IT’S 3 PM-ISH, mid-February, I’m at the corner of Collins and Swanston streets in Melbourne, my hometown. I walk the heart of city that I’ve been away from for twenty years. This means wheeling and dodging through a continuous human flow, making for the giant mausoleum of ‘government rail’, Flinders Street Station. I need to catch a train to the suburban rental I’ve just moved into, a small post-war veneer at the end of the ‘Sandy’ (Sandringham) line. Working at a university allows me sometimes to go home at odd hours.
None of this matches my memory. The city streets should be largely empty at this time, the quiet prelude to the sudden flux of rush-hour, when workplaces disgorge their human contents in a brief, intense whirl that empties out through the city rail hubs and carries the flow to the suburban dormitories from whence it came. Think John Brack’s monochrome, hatted platoons of the 1950s, in lockstep for Flinders at 5 pm; a quick intervening swill before six and the rackety, lolling journey home.
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