A Point about the Mill

Don’t laugh. I visited the Old Mill along the Swan River. It’s one of the oldest structures in Perth, which makes it a point of interest. However, the Plan to Visit the Mill usually has the effect of making my Aussie friends laugh. This is usually followed by the “Oh no, she’s serious” Look. Actually, I think I put this mildly.

No, it's not a giant beehive

The one person who didn’t laugh at my suggestion was my Aussie friend Robyn, who is also my Local Culture Guru. So, we set off one Saturday morning to visit the Old Mill. This would have been a brilliant plan, except that the Mill opens late on Saturdays. So we decided to kill time at the Atomic Café on Mends Street. We order tea and I make a wonderful discovery – Russian Caravan. I could get used to more of this.

Refuelled and ready to tackle windmills, we make a quick detour to pick up Robyn’s friend. It’s now three against the windmill. It’s still not open. This time we decide to sit on the river embankment and dangle our feet over the side. There’s a boy scouts meeting nearby. The BBQ smells good. Finally, we head back to the mill.

Third time’s a charm. An elderly couple who look as old as the Mill itself amble over to open the gate. The only windmills I’ve seen before this are the Suzlon turbines in south India. Perth’s windmill reminds me of postcards of Holland. The Old Mill should never have been at that spot though. The original builder, William Shenton, wanted his mill at Guildford. The town planners advised him to build it halfway between Guildford and Fremantle, on the south shore of the Swan River. Shenton’s mill opened in 1837 and lasted about twenty years. Since then, it has served as police quarters, a chicken run, and a failed resort. For some reason, this last makes me think of Moulin Rouge.

The old millstone with its worn out grooves is still there. So is the miller’s cottage and some very old furniture. Robyn thinks the beds are small. I’m not sure what to think. Meanwhile, Robyn’s friend has been doing a lot of thinking about how the millstone works. How does the grain get ground, anyway? We ponder over this point for a few minutes. Then, properly stymied, we decide to find lunch at Fremantle – this is, after all, where we really should be on a Saturday afternoon. So, I put a little mental tick on my to-do list and follow my friends out the little gate. That’s one windmill off my mind.

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