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Melbourne Pride

We’d both done Sydney Pride, Vanessa in 2000 and me in 2002, and a hella party it was, too. But Melbourne wins, at this slightly more advanced stage. You can actually see what’s happening, for one. In Sydney, people pick their spots at dawn and plonk down – sofas in the front, milk crates to stand on behind – so the late starters (me) are stuck craning their necks, on tiptoe for hours. Melbourne, there’s enough people to keep it lively, but plenty elbow room. The whole route works better, with a happy ending in a party in the park beside the beach – and you get there by tram, which just feels more civilised than bus or train, somehow. And – surprising pleasure – it all just felt more mellow and community based. London, Brighton and Sydney Prides, all feel pretty commercial these days, with big corporates ticking the box to have a sponsored float presence and ads running. You have to book in advance if you want to join the march – as friends of ours, who had been in every march since the very first one in the 80s, discovered recently to their dismay. They’ve given up on going to Pride now. And the vibe – well, it’s mostly pretty drunk or high in the big ones: everyone shrieking at top volume over pounding music, bouncing off each other. Melbourne, meanwhile, had forbidden alcohol on the streets, and no smoking in the park, and even the park party had a limited bar area for drinking – so: mellow.

Yeah, I’m getting old. In my defense: even in my college years, I preferred a quieter, emptier pub where you could sit and chat: maybe I’ve always been old.

A few nice things about the parade: surprising numbers of children and teenagers – a huge ‘minus18’ community, plus a lot of the local high schools and junior schools had large deputations (though I’d guess a lot of them were allies, rather than gay, given the numbers – unless there’s something in the water). A group of parents supporting their gender-alternative children, which was sweet – some very young kids there, down to 6 or 7, who were obviously more comfortable in the other genders’ clothes – and their parents were equally comfortable walking them along; one mother saying to her little one “Don’t worry, darling, next year we’ll have rainbow wigs”. Bless.

And, of course, all the usuals – Dykes on Bikes roaring at the front, as ever, with elderly ladies on their Harleys (and a couple of Vespas); the sports groups; the public services; a few corporates (Enst & Young’s reps had a charmingly handmade sign); a group called ‘POWs” – performing older women, a group of circus ladies on stilts in their seventies, and a bus from a retirement home. There were drag queens and furries (who must alike have been sweltering in their various costumes: it was high thirties); pups and handlers; brass bands and pipe bands; sci fi and fantasy; and of course, the Brazilians who outdrummed and outdanced all others.

All good; but after a solid five hours in the blazing sun of watching the march and chilling at the park party – home time. And bless the factor 50. Out for coffee first thing yesterday morning, and V had’d put on SPF yet, given she’s Brazilian and naturally irritatingly tanned. Sat in the sun for 10 minutes at 8.45am – and she was burning. Impressively harsh.

Food here has been as excellent as the coffee:

  • Hanabishi – Japanese. Excellent: the best sushi I’ve had in my life(though I’m quietly hopeful that in Japan itself, we’ll find even better). Plus a delightful desert assortment: a purple shaded sesame seed icecream was surprisingly delicious, as was the green tea creme brulee.
  • Pastuso – Peruvian – beautiful: amberjack ceviche was the winner.
  • Supernormal – Asian fusion – very good, though lobster roll was bit sweeter than I’d go for – and wouldn’t have counted as asian?

Beers likewise have delighted; huge range of things I’ve never heard of. No two bars or restaurants have had the same range; I musta tried a dozen different pale ales over the last week and all of them could happily become a regular. They also have an odd variety called ‘sparkling ale’, which is midways in flavour between IPA and lager, which V is enjoying – though her watermelon ale last night, was not to my taste at all. The beers are surprisingly expensive everywhere – a good £7-10 average, even in the bottle shops. Happy hour seems to have replaced the 5 o’clock swill – a much more civilised tradition.

One other civilised tradition that’s particularly appealing in Melbourne, is the tram. They go everywhere throughout the city – and while I can’t place *why* they seem so much nicer than buses – they just are. Best of all – they’re free throughout the couple square kilometers of the city centre. Also civilised is the lack of smoke – it’s banned pretty much everywhere in both cities so far, and all the better for it.

One small oddity is that there don’t seem to be any Aboriginals anywhere. I remember thinking there were few last time – but they seem to be pretty much extinct now, all that’s left is the odd alcoholic on the streets. Maybe they prefer living in the outback? Maybe they’ve  had everything offerend them on a plate and turned their back as of no interest? But seems to me that a lack of them succeeding in business and cities, or present in ads and media, points to something less positive. They’re not visible in day to day life, just shopping or working in shops, never mind suits and convertibles. Much is made of cultural tours, which seem to be guided by the tribespeople; various touristey things highlight the original peoples of the lands. But if all that remains is what can be repackaged and sold to the tourist market, it’s a bit sad.

Though guess the same could be argued of the itenerants in Ireland. Ain’t no-one selling them to the tourists, mind you.

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