Melbourne: milking my city

Oh Melbourne, you lured me here with your bright city lights, dreamily frequent trams, bevy of independent publications, public lectures, wider bike paths and parks on every block scattered with art students procrastinating from work with a tallie and a hip friend for company.  Oh yes, I rode those trams hard, I zigzagged along those wide green bicycle zones, I sat in one-too-many lectures on environmental initiatives to combat the evidently changing climate, I willingly grasped at tokens for free drinks at underground/rooftop club launches (let’s face it, extremes of height are so in right now), and accepted invites to parties with no further enticement needed than that they were in some form of warehouse…I was oh so Melbourne

milking melbourne 4

in the park with Kiki, a few bikes and a tallie

in the playground with Ana

in the playground with Ana

But now I’ve been here a year, and I want to start being glutinous and feasting on it in a real and productive way.

My housemates and I were baking in our courtyard for the Australia Day public holiday, and had all carefully selected reading material to justify our slothlike behaviour. De Botton’s ‘How Proust Can Change Your Life’ was my choice, as I’ve read this before, and I liken his writings to a kick in the pants.  De Botton deciphers Marcel Proust’s highly complex thoughts regarding time and its impact on our actions into a highly entertaining novel. I guess that his ambitions aligned with Proust’s, (ambitions which led to his demise), to employ the written word so that it may be seen as a productive and therapeutic tool. And so I appealed to the good doctors of life and time, sprawled, pink, ‘relaxing’, though consciously procrastinating from things I knew I should do instead.

I read about how our projects, travels, love affairs, studies are made invisible by our laziness, because our assured survival delays them. It was suggested that the luxury of time makes us complacent.  Proust wrote to a 1920s Parisian newspaper in response to a question they posed. If readers knew they had one hour till the world ended, L’Intransigeant wondered, how would they spend this time? After a whole hour of reading, I was persuaded to launch into action, a new force was felt from my innerness (definitely spiritual) and for at least half an hour I was incredibly productive. Now I find myself perched on a stool, coffee in one paw with the other holding this machine balanced on my knee, considering all the things that I might do instead of remain perched here to resolve what I set out to in this piece.

the stool and the book

the stool and the book

And I guess what I mean to say is not that being chaotic and darting around willy-nilly and being a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kinda gal is detrimental to one’s healthy state of mind, oh no, I’ve been grinning like a fool for a good whole year. What I mean to say, rather, is that after a whole year I know that Melbourne, for me, holds the people, the spaces and retains a cadence that I feel right amongst, and that those things can be edited and manipulated and used in a more productive way.

learning about bikes with my mates Will and Christian at Swiftwhip

learning about bikes with my mates Will and Christian at Swiftwhip

So this month, I’m throwing metaphorical chunks of coal into the steam train that is my current projects. I’m doing activities that function as classes like I might have participated in during university studies, I’m watching a documentary at ACMI that aligns with a design I’m working on. I’m going back to study Mandarin to support my interest in the design of developing Chinese cities. I’ve emailed people in Melbourne that are working in the field that I want to pursue and arranged to join them at lectures or workshops and I’ve reoriented my activities so that Melbourne gives me what I need. It has all the right ingredients, and rather than moving cities, as I often do when I genuinely settle, I’ve decided to stick around and really juice it.


  1. Caroline says:

    Great article, Gemma! I love the idea of ‘juicing’ your city to get the most out of it. I just moved to Melbourne from Newcastle last week, and since I’m feeling overwhelmed with choice at the moment, your advice to focus in on only the most meaningful pursuits really resonated with me!

  2. candy whitaker says:

    GemGem,as usual i just loooove ya mad writing skills! makes me want to move to Melbourne! Love looking through your bright eyes ,ya make the mundane extraordinary,LOve You X

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