Serge’s Column

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Dear Readers,

 

As many of you probably know, there will be Council elections on Saturday October 27. In consultation with my community, I have decided to stand for another term representing the people of the Catani Ward. It is an honour for people to ask me to stand again and to offer me their support.

It would be unfair for me to have a column in this paper when other candidates who are canvassing won’t be able to air their views to the same extent that I can. So this is to be my last one, at least for now.

It was difficult to know what to do with my final column. I had thought about giving a summary of my last four years in office. But then I had a better idea. I received a wonderful letter from a friend the other day  – someone who, like many others, has had to move out of our wonderful village because she could no longer afford to live here – and, as her letter is beautifully written and speaks so well of our gorgeous part of the world, I thought it would be a great thing to do to share some of it with you. With her permission, of course!

The letter – which is more of a poem, really – is entitled “Letter to My Lost Love.” It’s quite long, so this is just an extract.

And it goes:

“I remember you.

I remember long walks on a long pier, sunsets that lasted all summer, wild winters, bright lights, dark doorways, the smells of fried food, incense, grass, cigarettes, spices, saltwater, garbage, spilled bourbon and spilled urine.  And the sounds – the yelling, the singing, the dancing, the screaming, the laughing, car horns blaring, trams rattling … the HUM of life. 

In one doorway and out the next, one great gig and onto another, streets full of parties and cafes full of writers, artists, musicians, thinkers and talkers all making their $4 cup of coffee last all day. Getting by on 10 bucks a day and living the life of Reily. Buskers killing me softly, punks kicking against the pricks, oldies laughing at us all. My love, I remember you.

The pretty ones, the black ones, the desperate and disillusioned, the young, the crazy, the strange, the sorrowful, the bedraggled, the time-worn and weary, the fringe dwellers, the glamorous and the enchanted. The angels and devils you nurtured with unbridled love and pride. Us, them … all your lovers. You, Lady, were something else.

Lady of St Kilda where did you go? You, my “Frances Farmer” of a place, were once unique, fearless and forgiving. But, like Frances, you seem to have been homogenized, lobotomized and silenced. The “edge” afforded by acceptance, tolerance and diversity has been eroded by the desperation and brutality of capitalism, power and privilege. I can no longer afford to live in the circle of your inner city skirts.  It seems you have no place for us anymore. Lady, don’t you know, beauty is in the flaws, not the perfection.

When junkies have a safe injecting room, when working girls have a safe space, when artists have the safety of freedom of expression, when the poor are as safe as the rich, when it’s safe to walk where you wish, when you wish and be who you are, I’ll return.

A comedian once said of you, Lady: “When I couldn’t walk down Fitzroy Street on a Sunday morning in my dressing gown and slippers to buy the paper, I knew it was over.”  My robe still hangs on the hook, my slippers are at the door. I will wait.”

My friend’s letter, though it’s partly a criticism and a rejection of the current values of our village as she sees them, it also expresses a feeling that is very common among people who, for one reason or another, have to leave St Kilda: a yearning to return – to return to that “Je ne sais quoi” quality of this part of the city that its resident find so difficult to leave behind – with all of its faults.

Those of us who can still afford to live here should feel very lucky. I feel lucky.

It has been fun sharing my thoughts with you. Thank you for your comments and feedback. I look forward to the next few weeks of campaigning and to listen to your concerns and to your suggestions on how we can make St Kilda a better place to live in.

And remember: St Kilda is ALL ABOUT COMMUNITY!

A bientôt, and see you around!

Serge Thomann

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