Gap Month Part 15: Penguins and Punches – Owen Haley
Here I go again on my own, a new day dawns and with it comes a new country. Arriving in Australia in late November, I started in the metropolis of Melbourne with intentions of working my way up the whole East Coast.
Melbourne is widely heralded as the most liveable city in the world and I can somewhat see what all the fuss is about. Plenty of green space, great climate and all the hipster jazz you’d associate with a modern city. Apparently this is the Mecca of the Coffee world but I’m more of a Bovril sort of guy. Anyway, here for the next two weeks and there is plenty to have a butchers at.
I tick the first tourist box by feeding some Kangaroos on a tour heading towards Phillip Island. When bred in captivity they are surprisingly docile and after the novelty wears off, it’s pretty much like seeing a Sheep in England. Make no mistake however, there are some monstrosities in the wild with records showing Roos well over 6 feet tall and keen to rip your guts out.
On a cuter wildlife note, I was very surprised when I found out Penguins lived in Australia with Phillip Island offering the chance to see a March of the Penguins across sand instead of the icy Tundra. At dusk each day, the wee boyos return to shore after a long day of fishing and burrow in the nearby sand dunes.It is very amusing as they waddle alongside waddling tourists who are no doubt heading for their own deep fried fish supper. The same tourists are repeatedly told off for taking photos of the Penguins, it is important to note in general and for the purposes of this blog’s conclusive story, that flash photography is banned at risk of blinding the Penguins.
Back in the city, Melbourne was fast becoming the land of reunions. Roxanne and Pete, prominent characters of various blog posts, followed me over from New Zealand. Two other characters from a past life also made honorary appearances. Chris “The Kaiser” Williams who last joined me abroad on a lads trip to Munich, and Dan “The Pan” Galley, a former team mate from the glory filled sporting days of my youth. The coming of Chris meant a night in an adjoining hostel bar in which his resemblance to popular singer Meatloaf prompted me to sign him up for karaoke. His ultimatum for going on stage meant that I had to join him in a duet, how clumsy of me to forget that “Bat out of hell” was a 10 minute song. I imagine a survey of most Brits would indicate that they knew the words, reality is most people’s lyrical knowledge extends to, “I’ll be gone when the morning comes”. As you might expect, the whole scene was a disaster. I do win the crowd back round though with a cracking rendition of Roger Miller’s “King of The Road”. Happy days.
Dan had recently moved to the city to pursue a career in accounting, not sure if he can account for the whereabouts of mine and Chris’s dignity from the previous evening. We have an old boys catch up while sinking a few brewskins and watching the Tyson Fury fight. On the night we head towards AAMI Park to watch the mighty Melbourne City FC, who share the same owners as the more renowned Manchester City.
Excellent stadium, mediocre standard of football, can drink in the stands. Our local team Sunderland only has one of these so this is a bonus for us. Roxanne supports Ajax so less of a bonus for her and Pete backs Wolves so he’s got the mediocre football well covered! To be fair to Melbourne they score a screamer and are well deserved 3–0 victors over Newcastle (no change there). Spells of the game lacked entertainment with some sections of the crowd more fixated on a kid flipping a bottle, he managed it once in 17 attempts resulting in rapturous applause. Notable mention to a player for Newcastle jets with “Ronald” on the back of his shirt. Not the best combination when your team is sponsored by McDonald’s with the logo underneath the player name…
Spent a lot of time in Melbourne in St Kilda, an inner suburb right on the beach. St Kilda is a good gathering spot with bars, night markets and a theme park among the amenities.
The vibe is good and as dusk sets in our old friends the Penguins return from the hunt to sleep under rocks by the pier. Tourists gather to behold the spectacle as it’s the free alternative to Phillip Island. The flash photography rule is more difficult to enforce due to a lack of staff but one noble vigilante emerges as king, the human Emperor Penguin if you will. With a speedy waddle our man quashes any photography attempts through sheer Aussie Aggro™. Like a Penguin in the Australian Summer heat he eventually loses his cool. Drawn to the camera flash like an oversized Moth, he snaps with an Asian tourist. With one swift punch he knocks the Huawei phone out of the tourists hand and the follow through gets him straight in the cheek. Dazed like a Penguin experiencing flash photography, the tourist is apologetic and withers under the piercing gaze of the Aussie. To be fair, they were both in the wong.