Feeling complicated

Hobart, Australia

A quick update, so you don’t forget who we are!

Just at the end of three weeks in Australia. For Marisa it has been an opportunity to fill in some gaps – having lived here for 6 years, but never been to Sydney. For me it is an odd introduction to such a huge place, and popular tourist destination. This certainly isn’t ‘THE’ Australia trip. I haven’t ‘done’ the place. We haven’t been within a thousand miles of the white sand beaches of Queensland, or visited Ayers Rock or anything.

We came here, primarily, to visit friends – and its been lovely to have the warmth of their company over the last few weeks – no to mention the warmth of Dean’s car through Sydney thunderstorms, and Karen & Paddy’s house in the Melbourne rain.

The whole sensation of being in Australia is a strange transition between American ‘anglo’ culture, and something a whole lot more familiar. Partly it’s the road signs. America has its fair share of UK derived place names, but its nothing compared to the experience of Sydney, where you can shop on Oxford Street, and where the rough stuff happens in Kings Cross (though in a dodgy-district showdown, I think London’s finest would knock Australia’s effort for six. There’s simply nothing dodgier that the lanes by the Kings Cross Goods Yard at 4am on a Sunday morning.)

In Melbourne we saw roadsigns to ‘Croydon, Ringwood, Mitcham’ like some navigationally twisted dream.

They drive on the left (freaks) and put the Queen’s head on their coins (fools).

But it’s much deeper than that. I didn’t expect to feel this much at home.

In part, I think I’d expected Australians to make me the outsider – being after all a Pom. As Karen explained it to me, ‘we are a nation of baggers’ and I’d expected some snidery about, at the very least, cricket. But there’s been beautiful, blissful silence.

I’ll put that down to Aussie friendliness, but you can, if you like, put it down to the deep national scars inflicted last year by Wilkinson and Company.

Either way, its very welcoming, and in return I’ve been taking a great interest in Australian Rules Football – a fantastic game – and shouting, ultimately in vain, for St Kilda, which is, bizarrely, a suburb of Melbourne and not a distant cluster of uninhabited hebridean islands.

Thorn in my side

We hired a van to drive round Tasmania, and it had a tape player, but we had no tapes. So we stopped at an ‘Op’ (charity) shop and picked up a copy of the soundtrack to Crocodile Dundee – in a bid for cliché heaven. The sounds of the didgeridoo have haunted us round the island. The only other tape we could find (except for Walt Disney’s Black Beauty, which I vetoed) was a Eurythmics concert.

Annie Lennox and whatshernamefromCrocodileDundee. A strange twosome with little in common – except for 80s hairdos, a taste in bushmen, and a penchant for g-strings. What does this mean?

The first time I saw you, you were standing in the rain

Small steps to reintegration with English living. Chapter 1. Rain. (where else could it begin?)

Melbourne has performed a valuable service. Grey, rainy, cold, windy. Ah, I remember it well. After such predictable, and glorious, climates, the maritime unpredictability of Victoria, and subsequently of Tasmania, is a wake up call indeed.

But as we sauntered downtown in Melbourne’s downtown, from clothes store to coffee shop to record store, it was remarkably easy to turn up your collar, and not notice. A lifetime of practice, I guess.

When tomorrow comes

We leave at 10am for New Zealand. Having decided to stay a while we’ve been able to push our flights out to the last minute. As we touch down in Auckland it will be a year since we left London, and our return coupons will promptly expire – leaving us to find our own way home.

We’ve been in Tasmania for the last 10 days. Its Australia’s very own New Zealand. Indeed, some Tasmanians would prefer you refer to the rest of the country as ‘The North Island’. As someone explained it to me, whenever anyone goes from Tasmania to the rest of Australia, the average IQ of both islands increases. This may not be true.

But Tassie is a beautiful windswept distant feeling kind of place. With white sandy beaches, snow capped mountains, quaint mining town and almost unlimited miles of nothing.

You can tell you are approaching New Zealand. Everyone in America has a mailbox at the end of their drive, but no one in America would ever, in a million years, use a milk churn, or an old barrel, or a plastic bucket as a substitute box.

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