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Posts Tagged ‘trams’

A passport to friendship

A friend of Fran’s who had lived in Melbourne for a number of years warned her in the months before our departure that she found making Australian friends tough. She said they could be cliquey, tight with their old friends and slow to let newcomers in.

A few weeks after moving to Australia we’d made no real inroads; admittedly our only points of contact tended to be shopkeepers, bar staff, estate agents, lunatics on trams and Fran’s one-day-at-a-time emergency teaching colleagues.

It was strange as we’re sociable types who enjoy the company of others (because, according to Fran, it means we don’t have to talk to each other). Fran, left alone in the flat for hours on end with the escape route of a call to friends scuppered by the time difference with the UK, was close to climbing the walls. Bruce was considering becoming a lunatic on the trams – at least they thought the people they were yelling at were their friends.

Three months in – and without recourse to drumming classes, speed dating events or escort agencies – things are looking up, with the pair at the heart of efforts to coordinate a large expedition party drawn from across Australia, Europe, North Africa and the Orient to watch the upcoming Crows – Pies game at the MCG.

Lessons learnt

Yet, while some friendships appear to be blossoming, others have fallen by the wayside, nipped in the bud. To avoid the latter, here are Bruce and Fran’s simple tips on making friends in Australia.

DO:

  • Have a beard*. North of the river it means you fit in; south you stand out and get invited to parties by fellow beardies in need of moral support
  • Talk to wierdos. They appreciate the conversation and sometimes turn out not to be that wierd after all
  • Agree to attend house parties thrown by people you met falling-over-drunk at 3.30am. Their friends will appreciate your daring / stupidity and invite you to their hen nights and house warmings
  • Have a lighter in your pocket

DON’T

  • Snog anyone’s pet dog**. At least, not until they know you very well
  • Get locked in the fire escape at the flats of someone you’ve only met that day
  • Make plans with new acquaintances only to forget you ever made them
  • Understand “Come to the party between 8 and 9pm” as “Arrive at 12.30am blind drunk with an even drunker man in a tight-fitting AFL top and sweatband, drink what booze remains, then borrow the keys to our apartment block, forget you borrowed them, insist to the hostess you have never had them even when she is screaming the house down and has turned off the music only to find them in your pocket an hour and a half later”
  • Seriously, do not do the previous one. The repercussions can last for weeks and cross oceans

* This does not always apply for women

** Especially when the owners have already told you about the time they had to milk said dog’s glands using gloves and petroleum jelly

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I’d completed my north / south sweep of the city centre for Fran’s birthday gifts, picked up a couple of local wines from a retailer in Prahran and was heading home down Chapel Street when the first raindrops in months began to fall. One of the city’s few remaining rusty, dusty yellow and green trams came rattling past the market so, dodging through traffic, I hopped on board.

b

As I took my seat, I heard a man’s voice: “OK if I squeeze up next to you?”.

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In the corner of my eye, a woman shot up from the bench opposite and scurried to the back of the tram, leaving behind a tall, grinning ginger 20-something slouched in her wake. Turning after her, he grinned: “What’s wrong? Does no one want to sit with me today?”

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You couldn’t fault her judgment, or those who had apparently gone before. If his appearance wasn’t enough to scare off his prey – he wore a thick layer of grime, particularly on his polo shirt and trousers, which were combined with sockless feet in trainers – the smell that arose from him as soon as the scurrying woman’s tailwind had settled would have seen to it.

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Not so much come on Eileen, as WTF Kev?

Not so much Come on, Eileen, as WTF Kev!?!?!?!

(EDITOR’S NOTE: THIS IS THE MOST VISITED POST ON THIS BLOG. I ASSUME PEOPLE ARE COMING TO LOOK AT THIS PHOTO. CAN YOU PLEASE EXPLAIN IN THE COMMENT BOX BELOW WHY SO MANY PEOPLE WANT TO SEE THIS PHOTO? THANKS. 20/11/08)

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Before I had a chance to consider moving myself, the tram began to pull off, only to be halted by four loud thumps on its side. On the pavement was an outcast from Dexy’s Midnight Runners (see above) locked in confused conversation with a passer-by clutching a CD. They too had been startled by the banging and were looking at the cause of the noise.

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“Wait up,” came a cry from outside as the wooden door creaked slowly open. “I’m trying to get on here.”

“The door’s open, you bloody idiot,” replied a passenger sat midway down the tram. He was in his fifties and dressed in shorts, shades (sunnies) and a skimpy blue and white sports vest.

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Eventually, the banging man’s hand appeared on the rail and he slowly pulled himself and his shopping on board. Little more than five foot tall, his blistered, pockmarked and screwed-up red face a living testimony to skin cancer, he stumbled across the aisle and landed on the bench next to his erstwhile abuser.

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“These old trams are bloody useless. They should burn the lot of ‘em,” he muttered.

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After a brief pause, the man in sports vest piped up.

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“Don’t be too harsh on yerself, mate, you’re not that old,” he said.

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“Ey?” said the old man.

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“I said there’s no need to set fire to yourself. You’re don’t look that old. Or useless.”

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“I wasn’t talking about myself. I was talking about these bloody trams, you idiot. They’re awful. The need to be burnt. The city only keeps them for the tourists. And what tourists do we ever get here anyway?”

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Another pause.

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“Well,” came the reply. “There’s the folks in Footscray.”

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Ah, humour and racism in one perfectly formed package. And the Aussie government claims it wants to make such people a relic. Shame on them.

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