Friday, November 24, 2006

Peaceful Saturday

The day starts off quietly as most Saturday mornings in the city do. Melbourne is still wrapped in a peaceful blanket and rubbing the sleep from her eyes. Overlooking the Yarra River while sipping their espresso type people are already wearing their sunglasses in face of the unusually bright sunny morning. It is not quite crisp but not quite warm yet either - somewhere in between, but I've got the air conditioner on anyway - I like things fresh. I turn the wheel this way and that, under the bridge, through the mall frequented by those early morning sightseers and across this city which seems to be in continual refurbishment: The scaffolding like a suit of armor around many of her landmarks.

By the time I've finished my errands and do the drive back through the smooth quiet streets there is a small crowd gathered outside the old pub on the corner of Flinders and Russell. They are leaning against the bricks, propped with signs and giving very good scowls. Jesus invites everyone to the table one sign says. I smile thinking that it only sat 13 anyway. Other signs tell far more blatant messages condemning the G20. The police look on from behind their barricades with a practised indifference. One is learning against the water barrier with both arms, a stoic expression on his face. He's been here before, I can tell and I do a double take because I haven't. It's beginning to warm up now and the sun is being filtered through the leafy part of Finders Street making bright irregular patterns on the footpath and road below. People are smiling and strolling past, some walking hand in hand and gazing around in wonder, others rushing past the NGV with their hands in their pockets. You'd be hard pressed to find a person that cares today, I think to myself.

R.O. and I catch up for lunch. She is missing the city, with its hustle and bustle. Country NSW is a long way off - and Brisbane, the nearest big city just makes her miss Melbourne more. She's sick of the quiet, peaceful serenity of waking up to an eyeful of blue seaside each morning and perfect weather. The lack of stress is making her stressed. I think it sounds divine...for a while anyway. We share little anecdotes about our days apart. I think she'll be back soon.

Later that evening I'm treated to that hustle and bustle when I try to make my way back into the city. Every way in has been blocked off, and the sound of sirens can be heard in the distance. A throng of disheveled people make their presence felt by shouting about fascism and capitalism - but the message gets lost somewhere beneath the drum beats. A young girl rides on her bike holding up a sign admonishing "terrorist capitalists". Further into the city are puddles of broken glass and other bits left over from the riot. I guess people started to care after all.

The police look calm and collected, like the beast has been tamed - many of them have their hands on their hips as they patrol the outskirts of the city, many more control the traffic. I catch one of them, on his own absentmindedly fiddling with this walkie-talkie and looking at the protesters near parliament house with a wistful little smile on his face. Maybe he used to be part of that crowd, maybe he still is, somewhere inside - maybe he doesn't quite agree with the way of the world either. I catch his eye and he winks.

The next day a newspaper reporter wonders who these hippies are and indeed where do they disappear when these events are over? "They're" probably putting a parking ticket on your car right this minute, mate.