from Emerald City (1987)

Like his creator, Colin is a Melbourne writer who has moved to Sydney:

COLIN stands by a window, gazing out. He is a handsome, engaging man in his late thirties whose natural disposition is warm and open, though when he feels uncertain or under attack, he’s capable of an aloof, almost arrogant air and of sharp retaliation. He is watched by ELAINE ROSS, a shrewd capable woman in her fifties.

COLIN: [turning away from the window] What other city in the world could offer a view like this?
ELAINE: Rio. But I’m prepared to believe it’s the second most beautiful city in the world.
COLIN: I used to come here when I was a kid and go back with my head full of images of lushness. Green leaves spilling over sandstone walls, blue water lapping at the sides of ferries. Flame trees, Jacaranda, heavy rain, bright sun.
ELAINE: [drily] Yes, there’s no lack of colour.
COLIN: Everything in Melbourne is flat, grey, parched and angular. And everything is controlled and moderate. It never rains in buckets like it does here in Sydney, it drizzles. The wind never gusts, it creeps along the streets like a wizened old mugger and slips a blade into your kidneys. Sydney has always felt like a city of sub-tropical abundance.
ELAINE: Abundance. [Nodding] Yes. There’s abundance. Sometimes I’m not sure of what.
COLIN: There’s a hint of decadence too, but to someone from the puritan south, even that’s appealing.
ELAINE: I didn’t drag you up here, then?
COLIN: No, I would’ve come years ago, but I couldn’t persuade Kate. She’s convinced Sydney is full of con men, crooks and hustlers.
ELAINE: She’s right.
COLIN: Melbourne has its quota of shysters.
ELAINE: Sydney is different. Money is more important here.
COLIN: Why more so than Melbourne?
ELAINE: To edge yourself closer to a view. In Melbourne all views are equally depressing, so there’s no point.
COLIN: [laughing] I’m not convinced.
ELAINE: It’s true. No one in Sydney ever wastes time debating the meaning of life – it’s getting yourself a water frontage. People devote a lifetime to the quest. You’ve come to a city that knows what it’s about, so be warned. The only ethic is that there are no ethics, loyalties rearrange themselves daily, treachery is called acumen and honest men are called fools.
COLIN: I thought you liked the place?
ELAINE: I do. It’s my city and I accept it for what it is. Just don’t behave as if you’re still in Melbourne, because if you do you’ll get done like a dinner.
[ELAINE exits. COLIN moves thoughtfully to centre stage. KATE walks on. She’s COLIN’s wife. An attractive, vivacious and intelligent woman in her thirties. Her frowning earnestness often makes her funny when she’s not trying to be.]
COLIN: This is an amazing city.
KATE: [bluntly] I hate it.
COLIN: [suddenly angry] Christ, Kate! If you’re going to be this negative right from the start, let’s just cancel everything and go back south.
KATE: We can’t. You insulted everybody as soon as you knew we were going.
COLIN: It’s a stunning city, Kate. You should see the view that Elaine’s got.
KATE: To judge a city by the views it offers is the height of superficiality. This city is dreadful. The afternoon paper had three words on the cover: ‘Eel Gets Chop’, and no matter how much I juggle that around in my mind I can’t find a meaning that justifies the whole front page of a newspaper.

–David Williamson, Australian, b. 1942

People yachting on Sydney Harbour, New South Wales, 1987 (National Archives of Australia)

People yachting on Sydney Harbour, New South Wales, 1987 (National Archives of Australia)

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