‘Sleeping with the fan on, on 7 April. This is ridiculous. Roll on winter!’
I posted this on facebook last week, and I got what I wished for. I wouldn’t have it any other way, except, of course, for the homeless who inhabit our streets in ever increasing numbers and for whom the advent of winter starts an even more harrowing season of deprivation. Lindisfarne’s hauntingly evocative 1970 hit Winter Song, with its plaintive refrain ‘When winter comes howling in,’ captured the contrast between those who have a place to call home and those who don’t. It rings in my head at this time of year, especially when winter comes this abruptly.
I spend a lot of my time in parts of Melbourne that make me think of sunnier climes: Greek cake shops in Lonsdale St, Italian restaurants in Carlton, the plethora of kebab joints in Sydney Road as you head north from Brunswick into Coburg, the Vietnamese market in Footscray.
Despite this, Melbourne feels like a winter place, particularly the CBD which feels so much like London that when I am in London I feel completely at home, whereas even Sydney feels like a foreign country, Darwin like another planet.
The stately and dignified Victorian era buildings in the CBD (especially if they haven’t been recently cleaned, and still sport a fine layer of Dickensian grime) suit gloomy weather, umbrellas, brief cases and formal attire, just as the gorgeous bays and beaches that abound in Sydney suit sunshine and roller blades and guys with their T-shirts off and tucked into the back of their shorts.
Cold weather suits the black that Melbournians are notorious for wearing, whether they’re a city corporate type or a tattooed hipster on a fixed-gear bike. Rain and chill winds are perfect for all the indoorsy things you can do in Melbourne: drinks in a nameless bar up an obscure graffiti-bedecked laneway, endless permutations of coffee, music gigs in crowded pubs, restaurants and art galleries, the comedy festival and the theatre. Such activities lend themselves to frigid winter evenings where the dark draws in early and we long to huddle inside, out of the cold.
On the domestic front, winters in Melbourne mean mulled wine and hot cocoa, slow cooked meals, bracing walks followed by fireside chats and snuggling under the doona. Winters in Melbourne mean boots and jackets and scarves and beanies and, most importantly, the footy.
Melbourne has many moods, but in winter, she feels most herself. Bring it on!
This was published in The Melbourne Age on 13 April 2017