December 3rd 2010. Twenty two days until Christmas.
And the birthday of a very special person.
I view the intricate and beautiful Myer windows for Christmas this year: Portraying the story of The Nutcracker. The tale is also coming soon to Melbourne theatres.
We meet over an exquisite hot chocolate in the ‘Salon’ cafe in Myer. It’s the kind of cafe that serves a $650 bottle of champagne to take away in a gold box or crack open there and then among classy women’s clothing on an upper level.
I am enjoying the hot chocolate so much, sweet, smooth, and with perfectly balanced sprinkles on top, that I almost forget I am supposed to be interviewing someone here. ;)
Introducing Lemon Custard: Melbourne Tour Guide, Person of Great Authority and Amateur Theatre Critic. As if that wasn’t enough, she is also close to The Official Australian Representative of Lemony Snicket!
Lemon Custard’s beaming grin is infectious and she is a relaxed, comfortable interviewee. Dressed in a sleek dark turquoise V-neck, a birthday badge invites ‘happy birthdays’ from everyone who sees her. She has named her top ‘Nepturna’ for its mermaid-like quality, and her pinstripe trousers are named ‘Esme’ after the character in Lemony Snicket’s books who always wears pinstripes. She decided to give her clothes names to make them easier to find.
It is this sort of unique creativity which makes her a fascinating and delightful young woman.
With a savvy opinion on what makes a good tour guide.
“Tour guides keep telling you the history of things, and sometimes you think, why don’t you just get on with the seeing of things?
“A good tour guide is someone who doesn’t go on about ½ a centimetre of space but gives the general idea of the room not just one minute part of the room.
“But a tour guide who doesn’t say anything isn’t very good either, I suppose.”
We start at Melbourne’s beautiful Botanical Gardens with a picnic made by the city’s best, but low-profile, chefs. In the shade of an arching tree, we have the selection of fresh sushi, sandwiches, strawberries and Lindt chocolates. And artistic birthday cupcakes! (One of them is very close to Lemon Custard flavour!)
It is sunny and tranquil. Although walking through a cloud of what-I-thought-were-flies turned out to be a cloud of mozzies who were certainly not tranquil when they get on your skin…
We meander down to the bamboo forest and take a photo with Zippy from Rainbow, as you do. The lake sparkles in the mesmerising sunlight and we talk about Melbourne and tour guides.
Suddenly. Lightning streaks through the sky. Thunder growls threateningly. The sky turns dark. And a tide of torrential rain tears down on us. We barely have time to take cover, hamper of cuisine in tow, under particularly thick branches, before buckets of showers tip aggressively onto the Botanical Gardens.
We find our horse and carriage driver, Bob, is ready to rescue us from the pelting downpour. We hurry back to Entrance C. And there stands a stately carriage with two grey dappled horses taking the brunt of the rain with the patience of angels. We dive in and they carry us to Melbourne city central. We wave. It is a rule, I am informed, that one must always wave at passers-by when one is in such a carriage.
We are dropped off on Flinders Street. Since it is still raining, we dive into Myer for a nice hot chocolate and an even nicer interview.
Lemon Custard recommends the Eureka tower, especially when it rains.
Eureka Skydeck 88 does cost a bit – $17.50 per non-concession adult – it is worth it, and probably the best thing to do in the rain. Inside, protected, and dry, yet literally you see everything there is to see!
We’re in Myer, surrounded by clothes. I ask whether Lemon Custard likes shopping.
“I don’t like the actual shopping for clothes,” she says, “but I like the new clothes I see in stories and I like getting the right clothes. It’s just a bit stressful getting to that point.”
What is a little known fact about Melbourne from a Melbournian?
“I think people don’t usually realise that Melbournians are always being shown parts of the city that they didn’t previously know about by tourists themselves. English visitors have often asked me if I know of this or that in Melbourne, and I’m just thinking, what are you talking about?”
But, I think she is too modest – Lemon Custard really is a great tour guide.
I have been to Melbourne many times, and each time she has shown me something new. From feeding birds at a sanctuary to seeing penguins at the rocks at St Kilda pier, amazing pancakes at The Pancake Parlour to a boat ride along the Yarra, I have always been brilliantly entertained.
And when she is not playing tour guide to tourists, she is currently working on another project – covering Melbourne’s Titanic: The Artifact exhibition in a multimedia extravaganza of which she was appointed Co-Editor and Chief of Graphic and Sound Productions on November 5th. She says the huge project is set to be ready for February 2011.
Her speciality, however, is theatre. Musicals in particular. She started the year with a mission to see Cats, Fame, Hairspray and Mary Poppins – and she’s done all 4. Some more than once.
Hairspray was very good, “a bit like a kaleidoscope, constantly moving and very bright.”
But Mary Poppins was the best she had ever seen. She saw it 3 times and each time there was one particular scene that was less than adequate. But it still did not make it anything less than a superb show.
“The whole audience always comes out of it smiling at each other. The shared experience of all seeing this show together suddenly makes everyone friends.”
I am excited by her new ambition – to be a theatre critic. Her first review, she will give me the great pleasure of putting exclusively on this blog!
She has advice on being a journalist, too.
“Don’t spend too long describing the hot chocolate you had and spend more time describing the person you interviewed.”
Hm. How did I do, Lemon Custard? ; )
And now, readers, I shall leave you with a favourite quote of mine from none other than The Great Lemony Snicket:
“Having a personal philosophy is like having a pet marmoset, because it may be very attractive when you acquire it, but there may be situations when it will not come in handy at all.”
(From The Grim Grotto)