Stories of Perth by Alice Grundy


This collection of 12 short pieces are connected by Perth, the most isolated city in the world. I came to read it thanks to Reading Matters who returned to Australia after 20 years in London. Having lived on the east coast she was new to the area, so she picked up this book. I’m mighty glad she did.

Much as I want to remember and write about all of the selections, I will focus on just a few. The first is a vision of the city by a Noongar woman, Cassie Lynch, in both its current state, with office workers hurrying about and the rumble of buses and cars, and its pre-European state with river lands and swamps when the water would have come to halfway up the windshields of parked cars. She sees a spray of air and water, then a dolphin breaking the water in a basement carpark. The Noongars are “pattern-thinkers and cycle-watchers. We remember the last Ice Age, still tell stories of the Cold Times. Deep Time is a stone dropped in a still pond and Noongars read the ripples.” And she says, “Settler Time overwhelmed us, but Deep Time endures.”

In describing her time in the suburb of Maylands when it was a “crime hotspot”, Brunette Lenkić describes the peacocks that lived in her tiny backyard.

Peacocks are indifferent gardeners. They’ll uproot seedlings and then forget why, leaving the plants to wither. They have poor personal hygiene, shitting everywhere, Pollock-style. They are vainglorious and stupid; I’ve seen them putting on extravagant displays for a guinea fowl, a bird with the head of a pigeon and a chunky body the size of a cat’s. Their coming to our home in suburbia was a novelty, and their enforced departure a farce.

Sometimes the slang almost overwhelmed me so that I struggled to understand. One example is “arvo;” who would guess this means “afternoon.” This was in a story told by a teenage boy who was part of a foursome who changed law enforcement signs meant to warn people to wear seatbelts, not to speed or drive while drinking. The four changed the signs to say police were targeting your mother, Godzilla, tightarses, kneecaps, and combovers. They made a serious undertaking of altering signs further and further abroad until they became the subject of morning radio talk as commuters began to enjoy the humor. Ultimately they were fingered, and their last undertaking was especially audacious and brilliant.

Even this small selection gives an idea of the range of the stories; some are fictional forays, others seem to be heartfelt memories of a brief moment. All have a significant connection to Perth. One by a mature woman not quite ready to tell her aunties she wasn’t interested in finding a husband tells about meeting woman for what she hoped was a date in the Moon Café. I was pleased to see the café does exist and has good reviews in Trip Advisor and she was pleased that the woman she met had the same expectation she did.

Alice Grundy, Stories of Perth, Brio Books, 2018, 216 pages (I read the kindle version). Available here only in kindle version from Amazon.

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