We first moved to Balaclava in 1992 I think. Carlisle Street was very different to what it is today. It had a hardware store in the main street even. There was not a resaurant nor any place to get a decent cup of coffee. We were there for the early to mid part of the transformation to what it is now. It was very interesting but we moved on.
Maybe once every six weeks, we would go to the Balaclava Hotel for a meal. They were typical pub meals and it was pretty typical pub. It was not flash, but we usually happy with the food there. I think over the nine? years we lived there, we had one bad meal. Sometimes we would go with our close friends, but mostly just on our own when R did not feel like cooking, it was two minutes walk away and we just wanted it 'easy'. It did not have gambling machines in the early nineties.
Once we moved away, there was no reason to return to the area apart from buying fresh coffee from the coffee shop.
Then along came Dame M. While she does not sleep around, she does smoke, drink and gamble and enjoys doing all three. She loves talking and she is a very social person. At eighty and with poor eyesight, we have noticed how she is uncomfortable when we go to a strange restaurant. She knows where the steps are at the Bala. She always organises the booking. 'George, can you set up a table for twelve in the smoking area?' 'Certainly Mrs M'. 'Can I get you a drink Mrs M?' 'Thanks George', and he returns with a drink and her change. 'I am not very hungry George. Could the kitchen make me a toasted sandwich?' 'Certainly Mrs M.' She knows how to work the auto teller there to extract money to feed to the machines. We sometimes ask her how much she just deposited into the auto teller and get a grunt in return. Her money, her business how she spends it. Apart from her senior citizen benefits, she has never received any welfare benefit of any kind, still pays heaps of tax and the council rates on her property run into thousands.
She amuses and entertains us. We have met many interesting people through her and done some quite interesting things. She does not just talk about herself but keeps herself informed about our life and what we may be doing. She keeps herself informed with world events and is a walking history book, especially of the St Kilda area but also of 'the arts'. She is generous, loyal and tolerant.
So if she feels relaxed and comfortable in her familiar surrounds of the Balaclava Hotel, it is not much of a price for us to pay for her friendship. Fast forward twenty years and I will be sitting with R saying, 'Remember the fun we used to have with Dame M at the Balaclava Hotel. God wasn't she a character?' 'Yeah', R might reply. 'She didn't wind down did she. She skidded full flight into a wall.'