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Notes From The Big Island, part 2

Notes From The Big Island, part 2
Martin Wright's observations on Australian life

Well the last blog didn’t seem to go down too badly so I thought I’d write again and see how this one goes. I haven’t really got much to say about Touch this time so those of you (probably not many of you) hoping to read about lessons I’ve learnt related to the game will be disappointed today. That’s not to say I haven’t done much or indeed learnt anything since the last time I wrote though. Far from it!

Those who know me well will know that I am an avid people watcher and I like nothing more than observing people going about their daily business. It is therefore even more fascinating when I have a whole new culture that I can observe. Australia isn’t really new to me given that this is the fifth time I have been here but it is the first time I have had the chance to stay with Australian people and families rather than be part of the tourist trade. I felt fairly well versed in the differences between the English and the Australian culture given that I know many Australians through Touch but coming here I realise there are a few things I didn’t know.

Being a part of the Broncos squad, I am becoming aware of a whole new language. Since I have been here I have apparently been filthy, sprayed up and hectic without having the faintest clue what any of those actually meant. I’ve discovered that the Australians really do say “Far out” quite a lot and that there are several meanings to that phrase depending on the intonation. For instance, on occasions it can be used to show respect and admiration for the thing that is “far out”. On others, it can mean quite the opposite!

The other day, my host for dinner asked if I would like any dessert. “We’ve got drumsticks” she said.  I looked at her a little strangely thinking Bernard Matthews. “Do you guys eat chicken for dessert?” I cautiously asked only to receive a very strange look back again. I’ve always had a life philosophy which has made me volunteer for everything so when she failed to describe what it was I thought what the heck and agreed to try one. Hoping for a fantastic new experience, I was most disappointed when she produced a cornetto ice-cream.

I’ve also discovered that Australians knowledge of England is perhaps not as good as one might expect. The following are all completely serious things which have been said to me since I have been here:

  1. “Do you guys, like, have cows over there?” (Apparently the asker thought all beef eating had stopped in 2000 when mad Cow disease struck)
  2. “Is it like, really green in England, like, trees and bushes and stuff?”
  3. “Can you grow any food in England like vegetables or fruit and stuff?”
  4. “What is central heating?”
  5. “Do you guys have cookers and stuff?” (Couldn’t quite understand that the type of central heating fuel you use probably dictates what sort of hob you cook on in your house i.e gas or electric)
  6. “It’s going to be quite chilly today, it’s only 25 degrees. You’ll need to take your hoody with you”
  7. “Were you in the SAS?” (When I told them I used to be in the Army)

Strangely, since I have been here I have found myself wanting to act the English stereotype more and more. My English accent is far more pronounced and I seem to have a name that it is impossible for an Australian to say. Every time I buy a coffee here and they ask me for my name to go on the order, I have to repeat it three times. Usually after the third time, they just give in rather than trying to understand. Whilst I am with the squad, they call me Mardo or Mardy and my latest nickname is TBC because that’s what reception had me down as in the hotel.

My perpetuation of the English stereotype has gotten me into trouble on occasion here as well though. I have discovered the greatest insult that it is possible to give to an Australian. Last Saturday, my host announced that his favourite rugby league team were playing that afternoon and we would watch the game together on television. Just before the game started he asked me if I wanted a cold beer from the fridge which, not being a drinker, I didn’t. I therefore asked for a cup of tea instead. His face was absolutely priceless. To his credit, he did very well to cover up his incredulity and made me an excellent cup of tea (although he missed the start of the game waiting for the kettle to boil!).  I’m pretty sure that I have gone down significantly in his estimations since then though and my sexuality is now heavily in question! Needless to say, I have been offered nothing but tea to drink ever since which I have found it difficult to refuse despite not drinking much tea at home at all.

Today I travelled with the team down to Coffs Harbour and to my absolute amazement there was not a raindrop in sight. Tomorrow the tournament starts with three games so I am sure I will have more Touch stuff to tell you then. Lastly, a thank you to all those who read my first blog and told my wife that I was lazing around sunning myself on the beach. I had managed to convince her that I was on a working trip! I’ll leave you with a photo from yesterday which sums up the trip so far.

We are England Touch

We are the players. We are the supporters, willing us on. We are the medals, waiting to be won. We are the touchdowns, waiting to be scored. We are the men and women of all ages. We are the talent of today. We are the potential for tomorrow. We are one team. We are England Touch