I have sand everywhere. In my eyes. In my ears and my mouth. In my hair, my socks, my bag, my pants, my pockets and on my phone.
This, as it turns out, is Melbourne weather. There we were, walking back from the jetty at St Kilda when the wind turned nasty and the beach became airborn. I’m grateful for my brand new Gondwana windbreaker (see in photo above), bought from the Victoria Market for $45 – a huge extravagance for me – mainly because of the name. A sentimental attachment to this blog, you could call it. “It was a hundred dollars” the woman at the stall tells me. “This is a very good price.” She has an accent that suggests origins in Eastern Europe. Around here, almost everyone is from somewhere else.
The day dawned miserable – obviously because, having seen on the news that we were experiencing Melbourne’s hottest March in 11 years (and Sydney’s hottest on record because, you know, global warming is a conspiracy) had sent me to buy tourist T-shirts on Swanston Street. It warms up later and we decided to head to St Kilda because there’s sea here, of a sort, and both Hugh Jackman and Nick Cave live in the area. We find free parking (truly astonishing in Melbourne) and stroll past a hippie gardening project and Luna Park to the beach. We venture onto this jetty:
I then photograph somebody photographing something else, because this is something I have a thing about (more about that later). And then, everything changes. A hurricane-force wind emerges from nowhere, lifting the beach into the air and blasting us with it. If I were into Botox and microdermabrasion (as some women suggest I should be) I’d be thrilled by this free gift from nature, but it was not fun. Even the locals are freaked out. These schoolgirls ran shrieking for shelter:
We find shelter at Donovan’s but it turns out to be an expensive restaurant for businessmen. $25 for a starter. $45 for an Alaska bombe for two.We struggle our way to the Stokehouse Café, which is more in line with our economic status.
In the corner, a blonde man with extravagant dreadlocks strums a ukelele (see above). His friends whoop and shriek. We wait for our drinks. Espresso machines seethe and roar. The Red Hot Chilli Peppers play in the background. My friend Chris quotes Nick Cave: “I’m forever near a stereo saying “What the fuck is this GARBAGE? And the answer is always the Red Hot Chilli Peppers.”
At the end window, the leaves of a palm tree are horizontal. In front of us, the sea writhes, all foam and jagged facets of greenish-grey. The sun ventures out, sending clouds of gulls skudding across the waves.
A skateboarder in a scarf slides up and down in front of us. Somebody who looked like a hipster took a photo, but then everyone looks like a hipster here. One of the women asks the guy with the dreadlocks and the ukelele: “When are you getting married?”
I read an article about “drunkorexia”, tweeted to me by my favourite Australian. It includes references to how alcohol brands are repositioning. This is what I do for a living: I find consumer “insights” and then match selling opportunities for brands. What I do for a living is perilously close to being, if not actually evil, then a convincing simulacrum of the same thing.
The cider I’ve been drinking – everywhere has cider on tap – hits the spot. I’ve eaten a late breakfast, so no need for lunch. (Tip: this is a great way to save money when travelling: eat two meals a day instead of three.) I’ll agonize about this later. But not right now. I have sand down my back, and there’s a woman setting next to ukelele guy who has a terrible laugh, really terrible, and right now that’s too distracting.