I am a proud Melbournian. My great-grandfather came here in the late 1800’s. (You might remember a couple of the family stories I shared last year. “The cable tram” and “Grandpa Mason”.) I have lived here all my life. One of my treasured joys was to wander through the lanes and alleys of Melbourne, and it is one thing I have really missed through the long lockdown. (And just in case you feel like having a binge on my posts about Melbourne, go for it!)
Melbourne has been crowned the Most Liveable City for quite a few years. Not lately though. And one of our main (unofficial!) exports has been baristas, sending them out to all parts to give the world decent coffees.
But this week Melbourne has hit global headlines, for all the wrong reasons.
Let’s start with the most serious. You may have seen footage of (mostly) men rioting around the Shrine of Remembrance. They had been out on the streets for a couple of days, including holding up and terrifying traffic on the Westgate Bridge, the main bridge over the Yarra River to the west of Melbourne.
It began as a protest against mandatory vaccinations on building sites and a closure of building sites for two weeks. I don’t support anti-vaccination or anti-mask demands, and to gather in large numbers is plain stupidity. It seems that the protests were quickly taken over by extreme right groups who leeched onto the anger over lockdowns and vaccinations. As a consequence footage of the protests have given succour to the extreme right wing around the world.
That is not my Melbourne. We are a proud multi-cultural city, with a long history of supporting progressive issues.
That this can happen is partly a product of the second news item about Melbourne. Apparently we now have the dubious record of the city with most days in lockdown. We have spent 235 days in lockdown, just overtaking Buenos Aires. That’s not continuous days, but fairly close, and it’s not over yet. I think all of us feel every one of those days.
Of course there is frustration, there is anger. Small businesses have been shut down for most of that time, parents have been home schooling, we can’t see the people we love. A tragic consequence is that mental health problems have really escalated. However, most of us recognise that lockdown is a necessary measure to give us time to get vaccination rates high enough to not overwhelm the health system. Most of us are not out on the streets. In fact there are way more people getting vaccinated than protesting.
So, let me say again ~ my Melbourne is there getting tested and vaccinated and helping out those who need an extra hand, not on the steps of the Shrine.
The other Melbourne news you may have seen is that we had an earthquake this week. Again, that is not the Melbourne I know. We don’t do earthquakes! Occasionally we have little tremors, but not 5.9 quakes! Fortunately there was little damage done.
I was about to hop in the shower when I heard an odd noise and then felt the house move on its stumps. I dressed quickly (no one wants to see a naked me out on the street!) and checked things with the Fella. All good, no damage and our neighbours were okay too.
The ongoing effect is that it has given us something other than lockdown/riots/covid/vaccinations to talk about!
And the last indignity that Melbourne has had to suffer this week is having the AFL (Australian Football League) Grand Final played in Perth. Melbourne is the heartland of Aussie Rules football, and the Grand Final has been played at the MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground) for always. Well, until last year, when it had to be played in Brisbane. An empty MCG is a sad sight.
What’s more, there are two Melbourne teams playing ~ the Western Bulldogs and Melbourne (yes, there is a team called Melbourne.) In 2016 the Bulldogs won their first final since 1954; Melbourne won their last in 1964. Both are well due for a win. If the decorations in the streets around my house are any guide support is pretty even.
For me? Well the Fella has barracked for the Doggies ever since he arrived in Australia in the 1950s, so I will be cheering them on. But really, I don’t mind. Many members of my family are keen Melbourne supporters, so I will be happy to see them win. As we all say “As long as the game is a good one”!
So come tomorrow night most Melbournians will be in front of the telly, forgetting about lockdowns and riots and earthquakes, engrossed in a game that has a very Melbourne feel. And thinking that maybe next year the Grand Final will be back where it belongs and we will be celebrating out in the streets.