Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Dude, where's my city?

This I can accept - but it doesn't look like this anymore!

Today I had the very great luxury of travelling to Melbourne for a work-related web-authoring course.

Not only was there pleasure in learning something new and not having to be at work all day, but it's also pretty great to spend 2 hours travelling each way on a train.  You kind of forget, but train journeys are enormously relaxing and, if you have minions, the opportunity to bury your head in a book for a couple of hours without being interrupted by someone who deserves your attention (apart from a conductor wanting to check your ticket) is pure gold.

Along with the pleasure of the journey, though, a couple of other things struck me about today's experiences.

Firstly, in this day and age it seems silly that I had to spend four hours travelling to take part in a four hour course when, had I had the opportunity to complete it via self-directed distance learning, I could have done the course in half the time or less, and I wouldn't have lost all that productive time at my desk.  Yes, I know, I'm thinking like a manager, but I don't think it's an unreasonable point.

Secondly, it's twenty years or so since I last lived in Melbourne, but who the hell said it was OK to change the city that much?
I wouldn't ever claim to have been a native Melburnian, and it's not as if I haven't been near the place since university, but today was the first day I've had the luxury to wander around the CBD on a weekday and just soak it up.  I like to think that I used to know how the place looked and where to find things.  Not any more.

Coming in to Spencer Street Station (OK, it's "Southern Cross Station" ... agghh, they changed that too!) it's impossible not to notice that Etihad Stadium is being quickly surrounded by a profusion of high-rise buildings.  I'd only recently gotten used to the idea of that stadium being there at all, but now it has its own neighbourhood!

Half the vehicle lanes in the CBD seem to have been wiped out in favour of the construction of very pedestrian-friendly boarding platforms for trams.  Gone are the days of darting out to the middle of the street to shelter behind some flimsy metal barrier - this is safe!  But, as I say, there seems to be a lot less room for cars on the road.

And that leads me to another thing I noticed - so many motorbikes and scooters parked on the footpaths.  It's not where they're parked, it's the sheer number of them!  I certainly don't recall anywhere near the number of two-wheeled conveyances parked throughout the CBD as I saw today.  I'm all in favour of this, it makes a lot of sense in reducing traffic congestion, and I think a lot of other Australian cities could learn something from Melbourne's relaxed approach to allowing free parking like this, as long as it doesn't obstruct footpaths.  In this respect, the volume of parking appears to be approaching the limits of non-obstruction ...

The thing which affected me most, though, came when I found myself with a spare 45 minutes before my train back to Bendigo.  I thought I'd go up to Myer and have a quick squiz.  I got off the tram in the Bourke St mall, went through the cosmetics floor and was looking forward to wandering through the food hall when I was met with the amazing sight of a big hole in the ground on the other side of Little Bourke St.  The Lonsdale St store is completely gone!

Melbourne natives are probably thinking "yeah, and?", but this was news to me, and pretty shocking too.  I mean, I was forced to double back through David Jones and head to their food hall!  

What surprised me most when I was on the train back to Bendigo and thinking back on the experience was that I was so indignant that someone had changed my Melbourne.

I think this must be a common experience for people returning to old haunts.  I know that things always change and, I guess, the more steps in the sequence you miss, the greater is your sense of dislocation.  Well, after 20 years my sense of dislocation was pretty significant. 

1 comment:

  1. The Lonsdale store is gone? What are they building in its place???

    Yep it's been a loooong time since I was in Melbourne.


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