The Christmas period in Australia is a strange thing. The fake fir trees in Federation Square and the star Christmas lights strung along Bourke Street seem incongruous with the baking heat of the city.
I’m not a huge fan of Christmas songs at the best of times but in this weather they’re downright irritating. There’s no way we’re getting a white Christmas here, Bing Crosby, so just keep on dreaming.
Instead of the Christmas markets prevalent in Europe, Melbourne has night markets throughout the summer months. At the Suzuki Night Market sangria is the weather appropriate alternative to mulled wine and instead of all the usual Christmas themed tat that no one wants, there are stalls selling funky designer clothes and jewellery and bags.
The Abbotsford Convent Night Market is a much smaller affair. I went there last Friday with Grace and Alex and Anna and after a loop of the stalls, which didn’t take very long, we went for a stroll through the grounds. Lilac blossom popped against the red brick of the convent buildings and lemon yellow light pooled at the base of the sky.
Standing alone in the grounds, admiring the view of the city against the backdrop of the setting sun, we saw something that was neither Christmassy nor summery but perhaps a bit Halloween-y. Apocalyptic looking, even. At first we thought the black specks swirling across the sky towards downtown Melbourne were birds but then, when we looked more closely, we realised they were bats. There were hundreds of them gliding out of the trees and flowing in a never ending stream towards the city. It was breathtaking.
And all the while that we gazed up at sky the only sounds were the chirps of birds and insects. It was hard to believe that only a short distance away a crowd of people was gathered at the night market. I wonder if any them looked up and saw the silent stream of bats slicing under the moon, of if they didn’t notice at all?