Lin Richardson, [Teenagers gathered around a fire], date unknown, digital scan from photographic negative

By Sophie Verass

My adolescence was spent crossed-legged, hunched shouldered and generally, in a slouch of cohesion. It’s as though young people naturally gravitate to the lowest point of an area and huddle together. Perhaps we assumed that ground level was safe from adulthood?

Like a pride of lions or a murder of crows, my friends and I would slump about together in trendy clothes and solidarity, and form a ‘gathering of young people’.

I think of my old university share house fondly. It was in Lyneham and a quintessential ex-govie property. It had your classic Canberran interior loop, where the lounge room and dining area shared a space at a right angle, and next to the table is the doorway through to the 70s kitchen.

The house’s vinyl flooring made it easy to wipe up spills when you were funnelling goon from its silver bladder into a smaller vessel. Although the 375 ml Coke bottle still contained reminisce of fizzy drink and BPA, its size slid nicely into the drink holders of our second-hand bikes.

The lounge room would become icy from the July drafts, as the Venetian blinds were terrible at keeping the frost of winter at bay. However, my housemates and I would collectively huddle near the big gas heater and fester upon a variety of blankets and op-shop throw cushions. Thinking back to this particular moment, it was an iconic image of my youth.

Even in a lounge room with a perfectly decent settee or a park with a sturdy bench, us Lyneham-dwelling uni students would opt for the dense floorboards, the corner of a coffee table or simply, wallow where our knees became grass-stained.

Unlike our parents or other kinds of ‘proper adults’, who’d call on company and have cocktail hour strutting around on their long limbs, our own entertaining methods suggested that we were unable to shake the memories of sitting low at the kids’ table.

Instead, we would have our overgrown guests on footstool-sized seating, sitting in a tangled shape. Our lanky boyfriends, for example, would look like the hybrid of a Huntsman Spider and the letter ‘M’, with their buttocks playing the role of the middle join and their kneecaps poking right up next to their ears.

In Lyneham, we mostly hung out in the grunge of the carport, where our visitors would descend into a circle. We would grab whatever we could find to take our bums off the concrete and the autumn debris. If you were lucky, you’d get the broken steel stool, stolen from Tilley’s café, but there were enough milk crates to go round if you lost out. Red wine in a chipped mug, a joint and funny pictures on phone screens would be passed around, as well as laughter and the occasional heated debate.

The sting from the fluorescent sensor would light up and frame the garage’s square architecture, and our circle would take centre stage and be on show to Lewin Street. Passers-by would have been able to see our goings on in the carport and I always wondered how we must have looked to them, or to our neighbours across the road.  

A gathering of vintage coats, beanies and Doc Martins sitting upon upside-down buckets, broken garden furniture and a mildew-infested doona. We thought we looked so cool.

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Sophie Verass is a writer, broadcaster and public speaker based in Canberra. She is a radio personality on 2XX FM where she exercises her talents of crapping-on and holding her tongue from cursing. She writes about feminism, pop-culture and ‘the everyday’ and her works can be found in a variety of lifestyle publishings such as, Mamamia, Show and Tell and Lip Mag. Follow Sophie: @sophieverass