Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Quandary of Curiosity

Flemington is a funny little suburb full of clear contrasts. Overlooking all of the cutely renovated 1890s cottages, weatherboard Edwardians and townhouses are the Housing Commission Flats; sombre, imposing and a daily reminder of the struggles still being fought.
















Way back in 1994 when Love Chunks and I were renting in Farnham Street, driving the 1971 Sucked Crunchie, gas-converted Volvo and listening to domestic arguments in the flat below, we witnessed a very lengthy construction being built on top of one of the commission towers. For the best part of the year, something shaped like a McDonalds-sponsored Detox funhouse was appearing. Painting it bright yellow only enhanced that idea, because no-one I asked had any idea what the actual construction was supposed to be.


Fifteen years later finds it painted a greyish blue but still no answers given. Why is it just on the one building and not the others?

I asked my hairdresser that very question last week, as we chatted amiably in her sleek salon and watched four drunk blokes sucking down scotch from paper bags outside in the street.

"I have no idea," she trilled cheerfully. "I've lived here for four years but couldn't tell you - what I will tell you though, is DON'T GO THERE. It's very dangerous."

What was more dangerous was the price she charged me for a hair cut - seventy five dollars! Considering that it didn't need washing or blow-drying and is about two-and-a-half inches long all over, I felt well and truly ripped off. On the inside, anyway. On the outside I meekly handed over my credit card, said "G'day" to the drinkers outside ("An' Hello to you too, Darlin") and walked home, past the shadow of the Mysterious Monolith.

A parent of one of Sapphire's new school buddies is an ex-Victorian police detective who had visited the commission flats more than once in his career. Did he know what the Mysterious Monolith was? "Nah, haven't the foggiest. What I do remember was the smell. Cramming so many people together without decent facilities or ventilation meant that all I wanted to do was get out of there as fast as I could."

Oh, I bet you have some stories to tell about the folk living there. "Yes, there are some real shockers in there, but there's also a lot more nice people who just need some help to get back on their feet or are starting out their new lives with plans to move out as soon as they're able to."

So, should I enter the building? "Look, go to the building, hang around the foyer and ask what it is by all means, but dress down, don't take your wallet and take someone with you."

Seeing as my entire wardrobe could only charitably be described as 'dressed down' and my wallet has never troubled me for size or weight my curiosity about the Mysterious Monolith remains. But here's the hypocritical quandary: I'm too frightened to go down there. The local papers are full of the story of some poor sod getting his teeth and nose bashed by some 'nearby residents' when leaving the KFC outlet at 9pm and there's just a bit too much "Thug Life" graffiti and litter around as menacingly visual 'We Own This Place' calling cards to make me doubt the wisdom of a walk there.

And yet, as this piece below shows, the Flem. Boys are pretty hot with spelling and grammar, adding a dot at the end of their 'Flem' abbreviation. Unless they were just trying to ensure that we could tell the difference between their beloved suburb and the stuff that dribbles out of nostrils when a cold hits?





What say you, reader? Should I be brave and find out the hard way what the Mysterious Monolith of the Flemington Housing Commission flats is?

17 comments:

The Prince of Centraxis said...

Phlegmington. Horrendous, despite and because of its 'genteel' horse racing past. But then, I got out of the city as soon as possible...
Even with floods and fire the bush is better!

see http://hermetic.blog.com

Kath Lockett said...

Aw, come on Prince - it's got character and hosts a lively population that rely on jobs in the city. 'Genteel' is certainly not the word I'd choose to describe Flemington though - more like 'gritty'.

....I'm not saying that it's better than the bush, but it has its own charms.

eleanor bloom said...

Hey, i'd go down there with you if i were around! um, not that it would likely help much. ie. i'se not exactly intimidating looking.

i think it's ok if you go down there in the middle of the day when it's quieter and safer, and as long as you have someone with you. preferably male and built like a brick shithouse.

Kath Lockett said...

Er, yes, Eleanor. Not sure that my day-time companion - Milly the 5 year old Jack Russell/Corgi cross - is tough enough looking either!

River said...

No, don't go there. Not alone anyway. Just keep asking neighbourhood people until someone tells you what it is. That way you'll also get many more bloggable tales. Or you could ring the local and city councils and ask them.

franzy said...

I reckon you should try to go UP there. You don't want us to think you're soft, do ya?

If you never post again, we'll know you went.

Tip: dress in overalls and a hard-hat. Post up photos. It would be HIGHlarious.

seed said...

Call council.

Kath Lockett said...

River and Seed, I know I could call the council or the Department of Housing, but where's the thrill in that?

Franzy I don't own a hard hat or overalls but I'm sure I could pull off the 'social worker in sensible shoes and drop earrings' look pretty well.....

Miles McClagan said...

If you don't, I'll fly over and I will...

I visited my cousins in places like that all the time. Hilarious fun, mind your wallet vicar, is that really your car or did you steal it, why is that man out cold...great!

Deep Kick Girl said...

Look, I'm sure it's perfectly OK to go and visit during daylight hours but that's easy for me to say from the comfort of my "luxury" waterfront apartment in Sydney.

I have been in such housing precincts here in Redfern (which I would guess is the Sydney equivalent)and also briefly visited Jason's mum when she lived in one in Williamstown (before it went trendy)and never felt really threatened or even worried (mind you I did have my 6'3" husband with me).

Can't wait for the answer to the mystery. Either way it seems like a fine use of public money to me.

Baino said...

Nah, I was going to say call the Council too but a daytime visit would be fine I'm sure. Just go on dole day! I once found myself in unselubrious Everly Street in Sydney and had to ask for directions. Wasn't half as scary as I'd been told despite being the only white face there.

Kath Lockett said...

Hmmm. Maybe dole day is today...

....maybe I could bribe my 6 foot tall brother to come with me, holding his heavy tool box full of plumbing equipment....

Anonymous said...

The white bit is an result of a renovation/refurbishment of the block to house a third lift.
I am sure they didn't have to have the McD look.

You can't go all the way unless you are the serviceman or fireman.

Go anyway, stop being the white middle class ass.
great view up there and FREE unlike the Rialto or Eureka tower.

We have gone up the housing com flat next to our place, a few times in the day to see what is the horizon, once in the evening to catch a glimpse of that once-a-lifetime-visiting-comet last yr or so.
We went to the highest floor and it was totally fine.

Also, I have been to the flem house com flat a few years back, a couple of times when my friend were living with her sister there.
It was quite a nice 2 bdrm unit, much bigger than our flat. Fantastic view.

Kath Lockett said...

OK Anonymous, but will you come with me? You MUST know me, after all, you did describe me as a "white middle class ass" ......

'White' and 'arse' are certainly right!

The Man at the Pub said...

I reckon it's the Presidential suite!

Actually I think all your curiosity can be satisfied here...

http://www.skyscrapercity.com/showthread.php?t=714194&page=7

It's apparently part of the tower's refurbishment and is the top of the extended lift housing and has no other purpose than being 'aesthetically pleasing', which is either a testiment to the flaws early 90's architecture or a sick joke by some public servant.

Mrs Slocombe said...

Anonymous is right, if a little terse. Flemington always seemed and was to me as safe as houses, whether at the playgroup in Debney Park or playing in the flats playground afterwards. West Heidelberg is much scarier. Actually so is Williamstown.

sonjetta said...

Interestingly, my mum and I exchanged befuddled comments on the same subject on the very same day. The Monolith must be sending mysterious vibes (my son is already playing the theme from Close Encounters of the Third Kind on his piano again!) Apart from that, I distinctly remember watching a programme about architecture in Melbourne. As unbelievable as it may seem, the 'blue blob' (as I like to call it) is the result of architectural inspiration for the benefit of the beauty-deprived inhabitants of the council flats (apart from housing the elevator machinery). And what a roaring success it is...