A comparison of honesty

60% of the brain is water

60% of the brain is water

It is widely accepted by the majority of reputable medical sources, that for an average healthy male, the brain is sixty percent water (by weight). Similarly, the rest of the body is around 75% water.

For the brain, the rest is taken up with structures of the brain, blood, cerebral fluids and the like. This does make you ask how something as complex and varied as consciousness can exist in what is, in effect a wobbly bucket of blancmange?

Questions of consciousness aside, it does emphasise the importance of remaining hydrated to healthy brain and body functions. Failing to do so could therefore have consequences to both and may account, at least in part, to an increase in my tendency to put things down and forget them over recent days. Although I must admit this isn’t entirely new, as one of my last actions before leaving the UK was to stop my Oyster card ( a travel card for public transport in London).

My blog posting are somewhat Australian centric at present. Obviously they won’t be forever, but it isn’t entirely unexpected as I explore this place for the first time.

Put those two facts together and it doesn’t take much of a leap of reasoning to understand why I might be considering honesty as experienced in the UK and Australia.

18th/19th century 'transported' prisoners

18th/19th century ‘transported’ prisoners

So, what do we ‘know’ as a starting point? Well (with apologies in advance to my Australian friends) it’s widely believed in some circles in the UK that everyone in Australia is descended from rampant sheep rustlers (at best) – so dishonesty is far more likely. This has a number of flaws, not least historical inaccuracy – but never let the facts get in the way of a good stereotype.

It also misses the point that even if this had been the case, these ‘offenders’ were English and French (providing the majority of transported prisoners), so it would be reasonable to apply the same national stigma to the originating countries. Finally. transportation ended over 150 years ago. To suggest this has any residual bearing on national characteristics assumes the nature versus nurture debate has been won, which to best of my knowledge is not yet the case.

Bow Street Runners

Bow Street Runners

In contrast of course, the British Isles virtually single-handedly created the model for the modern police service, designed an effective Courts system and is the home of Parliamentary democracy – so surely honesty must be in the very DNA of its nationals.

Very few people ask why quite so many judicial functions were necessary in such a law abiding idyll. The vast majority of the population at this time lived in degrees of poverty. Whilst I count myself as a decent and responsible person, were I subject to those levels of social inequality and injustice, I may well have found myself travelling south courtesy of HMG.

Three modern day examples of honest behaviours spring to mind in this effort to compare and contrast the differences in thought processes and behaviours between the UK and Australia. These are the case of the mislaid camera, the mystery of the stolen wallet and the misplacing of the travel ticket.

Tahbilk wineries

Tahbilk wineries

Yesterday, I was lucky enough to visit Tahbilk wineries in Victoria (purely for tourist purposes you understand) and spent a very pleasant afternoon sampling their various products.

Not unlike many venues of this type, they were very popular with a reasonable number of visitors. Lunch was available in their bistro and my newish camera (Cannon D70) was placed on the chair next to me while we ate.

For reasons I can’t quite fathom it remained there after we left and it was only when we had left the winery that I realised it was missing. Making a quick turn around I went back to the bistro more in hope than expectation of finding the camera. However, it had been handed in and was behind the bar. The owner seemed quite alarmed that some people wouldn’t have considered returning it asking ‘but why wouldn’t they? The pictures won’t mean anything to them and you’d have to go in to Melbourne to get one of them’.

The thought that a thief may still be driven by emotional considerations rather than merely the profit motive was refreshing and striking. The similar situation in the UK would have been fruitless (in my view). It did make me wonder whether the sheer scale of this country/continent has an impact. The issue of replacing a stolen item and the disruption that would cause was factored into the consideration. It simply wouldn’t be an issue at home.

The second incident related to the theft of a wallet. It was explained to me (and independently corroborated by others) that it is fairly common for a pick-pocket to lift a wallet and after removing the available folding money to post the wallet in the nearest post box at which point the Australian postal service will attempt to return it to the owning bank or owner. All rather civilised  and different to the occasion I had my wallet stolen in London and was able to trace the pickpockets route by the trail of discarded content along his/her route. So if we did export our criminals it appears to have been the gentleman burglar school of larcenist.

TFL Oyster Card

TFL Oyster Card

The final comparison relates to the loss of travelcards. I mentioned that I had misplaced an oyster card in London. A quick check online showed that whilst in Canberra on 19th December I was simultaneously on the number 36 bus in Kennington.

In the world of e-travel it’s easy to see where your lost/stolen card has been used – not something my ‘finder’ thought about. So again, if we did export our criminal classes we must have sent the brighter end of the spectrum.

I mentioned that I had stopped the card some days earlier, however this hasn’t been processed in time so I lost my twenty pounds – after all it’s just an oyster card. Unfortunately a fairly typical reaction today.

Revolving restaurant

Revolving restaurant

Contrast that with the efforts of the staff at Sydney’s revolving restaurant where a similarly inconsequential travel card was left on the table. On reporting this the waiting staff made checks with their colleagues and offered apologies as to its loss. More effort than I had expected and more than experienced at home with Transport for London.

However, this was insufficient for the manager who at his insistence searched the ‘rubbish’ from the cleared tables and recovered the travel card. Something which I just cannot imagine happening in many places in the UK.

Although I don’t believe that Australia is free from its fair share of nefarious characters, there does seem to be something in the national psyche that is fundamentally honest. Of course both countries have their own shared similarities – the flexible approach to ticket purchases on some forms of public transport being good examples.

However, based on my personal experiences over the last 2 weeks I would say in terms of the UK ‘God save us from ungracious thieves’ and here ‘Advance Australia fair’

The Secret: Summer Saturnalia

 

Regular readers of this blog and those who know me well will be aware that I’m not usually a great fan of Christmas. It seemed a really good idea when I was six and the man in the red suit arrived via the chimney. However, since that period the idea somehow lost its appeal.

The Long Room

The Long Room

The secret it would appear is to try and do something so unlike Christmas but retaining the naming conventions (or the vast majority) that it passes by painlessly. That was certainly my experience of Christmas 2014. So for others who usually struggle to cope with the Saturnalian festivities here is a brief summary of my most enjoyable festive period in recent memory.

Setting up the ‘long room’ was perhaps the first and most significant difference in preparation for Christmas dinner. The concept of an outdoor Christmas dinner in the UK would normally include a final course consisting of two doctors and a social worker.

Contrary to popular belief, it is possible to dine al fresco in the UK but never, never at Christmas. Setting the table and hanging Christmas decorations in 26 degrees was another significant difference. I even had time for a thankfully brief introduction to some of the countries flaura finding a red-back spider scurrying away from under one of the cushion seats. Our arachnoid guest was quickly removed from play and didn’t rejoin the celebrations at any point. Having made sure he/she was the only guest trying to crash the party the outside dining space was complete.

The Seafood addition

The Seafood addition

Another benefit of the Australian Christmas (at least in Melbourne) was the addition of a seafood course. Whilst the odd salmon (usually smoked) makes an appearance at home, it would typically be around New Year. Thanks to Jevon’s 5am dash to the Victoria Street markets we had a range of prawns and oysters, all incredibly fresh and cooked to perfection.

To Australian friends, so far so typical. However, the mix of summer weather, fresh oysters and the phrase ‘Happy Christmas’ was so incongruous that any comparisons to meals at home would be difficult to make.

The main course was both delicious and reassuringly familiar including turkey, cranberries and all the trimmings, but with the added step of considering whether you have enough sun screen with your turkey.

One way to confuse the Brit is to ask where the bon-bons are just before the main course arrives. For a moment I had a mental image of chocolate covered toffee sprinkled with icing sugar as a follow on to oysters. However, I was quickly advised that bon-bons are what I would know as Christmas crackers. (With emphasis on the ‘crack’ for those who remember Margo Ledbetter). Unbelievably I even put on the Christmas hat -which fitted (UK manufacturers please note).

A truly naughty Santa!

A truly naughty Santa!

It’s probably worth taking an aside to explain how the task of buying appropriate gifts for every living relative in your extended family was handled. The Secret Santa concept has landed firmly in Australia so I had just one person to buy for in the Kris Kringle present exchange.

However, there was what I suspect is a wholly Aussie alternative which certainly got everyone engaged and interacting well. This was known as ‘Naughty Santa’.

Basically, you  start with a box of presents equal in number to that of your guests. Then after drawing lots, the first recipient opens their present. Obviously, this is (at least temporarily) their present.

However, kleptomania is still permitted (at least in parts of Victoria). When the next guest takes their turn, they can choose to open a new present or steal any one of the preceeding presents from their recipient. If your gift is stolen by a naughty Santa, you have the choice of opening one of the remaining presents or stealing a present (however you can’t steal back from the person who just stole from you while they have your gift). This can result in cascading kleptomania and a long gift giving – but (say it secretly Richard) is also quite a lot of fun.

Sweet sweets

Sweet sweets

It has been said (from time to time) that I have a sweet tooth or can be something of a pudding monster. Forget traditional Christmas or plum puddings (which I had previously thought  I was addicted to) – none of them here.

Instead, a selection of trifles (tropical and boozy), bread and butter pudding, cheesecake, trifle – well you get the idea. Each of the components contributed by different guests and more than enough for even the most veracious pudding monsters.

We were doubly lucky as with that much food (and consequently left-overs) the fridge in our flat was called into service for the overflow. I can’t quite account for the gradual reduction in the mango and passion fruit trifle whilst it was in there – but I’m certainly glad we had the spare fridge space.

What was striking was that the television didn’t feature in the day at all. Everyone had more than enough to discuss, share and enjoy without having to resort to the anonymity of the couch potato.

The Macedon Test

The Macedon Test

One final difference for Christmas Day was the Macedon Test. Cricket on Christmas Day with a significant risk of being sun frazzled was the icing on the cake. I’ve still got some local customs to experience (this year’s donger races were cancelled for reasons nobody can now recall – don’t ask what a donger race is!)

A relaxed evening at which a very pleasant selection of Australian wines were consumed finished off the celebrations – although I must admit to having a slightly hazier recollection of those events thanks to a rather maliciously sneaky Margaret River Sav.

So all in all a very different and enjoyable Summer Christmas which is one I’ll always remember for all the right reasons – but probably never fully get my head around.

So, from a non Christmas fan, Australia has a convert to Summer Christmas which should be wrapped and exported pdq.

 

Reflections on a summer Christmas

Frosty the Sandman

Frosty the Sandman

I have come to accept that some things in life are just going to mess with your existing concept of the universe.

Already firmly filed in this category are shops selling ‘vegetarian fish and chips’,  water sommeliers, bags or pre-grated cheese, retail bags of ice, contemporary discordant popular music and Bjork.

Now I have to add a Summer Christmas to that list. It isn’t that I don’t like it, far from it actually, but it does certainly play with your concepts of normality and seasonal preconceptions.

As someone who was born and currently lives in a northern European country heavily influenced by the Christmases of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, this is certainly something of a challenge.

Victorian Christmas Tree

Victorian Christmas Tree

It’s rather like the surprise you experience as a child when you realise that the Christmas tree so prominent in carols and cards was virtually unheard of 15o years ago.

The Germanic traditions of Christmas with a decorated tree, ice decorations (thought to have evolved into tinsel) and decorations was adopted in Britain as late as the 1850’s. By the second world war it had been deeply engrained in most north European countries as well as the wider world.

Prior to that, Christmas  in the  United Kingdom was much more about the ‘Holly and the Ivy’ – simple greenery being brought into the great halls of houses to ‘deck’ them, a tradition which was a carry over from the pagan Saturnalia, but has now been all but forgotten.

So, given this, it wasn’t unheard of to have seasonal norms questioned. The most surprising thing which struck me was that the stereotypical view of Christmas was so similar. Scenes with Father Christmas (apparently less commonly referred to as Santa Clause), snow, deep mid winter and frost all echoed the Victorian Germanic tradition.

Christmas Shopping

Christmas Shopping

However, I wasn’t prepared for some of the mind warping impacts of Christmas in Summer.

The thought of searching for Christmas gifts whilst dashing between areas of shade to prevent sunburn is certainly novel for me.

The  incongruity of listening to Frosty the Snowman whilst applying sunscreen in 30 degrees is both amusing, and entirely brain twisting.

Who knows what the day itself will bring, but as a natural Christmas avoider (at all costs) the novelty and difference in the run up to Christmas 2014 has been refreshing. That said, whilst entirely welcome it was also challenging and thought provoking in equal measure. Stand by for the day itself!

So much Government: Thoughts of an unexpected constitutional monarchist.

The second institution I visited whilst in Canberra was the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia. For the Brits reading this, please don’t confuse this with our usual meaning of the word Commonwealth. – Perhaps a little explanation and context is in order (with apologies to my new and existing Australian friends for the bits I get wrong). So firstly a brief revisitation of the history of Australia for my fellow Brits.

Captain James Cook RN

Captain James Cook RN

The first record of Europeans sailing into Australian waters is dated around 1606, and includes their observations of the land known as Terra Australis Incognita (unknown southern land). This was by Dutchman, Willem Janszoon. A former buccaneer, William Dampier, was the first Englishman to land on the Australian mainland ( 5th January 1688 in his ship the Cygnet).He was the first European to report Australia’s peculiar ‘large hopping animals’. Capt James Cook didn’t chart the Australian East Coast until 1770 in HM Barque Endeavour.

So between 1606 and 1770 numerous contacts were made and around that time (not least because of the British East India Company) a number of interactions with Europeans took place. Contrary to popular belief in parts of Europe, not all those landing on Australian soil were convicts. In fact, Britain and France conducted most ‘transportations’. The first British was ‘cast into exile’ according to Court records in 1788. The last transportation took place from England in 1868.

As a result of these to-ings and fro-ings, six States emerged being (alphabetically) New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania (formerly Van Diemen’s Land), Victoria and Western Australia. Details of their evolution can be found here.

Then there are the territories. These are lesser jurisdictions and are not ‘full states’. In many senses they are governed directly from the Federal Commonwealth. The mainland territories are: Australian Capital Territory (Canberra and surrounds) and Northern Territory. In addition, the staunchly independent Australia (and rightly too) holds a number of overseas territories being: Ashmore and Cartier Territory, Australian Antarctic Territories, Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Coral Sea Islands, Christmas Island, Heard and McDonald Islands, Indian Ocean Territories, Jervis Bay Territory and Norfolk Island.

I wont go into the differences between States and Territories except arguably the most important difference being the number of representatives elected to the Senate (upper house).

Purely for the purposes of shared understanding and explanation to a UK audience, think of the modern Federated setup in this way. Consider the Government in Canberra to be the National Government of Australia. (A phrase which causes some difficulty in Australia) The six original states can be considered as sovereign states much like those in the US. However, they are also in some senses a kind of super charged Local Authority in terms a Brit would understand.

Flag of Australia

Flag of Australia

The first challenge to the brain of a UK visitor could be summed up in the question “How many countries exist on the mainland of Australia?”
Surely the answer is One ? – Well of course in many senses it is, but students of Australian constitutional law (and those who have them as their significant others) will tell you that each of the six original states is a ‘sovereign state’ in it’s own right. Each with Queen Elizabeth II as their head of state.

Nobody I have asked (and I’ve asked a few) has been able to tell me the difference between a ‘sovereign state’ and a country.  However, they all pointed out that the recognition of the original six states is preserved by the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia. Interestingly, that Commonwealth Constitution was enacted by the UK Parliament. Powers to the Australian territories were in turn granted by the Commonwealth of Australia with the States being autonomous in their own right.

The States were brought together in Federation in 1901 (much later than I had thought) with that overarching entity being the Commonwealth of Australia. Some Australians have made a comparison between this relationship and that of the member states of the EU. In that model, Canberra becomes a type of Supranational body. With these nuggets of information and background firmly planted in my head, we made our way to tour the Australian Parliament.

Australian Parliament

Australian Parliament

The new Australian Parliament buildings are situated at one end of  Anzac Parade. The architects and designers were reportedly extremely keen to ensure that the Parliament was not sitting ‘above’ the people it represented but rather that the people were above it’s Parliament.

This thinking led to the excavation of a large hill in Canberra where the Parliament was then constructed and the hill rebuilt around and above the Parliament. Indeed, you can walk up the hill to the point immediately under the rather impressive and imposing flagpole. At that point you are indeed above the Parliamentary chambers.

It was a huge political statement to design a Parliament in this way, although arguably only partially successful. The hill is still significantly higher than most of Canberra and some height above the old Parliamentary buildings it replaced.

The Government is made up of two houses (broadly following the Westminster model). The lower house being the House of Representatives with the upper house being the Senate. Both are elected (although at different times and for different periods of office). Both are also considered to have parity within the governmental structures.

House of Representatives

House of Representatives

The House of Representatives has a familiar feel to members of other Commonwealth countries and certainly to anyone familiar with the Westminster Parliament.

The members of the house are elected by a form of preferred alternative vote and it isn’t unusual to have a significant number (in excess of 20) parties and/or candidates on a ballot paper for the lower house.

The green (a blue-green representing the nations gum tree leaves) mirrors the UK House of Commons. Less adversarial in shape, the basic  structures are very similar including the dispatch boxes, bar of the Commons and Mace representing the Crown (although not it’s power as in the UK).

In other regards, the lower house felt very familiar to me although ironically, placing the Parliament in its own government centric territory did make me wonder whether it feels any more relevant and representative of Australia? Some of the same difficulties around the ‘Westminster village’ seemed to be present by virtue of having created a government centric territory.

The Australian Senate

The Australian Senate

The upper house (Senate) had a similarly superficial similarity. The red house (similar to the house of lords) is actually more shades of pink to represent some of the flowering species in Australia.

The Westminster ‘thrones’ are substituted for maple chairs for the Governor General. The only other significant difference in layout is  the reallocation of the ‘Lords Spiritual’ benches (Bishops and archbishops in the UK house of lords) to political advisors.

However, the differences in this house are more profound. Firstly it is a wholly elected house. Secondly, it views itself as having parity with the House of Representatives within the broader Government. This is subtly but importantly different to the UK where the House of Lords considers itself a legitimate amending house but ultimately subordinate in terms of the will of the House of Commons.

As I toured the Parliament building I found myself experiencing an unexpected hardening of views relating to the UK political system. There just seems to be so much government fighting for the same territory in Australia. I should stress that I’m not making a value judgement or criticism of the system in Australia. Given the history described above it has evolved organically to suit the needs of the country. However, it made me more firm in the view that the current system in the UK actually works quite well for us too.

I wouldn’t (and couldn’t) justify creating a Westminster system from scratch for a new State. Equally, I suspect many Australians would iron out some of their Constitutional idiosyncrasies and would equally not start afresh from where they are today?

Canberra Parliamentary Building Flagpole

Canberra Parliamentary Building Flagpole

As someone brought up pre-devolution in the UK, I struggle with the number of Parliaments and Governments in play. Each State has its own Parliament and Supreme Court. Similarly Canberra has the Commonwealth (Australian) Parliament with reserved national policy powers. These include the right to issue currency, defence, immigration and similarly national issues. However, as three Australian lawyers have told me the legal community could argue for ever over those interpretations and the extent to which the State and Federal powers overlap. I have started to see similar debates over the UK West Lothian question and ‘independence’ for Scotland and Wales.

Whilst accepting that the House of Lords is an anachronistic hang-over from Supreme rule of the Monarchy, it is an effective second chamber despite being appointed. Two Australian lawyers have mistakenly commented that the UK has no upper house – so it isn’t just my preconceptions that have been challenged during my visit.

Despite it’s non elected status, (some might say because of it), there is no ‘battle for supremacy’ between the two Houses of Parliament. Nor does electoral drive play as prominent a part as I have seen in both the US and Australia.

I could continue to consider the differences here. As you can imagine it has led to some interesting but always polite and good natured political discussions with Vaughan. However, I think I have settled on the position that both systems serve their respective countries well given their history,  culture and national  psyche. However, they would probably not transfer well one to the other.

Perhaps there is more truth in the suggestion that we all end up with the governments we deserve.

 

 

Remembrance with respect

Those who know me well will recognise that I am unlikely to be the first in line to visit many military museums. It isn’t that I don’t have respect and gratitude for the service and sacrifice made by others – very far from it in fact. However, unless it is done well, these locations can (in my humble opinion) become at best overbearing and at worse a glorification of the worst aspects of service and sacrifice.

They would also tell you that I trust my partner’s advice, so when he suggested attending the Australian war memorial, I didn’t hesitate for more than a few seconds.

Anzac Parade

Anzac Parade

The first thing you have to say about the approach to the memorial from Anzac parade is how impressive it is. The red stone roadway (representing the central heart of Australia) is reminiscent of the best of the world’s boulevards and approach roads.

The fact that it is simple, understated and clearly forming the main link between the memorial and the parliament building simply emphasises its importance without the need for further ornamentation of any kind.

On both sides of the parade, at regular intervals stand a number of individual memorials and commemorative sculptures focused on a specific military conflict or engagement.

Korean War Memorial

Korean War Memorial

Purely as an example the Korean war memorial is generous in its recognition of all nations taking part in the conflict with nothing sensationalising or glamorising the impact or horrors of the incident for those involved.

Each of the memorials commemorates a different engagement in which Australian forces were involved, many where I for one had no idea they were participants.

The parade is an impressive enough architectural and design feature forming a strong physical link in the built environment of Canberra. The impressive commemorations are both simple, uncomplicated and in my view extremely effective leading visitors along Anzac Parade to the main building of the Australian war memorial.

Wall of Remembrance

Wall of Remembrance

Interestingly, the initial walled enclosure is a large water feature containing an eternal flame burning from within the water.

Around this central enclosure are what appear to be endless names cast in bronze recognising those Australians who have died in the military service of their country since approximately 1880.

For such a dramatic and powerful act of remembrance there is never a hint of bravado. The atmosphere remains respectful and dignified, a skill which seems to have been missed in many other monuments of a similar nature.

A similar air continues through the museum adjacent to the memorial. Although the camera angle is different to the traditional European model/experience, the perspective is a welcome alternative view on the world.

For someone who doesn’t naturally focus on military history, I found we had spent four hours exploring the location. A remarkably powerful, informative and humbling experience well worth a visit if you find yourself in Canberra and want to learn something along the way !

Australia: First impressions of an understated country

As we all know snap decisions and first impressions are something we are taught to avoid and treat with caution. I believe these are felt to be high risk strategies likely to play into prejudice and preconception.

Stereotypes are dangerous

Stereotypes are dangerous

I must also admit that particular piece of advice is one I have always been very keen to ignore.

I hope I am bright and balanced enough not to believe any stereotypical view on a nation, its peoples or indeed much else. However, they can and have provided a useful shorthand on occasions.

I have certainly learned to trust my first impressions. Although they can and have been wrong, as I have grown older the instances in which this has been the case has continued to reduce.

So, it is with some trepidation and self-censorship that I make some very quick judgements about Australia based on little more than 24 hours. Indeed, as I say that, it’s obvious that any belief these would be insightful or accurate are specious. However, they were so counter intuitive and strong that they were worth recording.

As someone who has both Earls Court Bartenderlived and worked in London I am familiar with the frequent comments and stereotypes.

It appeared (at least in the early 1990’s) that if it were not for Australian students it would have been impossible to get a drink in any bar in Earls Court or the West End of London. However, I’m ashamed to say these superficial views are so far from the experience I have had in recent months. My first 48 hours in Australia have been refreshing, charming and deeply reassuring about the human condition.

So often, the Australian persona we have in mind can be brash, outspoken and rather unworldly-wise. Nothing could be further from the truth and I find myself in a country where I feel very much at home.

So far, the limited number of people I have met have been honest, direct, friendly and with a real interest to engage in conversation. Parents appear to have an unusually refreshing belief that they have at least some passing responsibility for their children.

Who knows what the next few days have in store, but I think the UK could certainly learn (or perhaps re-familiarise themselves) some basic manners, class and charm from their Australian cousins.

 

Perception, everything is perception.

Deciding to treat myself at the start of my journey into London, I booked a first class ticket on First Great Western.
Arriving on the train, I found my allocated seat was unavailable as it had a broken seat. My carriage was full apart from the disabled/wheelchair seat.

image

An unusually helpful train manager apologised for the broken seat offering me the disabled space instead.

Given that nobody else wanted the seat I accepted on the understanding that if it was required I would move carriages.

Some half an hour later, we drew in to Reading, the last stop before Paddington.
I was engrossed in a book I had brought with me, supposedly for tomorrow’s flight. For this reason I was initially unaware of the maloderous drunk making his was towards me from the train vestibule.

‘People like you make me sick’ he informed me. ‘There are disabled seats there for a reason’.

As he wasn’t entirely muntered, appearing to be a reasonable person with too many sherries on board, I tried to reason.
Explaining my seat was broken made no impact. ‘But your not disabled!’ he insisted.
I then explained the train manager had offered me the seat and I would vacate it if it was needed by a disabled passenger. Still no change in his position.
‘But your not disabled!’ he insisted. ‘The train bloke (presumably the manager), he’s not disabled. Get out of the seat’

A quick assessment of his current state  reassured me that he wasn’t an immediate threat.
‘Get out of the seat or I’ll break your (expletive deleted) neck’

I felt I was on fairly safe territory as the train manager no doubt attracted by the drunk’s loud voice was marching purposefully down the carriage. I should best describe him as well built. That is in the same sense that a brick mausoleum with insufficient flying buttresses is well built.

‘Presumably, at that point I would be sufficiently disabled to stay in the seat?’ I asked. ‘Seems like a wasted effort’

‘Lucky for you’ he replied just as the train manager descended upon him like the proverbial tonne of bricks. All the fun of the fair today !

The greatest journeys start with a single step.

image

It’s strange how time tricks you with its twists and eddies. Six months ago, booking a trip to Australia was an exciting but relatively distant dream.
As the next couple of months progressed, the planning, choices and preparations seemed purposeful and enjoyable, yet the journey still seemed remote.

The addition of a countdown clock on my mobile phone seems to have taken place eons ago. I recall setting the target date and seeing it set 132 days to go.
As those days have decreased, I have been aware of the approach of the journey but some how the reality still seemed somehow detached.

So we jump forward 130 days with packing in full flow, last minute checks made and all arrangements in place. Now despite the proximity of my departure, I’m so busy that I don’t actually have the time to reflect on the journey I was about to undertake.

image

Today, the day before our flight, I have just arrived at the local train station heading for London. Despite being repeatedly dive bombed by a Kamikaze pigeon with massive attitude, I found myself able to relax for the first time in days.
When you consider I’m still the best part of 48 hours from my destination (Melbourne), I’m feeling remarkably chipper.