I nearly applied for a job in St Kilda, back at the end of 2011. It was a job that would have merged my experience in media, education and writing, but the timing wasn’t right. I’d only just taken voluntary redundancy from my teaching job in the UK and set off on some South American and Oceanic adventuring, and so I deleted the job from my saved list and pushed that idea (and St Kilda, whatever and wherever St Kilda was) into a later space.
And now, a year and half later, I find myself sitting in a fairly plush hotel room overlooking Albert Park in Melbourne, just around the corner from St Kilda. I have paper and pens, a fridge full of overpriced drinks, thousand threader sheets on the bed, fresh towels to wrap myself up in, and a bathroom full of pampering potential. But as much as I could sink into this room of contained comfort, my travel devil won’t let me. Go see stuff! Go do things!
I’m here with D-man who is speaking at an international conference, so the days are mine to do as I please, an opportunity for some solo travel snippets. But the nights, they are for sharing.
D-man, having lived for a time in Melbourne, knows where to take me, and we stride through Albert Park in a dizzy state of handholding and holidaying, down Fitzroy Street and to the top part of St Kilda. And I’m a little underwhelmed. I mean, it’s okay, nice enough, but just a nice enough street in a any city precinct.
We walk around the beachside, Luna Park with its gaping clown mouth glowing out in the dimming light. A man walks towards us, an awkward mess of long, straggly greying hair and missing teeth. I look at D-man, avoiding eye contact with the other. ‘How long you been married?’ he shouts after us. ‘16 years’ humours D-man. ‘You should see how she looks at you’, adds the stranger, and I’m amused at the reading of my eye contact avoidance. I’m also surprised at my discomfort, at my taking on of cautionary tales, and how I tonight seek reassurance from D-man. Where is my head at?
Acland Street Precinct is a whole lot more buzzy with lights and people and places to eat. We duck off to find Lentils As Anything and I’m back in my comfort zone surrounded by leaflets advertising meditation and yoga classes. I flick through a collection of creativity from a local writing group, and D-man and I chat life and eat wholesome food.
And I realise over the next few days of wandering in and out and around St Kilda that, despite some uppity potential that I’d been warned had started to tar the soul of place, it is still a place with some heart, creative intention and choice. Sure, I can eat at the expensive Italian or I can get a cheaper pizza from the neon-signed takeaway next door. I can posh shop it or just look for deals and the low-key options. It doesn’t have to be excessive. And there is still a creative spirit, from what I can see.
If I had applied for that job back in 2011 and been selected for what would have undoubtedly been a competitive position (St Kilda, I can see, is totally up there in terms of city living desirable), it would have been no bad thing. I could still have lived modestly, gone for morning runs in the park and beach strolls at sunset. I could even have paid off a good chunk of my annual rent by sub-leasing a room during the Grand Prix every March.
Shoulda, woulda, coulda. So often the case. And really, I’m pretty okay with just visiting.