Point of view is important to me. I see pictures in my mind; sometimes they're important enough to describe. Most often not. But some pictures -- just an image, even -- are strong enough to shape your perception of a place.

One of my aunts told me of riding the Frank King bus that ran into Sydney -- she was off with her girlfriends to a dance or to go roller skating or to see a picture. There was an odd number of girls and my aunt ended up sitting alone. She resigned herself to watching the scenery go by. Once off the coastal highway, the bus rolled along Victoria Road past the DOSCO steel plant. Row on row of company houses formed the neighbourhood. Suddenly and without signal, my aunt found herself watching as nearly every back door was flung open -- as if on cue. From door after door, woman after woman rushed out to take the wash off the line.

'Wind's veering into the west,' said the woman beside her on the bus. 'Got to take the clothes in or they'll be covered in soot from the mill.'

That image has stuck with me for a long time. An image of a different time, of different priorities, of lost knowledge. The strange thing was that I didn't see those women or those clothes lines through a bus window. In my mind, I saw them from the crest of a hill, a whole community moving as one, coping with the matter-of-fact realities of living in a company town.

Sydney is pretty flat, so my Barrachois became steep. Above the company houses in Barrachois rose a hill where newer, more expensive houses were built -- away from the plant and above the soot. Barrachois was to be more than steep, it was to become stratified.

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