When I lived in Australia I bought one of those tacky tourist wooden signpost arms that has the distance in kilometres that Australia is from other countries. It still hangs above my bathroom door. Underneath the distance it says ‘it’s a bloody long way’. I can confirm that is still true.
I can’t be sure but I think I travelled for about 3 weeks to get from Bristol to Adelaide. Since I left home, my 4 month old niece has graduated university. Luckily however, it seems that they have delayed the Ashes on my behalf, and, in fact, the second Test starts tomorrow. Almost like I planned to arrive in time for it…
So here I am in my absolute favourite country in the world. I love it. To arrive, it is a beautiful place, particularly welcoming when you have left freezing temperatures and snow at Heathrow. But it is only on the return journey that you can fully appreciate how great this place is. When I returned to the UK after living in Melbourne, I was struck by how different the way of life is over here. The Aussies are more relaxed, friendlier and happier than people in the UK. Of course, that is a generalisation, and not true in all cases. But it’s not far wrong.
On public transport, it is second nature for people to talk to you, without fear of you thinking they must be some kind of crazed lunatic, or at least trying to sell you drugs! When was the last time a stranger just had a chat with you on the tube in London? I’m guessing not recently.
I remember hearing a story about a ‘pom’ who moved to Sydney, and during a phone call to a call centre whilst setting up in his new home, the Aussie on the other end of the line struck up a conversation with the Brit about how long he had been in Australia. Upon finding out that he had been there less than a week, and knew no one in the country, he invited out with him and his mates that weekend. The British guy took a chance, went out with the guys, and several years later was best man to the friendly Australian who had reached out the hand off friendship when it was needed most.
Now I cannot vouch for the validity of that story, but it rings true. In a similar situation when I first moved here, a girl at work gave me her number and said to call if I was bored. That Friday night things were bleak. I was young, on the other side of the world from my friends and family, and desperately homesick. It was fly home, or man up and do something about it! So I rang Rachel. We went out the following night. That phone call stopped me from flying home, and that night out was one of the most fun I had in Australia. Rachel is still a very good friend of mine. I will be spending Christmas with her, her husband, and their new daughter Abigail.
Anyway, my original point is that the people here are unashamedly welcoming. Within minutes of stepping off the plane there was banter about the cricket with the ground staff checking landing cards. Passport control and quarantine staff were friendly and convivial. To me, it feels a little bit like coming home. Except I would never support their cricket team!
So I sit here in Adelaide airport, waiting for Dobbie, the world’s greatest cricket writer, (at least the world’s greatest cricket writer who is prepared to travel Australia with me…) and I can’t wait to get out there. Part of the glory of cricket, and indeed travelling, is the sweet anticipation of what is to come! This time tomorrow I will be sat at the Adelaide Oval, watching part two of this series, the most exciting cricket contest in the world. Anything could happen. And I can’t bloody wait!