by AJ Place
Sitting outside at Lola in Seddon on a provisionally fine Melbourne morning, I slowly sip my piccolo, they’re small by nature; it takes effort to make one last long enough for more than a few moments of people watching. I’m an avid observer and my newness to the area provides me with the anonymity I cherish to be left to my own company.
As I drift towards the outskirts of middle age, I find myself liking animals more and people less, and barely caring enough to disguise this. A slightly fractious introduction to our new neighbourhood led me to initially believe, my friendship would only extend to the dogs. Established suburbs have established rules; we were way too maritally challenged and frayed to receive instructions late afternoon, on moving day. Luckily my husband is much more person friendly than me and negotiated the feedback with companionable ease, while I, sleep deprived and stressed with negotiating the pitfalls and legalities around a delayed settlement, skulked irritably behind my new front door. It turns out, they’re nice people. Hurtfully however, I assumed too much; one of the dogs doesn’t like me. I blame my dogs and their lack of social skills. It’s probably a good thing I spend my days away from the chitty-chat a shared workplace demands, working sans people in my home office, with just two belligerent rescue terriers for company. It’s not like we don’t converse at all throughout the day.
I digress; this particular day at Lola offers glimpses of autumn sun and happily, a steady dog procession down Charles St, to enjoy a little scratch behind the ears of those disposed to share their love with a stranger. Sitting kerbside risks the discomfort that comes from repeatedly girding your loins in hope some of the terrible reverse parking doesn’t jump the barrier between road and coffee. How can you drive anywhere in Melbourne, if you don’t know how to manoeuvre your car backwards into a parking space? Have you never met Melbourne parking? The smaller the car, the greater the struggle, it seems. Back, forward, one wheel teetering on the kerb, parked. Another, the width of a whole Toyota Yaris outside the designated parking space, just plopped there and left, as if the white lines dividing road from park are suggestions. A little up the road, the combination of gnarly parking skills, a busy T-junction and a bus route prove almost catastrophic for a low slung European number.
I am partial to an outdoors table, especially if it’s accompanied by a sturdy seat; all these moments of joy (dogs) and gluteal tightening, less joyful, are experiences missed by those who sit inside. The fickle Melbourne weather holding up long enough to get through much more than a piccolo requires unwavering fortitude to ride out frequent judgement failures. Without warning, the sun frequently disappears behind clouds, not visible two minutes prior, rapidly plummeting the temperature from comfortable T-shirt, to woolly scarf and beanie. ‘Have you got a jacket?’ has become part of our Melbourne vernacular, regardless of season. As an ex-Adelaidean, where the temperature mostly honours its commitment to the time of year, I am still adjusting to the Melbourne daily wardrobe challenge of ‘four seasons in one day’. Perhaps it’s why there are so many yoga studios across the inner west; to replenish the zen the ratbag weather steals from your soul. I’m fine with a bit of drizzle but crazy wind with chill that slams into your bones has defeated me on occasion. I recently commented to a couple of long term locals that it’s super windy in Seddon; they were not on board with this sentiment at all. It is.
In my small catchment, there are many outside seating options. With the closure of a favoured cafe on Anderson St in Yarraville, I now quite fancy a table adjacent to the village green at The Corner Shop, with the added bonus of proximity to the magnificent Sun Bookshop. The fabulous folly of a village green in Melbourne suburbia nicking parking spaces and disrupting traffic thoroughfare, warms the cockles of my frosty heart. I’d like one in my street. Set in a shipping container conversion in Footscray, the garden area of Rudimentary is pumping on weekends, with milk crates to sit on and dogs to chat to, while you wait for a table. On leafy Argyle St in West Footscray; just down from Footscray West Primary School, an odd Melbourne anomaly of confusing name switcheroo, Dumbo is a nice little spot on a sunny morning. It’s easier to get a park and a bit less talky after the school drop run is over. In Seddon, Lola; or Sourdough Kitchen is good for a quick caffeine stop.
When it’s too late in the day for a coffee and my chicks are up for a weekend cocktail, we grab an outdoor table and a Thai Mule at Luxsmith on Gamon St, or head over to Peachy Keen in Williamstown, run by the same owners as Lay Low Bar in Seddon. Accessed down a side lane at the rear of Ferguson St, this container pop up set with stools and tables on artificial turf makes an excellent Pina Colada and, if you get caught in the rain… shameless, they’ve got outdoor heaters and undercover seats. As it’s staying popped up, I’m planning on grabbing my jacket and heading there in the coming cooler months.
Cocktails, beer, wine and more, it’s a veritable match for the Melbourne weather and, pooches welcome. Well behaved ones, not my naughty beasties.