For the past several weekends, by some twist of fate, the quest for gainful employment has resulted in me traipsing the near East of Melbourne city in a combination of train, tram and foot. There has not been one day so far where some part of my journey has not been disrupted. Track work to Victoria Parade trams one week, Clifton Hill trains the next, my frustration at not being able to plan a solid route and arrival time for my weekend work days has been getting me down, and anxious. At the same time, I have started dreaming again of another long walk in France. Little did I know that the conflicting ideas of work and play were to blend into the best idea I’ve had in a long time.
Walk to work!
Excitedly on Saturday night, my walking pants were a snug fit, and I slipped my feet into the most comfortable hiking boots I’ve ever owned. Walking the 8 kilometres to work was an option. Make a day of it. Pretend you’re walking in France.
The way is direct, and follows my train route for part of the way, and tram routes for the rest, so I could always hop a wheeled mobile if I needed to, but I can try the freedom of the legs instead.
6:00am and my alarm beckons … I arose with the anticipation of a path not yet travelled. Morning pages until 7:00am, and then shower. Breakfast and a 7:55am departure. I have to be at work by 9:30am.
Leaving Northcote station, brisk but not biting. Up Hartington, and the bells of the convent were ringing out. Past old Greek ladies dressed in black arriving in cars, and by foot – slightly more funereal yet just as smart as weekday CBD-suited women. Down my little cut-through to Merri train station, with fig-tree aromas, refreshed bollard graffiti critical of a certain catholic cardinal and in the distance two balloons – probably hovering over my destination.
Past plate-sized red camellias plopped face-up in my path on Bridge St then onto High St, Westgarth, the bakery already filling up, including my go-to listening professional. On towards the Merri Creek, over the bridge, watching the water below, now subsided from the rains several weeks ago leaving large river stones exposed. The traffic: only slight, but in Hoddle St, pungent already. Past the beautiful yellow leafed trees, vestiges of autumn, letting them go in the Clifton Hill park. On over the freeway past a paddy-van and two policemen in a standoff with a leftover from Saturday night’s partying.
Left into Johnstone Street, on familiar turf, not taking my path to 3MBS, but turning right onto Nicholson St. Great café to check out sometime – Admiral Cheng-Ho, perhaps a foretaste of the suburb I would walk through next. Casting eyes left, another convent spire punctures the fog in the distance to the east. The road ahead, narrow for a main one, flanked with car-parking bays and, it would become apparent, coffee shops a plenty. Mavis the Grocer across the road, Three Bags Full, and the colossal Mihn Phat Asian Supermarket led me to Victoria St.
Crossing to leave Nicholson and become Lennox, I was in housing commission country. Three locals loudly arguing the toss about something providing a kind of welcome committee. The characteristic, now tired high-rises a symbol of bureaucratic treatment of poverty and ever-growing neglect, fortunate only that they are not in the northern hemisphere this week. Despite this, a community veggie garden smiles at me. I say a silent prayer for their English counterparts, 58 presumed dead in the Grenfell Tower disaster. A figure no terrorist could match. We have our eyes on the wrong enemy.
A beautifully muralled Australian Vietnamese Women’s Association, past the All Nations Hotel and Richmond West Primary School. This has been suburban Australia since the 70s. Continuing along Lennox St, I am grateful to have found a long street that may take me all the way to my Cremorne destination. Off the main drag I pass street cats and locals walking their dogs past Edwardian woven-wire fencing (something I thought was peculiarly Adelaidian, but has obviously migrated east). I start to wonder about how my time is going, whether I’ll make it as I climb the hill up past the back of Epworth Hospital to Bridge Rd. On the other side, as I gather speed on the downhill, I check my time, and have plenty.
I am delighted to find several Art Deco apartment blocks that overlook the city skyline ripe for my future prospects for rooms with views in my favourite era of habitat. I hit Swan St next to Mahalo Poke and try to venture further East, but not so far to hit Church Street yet. I want to approach my building from the back streets if possible. The next through-street, Green, is bedecked by the most detailed and spectacular mural.
By miracle, just shy of the East Richmond train station, there is an underpass. Here is the cut-through I desire. Walking south, atop the subterranean Burnley Tunnel, the landscape again changes, this time to industrial. Just shy of the Yarra, I spy the old Cremorne sub-station, and aptly named Electric Street delivers me to my office.
9:22 am. I’m early. Maybe I can walk home too.
How long would your walk to work be?