How Melbourne sees MelbourneThe reality
Flying into Melbourne on a good day, there are enough breaks in the clouds to see Port Phillip Bay, around which, the city grew. With a water temperature that rarely makes it above 19C it is best not swim in there without neoprene protection, unless you are from Scotland or need some ice water muscle rehab.
This flat, grid based city on a dirty brown river that supposedly runs upside down, has no outstanding structure visible that the world would instantly recognise as “Melbawn”. It is a dead ringer for any other city that has tall buildings and commuters. A fantasy many of the locals have, is that Melbourne is Australia’s most European city. How they have come to this conclusion is unfathomable.
Kinder interstate travelers will often say “at least you don’t need a passport to visit” and “you can get a good cup of coffee there” which is praise indeed for a city of over 3 million people … they have coffee. The weather certainly won’t impress. The legendary four changes of season in a day (if you’re lucky) keeps the locals on their toes, as they need at least three clothing changes at all times and usually all black in this faux Paris.
Summer is a whole three weeks when the winds move around from the usual chilly damp Antarctic blast to the roasting northern desert winds. It is like opening an oven door in an ice rink. After ten minutes, everything is so dry, it is now a time of high bush fire alert with life in peril. Do not expect palm trees and sunshine, most of the year is cold, only the temperate Canary palm can survive the icy blasting that is great for clearing a hangover, but the weather may have been the reason for resorting to alcohol the previous night. The sharp freezing winds are probably the reason Australians from northern states refer to Melbourne as “bleak city” and why locals, nearing the end of their lives, dream of traveling north in a caravan toward warm weather. After all, any means that can get them out of the place before they die, will do.
The continual background hum you will hear originates from copious banal conversations about “footy” or AFL. Here everyone worships AFL, a quaint coloqial sport that has become a doomsday cult, with the end of the world predicted to arrive in the shape of a round soccer ball. AFL has masticised into Melbourne, it oozes from every brick and pore of the city, it watches you. AFL invades every conversation, talking recipes? AFL will get in there well before the fan forced oven temperature recommendation. If you do not convert, you will be shunned at work from the Monday morning footy results chatter, all the way through to the Friday afternoon footy tipping predictions and all the mindless AFL banter between. You also risk being run out of town. The only escape is moving across running water, the Murray will suffice but the Tweed will be safer. If you have been brought up inside the cult, you will be blind and continue to worship at the large ugly concrete bunker that is the MCG, but to outsiders the cult is a freakish marriage of sport and religion.
All is not bad, crime is very organised and active. As a city of tradition, crime is kept in family structures but they are mostly bungling and inept just like all their good friends in the police force. Melbourne is a multicultural city and boasts gangs whose origins are from all over the globe and show remarkable inclusive tendencies by picking victims from all backgrounds and religions.
Melbourne is extremely traditional and hierarchical, don’t you dare stir the pot, locals like it as it is and how it has always been. Happily living the same year over and over again. Living there more than a year is a waste of time. Grand Final, Spring Racing Carnival and Bush Fire Alerts all scheduled with the same news items with the same scripts each year, the writers of “Ground Hog Day” must have been to Melbourne. It is the 1950s with internet.
Tourism bosses needing to show a fascinating city previously chose to advertise Melbourne as having a giant ball of string, I cannot imagine the disappointment when visitors found there was no ball of string.