Sep 27, 2009

Brunswick Street

Seven or eight young men in deep v-neck t-shirts smoke and bop to music eminating from the Family and Alhambra nightclubs across the road.

I turn the corner to my left, and head down Brunswick Street.

A snaking mass of humanity shifts in front of me. Cars slow to avoid hitting men bouncing across the road in defiance of the little red man. Smokers emerge from a 7-11, barely out the door before lighting up a cigarette from their newly-purchased pack.

I pass the clumping queues outside The Press Club and the Embassy Hotel. A girl in a black tube top has a gigantic tattoo on her upper back. The tattoo contains faces; strange, otherworldly faces.

They look like they are wailing.

I enter the Brunswick Street Mall, my sneakers cushioning the trudge down the incline. A girl in front of me in a black miniskirt turns unsteadily on her sky-high heels. Her black-rimmed eyes are red; she stops herself bumping into me, then looks past me, presumably for a friend. I trudge on.

At the bottom of the mall, two police officers frogmarch a man wearing camoflage pants and a black t-shirt and tattoos on his neck towards a paddy wagon. I venture into a convenience store and pay one dollar for the last tiny notebook left on the shelf.

A metal bench that two girls had been sitting on is now empty. I sit.

Legs are bare. Hemlines are high. Heels even higher. There is a lot of tottering.

A musician dressed in black, down to his jaunty fedora, walks past carrying his guitar and amp cases.

A few seconds later comes a girl with long blonde hair. She is dressed as Minnie Mouse and carries a coloured sombrero.

Three girls walk past in neon lycra and legwarmers. I hope they have been at an 80s theme night. Otherwise I ponder whether reports of an 80s fashion comeback have been greatly exaggerated.

Three guys with nouveau mullets stand at a metal bike rack opposite me. They are waiting. Eventually, two blondes join them. Both are peroxided; but one wears leggings, a long shirtdress and thongs. The other teeters in a black strapless microdress, on chunky heels. The group moves off. The second girl struggles to keep pace.

Girls who have never heard the rule "Cleavage or legs - not both" walk by. Tiny girls wearing impossibly small, doll-like dresses walk by. Normal girls forced into unflattering empire line floating halter-dresses walk by. Most adopt one of two walking styles: arms crossed to keep off the chill; or hands at sides to keep the bottom of their dress in place.

Three girls in flat ballet slippers walk by. One wears a knee-length polka-dot dress; the others shorter skirts with cardigans. They seem relaxed, animated, cheerful. They do not totter.

A sudden gust of wind makes me nuzzle even further into the black jacket that I had not needed when I left the house earlier that evening amid the dust and still heat.

A bloke in a deep v-neck striped shirt, studded canvas belt attempting to hold up his skinny jeans walks by. Two girls walk by; both dressed in jeans. They walk freely, and carry their high heels in their hands.

A woman in a purple singlet and long floral skirt talks to a police officer near the paddywagon. Moments later, she's in front of me, with the man in the camoflage pants and a black t-shirt and tattoos on his neck. The woman seems angry, and jerks up her arm towards him. She's holding something in her fingers.

It's a burgundy-coloured acrylic nail.

They move away. Three more women stand near the bike rack. One is curvy, but wears black trousers and a turquoise halter-neck top, and carries an elegant black purse. She looks better than her skinnier friend, who's wearing a silvery tent dress. The second woman pulls out a black pashmina and wraps herself in it. The tent dress disappears.

A regal blonde in a long Grecian-style black dress walks by with a group of friends. Her legs are remarkable by virtue of being invisible.

A shirtless man is being held down on the bonnet of a police car. Three officers hold him, and one bags up what looks like clothing. They fiddle with the back of his neck, as if clipping or unclipping something. One officer writes something down, leaning on the car bonnet to do so.

I realise I have a headache and dry throat, probably because of the cigarette smoke. I get up.

Two officers corral the shirtless man into the paddy wagon. Just then another man is marched past by another two officers, directly into the Police Beat.

I walked behind the paddy wagon, in which three men were now being held. Four officers chatted. I approached one of them. I glanced at his badge. His name is Shane.

"I don't come into the Valley often at this time. Is it always like this?"

"No, tonight's a pretty big night. There's been two big music festivals - the Sounds of Spring and Parklife - and the football. But there are normally 30 to 50 thousand people here on any given Saturday night anyway."

"What do people get arrested for?" I ask.

"Fighting, mostly," Shane says.

"Do they fight because they're drunk, or on drugs?" I ask.

Shane shrugs, spreading open his palms in a gesture that suggests "Who knows?" But maybe he's just seen my biro, and doesn't want to commit to an answer.

I thank Shane and wander away. At a set of traffic lights, a girl asks me where Wharf Street is. I point her in the right direction. "Thanks very much," she says as she walks off, tottering in high heels.

The little red man turns green. I put one sneakered foot in front of the other, and walk home.


  1. I used to do quite a bit of people watching in the mall on market days. These days I tend to avoid eye contact with anyone and head straight to the car after finishing shooting a gig.

    Maybe I'll stick around awhile next time.

  2. "Crime and fashion! The exciting new series from Girl Clumsy. Join Girl Clumsy as she patrols the hot-spots of Bris Vegas on a tour of violence, drugs and popular street fashion."


  3. Very evocative writing. I used to feel at home there, now I tend to go to great lengths to avoid the place on weekend nights. Even worse after big events.

  4. Good one Oh Great Clumsy One.

    Haven't been to the Valley for a while but it sounds like it hasn't changed much.

  5. I really enjoyed that, it reads like you crossed over to a waaay more interesting Valley than I remember.

  6. That was awesome. Nice articles on Brisbanetimes too :)

  7. Yeah the Valley... only when strictly necessary, like for a rock show at the Arena or the Zoo, or otherwise under duress. An interesting slab of humanity, but a seething, menacing one. That said I never came to much grief out there, or anywhere else in Brisbane, so I obviously wasn't trying hard enough.

  8. A girl, notably clumsy, sits and writes in a small cheap notebook as the night heaves and flows around her.

  9. I like people watching in Brunswick St too. I don't understand the heels and mini skirts either. My boyfriend calls those kind of girls "predators"...