Seeds of Change

12 March 2015 Helen Razer

Seeds of Change

Photograph by James Braund

Helen Razer, Ed#478, February 2015

As a lazy person who fears change and avoids unnecessary motion, I have lived in the same postcode for the length of this century. Although I came to be here by accident and not by design (long story; the move was induced largely by both my heart and an inability to read maps properly) I have little intention of leaving. I am used to and, in fact, have come to like the cranky baker, the mynah birds and the patchy driveways made more of tussocks than they are of quality gravel. It is where I live and it is where I garden, and I know the suburb’s tedious rhythms and its glissando of cherry blossoms in the spring.

For 15 years I have watched the suburb change, and know that my move to this place full of elderly folks largely born in Eastern Europe was a part of that change. On either side of me, the post-war migrants were surprised but not delighted to find a young-ish Anglophone who had never fled the consequences of battle. But, after some years of argument about the length of my lawn and my irresponsible attitude to tomato cultivation, we made a treaty and here I am, although George has returned to Greece to die – he was very explicit about this and said “I am returning to Greece to die” – and Mick from Ljubljana will soon succeed in persuading his Irish-Australian wife to live in a gated community on Victoria’s peninsula.

Things change. People move and die, cultural influences shift and even cranky bakers turn to a new flour provider. Like most reasonably sane adults, I accept these movements as a part of life and manage the sentiments that come with saying goodbye to an old guard and greeting the new.

Most of the people on my street were happy when young married couples began to raise their children here. “It’s good for the heart,” said Kristina when the little ones began to use the asphalt as a green, although she neither understood nor liked cricket. Kristina’s heart remained in good condition for some years but not even cries of “Howzat?!” were enough to sustain it and her house was sold to a family who tore down the greenhouses and replaced them with a pool. I can hear them; the kids start swimming in August and shriek “but it’s COLD!” every year and will do so until they are old enough not to find winter surprising.

The change is as inexorable as the seasons, and even though as I grow older it seems less gradual (although I know it’s not) I accept its terms. But what I cannot accept is the new cafe.

My suburb was a stubborn hold-out against quality coffee. If you wanted a good cup here, you made friends with Italians or you went into town. You never expected complicated orders with milk made from grains or legumes to be filled, and the thought of sitting down in a cafe with a soundtrack that was not provided by satellite TV was not endured. But now. In this cafe. They play dubstep. They use almond milk. And they serve it in tiny mason jars to people prepared to pay five dollars a serve while sitting on up-cycled school furniture.

This echo of the aspirational inner city is made so much harder to bear by the ultra-prams parked outside. When I saw my first thousand-dollar baby buggy,  I started reading the real estate pages.

Change is inevitable and change is fine. Within reason. But, I just can’t find status purchases reasonable.  (Or dubstep, which should only be heard by people on drugs at a gym.)

Ten years ago, the most serious competition here was found in tomato cultivation. George would talk about the quality of his ox-hearts all year. Now, my fellows compete to produce evidence of how much and how well they have spent.

My Black Krims have begun to fruit. I am taking a basket to the family who live in Kristina’s old house with the challenge to save some seeds and enter them in competition next year.

» Helen Razer is a Big Issue columnist.

This article first appeared in Ed#478 of The Big Issue magazine.