I didn’t really want to go to South Morang to tell you the truth. It was Good Friday in what had been a bit of a bad news week. My first intended destination was Scoresby, which had a lake, and a roller skating rink and a Carribean Market and sounded like a whole day full of fun. But alas, all the fun things were closed.
With not much time or inclination to think of a back up plan, I figured on just getting on the nearest train and heading to the end of the line. ‘So I went down to Rushall Station’ which wasn’t as interesting as the album of the same name, but then again, not many things are.
There’s a really fabulously painted muscle car just after Northcote station #suburbanautos, but mostly Northcote and Thornbury look much more glamorous by tram I must say. Their back skirting is all busted fences, graffitied walls and general discarded disarray.
The suburbs spread out a bit past Preston. Big roads and strip shops with everything shut. I almost disembarked at Epping, which shares a name with the suburb next to the one I grew up in, but figured I may walk back to there instead.
So you’re spared a whole day of contrasting Sydney V Melbourne namesakes. Though the Tuffy Muffler hard-arse koala logo sign would fit right in the Melbourne one.
South Morang is well and truly the end of the line. You get out of the station and look up and theres just seemingly endless powerlines stretching far into the distance.
There’s a Westfields which is refreshingly empty. A murder of crows is pecking at something on the ground. As I get nearer I see it was a recently full packet of Smiths Crisps, BBQ flavour. About seven crows scatter and retreat to the roof in a flurry of sleek back feathers and guttural squawking. Claws scrape on metal guttering as they land above a fading Coles sign. The two biggest birds stay to polish off the chips. I veer past into the vacant parking lot being stared at by intense black eyes. To be fair, I was kind of feeling like chips.
The exterior of the rather sizable mall had nothing but bin-strewn loading docks and abandoned alfresco dining areas. I was the only one about save for a few dejected drivers, quickly leaving once they realised there was nothing open.
I finally got out past the masses of car spaces and across a scrubby nature strip and into suburbia. There was a ‘Crust’ Pizza shop open, a fire truck parked across the road as the firefighters attended to their lunch inside.
I was scuttling through pleasantly non-descript streets of well kept nature strips and hedges. Two fellas walked past me headed into a house with steaming wrapped parcels of Fish N Chips I smelt before I saw, one offered a cheery “hello there, how are you going? have a great Easter won’t you”. I inquired as to where the shop was they got their food from, he replied with about five steps of directions and about three too many streets far away for someone with no car.
I was wondering though, about what would be open, particularly as nothing except identical house-filled street greeted my every turn. I eventually came across an old time corner store/milk bar in both style and stock. Some of the best before dates ended in 14, and most things were coated in a fine dust. Strangely however, you could rent a segway here if you so desired. I unadventurously got a killer python and walked out on my own feet.
I found myself at a big park which had a whopping great lake in it. It was excellent; ducks, majestic black swans, elegant white geese and some cranky water hens scooting about, an ornithologists dream. There was also a very informative sign detailing the history of the area, which was the impressive pastoral holdings, hunting grounds, dairy, stables, shearing sheds and horse racing and training facility for Henry ‘Money’ Miller. It wasn’t a half-arsed nickname either – Henry was a founding director of the Bank of Victoria, and was the founder of the Victorian Fire & Marine Insurance Co, the Victorian Life & General Assurance Co and seven Building societies.
His two sons Setpimus and Albert Miller, not only had terrific moustaches, but were pretty handy horse trainers. Their most prodigious galloper was Redleap, which won the Grand National Hurdles twice and the Grand National Steeplechase, and now has a street and an oval named after it.
Septimus, Albert and ‘Moneybags ‘ Miller
After the excitement of a lap of the lake, even better was the fact there was a shmick footy ground right beside it. I popped through a few goals from the pockets with a mini footy (which along with a rabbitohs scarf was the only thing I bought along, not anything useful say like a hat, book, water, or snacks of any sort!) as a heavily tattooed man sat disinterestedly on the interchange bench, glaring out behind dark ‘speed dealer sunnies’.
The former horse stables have now been transformed into the ‘Stables’ shopping centre, which had about six Fish n Chips shops, two charcoal chicken joints, a bakery and a Thai restaurant all vying for the plentiful Good Friday custom. I made a particularly baffling culinary choice of potato bake, as the first bit of the stables I encountered had but two shops open, and it wasn’t until I walked through and around the other side, I got to see the plethora of options listed above.
One of the places open was the Plough Inn, I briefly noted it mentally as at least being open and a place to potentially watch the game, but it wasn’t until I walked out of the centre and saw all the anti pokies signs (The Plough Inn takes $60,000 a week out of our community) taped to fences that I paid it proper attention. Sadly, pokies are just a way of life in Sydney, it’s just another income stream for places. They used to at least only be confined to clubs, which at least had a requirement to return part of that income back to the community, and people looked out for each other a bit more. Then they were allowed in pubs, then came the Casino and out went lots of live music. But pokie places are seemingly utterly detested in Melbourne – the reopening of the Croxton Park Hotel as a music venue was most often greeted with a scournful ‘that pokie place?’
I wandered past the delightful looking Plenty Valley FM then came back into main road/powerline territory. I cut across the baseball diamond (past the leisure centre, left at the lights) to the Mill Park Reserve, it’s showpiece attractions – namely the native woodland and remnant vegetation sections were all burnt out. I wondered if it was daft backburning or arson, a scorched Fanta can laying among the blackened grass was the only clue.
I went on the swing in the unburnt playground. It was fun for perhaps the first seven seconds, then it was just going too high and fast – I never remember from childhood how you are meant to slow a swing down, just the extend and curl bit for your legs to make it go faster. So I scraped my hells on the downswing a bit then launched a stilted attempt at dismount. That was enough excitement for one day. Just as well as I next headed to Epping where there was no excitement at all.
An overgrown buffalo grass lined path skirted the railway line/creek. The places nearby sounded nice – Peppercorn Park separated from Sunbird Garden Park by Greenbrook Drive, but it was a bit grim really. Overgrown litter strewn reeds, a wild-growing huge clump of cacti, and a shopping trolley and two BMX bikes semi-submerged in a canal under a graf-covered concrete bridge were just some of the attractions along the way.
Epping itself was all just big intersections and crossroads. The Epping Hotel was seemingly open, it’s Sydney namesake was a regular haunt, as sponsor of the Macquarie Uni Kookaburras, and venue for many a post game Saturday evening as well as dicey nightclub/music venue Tracks.
But this one was rather unmagical. The main bar itself, plus the ‘sports bar’ and all the dining options inside were all closed and only the pokie section was open, and sadly for Good Friday, pretty well populated. My inquiry as to if any of the TV’s could be put on the NRL were met with no sorry love, we’re contractually committed to show Keno and the Races on them. Gambling does ruin lives!
On I trudged past the tyre retailers, industrial units, distribution depots and homemaker centres to the only other option in the area – the Epping Plaza Hotel, which as the name suggests was a pub in the carpark of a shopping mall. The game was on, but didn’t have any volume, unlike the nearby screens for the races at Singapore, that pretend races thing called Trackside, Keno and the pokie jackpots board that were all noisily buzzing away. The game was terrible and one-sided, some bloke struck up a chat asking if he reckoned Souths would score again when it got out to 30-something nil to the Bulldogs. But as I found out later as the bunnies manged a couple of late consolation tries, he wasn’t asking out of compassion, he’d backed the Bulldogs to win he second half, so went off muttering while trying to find some winners in the sixth at Singapore.
Epping – close to nowhere.
There wasn’t a whole lot else to do, so once the game was over I just headed home. The near half an hour wait at a mostly abandoned station made all the more adventurous when a friend replied to news of the fact I was out at Epping with “Don’t die out there”.
Both the Tramway and Monty’s were open that evening at least, so it was a pretty good Friday eventually.