Sunday, November 02, 2003

Today was truly a day of recovery, and a quiet one was definitely required. Tonight was also the night of the England rugby match and I was in a predicament as to how to tackle it and where to watch it.

Anyway, today I chatted to people, drunk tea and had a generally relaxing social thing going on - which suited me just fine.

Later that afternoon I sat on the green outside the hostel (Carlton Gardens) and read a book for a while, I bumped into Natalie who had just come back from swimming at the Carlton swimming baths; I discovered that this is an outdoor swimming pool just up the road and Nat loves it, I said I may join her up there one day soon.

I will introduce you to another couple who are now at the hostel, Robin and Millie; they are a lovely, really friendly couple and seem to get on with most people (apart perhaps, from David). They work just up the road in Richmond for a company called Harry the Hirer, this is a company that hires things (chairs, tables, crockery, cutlery, you name it) to events (like the rugby); as a result things need to be loaded and unloaded from trucks and dirty dishes have to be washed and Robin and Millie were dish washers.

The MD of Harry the Hirer had told Robin and Millie that they were looking for more staff so Natalie and myself decided to go up the next day and try and get ourselves jobs.

Another introduction; Natalie. She is 32 and has done a lot of travelling already, she is a really nice person but is very opinionated (she hates David with a passion). She is fairly quiet and does her own thing a lot of the time, I think she is actually a lot more outgoing than this but I hear that she is borasic, hence the quiet nights in. Natalie is only in Melbourne for a little while, she is flying out to India soon.

As for the rugby tonight, well, in keeping with good common sense I had a night in, watched the rugby on TV in between socialising with people in the courtyard; England won and I had an earlyish night.

Saturday, November 01, 2003

OK, the date for this journal entry acutally is the 1st November, so from now on I will be dating my journal entries according to the days on which things happened.

As you may recall, yesterday was wine and nibbles night at the hostel to which you can imagine the end result. The upshot of this was that I didn't get up until about midday today, unfortunately I was supposed to be working today, starting at 9am! To be honest after the debacle that was my interview I didn't really have the inclination to call them again and get an ear bashing for not turning up today!

So I ended up going out for a wander with David onto Lygon St, we both had nothing better to do and David wanted to use the internet for a little while.

I will update you a little on David as he will feature a little later on, he is British, but his parents are Indian Jews, so he is Jewish, but looks Indian; he hasn't been at the hostel that long and he works as a nurse. In principle he is a nice guy, but if you get into a conversation with him he dominates the entire conversation and talks about himself the whole time, he is also very lecherous; as a consequence there are people in the hostel who go out of their way to avoid him for these reasons, which is a shame because as I said he is really OK.

I will also introduce you to two more people that recently arrived at the hostel, a couple of girls in their late 20's. Both are teachers, both are looking to find permanent work in New Zealand and have stopped in Australia for a few weeks en route; Nadine is an English teacher and already has a job offer in NZ, Lou is a History teacher and doesn't have a job offer yet, she is a bit worried about it, Lou is also Jewish.

The link between these parties at the moment is quite tenuous, but hold on, there is more! I'm not sure which night it was, but the upshot of it all is that Lou really fancies Indian looking guys and David is also Jewish, so Lou and David ended up getting it on together in a snog and fumble kind of fashion. This was to the bemusement of a lot of people in the hostel as Lou is a nice girl and I have already told you public opinion of David in the hostel.

So anyway, back to todays events. I went out for a wander with David, which on the whole was quite uneventful; the weather was sunny, we went to the cheapest internet cafe we know, David chatted about women a lot and what his "plan" was (to pull women, this is) which I found quite entertaining, David was somewhat perplexed that I didn't actually have a "plan".

This evening was the Australia vs. Ireland rubgy match, a lot of people from the hostel (mostly Irish) were going into town to watch it; myself and a few other people predicted quite accurately that all the pubs in town were going to be heaving, so we decided instead to go to an Irish pub in Carlton (just across the green) called Pugg Mahones.

We went down at about 7-7:30ish and as luck would have it the pub wasn't that busy, we managed to get a table and a set of stools that were right in front of the big screen and also right by the bar (and ATM and toilets) - touch!

Most of the English people in the hostel were on the side of Ireland, I decided to support Australia instead, this was on the basis that Australia is effectively an ex-British colony (a third of the Aussie flag is the union jack!) and Ireland is, well, Ireland; oh, and I was there with a bunch of Aussies too!

You can probably guess the outcome of this evening, Australia won by the skin of their teeth and I don't recall much else about the evening!

Whilst attempting to get money out at the ATM, I also discovered that my Aussie bank account had run out of cash; arse! I knew it would take about a working week to transfer more funds into it, oh well...
Well, here for the next update (finally). I am in Tasmania at the moment (Tassie) and I've got tons of stuff to add to the journal, so bear with me!
The next morning I got up in good time, sober, had a shower, all looking cool and groovy. As I was about to leave I came to the abrupt realisation that I had lost the piece of paper with the address and directions on it, luckily this was not the calamitous event that it could have been; being the type of person that loses things all the time, especially important bits of paper (I could make a profession of it) I had semi-commited the address to memory the previous day.

The rest of the morning went alarmingly well, with a semi-address, a little luck and more time in hand than I had anticipated I managed to find the location in the middle of town. There were 8 newbies including myself and we spent most of the morning learning all about market research, surveys and how to use the computer system and then the afternoon actually making calls. It was all however, a little strange, the survey was about entertainment, computer media and illegal file downloading but the demographics of market research are such that most respondants are middle-aged to older women; so I spent most of the afternoon asking 70 year old american women questions like have you ever illegally downloaded a music file and do you plan to buy a DVD burner in the next 2 years... futility!

In the afternoon I wandered into Illia again and had a couple of coffees again (flat whites); I'm kind of getting used to the coffee jargon, but it was a little strange the first time I heard someone wander into a coffee bar and ask for a short, flat, skinny, white - I was thinking, what the hell??

So here is the jargon:

short = small sized drink
tall = larger sized drink
flat = normal coffee (as opposed to latte, mocha, capuccino, etc.)
skinny = low or zero fat milk
white = with milk
black = without milk

Easy when you look at it, but still kinda weird.

So I meandered a little and then went back to the hostel. I had forgotten for most of the day, but today was the second compromised football rules match between Australia and Ireland; it was taking place at the MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground, abbreviated by the locals, as only Aussies would, to just G) and quite a few people from the hostel were going to it. In case you don't already know, this particular sport is a compromise between AFL (aussie rules) and Gaelic football, hence the fact that the competing teams are Australia and Ireland! It looks to me a lot like AFL except it's played with a normal football, you can pick the ball up, kick it, punch it, do whatever you like; the objective is to get the ball in one of the goal areas. The goal is like an AFL goal, a rugby goal with 2 smaller posts either side to form 2 side goal areas; except in comprised rules footie the bottom section of the rugby goal has a football net behind it (does that make sense? Imagine i H i but take the dots off the i's); 6 points for getting it in the net, 4 for getting it between the main posts and 1 point for a side goal.

Well now, Friday night is wine and nibbles night at the hostel; but about two thirds of the occupants weren't at the hostel because they were at the game. So, to cut a long story short we all drunk wine and ate crisps, watched the game on TV (Ireland won the game, but Aus won the title overall) and then went to the Pump House afterwards, I don't recall the exact ins and outs of it all, but we had a jolly good time!
I had set the alarm on my watch for 7:30am the next morning as I had my agency interview. Somehow I managed to rouse myself by about 8:30, which was a miracle given that I had only had about 4 hours sleep (drunken sleep no less) tops! I don't recall whether I had a shower or not, but if I did then this morning was a double miracle!

I managed to stagger out to the tram stop, which is just outside the hostel and a tram came along soon enough; I then experienced something new to me so far, Melbourne trams in the rush hour. The tram was absolutely rammed, but to be honest I wasn't quite with it, so I wasn't as concerned as I might have been; I was actually more worried about getting off at the right tram stop!

The agency (Directra) were based in a tall office building and I managed to find it OK, but somehow I had managed to get there 10 minutes late, oh well, what's 10 minutes?

I was introduced to Kim, she didn't seem particularly friendly and I wasn't really warming to her much. Anyhow we sat down in an interview room and then I discovered (possibly) why she was a bit off-ish, she told me that I hadn't made a particularly good impression by turning up 10 minutes late, absolutely reaking of alcohol; I hadn't considered the alcohol factor that morning, but in retrospect I think it is safe to say that I was probably still drunk. Well, the rest of the interview went OK, considering; I was then asked to perform a keyboard skills / data entry type test, which wasn't particularly difficult, although although it took the receptionist ages to figure out how to set me up on it. At the end of the test the receptionist poked a print out of my typing speed at me, to which I enquired "what I am supposed to do with this?" at which she aggresively and snootily replied "How do I know? Speak to Kim!", Kim had since dissapeared.

I left the building, not really sure how it had all gone. Anyway I ambled across a few blocks and said hi to Rachel and Mel and had a couple of coffees at Illia. Then, as I was wandering around town, I got a call from Kim at Directra who amazingly offered me a job, starting tomorrow! I didn't have a pad and pen on me so I agreed to call her back later in the afternoon, which I did.

They said the job was telephone market research, I would be calling people in the US and asking them survey questions; it didn't sound ultra-enthralling, but it was $16 an hour and it was a job. It was only for 4 days though, they wanted me to work tomorrow, Saturday, Tuesday and Wednesday; I told them that I wouldn't work on Tuesday as it is Melbourne Cup Day (big horse racing event), which is a VIC holiday and I had also just signed up for a hostel organised BBQ, drinks and trip to the event too. Well, she got narky again, claiming that I had said in the interview I was free to work any days (which I probably did) and I told her, in slightly politer terms, tough tit! There wasn't much they could do so I agreed to start at 8:30am the next day for a total of 3 days.

Later that evening I had a few drinks in the Pump House to celebrate, but I didn't get drunk as I didn't want a repeat performance of today!

Friday, October 31, 2003

Well, later on Wednesday afternoon I managed to find a place that fits bull bars, it's in Dandenong which is probably about an hours drive away but in Aussie terms that's just down the road really! The cost is quite reasonable and they do it all on the same day, so I have got that booked for Thursday morning at 10am; the guy asked me if I wanted rear bars as well, I thought about it for a second and then came to the conclusion that it's highly unlikely that a kangaroo will leap out into the road as I'm reversing at high speed down the freeway so what's the point?!

Wednesday was the birthday of a guy in my dorm called Dean (a girl in the hostel made him a chocolate cake), so in the evening pretty much the entire hostel all went down the road to a pub called the Commercial; partly because of Dean's birthday and partly because everybody likes a piss up! There was also the added incentive that it was rock, paper, scissors night at the Commercial; basically what happens is, you order a round and then at the end when you would normally pay the bar person, you play rock, paper, scissors with them - if you win then the round is free, if you lose then you pay as normal! Cool or what?! I think this type of thing is quite common practice in Aus, because I went to a pub in Sydney where they used to do the same thing, but with a coin flip (heads / tails) instead.

From then on in, we moved to a club called the Laundry, it's quite a hip place on Brunswick St. and this night was karaoke night! I didn't do any karaoke on this occasion, I'm not quite sure why as I'm normally a sucker for making a fool in front of people when I'm drunk, I think perhaps I was too drunk to try and figure out how to actually enter! A few guys from the hostel did go up and sung very badly, the next day nobody could remember what they had sung (or tried to sing).

I got home at about 4am and probably didn't get to sleep much before 5... oh dear, tomorrow will be fun.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Stuff

Australian money is weird.

The notes are cool, they are really bright colours and they're made of plastic! I will do some dodgy phone shots and post them up here soon!

The really odd thing though is coins; the smaller the denomination, the larger the coin. The 2 dollar coin is tiny (like half the size of a pound coin) where as you could eat a full roast dinner off of a 20 cent coin!

Apparently there are loads of different types of alcohol license over here, like pub license, restaurant license, bottle shop license, etc. I don't know how difficult it is to get one, because a lot a cafes and food places over here do BYO (bring your own), although I never have brought my own yet.

Telstra (as far as NSW and VIC go, I haven't been to the rest of Aus yet) is the national telecom carrier, kind of like BT in the UK. Local calls here are 40c for an unlimited amount of time, which is cool; I have a Telstra phone card as most pay phones take the Telstra card rather than cash.

You can get chinese food all over the place, you know in the UK you can buy stuff like baguettes and pizza over the counter at shopping centres and stations (and it always tastes really crap?), well here you get chinese counters almost everywhere, the food's yummy and it's pretty whizzy if you like chinese food!!!

Not long after I got here, I was in a pub called The Imperial which is just up the road. I was watching the Scotland rugby game with Wendy and a few people when we saw the best fight ever outside the pub, oddly enough no English were involved at all, but it was pretty racey, it kicked off twice during the evening and even a bouncer got punched!

Work

News Flash! (real time too!)

An agency just called and they want to see me tomorrow morning about a customer services job, they sound quite positive and they want me to bring my bank details, tax file number and passport with me!

Ace!
Shopping

Significant things I have bought whilst out here:

A blue rain coat.
Walking boots.
Sandals.
Sunnies (I also got a free Ray Ban beach towel, although the glasses aren't Ray Ban!).
Road atlas of Australia (and assorted other books on Australia).
A luminous yellow T-shirt.
Socks.
Boxer shorts.
Groovy jeans.
A cool black jumper.
A silver van (obviously).
A Vodafone Australia SIM account (if you want my number just email me).

Things I have lost whilst out here:

Socks (unknown quantity)
O' Neills trainers (this is very odd, as I would never take them out of my room unless I was actually wearing them, but then who would want to nick a pair of old trainers?)
Photography

As you can see I am still posting dodgy old shots on here from my mobile phone, this will contine.

I have however used up the first roll of film in my 35mm camera and I have also discovered that the internet cafe I am in at the moment will scan pics in for free; so hopefully you will be getting some better quality pics on here soon! I got the film developed down in town, the lady in the shop was really friendly, she's married to an English bloke, but the cost wasn't that cheap so I may shop around.

I went for a wander while I was waiting for my pics to be developed, I sat in a cafe and people watched for a bit. Some cute looking blond woman with an american accent started chatting to me with unprecedented enthusiasm while I was sitting there, I didn't pursue things any further as she had one of those mad/psycho type looks in her eyes that indicates trouble at best and psycho killer at worst. I moved on.

I ambled into a shop called Jetty Surf, which is a surfware type place. I got chatting to the two girls that work behind the counter, one of them was a bit skinny and the other a bit chubby, but they were both quite cute so I may go in there again sometime soon.

The photos turned out cool, so a successful afternoon was had.
Wednesday 29th October (TODAY)

Wow, I'm actually at today? How did that happen? At least I won't have to sit in the internet cafe until all hours of the night any more!

Well, I got up at about 9:30am but I couldn't be bothered to have a shower so I just had a cup of tea instead, which was much more refreshing. I'm not particularly hot on communication first thing in the morning, I'm sure I must look rude because I wander into the kitchen and make myself a tea and don't say anything to anyone; if anyone comments then I'll tell them it's a morning struggle thing.

I met up with Rich and Dave and also discovered that I was taking Wendy and Lucy to the airport too (the joys of having a people carrier, Jez, you were right dude!), but luckily they only lived a couple of minutes round the corcer from the hostel.

Anyway, after fannying around with backpacks and stuff, then picking up the two girls and fannying around with even more backpacks and stuff we were on out way to the airport. Luckily the international airport is only about 20k from the town centre, so it didn't take long to get there at all, even with a petrol stop, the guys gave me $20 for petrol/hassle and that was that.

We agreed to meet up when I am next in Sydney, Rich, Dave and Wendy are cool, but I don't really like Wendy's friend Lucy much; she has a naturally disdainful aura about her.

On the way back I decided that I needed to do some food shopping, so I took a different route and stopped off at a shopping centre with a big Coles (big supermarket chain) in it. The centre also has food stands, so I had noodles and mongolian style beef with a coffee, the lady serving was friendly and the food was really nice, so nice in fact that afterwards I couldn't be bothered to do any food shopping!

On the way back I drove down Nicholson Street and decided to stop at a hand car wash place, it was pretty groovy, much better than the places in the UK. They did my van inside and out really well for $20, plus I got free coffee or tea while I waited and I had a pleasant conversation with the young girl serving at the till (Jenny), and looked at the weather forecast in the newspaper (rain).

So then I came back to the hostel, luckily I managed to find a 4 hour parking spot.

I called the local Toyota dealer and booked my van in for a full service, as I don't entirely trust the dealer that I bought it from in Parramatta (put it this way: they said they were going to wash it and they squirted a hose pipe at it for 30 seconds, what does that say about them?). It's gonna cost me 600 bucks, but if I'm going to be travelling around Aus in it I want to be sure, I'm taking it in on Monday morning.

I also tried to call my uncle (well, great uncle) Billy who lives in a suburb of Melbourne about visiting him, but he didn't answer, I will try and call later.

And here I am in the internet cafe again!

I sent my CV off to a few agencies as I want to try and find a job soon.

I also got the number of a few 4x4 places in the area; I want to get bull bars fitted to the front of my van. Unlike the UK where they are purely aesthetic, in Aus when you are driving in the outback it can save a rogue kangaroo from wrecking your vehicle!

I will now do a few articles on other stuff.
Leaving Drinks

For almost the whole of Monday afternoon and evening and a fair portion of Tuesday afternoon I was in the internet cafe, typing all this up so I could get up to date with the journal! Monday morning I helped Mel transport a bookcase she had bought from a second-hand store to her house, it was pretty uneventful; but there are tons of great second hand places around, there's a shop in St. Kilda that sells old clothes, like 60s and 70s shirts and stuff, groovy!

Anyhow, I digress - Rich, Dave, Wendy and Lucy were all flying to Sydney on Wednesday, so on Tuesday evening a load of us ended up down the Pump House as a kind of leaving drink, you don't really need an excuse, but I think it got loads more people down the pub than might otherwise have come (including Natalie who is a lovely person, but hardly ever goes out with people); there must have been over a dozen of us at the pub.

I met an Indian/Jewish guy at the pub called Dave, who had just moved into the hostel. He is a doctor (or nurse?) for a living, but like all Jewish folk he was minted and had loads of other income streams besides! He was quite intelligent but I reckon he could talk the hind legs off a donkey!

Aine (pronounced onya) was also there, she is an Irish girl who has been at the hostel the whole time I have been there, probably longer. She is a cool person.

Anyway, the long and short of this evening was that we didn't get too drunk, although I still don't recall what time I got to bed, although I do recall agreeing to give Rich and Dave a lift to the airport the next morning - so it was lucky I didn't drink too much!
England vs. Samoa

Sunday 26th October

During the day I went to St. Kilda beach with a bunch of people, it was OK, we met up with even more people from the hostel that were also there, we ate coffee and cake (there are some really ace cake shops in St. Kilda). There is an amusement park at St. Kilda beach called Luna Park, I will have to have a spin in it when the weather turns better.

For the evening a bunch of us had tickets for the England rugby game, it was England vs. Samoa and it was being held in the Telstra Dome, a big stadium in the middle of Melbourne.

We decided to have some pre-game drinks down in town, so Rich, Dave, Wendy, myself and loads of other people from the hostel all went down to a pub called the Royal Melbourne. It had a massive England rugby shirt (as in 50ft high) stuck on the side of the pub and it was absolutely heaving with people inside! Once we got in we met up with some other people from the hostel that were also in the pub. Getting a drink took ages, but I did get my photo taken by some O2 (England rugby team sponsors) girls, which I think is on some web site somewhere and I also got a free O2 England flag! Luckily, somebody came round the pub selling tickets for $20 a piece, which was a steal, so all the people that didn't have tickets got some!

After a few drinks, we all wandered over to the stadium which wasn't too far away and found our seats. Unlike football games, you are allowed to drink at Rugby games, so we ordered a batch load of pints to last as through the first half and got a chicken burger each. Rich had an England flag with LTFC (Luton Town FC) written on it, which, after a lot of buggering about and hassling the people in front of us, he managed to hang from the railing at the front of the stand (we were on the 3rd level up) - I'm not sure if anyone saw the LTFC bit!

The game itself was really exciting and was much better than watching rugby on TV. The game was quite close too, which made it all the more interesting to watch, England did win in the end!

After the game and a few more pints, we all piled out and decided that we needed more booze and food. So we all bundled into a 7-11 because Kelly told us the food in there was great (I think this was an error of judgment on the part of Kelly brought on by excessive consumption of alcohol). The food wasn't particularly good and in a unabashed fashion, which could only have been the result of drunkness, Kelly and myself tasted almost every doughnut and cake in the cake cabinet and then put it back again if we didn't like it (which was most of them), oddly enough, nobody challenged us, but lots of people laughed.

The evening was good, although I don't recall how much I drank or what time I got to bed.

The Royal Melbourne, look how packed it is!



Rich & Dave



Susan, Rich & Kelly



Proof!

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Scotland vs. France

Saturday 25th October, evening.

Rich, Dave, Wendy, her friend Lucy and myself all decide to go to the Elephant and Wheelbarrow (the one on Bourke Street, not the one in St. Kilda, yes there are 2, odd). The pub is a bit of a touristy pub and is often very busy, tonight was no exception.

We were hoping the game was going to be live, but it was delayed by 2 hours; we probably would have known this had we looked at the TV schedule before going out first, but that's hindsight for you. Either way, we decided to stay in the pub and drink and watch the game at 10:30pm; Wendy got pissed off because some English chap in the pub told her the result before we saw the game (Scotland lost), but as the ale flowed, moods brightened. Wendy was in her Scotland top singing The Flower of Scotland with the other scots people there, the English were retorting with Swing Low Sweet Chariot, even though England weren't playing at all.

All in all a jolly good night was had, but I don't recall how much I drank or what time I got home.
Melbourne Museum

Saturday day I was at a bit of a loose end, but I needed to do some shopping so I decided to pop in and make that trip to the museum that I missed on Thursday, before going into town.

I had 10% off of the entrance from a flyer in the hostel, but as entrance was only $6 to start with, it barely made any difference!

The museum was split into different sections, the first one that I visited was called the Australia Gallery and was dedicated to Melbourne / Australian history and life. It was very interesting and quite informative, if it ever comes up in a pub quiz I will now always know that Melbourne hosted the Olympics in 1956. As promised by our tour guide on Thursday this section also contained the kitchen that was the Robinson's kitchen in Neighbours until 1999, to be perfectly honest it just looked like any other kitchen!

There was a music section, which had facts and general information about Australia's leading record companies and artists. There were also sound booths where you could mess around with electronic instruments and stuff; I know some people that really loved this section, I thought it was informative, but not amazing.

There was an Aboriginal section, historically it was very interesting, visually it was all Aboriginal painted things. I find that Aboriginal art, although celebrated by some people, is rather basic and not especially skillful, it's alsmot child like - and you can buy all that kind of stuff in the Australiana (touristy) shops for a few bucks anyway!

There was a section on the human body which was quite informative and interesting, it had lots of interactive stuff that you could do.

There was a natural history section which comprised mostly of stuffed animals and a few bones, I found this a little bit weird; I know it demonstrates what the animals look like but it all seems a little bit macabre to me! One benefit though is that I know exactly what a funnel-web, red back and white tail spider look like; the funnel-web is an ugly, brown, medium sized looking spider (the Sydney funnel-web is Australia's deadliest spider); the red back is a small slinky looking spider with a red hourglass type shape on it's back (if I were a spider I would like to be a red back, they look cool) and the white tail is also a smallish spider with a tiny white strip on it's tail, although the white tail isn't as deadly as the funnel-web, the venom of the white tail can cause skin putrification, which if not dealt with can spread and lead to amputation.

The biggest area was the Forest section, it was like a section of rain forest, but indoors. You could walk around it, it had trees, plants, animals, birds, allsorts of living things, along with information telling you about them.

I think that was it, apart from the cafe and childrens section.

I liked the Australian Gallery and the Forest bits best. It took me 6 hours to look around it in total, so I never did manage to get into town!

I had already been to Sydney Museum and I was quite disappointed with it, it appeared to be trying to imitate something like the Natural History museum in London, but not particularly successfully. Luckily the Melbourne Museum was much more interesting!

Entrance Sign



Scary Stuffed Kangaroos!



Quirky Stuffed Birds!

Night Shenanigans (not of that kind)

Saturday 25th October, 4am and the whole of my dorm is awake.

Courteous of... a drunk Chris, who has just attempted to get into bed with Andy, not because of any untoward inclination but because he is so wankered he wouldn't know his own bed if it fell on top of him.

Chris' arrival also coincided with the arrival of an older (40ish) woman who has just arrived at the hostel after some form of long journey, who seemed to be perfectly pleasant. Yet curiously, when she tried to guide Chris toward his own bed he proceeded to shout abuse at her, the word "fucking bitch" comes to mind.

Amazingly she was very understanding about it and luckily (but oddly) for Chris he went to the toilet and came back very apologetic and went to bed peacefully.

Chris is flying around Aus following the Rugby, which means he will be leaving Melbourne soon... good luck to him wherever he goes next is all I can say, he's gonna need it!
Furniture

The following morning I got a call from Rachel at 10:30am to confirm what time I would be over to help her with her furniture removal duties. I was feeling a bit groggy and pukey, so was she, so we agreed that I would just come over whenever I got up.

I got up a about midday and made my groggy way over to East Brunswick in the van, Rachel had only just got out of bed and much to my amusement actually had a much worse hangover than me! I'm not quite sure how, as I had been drinking since 1pm - weird!

At this point it was first stop K-Mart, to see if she could rent a carpet cleaner (thing, not person), but they wouldn't let her do it as she had no Aussie form of ID. Next stop Ikea, to buy the furniture which I was helping her transport as it didn't exist yet; Rachel didn't actually know where Ikea was, she had been there once before but that was about a good as it got, so we ended up having to ask passers by in the street until we eventually came across it!

Ikea in Australia is almost exactly the same as Ikea in the UK except the prices are a lot cheaper, Rachel bought a bed base, a book case and a bedside table (all flat packed, can you guess where this story is going.... ?). We had a bite to eat, I had Swedish Meatballs (which I didn't like that much, I should have known because I had them in Ikea, Croydon once before and I didn't like them much then!), but I had quite a lot of other stuff like a bread roll, chocolate milkshake, etc. which were all really tasty!

Anyway, back to Rachels place, but guess what?... Rachel doesn't know how to assemble flat-pack furniture. So what with me being a nice guy and all that, I assemble the bedside table, easy, only 4 bits of wood, then the bookshelf, which there is a little more to and finally the bed base which technically is very easy, but physically very tough and requires another trip down to K-Mart to buy a screw driver!

Rachel managed to redeem herself at the very end of the evening when all 3 of us went out to their local curry house and she bought me a curry (lamb madras) which was pretty yummy!

I then went home for an early night... or so I thought!
The Evelyn

I didn't really know much about the evening other than I was going out with Rachel and the two Mels, well this transpired not to be exactly the case. Rachel had the next day (Friday) off, but Mel was working the next day and feeling ill to boot and as the two Mels work together and Mel 2 lives in a southern suburb, Mel 2 didn't turn up either; so basically it was just Rachel (sober) and myself (not so sober).

I discovered after speakng with Rachel that we were going to a club called The Evelyn on Brunswick Street, which was cool.

I also discovered when we got there that we were specifically going to see a band called Bordello because Rachel is good mates with all the band members in a weird groupie kind of way. We drunk wine and generally speaking it was fun, although I think I was left to my own devices (i.e. talk to strangers) a little too much, this was probably due to the fact that I didn't fancy the band members as much as Rachel; which is unsuprising considering they were guys! But as I was a couple of sheets to the wind to start with I didn't mind and I had a good time.

I don't know how much I drunk or what time I got home, but I had agreed to help Rachel out with transporting some furniture around in my van the next day, 'cause I'm a friendly kinda guy.
One More?

So, we went into the Pump House with the two Devonites, we had a couple, then the Devonites left to go and visit the museum. But by this time a few of our mates had turned up from the hostel so we had a couple more and a couple more and then I forget how many more, needless to say the museum went by the wayside!

We arrived at the pub at 1pm and I didn't actually leave until 7:30pm and that was only because I was going out to see a band with Rachel, Mel and Mel so I had to be back at the hostel to meet them!
Neighbours

Earlier on in the week, Rich and myself had decided that we were going to underake the Neighbours tour on Thursday 23rd October. As Neighbours is filmed in a Melbourne suburb only about 30 minutes drive from the CBD there was no good excuse for any self respecting Brit not to do it really! Or as Annie put it to the tour operator when queried on our nationalities, "of course they're fucking poms, what other nationality would go on this kind of crap?"... charmed, I'm sure!

We were the first pick up at 8:55am, so it was the earliest I had been out of bed in the whole time I had been in Melbourne! The bus soon filled up with people as we meandered our way through the trail of hostels and pick up points en route to our destination.

One of the first people on were two young guys in front of us (Rich and I sat at the back, you have to really don't you?), they were from just outside Dover and were also here backpacking. Now Rich and myself were considering this trip to be something of a jolly, afterall, neither of us had actually watched Neighbours properly since we were at school and we presumed, incorrectly that most people would be of the same inclination. Oh no, the two young lads in front of us were Neighbours fanatics and took the trip very seriously, they had also been to the Neighbours night out at a pub in St. Kilda called the Elephant and Wheelbarrow, every Monday night you can pay $35 and you will get to meet a handful of Neighbours stars in the pub; this, according to them, was the most amazing night out they had ever had in their lives!

As the fun bus continued it's journey, our guide posed the question, why is Erinsborough called Erinsborough? Almost immediately one of the little Doverites in front of us piped up, it's because it is an anagram of Neighbours, which the guide confirmed as correct... but it's not, Erinsborough has two O's and Neighbours has one O, I didn't clock this at the time (I had only been out of bed for a very short time) but wish I had! Maybe this explains a fact that I heard from an Aussie I met in Sydney, you know the TV show "Test The Nation" about IQ scores and stuff? Well, it was produced world-wide (in western 1st world nations anyway) and apparently the UK ranked top, or very nearly top but in an international comparison of scores, Australia and New Zealand ranked almost bottom... oh dear!

Anyway, we arrived at the filming location, which is a very small (as in 6 houses small) banjo shaped close and is not called Ramsay Street, but is in fact called Pin Oak Court and resides in a suburb of Melbourne called South Vermont.

When we arrived they were actually filming, this may sound exciting, but the reality of it is that a coach load of tourists were going to get nowhere near the filming so we weren't even allowed into the street itself! Rich, myself and a few other guys think that the security girl looked a bit of a push over and had we had more time we could have talked her round, but our guide had another tour to do after ours, so after the photo sessions (in front of the road closed sign!) she was hassling us back onto the bus. One saving grace was that we saw Harold and Lou (I don't know the names of the actual actors!) walking across the street just as we were leaving, this pleased some of the Neighbours fanatics no end!

Pin Oak Court is only used for external filming, the houses are actually inhabited by normal people! So our next stop was Global Studios where they film all the internal shots, well, I say next stop, but it was actually a drive by, the Neighbours sets are apparently a closely guarded national area and even a fee paying batch of poms aren't allowed in.

Finally we got to stop (yes, stop) at Erinsborough High School, which is in reality Blackburn School of English for foreign students, they are only allowed to film at the school during major breaks like summer holiday and Christmas; I guess they must have to save up all their shots and do them in one hit then. Rich took a picture of the gate, which according to the guide is exciting because it is one of the most commonly filmed parts of the school... hmmmm.

By the way, all of these locations are just around the corner from each other.

Eventually we were finished, so we started back to Melbourne when somebody suddenly realised that the flyer that had enticed us all to come on the trip ion the first place had stated "Free complimentary drinks", after claiming she didn't know what we were talking about the guide finally decided that this was a benefit that will be included on a new tour itinerary which doesn't start for another couple of weeks... you can guess what we all thought of that!

Before we arrived in Melbourne, to try and abate us, the guide pointed out that the old kitchen from the Robinson household was on display at the Melbourne Museum, which as luck would have it is almost opposite my hostel! But first things first, we had to have a quick couple in the Pump House first after such a thirsty morning.
The Espy

At 8pm the same evening I met up with Stina in the hostel and we caught the tram back down to the Espy, it was still extremely cold but we had both wrapped up extra warm as a precautionary measure.

The night turned out to be a mixed bag, the venue itself was really cool; full of weird people, it had a really great atmosphere and the music wasn't at all bad either.

Stina however, drunk a total of 2 glasses of wine with a PINT of water in between and then declared later in the evening that she was feeling decidedly ill, brought on by excessive consumption of red wine..... huh? She also attracted two completely pissed guys who both looked about 50 years old with the intent of cracking on to Stina, at which Stina notioned to me that she wasn't at all interested in any guys right now but she found the pathetic persistence of these two guys entertaining... double huh?

Communication for the rest of the evening something of a challenging affair, the music was very loud which meant conversation was an effort to start with, the fact that she was Swedish (although she spoke very fluent English), exceptionally straight and not a particularly assertive or conversational individual just made the challenge even greater.

We left at about 1am and got a cab back to the hostel, the evening was OK but not great.
St. Kilda

Either Tuesday 21st or Wednesday 22nd October, the weather gave the appearance of being sunny and warm. Myself and a few other people from the hostel were basking in the glow of the sunshine beaming down through a narrow gap in between two of the hostel buildings (the kitchen is a seperate entity) into a small courtyard.

The upshot of this is that half a dozen of us decided to venture down to St. Kilda beach on the tram in search of seaside fun in the sun.

We all got on the number 96 tram outside the hostel (this runs from East Brunswick, which is where Rach & Mel live, all the way past the hostel, through the centre of town and down to St. Kilda beach; it's a cool line). There was a shortage of seats on the tram and I ended up sitting next to a pleasant Swedish girl in our group called Stina.

After about 45 minutes we arrived at St. Kilda beach, except that none of our group was on the tram anymore, except for Stina and myself. After a little head scratching we figured that either they got off at the wrong stop, or they hadn't bought tickets (inspectors had got on the tram approaching St. Kilda, the fine is $150). Either way we decided to stroll around the beach area and maybe we might catch up with them.

We had totally underestimated the weather, the sun may have been out, but the wind down at the beach was sub-zero! We didn't see the other guys on the beach and Stina was getting cold so we went up to Ackland Street which is where most of the shops are to try and find a jumper for her and maybe grab a bite to eat. After getting dragged around a few womens clothes shops (none were stocking jumpers) we decided to grab a bite to eat; Stina is a totally healthy eater so she had a big bowl of salad type stuff and I had a lamb kebab, half way through eating it I decided that it was a bit early in the morning to be eating kebab so I bought and ate a giant stick of celery and a giant carrot.

After this we wandered down to the Esplanade Hotel and went into their bar (which is called The Espy, pronounced espee) for a few drinks. It didn't turn into a session, because Stina is not only a very healthy eater, but also a very, very light drinker. But the Espy was cool and grungy and we agreed to come back later that evening to see whichever band was playing that night, a couple of beers heavier and my evening sorted we got the tram back to the hostel.

As for the tram story, it transpired that the other guys hadn't bought tickets, so when the inspectors got on the guys got off and caught the next tram, but then the inspectors got on the next tram too, so the guys hopped off again and decided to walk the rest of the way, as by this time it wasn't too far. I don't know why they didn't buy tickets, it's only $1.80 one way.

Monday, October 27, 2003

MotoGP

On Sunday 19th October at about lunch time I started to make my way down to Phillip Island to watch the MotoGP.

Phillip Island doesn't look that far on the map, it is south of Melbourne and you drive onto it by way of a bridge. I think I misread the map to start with and took the wrong highway, but I soon switched to correct one and I was on my way; on my way in the rain, the pouring rain, for 2 hours, having nothing more waterproof than a fleece, which isn't waterproof. I was perturbed to see numerous bikes heading in the opposite direction on my way down, but later discovered that they were leaving early due to the weather!

Very luckily, by the time I got there the rain had subsided to nothing but a few light spits; but in traditional race circuit fashion the car park was a field, a field of mud. This not only made it difficult to drive without wheelspinning and slipping everywhere but in the 10 minutes it took me to walk to the gate all bodily areas below my knee were suitably covered in mud... and then... I realised in a flash of inspiration, that I had left my wallet, which I needed to buy my ticket... in the car!

So a trip to the car and back again later, I was at the gate, even muddier, wallet in hand. The entrance fee was the usual fare for this type of event, $80.

After a short peruse of the circuit I selected a corner to stand at which offered me the best in the way of viewing position and facilities but not too many people. It also started to rain with a new vengeance, I made my way immediately to the official merchanside stand and asked if they stocked any official waterproof merchandise? They didn't stock any official waterproof merchandise, but they were knocking out ponchos (read: white bin bag with holes in) for $5 a shot; so $5 lighter and looking like son of the abominable snowman, I became semi-waterproof.

I watched the 250cc race, 2 people low-sided on my corner in the rain, which was fun. I don't follow the 250cc series so the results meant very little to me.

I had a little time to kill before the start of the 500cc race and although I was waterproof, the wind had become exceptionally cold and I was hungry. So I went to the nearest burger / hot dog stand and ordered what I thought was a hot dog with onions and ketchup, which actually turned out to be a Bratwurst with onions and ketchup.... huh? Where does a race circuit in Australia come up with a Bratwurst stand? I ate it anyway, it wasn't bad, but not as nice as a regular hot dog would have been.

I resumed my viewing position in anticipation of the race, but somehow, without even realising it I had become embroiled in a conversation with a little, white haired old lady about Australian history. Little, white haired old ladies are a rarity at race meets and Australian history is also a rare topic of conversation, but yea, it was so. She was a little eccentric, and I had to stand about half an inch away from her to hear what she was saying, but it passed the time and I figured she was with one of the families that were around me.

So, the race started, the Troy Bayliss fans were in swing and by now the old lady had explained to me (I think) that her husband had died when he was in his 50s, but had he not died then he would have fathered Troy Bayliss... I had come to the conclusion that the old dear was more than a little eccentric, more like stark raving bonkers!

The race continued, Troy Bayliss had a nasty crash which knocked him unconscious and the collective body that was the Troy Bayliss fan club (most people) lost momentum. The little old lady took this break in crowd fervour as an opportunity to tell me "he's in yellow!", to which I asked who was in yellow, to which she replied "yellow!", to which I replied even louder who is in yellow!!! to which she replied "yellow!!! the colour yellow!!!" at which point I gave it up and just continued to watch the race.

Unsuprisingly Rossi won the race, although someone did crash on my corner again which was fun. To whit, the old lady wandered off into the surrounding foliage own her own and never did I see her again. I wonder if she was really at the circuit, was she a figment of my imagination? Or was it some kind of sign? Who knows....

Return journey: walking, mud, traffic jams, intense rain, getting very lost re-entering Melbourne, adding probably an extra 45 minutes to my journey that I really wish I hadn't.

The racing was fun, the old lady was mad, the hot dog was scary, the weather.... was Brands Hatch;

but how many other Brits have watched the Phillip Island MotoGP in person?
Idibidi

Just a short one.

There is a restaurant on (yes, you guessed it) Brunswick St. called Idibidi (pron. iddee biddee) that I have been to a couple of times.

The same evening of the 18th I was there with Rachel and Mel, having a meal and some wine. There was also a table opposite us with three businessmen on it, I don't know if it was a personal or business dinner. Anyway, we were having a good time, the waiter looked like David Beckham, but he had a Kiwi accent and everything was jovial.

All of a sudden one of the business guys just conks out and if it weren't for one of the other guys he would have landed face down in his dinner! Mel ran to fetch the waiter and call an ambulance, but for the few minutes it took the waiter to arrive, just as suddenly the guy comes back to life, wipes the spittle from his mouth and continues eating!

How peculiar?
Exhibition Centre

Saturday 18th October.

I met up with Mel in town, hung about Illia for a bit and had a few coffees.

Rachel was working down at the Melbourne Exhibition Centre, as the bookshop she works for had a stand there and she had to man it. As Mel finishes work at 3pm, we decided to wander down and keep Rachel company for a bit. We were both really hungry, so before we went in to see Rachel we went across the road to the casino (it also has shops and loads of stuff in it) and got something to eat. Somebody told me that the casino is the largest one in Australia, but I will have to check, as Sydney also has a casino.

When we got into the centre I was treated to an exhibition entitled "Girls Day Out", I already knew it was something girly but I wasn't quite prepared for the sheer volume of make-overs, cosmetics, health products, romance novels and complete female rubbish that you could fit into one hall (all be it a large one)!

Once I had ascertained that Mel was planning to spend a few hours at the exhibition, I made my excuses and left! There was actually some kind of car accessories exhibition going on next door, but as the weather was sunny and 28 degress I didn't really want to hang around inside some exhibition hall.

As the exhibition centre is on the south side of Melbourne I got the tram into St. Kilda for the first time ever, it was very very busy, but not too crowded. I explored the area a little bit and then chilled out by the beach with a beer.
Update

It's 11:08pm and I am still sitting in an internet cafe, it's probably good to have an alcohol free evening and I want to get this up to date!

The main page is starting to get a little on the big size, so I am trying to figure out Blogger's archiving system, I will keep you informed!
Grammar

I know I keep slipping in and out of the present and past tense in a seemingly random manor mid-sentence... I don't care.
A Night Out

This isn't a drop dead exciting night out, but I'm gonna tell you about it anyway.

Rich and Dave are cool guys. They are both English, but Rich's dad is a Kiwi and his mum is Irish, he has dual British and New Zealand nationalities. He has a cousin who lives in the north-eastern suburbs of Melbourne, just up the road from our hostel and her name is Rachel (yes, another one), she is a Kiwi and I get invited out for a drink with them all.

To start with we went to a pub up by where Rachel lives, it was a bit dowdy and there weren't many people there as it was a mid-week drink but we managed to have a really good laugh and stay there until we were suitably inebriated. From this point forth Rachel decided to go home as she had to work the next morning, so the 2 guys and myself decided to head down to Brunswick, as it was about a 20 minute walk away.

We get to the top of Brunswick Street and who do we see hanging out of a bar window and gesticulating enthusiastically at us? Annie! (you know, the crazy Maori one) She insists that we come in; it would be rude not to.

The bar is quite cool, but I got to see first hand how completely loopy Annie really is. There were pool tables there and Annie was there with a few guys, including her boyfriend, who seemed to be completely sensible and the utter opposite of Annie. They were playing pool doubles on one table, Annie insists on playing and is noteably crap at pool but to her credit is unprecedentedly enthusiastic about the whole game. So Rich and myself decided to play pool as well, foolishly, Rich agreed to let Annie take a few of his shots (enthusiasm like Annie's is tough to ignore) and annoyingly Rich still managed to beat me!

But the oddest thing about our games of pool (and a deciding factor methinks) was that Annie excercised a diversionary tactic that went something along the likes of standing behind the pocket I was trying to pot my ball into and flapping her scant clothing in a enticing manor, for example, lifting her skirt. This, surely, was why I lost both games of pool! Can you imagine playng pool with that going on in your direct line of vision?

Her boyfriend didn't seem to bat an eyelash, either they aren't that serious, he is totally laid back or maybe he's just used to her antics.

Either way, it was an odd couple of games of pool.

When that bar closed Rich and myself subsequently moved off to the hostel, but decided that we needed to get some more alcohol in from a bottle shop (Aussie name for an off license). Whilst in the hostel we met up with a new guy that had just moved into my dorm, his name was Chris, 22 years old and he was just here for the rugby. He had also had a few drinks, so Rich, Dave, Chris and myself tried to find the nearest bottle shop.

As we were drunk, it took bloody ages, but eventually we found a bottle shop that was open on Lygon Street and bought a six pack each. Walking back to the hostel we discovered that Chris was a changed man when he had too much to drink as he continually shouted vulgar abuse at every and any stranger we passed, I think he was fortunate that he was in a gang of four guys.

Ironically, Chris is actually quiet a nice chap when sober.

I don't recall how much I drunk or what time I got to sleep.
The Black Cat

There is a really groovy bar on Brunswick called the Black Cat, it's all red lighting inside, comfy old leather sofas and really mellow tunes. Just the place to chill out of an evening.

Anyway, I was there with Mel, Rachel, Mel's friend from work Melanie and Melanie's best friend, Michelle; Michelle is considerably horizontally challenged.

So, everything is going cool, we are all chatting and having a good time except for the fact that Michelle seems to be a bit over keen on me, apparently her boyfriend will be turning up at some point during the evening (which oddly enough, he did), but for now she is uncomfortably keen - which doesn't endear me to her. Shortly my conversation turns to Mel (Melody) and we start chatting (in a cruel harshness that could only be induced by alcohol) about how sad and fat Michelle is and how I wish she would stop chatting so keenly to me.

The evening continues, Melanie and Michelle leave, Rachel leaves as she has to work the next day. Mel and myself get trashed, have a really good night, all is well on the Farnell night scene.... or is it?

A few days later I am in Illia getting a Latte to perk myself up after another social bonanza the previous evening and I just happened to ask Melanie what happened to Michelle and herself that evening? To which I was informed that Michelle told Melanie that she thought that Mel and myself were talking about her openly in a derogatory fashion and being the sensitive type that she is, got upset and wanted to leave. Before I could parlay a response, Melanie told me that she knew that Michelle must have been wrong because she didn't hear anything and she knows that Mel and myself wouldn't be that rude, she apologised for leaving early and put it down to Michelle's insecurity and paranoia!

Relief? Guilt? Absolutely!
The Provincial

The second evening in Melbourne I was at an immediate loss for something to do, so I took it upon myself to wander down to Brunswick Street, find a cool looking bar and see who I could talk to.

I ended up in a place on a corner called the Provincial, it looked quite groovy, the music wasn't too loud and there were a couple of women sitting at the bar that looked my kind of age. So I went up to them and started chatting, I can't remember their names right now but it turns out that one of them is a singer (she did have a microphone in her handbag, so I figured she was telling the truth) and she was due to sing in one of the bars on Brunswick St. However, when she went in, she determined that the clientele were distinctly unsavoury and she didn't feel comfortable, so her and her friend promptly left and decided to prop up the nearest half-decent looking bar instead. It was also her birthday, which in itself was good cause for celebration! Anyway, the long and short of this night is that we got completely drunk and I don't recall the events of the evening in their entirety, but I did get a subsequent invite to the girls official birthday party on the coming Saturday night at a place called the Bond Bar.

I didn't attend her birthday party, the Bond Bar has a reputation for being a bit ponsy and touristy, the two women were both 32 and not bad looking all told, but really I couldn't be bothered; but I did get totally trashed with them this night though and I really don't recall what time of the morning I got home.
Melbourne - My Local Area

Melbourne is set on a river, the river Yarra. The CBD is on the north shore, the CBD (by modern standards) is also exceptionally small and as I said early the roads are layed out in a grid system.

My hostel is on Nicholson Street in an area called Fitzroy, which in turn is slightly north-east of the CBD. I can walk into the CBD in about 15 minutes or catch the tram, which probably also takes about 15 minutes as (much like London buses) it stops every 200 yards! The hostel faces a medium sized park called Carlton Park, which also houses tennis courts, the Melbourne Museum and a big, picturesque old exhibition building.

Two streets behind my hostel is a street called Brunswick Street, it is one of the hippest, most happening parts of Melbourne from a social aspect. Most of the street is occupied by bars, restaurants, clubs and cafes; the atmosphere on the street itself is quite laid back and bohemian, there are also hippy shops, art shops and music shops on the street - I think Jeremy would fit in quite well! The street reflects the cafe culture that is evident when you first venture out in Melbourne, it is much more laid back, down to earth and friendly than Sydney. The internet cafe I am in at the moment is on Brunswick Street.

Across the other side of the park is a street called Lygon Street, this is the Italian quarter of Melbourne and is quite similar to Brunswick Street but not quite as busy. Some people prefer this, it's a great place to sit outside an Italian cafe / restaurant with a bottle of wine and chill out.

The only beach in central Melbourne is at St. Kilda. It is about 40 minutes south of my hostel by tram and is regarded by most as quite a nice area to live; it is right on the sea front, has a modest sized beach and gets quite busy on the weekend when the weather is good. Most people regard St. Kilda favourably, but there are those that consider it a little over-pretentious; it also houses its fair share of weirdos, maybe it's the sea air but there seems to be a disproportionate quantity of odd and mad people in St. Kilda. There is also quite a strong biker (as in Harley Davidson, leather jackets) community and a right grungy old bar called the Espy (based in the Esplanade Hotel) which plays live music every evening and is really popular.

Back to Nicholson Street, my local pub is called the Pump House and is all of about 20 yards from the hostel - which is handy! Generally speaking most people don't spend the whole night in the Pump House, it gets used as a meeting place and pre-evening drinking post. It also serves good food.

I will leave you with a piccy of the pub!

Indigenous Types

Another reference article, this time about the indigenous peoples of this region.

Aborigines

As you are aware, the indigenous people of Australia are the Aborigines. In the cities they are generally regarded with strong disdain as nearly all of them are alcoholics or druggies, this contrasts with the nation's general feeling of moral guilt, or supposed moral guilt. I say supposed, because the Aussie PR machine makes a big deal out of demonstrating remorse for the way the white settlers have treated the Aborigines over time.

In the early days aborigines were free game to white settlers and they use to get hunted like animals, thousands were slaughtered. There was also a time where the Aus government decided that the Aborigines weren't integrating very well into white society, so they forcibly removed Aboriginal children from their families and put them into a white educational system with no contact back to their family. There is also the issue that white settlers stole their land, for example, Melbourne was "bought" from the Aborigines by a chap called John Batman who paid them with a few items of clothing and miscellaneous rubbish.

Back to my point. Publically, the nation is full of remorse for these crimes, politicians denounce the past, museums are full of apology books signed by every day aussies and political bills have been passed giving land rights to the Aborigines. It's a very sensitive issue and nobody would dare to be seen as anything other than remorseful. Ayres Rock has even been renamed to it's aboriginal title Uluru.

Like much racism, the reality of the way Aborigines are treated is far from ideal. I am not saying that any white Australian is proud of the way the Aborigines were treated, but a lot of them don't care and a lot of them are actively prejudiced against them. You just have to see how they are treated, how many of them don't have decent jobs, how poor their quality of life is in urban areas; the only Aborigines I have seen in employment (I can count that on one hand) are working in the tourist trade, promoting Australia's aboriginal history. Most of the land rights that have been given back to the Aborigines work on the following principle; you can have this area of land (usually in the middle of NT, where nobody cares about), but if we need a patch of it (say, for a lucrative mining operation) then you haven't got a leg to stand on.

There are Aussies that genuinely care about the past, but I think you'll find racism and prejudice a more common everyday feeling toward them.

There are Aborigines that are genuinely trying to build bridges with the white people, but there is still strong resentment from the Aborigianal community against the whites for the way they were treated.

Maoris

The Maori people are indigenous to New Zealand and in a quirky run of fate have an infinitely better deal than the Aborigines in Australia.

I don't know the specifics, but the New Zealand people and government have done as much as they possibly can to integrate successfully with the Maori people. Many white Kiwis have Maori ancestry and will announce this to anyone that cares to listen as it is regarded as a source of strong national pride!

You will most likely have seen Maoris if you have ever seen the All Blacks play rugby as most of the team is Maori. They perform a dance called the Haka (prounced Hucka) before they start the game, contrary to popular belief this is not an aggressive war dance but is in fact an innocent story about how the sun gets pulled across the sky - but it looks cool and might freak the opposition a bit!

I have also come across people wearing bits of oddly shaped bone around their necks, these are called Bone Carvings; they are of Maori creation and each one means something unique and special to its wearer. For the spiritual significance of a bone carving to work it cannot be bought, it must be given as a gift; someone giving you their bone carving is of great honour and significance.

Torres Straight Islanders

There is stretch of water north of Australia is called the Torres Straight which hosts an assortment of small islands; hence the name of these poeple. I don't really know much else about them.
Melbourne - People

OK, this is where I get to tell you about all the people I know, well, I guess that's a bit obvious because if I didn't know them, how would I be able to tell you about them!

I still chill out with Mel and Rachel, they live 9 trams stops up the road, or if I drive it takes no more than about 15 minutes to get there. They live in a house share with a guy called Iain, he is Irish, but has been here for a while and has gained Australian residency (and an american accent, oddly enough), on the whole he is inoffensive, but intrisically miserable I think. Rachel works in a book shop in the centre of town and Mel works in a coffee shop / cafe just around the corner from Rachel's shop. During the day I sometimes pop in and hassle them or get a coffee from Mel's cafe (called Illia), it's usually full of lawyer types as it is right next to the law courts, Rach also drinks coffee in it too.

I've become good mates with a couple of guys in the room next to mine in the hostel (I'm in rm 3, they are in rm 2) called Rich and Dave. Rich is from Luton and Dave's from Harpenden, Terry/Nick, how weird is that (the sad thing is they both know Slip End and they've both drunk in the Frog & Rhubarb!)... but get this, two sisters (family type, not religious type) have just moved into their dorm and they are both from Harpenden too! Double weird!!!

The handy guy around the hostel is called John, he's been there for ages. He's quite a big guy and in a intriguing twist of wit he has gained the monicker "Little John"..... sigh

Quite a lot of people in Melbourne are here for the Rugby at the moment and into a similar category falls my friend Wendy. She is Scottish and is an absolute rugby fanatic, the first time we watched a game of rugby in a pub with her she knew the names and positions of every single player in the game and could quite successfully commentate the whole game if she tried. I don't even know the difference between a ruck and a maul, which apparently is quite elementary rugby!

The first guy I met in my dorm sleeps in the bunk opposite mine, he is called Dave and is dating an Irish girl called Clodagh. On the surface of it he's an OK guy, but the way he conducts himself makes him come across as quite self-centered and seedy - oh well!

There is an old guy (as in 69 years old) in the hostel called Vernon who is English, his wife died two years ago, so he decided to come out to Aus and visit some relations and then just hang out. He's really cool, but it's like a 69 year old backpacker - weird!

One of the reception staff at the hostel is called Annie, she is a Kiwi and appears to be at least half Maori. She is super hyper, if you go out drinking with her she just kind of bounces around all the time like a mad bouncy thing!

There's also another English guy called Pete, he has his hair in a Mohican, which looks cool and he is a really friendly chap to boot.

OK, there are more people but I will introduce you to them as I go on, so be patient.

Photography

So far, as you are probably aware, I am able to take digital pictures with my phone. You may also have noticed that the quality is somewhat lacking, this is due partly to the fact that my phone is primarily a phone, not a digital camera and it is also quite difficult to hold dead still (hence the time warp tunnelling type affect you may see on some pics).

I am also taking pictures with my 35mm automatic camera, this is better because it is a camera not a phone. Hopefully I can find somewhere that will scan these in so I may have some better shots for you as I go along, I know some of you may be thinking why don't I just buy a digital camera, but I really can't be bothered with the expense and 35mm film provides better quality shots than any digital camera!
Melbourne - Nunnery Life

The Nunnery is a far more pleasant hostel than the Jolly Swagman in Sydney. For starters the actual building itself is quite old (by Aussie standards), the interior is all wood and it has a very housey, cosy kind of feel to it. The reception keeps day time hours, unlike the Swagman which was a 24 hour reception. This works quite well as it is very rare that you need to talk to reception at 2am, reception staff don't get pissed off for having to work nights and the handy / domestic staff actually live in the hostel too anyway.

Apart from friendly reception staff, most of the people that stay in the hostel are friendly too. It helps if you are outgoing and talk to people you meet in the hostel, that way before you know it, you know loads of people! There is always some kind of social thing going on of an evening which often involves a lot of people, whether it's an event in town or just a night in watching a DVD, but either way there is a very communal spirit amongst the residents.

The Nunnery tries to encourage people to get to know each other by holding a wine and nibbles night every Friday evening, basically the hostel lays on free wine, crisps, etc. and the idea is that it gives people a chance to meet other people and mix a bit more than they otherwise might. The hostel also provides free breakfast every morning between 8 and 10 which comprises of toast and cereal (tea is free all day, every day, hurrah!) but makes a change by serving pancakes and maple syrup on Sunday morning. This sounds quite delightful, but so far I haven't seen many breakfasts, largely due to the fact that I'm rarely out of bed before 10:30!!

The hostel also has a payphone, on which for some reason calling cards don't work, only cash. It also provides internet access for $6 an hour!! Ouch, I was paying $2 an hour in Sydney! You can use the internet in Melbourne library for free, but only for a limited time. At the moment I am using an internet cafe around the corner which charges $4 an hour, this seems to be quite a good rate for Melbourne. The cafe is quite good too, all the PCs are fully kitted out with everything, the only problem is you get gaggles of Japanese kids playing network computer games and being very loud (you also get sad, long haired metaller types doing this too, but they are a bit quieter and as they appear to be my kind of age they really should get a life, or at the very least get broadband access at home!).

See below for pictures of the entrance to my hostel and a view from my hostel (which faces Carlton Park) which proves that the weather really can be crap here!



Melbourne - Arrival

Well, I have been in Melbourne for almost 2 weeks now so I had better get writing otherwise I will be continually playing a game of catch up!

I left Wagga Wagga at about 10:30am on Wednesday 15th October and in complete contrast to my journey from Sydney to Wagga it rained heavily and non-stop for the entire journey! I hit Melbourne late in the afternoon, probably just as the rush hour was starting to kick in as the traffic was (by Aussie standards) quite heavy around the city centre.

Luckily, Melbourne CBD (for those of you that weren't paying attention in Geography class, this means Central Business District and Aussies use it where we would say city or town centre in the UK) is based on a square grid system and isn't particularly large, so navigating my way to the hostel was easier than I had anticipated. My Aussie road map has quite a good map of Melbourne CBD, so that was handy too.

My hostel is called The Nunnery and was recommended to me by Mel and Rachel who had both stayed in it at different times in the past. The hostel is named The Nunnery because it used to be a nunnery (surprise surprise) and there is also a real nunnery a couple of blocks up the street, which is a bit weird!

When I rang up to reserve a bed I was given the choice of a 4, 8 or 12 bed dorm, I decided to go for an 8 bed dorm as it was middle of the road price wise (the less beds the more expensive it is) and it would make a change as I only stayed in a 4 bed dorm in Sydney. The room I was placed in is on the ground floor and used to be the old Chapel, which I thought was quite cool and despite having 4 bunk beds in it the room is quite large and spacious. It also has its own bathroom/toilet, which made a change from having to share facilities with an entire landing as I did in Sydney. Initially I was placed in a top bunk, but the next day somebody moved out of a bottom bunk and I switched beds (when you roll in at 4am, pissed, it's much easier to navigate a bottom bunk and you have less chance of harshly waking your dorm mates up too!).