Once I gave someone directions to the Melbourne Town Hall on the corner of Elizabeth Street and Bourke Street. Although, as it turns out, the Melbourne Town Hall is a block away, on the corner of Swanston Street and Collins Street: I had accidentally given them directions to the Melbourne old post office.
Though I have to wonder: did I give them the wrong directions to the right place, or did I give them the right directions to the wrong place? In such circumstances, I'm tempted to act a little like W C Fields does, in the film International House, when he attempts to fly to Kansas City and ends up in China. "I'm not lost! Kansas City is lost!" he cries, and helps himself to some nearby liquor. If I was in an expansive mood, I could claim that I wasn't the one who was mistaken, merely everyone who had built the GPO and the Town Hall, named the streets, compiled the street directories, (and so on).
And you have to wonder. This is a city where even the trains will lie to you: "We are now approaching Richmond Station!" the train will say, with all the confidence of brainless idiocy. You might be approaching Anstey, or Flinders Street, or Camberwell, or Dandenong, or Box Hill, or you might even be approaching Richmond: (they get it right once in a while, despite all their efforts to the contrary). Occasionally, you find yourself on a train that announces the stations you will get to in a couple of stops, but not the station you are arriving at now. "You are now approaching Flemington Bridge!" the train chirps in your ear, as you stop at Jewell. "Now approaching Macaulay Station!" the announcement will be, as you stop, most decidedly, at Royal Park Station. When the train actually does pull into Flemington Bridge, the announcement will be: "You are now approaching North Melbourne Station!"
But then, it's easy to get confused with the train stations; after all, we have a Richmond Station, a North Richmond Station, an East Richmond Station, and a West Richmond Station, but no South Richmond. What happened to it? Does this mean that South Richmond does not exist? That be a little like a man with an amputated left-hand saying that the direction 'left' does not exist. But where did it go? You can't lose a part of a suburb just like that. Has it been temporarily misplaced? Will it one day appear back into fully functional existence, a train station where previously there had been none?
Once, tantalisingly, I took a trip on the Upfield line into the city, only to be informed as we wound our way slowly down that track, "You are now approaching North..." The train never completed its message. It was probably referring to North Melbourne, but with that level of ambiguity, it could also have meant Northcote; North Richmond would fall into its list of possibilities, as would North Brighton, or even North Williamstown. Maybe we were even, amazingly, approaching the abstract concept of 'North' itself, that mystical place that lies somewhere to the north of the north pole. You can never tell with Melbourne public transport...
Melbourne's streets are, as someone once said to me, 'deceptively straight', and Melbourne's suburbs are equally guilefully named. We have suburbs named Fitzroy, and Brunswick, and St Kilda, and we have a Fitzroy Street, a Brunswick Street, and a St Kilda Road. But Fitzroy Street runs through St Kilda, and Brunswick Street runs through Fitzroy, and St Kilda road runs through neither (well, to be fair, it touches on the outskirts of St Kilda at one point*). Brunswick even boasts a Sydney Road.
Anyway, the possibilities for confusion here are obvious, and epic: it would be easy to direct someone mistakenly to the Brunswick Street, on the corner of Sydney Road and Fitzroy, or to St Kilda Street, on the corner of Fitzroy Road and Brunswick, or even to Brunswick Road on the corner of Coburg and Sydney. Nothing would be stranger than to find the city of Sydney nestled in one of the suburbs of Melbourne, but I wouldn't put it past my city...
All of which is to say, I guess, that I should never be trusted to give directions. If I ever end up giving you directions to a location in Melbourne (or elsewhere), just do something different, and you'll probably end up in the right place.
Take it from me.
*Be quiet, pedants! For the purposes of this post it does!
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