Melbourne has become such a hip city. It makes one of the best coffees in the world. It has great social areas, tons of cool cafes, fantastic restaurants with really on the edge cuisine, music everywhere, lots of city squares and nature throughout, in the grand old parklands. It has its share of violence on the street and heaps of frustrated road rage, but even so, I can understand why they call it one of the most livable cities in the world.
We visited only briefly this time. Here to see Pete and Marg, Mike’s parents living on the bay in peaceful Blackrock. Pete has been unwell with leukaemia and now his old polio aliments have caught up with him, slowing him down, which seems amazing when one remembers his inexhaustible energy and devil may care approach to life. He is a painter and can spend, even now, six hours of uninterrupted time in his other world, disappearing in reflections of water on sand, or the grey greens of the Australian bushland against clear blue skies. He is highly influenced by the Impressionists and his small delicate seascapes accomplished by the hugest hands, have always been in high demand. When Mike was a young boy in his teens, home, sick for months with glandular fever, his father plonked him in his studio and taught him colour and play on canvas, as well as introducing him to Utrillo and Monet. For Michael who had had no art in his secondary school, a passion was ignited that never abated. Before long, Peter had emptied his garage to make a studio for his son. It was this support alongside Pete’s irrepressible hunger for life and all its adventures that Mike has taken with him on his life with me.
Mike’s mum is a very pretty woman, elegant and small featured, she is dainty next to the long rangy length of her husband. Together they modelled for years, supplementing their income, and we often saw their huge faces beaming down at us on freeways or from posters in banks. Marg is one of those provocative people who love to instigate an argument and often the Cartwright house is filled with impassioned heated debate on anything. It is one thing about the Cartwright’s that I love, that I have learnt to love, they are irreverent to any held Idea. They will always look at the common sense of a thought, or the grander ideal, they will always try to make mountains move and they will never be with the common denominator of people if they don’t agree. Mike and I laugh and we say, just like doing art for art’s sake, the Cartwrights will argue for argument’s sake.
Australia is a really different place to the rest of the world. A spade is really a spade. I like that about Aussies. We have just met one here in Beijing, the principal of Beijing Yew Chung School. A thoughtful character who thinks outside of the box, but who also calls it as it is. There is no hierarchy in Australia, you earn your respect and you don’t get it because you went to the right school. I guess that is the essence that Pete and Marg epitomise. The Australian lack of apology for being here and the ability to make anything happen.