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Melbourne: An ice place to visit but you wouldn’t want to live there

It might be an urban myth, but suggestions that Melbourne is the perfect place to make a movie about the end of the world aren’t far off the mark, writes Phil Brown

Apr 22, 2024, updated Apr 22, 2024
A near deserted Flinders St station in the heart of Melbourne. The city's current lockdown has been extended for at least another seven days. (AAP Image/James Ross)

A near deserted Flinders St station in the heart of Melbourne. The city's current lockdown has been extended for at least another seven days. (AAP Image/James Ross)

Our son may be moving to Melbourne next year and boy did that bring back memories for us when he mentioned it.

He’s living in Sydney now but his company is moving its operations to the Victorian capital so he will follow suit.

We moved to Melbourne in 1992 and passed hordes of Victorians who were fleeing north. There were certainly more people leaving than arriving.

We were newly married and off on a new adventure. My wife had a job at TV Week where she got to cover Neighbours weddings and other exciting events. I worked for the tabloid Sunday Herald Sun.

Anyway, we packed the car and drove all the way from Brisbane to Melbourne arriving on a wet September afternoon with the temperature only just into double digits. In a traffic jam at Coburg with Pentridge Prison in sight and the rain pouring down, we wondered what on earth we had done.

When the Hollywood actress Ava Gardener arrived in Melbourne to shoot the film version of Nevil Shute’s book On The Beach, she is reported to have said that Melbourne was “the perfect place to make a film about the end of the world”.

It turns out she didn’t actually say it, it was the satirical invention of journalist Neil Jillett and it was, appropriately, reported in The Sydney Morning Herald and we all know about the rivalry between those two cities.

Melbourne thinks it’s better than Sydney and vice versa and in 1992 Brisbane didn’t even come into the equation.

Before I went to work at The Sunday Herald Sun, I had some casual reporting work on The Sunday Age where they seemed surprised that I was literate, coming from Queensland as I did. They didn’t exactly say they thought we were still writing in the dirt with sticks but I’m sure they thought it.

None of them could understand why we followed rugby league and they couldn’t discern the difference between rugby and rugby league anyway. There was no Melbourne Storm back then to help educate them.

Not being interested in aerial ping pong we were starved of sport until, towards the end of our three-year stint, they brought State of Origin to the MCG for the first time and we were among the 86,000 or so there to see it.

We did get to the Melbourne Cup once too and I remember it well because I got hypothermia.

The climate is such in Melbourne that I was able to wear a black turtleneck sweater all year round. It’s a great city but there was quite a bit of snobbery against Queensland back then. I remember going to a musical at Her Majesty’s Theatre one night and we bumped into a colleague from Queensland who was back in Melbourne.

“Welcome to the real world,” he said.

“Thanks,” I replied. “It’s not the end of the world … but you can see it from here.”

Phil Brown

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