Jamie Lynn Spears, sister of pop icon Britney Spears, has left the popular ITV show I'm A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here. Despite her…
Save articles for later
Add articles to your saved list and come back to them any time.
Malvern East hides its light under a bushel, or rather a plane tree.
If you don’t live here, Malvern East is the kind of suburb you’d whiz by on the way to somewhere else. Even its residents – a significant number of whom are medicos – tend to leave whenever they want to work and play. It’s a kind of upscale commuter town that just happens to be situated in the inner city.
If ever a place contrived to be both affluent and unexciting, it’s Malvern East. A social highlight for many (and their cossetted canine companions) is milling about at the off-leash section of the local park, while what passes for street theatre revolves around weekend house auctions and hard waste collections displayed on the nature strip.
Skirted by some of the busiest roads in Melbourne, these major thoroughfares enable people to project themselves across the city without having to actually pass through Malvern East. Why take a shortcut when you can so easily bypass narrow streets, speed bumps, traffic islands and roundabouts?
The suburb lacks the glamour and intensity of Prahran, Armadale, South Yarra and Toorak. And as its name suggests, Malvern East was established not as a destination, but as an afterthought to another place, Malvern. Until the early 1900s, it was sparsely populated and best known for its golf course, quarry, municipal tip and a timber yard.
Today, any spare land for housing has well and truly been taken. Yet, the sense remains that Malvern East is adjacent rather than central. Was there ever anything bohemian, cosmopolitan or cool about this place?
Still, one person’s dullsville is another’s sanctuary. At times, there is a quality of stillness to Malvern East that resembles a small country town. Much of the wildlife – ring-tailed possums, blackbirds, finches, wrens – is shy by temperament. Even more aggressive species such as magpies and wattlebirds seem relatively placid when they enter the Malvern East airspace.
Such noise pollution as there is – mowers, blowers, tradies doing renos – cuts through because the default decibel level is so close to silence. One explanation as to why it’s so quiet, the local joke goes, is because just like during the week when going to work, people prefer to spend their time elsewhere (typically the family weekender at Mount Martha or Sorrento).
The topography reflects the socio-economic aspirations of people who are well-placed on the ladder of success but still dream of doing better. The gradient more or less rises from the lower end near Chadstone towards the high ground of Toorak, where the really rich and powerful reside.
It’s a case of Audi over Aston Martin, Beemer before Bentley, where luxury vehicles are kept after the warranty has expired so that mum and dad can pay off the loan taken out to finance the home remodel, while the kids are trotted off to a nearby private school. Hoons, such as there are, tend to be the kind of blokes who need to broadcast their midlife crisis through the snarling exhausts fitted to their Porsche SUV or Mercedes AMG.
While older houses are steadily being gutted, the residents are dedicated to presenting a pleasant exterior that conceals any of the excesses of affluenza. The facades of period homes remain, and behind them looms something massive and contemporary.
There is always trouble in paradise and even the most tranquil-seeming neighbourhood casts a Blue Velvet shadow. Malvern East is not spared burglary, carjacking, vandalism or drug dealing.
There have been so-called society murders such as the separate cases involving victim Herman Rockefeller and convicted killer Matthew Wales. Malvern East witnessed the still unsolved gangland hit on Willie Thompson, which may sound like the name of a real estate agent but in fact belongs to a bouncer and drug dealer gunned down on Waverley Road in 2003.
The Kathmandu-clad denizens of Malvern East are buffeted by domestic turbulence for all the surface serenity. In her memoir Infidelity and Other Affairs, Kate Legge has a chapter on Malvern East in which she declares: “Beneath the facade of luxury and respectability, my suburb is as screwed up as every postcode.”
Even so, it is the kind of place where George Smiley, John le Carré’s unassuming spymaster, might have retired to live in comfortable obscurity.
The apparent tranquillity of this very privileged suburb may be boring to some, while others will view it as a sham. But those of us who enjoy the peace and quiet of the place know we are very fortunate to experience it.
This piece is part of The Age’s Life in the ’Burbs series.
Most Viewed in National
From our partners
Source: Read Full Article