Lawrence Leung’s Postcode: Abbotsford 3067
An inner-city pocket of rapid change.
Look, she’s not skipping!” I would exclaim to my family as we drove past the iconic Skipping Girl Vinegar sign. The neon girl in the dress was on the rooftop of an old Abbotsford factory, attempting to jump over her skipping rope. There was a smile on her face, but the rope was not glowing its usual red. “She must be tired tonight,” my parents would say. Years later, I learnt that the power was often cut as the sign or building changed owners.
Abbotsford was the pocket of Melbourne I would pass through on the way to a dinner in Richmond’s Victoria Street or a tram ride to uni. My childhood memory of the place consisted of three things: rows of old factories, the Skipping Girl and the bitter smell of hops. The aroma of yesteryear.
I still smell the brewery occasionally, depending which way the wind’s blowing. But since moving to Abbotsford I’ve learnt that it’s so much more than what I saw as a kid. The place is tiny but contains a lot of different faces.
I’ve had first-hand encounters with magpies – both the swooping avian variety and the Collingwood supporters. Victoria Park is both the club’s ancestral home and a cheery dog-walking park. Stroll a few minutes east from there and buildings and roads disappear as you head down to the Yarra River. You’ll think you’re in the bush.
I recently dared get a haircut at an impossibly hip place, pulling on my coolest T-shirt and an air of nonchalance before walking in.
The riverbank takes you to the Abbotsford Convent, now a sprawling commune of bakeries, organic food markets and artist studios. Behind it is the quaint Collingwood Children’s Farm, where kids can see goats, pigs, horses and Japanese tourists.
Abbotsford is changing fast as the factories of my childhood morph into apartments, and Johnston Street’s rug shops are replaced by bars and cafes. I recently dared get a haircut at an impossibly hip place, pulling on my coolest T-shirt and an air of nonchalance before walking in. I was relieved to be greeted by a warm, down-to-earth smile from the hairdresser, and the offer of a cold beer, before I sat in his chair.
I love how so many different sides of Melbourne can reside in a single postcode. Bushland, animals, sporting tradition and hipster haircuts.
Today, the Skipping Girl is still on her perch, overlooking her growing, changing Abbotsford – old and new. She’s still smiling, happier than ever. And with the aid of solar panels donated by a power company, she’s perpetually skipping.
Lawrence Leung is a Melbourne comedian, actor and screenwriter. His latest stand-up show debuts as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, March 27 to April 21. Details at lawrenceleung.com