The Null Device

Barry Humphries on Melbourne

Barry Humphries recently gave a speech about the Melbourne he grew up in, the bourgeois middle-class culture of the suburbs of the 1940s and 1950s, and the changing landmarks of the city:
Going into the city was always a ritual I enjoyed with my mother, for it meant hats, gloves, crumbed whiting at the Wattle Tea Rooms or creamed sweet corn (undoubtedly out of a tin) at Russell Collins. We would only shop in Collins Street. Bourke Street was mostly out of bounds except for Myers and Buckleys. The upper reaches of Bourke Street were thought common and there were second hand bookshops around the eastern market -- a paradise for germs.
The boat, an Italian one, sailed from Port Melbourne to Venice, but I already had a taste for things Italian. After all, I had been to university in Carlton where the first espresso machine had frothed up my cappuccino and I had already mingled with the sophisticated crowd who hung out at the Florentino Bistro eating Spaghetti ala Bolognese and drinking Chianti. I left when Harry Ballefonte was singing his famous Calypso island in the sun and only returned in the Beatles era.
It is a sign of progress that I have been asked to address you at all on the subject of my home town. I was long dismissed as a traitor, or worse, an expatriate merely because I recognised the intrinsic bittersweet comedy of suburban life.

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