Melbourne and Sydney are less different than I used to think. Australia's second largest city could be just another suburb of Sydney. The one-and-a-half-hour flight south to Melbourne can hardly be called 'travelling'.
I'm a very different woman to the one who left Melbourne, three years ago. I had a lot of bad experiences when I lived here, including a nervous breakdown in 2001. I had another just before I left in 2005. I let myself get used and ripped off here – several times – and as a result, I always felt dislocated, out of place. Now, with unarguable success, I am happy, confident, and much more at ease when I visit.Melbourne is easier-going. more a 'people city', than Sydney. People often do things together, as a community, and the faux-European, riverside layout of the city encourages it. I like the narrow streets in the city's centre, where the faint whiff of burning sodium hangs in the air from the overhead power lines for the trams. There are graffiti everywhere, from the work of committed 'writers', who have an international reputation, to cheesy stencils, crude political slogans, and moronic 'tags'.I'm still nostalgic about my old neighbourhood, Fitzroy North, and the local Italian supermarket, Piedemonte. There was an Italian woman who lived behind me, who only knew how to say "beautiful" in English and an older Italian man whom I saw every day, riding his bike, who would tell me, in a very genteel way, that I looked "lovely". I miss walking my whippet in Edinburgh Gardens.For all this, Melbourne is still just another place I lived once. I came here for my career. I come back here only occasionally for the same reason. What's the point? Australian cities are so homogenous and suburban, they make everything, even art, feel dull and futile.