The light. The thing that struck me most about Melbourne after several Summers away was that sheer, golden light that floods the city, illuminating everything in a way rarely seen in the Northern hemisphere. It is so bright that it hurts to look at the sky and you can feel your skin burn.
This is what I had missed while I was away and I was itching to get back into it. First impressions were not encouraging. I had stepped out of my plane at Tullamarine to an eight-degree morning, but how had I forgotten Melbourne’s wild weather? No matter how grey or cloudy the morning, by the afternoon it was always baking again.
As I sit typing this, it is past midnight and the temperature is still in the mid-30s, after a long, hot day of laughter and food. This trip is mostly about family, spending a family Christmas together, but I have also found myself falling back in love with Melbourne – its trees and flowering suburban streets, huge blue skies, breakfasts ordered in alley cafes, long night time wanderings while streams of bats fly above me on torrid inner city nights, thrusting angular new towers and busy, cosmopolitan streets.
The city seems prosperous and leisured, peopled with bearded hot boys in short shorts and hipster girls of all races (as well as angry bogans). Its continuing prosperity has brought a bewildering proliferation of new businesses; suddenly there are Mexican restaurants, gourmet burger and donut joints, suburban laser clinics, cute cafes and new Thai massage places everywhere.
But for all these changes, the many, many great things about Melbourne have not changed. These include its steadfastly alternative worldview and innate curiosity, its slower pace, its space and quiet, the friendliness of its people and the quality of its food.
I felt weirdly as though I was experiencing these things – for so long, taken for granted – for the first time. And I have to say, I was impressed.