Bricks and mortar are the stuff that buildings are made out of. Throw in a few sticks of wood, some glass for the windows and there you have it; a shelter of sorts. Everyone know that’s what a building is, right?
I believe the above description is missing something, and that is the soul of the building.
To me, all buildings have a soul, which is developed over time and becomes a part of the building through the love and memories shared within the walls. Perhaps that is the reason why I have been drawn to old buildings for as long as I can remember. The older the building, the longer the memories have had the opportunity to embed themselves within every pore of the bricks and mortar with which the buildings have been erected, thus creating the soul of the building.
A touch of the personality of each individual who spends regular time within a building radiates through the walls, creating a melting-pot of humanity, enriching the structure with a character all of its own.
Back in the days of my childhood, growing up in the beautiful Blue Mountains of New South Wales, our closest large town was Penrith. In those days, with only one main road existing by which to enter or leave the mountains, we travelled to, and through, Penrith regularly.
My favourite part of the trip, every time we travelled that road, was crossing over the river. I would peer out of the old station-wagon window as we drove across Victoria Bridge, crossing the Nepean River, enjoying the glistening sun shining across the water and looking down at the wonderful old building just beyond the bridge, sitting beside the banks of the river.
As a child, I had no idea what the building was, just that the building looked old and inviting and that’s all I cared about. The name of the building appealed to me as well ~ “The Log Cabin”.
When I was twelve years of age, my cousin was married at an old church in Emu Plains (the first town in the Blue Mountains) at an old stone church which was built by convicts, (another building of character). Her wedding reception would be held at The Log Cabin.
To this day I can still remember clearly the details of the day of my cousins wedding; the brand new “grown up” outfit Mum had bought for me to wear, the pea and ham soup we ate for lunch and how my hair (as usual) had a mind of its own, with my unruly curls flying hither and yon, when all I wanted them to do was to sit flat!
Mum complained of a bad headache at the church and decided against going to the reception at The Log Cabin.
Poor Mum. At the reception I thanked the God of all Almost Teenagers for giving her the headache that day, as ultimately it allowed me to enjoy my first “teenager’s night out” with my thirteen year old cousin!
Early on in the night Dad became happily ensconced in enjoying a pint or two and catching up with old friends and family.
With a hefty supply of twenty-cent coins in our hands, gratefully donated by my darling Dad and uncle (as it kept me and my cousin out of their hair for a few hours!) and music blaring in the background, we headed off to play on the row of pin-ball machines, lined up in the far corner, against the wall.
Whatever would Mum think???
Here I was, twelve years of age, with money, playing pin-ball machines, unsupervised ~ and loving every minute of it! Mum would have been horrified!
I always knew there was a reason why I liked the Log Cabin!
Although many moons passed and there were plenty more opportunities along the way for independence, the Log Cabin has always held treasured memories of my first taste of freedom.
In April last year, when I returned to Penrith for the first time in around fifteen years, I spent a night at the Log Cabin Motel, giving me the opportunity to see the building of my childhood memories through the eyes of an adult.
Late in the afternoon I took a walk along the pathway beside the river. Rather than the bridge taking me across the river, for the first time in my life I walked under Victoria Bridge, alongside the Nepean River.
The pounding and roar of traffic travelling across the bridge, as I stood directly beneath the roadway, looking up at the underside of the bridge, could have been unsettling.
Standing below, with the roaring thunder of traffic overhead, I felt protected and cocooned by the spirits of my father and uncle, and all of the other family members with whom I had shared that night with, so long ago, who are no longer with us.
Post Script ~ Last weekend, much to the dismay of me and hundreds of Penrith locals, a fire destroyed much of the beautiful Log Cabin buildings. Originally built in 1837, over the years the Log Cabin has undergone many extensions and name changes. Starting its life as an inn, the Log Cabin progressed in 1939, after further extensions, to becoming the Log Cabin Hotel, when a licence to sell alcohol was first issued.
I look forward to the day when The Log Cabin begins its next entity, when the restoration of the remaining buildings are completed, or when the Log Cabin II is built.