A neighbourhood of contrasts

I’ve mentioned in earlier posts that I live in a suburb many would describe as being on the wrong side of the tracks and it can be like that, rough, full of hoons and even a little scary.  There are definitely streets that I wouldn’t want to walk down on my own at night.  But I like our suburb and as I explore it more and more my affection for it is growing.

As with many Melbourne suburbs it seems this one (in the north by the way) is in transition.  With house prices rising, this somewhat dowdy suburb with a bad reputation is becoming more popular with young couples and families.  It is not too far from the city, still in zone one on the train and yet remains an affordable option (though not as much as it used to be).  There are many, many townhouses and units being built in place of dilapidated, yet full of character and charm, old weatherboards.  In fact it is in one of these that my little family resides (as much as I coveted one of the Californian bungalows in need of love and attention… and indoor plumbing).  Along side these new townhouses filled with young professionals or couples with small children you have older residents, ones that have lived in the suburb for forty years of more, often Greek and almost always with a lemon, fig or olive tree (or all three) in the front yard and a fabulous vegie patch at the back.  You will also find a very large number of public housing flats and houses, home to new migrants, refugees, single-parent families, the unemployed and others who find themselves in hard times.  In all it makes for a strange mix, a neighbourhood more diverse than most and one that sometimes struggles with its own identity.

Whenever I visit the park closest to our house I am reminded of this great diversity.  The children playing with, or at least near, each other represent all sorts of nationalities, religions and backgrounds.  The parents – equally divided between mothers and fathers usually – look like they could be delegates from a meeting of the United Nations, minus the flash suits and throng of interpreters of course.  The park is surrounded by public housing flats on one side, the swimming pool/leisure centre on another and the senior citizens centre and community vegetable garden on a third side and it seems like the whole suburb passes through or by this place as I sit and watch Miss Two conquer the rope ladder or share a see saw with another youngster.

Today, the contrasts in my suburb was brought quite starkly to light.  It started as Miss Two and I were about to head down to our lovely local shops – taking advantage of my mother visiting to leave Baby Good home sleeping.  On leaving the house we were greeted by policemen, LOTS of policemen, who had blocked off our street and the side street.  That would also explain why the police helicopter had been circling overhead for the last fifteen minutes.  As it turns out my neighbours were armed robbers who took police on a series of car and foot chases before eventually being arrested.  The street was full of police cars, firetrucks, the SES and the dog squad and the neighbours all came out to stare and gossip.  It seemed exciting, until I found out what these people had actually done – it turns out they were not nice people at all!

When the blockade cleared and I was able to get out of the house, Miss Two and I did make our way down the street to complete a few jobs.  Last on the list was getting meat from the butcher.  I love our butcher, the shop is charming with an old style screen door which swings easily on well worn springs – not like the heavy self-closing glass doors you usually find – and the two young butchers know all their regular customers, especially the older ones.  As I was ordering my stir fry meat, an elderly man came in and was greeted with “Bill I was hoping you’d pop in today, I’ve just got some ripper porterhouse steaks I think you’ll appreciate.”  And with this one exchange I was reminded of the good side after witnessing the bad.

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3 Responses to A neighbourhood of contrasts

  1. Andrea says:

    Hi Barb, your description of the northern suburbs is spot on!! I hope those not to nice neighbors won’t be coming back. I can remember the first week i moved to Coburg with my 3 children from the eastern suburbs, what an eye opener!! no driveways to park the car and lost my side mirror within 3 days but friendly neighbors and a great market to buy fresh fruit & vegs ,wonderful Italian bakeries and a 20 minute tram ride into the City of Melbourne. We arrived home one evening to a blocked off street and needed to be escorted to our front door by the police as there had been a murder close by, one of the many underbelly ones. Although we havn’t lived there for six years we still enjoy visiting those Italian bakeries and friends and family that still live there.

  2. Phoebe says:

    Great post B! I wish Eltham was culturally diverse as where you are!
    You never really know your neighbours do you!? How scary!

  3. Liz says:

    I’m really enjoying living in Melbourne suburbs – your experiences sound very similar to mine, without the police presence. Having said that I do think that occasionally things like that happen. When I lived in London we had a police raid on the storage centre at the end of our road and they uncovered large quantities of bomb making materials. I have to say I felt quite comforted knowing that they found it and similarly I’m glad your armed robbers have been arrested….although sometimes I’d prefer not to know….

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