Space above his head

by little red pen

I took the Cat to Melbourne in the school holidays, the first time we have travelled as a pair and a chance for him to spend some time with his godparents. We had a terrific time, enjoying warm autumn days, pomegranates from the tree down the street, drawing over breakfast, books, long talks, a new baby, soccer games, treks to the lake and noodles in the city. We spent a day at Healesville Sanctuary, then had a magical dusk experience exchanging whistles with a lyrebird at Badger’s Weir. For a birdo, it was peak spotting.

Less successful was my attempt to introduce the Cat to the joys of wandering Melbourne’s lanes and arcades. He got steadily more tense and grumpy, and I started to plumb the depths of maternal self-pity and stubbornness. Not a pretty thing on either side of the equation.

Then the Cat’s godmother suggested that we go into the State Library, a place that had given me much-needed calm and solace during our time living in Melbourne. We walked into the reading room and the Cat stopped still, his mouth open, wonder on his face. “This is a good place,” he said. “We can stay here as long as you like.” High above us, the roof domed to the sky; around us, the walls curved and people sat at the desks spoking out to the edges of the room. The Cat settled at a desk, opened his book, disappeared into himself.

So, a place that was built to provide the people of Victoria with somewhere to learn, to rest and to connect with their heritage and each other is still working. Architecture that inspires and lifts the mind, that speaks of democracy and learning, and that can soothe the frazzled nerves of a 10-year-old visitor — that’s good building.

Also, it has a chess room.