On Moving-in to our New Abode
The moving-in was quite painless -
after all we only had suitcases to shift which Wombat was quite capable of
handling (Yes, the new set of wheels had to be given a name and since it was big,
cuddly and Australian it got called “Wombat”. Probably not quite the image that
the marketeers of Holden Commodore Executives would
aspire to - they’d probably like something more thrusting and dynamic such as
“Stud” or “Throb”, but, after all, it is me that has to drive it!).
However the place
seemed awfully empty - our stuff from the UK hadn’t arrived, not that it made
much difference when it did, consisting as it did of about two coffee tables
plus countless crates of redundant tools such as oil-filter wrenches for mean
types who’d sooner die than pay someone else to mend the motor! So we had a
short overlap period during which we slept at the Condo and scoured
Poor Daddy was by now missing his little pussy back in England and we tried to have the “no animals” clause in the lease relaxed so that we could be introduced to domestic feline husbandry in the antipodes (Psst - don’t tell Mitzie cat I’ve been considering infidelity!). However the horrid, unscrupulous, profiteering, asiatic Rackman-type owner insisted that we couldn’t have one. Maybe this is the time to introduce the Phantom Ozmog of Shepherd Road. (“Cat, Mr. Hoo Flung Dung, what cat? Oh! That cat! - It must have wandered in from next door!) But then, Daddy would miss the Ozmog too in five year’s time (or have to fork out for quarantine).
Have you ever noticed how Brits
abroad quickly revert to type and create an environment in which they can do whatever
they used to do back in Blighty? The family handyman’s first project was to
construct a workbench from a pile of old wood found in the basement; now he
feels comfortable that if anything breaks he has a bench to fix it on, but
ignores the fact that the only major project undertaken so far has been the
construction of the bench! The family gardener was overjoyed to find himself a
run-down and unloved garden to sort out so that the mistress of the house could
bring him cracked mugs of coffee while he mulched and double-dug and hunted for
forget-me-nots to plait in her hair. He was less overjoyed to be forced into
the purchase of a set of garden tools which duplicate those standing idly in
Gawd, fings don’t ‘alf grow quick out ‘ere - a case of plant it and immediately retire two paces backwards! - “Read all abaht it – ‘orrible death in Glen Waverley - man crushed by falling cabbage!”
More Expeditions into the Wild
We managed to get some of the way West from Melbourne along the Great Ocean Highway - Dire Straits’s “On Every Street” on the car stereo, sun beating down, air conditioner on; real cool, man. Haven’t done the like since the IUKADGE project when it was the San Bernadino Freeway and The Eagles’s “Hotel California”. Every bend revealed yet another idyllic, deserted, fine-sanded beach with blue sky, blue sea, white surf and green, flower-bedecked cliffs - magic!
In the other direction, East, lies
We also went to the Healesville Sanctuary to view some bored ‘roos, snooty koalas, cuddly wombats, rare platipussies (boo hoo!) and some unassertive Tasmanian devils who are in dire need of a new publicity operation.
Les Routiers Down Under
(On having to take another driving test at the tender age of 52!)
Any innocent Pom who has popped into
one of Les’s transport caffs on the old autoroute could be excused for thinking
that an establishment known as “Vic Roads” in Glen Waverley could also be
relied on to serve up a tasty helping of bouillabaisse and chips with a cracked
pint mug of Coonawarra claret. However it turns out to be a crafty way of
bolstering the Victorian road budget by refusing to recognise the good, solid,
British driving licence for more than 3 months and then insisting on the
procurement of a pricey Victorian replacement. One could understand it if one
Meanwhile ‘Er Indoors had applied for her Learner’s Permit and took the same written test as The Lord and Master, getting exactly the same score. It was only afterwards that we compared notes and found that we could have colluded, honest! She is now doing well in lessons, but was disappointed to find her instructor was not a potential temptation as he is of an age where the purchase of a ten-year battery for his pacemaker would make poor economic sense.
Dotheboys Hall, or Victorian Schooling
Peter James Anthony Gillis was finally dragged, squealing, into the local Quelch-house which was fortunately at the end of Shepherd Road, a short walk on the same side of the road. As usual it took him only nanoseconds to become a fully integrated and valued member of the juvenile community, with teachers describing him as “a charming child” even though he can’t do Orstralian sums (no, they don’t put the denominator on top of the numerator!).
No, we haven’t seen either Kylie Minogue or Jason Donovan. We are surrounded by Italians who shout at each other passionately as Italians do. Salvatore on one side, ‘e maka de beeg fortune witha de Great Australian Dream, ‘e sellsa the fruit and veg and can afford a gardener. The other side is a vacant lot. In my gardening efforts I am competing with the vacant lot! I have some interesting “fern trees” in the garden - a case of “Fronds and Neighbours”?!
Ozzy telly is radiated mainly on
625-line VHF with one channel of UHF in
The newspapers are uniformly awful with strange names born of convoluted crosses - Herald-Sun, Telegraph-Mirror, etc. I read “The Australian” which is the nearest to a British “heavy” - it features a genuine “Times” crossword - alternatively “The Age” which is appropriate to a person of advanced years and has more Melbourne news. In both the international news is very American-dominated and poor old Blighty gets very little mention.
I have found a radio station featuring boring-old-fart rock music such as Fleetwood Mac and Dire Straits which is good to syncopate the mulching and double-digging. The more cultured half of our union misses her Radio 4 quite badly.
Those who know me well will be concerned to hear that I still haven’t been in one. Not so much willpower as a lack of subverting chums! However I have conducted a diligent search for a tinny with even a vestige of beer taste, without success. Whatever they call it, ale, bitter or lager, it all tastes of blooming lager! The most acceptable drink I’ve found is (believe it or not) a Tasmanian stout from the Cascade brewery!. Even a Newcastle Broon found lurking in a corner of the local Liquorland didn’t taste the same. Still, I’m persisting with my quest; who knows I may start to like it and come back as a geriatric Lager Lout! And there’s always the wine to fall back on (or with!).......
Banking Down Under
A subject of some relevance to
someone who wishes to place his ill-gotten gains somewhere where it can be
siphoned off to pay the mortgage on a chilly and unoccupied pile of bricks and
mortar in the UK (anybody want to rent a place in Wicky B?). I had opened an
account with the Commonwealth Bank
And How about The Weather?
Enough was said in Episode 1 about
the Gillis theory of advection anomalies in the antipodes. Suffice it to say
that it continues to be very variable, quite unpredictable and supported by a
meteorological service that would make Michael Fish sound totally trustworthy.
It only fair to say that it is usually sunny. Since
The run-up to Xmas was predictably
strange, the weather being generally hot. The strangeness is compounded by local
Christmas cards featuring snow, and Father Christmases sweltering in red robes
and cotton-wool ermine. I picked up a can of spray-on snow in a shop the other
day, looked at CBAG and burst out laughing at the incongruity. But why do we
have to have snow scenes? Presumably
Christmas Day was pleasantly warm
(upper twenties °C) and sunny. We just had to go to the beach as a matter of
principle. The drive there through
Christmas we spent three day’s walking in the Grampians, a range of folded and
eroded sedimentary cuestas with porphyritic inclusions providing interesting
rock formations and attractive waterfalls, rising a modest 1000m about 300km
west of Melbourne (it sez ‘ere!). The weather was good to us, but on our return
decided to lash down with rain again for a week, completing a record rainy and
sunless December and upsetting those Marconi relatives who had decided to spend
Xmas in the sun. On at least one occasion it was 14°C in
On his return from pseudo-Jockland the Gardener of Australia bought himself a late present of an environmentally-friendly electric mulcher!
Feelings So Far
So what do we think of it after four
months hanging upside down by our feet?
In many, totally unexpected areas it has turned out to be far better
than expected. For instance, back in the old
See your newsagent for our amazing next issue, featuring “Knit your own microwave mulcher” and “The effect of the cuddly toy in the treatment of acute feline deprivation syndrome”......!