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Growing up in Ballarat
22 Apr 2018
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Growing up, quite a long part of each year in Ballarat was bitterly cold. Crunchy, frosty grass kind of cold. That stinging sort of iciness which makes breathing painful when you’re in the middle of pouring water on your car windscreen to defrost it before driving.


In a way I think the temperature of the place forced people to spend a lot more time indoors together, next to one another, annoying the shit out of each other. Not that the huge, terribly insulated, old brick houses with their high ceilings and gappy doors ever kept people effectively warm. Open fireplaces could never keep the furthest corners of a room heated in one of those old houses. Fireplaces were there to be huddled around.


As teenagers we were massive consumers of cask wine because we were broke, young, and it did the job it was created to do (which was to make you vomit up your two dollars worth of hot chips, the only meal you could afford).  


Sometimes we’d saunter as a motley pack to the local bottle-o, then across town to whichever house was hosting people that night, our bodies wrapped in doonas to keep warm. The group of us looking like a bunch of fools. We cared not.


There’s something exceptionally endearing about the humour of Ballarat folk. They’re a little bit naughty with a twist of cheeky.  Heap in a few handfuls of clever and there you have it.


Their best trait is that they do not fear being silly. As with every different town on the planet, all categories of personalities reside there, but I really do notice when I go back to visit that Ballaratians are not the slightest bit perturbed at my smart arse way of engaging in conversation. They all chew the fat in a similar fashion.


In the 90’s it was possible to move out of home and rent a place at the tender age of 16 years old as rentals were so cheap. Parents had to go guarantor, but they did it with glee as they waved farewell to their children and sent them off to fend for themselves. Lots of kids did it, and we found that paying the rent, bills and cooking for yourself was a mountainous learning curve that makes you grow up pretty bloody quickly.


The house party scene around town was major. We'd spend a lot of time in groups, congregating in the various lounge rooms of whoever felt like having guests that day, almost every day of the week.


We'd talk, drink, play music and draw until the sun came up. Our energy was limitless. So much creativity, by such great people.


Hilarious conversations come about when you’re constantly forced to share internal spaces with other people. The friendships formed are sincerer when young minds collectively reach wild places out of pure, freezing boredom. We used to make outlandish plans for the future together, it was wonderful to dream big. None of these storylines came into fruition but I still to this day share cherished bonds with many of the people I grew up with.


Becoming an adult in Ballarat was undeniably what made me the human I am today.

Photo credit : Tim Bignell
Artwork: Tim Bignell, 'Ballarat Looking West', 1998.
#adolescence #adulting #ballarat #cold #coldweather #countrytown #dreambig #growingup #teenagers
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