Green Scene

Earlier this year, I changed jobs; I moved from working at a busy public hospital to working at a busy university campus. Necessity forces a public hospital to devote practically every square millimetre of useable space to functional purposes. Stepping out of the lab or the office meant threading your way through and between the many buildings standing shoulder-to-shoulder on site, all encrusted with roads, linkways, loading docks, stores and worksheds, carparks, the helipad, temporary buildings, garbage bin cages and, invariably, construction sites. Being a hospital, you also encountered a fair bit of humanity in every form and circumstance: queues of staff, patients and visitors waiting to buy lunch; lines of students waiting for a lecture theatre to be empty; lifts full of patients on crutches, in wheelchairs, on beds; bored kids running along the halls. Oh! and the trolleys; meal trolleys, linen trolleys, bin trolleys, bed trolleys, package delivery trolleys, mail trolleys, patient record trolleys, raffle-prize trolleys, snack trolleys; we had a lot of trolleys.

The hospital was a hot, bright, busy place, mostly concrete. The overwhelming impression I have of my new workplace is the colour green.

Busy though the university campus is, the sheer size of it means I hardly notice the thousands of staff and students I share it with. There’s an oval at the back of the building where I work. It’s one of many on campus, but pretty quiet whenever I’m there. It’s a big, green space surrounded by trees, a balm for my computer-wearied eyes. Fresh breezes rustle through the gum leaves. Swallows are out on the pitch every day, flying fast and low. I’m guessing they’re hunting insects, but it might just be that they’re having a lot of fun. The last cricket match of the summer has been played; today, the faded white line that was the circular boundary has been overpainted with a bright, rectangular shape. There are two smallish mobile goals parked on the far side of the oval, so I’d say the groundskeepers are preparing for hockey season.

Nearly every working day, I go down to the oval to have my lunch, write a bit and just chill, away from my windowless office. I have four dodgy benches around the pitch to choose from. The sturdiest is made of pebblecrete but has no back and is mostly exposed to the sun at midday. I used to pass this bench by, but it’s where I sit now, feeling the heat and wishing I could heave it into the shade. The bench I used to sit on had a precariously drunken lean to it, no back rest, flaking pale-green paint and a family of wasps nesting in one of the empty boltholes, but I liked it because it slouched in a thick patch of cool shade. Yes, the wasps had to make it clear I couldn’t sit at their end of the bench by flying at my face until I got the message. Yes, I used to wonder if the bench would suddenly collapse, trapping one of my legs between the timber slats and the concrete supports. Two older park benches had an even better position in the shade, but the almost complete absence of paint on each one was a clear, splinter-filled warning to keep clear. At least, that’s what I thought. When I came down today, my inebriated, celadon-green bench and its two more decrepit friends had been moved. All three now sit in the full, unrelenting light of the sun, looking older and lonelier than ever. I have to sit on the pebblecrete bench, knowing I can trust it but wishing the sun wasn’t burning through my shirt and trouser-leg.

I hope the wasps had something to say about it.

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