I was walking through central Melbourne this weekend, having just left a show full of gleaming, and often unaffordable, motor cars. The stands were staffed by iPad wielding pretty young things, with flawless skin and perfect hair, with hands that will probably never be soiled by machine oil, or suffer the indignity of a broken nail. Bright light displays flashed corporate messages. The whole place was a temple to the future – a future that will be bright, sleek and aerodynamic. Well, maybe.
I think it’s safe to say my car mad small person did not notice these things.
On the journey back to the train station we walked over an old railway bridge. For years it had idly spanned the Yarra, its tracks ripped away, its real purpose lost. In recent years it has been resurrected as a foot bridge.
I had never walked over it before, so I was surprised to find clear glass panels along one side, each one was etched with the details of a countries contribution to Australians migrant communities. They were organised alphabetically, and stretched across the whole bridge.
I stopped at the English panel, and was surprised to see that my home county was listed as a major source of migrants. Because the panels were clear you could see the skyline through them, and the names of the migrants floated like ghost names over the present day. It was by no means a sombre place, but it did make me stop and think.
I was struck by the difference between flashy vision of the future at the car show, and the more sober account of the past.
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