Auburn is pretty low slung. It used to be called Red Gum Flat. Out the train window it’s row after row of all single story terraces with twin brick chimneys poking up. As you pull in the station, the skyline is dominated by the three-storey imposing pub that used to be called The Geebung Polo Club, which harks back to bygone days of early Melbourne and was so old Banjo Patterson wrote a poem about it, the club, not the pub that is.
But now Geebung just exists as a domain name only, and it’s called the Auburn Hotel again, as it was when it first opened in 1888. And there’s a ‘wine room’ in there and classy dining. This used to be a bit of a knockabout pub owned and staffed by famous footballers such as John Coleman and Jack Dwyer according to one of those small Times New Roman fonted, textured jpeg background websites of the 90s. I protested by not going in and having a beer, even though it would have been an excellent thing to do.
Instead I headed down a semi-arterial road and was impressed by a string of super neat federation bungalows, mostly adorned with fetching lead light windows either side of their front doors.
I turned off into a sort of garden street/alleyway which was a shared pedestrian and car zone with a 10kph limit. The houses were nothing short of exceptional, you’d go so far as call them residences as opposed to houses, if you were a real estate novelist (who never had time for a wife). There is also the pretty much undisputed yellow jersey holder for the best garden in Melbourne with some masterful pom pom hedges.
The spell of wandering through this quite exquisite enclave was kind of ruined when some actual residents spilled out of one of the ornate houses just as I was slack-jawedly gawking at it. It was two ladies and they were talking about something involving their kids and telescopes; and they didn’t even acknowledge my existence as they strode purposefully past towards their luxury 4WD.
The bright lights of the footy oval cast a magnesium glow atop the next street. It was a real nice one too, towering trees all around the boundary, a quaint pavilion stand and club rooms, a rickety old scoreboard. Training had just started as the players were still in that kicking arsey grubber goals from the pocket stage, but it looked like it was going to be a long evening around the selection table as a BBQ was being fired up and two blokes arrived carrying about seven cartons of MB between them.
I headed back towards the station, on Station Street funnily enough, there was a string of great little cottages all with layered step brickwork roofs that made the whole street look serrated from certain angles.
Back out on the main drag there was a dress shop called the One Night Stand Boutique so I made sure to (*written for comedy purposes only*) memorize the faces of all the girls shopping there in case I saw them on Tinder!
Actually most of the shops weren’t nearly as interesting as the buildings that contained them. There was a window display in the chemist of old glass plate photos of street life in ye olde Auburn world, and the street frontages were pretty much identical now to the late 1800s just with no cars and top hatted men gamboling about as corsetted women promenaded in their finery instead of the puffer vest and puppy ladies that featured today.
There are a number of imposing churches, proper god fearing ones with stain glass in abundance and great towered steeples that loom large over the whole suburb and take up whole blocks.
I called in at a large sub-continent supermarket called Indian Shopper, drawn in by the hand-textad signs in the window that the Swami Army would be proud of. I got a samaosa and some in the pouch dinner winners and some spicy masala chip things which have been quite okay. I had a bit of a peek around the Swinburne campus, they have a flight simulator!
I had good intentions of having some sort of Mexican food (or fighting a French person), as it was Cinco de Mayo. I did pause quite longingly at the typically kawaii Japanese restaurant, it had cute anime drawings of the staff and a proverb chalked next to the specials board “the best beer in the world is the open one in your hand”.
But I ended up around the corner at Pelican fish n chips, mostly because pelicans are my favourite animal, and I love chips, me. I flicked through a Woman’s Day from February and didn’t recognise any of the celebrities who were causing scandals by wearing bikinis whilst swimming in WATER! Or being affectionate to their long term platonic partners! Scandalicious.
There was pretty much only single blokes in the shop. They knew their market well by having a wide array of ‘combo’ packs that cost a modest amount of money. I got the one with fish, a dim sim, a potato cake, chips and a can! I got Solo, I was feeling rugged. I took my potato laden parcel to the very delightful Central gardens, or as I was reliably informed, ‘Rocket Park’ as it’s known to the local kids. It was pretty delightful, I sat at an ornate metal garden table setting under the spiky shade of a palm tree and managed about 1/4 of my meal as lots of students walked past eyeing me both enviously and curiously. Then some jogging twat in lycra and some long sleeved compresso-vest with a bloody bright headlamp on sweated past and simultaneously seared my retinas.
There was a charming little brick building, a delightfully tiled roof and its sides overgrowing with multi-coloured leaved vines and surrounded by blossoming garden beds that wouldn’t be out of place on the cover of Floriade’s visitors guide. It was the public toilet! Auburn, one fancy place I tells ya!
I strolled around under the glorious canopies of some oak and liquid ambar trees and was yet again just enjoying the pleasantries of the path and gardens when the illuminated jogging prick ran past again.
I strode a few more streets, it was a really nice place and I was quite taken with it. Then, it got a bit boring and family home near good school, and I started a mental tally of Sydney Vs Melbourne suburbs of the same name, because my critical facilities have been reduced to lists thanks to social media and the internet. The scoreboard is below:
Auburn (L) Auburn (W)
Epping (W) Epping (L)
Canterbury (L) Canterbury (W)
Surry Hills (W) Surrey Hills (L)
Kensington (W, just cause of Souths Juniors) Kensington (L)
Bonus story – how Auburn got its name.
Auburn was a town on the Yorkshire coast of England, but is now four metres under water! What was once prime ocean-front land was lost at a rate of more than two metres a year due to coastal erosion. Reverend Henry Liddiard (no relation to Gareth, I don’t think) settled in the Red Gum Flat area in 1854 and built a grand residence which he named Auburn Lodge after his former, once standing town. There is also Auburn House built soon after, which is now a palatial home of wealthy people.
The last house in Auburn, Yorkshire, before it too fell off the cliff into the ocean.
and P.S. yes, I know some of the pictures came up sideways. It just does that, you’ll just have to twist your neck, sorry.