Trompe le Monde: A Round the World Tour Diary

An online travel diary so people can keep up to date with what I'm doing and where I'm going.

Location: Home, United Kingdom

You all know who I am, I assume.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Melbourne, Mooching, Australian Culture and Dirty Protests

Hello all,

Firstly, thanks to those of you who suggested ways I could get out of my current cardless financial predicament. In actual fact it seems we're going with the "Si couriers my card back to me" plan, as I suggested in my previous missive on the subject. Dad amusingly informs me that this week HSBC recorded the highest profit by any bank ever, or something. The system works, etc.

Anyway, I'm now in Melbourne, capital of the great state of Victoria, and Australia's second biggest city, (just) behind Sydney in the population stakes.

So far, though, it seems ahead of Sydney in all other stakes. Admittedly we once again find ourselves in a cack hostel (more of which later), but the city itself is simply marvellous. Wide streets, large amounts of pedestrianisation, and (important for stone broke chancers like ourselves) free exhibitions, parks and art galleries. Yay!

To this end we have been liberally sampling Australian culture over the last couple of days. Firstly, we went to an Aussie Rules Football game at the Telstra Dome, a fantastic new and extremely well-planned big stadium in Melbourne where England may or may not have won the Rugby World Cup the other year (not sure if it was there or at the other Telstra Stadium in Sydney - answers to the usual, please). The game we saw was a quarter-final in the pre-season cup competition the Wizard Cup (the season proper doesn't start until end of March) between Melbourne Demons and Carlton Blues. Carlton is a suburb of Melbourne, just to the north of the city centre, but since we weren't staying there we decided to support the Demons. They lost 107-97 (6pts for a goal, 1 for a 'behind', or narrow miss, and 9 for a 'super goal', scored from more than 50m away), but it was a fantastic game, and I can't see why Aussie Rules isn't more popular generally. It has everything - big hits, free flowing play and moments of tension.

Next up on our Aussie culture journey was a look in the Narional Gallery, which was also for the most part free. We looked at a load of portraits, landscapes and still lifes by various European masters from the 14th to the 17th centuries, including works by Rembrandt, Gainsborough, Canaletto and Caravaggio, plus obviously loads more. All good. The highlight of the gallery for me, though, was the 'Grotesques: the fantastic and diabolical in art' exhibition, which contained lots of insane drawings of gods, monsters, angels and demons from such artists as Durer, Picasso, Goya and others. Marvellously barking. All very good, but none of it is actually Australian, is it?

Next door to the gallery is the Victoria Art Centre. This had perhaps less of interest to the art expert, but maybe more for those like us looking to get in to Aussie culture outside of sport. You see, this contained a Kylie exhibition. That's right, as in Kylie Minoghue, pint-sized rapidly-aging bulletproof-arsed Aussie pop princess. The exhibition contained much of interest to the Australian Kylie obsessive - her costumes from many a famous video and stage performance, pictures of here from many an album cover or magazine photo shoot, and a big video screen playing her stuff. It was garbage, clearly, but it was all put together with astonishing pretension - foolish photographers and designers prattling on about their work having been quoted left, right and centre to make Kylie appear to be less of a trivial face (and arse) for catchy pop songs, and more a cultural icon. I love Elvis, but he wasn't art.

We've also seen the Royal Botanical gardens, which were brilliant, and in the next few days we intend to attend the Melbourne Grand Prix (free no Formula 1 cars day) and a state cricket match. What we've learnt about modern Aussie culture I don't yet know.

We have learnt an important lesson about mooching, however. Hungry yesterday morning/afternoon, we got ourselves down to Pizza Hut to partake in their excellent and justly-famous all-you-can-eat buffet lunch deal. However, we armed ourselves with a bag lined with a binliner, and proved that we have no shame whatsoever by surreptitiously filling said receptacle with slices of pizza. It was a case of 'one in the mouth, one in the bag' for most of the time. When we waddled out of Pizza Hut some time later, it wasn't just our stomachs that where stuffed fit to burst. We also had about 18 slices of pizza stashed away. Of course, we were so full we didn't need dinner that evening, just a snack, and then we used the chaffed pizza as dinner today. Thus one Pizza Hut buffet acted as three meals. Moochtastic.

Earlier I mentioned that our hostel is a bit rubbish. It's mainly inhabited by Irish eejits on year-long work visas, and staffed by English morons ont he same deal. One of its rules is the always-criminal-for-a-hostel 'no drinking on the premises', meaning our much-vaunted "box of wine" idea of drinking cheap has currently been put on hold. However, I wouldn't say the place was so pisspoor as to merit a dirty protest on my behalf.

That's not how they see it, though, obviously, as this morning when we went to try and extend our stay here in Melbourne the member of staff there accused me of having wet the bed. The night before I'd gone in to our dorm to go to bed and noticed that my sheets were gone from my bed. "Some arsehole's nicked 'em," I naturally assumed, and went and got some more from the night warden. But no - this morning it emerged that my sheets had been wet and thus had been removed and 'destroyed'. Now, it was true that I had spilt water on my bed at about three pm the previous day, and rolled back the sheets to dry them out. But it really does take a special kind of staff to mistake water for whizz. Idiots.

Obviously I was not too pleased with the accusation, and the guy behind the desk actually hadn't been there when the sheets were changed, so he was pretty much accusing me of something he knew nothing about. We said we'd come back later and talk about it, especially since when we asked to see the allegedly soiled mattress he "wasn't sure where it had been put". When we returned later there was a different member of staff on duty. She didn't raise the question at all, and booked our two extra night's stay no problems. Seems like maybe they'd realised their mistake... no apology, but then the Aussies are supposed to be brash, right?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gallapoli isn't the only place Australia lost huge numbers in a short time...we were dumb enough to get right into the Great War. Why don't you check out the % of Aussies killed in France. YOu may also be interested to know that Australian submariners were imprisoned in Turkey during the WW1 (thats right submariners WW1)

June 12, 2007 at 11:56 PM  

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