, the four giants of Australia’s own suburban making, escaped and flocked to Earls Court and at roughly the same time.

It just proves that changing and escaping from something might be an essential part of coming into one’s own. Even so, I do think that our architectural domestic way of housing ourselves leaves much to be desired. The fenced off and utterly lonely environment, the strips of bitumen snaking mile after simmering mile. Not a soul to be seen. Just metal boxes on endless journeys, but whereto and why? A Sunday afternoon, a solitary figure perched on a ladder clearing his guttering from errant leaves. I am surprised that young people can survive all that.

After every domestic murder, the usual responses; “Oh, such a lovely family amongst a close-knit community. We sometimes saw then and even said hello”! In the meantime some young people go to Syria and fight to get killed.

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7 Responses to “The Escape from Suburban ennui.”

  1. Lottie Nevin Says:

    Interesting link, Gerard. I’m not sure I’m cut-out for life in suburbia šŸ™‚


  2. stuartbramhall Says:

    If your 17 year who runs off to Syria has brown skin, high unemployment rates in young people under 25 is also a major factor. With unemployment rates running 30-50% in disenfranchised youth, their chances of ever being employed in the corporate economy are extremely slim.


    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Yes, that is true but if you have to travel for miles to seek for work, one soon gives up. Even so, I remember getting of the boat with locals holding up placards on-shore offering jobs to migrants getting off the boats.
      Many people had dark skins then too, but sugar cane was cut by hand and automation had not yet taken off.


  3. kaytisweetlandrasmussen83 Says:

    It seems the grass is always greener on the other ide of the fence. I hope they don’t change their minds—I don’t think their new friends would appreciate that, and it would be hard to return to their safe but dull suburbia.


  4. mrsmrs Says:

    I have never thought of any of Hughes, Greer or Humphries as anything but total pains in the arse. Clive James is the sole exception – in terms of this ‘brilliant’ quartet – because he alone shows willingess to send himself up.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. auntyuta Says:

    Sorry, I made a booboo with the above like button. I actually like all four of these successful Australians. And I am always very interested in what they have to say.
    I realise that for a lot of working people the outer suburbs must be quite a challenge to overcome. I met one professional who goes to Sydney every day on a two hour train ride and the same back again at night time. The train ride does not bother him. He says he spends the time looking up interesting things on the computer!
    I wonder what kind of society we live in if these young people feel the only thing for them to do is go off and fight in a war.
    That there is a severe shortage of work places and or apprenticeships for young people is a disgrace. Selling our young people short like this has consequences.


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