My Melbourne with Marieke Hardy
As I write this I am sitting on a sun-drenched balcony, gazing pensively out at an oceanic vista, listening to exuberant surfers shouting encouragement/abuse at each other (they are too far away for me to know which, exactly) and inhaling the intoxicating aromas of sunscreen, salt and just a hint of hungover regret - since today is a public holiday and there appears to be more than one "walk of shame" taking place down on the main street.
My beloved, David, keeps blithely suggesting we "just go down and have a swim" as he lived for 11 years by the ocean and has the sun-kissed, laidback demeanour of an ex-hippy who used to steal away from his squat each dawn, stepping over the sleeping bodies of sprawled carnie folk and diving into the sea instead of having a shower. "Who needs a bathroom when you have the beach?" he often says to me as he wistfully recalls the heady days of his misspent youth wearing Thai fisherman pants and playing panpipes for loose change.
What David doesn't seem to understand is that I AM FROM MELBOURNE and, therefore, when it comes to "going to the beach" I am utterly inept and shouldn't be trusted near vast bodies of water without adult supervision or an ungainly inflatable vest. People raised in Melbourne fear the beach, mostly because their sporadic experiences of it include either dodging syringes/shouty men in tank tops listening to the musical vomitings of "comedy outfit" LMFAO on the St Kilda foreshore, or spending three highly unpleasant days lying in a dark room on the Great Ocean Road after assuming a full day sitting in the blistering heat drinking wine "would be good for my Vitamin D count".
We Melburnians are a cultured people, we are lovers of the arts and nice coffee and shouting HURRAY when our sporting teams shove each others' faces into muddy ovals, we look exemplary in clothes and we are adept at staring into our laps when nut jobs on the tram start shrieking and flinging their own faeces about. What we are not very good at - and we must be brave enough to admit this openly - is strolling down to a stretch of sand and looking carefree as we roll out a towel and soak up some "rays"*. The beach is not our turf, it is not something we grow up splashing about in or having racist gang wars with other cultures on at the request of inflammable radio hosts. We don't take to beachside living like a duck to water, we take to it like a duck to The Price Is Right.
Is this something we can fix? Frankly, no. Despite our valiant efforts to eat sandy Paddle Pops in Brighton, boogie board in Torquay or stand ankle-deep shouting, "F--- ME, IT'S FREEZING" in Williamstown, we are not made for long, lazy afternoons on golden beaches, slathering ourselves in coconut oil and staining the pages of our novels with salt and vinegar fingerprints. But we can be good at other things. And I'm sure David will understand when I look up at him with misty eyes, thinking of Melbourne, and say, "Wouldn't you prefer staying indoors and playing Scrabble?"
*This is what people who are good at going to the beach call sunshine. Which makes the sunglasses brand Ray-Bans particularly clever, don't you think?