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. 

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13 Comments Add yours

  1. Mary Smith says:

    Happy anniversary.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. stevetanham says:

      Thank you, Mary. And the cake was delicious!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Mary Smith says:

    And that display of cakes looks soooo tempting!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Denis1950 says:

    Interesting account of your experiences in my Melbourne town Stephen. While you were out in the heat, (its always 2-3 oC warmer in the CBD) we were home with the air conditioners running on 22oC. If you think the costs are high here , I can assure you New Zealand would scare you. Not all workers get decent salaries in Australia either , conservative governments are always attack working conditions and open loopholes for exploitative employers and Indigenous Australians are still on average well below the rest on almost every social indicator. And at the moment fascists are running the country.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. stevetanham says:

      Thank you, Denis. I am careful to say that my comments can only be those of a traveller in a strange land. It has to be a journal of subjective experiences. Politically, I would say that the UK and USA are experiencing a breakdown of things, much as you describe, here. It’s very dangerous, and politicians always try to normalise what’s happening, even when the floor has just fallen through and they’ve really no idea what to do
      We live in dangerous times. I’d be sorry to see Australia lose its open and friendly attitude.

      Like

  4. willowdot21 says:

    OH! this is so exciting !! Happy Anniversary!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. stevetanham says:

      Thank you. Just boarding plane for Ayers Rock – Uluru.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. willowdot21 says:

        Well have a great time !! Looking forward to hearing all about it !!

        Liked by 1 person

  5. TanGental says:

    Always interesting where we feel most comfortable (and I’m with you on 40 degrees, that isn’t comfortable in old or new money). That sense of place. Me, it’s been a city ever since I left the middle of the New Forest and its isolation for uni in Bristol. I didn’t ‘get’ the countryside, the land in its raw form, it left me feeling lonely and exposed if I spend too much time there. It’s always been people and what they do and can do en masse that has energised and inspired me. Sure that’s a totally glib generalisation and oversimplification, because I’ve had the best of times walking the backwaters of this land with my dad but I’m at one, really with my own little bit of peace in the midst of many, and if that means towers and tumult then so be it… I guess it’s just as well we are all that bit different or it would be very crowded!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. stevetanham says:

      Thanks, Geoff. It is a very individual thing. I spent twenty years on trains from Manchester to London, when we had our own software company selling into a largely financial sector. I admired London for what it did well, but I was always happy to see Euston disappear into the distance as I returned north. It’s good that we’re all different – and I love visiting!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. TanGental says:

        Me too. I wouldn’t want to miss all elements of England’s beauty.

        Liked by 1 person

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