The standard of Perth journalism can be pretty shabby, with the gong for consistently tacky reporting and poop writing awarded without hesitation to independent community paper, The Vincent Voice – no competition comes close in my spasmodic local newspaper reading experience. However, this weekend’s Weekend Extra (the features liftout supplement that comes in Saturday’s West Australian newspaper) served up some crud that is worthy of special remark.
First, we have the egotistical and unfunny try-hard “wit” Jon Doust in his column This Life crediting himself as one of the original sources of the breakthough realisation that Perth is “Dullsville”. Why, he boasts, he was “one of the first quoted” thus – on the front page of The West Australian, no less. He continues breathlessly that he shared his eureka moment with the whole country when interviewed on a national tv breakfast show, which is intended to imply, I suppose, that he is sought nation-wide for his astute social commentary.
Hate to piss on your fancy dress party, Jon, but that ain’t no Archimedes costume you got on. I don’t know too many folk who haven’t been complaining about Perth’s yawn factor for decades. Way back in 1977, local punk band The Exterminators penned an ode to this fair city entitled Arsehole of the Universe. While in admirable punk fashion they overstated their case with provocative excess, the conclusion might be safely drawn that me and me mates were not alone in our discontent. Then again, we weren’t quoted in the press or on tv.
The real guffaw, though, comes courtesy of travel “writer” John Georgeff’s piece on Melbourne. I don’t know who whispered in this lad’s ear that he has a future as a scribe – possibly the same twat in Management at The West who allotted Jon Doust a regular column. Whoever it was should have their arse kicked out the front door hard enough to land them in the middle of John Sanders Drive. Doust’s column is sad evidence of the folly of misdirected encouragement. It is to be hoped that the same error is not made with Georgeff.
He opens with a description of Melbourne as “cosmopolitan, crowded, throbbing with life, civilised [what did he expect – the Congo?], snobbish, ugly and yet so user-friendly”. Right. That string of adjectives doesn’t pay its way, and can’t say I’d slap a generalisation on Melbourne as being snobbish or ugly, but let’s move on.
“Steeped in its famous ambience, Melbourne reminded us of a large, provincial Euro-capital.” Que? What “Euro-capital”, and what’s that hyphenation about? What’s a “provincial capital”, come to think about it? What “famous ambience”? And “steeped in ambience” – was ist? Vot language you speakink, mister?
Georgie boy seems to be suffering from some sort of modern architecture syndrome (could it be that anything more adventurous than Perth’s unremarkable architectural profile is a little too challenging for the lad at this early point in his geographical wanderings?). The design of the new Southern Cross train station he finds “alarming”. Southbank is “trendy, grim concrete”, and Docklands “a study in more bleak buildings”. Federation Square he describes as a “scrap metal yard”, and follows with the pretentious and indecipherable observation: “Desperately seeking symbols, yet again.” What do they pay editors at The West Australian? Evidently, too much.
Melbourne’s culinary scene gets the obligatory nod with the revelation that “this town is foodie’s paradise” – and of course, careful to leave no box unticked in his list of Melbourne clichés, our boy affixes the “café society” label (right on top of all the others), though in a singular context that bears repeating here. Commenting on the late night crowds in the city centre, he writes: “…all they seem to do in Melbourne is eat, drink and go to shows and late-night suppers…talk about café society”. What’s so “café society” about patronising city restaurants, clubs, shows and late-night dining venues? And here’s a question to stretch ya, Georgie boy – what else is there to do in any city at night? Perth excepted, where the CBD is deserted, apart from a few pissheads and bogs, and groups of bewildered overseas students wandering around searching for some sign of life after the movie shows have ended.
I could continue this cruelty, but let’s cut to the funny part. Georgie boy mentions at the beginning of his piece that his visits to Melbourne have been “mostly in the cooler weather”. He affirms that there was “grey sky and drizzle aplenty” and adds “nonetheless, it was fun to rug up”. One wonders why winter should be such a novelty for our reporter – it does, after all, come around once per year in Perth, too, and the minimum temps are similar to Melbourne’s. But here’s the good part:
We were never without a scarf, spray jacket, jumper, gloves and a brolly. For extra comfort, I sneaked on long pyjamas under my jeans. As we entered and left buildings, we were constantly donning and peeling off layers but we got used to it. The locals don’t seem to whine like we do. You can find lots of cosy, warm spots.
PJs under his jeans? Lots of “cosy warm spots”? Just cos it ain’t Perth don’t make it some outstation in Mongolia.
One wonders how far this boy has ventured out of Dullsville and environs, and for how long (note: school trips don’t count). If he’s as wide-eyed and naïve as his writing suggests, what the hell is The West doing taking him on to do Melbourne justice? If he was writing home to concerned Mummy in Perth (where it doesn’t get cold and the buildings are sensible), ok, but shouldn’t The West be crediting their readership with a little more sophistication than Georgie boy has evidently notched up to this point in his life?
I am reminded of my mother’s dire cold clime warnings when I left for my Big Trip, too many years ago now, on a one-way ticket, starting in London: “You’ll never have experienced cold like that…just make sure you keep yourself well rugged up.” Fair enough, too – it can get pretty chilly in London. However, in my greenness, never having left the sunny shores of Oz, the threat of the London Cold had assumed grotesque proportions by the time I arrived. I recall changing at Heathrow into trekking boots and heavy army-issue woollen socks, several jumpers and a waterproof parka with the hood tied down tight to protect my ears from “chillblanes”. I was ready for London’s iciest reception, I hoped, as I boarded the train to the city centre. I hadn’t counted on the train being so warm (or so packed I could hardly move, let alone peel off my layers of merino). By the time I alighted, I was as wet as if I had just emerged from the surf, and close to fainting from the heat that was baking me alive beneath my Arctic armoury. But this was London, not Melbourne, and I did not have anything beneath my jeans apart from steaming jocks.