Sitting at the airport earlier today, yet another delayed flight to Melbourne gave me an opportunity to reflect. A collective of little niggles had been adding to my reluctance to return to this eastern city. So, I needed to finally uncover my lack of love for a city others see as vibrant and cultured. Somewhere mid-air, I was determined to finally find the soul of the city.
I must confess, Melbourne has always seemed grubby to me; with an undercurrent of darkness. So walking through the city late afternoon, I put on my special writer-spectacles. With time on my hand, I sat and observed people; Melbournites in their native habitat. They seemed no different from residents of any other Australian city. So this imagined darkness was not in the people.
Looking around, the grime was still there. In the ageing buildings, now dwarfed by steel buildings that block out the skies and, like all parasites, suck the life from their hosts; those once grand buildings of a past Melbourne. Steel has slowly replaced stone, sprouting roots across the pavement, bursting into cold grey art in odd places.
In the dark alleys of the CBD is where I once again found the colour I was searching for. Amidst the graffiti, hidden away in the famous laneways of Melbourne, was the street art that for me always provides insight to the soul of the city. And today, I wasn’t disappointed: I found this one. The little girl who reminded me to look beyond the grim, search the darkness and discover what is hidden.
Still, walking the streets alone, I thought of home. Hearing mention of my home town, I looked up and saw on a shop TV a news item about the Adelaide Spirit Festival, that was held the last weekend. Familiar faces flashed by, and then quick interviews with people I know and think highly of. This made me smile….no matter where I roam, home is never that far away.
Later, I escaped my too-small motel room and went for another walk. This time the rotting smells of bins and garbage trucks was replaced by a more unwelcome aroma: smoke. With fires burning on the edges of Melbourne, the air smelt of burnt wood. So as I get ready for sleep in a comfortable enough room, my thoughts are with those who tonight will have no sleep.