Melbourne Under A Bad Sign
In 2008 I went to Australia for the first time with the Mary Chain. We played in Sydney, Perth, Brisbane and Melbourne. After our second Melbourne show we had a day off. One great thing about being in a band is that there’s always someone willing to show you the sights and in Melbourne that person was Phil King’s friend whom I shall call Desdemona.
Desdemona met us at ten-am the morning after our show and we eagerly climbed into her car. I was excited to see Melbourne. I began to have misgivings though when I saw that Desdemona’s car was very old and decrepit and the back seat was strewn with straw. The car had no suspension. Every bump was like an explosion.
My concern only increased as I watched the city skyline disappearing behind us and one hour later we were still driving, bouncing along a very straight and desolate road through non-descript countryside. Given the length of the journey I figured Desdemona must be taking us somewhere absolutely extraordinary.
Three hours later we pulled up next to a pier by a concrete-grey slab of water.
“Here we are!” Desdemona announced with great excitement.
I climbed out of the car, stretching the cramp out of my legs as I brushed off the straw.
“Let’s get some lunch!” Desdemona said.
We wandered down the pier and fetched up at a cafe that had all the charm of a hospital canteen circa 1980. I scrutinized the laminated menu and ordered a salad. Twenty minutes the waiter returned with a bowl of iceberg lettuce drenched in pink goo.
“I’m sorry,” I wanted to say “I think there’s been a misunderstanding. I ordered a salad and you’ve brought me a bowl of sick by mistake.”
“Tuck in guys! Lunch is on me!” Desdemona said, pulling out an epi pen and stabbing herself in the midriff with it. I looked around to see if my fellow diners were doing the same. Surely the food couldn’t be that bad?
We survived the disappointing lunch and wandered to the nearby town centre which was bustling with pensioners cooing over window displays of knitted ballerina toilet roll covers, crocheted doilies, ‘Honk if you’re over 80’ car stickers and Australia’s largest selection of racially offensive dolls. Phil and I exchanged a horrified look.
After pottering about aimlessly for an hour or so, Desdemona said she wanted to take us to the beach. Phil and I both perked up at the suggestion.
I climbed back onto my bed of straw for the ten mile journey to the beach which turned out to be a vast, colourless expanse of deserted sand. The ocean crashed mournfully half a mile away. It was a scene that would ideally be accompanied by a stern voice-over saying “In a slowly-dying, post-apocalyptic world, a deranged music fan lures a pair of aging musicians to their death on Australia’s remotest beach.” I felt the beginning of an existential crisis looming.
“Beautiful isn’t it?” Desdemona murmured.
“Mmm,” I whispered, fighting back tears as the cold wind began to whip a fine acid rain into my eyes.
“Well, I guess we ought to be going,” Desdemona said abruptly after twenty minutes. “It’s a really long drive back to the city.”
We trudged slowly back to the car as the rain became heavier. I clambered back into my hutch and stared out across the desolate beach, wondering what was happening back in Melbourne. I would never know as we were scheduled to fly out early the following day.
I nodded off for most of the four hour journey back to the city, waking sporadically from terrifying dreams in which I was in a tiny cage being fed damp lettuce by an enormous dead-eyed doll.
We arrived back in Melbourne just as the sun was setting.
“Thanks for the day out,” Phil said graciously as we scrambled to get out of the car as fast as possible.
“Anytime!” Desdemona said with a cheery wave. “Just give me a call next time you’re here.”
We said our farewells and then Phil and I hurried to the hotel bar.