The advent of Spring initiates a whole new wave of city madness. At the very first glimmer of sunshine Melbourne folk tear off their puffa jackets, scarves and beanies and recklessly bare their skin.
Melbourne folk are Weather Bureau deniers. The first of September tells us that the last few months of epic rainfall and chill factor is truly over. And despite all evidence to the contrary, we cling to our childish belief that we can now break out the beach gear.
On the trams you get to sit next to optimistic girls in short shorts and thongs. They’re shivering and covered in goose bumps. There’s also a posse of blokes baring their thighs and tattooed biceps while trying to stay hip. Difficult when bushy beards are dripping and man buns are soggy from an unexpected downpour.
The floors are awash with rain streaming from wet umbrellas and the odd spilt café latte. You really have to watch where you plant your bag. But should the sun break out everyone’s mood lifts. Even if you’re wedged in the corner by a businessman’s dripping, uber-sized golf umbrella. The same umbrella that just poked you in the neck in Swanston Street.
Once the tram doors shut the near naked passengers are safe as houses, for the heating is pumped up to maximum. The rest of us are sweating like piglets in our winter coats and trying to catch every blast of cold air from the opening and closing doors.
It’s crazy but humorous when the sun disappears and the heavens split open. But the fun stops with daily news of flooded streets, homes washed away, busted river embankments and grief in rural areas.
Sitting on the tram I flip open my newspaper. I’m frequently the only person armed with a hard copy newspaper. I find it’s infinitely better than trying to read on a smart phone.
There’s a story in the newspaper about two cattle dogs, siblings Red and Blue. Their owner, Herbert Bettels 80, was swept away by a torrent of water in Chintin, 75km north of Melbourne. The flood waters swiftly carried Bettels off, leaving Red and Blue stranded on the roof of his submerged car.
Emergency Services and police deemed a rescue too dangerous and decided to wait out the flood waters. So two courageous farmers in a small tinny boat launched a rescue mission. Red had to be rescued twice because she leapt out of the boat. Cheeky minx. I study the photographs of Red and Blue grinning at the camera with their rescuers, Chris and Benny. As Chris put it, ‘I don’t think a dog’s life should be any less valuable than a human. They’re man’s best friend.’
Over my shoulder, a commuter is slyly perusing the photographs of Herbert Bettels being reunited with Red and Blue. I don’t mind. Good news is meant to be shared.
I remember a warm, Spring day last year, when a woman ran for the tram in Collins Street. She was in a bit of a flap as she fought way past the two blokes who were diligently blocking the doorway. There’s usually at least one serial door blocker on every tram.
The tram was chockers. The woman’s eyes were unfocused and she kept losing control of her handbag, jacket and laptop. She squeezed in next to me and raked through her handbag like a fiend, but relaxed when she located her phone. She beamed at me and announced she was losing everything. Everything. And did I know where the tram was going? She thought she might be on the wrong tram. Going the wrong way. We got it sorted.
I idly wondered if she’d been indulging in a champagne luncheon at the posh hotel opposite. But I had it all wrong. She leant in closer and confided that she was losing her mind. Apparently a few weeks earlier she’d met a new man. The type of man she thought she’d never get to meet. She whispered, I never thought it would happen at my age. In Spring too! Just think, if I’d arrived three minutes later our paths would never have crossed. We laughed with delight at the audacity and randomness of fate. She dropped her bag as she lunged for the stop cord and somehow got tangled up in the closing doors.
As she got off the tram she waved back at me. I grinned and silently wished her well.
The image is of Venus and Primavera (Spring) from a small section of the large painting: La Primavera (Spring), circa 1482 by Sandro Botticelli. From the collection of the Uffizi Gallery. There have been many interpretations but it is generally thought to be a mythological allegory about fertility and Spring. Recently a disguised message was discovered in Primavera’s floral patterned gown.
Sandro Botticelli [Public Domain], via Wikipedia Commons.