I love my neighbourhood, but I don’t really know why.
People make fun of Camberwell (‘take a piss out’ of Camberwell? Is that right? That can’t be right.). Anyway, people look down on the place, and a walk through the hood gives you plenty of reasons for pause. The bins full of trash lining the sidewalks, the insistent beggars waiting to pounce as you exit Morrison’s, the intermittent drama outside the police station…I could go on.
But it has some good points, too.
Let’s make a list, because that’s fun! Let’s do Camberwell pluses and minuses.
Cheap, good food: Camberwell delights the frugal foodie with several inexpensive neighbourhood eateries. Top on my list are FM Mangal (Turkish), Caravaggio’s (Italian), and Lamoon (Asian fusion).
Vibe: The vibe is cool in Camberwell. Walking down Church St, reggae pulses out of the local barber shop, Indian pop from a passing car. People are chill, relaxed, artsy but not like, pretentious artsy.
The Greek Grocer: The guy I get my fresh veg from is a character out of a book somewhere, I’m convinced. He always wears this white lab coat, like a white mountain. He gyps me change sometimes, but I forgive him, as sometimes he gives me extra change. I think he just makes up the prices. He calls me ‘darling’, making me feel like I’m back in the American South, and has a calico cat.
Rat Records: A Camberwell institution. The name says it all.
Drug People: Often people who are on/want drugs ask you for money or lie on the bus bench or pee on the wall. Sometimes a fight breaks out or someone gets yell-y.
Jesus People: I like Jesus and all, but maybe don’t want to hear all about him on my bus when I am tired. Also the shouted sermons outside of the McDonald’s. This is common in Camberwell. Also sometimes your doorbell rings, and you think it’s a delivery or someone dropping by, and you rush out of the shower and throw on a bathrobe, but no. It’s a Jesus Person. And now everyone feels awkward.
Scary: Some people think Camberwell looks or feels scary. I don’t, but I like to be inclusive of all opinions. Of course, there were the riots. During the riots one day we were let out early from work if we lived in Camberwell. They said not to go to the Green, but I did anyway. I asked the Greek Grocer if anything happened.
‘Eh,’ he said, making a face. ‘Nothing so much. They got the place over there. Some kids, you know, they walking around, but doing nothing.’
The only place that got rioted was this cheapo phone store I didn’t think much of anyway.
Sometimes weird things happen in Camberwell. Like this one time when a bus ran into a building. Everyone was just standing around, police, mums with buggies, me, others, just staring, trying to sort out what it all meant. How did the bus get into that building? I never got the answer to that.