"And this also", said Marlow suddenly, "has been one of the dark places of the earth."
"No light, only darkness visible."
"I'd rather lick a turd than stay here a minute longer."
Though it is a fact little known among students of literature, each of these immortal lines was conceived as the author gazed Cortez-like (sans wacky helmet and pantaloons) out over the wastes of Caroline Springs.
For those few not familiar with the unendearingly earnest and enthusiastic TV advertisements in which spit-polished bogans, young married types and nervous yuppies espouse the many charms of their chosen suburb in the hope, misery loving company, that you too will move there, Caroline Springs is a community carefully planned as a utopian escape from the hustle and bustle of city living – cheap, clean, safe. Or so say the ads. Like every utopia from Eden on down however, Caroline Springs was doomed from the start to go horribly wrong, and the reality soon puts the lie to the marketing campaign (everything else you see on TV is, of course, completely true, though).
It is unfortunate people have forgotten that ‘Caroline Springs’ was in fact originally not a name but a warning placed on maps, cautioning unwary travellers against a surprisingly athletic madwoman who had escaped from a Melbourne asylum in 1892, and had been lurking in the area ever since. If they’d remembered, they may have had some idea of what to expect before they moved there; Caroline is sadly long gone, but her legacy of unwelcome surprises remains.
On approaching the suburb, one notices two things in quick succession: firstly, that it is indeed spaciously laid out, leafy and green, but only on the side of the highway used for sales brochures. The other side comprises acre after acre of scrubby, marshy back-lot, utilised largely for the purposes of dumping soiled mattresses, knackered shopping trolleys and angrily torn-up brochures. The second thing sure to strike you is the utterly soulless quality of the place – vapid Mc-mansions devoid of thoughtful design or liveability, mindlessly neat fences and roads, dull, boring gardens consisting mainly of well-kempt lawn, and an air of emptiness pervading even the most populous districts…Caroline Springs is the Stepford Wives of suburbs, and though some of us may have a soft spot for submissive, zombie-like traits in women, in suburbs it makes me want to puke.
‘But surely,’ you who viewed the TV ads with simple-minded longing say, ‘there is something to recommend about the place – the beautiful lake, the much-vaunted mall, the friendly families?’ Lies, lies and damn lies, I tell you. There’s a good reason why the ads never show people fishing, boating or swimming in the picturesque lake that is supposedly Caroline Springs’ biggest draw card: it’s two feet deep and consists mainly of stormwater (and, not to be slanderous, but presumably flesh-eating bacteria as well). The mall is the same as you’ll find in every hick outer suburb, all two dollar shops whose stock is of a fifty cent quality; perfect for outfitting your lovely new home in the latest bogan accoutrements. And the people… have you ever wondered about the sort of people who, when asked to sum up their suburb can find no better adjective than ‘ace’? Plus, the friendliness is mandatory. Seriously. In keeping with an Edenic lifestyle (to stretch my earlier analogy further than I really should), the Caroline Springs residents committee enforces a series of possibly senseless and definitely unjust bylaws which actively impose good neighbour policies; if you act impolitely, park your car on the street, have an overgrown garden, own loud kids, refuse to say ‘ace’ for the cameras and have the general air of a poor person, then you can consider your bags packed.
Listen: save yourself some trouble. Time spent in Caroline Springs is like dining on cardboard soaked in piss – you can survive the experience, but are you sure you want to? Let’s face it, the place is no Broadmeadows.
Caroline Springs: zero licked turds out of five.