Melbourne Memories -St Kilda

The far sickness has kicked in big time today. I think it is because I have committed myself to a paid job, which means that the travelling plans are truly on the back burner. But that’s another post for another day….

Time to revisit some memories of a very happy time in Melbourne. IMG_4658

We loved St Kilda. We were there every week as we were volunteering at Lentil as Anything.

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After our shift we usually had a wander around. There was always something to see.IMG_4673

We loved this community garden.

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And the cakes.IMG_4657

And the record shop.IMG_4662

And of course Lunar Park.IMG_5967IMG_4738

Hope to see you soon St Kilda.IMG_4787

Far sickness part two and why some things in Bearwood are less than awesome

Bearwood Interchange

Bearwood Interchange (Photo credit: tim ellis)

I chose to live in Bearwood because almost everything I needed was in walking distance including schools, a range of shops, green space, a library and a swimming pool. When I moved here about 25 years ago I could buy lovely bread from The Old Bakery, get almost every type of fruit and vegetable from Mike Drapers and meat from a number of butchers. We had a book shop, a music shop, a toy shop, a post office. Now most of them have gone. Slowly Bearwood is changing. Our high street like many others across the country is dominated by pawnbrokers, multiples, fast food and charity shops. And empty shops.

And I hardly noticed that this was happening.

Three things made me realise how bad it really was.

  1. I went around the world.
  2. I took part in the 4am project.
  3. I got involved with the Portas Pilot bid.

I had enjoyed vibrant neighbourhoods in Melbourne such as Brunswick, Armadale and in St Kilda I volunteered for Lentil as Anything. I visited fantastic markets with an amazing range of produce. Bearwood is closer to Birmingham than most of these Melbourne suburbs are to the CBD and equally well served by public transport, yet they each seem to be able to support a thriving and unique high street. They were social spaces where people met, worked and shopped.

I photographed Bearwood at 4 am and the bleakness of the high street at that time shocked me. Litter from the fast food outlets, lights flickering in empty shops and battered litter bins. This is Bearwood.

The Portas Pilot bid was an opportunity to transform the high street into one that reflected the community that lived in Bearwood. The vibrant, musical community who organise brilliant concerts in Lightwoods Park and Warley Woods. The crafty community who transform a church hall into a bunting strewn lively craft fair. A community that makes Bearwood a destination. A community full of hope and optimism.

And that was reflected in The Bearwood Blog post Has West Norwood got it right?

Yet somewhere along the line it has all gone horribly wrong. There is now a community hiding behind keyboards, determined to jump on any suggestion of an independent coffee shop where home workers could network. A community that believes that artisan bread and organic produce is not wanted ’round here’. A community that believes farmers market are a threat, not an opportunity. A community that doesn’t seem to want change. A community who wants it like it was when they were children back in the good old days. While I miss some of the old shops, I believe we have to look forward and not back if we are to bring the high street back to life. We need to be realistic that the high street is changing. And we can influence this change by developing a Neighbourhood Plan.

We need to capture aspirations and ambitions to ensure we all contribute to the function, liveability, economic advantages and environmental credentials of Bearwood. And I admit I have borrowed those words from here. They were good words! I don’t want to reinvent the wheel, just Bearwood.

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’twas the night before Christmas in Melbourne

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It is quite strange to be spending Christmas in Australia. It’s hot and sunny, so spending the afternoon listening to live music with a cold beer seemed a good way to spend Christmas Eve.

Phil and I were at Abbotsford Convent to visit the Christmas Eve Slow Food Market.

I was also keen to see Lentil as Anything at Abbotsford, as Phil and I have been volunteering at the one in St Kilda. This one is qute different as the food is buffet style, and as one of the cooks is Sri Lankan, the food slightly different and equally delicious. All vegetarian and we enjoyed dhal, beetroot korma, rice and steamed dumplings.

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The setting is beautiful yet it is just off a busy and culturally diverse high street. Enjoying the sunshine with us were families and couples, old and young, people from the UK, France, Germany, India, Sri Lanka, and South East Asia. Conversations taking place over lunch in half a dozen different languages. There were Muslims and Sikhs, Christians and those with no religious beliefs gathering as a community in the grounds of a former convent. I wonder what the nuns would have made of that?

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This is the poetry tree in Lentil as Anything.

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And this is where you make a wish and pay as you feel, there are no prices on the menu. The idea is that those who can afford to pay more do, so that everyone can afford to eat, whatever their circumstances.

Happy Christmas everyone!