Not long after we left Hornsby, this entire area became prime real estate when slowly it became known that a major shopping centre was to be built and would occupy the ENTIRE block bounded by Florence, Hunter, Burdett and Albert streets. The house of my early childhood - in Hunter Street - became a concrete entry way to a multi-storey car park.
However, we had departed for greener climes prior to this calamitous event. In my time, the block was split with both east and west backing onto Albert Lane: an ideal arrangement enabling children ease of access from one yard to another, through veggie gardens, skirting coal heaps and over fences laden with chokoes. Dinkies and trykes competed with rickety billy-carts down the gentle incline from Florence to Burdett.
Being just over half-way down the block was ideal, according to Dad, as his parents lived at the top of the block on the corner of Florence and Hunter and ran a general store from what other people would have used as a living room. As we entered what was a dimly lit room, a row of sacks with rolled over tops brimmed with flour and corn and meal for the chooks. Behind the counter was my grandmother who, I conjectured, was born wizened. My grandfather's role was to mind the store while G'ma worked dervishly to tend to her extended family: he used the till to ensure that he had something to prompt him awake when his head lolled - as it frequently did.
Our house ran from Hunter Street through to Albert Lane on which my father had his garage that doubled as a workshop with a large circular saw installed to enable him to whizz up his seed boxes to sell to the markets and to the nurseries that were germinating all over the North Shore. Between the house and the workshop were the veggie patches, all in raised beds with lawn encrusted pathways. The crowning glory was the towering trellis that Dad constructed along the fence that divided us from the French's next door. Every St Patricks Day, he ceremoniously planted seeds that over the autumn and early winter became a mass of the most delightful sweetpeas, twirling and clambering up and over, with a perfume that suffuses my nostrils 'til this very day.
But all this came to an end. An end telegraphed by weekend journeys to desperate places like Molong searching for a property that was affordable. Not fertile. Not tillable even. Just affordable.