The real city rivalry: Melbourne v Perth
Returning home for summer is a continuing novelty for me. This may be explained in part by the fact the Melburnian summer exists only in myth, much like the unicorn or Dennis Lillee.
Compared to the glorious and endless parade of 35-degree days in Perth, the southern capital is a pale and moody slouch. Yes, it may be the cultural, sporting, and nightlife epicentre of the nation, but not even Events Victoria could poach a decent summer.
Rain outside of winter does not make for happy tidings. As Thom Yorke croaked: “everything in its right place”. And that means, Melbourne, keep the damp in July and open up the summer goody bag sometime around December.
Perth doesn’t have to try, which is in itself one of the city’s greatest failings. The reason Melbourne is such a wonderful city – the temperaments of temperature aside – is because it has had to be. It was not founded on the same naturally beautiful plane as Perth or Sydney, nor does it enjoy a steady climate. Cliches of four seasons in a day are verily outdated. Melbourne entertains a mixture so heady it can be accused of recklessly endangering the lives of meteorologists across the city.
Despite such an enormous handicap the ingenuity of Victorians has ensured their capital is the cherry on the national sundae – albeit one of those black cherries with a skinny stalk and a look of studied indifference. The streets throb with an energy Perth lays awake at night dreaming about. People from all over Australia, particularly the young, are drawn to Melbourne like asymmetrically-dressed moths to a energy-efficient flame.
The city’s layout, with its distinct districts (think Brunswick St versus Chapel, Barkly versus Carlisle) and intricate network of alleys has created a greater space within which a multitude can find their niche. The artist, the sportsman, the tradie , and the trust-funded share this space along with the student, the recent migrant, the activist, and accountant. Melbourne is tres cosmopolitan, meaning it allows for the insertion of random pieces of French. Wankerisms are championed in Melbourne. Magnifique!
Which brings me back to my hometown. Because it sits on an enviable riverbank and near some of the greatest beaches in the country, enjoys a climate that, while a tad dry the last few years, is surely one of the world’s most enjoyable, and is the portal to the vast mineral wealth of Western Australia, Perth is incredibly complacent.
A stingy state government doesn’t help nor does a council keen to fiddle while the city yawns. Their only fans are consultants who, on a basis so regular one could almost set a watch, provide master plan after master plan titillating the public with how this or that project (the stadium, the foreshore, the Northbridge Link ad nauseum) would be built in a parallel-universe Perth where government wasn’t afraid. Or boring. Or even possessed just a smidge of self-aggrandisement. Say what you will about Richard Court but at least his ego provided the city with the Belltower (which, incidentally, is far too small: the original design provided for a much bigger structure that was knocked back in typically Perthian style for being too ostentatious. Why build a monument if it’s just to be a piddly pimple?).
Failures aside, it is hard to stay mad at the shimmering jewel on the Swan while you’re winding up the Kwinana Freeway towards Mounts Bay Rd or zig-zagging through the Hills or even thrashing about in the Cottesloe Hotel on a typically perfect Sunday afternoon. Melbourne can’t compete with that, especially once you tire of playing “dodge the syringe” on St Kilda beach.
There is plenty of hope too. Small, chic bars are opening in the CBD to entice workers to stay a little longer rather than dash back to the suburbs. There’s the new Heath Ledger Arts Centre opening in Northbridge. The Link is finally (apparently) going ahead. And The Rise has shut down. Rejoice!
Having two homes is marvellously bourgeois, but it is a luxury I will jealously guard. I just hope that, one day, Perth will understand how to make a macchiato (no, it’s not a bloody latte!) and then we may find a summer stay might no longer be long enough.
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