In the Workhouse
"...astonish yourself at how gay all the big butch Aussie men are. Wonder at the
quality of the downtown tottie. Try not to show your disgust at their
horrible accent..." - RGR
7th February, 2002
There was a list of things I wanted to do in Sydney, such as, leering at the women on Bondi beach, leering at the women on Manly beach,
and being ate by a shark in the harbour. And all this fun has been postponed for five days by rain. Except that, pretty soon, the shark will be able to swim up to my door.
Rain! I escaped the drizzles of New Zealand for the driest continent on earth, just in time another week of continual, torrential rain, the worst in history. Jokers.
Fortunately my old and good friends Julien and Yvonne have put me up in their beautiful flat looking from a northern hill onto the harbour, and what's more they have Grand Theft Auto III for the PlayStation 2. I'm usefully filling the wet days turning myself into a moral void. I ram-raid, steal police cars, and dilberately mill over pedestrians before reversing, again and again, over their prostrate bodies, just to steal their money and guns.
That can't be right.
I've always had a robust view of Australians. I imagined all night swearing, beer
swilling and spitting contests before they get up to wrestle another croc, snake, rabid
koala, or Olympic gold medal to the ground. Perhaps they do do all that stuff in
Sydney, but it must be at weekends, or in winter when I'm not here. Right now all that
rough edged gusto is directed to struggles with designer clothes, mobile phones,
pesto ciabattas, celebrity chefs,
and other pursuits, that if this were not Australia, might be considered downright poofy.
I like Sydney. It is dynamic, full of life and interest, and beautifully placed
on the harbour and bays. The streets are full of attractive, confident women, and
probably some men too, though I can't say I noticed. I wonder if my faded convertible
trousers, so chic and de modo among backpackers, really cut it here.
The first couple of days here were fine, promising good weather, a modern sophisticated
city, quality days spent in King's Cross. This is a heady mixture of seedy strip clubs,
cheap hostels and low-rent internet shops. Backpacker's heaven. We went to La Traviata
performed in the park. Sydney bridge and opera house
are actually better in life than in pictures, as rarely happens.
And then the rain. I'm reminded of the old rhyme:
Limavady has a workhouse, a workhouse, a workhouse
Limavady has a workhouse
Nobody wants to go in
I'm trapped in the workhouse this week. When the weather clears, I'll find out more
about Sydney and tell you then.
I've been on the move for a long time now. It's a little strange to stay in my
friends' flat with my own room, use modern conveniences and eat with a knife and fork
like a Christian. I took a turn preparing dinner last night, and chose an old favorite
that would have posed no difficulty a year or two ago.
However, all I've cooked for months is
pasta, occasionally a baked potato, or even a sausage, if I were feeling a little risqué.
Everything had to be done in a hostel kitchen shared with twenty other people,
on a gas ring that I had to fight for and hold like a caveman. My sole kitchen utensil was
my penknife, which, as it was also my cutting chopping, prying and digging tool, had the benefit of adding
a certain piquant relish to the food.
Now I stood alone in the kitchen, surrounded by more prongs, sporks and spatulas
that I could put a name to, herbs, spices, exotic shaker/grinder/TV remote combos,
and wondered where on earth to begin.
I stared down at the raw chiken breast in my hand. The chicken breast, unmoved, stared back.
I wondered if I could sneak my penknife, unnoticed, out of my bedroom. For the flavour.
My other concern, now that I have surfaced in decent civilized society, is not to
appear a travel bore. In other words try not to start every single sentence,
"When I was in Guatemala..." or "yes, that reminds
me of that fascinating tribe I saved from certain extinction through my own brilliance...". Although it is of course vital that everybody know how interesting and multi-cultural I have become,
I can't harp on about it. It's a difficult line we travel gods walk.
I clean forgot about William Massey, Prime Minister of Zealand (1912-1925) and Limavady man!
I should have declared myself to the government there and won whatever there was to win.
We've both come a long way from the damp, low hills of Limavady, and God knows you should get a prize for that, or just
for not having been driven completely bonkers by the unending views of Orangemen, tractors and Scroggy Road.
Don't go into the workhouse, the workhouse, the workhouse
Don't go into the workhouse
You'll never get out again
Scroggy Road in the Autumn
Scroggy Road in the Spring
Tractors can be Fun