Silly, funny Melbourne. Home of hipsters, trendy coffee shops where everyone spends the day avoiding work, wide roads that yawn to cater to trams, and a CBD that transforms into a far more spectacular and happening place at night.
You offered me my very first home away from home, when I decided to not only finally leave my parents’ peaceful abode, but to launch myself to the other side of the world. I landed, dazed and confused, having been just released from an overly intimate embrace with a border control officer through your airport’s bright sliding doors and set off determined to see and become all that is Melbourne.
My first job was a true backpacker experience. English, Irish and Canadian service staff delivered American steakhouse food cooked by an entirely Chinese kitchen to nostalgic Australians and groups of wealthy Asian teenagers. I was hired, naturally enough, by an Irish girl determined to look after her own and replace herself with someone who’d attended the same university as her.
It was here that my impossibly spelt name (Laoighse), with its overly generous amount of vowels and just-for-fun silent consonants was phonetically re-spelt as the rather Asian sounding Lee-sha.
When one of your real estate agents showed me that one bedroomed hidey hole in Brunswick I knew I had to have it. The neighbourhood unicyclist and 80 year old rollerblader always made for an interesting jolt awake when dashing to work for the 7am sandwich order.
Nightly shrieks from police cars and ambulances, and reports of gangland bickerings are but a careless shrug when no one in the area has shown you anything but enthusiastic and welcoming interest. Even the local brass band had its own celebratory anthem.
Barbecues became a tentative worry, whether hosting or attending, due to the impossibility of keeping up with each persons’ meat/ dairy/ nuts/ gluten/ sugar intolerance and its habit of changing week to week. But at least everyone agrees that alcohol has its benefits – health related or not.
Thankfully fashion has become so DIY that wearing your shirt inside out and incorrectly buttoned gets you into the style pages of the Sunday magazines, and less than hygienic hair is really an indication of a true bohemian spirit, rather than another water shortage.
Hailstorms and lightening strikes were filmed from our balcony, and sunny picnics photographed later that same day. Halloween passed dismally under-celebrated and Christmas felt confused – the roast dinner sweating in a 30 degree foggy haze. New Years was spent giggling at the tiny blaze atop of the arts centre following a belligerent firework. And many the late afternoon passed trying to capture on film the particular shade of red burning stone of Flinders Street Station.
I know you’re angry Melbourne. I left you to tour the coast – that smiley sunny slut of a coast. The bitch of a sister to your fake glasses geek chic. And I’m only back now to say goodbye to the mates I made here before my visa finally runs its course. We won’t last Melbourne, they won’t let us be.
But isn’t this almost better? I leave now, loving of your knobbly old houses, still curious of your alleyways and excited by whatever big festival that the entire city will throw itself into wholeheartedly. I’ll proudly brag to anyone who’ll listen about how you have to live Melbourne style to understand Melbourne style. And I’ll make sure to mention you in lists of great cities like Paris, New York and Berlin, despite not having as yet visited the others.
More than that, I’ll remember you as my first city, my first blind start, my first terrifying beginning from blank – and how happy, and at home, I eventually became. Thank you for absorbing me as you have a million other immigrants.
We had some good times.
Sincerely yours, Laoighse.
P.S. You totally kick Sydney’s ass.