First Impressions

In a country where they turn back time, you go strolling through the crowd like Peter Lorre contemplating a crime.

Al Stewart. 1976. The Year of The Cat. RCA Records.
View from a carriage window. South Downs Steam Railway, Queensland

My very first impression of Australia when I arrived there some two decades ago was that it was like going back to life in England in the 1970s. Not exactly Life on Mars, but getting that way. More, nothing much has moved on since I arrived here, thank goodness.

This is not to say that Australia is backward or 50 years behind the times. Indeed, Australia leads the world in many aspects of medical research, invention and innovation. More, in sports of all kinds, Australia punches way above its weight. Its tourism and hospitality are world class and form benchmarks for the rest of the globe. It’s just that consumer service is poor in many ways, most politicians are less than diplomatic (ask the French and the Chinese) and a lot of things are basic rather than sophisticated. Of course, all of this is fine if you like the rough and ready approach. On the upside, at least it’s pragmatic and you know where you stand most of the time.

One of my great enjoyments in life is arriving in a country for the first time. If you have ever lived overseas or holidayed abroad in new lands then you’ll know the feeling: it’s like being a small child again with senses heightened to discover many new things to dazzle you. In Australia, the glorious weather brings about a holiday feeling whatever your situation. Here is Blackpool, Scarborough, Southend, Margate, Brighton, Bournemouth and Torquay all rolled into one … and all year long. All that seems to be missing are Blackpool trams (and even similar trams can be found in Melbourne).

More to come …