3 July 2014
An expensive shoe box
Towards the end of the 1990s, my siblings, my mother and I would spend most of the summer holidays in Vendée, on France’s western coast, specifically in a small seaside town a bit south from Les Sables d’Olonne and an hour north from La Rochelle. My grandparents (see here and here), who would usually also spend the summer with us, owned a small semi-detached house there. A "house" is a grand word though: we would be at least seven people, sometimes more, in about 40 square metres, thus forcing some of us (read: me) to sleep under a tent set up in the equally tiny patio. But it was holiday time, the beach was a mere two hundred metres away, so it really didn’t matter, especially when 40% of French people can’t even afford to go on holiday.
Perched just above that beach with WWII bunkers scattered along it (the German army always feared an invasion coming from the Atlantic ocean) was what we called the "fisherman’s house". That one was a real house, with blue shutters, which seemed to be rented out every summer. I can even remember the name – Dauphin (which literally means “dolphin”) – of the family one of my brothers made friends with, as the father had renovated a homemade sea kayak that bore an old red sail, which my brother was desperate to try out.
Time has passed since then. We have no longer been to our family house all together, my siblings and me. But it is those memories that come back to my mind when I look at those pictures I took of Melbourne’s colourful bathing boxes. 82 of them remain today on Brighton Beach, at a stone's throw from the city centre. They’re all built the same way, regularly spaced out along the beach, each possessing its own unique character. I think I particularly like the one painted with the Australian flag and the one with the well-known Great Wave off Kanagawa by Japanese artist Hokusai. And of course, the Space Invader one will appeal to the geeks among us. But it’s really the colourful arrangement of all those boxes that makes it pleasing to the eye.
Interested in buying one? First note that those are literally boxes, not even habitable full-time (I gather there’s no running water). Then you would have to already be a resident of the city, then wait for one to be on sale (no, you’re not allowed to cheat and murder the owners – that’s not legal in case you were wondering). Only then will you be able to purchase one of those delightful boxes at the equally charming price of 200,000 Australian dollars (no joke). Just a tad too expensive for a (colourful) shoe box, in my humble opinion – my photos can on the other hand be appreciated for free ;-). You’re welcome.