Smells like Adelaide

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'Adelaide Skyline' Flickr image by aaronamsterdamAfter living for 20 years in Melbourne, ageing parents and a desire for fresh fruit drew me back to Adelaide.

I have good memories of growing up in the City of Churches in the 1960s. As a kid, I roamed with impunity around the streets of suburban Goodwood with its creeks and large Greek and Italian communities.

Adelaide has a large, country-town feel about it. Sputes (sports utes) abound and the word 'bogan' is a term of endearment.

The mullet hair cut, check shirt and ugg boots, so fashionable in the days of Sherbert and Skyhooks, have never really gone out of fashion here.

These are my people.

The 'six degrees of separation' theory is alive and well as strangers play 'who knows who' under a pale blue sky drinking dark Coopers Ale in a beer garden full of frangipani.

The Central Market is a sensual delight. When I was five I'd stand at the Charlesworth Nut Stand every week and a jolly woman would pinch my cheeks and give me a small bag of sugar-coated peanuts. Charlesworths are still there.

Nowhere on earth can one find nectarines and peaches in such chin-dripping quality and abundance as in Adelaide. The black alluvial soils of the Murray Valley are perfect for growing stone fruit.

I can trace Adelaide by its scents: the pink fairly floss of the Royal Show, Perrimans Pastry Shop in North Adelaide, the acrid electricity smell of the Glenelg tram and the crisp, clear air of Waterfall Gully, to name just a few.

Back then class ran through the city like a fault line down King William Street, with the blue blood Protestants to the east and the Catholic working class to the west.

Although I ended up going to an establishment school, I never really fitted in. One of the benefits of being born Catholic, poor and from a single mother was never having to worry about being invited to the Fotheringham-Smythes' pool parties. Such is life.

I mixed with a rat pack of young friends who cared more about surfing and music, than who was doing what to whom.

We used to write letters to the editor of the daily paper calling on pedestrians to walk on one side of the footpath in the morning and on the other after midday. We were idiots.

Yet shadows have fallen over the City of Churches. Some months ago the Victorian Premier John Brumby called Adelaide a 'backwater'. He's half right.

In some quarters state pride has turned to parochial anger, which threatens to strangle innovation and entrepreneurialism at a time when South Australia is getting back on its feet.

The cult of the 'nay-sayers' is alive and well.

Young people are leaving and manufacturing industries are in decline. It's not the fear of murder that stalks the City of Churches, as some reports would have you believe. It's fear of change.

A few years ago Charles Landry, an Adelaide Thinker in Residence and 'future cities' expert said, 'We need to change perceptions of Adelaide from a place to leave to a destination to come to'.

The state government is pushing social and technological change. Its plan is to make the city a modern university hub and to bring technology leaders and students from all over the world. A mini Oxford-on-the-Torrens.

There's a deep goodness and generosity about the people who live here. Adelaidians, like their football teams, are proud of the past and confident of the future.

As we enjoy another summer, the vines in the backyard are heavy with grapes and nectarines. Silver foil strips hang in the trees to keep the birds away from the peaches.

It's hard to be cynical when you're drinking some of the best wine in the world and feasting on fantastic cheeses and fruits.

Malcolm KingMalcolm King is an Adelaide writer. He runs an educational PR business and teaches Sudanese children literacy and numeracy.



Topic tags: malcolm king, adelaide, city of churches, memoir, biographical, john brumby, glenelg



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Existing comments

Nice article on Adders. Almost made me homesick. Almost.

The real problem in Adelaide is a lack of industrial diversity and a chip on its shoulder about Victorians.

As a former croweater I can well remember Perryman's pies and pasties. Little signposts from memory.

The writer should have mentioned Adelaide's fantastic beaches. That's where people go in summer.

Nice to see a piece about Adelaide that doesn't carry on about murder.

Is this Malcolm King the writer and poet?
David Rogers | 27 January 2009


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