It’s been a while…welcome back to my words. Blogging is very much-needed right now as I make sense of my next chapter of life in Melbourne, Australia. Yes, that’s right, I’m in a different country again. I’m not sure I’ll ever sit still. Do I have to?
For those readers who don’t know, earlier this year I applied for – on a see what happens whim – a job as Lecturer in Art Curatorship at The University of Melbourne. I emailed to see if they accepted international applications…the deadline came and went and I didn’t really think much of it…then receiving an email to say they did, asking me to send in an application as soon as possible. In less than a week, I had an interview (pre-Brexit) and a week later I got offered the job (post-Brexit). Nothing like a key political moment in your lifetime and the offer of a job on the other side of the world to get your head in a spin. It was a confusing time as I, like many, grappled with a conflicted sense of identity and place…even more so in the wake of this week’s American revelation. I accepted the job after a pinch of negotiation (the first time I’ve ever negotiated a contract, thanks to Sean!), a world or re-organisation and now here I am! In Australia! So, what’s it like?
After a short visit to Beijing to present a paper at the CIHA 34th World Congress of Art History (I will blog about this) at the end of September, I came to Melbourne for just over a week to way-find, familiarise and get my life set-up and ready for the big move that actually happened on the 30th October 2016. In this first visit, I managed to find a great place to live in Carlton North near Rathdowne Village after seeing some right dives (sub-letting is allowed here so apartments and houses are often packed out), so I was lucky to find a real home…I set up the necessaries of a bank account, payroll, tax, Medicare, MYKI travel card, mobile phone…I scouted out gyms, pools, ballet and barre classes, and climbing walls (yes Nick I’m going to climb)…I had initial meetings with the university about my job…oh, and I found out I got a virus on my laptop from using a VPN in China hindering PhD land (it’s still hanging around). I returned to the UK for just over a month before the big move…and that month went far too quickly.
I’ve been living in Melbourne properly for twelve days now. I haven’t had much chance to explore or have adventures yet (having my bike B-B will change that issue). So, what are my first impressions of this city (apart from it being expensive $$$ – not on a Switzerland economic level though)?
- The city is on an American scale with Asian influences, sounding like Hong-Kong (due to the road crossings) with English nuances, but very clearly Australian. The city structure shifts from high-rise chaos to dissipate quickly into low-level suburban territories, so you never really feel enclosed. Open, spacious and full of green subtropical interludes. Urban development is questionable here, as is the cost of space (astronomical!).
- Everyone is truly welcoming and helpful in a laid back style I’m not used to. This place is really easy-going. Thanks for all the help people!
- It’s got killer good coffee, apparently the best in the world, that could create a habit making you constantly speak at the speed of light. I’m off coffee at the moment courtesy of a face allergy eczema-type thing. Oh Marsden genes you do complicate the world sometimes. Before this occurrence, I’ve had coffee at Assembly (Carlton), Dr. Dax (Carlton), Stovetop (Carlton), Brunetti’s (Carlton – the best place and renowned for their selection of bebe cakes), D.O.C. (Carlton), Animal Orchestra (Carlton), Professors Walk Cafe (on campus), House of Cards (on campus – they give you a playing card when you order which you then put into one of 4 slots to choose which charity they donate to), Phase One Coffee at 15a Union St (Brunswick – part of a new Urban Village currently being designed) and Wide Open Road (Brunswick). Some of these joints are so cool they don’t have menus. What do you mean you don’t have a menu?! You should know what you want apparently – a strong flat white with almond milk, or straight and black for me. Also, they go one step beyond cool where some places don’t even having WiFi. Think on that for a moment as you imagine a young twenty-something with immaculate skin and fierce confidence telling you this piece of information with a serious tone in their voice.
- Food is INCREDIBLE – International gastronomy in your everyday reach. You can pretty much get everything, fresh and healthy (most of the time), decadent (if you want it to be). I often stroll past markets on the way home just to look. Smashed avocados are a thing here (basically mashed avocados with other food like cottage cheese) but in reality I just want the simplicity of the sliced green delight. I can get vegetable juices and gluten-free fodder as easy as 1-2-3, however chocolate just doesn’t taste the same. Some of the best eats so far have been at Seven Seeds (Carlton – wholefoods brunch lunch), Rice Paper Scissors (CBD – Asian fusion), Grace Fitzroy (Fitzroy – Mexicana edge wholefoods brunch lunch), Mantra Lounge (Carlton – Vegan) and a Korean joint I can’t remember the name of that did great kimchi pancakes. I try not to eat out too much but price wise it’s pretty comparable to cooking at home. I must check out the pop-up Night Noodle Market 2016 soon…it’s on until the end of the month.
- Wine. I don’t need to say much more. They definitely know how to make it. It’s even nicer when new friends bring it round as a surprise afternoon treat whilst you’re waiting for TNT to (not) deliver all your boxes from the UK (thanks Anita for the distraction). Gerald’s Bar (Carlton North) is my local and a real treat of a place…and Jimmy Watson’s Wolf’s Lair (Carlton) is good too. Haven’t entered into the night life yet as I’ve not been here long enough!
- It’s cycle friendly and I can’t wait for my bike B-B to get here. He’s currently in a wooden crate in customs somewhere in this city waiting for clearance, and then to be delivered. This city is rife with bike shops on every level from co-ops to fixed gear copper frame builders, road racers to your everyday push bike…and a price bracket to match each. I wonder if there are any night rides for B-B and I to join? Another blog post to come on this.
- I nearly (very nearly) forgot arts, culture, theatre, dance, music and more, more, more…there’s so much going on I can’t get a handle on it. Every single night you can find something to do or somewhere to go…on a National Gallery scale to your pop-up temporary exhibition hidden down a back street. You name it, they have it. For example, when I came in September, it was the Melbourne Fringe Festival and right now it’s Melbourne Music Week. Good places to check for listings are Broadsheet, Timeout, Art Almanac, Beat Magazine and What’s On Melbourne, and The Age is good for general national and international news.
- Skincare products are the best, especially for those sensitive Marsden genes. Organic made, free from everything…this city has it. So I’m currently using Sukin, A’kin, Trilogy and Thank You. I love Thank You as they’re a social enterprise, ethical and charity linked. I wish all companies functioned like this. Priceline and Chemist Warehouse seem to be the best (or cheapest) place to get things from.
- This city reads, writes and speaks more than any other city I know as there is a huge literary and publishing scene here. I am one happy wordgirl! New shop finds include Mag Nation (CBD – world magazine shop), Readings (Carlton – bookshop that has 5 shops in the city and run events), World Food Books (CBD – gallery, artists books, arts bookshop and more) and The New International Bookshop (Carlton – that’s to Linda Pittwood for sending me Ge Fei’s book from there as my first Melbourne surprise! Again they run events). I fear (and am happy) that my head is going to be lost in a lot of words whilst I’m here. And the libraries…well as you can see below, the State Library of Victoria is something else. A great place to get inspiration. Also, I can’t wait for the Melbourne Art Book Fair next March! I’m hoping to run some workshops there…we will see!
- You can’t possibly talk about a new location without mentioning the weather. It’s supposed to be shifting into summer here, but as I type this, it is thundering and pouring with rain outside after being a blissful 25 degree sunshine filled day. When I arrived at the end of last month, I basically experienced four seasons in one day. Apparently, this is normal, so you never know how to dress. Come on summer, I know you’re just around the corner!
- I’ll finish on this – one thing I’ve noticed is that Melbourne is refreshingly independent through and through, which I love, love, love. Here’s to the independent business owner, the social enterprise and all things ethical. I look forward to finding more of you in this city, a city that keeps unfolding. They say it’s the most liveable city in the world, and I’m starting to see why…