Tag Archives: travel

Australia According to Peppa

I’m a bit worried. It’s Peppa Pig, you see. She’s visited Australia recently but her destination is a bit different to the Australia I know. My son is watching Peppa’s adventures with Kylie Kangaroo, over and over again (thank you, ABC’s iView), and he just might be getting Australia a teensy bit wrong.

I’m often described as a person of few words, but my vocabulary is by no means limited. “Bit” is, however, the key word here as Peppa’s Australia is made up of bits and bobs that don’t quite fit together. Australia according to Peppa is a right a puzzle for the resident although it probably fits right in with an outsider’s view of our nation.

Boat on the River

Random photograph of the real Australia: Swan River, Perth

So here we are once again watching another rerun of Peppa’s first outback cricket game, which ends with a six into the lone tree on an endless plain. Is that the Nullarbor? Only, the tree holds an unlikely koala and a possibly displaced but friendly platypus drops in. Then there’s Mummy Kangaroo the marine biologist who finishes a day’s work on the (Great Barrier) reef by salvaging treasure. I’m not sure what Daddy Kangaroo does, but he’s a dab hand at the BBQ and a mean surfer. What a bloke! There’s some (mandatory) boomerang tossing and Kylie lives close enough to the sea to get some surfing in.

I must say that Peppa does justice to her brief sojourn Down Under. I do feel though like I’ve just had a walking tour through Australia the Gift. Peppa’s Australia lies somewhere between rural Queensland and the Northern Territory, I reckon but I haven’t quite figured out where. Well, we are a country that’s a continent.

So let’s take stock. Kangaroos and koalas? Check. Not sure why the former are human-like and the latter not. Platypus and boomerang? Check. Game of cricket (read the Ashes)? Check. Indigenous Australian neighbours, footy matches, and (in the light of the current news headlines) dual citizenships. Well, perhaps not for a viewer of the children’s channel, ABC3.

Did I mention I’m just a wee bit worried? Stay tuned for more Peppa…

Licensed to Drive

Source: Wikimedia.org

Source: Wikimedia.org

A gum tree is a poor landmark. Especially if you are in parts unknown in a suburb of Western Australia (WA). Definitely so, if you are doing a driving test. “Needs more directions,” scrawled my lanky Aussie examiner on his form after I stopped in front of the wrong house in the “Leaving Something Behind” part of the test. Certain I’d failed, I proceeded to compound my crimes by hitting the kerb while turning into a car park. It’s the 31st of December – what a way to end the year.

“I know you passed,” said my husband, el geólogo, when I returned to the Cannington Driver and Vehicle Services centre. I’d lasted the full thirty-five minutes while all the other candidates had long since returned. Yes, dear reader, I am now married. I was so thrilled and relieved that I promptly turned into a waterspout. Not for being married, of course, but for having passed what is described as the most stringent driving exam in Australia. Umm, the crying jag could have something to do with raging pregnancy hormones. We won’t go into that. I have no wish to be a mommy blogger, although both “mommy” and “blogger” I soon hope to be.

So why do a driving test? As a temporary resident, I drove with my overseas licence. This is a slightly battered little paperback book, encased in a cover kindly provided by the Good Luck Driving School – Mumbai’s solution to driving lessons. The Driver Services official, a slim and horribly efficient looking young man of Asian descent paged through this – somewhat grimly, I thought. Upon reaching the page with an inky stamp from the Mumbai Road Transport Office and the squiggly signature of An Important Police Person in the Mumbai Police, he shook his head wryly.

The other lane: a road sign in Mumbai

The other lane: a road sign in Mumbai

“I have never seen a driver’s licence like this,” said he.

“It’s the only licence I have.” I replied, somewhat touchily. “It’s ten years old.” Surely, the very shabbiness of the licence proclaimed its genuineness?

Now, as a permanent resident, I need to and will drive with a WA driver’s licence. This beautiful blue laminated card, a key to many doors, will arrive in the mail in a few weeks. It will have a photo of me, quite likely looking teary-eyed, dishevelled, and perhaps with only one earring. I discovered the other clinging to my dress after we left the centre. It is after all one of the unwritten laws of the universe – thou shalt always look your worst in an official photograph.

So here I am, after a series of lessons with Perth’s excellent Defensive Driving School, one minor accident, a double puncture, and much driving practice later, a proud possessor of a new licence to drive. I feel strangely liberated – this is a real ego-booster. Yet, fond as I am of my blue Ford hatchback, my sturdy driving test companion, driving is still a necessary evil rather than a pleasure. I hand the car keys to my patient husband. I may have driven us to the test, but he’s driving us back home today.

If you need to know more about the WA road rules, try the only quizzes that help drivers prepare for the theory test at: http://www.transport.wa.gov.au/licensing/road-rules-theory-test-quiz.asp

Also, read about my first adventures in Australian driving at: https://perthinent.wordpress.com/2013/07/06/keys-to-drive-again/

This is Melbourne…

Bridge on the River Yarra: A canoe streaks past across the Melbourne cityscape.

Bridge on the River Yarra: A canoe streaks past across the Melbourne cityscape.

I have been away – away from this blog and away in Melbourne. I haven’t been in Melbourne for six months though – just under six days. It was cold. It was wet. It was windy. It was inspiring – enough to get me writing again.

Scooter art: Can you spot Bart Simpson on this wall?

Scooter art: Can you spot Bart Simpson on this wall?

Melbourne’s cold has a smell – it’s a wet smell of winter rain at the entrance to Flinders Street station. It’s the mild reek of garbage as you pass brick alleys lit up with street art. A pong of horse manure dropped as a buggy passes by. Very reminiscent of Mumbai. The smell of a city.

For me, Melbourne represents the Other Side – the rest of Australia. The bit I’ve not yet encountered. She is far more fashionable than Perth – the passers-by are smartly dressed and pressed. My Target coat feels like a dowdy sack when one sales assistant looks dubious at my announcement that I am a Medium or perhaps even a size 10, thank you. “Why you’re tiny!” she exclaims when I strip off my precious warm layers. I’m still not sure what to think about that. I bought a new coat.

I’d like to reel off, guidebook style, just what you can see and do. I’d never finish. The city has a lot to offer and I’ve only scratched the surface. I have walked and walked – into Gothic-spired cathedrals, across leafless parks, through an exhibition of Renaissance art from Spain, into an aquarium with king penguins, onto a tram that went to Richmond instead of Toorak village – yes, I was lost in Melbourne – and finally from an enthralling performance of The King and I to our gracefully aging hotel.

 

From a distance: The magnificent dome of the Royal Exhibition Building

From a distance: The magnificent dome of the Royal Exhibition Building

I can now recognise Melbourne’s skyline in the morning news. A snapshot of a frame with “City Centre” is now distinguishable as a tram sign. Nameless glittering spires turn into headquarters of leading banks. Melbourne has meaning now. I hope to return one day and renew the relationship – all of it – her stores and stories, spires, alleys, museums and galleries. Perhaps when it’s warmer, although I have a new coat now. I highly recommend the experience – and a good pair of walking shoes.