JJ Chiterton - Village Antagonist

I mount my bike at Elsternwick Park, enter the roundabout at the top of Ormond Rd and head south. The rattle of wheels draws up alongside me to reveal a middle-aged dude; grey-haired, man-bunned, skateboarding with a loaf of gluten-free French bread under his arm. Half Neanderthal, half advertising exec, balancing youth well beyond its sell-by date. I’m tempted to nudge him, but a fall at his age could be unrecoverable, and the gaping legal wormhole would belie this laidback surfer exterior.


I lose him at Foam St without breaking pace. The boutique shops unfold to reveal Elwood’s kept ladies, dripping in lycra, freshly manicured with their fleets of muscley SUVs and surgically symmetrised labia. Customised prams and lofty plans for the front garden – weatherboard or Brutalist darling? The earth trembles with indecision.


Entering the main strip, I soften the pace, kicking the reversing cars

that move in and out like automated machinery.


11 a.m. chimes the call to prayer

The sacred Brunch Hour

Avocado toast and spiritual milkshakes, without the milk

Heaven forbid!

As the cafes swell, baristas step onto the stage

They’re the new rock stars (or so they think)

Their lyrics splutter and steam

Connoisseurs wait in line

Influencers ready to champion or destroy

Reciting their mantra, ‘a post is mightier than the pen’


Two-thirds down Ormond and there’s a commotion

‘Argh what’s that smell mummy?’ An infant dressed as a

Victorian doll cries. The canal must have kicked up again…

Oh wait, no, it’s a dishevelled drunk squirming on the floor. ‘Should he be here?’ they ask, thinking he’s perhaps a remnant of a bygone era or slipped across the border from St Kilda. I approach him with haste and he recoils, anticipating an attack. A flicker of machoism fizzes through my system, which I ashamedly douse and offer him a drink from the Bottle-O that he’s strategically positioned himself next to.


As I enter, the ping of the door morphs into the flatlined drone of indecision… what to buy him? A bottle of wine (too sophisticated), spirits (expensive), alcopop (possible violence) can of beer (too cliched)…


As I hand him a litre of cider, he barely acknowledges the gesture. So I don’t let go, and we have the briefest of Mexican standoffs until his body odour arbitrates, the smell of fermenting body parts is too much.


And I’m off.


I keep circling the last roundabout until the beeping cars are too much to bear, then catapult myself down Glen Huntly, beachbound, into clean air.