Summer in Melbourne

Monday, 6 February 2023

The Melbourne daily newspaper The Age asked me to say what summer in the city meant to me. So now that summer is almost over – down here in the southern hemisphere – here it is, my Melbourne Summer.

What does a Victorian/Melbourne summer mean to you? – it’s so easy to do anything (get into restaurants, park a car, avoid the queues in the supermarket) because most of Melbourne is either at the Close-to-Town Melbourne Beach (Mornington Peninsula) or the Far-Away Melbourne Beach (Noosa). They’re certainly not around the Golden Mile.

First place you take visitors? – The Ian Potter Centre, NGV Australia in Fed Square since it gives them (overseas visitors this is) a handy introduction to Australian art, particularly in the Joseph Brown Collection where it feels like that far-sighted Mr Brown managed to collect one work from every notable Australian artist worth collecting. Plus I can take them there by a choice of three different iconic Melbourne transport methods – a tram, a train into Flinders St Station or a bicycle along the riverside. I keep a spare bicycle just to lend to summertime visitors.

Secret spot you escape to? – Herring Island with its wonderful outdoor art collection and a coffee at Kanteen on the Yarra riverbank afterwards or perhaps a quick visit up the hill to Como House. Herring Island is even better if you can borrow a kayak and paddle yourself there.

The best summer food is … wine is a food group isn’t it? Rosé, a little circuit around Provence in France some years ago seemed to depend on regular rosé potions and shortly afterwards rosé seemed to install itself on the Australian wine list favourites as well. There is no better wine to drink outside on a hot day.

I know it’s summer when I smell … it’s not so familiar anymore, but it used to be the addictive fragrance of lemons and lamb souvlaki drifting out from backyard barbecues when I lived in Richmond and Richmond still meant Greece. And isn’t Greece all about summer?

My favourite summer song is… also a long time back, but Melbourne summer music was bands in pubs and Richard Clapton – Girls on the Avenue, Capricorn Dancer, Lucky Country – all summer songs and they remains, after all those years, the most memorable.

The worst thing about summer is … when Melbourne turns on its four-seasons-in-one-day performance, but they’re all the seasons you simply do not want to see. The hot dusty wind season, the suddenly it’s raining when it was supposed to be sunshine season, the sticky humid horrible season, well at least we don’t get the 40°C scorcher season anymore. The superhot days seem to have disappeared off the weather charts?

Guilty pleasure? … it’s embarrassingly un-woke, but if it’s a summer ice cream on a stick it has to be a Golden Gaytime. Who would have believed that absurdly named confection would be having a 2020s reincarnation-resurrection-rebirth? And no it is not an ice cream that’s been dropped in the kitty litter. Those boringly polite New Zealanders call it a Cookie Crumble.