Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Spring in Melbourne

Melbourne is magic at this time of year. The days are getting longer and the weather is mild and calm with clear blue skies*. And the city is full of beans. Spring is a wonderful time in Melbourne.

The Royal Melbourne Show is on at the moment. The biggest agricultural event in Victoria — yes, even bigger than the legendary Quambatook Tractor Pull — the Show has been running continuously since 1848 under the aegis of the Royal Agricultural Society of Victoria. Of course, it has expanded beyond displays of livestock and rural life but farming is still at the Show's heart.

It's great fun. Except for one thing — the volume. I don't live that close to the Showgrounds — they're about 2 km to the ENE** — but there's a lot of river and flood plain between the grounds and my house. They're on a high spot. I'm on a high spot. I can hear the PA system very clearly. On the whole, I'd rather listen to the sheep and cattle than the over-excited announcer.

The Spring Racing Carnival kicks off next week. Not that I'm interested in horse racing but the street party atmosphere pervades the whole city. By the time the Melbourne Cup rolls around (the first Tuesday in November), no one is paying attention to anything but the horses ***. (Those of you reading this in somewhere other than Australia may be surprised to know that Cup Day is a public holiday in Victoria. Cup Day afternoon might as well be a public holiday in other parts of the country too, for all the work that gets done after the betting and the boozing.)

Unfortunately, the outbreak of equine influenza might put a dampener**** on the Spring Racing Carnival this year.

The most important event on the Melbourne sporting calendar is the AFL Grand Final on Saturday — Geelong vs Port Adelaide. I don't follow the footy either but there is something hugely inclusive and entertaining about it. I love driving past the footy ovals on mid-winter evenings when the floodlights illuminate the ground for players of all ages and standards. They're taking it seriously but they're having fun. I love the Monday morning corridor conversations about the weekend's matches. You better believe they're taking it seriously ... and having fun. And I love the way the city celebrates the Grand Final.

More than 97,000 people packed into the MCG for the 2006 Grand Final. Last week's match between Geelong and Collingwood drew an audience of 98,000. Melbourne doesn't muck around when it comes to footy.

And the close of the footy season means that the start of the cricket season is around the corner.

Oh, and did I mention that the end of semester is only a few weeks away?


* Generally. Apparently it's going to rain tomorrow but I'll believe it when I see it.
** Okay, that is reasonably close.
*** Apart from the poor devils who have exams.
**** Or is it damper? I never know.

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