Journal of the Far Side – 3: City of the Shining River

I’m not a lover of big cities. I like to visit, but find little ‘humanity’ in their towering steel and glass trophies that seem to impose conditions of spiritual sterility on us – conditions and expectations that take us away from what we are, inside. 

Some cities are able to take advantage of natural features to soften and humanise their landscapes, while still embracing the ‘taller and taller’ ethic of self-satisfied commercialism. 

Melbourne is one of the latter, though our brief tour, yesterday, as part of our wedding anniversary weekend, was scant experience on which to base any real conclusions, short of a tourist’s review. 

The ‘kids’ and our darling granddaughter of the shining eyes are a ninety-minute flight away, back in Adelaide. We miss them, already; but two days out is not too bad, and we return on Sunday to take them all on holiday to Alice Springs and Uluru, the red rock at the heart of Australia’s ‘red centre’ which has been sacred to the Aboriginal peoples for millennia.

Like the world of the Druids in ancient Britain, albeit it seen through modern eyes, I try to gain some insight into the the relationship between the land and the people it produced, while travelling. 

More of that later in our personal adventure; for now, Melbourne offers everything you could want within the limitations of a city ‘machine’. 

The south bank of the river Yarra is lined, for at least a kilometre, with restaurants. It’s a party riverbank, and delightful, if expensive, to the post-Brexit Brit! 

Australian rates of pay are good, so the cost of living is balanced out for the locals; but expect a shock if you’re a traveller…

North of the Yarra, the old city is bounded by a square created by a ‘tube-like’ metro rail system, very much like London’s old Circle Line. Within this rectangle, criss-crossed by a modern tram network, lies the history of the state of Victoria’s capital, where the old town is cherished and celebrated. 

The ‘Lanes’ are arcades that cut through the main streets, reminding you of a Chandler-esque time, when great writers and their private detectives or villains would hover for coffee and cake… I’m in the wrong country, I know, but I don’t know Australia well enough to make the indigenous comparison. The lovely and friendly natives of this city will forgive me, I hope!

There’s a ‘but’… There’s often a ‘but’. 

It’s forty degrees out there…

And a day-full of British energy leaves you like steam off a hot plate in about half an hour.

Another coffee and cake, then? Well, it is our anniversary…

©Copyright Stephen Tanham 2017.