Saturday, October 13, 2012

In a Laneway, Flowering

I was off to a family birthday at the Flower Drum, Melbourne's most famous Chinese restaurant, established in 1975. Not so long ago central Melbourne was simply "the city". Now it's known as the CBD. Despite changing terminology and ceaseless re-building, much of what has been there as long as I remember remains. Above, part of the offices belonging to St Paul's Cathedral on the corner of Flinders Lane, seen on my way from Flinders Street Station.
When my mother would take us children into the city she'd be wearing gloves and  a hat and taking a handbag. Handbags, of course, are now an essential part of modern fashion armory, but a certain restrained elegance has largely vanished.
We are known now, in Melbourne, for our graffiti-splattered laneways, very much a part of the artscape. When I was growing up, graffiti was dangerously anti-establishment. But, above, a section of Hosier Lane, snapped at by tourists,embodies a greater jokiness.
Flinders Lane is known now for its art-ness, if there is such a word, though it was once home to Melbourne's industrious rag-trade. Above is a relic of the past, un-renovated.
And here, in ACDC Lane ( named after you know who ), a riot of greys where once there would have been an order of sorts.
My favourite shop in Flinders Lane is Craft Victoria, above, which does not, as yet, sell the Faisal Grant Collection, shame on it. 
And my favourite building there, in Flinders Lane, is Milton House, built in 1901. A sturdy Art Nouveau bastion, maybe, but doesn't it seem to smile?
Flowering in the streetscape, the work of its artisans would have been regarded as essential to the overall impact of the building, even if now, with our lattes tilting towards our throats as we rush onwards with our mobiles, it's only fleetingly noticed.
At its side, Milton House has a little garden,a sanctuary for the up-too-early, far-too-much-to-do office-workers needing reprieve from their endless toil.
Around the corner is this, which I had to include, my favourite building in the city, No. 1 Collins Street.
Here it is again. However our innovations allow us to invent new unlikelinesses, there is something about 19th Century dignity and balance that captures my heart.
My blog is meant to be about gardening. In going out to lunch, I was hoping to find some of the old bits of Melbourne's greenery, and some of the new bits of the greenery. Above is the backside of the Melbourne Club ( established 1838 ), this city's most august institution, the proprietor of the largest privately-owned green space in the city.
I couldn't resist this, further along, in Little Collins Street, this piece of circus signalling a pub...
or this trumpet, full of something verdant.
But I had come to lunch, here in the old Chinese part of town, and my family was waiting. More than anything, I'm grateful to this city's kick-starters for the laying down of foundations ( with or without gloves, hats, European handbags, capes, disco-tights or tattoos  ) that have enabled a multitude of citizens  to express themselves in ways both personal and public. I hope gardens, and the need for greenery, remain at the forefront of our hopes for this world, as I hope, in this world, love prevails...

Above, my brother-in-law, Steve, and his son, Lachlan, at Steve's birthday, and below, the clan, such as it is, flowering:


  1. Dear Faisal,
    Thank you for taking us on a little walk down the 'Lane'.
    It just so happens that No 1 Collins Street is a favourite of mine also. When I worked in the 'CBD' I often imagined living in that building! I could easily see myself residing there in regal state.
    Mind you, I also like that building on the corner of Elizabeth and Little Collins Street (but at this moment I forget its name).

  2. Dear Kirk,
    You know, I've always wanted to live across the road, in No. 2 Collins Street, into which I've only once been, to see a dentist. If it wasn't for Collins Street, what would Melbourne be?
    A respect for history is what keeps a city alive.
    For me, the future relies on the past far more than we pretend. As much as I cannot be there, in real time, the past is part of my reality, and so, each day, I'm living somewhere else.
    Not everything we have thrown at us, in our busy lives, is worth as much as is supposed.

    1. Yes I could as happily live in No. 2 as in No 1. I could also live in that building further down (I think it is an art gallery) on the corner of Collins Street and perhaps Exhibition Street. It has a balcony and I always fancied standing there and perhaps waving to passers-by in a Marie Antoinette sort of way. . .

      What you say about the future is interesting. I agree with you. The past is a part of my reality also. That is not to say that I 'live in the past' in a negative sense but that my own sense of self is very much rooted in the past. My vehicle to achieve this sense of reality is not necessarily anything tangible (although it could well be) but something that comes from within.

  3. Dear Faisal and kirk, I also have significant memories of Collins St. and have watched it change over the years. Let's hope greenery and love prevails ... lovely to meet your family, Faisal.

    1. Thanks Catmint. You're kind as ever. Remember when you could go into the city of an evening and there'd be almost NO-ONE around? Remember when shops had to shut at midday Saturday? I remember my Dad driving us into the city before 9 am Saturday and we'd be almost the only car on the road. It was all a bit easier to take, if duller.

    2. yes, yes, and yes. Such a temptation to idealize the past ... but it was also a small minded parochial place to live at the time. As soon as i could I ran away to England and lived there for 10 years. Could have seen so many wonderful gardens but was oblivious to such things then.

  4. Replies
    1. I reckon they're just getting worse, Billy, but I've got to say something! Congratulations on your recent 'Wigandia' successes - well deserved.

  5. Thanks Faisal, I am a little chuffed but not terribly excited! It is somewhat of a shame that these 'successes' come from beyond our fatal be rated with some of my favourite gardens as one of 10 worlds best garden experiences is rather splendid though! But it certainly does not translate to commercial success...I think I have had half a doz folk ask to see the garden this season...10 best what?