May 7th 1999, I stumbled off the Korean Air jumbo jet full of beer, whiskey and seaweed(the Korean idea of a snack) and jumped on a bus headed for the Captain Cook Hostel. A few months earlier I had decided that university wasn't for me and that a year in Australia was. Bodies were sprawled all over the place in the hostel, it had been a good night I could tell, I hoped tonight would be the same. I dumped my gear and headed down to the bar below, it was 9.30am, I had a schooner of lager and went in search of the opera house and harbour bridge. I walked down Oxford St the gayest place on earth, I thought I'd stepped onto the set of YMCA, Elton John couldn't have dreamed it any better, or should I say worse. I was shocked at the poodle walking poofs and Freddie Mercury look-a-likes, I pushed on looking for Mick Dundee's side of town.
After a days sightseeing and several schooners, I arrived back at Captain Cooks and the place had livened up. I had a friend staying there and he introduced me to most of the cool kids. I hadn't slept for about 40hours and now wasn't the time to try, 'another schooner please sport'. The booze flowed, I had drunk myself sober and was getting drunk again, I won a pool competition beating an Irishman called Glen. He wore a Celtic top which stretched over his ale gut and had short bleeched blond hair, quite a sight. He nicknamed me 'scouser' which was hilarious because he had a lisp and couldn't pronounce his 's', so he called me 'thcouther'. We drank bourbon and coke at the bar and he continually requested 'sweet child of mine' to be played. He suggested we headed to a bar in town where we might be able to make some money playing pool. I told him later and then burst into song, 'Poor Scouser Tommy', the whole bar of 50plus were silenced by my performance, I was surprised by this, at home such an event had become so regular that I was generally ignored, now I had a captivated audience. There were a few southern United fans in the bar and they shouted a few things back, I calmly suggested we should take this outside, they declined but had the last laugh a few weeks later when they won the European Cup. We moved on from our bar and hit Kings Cross and it wasn't long before I had my first encounter with an Ozzy bouncer. I did at least have time to pull my pants up before I was thrown from the premises. I managed to behave myself in a seedy lap dancing bar and was offered extras upstairs, on telling them I was skint, they informed me I could pay on credit card, "I'm not sure my parents would appreciate 1 x blow job on my Barclaycard statement, but thanks anyway love". I realised why the place was free to get in when I got my bar bill, I ran like the wind and ended up in a 70's club chatting to people who couldn't understand a word I was saying and so I chanted football songs at them instead, I didn't last long in that place either. It was around this time I realised I was alone, for how long I did not know, I didn't care, I was enjoying myself. I only have flashbacks from here on, I won some money on a pokie machine, smoked a joint with a Russian and found a mobile phone and called England on it. At some point I realised I didn't have a clue where I was and instead of jumping a cab, I wandered the streets. When I did find my way home, rather than entering through the door, I climbed the front of the hostel and through the window of my dorm room, it had been a good night. The next day before breakfast, I had a beer...
March 7th 2009, almost ten years later and feeling a bit tired but very sober, I step off the plane and enter Auckland airport. It's not Australia but it's close and I feel happy to be back in this part of the world again. Like ten years ago I have the intention of spending a year here and working my way around the country, but I have changed and arriving at the backpackers in Auckland city I realise how much. After checking in, I immediately inspected the toilets and the kitchen and was not totally satisfied that the cleaner was doing his/her job properly. I looked disgusted at the scattered empties left from the night before and frowned at the two 20 year olds having a beer, it wasn't even lunch time. It was when I was reporting back to Kerry that it dawned on me, aaaaaahhhhh!!!! I'm getting old. Only days before, Kerry told me I have alot of grey hair, and has started to call me the 'silver fox', now I'm inspecting hostels for cleanliness, I hve been spending alot of time in libraries too, I like people watching, I enjoy going for walks, I'm eating loads of vegetables and going to farmers markets, I just got really excited because I found an apple tree so I picked five apples from it, for free, I complain alot about the price of things, I have started writing, I wrap up warm when I go outside, I constantly tell Kerry to be careful when she's crossing the road, my back hurts, I go to bed just after dark, I haven't been drunk for ages, my bum feels soft and I enjoy talking to middle aged people, I find them interesting...So, what do you make of all that. I have changed havent I? But so have you. You're greyer than me, you actually have a library card, your back and knees hurt, you've been eating veggies for ages and you won't even stay in a hostel, haha.
Anyway, I realise I have changed but I think for the better, afterall where did my antics actually get me?
Since writing this I have taken up knitting!