The Australian backyard is on the back foot. Smaller block sizes and organised sporting and after-school activities are killling off the plot of land at the rear of suburbia’s three-bedroom, brick veneer houses.
The backyard was a wondrous place that reared a generation of Baby Boomers.
It could hold a cricket match; it could accommodate a cubby house; it was perfect for hide and seek. A kid could get lost in the backyard. And best of all, it was out of sight line from the kitchen. Cigarettes could be smoked. Water bombs could be lobbed at the kids next door.
And then there were the accoutrements: a veggie patch, a chook shed, a compost heap and an incinerator to burn stuff! The backyard could house a trailer or a broken-down car. It contained a Hills hoist clothesline that claimed pole position just off the back veranda.
Today, the nature and the needs of households are different. Mum isn’t in the kitchen; she’s working. And there aren’t enough kids in the neighbourhood to stage a cricket march. And besides, socialising with other kids is now done in after-school activities:Cricket Monday: soccer Wednesday:Cubs Friday.
Even the once proud Hills hoist has slunk off down the blind side of the house and has reinvented itself as a modest fold down version. No need for a big clothesline when everything is thrown in the dryer.
The backyard’s glory days, the quarter-are (1,000sqm) block prevailed. Today, suburban houses are doing well to snare 500sqm. And besides, houses are bigger, much bigger.
Aussies, we have shrunk the backyard. To some this is a tragedy but to others it is a fact of modern life that comes with bigger cities and changed lifestyles.
Our lifestyles and our family arrangements have moved on. The backyard is shrinking because, as a nation, we have found other priorities far more enticing. Vale the once mighty Aussie backyard.
Bernard Salt (The Australian)