DAYS ARE NUMBERED for the Monday morning Mernda market. Last year, after operating for more than a century, the weekly livestock auction shut down. A few traders still sell live chicks, layer pullets and ducks from wire cages, and other signs of the market’s rural origins survive in stalls offering second-hand agricultural implements, bales of lucerne hay or boxes of locally grown red peppers. But the wooden saleyards are collapsing in disrepair, the corrugated roofing is decaying to rust and there is no longer any bidding on cattle, sheep or goats – the auction that originally gave people reason to gather each Monday at the rear of Mernda’s Bridge Inn Hotel (c. 1891).
What remains is a scruffy trash-and-treasure market increasingly populated by professional traders retailing fruit and veg bought wholesale in the city, or the same toyshop junk and cheap Chinese socks found in a two-dollar shop. A few ruddy blokes in broad-brimmed hats perched at the plastic table next to the dim sim van cannot hide the fact that Mernda no longer belongs to the ring of countryside draped around Melbourne – it is being tucked firmly into the city’s mortgage belt.
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