Do you remember all the houses you’ve lived in? All the family homes, dorms, apartments and friends' couches you’ve made your own?
Maybe when you start remembering the unkempt courtyards, unexpected parties, Victorian cornices and orphans Christmases, you can better piece together certain times in your life. And the memories that frame them. Nestled in dusty nooks. Lurking in your local bar. In the poached egg at your favourite cafe. Dispersed amongst all that money you spent at the drycleaner, hairdresser and deli. Sardined on the tram. On bike paths. In ex-boyfriends you crossed the road to avoid. Littered among the whole neighbourhood.
These are my love letters to the neighbourhoods that put up with me:
I love your quaint little ‘village’. It’s so much better than the monolithic and soulless ‘Glen’. I love your family owned bottle shops, who had the foresight to offer me Freddos when mum bought her bi-weekly cask of Yalumba, ensuring I'd associated booze with happiness from a young age.
I love your sense of community. Walking between friends' houses all weekend and kissing the boys behind the playground was easy. I knew all the parents down the street, at the shops and had a crush on the high school boy that worked at the checkout at Safeway. On Saturday, everyone who was anyone had a sausage at the sizzle in front of the local Butcher. Mum couldn’t even get angry when someone stole her parking spot in town, because we probably knew them.
I love your vanity. Walking along the beachfront from Beacon Cove to the gym on Bay Street you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d crossed a Baywatch set. Or entered the AFL draft. Or perhaps even teleported to Miami. There’s a bevy of buxom blondes with breasts eerily standing at attention. A lot of them walk dogs. There’s an accompanying bevy of boofhead footballers. If you’re lucky, they’re shirtless. They roam in packs. And say the darndest things!
I love your beach. It’s a little dusty from the whole port business. But there’s something about the water. We are drawn to it. It soothes and smoothes humans as well as sand. And it’s the water that berths those big cruise ships that bring all the tourists in to flood the 109 tram. There’s not much to complain about in Port Melbourne so annoying tourists seem fair.
I love your come-one, come-all diversity. Victorian houses stand regal alongside apartments crammed with students and families sharing rooms. When I lived in one of those apartments, I felt chuffed to be part of the underbelly.
I love the democratic divide at the centre of your universe: Glenferrie Road. Throngs of busy stay-at-home mums rule during the day. They discuss home renovations and the successes of their children. Private school boys and girls take charge between 3 - 4 pm. They get Maccas or boost juices. With a collective sigh of relief they untuck shirts and loosen ties. It’s not cool to smoke anymore. But they still hang out. Uni students are the stewards of Hawthorn’s grimy pubs and clubs after dark. Girls never wear many clothes. The Hawthorn, the Glenferrie, the Geebung and Cheers are venues that elicit fond memories in us all. In the morning, when the rich dads go to work, they avoid the spew in gutters from the night before.
I love your snootiness. The rich dark ivy that adorns your large, expensive houses indicates another echelon of elitism. Even the streets form cliques. The shops on Toorak Road and High Street are so overpriced I always let out an involuntary snort when I look at the price tags. The volume of gourmet delis was always a little depressing though. Mostly, I just saved my fancy eating for the rich family I babysat around the corner. Their house had a library with a ladder to reach all the books on the higher shelves. I decided a laddered library would one day be the pinnacle of my life.
I love your leafiness. You are so close to the city, but even so, you’ve dolled yourself up in all different shades of green. You flaunt your wide roads, full nature strips and swathes of parks to play in. Assuming you can avoid The Real Housewives of Melbourne, you really are an aesthetically beautiful and convenient corner of the world. Chapel Street and the Botanical Gardens at one's fingertips. I could steal a glance at the filthy Yarra any time of day. And trains hurtle on through your station with a comforting degree of urgency and regularity.
I love the way you straddle Melbourne Uni and the Queen Victoria market. You understand the perils of students. Living here made it possible to nap between class. Cook cheapo lunches on the fly sourced from the market. You’re close to hipster landmarks like Brunswick Street and Smith Street. I used to ride my bike around and feel part of something big, knowing that everyone else did too. There are also lots of sexy beards to stare at on the trams.
I love your student parties and authentic pubs. All you have to do is quietly tiptoe out on to the balcony and listen for loud music, the faint clanging of beer bottles and follow it to its source for a quiet brew with some neighbours. All those cute beards you see belong to a fierce breed of creatives though. Don’t offend them. And try your best to be understatedly cool for 5 minutes. But not too hard. Drink Melbourne Bitter.