Fire in the Sea Tour, Day 2: The Civic Centre
The civic centre had once been the home of someone important, although Sadie had never been interested enough to remember who. To Sadie, it had always been a safe place. When she was a young girl, her mother had held no qualms about leaving her there to play. Tonight it felt like a trap, its dark places concealing unknown terrors. She thought of that beast in her backyard. She thought of muggers and murderers. She thought of the strange boy beside her.
The Cottesloe civic centre was always going to feature in Fire In The Sea. It's an eccentric, rather wonderful place; a rich man's folly. A mining magnate bought the land in 1911 and turned it into a weird Spanish estate. There are crumbling stone walls; several levels of grass plains for weddings, picnics and playgrounds; and a white villa now used by the council for their meetings. It's like a more modest version of Portmeirion.
Like Sadie, I was often left to play here. I kept coming here, even when I was older. I thought about getting married here. The guitarist from R.E.M. actually did.
It's a stunning setting, just a short walk from Cottesloe beach. Its positioning atop a hill means you can gaze out across a handful of rooftops into endless blue nothing. Just the place for Sadie and Jake to test the distance between them.
A winding path led around to a wide concrete stage where wedding parties would pose for photographs. Jake stood before it, arms folded, like some night watchman. His jaw was set and his brow lowered. He stared out to sea as if waiting for bad news.
This is more or less the view Jake would have, when looking for bad news. (Obviously, it would be dark.) He and Sadie are standing on this:
A stage that is indeed often used for weddings. Like so:
(That wedding was playing Bryan Adam's Everything I Do (I Do It For You) as their wedding march. Don't do that.)
I actually posed there for some photos after my own wedding. Which is strictly against the rules, so let's keep that between ourselves.
His hand, when Sadie took it, was cool, despite the hot night. He led her down off the stage and around to the small rose garden, where a dozen bushes were in bloom. The heat of the last fortnight had singed leaves and wilted petals, but a few buds still held a crisp shape. Studying each bush in turn, Jake picked one and gave it to Sadie.
The rose garden is to the left of the stage, if you're facing it, and down a short flight of stairs. As you can see from the sign, Jake is recklessly flaunting council regulations.
Here's another picture of it. I don't know who that woman is. (Actually, it's my wife. She didn't get a rose. I'm very law-abiding.)
As it is, both Jake and Sadie are breaking civic centre rules, just by being there after dark:
I think the civic centre was always irresistable, as a child, as it didn't really seem to belong in Cottesloe. It's a little piece of another world, the closest I was going to get to somewhere like Narnia. (Okay, that's a bit of stretch... it never snowed, but there are a few lampposts.) I spent hours as a boy making up stories and games that used this place as a backdrop. I hunted smugglers, ducked vampire bats and completed impossible obstacle courses. Really, it was inevitable it would show up in my fiction. At present, there's a short scene set there in the sequel, but there's no saying it will survive the edit. I hope it does.