After three nights in Melbourne, yesterday we flew on to Perth in Western Australia, which I last visited immediately after leaving school forty-four years ago.
To give some idea of the scale of these things, WA is three hours behind Melbourne in terms of time zones and could not be described as over-populated – I was watching the ground for the last hour of our flight and signs of human civilisation were thin on the ground, literally, until we began our approach to the airport. That said, of the total population of Western Australia (approximately 2.6 million), some 1.9 million live in and around Perth itself.
After settling into our rooms, my father and I had a spot of lunch and then took a return three-hour river cruise down to Freemantle, the port at the mouth of the River Swan. More than most Australian cities, Perth reminds me of the United States with its ‘white on green’ road signs, wide open roads and its sheer space.
Whereas Britain necessarily has to build houses on top of each other and construct its roads using the minimum of land, when they build something in Western Australia they can take their time and make it as big and expansive as they like.
The whole atmosphere is relaxed and easy going. The Swan river is some 300 kilometres long, about 3 kilometres wide in the vicinity of Perth and built along its shores are some of the most beautiful water-side properties you can imagine, along with nine separate major yachting marinas or clubs. The captain on our flat-bottomed purpose-built cruiser gave a running commentary in which the ‘most expensive house sold in Australian history’ (57 million Australian dollars) and the home of ‘Gina Rinehart, the wealthiest woman – by a considerable margin – in Australia’ were pointed out, just to keep us marvelling in our jealousy. Speeding by all these great properties and boats … taking in the windsurfers, sailors and kite-surfers … in the warm sunshine and cooling breeze was no hardship at all.
By the evening, weary after all our travel and excitements, I had succumbed to a conviction that I could definitely live in Perth along with my new Singapore Airlines flight attendant wife. There’s none of the intensity and crammed city existence about it. Never mind the tourists, it feels as though everyone here is on permanent holiday – even the commuters arriving in the bar of our hotel after their day’s work, dressed in short sleeved shirts and shorts.
It’s certainly my kind of town … and funnily enough, that’s another fact mentioned by our river cruise captain. After Chicago [you remember the song, don’t you, boys? You know the one: “(Chicago is) my kind of town …”] and Wellington, New Zealand … Perth is the third windiest city in the world.