To begin this, I have to refer you to am image in the Australia 2019 page. It shows a group of blokes sitting on a bench at the Bourke Street and Elizabeth Street intersection in Melbourne. There is a story here.
I was waiting for a friend there (Jane Zhang, an accomplished street photographer who took time to show me around) and noticed that the bloke in the middle had no socks on. He sat there with his mates chatting, and then abruptly the bloke on the right disappeared down Elizabeth Street. Just as suddenly as he disappeared, he reappeared this time carrying with him an apparently new pair of socks. If I had to guess, I would bet he had “liberated” them from somewhere, but who knows. His mate had had no socks and now he did. The photo shows him putting them on. How do I describe this? There’s only one appropriate word in the Aussie lexicon: Mateship. I love it.
I had been to see a footy game at the “G” in Melbourne and was looking for a street where I was going to meet an old friend and her husband for a meal. I wasn’t having much luck asking a couple of blokes from a foreign land who were wearing a uniform of some sort, when a lady wearing Sydney Swans supporters’ gear came up and asked if she could help. I told her where I wanted to go and she walked up the street with me because it was on her way. When she turned off she showed me which way to go.
At the visitors centre at Uluru, I had ordered a meat pie in the cafe (Australia makes the best meat pies). I was delving into my pockets looking for fifty cents to make up the amount required and was having no luck. A lady behind me put fifty cents on the counter for me and refused to be reimbursed when I finally found my change.
At the pub in King’s Canyon Thirsty Dingo, there were only two blokes serving and the queues were snaking out the door. They were being slowed down by hipsters ordering cocktails that required a degree in physics to mix. After a while I saw that the other queue , whose patrons were now ordering Four Ex Gold for the most part had begun to move a lot quicker so I joined the tail end. Just my luck that the bloke at the front decided to order six of something coloured purple that didn’t come straight out of a bottle. Then my original line quickened up and a lady who had been behind me found herself at the bar. Instead of ordering she called me over and, despite my protestations, let me order a beer. As they say in Glasgow “Ye cannae whack it”.
And in Alice Springs watching a footy game at the oval, I had gone to get a cold beer and a meat pie, paid my freight and walked back to my seat. Just before I turned down to get to where I was seated, I felt a pull on my shirt. I looked around and there was a young aboriginal girl holding out a ten dollar bill. “You dropped this”, she said. Read the last line of the preceding paragraph.
This was not just a series of coincidences. Similar things happened when I was in Broken Hill four years ago tracing my grandad’s steps. Ross Zimmerman and his wife from Newcastle went out of their way to show me around. Two blokes at the Imperial hotel befriended me on my first night and took me out to a club and a meal afterwards.
And this doesn’t even scratch the surface. I haven’t even mentioned the geography. Look at the photos to get an idea of that.
I could go on and on. I’ll say here what I tell everyone who can listen. If you could only go to one country in your life, you should go to ‘Straya. What more can I say?