The other day I got home in the rainy spring weather, checked the mailbox and found an express post parcel in there. It sparked my curiosity because I haven't been online shopping much recently because I'm saving for something special. I couldn't figure out where it had come from. Without checking the sender, I grabbed a pair of scissors and opened it up. I reached into the package and pulled out a bright red cardigan, with my initials embroider on the front in navy thread.
Now this really confused me. I'd had no collaborations organised for my blog, and this was from Review, who are one of my favourite brands. I fished around in the package and found a Thank You card from Review with a personalised message on it. I've done some collaborations with them this year, amongst a few other posts featuring pieces of theirs from my own wardrobe, and this was just such a lovely surprise. And also in the colour red! I didn't have a red cardigan at all! I knew straight away that this would be an item in my wardrobe to cherish for years.
So, I'm really chuffed to share it on the blog here! Along with a visit to one of many great sneaky food spots popping up in Ballarat. There was a time a few years ago where people would ask where to eat in my hometown and I'd recommend one restaurant. Now I usually ask where they are staying and point them to a nearby spot. The Tin Roof is one of those spots. I can recall getting Fish and Chips in here one day with my writing class when I was 15. It's been given a second life as a cafe and pizza joint called The Tin Roof. The owners, I think, ride this magnificent Vespa. It's so Ballarat: a corner cafe in an area of pretty houses with blooming cherry blossoms, a Vespa in the front window, the owners slightly confused about my love of the Vespa, the whole place smelling of good pizza and filled with happy chatter.
If you want to get more local than that, then just inside we chatted with some regulars of The Tin Roof, who proudly said 'we're Ballarat born and bred'. One of them shows us her daughter's Instagram. She's a successful 'influencer' in Melbourne with a solid 12k followers. She's excited to chat to us about having an Instagram account because her daughter has one, not name dropping, just chatting like we're old friends. Locals know how locals live in this city. It feels strange. When I was younger, I felt like this city had no culture, no identity and no room to grow. It was like it was living under a bell jar, with everyone inside it struggling to get out, confused about this invisible barrier stopping them from growing. Then in the last 5 years it's changed. The things I used to hear people say about Italy or France ('you've got to go regional to experience the Country, like a local'), those are now things that apply to my home. The Tin Roof, one beautiful cafe-cum-pizzeria, it's stained glass window detailing, simple menu and lighting. All of it, not just the food, speaks of taste. It's a taste that is broader than this one spot, it's a taste that you can now find city wide.
Away from Melbourne, this means that Ballarat has less pace, less people, less rush. And it gets quiet at night because almost the whole city goes to bed. My sister worries before we go to The Tin Roof that it'll be busy because it's a Saturday night in Ballarat. There are a few people in there, but even if it were full, it wouldn't be comparable to a capital city. We're so...regional... I guess. Agonising over not getting a park out the front or not being able to walk straight into an eatery and getting a table with no wait. Having lived in Perth, I sometimes look comically at myself now, grumping over not getting into a venue when recalling never eating out for breakfast anywhere on a Sunday because in Perth you would have to queue for a table.
Ballarat used to be so nothing when I was a kid. Maybe I've just learned to appreciate it as I've gotten older. I dunno. When I was a kid it seemed to be full of Kmarts and carparks and all this heritage that no one knew what to do with. I loved going to my grandfather's cobbler shop. It was something unique amongst a backdrop of chain stores. As an adult I think back on that shop and it blows me away that there was once this store where people could get shoes custom made. That customisation is something that resonates well with this city as it is now. Sure, we've still got the Woolworths and Coles that everywhere else has, but on a Sunday evening, there's a jazz trumpet player busking out the front. Those things, those little piece of culture that come up through the concrete like dandelions, that's where identity comes from. Identity has got to be something unique, something natural, not copied and pasted. It comes organically from experience. It's a one off pizzeria nested between two pretty houses and some corrugated iron fencing. It's my own initials on a cardigan. It's the Vespa on the sidewalk that the pizzeria staff will ride home.
Earrings: c/o The Peach Box
Cardigan: c/o Review Australia (you'll need their app to get your own)
Skirt: Review Australia
Location: The Tin Roof
Photos: The Goldfields Girl