I arrive at 598 City Road. I should have guessed, by the high number, that my accommodation wouldn’t be that close to the city. I ring the bell.
No answer. I look around. An empty petrol station. Low rise warehouses with few signs of life. Tower blocks in the distance.
A car pulls up.
“ I didn’t expect you so early.”
Karen opens the door to the shop-fronted building. Wafts of lotions and potions used in homeopathy and every other ‘opathy’ overpower me. My host makes tea – herbal of course. She hands me a map of the city as she goes upstairs to prepare my room. It’s in Chinese!
Still, the room is lovely – all yellows, reds and gold, feathered and tassled, chic and vintage. But the view over City Road could be better.
I set out, on a grey, drizzly day, into this warehouse desert, looking for South Melbourne market. Chinese masseurs pummel victims’ heads, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes. Young women catch up on the week’s gossip as they have their toenails cut, cleaned and polished. All in full view.
The food is more appealing. I taste the wine, cider and cheese and sit down to a Vietnamese chicken salad. Perhaps a full stomach will help me get to grips with this city.
I walk further towards the centre, under flyways and byways, passing surreal adverts and new buildings plonked on top of old buildings. Who’d have thought!
I take a tram that clangs and clatters around the city until it arrives at the harbour where an Anatolian festival is in full swing. A group of Turkish dancers perform for a stone-faced Edna, holding her signature gladioli.
But who is walking away from the lovely dancers? It can’t be the disgraced RH, another Australian icon, once beloved by HRH. Or can it? And accompanied by a rather good looking Bollywod film star. That fits I guess.
I take a tram in the opposite direction to St Kilda. My guidebook describes this seaside resort as having an air of ‘shabby gentility,’ a ‘sophisticated yet seedy suburb.’The guidebook is too flattering by far.
This down at heel resort looks more shabby than gentile, more seedy than sophisticated.
At last I find Acland Street famous for its supposedly, ‘wonderful European style cake-shops and cafes’. There are tributes to John, Paul, George and Ringo but also to William.
And a store where I used to buy my Rimmel make up as a teenager but I thought defunct..
“It’s backpacker country,” says Colin, a waiter from Essex, picking out a strawberry muffin for me.
“So that explains the ‘art’,” I reply.
“Art on acid,” he quips.
I walk towards Luna Park, past the Art Deco theatre and enter through the laughing clown’s face.
I hand my camera to a tall passing stranger with blonde hair and a smiling face.
“Fly me to the moon,” I say.