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I think I have been quite fortunate, at least in the second half of my life, to have been able to find like-minded people pretty much everywhere I've lived. What seems to have varied is the extent to which people who think similarly to me represent the character of the general population of each place.

I make no secret of the fact that I am a libertarian socialist, an atheist and a hedonist, and that I vote Green. As such, I have to acknowledge that I feel more at home in Melbourne than anywhere else I've lived so far. Much as it's fair to say of those people who broadly agree with my views that presently they make up a minority of any given population - and they may always do so - it seems to be a much larger minority here than most other places.

Let's take Bathurst, for example, where I was born and grew up and spent most of the first half of my life. For much of that time, I felt pretty much like a minority of one. That was, however, more a case of feeling like a social fringe-dweller than from any sense of having a well-formed worldview that didn't match with that of anyone else. My opinions then were far more conservative in many ways than they are now - a definite product of my fairly strict Catholic upbringing, rather than anything to which I'd given serious thought in my own right. I have observed in the past that as a place to grow up, Bathurst kind of offered the worst of both worlds - none of the intimacy of a truly small town but none of the excitement of a big city either. When I visit these days I am not overly conscious of not fitting in, but I feel no real need to interact with anyone other than my parents. Most of my school acquaintance no longer live there - Bathurst is the kind of place from which young people tend to move away if they want to expand their horizons.

Canberra was the next place I lived and where I first began to realise that I was not quite so much of a misfit as I had previously felt. The first half of my time there was spent in the melting-pot of campus life and as such, not entirely reflective of the attitudes of the 'native' population of Canberra. Over the years, though, I gradually began to meet more people who actually called Canberra home - indeed, became one of those people myself. It was there also that I first found myself amongst medieval recreationists - again a small subset of any population, with even smaller subsets within it - of which more later. I have observed that although its population is not uniformly thus of course, Canberra does tend to produce a particular sort of person who is a delightful - to me, at least - blend of rustic and sophisticate; quite appropriate, I suppose, for the Bush Capital.

Then there was Perth. What can I say of Perth, with its curious cultural mix of laid-back, sun-loving conviviality and slightly uptight parochialism? For one thing, I have seldom been as readily welcomed as I was when I first moved there; I suspect that was in large part because I had a ready-made circle of acquaintance through [personal profile] japester but having said that, I felt they were genuinely accepting of me in my own right as well. In keeping with my previous experience, the people with whom I spent time were largely of the subcultural persuasion - not just medieval recreationists this time but fans.

Fandom as such was a new concept for me. Of course I understood generally that one could be a fan of some particular form of creative expression - a type of music, a series of novels, a movie franchise or television series for example - and of the creators themselves; but I had not yet come across people who fully immersed themselves in fandom, engaging not just aesthetically with creative works and those who produce them, but also intellectually, emotionally and even socio-politically. Although Canberra and Melbourne and just about any Western city one can name have their own fan communities, the only one with which I have really associated is that of Perth; and that, I suspect, is how it will stay.

Much as I was embraced with open arms by the medieval recreationists in Perth, there were approaches to the game here that never sat well with me. In one sense, I think this is for similar reasons to those that prevented me from fully engaging with fandom - in each subcultural group, there are those for whom it isn't just part of their lifestyle; it is their life. Perhaps I hadn't been paying enough attention before but it seemed to me that I encountered more of the latter amongst medieval recreationists in Perth than I had anywhere else. Or perhaps it was simply that the particular culture of Perth's recreationist groups was not one that readily absorbed a darker and more subversive interpretation of medieval life - which can be fun to explore if you don't take the game too seriously.

So much for my experiences. It scarcely needs repeating that they have not exactly been of mainstream life in any of the places in which I have lived, with the exception of my childhood and adolescence - so it doesn't surprise me that this was the period of my life during which I felt most out of place. I don't know that I can say I've noticed great differences in the overall character of the people anywhere I've been in Australia; but it's likely this is just a reflection of the fact that I tend to gravitate towards similar kinds of people wherever I happen to be. Of course Melbourne, like anywhere else in the country, has its share of religious fanatics, social conservatives and Liberal voters; but their voices somehow seem more muted here and that suits me very well indeed.

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dormant_dragon

October 2013

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