“Where are you going?” bystanders kept asking as they gawped at us ambling South along Swanston Street yesterday afternoon; we’d flown over from Perth to Melbourne Friday after work, packed our Kate Bush costumes (ordered online months ago), and started walking from our AirBnB opposite the Public Baths at Victoria and Swanston towards the botanic gardens. To us the answer was obvious, “To the park!” … to join almost 2000 other similarly silly Australians who enjoyed an unusually sunny and minimally chilly Melbourne winter’s day to celebrate Kate Bush’s Wuthering Heights by doing the dance from the video clip. I was worried at first that I’d fallen for an elaborate Facebook Hoax, when I’d signed up to the event months ago, and roped in my husband, my Mum, a friend from Med School, and another friend who was extremely excited to dance to Wuthering Heights with a few thousand others. Thankfully as we reached the Melbourne Library we saw about 4 other Cathys at the tram stop heading South, and we all waved at each other; by the time we reached Flinders we bumped into a husband and wife duo of Cathys who introduced themselves: “Hi, Cathy, I’m Cathy, this is Cathy, Cathy, Cathy…” Did we need a reason? I certainly don’t. Before I was in preschool one of my favourite dress-up costumes was a red taffeta dress, which complemented by ticker-tacker undies and Lego (that clipped into my hair). I think I liked the fabric’s bouffant; I was an eighties child.
The event started just after noon; registration, rehearsals, food break. The “performance” was at 15:15: two filmed run-throughs with the crowd packed close. We were over an hour late. Dan’s broken patella is healing but he still limped slowly down the street. Deanne had a brilliant idea to stop off in Myer and find a friendly make-up counter attendant to let us try shades of green eyeshadow and red lipstick. Deanne bought the lipstick. Mum bought a trolley-bag at the housewares store next door, as we’d picked up picnic food at the Victoria Markets earlier: baguettes, cheeses, pesto, sliced meat, bocconcini and semi-sundried tomatoes. There was an Aldi on the ground floor of the apartment block we stayed in so Mum bought some water bottles – a six-pack of 1.5 L. We were prepared.
Deanne had come to our apartment to get dressed, with Mum, Dan and I. We trimmed the fringes on our wigs and Deanne helped me to fit my very ill-fitting dress. My tree-trunk shaped cylinder of a torso-and-abs with no breasts did not match the wrap-around dress style, cut for skinny people. Dan’s V-shaped torso matched it perfectly, and he looked disturbingly good in his wig, albeit very hippyish. I didn’t have to look at myself so I quickly forgot that I was in a red dress and wondered why people kept staring. Swanston St was crowded but most people were chasing Pokemon and didn’t look up from their phones. It’s Melbourne so we were by far not the most odd looking pedestrians.
At the botanic gardens we searched for and eventually found Will, and his friends, who had been rehearsing with vigour. It was very difficult to find each other whenever we were separated; everybody else had the same red dress, wig, flower on the left…
The performance, like all dance performances do, came and went and it was all over before it felt like it had begun. It was more exhausting than I’d expected; we all had so much nervous energy. Will and his friends had snuck up to the front (to get on camera) and were emotionally moved by the experience. Mum, Deanne, Daniel and I went right to the back and enjoyed the freedom of having space around us. I was too tired by the second run through and filmed the others. The other Cathys ranged from young kids to mostly middle-aged women. There were many men, but few older people. The atmosphere was static with nervous energy and excitement. Police wearing fluorescent yellow vests loitered close but not too close. Apparently the U.S. Vice President was in town, but nowhere near.
Deanne had wanted to traipse through the CBD to take photos but we found ourselves completely exhausted. The sun had begun to set so we took photos of our shadows and silhouettes in the park, before catching a tram North back up Swanston St. I kept noticing in my peripheral vision other passengers open-mouthed staring at me, and I wondered why they hadn’t noticed all the other people in red stockings and dresses; what made me so interesting!? Then Dan showed me a photo of what I actually looked like: my short hair was sticking right up, my lipstick was smudged, and my dress was gaping open. If I’d had a cigarette hanging out of my mouth I’d have fit in sitting in the gutter on Oxford St at sunrise on a Sunday morning. I was preoccupied catching Pokemon on my iPhone so only occasionally cared to stare back.
We had bought tickets to an after party but ended up going home, showering and venturing out only to find food, then back to the apartment early to crash. Another tick on the bucket list, and another 10 Pokemon caught.