It was a biscuit-tin sized hole in my life that compelled me to make the journey to Glen Waverley. I’d been cooking biscuits and cakes for friends and family and had nothing suitable in which to gift the baked treasures. A Tupperware container seemed cold and callous. A plastic plate with some Glad wrap over the top was just plain shabby. The only tins I could find in op-shops were rusty inside and out. If it was biscuit tins I needed, there was one place to go – Waverley Antique Bazaar in the outer Melbourne suburb of Glen Waverley. I’d heard of this place through fellow blogger and op-shopper extraordinaire Jacquie, and it featured on my made-in-China list of ‘Things I Must Do When I Get Home’. Plus, with time on my hands and the added need for a butter dish, why not? Call me crazy, but I love a local adventure.
I set out late on a Friday morning, after carefully checking the web for opening hours: open 10am – 4.45pm every day. The sky was grey and dull. I rode my bike to Balaclava Station and waited for the train to Richmond, accompanied by some patrolling magpies (at the station – not on the train). At Richmond, I wheeled my bike to Platform 10 and waited, looking at the MCG lights, the rooftops and balconies of trendy warehouse apartments, and a revolving sign that assured me that The Bank of Melbourne was there to help me, whatever my financial situation. After half an hour on the train, holding my bike to stop it from falling over and peering over people’s back fences, we pulled in to Glen Waverley Station, the end of the line.
I got off the train, awkwardly wheeled my bike through the ticket barriers, locked it up and walked down the main shopping strip, observing local life. It felt familiar. There was a cavernous restaurant with a Chinese character menu adorning the front window, selling Sichuan spicy noodles and wonton soup. By the station was Extragreen Holidays travel agency, with signs in both English and Mandarin. I went past the council buildings and into the library, to use the bathroom and charge my phone. A huddle of older people stood near the bathroom, chatting in Chinese. Everyone in the quiet study area was young and Asian. The noticeboard had an ad for an English Conversation Group for isolated Mandarin-speakers. It was strange to think that there were people, many people probably, living in Melbourne, but speaking only Mandarin at home. With so many Chinese shops and service providers, perhaps they could get by speaking no English at all. It was a little like the situation of people I knew in Nanjing last year, living in China but surviving with no Mandarin, because you could.
A fully charged phone and empty bladder later, I went back to my bike and rode down Myrtle St towards my final destination. The house blocks were large, much larger than in St Kilda, and the streets were mostly quiet, wide, and lined with trees. It was a downward ride and I enjoyed letting my legs relax and gravity do the work, trying not to think of climbing back up on the return ride. When I got to 11a Aristoc Rd and saw the sign for Waverley Antique Bazaar pointing around the back of an Automotive Service Centre, I tied my bike to a street sign and took a few photos. Aristoc Rd is an industrial area, very quiet, with several car servicing companies, a direct import shop, and a large empty warehouse yard with a man driving a forklift. Many of the signs were in both English and Chinese, including the one pointing to the Waverley Antique Bazaar. I followed its arrow around the back of a building, past piles of shipping containers and a shed full of car parts, and to the entrance of what I imagined was a treasure trove of biscuit tins, butter dishes and who knew what else. I walked up to the glass door, barely registering that there were no cars in the customer car park.
‘CLOSED 8.4.16 FOR GEOFF’S FUNERAL’ said a bright orange sign on the door. I checked the date on my phone. Yep. Today was 8.4.16. I briefly felt annoyed, that I’d come all this way and it was closed, but then I thought of poor Geoff and wondered who he was and how he’d died. Maybe he was the owner of the antique warehouse, or a stallholder, or a loyal customer. Whoever he was, he had died and today was his funeral, and as a result the antique warehouse was closed. Tough cookies.
I went to leave, but noticed a very fat cat sleeping on a raggedy chair by the entrance. I went over to it and held out a hand, checking if it was friendly, and saw that it only had three legs. That was why it was fat, I thought, because it can’t move fast like most cats. It was a friendly soul, and as I patted it, it decided to jump down somewhat heavily and lie on the ground, accepting a thorough chin scratching. I love animals, but three-legged animals are even sweeter, somehow. Plus, I figured, I would have spent more than an hour looking around the shop, so why not spend a little bit of that time giving this cat some love? I sat down on the concrete and showered it with attention. In the time I was there, three other cars drove in to the car park, looked at the sign, and drove off again.
After a while, the cat, or maybe it was me, began to lose interest in the patting-fest. I went back to my bike and rode up the Myrtle St hill to the station, past a kayak shop, intending to get back on the train and head home. At Coleman Parade I saw a sign – ‘Waverley Rail Trail. Syndal Station 1.7km’ – and an arrow pointing left along the railway line. Why not, I thought, and urged my bike up yet another hill. It was fun riding along in a new area, and once I got to Syndal Station, I thought I might as well continue on for a bit. I rode past back fences heavy with creepers, a woman walking her dog, a high school empty of students in the school holidays. When I got to Mount Waverley Station, I tied my bike up again and went moseying around for an op-shop.
I found the Brotherhood of St Laurence in a pedestrian walkway, ‘Hamilton Wlk’. Outside was a rack of sale clothes, $1 each, and a 30c book basket, but none of the titles grabbed me. Inside the shop, a customer was talking to the volunteer at the desk. At first it started as a conversation about op-shopping and the bargains the customer had found over the years, then moved on to how long she’d been in the area (35 years), and then the customer started talking about her childhood in Vietnam, how she’d had to run from a camp and hide in the jungle for weeks, how she’d been split up from her family, and how she had come to Australia and set up a new life. As I listened to her tale, I thought of all the stories that exist out there in the suburbs, all the upheavals people have gone through. I wondered if they are being recorded, somehow. Maybe. Maybe not.
I bought a polka-dot dress for $9, took some photos of the autumn leaves and laughed at a café called Crema Sutra. Then I got on a train at Mount Waverley Station and made my way home, biscuit tin and butter-dish-less.
TO BE CONTINUED