ALAN GREENWOOD takes a couple of walks through Fremantle – a couple of decades apart – and reminisces about what makes this a city that provides all that a life can afford.
FREMANTLE has always been a name which evokes a response dependent on the stage of life I have reached.
When first arriving in WA from Tasmania in 1970 to begin at UWA it was a place on the edge of a western frontier which required a change of clothes from collared to non-collared (Indian) shirts, jeans into “pyjama“ pants, a discarding of shoes, and saving on haircuts and razor blades if intending to take up full-time residency as an inspiring artist, potter or wood crafter.
Back in the days when men didn’t measure masculinity by the amount of kilos they lifted at the gym, my mum’s partner Harry reminisced about carrying home from work at Robb’s Jetty to Shenton Park a side of lamb over his shoulder.
This was a town which you visited occasionally for a restaurant meal not dominated by meat and three veggies. The Capri and Roma vied for custom as I took my girlfriend, now wife, out to eateries with menus which needed a linguistics degree to decipher.
The place had a genuine seedy feel – certainly not somewhere to hang around after dark.
A puzzling feature was the tragically large number of widows; evidenced by the all black outfits frequenting the local grocery stores.
The colour identification continued when the Orange People hit town.
Free love and an Indian guru whose hobby was collecting Rolls Royce’s fitted well with this dotty and eclectic community.
Freo has always been willing to take anybody’s money and the America’s Cup in 1982 began the gentrification that introduced the diversity of eateries we have today and turned humble workers’ cottages into goldmines.
After studies and beginning teaching, Fremantle returned to the periphery – sometimes whispering in one’s ear as the “Fremantle Doctor“ and at other times receiving a fleeting glimpse while enjoying a cone of that “Itie ice cream“ after the mandatory fish n’ chips from Cicerello’s.
The view of Fisherman’s harbour was reserved for the nut brown deck hands on the Santa Maria.
No buzzers called your number; seating a patch of grass on the Esplanade.
Back to the future; fifty years and my family returned to WA after a 25-year year sleepy sojourn in Tasmania.
I pick up the second half of my story having lived in the mind-dumbing dreariness of a suburb whose name (clue) suggests that you really have “made it” when sitting in your home theatre room with entertaining area through the bi-fold doors, surrounded by mega-shopping centres, dog parks and other indispensable facilities.
This ‘your home is your castle’ experience had me comfortably ensconced in a security lighted and alarmed fortification which successfully repelled contact with neighbours and any other strangers who dared approached.
However, lurking somewhere in the back of the consciousness was this romantic remembrance of a community that refused to lay aside its eccentricity and individuality.
So, 12 months ago we relinquished our two drinks for the cost of one at Coffee Club, Cockburn Central, heading for the Promised Land of affogatos and pizzas bereft of pineapple and chicken .
Now, living a stone’s throw from Bather’s Beach isn’t too shabby, although the rent we pay could provide a multi-bedroomed with en-suites idyl elsewhere.
Our moving anniversary is an opportune time to consider the pros and cons of life in Fremantle.
The seductiveness of this town rolls freely off the tongue.
The sunsets over Bather’s Beach are more stunning than any sporting image on a plasma tv.
People have not lost control of their limbs; walking and pedalling are the preferred vehicles for arriving at destinations familiar to all the senses.
I have not made up my mind on the best gelato with several shops to choose from.
What about pizza? Sandrinos wins my vote for its thinness and simplicity of toppings.
The Capri still delivers unbeatable value for money, though how about Twiggy Forrest’s philanthropy in providing those $5 meals and tinnies at the Orient?
The title for best coffee shops must be shared between El Civo [Il Chibo] and Gino’s – my theory is that the latter ships a sea container of Italian waiters over each month – not to mention the rent-a-crowd of Latin customers.
However, if you run out of Euros, my award for the new kid on the block goes to Ghetto Blaster; outstanding long mac and insanely good apple muffins.
A leisurely breakfast or morning tea is best spent at the Mod Café on Wray Avenue – a leisurely newspaper read pays for the coffee.
Of course you could choose to woo your partner by buying freshly baked croissants for breakfast in bed from across the road at Galati’s.
Prefer your grocery not being endorsed by celebrity chefs and suffering the inconvenience of selecting your own fruit and veg?
This is the store for you.
Gentlemen, want a trendy cut as you prepare for the evening passegiata – that’s “evening stroll” to you.
I recommend a stroll across the road to Terrace Hair; bargain $20 cut on Tuesdays.
Now, some recommendations for a leisurely Saturday.
Elizabeth’s Bookshop is an Aladdin’s Cave of reading which will transport you in your lounge chair to exotic destinations or past ages.
Speaking of which Mark and Karen at The Record Finder will introduce you to a time when musicians and not machines made music.
Another venue to lose yourself in whatever your genre of escapism is The Luna on SX.
If the film’s boring, have 60 winks in the luxuriant chairs; if frightening, knock back a double gin and tonic.
The crown jewel of Fremantle is arguably The Markets. Our favourite time for purchases is 30 minutes before closing – practically giving away the bread and vegetables.
When a sugar fix is required nothing beats Levi’s doughnuts; blackberry jam-filled the favourite.
When in need for a trip down shopper’s memory lane Kakulas Sisters is the place for titillating aromas as you scoop up the gourmet booty.
I know you can be trusted to keep my secret of the side door next to the counter.
Even Alice in Wonderland would be impressed and the Mad Hatter relinquish his tea as they enter the Dickensian courtyard where delicious coffee and the best Reuben sandwich outside of New York is served.
I hesitate to ramble too far off familiar worn tracks, but a sojourn to the deepest and darkest South Terrace is well worth the CAT ride.
There, treading the pavement outside Manna, you may still hear the patter of bare feet.
The possibly love children of a previous generation will be queuing for their disgustedly healthy salads and kale smoothies.
Finally, to complete this gastronomic extravaganza mention must be made of the Joy Kitchen; delicious food at unbeatable prices with impeccable, prompt service.
Wanting to finish on Sunday with a leisurely ale or wine?
Clancy’s can provide a sensational $95 seafood platter for two which – shush – will easily feed four.
PS: out of funds after sampling some of the above delights? Kidogo on the beach is an amazing musicians’ venue where you can be royally entertained while enjoying a picnic on the lawn.
So, does this tale of urban bliss have any downsides?
Yes, there are some stories to sour your latte.
A major theme thus far has been travelling by foot. Why is it that the Marine Terrace and Railway Station crosswalks remain without flashing lights so as to test the attentiveness of motorists?
An associated transport peeve is the gung-ho attitude of the freight drivers who ignore reasonable speeds and can’t resist an early morning whistle accompanied by high-pitched wheel squeals to wake up the residents of Marina Village.
Surely the vibrations that rattle my front door contributes to the deteriorating Roundhouse cliff?
Come and listen for yourself anytime at bedtime and while at it have a look at the lovely picture of the young marrieds displayed on the Bathers Beach rail crossing.
It sure is a great advertisement for encouraging tourists to have their photos taken on our popular railway lines.
Now, all these peccadillos could be ignored by me if our council canvassed for the station buffers to be moved up the road to Bathers, benefitting commuters and day trippers and easing traffic congestion and parking difficulties.
A great writer, Samuel Johnson, summed up the joys of being a Londoner in one sentence. Taking one small liberty I repeat; When a man is tired of Fremantle, he is tired of life.
“Why Sir, you find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave Fremantle. No, Sir, when a man is tired of Fremantle, he is tired of life: for there is in Fremantle all that life can afford.“