Hi there. My name is Lauren. His name is Chris. You can find us in a little shopfront called Saint Monday that has a perfect view out onto Yackandandah’s main street. On any given day, from the windows of Saint Monday, you’ll spy Toto dogs snoozing on the pavement, babies chattering in their prams, and neighbours leaning against the verandah posts to shoot the breeze with each other. It’s a tableau that we love to steal glances at while we hurtle about inside this little space, making coffee and bread and cakes and lunches for our neighbourhood.
We’ve done two and a half circuits of the moon since Saint Monday first opened its doors. A ferocious summer spent cobbling together tables and chairs from salvaged goods and op shop finds in the twilight breeze, and learning how to square a counter top against two wonky old brick walls has turned - more quickly than we could have anticipated – into the relief of autumn. Now, each dark morning when we sweep the tiny patch of pavement in front of Saint Monday, we’re brushing aside yellowing leaves and acorns. It gets me to thinking that finally, here, now, we’ve rooted ourselves in a place from which the changes of the season, the changes of our community, play out larger than they ever have, right in front of our eyes. And it’s just what we wanted.
Saint Monday was born of a notion that has crept up on us steadily over the past few years – that it’s when you can see your impact upon the world, both the positive and the negative, and do something to amplify the positive and reduce the negative, that life is at its most rewarding, its fairest, its most responsible. It’s an idea that has been espoused by many, most of whom weave the term ‘ecological footprint’ into their theory. However, this idea – and the action that necessarily accompanies it - was driven home to me most forcefully by post-development theorist Wolfgang Sachs’ ‘home perspective’. Sachs calls upon people of the global north – like you and me – who use an alarmingly disproportionate amount of global ecological space to sustain our lifestyles, to “make room for others by way of an orderly retreat”, and to embark upon a “reform of home out of a cosmopolitan spirit” (in "Planet Dialectics", 1999:87).
While we had been inching our way towards it for a few years, our ‘orderly retreat’ began in earnest last year when we decided that if we wanted to truly live in Yackandandah, if we truly wanted to reduce our own negative impacts upon the world, and amplify our positive impacts, we needed to find a way to stop getting in the car each morning and driving away from it to make our livelihoods. (Chris had been driving to a café 45 minutes away, where he had been working as a barista. My commute continues to whisk me away to an office in ‘town’, 40 minutes away, three times a week.) We needed to root our livelihoods in the place in which we slept and ate and hung our washing out and volunteered and gathered with friends. We needed to wind back our support for an industry that made its fortune ripping a finite resource out of the ground, and shipping it halfway around the world, via a dozen or more conflict zones, so that people like us could continue to unthinkingly put a key in the ignition of a vehicle to drive away from our hometowns. We needed to find a way to utilise our skills to build something for ourselves and our community. It was only when we chanced upon a little weatherboard shopfront available for lease in Yackandandah’s main street that we decided such a thing might actually be possible. Finally, it seemed like we could choose to really commit to our reform of home.
So, I guess you could say there’s a certain politics behind Saint Monday. It’s a slow, deliberate politics, with nature and people at its core. Saint Monday strives not just to make a difference, but to be different. We’re cultivating a privately owned business based upon a non-growth model that can be a space for collaboration, sharing and focusing upon the people, skills, attributes and resources that are unique to the little place in which we live. We like to think that Saint Monday is something uniquely shaped by the dynamics of both the people behind it, and the town in which it is located – in much the same way that the taste of a wine is influenced by its terroir.
We’ve been fortunate that a lot of good people have fallen into step beside us – our chef, Nicole, for one. She committed herself to an unknown and untested venture right back at the start, and has brought incredible knowledge (like an understanding of just when the pine mushrooms will be ready for foraging and preserving), and an uncanny ability to transform the humblest of dishes into a true articulation of this little piece of the world via her use of the local and the seasonal. And Katrina and Emily and Merri, who, before the doors were even open, seemed to be able to picture the same thing we had been imagining – a space in which people could be together – and who have spent the past two and a half months welcoming and caring for every person who has walked through the door. And Anna, Elvie and Jackson who have come to us with such incredible determination, enthusiasm and commitment to learning, and who are not just great young hospitality people, but also warm, engaging and hospitable people. And Gabbi, whose experience in and love of the natural environment in which we happen to find ourselves seems to infuse everything she does. Or our recent addition, Matt, who may just be our very own renaissance man - he can not only install a solar panel, but also bake killer Sicilian almond biscuits. And Jenna, whose natural affinity and ability with food means that, when she and Nicole are in the kitchen together, great things happen!
Saint Monday is a business, yes. But for Chris and I, it’s also an expression of who we are, and importantly, where we want to be. I hope you'll join us for the journey.