I’ve never wanted to be somewhere else more than now. But I can’t, as in Melbourne we’re under stage 4 restrictions and I can’t go further than 5 kilometres from home.
I’ve always been cursed with the “somewhere elses”. Always poring over a map and tracing my line along a road. Always looking to the horizon and wondering what was out there. How far is it to the horizon?’ I would ask my father. Always the same response. ‘Seven miles.’
But it was not all about distant lands beyond the horizon. For me, the glimpses of “somewhere elses ” could simply be somewhere more desirable than my place. It could be other people’s houses (bigger, tidier, had a swimming pool), family (younger parents, grandparents who were still alive, siblings) or holidays. (other people went to Queensland, Bali and Fiji)
It could be the street with palm trees on a side road (nicer than my main road) or the idyllic house on Lake Glenmaggie where Mum’s pal, Nancy lived. She would serve us Swedish meatballs (long before Ikea) and we would play card games till midnight. Her little cabin on the lake smelled of wood and furniture polish and dogs. Nancy spoke with a Swedish accent, had a hearty laugh but sometimes looked sad. Her son Carl had been killed in a car accident- when Nancy had been driving. She had retreated to her little cabin in the Gippsland bush and rarely drove anywhere after that.
There was Sydney – the Emerald city lingering on my horizon. I moved up there briefly in the 80s and loved it but realised that one place can feel like the same as any other. As someone very wise once said, ‘You can change your skies but not your soul.’ (George Johnston quoting Cavalry in Clean Straw for Nothing) George and his wife Charmian Clift were serial expatriates and were very much cursed with the “Somewhere Elses”.
But as my world has grown bigger, and I’ve aged, the curse is still there but it’s toned down a bit. Only a very little bit, I will add. I have become more of a homebody, I like my little sanctuary and the city I live in. But getting away was something that I took for granted, whether it was a weekend down the beach or jumping on a plane to meet up with dear friends in Hong Kong.
Nowadays, due to pesky pandemics, my horizons are more limited. I can’t go beyond the borders of my own municipality so St Kilda, the Dandenong Ranges and Moonee Ponds are exotic and impossible destinations.
I’ve decided to set off on voyages of self-discovery on my one-hour walks. Instead of turning right when I normally do, I will turn left. Instead of always walking on the right side of the road I’ll walk on the left-hand side. Instead of taking the direct route to get somewhere, I’ll take the long way around. I don’t think I’ll find anything exciting but you never know. There are always new letterboxes to find, gardens to peer into and architecture to ogle. There will be new dogs to pat, people to talk too (even if it’s just complimenting them on their face masks) and street art to be found.
I have some friends in London who were doing segments of the London Spiral Walk every weekend. Each Monday I’d eagerly check for updates on Yvonne’s Facebook. Through her eyes, I was seeing parts of London well off the tourist trail. Unfortunately, the pandemic has curtailed these walks but I’m hoping they will resume them at some stage. This fascination with rediscovering their own city began a few years ago when Yvonne and her partner Charlie did the London Orbital Walk. Closer to home, there’s a blogger in Sydney, Joanne, who walks around a suburb, documents it and even provides a map – I love her observations and sense of adventure.
When this lockdown ends I’ll take a leaf out of their collective books and explore Melbourne by using this very handy website for guidance. The walks won’t be London or Sydney but at least they will be somewhere else.