Judith Buckrich - The thing about St Kilda

The thing about being in St Kilda is that I often walk into a younger version of myself. At the Wellington Street corner of Fitzroy Street it’s me age 12 in 1962 coming from a meeting at SKIF, the socialist Jewish youth organisation I was part of for 6 years, a little trepidatious even on a Sunday afternoon that I will meet some ‘ladies of the night’. The convergence is palpable, if only for a moment and then I am thinking about Mushroom Records because it too was there in a different old mansion.


The rest of Fitzroy Street holds only recent iterations of me until I am at the Prince of Wales Hotel when my thirty something self is knocked sideways meeting a long dead friend. We stand shocked – he is off his face on heroin and I am the last person he wants to see – and I want to cry.


Turn the corner into Acland Street and soon I am at Linden New Art, a gallery I helped create in 1986 when I was 36 and full of myself, acting Community Arts Officer when St Kilda was at the height of its centre of the universe days for music, food and bohemian life. (In another moment I head to Budapest for the last years of the cold war. The end of youth.)


At the corner of Carlisle and Barkly Street my little ghost is at ‘Mandate’ nightclub with all my gay men friends, the street so unsteady underfoot, because across the road at the National Theatre is me at 23, doing drama and eating at the Hungarian restaurant where my mother knows the owner.


In Acland Street there is me and mum in the cake shops and delis of the 1960s and then upstairs of one of them is me age 32 at the Galleon café (precursor of the one now in Carlisle Street) with my friends listening to poetry and being soooo cool before heading back to being a weirdo country bumpkin on a farm in Koo-Wee-Rup where I lived for six years with the love of my life.


At St Kilda beach I swing right back to 1964 when age 14 I headed down on the 69 tram to spend the day with friends – how come we were not constantly sunburned I’ll never understand. With my darling cousin Eva we mount the big dipper at Luna Park and I beg her to go again and again until we have no more money. She always gave way to me – probably out of pity for someone so much less glamorous than her.


Just two other St Kilda spectres of me are palpable, one at Readings bookshop where there was once a Japanese restaurant we visited with the love of my life when we’d broken up but missed each other so much that we cried each time we met; the other – 39 year old me just off the plane from Budapest, having left my baby and my husband with my mother – heading straight to the beach – always St Kilda is home.