I was born in London and lived there until I was eight, and despite having now been in Melbourne for more than half my life I still maintain a strong link to the UK – I come back regularly and I’m at the tail end of a seven month study exchange in England. I feel a connection here in the country of my birth that makes me feel like I could quite happily stay forever.
But one whiff of the wattle trees on a sunny Melbourne day and I am an Aussie through and through. The smell of wattle is the most uniquely Australian smell I can think of and it instantly takes me back to more innocent days when we first moved to Melbourne and everything felt like an exciting adventure. Wattle smells like summer, like going to the milk bar and buying icy poles. It smells like going down to the coast for a holiday, the hot hot days and the cool evenings with the cicadas making a racket outside. It smells like barbecues and family and taking your time and that vibe Melbourne gets when the days are long and sticky. It smells like home.
Whenever I leave Melbourne (which is often) it’s the smell I miss the most. The way the air smells on a crisp morning before the sun has chased away the chill. The way it smells when it rains and the way it smells after the rain – clean and fresh and new. Sometimes I miss that so intensely that it amazes me. I’m always surprised when I miss Melbourne because surely someone who’s desperate to be somewhere else shouldn’t miss what they’re leaving behind.
But Melbourne is family. It’s friends I’ve known for years. It’s school and it’s university and it’s work. It’s coffee in the city and drinks at the pub.