- The wombat
The world’s most adorable animal. A wombat is like a 35kg teddy-bear crossed with a hedgehog, only without the spines. Looking at the face, there could be a bit of harvest-mouse in there too (a very big one). I stroked a wombat between its shoulder-blades, one evening just after dark, grazing placidly on the lawn at my son’s wedding celebration. They can be seen plentifully in this location, known as Kangaroo Valley. Australians present said they’d never seen one that tame, and I shouldn’t assume every wombat would let me get away with it. Even so, a must.
- Hi-Vis parenting
Like many young middle-class Portuguese parents, a lot of young middle-class Australians go in for high-visibility, high-audibility parenting, leaving nobody within earshot in any doubt about their highly-developed skills. Overheard (therefore) on the Manly ferry, as it rounded Bradleys Head on its way to Sydney:
Mother: (excitedly) And when we get round that point there, what are we going to see?
Toddler: (looks blank) …
Mother: (prompting) We’re going to see …
Toddler: (with wild excitement) Tigers!
Mother: No, it’s a building, remember, a big white building
Toddler: (obliged to insist a little) Tigers!
Mother: (obliged to insist a little) No, it’s a white building
(We round the point, to see The Opera House 2 kms off in the distance)
- Sydney Opera House
Not white in fact, but a gorgeous creamy caramel colour. Unexpectedly huge, and even more beautiful than the hype has led you to expect.
- The Friday afternoon yuppie piss-up
From late Friday afternoon onwards, drinking places like the The Island or the Manly Wharf Hotel are crammed with smartly turned-out Sydney-siders, drinking with a single-mindedness which would make a football hooligan stare. The Island is on a posh boat with a flat bottom, and the cheerful roar it gives off can be heard half a kilometre away. It can be rented for a very reasonable $25.000 a day.
By the way, a Sydney-sider is defined simply enough in Wikipedia as ‘a native or inhabitant of Sydney, Australia’. The Urban Dictionary goes further: ‘a person who lives in Sydney, Australia and really hates Melbourne. Their hobbies include sooking about how Sydney is better than Melbourne because they have a massive chip on their shoulder. Most of them are having trouble dealing with the fact that Sydney has had its day, and Melbourne has no where (sic) to go but up.’
If you’re now wondering what ‘sooking’ means, the barely literate and apparently not very self-aware Urban Dictionary can help again: ‘to act like a pussy ass bitch. Wine (sic) like a two year old’
So now you know all you need to know about Sydney-siders.
- Asian tourists
Year-round, Sydney boasts large groups of Asian tourists, mostly female, often wearing colourful hats or visors. Polkadot patterns are often seen. These groups queue with other groups of Asian tourists at the main attractions, so that they can take photos of one another grinning and shrieking in front of them.
To summarise the remaining items:
6-9. Tasty pies, good coffee, birds, The Royal Botanic Gardens,
There are pie-shops everywhere, and the takeaway coffee is always good. There are loads of birds, and the botanical gardens are very nice, with great views of downtown Sydney, the harbour, the bridge, the opera house etc. Shit, this isn’t very good, is it?
Not great. How long were you there?
Two or three weeks.
Perhaps something else will come to mind. You know you haven’t even managed ten items. Perhaps you need to change the title to ‘nine’.
I can’t be bothered, to be honest.
Ok, don’t beat yourself up about it. So did you read about that cricketer David Warner hating the English?
Yes. He seems like a nasty little git.
Very much so. At least he’s lost the parade-ground moustache.
What I didn’t understand, though, he said he has to dig deep into himself to activate his hatred of us, which seems like a greater effort than any self-respecting Australian should have to make.
Ha ha. Who’s us?
What do you mean? You’re English, aren’t you?
I’ve got a good quote I found in an article. Do you want to hear it?
If you’re not English, what are you? OK, go on.
It’s some Aussie bloke who was chief executive of Australian Rugby Union during the 2007 World Cup, and he said: “Whether it’s cricket, rugby league or rugby union, we do all hate England. All I’m doing is stating the bleeding obvious. No one likes England … Sadly, this is all a by-product of their born-to-rule mentality. It’s been there for a long time now and nothing has changed.”
Yes, Warner also said history was a big part of it. You can see his point, of course. They have a wine called Nineteen Crimes, which is nineteen of the 200-odd offences that could get you transported.
I happen to have the list here. One was ‘Petty Larceny. Theft under one shilling’. Another was ‘Stealing fish from a pond or river’. Have a look for yourself.
‘Impersonating an Egyptian’ is a good one. And ‘Stealing a shroud out of a grave’. They were weird times.
They also have a beer called One Fifty Lashes, which is what the bloke who first brewed beer there got for stealing the ingredients, so the legend goes. They seem to revel in all this stuff.
Good beer, is it?
Excellent. Australia is awash with excellent beer, mostly pale ales, draught or bottled. That’s my tenth point, thank you.