They said that folks in the 'Bourne were more genteel than folks in Sydney, and by golly, they were right!
We near the end of the First Week of a New Year of Pedagogy and Scholarship, of which I have been in the thick, so it's no surprise that on two separate occasions this week I have found myself wandering through college initiation antics. How, you may well ask, does one know when one is amongst college initiates? Firstly, as one nears the suspects (who happen to be on a public nature strip, near one's homebound tram stop), one hears a chorus of scholarly young women chanting "The Glennie Girls are on the piss again, hoorah!" (in A minor, approximately to the tune of "The ants go marching two by two [in my pants]"). Secondly, one sees upwards of thirty empty brandname vodka bottles strewn across the grass. Thirdly, one looks up to spy a young gentleman doing his bit for the water conservation effort by urinating copiously against an unprotesting shrub. Fourthly, one notes three chaps, stark bollocky naked, prancing around the grass and at considerable risk of testicular sunburn. Here one wonders, "Should I cross the road? Would it be wise to avoid this drunken, uninhibited assortment of charming youngsters?" And one decides, "No! I will not be intimidated! This is a public footpath, we are in Melbourne, and Melburneans are famously genteel." It's a plan that could easily have backfired. Indeed, I fully expected it to, and was bracing myself for a medley of exhortations to "Show us your mammaries", but no, this is Melbourne, where drunken college boys are gentlepersons, and the closest I came to being asked to bare the proverbial bosom was when one of the less attired fellows asked if he could borrow my hat. Undoubtedly his need was greater than mine, but I was too shocked to think the matter through, and politely refused before charging off for my tram.
There was further evidence of a whole new level of Melburnean civility last night, when I hopped onto tram 86 along with twenty or so collegiates in fantastically witty matching t-shirts, proclaiming "Will buy drinks for sex". Ah, post-modern irony, thought self; bright young minds! Further commentary on the subject of my hat ensued (it's a fine hat, no doubt about it), and then I overheard one of my fellow travellers observing that he and his compatriots were on "a pub tour". Did you get that? Not a pub crawl, a pub tour. Ah, Melbourne. So genteel.
A curious postscript to my week's encounters with the college fraternity: at the end of my journey on tram 86 last night, my new friend Lyn and I passed a group of caffeinators sitting on the Bourke St footpath. Two steps later, Lyn observed, "That was Helen Garner back there, looking disapprovingly at your hat."