Nostalgia


On Sunday, hungover and tired, I took rainbowfish7‘s digital camera out on a short walk with me through Thornbury and Northcote to collect my bike from the front of the Northcote Social Club where I’d left it the night before.

I took photos of tops of trees, a couple of birds huddled in bare branches under the cloudy grey sky and assorted old cars that dated the streetscapes back into the fifties. Nothing particularly interesting in itself. But it made a longish walk quite short and it got me thinking about how I’d not seen many nostalgic photos of economic recessions.

Portions of High Street, Northcote/Thornbury and other parts of Sydney Road, Coburg are full of perpetually struggling shops which seem to stock nothing that would ever attract the words ‘luxury’ or ‘gourmet’ in its advertising copy. The gentrification of more inner suburbs had not touched these streets yet but at the same time, they do not have the real hardcore poverty that more northern or western suburbs have.

It’s like the fifties and a not very opulent or successful part of the fifties had never left these areas, a forgotten fifties of migrants who were appeared poor not because they did not have cash but rather because their tastes were those of people from poor countries, who were thrifty because they never learned how to spend, who did not feel any lack because there wasnt a lot of stuff to buy in the first place and they’d not got into a habit of owning or wanting much.

So, I thought I’ll take the camera out some weekend Saturday in the morning and make a day of taking photos of smiling people in very poorly stocked shops which look like they havent been renovated in the last fifty years. Photos of places which will never attract food tours or trendy bars, where the supermarkets havent yet killed the greengrocers and chain fastfood places havent put local greaseshops out of business.

Where people dress badly and dont seem to give a damn, and where the coffee, in spite of stereotype to the contrary isnt all that good.

I dont know where my nostalgia for the hot quiet streets of a severe (but not Great Depression level) economic downturn comes from. But I can see and feel it very keenly – a town where most people ride bicycles because they cant afford petrol, where hardly anyone has much money except for food and water and the occasional homebrew and where there isnt much to do at all except sit around in the shade, play boardgames (checkers for some reason with bottlecaps as pieces) at cafes and maybe talk in a desultory fashion about politics, the environment and who’s having an affair with whom.

Actually, that scene is either a composite of Malaysian memories before the double digit growth of the 80s hit it or a vision of a wellpast peak-oil, globally warmed, permenantly recessioned but somehow reasonably benign future.

Better start collecting them bottlecaps I guess.

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