The suburbs by the the beach:
So I took my property at the beach by Elwood, in a house which would require a thesis to fully explain. The beach became a big thing for me whilst in Melbourne, where I would spend days charting my life over the coming months. Elwood as a beach is marginally superior to the incredibly grimy St Kilda but not a patch on the stellar Brighton beach nearby. Just one story I heard about St Kilda from this century’s most annoying shopkeeper regarded her son getting stabbed by a syringe whilst relaxing with friends, which bought about “the most agonising six months imaginable for a mother.” Then again even Prince Charles once took aim at St Kilda disgusting the water quality as being akin to sewage: he was right. Elwood therefore was a safe happy medium as a suburb, less grimy than Kilda but more available than Brighton.
When I first moved to the beach thunder and storms were a constant presence, showing off vivid streaks of thunder over a deep purple backdrop. This was the perfect contrast from those murky waters that followed the storm as the grime and dirt from the skies entered the beach. But.. on the clearer days I started to learn to relax, take naps, do the art of nothing basically. Easy to do in the sedate suburb of Elwood
But whilst I was relaxing, I was trying to work out my next hobby along the way…
On one day I saw a flyer for free yachting to the west of Melbourne. Yachting I’d never done and I definitely wanted to experience at least one or two sports whilst in Australia. Typically these socials are great in theory and in practise are often awkward and toe-curling. Meeting people on the train for the event we went out on the yacht, which I was convinced would be something out of Duran Duran’s Rio, with everyone wearing white and swigging champagne. Turns out it was a modest boat with a crew of two who didn’t quite belong in a music video… Admittedly yachting was nice to do but a little uninvolving after all of about five minutes. Yes, there was a chance you could get pelted by the waves, but there was just as much chance you could get knocked unconscious by the masthead. As the five of us – the 3 newbies and 2 staff members attempted to make conversation, I realised yachting was not going to be my new hobby in Australia.
I wrote this article at the local botanical gardens near my house. I was sitting beside the tropical plants in the greenhouse motivated to start growing my own salad garden. Admittedly I wasn’t sure of what was happening with my life in Melbourne (in terms of longer term plans, which are often required when building your own personal green patch) but I wanted some quick herbs and spices to add to instagramed photos of dishes I would be making whilst in Australia. Plus gardens I’ve always been interested in, even when I were a teenager. Whilst many people my age were into piercings, placebo and pot, I rather preferred the idea of potting plants and other types of weeds. I had agreed to attend a class organised by the council because a), it sounded exciting b), I was still largely unemployed and c), it was basically by the beach where I could continue my heady schedule of spending 95% of my free time by the beach. So when I went on the Sunday I was expecting a group of green-fingered enthusiasts and once again, I was the only person there. Shades of the New Zealand wine tour all over again. Gah, what an experience it was! I never quite knew where I stood on climate change but I do know that the people most passionate about it tend to be the most preachy and pretentious people out there, i.e. the very opinionated volunteers. The class, supposedly about growing a garden was actually based on large discussions about renewable energy, something which didn’t affect a tourist like myself. Also surprising was that the volunteers were obsessive about donations. Not that I’m tight but some things should be free. And the lack of exciting advice and plants to buy, topped by the suggestion I should give a donation for fingering through a few books didn’t enamour me to the club. Maybe socials with unknowns or people old enough to be my parents were a big no-no though?
But I continued on with my idea of getting a nice herbs garden going to a separate greenhouse to buy some oregano, basil and chocolate mint. Later on, when having an argument with someone, an insult was inferred at me that I couldn’t be very clever because “I was 22 and I couldn’t even grow a plant.” Admittedly I did lose interest pretty quickly in the garden because I never got round to my longed-for cooking class. And at least my pasta and chocolate dishes had a small zing of extra flavour. And at least in Melbourne I managed to successfully fulfill one of my objectives…
After 22 years of riding a tricycle I was finally learning to rock a bicycle. In my head were two or three songs rolling around my head. The Queen song, I want to ride my bicycle was followed by Springstein epic Born to Ride and finished off by quirky Ronson track about cycling home. Within those early weeks within the grimy hostel one of my top ambitions was to go around the sprawling Melbourne on two wheels, stop in biker cafes, maybe even join a cycling group and start wearing obscene lycra shorts. Plus by the time I got my bike I was working for a company which expected their workers to drive to work. I was still a public transport whore and felt cycling into work would be far cooler, trendier and exciting. Boy I was nervous though, just the disaster of crashing into a hill on that motorised car in New Zealand was enough to tip me over the edge. So when I finally got my second hand bike from the business emporium that is Gumtree, I knew I had to push myself until I was a cycling pro.
The advice from the guy who sold me the bike was instantly unhelpful, it was actually my own pushing that gave me the ability to finally start riding on the bike- after all, there were only so many times I could crash into people and use the excuse: I’m learning. And in a day I had mastered cycling – albeit badly, but I was successfully cycling through the suburbs. From Brighton to St Kilda (google these journeys), from Elwood to the City and, my piece-de-resistance: Elwood to Brunswick. My friend, who has been a cycling pro for years was even impressed with my progress. Finally I could control a vehicle without needing assistance. Hell, I was on the bike lanes on the road and not dying. Nobody had even attempted to door me (the expression is very literal, meaning when a driver opens his door to knock off a cyclist), I was feeling great. Now that I’ve given you some stuff I got up to Melbourne, I’ll tell you about finally working in Australia.