Petrus Spronk

Years ago, while in Korea, I had a dream. The kind of dream, it turns out, which beats reality. In my dream I had returned to Daylesford and was walking in the main street expecting everything to be the same. It was and it wasn’t. Something was missing. Something important. Something which felt like an empty space in my heart. Yet, at first, I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.

I remembered my application to Council to change at least one of the grave like central car parking spaces into a flowers and vegetable plot, just to reward those rate payers who did not have a car, creating for them also a space to occasionally use. But it wasn’t that. I thought of the trees in the main street which had never been there. But it wasn’t that. I thought of the possibility of some kind of public drinking water aspect in our water famous town. But it wasn’t that either. Something else was missing. Something important. Something much more important.

Not unlike a tooth missing in a smile. And just as a missing tooth can be replaced with a false one I noticed to my dismay, while my dream turned to nightmare, that there were a few false teeth in the smile of Daylesford’s main street. And here I found my clue. The latest tooth pulled in the main street was a colourful one right in the middle. “It does not matter”, I was told, it will be replaced with a false tooth just so that the image of health will be maintained. Yet the hole in Daylesford’s universe, the missing colour in the centre of the street was the place which for years provided us with health for both body and soul, for both our visual delight and physical health – the hole that was left by the disappearance of Tonna’s vegetable shop.

It doesn’t matter. But does it? I remember some 30 or so years ago when Tonna’s shop first came to Daylesford. A breath of fresh air. A boost in the health of our town, a shop filled with colour and family love. There wasn’t only green, there were shades of green. The shades of green of precious stones. But much, much, more precious. In addition there were shades of sea green, bottle green, pea green, especially pea green, there was olive green and chartreuse, there were more shades of green then you’d find in the surrounding forest. Then there were shades of eggfruit purple, cherry reds, orange orange, banana yellows and grape blues. And I am not even mentioning the palette of colour spilling out into the main street’s footpath, as a huge welcoming bouquet of always fresh flowers. As a piece of colourful jewellery enhancing an otherwise pretty drab street.

All of these colours not only delighted our visual cravings, but also looked after the inner health of the whole of the town. At an affordable price we always received fresh colour, filled with vitamins and other calorific needs. This, accompanied by a wonderful display, daily fresh and presented with family love. Many is the time I walked into the shop while sensing the strong energy from just the colour and freshness of the goods on display. And, if at times there were foods new and strange, there was always the suggestion of a recipe to go with them. Almost too good to be true. And, as it turned out, it was too good to be true.

When I returned from Korea I found my dream had become reality. Vincent street was without a veggie store. One wonders: What has the town done to deserve a main street without a vegetable shop. One would think that this would be a basic. This does not speak well for the health of our town. The type of town we are trying to promote.

A street which can support too many places where you can buy a coffee cannot afford a vegetable shop?

A street which can support an array of fast food shops cannot afford a vegetable shop?

A street with numerous shops selling knick-knacks cannot afford a vegetable shop?

Is this healthy? From the outside it does seem so. The empty hole, which the removal of the vegetable shop had created, had already been plugged. A fast false tooth to keep up the perfect smile of ‘welcome‘ to foreign visitors.

And of all these splendid colours which once were the vegetable shop, for me only the blues have remained.

However, in all this terribleness of loss there is hope. Mary, after having been given her marching orders, moved outside to continue her trade. For four or five of the coldest weeks in Daylesford’s winter, if you were in need of some loveliness in relation to colour, fresh food and real family service, you could find her and David next to the library where soon they decorated, from the back of a truck, with much colour, an otherwise derelict outside space.

The next challenge, or big art project, was to colour-in a huge grey shed on the edge of town, and keep on providing the service this town needs more than anything. I was sure she would make it beautiful. Thank you to Mary, the Matriarch and David, the manager, plus the staff, dealers in more colour than any given artist in this town is able to dream up, the dealers in more freshness than a Daylesford winter breeze. They will, I am sure, continue be rewarded with lots of people’s love.

And so it is… years later, like now. The promise has come through. Not only can we buy fresh vegetables but also the most amazing produce, much of it from the local places which have since sprung up around Daylesford. And who can forget how they cheated the COVID-19, and kept on providing us, regardless.

It is possible!

Dave (left) and Mary (right) in the Vincent Street store, ca 1997.

Petus Spronk is a local artist and regular contributor to the Wombat Post.