‘Here Comes the Night’ sings out over the road out front of the Addi Road Food Pantry in Marrickville. A low-flying plane is coming in to land, adding to the Inner West soundtrack.
The old Them song is a 1960s classic, with Van Morrison’s voice exultant and oddly melancholy, as if all of us somehow got lost in an old radio for a little while.
It’s a cold end to a bitty, rainy day. What Addi Road calls its Wednesday Night Lights is only just being set up.
This means the Addi Road Food Pantry will stay open late till 7pm so people can source rescued food and do some low-cost shopping on their way home.
Everyone is meanwhile waiting for the Street Side Medics van to drive in and park, its doctors and nurses providing free medical advice and care for whoever needs it till 8pm.
The Fijian Community have arrived like chilled-out titans, relaxed and strong all at once. They have brought their musical equipment for a singalong. A young man among them lights up the night early with a heartfelt version of Neil Young’s ‘Heart of Gold’, spinning the lyrics his own way to speak of “waiting for the doctors to come” and “all their shining hearts”.
Pretty soon his friends have joined him in a gentle version of John Denver’s ‘Country Roads’ and its longing innocent call to “take me home”. A few women sing along spontaneously. One of the older women pulls biscuits from her bag, offering them around. Then she folds the pack and places it back in her bag, waving her hand to explain before saying “home”.
At a table nearby, Addi Road staff joke about running their own weekly reality tv show, “this week stir fry noodles!” It’s the free hot meal provided for people who’ve come along for the camaraderie and the free services this Wednesday night offers every week.
Inside the Food Pantry, it’s a similarly soft start to the evening, with volunteers gathering around an iPhone. One of them is a school teacher and she has photos of kids from a Book Week Parade dressed up as their favourite characters. They’re pretty delighted by the children’s imagination, though there’s some debate as to whether Spider-Man was ever in a novel. Was he?
A big cheer goes up from the Fijian musicians as John arrives with his Lagerphone, a kind of percussive tree made of bottle caps nailed into an old broom. Gurwinder joins in on tambourine as they gather in a semi-circle and sing of “a fighter that still remains”, the shape of the song becoming clearer and clearer as Paul Simon’s ‘The Boxer’.
Behind them is a clothes rack of vintage clothes provided again for free from donations supplied by Reunion Store in Newtown. Not to mention a little laughter and controversy as someone discovers a banana thrown away into the cardboard recycling bin. Accusations fly. All are not guilty!
The place seems to have moved from twilight melancholy and a few people to a small, warm crowd celebrating just being here.
A doctor arrives; the medics van is still on the way. Another plane zooms past, closer and brighter it seems.
It’s a night of greatest hits in every way. The people gathering, talking, telling jokes. The musicians getting stronger with their songs, now singing to everyone and being sung to in return: “Tell me, where do the children play?”