One of the things about being away for any considerable length of time is the way that you view your own home once you return. I came home to a house that was cleaner than I left it (ah, the joy of adult children!) and a recently-planted garden that is not only still alive but growing like topsy! But today was the first time that I’ve been into Melbourne itself, and I felt as if I were seeing it after a long absence.
It’s a beautiful clear, sunny but cold winter day today, and the city absolutely sparkled. I don’t know if I just fluked it, but the trains both to and from the city were clean, warm and with little graffiti. I had been opposed to the proposal to remove seats from the trains to provide more standing room, but having now used public transport in Toronto, Boston, New York and London, the carriages did seem particularly cluttered with seats. There was little rubbish on the stations- in fact, our streets generally seem clean in comparison with streets in the cities above. The underground stations in particular seemed light and modern. The trains were on time, the trams were predictable only in their unpredictability.
It’s the infrequency of our public transport that’s the sticking point. Other cities do not have the same emphasis on time- in fact, you were often hardpressed to find a clock- because trains arrived so often that it didn’t really matter if you missed this one, because the next would soon arrive. Not so for us here in Melbourne- 20 minutes is too long between day time services. It seems that every tram and bus stop has a disconsolate little clutch of would-be passengers, stepping out onto the street, craning to see if something -anything- is coming.
And Melbourne itself: look- the Darebin and Merri creeks are running high! That sparse and artificial planting on the banks of the Merri, beside the over-engineered bike path, is looking a little better. People have moved into the high-rise opposite Heidelberg station (although I’m still cross that it dominates the hill as much as it does).
I read in this morning’s paper that they’re thinking of moving the statue of Bunjil the eagle in order to, no doubt, build yet another high-rise in Docklands. Other than Colonial/Telstra/Etihad stadium (which I always make a point of calling ‘Docklands Stadium’ on principle) I’ve only been down to Docklands once, and it seemed a particularly godforsaken place.
I noticed, too, that the building on the old CUB site is finally going up as well. This is the one that is planned to have an image of William Barak on it.
I really don’t know quite what to think of these modern representations of aboriginal presence. Appropriation? Acknowledgment? Tacky? Reverential? Is the CUB building a fitting juxtaposition to the Shrine of Remembrance at the other end of Swanston St/St. Kilda Rd? Or an ironic one?
Most of all today, I noticed our beautiful, big bowl of sky. Yes, I know that it’s the same sky,but somehow it seems bigger here. I think that I must be glad to be home.