IT’S a long time since I first heard the name “The Triangle” and I tried to see how it described the rather odd place that joined the Cowes foreshore to its tired jetty. I recall an image of a sloping patch of unkempt bitumen which was a mixture of road, car park, foot path, and the spot for an occasional open air market with tilting stalls. It had no regular shape, but perhaps the space it filled between an assortment of walls, bollards, and a war memorial was more like a triangle than anything else, a sort of a “she’ll be right mate” triangle.
I should explain that I have an unusual fondness for triangles, not an obsession, more of a respectful awe. If you are the least bit interested in doing the most with the least, the triangle is for you. Let me explain. If you have one “point”, you are one step above having nothing at all, and it is not of much use apart from maybe suggesting a location. If you have two “points” you can make a line, and I’ll let you wonder how useful a single line might be. If you have three “points”, suddenly you can make space, and there seems to be no limit to what we can do with space. If you start to join triangles together, you will see what I mean as they curve and roll and warp for eternity.
Pythagoras the ancient Greek philosopher had his own fondness for the essence of things, and his discovery of the mathematical harmony of right angle triangles is a delicious moment in the human search for meaning. The wonderful 3,4,5 triangle has been a friend for life, nifty if you need a right angle in a hurry, and comforting reassurance that the square root of the sum of 3 squared and 4 squared will always be 5.
After the recent holiday season, I took the time to wander down and look over the freshly completed Cowes Jetty Triangle project, having in mind what a treasure trove of rich memories this place is. Before Phillip Island was connected to Melbourne by a bridge, the cluster of red rocks at the water’s edge was the arrival and departing point for goods, animals, friends, family, and holiday makers from all walks of life. Today it remains the only way ordinary folk can get on and off the island by sea. Quietly it speaks of the reason why the township of Cowes happens to be at this happy spot.
You should not be surprised that I turned my eye to search for the three essential points of the newly refreshed triangle. Approaching from the grand Golden Cypress-lined Thompson Avenue, it seemed reasonable enough that its termination point on the foreshore should be one of the three points, as it has always been, by the fortune of its location. To be honest, I have always thought it odd to place a public toilet at this juncture. I can see that it offers great convenience, while its roof top makes for a fine lookout, and I am sure the engineers made sure that the essential drainage was most efficient and reliable. But there you go, unchanged after the refresh, it still stands proudly at the top of the triangle.
Moving down towards the jetty, it is impossible not to notice that the war memorial has increased its prominence. Now thoughtfully enshrined by more terraced steps are large areas of grassy tufts that suggest they are not for playing among. Its obelisk, engraved with the names of those Islanders lost to the two world wars, clearly claims to be one of the three points I am in search of.
Arriving at the place where the jetty meets land, there is a modest shed, which I have been told is one of the oldest remaining buildings on the Island. When I saw it first long ago, I thought it rather looked with its curved roof that it might have arrived during the 1970s or 1980s. In its favour, however, it is the only object of significance in the place where I hoped to find my third point. I must say, I thought it to be very modern that this old shed happened to be offering tapas and paellas, a most cosmopolitan point indeed.
When I joined these three points to describe my perfect Jetty Triangle, I found what everybody knows. There is a reason why suitcases and paper bags are not triangles, they make very awkward containers, particularly around the corners. It is not easy to pack things into a triangle; they have a knack of making you think carefully about what is most important to fit in. I was very happy to see that the Jetty Triangle had decided to use its precious space to look after public amenity first.
Phillip Island and its people have a way of doing things. Somehow, against the odds of the weather, the wildlife, and the leanness of the soil, a community has found ways to survive and succeed, and to celebrate. The Cowes Jetty Triangle is a “she’ll be right triangle” for good reason; it has survived where Pythagoras would have failed.
The fact that the Island community joined together to fight for funds to rejuvenate this treasured public place is testament to the spirit of the Island. The Cowes Jetty Triangle sits midway between Erehwon Point and Mussel Rocks Point, one of the most beautiful stretches of north-facing coast in Australia.
The Triangle’s real job has always been, and should always be, to protect this piece of coast at all costs, doing the most with the least.