Ever since she read about the lost museum in Alexandria, Heather Blakey has been on a quest to reestablish a fragment of the 'House of the Muse' in Melbourne, Australia.
The Alexandrian museum was, and remains, a beacon. No one is certain what the great institution looked like, but the Greek geographer, Strabo, describes it as part of a richly decorated complex of buildings and gardens. The whole complex was a center of learning and research, organized into faculties, whose scholars were paid by the royal purse. The library's broader mission was to rescue Greek literature from decay.
Carnforth - Home of the Soul Food Cafe
Bricks, real or fictional have power over our imagination. 'Carnforth', the house I live in is more than mere bricks, stones and mortar. It has been here for over a century providing continuity and an anchor to generations. Once an old dairy, with stables at the rear, I sometimes fancy I can hear horses hooves clip clopping on the blue-stone cobblestone lane at the back or people arriving to pick up their milk.
I have the impression that in some organic way the old walls that surround me have actually stored an impression of the generations they have sheltered and worked here. I imagine that these walls have many tales to tell, that they have borne witness to the passing of time and ways of living. I sense that when I am gone they will remember me affectionately.
Just as I cannot imagine Rebecca without Manderlay, Count Dracula without his castle or Jay Gatsby in an apartment I cannot imagine myself somewhere else. Whenever I am away I look at properties and yearn to set up a communal style property but I know that it would be a wrench to leave this gracious Victorian home, so close to the central business district of Melbourne and the busy hum drum of Carlton and North Fitzroy.
Carnforth was built when there was a surge of self confidence in Australia. It was built as part of the quite formal Italianate mode. The parapets were festooned with cement castings of consoles, masks, urns, scrolls and balls. Cornice moldings were bold and deep, chimneys sported cornices and even humble window mullions became decorative, twisted columns. It has a wide passageway leading into the central vestibule area that I have claimed as a writer's studio.
An identity in the area Carnforth still stands proudly, with few alterations from the time this photo was taken. We have retained the mystery, only re-fencing and planting a basic garden in the front. There are no signs to tell the passer by that this is a writer's house, the home of The Soul Food Cafe, a place of creation and inspiration. It is not obvious to the naked eye that within these walls the artistic imagination soars on golden wings.
There is no doubt that my most fertile years have been spent here, hidden behind these solid brick walls, safe from the scrutiny of a mainstream society that does not share my values. It is my domain, a place I love, a hearth that I have built to nurture those whom I love. I have found fulfillment here and I am sure that the walls know this and spread themselves protectively around me.
Over the past twenty years 242 has been our anchor, the place I have retreated to, a safe haven away from the insanity of mainstream and corporate talk. It is the place that holds so many of our memories - the place where we have watched our children grow and flourish. It lies in a part of the world that I have been deeply committed to. I taught at the local High School before the Kennet Government closed it down. I served as a Mayor and Councillor in the City of Fitzroy before the Kennet Government amalgamated three councils into one colossus. For great chunks of time I have lived, worked and been an active participant in the community here.
Carnfoth is my home but it has now become more than that. It is the actual home of The Soul Food Cafe, a place where fellow writers' come to be with the muse and find their authentic voice. It is the place where I can unashamedly live inside my head a lot, it is my creative harbor. Like most people I am a bit crazy, a little bit of a loner, someone who values solitude. Here in the secret garden that I have carved in the back yard I can live out my hopes, dreams, longings, fears, guilt. It is here that I come to lick my wounds, to take the burden of responsibility off my shoulders.
In a society which lacks compassion for those who live outside the city walls Carnforth is a respite, a hospes where folk learn to survive by themselves, learn that the inner guide is the one they can depend on.
Welcome to Carnforth!