Saturday, 11 June 2016

Cities where we belong

Yesterday took me out of my area.
A few days ago I had a call from a recruiter asking if I was looking for work.  As my contract at GMW has only about 10 days left, I certainly am and I said so.  We arranged to meet at his office in the city yesterday to discuss what he could put me forward for.

I spent the morning at work and then drove down to Seymour to get the train to the City.  I didn’t fancy slogging through city traffic to get to the interview.  I fancied driving back through Friday-before-Queens-Birthday-long-weekend traffic less.
I’ve always liked travelling by train.  It’s a lovely rhythmic form of transport.  It’s so easy to understand why it’s inspired music and poetry.
I got into Southern Cross Station about 30 minutes before the interview.  Southern Cross is the main interstate and regional rail hub for Melbourne (Flinders Street Station is the hub for metropolitan and suburban trains), so it’s a big, wide set of platforms and rail lines, with both electric and diesel trains coming and going.  I was pretty pleased to take a quick photo that had a tiny echo of Monet’s Gare St Lazare.  It seemed a good augury.
Claude Monet, La Gare Saint-Lazare
Image from here
The interview was a bit forced.  I have little desire to return to legal practice or to Melbourne.  That’s where the money is though.  I plastered on a smile and a reached into my bag of trumpery emotions and located some enthusiasm, and that got me through.  Pay me enough and I’ll run anyone’s cases for them.  Law, logic and Switzers may be hired to fight for anybody.
I had some time to spare after the interview before my return train (this wasn’t accidental).  I went for a walk through town in search of a Book Grocer.  Even though I worked in the city for years I was never sure if there were multiple Book Grocer shops, or if it was the same store leapfrogging from one shop to another.  I liked Book grocer because they have a flat pricing policy ($6.00 for any book, regardless of whether it’s a dinky paperback or a leatherbound Shakespeare on good paper) and because they only sell odds and ends: books that had been remaindered, or imported but never sold, or that had been self-published.  I’ve been able to buy some real gems there.
In the event I bought a copy of Alexander the Corrector, which looks like a nice historical cameo from the eighteenth century.  There was a little girl in the shed with (I suppose) her grandmother.  She was agonizing over whether she wanted to buy one book or another, which is a wonderful dilemma to see a kid wrestling with.  I would have loved to have given her a $50.00 note and told her “loving books is a great thing: go nuts!”.
One of the good bits about Southern Cross Station is that it houses one of Melbourne’s few remaining Starbucks.  People get sniffy about Starbucks, but they serve the best mocha I’ve had anywhere.  At the end of a chilly afternoon in Melbourne with a long trip back to the Goulburn Valley ahead of me it was about the most comforting thing I could imagine.
I wasn’t sorry to get to Platform 8 South and get on the train.  Albert Camus said that “they are often secret loves, those that we share with a town”*.  I suppose every love between two persons is really a relationship between three: the people, and the city or town or countryside they share.  When the relationship between the people goes kaput, what they share with the place changes too.  It might even be lost altogether (which is why I don’t think I could ever live in the town where The Ex and my daughters live).  Melbourne will always be a part of me: I’ll always understand what Paul Kelly means when he sings about going leaps and bounds “down past the river and across the playing fields, the fields all empty only for the burning leaves” in May (you really only understand that song after you’ve spent an autumn and a winter there).
I can’t shake the feeling of being a only sojourner in the Goulburn Valley, rather than a person who really lives here.  I’m actually kind of okay with that.  It means that there’s somewhere else in the world that I belong.
* “Ce sont souvent des amours secretes, celles qu’on partage avec une ville”: Albert Camus, ‘L’été à Alger’, Noces (1950).








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