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Vrrrrrrrmmm, vrrrrmmmm. That sound is what I hear in my mind as I imagine my Mini heeling at the border of my 25 kilometre radius, revving in readiness for me to hit the accelerator and get the hell out of Dodge when final restrictions are lifted.
People took to the streets and cafes in the city after lockdown lifted.Credit:Getty Images
Like so many other Victorians, I’m looking to run to the hills, beach, country – anywhere but where I have been these past months of lockdown hell, which has basically been my home/cage and a stretch of off leash dog park.
All I want – no, make that need – is to immerse myself in nature and space; to revel in my regained freedom like a puppy in a puddle. I want to romp through grass, roll down hills, dive in to breaching waves and yes, I can even see myself hugging a tree or 10.
And I know what I will be thinking – I need to live like this always. It’s time to heed the call of the chook that has always been my dream; to get out of the city and in to gardening.
In other words, I am like many Victorians – a quarter of the population according to the results of an Ipsos poll commissioned by The Age and Nine News this week – who are rethinking where they live as a result of the COVID-19 lockdown. The online survey, conducted between October 19 and 21, surveyed 858 Victorians. Of the 646 who lived in Melbourne, one in 10 were contemplating a move to regional Victoria and a further 15 per cent were considering moving interstate.
It’s a paradox when you think about it, that we have been longing for our city to re-open, while also desiring to flee it. And yes, this may change as we settle back in to the cosmopolitan life our most liveable city offers once again. Or, it may not.
Regardless, the lockdown experiment of working from home effectively means workplaces are about to change dramatically, citing what some are describing as a workplace revolution. This is reflected in other parts of the country which came out of lockdown months ago, with a majority of businesses reporting only 40 to 60 per cent of pre-COVID staff returning.
A national survey by UNSW Canberra and CQUniversity of 6000 public servants including nearly 1400 managers, backs up this prediction, finding more than 90 per cent believed their teams’ productivity was the same or higher when working from home, resulting in more than two-thirds of workers wanting to continue working smart, minus peak hour commutes and office distractions.
Add to this picture the cost benefits of companies eschewing expensive office rents and workers able to move away from the CBD into larger and cheaper housing alternatives and it seems madness not to move.
But here’s the thing – I’m not going to make my longed-for sea change. Not now, anyway. Nope, I’m going to take a road trip when I can then turn my car around and head straight back to Melbourne. You see, I’m loyal, many may say to a fault, but Melbourne has been good to me. I refuse to let her down when she needs me.
It’s just not in my nature.
It may have only been living here 10 years since packing up and leaving Sydney, but home is what Melbourne is to me – heart and soul. As much as I love my friends in Sydney and the city’s undeniable geographic magnificence, I never felt I belonged there. I was not rich, pretty, well-connected or powerful enough – the currency that makes the Emerald City sparkle – to thrive there. Melbourne, instead, is where I feel understood, respected and welcomed. It is a large part of my heart and shall remain so.
I like to explain to those who asked why I moved that Sydney looks good, Melbourne feels good. And I am someone who likes to dwell in deeper waters than image and prestige, especially as I get older and wiser.
Yes, I could bang on about the usual: the coffee, arts, footy, food, laneways, architecture, comedy and live music scene that sets Melbourne apart. How we dress for style and not for skin; how our public transport system is effective, based on a town planning grid and not old bullock tracks and that, unlike Sydney, my dogs are actually welcome here to romp on beaches and open parkland. As they should.
But perhaps, for me, Melbourne’s magic is that it is inclusive. Never have I felt old or uncool in Melbourne as I did in trendy and cliquey Sydney. Here, I can pull up a bar stool beside the elderly, goths, hipsters, straights and those of varying cultures without feelingjudged or scorned.
In Melbourne, we are all welcome, accepted and respected regardless of appearance, creed or colour – and that is something to be celebrated.
So, until I can get in the car and drive at will, I am heading back out in to my hood to eat, drink, shop and be merry. I am going to buy local and often, supporting those who have done it hard to get back on their feet and reclaim the unique ambience that sets our sensational city apart.
I am going to give to Melbourne what it has given me; love, friendship, support and belonging. I am going to do my part in making it feel good again.
Wendy Squires is a regular columnist.
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