Dolly, Mr Boots, and Other Good Things

Mr BootsI am listening to Lion Island. They are the perfect soundtrack to a lazy Sunday on which I’ve got nothing much done, but feel quite, quite content. They launched their debut EP at Ric’s bar on Friday night, and it’s a cracker. They’ve come so far so quickly, and they deserve it. I’m biased, I know — my sisterthing plays trumpet (“and when she’s not playing the trumpet,” says one reviewer, “she’s playing the smile”), but they’re really, really worth a listen. And when you’ve finished listening, you can pop along to the uncharTED website (they’ve been short-listed for an amazing award), and vote them all the way to the Big Day Out.

There’s been lots going on in the world of Zen. I moved out of home just over a month ago, and my new place is a haven on the hill, overlooking Brisbane. It fits me perfectly, and my housemates — both fuzzy and unfuzzy — are quite lovely. The humans in the house bake a lot, so it always smells good, and the cats in the house are eccentric and aristocratic.

I went on tour a few weeks ago, courtesy of Arts Queensland, the Qld Writers Centre and the Qld Poetry Festival. It was wild. Adventure stories to come. In a minute. Promise.

My new place is a short walk from Toowong Cemetery, and I’ve become a bit obsessed with it and its 127 000 quiet inhabitDollyants. I’ve started planning out a rather large project: a book of poems in which history and whimsy overlap, and we meet the cemetery’s earliest dead. There are so many gravestones there that can only barely be read, now, and I want to write their stories before they disappear. In the 1970s, the council removed about a thousand old memorials – I fear this might happen again, to make way for the newly deceased. Thus, my quest begins! I am on the hunt for stories about Brisbanites buried between 1971 and 1950, in particular.

The hill — all 250 acres of land there — was first used as a graveyard, the history books say, in 1871 (Colonel Samuel Blackall in January, baby Ann Hill in November, and then another four), and wasn’t officially opened until 1876, and yet I’ve found graves dating back to 1863 (Malynn tomb, pictured) in some of the most overgrown parts of the cemetery. If anyone has any clues as to why this might be, please let me know. (This site says the cemetery was established, as Brisbane General Cemetery, in 1866, but that’s still three years after my earliest grave-find.)

Malynn GraveI anticipate I’ll be spending a lot of time at the John Oxley and State libraries in coming months, and I’ll definitely be getting hold of ‘Friends of Toowong Cemetery’, who apparently conduct free tours. I go gravewalking a couple of times a week; anyone who’d like to come along on adventures is welcome. It’s easy to walk for two or three hours in there and never pass the same gravestone twice. It’s a veritable museum.

Hoop pines rise
from the jaws of skeletons:
a final word.

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4 thoughts on “Dolly, Mr Boots, and Other Good Things”

  1. Anything overlapping with whimsy is a splendid ship upon which I would gladly seek passage. I shall eagerly wait in foggy harbours for news of your project!

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  2. I too am obsessed with Toowong Cemetery. I read about your interest in the QWeekend and looked you up because of that interest.
    I only visit a few times a year. My daughter lives in Victoria Crescent and the cemetery has become one of my favourite Brisbane places when I visit.
    It was at my last visit that I found Ann Hill’s grave with her protective hoop pine. That excited me.
    I go there to walk for exercise but end up dawdling amongst the graves looking for interesting gravestones. I always come in through the Jewish section and past the graves of the soldiers. I have taken photos to try to capture the serenity and peace that is there.
    I am also enjoying discovering your poetry.
    I have promised myself a tour of the cemetery as well. Perhaps I will organise that on my next visit in September.
    I’ll look out for the little poet sitting and scribbling.
    I hope you find much inspiration there.
    Gillian

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