Friday 21st November – INTRUDER ALERT! I woke up with a jump and a barely-contained scream when I heard someone in our room.
Bravely, I risked a peek in order to identify the culprit in a police line-up later, and I saw an angry-looking skinhead drop his grubby rucksack on the floor and storm out in an eye-watering cloud of body odour (or what Bev refers to as “Bobby Orange”). I’m guessing his problem is to do with the fact the girls are using five of the six beds between them, and he wants one for himself. Or maybe he is just an angry man who wants to store his bag. Either way, I’ll try and persuade the girls to have a tidy up when they’re awake. The spare bunks currently resemble a rummage sale at Miss Selfridge and the floor looks like a Boots make-up counter after a stampede. The only thing I’m contributing to the mess is a half-empty bottle of pinot in the corner, so I’m going to finish that off now just to be neat. Wine for breakfast twice in a row! Hark at me.
To: “My Great British Contacts” Group
Subject: Observations of a Backpacker
Date: Fri 21 Nov – 17:11
G’day ya flamin’ gallahs.
Melbourne, I’ve discovered, is actually well known for its highly unpredictable weather, it even being highlighted in one of the tourist brochures at reception; ‘Melbourne: Four Seasons In One Day.’ Unfortunately, none of us had read that or any other brochure before we arrived here. Rain, wind, lightning, sun, even occasional snow, all in your average Melbourne hour, so we’re having to pack sunscreen, umbrellas and snow-shoes just for a quick trip to the shops. It’s getting a little cumbersome. Having spent the day wandering, I’ve learnt that the city a big mixing-pot full of global waifs and strays like me, a Dulux colour-chart of skintones and ethnicities. Everyone is welcome. I’m told it has the largest population of Greeks outside of Greece, and it’s positively crawling with Asians. And I mean that in a positive, non-racist way.
We’re staying at a hostel in the heart of Melbourne’s Central Business District, or ‘CBD’, surrounded by some of the best of the city’s night-life. We have the only dorm in the basement, and if anyone fancies coming over here and joining us you’d be more than welcome. I’d much rather share with one of you lot than the guy who has just taken the bunk above me. I think I’ve seen him on Crimewatch.
Now that I am a veteran backpacker of at least two days, I feel fully-qualified to pass my thoughts on to you about hostel life. For instance, I’ve learnt that staying in one doesn’t mean you have to scrimp on personal hygiene, although I’ve certainly met people who use it as an excuse. Washing machines, tumble driers and bathrooms are all on hand at The Friendly Backpacker, so you don’t have to transform into a bearded, grubby hobo unless you really want to. The toilets are clean, although the paper-dispensers seem set to provide one sheet at a time (and let’s face it, some bums need more). The showers aren’t communal, much to my relief, however the bathrooms are, and I must confess I’m still not comfortable sharing a mirror with confused foreigners. I can’t be the only man who moisturises, surely? The look I got from one hairy man-panzee this morning, you’d think I was pissing on his cornflakes… Which moves me seamlessly on to my kitchen experiences. It can be a little hazardous in there at peak times. Appliances are few and far between, and don’t think that just because you put your name on your stuff guarantees it remains in your possession. So don’t be stupid enough to buy some expensive champagne or something! We tend to avoid the problem altogether and eat out.
Residents seem to come in two distinct types; either ‘Tramp-packers’ (bearded and stinky) or ‘Champagne Backpackers’ (glamorous and soap-loving). Both groups contain three distinct sub-categories based on the individual.
Brash-packers: Loud extroverts who barrage you with a host of questions before they’ve even introduced themselves. “Heytheredarlinwhatsyournameandwheredyacomefrom?” They rarely wait for an answer before moving breathlessly on to their next topic.
Blush-packers: Folks who smile timidly in a way they hope says, “I’m a nice person but I’m a bit shy, so please come over and talk to me first because I won’t come and talk to you”.
Bitch-packers: Those rude bastards who ignore everyone. They can usually be found wearing headphones like their own personal ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign, with music playing just loud enough to be heard from across the room.
Due to the fact that I still bother to wash and find initiating a conversation a little tricky, I can proudly declare myself to be a Champagne Backpacker of the Blushing variety. The rosé champagne of the backpacking world, if you will. But all types, whatever their group or sub-species, flock to the hostel’s communal area where they get to read, doze, chat, and generally exist with others around them. It seems that company is one luxury no one is prepared to give up on. Not even the bitches.
Some of my fellow travellers view the United Kingdom as a dirty, crowded little island, which I’m finding hard not to take personally. Yesterday, I found myself defending the London Underground of all things. However, most native Aussies love the UK and a number of them have even commented on my accent, telling me it’s adorable, sexy even. So obviously I’ve taken to speaking clearer and more eloquently than I ever did back home. It’s already rewarded me with a complimentary English muffin at Starbucks, and a pint – sorry, I mean schooner – on the house. Being a Brit is officially awesome in Oz. Or, as I told the guy who served me at lunch-time, “Gosh, I am so very fortunate to be British, because it seems to go down awfully well with you jolly nice Australian chaps.” Interestingly, the exact opposite seems to be happening to the girls. The more tired, drunk or wound up they get, the chavvier they sound, and they’re usually at least one of those things at all times.
Anyways, best be off.
Love Kev xx
Replies to you guys;
Dad – Skip over anything that makes you feel uncomfortable, or I can delete you altogether. Your choice.
Mum – Does he really need to go to the vets? Maybe he just misses me?
Michael – That’s a relief! No, I haven’t needed the practise yet. You?