Wednesday, January 11, 2006


The suburb of Victoria Park, through which I commute every day, has been staggering towards gentrification for a while now. Unlike some suburbs, which go from International Roast to skinny soy latte in the space of ten years, ‘Vic Park’ is enduring a far longer and more arduous transition. This is possibly because it existed for so long as a bastion of protetarian interests, being a local centre for motorcycle parts suppliers, semi-legitimate used car dealerships, pubs, brothels, tattoo parlours and fortress-like pawn shops. The original inhabitants don’t seem at all willing to give it up.

But being only a stone’s throw from the city centre, crammed full of charming hundred year old cottages, and partly set on a hill with commanding views of the city and the river, gentrification is inevitable.

The latest front in the war for Vic Park is the Broken Hill Hotel, a turn of the century pub smack bang in the middle of the most upmarket area. It underwent renovations last year, replacing the old cheap, worn out, garish furnishings with the latest expensive, pristine examples of modernist restraint, so I decided to check it out the other day with my friend the interior designer.

Oddly enough, the process of renovation seems to have augmented the original set of obnoxious boofheads with a higher class of obnoxious boofhead. Basically the same, but with hair gel and more expensive shirts. It’s an uncomfortable mix – the boguns, labourers and semi-homeless lowlifes, and the fashion-conscious office workers, self-employed professionals and design groupies (like me), who are attracted to renovated pubs like blondes to a lottery winner.

There was also a surprising number of fiftysomething women – the office staff from the car dealerships and plumbing supply businesses, probably – but very few younger women, other than the barmaids. Maybe all the labourers, with their raucous swearing and threatening tattoos, roosting on the new terraces like squat, proprietary birds, made them nervous. Maybe it’s just that, like the New South Wales mining town from which it takes its name, the Broken Hill Hotel has a long history of being the sort of place where young women don’t venture alone.

In due course everything should work out. The sleek barstools, polished concrete and designer light fittings will niggle at the old guard, whispering, “This place is no longer yours. You don’t belong,” until, in dribs and drabs, they move on to the outer suburban taverns.

And if that doesn’t work, of course, the premium-priced beers should get rid of them.


Blogger Cookster said...

Ahhh, Mr Bland, your post brings back such fond memories of my student days living in Vic Park.

We lived in a large house not far from the main drag that achieved cult status in the mid 80s. It was the sort of place that people dropped in for a while and never really left... it had one lounge chair (no legs), a three-in-one stereo and a pool table for furniture and entertainment - minimalist to the extreme.

Our landlord was a deaf mute who sent his drug peddling nephews to live in the granny flat down back and we ended up hosting a raid by the drug squad after one of his friends ODd while using our telephone.

But I digress, it's the Broken Hill Hotel that's the centrepiece of this post and again, the memories are fond.

My most vivid recollection from 'the old days' was rocking up to the main bar after a 43 degree day spent building bathroom window frames in an airless factory, just in time for the stripper. The room was full of smoke, the beer was cold as a Melbourne dawn and the stripper probably the most uncoordinated practitioner of the finer art of undressing that I've ever seen.

Picture this - the old boy ten or 12 ponies of Swan Draft over his limit leans in for a closer look at the eye candy. Suddenly, a large pair of unfettered breasts swing in from leftfield, catching him fair in the side of the head and sending his glasses sprawling. The old boy goes bananas and the poor stripper spends the next 10 minutes fixing his broken glasses with gaffer tape, still sans clothes - priceless!

You don't get that sort of ambience anymore!

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9:21 AM  
Blogger Blandwagon said...

Ah, boobies: is there anything they can't do?

11:04 AM  
Blogger Cookster said...

Make a cup of tea... but that's of no concern to me. I bet they could play 20/20 cricket for Australia though...

1:41 PM  

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