Having been here for two weeks now, I’m obviously qualified to write a comprehensive treatise on the continent of Oceania. Here are some Things I Have Noticed.
Fact: Australia is brilliant for your skin.
In an attempt to return home with at least some of my ghoul-blue Scottish skin still attached to me, I’ve been lashing on the sunblock like it’s butter and I’m a long distance Arctic swimmer. Factor 50 for the old coupon, factor 30 everywhere else. Then, every evening, at the end of a day in the sun, I’ve been moisturising the same skin with something thick from Nivea’s Make-me-a-Teenager range. Add to this a near daily sand-blasting on windy beaches and the end result is that my skin feels in better nick than it has, possibly in my entire life. Although I was a particularly crocodile-y baby so maybe this isn’t saying such a lot.
Fact: Australia is terrible for your skin.
All this demented moisturising also means I’ve broken out in more spots than I’ve ever had in my life. I’m not sure whether to rejoice at this youthful signifier or weep at the thought I probably just look like the world’s spottiest granny.
Fact: Perth is not built for people, it is built for cars.
Or rather, it is built for people, but only the ones who drive cars. And to be fair, I’m not talking about Perth proper, which seems to be a relatively tiny and very walkable urban space, but the epidemic of galloping suburbia surrounding it. Woe betide you if you find yourself in suburban West Australia and think it’d be kinda neat to walk the 3k to the beach, because, after all, it’s a lovely sunny day and you’ve got plenty of time, and what’s 3k amongst friends? Because you’ll find yourself navigating endless miles of featureless bungalows, a bit like being lost in a massive, baking Giffnock, and taking your life in your hands as you sprint in flipflops across busy four-lane intersections without a traffic light in sight. That’s if you haven’t already expired from being slow-cooked in your own juices, in the almost complete lack of shade on what is fast turning into your 3k yomp of doom. Oh, yes Perthers, I know of whence I speak. I was the whimpering madwoman you zoomed past, as she slipped and minced on blistered, bleeding feet, first up, then back down your many, many cul-de-sacs, without ever clapping eyes on the sand.
Fact: Adelaide is lovely.
I want to say it’s like a cross between Glasgow and San Francisco or New Orleans, and I’m going to, even though I’ve never been to San Francisco or New Orleans. It has a kind of easy-going, laid-back vibe that I imagine San Francisco surely has, and lots of those lovely, old-fashioned two storey buildings with balconies (verandahs, if you’re posh) on stilts that I’m sure I’ve seen in films about New Orleans. All of which is wrapped around a city-centre bustle which reminds me a lot of Glasgow. The city centre has a lot of skyscrapers, which have been built in such a fashion as to create narrow, shady alleyways at the bottom, and these have, very sensibly, sprouted a lovely cafe culture. It’s like commerce paused for thought and decided it might be a good idea to do something nice for people, instead of just pooping on them from literally great heights. I heart you, Adelaide.
Fact: There are no bugs in Australia.
Apart from being assaulted by a fly at the airport, I have seen next to no beasties here, or certainly none that have given me the heebie jeebies and my supply of deet is now a dusty, unused tribute to my own big feartie-ness. What I have seen in the way of bugs is quite a lot of muscular ants, who will attempt to carry your twix away as soon as look at you, but they’re largely harmless and quite fascinating to watch. Lady Watson says that if you stand still for long enough in her garden, they’ll crawl up your leg and bite you, presumably in an attempt to break you down into chunks manageable enough to carry back to their hive (Antshed? Ganghut? Whatever it’s called.) which is quite simply the job of an ant and perfectly understandable. I haven’t tried this out yet. I’m not an eejit.
This indispensable guide may be a two parter. Stay tuned.