After twenty four hours here I've realised that every time I come back, I miss the place a bit more. Though much has changed since I left here in 1999, there is a lot of stuff that has stayed the same.
Staying with Gareth and Georgina is great. It's like staying with family - the sort of family you like. They're used to house guests, just as I'm now used to being a house guest. Georgina runs a kosher kitchen - I know to ask what utensils to use - we get on fine. The dog, Sputnik, like me too. And I've helped the kids with reading and maths, so I've made myself useful.
So for today, we've been doing some shopping, taken advantage of the sales, and books - oh my goodness, almost half price. Thank goodness I have a two bag, 50 kg weight allowance for my bags. I've also done lots of tea and coffee, talking, school runs and general relaxing. It's been great. Some much needed down time before I get home. Also, I've got vegetables back into my diet, no alcohol and things aren't drowned in olive oil like they were in Spain. Preparing for the detox and diet that will wait for me on my return.
My day here has made me realise just how much I miss of this country. Other than my friends, all I've missed about Australia is the more temperate weather and the gym. I did leave here eleven years ago. I've been back a few times, but every time I go back, I realise I do miss it - even if everybody says it's going to the dogs.
I get back here and I find myself pining for some things. Here is a short list.
British television: Far better than any other telly I have seen in the world. You can find intelligent stuff easily on the box if you look for it - and there is lots of quirky stuff too. Yes, Australia has SBS and the ABC - but Britain doesn't have the Two and a Half Men channel - thank goodness. Channel Four is just bloody marvellous. Britain does, however, have a 160 pound a year annual television licence that allegedly supports the BBC. Glad we don't have that.
No sales tax on books: Nuff said - Eight quid for a book we play $32 for - would rather live here just because of this.
Kebab shops and curry houses - and lots of them: Lovely to know you can find a really good curry or kebab everywhere. Curry houses are thin on the ground in Oz - though they are getting more popular.
Great, free museums and art galleries: The National Gallery and the British Museum are staples. I could spend days poking around in there. We have good ones, London has great ones.
Nice and Spicy Nik Naks, Topic bars and Cherry Bakewell Tarts: Chocolate bars are 60 pence, crisps (or chips) come in 30 gram packages and are 40 pence and cherry bakewells are like the best sin food ever.
Marks and Spencer: The best work wear store ever. Does good knickers and food too.
Boots Chemist: The best chemist ever - and they do the best next item on the list.
Prawn and Mayonnaise sandwiches - pre packed: The Brits are great at doing pre-packed sandwiches. Okay, Austalian sandwich bars do great fresh one, but when you're in a rush, just grabbing something off the shelf is great. I'm easy pleased in Oz at the freshness and variety of our lunch bars, but you're never going to find a prawn sandwich pre packed, ever (let alone a prawn sandwich unless you make it yourself), but prawn and mayo sarnies are glorious Bummer. And pre-packaged sandwiches in Australia are rubbish anyway.
Variable accents: You can tell where people are from by the way they talk. No so much in Oz - though you can tell a bogan from a normal person and somebody from far North Queensland pretty easily.
Variety: England, small country, nearly sixty million people. Australia, large country, only 22 million people.Of course Britain is going to have more choice. It's a given. But it is great.
Brilliant beer: Whether it be Bishops Finger or Old Wallop, from stout to lager, the beer here, no matter what people say about it being warm, is great. Australia has a lager culture, but it is getting better (and I'll give it to Australia, better wine)
Pubs: The British institution of the pub is wonderful. It's like a living room you go to that isn't in your house, full of people you want to talk to. And there are no pokies in them, maybe a lone "fruit machine" but that is it. Miss English pubs big time - part of the reason I run the beer club at work - it's like being an innkeeper part time.
Eccentrics: I always fitted in here quite well cos I'm barking mad. Eccentrics are welcome around here, Australia you're just often seen as odd and made to know it. I miss that. Miss the intellingent banter of the barking mad too.
Choice of theatre productions: I used to be a regular at the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre. Superlative theatre here. Melbourne is good, but not to the same standard.
Old stuff: Again, Australia, 222 years of recorded history and a long dream time. Britain - nearly two decades of recorded history, and in the words of Blarney, lots of old shit. I like old shit. Gives me a sense of comfort.
Right, that will do you. I'm getting dropped at the station tomorrow to get myself of to Bath for the day, something I'm looking forward to making good memories of.