At the weekend, Bennie and I attended a kids’ festival celebration at Taylors Lakes.
It was a nice affair, though the publicised age range of 5-12 seemed a little wide of the mark.
There was plenty going for littlies, but precious little for such an urbane hip kid as my son, let alone a dad more than capable of mixing with our smaller citizens.
Consequently, we found ourselves, after an hour or so, aboard the shuttle bus back to the Water Gardens train station, where we had parked our vehicle.
Before braving the sticky, over-heated car, we decided to check out Water Gardens Town Centre – Bennie’s interest arising from the fact many of his school mates mention it in passing, my own less enthusiastic interest lying in no more than the ability to be able to say “been there, done that”.
Past Max Brenner, Grill’d, Hog’s Breath Cafe we strolled and into the centre, which according to its website has 240 of “your favourite stores all located on the one level”.
Not that we were ever going to stick around to verify the number.
One brief stroll around the food court that was our entry point – Subway, KFC, Ali Baba, the usual suspects – was more than enough.
We didn’t expect to be unnerved or creeped-out, but we were.
Even Bennie, for whom the glittering lights and sounds and displays of hardcore retailing hold the same appeal as for any kid his age, was moved to comment: “It’s just like Highpoint – but bigger!”
The sheer immensity of the complex we fled made me think of E. F. Schumacher’s Small Is Beautiful: Economics As If People Mattered.
This book once seemed such an integral part of the wider hippie manifesto that I was surprised, on checking, to discover it was first published in 1973.
Still, I suspect its premise continues to hold up in a way that, for instance, The Population Bomb by Paul R. Ehrlich no longer does – let alone the ravings of The Illuminatus! Trilogy or Carlos Castaneda!
Our Water Gardens experience also prompted me to revisit an eloquent column in The Age by Richard Glover entitled “Hearts of our towns ripped out in vicious mallings”.
In it he addresses the “malling” of the town of Mittagong in NSW and the mall phenomena in general.
This paragraph seems particularly pertinent:
The main competition that’s been brought to town is between shops serving rubbish food. For the first time, Mittagong locals have been afforded every Australian’s birthright – easy access to Michel’s Patisserie, Gloria Jean’s, Donut King and a KFC.
Though this one, too, bristles with righteous outrage:
As the British writer Mark Steel has pointed out, the Marxist left was always attacked for wanting to make the whole world look the same – the internationalist worker’s paradise. Actually, it’s capitalism that’s turned every town into a mirror image of the next.
Look, this is not simply a case of us being smug or snooty.
We fully understand that for many people in Australia and around the world, the ways they go about supplying themselves with life’s necessities are limited by events and circumstances way out of their control.
For many, many more, eating at all is not something ever to be taken for granted.
Nevertheless, we’ll use our recent mall misadventure to reinforce our appreciation for what we have.
Let us never get too glib about the many wonderful eateries we regularly frequent where the food is incredible, made with love and served at affordable prices only by grace of bloody hard work by those who provide it.
Let us cherish the family-owned enterprises in which the kids shoot up a helluva lot quicker than the prices … but nothing much else ever seems to change.
Let us salute wobbly tables, mis-matched chairs, dog-eared menus and places where English is a second language but smiles always the first.
Let’s never take for granted the market spreads like Sunshine Fresh Food Market or Little Saigon Market in Footscray.
Let’s appreciate the likes of Leo Pace and his Pace Biscuits, with which we’ve fallen in love – such good-quality chocolate and prices way below Brunetti’s!
Let’s give thanks for a business like Lemat Injera Bakery, which few may have cause to enter but which has been instrumental in deeply enriching our collective eating habits.
The bakeries, cafes, neighbourhood burger joints, human-friendly supermarkets, kebab shacks, specialist delis and butchers, and all the rest – we are thankful for them all.