This is my first Perth summer in two years, having spent the past two shivering in England. Here are the top 10 things I missed.
10. Hopman Cup
Yes, London has Wimbledon, but centre court tickets are as rare as a spot on a pew in Westminster Abbey for the Wills and Kate nuptials. We’re pretty privileged to have the Hopman Cup, which gives us a chance to see some of the world’s top players in the fun and relaxed atmosphere of a warm-up tournament.
9. Music festivals
European festivals tend to involve dancing to Daft Punk in 3ft of sludge and camping in muddy fields in drizzle. There’s something wonderful about heading to Busselton for Southbound, or descending on Wellington Square or Belvoir Amphitheatre or Claremont Showgrounds for a day dancing in the sun to some of the world’s best DJs and bands.
8. Perth International Arts Festival and Fringe World
PIAF is a genuine world-class event, attracting some of the world’s best performers and coolest acts. When people lament the “lack of culture” in Perth (a massive furphy) you can do no better than to point to PIAF. With the fringe festival returning after its success last year, the summer arts line-up has something for everyone from culture snobs to hipsters.
7. Australia Day fireworks
Nowhere seems to do Australia Day as well as Perth and that’s partly thanks to the fireworks. It’s a pity that what should be a family event is often hijacked by yobs and it’s a shame we can’t be trusted to sip a few coldies on the foreshore without glassing someone. But Skyworks on the foreshore is a nice way to round out the holiday season.
6. The Water Labyrinth in Forrest Place
This new piece of public art by Jeppe Hein is such a wonderful addition to the city centre that it is sure to become a popular family spot for many summers to come. Allowing kids to run through the sprinklers, as this sculpture does, will help make Forrest Place a destination on stinking hot days. And that’s what good public art does — it turns a place into a destination.
5. Outdoor cinemas
Our balmy summer nights are just perfect for outdoor cinemas. Grabbing a Margaret River sav blanc, some camembert, a packet of Jatz crackers, a couple of bottles of Aeroguard and plonking yourself down in a remarkably uncomfortable, coccyx-bruising deckchair to watch Withnail and I or Pretty in Pink or Gallipoli or some other film you’ve seen a dozen times is one of the great Perth summertime traditions.
4. Barbecues in public parks
Our parks are a wonderful summer resource. I don’t mean the ones with desiccated lawns and swing seats so hot that sensible parents have Dr Fiona Wood on speed dial. I mean parks like Kings Park and Hyde Park, with lovely sweeping grass, water playgrounds and shady Moreton Bay figs. What’s better than an afternoon under a tree with mates, jabbering away while the bangers cook on a coin-operated barbie? Even 42C heat can’t stop a West Australian from feeling the need to barbecue.
3. Sunday sessions in the beer garden
The tradition of the Sunday session is a testament to our ability to stretch the weekend out for as long as possible. Whether it’s at the Cott, the Queens, Little Creatures or your local suburban beer barn, Sunday afternoon is a great time to fit in one last sneaky middy with friends before finally conceding it’s almost Monday and heading home to iron your shirts.
2. The beach
A predictable choice, maybe, but WA honestly has the world’s best beaches. Anyone who has tried to get comfortable laying in what the English call the sun on the pebble beach at Brighton can attest to this. Whenever anyone in Europe wanted to see where I came from, I’d show them a picture of the surf club at Cottesloe and the stunning azure waters. I rarely showed them the East Perth train station or the Telstra Exchange building. Summer is for surf clubs and sand castles and the sun setting over Rottnest and Gage Roads.
1. The Fremantle Doctor
Oh, the gratitude! There’s no better part of a hot day than when that sea breeze finally wends its way through the suburbs and drops the temperature from oppressive to almost comfortable. It is a life-saving force — it gives you the will to go on and it replenishes the soul. Perhaps the Premier and I are the only two people left in this town who do not have air-conditioning, but I for one welcome the Freo Doctor as an old friend.