Saturday, August 15, 2009


Here are fifty things I remembered about Melbourne with much fondness upon waking up this morning. They are not necessarily listed in any order, and a fair number of the people and places have now either vanished into thin air, or are threatened:

(1) Exploring the Royal Botanic Gardens, especially sitting under the Norfolk pine on the Hopetoun lawn, and having a picnic by the Nymphaea lilies; watching the lazy eels shuttling under the bridge across the shallow channel that joins the ornamental and central lakes, and dodging raucous colonies of bats hard by the Rose pavilion. (2) Eating Peking Duck at The Flower Drum in Market Lane, a special treat. (3) Browsing in the Arts Bookshop in High Street, Armadale—Elly and Gila, where, I wonder, have you gone, and how do I manage without you?! (4) Strolling with Nick on the St. Kilda pier. (5) Inspecting the Jewish cake shops in Acland Street—and afterwards eating more sensibly at Scheherezade, a few doors down: especially their matzoh ball soup and wiener schnitzel; obeying also the peremptory orders issued to customers by that Polish dominatrix in the remarkable boots. (6) Going with Fiona and Mark to the annual Cup Week cocktail party in the garden of the Melbourne Club, a party unlike any other—another special treat. (7) Seeing double features with Sally at the Astor Theatre at 1, Chapel Street, St Kilda. (8) Sitting and reading the leather-bound copies of old newspapers in the otherwise deserted parliamentary library behind the Queen’s Hall. (9) Gazing out at the lights of the city from my bedroom window at Government House. (10) Doing The Times crossword puzzle at the kitchen table with Mum (and achieving only mixed results). (11) Visiting the English pictures at the National Gallery of Victoria. (12) Frolicking with Lucy in Albert Park, and discussing tensile structures and archi matters generally. (13) Having a hot bath, etc., in Porter Street. (14) Shopping at Georges, then going with Helen to the old Regency Room for tea and chicken sandwiches. (15) Having a quiet beer with Michael at the Prince of Wales in Fitzroy Street—yes, quiet. Imagine that! (16) Doing sixty laps of the Beaurepaire pool on a hot morning, true. (17) Running twice around the tan, also true. (18) Meeting Cynthia for coffee at Brunetti’s in Faraday Street, before it went global. (19) Meeting Adam for coffee at Pellegrini’s in Bourke Street. (20) Devouring at Christmas-time my fair share of Uncle Alec’s incomparable mince pies from Paterson’s Cakes in Chapel Street, Prahran. (21) Noticing the neon sign for Skipping Girl Vinegar in Victoria Street, Richmond. (22) Driving all the way along Alexandra Avenue, both directions. (23) Basking sniffily in feelings of effortless superiority whilst tottering past the McMansions in Grange, Albany, and Yar Orrong Roads, also Whernside Avenue. (24) Browsing in the geological survey map shop on the north side of Little Bourke Street between Queen and Elizabeth Streets. (25) Wandering through the delicatessen shed at the Queen Victoria Market, savoring the cheesy pickly savoury sausagey smells. (26) Being measured for a new suit by the distinguished Mr. Fred Earle (by appointment to Lord Casey, Sir Rohan Delacombe, etc., etc.) in his discreet rooms behind frosted glass in an upper floor of the run-down building on the corner of Swanston and Collins Streets, and then going with him to choose the cloth in an upstairs warehouse somewhere just around the corner in Flinders Lane. I still have it. (27) Watching old Sir Henry Bolte eating his lunch all by himself in the committee room of the Victoria Racing Club at Flemington on Cup Day, three years running. (28) Visiting the platypuses in their enclosure at the Royal Melbourne Zoological Garden in Parkville. (29) Witnessing Mum obey the man who used to perch with binoculars at the top of the covered observation tower behind the Prahran Market, directing motorists to parking spots through a megaphone, like so: “The little lady in the orange mini: third aisle over, five spots down.” (30) Poking around the hat shop underneath the Flinders Street Station. (31) Having a drink with Greg in the lounge bar at the old Southern Cross Hotel on the corner of Bourke and Exhibition Streets. (32) Being given a “spider” at Buckley’s after shopping there for a new school uniform, or else after an appointment with the dentist, Dr. Anthony Woodhouse, in the T. & G. Building. (33) Occupying the wooden seat right next to the forward door on the old green number 69 tram, and riding home from school in it along Balaclava, Kooyong, Dandenong, and Glenferrie Roads. (34) Getting my eyes checked by Dr. David Gale in Alcaston House at 2, Collins Street, on the west corner of Spring Street, overlooking the sexy bronze statue of General Gordon by Hamo Thornycroft. (35) Being taken by Aunt Anne to hear Dame Joan Sutherland in the role of Desdemona in Verdi’s Otello at the old Palais in St. Kilda. (36) Raiding the stationery room at Mallesons in the St. James Building at 121 William Street, while Dad dictated correspondence in his office on a quiet Sunday afternoon. (37) Observing Ben have a meltdown (caused by me) at the wheel of his little red MG somewhere in Lygon Street, near Argyle Place, with Sam in the back. (38) Being driven home by Debbie after Laurie Gardiner’s superb evening lectures in the winter of 1982. (39) Watching Pauline prune Granny’s roses in the front garden at 5 Myamyn Street. (40) Getting a small thrill from watching and listening when Mum challenged Mr. Mathewson the butcher over some point of quality, just the right balance of firmness and respect—traveling in both directions. (41) Laughing immoderately in South Yarra at Barbara’s story about what, at least for a while, she and Kevin thought they were going to have to do to obtain a Canadian visa. (42) Working for Hamish on the Maxine’s team in Fitzroy and Collingwood. (43) Writing dust-jacket blurbs for John Iremonger, John Currey, Alex Bertram, and Diana O’Neil at Melbourne University Press, as it was then known, and, with Wendy Sutherland at the Christmas party, getting to grips with the semi-colon—she is the best copy editor I ever had. (44) Sharing with Deborah the upstairs flat in Drummond Street. (45) Attending choral evensong in the chapel of Trinity College, Parkville. (46) Creating with Tim in 1985 the legend of Pat. (47) Learning with Mary from Mirjana at Ormond College the correct pronunciation of Zdravo. (48) Meeting King Maleatoa Tanumafili II of Western Samoa, and discovering His Majesty’s ingenious solution to the problem of being frightened of ghosts in the dead of night. (49) Seeing with pride Barrie’s astounding production of The Dybbuk in an old warehouse in Carlisle Street, Balaclava, a few doors up from the corner of St. Kilda Road. (50) Being daily irritated by The Age newspaper.

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