Beyond the cupboard of broken toys — Part 17


I know I am not the first person to express this view but I don’t care. I am going to say it anyway: Sydney, New South Wales, Australia is probably one of the most pleasing, attractive and friendly cities on earth.

There. I’ve said it.

On the evening I land at Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport I am met by a whole gang of my friends. And they are all anxious that I should sample a generous portion of hospitality. I am whisked away to the Rocks where we have some pints of excellent beer. I later discover that this is not generally an Australian thing. Beer is almost never consumed in pints in Australia.

I am amazed and charmed to see bats flying around. The last time I saw a real live bat was about 20 years earlier when, aged 13, I was on a camping holiday with my family. We were walking down a country lane at dusk and a bat landed on my head. It scared the shit out of me. I freaked out. I had to go and be sick in the hedge. My Mum told me not to be so silly. But she wasn’t the one that a bat had landed on. I spent the rest of the evening in a corner of the pub shaking with nervousness.

I am now in the pub in the Rocks. I am lumbering around in zombie mode (with which I am familiar). I am very, very jet-lagged. Kind friends take me away and I sink into a comfortable bed. I wake up at four in the morning. The sun hasn’t risen and I have no idea where I am. I get up and put on some shorts. I am sitting on a veranda looking out onto the ocean. The wash of the waves is lulling me back to sleep. I wake again at about seven. My hosts have got up and are doing normal breakfast things. But I am amazed. I am amazed at everything. Everything is new and strange and I want to see it all.

I want to do everything as quickly as possible. It doesn’t even begin to occur to me how tiresome I am. I am just awe-struck by the strangeness of everything around me.

The family take me to their hearts right away. I can’t tell you how happy that makes me. They are patient of my clumsy newness with everything. But, I have brought gifts. The kind of gifts you can bring on a 23 hour air journey with minimal luggage. I have brought: 2 x VCR tapes of Wallace and Gromit. 1 x Boomerang. 1 x Bottle whiskey.

The boomerang is a bit of a gamble. When I arrive at Australian customs they demand to see anything organic. Just in case it might be infested with Cane Toads or the like. I show the bloke the boomerang.

“Hey, Mate!” he is impressed (or, at least seems to be impressed), “Are you here for the World Boomerang Championships?”

At this point I have underestimated the Australian capacity for breathtaking bullshit, so I say I am, hoping this will put him off. He is fine with it and lets me through. It takes me a good while to discover there is no International Boomerang Championships. I have been duped, Australian style, and not for the last time.

Once again, I am sleepwalking through my life.

I need to report that the boomerang was a complete failure. I never managed to get it to swirl around and return in the approved manner. Crappy DIY boomerang article and diagram. I will complain to the library.

Boomerang = Fail. And not the only fail I will have on this holiday.

With an astounding generosity of spirit people have lined up all sorts of things for me to do. We go to visit a collector somewhere in Sydney. He has an amazing collection of unique keyboard instruments. I greatly appreciate the effort but I am still jet-lagged and can hardly keep my eyes open. It will be at least two weeks before I can get it together.

My hosts take me on a bit of a tour to see some of the local sights. I am staying with them in a city called Wollongong. It is actually a contiguous string of lovely suburban townships along the foot of a mighty escarpment that forms a part of the Great Dividing Range. It is one of those neglected jewels. This is on account that it is associated with industrial coal mining. Not that you would know it. From my point of view it is almost too perfect. I have fallen in love with the Industrial South.

I am immediately finding Australia is a beguiling thing. Compared to living in Deptford, London, SE8, Wollongong is pretty much close to some species of paradise on earth.

I have got a lot to learn.