I knew that the Churchill Road house was close to being demolished when the builder’s security fencing was erected in front of its low brick fence. It had been a family home built upon a very generous block of land in the outer eastern suburbs, ripe now for re-development.
My kitchen window faced on to the back of the block, giving me a dress circle view of what was to come.
It came in the form of a 20 tonne Kobalco Hydraulic Excavator, an enormous machine that moved around the ground on heavy steel tracks. It looked similar to a building construction crane, except that the arm was divided into two sections, joined together like a person’s elbow. A large metal grab bucket was attached to the end of the bottom section, resembling the jaws of an angry Tyrannosaurus Rex, with enormous teeth fashioned from hardened steel.
The operator sat in a 360 degrees rotating cabin, and by moving foot pedals and levers, could place the bucket within easy reach of anything, be it in the ground or the top of a 2 story home.
The house was of brick veneer, and was connected to a freestanding garage by a concrete path. Near to the back verandah was an old weathered shed with rusted out guttering, and behind that the remains of an abandoned chook pen.
None of them had a chance in hell against the might of the Kobalco.
It arrived on a Wednesday morning, moving onto the block with the arrogance of an army tank. The operator positioned it opposite the longstanding brick wall, some four metres in height by twenty metres long. He swung the arm straight into it, striking it with the grab bucket, and it shuddered at the blow – but remained intact.
He made his second bid a longer swing, hitting it with greater force; it swayed somewhat, causing cracks to appear in the lines of mortar, dividing the sea of bricks into sections. Upon his third swing, the wall wobbled from top to bottom, then collapsed in a slow-motioned cascade of cream bricks, forming their own pile below.
When the dust cleared, like a peeping tom, I could now see inside the lounge room. On the mantelpiece of the fireplace I imagined a mantle clock in the centre, with an old photograph of pop and gran on the left and a family photo of mum and dad and the kids on the right.
My mind’s eye saw overcoats on hooks by the front door, a black telephone on a hallway table, and a butcher’s shop calendar on the kitchen wall. I could hear the radio broadcast of a 1960’s Melbourne Cup, and the monochrome flickering of a 21 inch television set tuned into a Friday night variety show on Channel 7.
The Kobalco grab bucket moved up to the top of the house where the edge of the galvanised iron roof was now exposed, and with it’s hydraulic steel jaws, grabbed hold of it, ripping it apart in moments, ending forever the pitter patter of rain heard overnight beneath safe and cosy woollen blankets.
It was all over in three days; kitchen, bedrooms, front porch, hills hoist, lemon tree – everything swallowed up and taken away in gigantic trucks for recycling.
A pair of black ravens flew in at jobs end when the monster was stilled, finding easy pickings within a smorgasbord of worms, confused as to their whereabouts in the newly plowed ground.
Neighbours taking their dog for a walk stopped for a sticky beak at the house that was no longer there.
It had left home to make way for the flash new arrivals.