In my late teens, I spent most Saturday mornings at the Adelaide markets. It was where we did our weekly shopping for fruit and vegetables and met friends from other share houses. The markets were a grid of trestle tables laden with fresh produce and boxes underneath containing cauliflower leaves and silver beat stalks. The stall holders were loud middle-aged, leather faced men jostling with each other for customers.
There were only a few shops along the side, mainly delicatessens. One of my favourites was Greek and it had dozens of dried Yevani bunches of basil hanging on ceiling hooks. The shop sold vine leaves and other delicacies and I loved the smell of herbs that infused every corner of this tightly packed store.
After our weekly shopping trip, we headed to Victoria square. Most demonstrations started from this vantage point. We often took leisurely strolls through the city streets calling out slogans against uranium mining, for Aboriginal Land rights or made a general plea for peace. There was never any trouble; we marched with our vegetables, stood up for what we believed in and headed home.
I haven’t been back to Adelaide since the halcyon days of my youth when everything seemed possible, and change was in the air. It just turned out that the change that was coming was not what we had bargained for.
I felt disoriented when I walked into the markets this morning. My memory was playing tricks with me. I seemed to remember Victoria Square to my right but it is to my left. Then there is the market itself. It looks nothing like it did back then. I walked all the way around the perimeter looking for the Greek deli, but it has been replaced with trendy coffee shops ubiquitous in every Australian city.
Even the fruit and vegetable stalls look neater and have permanent signage above them. There are rows of cheese shops, coffee roasters and specialty stores selling everything from body lotions to boutique distillery gin. The rhubarb gin was delicious, although it felt very wrong to try it at 9:30 in the morning. However, the charming salesman reminded me with a wink that it was 5pm somewhere in the world. This certainly wasn’t the markets I remembered from my youth.
I feel an odd unreciprocated nostalgia when I visit places where I have lived. It is as if the place has moved on, but I haven’t. At least not when it comes to my expectations of the familiar. I know the streets and can find my way around, yet I am disoriented. I search for a familiar building to find it has been replaced by a concrete box with offices. As I walk, I recognise that this is undisputedly Adelaide just not the way I know it. My Adelaide will always be locked away in my untrustworthy memory, made tender with age.