In the Melbourne suburb where I spent my childhood, a café was a place where ethnic men played cards and backgammon, puffed on cigarettes, and looked up from time to time to watch through the window the passing parade on the footpath outside. Now, when I return to Northcote, I am often served in hip cafés by boyish men with Ned Kelly beards and stylishly informal young women who call me ‘mate’. They speak in Australian accents that were rarely to be heard in the shops of my 1970s childhood.
We did not regard ours as an inner suburb; or at least not as ‘inner’ in the manner of Fitzroy, Carlton, Collingwood, and Richmond. Nor were there too many obvious signs of what I would later learn is ‘gentrification’ or, as it is also less euphoniously called in this admirable book, ‘trendification’. Its effects are now evident in almost every corner, from the beautifully restored exteriors of so many of its old houses and the foreign cars parked in the driveways, to the cafés, wine bars, and restaurants that line High Street. It is clearest of all in rising property prices.