All that I am, all that I ever was…

I am more than my mental health. I am more than my homelessness. I am more than any one aspect of me. I am Addy. And this is…


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Melbourne 2015: Spotlight on Street Art

One of the things I’ve always loved about Melbourne is the assortment of street art that decorates its streets, alleys and laneways. No matter where you look, a talented individual has painted an awe-inspiring image upon brick, stone or wood. One of the major locations for street art in Melbourne has always been Hosier Lane, which runs between Flinders Street and Flinders Lane. There is so much street art on this single laneway that you cannot help but be impressed by the skill some of these artists display.

Hosier Lane, Melbourne

Hosier Lane, Melbourne

Back when I was homeless, you could walk down Hosier Lane and be the only person in sight. Not so now. No matter when I took a detour down this alleyway there were always dozens of camera wielding tourists analysing the artwork and taking selfie after selfie with their favourite piece. It was a tad saddening, to be honest, the touristification of a once peaceful street. But this is happening all over the world as more and more people come to know about a city’s hidden secrets.

Collected below is an assortment of the street art I encountered during my recent adventure in Melbourne. And next time you’re in town, pay attention to the walls around you, for you never know what you may find when you least expect it! :)

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Melbourne 2015: Day 05. The hipsterfication of Melbourne

The fifth day of my adventure in Melbourne began like all the others; leaping out of bed at 8:00am, showering, throwing some clothes on and keenly leaving the motel by 9:00am to explore the various locales and laneways of old Melbourne town. On the agenda for Sunday was; a bracing walk down Lygon Street and a trip to the ocean-side suburb of St. Kilda.

Lygon Street is better known as Little Italy, not because it is overrun with Italians, but because it is overrun with Italian restaurants. No matter where you look, there is a restaurant offering everything from pizza and pasta to pasta and pizza. It is a street I used to know well, in my old pre-breakdown life, and like Brunswick Street, a street that is now a constant reminder of my abusive girlfriend. But, as with my efforts to walk Brunswick Street without a panic attack, I was determined to stroll down this street without anxiety and trauma overpowering my mind. The time I chose to do this was instrumental. Early morning on a Sunday is probably the quietest Lygon Street will ever be. It is, after all, an evening street. During the day there is little to do, as all the eateries are closed, opening only for lunch and dinner. So customers are few and far between. But like Brunswick Street, as I wandered the pathways of the street, I realised that once again the hipsters had taken over. Independent shops and eateries had been replaced with trendy chain stores and franchises. The soul of the street that I once loved had disappeared and been replaced with hipster-chic.

For example. On the corner of Lygon Street and Elgin Street once stood a second-hand bookstore called Book Affair. It was heralded as the largest second-hand bookstore in Victoria, and had two huge floors overflowing with books and tomes for your literary enjoyment. Book Affair, in a past life, was my favourite bookstore in Melbourne and I spent many – many – hours perusing the shelves and filling my bookshelf with their ware. But now it has gone. Replaced with an Insurance broker (as if the world needs any more of those) and a trendy stationary store selling overpriced merchandise. To say I mourned the loss of this once great bookstore was an understatement. I felt its loss deep within me and had to settle my emotions with a lengthy sit down on a conveniently placed bench. It truly felt like I had lost a significant chapter of my life, such was my love of this store.

Readings, Lygon Street

Readings, Lygon Street

Fortunately, the hipsterfication of Lygon Street had not claimed Readings. Readings is one of the oldest independent booksellers in Melbourne, and houses a vast collection of books, music and DVDs, many being hard to find items and those imported from overseas. Readings, in my pre-breakdown life, was the place I would go for Scottish folk music, it was the place I would go for interesting literature, and the place I would go for rare DVDs. It is a shop I have always loved with my whole heart and a shop I could always find something I wanted to purchase. And this visit was no different. A book that collected the short fiction of Alasdair Gray was lusted after, although not purchased as it was close to $50 (nearly three times my daily budget) and a DVD copy of Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet was lusted after, although not purchased as it was close to $30 (nearly twice my daily budget). So I left Readings without purchasing anything; even though my whole being was crying out to buy something! I don’t think I’ve ever shown such restraint in this majestic retailer.

After leaving Readings I decided to meander through my old neighbourhood to see what had changed. After Louise and I broke up I moved into a boarding house in Fitzroy, lodged neatly between Lygon Street and Brunswick Street. It was a pretty shocking place to live, and the landlord was featured in the newspaper as being the worst landlord in Melbourne, but I loved living so close to my favourite streets in Melbourne. As I walked the streets, the memories came flying back; memories of being attacked and abused by my abuser; memories of hanging out and chilling with friends, memories that, for better or worse, I don’t want to lose. The suburban streets hadn’t changed much. Sure, new apartment blocks had sprung up and shops gone the way of the dodo, but it was all pretty much as I remembered. Certainly, the hipsterfication had infiltrated this part of the world (my old launderette, which was once a hovel of a place containing only washers and dryers now featured a funky cafe and bright, breezy decoration) but it wasn’t as severe and noticeable as other parts of the city.

I ended up on Brunswick Street, and spent half an hour perusing some of the shops and revisiting the Grub Street Bookstore. My Readings restraint evaporated and I ended up buying a book (Stonemouth, by Iain Banks) as all books were 50% off due to the shop closing down and selling up. Another blow to the heart and another reason I hate Kindles so much. Sure, they’re valuable for people who have trouble reading small print and those who don’t want to carry a small library around with them, but they’re destroying all the wonderful, independent, second-hand book sellers who make the world such a beautiful, magical place.

Decorated Brick, Fitzroy Gardens

Decorated Brick, Fitzroy Gardens

Brunswick Street led me to Smith Street which led me back to the wonder of Fitzroy Gardens, where I spent an hour chilling amidst the trees, watching happy little children scream and bound about with carefree abandon. I then wandered into the city to catch a tram to St. Kilda.

And what did I find once I reached this seaside locale? Yep. You guessed it. The hipsters had taken over. Acland Street, which was once a collection of independent stores and funky little bakeries, was now a hideous assortment of trendy, upmarket retailers and franchised food stores selling overpriced, “gluten-free” products. I used to love Acland Street. It was one of the first streets I came to know when I arrived in Australia way back in 2002. But I hated it now. I truly, utterly despised it. I spent much of my time ruing the day the damned hipsters took over. How dare they destroy the hearts of suburbs with their sheep-like mentality and grandiose, holier than thou attitudes.

The beach, however, was blissful. I hadn’t seen the ocean since I was in Scotland in 2009 and spent nearly two hours roaming the beach, paddling in the water and watching the happy little children scream and bound about with carefree abandon. It felt so good to be beside the ocean again, felt so good to feel the cool salt water lap around my toes. It’s one of the things I miss most whilst living in the landlocked town of Wodonga. The ocean is in my blood, always has been, and it just feels wrong to live so far away from it.

After perusing the artistic wares on offer at the St. Kilda Esplanade market, I boarded a tram for a return trip to the city. Unlike the tram I caught to St. Kilda, I became a little overwhelmed on my return. I don’t deal well with public transport. Buses. Trams. Trains. I don’t like the hideous amount of people crammed into a tiny space. I don’t like control being taken away from me. I don’t like stop-start movement of these methods of transportation. So as the tram trundled along St. Kilda Road I found my anxiety rising for the first time since being in Melbourne. It wasn’t helped by the person sitting next to me noisily chewing gum; something which set my misophonia off to startling, uncomfortable degrees. So I alighted the tram early, choosing to walk my blistered feet a couple of kilometers rather than deal with the anxiety that was overtaking me.

By now I was pretty tired. My feet were sore. And I was somewhat overwhelmed with all the memories that had been bombarding me all day. I was proud of my achievements – Lygon Street, Brunswick Street, two tram journeys – but knew it would be best to return to the motel for a night of relaxation and reflection.

For dinner I chose to have a Subway Veggie Delight sandwich, which I munched down on whilst watching a double bill of Spider-man and Spider-man 2, which I found playing on an obscure television channel. On the agenda for Monday was the (much longed for) Melbourne Sea Life Aquarium and an evening spent enjoying the city after dark; surely two activities that would ensure the day be something exceptional! :)


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Melbourne 2015: Day 03. Facing the demons of the past…

And so we come to day three of my fabulous adventures in Melbourne. A day that saw me explore Melbourne’s past, face my personal demons and rediscover the majestic taste of the greatest soft drink known to human kind…

21st August 2015, 8:02pm
Room 211, Flagstaff City Inn

I’ve done so much walking over the last two days that I’ve developed blisters on top of blisters! Walking back to the motel this evening was exquisite pain, but removing my shoes and socks after another busy day was exquisite bliss. Although when I finally got a look at my blisters I was a bit disgusted. I have one on my left foot’s little toe that is bigger than the toe itself. It’s quite disgusting and, as I brought nothing sharp to pop it with, resorted to using one of the in-room forks to relieve the agony. Which was difficult, to be sure, but mightily satisfying when the damned thing burst!

I wasn’t quite as keen leaving as yesterday but I was in the city by 9:30am and at the museum by 10:00am. Yes, this much-loved destination was my chosen activity for the day, and to be honest, I was slightly underwhelmed. Sure, Meadhbh got all excited and started RAWRing in my ear when she saw the dinosaurs (they were completely unexpected) but the rest of the displays were lackluster and somewhat disappointing. There was a delightful rainforest installation (actual trees!) and the section that investigated the mind and all that affects it was interesting but for Melbourne Museum, there wasn’t an awful lot about Melbourne itself. Just a lackadaisical display that was nowhere near as interesting as I remembered. Sure, Phar Lap was present and correct, but where was the information on Melbourne’s growth as a city? Where was the artifacts drawn from Melbourne’s colourful history? Where was the Neighbours kitchen that used to grace this magnificent building? I did enjoy my visit to the museum – fortunately, due to my concession card, I gained free entry – but I was just disappointed that the displays weren’t as interesting or enjoyable as I remembered them.

After departing the museum I decided to challenge myself and headed down Nicholson Street toward the (dreaded) Brunswick Street. Ever since my emotionally abusive relationship this street has been massively triggering for me. It stirs all sorts of bad memories of that painful, debilitating time. It was on Brunswick Street that my girlfriend launched into an abusive tirade about how kissing me made her want to vomit. It was on Brunswick Street that she threw a glass of water over my head, and then laughed maniacally at my humiliation, all because I had stated a preference of actor. It was on Brunswick Street that my girlfriend launched into a (different) abusive tirade about how I was the most selfish human being that had ever lived, and that the only person I ever thought of was myself. It used to be my favourite street in Melbourne. But today, it is just a painful reminder of the agony my abuser caused me, and thus, for eight years I’ve avoided it like the plague. So I was quite chuffed with myself when I was able to meander the street with only heightened anxiety. No panic attacks. No grueling PTSD flashbacks. Just me on my once favourite street in Melbourne. I say once favourite because, like the rest of Melbourne the hipsters have taken over. Where once Brunswick Street was an assortment of independent shops and funky retailers, it is now a collection of trendy, up market clothes shops and even trendier, up market eateries. It has, alas, become hipster central. And I hated it. The Grub Street Bookstore (my second favourite second-hand book retailer in Melbourne) was still there, as was Dixons Recycled, but this was not enough to ease the pain of what Brunswick Street has become. Damned hipsters and there annoying, arrogant, hipster ways. How dare you destroy large swathes of the city for your own, petulant needs!

From Brunswick Street I went for a constitutional down Smith Street before aiming for Fitzroy Gardens, where I spent a good hour relaxing in this tranquil, tree filled oasis before returning to the city for some light (but essential) shopping.

By 3:00pm I was in Federation Square, enjoying a can of Cherry Coke and trying to decide what to do next. I didn’t feel like browsing the shops, nor did I feel like just sitting still, so I opted for a visit to the Immigration Museum. And glad I was that I made such a choice. Beautifully laid out, dynamic displays, a wealth of information and all housed inside a glorious building that was, at one point in Melbourne’s history, Customs House. I was far more impressed with the Immigration Museum than I was Melbourne Museum, and would urge anyone who visits Melbourne to place this attraction on their itinerary.

After leaving the museum City Basement Books, DVD Collection and The Little Library followed before I happened upon a shop that sells Irn Bru. Yes. Irn Bru! That magnificent Scottish soft drink. That beverage from the Gods. Oh boy, have I missed this particular sparking liquid! Cue Irn Bru selfies and a couple of rather random abstracts!

Tonight I was supposed to go to my gathering, which was pretty much the reason I came to Melbourne this week, but I’ve made the executive decision not to go. I’m tired. I’m a tad overwhelmed after Brunswick Street and I’m just not in the mood to be around hundreds of extroverted (and introverted) individuals. Some might see me as weak, as pathetic, as unexciting, as many negative (and horrible) things. But sometimes I need to look after myself because – surprise, surprise – there’s no-one else around to do it. With the mood I’m in I know that were I to go tonight I would be anxious, I would suffer a panic attack and I would ruin the upcoming weekend in Melbourne. So I don’t feel bad for not going. I’m just taking care of myself and prioritizing my needs above my need for sociable activity. So it’s just another evening in front of the TV and – if yesterday is anything to go by – another fitful, restless sleep.

On the agenda for tomorrow is the book market at Federation Square (yay, books!) and a chilled out arvo in the motel. Nothing exciting. Nothing special. Just another blissful day doing nothing and loving doing it!