Saturday 26 December 2020. Today the Handels drove to the north-western outskirts of Melbourne to visit Bulla Cemetery, where several of George’s relatives lie in peaceful repose. The cemetery, established in 1863, is situated less than two kilometres to the north of Melbourne Airport. It lies in almost perfect alignment with the airport’s north–south runway; take-offs and landings are spectacular. A large crowd of aircraft spotters is in regular attendance at a designated site not far away on Sunbury Road, where they are sustained by hotdog and Mr. Whippy vans. The view from the cemetery is just about as good, and one now has the additional thrill of watching the planes disappear behind a newly installed array of solar panels, which covers an elevated field between the cemetery and the airport, like a vast metallic phalanx.
We did not visit the cemetery just to pay respects to departed relations. We enjoyed a picnic lunch too. Far from being inappropriate, this is encouraged: the cemetery boasts a rotunda for just such occasions. We consumed a range of Christmas leftovers as we sat in the shifting shade of large pine trees, of which there are (at least) two species present, one of which may be the Stone or Umbrella Pine, the iconic tree of Rome.
As Mrs. Handel and the children proceeded to eat their picnic lunch, I wandered off to explore the cemetery and take some photographs.
Bulla Cemetery is not of the overgrown, atmospheric variety – I’m not sure one finds those in Australia – but it is interesting nonetheless, with a heritage of some 160 years now and as many stories to tell as there are graves. One particularly poignant tombstone bears witness to the tragic deaths of two of Joseph and Celia Trotman’s children, one six months old, the other three-and-a-half years old. Life can be cruel.
I returned to our repast after fifteen minutes or so and ate a cucumber: breakfast had been more than adequate. I did, however, drink lashings of chai. We sat awhile, enjoying the peaceful setting and, given the warmth of the day (in contrast to a very mild Christmas Day), the shade provided by the pines. Occasionally a plane would roar over in the very final stages of its descent to Earth at Tullamarine (how locals sometimes refer to Melbourne Airport). In normal times, aeroplanes would land and take off every few minutes. Not so in these strange times of coronavirus. It remains a novelty to see a plane at all.
After more wanderings about the cemetery, we walked down Uniting Lane to look at a lovely old bluestone church, the former Bulla Uniting Church. We had thought it was still open. It appears to have been sold off some while ago and is looking unkempt. Perhaps it will be converted into a home at some point. On the way there we passed some friendly goats and had occasion to admire the array of solar panels.
We returned to the cemetery to avail ourselves of the public conveniences thoughtfully if surprisingly provided by the council, then bade our farewells to Handels past and were on our way. It had been a reflective and enjoyable Boxing Day out.