My Australian adventure ended with a trip to IKEA – said to be the largest in the world, and a walk along Bondi Beach admiring the lithe, tanned bodies soaking up the sun. It is certainly a lovely beach. I’m told it is raked and rolled every day to keep it looking lovely. The famed lifeguards were there, but not performing any daring rescues while we were there. They did go out in an inflatable and herded swimmers and surfers closer inshore – whether that was because the helicopter pilot had warned them of sharks, I don’t know, but certainly all the people in the water moved much closer to the beach.
Not only was Ian Rankin in the country at the same time as me, but James Bond aka Daniel Craig, turned up too, advertising his new film Skyfall. He was on the same piece of pavement as me – twelve hours later, and they put out a red carpet for him. Such is fame.
So, what are my impressions of my third trip to Australia? The weather was more variable than it has been before, with quite a few cloudy, windy days, and one or two with rain. That was surprising, though most of the time it was warm – there was sometimes a need for a sweater, but not a coat. The number of beggars sleeping rough on Sydney streets surprised me. The cost of living did too; I know the exchange rate did not favour us this time as it has in the past, but even so, the cost of living seemed high, and it was across the board. Shoes and clothes in general were delightful, but priced high, and often not practical for life in rainy old England. Food was also expensive. You need a very well paid job to live the good life in Australia.
Businessmen in shirts (ie without jackets) sit and discuss business over coffee in cafes that inhabit the ground floors of office blocks. On trains and in the streets, we were surrounded by people e-mailing, blackberrying and i-pad-ing. It seems work never stops, and that may have something to do with the awkward fact that Australia is ten hours out of synch with most of Europe and seventeen hours ahead of America. When business is waking up in those countries, Australians have done their daily grind, but they feel they must respond, so people out for the evening in in restaurants interrupt conversations, grab their mobiles and gabble away. The people of Sydney are multi-cultural, predominantly from Asian communities, but four hours away in Forster, this is much less prevalent. There, the bowling clubs rule supreme, and if you don’t bowl, you’re nothing!