Thursday, September 24, 2009

Aging ghost from a ghost town

This year, my home town is celebrating the 150th anniversary of its proclamation as a so-called city... which no longer exists in reality, because the former municipality has been dissolved into a geographically broader entity that might be described as a regional administration. In a foreword to the following commemorative book, for example, the senior elected individual refers to himself, not as the mayor of Grafton, but as the mayor of the Clarence Valley Council.

Today's my birthday. I was born in Grafton (New South Wales, Australia) exactly 69 years ago. Now, if you want to know what Grafton was like when I grew up there (up until I reached the age of 16, when I left for university studies in Sydney), well you should simply go there today. Little seems to have changed. Nothing whatsoever appears to have evolved in a positive sense. It's a place devoid of visible development, of civic progress. A place where almost nothing of significance ever happens (apart from their antiquated colloquium on science and religion). The "city" makes a brave effort to take itself seriously (for example, the authorities commissioned the above book, written by an outsider), but the major economic actors moved out of town long ago, just as most of the dairy farmers on the banks of the Clarence abandoned their time-honored activities. Today, the global scene in Grafton is one of genteel decadence. When I last visited my birthplace, in 2006, I had the impression that I was wandering around in a ghost town whose ghosts are kindly requested to stay away from the few remaining pubs that still attract customers, and to keep off the streets after dark. I'm told that it remains nevertheless a nice town for people who like a quiet existence.

As the sole resident of Gamone, and happy to remain so, I guess I should appreciate that viewpoint. But I'm sure I would be terribly frustrated if I were obliged to reside in Grafton. I'm much better off here in my adoptive home in France.


  1. Happy birthday, William.

    69 - how is this possible? You were 67 a few weeks ago...

  2. In fact, at various times since the start of September last year, I've had no less than three different ages. As the French humorist Pierre Desproges used to say: "Astonishing, no?" Now that I've attained at last the erotic age of 69, I'm prepared to hang on to it indefinitely.