Home and Away

by Ant Stone on August 15, 2008

in Australia

Some years ago now, I was in my bedroom doing what any eight year old would do. I can’t remember exactly what that was. My guess is I was diving into the trench between my bed and wardrobe to wrestle a time-travelling German soldier, but I can’t be sure. I can’t even be sure I was eight. What I do remember was a young Australian boy, of similar age walking into my room and giving me a shiny gold coin with a picture of a kangaroo on it, for which I gave him a dull silver heptagon (a fair exchange rate). That day, his dad (but I can’t be sure it wasn’t his uncle, or even the German soldier) gave me a yellow plastic boomerang. For weeks to come I was found in a nearby field hurling that foreign Frisbee around. I sent it into the parallel universe and watched it weave its way across the Cambridgeshire Sahara, slashing a Martian’s middle ankle as it went, but I never did catch it. In the years that passed, a small koala bear appeared and grabbed hold of my lampshade and I received some airmail (very exciting for my age), it was two more boomerangs, made from wood and engraved with wondrous depictions of Australia, The Southern Land. The boomerangs hung to my wall overlooking my adolescent years and the koala, well, he’s probably still gripping that lampshade and blinded by dust. And me? Well, I defeated the German before bedtime, and now I’ve made it to Australia.

The two-part inward flight from Bali to Melbourne was inaugurated in the most marvellous manner; meat pies and cans of Victoria Bitter (VB) fastened the buckles on 76 smiles while womanly hostesses tended to our every need. ‘More pie, sir? How about another beer?’ I sighed before silently musing, ‘marry me’. ‘Sorry sir, would that be a yes?’ ‘Yes, I’ll marry you, and I’ll have a pie, and I’d better have another beer please. I think this pie has gone to my head’. Reb didn’t seem to notice; she was trying to find the catch in the bottom of her second large glass of Jacobs Creek. There was a four-hour layover in Darwin, the first three of which were spent watching a queue drip remarkably similar looking Australians into remarkably silent taxis. A stout looking man hauled an impressive paunch below a neatly trimmed goatee while a slouching fathers-son followed sluggishly behind beside his mother whose face I pictured hooked over the lip of a pint of VB, or yelling turbulent abuse at a demure neighbour.

I saw this family over and over, and curiously they were always wearing different clothes, but there was no sign of the beautiful Australians I’d seen laced over Asia. This was my first time out of Asia in over thirteen months, so the very sight of that taxi rank naturally had me calculating the cost of being Western. As one hundred, no two hundred (maybe three hundred) homecomers queued for a fixed-rate taxi to pay $20, no $30 (maybe $40) for a ride home when 24 hours previously they were haggling for 1000, no 2000, no 3000 Indonesian rupees off a souvenir Bintang singlet (trust me, the biggest icon of tacky hooligans this side of Blackpool). I left Darwin’s airport, shortly after catching the NT News headline ‘5m croc launches at man’s head’. I still love that.

I’m lucky to have a girlfriend (fullstop?) with friends in the right places, so accompanying our arrival in Melbourne was a welcome sense of calm. We were picked up from the airport in a car so big I expected it to have its own check-in desk. Our host and driver, Miss Tara, rolled us along the freeway (beneath a big cheese stick and through a pointless tunnel) before gliding down a slip road and into suburban Australia. If I were a lazy writer, I’d describe Melbourne as appearing like small town America, with elements of trendy London stitched into its fabric. I’ve arrived in winter, the days are around 10°C but with the wind being blown off nearby snow-capped mountains the wind pinches your face and makes your insides scream “whhhhyyyy?!” When the sky isn’t dressed in its sheik blue veil, it fields herds of small fluffy clouds marching over from the faraway horizon, these clouds, when strung above the youthful Melburnians drifting through streets of bright signs and proud colonial architecture gives the city a melodic carnival atmosphere. I’ve felt the same way as swords of sunshine slay the giant shadows in the city centre after rain, leaving the pavements wet and as smooth as black steel and reflecting the party into infinity.

I felt at home every time I stepped outside our host’s (Tara’s parents, Murray and Jen) house, and when I returned I was pushing buttons, pulling handles and staring at gorgeous electronic displays telling me it was 20c, 42mins, nodisc, CH-7 etc. One day I spent a good two minutes turning the tap from hot to cold and back again and nearly died at the hands of hidden angels while pouring blank cold milk over a bowl of muesli; a bowl of muesli whose size I’d defined myself and not just pointed at a dog-eared menu. These, are the real pleasures that I will divulge to anyone who asks me what I miss about that gentle little place called home. I listened to Miss Tara take directions from her sturdy father; “NO! You go down Boogie Woogie Street. Then hit the freeway, come off at King and Queen Street and do a u’ee then a righty onto Roo Rar Road by the big y’know, then do another u’ee, and another u’ee and park up on Bintang Road, get out there – but you just be careful alright – and take the tram up to Gingang Gooley Road’. I could of mixed a street name or two, but you get my point – Melbourne is a place always on the move, and a place where things are done. In my first three days in Melbourne I devoured – the Melbourne equivalent of – Indian, Chinese, fish and chips and Thai and my laptop has never been happier than when it was lapping up WiFi.

So here’s my Melbourne plan, reader(s); find a phone, find a home, wash some clothes, find a job, revitalise this website, revitalise myself, revitalise my writing (because lets face it, I’ve gone a bit ‘cuckoo, cuckoo’ recently) and above all, catch a boomerang. There are sub-plans such as grab a car and ‘do a u’ee, then a righty’ and to eat a Pie Floater (tune in next time). Melbourne is what you could call a stepping-stone to eventual greater things, the circumnavigation of Australia for a start, and a surely spellbinding jaunt through the spinal cord of its neighbour, New Zealand, before a possible rollercoaster of reward in South America. But first, Melbourne, I can say that with a quiver of excitement in my tapping fingers, because from what I’ve seen so far, what a great place to (temporarily) call home.


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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

David Flynn August 18, 2008 at 2:20 pm

Hi Ant,

I occasionally check in on your blog from time to time. I enjoy your anecdotes and writing style. We are in Cambodia now and heading for Vietnam. It has been an interesting ride so far since we meet you in Singapore. Will be in NZ from October. Maybe see you there sometime!

Dave & Angie (Irish slash German couple)

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Nomadic Matt August 18, 2008 at 2:24 pm

Melbourne is an amazing city. I loved my time there…You’ll have a blast and there is a lot of work there too!

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Ant August 20, 2008 at 10:35 am

@David’n'Angie: Thanks mate, I’m actually jealous that you’re still in Asia. I didn’t quite make it, as you may of read. It’s these womenfolk you see, they’re distracting! I remember you saying you’ll be touring NZ and working some, is this still the case?

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Tara August 21, 2008 at 12:15 pm

Miss Tara hey? Nice work Ant, how very patriotic of you. Loved to hear such great things about this place I call home.

Miss Tara

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