Real Life Retirees: A day in the life of Max

Max Williams shares a day in the life of a real-life retiree.

A day in the life of Max

We haven’t heard from Max Williams in a while, but we love it when we do. Today, he shares a ‘day in the life’ story, and wonders how Melbourne earned its ‘most-liveable city’ mantle.


Yesterday, on a beautiful Melbourne summer's day, I ventured into the city. I caught the number 6 tram from the Eastern suburbs and was there in 30 minutes. What a wonderful transport system, I thought. A seamless way to travel. I don't do it very often, but when I do I reckon it's great. I observe things along the way.

Most people have things in their ears. Of course, with the older generation it's more likely to be hearing aids. What a generational change we have been through. The younger generation – what do they call themselves – GenX, GenY, or is it something else these days, perhaps GenZ?

Wikipedia says that Generation Z, also known as iGeneration, Post-Millennials or Homeland Generation, is the demographic cohort after Millennials. Anyway, most of these ‘Gens’ have their iPhones or Androids out, and they are texting away. Using their thumbs at supersonic speed to type a message … sorry ‘msg’! When I type a text, I use my right index finger only, and I generally read it back to make sure there are no spelling mistakes, or I check that the predictive text hasn't kicked in and completely changed the meaning of what I wanted to say to something garbled and meaningless. How often do we get messages like that, eh? ‘OMG I'm so sorry’. That message should have ended with ‘lol’! Is that short for lolly, I wonder – meant as a sweet goodbye?

I also observe that at least half the people who get on the tram don't ‘touch on’ with their Myki card. Again, these are mostly from the younger set. Some stand near the box, so that if the inspectors get on, the fare evaders can whip their card out and sneak a ‘touch on’ before being sprung. We have a fantastic public transport system which is being compromised by fare evaders. Would there be enough support to bring back the ‘connies’? I think not.

So I hop off the tram at Fed Square. It’s midday and the city is abuzz with activity. I look over to Fed Square and see some construction happening. I'm wondering if this is the new Apple building. Another council cave-in, pandering to big business? There are some homeless people lying on the footpath near the station and I think about their situation and how we might solve this ongoing issue. I cannot find a solution in my mind.

I wait at the crossing with a hundred or so others and see a few walking across against the red light. Does it really matter if you gain a few seconds by doing this? People are impatient and want things to happen yesterday. The stress of daily life is alive and kicking, folks. Everyone is in a hurry. I meander up Swanston Street and view the tacky food outlets and souvenir shops along the way. I think of the great iconic street malls, in particular, Las Ramblas in Barcelona, and wonder if we can get it together to develop something like that for Melbourne. Not in my lifetime, I'll bet!

People are walking every which way, and I have to side step often. Why can't people walk on the left, for heaven's sake? We drive on the left, so it should be easy. But we are not that organised or regimented, are we?

There are buskers along the way. Most are really talented and are probably doing it tough. Marina Prior was a busker as was Ed Sheeran. Look where they ended up – there's always hope, isn't there? Something flows into my mind.

Melbourne has just been listed as the ‘most liveable city in the world’ for the seventh consecutive time. I see graffiti on the walls in the laneways and alleys; the homeless in dark and dingy corners and on the footpaths. I read about the spate of crimes and home invasions. I’m aware of the pressures of buying a home, and my pet gripe – no train service to our airport. This last reason alone should be enough to give us a lower rung on the most liveable city ladder.

Don't get me wrong. I love Melbourne, but this liveable thing – I just don't get it. Perhaps it is all to do with the high-end economy and not much with real life events.

I meet up with an old school mate from Footscray Tech with whom, after 55 years, I just reconnected. We have lunch in Hardware Lane and talk endlessly about the past over some tapas and wine (nice wine, but $14 a glass! One of those giant glasses with a dash of wine at its base – am I out of touch!). What a fabulous thing to do and I am lapping this day up.

We part and make arrangements to meet up again. Your shout next, Bill! I take the laneway back to Collins Street and through the ANZ building, the former Stock Exchange, with its stunning internal gothic architecture. Wow! It's back past the Flinders Street Station and what a difference a facelift makes. The outside of the station is already looking great part way through its rejuvenation.

The tram ride out of the city is not pleasant. Where do they get these drivers from? It's a very jerky ride. That's okay if you want to become very friendly with the passenger next to you. The sudden stops – not good for the people standing up. They are swaying with the forces, nearly falling over, one way, then the other. I get off the tram and stumble a bit. I need to develop ‘tram legs’. I wonder if people who use the tram daily have developed theirs?

This has been a fabulous day. I have taken a lot in and, in my mind, have silently cursed some things and have been elated at others. It's great to be alive and on the right side of the grass!

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    To make a comment, please register or login
    15th Feb 2018
    With that climate, give me Brisbane or Sunshine Coast any day.
    Coachman on the box
    15th Feb 2018
    No, Melbourne is just another city, another Australian city, another Bendigo, Broken Hill, Birdsville, or Murray Bridge at that. We are so good in this country at convincing ourselves we have the best of everything, are the best at everything - it's called being in denial and it's holding us right back there in the middle of the twentieth century. The rest of the world just gets on with trying to make things better, work better. They embrace change. We reject it for the most part because we fear it, or at least the governing classes do and we have never had the guts to stand up to them. Possibly the laughing stock of the world, but we can't, or in our triumph of self-delusion, won't hear it. Loser I think is the term for Australia.
    15th Feb 2018
    Yes, very true, but it's usually the politicians and grandstanders who attempt to brainwash us into thinking we are the best with such "it" phrases such as"are ahead of the world"..."world class", "best practice" and the like. I can't help but laugh when I hear these. Those sprouting this rubbish assume their audience have not ventured outside of our borders.

    Some have.

    We are way behind Europe, eg, re public transport and infrastructure, so why try to mislead us?

    Still, i wouldn't want to live anywhere else.
    Not a Bludger
    15th Feb 2018
    Definitely Not.
    Too much rubbish, graffiti & drunks/druggies running the streets.
    Above all, no where near enough proactive police on the streets.

    15th Feb 2018
    If you travelled regularly in that No. 6 tram you would see that it gets very congested during peak hours. Many people have their heads buried in their phones whilst seated in seats for the disabled and elderly. That tram line is one of the best compared to the western and northern suburbs. It doesn't make Melbourne the most liveable city at all.You need to take a ride on trams in Europe to see the difference.
    15th Feb 2018
    Melbournes Climate is not its own Hobbit., it flows from South Australia or from NSW interior ( hot days ) but fortunately we do not get Cyclones and Hurricanes like the East Coast.
    Knight Templar
    15th Feb 2018
    Great article Max. Sadly, there are now several parts of Melbourne that are far from the 'most-liveable'.

    Rampant ethnic youth crime, generally ignored by Victoria Police and the Andrews Government, in their misguided efforts to remain politically correct, contribute to general anxiety, concerns for personal security and public well-being.

    Graffiti (so called street art) is nothing short of an eye-sore in many CBD locations and the Bourke Street Mall is a cold, colourless, windy canyon especially in winter time.
    15th Feb 2018
    I dont really get how any Australian city gets on a 'most livable' list. Rates of homelessness are increasing (particularly in older women) , the average australian is finding it increasingly hard to pay their bills and debts . Rent rates are ridiculous in the eastern cities as well as the cost of houses. Cost of basic food items , paticularly veges/fruit and meat is too high and after travelling in many overseas countries i'm forced to compare our public transport system and find it pretty poor. Yes i love my home country and its beautiful ......but highly livable ??? Dont think so
    Polly Esther
    15th Feb 2018
    Give me a home amongst the gum trees, with a dog or two and a barbeque
    apologies to who ever wrote it :-)))
    I have big city phobia
    15th Feb 2018
    Love Melbourne it has great people, very friendly and helpful, any statement about how good or bad a place is, can be very subjective, most of Europe has fantastic history, great food, London has fantastic shows, haven't been to the Baltic's but looks great, I have even found parts of the US to be OK, so I guess most places around the world can be described as the best, depending on what you are looking for. Politics have been mentioned, I have yet to meet anyone overseas that loves their politicians, except for maybe North Korea, because there it's mandated.
    15th Feb 2018
    Once all our Australian cities were ok to live in some better than others but now a overpopulated mess full of strange un smiling faces not for this kid the bush for me.
    15th Feb 2018
    Once upon a time now it is too late we have stuffed up our once great country. Immigration worked to a point in the past but it is now out of control and we have bought in some bad dudes that are here to stay.
    19th Feb 2018
    These livability awards are rigged, there is no doubt in my mind. Having traveled widely the most livable city I found in the world up to now is Singapore. A stark contrast to Melbourne: Excellent public transport system, possibly the best in the world, clean and green, polite and helpful population, no poverty visible, no traffic congestion due to smart transport systems, incredible diversity of affordable eating out food options, great climate if you like the tropics, smart government and great architecturally designed living spaces as well as public spaces.

    21st Feb 2018
    Hi Max is your background in photography?

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