My Cousins, the Enevers.....They live in Fairy Meadows, a suburb of Wollongong. Keith and Gill moved out to Australia about 20 years ago, when it was still possible (and almost encouraged) to do so, and to be blunt, I am jealous of the life they have. Their house is beautiful and spacious - a large 'rustic' kitchen that opens out onto a garden full of 'cawing' birds, several lovely shady bedrooms, a front garden that looks out onto a street so clean that you could eat your dinner off the floor. When I first arrived in Sydney I was armed with their phone number and arranged to see them. So on 27th of May I hopped on the train (with the world's best hangover from the night before: an evening drinking and singing raucously with hostel people) and made the trip down past Austinmer (where Claire Gerson lives), Thirroul and so on to Fairy Meadows. I was met at the train station and given a bit of a tour of Wollongong (not a bad city, only slightly scabby because of all the industrial buildings) and then dinner. Because of the night before, I was in bed early. I must have slept for about 14 hours! It was great! The only real downside of hostel living is the snoring bugger in the bunk above mine, so a night in my own room was a real Godsend. The next day we took a slow drive up the escarpment and through the bush to the outskirts of Sydney, and had lunch on the way. There is a bit in 'Crocodile Dundee' where Dundee and his pretty blond friend are driving though the bush. Birds are calling to one another and that truly Australian way.... In a way, the lunch was like that - the trees were full of birds (very noisy birds), shouting to one another, and any Englishman-abroad (such as I was). It was magical.
That was one of the last days of bright, hot sun before Sydney winter really started.
I had bought 'Name of the Rose' some days before and was reading it on the train. Quite a hardcore book - funny sitting on a train in Oz reading about monks in Europe...
I have been at Workcover for weeks now. As you know, my first few days were spent in Gosford. Then I was working in Sydney under the watchful eye of Stephen Mason, learning the ropes. Stephen is now off round NSW on a server refresh, so I am manning the fort! A nice twist to this is that the chaps in Gosford are on rotation and come down one day a week each to keep me company. Dan Wong introduced me to Yum Cha last week - and I am glad that he did.... Yum Cha is Chinese for 'drink tea' - basically it is a cool way to eat lunch. You and your mate sit at the table and swarms of pretty girls wheel trolleys over and you choose little plates of this, that and the other - noodles, rice, dim sums etc. When you are not eating, you are drinking tea (Dan says it helps digestion), which is served by the one who did the inviting - you thank them by tapping three fingers on the table, in the Chinese custom. When your pot empties you hang the lid half off, and one of the Chinese lovelies comes over and refills it free of charge. Lunches out are fun. With Dan, I eat Chinese food, with Brett, curry, with Ian, more curry and with Jon Heyman, burgers. I am not starving here, and because the food is cheap I am not breaking the bank either. Plus, (apparently) eating out is very Australian. Who am I to argue with such flawless logic as that? Plus, yum cha as bloody great!
In the hostel with me is a bunch of mostly nice people. Once of the better ones is a German called Isobell [sic], who has been out in Australia for 11 (?) months on her working visa before she goes to university. She is a laugh and a chatterbox who likes her goon (slang for cask wine) and tea. She is a practical character too - she bought herself a big bag of sugar a few weeks back, and rather than store it in the kitchen (her food box is not too large) she keeps a little salt pot full of sugar instead. Sensible! Her rationale being: it saves space and there is much less chance that some thieving-scumbag-backpacker is going to get their mitts on it!
Last week I went back for round 2 with the Mormons. Round one, the week before, had been an interesting experience, where I met three of them - Sister Tanner (US), Sister something or other (Kenya?) and Sister Dunno-her-name (China) who was very, very short, and smiled a lot. One of the things I wanted to do here was try new things (the week before I had gone to a Marxist meeting as perhaps you know) so when they said, "would you like to come to prayer meeting?" of course I said "yes". It was interesting: their outlook is different to mine, but they are not like other religions in that they do not tell me I am going to burn for all eternity if I call myself a Hindu. They gave me a book of Mormon (which I plan on reading one day) and some leaflets and sent me on my way.
Then the phone calls started.
They wanted me to go back, but I was not convinced! I told myself to politely decline when I next met them, so during round 2 with them, I did. I told them that I was not going to convert and that the reason I had come to a meeting was to learn new things. I am quite happy with my beliefs, thanks very much, and to be honest, if I converted to every new religion I heard about, my beliefs would not be worth a sack of beans! They have left me to learn a bit on my own now. If I have questions, I might go back. I am not going to be a Mormon though.