51

Rose Bay

RB intro

 

Dear Melburnians, I’m so sorry! I had planned for the 51st suburb to be in your fair city. But as soon as I’d finished Footscray, I made a snap decision to race back to Sydney so my daughter, Coco, could start school along with the rest of her class. After being a complete trooper for the entirety of this project and feeling she’d been out of the loop long enough, it just felt like it was the right thing to do.

We arrived late on a Sunday two weeks ago, rustled up a uniform and Coco was back at school the following day.

I loved Melbourne and was keen to explore another suburb – I hope you can understand.

And so to Sydney. Home. A home I’d fallen even more in love with in 2009/10 after spending a year exploring and photographing 52 of its suburbs, in a project that inspired this project. Although I was disappointed not to be staying longer in Melbourne, I was so looking forward to returning to Sydney after more than a year away.

It was going to be a blast. It was going to feel fantastic. It was going to be the best.

Nup. Not even close.

To begin with, the familiarity was frightening. It felt like coming to a screaming halt after 13 months of wonderful discovery. Instead of the shock of the new I had the shock of the known.

Then just one of our two beloved cats was returned to us; Jinx, whose disappearance I spoke about at the end of this Paris post, had never made it back.

And to top it off, I was worried about my finances. Although I’d been lucky enough to get some support from my wonderful sponsors and Kickstarter people, the project had ended up costing me a pretty penny. Plus I was no longer getting any rental income from my apartment, something I’d relied on to pay my mortgage for the year away – although I knew it would happen, the reality hit home the moment we landed. I’m used to the insecurity of being a freelancer but after such a long absence it would take time to get work.

So instead of rejoicing, I found myself marching to the bottle shop around the corner, tears streaming down my flushed face, conflicted about being home, feeling deeply stressed about money and just so sad about the cat that didn’t make it – this was not how I pictured my first week back.

My blueness was compounded by shame – I’d just had this most amazing year, what right did I have to feel so low?

But as the days passed, my mood improved. It was wonderful to see family and dear friends, and Coco – my amazing little girl – was so happy to be back at school. I loved seeing her being swamped by her mates on the first day – they ran from all points of the playground, “Coco! Coco!”, arms wide open to embrace their long-lost friend.

By the end of the first week back, I was ready to raise my head again and look around – and my first thoughts were, oh god, I’m running even later than usual and what was Suburb No 51 going to be?

A week before we’d floated earthwards into Sydney right over the harbour. A year away had given me the eyes of a tourist and it almost felt like I was seeing the landscape for the first time. But I wasn’t a tourist – I’d explored this city and knew how rich it was with different cultures, that it wasn’t a city without substance, just a pretty face. Its natural beauty was the icing on the cake – but what icing! Not even the leaden sky could take away from its brilliance.

 

arriving back home to a land of water

arriving back home to a land of water

 

 

What struck me the most were the long fingers of water jutting into the green land – and I realised that Sydney’s beauty was as much a part of it as the incredible mix of people who call the city home. Something I’d previously almost eschewed, I now embraced.

Having emerged more or less from my little hole a week later, I decided to make Suburb No 51 somewhere watery, to honour Sydney’s aquatic nature. It also suited my state of mind – and body; I was tired, it was stinking hot and I’d forgotten how blinding Sydney’s sun was.

So I decided on Rose Bay. Somewhere I’d driven through many times before but never really explored.

Some quick facts. Rose Bay is seven km east of the CBD. The largest of Sydney Harbour’s bays, it was the site of Australia’s first international airport – the Sydney Water Airport, so named because the only aircraft that landed there, landed on the water. These ‘flying boats’ operated from 1938 to 1974, through peace and war times. Today, the suburb is noted for being affluent and very Jewish.

Let’s nose.

 

Part 1: On the ‘beach’

Years ago one of my best friends lived in Rose Bay in one of the many apartment blocks. I must’ve visited her there dozens of times but not once did I cross New South Head Road to explore the nearby bay itself. But then as one local said, “we do a good job of keeping it secret”.

What’s so special about it? You can see the city – it’s a 10-15 minute drive – yet when the tide’s out, the place transforms into a South Coast-ish paradise. There’s hardly anyone around except for a few dog owners letting their four-legged ones run madly around the enormous flat (it’s one of the few places dogs are allowed), and fit looking bods paddle-boarding their way around the bay ($10 an hour from Rob who looks on from his chair under the swaying trees). Oh, and crazy people who still think tanning themselves in the midday sun is a good idea.

 

 

from Rome to Rose Bay - Marina, here for 20 years

from Rome to Rose Bay – Marina, here for 20 years

 

 

 

 

crucifying himself - Matteo in the midday sun :: 1

crucifying himself – Matteo in the midday sun :: 1

 

 

 

 

crucifying himself - Matteo in the midday sun :: 2

crucifying himself – Matteo in the midday sun :: 2

 

 

 

 

up vs down the hill - Kincoppal, formerly Rose Bay Convent, and Rose Bay 'beach'

up vs down the hill – Kincoppal, formerly Rose Bay Convent, and Rose Bay ‘beach’

 

 

 

 

dancing dog

dancing dog

 

 

 

 

South Coast-ish

South Coast-ish

 

 

 

 

black and white vs colour

black and white vs colour

 

 

 

 

Part 2: On the promenade

Having had my fill of sun and sand between toes, I walked around to the other side of the bay, past the ferry wharf to get to Rose Bay Promenade.

On the way I met…

A man whose suit I admired who’d just got off the ferry and was walking home – “I like your yellow suit, can I please take your photo?” – turned out to be a famous Sydney businessman called Bill Ferris. What, I asked him, did he think about the cliche that most of Sydney regards the eastern suburbs as being snobs-ville.

“Well”, he said, “the cliche may be well earned but envy abounds”.

As he pointed out his house – one of only a handful right on the beach – I had to agree. I felt positively green.

 

 

"Envy abounds" - Bill Ferris

“Envy abounds” – Bill Ferris

 

 

 

 

On another visit I met an Irishman wearing very little at all – “I like your body, I mean green shorts, can I please take your photo?”. Ricardo – “Well, it’s Richard but people call me Ricardo” – turned out not to be famous at all – just a lovely Irish man in green shorts.

 

 

the Irishman

the Irishman

 

 

 

 

Irish Ricardo

Irish Ricardo

 

 

 

Then there was Harvey, walking home past the ferry with family and friends after a late afternoon play on the sand. I wanted to focus on his charmingly dishevelled straw hat but he had other ideas.

 

 

Zeus, god of dramatic skies - Harvey

Zeus, god of dramatic skies – Harvey

 

 

 

 

Harvey

Harvey

 

 

 

 

And lastly Rowen, who was taking his life in his hands by being in the harbour water at “shark time” – he and his mate had lost their surfboard which had a video camera attached to it for filming their surfing escapades on the harbour. He was retrieving the board from under the jetty when I forced him to stay one moment longer in the sharky water.

 

 

"hurry up, it's shark time" - Rowen

“hurry up, it’s shark time” – Rowen

 

 

 

 

Part 3: At Rose Bay shops

I really only had eyes for Rose Bay’s shore and promenade. But I reluctantly dragged myself away from them to try and capture other aspects of the suburb.

I’m so glad I did or I would never have met a delightful Polish woman called Barbara. She and her Polish husband, Tadeusz, have run the Craftsman Bakery on Old South Head Road for 20 years. They fled their homeland in 1983, arriving in Sydney not long after.

When they first got off the plane, Barbara asked her husband, “Why are they blowing hot air at us?” Now, decades later, she loves Sydney’s heat and sun – “Every day is like a holiday!”

Which is amazing considering the workload they both have – Barbara gets up at 4am six mornings a week, and works through to 4pm. Her husband then bakes from 7pm to 4am. “So you never see each other?”, I asked. No, she said, we do – every Friday afternoon when they both down tools to celebrate Shabbat. “I thank god there’s a Friday”.

 

 

"When do I see my husband? For Shabbat, on Friday night, I love it!" - Barbara

“When do I see my husband? For Shabbat, on Friday night, I love it!” – Barbara

 

 

 

 

and challah

and challah

 

 

 

 

"I grind the poppy seeds myself, makes it special"

“I grind the poppy seeds myself, makes it special”

 

 

 

 

I don’t imagine Barbara’s popular Poppy Twirls and challah bread will be around for too long – the rent has recently gone up and at 65 years of age, she and Tadeusz are nearing retirement. Yet nothing seems to weigh Barbara down – she’s one of those incredibly kind, happy people. What was her secret to happiness – “Working and talking to people, sharing problems, yes, that’s it”.

Across the road from Barbara’s little Polish corner is Rose Bay’s Greek one – St. George Greek Orthodox Parish.

I caught the end of the Sunday service there last week and met little Yianna, newly Christened.

 

 

three flowers - seven month old Yianna being christened at St. George Greek Orthodox Parish

three flowers

 

 

 

 

tiny frills

tiny frills

 

 

 

 

Some days later I was wandering around Old South Head Road when I noticed twins dressed for the beach. Brothers Eidan and Osher, who are actually a year apart, were off with their Israeli mum to a friend’s pool. Would they let me take their photo? No! What about if we gave them a chocolate? Yes!

 

 

Eidan and Osher - pre-bribe

Eidan and Osher – pre-bribe

 

 

 

 

post-bribe

post-bribe

 

 

 

 

Part 4: On the water

Having at least explored a little of Rose Bay beyond the bay, I let myself be drawn back to the water’s edge. One afternoon I took Coco down there after school. While she was busy cartwheeling and drawing in the sand, I got chatting to a Danish man who was dangling his feet into the shallow water from a small runabout. As I took his photo, Lars explained that he lived on a boat moored out in the bay, and was just on shore to walk his small dog, Maddy.

Oh, I said, really. Any chance of us having a nose around your boat?

Total cheek. But as his wife was off visiting a friend and he had no plans, he said we were welcome to.

Motoring out to get to his boat, 49 foot long ‘Nanok’, I was partly excited and partly crossing my fingers Lars wasn’t an axe murderer. As you do.

Thankfully he turned out to be a most charming man, without any axe murdering tendencies, married to an equally lovely woman, Elise (we ran into them both by complete chance the next day).

 

 

waiting for Maddy to finish her walk - Lars

waiting for Maddy to finish her walk – Lars

 

 

 

 

bound for Nanok :: 1

bound for Nanok :: 1

 

 

 

 

bound for Nanok :: 2

bound for Nanok :: 2

 

 

 

 

Once on board, we had a snoop around as Lars told us more about their life. Twenty odd years ago, when their kids were three and five, they’d spent four years cruising around the Pacific. They’d all loved it – even the home schooling part. Having endured rather than enjoyed home schooling last year, I was curious. But as Lars explained, they’d had plenty of time to do it – it had only ever become challenging when they met other boats without any kids who wanted to kick back and enjoy the sun and island life.

20 years later, with their kids now adults, Lars and Elise were back at sea – they’d left their home in Brisbane and had been travelling for six months with no plans to stop. “I could do this forever”, Lars said, “but I’m not sure about my wife.” Out of ten, how much did he love it? “12″. And Elise? “Maybe six.”

Lars had spent five years full time building Nanok, a boat designed in the Colin Archer style – which meant it was an extremely safe, sea-going vessel with four corner sails rather than the usual triangle shape.

And how did they end up moored in Rose Bay? “Some friends told us about it. Pretty nice isn’t it?”

 

 

five years in the making - Lars on board Nanok

made with his own hands – Lars on board Nanok

 

 

 

 

"It's my dad's mandolin"

“It’s my dad’s mandolin”

 

 

 

 

what's up there?

what’s up there?

 

 

 

 

getting towards sunset

getting towards sunset

 

 

 

 

time to go

time to go

 

 

 

 

goodbye Nanok

goodbye Nanok

 

 

 

 

The next day Coco and I were back in Rose Bay when, as I mentioned earlier, we ran into Lars and Elise. All Coco wanted to do was go back on their boat – it was so much fun, and we hadn’t even sailed anywhere. I agreed – having never really ‘got’ boats, I found myself wondering if I should learn how to sail. But small problem – I’m not so keen on the keeling bit.

 

 

rigging

rigging

 

 

 

 

snakes and ladders

snakes and ladders

 

 

 

 

Part 5: In the air

While walking along Rose Bay Promenade one day, I met Valerie and John. Now in her 70s, Valerie had come to Sydney from England as an 11 year old, 66 years ago. But instead of arriving by ship as most did, she was one of the lucky few to arrive by “flying boat”, right here at Rose Bay.

I knew about the seaplanes that took off from Sydney Seaplanes at Rose Bay – I’d walked past their base many times in the past week, watching their footed planes rise from the water into the sky – but I had no idea they were part of a long tradition of aquatic aviation in the area. Because Rose Bay was in fact the first international airport in Australia, the Sydney Water Airport – from 1938 to 1974, passengers arrived and departed on a watery runway, from and to all parts of the world.

Valerie’s journey from England to Sydney had taken just 9 days – amazing at the time when a flight in a normal plane required a whopping 31 stops.

But not everyone could afford to fly on the luxurious Empire Class flying boats – one ticket cost the equivalent of an average annual wage.

After meeting Valerie I researched the whole flying boat thing and got more and more excited about the idea of going up in one. Maybe not the Empire Class of old but one of those nifty looking seaplanes based at Rose Bay.

Which is how I ended up strapped into a de Havilland Canada DHC-2 Beaver, camera at the ready…

 

 

Valerie arrived in Sydney 66 years ago, landing at Sydney Water Airport, Rose Bay

Valerie arrived in Sydney 66 years ago, landing at Sydney Water Airport, Rose Bay

 

 

 

 

ready for boarding - our plane arrives

ready for boarding – our plane arrives

 

 

 

 

preparing for take-off

preparing for take-off

 

 

 

 

a sandstone city

a sandstone city

 

 

 

 

turn left at Bondi to circle back

turn left at Bondi to circle back

 

 

 

 

far from China

far from China

 

 

 

 

at an angle

at an angle

 

 

 

 

double coat hanger

double coat hanger

 

 

 

 

icons dwarfed by harbour

icons dwarfed by harbour

 

 

 

 

let's keep going please captain!

let’s keep going please captain!

 

 

 

 

arrivals lounge

arrivals lounge

 

 

 

 

pumping out the floats

pumping out the floats

 

 

 

 

hosing off the salt

hosing off the salt

 

 

 

 

goodbye de Havilland Canada DHC-2 Beaver

goodbye de Havilland Canada DHC-2 Beaver

 

 

 

 

Long a fan of flying – the wilder and more turbulent the better – I felt so uplifted (no pun intended) by my 15 minutes in the air. Really, we could’ve flown anywhere and I would’ve loved it. But the fact that we flew over one of the most beautiful harbours in the world, with the light turning its surface into glistening snakeskin, well, that just made it even better.

It was a wonderful way to finish in Rose Bay. Many thanks to Sydney Seaplanes for taking me up!

 

The Wrap

After my flight, I walked into Catalina restaurant, a Rose Bay/Sydney institution perched over the water, right next to Sydney Seaplanes, and was treated to a five course dinner and champagne.

 

 

sunset at Catalina

sunset at Catalina

 

 

Okay, no, that bit didn’t happen. I actually went home and cooked sausages for Coco and I, and was happy as Larry. Perfectly content after my week in the elements – I’d gotten sand between my toes, pretended to live on a boat, and soared into the heavens.

Rose Bay for me is all about that stuff. And while not everyone can afford to live there – or take to the skies or water – it doesn’t cost a cent to sit out on a picnic blanket, right on the water, and take it all in.

It was the perfect way to re-enter ‘normal life’ – by realising that you can still have mini adventures, even in your own city.

 

 

 

finally, friends

finally, friends

 

 

On the ‘home front’

After spending just over a year setting up temporary homes in 13 cities – a total of 18 different addresses – we’re finally back in our own city and home.

So what’s it like?

As I said at the beginning of the post, for me, it’s been a little stormy, much like the skies in Sydney this past week. But for Coco? Smooth as.

For example, a friend asked her how the trip was. “So much fun”, she answered. And then he asked, so how’s being back at school? “So much fun”.

She’s really just one of the happiest, ‘go with the flow’ people I know. Stuck in my little hole last week, doing circles in my head and not much more, I watched Coco attack the unpacking with great gusto and organise her room, chirpy as ever.

And school? Given how unscheduled her life has been for so long, I really thought she might struggle with the routine, and just having to sit down and pay attention. But so far so good. While maths might be a bit of an issue, she seems to be okay with the whole lessons-classroom thing.

And her friends? It’s like she’s never been away. She just slipped right back into her group as well as making a new bestie within the first few days.

In short, I find my daughter inspirational.

While I’m at it, can I just say to those who’ve been on this journey with us for quite a while, I reckon you’re pretty fabulous too. I’ve said it before and I’ll probably say it again a few hundred more times before I’m done – truly, this whole thing would not have been what it was without you. Just Coco and I travelling around the world on our own? Nah, never. What fun would that have been?

  —

This suburb has been brought to you by John Agostini

See you next week – for the very last post.

 

50

Footscray

F intro

 

Welcome to Melbourne, a city I’ve never spent more than a few days in or explored beyond the obvious – Fitzroy, St Kilda, that sort of thing. And anyway, that was eons ago, when Fitzroy was the latest hip thing and Chapel Street was still cool.

What was it like nowadays I wondered – and so here we are, city No 13 on 52 Suburbs Around the World.

I’d planned to spend longer but the way things have worked out means that we’ll only be here for two weeks, which, considering the size (four million-ish) and diversity of Melbourne is really not enough to do the city justice. But I need to get Coco back to school (she’s already missing the first week or so) and so two suburbs it will have to be.

For the first of those two suburbs I ended up choosing one that quite a few people suggested on my Facebook page – Footscray, five kilometres west of the city.

Some fast facts… Aboriginal forever until 1803 when the first European stepped foot in the area. Declared a municipality in 1859 with a population of 300 and 70 buildings. Industrial from mid-1800s until the 1960s and 70s when it began to decline. Central Footscray is now one of the main shopping and transport hubs for Melbourne’s western suburbs. Once very European, today the suburb is mainly Asian and African.

Ready?

 

Part 1: Footscray in a former life

Once upon a time the Footscray shopping strip was a little Europe, with Greeks, Italians and Yugoslavians filling the place. Times have clearly changed – I think I counted just three Italian establishments and not even one Greek joint. But I did find a Greek Orthodox Church and a wonderful Italian pasticceria dishing out some of the best cannoli in Melbourne.

 

 

old Footscray - Heidi at the Greek Orthodox church

old Footscray – Heidi at the Greek Orthodox church

 

 

 

 

Standing outside the Italian pasticceria, T Cavallaro and Sons, that’s been fattening up the suburb for more than 50 years, I met Ben and Matthew, 10 year old twins from an Italian background. They were in Footscray with their parents to pick up a cake for the 50th wedding anniversary of their nonna and nonno.

 

 

double-take - redheads in Footscray

double-take – redheads in Footscray :: 1

 

 

 

 

Ben and Matthew, 10, from an Italian background, picking up a cake for the 50th wedding anniversary of their nonna and nonno

double-take – redheads in Footscray :: 2

 

 

 

 

Apparently the pasticceria’s cannoli also draw crowds from all around with their creamy, thick, thigh-expanding deliciousness.

 

 

the best in town - cannelloni from T Cavallaro and Sons

the best in town – cannoli from T Cavallaro and Sons

 

 

 

 

Sitting at one of the cafes along a street that’s now dominated mainly by East African men, I caught sight of something else very European – a beret sitting atop the head of 77 year old Elias, originally from Bosnia.

 

 

Elias, 77, from Bosnia - "Where have I lived in Melbourne? Richmond and Footscray"

Elias, 77, from Bosnia – “Where have I lived in Melbourne? Richmond, Footscray, lots of places”

 

 

 

 

In search of more Greeks or Italians, I headed to Yarraville, just down the road from Footscray, where I found a Greek christening taking place.

 

 

"There's a few of us still here in Yarraville" - a Greek Christening

“There’s a few of us still here in Yarraville” – a Greek Christening

 

 

 

 

Zoe at her cousin's Christening at a Greek Orthodox church, Yarraville

Zoe at her cousin’s Christening at a Greek Orthodox church, Yarraville

 

 

 

 

But that was about it for signs of the old European Footscray – today it’s quite a different story…

 

 

Part 2: Footscray today

Or Footscary as some people refer to it thanks to the crime and drug problems it once faced and still faces to some extent.

Locals told me that 15 years ago the whole area, from Footscray to Yarraville, was down at heel and druggy. “If you got off at Yarraville train station, or Seddon, or Footscray, you’d be offered drugs”, was what I kept hearing.

Since then Yarraville cleaned up its act and is now fully gentrified. And Seddon, which is much closer to Footscray – in fact, is actually considered a part of Footscray – looks pretty glam too.

But Footscray itself, especially around the shopping centre, is still yet ‘to go’ – as one lady said, “The trendies haven’t made it here yet thank god”. Instead, it’s populated largely by immigrants – Vietnamese, Chinese and, more recently, East Africans.

Having said that, there is one part of the suburb, along the Maribyrnong River, that’s been designated an arts precinct. One moment you’re in highly multicultural Footscray, the next you’re looking over the river, latte in hand from the Happy River Cafe, before taking a round of the Footscray Community Arts Centre.

 

 

Footscray today - at one end, artsy, the other, Asian

Footscray today – at one end, artsy, the other, Asian

 

 

 

 

Danny and Jo, from China

Danny and Jo, from China

 

 

 

 

"We live here because of the markets and the fact it's so close to the city"

“We live here because of the markets and the fact it’s so close to the city”

 

 

 

 

the latest strangers to be welcomed into Footscray - Africans

the latest strangers to be welcomed into Footscray – Africans

 

 

 

 

transplanted traditions - "It takes six hours for them to do my hair like this and it lasts four months" - Daruka from Sudan

transplanted traditions – “It takes six hours for them to do my hair like this” – Daruka from Sudan

 

 

 

 

African Town

African Town

 

 

 

 

Ngor, 6, from the recently created South Sudan

Ngor, 6, from the recently created South Sudan

 

 

 

Medina from Ethiopia

Medina from Ethiopia

 

 

 

 

growing up Aussie - Medina's daughter, Hawi

growing up Aussie – Medina’s daughter, Hawi

 

 

 

 

Part 3: Arty Footscray

I was checking out the ‘legendary’ Olympic Donuts stand near the station one day when a young African woman in jeans and boots stopped by for a bag of the sugary goodness – after spending days watching the Sudanese, Somali and Ethiopian women go about their business in their traditional dress (most of whom refused to be photographed, drat it) I was curious.

Turned out that Duaa, a 22 year old recent RMIT graduate, was from an Eritrean background but had been born in Melbourne, in nearby Yarraville.

She explained that she now lived a little further west but had just started renting a studio in Footscray to do her art in.

For her, being a “hybrid” as she called it wasn’t confusing or difficult, but something she enjoyed.

And she loved Footscray for its cultural diversity and edge – and cheap rent.

 

 

Duaa, 22, born and bred in Western Melbourne by parents from Eritrea

“I like being a hybrid, it’s normal now in this country” – Duaa

 

 

 

 

Given her studio’s address – in one of the dodgiest bits of Footscray, near where a handful of druggies hang around every day – the rent was attractively cheap. And the colourful graphics painted along the laneway were doing their best to uplift. But still, you couldn’t help looking over your shoulder once or twice.

 

 

outside her studio

“My family wasn’t thrilled when I told them where my studio was” – Duaa, outside her studio

 

 

 

 

"I like being a hybrid of Eritrean and Australian, it's normal now in this country"

“I don’t want to be famous, I just want to make art that’s considered significant in some way”

 

 

 

 

"If I work late, I always check to see who's hanging around downstairs before I go - it can be a little scary at times"

“If I work late, I always check to see who’s hanging around downstairs before I go – it can be a little scary”

 

 

 

 

Part 4: West Footscray

Technically a separate suburb but one that I strayed into without realising I’d actually left Footscray proper. And interesting because this is where the Indian part of Footscray is, as well as the latest wave of new arrivals – whities. Or as someone I met who lived there said, “West Footscray is where people from Elwood (an eastern suburb) come to breed”.

 

 

Kalpita and Priyanka, in West Footscray for an Indian friend's child's birthday party

Kalpita and Priyanka, in West Footscray for an Indian friend’s child’s birthday party

 

 

 

 

India

India

 

 

 

 

twirls - candles from the Macedonian church and Priyanka's dress

twirls – candles from the Macedonian church and Priyanka’s dress

 

 

 

 

the most recent arrivals - whities - Matt with son Euan, 9, bought in West Footscray 3 years ago

the most recent arrivals – whities – Matt with son Euan, 9, bought in West Footscray 3 years ago

 

 

 

 

West Footscray - recently turned homely

West Footscray – recently turned homely :: 1

 

 

 

 

West Footscray - recently turned homely :: 2

West Footscray – recently turned homely :: 2

 

 

 

 

patriotism in the burbs - Australia Day, West Footscray

patriotism in the burbs – Australia Day, West Footscray

 

 

 

 

Part 5: And then I met…

Driving along the main road in West Footscray one day, I noticed men in stetsons standing outside ’501 Receptions’. Texans? Mexicans? I circled back and went inside the building to find a wedding in full swing. But they weren’t Texans or Mexicans – these were gypsies.

My delight at crashing a gypsy wedding was, however, short-lived. I’d only taken a few shots when a tough looking broad – and she can only be described as a broad – suddenly swooped on me and ordered me to leave. Why I do not know – gypsies have a long history of being misrepresented but I’d already asked permission and been warmly welcomed by everyone, including the mothers of both the groom and the bride who were perfectly happy to let me take photographs.

After all the refusals by the African men and women earlier in the week, it was incredibly frustrating – there were some amazing looking people in the room and I was so curious to learn more.

What made it worse was the way the woman did it – I mean, sure, ask me to leave nicely – but don’t march me out like a child.

So I acted like a child and snuck in another few shots while she wasn’t looking – of a man who turned out to be the proud son of Ruby Sterio, the Queen of Gypsies and part of the famous Sterio gypsy family. Then I left.

 

 

Bill, father of the groom

Bill, father of the groom

 

 

 

 

"We live in a caravan and move all the time" 1

“We live in a caravan and move all the time” :: 1

 

 

 

 

"We live in a caravan and move all the time" :: 2

“We live in a caravan and move all the time” :: 2

 

 

 

 

free as a gypsy

free as a gypsy

 

 

 

 

wild west

wild west indeed

 

 

 

Driving around after I’d left the gypsies, I turned a random corner to find yet another unexpected sight – a large Buddhist temple in the midst of normal suburban homes.

Fearing the place was empty, I climbed the stairs and peered through the gap in the large front door to see and hear two Buddhist nuns praying.

After the experience with the aggressive woman at the gypsy wedding, I sat happily, listening to the soothing prayers until the nuns had finished. Then I asked if I could photograph them – and hallelujah, they said yes. And they stood, and they stood, and they stood, until I’d done what I needed to do. They giggled, I laughed, we all smiled.

 

 

 

prayer time

prayer time

 

 

 

 

zen in West Footscray -Vietnamese Buddhist Church, Phat Quang Pagoda

zen in West Footscray -Vietnamese Buddhist Church, Phat Quang Pagoda

 

 

 

 

they pray for "world peace and people's happiness" :: 1

they pray for “world peace and people’s happiness” :: 1

 

 

 

 

they pray for "world peace and people's happiness" :: 2

they pray for “world peace and people’s happiness” :: 2

 

 

 

 

a different world

a different world

 

 

 

 

from Yarraville to West Footscray

from Yarraville to West Footscray

 

 

 

 

old and new Australia

old and new Australia

 

 

 

 

The Wrap

The diversity in Footscray isn’t limited to the various nationalities and cultures. It’s also incredibly diverse in its land use and the way it changes so quickly from one thing to another. 

For example, down near the river there’s the Community Arts Centre and cool cafe (where the annual Laneway Festival kicks off this weekend) which are right opposite an old factory where blokes like Tony, Lance and Brendan work, waiting for that inevitable day when their factory gets ‘recycled’ into fancy apartments – “In three years we’ll be gone for sure”.

 

 

great views for a factory - Tony, Lance and Brendan at the Ryco hydraulic factory - "In three years this'll be fancy apartments for sure"

great views for a factory – Tony, Lance and Brendan at the Ryco hydraulic factory

 

 

 

 

Then up near the Footscray shops, there’s Asia and Africa – as well as myriad churches catering for the various different communities.

 

 

church land

church land

 

 

 

But as soon as you hit Seddon, which is five seconds down the road, it’s vintage shops like The Diamond Dog, run by the wonderful Sally, and hip cafes.

 

 

from Vietnam to vintage

from Vietnam to vintage

 

 

 

 

playing dress up just down the road in Seddon and Yarraville

playing dress up just down the road in Seddon and Yarraville

 

 

And there’s more change in store – Footscray has been designated a key growth area for Melbourne and the government has big plans for it. But even without that, given the way the surrounding areas have gentrified, maybe Footscray would end up going that way too. In short, go see it now – before the “trendies” get to it.

 

 

On the ‘home front’

Like Auckland, we’re lucky enough to be staying with friends here. So like Auckland, Coco sat this one out too. But here’s a shot of her with two Swedish girls at St kilda Library who we met on our way to buy groceries one day.

 

 

Coco and the Swedish girls

Coco and the Swedish girls

 

 

 

As I mentioned, some time next week – probably mid-week given I have yet to start shooting the second Melbourne suburb – Coco will pull on heavy black shoes and a green tartan uniform, and for the first time in over a year, do that most normal of things – go to school.

I asked her how she felt about it, after such a long time away – “Well I’m excited but a little nervous”. Fair enough, I thought, I am too.

 —

This suburb has been brought to you by Bronwyn Evans

See you next week – for the penultimate post.

 

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