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North Melbourne – the down side

June 30, 2009

North Melbourne has been my home now for about nine years. When we first moved here, it bore only a superficial resemblance to the suburb I’d worked in 12 or so years before. The Town Hall pub had changed – it was still a bit grungy, but in a comfortable way. The 80s pink and black “El Dorado” on Leveson Street, once a stop on the after-work drinks circuit for cheap pots and massive plates of nachos, was undergoing a transformation into a polished concrete-and-glass bistro/pub. The Court House, which I’d remembered as my alcoholic boss’ last resort when escaping the office and which was always my last resort on the many occasions I had to trawl the pubs to retrieve him, closed soon after we arrived to re-open as a renowned and soon-to-be-hatted restaurant attached to a cosy pub bar.

Since we’ve lived here, there have been more changes. The lovely Libertine opened around the corner, Sosta Cucina took over where a rather uninspired noodle bar once stood, Oskar opened and continues to thrive, Burger Republic – now Urban Burger – covers meat-in-bread cravings, coffee is roasted, pastries are made, and a number of interesting little bars and cafes of all sizes have settled in to the area. Things continue to change, with the newsagent moving (twice) in the past six months, leaving all sorts of possibilities for their vacated premises. I’m sure those vacancies won’t be filled, as I would like, by bookshops or hardware stores, but I’m fairly confident that we’ve reached saturation point with hairdressers so I remain optimistic.

Some things haven’t changed.

Despite recent reports about the return of heroin, there are still a lot of stimulants on the streets, as evidenced by last night’s events. Us: a group of almost painfully unthreatening people waiting patiently for the traffic lights to change – me and my partner, and my elderly parents. Them: a screaming paranoiac and (unseen, at first) his three mates.

So far, so nothing-out-of-the-ordinary. We’re unfortunately used to the enraged invective of those addressing their personal demons, or an object seen only to them. My parents? Not so much, but they were stoic. Less so when the screamer advanced towards us and decided that the “fucking maggot cunt” who’d been chasing him was, in fact, my partner who’d been strolling in an opposite direction to him, elderly entourage in tow, to this point. Logic was left in the wake of the screamer, along with the jumper he’d been brandishing.

Looking back, we probably should have changed our route as soon as the screaming started, but we didn’t. When one of the screamer’s mates came from behind to try to placate his mate, we were still too stunned to move. That, as an option, was quickly ruled out when another mate came up from behind and – before we could even register what was going on – decked my partner with a blow to the eye.

I can’t remember why the assailant and his group finally moved off – perhaps they finally focussed and realised that the likelihood of us having provoked their “mate” was remote to non-existent. Perhaps they’d been looking for a biff all along and, having got it, there was no reason to stay. Perhaps they didn’t even realise we were there, real, and therefore had no reason to linger.

Cut eyes bleed. Boy, do they bleed. Seeing my partner’s blood-covered face, made worse by the fact that the hanky my mum – bless! – had given him was red to start with and that he was wiping, rather than stanching, the wound with it was paralysing. Instead of continuing on home, we didn’t seem able to move from beyond the pool of street-light on the corner we’d originally been aiming for. The enquiries and gentle sympathy of a couple of passers-by was just what we needed to pull ourselves out of immediate shock and get us back home.

Today, I’m not scared like I was last night, I’m just really angry. Angry that I have thought twice today – in daylight! – about going outside (all the way to the shop downstairs, no less). Angry that I have thought about moving somewhere else, even if that thought only lasted as long as it took to survey this place and be rendered exhausted by the mere thought of moving. Angry that I was pissed off that they didn’t steal anything; that the violence seemed to be its own end. And angry that I’m still thinking about it.

Will stop doing that now.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. July 1, 2009 9:45 pm

    Hope he’s on the mend. Terrible

  2. realityravings permalink
    July 1, 2009 11:00 pm

    How hideous that something like that happens anywhere let alone a neighbourhood you love. Don’t let the pricks make you a prisoner in your own home. I hope your partner is feeling ok now.

  3. injera permalink*
    July 3, 2009 7:49 pm

    Thanks, Zoe and RR – he’s taking it very well. No day off work (which I was pushing for, selfishly, so I’d have someone to hang out with), some bruising around they eye, but mostly he’s collecting similar stories from people he talks to. Which is disconcerting, and I wish he’d stop!

  4. July 31, 2009 9:25 am

    This is a great post (sadly about a horrible experience) about what life is really like in an area of Melbourne. Would you be interested in seeing your work about local places syndicated on local news blogs? See Central Melbourne for example. Over 150 local bloggers are already contributing. There’s no advertising and no exploitation of your content – just a convenient way for local people to read local news. To contribute please add suburb categories, tags or labels to all of your relevant posts, such as ‘North Melbourne’, ‘Brunswick’, etc and let me know you’ve done this. RSS feeds for these tags are created and added to the local news sites. You should find that syndication brings more traffic to your blog and more comments from readers.

    • injera permalink*
      July 31, 2009 6:19 pm

      Thanks for the comment and the suggestion re: tagging. Just checked out the Central Melbourne link – what a fab idea! Good to see a place for local content to come together…

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