I’ve always been a little disparaging about Perth. Friends and family have moved here despite my rather derisive comments about how small and parochial it is.
But during the last few days I have secretly fallen in love with Perth. I think it is the colour of the sea that has stolen my heart. But it also reminds me ridiculously of Africa. Of olden days Zimbabwe and the high veldt in summer – all roasted yellow grass and wide-open spaces between low mustard coloured buildings. The colour palette is like a 1970’s photo – faded in the ceaseless heat. No wonder it is jam-packed with displaced South Africans.
In truth, it is the smallness that makes it so enchanting. People are friendly. They smile and give you advice (like, “Watch out, we all drive like maniacs here.” True – defensive driving required!). It feels unspoiled. Innocent. That could be the holiday talking. The fresh breeze rolling off the turquoise sea. My take on Freemantle is a little different to Tim Winton’s.
I think mostly it is the sea that draws me to this place, perched here on the edge of a great desert, the Indian Ocean lapping at its shores. The beaches are quite spectacular. I declare them to be the most beautiful of all the beaches I have been to in my life. The sand is white and soft and warm. The sea sparkles aqua, a colour that comes straight off a tropical island post card. And it is clear. You can swim up to your neck and still see your toes. I find this deeply reassuring given the hostility Great Whites have for Western Australians.
It is a town that feels not at all full. It helps, I think, when people are not packed so tightly together. You have space to breath in. Space to appreciate your surroundings. The very opposite of Sydney, where there are people and cars and noise and buildings every which way you look. Where there is no personal space at all. Just thinking about going to the beach in Sydney gives me heart palpitations. Navigating the traffic jams, trying to find parking… dealing with all those botoxed stiff upper lips.
No, I’ve fallen quite in love with this isolated little city which doesn’t give a damn about the rest of Australia. Where everyone seems to be sun-kissed and smiling and even the blistering heat doesn’t seem to phase anyone. Yes, it feels a lot like being on holiday. But wouldn’t that be an awesome way to feel everyday?