All posts by Cazza Cartwheels

Hamster and owner share important news on Facebook

A hamster and his owner have celebrated three weeks of living together by making it Facebook official.

Syrian hamster Putney was previously living with his brother at Pets at Home in Barnstaple, but took the big step of moving in with Caroline just five days after they first met.

Caroline said “We’ve spent the last three weeks getting to know each other and learning each other’s daily routines. I introduced him to some of my friends quite early on and obviously I’ve already met his brother, but we now feel that we’re ready to take the next step and let Facebook know that we are living together.

Facebook is a well-known platform for sharing important news. As well as announcing pregnancies, engagements and living arrangements, many Facebook users immediately turn to Facebook when they want a wide audience to know what they’ve had for dinner or to cryptically vent frustration about a non-identified situation that leaves most of their friends nonplussed.

Putney, who doesn’t have his own Facebook account yet,  said “We’ve got 92 likes already and we’re really pleased with that. We’ll be taking lots more photos of our lives together for all our friends to see. My paws aren’t heavy enough to use a smartphone yet so Caroline will have to upload all the photos whilst I concentrate on looking cute.”

Caroline added “We’re currently growing lots of different vegetables in our garden, so won’t it be precious when we post a photo of ourselves sharing our first pod of peas together.”

British skier fails to win deep fried lottery

A British skier has failed to win the deep fried lottery at a hotel in Italy.

Caroline Gough who spent seven nights at the hotel in the skiing resort of Cervinia explained: “Every night the meal begins with a buffet starter and on the first night I discovered that other diners were eating delicious balls of mozzarella deep fried in breadcrumbs which I had somehow managed to miss. Deep fried cheese is one of my favourite things.”

The next night Caroline eagerly helped herself to a generous portion of deep fried balls, only to discover that on this occasion the balls did not contain mozzarella cheese, but instead a ghastly concoction of mashed fish. “It was horrendous,” said Caroline.

Not wanting to make the same mistake twice,  the next night Caroline approached a waitress to ask what was inside the balls, however this caused unexpected drama. “The waitress had to go and get three other waitresses and they stood beside the deep fried balls having a very animated conversation in Italian before confessing that they didn’t know what was inside the balls.”
Unidentified deep fried object
A waitress then used the serving  tongs to attempt to cut into a ball. “It wasn’t the most effective implement to use,” said Caroline. “When she stabbed at the first ball, it flew out of the bowl and embedded itself in the chocolate mousse at the neighbouring dessert table.”

There was more success with cutting into the second ball, but it still took the four waitresses a long time to establish what was inside the ball and then they realised they didn’t know the English word for it, which left Caroline none the wiser.

Caroline said “After all their efforts, I felt I had to at least try one, but I wish that I hadn’t. I don’t know what it was, but it definitely wasn’t cheese.”

For the remainder of the holiday, Caroline tentatively tried the deep fried balls every night but did not succeed in finding any that contained mozzarella.

Caroline said “what’s particularly ironic is that at breakfast they always label the self-explanatory boiled eggs and the delightfully inaccurate plumps in syrup, but when it comes to less obvious dishes they choose to leave us guessing.”
 

Kindly Italian couple attempt to kill British skier

A British skier has spoken of her ordeal at the hands of a kindly retired couple from Valtournenche in North-West Italy.

Caroline Gough from Devon met Fabrizio and Fulvia Fogliati last week whilst skiing in the popular Italian resort of Cervinia.

Caroline explained “At the start of the day many people head to a ski area called Plateau Rosa by taking a series of three gondolas. Being in a gondola is a little bit like being on the tube, although the social etiquette is not quite so prescribed. If you like you can keep your sunglasses on and glare frostily at your fellow commuters, but some people have been known to remove their sunglasses and helmets and smile at each other.”

In the first gondola, Caroline exchanged a smile with the Italian couple. They then ended up sharing the second gondola where they exchanged general pleasantries about the snow conditions and established where each other was from. By the third gondola the conversation was flowing quite naturally and both parties were enjoying it.

Caroline met the couple in a gondola (yes there are gondolas in this picture but they are the same colour as the snow which makes them hard to spot)

“I assumed that would be the end of it,” said Caroline. “But then they invited me to ski with them. I laughed and said no, because I figured I’d never be able to keep up with an Italian couple who’ve been skiing since forever. They said that I was probably faster than them because I’m younger, so I said that if we were still together at the bottom of the first slope then I’d join them. I honestly thought I’d never see them again.”

However Caroline found that her new friends skied at a similar pace to her, and so agreed to ski with them into the Swiss resort of Zermatt. “I’d already done it the day before,” said Caroline. “But Franco and Fulvia wanted to take me a different way.”

It transpired that Franco and Fulvia’s favourite route involved a long steep and icy narrow black run which was marked ‘for good skiers only’. Caroline said “The run was actually called Furi which shows just what an angry run it was. You have to ski down this near-vertical wall of ice, then shoot round a narrow and icy corner with literally just a thin piece of orange string to separate the run from the death drop beside it. You also have to do it at top speed to keep up with your crazy new friends and you definitely can’t lose face by breaking into a snowplough.”

Furi is steep, narrow and icy 

It turned out that all of Fabrizio and Fulvia’s favourite runs were similar to Furi and Caroline found herself skiing along many narrow icy tracks, over the edge of steep precipices and at one point over a rickety old icy bridge with several missing slats.

Caroline said “It was absolutely terrifying, but I kept up and didn’t fall over, so I’m very proud of myself.”

Fulvia told us “Now that we are retired we can ski every day of the season. We love it, but it can get a bit monotonous, just the two of us.”

Fabrizio added “We were worried our marriage wouldn’t survive once we stopped going to work and had to actually spend time together. But then we began playing ‘Terrify a Tourist’ and we’ve never looked back”.

Fulvia said “We usually lose them over the edge of Furi, but for those that do manage to keep up, we’ve got plenty more treacherous runs up our sleeves.”

Game Ova

“Looking after pets” often crops up on the syllabus at school, and both Hammersmith and Dagenham were subjected to being the focus object of several circle times back in Shillingstone, but this year without a hamster to my name and not wanting to  pluck one of the goldfish out of the tank to take in for show and tell, I instead introduced Project Egg.

This is where each student and staff member is given a hard boiled egg to look after for the duration of a week, and at the end of the week anyone who has looked after their charge eggceptionally well gets to swap it for the hugely imaginative prize of an Easter Egg.

We all named and decorated our eggs, and the fun began. We took our eggs for walks, created thrones for them to sit in and made them chariots out of Lego. It wasn’t long before cracks started to appear, but at the end of the week, we had two survivors.

Meet Eggmerela:

With no cracks or blemishes, she smelt far more fragrant than any of her friends, and so with the Easter holidays looming, I decided to take her on an eggventure – and it just so happened I was about to go skiing and had a little bit of space left in the pocket of my ski jacket.

Our first adventures happened before we even left Devon, with Eggmerelda’s first and last experience of a Drive-Thru McDonalds:

Then on to Leigh Delamare Service station, where Eggmerelda was anxious that nobody slip on the freshly mopped floor (she’d seen enough of her friends break during her week at school)

We had a whole three hours to sleep at the Gatwick hotel before the alarm went off for our eggstremely early flight. Eggmerelda was very cosy in the wardrobe:

At the airport Eggmerelda loved travelling on the conveyor belt to get through security, and we had breakfast together on the other side. I didn’t order the full English – I thought it might cause a bit of controversy if one of Eggmerelda’s friends turned up fried on the plate:

We loved having a window seat on the plane:

And enjoyed a walk around Cervinia when we arrived:

Eggmerelda made a new friend who was almost as talkative as she is:

She was scared of visiting the crepe place incase she ended up as an ingredient:

And she definitely didn’t want to have a game of pool:

She enjoyed making some new friends at breakfast time:

And we borrowed this special throne so that she had a proper seat:

It seems not a lot of eggs get taken for walks in Cervinia, so Eggmerelda stopped traffic wherever she went:

And often got a cold bottom:

Eggmerelda was shocked to see an old friend at the dinner table on Thursday:

And raced to the supermarket to warn her friends about the perils of life:

But she couldn’t speak Italian so they didn’t understand.

Then it was time to go skiing. We waited a few days because Eggmerelda was a bit scared of tackling such an eggstreme sport.

It started off so well. We wrapped Eggmerelda in a serviette and then placed her inside a glove for extra protection, and she sat quite happily in my rucksack as we skied from Italy to Switzerland and back again:

But then it happened, the eggsact thing we were trying to avoid. Packed into a cable car with 99 other people, and all their skis and snowboards, there’s not much room to move. As the cable car juddered past a pylon, my rucksack smacked against a snowboard and an ominous smell filled the air. It could only mean one thing.

Back in the classroom we’d had sellotape to put Humpty Dumpty, Mario and Egg Sheeran back together again, but here on the mountain I had no First Aid at my fingertips. There was nothing I could do for Eggmerelda.

It was Game Ova.

British Skier’s Easter Egg Hunt is in fact just a hunt

A British skier has been left perplexed and outraged following the disappearance of four chocolate eggs from her hotel room at the popular ski resort of Cervinia in Italy.

Caroline Gough from Devon in England eggs-plained “When I left my hotel room at eight o’clock this morning, there were five chocolate eggs on the shelf. When I returned this evening, there was just one chocolate egg left. I am quite chocolate-orientated so it was the first thing I noticed.”

The eggs, which were purchased at the Tesco store in Braunton, came in a variety of different coloured foils and travelled from Gatwick in Miss Gough’s hand luggage on Sunday along with several others that Caroline ate earlier in the week. Caroline said “The four that are missing all had turquoise wrappers. I saved them til last because turquoise is my favourite colour.”

Caroline added “If all the eggs had been missing, then I may have forgotten that I hadn’t already eaten them myself, but the fact that there’s a pink one left absolutely confirms that somebody’s tampered with them. I’d never ever leave a pink one until last.”

After a happy day of skiing, Caroline returned to her room to shower and relax before the evening meal, but her plans were turned upside down upon discovery that the eggs were missing. Caroline said “It would be eggs-tremely logical to jump to conclusions and assume the cleaner has eaten them, but I wonder if there is a different eggs-planation.”

Caroline believes the cleaner may have got into the Easter spirit and hidden the eggs around Caroline’s hotel room as a surprise Easter Egg hunt. “She hasn’t emptied the bin or removed the six month accumulation of dust from the corners of the bathroom, so maybe she found more creative things to do when she was in my room today,” said Caroline.

Caroline who is a teacher said “I did an Easter egg hunt with my class last week and everyone really enjoyed it. But on that occasion nobody had just done a 78 mile round  trip skiing to Switzerland and back, so we all had a lot more enthusiasm and energy for egg hunting than I have at the moment.”

Caroline has conducted a thorough search of her room but has not yet found any of the hidden chocolate. “I’m beginning to feel a little bit eggs-asperated,” she confided.

A source close to Miss Gough said: “Don’t mess with Cazza and her chocolate. As soon as she realises there is no Easter Egg hunt, she’s going to eggsplode, possibly with eggspletives.”

EXCLUSIVE: Brexit can’t happen because it’s not a real word

Whether we were for it or against it, Friday was the day that our not so united kingdom was supposed to exit the European Union. Like a less entertaining version of the Ross and Rachel “Will they, won’t they?” storyline in Friends, audiences from around the world have been waiting to see whether or not the UK really would part ways with the EU on 29th March.

However, one linguist from North Devon has always known that Brexit was never going to happen on 29th March for the very simple reason that it is not considered a proper word by people who play Scrabble.

 

Caroline Gough, who enjoys playing real Scrabble at a table, and Words with Friends on her phone, attempted to play “Brexit” against her mother Gillian Byrom back in July 2018. “I’m always excited to see what I can do with high scoring letters such as J, Q, X and Z,” explained Caroline. “And when I realised I had all the letters for Brexit, I was thrilled.”

Caroline’s delight was short-lived however when Words With Friends informed her that “Brexit is not an acceptable word.”

Caroline said “When I learnt to play Scrabble back in the eighties, there were lots of strict rules about which words were and weren’t acceptable in a game of Scrabble. Proper nouns and slang were completely out, and in 1996 there was a huge family argument because my Mum put CHIMP on a Triple Word Score and Great Aunt Rosemary stormed out of the dining room because it’s a shortened version of CHIMPANZEE.”

However the online versions of Scrabble and Words With Friends allow all sorts of words that Scrabble purists would forbid, including acronyms such as FE (further education), colloquialisms such as GAWSY and proper nouns such as PARIS.

Caroline said “You can have ZAX which is a tool that punches holes in roof slate, you can have XI which is the 14th letter of the Greek alphabet and you can have EL which means an Elevated Railway, particularly in Chicago. You can’t have NARNIA or HOGWARTS presumably because these are things that exist in the realms of fantasy. It appears that BREXIT falls into the same category. Perhaps Theresa May should visit Scrabble HQ before her next vote and convince them that BREXIT is a real word. Then she may have a bit more luck passing it through the Commons.”

The hazards of bird watching that nobody warns you about…..

Since returning from my travels and moving back to my North Devon roots, one of the many things I enjoy about my new life is having a patio that I can see from the comfort of the turquoise sofa. Many of you will know that despite its name, my last house – Tower View – did not actually have a view of any tower, more pertinently, it also didn’t have any windows facing onto the patio so there was nowhere you could sit to watch the birds. I fed them, but never got to watch them, just picked up the bird table several times a week because it was always falling over.

Chertsey House, where I live now, is a 4 hour drive from Chertsey, my student flat at Woking Close was nowhere near Woking, and I doubt that Cantaloupe Close was built on an ex-melon field, so perhaps I am destined to always live in houses with false names, however here at Chertsey House, I can sit on my turquoise sofa and watch the birds til the cows come home (which they do, there’s a farm two doors down).

This autumn, my collection of bird feeders grew from two to eight, there’s now a whole cupboard dedicated to bird food in my board room (that’s where the surfboards, ironing boards and board games are kept – I’m sure you can guess which type of board I use the most often). And the ring ouzel and I have formed such a friendship that he now comes and sits on the patio step and waits for me to go out and talk to him.

The ring ouzel and I have become firm friends

So as you can imagine, I was looking forward to taking part in the Big Garden Birdwatch this weekend, where people throughout the nation are asked to record how many of each species of bird they see in the space of an hour.

I was all set. There was hot chocolate for me and seven varieties of food for them. And so the show began. The little birds flocked to the patio, the bigger birds flocked to the garden. I greeted them all with delight (obviously they couldn’t hear me as the doors and windows were shut) and ticked them off my list. Everyone was happy. And then the drama struck.

THWACK! Thirty-seven minutes into my calm, happy bird watching hour, just as I was looking at the identification guide to check the difference between the common gull and the black headed gull (this is as misleading as the houses I’ve lived in, black headed gulls don’t necessarily have black heads), one of the gulls in question thought he would come a bit closer to help me out with my identification quandary. And so he flew as fast as he could into the closed window behind my head.

I jumped so far off the sofa that every part of my neck and upper back locked together in spasm. I spun round to see what had happened, and there was a black headed seagull with no black head and not a lot of life left in him, lying on his back, staring at me through the window from behind a flower pot, surrounded by feathers, looking quite forlorn and not ever so sure of how he had got there.

My voice ascended into falsetto and the air went blue as I loudly pondered what I was supposed to do now. Living with goldfish is great, but they never offer to take the lead when you’ve got a crisis to deal with. It’s always down to me.

Then there was a flutter of wings and I breathed a sigh of relief. He had obviously survived his spectacular crash, and was now going to carry on with his day – or go off to die in somebody else’s garden. Then I realised it wasn’t his wings that had been flapping, but the wings of an evil looking bird who had swooped down to finish him off.

The evil bird sits on top of the dead gull (photo taken through closed window during rain shower)

“Far out,” I said, because this is what my Australian friends say, now that they’ve all had children but still need an expression beginning with F to convey feelings of shock or distress.  Nobody had warned me about this when I signed up to do the bird watch weekend. I thought I was going to be watching birds eat peanuts and hop around the patio, not kill themselves and eat each other.

The turquoise sofa is a naturally calm and tranquil place to sit and watch the birds, until a seagull flies into the window behind you and scares the life out of you.

Funnily enough the bird survey was not comprehensive enough to have a box to tick for the events unfolding in my garden, nor did it have a picture of the evil bird. Presumably these birds don’t come to gardens regularly enough to appear in the normal survey, only to act as cannibalistic undertakers. However the rules are that you have to list every bird you see, and so I was going to have to work out exactly who this evil bird was.

“Are you a sparrowhawk?” I asked through the closed window, holding up my laptop screen to compare the real bird with the photo. “Or a hobby hawk?” The bird ignored me and continued to feast gleefully on the gull which I hoped was dead by now. “Do you think you could take that away?” I inquired. “This is a takeaway restaurant, you’re not supposed to dine in.” I thought about banging on the window to emphasise my point, but I didn’t want him to fly off and leave the partially eaten seagull behind.

I turned my attention back to the nice birds who were doing what they were supposed to be doing, feasting and fluttering at the feeders, completely oblivious to the horror scenes taking place just around the corner. The Evil Bird retreated to the bottom of the garden, taking his prize dead gull with him, and eventually he flew off completely, leaving just a patch of feathers to mark the traumatic occasion.

Remnants of black headed gull

My bird watch continued, but who knows if I counted the correct number of bluetits and dunnocks, or a if a couple slipped by unnoticed after all the drama and distraction of what will undoubtedly go down in history as The Traumatic Seagull Incident.

With my terrified leap off the sofa sending my neck and back into the sort of spasm that can only be eradicated by a deeply painful and brutal sports massage, it really didn’t help that later in the day whilst getting ready to go out to the theatre I stepped on an ill-placed hairbrush and went sliding uncontrollably down the stairs encountering two wombats a pile of paperwork and a very painful hairdryer as I went – which I somehow managed to switch on, possibly with my toe as I descended down the stairs, landing in a heap and wondering what was making the whirring noise.

Misplaced hairbrush

And so these are the hidden dangers of bird watching that nobody tells you about. It’s not all about relaxing on the sofa, watching the sparrows dart about. Birds die. Other birds eat them. Dedicating a day to sitting at home watching birds can lead to a whole range of injuries I didn’t have before I started the bird survey, including  sore arms, sprained thumbs and bruised elbows from falling down the stairs and whiplash from my frightened leap off the sofa.

In comparison, today I went to the beach and climbed up some of the highest rocks in my wellies whilst gale force winds whipped up the sand and sea around me. And I came home completely unscathed.

Turns out that rock climbing is much safer than bird watching

Just like the black headed gull who doesn’t have a black head, the Tower View which has absolutely no view of any tower and my ability to scramble up tall rocks safely, yet injure myself whilst bird watching from the comfort of a sofa, it seems that absolutely nothing is as black or as white as it may first appear.

RIP my feathered friend – at least you got counted in the bird census before you met your grizzly end. 

 

 

Simone and her phone at the beach

Going to the beach is one of the things that I am best at, nevertheless in Australia I practised going to the beach almost every day because I didn’t want to lose my touch.

Unless I was staying with friends, all accommodation whether it was hostel, hotel or airbnb was chosen specifically based upon how quickly I could walk to the beach.

I stopped wearing normal clothes and automatically dressed in bikini, sarong and flip flops each morning. The toenails were colourful, but not always immaculate, given how much contact they had with sand and salt water each day.

In the beach bag would be everything I needed for a day at the beach, sunscreen, a stripy towel, a good book, pen and paper and a selection of snack items that wouldn’t melt in the sun, like cherry tomatoes, passionfruit, raisin bread and a delicious fizzy mango drink which is probably the culprit for me losing my first adult tooth recently, but which I wish we could get in England nevertheless!

And that would be all I needed for a wonderful day. I’d go in and out of the sea several times, I’d read my book, I’d write my stories, I’d drink my fizzy mango drink and I’d eat my tomatoes. And there I would stay very happily until it was too dark to see the pages or swim in the sea anymore. Rumour has it that the sharks swim closer to the shore after dusk so midnight swims aren’t an option in Australia. But the sunsets were always nice.

 

And then the next day I’d get up and do it all over again.

Today I was going to the beach with Simone and her phone and her family. We’d had two false starts already, due to the extended present opening ceremony on Christmas Day, and then the Boxing Day Battle, but I’d been promised that today was the day.

It was a bit different to waking up in a hostel, putting on a sarong and walking out the door, because lots of things needed to happen first. Three children needed to be dressed and shouted at, Dean needed to sit and stare at his screen with apparently no sense of urgency that everyone else was busy getting ready, and Simone and her phone needed to speak to both Bec and Nay because apparently Tim had proposed to Kim on Christmas Day and somebody was going to have to break it to Jim.

An uneasy truce had formed in the house following yesterday’s Boxing Day Battle. Noelene and Simone shuffled around being overly polite to one another and asking each other’s permission about every ridiculous little thing to ensure they didn’t cause offence. Simone had already asked three times if it was really okay to open the good jam which made me feel sorry for the existing jam which was presumably considered bad by comparison.

The truce was good news for me, because it meant Noelene had relented, and instead of demanding us all back at the table in time for lunch, she had accepted that we might like to get lunch at the beach which meant plenty more time in the sea for me (or so I thought!).

In the car, we all had to be quiet so that Simone and her phone could console Jess who had apparently had a hideous Christmas, although from the sounds of it not nearly as hideous as the one I’d just endured with Simone and family.

Then we drove straight past the beach, through the town and pulled into the car park of an out-of-town shopping centre.

“I thought we were going to the beach,” said Simone.

“Patience,” said Dean patronisingly. “I’ve just got to get something.”

“What?”

Dean mumbled something incomprehensible about technology.

“But we promised Caz we were taking her to the beach.”

“We are taking Caz to the beach,” he snapped. “Seriously, I could have been into the shop and got it by now if you’d just stop talking.”

“Yeah but we could have dropped Caz at the beach and met her there later.”

My thoughts exactly.

“If you don’t stop talking about the beach, then we’ll go straight home and nobody will go to the beach,” threatened Dean which I thought was incredibly unfair, seeing as the person who wanted to go to the beach most (me!) hadn’t made any fuss at all.

So we all trailed around the shop, following Dean as he picked up seemingly identical packages and frowned at them all before saying that it wasn’t really that important and he was going to leave it.

Inside I was screaming. If it wasn’t that important why were we wasting precious beach time in a shopping mall?

But hell was not over because despite her earlier concern that Dean had not immediately  driven to the beach, Simone decided that whilst we were here she’d just have a look at the children’s clothes section, even though the kids had each received more clothes than they knew what to do with on Christmas Day. And then she had a quick look at the diaries, because surprise surprise, she didn’t really like the one Noelene had given her. And then just as we were finally leaving Simone remembered that despite the million hints she’d dropped, nobody had bought her a new coffee machine for Christmas, so then we had to go and have a look at those.

The kids were even less thrilled to be at the shops than I was, so we entertained ourselves by trying to manoeuvre ourselves up a nearby empty aisle by only standing on the blue squares on the floor, but then Simone clocked that the children were having fun and ordered them all to stand next to her and not speak, so that was the end of that.

Then it was decided that it was far too late to go to the beach without first having something to eat so we had to spend an hour at a pizza restaurant. The five year old got told off for his insightful observation that the garlic bread looked like it had a smiley face on it, then he got told off for using his straw to blow bubbles in his drink, the three year old got told off for copying, Dean and his screen ignored everyone and searched the internet for the technological thing he couldn’t find in the shops and then Bec phoned which of course took precedence over everything else and we were all threatened with being sent to sit in the car if we uttered one more word because Simone was trying to speak to Bec.

Eventually we got back into the swelteringly hot car and drove to the beach. It was 2:24. As I strode towards the beach, Dean said:

“Caz where are you going?”

“The beach,” I replied, wondering what cruel delaying tactic he could possibly throw my way now that the beach was literally a stone’s throw away.

“We’ve got to get changed,” he said, like I was stupid, and I discovered that not everyone intending to have a day at the beach puts their bathers (as the Australians like to call them) on under their clothes. We went into a changing room and I was tasked with getting all three children into their bathers, whilst Dean disappeared into a cubicle by himself and spent ages getting himself dressed and no doubt having some sneaky time alone with his screen, because there’s no way I undressed and dressed three small children quicker than he dressed himself.

Simone had not joined us in the changing room because she had decided that this was the perfect opportunity to have it out with her sister Sarah. Sarah had spent several hours with us on Christmas Day, being ignored by everyone except me. And although Simone had ample time on Christmas Day to extend an olive branch, scratch out Sarah’s eyes or do whatever needed to be done to resolve the sisterly dispute, Simone had decided that ignoring Sarah was the best course of action. Until now, because obviously the best time to shout at your sister is on the phone in a public place when all three of your children need to get dressed and the British visitor is about to lose the plot if anyone does anything else that delays her precious beach trip any further.

Once dressed, we found a spot to put all our things and went straight down to the sea. The one year old was crying that she didn’t like it, and it occurred to Dean that this was probably the first time she’d ever been to the beach. But instead of consoling her, he saw the opportunity to give the five year old a science lesson.

The five year old had jumped up and wrapped his arms and legs around me so that I could carry him into the sea. We were only up to my knees and therefore very reluctant to turn back when Dean called us, but dutifully we did.

“Do you know what sand is made out of?” he asked the five year old.

“Yeah. Sand.”

“But do you know what makes the sand?”

“No,” and it didn’t sound like the five year old cared either.

“Sand is made from glass.”

“What? No it isn’t.”

“Don’t argue with me,” said Dean, crossly.

I left the poor 5 year old to his unwanted science lesson and took myself off for a swim whilst I had the chance. Geelong has an enclosure (with bars to keep the sharks out) and I swam as deep as I could, used the diving boards and then swam into shallower water to see if I could rescue the 5 year old from science.

Simone was off the phone and wearing her bathers. She strode down beach, picked up the squealing 1 year old, then strode into the water towards me. As she reached me, she held the child horizontally in the air, then with a swooping action dunked the poor child under the water for a second before pulling her out again. The 1 year old started screaming blue murder.

“It’s what you have to do to get babies used to the water,” Simone said when she saw my shocked face.

I was pretty sure that you’re only supposed to do that to fairly new babies and that to get 1 year olds who are nearly 2 used to the water, you were probably supposed to have brought them to the beach several times already and made it seem like a lovely fun and safe place to be instead of randomly bringing them to a beach with no explanation and submerging them in the water without warning when they’re already terrified.

I swam back towards Dean and the five year old.

“Do you want me to take him out for a proper swim?” I asked.

“Yes!” said the 5 year old.

“No” said Dean. “We’re getting out.”

“Okay,” I said. “I’m going to stay in a bit longer.”

So I took myself back out to the deep end and had a lovely time, and the next time I looked back at the shore, there was Dean and the five year old, fully dressed and waving at me to come closer.

“You need to get out, we’re leaving,” said Dean as soon as I was in earshot.

What? But we’ve only just arrived.

Back at the bags, a quick look at my phone confirmed it was 2:49. Twenty-five minutes earlier we’d been heading into the changing rooms. What happened to endless swims and games of french cricket, ice creams, sandcastles and all the other things that make a childhood?

“Come on,” said Dean impatiently.

“Where are we going?” I asked.

“Home.”

“But why?”

“Because. We brought you to the beach and now we’re going home.”

“What are we going to do for the rest of the day?”

“Nothing. Come on, everyone else is in the car already.”

Dean has no idea about a lot of things. Here are just four of the many things that he will never know:

  • Laying on a towel whilst the sun dries your sea soaked body is one of the best things in the world.

 

  • Hurriedly drying yourself with an ineffective microfibre travel towel whilst an angry man tells you to hurry up is definitely not one of the best things in the world.

 

  • Long hair and bikini tops that are wet with salt water can totally ruin a T-shirt if you don’t dry yourself properly first.

 

  • Today I’d been wearing a brand T-shirt that I bought in Adelaide less than a week ago and there was no way I was going to ruin it by putting it on now and letting it absorb all the salt water.

 

I put my towel around me, picked up my bag and walked barefoot to the car. I opened the door, felt the heat escape and decided there was no way I was getting in.

“I think I’ll stay here,” I announced breezily to everyone in the car.

“What? Why?”

“Because I love the beach and I’m not ready to leave,” I replied. “And we’re not doing anything else today are we?”

“Well we might,” Simone sounded offended.

“We’re not leaving you here,” protested Dean as if it was the most ludicrous idea in the world. “How will you get home?”

“Train,” I replied.

“But you don’t know how to get to my parents’ house from the train station.”

“Google maps.”

“We can’t leave you here by yourself. What if something happens?”

There was a definite danger that something might happen – if they left me here by myself I might actually have fun and enjoy myself for the rest of the afternoon whilst the rest of them had a miserable time at home.

Simone interjected: “Honey. First, Caz just went travelling round South Australia all by herself and nothing happened. Second, you can’t tell Caz what to do because she’s 2 years older than you and third, is this what you’re going to be like when the girls are teenagers? Because I have to say I’m finding it quite adorable.”

At no point in all the time I knew him was I ever at risk of finding Dean even slightly adorable.

“We’re the ones who’ll have to phone her Mum if something happens to her,” he snapped in a very unadorable way.

“That’s a good point,” said Simone. “You should give us your Mum’s number.”

“Fine,” I said.

“I don’t understand,” said Dean as I programmed my Mum’s number into Simone’s precious phone. “We brought you to the beach. What more do you want?”

“I’ll see you later,” I replied because Dean had just asked a question that he would never ever understand the answer to.

And off I went. And Dean’s biggest fears came true because lots of things happened. I swam in the sea. I bought an ice cream, I lay on my towel and I read my book. Which happened to have the most appropriate title ever:

What a good idea, I thought. I think I will make Travelling Alone my new year’s resolution.

And so I did.

I just had to get through New Year’s Eve first…. tune in next time to find out how awful that was!

Simone and her phone at Christmas

Cast list

Simone
Angry 35 year old mother, sucks joy out of everything, spends a lot of time on her phone

Dean
Simone’s husband. Great with technology, rubbish at real life, never seen without his screen

The 5 year old
Delightful little boy, gives the best hugs, always in trouble

The little sisters
3 and 1 years old. Not allowed to have fun

Noel
Dean’s Dad. Spitting image of Dean, but with grey hair, a jolly smile and no screen

Noelene
Dean’s Mum. Loves cooking. Hates most people

Janine
Dean’s sister. Nothing is more important than her cat

Caroline
Baffled visitor from the UK

Angry Bella
Cat 1. Usually lives with Simone in Sydney. Much like her owner, she has endured a 10 hour car journey to spend Christmas with people she hates

Frank   
Cat 2. Janine’s cat. Pampered and privileged

Basil
Cat 3. The resident cat. Usually enjoys a peaceful life at home with Noel and Noelene. Not impressed with any of the visitors

Sarah
Simone’s sister. Currently not on speaking terms with Simone

Mary
Random octogenarian. Speaks only to Noelene, ignores everyone else. No idea where she came from

The activity takes place at the home of Noel and Noelene between 24th and 26th December 2017.

Christmas with Simone and her phone had been falsely advertised to me as a fun-filled family affair, a little bit like a festive episode of Neighbours. Unlike Eastenders, festive episodes of Neighbours were always happy back in the day, because Neighbours always used to finish for a Christmas break with all the loose ends happily tied up, the evil uncles locked up or knocked off and the remaining Neighbours all quickly cured from the drama, bereavements and tragedies of the year and gathered together for a game of cricket and a barbecue. I’d still been in England when I’d accepted Simone’s invitation to join her for Christmas, so had not yet learnt that Simone had turned into an angry sergeant major who shouted at her children, sucked the joy out of everything she did and had completely lost the ability to ever enjoy anything as nice as Christmas.

The plan was that Simone and Dean, the cat and the children would undertake a 10 hour car journey from their new home in Sydney to stay with Dean’s parents in the town near Melbourne where Simone and Dean had lived until very recently. Various friends and family members would be dropping in throughout the Christmas period, but there would definitely be time for me to fulfill my dream of swimming in the sea on Christmas Day. It was all going to be very jolly and Simone couldn’t wait for me to be a part of it.

“Won’t Dean’s parents mind?” I asked.

“Oh my God, are you kidding? They will love you.”

What Simone and her phone forgot to tell me was that whilst Dean’s parents might love me, they certainly didn’t love her. And that Christmas, just like every other time Simone got together with her in-laws would be fraught and awkward. It would start with a bit of muttering, a few door slams and snipes, then as the time went on, the tension would increase into a huge crescendo and finally break out in the mother of all arguments with Simone and Dean one side of the kitchen island and Dean’s parents the other side, sending insults backwards and forwards quicker than the ball at a Wimbledon final.

But let’s go back to the beginning. Thankfully I’d been smart enough to avoid the 10 hour car journey from Sydney which had occurred earlier in the week, and by the time I flew in on the morning of Christmas Eve, Simone and her mother-in-law had already spent three days together, winding each other up and were already at the stage where they couldn’t speak to each other without slipping in a scathing look and a dash of criticism.

Dean’s parents were the complete opposite of one another. Noel was skinny and jovial with a twinkle in his eye, declaring everything to be fun and wonderful, whilst Noelene floated around in a caftan, looking enormous, complaining it was too hot and silently observing everything that happened with an air of disapproval. They were out shopping when I first arrived at the house and when they returned, Noel threw his arms around me and said how wonderful it was that I’d come for Christmas, whilst Noelene drifted past me with a frosty “hi” and immediately started asking what the beetroot was doing out of the fridge and why the three year old had a different hairstyle to the one she’d given her this morning.

Dean’s sister arrived not long after me, throwing her arms around everyone and seeming very enthusiastic about Christmas. Simone and Noelene seemed to briefly reunite in disapproval as they exchanged a glance and shook their heads with sour faces at Janine’s cheerful arrival. I was thinking how nice it was to have a friendly female around, and that Janine must take after her Dad, not her Mum, when Simone took me aside and explained that Janine was on very strong medication and the current high she was displaying only meant that she’d be on the floor weeping with sorrow and calling us all horrible names before the hour was up.

I was the only person who hadn’t arrived with a cat. Angry Bella had been brought all the way from Sydney by car and was still absolutely furious about it. Pampered, privileged Frank had travelled from Melbourne with Janine, the car loaded down with all Frank’s essentials – a scratching post, a favourite blanket, toys and treats, and a floor to ceiling indoor climbing frame which we spent a good two hours trying to assemble whilst resident cat Basil stalked about pretending he didn’t care in the slightest that a visiting cat had better toys than him.

Whilst the adults had all resigned themselves to at least trying to pretend to like each other for the duration of Christmas, the cats decided to be far more honest about it and made it very clear that none of them could stand the others. And so the house was divided into three different sections for the whole of Christmas and certain doors had to remain shut at all times so that each cat never had to encounter the other two. I think Christmas would have been much more successful if we had divided the adults up in the same way, with different people shut behind different doors so that no more eye rolling or scathing comments could take place.

With the arrival of me and Janine, it meant that all three of Simone’s children would be sharing a room tonight for the first time ever in their lives. This in itself is exciting enough when you are five, three or one, but add in the extra ingredient of sharing with your siblings for the first time ever on the exact same night that Santa is coming and you have three hugely excited children who are quite clearly not going to be going to sleep for many many hours.

Simone and Dean were completely enraged by this. They could have sat back with a few drinks, enjoyed the evening and accepted that this was a special night and the children were going to sing and chat and laugh in their rooms, because they were far too excited to sleep. Instead Simone and Dean took it in turns to go into the bedroom shouting horrible threats at the children and listing all the awful things that would happen to the children and their presents if they didn’t stop talking and go to sleep RIGHT NOW.

“It’s wonderful,” said Noel. “They’re so excited. They’ll treasure these memories. You can’t blame them for not sleeping. You didn’t when you were their age.”

Dean who had just sat back down with his screen after shouting at the children was so infuriated by this that he stood back up again and went and shouted at the children with so much force that they all started to cry. Then Simone, not bothering to get up from her chair, bellowed loudly that they had nothing to cry about and that they needed to stop crying now and go to sleep. The crying stopped for a bit, and then a bit later the one year old started to sing and then the talking and laughter began again.

“I can’t deal with this,” said Simone.

“Do you want me to go?” I asked. Hanging out with the children seemed far more inviting than sitting in a room full of angry adults.

Simone laughed. “You? You’re far too nice. As if you’d be able to discipline my children.”

“I wasn’t planning to discipline them,” I said. “I was thinking of using some of the sensory strategies I use at work. To help calm them down, seeing as they’re not in the right state of mind to go to sleep yet.”

Simone laughed as if this was the funniest thing she’d ever heard. “Sensory strategies. Yeah right.”

And so the children stayed awake, being loud and excited, and the adults continued to shout and be far more annoyed about their children’s excitement than was necessary.

In between shouting, the adults were supposed to be wrapping presents. Simone and Dean had brought a ridiculous amount of presents for the children. There was already a huge sea of presents leaking out from under the tree, and several more bags full of toys and clothes that still needed to be wrapped. You’d think that on Christmas Eve, anyone who still had at least thirty more presents to wrap would be grateful for any help they could get, but not in this household, because Janine, who was neither a giver nor receiver of any of the presents that needed wrapping insisted on bows.

“If Caz hasn’t been taught how to do a bow properly, then she’s not wrapping any presents,” Janine warned.

I wasn’t ever so convinced that a one, three or five year old would be bothered if not all their presents came with a pretty ribbon, but I decided to humour the family tradition. Janine taught me how to cut the ribbon, wrap the ribbon, tie the ribbon, add extra ribbon and then curl the ribbon. It was a lot of effort. Noelene, Janine and Simone all scrutinized my first attempt disdainfully.

“She can carry on with the ribbon,” Noelene said as if I wasn’t there. “But we’ll hide all the ones she does at the back. We don’t want to get them in any of the photos.”

The rest of the family nodded, possibly the first time they’d reached a unanimous decision on anything in the whole of 2017.

But not for long. Because twinkly eyed Noel who’d spent the day remarking that everything was wonderful was about to rock the boat, by saying exactly what I’d been thinking.

“There’s an awful lot of presents,” he said, shaking his head. “I don’t know why you need to get them this many things. They’re never going to be able to play with all these toys. It takes away the meaning of Christmas, piling all this stuff on them. They’d be just as happy with two or three nice presents each. You’re spoiling them. I’m sorry, but it needs to be said.”

A silence fell over the room, then Simone got up and stormed out of the room, closely followed by Dean. A door slammed and the shouting began.

“I’m sorry, but it needed to be said,” Noel announced to the rest of us, then he got up and left the room too, leaving me sitting at the table with Janine, Noelene and the offending still to be wrapped presents.

“It’s true,” said Janine, who had brought at least twenty individually wrapped presents for Frank the cat. “No kid needs this many presents.”

Simone and Dean didn’t emerge from their room again that night, and gradually the rest of us went to bed, apart from Noelene who said she had a few bits to do in the kitchen but was in fact still awake and tending to a platter of lobster salad when I woke and went to the loo at 2:37am.

Going to the loo was a difficult thing throughout my stay at Noel and Noelene’s because the part of the house where Angry Bella was allowed to roam free was the corridor outside my bedroom which led down to the toilet and bathroom. Day and night, Angry Bella stalked the corridor waiting for someone to vent her anger on and usually it was me. That first night when I got up to go to the loo, Angry Bella stood in front of the bathroom hissing at me, and blocking my way. I tried to coax her out of the way with gentle quiet whispers but Angry Bella was having none of it, and when I gave up and went to step over her, she lunged forward, wrapped her front paws around the back of my bare leg, whilst at the same time biting into the front of my leg with her mouth.

I obviously didn’t yelp quietly enough because Noelene was there in a flash. “What’s going on?” she demanded.

“Bella bit me,” I whispered and followed Noelene into the kitchen where lobster salad making was in full swing.

Together we inspected my leg, which was dripping with blood. I carefully wiped the blood away with wet kitchen roll and showed Noelene the impressive holes left in my leg by Angry Bella’s teeth and claws.

“Little bitch,” she said, and I hoped she was talking about the cat and not me.

We had a bit of a chat about the lobster, and all the other food Noelene was preparing. Noelene seemed quite pleased that I was taking an interest in her love of cooking, she even smiled on a couple of occasions and elaborated by telling me some cookery stories from Christmases long ago and just as I thought she might be mellowing a bit, she said quite abruptly:

“You better go back to bed. Make sure you don’t bleed on the bed sheets.”

I was relieved to see that Angry Bella was no longer blocking the entrance to the toilet so that I could finally visit the loo as originally planned. However I was less pleased to see that she had taken the opportunity to snuggle down onto my bed for a snooze.

“No way,” I whispered as bravely as possible, terrified that she was going to attack me again if I went anywhere near the bed. “You are not sleeping here. Get out.”

Angry Bella ignored me.

I turned on the light to show her I meant business. “Listen you angry cat,” I whispered. “This is my room. If you were a nice cat, we could share, but after what you’ve done to my leg, I can’t trust you. Get out.”

“What’s happening?” asked a voice and I turned to see Dean in his boxer shorts, looking as morose as ever.

“Bella’s in my room,” I whispered, thrilled that someone who wasn’t scared of the cat was awake and might help me. “I’m trying to get her to leave.”

“She’s fine,” said Dean. “She likes it in there.”

“No,” I said. “She just bit me.”

“She’d never do that.”

I showed him my leg and explained about the claws and the teeth and the blood.

“Ouch,” he said. “Are you sure it was her?”

“Yes.”

“Sorry,” he said. “She’s probably a bit cross because she’s not allowed outside. She hasn’t attacked anyone for at least a couple of weeks.”

“Can you get her out?” I pleaded.

Dean sighed, but went into the room and manhandled Angry Bella out of the room whilst she hissed and scratched him. I shut the door gratefully and sank back into bed.

Christmas Day came, and with it a random octogenarian called Mary, who turned up and followed Noelene about the kitchen, telling her long complicated stories and anecdotes about other random people, whilst Noelene raced from sink to oven to hob to fridge, looking flustered, and seeming to be doing quite a good job of tuning out everything Mary said. It seemed Mary came every Christmas, but refused to acknowledge any member of the family apart from Noelene, and they in turn all completely ignored her, apart from the five year old who was randomly instructed to give Mary a kiss at the very end of the day even though there’d been no interaction between the two of them all day.

Christmas Day also brought Simone’s sister Sarah, who was currently not on speaking terms with either Simone or Dean, but presumably had been when she accepted the invitation to come to Christmas dinner. Her relationships with Noelene and Janine seemed equally terse, Mary was a non-starter and Noel, like the cats, seemed to have assigned himself a separate part of the house to spend his time in, which meant the only adult left who didn’t mind having a chat with Sarah was me. Sarah quizzed me about my travels and on all things British, and it must have looked as if we were having far too much of a good time, because we were ordered to sit at different ends of the table at lunch time where Sarah was rendered speechless by the fact that nobody at her end of the table was on speaking terms with her.

Simone managed to burn all of the vegetables, and Noelene scraped them into the bin, whilst issuing Simone with a silent deathly stare. Simone’s only job of the day had been to tend to the vegetables, but she had been on her phone at the same time and had got distracted. Although to be fair to Simone, the only vegetables she ever allows into her own kitchen are those frozen bags of mixed peas, carrots and corn, so it wasn’t much of a surprise that she didn’t know what to do when faced with pumpkin, sweet potato and real live carrots.

There was still plenty of food, and although Simone had denied us all the chance to have our five vegetables a day, Noelene had provided five different animals – lobster, stuffed pork and glazed ham, beef sausages, lamb and duck.

I realised fairly early on in the day that my dream of swimming in the sea on Christmas Day was not going to be fulfilled. Just as Simone’s assurances that “Christmas is going to be awesome” and “Oh my God, Dean’s parents are going to love you” had so far turned out to be false, it seemed that “Of course you can go swimming, Dean’s parents live right by the beach, we can easily take you down there for a swim” was also a lie, because Dean’s parents actually lived a 40 minute car drive from the nearest beach, and it was clear that driving Caz to the seaside was not top of anyone’s To Do list today, especially not with all those presents to open.

So on a boiling hot Australia day, instead of enjoying the sunshine or the local beautiful surroundings, eleven people sat inside, sweaty bodies sticking to leather seats, taking part in the present opening ceremony. My best presents were from Janine, who despite not having met me when she bought my presents, had thought very carefully about my backpacking needs and bought me little boxes of cereal, sachets of jam and hot chocolate, little bottles of shampoo, a torch…. and a keyring with a photo of Frank the cat on it. At the other end of the scale, Sarah hadn’t considered my backpacking needs at all and gave me a large candle in a beautiful but very heavy glass jar that would take up most of the stripy suitcase.

Noel and Simone hadn’t spoken since his outburst about the quantity of presents last night, so we had that elephant in the room as well as the eleven sweaty bodies and all of the presents. We started to open the presents at 1:30pm and were still going at 7pm. Most of the presents were for the children. Dean and his screen took photos of each and every present being opened, and then as soon as the child clocked excitement at what was inside, Simone would shout “Don’t take it out of the box. We’ve got to drive that back to Sydney. You can’t play with it here.”

That’s right. We spent five and a half hours watching the children open presents that had travelled for 10 hours to be opened on Christmas Day, only to discover that the children weren’t allowed to investigate or play with any of the toys because they all needed to stay in their boxes so that they could be packed neatly back into the car for the 10 hour drive back to Sydney.

After the present opening I tried to escape to my room for a bit of time and space by myself. I had been trying to keep my bedroom door shut, initially because the one year old liked to go through all my stuff, but now after last night’s drama with Angry Bella, I wanted to keep her out as well. However Dean kept opening my door every time he went past, because he believed that my room was Angry Bella’s favourite place to sleep and didn’t want to deny her every opportunity to hang out on my bed.

On this occasion, I went into my room to discover that Angry Bella had been sick everywhere. So instead of time and space by myself in the room, I had time and space by myself in the laundry room, washing cat sick off of all my possessions which had been taken out of the stripy suitcase and distributed around the room by the one year old, making them easily accessible for the cat to be sick on.

Simone was mortified and came to help, whilst Mary and Noelene had a loud conversation about how inconsiderate it was of the British visitor to want to do her laundry on Christmas Day. Dean stared at his screen, oblivious to the fact that his obsession with opening my door had caused all this trouble in the first place.

Boxing Day started with a trip to the leisure centre. The night before Simone had told me that she and Dean were feeling super stressed and were going to calm themselves with an early morning sauna, and did I want to join them. Well, getting up early to go and sweat with two angry people in an unbearably hot room that smells of wood is not my idea of a great way to spend my time, but then Simone uttered the magic word “swimming” and I was all ears. At the leisure centre Simone and Dean disappeared off into the sauna and I swam lengths of the pool, then got super excited at the announcement that the slides and flumes were open, and had a wonderful time testing them all out. I could have stayed there all day, but before long Dean was ordering me out of the pool, looking like his sauna hadn’t de-stressed him one iota, and we were soon in the car travelling back to Noel and Noelene’s.

“It’s a shame we didn’t bring the kids,” I commented. “They would have loved the slides.”

“Yeah, but nuh,” said Simone. “We need to make the most of the free babysitting whilst we can.”

We got back to the house, to find Janine loading everything into her car, in floods of tears.

“Goodbye Caz,” she said, throwing her arms around me. “It was lovely to meet you. Please come and stay with me and Frank in Melbourne. We’ll go out to tea. I’ll take you dancing. Come whenever you like.”

“Thanks,” I said, as Janine pointedly walked past Dean and Simone, got in the car and drove angrily away.

“What’s going on?” Dean asked his parents as we went back into the house. “Janine just left without saying goodbye. I thought she was here til New Year.”

“I think you better ask your wife,” said Noelene with sheer venom in her voice.

“What am I supposed to have done?” asked Simone, clearly baffled.

“Well if you don’t know, I’m not going to tell you,” retorted Noelene, and stormed into her bedroom.

Dean used his screen to phone Janine, who shouted a load of nonsensical angry words at him and then hung up. Then Dean and Simone started having an argument about what Simone had or hadn’t done to drive Janine away, and I played with the children.

Boxing Day was already shaping up to be better than Christmas Day because as well as my early morning swim and slide ride, the agenda for the day was “taking Caz to the beach”. I couldn’t wait. Unfortunately we were having lunch first, and would have to be back in time for tea, because no-one’s allowed to mess up Noelene’s mealtime arrangements, but nevertheless I was excited.

“Can you get the children dressed?” asked Dean. He was too busy arguing with Simone and having his calls blocked by Janine to do it himself.

“Sure,” I said. “Does it matter what they wear?”

“Just clothes,” replied Dean crossly.

So I helped the children choose which clothes they wanted to wear for a day at the beach. Then Noelene appeared, took one look at the two girls in their shorts and T-shirts, and demanded:

“Who dressed the girls?”

“I did.”

“Well they can’t wear those clothes. They’re what I call the play clothes. Totally inappropriate for today. Come on girls. Nanna will help you put the right clothes on. Silly Caz didn’t know what she was doing.”

The children were quickly re-dressed in what Noelene apparently called the non-play clothes, which looked fairly similar to the play clothes I had dressed them in earlier.

Lunch was a terse affair. I’m not sure that anyone actually knew why Janine had left, but it seemed everyone was cross about it, apart from Basil the resident cat who could now reclaim the main part of the house again now that Frank had gone, and me who was beside myself with excitement at going to the beach this afternoon. I’d already put my bikini on underneath my own “play clothes” in anticipation.

And then it happened. Simone and Noelene were in the kitchen, getting in each other’s way, trying to pack up the lunch things when Noelene announced:

“Right, that’s it, we’re leaving. I can’t stand this any longer.”

“You don’t have to go,” snapped Simone. “We’re taking Caz to the beach. You can stay here. This is your home.”

“Well it might do you good to remember that, young lady.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

Quick as a flash, both husbands jumped up and ran to the sides of their wives. The singles snarling match had just become the doubles championship.

No stone was left unturned. Everything and anything in the whole nine years that Simone and Dean had known each other could be grabbed and hurled as ammunition.

“You were always comparing me to his last girlfriend. It was like you wished he was still with her.”

“I did wish he was still with her. You were still carrying on with another boy when you met Dean.”

“It was complicated.”

“It’s not complicated. You pick one or the other, or you walk away.”

“I know that, I picked Dean.”

“Not that you think he’s good enough for you.”

“Hey, what’s that supposed to mean? Of course I’m good enough for her.”

“Shut up Dean, of course he’s good enough for me. I love your son.”

“Oh so you do actually remember that he is my son.”

“You never let me forget it Noelene.”

As a special needs teacher, I’m used to quickly upping and leaving a room with hoards of children at a moment’s notice and ushering them to safety when an inappropriate behaviour arises, and this was an inappropriate behaviour if ever I saw one. The children were fascinated by the action unfolding in the kitchen and reluctantly followed me into the garden, to play although we could still hear every word that was shouted.

“You need to think about the way you talk to your children, you never show them that you love them, you’re always shouting at them.”

“How can you say we don’t love them? First you say we’ve bought them too many presents and now you say we don’t love them.”

“Love isn’t about buying an obscene amount of presents. I asked them this morning what they’d got for Christmas, they can’t even remember because you overwhelmed them with too many things and wouldn’t let them play with anything.”

“I remember I got a bike,” the five year old told me, looking a bit bewildered.

We played in the garden whilst Simone delivered a tearful monologue about how nobody can please Noelene or live up to her high standards, then Noelene burst into tears and said that everyone has to tread on eggshells around Simone because she’s so angry all the time, and bit by bit every part of family life was thrown into play – the burnt vegetables, today’s early morning sauna trip, something about a silk scarf that got lost in 2014 and an exciting new fact that I didn’t already know – earlier in the year Noel and Noelene had sold their family home and specifically come to live in the same street as Simone and Dean to be close to the grandchildren, then three weeks later Simone and Dean announced they were off to live in Sydney.

An hour and forty-five minutes went by. I know this because I’d been texting a friend as the argument began and I checked to see what time I’d sent it, so that I could work out how long the battle had lasted. Eventually it went quiet and the five year old volunteered to peer through the window and see if it was safe to re-enter.

“I can’t see anyone,” he whispered. “Do you think they’re all dead?”

“No,” I replied. “They’ve probably just gone into another room.”

“Oh.” The five year old seemed disappointed at such an anti-climax and raced around the house peering in the windows and reported that the only sign of any life he could see was Angry Bella sitting on my bed.

Eventually Simone appeared in the garden, looking tearstained and sorry for herself. “Caz we’re going for a walk,” she said.

Dean was at the front of the house. He kissed the top of my head and said “I’m really sorry you had to see that. Thanks for taking the kids out. We’ll take you to the beach tomorrow, I promise.” He then engaged in some rare fatherly activity and helped the five year old to ride his new bike whilst Simone and I walked behind.

“Are you okay?” I asked because someone needed to fill the silence and it clearly wasn’t going to be her.

“Yeah,” she said. “We just had to clear the air.”

“Is it resolved?”

“Caz, it will never be resolved. This happens every time we see them. It’s usually a lot worse. That was nothing.”

Nothing? That was nothing? I’d missed out on my Boxing Day Beach Trip for an hour and forty-five minutes of nothing?

“I’m so glad you’ve come for Christmas though. You are having a nice time aren’t you?”

“Well let’s see,” I said. “The cat has bitten me, scratched me and thrown up all over my things, everyone has ridiculed my attempts to put ribbons on presents, I got told off for dressing children in play clothes, even though all they’ve been doing today is playing, I haven’t been to the beach yet, I had to pretend I’m not allergic to lobster because I didn’t want to make Noelene cry, I’m terrified of going to the toilet in case the cat attacks me again, and when world war three broke out in the kitchen I had to evacuate before I’d put any sunscreen on which means I’ll probably wake up with terrible sunburn tomorrow. The jury’s still out, but this might actually rank as an even worse Christmas than the time I fell 240 metres down a ski slope and ended up on crutches.”

Simone had stopped walking and started to cry again, but this time she was crying with laughter. “Oh Caz, you are too funny,” she said. “You crack me up so much. I wish you lived with us all the time. It would be so much fun. Seriously, I keep telling you to write a blog. Everyone will love it.”

Yes Simone, they do! But what you don’t know, and will hopefully never know, is that it’s the stories about you that everyone loves best!!

Great Aunt puts a different sort of stamp on Christmas

A Great Aunt has discovered that she can save a lot of money by simply forgetting to put stamps on her Christmas cards.

The Great Aunt who lives near Leeds said “Christmas is an expensive time of year and postage stamps are not as cheap as they used to be. You can’t even get two for a pound. I’d much rather be spending my money on more meaningful things, like those different flavours of Baileys that you can only get at Christmas time.”

The Great Aunt who has an ever-expanding family and lots of old friends dotted around the country said “Some of these people I haven’t seen since they were babies, others I don’t expect I’ll ever see again, yet along with many other Brits I am struck every December with this ridiculous compulsion to sit down and write a card to everyone in my address book who hasn’t died yet. That adds up to a lot of money at the Post Office counter.”

The Great Aunt came up with her brilliant money saving scheme quite by accident. “I have to walk past a postbox to get to my local post office and once when I was on my way to buy a stamp for a birthday card I automatically posted the card before I got to the Post Office. At the time I was mortified, but now I think my mistake was pure genius.”

Friends and relatives all over the country are having to travel to a Post Office and pay £2 for the privilege of receiving their cards which simply say “love from Rosemary.”

Great niece Caroline Gough said “I’ve known since Monday that I had something to pick up at the Post Office, but due to my busy work and social life I couldn’t get there until Saturday. That’s six days of anticipating what exciting item might be waiting for me. This has been a huge anti-climax.”

Great Aunt Rosemary said “Dropping all my unstamped cards into the postbox is the most liberating thing I’ve done in a long time. I think I’m going to do this every year.”

Hospitals and hostels not that different, confirms ex-backpacker

Staying in hospital is not that different from staying in a backpacking hostel, a British woman has confirmed today.

The findings came as Caroline Gough visited her mother in North Devon District Hospital over a four day period. Gillian Byrom recently received a hip replacement.

Caroline, who was backpacking around Australia and New Zealand earlier this year, explained “The similarities between a hospital ward and a backpacking hostel are staggering.

Firstly there’s the communal sleeping in mixed or single sex rooms where everyone has a locker to put their things in and at least one piece of luggage.

Then there’s all the nocturnal activity. People trying to go to sleep early whilst other people keep them awake by talking or zipping and unzipping their bags a million times. People manoeuvring themselves out of bed to go to the loo in the middle of the night, and my Mum said that one night she had no sleep due to the constant noises from another patient’s phone. This is the sort of behaviour that happens in hostels  all over the world.”

Caroline also felt the social aspects of staying in hospital were similar to that of a backpacking hostel. “You’re sharing a small space with people you haven’t met before and are unlikely to see again so the conversations tend to be about where you’re from and what you’ve been doing.

Sometimes you really hit it off with someone and have a lovely chat and then you’re faced with the awkward decision of wondering whether or not to ask to stay in touch. The number of times I woke up to find someone checking out early had left their email address or phone number on my pillow whilst I was sleeping. I think my Mum was too woozy and sore to make any lifelong friends during her hospital stay, but I had a lovely chat with Margaret from Chulmleigh on her behalf.”

In both settings, people don’t always know how long they’re staying, they might have a longer or shorter stay depending on their circumstances. So there’s the exciting element of not knowing whether you’ll have the same room mates each night or if there’ll be someone new to meet.

Caroline admits that not everything is completely identical. “Nobody brings you breakfast in bed when you stay at a hostel,” she told us. “And I imagine the use of bunk beds in hospitals would be greatly frowned upon, especially in the hip replacement ward. The biggest difference though is probably to do with vomiting. You can get shouted at and chucked out of a hostel for being sick, but in hospital special people called nurses immediately come running to look after you.”

Leading role still up for grabs as ham-stars fail to impress

Auditions have been taking place in the Devon town of Barnstaple to find the next big star to play the role of Caroline Gough’s newest hamster.

And despite the best efforts of many fluffy bundles taking to the stage at Pets at Home, the role is still yet to be cast.

Caroline explained “We’ve had a stellar line up over the years, starting with Hammersmith, then Dagenham Martello and most recently Billy-Ricky. The new hamster has got big boots to fill and so far the standard of those auditioning hasn’t quite made the cut.”

Some of the hamsters have slept through their auditions, whilst others have shied away from the limelight and remained nestled under the bedding so that they can’t be viewed at all.

Other hamsters have been rejected for biting their friends during the audition, for looking too much like Dagenham and for trying too hard to make an impression.

“With Hammersmith, Dagenham and Billy-Ricky there was an instant connection,” said Caroline. “Our eyes met and we just knew we belonged together. Although many of this year’s hopefuls have been cute and entertaining, I haven’t felt any sort of connection that has made me think ‘yes, you’re the one.'”

Caroline has been been driving around for many weeks with a secure hamster transportation unit in the boot of her car so that when the right hamster comes along she can take him home immediately.

“I’m quite surprised I haven’t got a hamster yet,” Caroline confided. “I thought I’d fly home from Australia, get off the plane and recruit a new hamster before I was even over the jetlag.

But the fact that he hasn’t turned up yet means it will be all the more special when we do finally meet.”

Auditions are still taking place, if you think you have what it takes to be Caroline’s next hamster, hurry down to Pets at Home in Barnstaple. You don’t have to be the fastest, the cutest or the best at swinging from the bars, you just have to have that special something that will melt her heart and make her realise she can’t possibly leave the shop without you by her side.

 

Hammersmith
Dagenham Martello
Billy-Ricky

Concussion sparks reckless shopping spree

A British woman is blaming concussion for her inability to stop herself from spending money on things she wouldn’t usually buy.

Caroline Gough smacked her head hard against a wall and the floor on Thursday morning when moving backwards to avoid the ball during an intense game of dodgeball. And whilst her competitive nature saw her get up, return to the game and help to win it, it later emerged that she was suffering from a head injury that has altered her ability to manage her finances.

Caroline, who has a giant bump on the back of her head and a spectacular bruise on her left buttock didn’t realise the extent of her injuries until she popped into Barnstaple to visit the bank and discovered that late night Christmas shopping was in full swing.

“I was supposed to be racing into town after work to quickly pay in a cheque,” said Caroline. “But instead I got caught up in the merry throng of Christmas shoppers and never actually made it to the Halifax.”

Instead, Caroline visited almost every other retail establishment on the High Street, buying a variety of frivolous items as she went, including sonic blue nail varnish, an electric toothbrush and a bubble bath scented with Unicorn Candy because it smelt “weird but nice”.

Caroline’s most extravagant splurge was on her favourite perfume. “I’ve never owned it because in my right mind I would never spend that much money on perfume, so I’ve been saving all my Boots points since forever and when I’ve got enough I was going to use them to buy the perfume. But when you’ve got concussion, it makes you think differently, and I realised how much quicker I would be able to get the points if I bought the perfume first. So I did!”

Further uncharacteristic activity included having tea at the Wimpy, trying on a pair of knee high boots that cost more than a skiing holiday, and having a chat about make up with the ladies on the Benefit counter at Banbury’s. Caroline then went home and hit the internet, buying top price theatre tickets and a three night stay in a hotel during the Christmas break.

A spokesperson said “If Caroline’s concussion wears off before the credit card bill comes through, then we anticipate a further head injury when she faints at the size of the bill. We are just thankful that Pets at Home was closed by the time she got there otherwise she would probably have come home with a bearded dragon and a carpet python.”

Furious fish reunited with owner

A community of cold water fish have spoken out after being reunited with the owner who abandoned them for over a year.

The four goldfish and the weathered eel had spent many happy years living in a dining room in Shillingstone, Dorset where they were loved and cared for by fish enthusiast Caroline Gough.

Malarkey, Chumley, Satsuma and Naranja

“Every need was met,” said Malarkey, the spotted fantail goldfish. “We had fresh bloodworms, dried daphnia, lovely ornaments to swim in and out of. Then suddenly in August 2017, she decides she’s going off on an adventure and rents her house out to someone with FOUR CATS. Obviously we couldn’t stay there. Our best friend Marmalade went off to live in a pond in Gillingham, and we were bundled into a campervan and driven two and a half hours to Devon to live in Caroline’s Mum’s laundry room for the next 15 months.”

Satsuma the common goldfish added “Apparently Caroline has been travelling around Australia and New Zealand. She didn’t even bother to tell us. Or maybe she did. Our memories aren’t very reliable.”

Caroline had a wonderful time on her travels and spent lots of time visiting aquariums and swimming in the sea with many other fish and marine life. “To say we are hurt is an understatement,” said Chumley the white faced goldfish. “We can swim just as well as those Australian fish. Why she needed to go all the way to the other side of the world just to see some fish when we were right there in her dining room is something we will never understand.”

The fish endured more upheaval on Wednesday evening when they were relocated to an address in the picturesque village of Georgeham, North Devon. “Once again we find ourselves living in a dining room with Caroline,” said Malarkey. “But everything’s different. The trust has gone. Is this our forever home or will she get itchy fins and decide to go off to find more fish in the sea? We are in a constant state of flux.”

Miss Gough was unable for comment, but a spokesperson revealed that Caroline has plans to knock a hole in a perfectly good interior wall at her home with the intention of  placing a tropical fish tank in the hole so that the same fish can be viewed from two different rooms.

“That’s ridiculous,” scoffed Satsuma. “Caroline can’t be in two places at once, this past year has definitely demonstrated that. She’s never going to be able to simultaneously stand in two different rooms and watch the fish from either side. What a ridiculous waste of time and money. I’m glad we’re not speaking to her.”

The blog has landed in Britain

What  a difference a year makes…..

On 10th November 2017 I was surfing on Bondi Beach.
On 10th November 2018 I was surfing at Putsborough.

Can you spot any differences between my two surfing experiences below?!!

The travel adventures are over but the blog lives on as I cartwheel around England, no doubt finding plenty more people and situations to write about. There’s also a few extra travel stories that haven’t quite made it onto the blog yet – the traumatic incident of getting my jelly confiscated, the day I accidentally ended up being interviewed on live Australian radio about something I didn’t have the first clue about, and the day I travelled five hours to stay with an acquaintance who said “surprise we’re going on holiday” and proceeded to drove me five hours back to where I had just come from.

There are also a few more chapters in the Simone and her Phone saga, you definitely won’t want to miss the Christmas special (though I would have been very happy not to have been there at the live event!).

For now though, here’s one about my pajamas…..

Amicable split for British backpacker and her pajamas?

 

 

Amicable split for British backpacker and her pajamas?

A British backpacker and a pair of pajamas are planning to spend a bit of time apart now that they have returned to England after almost a year of travelling together.

Speaking from her home in North Devon, Caroline Gough  said “when it came to choosing which pajamas to take to Australia these were the obvious choice because they are my favourite pair, nevertheless it’s a long time to spend wearing the same pair of pajamas night after night.”

Caroline bought the pajamas from a Tesco Extra in Bedfordshire earlier in 2017. The trousers are purple, white and grey to match the matching T-shirt which says “My bed is a wonderful place.”

“That’s a bit ironic really,” said Caroline “because I haven’t slept in my own bed since August 2017 when it went into storage.”

Instead Caroline and the pajamas have slept in a grand total 92 beds across Australia and New Zealand, ranging from luxurious king size beds to youth hostel bunk beds.

The journey has definitely aged the pajamas who have become much thinner after experiencing a range of washing machines and dryers, whilst Caroline believes she has become much fatter after experiencing a range of delicious milkshakes, chocolate and exciting flavoured jelly.

The pajamas said “it’s all very amicable. I need a bit of chill out time in the chest of drawers and she needs to catch up with the other pajamas.”

Caroline said “All my other pajamas feel much newer and far more comfortable. The pajamas that came travelling feel old and thin and worn. I’ll probably only ever use them as an absolute last resort, or possibly as a duster.”
Before and after: the well-travelled pajamas.

 

 

Backpacker unimpressed with name of latest cyclone

A British backpacker has spoken of her anger at discovering the name of New Zealand’s latest cyclone.

Cyclone Hola hit the New Zealand coast just in time for Caroline Gough’s 37th birthday, ensuring that her plans for swimming with dolphins and relaxing on one of New Zealand’s best beaches were well and truly thwarted.

In an exclusive interview, Caroline told us “Hola is a ridiculous name for a cyclone because it means hello in Spanish. Why would anyone want to say hello to a cyclone? If we have to name our cyclones after a greeting, it would be much more appropriate to call it Cyclone Adios, Cyclone Sayonara or Cyclone Piss Off Now Please. Naming it after a welcoming word suggests we are actively encourging it to stay.”

This is not Caroline’s first experience of a New Zealand cyclone. “I had another cyclone mess up my plans a couple of weeks ago,” she explained. “But at least that one was called Cyclone Gita and didn’t have any welcoming connotations. The only Gitas who have ever cropped up in my life are the Gita who ran a market stall in Eastenders back in the nineties, and the Gitas you encounter in secondary school maths text books, you know the ones: Gita has seven apples, four oranges and a banana, do a fraction to show how many oranges she has. These days, I don’t ever encounter fractions or cyclones during my day-to-day life and I’m very happy with that arrangement.”

Beach loving Caroline who says her main aim in life is to try and swim in the sea every day was so fed up with Cyclone Gita chasing her around the south island that she changed her plans and caught a plane to the northlands which are renowned for having the best weather. Caroline splashed out on an airbnb apartment in the popular seaside town of Paihia to ensure she could have a beach based birthday.

“But it wasn’t to be,” said Caroline. “I went on a misty birthday boat trip around the Bay of Islands. The scenery is supposed to be stunning, but nobody could see it, partly due to the greyness and partly because the majority of passengers were busy being sick. The crew said it was such a bad trip that they gave everyone on board a lifetime voucher to have a free boat trip with their company the next time we go to Paihia.”

Caroline, who is not sure that she will ever want to go to Paihia again, spent the rest of her birthday watching episodes of Midsomer Murder whilst eating Boysenberry jelly and watching the relentless rain pour down outside the window.

“Meanwhile, the friends I had left behind in Wellington the previous day woke up to glorious sunshine with not a hint of a cyclone. They sent me various photos on What’sApp throughout the day to show me what a wonderful and sunny time they were having.”

Cyclone Hola ensured that Caroline’s birthday was filled with wind and rain
The best part of Caroline’s birthday was tasting the exciting flavours of jelly that aren’t available in England

Faceblind backpacker strikes again

A British backpacker has once again found herself having a twenty minute conversation with two complete strangers because she initially thought she recognised them.

Caroline spotted the couple on the beach at Cable Bay on New Zealand’s north island and after what appeared to be some mutual smiling and waving she approached them, only to realise pretty quickly that she had in fact never seen them before.

Caroline explained “Last night I had to stand in an ice cream queue for a very long time because there was just one person on duty and she was having a complicated phone conversation with someone who was teaching her how to change the till roll.”

Caroline had just decided her ice cream need wasn’t strong enough to remain in the queue, when the couple in front of her started to chat to her.

The long queue at the Cable Bay shop led to an incident of mistaken identity

“They were called Beth and Boyd and they were really nice,” said Caroline. “We had such a good conversation that I didn’t mind waiting in the long queue anymore. And when I saw what I thought was them on the beach today, it felt like I was bumping into old friends. I couldn’t wait to go and catch up with them again.”

However Caroline soon realised her blunder but not before expressing enthusiasm at how pleased she was to be reunited with a baffled German couple who had never met her before.

“This happens to me a lot,” explained Caroline. “I am great at mistaking strangers for people I know, and equally good at failing to recognise people I do know when I see them out of context. I find it’s best just to smile at everybody, then nobody gets offended, although sometimes strangers do take it as an invitation to start hitting on me.”

The German couple were more than happy to give Caroline an earnest and in-depth report of all the places they have visited so far during their five week tour of New Zealand.

Caroline said “Considering they didn’t know me, they seemed very keen to talk to me. They’re touring New Zealand in a campervan, maybe it’s been such a long time since they talked to anyone other than each other, they were just thrilled to have someone new to speak to.”

This certainly seemed to be the case, because several hours later the German couple spotted Caroline sitting on the beach reading and approached her for a further twenty minute conversation.

The beach at Cable Bay where the incident took place

“As they approached, I wasn’t sure if it was Beth and Boyd, or the German couple,” confessed Caroline. “So I had to wait until they started speaking and then work out who they were from their accents.”

Face blindness affects 2.5% of the population. “I think other people have it a lot worse than I do,” said Caroline. “But I have watched films where two actors look so similar that it takes me at least half the film to realise that they are two separate characters and it’s not a film about someone with a split personality.”

Caroline was disappointed not to see Beth and Boyd again during her time at Cable Bay. “Although it’s always possible that I did see them again and just not realise it,” she said.

Seagull was professional netball player in former life 

A seagull from New Zealand has been displaying some excellent netball skills on a north island beach in his attempt to get fed.

Cable Bay

Tourist Caroline Gough who was eating chips at Cable Bay was impressed with the seagull’s amazing ability to dodge around the other seagulls and find an unmarked space, using the same strategies that a highly skilled netball player would use when making themselves available to receive the ball during a game.

Caroline who played Goal Attack in a netball team for many years explained “Dodging is a very important part of any netball game. You fool the person who’s marking you into thinking you’re going in one direction, then you quickly sprint in the other direction, freeing yourself up to receive the ball. This seagull was doing the exact same thing in his quest to get my chips, whilst the others just squawked loudly and annoyed each other.”

The seagull also impressed Caroline with his ability to make eye contact and call for her attention just as any professional netball player would.

Caroline said “I never ever feed seagulls, not after that traumatic incident in Weymouth that we don’t talk about. But I don’t think this particular seagull was a seagull. I think this was a netball player trapped in a seagull’s body.”

Caroline and the seagull proceeded to enjoy an intense training session together. “Like the majority of the population, I find that I can never eat a whole portion of chips,” said Caroline, “so I began throwing leftover chips to this seagull one at a time. This prompted the other seagulls to up their game and try to outsmart us, but we never failed. The seagull got into a space every time and received my chip before any other seagull could intercept it. We made the perfect team.”

The seagull said “I have lived in New Zealand all my life and netball is an important sport here, our netball team is one of the best in the world. I often hang out at the local courts to watch the players train and pick up a few tips myself. I would love to play a proper match one day. I think I’d make the most perfect Wing Attack, because unlike most netball players I’ve actually got a pair of wings and would be happy to use them to attack my opponent.”

Clothes are thrilled to spend four days hanging in wardrobe

A set of clothes are enjoying the opportunity to hang in the wardrobe and have a good stretch for the first time since they arrived in New Zealand.

The clothes, which spend the majority of their time crumpled up inside Caroline Gough’s stripy suitcase, have been travelling with Caroline since she left the UK last November.

One of Caroline’s summer dresses explained: “As a summer garment, I am used to spending the majority of my time hanging in the wardrobe back in Shillingstone. I do get taken out and worn sometimes during the summer months, and I am usually chosen to go on a 2 week holiday to Lanzarote in the October half term, so I am more used to travelling on planes than a lot of these other clothes.”

A turquoise T-shirt added “I am Caroline’s favourite colour and also very versatile so I tend to leave the wardrobe fairly frequently throughout the year. But I am always hung back up again after she has finished with me, or at least I was until this trip began. Now we spend all our days shoved inside the stripy case.”

The jeans explained “Back in England Caroline wears me all the time, but in Australia it was so hot she barely even looked at me. In fact she put me right at the bottom of the case so that I would be out the way. It was okay for a while but as she spends longer on her travels, she buys more things and soon we won’t be able to breath inside that stripy case.”

However after three and a half weeks of hardcore backpacking around New Zealand’s South Island, Caroline has stopped for a few days at an airbnb with a proper wardrobe.

“We are all so relieved,” explained the lovely white and blue blouse who knows it won’t be getting another outing until Caroline stays at a place with an iron. “Just to sit on a hanger and shake myself out for a few days is pure heaven. We know it won’t last forever but we shall relish it whilst we can.”

The thermal top added “Caroline bought me in Queenstown so I am quite new and this is my first experience of living in a wardrobe. To be honest, I haven’t found the other clothes to be particularly friendly. I think they’ve realised that at some point there isn’t going to be enough room in that case for all of us and they’re worrying about who’s going to get rejected.”

The cardigan that thinks it’s a rug said “There’s no way that thermal top will be coming back to England with us. It’s obvious that Caroline will be ditching it at the nearest charity shop as soon as we get back to Australia. There’s no point making friends with it.”

A poetic prelude

I don’t want to bore ya
But I went to Kaikoura
Where all sorts of things did unfold
We had Cyclone Gita
I did not want to meet her
She was windy, ferocious and cold.
I met Not Hot Scott
He read books a lot
It did seem quite silly to me
That someone would pay
To fly out all that way
When a library visit is free
I saw all the sights
And sang Wuthering Heights
Which made Not Hot Scott disconcerted
I kayaked the rough sea
Nearly threw up my tea
But thankfully that was averted
Then out of the blue
A text message came through
From someone I did not want to see
Karoline with a K
Was coming to stay
At the very same hostel as me
What happened next
As result of that text?
You can click on the link, then you’ll see
It’s quite a long tale
(there’s even a whale)
So you might want to sit comfortably!

Hide and Seek

Hide and Seek

The terrible news came out of nowhere on an otherwise perfect day. I had been for a swim in the sea, read a few chapters of the latest book and was just preparing to head back to the hostel to get ready for my evening sunset kayak tour. But first I flicked on the mobile data on my phone, cos let’s face it, this is the 21st Century and I hadn’t looked at it for at least an hour.

And there it was. A What’sApp message from Karoline. This, you may recall is Kayaking Kampingplatz Karoline who spent a weekend in close proximity to me, sharing my tent, my kayak, and let’s not forget, my name back in Doubtful Sound a couple of weeks ago. I knew she was going to be in Kaikoura at the same time as me, but I also knew that she thinks backpacking hostels are beneath her and was going to be staying at a holiday park by night and joining some sort of dolphin-tracking conservation team by day, so I was optimistic that I could definitely make sure I was busy every time she was free and that our paths would never cross.

Not anymore. Karoline’s message read: “Hi Caroline, so great we both here in Kaikoura. We have now so many opportunities for meet. Tomorrow evening I will go to an interesting evening session on reducing household rubbish in Canterbury. I think it sounds very great, perhaps you will join? If it is too short or you have busy then we still have so many more opportunities 🙂 Where do you stay? I have now booked a shared room in the Albatross until the end of the week…..”

This is where I stopped reading. Because I am also in a shared room in the Albatross, and I had purposely not shared this news with Karoline so that she didn’t know where to come looking for me. But now, she’d presumably started to run out of money and was finding she had no choice but to stay at the backpacking hostels she had deemed to be beneath her, and by some terrible twist of fate had unknowingly chosen the same backpackers as me. And if I was really unlucky she would probably be bedding down opposite me or jiggling around in the top bunk above me.

Obviously the first thing I did was swear loudly and repeatedly. The second thing I did was compose a reply. Not to tell her that I was also at the Albatross, I planned to keep that a secret for as long as possible, but to ask her what time the highly interesting talk on household rubbish would be tomorrow, so that I would know when it would be safe for me to hang out at the Albatross without bumping into her.

I have been travelling for four months and the Albatross is my favourite hostel so far. It is quirky, full of beautiful murals and run by a lovely couple. There’s a cat and a piano, a selection of drums and guitars, a painting corner, and baking ingredients which anyone can use so long as they share whatever they bake with everyone else. The lampshades are all different but each is based upon the theme of Alice in Wonderland. All instructions and information have been written in poetry, and music is piped into all communal areas 24/7, a great selection of all my favourite Golden Oldies – it’s as if they wrote to me ahead of my stay and asked me to send them my perfect idea of a playlist. One of the other guests clearly doesn’t enjoy this sort of music, because everytime I see him, he is listening to music through his own set of giant headphones, singing along to something with a completely different beat, judging from the frequency by which he nods his head to the music. There are huge tables to sit at, giant beanbags, comfy sofas. I loved the atmosphere but there was no way that I was going to be able to chill out and enjoy any more relaxed evenings at the Albatross with Karoline by my side.

What is so annoying about Karoline, I hear you ask. Well, where to begin. We shared a kayak and a tent during a weekend on the otherwise tranquil Doubtful Sound and during this time she decided that I was her best friend, whilst I couldn’t wait to say goodbye to her. Karoline complained about everything (too hot, too cold, too late, too early, too hungry,) and within our first half an hour together I had already learnt all about how she doesn’t talk to any of her sisters and is perilously close to disowning her mother as well. We all had to fill out extensive risk assessment forms, which amongst many other things asked us to disclose medical conditions, and because she’s nosy, she had a good look at mine and spent the rest of the weekend quizzing me about my colitis, making huge and inaccurate comparisons between me having colitis and her being a vegan, and asking me how my tummy was at far too frequent intervals and usually in front of lots of other people which annoys me because I prefer for complete strangers not to know that my digestive and bowel health is dodgy unless they absolutely have to. When it was time to put up the tent, Karoline told me that I didn’t need to help if my tummy wasn’t feeling up to it, causing several people to ask me what was wrong with my tummy, and when I went to visit the toilet just before bedtime, she rested her hand on mine, smiled at me sympathetically and told me to take my time and not to feel under any pressure.  Until she said that, it hadn’t occurred to me to feel under any pressure, but the thought of Karoline quizzing me extensively on the details of my toilet trip after the event certainly made me feel far more apprehensive than I usually would.

When you kayak as a pair, the person sitting in front has no control over the direction of the kayak, this is detemined by the person sitting in the back who uses foot pedals to steer the kayak. When it was Karoline’s turn to steer, she veered wildly all over the fjord, crashing into the bank and other people’s boats whilst I sat in the front powerless to do anything other than brace myself as each crash came upon us, repeatedly apologising to everyone as we crashed into them and hoping they’d realise it was the other Karoline causing the crash not me. Occasionally she’d have things under control and we’d be kayaking quite happily alongside another pair, but if I found myself having a nice chat with those people and Karoline didn’t feel included, she would immediately steer us far away to the other side of the fjord, quickly bringing my conversation to a close. We had been issued with wetsuits and thermal layers and I had hung mine out to dry overnight. The next morning, Karoline took my clothes off the line and changed into them, leaving me to put on her wetsuit and thermal that she had left festering in a damp sweaty pile outside the tent. Once we got back into the kayak for day two, she decided she was too tired to do any paddling and spent the time moaning and taking photos, leaving me to do all the paddling and steering whilst the rest of the group constantly had to stop and wait for us to catch up. After our lunch stop she lost her lifejacket and put mine on, so the rest of the group were held up as we all hunted high and low for the missing jacket (which is bright orange, so pretty hard to lose) which everyone wrongly believed that I had lost.

On day two Karoline stole my clothes and my life jacket and decided not to do any paddling

Consequently I was berating myself for being foolish enough to tell her the truth about my future travel plans, and not creating a vague lie so that she wouldn’t realise that we were both going to be in Kaikoura at the same time. But until today’s fateful What’sApp message, I had been sure I would be able to get away with not seeing her.

Now though it was time for Mission Impossible. Would I be able to exist alongside Karoline at the Albatross without her realising I was staying there too? It would be particularly hard if we were sharing a room, but I was willing to give it a go.  What was helpful was that the bunk beds in my room each had a curtain that you could close around you, primarily designed for blocking out the light and getting dressed in private, but now also very useful for hiding from annoying ex-kayak partners. As long as we weren’t actually in the room at the same time, I could easily creep into bed and close the curtain around me and she would never know that I was sleeping in close proximity to her.

Bunk bed curtains have all sorts of uses

Technology helped. By pretending that I was genuinely interested in Karoline and her life, I could find out exactly where she was and what her plans were. What’sApping to ask her what her plans were for the evening and if she’d checked in to the Albatross yet certainly sounded as if I was trying to compare our plans to see when we could meet, when really I was just working out when it was safe for me to hang out in the hostel living room and when I would need to go and hide in the pub down the road.

But she caught me unawares on Monday. The weather was so bad that my whale watching trip had been cancelled for the second day in a row, so had my swim with the seals, but despite all this I was in a cheerful mood, enjoying the hostel atmosphere, editing the story about the unblissful chocolate bliss in Christchurch and checking on my laundry, when suddenly I heard the unmistakable annoying voice of Karoline, and there she was at reception, wearing the same pacamac and pair of practical trousers that she had been wearing the day we met. So quick as a flash I jumped up and headed out the back door as fast as Hyacinth Bucket’s neighbours in an episode of “Keeping Up Appearances”.

Once out the back, I regretted leaving so quickly. In the hurry to save myself I had left everything at the table – my laptop, my phone, a USB stick containing all my travel photos, my entire selection of colourful pens and a freshly made mug of Fairtrade Hot Chocolate (nothing but the best at The Albatross!) I should have gathered them up and brought them with me, Karoline was far too focussed on boring the pants off the lovely landlady and would have been unlikely to notice me gathering up my things before I made my hurried departure.

I’ve already told you how much I like the Albatross, and I now began to appreciate another of its features – the fact that there were three different entrances and exits to what is essentially the same giant room, and several windows for peering inside. I found a good place where I could hover in a doorway, keeping an eye on my belongings until Karoline left the room.

Not that it was going to happen any time soon. I could hear her loud monotonous voice, and it was clear that this wasn’t Karoline’s first meeting with the lovely landlady. She had presumably checked in earlier today, and was now of the mistaken opinion that the landlady needed to know absolutely everything that had happened to her since the last time they saw each other. On and on she droned with her monologue, explaining something fairly complicated and quite boring about some luggage restriction on a bus she had travelled on at some point in her life. I decided I wasn’t going to waste any more time lurking in doorways eavesdropping on boring conversations. For the first time since I arrived in New Zealand I was glad that the weather was so bad as it meant I was wearing my hoodie. I put the hood up to hide my hair and most of my face, powered into the room, gathered up all of my things as quickly as possible, and then hot-footed it out of the room before Karoline finished talking to the landlady.

Back in my dorm room I inspected the room for evidence of new room mates. I knew that at least two of last night’s room mates had checked out so if I was unlucky Karoline might have been given one of their beds. One bed had a newly dumped backpack on it, with a Canadian flag and the name “Sebastian” whilst the other had one of those serious backpacks – the ones you get from mountaineering shops, that are as far a cry from my own stripy suitcase as you can imagine. Karoline doesn’t actually climb mountains but does seem to favour mountaineering clothes, so the presence of a mountaineering backpack was a little ominous.

These curtains I told you about, the ones we can pull across our beds to create private spaces are very useful, but also make it difficult for you to know if there’s anyone behind them or if you’re in the room on your own, and whilst I was peering at the label on the ominous mountaineering backpack a bit more closely than was probably polite, the curtain of another bed was pulled back, and Not Hot Scott started to talk to me.

It’s probably a little unfair of me to call him Not Hot Scott, because he looks absolutely fine, it’s just that when you grew up watching Neighbours in the eighties, you assume that all Scotts are going to be blonde surfers who hang out at the beach all day, and this Scott is as far removed from that stereotype as you can imagine. He is a Cambridge graduate, but hasn’t yet left Cambridge because he’s still at the university, being very clever and doing all sorts of things that he told me about in great detail when we first met, but which I failed to be able to comprehend after about the fifth word. He’s very disappointed to only be in New Zealand for three weeks but it seems that Cambridge simply can’t survive without him for any longer than that. As far as I can tell though, Not Hot Scott spends most of his time behind his curtain reading books rather than packing as much adventure as possible into his short time in New Zealand, so it would have been far cheaper and more sensible of him to spend his annual leave hanging out at a library rather than flying to the other side of the world.

“Hi,” said Not Hot Scott, looking a bit forlorn and throwing more sadness and anguish into his delivery of the word “hi” than you could possibly imagine.

“Hi Scott,” I said brightly. “How are you?”

“Fine,” he said, in a voice that clearly suggested he wasn’t.

“What are you reading?” I asked, and he held up a well-worn copy of Wuthering Heights which isn’t the sort of book that would immediately spring to my mind as a good holiday read.

“Have you read it?” he asked.

“No, but I know the song,” I said.

“Song?”

“Kate Bush?”

He looked blank, so I started to sing it in my best high pitched voice. You can do things like that when you’re backpacking. It doesn’t really matter what people think of you if you know you’re unlikely to see them ever again. Plus I doubted that many people ever burst into spontaneous song in front of Not Hot Scott, so it would be a new experience for him.

He shook his head. “I don’t understand.”

“It’s a faster version of the book,” I explained. “Same storyline, just not quite so much detail. I won’t sing it all. Don’t want to spoil the ending for you.”

Not Hot Scott is as baffled by my sense of humour as I am by his explanations of what he does at Cambridge University.

“Right,” he said earnestly, as if filing this piece of information away in his brain for a future date.

“Anyway, I’ll let you get back to your reading,” I said, because we were in danger of approaching another Awkward Silence. Not Hot Scott and I have been sharing a dorm long enough to have exchanged all the usual background information that backpackers share and now it’s incredibly obvious every time we see each other that we have nothing left to say. Nevertheless we regularly try to fill the Awkward Silences with Awkward Conversations that neither of us really want to be having.

Not Hot Scott retreated back behind his curtain and I gathered up a few belongings and went into town for a walk.

Later on I headed back to the hostel and peered through the windows into the living room, feeling a little bit like a stalker, although it occurred to me that I was probably the exact opposite of a stalker, because my goal was to not see Karoline, rather than to see her. It wasn’t ever so easy to see everything through the window, but I was hopeful that Karoline was still at her rubbish talk, and went inside where Daydream Believer was the latest song playing on the continual loop of excellent songs.

There was no sign of Karoline, so I went ahead with my plan of cooking tea. The best hostels have free range chickens and vegetable patches, and the Albatross lets you use all the produce and eggs for free, so I was combining the available ingredients to cook what would probably be the only “yellow courgette and stripy tomato omelette” I would ever eat in my life. I was aware that cooking an omelette was a bit risky – what if Karoline turned up before I had finished cooking – but I was hopeful that the people of Canterbury would have a lot to say on the topic of household waste and that I would be able to cook and eat my omelette in peace.

It sort of worked. I sat at the big communal table to eat my omelette serenaded by Dolly Parton, Billy Joel and Neil Diamond. The headphone guy was sitting at the table eating his meal and lost in his music, but the rest of the diners were probably a bit surprised to see how frequently I kept snapping my head round to look at the door every time someone came in.

And then she appeared. Poor old Mathieu from France, I had only been half listening to his earnest tales of apple picking in the first place because I’d been so busy watching the door, but now I wasn’t listening at all as I sat frozen to the spot watching Karoline make her way into the room, wearing the same uniform of practical trousers and a pac-a-mac. “Surprise!” I was going to say. “Isn’t it funny that we’re staying at the same hostel?”

But there was no need because she walked straight past the table and into the open-plan kitchen without even glancing in my direction. I pretended to listen attentively to Mathieu’s apple picking anecdotes, all the while watching as Karoline made a drink, bypassed the table, sat down in a comfy chair and took out her phone.

And then I realised how easy it is to hide from someone if they don’t know you’re going to be there. So I carried on with my evening, tentatively at first, but gaining more confidence as time went on. Mathieu and I chatted about French ski resorts, I did my washing up, made and drank a hot chocolate, and all the while Karoline sat within metres of me, concentrating on her phone screen. Encouraged by this, I took out my own phone and sent her a What’sApp message, asking her how the talk had been, whether she liked the Albatross, what she was up to this evening and when she was going to bed. She replied pretty promptly to say that she’d enjoyed the talk, she liked the Albatross and would be going to bed soon, which I was obviously very pleased to hear. And true to her word, she soon packed up her things and headed off to bed, leaving me to enjoy the atmosphere of the Albatross once again. The room was dark when I went to bed and I quickly and quietly made my way into bed and closed my privacy curtain, then lay awake stifling giggles for a good ten minutes at the thought that Karoline might be sleeping above me with no idea that I was underneath.

The next morning I was having another attempt at swimming with the dolphins. I had come to Kaikoura specifically to swim with dolphins, swim with seals, go whale watching and do a sunset kayak, but Cyclone Gita had done such a good job of churning up the sea, that so far everything had been cancelled, apart from the Sunset Kayak which I had renamed the Seasick Kayak and sorely wished had been cancelled too when I found myself kayaking on a very bumpy sea trying to stop my lunch and tea from making a reappearance.

Today though the dolphin swim was finally going to happen. I was encouraged by last night’s revolutionary discovery of how easy it is to hide from people who aren’t looking for you, but all the same I employed my best secret agent skills, peeping out from behind my privacy curtain before getting out of bed, peering round corners before entering the bathrooms and kitchens to make sure I wasn’t going to come face to face with Karoline, and my mission appeared to be successful.

Until I tried to leave the building. Because there on the only path that led out of the Albatross garden was Karoline. Karoline and a bicycle that she had presumably borrowed from the Albatross. I waited out of sight for her to climb on and cycle off into the distance, but she seemed to be carrying out some very thorough checks to ensure the bike was roadworthy and hadn’t even put on her helmet yet. I sighed deeply. There was no way I was going to risk missing the dolphins by turning up late, but I didn’t want to walk past Karoline either.

There was only one thing for it. With Karoline engrossed in her bicycle checks, I tiptoed behind her across the lawn and climbed rather spectacularly over the fence. I started walking towards the dolphin meeting point, anticipating that Karoline would come cycling past at any moment, but there was no sign of her – she really was taking those bicycle checks seriously. And then just as I was reaching my destination I heard her, calling my name, sounding so excited to see me that I almost felt bad for avoiding her.

“Caroline! Hello! This is so great!”

“Oh, hello,” I said and then added rather untruthfully “I didn’t expect to see you on a bicycle.”

“I know. It’s so great. I borrow from the hostel. Where do you stay?”

“Over there,” I said, waving my hand vaguely so that it indicated the entire town of Kaikoura. “Pretty close to you I think.”

“Oh. That is so great. Maybe tonight we can meet. I want to do yoga. Maybe you can join? I think it would be so great. Or maybe now we can have breakfast? That would be so great.”
I had forgotten that despite her constant moaning and complaining, everything else in Karoline’s life was so great.

“I can’t,” I said, looking at my watch. “I’m about to swim with the dolphins.”

“Oh, that is so great.”

“Yes,” I said. “In fact, I must dash. I don’t want to be late. I’ll message you later.”

“That would be so great,” said Karoline as I paced off towards the dolphin centre as fast as I could.

The dolphin swim was good. We were encouraged to attract the dolphins by singing to them through our snorkel masks, so I sang my way through the score of my current favourite musical “The Girls” and found I got the most attention from the dolphins when singing “So I’ve had a little work done” which is a song about having a boob job – not something you’d expect dolphins to know very much about, but clearly something they found interesting.

After the dolphins I had to race back to the Albatross to have a quick shower and change before racing straight out again for my whale watch which had been rescheduled for the third time. I snuck quietly into my room hoping that Not Hot Scott wasn’t going to emerge from behind his curtain because I didn’t have time to have an Awkward Conversation with him as well as a shower, so I grabbed my towel and raced off to the bathrooms at lightning speed.

To get to the shower, you either have to walk through the communal living room or go across the front garden. Usually at noon on a Monday there wouldn’t be very many people around, but today the living room was packed full of people having a Harry Potter marathon. With the aftermath of Cyclone Gita still whirling around making outdoor activity less enticing, the golden oldie music had been turned off and lots of backpackers were camped out in front of the TV with no intention of moving until they had seen every single Harry Potter movie from start to finish. In my hurry to avoid Not Hot Scott, I had only grabbed a towel from the room and no clothes, so after my shower I decided to go back to my room via the garden, rather than treat the Harry Potter audience to the sight of me in my towel, but as I made my way into the garden I discovered the obstacle of Karoline sitting on a picnic bench eating pasta. My only passageway back to my room was to walk right in front of the TV, so I made a point of grinning at everyone as I walked past in my towel and they all laughed at me as I hurried back to my room to get dressed.

Whale watching was expensive but not exciting. Not Hot Scott had waxed lyrical about his whale watch a few days ago, but my trip involved a two hour erratic jaunt around the bay trying to track down the elusive whale, whilst people who hadn’t yet discovered that “Kaikoura” is synonymous with “seasickness” threw up into little white paper bags all around me. The majority of the whale is under the water, so when we found the whale we just saw a grey oval of skin for about ten minutes and then the magical whale tail at the end. By the time my whale watch was over I decided I wouldn’t have minded if it had never been rescheduled after the first cancellation, but of course until you do these things, you don’t know that they’re not going to be wonderful.

Back at the Albatross, Harry Potter was still in full swing, but a different story was being retold in the kitchen. I briefly stood unseen in the doorway and watched as the lovely landlady busily cleaned the kitchen, bustling about from one surface to the next, clearly trying to get things done, whilst Karoline followed her around, getting in the way, loudly delivering the same monologue that I’d heard in the kayak a few weeks ago, the one about how she’s disowned most of her family and had come to New Zealand without bothering to tell any of them where she was going. I returned to my room and Not Hot Scott opened his curtain immediately.

“Hi,” he said, as morose as ever.

“Hi,” I replied. “How’s your day?”

Scott held up a copy of The Woman in White. “I started reading this,” he said sadly.

I wondered if it would be a good time to tell him that I’d seen the musical twice, had the soundtrack and knew most of the songs off by heart.

“Are you purposely reading books beginning with W?” I asked instead.

“What?”

“Wuthering Heights, Woman in White,” I listed. “I thought maybe there was a theme.”

“Well I’m going to read the Mayor of Casterbridge next, so no, there isn’t a theme,” he said, and I wished I had sung him one of the songs from Woman in White instead.

I went out for tea, with Woman in White songs whirling around my head and then returned to the Albatross where the Harry Potter Marathon was still in full swing. This was wonderful because it meant the whole room was dark apart from the television. For the whole evening, Karoline sat at the table, totally oblivious that I was sitting round the corner writing a story about her. Harry Potter truly did have magical powers.

Karoline sits beneath the Alice In Wonderland lampshades, wearing a pink scarf with no idea that I am just around the corner

The next day I was leaving. Which was easier said than done. Cyclone Gita had caused so much damage that the roads to Kaikoura were closed. Nobody could get in and nobody could get out. And I would have been happy to stay at the Albatross indefinitely, playing Hide and Seek with Karoline and cooking yellow courgette omelettes, however after four weeks of back-to-back backpacking hostels, my next destination was an airbnb apartment at one of the best beaches on the south island. I didn’t want to miss the beach and I definitely didn’t want to miss the apartment. Backpacking is fun, but you can’t beat the amazing feeling of closing a bedroom door and sleeping by yourself in complete silence, or making a meal in a shiny kitchen with sparkly new utensils. So I had hired a private plane to fly me out of Kaikoura.

It sounds far more grand than it actually was. Even though I hadn’t found them very exciting, the whales are big business in Kaikoura and lots of people pay $150 to go whale watching by air. Now that Cyclone Gita had closed the roads, the whale watching plane company had spotted an opportunity and were flying stranded tourists and locals in and out of Kaikoura until the roads opened again.

I woke before my alarm to the sound of room mate conversation. Or rather the monologue of Not Hot Scott explaining in dull tones what he does at Cambridge University. The monotony of his voice was almost enough to gently guide me back to sleep, until the person he was talking to said in a loud voice:

“That is so great.”

Unmistakably, Kayaking Karoline was in the room. Thank goodness for the private curtains. All the same my heart started racing. I had a flight to catch, and I knew how long Karoline could talk for. How long would I have to hide away behind my curtain listening to the conversation between Not Hot Scott and Kayaking Karoline?

“I am actually here to make some dolphin conservation work which is so great,” Karoline was saying. “In fact I was supposed to be making it for five days but today that said they don’t want me to come which is not so great, but later I will make a trip with the boat to see the whales which I think will be so great.”

Not Hot Scott started to talk in an enthusiastic monotone about his whale trip, but Karoline doesn’t like to let anyone else talk for very long, so quickly interrupted him and started to tell him about how inconvenient it is for her that the supermarket had closed down because trying to find vegan food in Kaikoura is not so great.

“I think in the long term it’s probably more inconvenient for the supermarket staff who worked there than it is for you,” said Not Hot Scott bluntly, and I stifled a giggle from behind my curtain.

“Exactly, this is what I think too,” said Karoline unconvincingly and the conversation came to an abrupt halt.

My safe haven – behind the curtain

I drifted in and out of sleep until my alarm went off and then I surreptitiously peered out of my curtain to see if the coast was clear. Nobody seemed to be about, so I tentatively got out of bed, ready to grab my stuff and hot foot it to the bathroom, but not before Not Hot Scott drew back his curtain.

“I don’t like our room mates,” he grumbled.

I didn’t know if Karoline was behind one of the other curtains, so I did the only thing I could think of in this situation and disguised my voice by putting on my best Irish accent.

“Why not?”

Not Hot Scott sighed “Somebody came in last night whilst I was asleep and turned on the lights. And then they spent ages zipping and unzipping their bag like a million times.”

“People are so rude, I hate it when they do that,” I said, aware that I was almost definitely the culprit, and that my Irish accent was turning a bit Liverpudlian. The previous night I had gone to pack my suitcase at 8:30 and found the room in darkness. I couldn’t work out if Not Hot Scott was behind his ever-closed curtain or not, but I had decided that 8:30 was far too early for anyone to go to bed and besides I could hardly pack in the dark, so I had turned the light on, packed my case and then returned to sit round the corner from Karoline at the Harry Potter marathon.

Not Hot Scott shook his head glumly. “Where are you going today?”

“I’m leaving,” I said and explained about my private plane.

Not Hot Scott looked surprised. “Oh,” he said. “I was going to ask if you wanted to go for dinner tonight.”

I looked even more surprised that Not Hot Scott. Dinner? Did he not realise just how many Awkward Silences would occur on the walk into town alone, not to mention when we were actually sitting across from each other in a restaurant.

“Oh,” I said, my fake accent turning a bit Brummy in all the surprise. “We’ll have to do it another time.”

Not Hot Scott nodded like he’d heard that one many times before, and I escaped to go and have my shower.

The shower passed without incident, this time I had remembered to take clothes with me, so I emerged from the shower fully dressed, only to discover Karoline standing right in front of the door with her back to me cleaning her teeth. As she looked in the mirror to see what was happening behind her, I quickly closed the door and locked it for extra safety. After successfully avoiding her for all this time, surely she wasn’t going to discover me now, just as I was leaving. I wondered if Karoline had only come to the bathroom to brush her teeth or if she was waiting for a shower, in which case I was stuck in a stalemate. I could hear the showers either side of me in use, and from the noises and conversations taking place, all the other people had only just started showering, so it could be a while before another one became free for Karoline to use, and I had a $150 plane to catch.

I got my towel and arranged it turban-like on my head to form a disguise, hoping that my original theory that it’s easy to hide from someone if they’re not expecting to see you would still be true, even if you have to make eye contact with them as you leave a shower. But when I unlocked the door ready to face the music, the bathroom was empty.
I walked through the garden, peering in through the window to see if Karoline was in the living room or kitchen, but there was no sign of her, which meant she might be in the bedroom, which would make retrieving my stripy suitcase a bit difficult, and even more so if Not Hot Scott was also thrown into the equation.

Back in the dorm I could hear Karoline before I saw her. “Ja, das ist so toll,” she was saying in an animated voice, and I saw that she was lying on the bunk above mine, talking on the phone, with just her feet visible. Brazenly I walked into the room, crouched down to put my last few things into the suitcase, then zipped it up, no doubt annoying Not Hot Scott in the process as he read his book behind his curtain. Karoline remained on the top bunk talking into her phone, completely unaware that I was there, or that I had been sleeping beneath her for the last two nights.

Against all odds, it was mission accomplished. I crept out of the room as quietly as any person can when they have a stripy suitcase on wheels, said goodbye to the lovely landlady at reception and then just like any other secret agent, I boarded my private plane and flew far away ready to see what my next adventure would bring.

The stripy suitcase is loaded onto the private plane

A linguist’s poetic guide to comparing hostels

No two hostels are the quite same
And yet they all have the same name
The word “hostel” does not reflect
Exactly what you should expect
Some are clean and some are smelly
Some might confiscate your jelly
Some are nasty, some are nice
The ones with cats do not have mice
Some have toilets with no lock
Some give free cake at six o’clock
And so it really can confuse
When working out which one to choose
But rest assured and do not fear
For crazy linguist Caz is here
She’s coined new words and made a guide
Of what each hostel has inside
So next time when you need a bed
Click here to read her A to Zed

A to Z of hostels

P.S. One hostel really did confiscate Caroline’s jelly – that story will be coming soon!

A to Z of hostels

Aaaaaaahostel      First on any alphabetical list, back in the day when we used that archaic                                        thing called a phone book, this hostel would hope to get lots of                                                          business just by being first on the list.

Animostel              Terrible atmosphere

Borstel                     Full of locks, keypads and chains

Bosstel                    Bossy owners, lots of rules

Coastel                    Overlooking the sea

Costel                      Hugely expensive

Crosstel                  Angry atmosphere

Dosstel                    Not very clean

Drosstel                  Even less clean

e-ostel                     Hostel of the future. Electronic check-in. No staff

Flosstel                  For dentists and dancers

Frostel                     Frosty atmosphere

Ghostel                   Haunted hostel

Glosstel                  Recently painted

Grosstel                 Never set foot in the kitchen

Hos-pi-tel             For broken backpackers

Hostile                    Don’t even go there

i-hostel                   Everyone glued to their screens, including the staff

Joshtel                    Very funny. Comedians stay here

Josstel                    Smells of incense

Kostel                      Greek themed

Lostel                       Incredibly hard to find

Moshtel                  Lots of dancing, not much sleep

Moustel                  Infested with rodents

Nostrel                  Recreational drugs snorted here

‘ostel                       Cockney themed

Poshtel                  Delicate cups, saucers and doilies. Complimentary high tea at 4pm.

Postel                    Converted Post Office

Sloshtel                  BYO alcohol

Squashtel             Too many beds in one room

Testostel                Lots of bed hopping

Voicestel               Very loud backpackers, expect no sleep

Washstel               Excellent bathroom facilities

X-hostel                 Closed down

Zzzzstel                 Comfy beds, soundproof walls, everyone sleeps well here.

Chocolate Bliss actually tastes disgusting

A British tourist has been left with a bitter taste in her mouth after consuming a petit four that did not live up to its name.

Caroline Gough popped into a New Zealand café for a hot chocolate and spotted the incorrectly named “chocolate bliss” balls as she was ordering at the  counter.

“They looked like delicious homemade chocolate truffles rolled in coconut,” explained Caroline. “I’ve arrived in Christchurch at the exact same time as Cyclone Gita, so it’s too wet and windy for me to continue with my original plans of riding the gondola, going to the beach or doing the zipline adventure trail. Sitting inside eating chocolate is the next obvious choice.”
The chocolate bliss does not contain nearly enough chocolate to be considered truly blissful.

However when Caroline bit into her chocolate bliss, she discovered it was more of a very dry textured nut and raisin nightmare, which is a terrible combination for anyone suffering with colitis. “It was beautifully presented in a rammikin,” said Caroline, who left the majority of the offending chocolate bliss in the rammikin. “But that’s where the beauty ended. I think they should change the name to Chocolate Disappointment. Then at least the customers will know what to expect.”

Saggy Bottoms at the Cat’s Pyjamas

A New Zealand backpacking hostel has created a series of innovative sleeping spaces, designed to make all backpackers hate each other.

The Cat’s Pyjamas specialises in worn out bunk beds with saggy bottoms, ensuring that no backpacker ever gets a good night’s sleep.

Caroline Gough who has been staying at the backpackers explained “When you get into bed, the mattresses are so saggy that absolutely everything slides into the middle of the mattress and creates a big dip. As it’s a cramped room with no space to put personal belongings, we all go to sleep with our phones, water bottles and room keys under our pillows or beside our heads, and we all wake up to find that we’re in pain because all these items have worked their way down into the dip in the mattress and are now piercing our bodies or digging into our ribs.”

With absolutely no suspension left in any of the mattresses, it’s difficult for the backpackers to get comfortable enough to fall asleep, but when they do they are quickly awoken by their room mates, because absolutely any movement causes the ancient springs to make a loud creaking noise.

Caroline added “I’ve got a bottom bunk which is usually considered a good thing in the backpacking world. But the mattresses have such saggy bottoms that the girl above me is literally dipping down into my personal space and I can see and hear every movement she makes.”

The atmosphere of room 8 had been quite jovial before the backpackers went to bed, with the eight occupants chatting and sharing travel stories, but by the morning the dynamics had changed dramatically. “After a restless night of listening to each other fail to fall asleep, we were all glaring at each other furiously,” said Caroline. “Deep down we all know it’s the beds’ fault, but we’re all too tired to think rationally.”

The hostel ensures that absolutely no backpacker gets a good night’s sleep. “My friend Christine has a private room with a double bed, so you’d think she’d be okay” said Caroline. “But her room has been built right onto the smoking deck, so instead of sleeping, she gets to listen to all the nocturnal backpackers chatting and smoking. Obviously they don’t bother to go to bed because they’ve been here a couple of nights and know that the beds are too worn out to even bother trying to sleep in.”

Whilst the hostel fails to create a good sleeping environment, it has worked hard to live up to it’s feline name. “There is cat memorabilia everywhere,” said Caroline. “I do like quirky hostels with character and you can’t say these people haven’t tried to cram cat related tat into every available corner.”

The hostel is currently for sale. “I think if a cat lover bought it, and turned it into a cattery for cats when their owners go on holiday, it would be perfect,” said Caroline. “Cats are an ideal size for settling down into the saggy bottoms of each mattress for a cat nap. For them this hostel really would be the Cat’s Pyjamas.”

 

Gekko finds learning colours confusing

A rare New Zealand lizard has spoken of how difficult it has been to correctly learn his colours due to his misleading name.

Despite being a bright greenish yellow, the lizard which can only be found in New Zealand’s Northlands has been named “Grayii” since 1843.

The lizard explained “I’ve got a few different names. My Latin name is Naultinus Grayii, my friends call me Grayii and in more formal situations it’s Gray’s Tree Gecko. Obviously when I reached the point in my education where it was time to start learning my colours I just assumed, quite reasonably, that ‘grey’ would be the same colour as my body, because why else would everyone call me Grayii? Discovering that I’m not grey at all, but on the cusp of yellow and green was actually quite mind-blowing. It took me a long time to adjust to that.”

Grayii was in fact named in honour of the British zoologist John Edward Gray. Other animals named in Gray’s honour include an Indian pond heron called Ardeola Grayii, a herring called Salvelinus grayi and Gray’s Beaked Whale (Mesoplodon grayi).

“It’s alright for them,” said the lizard. “Herons, herrings and whales do tend to be predominantly grey, so that isn’t going to cause any confusion for anyone. But now that I have learnt my colours, I know that there is nothing remotely grey about me. It would have been far easier if I’d been named Naultinus Greenii. Green is a very common surname. Surely back in 1843 there were enough Mr. Greens walking the earth that at least one of them would have been worthy enough to have a lizard named after him?”

The lizard has been in contact with a green, black and yellow Mexican turtle called Trachemys venusta grayi. “Together we plan to set up an international support group for animals that have been named irresponsibly.”

Boy in shared dorm goes to bed at 8:05pm

A male backpacker has shocked his room mates by going to bed at 8:05am.

The incident happened at the Tasman Bay Backpackers in Nelson, New Zealand.

The boy, known only as Luke, is from Hemel Hempstead and is believed to be in his late twenties.

Caroline Gough who is sharing a room with Luke said “It was quite unexpected because he had initially seemed so alert and chatty.”

Every evening the hostel invites guests to gather in the dining room to eat free chocolate pudding and ice cream on the understanding that those consuming the chocolate pudding will talk to each other and make new friends  for the duration of the pudding eating session rather than stare mindlessly at their phones.

Caroline explained “I was chatting to three girls from Stockport and Luke was chatting to some other people at the other end of the table. I did notice that he had got up and gone back to the room but I never dreamt it was to go to bed.”

Caroline and her fellow room mates had to tiptoe quietly into the room and fumble about in the darkness to find the things they needed for the rest of the evening.

The cosy living room at the Tasman Bay Backpackers

“Luckily there was a nice living room with a good atmosphere, so we all hung out there,” said Caroline.

Veteran backpacker Caroline has had much experience of having to hunt for her pajamas in the dark due to other backpackers going to bed at unpredictable times. She now always unpacks everything she needs for the night as soon as she arrives in the room. “But on this occasion I couldn’t because Luke pounced on me as soon as I arrived and literally talked at me continuously until we went for the chocolate pudding.”

Caroline was unable to locate her ear plugs in the dark and consequently had to listen to Luke snoring for the entire night.

Luke was still asleep when Caroline left to catch her bus the following morning. “There’s another beautiful friendship that ended before it begun,” said Caroline.

Simone and her phone at a party

It was my first Saturday in Australia and I was being taken to a party I didn’t want to go to.
It fact it didn’t sound as this was a party that anyone wanted to go to, because it seemed that every single person going to the party wasn’t speaking to at least one other person on the guest list. I knew this because I had been staying with Simone and her phone for four days now, and all four of those days had been packed full of phone calls from people complaining to Simone about how awkward it was going to be at the party on Saturday.
On Saturday morning, Simone was finally off the phone long enough to give me a complicated run down of who all these people were, why they all hated each other and how tense the atmosphere was going to be.

“We’re basically all getting together to show that even though Han and Dan have split up, it’s not going to affect the dynamics of the group and we can all still get together and have fun.”

“It only isn’t affecting the dynamics of the group because the dynamics of the group are already totally screwed,” mumbled Simone’s husband Dean from behind his screen. He didn’t want to go to the party either.

“Well,” I ventured bravely. “You don’t need me there messing up the dynamics even more. I think you should go without me, and I’ll find something else to do.”

“What?” Simone and Dean were so shocked that actually took their eyes off their screens and stared at me.

“I don’t know any of these people,” I said. “And it sounds like you’ve all got a lot of…” I searched for the right word “…history. So you go to your party and have fun with your friends and I’ll do something else.”

Simone was completely aghast. “We can’t abandon you on your first weekend in Australia.”

“You really can,” I said.

“But why? What would you do?” Simone asked as if there was absolutely nothing for a British backpacker to do on a sunny Saturday in Sydney.

“I’d go to the beach, or the zoo, or the aquarium…”

“You went to the beach yesterday,” said Dean.

“Yes,” I said. This was true. But going to the beach was one of the biggest reasons I’d come to Australia and I was planning to go to the beach as much as possible. It wasn’t like I was going to tick off “going to the beach” on day three and never bother going again. But I didn’t explain this to Dean because Simone was already wailing.

“But we want to take you to the zoo and the aquarium.”

Yeah. That was the original memo I got. Back in England when I’d been What’sApping Simone about my travel plans, she told me I had to stay for the whole weekend because she had grand plans to take me to the zoo and the aquarium. There had definitely been no mention of hanging out with a dysfunctional group of friends who in fact hated each other.

Don’t you want to meet our friends?” wailed Simone.

“Not really,” I said, trying to sound apologetic.

“Why not?”

“Because you and your friends have been complaining about this party all week and it doesn’t sound like a lot of fun.”

“Our friends are great,” protested Simone. “They only hate each other. They’re all going to love you.”

“Really?” I said doubtfully, because introducing a random English stranger into a warzone didn’t sound like a successful recipe to me.

“For sure,” said Simone. “Anyway, we want you to come. Josh will be there.”

“Who’s Josh?” I asked, thinking that the party sounded bad enough without the addition of Simone trying to make me part of the screwed up group dynamics by setting me up with one of its members.

Simone lowered her voice. “Everyone in the group thinks Josh is autistic, but his Dad’s in denial. But if you were there we could be like “hey everyone this is Caz from England, she teaches autistic kids” and you could do a little diagnosis.”

Suddenly I wished Josh had been an adult they were trying to set me up with. That would be far easier to get out of.

“You do know that I’m not qualified to go to parties and give a lifelong diagnosis of autism to a child I’ve only just met?”

“Oh well, whatever, I’m sure you’ll work it out, whatever you say it will sound better coming from you. Oh and you need to teach Jess how to restrain Josh. She’s taking over the step-mum role and she can’t manage him. He keeps kicking off at the supermarket.”

Before I could even begin to explain Simone exactly how many things were wrong with every single thing that had just come out of her mouth, her attention was drawn to the five year old, who had been quietly and painstakingly writing row after row of lower case mmmms but had now got bored and was beating out a rhythm on the table with his pencil and rubber. When he clocked that his Mum had finally stopped talking and was looking at him, his face turned to anguish and he tried to return quietly to his writing, but the wrath of Simone had been stirred and she marched over to look at his work before launching into her usual unnecessary charade of rubbing most of it out, telling him it was “yuck” and that he wasn’t trying hard enough.

And so the morning went on. I played with the kids, Dean played with his screen and Simone had to call most of the people who would be going to the party later so that they could discuss all the things that they wouldn’t be able to talk about in front of everyone else when they got to the party.

It was a bit of a rush to get ready for the party. The kids were all completely unaware that they were going to a party because nobody had bothered to tell them, and the parents were so busy having screen time that they lost track of the real time. So there was a lot of shouting and a few tears and by the time that Dean had gone out to the car to move the car seats around so that all six of us would fit in, he was feeling quite stressed. I didn’t realise I was going to be adding to his stress until he opened the car door and pointed at where he wanted me to sit.

He certainly had moved the car seat, but not the bits of food and crumbs that had been happily breeding under the car seat for however long the car seat had been there. The seat was littered with bits of ancient cracker, bits of biscuit, a few old McDonald fries, a third of a jam tart and was just generally not a place you would want to sit when you are wearing your white Desigual dress.

“I think I need to get a cloth,” I said.

“We haven’t got time for that, get in,” Dean replied.

“What’s wrong?” said Simone.

Simone greets everybody by asking them what’s wrong. Usually I tell her nothing’s wrong and give her an enthusiastic happy story about the latest games I’ve been playing with her children. Right now though I gave her question the literal answer it needed.

“This seat,” I said. “I need to clean it before I sit on it.”

“Caz, I am so sorry,” said Simone as she clocked the state of it, and she set about cleaning it with wet wipes whilst Dean sighed impatiently from the driver’s seat. We all had to be quiet on the journey because Simone needed to talk to Gem and Em before we arrived to find out if they were talking to each other yet. Apparently they weren’t.

Going to a party in Australia is different from going to a party in England. Australia, with its lovely weather, has sensibly set up lots of communal barbecue and picnic areas near all its beaches and parkland, and on sunny days and evenings there are always groups of happy Australians chatting merrily, drinking beer and tending to sausages.

Or in the case of Simone and Dean’s friends, standing around, pretending not to hate each other.

Three groups were quickly established – the guys were in charge of the meat and the beer, the girls busied themselves setting out salads and dishes filled with things they’d prepared earlier and all the children went off to play on the playground equipment. Simone’s three kids who had followed me around lovingly for the past four and a half days didn’t even give me a second glance now that there were other little people to play with, so I had to be brave and talk to some adults instead.

Everyone had a one syllable name. I spent much of the party thinking that one of the blokes was called Ann and wondered what it was short for, later I discovered his name was actually Ian but none of the Australians pronounced the first syllable – I wondered if his parents had realised that would happen when they christened him?

The only people who got referred to with more than one syllable were the people who hadn’t been invited to this party – a pretty amazing achievement to be so out of favour that they weren’t even welcome at a party where none of the guests liked each other. Gem and Em, who even I knew weren’t speaking to each other, found common ground as they slagged off someone called Melissa, whilst other people picked over the misdemeanors of people called Caitlin, Darren and Bianca. People didn’t seem to be talking to each other, more talking over each other, believing that if they talked a bit louder than everyone else who was talking, someone might listen.

My most favourite thing about the party was the food. Simone had stopped off at the supermarket on the way to the party, shouted at the children for daring to ask if they could go into the store with her, then disappeared for at least fifteen minutes. The rest of us had stayed in the car, Dean sighing and tapping the steering wheel, telling the kids to be quiet and swearing when he tried phoning Simone only to find her phone was engaged. Eventually she returned with a few packets of breadsticks and her phone clamped to her ear. Other people however had clearly been off the phone long enough this morning to create homemade dips and quiches and jelly slices. I hovered by the food table with my paper plate and cup, topping both of them up far more than anyone else did.

Simone introduced me as the Awesome Caz from England who’d been keeping her sane and looking after her kids all week. Someone had brought their parents to the party, two cheerful people in their sixties who had no interest in the politics of this party, but instead chose to quiz me on UK politics, asking far more questions about Brexit and Theresa May and cumberland sausages than I knew the answer to. But I must have passed the test because they invited me to go and stay at their holiday cabin in the Blue Mountains any time I fancied.

One of the “friends” was called Kill, which I can only imagine was short for “If-looks-could”, judging by the thunderous expression she wore on her face for first hour of the party as she hovered on the edge of conversations, glaring angrily at everyone and everything. Once the parents were satisfied they’d quizzed me on all things British, they moved on to interrogate someone else, and Kill honed in on me.

“I’ve been to England,” she announced, somehow managing to make this sentence sound more like a threat than a statement.

“Oh?” I said, feeling a little bit scared that Kill was entering into conversation with me. I much preferred it when she was polishing off the watermelon and glaring at everyone.

“Yeah. I lived in Nuneaton for a year.”

“Did you like it?” I ventured. It didn’t seem the most obvious place for an Australian to live for a year.

“Yeah, I loved it.” The monotonous voice, the angry eyes and the frown did not convey the same positivity as the words.

“When did you go?”

“Two thousand and seven.”

“What did you do there?”

“Not much.”

“Oh.”

“You know what’s weird about England?” Kill suddenly became animated. “Yorkshire pudding, it’s like, not a pudding. And like, black pudding. That’s not a pudding either.”

“Don’t listen to her,” said one of the guys. “Kill talks crap. Of course Yorkshire pudding is a pudding. I’ve had it. My Mum used to make it all the time. It comes with custard, doesn’t it?”

“Actually…” I began, but Simone suddenly appeared from the other side of the park, took me by the arm and steered me away for what would be the only conversation she had with me for the duration of the party.

“You can’t talk to him,” she said.

“Why not?”

“That’s Dan.”

I remembered. Dan, formerly of “Han and Dan” – the reason everyone had come to this party in the first place. This guy who thought Yorkshire pudding came with custard was the reason I was here and not at the aquarium.

Simone explained “He’s on the rebound. And Han is really really vulnerable. If she sees you talking to him, she might scratch your eyes out.”

“Right, we were just talking about…”

“Yeah, I know, but Han won’t see it like that.”

“Which one is Han?” I asked.

“Um, she’s not actually here,” said Simone.

“What?”

Simone looked a little tearful. “She’s very upset. She can’t face it.”

“That’s a shame,” I said. “But if she’s not here, she won’t know who Dan’s been talking to.”

“Trust me,” said Simone. “Deb and Em will be ringing her up the minute this party ends and telling her absolutely everything that Dan did whilst he was here.”

“Right. Is there anyone else I’m not allowed to talk to?”

Simone didn’t notice the sarcasm in my voice. “No,” she said. “Oh actually, maybe not Dom? Bree’s a bit insecure about their relationship, but I don’t blame her after what happened in the mountains. I’ll tell you later. I need to find Kim, I haven’t spoken to her yet.”

I did a circuit of the playground and even went to the top of the climbing frame to talk to the five year old, but with so many other kids to play with, he didn’t even return my hello before he was off down the slide, caught up in a game, shouting commands at one of his friends. I returned to the blue cheese dip, which was by far the best thing about the party, but discovered some of the uninvited flies that had been buzzing around the food all day were now at different stages of swimming and drowning in it. Instead I spied an empty chair amongst the main group of “friends” and bravely decided to go and join in.

“So, are you like Simone’s au pair?” asked one of the friends.

“No,” I replied. “We went to uni together in 2001 when I was here on exchange.”

“Oh right, so why have you come back?”

I explained about giving up my job to come travelling and they all looked at me like I was mad.

“Aren’t you worried that you won’t ever get another job?” asked Bree.

“Not really, no,” I said.

“Well I would be,” said Deb.

Bec swotted away a fly from her plate. “At least in England you don’t have to worry about these,” she said.

“What?” I asked.

“These black things. They’re called flies. You don’t get them in England, but they’re a real pain, especially at picnics.”

“We do have those in England,” I said.

“No,” Bec said. “Like these black things. You get bees and wasps, but not flies.”

“We do,” I said.

Bec shook her head. “No,” she said. “I went to Europe for six months, I never saw any.”

“When were you there?” I asked.

“Like October to March,” said Bec.

“I guess they’re around more in the summer,” I said.

“How convenient,” said Bec sarcastically, clearly not believing me at all. She addressed the rest of the group. “And do you know, in England they put carpet in their bathrooms. I mean, what’s that all about?”

“Why would you do that?” asked Deb, turning to give me an accusing glare.

“To warm your feet up when you have to pee in the middle of the night, because it’s so frigging cold in England,” said Jess.

“Some bathrooms don’t have carpet,” I said. “Maybe in older houses they do, but a lot of bathrooms have tiles or lino.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Yes,” I replied wearily, thinking I much preferred the politics inquisition from the parents. At least they were cheerful and willing to believe everything I said, even though I was far less clued up on Brexit than I was on flies and carpets.

“So my brother told me about how in London there are different pavements depending on how fast you walk,” said Jess. “And like slow people can get fined for walking on the fast people’s pavement.”

“How does that even work?” asked Deb. “Like, how do you know how fast you’re allowed to walk?”

“It’s probably like at the swimming pool,” said Bree. “The lifeguard tells you if you’re swimming too slow for the lane you’re in.”

I was rescued by the cheerful parents. “Caz,” they cried. “We need help. Tell us. That Maggie Thatcher. Is she dead yet?”

“Yes,” I said in relief, and stood up to go and join them without even a backwards glance at the group I was leaving. I found that quizzing the cheerful parents about their lives and Australia stopped them from asking me any more political questions that I couldn’t answer.

Eventually it was time to go. People fussed around putting lids back on things and Bec gave an unnecessary “what the f*** did you just call it?” when I referred to the cling film as “cling film” instead of “glad wrap”. Kill, who still looked furious, said it had been lovely to meet me, gave me her number and told me I should definitely go and stay with her when she went to her parents’ holiday home in Queensland this summer, whilst Bree and Jess threw their arms around me and said the next time I was in town we should all get together for a girls’ night.

Back in the car, Simone declared that the entire afternoon had been a complete success and she’d had a wonderful time. “I told you that everyone would love you,” she told me, and I wondered which parallel universe her party had been held on.

“You’ll definitely have to come back for Bec’s birthday,” said Simone. “You’re part of the group now. Too bad Josh wasn’t there. Apparently Tanya wouldn’t let him come. We’ll have to find another time for you to diagnose him.”

“Mummy,” said the five year old. “Tonight, when we get home can we…”

“Shush,” said Simone. “I’ve got to phone Deb.”

“You’ve just seen her,” said Dean in exasperation.

“I know, but I didn’t get to talk to her properly because… hi Deb…. oh my God I know… and did you see her face when Gem asked about the table decorations?”

And so it went on. The rest of the car journey involved Simone calling up all the people we’d just seen so that they could privately dissect every part of the afternoon, whilst I daydreamed about how next Saturday I would be far away from Simone and her phone, and never have to see any of her friends ever again.

That evening we didn’t do a lot. The party had been exhausting, apparently, so Simone and her phone and Dean and his screen just wanted to flop on the couch and not speak to each other – no different to any other night at their house. I had a look at my own phone and discovered I had a new friend request on Facebook – from someone called Bec Cotter.

“No way,” I said in disbelief, clicking on the photo for a better look, and there she was, Bec from the party, wearing a silly hat and posing with her two children.

I hovered over the “decline” button, but then stopped.

Perhaps I’d leave her hanging for a while. Just in case I ever did have to see her again.
And maybe a little later down the line when I went back to England, I could take photos of English flies swarming about in uncarpeted British bathrooms and post them all onto her timeline.

What’s their beef? Cows not amoosed by burger advert

A herd of cows have spoken of their anger over an advertising campaign that they have labelled insensitive and callous.

The cows who live near Warrnambool on the Great Ocean Road claim that the first they knew of the plans to place a board advertising a fast food restaurant specialising in beef products in their field was when they woke up and spotted the board on Tuesday morning.

 

“We are not stupid,” mooed the cows. “Whilst humans continue to fret and ponder about where they go when they die, we know exactly where we’re headed. But we don’t need a great big board in the middle of our home to remind us that we’re destined to end up inserted into a bun and then covered in cheese, ketchup and gherkins. We prefer to look at the trees, the sky and the passing traffic.”

Backpackers travelling around Australia have been thrilled to discover the “five for five fifty” money saving offer at Hungry Jack’s where they can feast upon a hamburger, chips, chicken nuggets, a drink and an ice cream for a mere $5.50.

Hungry Jack’s is well known throughout Australia for its slogan “The burgers are better at Hungry Jack’s”.

“We don’t find that much of a consolation,” mooed the cows.

Customers told their juice orders are too easy

Customers visiting a juice bar in Queensland are repeatedly being told that their juice orders are “too easy”, the Cazmanian Times can reveal.

The juice bar in Mooloolaba on the Sunshine Coast stocks a range of fruits and vegetables and gives customers the opportunity to choose which ingredients they would like to have in their juice.

And it doesn’t seem to matter if customers pick one ingredient or eleven, the response from the sales assistant is always the same – “Too easy.”

One British backpacker who ordered a pineapple and kiwi fruit juice said “When he said my order was too easy, I felt like he was challenging me to throw in a few extra fruits to make it more difficult. But I didn’t want to add to my order because I like the simplicity of pineapple and kiwi, and to be honest, anyone working in a juice bar shouldn’t find making any sort of juice difficult because it’s what they do every day.”

Our linguistics correspondent Caroline Gough explains: “Whilst traditionally ‘too easy’ could refer to a maths question that wasn’t challenging enough, or a person with questionable morals, here in Australia, it is understood that ‘too easy’ is simply a response to convey that there is no problem. It’s used in the same sort of context as ‘no worries’.”

‘Too easy’ is not just confined to the juice bars of Queensland but is in fact in widespread use throughout Australia, with waiting staff, bartenders and shop assistants regularly informing customers throughout the land that their orders and requests are “too easy.”

“Even when they tell you it’s too easy, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is,” said Caroline who was recently told her order for the McOz burger at a McDonald’s in Cairns was too easy but then had to send it back because it was missing its trademark slice of beetroot.

“But at least it makes more sense than a pet shop I visited in England a couple of years ago. The sales assistant asked me a million questions to determine whether or not I was responsible enough to buy five neon tetras and she responded with the words ‘awesome sauce’ to every single answer I gave.”

Riding a bike is not “just like riding a bike” confirms backpacker

A British backpacker has discovered that riding a bike is not that easy if you haven’t done it for several years.

Caroline Gough who studied English Language and Linguistics at university explained “When someone is talking about a skill they can still easily perform even though they haven’t done it for a long time, they might use the simile ‘it’s just like riding a bike’.”

However Caroline has discovered rather ironically that the actual act of riding a bike after several years of not riding a bike is not “just like riding a bike”.

The discovery was made on picturesque Rottnest Island in Western Australia.

Beautiful Rottnest Island

Caroline explained “Rottnest Island doesn’t have cars, so visitors are encouraged to rent bicycles for the day. There are several brochure and website photographs showing people looking very happy as they cycle around the island without a care in the world. I had no doubt in my mind that when I visited the island I would be cycling around looking just as happy as they did.”

However Caroline was unaware of just how hilly Rottnest Island is. “There aren’t many roads on Rottnest, but they all seemed to be uphill,” she said. “And because it’s such a long time since I last rode a bike I wasn’t very good at tackling the hills. I’d get to a certain point and then I’d have to get off to push the bike the rest of the way up the hill.”

An elderly gentleman who cycled past Caroline with what appeared to be effortless ease whilst she pushed the bike up a hill in the 30° heat helpfully called out to her “You can use the gears you know.”

Caroline who had been using the gears told us “It’s a good thing he had cycled off before he heard my response to that.”
An inquisitive quokka is far more enamoured with the bike than Caroline was
Caroline, who had envisaged a wonderful day of snorkelling several different bays with just a bit of incidental cycling in between, said “It was all a bit of a rush. I only managed to snorkel in one spot before it was time to start cycling back to the ferry. I don’t know where the downhill bits of the island were, but I definitely didn’t see them in all the time I was there.”

Caroline enjoyed the bits of the island that she was able to reach and was enchanted to meet the quokkas who reside on the island. “However I think I would have fared much better if I’d tried to swim round the island, rather than cycle it,” she said.

Caroline added “This is precisely why I do a cartwheel every time I go to the beach, to make sure I never forget how to do them. I’m not very good at riding a bike anymore, but at least I can do a decent cartwheel!”

Male dorm blunder causes sleepless night for several females

The newest occupant of a female dorm in Adelaide has annoyed all her room mates by repeatedly telling them a story that wasn’t newsworthy in the first place.

Alex Atkins from Cardiff in Wales arrived at the backpackers this afternoon to discover that the hostel staff had assumed she was male, and had consequently put her in an all male dormitory. Luckily the hostel wasn’t fully booked, so within two minutes the mistake was rectified and Alex was allocated a place in a female dorm.

Caroline Gough who had only popped back to the room to quickly pick up a packet of Cheezels and a bottle of fizzy mango from her locker was the first to hear an in-depth account of Alex’s arrival at the hostel and how traumatised Alex felt when faced with the prospect of sharing a room with the boys.

“I couldn’t really identify with her predicament because I actually prefer sharing with guys,” said Caroline who always tries to book a mixed room rather than a female one. “I’ve been in a few female dorms where you can’t even charge your phone because the plug sockets are taken up with hair straighteners and hairdryers, and you can’t move without tripping over the giant suitcases that the girls have brought with them to house all their essential beauty products and many pairs of shoes. The atmosphere is usually better in a mixed room and you’re less likely to encounter people like Alex. Plus when else in my life am I ever going to get the chance to hang out with hot young Dutch guys?”

Caroline only managed to extract herself from listening to the monologue when another unsuspecting room mate entered the room and made the mistake of saying hello, which prompted Alex to begin her story again whilst Caroline slipped quietly out of the room. But later in the evening Caroline returned to the room to find not only was Alex still sharing her story with the room mates who hadn’t yet heard it, but she had now exaggerated the situation and was telling her latest listeners that she had in fact arrived the night before and had been forced to endure a night with the boys before transferring to the female dorm today.

Caroline said “She didn’t even seem to notice that she’d met me earlier and had already told me a much watered down version of the current story. If I liked confrontations I could easily have blown Alex’s story out of the water and told everyone that she only arrived today.

I’ve got no idea why this story is still getting airtime. It’s very worrying that someone who’s already been travelling for five months thinks that this is her most exciting story. Alex is one of the most unisex names in the world and the only newsworthy thing about this story is how this Alex has managed to make it to the grand old age of twenty-six without this sort of thing happening to her before.”

None of Alex’s room mates seemed particularly excited about her story. “One of our room mates doesn’t understand very much English,” said Caroline “So she kept smiling and nodding and saying ‘yes’ and ‘ah wonderful’ throughout the story which wasn’t the reaction that Alex was looking for.”

Alex created further drama after everyone had gone to bed when she woke up screaming that a spider had walked across her face. “The lights went on,” said Caroline “And everyone got out of bed to have a look for this spider, which I’m fairly sure didn’t even exist, but we all knew we were unlikely to get back to sleep until we had reassured her it was gone. Then she shrieked that we needed a man because males are better at disposing of spiders than females are. I couldn’t believe it. We’ve spent the whole day listening to various versions of how terrible it was that she got put in a male dorm, and then she wakes us all up telling us that only a man can help with her spider predicament.”

Caroline added “Tomorrow I’m going to see if I’m allowed to have Alex’s spot in the male dorm. I don’t know if I can handle another day and night in the life of Alex.”

Italian backpacker fails to understand that helpful Brit is not a member of staff

An Italian backpacker has failed to understand that the helpful British woman who has aided him through every stage of his hostel stay so far is also a guest at the hostel and not a member of staff.

The backpacking hostel in Dunedin where the incident took place

Caroline Gough, who has so far only spent one night at the backpackers in Dunedin, New Zealand herself explained “I heard the doorbell ring several times and as nobody else was around, I decided to answer it.”

Caroline was met by 27 year old Alberto who has taken 6 months out of his IT job in Florence to travel the world.

“He was very jovial and talkative,” said Caroline. “I took him to reception and there was an envelope with his name and room number on it, and a key inside. I was going up the stairs anyway so I ended up helping him with his heaviest bag and taking it to room six for him.”

Alberto asked Caroline where the bathrooms were so she pointed them out and also shared a tip about adjusting the water temperature of the shower that she had discovered earlier.

“Obviously I thought that was the end of it,” said Caroline. “But fifteen minutes later he appeared in the living room repeatedly calling me wifey until I gave him the code for the internet.”

Alberto tracked Caroline down for further assistance when he couldn’t find a cheese grater, when he needed a map of Dunedin and for recommendations of what to do tomorrow.

“By this point I realised he thought I was a staff member,” said Caroline. “But seeing as I knew all the answers to his questions, I just went along with it and helped with all his enquiries.”

However on Wednesday morning Alberto accosted Caroline in the kitchen whilst she was boiling an egg and said he was checking out and required his $20 key deposit returning. “I told him I wasn’t working today and asked him to go and see one of my colleagues,” said Caroline. “I don’t mind being helpful, but I draw the line at giving my money away.”

Many backpackers on the east coast of New Zealand follow a similar itinerary to one another, travelling the same route and visiting the same tourist hotspots so it is not uncommon for backpackers to cross paths with each other from one location to the next.

“It would be funny to bump into him at the next hostel,” said Caroline. “I wonder if he’d finally realise that  I’m just another backpacker, or if he would assume that I’m managing a whole string of hostels up and down the coast.”

Plastic knife just doesn’t cut it

A hungry backpacker is feeling frustrated after staff at her latest hostel provided her with plastic cutlery to eat a meal of steak and chips.

The meal which cost just $10 was served in a plastic takeaway carton at a backpackers in Perth this evening.

Caroline Gough who spent the best part of an hour attempting to eat the meal told us: “It’s really great when hostels offer cheap meals to backpackers, and I can see that whilst it may not be great for the environment, using disposable trays and cutlery prevents the washing up issue that occur so frequently in hostels.

However the people who organise this meal have clearly never attempted to cut up a piece of steak with a plastic knife. That in itself is difficult enough, but when the steak is balanced unevenly on some chips and limp lettuce in a wobbly plastic container it becomes even harder.”

Caroline did observe that a few backpackers were using normal knives to cut their steaks. “I enquired as to where the normal knives were kept and discovered that not only were there none left but that other people had already reserved to have these normal knives passed on to them when the first people had finished.”

Caroline added “When I saw the chalkboard advert for the meal, it did say to hurry because stocks were limited. I assumed they meant the steak, I now know they were talking about the knives.

It’s a good marketing trick because having spent so much time and effort carving off minuscule pieces of meat at a time, I’m really hungry and contemplating dessert.

I probably won’t have one though, as it’s apple pie and using a plastic spoon to slice through hard pastry doesn’t sound like much fun at all.”

Simone and her phone at home

It was day two of the eight month adventure and jet lag wasn’t getting a look in. When I landed in Sydney yesterday I’d spent the day with Simone and her phone as we drove around the city ferrying children to school and playgroup and swimming lessons, Simone and her phone joined at the ear, or connected via Bluetooth as she offered dubious parenting and relationship advice to the variety of people with one syllable names (Bec, Jess, Kat, Nat, Gem, Em, Han, Tan) who called throughout the day. At playgroup I joined in with parachute games and play-doh fun with the children and parents, whilst Simone sat on a gym bench at the edge of the room and chatted away to her constant stream of callers. In the evening I had my first taste of a chaotic evening at home with Simone and her phone. Cooking a meal whilst simultaneously holding a phone to your ear is a tricky thing to do, even if you’ve had as much practise as Simone has, and consequently we all dined on chicken nuggets that were too dry and broccoli that was too wet. The children were not so much put to bed as ordered into bed in the style that an angry sergeant major might use, and Simone just laughed at me when I offered to help with bedtime and told me that I didn’t know the routine. Once the kids were in bed, out came the laptops. Simone and Dean stared at their screens all night, and I went to bed soon after the kids, as it was now Tuesday night in Australia and I hadn’t done any sleeping since I woke up in England on Sunday morning.

The next morning I woke up in time to watch Simone and her phone negotiate a chaotic breakfast, and then everyone disappeared to school or work or daycare. And I had a brilliant time. I figured out how to catch a train to Circular Quay and quickly established that there were no place names on the Sydney train network that would be suitable for my next hamster. And then I had several wonderful hours of walking around enjoying Circular Quay. This is where the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge are and even though I visited many times during my eight month adventure, the novelty of seeing it and being there never wore off.

I had strict instructions to be home in time for tea, but when I got back to Simone’s house there wasn’t even a whiff of a chicken nugget cooking and Simone had a face full of thunder.

“Hello,” I said with extra enthusiasm as if that might help diffuse whatever the latest drama was.

“Aunty Caz!” shrieked the children and threw themselves at me in delight.

“Get off Aunty Caz and leave her alone,” shouted Simone, and then said “what are you doing tomorrow?”

“Going to Bondi Beach,” I replied, although I was fairly sure from the look on Simone’s face that these plans were about to be scuppered.

“That’s fine,” she said in a tone that suggested it wasn’t fine at all. “But none of the children are allowed to go to school or daycare tomorrow because today they all got sent home with conjunctivitis.”

“No worries,” I replied. “They can come to Bondi Beach with me.”

Simone didn’t seem to appreciate this as a viable option, so the next day, the three kids and I stayed home and had a lot of fun. The night before I had filled some disposable gloves with water and different cordials so that we had some frozen colourful hands to play with in the garden the next day (I left a couple of frozen hands at the back of the freezer to freak Simone out at a later date). We made jelly and fairy cakes, drew some pictures and played a game where we were a family of monsters. The rules were  devised by the three year old and quite complicated, but we enjoyed it nevertheless.

The five year old had to do some school work. His sisters and I listened as he read a page from a book about insects, then he wrote a few sentences about our jelly making in his news book and then he had to practice writing the letter k. But not the normal letter k that is used widely in print and handwriting around the world, he had to do line upon line of cursive ks the sort of k you only come across when your great aunt sends you a handwritten letter, or when you’re in Key Stage One at school. It’s a hard letter to do when you’re five and a lot of his attempts looked more like capital Rs than cursive ks but you could see that he was making progress and improving as he went along.

It seemed a bit of a dull activity, sitting by yourself writing k after k after k so I sat next to him and made it a shared experience by writing a few ks of my own on another piece of paper and putting what he was doing into context by talking about how there’s a k in his first name and in other words like cake and koala and it was all going very well until Simone burst through the door, phone clamped to her ear and what do you suppose her first words were:

“Sorry Bec, one minute, I’ve just got to shout at my child.” And then she held the phone briefly away from her ear and out came a barrage of unnecessary shouted admonishment.

“Stop talking to Caz. You’re supposed to be doing your work. You’re always doing this… don’t you dare argue with me” (as he tried to protest) “You put your head down and do your work.”

Well, I was far more bewildered by this outburst than the five year old because he is sadly used to nonsensical acts of weirdness from his mother, but I still remember her as the fun loving eighteen year old I made friends with a lifetime ago, so I found it much harder to compute.

“Actually,” I said. “He is doing his work. We were just talking about the letter k and thinking about all the different words that have a k in them.”

“Nuh,” she said. “He just wants you to think that. He’s wasting time. He always does this.” She glared at her son and shouted at him to do his work, then went back to her phone and said “sorry Bec, we’ve got a bit of a situation here.”

She marched over, grabbed the piece of paper, took no notice of how the capital Rs slowly started to look more like ks as the line went on and declared “This is yuck work.” Then she grabbed a rubber, erased all of his work, accidentally tearing the page with her furious rubbing and said “Do it again. Concentrate. And don’t you dare talk to Caz.”

The five year old hung his head and started to cry and Simone was back on the phone apologising to Bec for interrupting the phone call. She disappeared into her bedroom talking away on her phone and closed the door at which point the three children and I breathed a sigh of relief.

She emerged almost an hour later to find us playing in the garden and immediately started to question the five year old about his letter ks with the same sort of intensity you’d expect to find in a murder enquiry. She inspected his work, decreed it to be much better and then told him to apologise to Aunty Caz for wasting her time.

“He wasn’t wasting my time,” I said as the five year old mumbled an unnecessary “sorry Aunty Caz” at me. “And he doesn’t need to apologise. We’ve had a great day and it was me talking to him about his work, not the other way around. I was just trying to make it a bit more fun.”

“It’s not supposed to be fun,” Simone replied. “When you have kids, you’ll understand.”

Oh. That old chestnut.

It was dry chicken nuggets for tea again, this time with peas, sweetcorn and overcooked pasta. Throughout dinner there was excited anticipation – from me at least – about the jelly we had made earlier. Simone took three jellies out of the fridge and banged one down in front of each child, paying no attention to the fact that the children might want to choose which colour to have, or that I might want one too.

“Oh but….” said the five year old.

“Don’t you dare argue with me,” shouted Simone. “You have the one you’re given.”

“No,” I said. “He’s made a special one. He mixed all the different colours together to see what happens.”

“It was a science experiment,” added the five year old quietly.

“Oh. Well I didn’t know that,” said Simone and allowed the five year old to go and get his experiment jelly and a blue jelly for me.

Before we even finished the jelly Simone had to quickly phone Kat, so she threw a copy of Rapunzel at the three year old and informed her that Aunty Caz would read it to her.

So after the jelly we settled down on the couch, the three children and me, and I started to read the story. We had nearly got to the end when Simone ended her phone call and announced that everyone had to get up and go to bed immediately.

“We haven’t finished the story,” protested the children and I.

“It’s bedtime,” Simone replied.

“There’s literally one page to go,” I argued.

“Nuh. They’re going to bed.”

And so they did. Simone shouted her way through the bedtime routine and we definitely could have finished Rapunzel without it adding to the length of time that bedtime ended up taking.

Simone and her phone were more stressed than usual because today she had been offered two new jobs. She could either choose to spend five days a week doing a highly stressful job that involved supporting children who had been removed from abusive parents (yes, I saw the irony there too) or she could spend three days a week devising educational apps for a start-up company, working from home for much of the time.

“Seeing as you have three children under five and already seem quite busy (I thought “busy” sounded better than “stressed”) it doesn’t sound like taking on a full time job is the right thing for you to be doing right now,” I offered. “And the full time job sounds like it could be quite emotional and stressful. If you took the part time job you’d have a lot more time and energy to spend with the kids, and you’d be at home a lot more too.”

Dean – the husband – glared at me from over the top of his laptop screen. “Simone is a career woman,” he said crossly. “She needs to think about her five year plan.”

“She’s also a Mum,” I replied and was given one of those deathly stares that suggested I should shut up now or catch the next plane back to England.

“I’m going to phone Nay,” announced Simone. “She’ll know what to do.”

Despite having a name that sounds like the noise a horse makes, Nay was full of good advice, or at least I thought so because it was identical to everything I had said.

“You’ve got three small children,” said Nay. “I feel like it’s not the right time for you to be going full time, plus that job sounds like it could be quite stressful. You should take the part time job.”

“Do you know what? You’re absolutely right,” said Simone. “Thank you. You’re the first person who’s actually said anything sensible that makes any sense. That’s totally put it into perspective for me. Nobody else understands like you do. You’re the best.”

What? How about when I said exactly the same thing as Nay did ten minutes earlier? Surely Nay was in fact the second person who’d said anything sensible that made any sense. And surely I was the best for looking after the kids all day, and being brave enough to give my honest opinion about Simone’s job dilemma despite the fact that her husband was giving me the death glare?

Then Bec rang because let’s face it, it was at least an hour since she’d last spoken to Simone. Simone launched into an appreciation speech of how wonderful Nay was, stopping only to shout at the five year old for getting out of bed to come and tell us he had a tummy ache. Dean spent the evening with his screen, Simone spoke to each of her one syllable named friends and had several identical conversations as she told them all she was taking the part time job, and I had another early night.

The next day was Friday. Apparently the window of contagiousness for conjunctivitis was now closed which did make me wonder if I was going to get it and take it round Australia infecting other backpackers, seeing as I’d spent the previous day with three contagious children. Everyone was going to school, to work or to daycare. I was a little bit disappointed, because I had enjoyed my day with the kids yesterday. It was so much easier to have fun when Simone and her phone and Dean and his screen weren’t there.

But I soon got over it, because I caught the train to Bondi Beach, had a delicious chocolate milkshake, rented a surfboard and spent the day on the beach.

It was not a surprise to see that Simone was on the phone when I got back.

“Caz is here,” she announced to her caller. “Yeah no Caz is awesome. She looked after all three kids yesterday all by herself. Yeah no, we’re having the best time. Kay I’m gonna go talk to Caz and call you back later.”

Wow! An appreciation speech and priority over whoever was on the phone. Things were looking up.

“That was my mother-in-law. I’ve been trying to get rid of her for ages,” said Simone. “So anyway, I have news… I’m taking the full time job.”

“What? Why?”

“Well because Dean phoned me up at work today,” Simone said this as if talking to people when she’s supposed to be doing something else was a completely rare occurrence. “And he made me realise that I’m a career woman. I’ve got to think about my five year plan.”

“So what is your five year plan?”

Simone was stumped. “Um…”

“What about the kids? You said you were already feeling like you were missing out just working three days.”

“Yeah, I’ll miss not going to play group,” said Simone and I cast my mind back to Tuesday when all the other parents had been playing with the kids whilst Simone and her phone had hung out together at the other end of the room. “But Dean and I talked about it a lot and this is definitely the right decision.”

I had offered to shout us all takeaway pizza that night, partly to pay my way and partly because I couldn’t stand the thought of more chicken nuggets. So I was surprised when Simone started pulling the infamous nuggets out the freezer.

“Nuh, the kids aren’t having pizza, it’s just for us,” said Simone when I enquired.

“I was planning to get it for everyone,” I said. I had envisaged a fun family evening with pizza and garlic bread and the rest of the jelly for dessert.

“Nuh,” said Simone. Clearly in her eyes pizza couldn’t compare to the nutritional value of the chicken nuggets.

So we had our pizza evening, but it wasn’t the fun social event I’d hoped for, not with the kids in bed, Dean on his screen and Simone on her phone. Obviously she had to call all her one syllable named friends to tell them that she’d changed her mind and was taking the full time job after all. They all seemed to think this u-turn was as crackers as I did and Simone sounded less and less convinced of her decision with every call she made.

The pizza at least was delicious, even if the communication and chat between the three people in the room was lacking.

Simone was busy telling someone called Mon that Caz was here and Caz was awesome and Caz was having a great time in Australia and I wondered how Simone could possibly know that when she spends all her time talking to other people and not to me.

But I didn’t mind too much. I’d managed to sort out an Australian sim card whilst I was at Bondi Junction. Ironically I could now call and text England at a far cheaper price than I ever could when I was in England using a UK sim. And now I had unlimited data too. I busied myself putting my Sydney and Bondi photos onto Facebook, and sending messages to friends via texts and WhatsApp. And there we sat in the living room having a wild Friday night, ignoring the television, ignoring each other, silently shovelling pizza into our mouths and staring at our screens.

Well if you can’t beat them, join them.

Backpacker’s daring descent ends in triumph

A British backpacker has spoken exclusively to the Cazmanian Times following her unexpected nocturnal descent into the dusty unknown.

Caroline Gough who was sleeping in a top bunk at a backpackers in Townsville explained “When you sleep on the top bunk, you have to take quite a lot of things up the ladder to bed with you and often there isn’t anywhere to put them. I regularly go to sleep hugging a bottle of water, whilst my phone, my room key and some spare earplugs sit under my pillow. The princess and the pea has nothing on me.”

However disaster struck just after 1:30am when Caroline was awoken by the unmistakable sound of a key dropping onto the floor below.

“I used my phone torch to see if my key was still under my pillow,” said Caroline. “And when I couldn’t find it, I realised I was going to have to try and find it in the dark without waking up my seven sleeping room mates. I was getting up early to catch a bus at 6am so it wasn’t as if I could wait until everyone woke up before I looked for it.”

Caroline described her descent down from the top bunk “It was one of those bunk beds that doesn’t actually have a proper ladder,” she said “And the guy sleeping beneath me had put slippery towels and clothes on the metal frame where I needed to put my feet so I had to be careful as I manoeuvred my way down the sheer vertical drop.”

Once safely at ground level, Caroline had the tricky task of shining her phone torch onto the floor to look for the key, whilst at the same time ensuring the light did not wake up her slumbering room mates.

“I couldn’t see it anywhere, so eventually I crouched down and shone the light under the bed,” said Caroline “The key was in the most unhelpful place possible, right at the back by the skirting board.”

Caroline was faced with no choice but to lie on the floor and shimmy under the bed on her tummy towards the skirting board. “I hadn’t actually met the guy sleeping on the bottom bunk,” said Caroline “So it felt a bit risque to be shimmying around underneath him. I was very much hoping that nobody was going to wake up and wonder what I was doing. Luckily I’ve been backpacking for eight months now, so I’ve had quite a lot of practise of being quiet in unfamiliar dark places, although this particular expedition did take things to another level.”

As she ventured further under the bed, Caroline encountered various pieces of litter and a forgotten pair of dusty underpants. “It was clear that nobody else has been under that bed for quite some time,” said Caroline. “My pyjamas and I did an excellent job of collecting several years worth of dust before we were finally reunited with the key.”

Despite being covered in dust, Caroline counts her nocturnal expedition as a definite triumph. “Nobody woke up, I got the key back and did a bit of unexpected spring cleaning at the same time. I’ve never been a human feather duster before. I think I’ll reward myself by washing my pyjamas when I get to Mission Beach tonight.”

Residential street causes disappointment for racquet sport enthusiasts

Sporting enthusiasts from across the globe have spoken of their disappointment after being misled by a residential street in Australia.

“Badminton Court” in Geelong, Victoria is a residential street which contains several houses but, despite its name, no sign of any shuttlecocks or sporting facilities.

Disappointed: Caroline Gough was looking forward to a game of badminton

Caroline Gough who is currently travelling around Australia said “Who doesn’t love a good old game of badminton? When I saw that there was a badminton court in Geelong, naturally I put on my sportiest clothes and and raced along to have a game. Imagine my disappointment when I discovered that Badminton Court is just the name of a residential street. I’m sure I’m not the first person who’s made this mistake.”

The street was keen to fight back. “I’m sure it’s only people who have degrees in English Language and Linguistics who insist on being so literal. What about Dead Dog Lane and Queen Street? People don’t go flocking to those streets thinking they’re going to bump into royalty or trip over a deceased dog. There are millions of residential streets all over the world and if we were all named after physical features found within our street it would be very limiting. We’d all have names like Pavement Avenue or Telegraph Pole Road. That would get awfully confusing for the postman.”

Badminton Court is located in the Geelong suburb of Marshall which Caroline believes could cause further confusion. “If you type or speak “Badminton Court, Marshall” into a search engine, you don’t get directions, you either get a list of leisure centres that offer badminton and martial arts, or you get information about court martials.”

This is not the first time that the reliability of a place name has come into question during Caroline’s travels. Back in June she carried out a series of conclusive experiments which confirmed that Magnetic Island is in fact not magnetic.

“However at the other end of the scale, some places go out of their way to live up to their name,” said Caroline. “Earlier in the year I stayed at an airbnb in Manly and glued to the kitchen window sill was an air freshener that squirted out a masculine aftershave scent every 20 minutes just to remind me that I was in Manly. It seems to be one extreme or the other.”

Caroline confirmed that she still intends to give Wee Wee Creek and Wasp Island a very wide berth.

The Manly Smell

Backpacking is fun and it certainly provides me with plenty of material to write my stories. But for my own sanity, every now and then I need to check into a place by myself where I can spend a few days sleeping on my own in a king-size bed, hang my clothes in a wardrobe, use fluffy towels and not set eyes on a bunk bed or a shower clogged with other people’s hair. And so from time to time I trawl the airbnb website looking for a great place for a beach loving solo traveller to stay.

The first airbnb I stayed at had a huge and shiny kitchen. I had previously been staying with Simone and her phone and her family, and meals had generally involved chicken nuggets and frozen veg, usually overcooked because Simone had been on her phone throughout the cooking process and hadn’t kept a close enough eye on the meal. Then I’d been at a hostel that was so lacking in space and utensils that I had to wait half an hour before I could even find the space and equipment to boil an egg. I was keen to branch out. I went to the supermarket and did a huge weekly shop. And then I started cooking. Roast chicken, roast potatoes, stuffing, cauliflower, broccoli and leeks in cheese sauce, swede and carrot mash, gravy, yorkshire puddings, jelly. Not everything was colitis friendly but I had two bathrooms to myself and my tastebuds were craving proper flavours. I cooked everything from scratch using every pot, pan and utensil available to me.

So it was a bit of a disappointment to discover – once the dishwasher was loaded – that it didn’t seem to be working. I pressed different buttons and turned dials, but nothing I could do would make it work. I felt too deflated by the thought of removing every dirty greasy item to wash by hand so I put it off until the next day. Which was lucky because on the stroke of midnight the dishwasher kicked into action. And that’s what it did every night, whether I wanted it to or not, like Cinderella at the ball, once it got to midnight the dishwasher realised it was time to go back to work.

At the next place I had an unexpected communication breakdown with the cheese grater. How is that even possible? This was a fancy cheese grater where you grated the cheese and it made its way into a plastic container inside the grater and there the cheese stayed unless you possessed magical powers to extract it. Which I did not.

Trapped cheese is a travesty 

 I twisted and pulled it as much as I could without breaking it, and I typed all sorts of things into Google to see if anyone out there knew how to overcome this unexpected predicament but so far nobody has posted any online advice for airbnb guests having a cheese grater crisis. So I had to settle for just tomatoes in my omelette that night.

My next airbnb home was at the bottom of the host’s garden and whilst I regularly saw the host, her family and the rabbits, I didn’t ever meet any of them as the instructions explained that they all had busy lives and all communication must take place by text message only. I must have sent some good texts because the host put in my feedback that I was an excellent communicator and very easy to talk to – even though no actual speech ever took place.

That’s right. Airbnb hosts write you a review so that future hosts can decide whether or not they want you to stay at their properties. I was expecting dubious reviews saying “Caroline left a liberal sprinkling of sand everywhere she went and was not intelligent enough to operate the cheese grater” but in fact everyone gave me such glowing reviews that I’m wondering if I can put them in my CV and forge a career as a professional house sitter in my next life.

One of the reasons I had chosen the house at the bottom of the Text-Message-Only host’s garden, besides its close proximity to a lovely beach, was because it was listed as having a washing machine and I was desperate to wash every item of clothing in my possession. The last hostel I’d stayed at only let backpackers use the laundry between 12 and 4pm and in the height of the Australian summer I wasn’t going to waste a precious afternoon sitting indoors staying dry whilst my clothes got wet, when I could be down at the beach getting myself wet by throwing myself in the ocean. So when I got  to my new home, the lack of a washing machine rather thwarted my well thought out plan of “Arrive, make jelly, put on first load of washing, go to the beach.”

It was a very tiny apartment with everything in one room, so it was fairly easy to establish that there was nowhere for a washing machine to hide, all the same I looked in all the cupboards just in case and eventually sat down to read the welcome note which explained that if I wanted my washing done, I was to put it in the linen bag provided before 3pm and then put it on the entertainer with $10. Text-Message-Only would do my washing and hang it on the line for me to collect the next day.

Clearly I wouldn’t be able to put “every item of clothing in my possession” on the entertainer to be washed, because then I’d have nothing to wear in the meantime. But my first challenge was trying to work out exactly where – and what – the entertainer was. I composed a text message to Text-Message-Only to tell her that I needed more clues because in England an Entertainer is someone who sings songs and does circus tricks, and she replied to explain that in Australia an Entertainer refers to the large area of undercover decking at the back of somebody’s house. Not sure I’d pay to spend an evening watching one of those.

Two of my airbnbs had ladders but no obvious clues as to what I should do with them unless the owners knew of my backpacking background and were concerned that I might have withdrawal symptoms if I didn’t have to climb up a ladder to reach my bed. One property had mirrors strategically placed in the bathroom door so that you could see yourself sitting on the toilet. Another apartment had a television in the bedroom which switched itself on at fourteen minutes past five every morning, frightening the life out of me.  And one had a very nice landlord called Jeff who taught me how to use patio BBQs – after that there was no stopping me and I barbecued my way around the rest of Australia and New Zealand.

ladder to nowhere – unless you want to sleep on top of the wardrobe?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

View de toilette

One of the apartments had a very manly smell. Some airbnbs spend their lives being full time airbnbs but others do it as a part time hobby. In these situations the owner lives there most of the time and earns money by renting it out when she or he goes away. When I arrived at this next apartment, it smelt as though a teenage boy had hurriedly tidied up ten minutes before I arrived and compensated for his frantic tidy by spraying his very manly smelling aftershave all around the apartment. I couldn’t wait for it to disappear and I opened the sliding doors to encourage the smell to leave the room.

The apartment was clearly one that was usually lived in by the owner, as was evident by some of the things dotted about – like nappies for dogs and a bowl on the kitchen table containing a button, a sim card, 20 Israeli shekels and a brand new pound coin – I’d forgotten until then that Britain even had a new pound coin. I made some jelly, went to the beach, picked up some groceries and on my return the manly smell was still there, just as strong as before.

Useful things to find in a holiday apartment

One of the benefits of living in someone else’s house is that the owner tells you to help yourself to the staples, which I took to mean basic ingredients, rather than the metal things that fix pieces of paper together. So I tried out a range of different salad dressings and made my first (and only) risotto of the trip  because who wants to take a kilogram of aborio rice backpacking around Australia? Much easier to borrow it from the guy who offers you his staples. However everything I cooked from risotto to bolognese had a tang of manly smell about it.

It took me a couple of days to realise that the reason the manly smell was lingering was not because of some over-zealous aftershave spraying by a teenage boy, but because there was an air freshener on the kitchen window sill that was actually programmed to squirt out a manly smell every 20 minutes. That’s 72 squirts of manly smell a day. No wonder it never disappeared. I decided that the air freshener could go and live on the  balcony for the remainder of my stay.

This was not one of the airbnbs that came with a mysterious ladder, so I had to climb onto the kitchen bench to get the air freshener down. Except I couldn’t bring it down. Because someone had permanently attached the air freshener to the kitchen window sill so that nobody could remove it. Not only that but it was fixed in such a place that it squirted itself right over the top of the cooker hob. I was meticulous about using saucepan lids for the remainder of my stay so that my meals were no longer contaminated with essence of manly smell. How did this constant spraying all over the saucepans not annoy the person who usually lived here?

The manly smell was emitted from the air freshener, spraying its masculine smelling particles  directly into the dinner cooking below.

And then it hit me. My apartment was actually situated in a place called Manly. I had recently stayed in Freshwater where they had turned off the water one day to carry out essential work – I now decided that this was clearly to ensure the water was fresh enough to live up to its name. Kangaroo Island had certainly had a lot of kangaroos on it, Lorne had plenty of grass, Coral Bay had been just that and now here I was in Manly where the apartment was actually equipped with a device that emits manly smells.

Well, I thought, if Australians are going to be this literal I’ll have to be a bit more careful when choosing my destinations from now on. I made a mental note to steer well clear of Cape Tribulation, Wasp Island and Wee Wee Creek. However Turquoise Bay, Lovely Banks and Sunshine Beach sounded right up my street.

Youthful genes strike again

A British backpacker has been denied the opportunity to sample a delicious cocktail in Sydney this evening.

37 year old Caroline Gough explained: “When you’re backpacking, you meet all sorts of people and tonight I ended up going for a meal at Circular Quay with my newest friend Lisa from Switzerland.”

Lisa ordered wine with her meal and the waiter asked to see her ID.

“Lisa immediately got out her passport,” said Caroline. “But as soon as the waiter disappeared from earshot, she started to complain that now she’s nineteen, she really would have thought people would have stopped ID-ing her by now.”

Caroline who was ID’d just last summer when she attempted to buy BBQ lighter fluid said “Are you kidding? Being ID’d was part of the natural process of buying a drink until I was at least 31.”

Caroline who had so far not been asked to prove how old she is at any point during her eight month adventure down under then attempted to order a cocktail. “It was basically an alcoholic chocolate milkshake,” said Caroline “and it came with a chocolate biscuit and a sparkler so I was feeling pretty excited about that.”

However the waiter then asked Caroline for some ID. “I suppose because my friend was nineteen, he thought I might also be young. Plus I had my hair in plaits which probably didn’t help.”

Caroline’s Australian purse is too busy being a fish to bother carrying any form of identification. 

Caroline was unable to provide any form of identification. “In England I carry around a huge wallet which seems to be a breeding ground for loyalty cards and vouchers I never use, as well as containing ID in the form of my driving licence. But in Australia my purse is a fish and I carry very little in it.”

Caroline said “It’s ironic. I’ve been old enough to drink alcohol since before Lisa was even born. Yet tonight she was allowed to drink and I wasn’t. In the end I ordered a coke and pretended to be thrilled about that instead.”

Simone and her phone at the airport

It had been thirteen years since I last saw Simone so I knew things would be different. She had a husband and three kids now, a far cry from our single student days. As a mother and wife, she’d have different priorities but I was looking forward to meeting the important people in her life.

It was a surprise to discover that the most important things in Simone’s life appeared not to have been made out of love between the sheets on three separate romantic evenings by her and her husband Dean, but made on a production line at the Samsung factory.

When I arrived in Australia, very early on a Tuesday morning, ridiculously excited to be there and not quite believing that I was, I felt a bit nervous going through the doors after customs. It’s scary, the prospect of seeing someone again after thirteen years. What if we don’t get along anymore?

The correct question should have been: What if she’s not there to meet me?

I scanned all the faces. Couples clinging to each other with excitement at the thought of seeing the loved ones they were about to greet. Other people already reunited, squealing and hugging. And the impassive faces of the drivers sent to collect people. Names now displayed on iPad screens, not clipboards. Technology gets everywhere.

But no Simone.

It was okay. It didn’t matter. I was in Australia and I was incredibly happy. On the plane I had been too excited to sleep for even a second. I spent 24 hours looking out the window and literally watched the world go by, even when an angry air hostess told me it was sleeping time and motioned that I should close the blind. Now I found a sunny spot outside the building, connected to the airport wifi and sent a WhatsApp message to tell Simone where I was. This was the start of an eight month adventure and it felt amazing. Simone would turn up eventually. What was it the Aussies said? No worries.

Clearly “no worries” did not apply to all Australians as Simone turned up with a face like thunder and a mobile phone clamped to her ear. Undeterred by the stoney expression I jumped up and raced to hug her. She reciprocated with the arm that wasn’t holding the phone and carried on talking.

“Yeah, but what you’ve got to remember is that Dunstan’s a dick. He’s always going to be a dick. Nothing you can do will ever stop him being a dick.”

She turned and motioned for me to follow her to the car park. “Yeah well Shaun’s a dick too,” she said, taking large strides ahead of me whilst I trotted behind with my giant suitcase. It wasn’t the most enthusiastic welcome I’d ever had.

“Sorry hun,” she said. “But I’ve just got Caz from the airport.” I thought perhaps she was going to say that she needed to end the call so she could talk to me seeing as we hadn’t seen each other for thirteen years, but instead she said “And I can’t remember where I’ve  parked the car…. well because I was talking to Bec when I got out the car so I wasn’t paying attention. Yeah, no I don’t even know what level it’s on. Caz we’re looking for a grey Carnival.”

Whatever one of those was.

“Yeah well, Malachi is a feral feral bogan,” Simone told her caller. “Anyway, he’s not even coming on Saturday… what? But Han said she wasn’t inviting him, oh well that’s going to go down well with Brody.”

Saturday? Simone had told me I had to stay with her for the whole weekend because she was planning some fun stuff for us to do together. Hanging out with dicks and feral feral bogans did not sound like my idea of fun. We made our way around the multi-story car park going up and down slopes to different levels, Simone remained glued to her phone slagging off the guest list for whatever was happening on Saturday and I tried to keep up with her. The famous stripy suitcase that would accompany me around Australia and New Zealand was packed inside an equally gorgeous but far more cumbersome turquoise and blue case which I was going to leave at another friend’s house for most of my travels and then bring back to England no doubt full of souvenirs and surf branded clothing at the end of my stay. It was hard work to keep up with Simone and manoeuvre the case up and down the slopes of the car park without annoying all the drivers or getting myself run over.

After going as far as the sixth floor, we found the car back on the second level and Simone finally ended her call. “Sorry,” she said. “Welcome to Australi… oh I better phone Dean and tell him you’re here.” We got in the car, Simone spoke to her husband to tell him we were leaving the airport and then we were on our way. Time to talk at last?

“It’s so exciting to see you,” I ventured.

“Yep. Hang on. I just need to… I don’t know which lane…”

I didn’t know which lane either so I thought I better save the reunion until she worked it out. But then the phone – now set up to hands free – rang and Simone answered it straight away.

“Jess, just to let you know you’re on speakerphone. Say hi to Caz.”

“Hi Caz,” said Jess.

“Hi Jess,” I replied.

“I just got Caz from the airport,” said Simone. “She’s over from England. Talk to her whilst I work out what lane to be in.”

“Oh okay, so Caz, what are you doing in Australia and how do you know Simone?” asked Jess.

“It’s okay,” said Simone before I could answer. “I’m sorted. So tell me. What’s wrong?”

“We’re not getting the deposit back,” said Jess. “And they’re trying to claim another six hundred bucks.”

“Well that sucks,” said Simone. “Did you tell them where to stick it?”

“No.”

“Just say you didn’t do it. They haven’t got any proof.”

“Hun, Josh has written his name on their table in permanent marker. They know we had a kid called Josh there.”

“So? It’s circumstantial. Loads of kids are called Josh. Maybe the cleaner has a kid called Josh and he wrote his name on the table whilst she was cleaning the apartment.”

“Yeah, I don’t think so.”

“Josh isn’t even your kid. Get Tanya to pay.”

“Yeah, that’s going to go down well. Tanya, I stole your husband, I took your kid on holiday and now I want seven hundred and fifty bucks because he ruined a table.”

“Why do they need seven hundred and fifty bucks for a table?”

“It was an expensive table.”

“Who puts an expensive table in a holiday let? Tell them to go to IKEA.”

“And Josh broke a socket as well.”

“How the hell did he break a socket?”

“He weed in it. Half the apartments got shorted out.”

“Seriously Jess. That kid. Tanya and Malachi need to sit round a table and work out what to do with him.”

I wondered if this was the same Malachi that Simone had labelled a feral feral bogan in her last phone call. How many people called Malachi can one person know?

And so it went on. After Simone finished talking to Jess, there was a call from Mel who was convinced that Deb wasn’t talking to her, and then Em who didn’t want to organise Gem’s hen weekend any more because Gem was being a controlling cow. Simone started all her conversations with “What’s wrong?” and I wondered if she’d had a career change and now worked as a telephone counsellor or agony aunt and was currently on shift and all these callers were her clients. Although I was fairly sure that counsellors and agony aunts weren’t supposed to use the words “dick”, “drongo” and “stupid head” quite as much as Simone did. And then Gem called to announce that Em was being flakey and indecisive and please could Simone take over the hen party arrangements instead and I figured that Simone probably did know these people because as far as I was aware counsellors and agony aunts didn’t usually organise their clients’ hen parties.

We arrived at a house and Simone motioned for me to go in. “I just need to finish talking to Gem,” she said.

I got out the car and approached the house feeling slightly apprehensive to be going in alone when I hadn’t met any of the occupants yet, but I needn’t have worried.

“Aunty Caz! We’re so excited you’re here!”

“Aunty Caz!”

“Aunty Caz!”

Three small children came racing out of the house and threw their arms around me.

“We’ve been waiting all day,” announced the oldest child. It wasn’t even half past eight yet.

“It’s lovely to meet you,” I said, enchanted by these three little people who were so pleased to see me.

“Come and see your room.”

“No, come and see my room.”

“No, come and see my dog.”

“It’s not your dog, it’s my dog.”

“It’s everyone’s dog.”

“Aunty Caz, do you like Paw Patrol?”

“Aunty Caz, do you like chocolate?”

“Aunty Caz are you scared of spiders?”

“Aunty Caz do you know that now I can sleep in a big girl’s bed?”

“Aunty Caz because do you know I’m not scared of spiders.”

“Yes she is.”

“No I’m not.”

“Yes she is. Yes you are a little bit.”

“Well maybe a little bit. But Aunty Caz did you know that spiders can bite you when you’re asleep?”

And so I was bundled into the house and taken to see toys and bedrooms and big girl beds, the dog, a dead spider in a jar and the doll’s house by three excited children, who spoke more words to me in thirty seconds than their Mum had in the entire car journey back from the airport. It was at least 40 minutes before Simone emerged from the car and by that point I was well acquainted with all three of her children even if I hadn’t said a proper hello to their Mum yet.

With the phone still attached to her ear, Simone shouted at the children and told them they shouldn’t be playing with me because they were supposed to be brushing their teeth and if they didn’t get in the bathroom right now she was going to take all their toys and throw them in the bin.  After the hasty brushing of teeth Simone frog marched everyone into the car for the school run whilst simultaneously giving over the phone parenting advice to someone called Vick.

We dropped the five year old off at school in the “kiss and ride” layby – although he didn’t get the kiss, just the ride. And then as we drove off, the already far too familiar sound of Simone’s phone started to ring again and Mel was back on the phone again.

How come she gets to come back for a second chat when I haven’t even had one chat yet, I thought as Mel tearfully confirmed that Deb definitely wasn’t speaking to her.

I know the feeling, I thought and wondered if I’d have more chance of a conversation with Simone if I got my phone out and rang her even though she was sitting next to me.

“Anyway,” sniffed Mel tearfully. “Tell me about you. How’s your day?”

“Oh awesome,” said Simone. “Caz just arrived from England. She’s like one of my best friends from uni. We’re just driving around catching up, she’s met the kids, yeah no, we’re having the best time.”

“Oh nice,” sniffed Mel. “That sounds amazing.”

Yeah, it does, I agreed silently. Shame it’s not actually true.

Raising an eyebrow

How to be a butcher beautician

1. When the customer arrives, do not smile or welcome them. Show them into a soul-less room with a bed and no windows. Close the door and leave them there.

2. Put on a pair of gloves and a mask that covers your mouth and nose. It is important that you must never directly touch the customer or breathe in their essence as this could lead to contamination.

3. Enter the room. If the customer is sitting on the bed, encourage them to get off, using the same technique you would employ to shoo away a naughty hen.

4. Put a layer of scratchy cheap water resistant paper towel on the bed. Other salons have been known to use luxurious towels but this may encourage the customer to feel pampered and make a repeat booking.

5. Get the customer to lie down on the bed. Try to do this without having to use any words or eye contact.

6. Do not speak to the customer at any point during the treatment. They do not need to be warned or informed of what you are going to do to them. You can simply yank and twist their head into the position you require it to be in. If they flinch in surprise, press down hard on their forehead with the palm of your hand. This will act as an excellent restraint and prevent any further movement.

7. If the customer attempts to start a cheerful conversation, ignore them. They are not your friend.

8. If the customer tries to confirm what colours or styles they wish you to apply to their eyebrows or eyelashes, don’t listen to them. You are the beautician. You know best.

9. Once you have applied the tint to the customer’s eyebrows and eyelashes, leave the room for an indeterminate amount of time and have a chat with your colleagues. The customer will have no choice but to lie in the soul-less room with their eyes closed sorely regretting ever making the appointment and fretting about what you’ve done to their face.

10. Creep quietly back in the room so that the customer doesn’t hear you. The first they should know of your presence is when you dramatically twist their head 90° to the left and then pour a large amount of water down their face to wash out any excess tint.

11. Now turn the head 180° to the right and repeat the water pouring process.

12. Use a bit of the scratchy cheap paper towel to dry the customer’s eyes in a painful but ultimately ineffective way.

13. Yank customer’s head backwards the way you were taught to position Resusci-Annie’s head when preparing her for mouth-to-mouth in First Aid.

14. Attack customer’s eyebrows with hot wax, waxing strips and tweezers to fashion the eyebrows into whatever shape you wish. The customer should not be consulted as to how they would like their eyebrows to look, nor should they be forewarned of when you are about to attack them with the wax, the strip or the tweezer. Restrain forehead firmly to prevent sudden movement.

15. Hold mirror in front of customer’s face and give a one word command to encourage customer to open their eyes. This is your pivotal moment. If the customer likes what you have done to their face they might give you a tip. Encourage this by telling them how great they look. If possible inject some enthusiasm into your voice.

16. Usher customer out of room towards till. If customer is not smiling or chatting effusively, then it is likely that the tip will not materialise so charge more than the advertised price just to be on the safe side. If customer enquires about the Thrifty Thursday discount, invent reason why customer does not qualify for discount.

17. Continue to repeat steps 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 16 throughout the day. Steps 8 – 15 may vary depending upon which treatment the customer is having.

18. Go home and feel immense satisfaction of how you enhanced the lives and faces of everyone you worked with today.

19. Get up and do it all over again tomorrow.

Feuding couple call it a day

A couple who have not been speaking to each other for the majority of their trip around Australia have announced that their relationship is officially over.

Olivia and Ethan from Shropshire in England first hit the headlines back in June when they arrived at a backpacking hostel in Cairns refusing to speak to one another. It is still unclear what sparked the initial argument.

Caroline Gough who spent almost a week sharing a dormitory with the feuding couple was reunited with Ethan at a bar in Sydney’s Circular Quay this evening.

Caroline told us “They were both supposed to be going home on the sixteenth of August, but in fact neither of them will be catching that flight. Olivia ran out of money and went home last week , whilst Ethan loves it here and is planning to stay for as long as possible.”

Ethan explained “I’m basically just going to keep travelling until I’ve spent all my money. I grew up on a farm, so when I’ve run out of money I’ll go and find work at an Australian farm until I’ve saved up to go travelling again.”

Olivia is currently working at a well known supermarket back in England, earning lots of money which she can then spend at the student bar when she returns to university in September.

Ethan and Olivia are no longer listed as friends on Facebook, but have both added Caroline to their friend list. Neither of them are aware that she writes a blog.

Peter and Anita

Peter and Anita realised almost as soon as they got married that they really shouldn’t have done it. If only they’d been born a generation later they could have had a crack at living together first and then when they realised what a disaster it was, gone their separate ways three weeks later, never to cross paths again.

But marriage was marriage and so they were stuck. Stuck with completely different ideas of how life should be lived. A night owl living with a lark, an optimist with a pessimist, two people who couldn’t even agree on what to eat and when to eat it. They were completely incompatible.

So they decided to open a backpacking hostel.

It was perfect, exactly what they needed. They didn’t need to be a husband and wife with nothing to talk about anymore, now they were a team with a project. They bought a huge run down old house and set about getting it renovated. Now the conversations were endless. They could complain about builders who didn’t meet their deadlines and bathrooms that cost far more than the original quote. They could spend their days choosing bunk beds and picking out paint colours and preparing for the grand opening. She was creative and he was logical and whilst it wasn’t a winning combination for love, it was very good for setting up a business.

The doors opened and the backpackers came. Anita and Peter fell into a routine. She bustled about brightly in the daytime, doing the cleaning, the morning check-outs and the afternoon check-ins, smiling and chatting to all of the guests as she worked, making everyone feel welcome. He did the evening shift, sitting morosely behind the desk, reading heavy books with heavy titles and only communicating with backpackers when he absolutely had to, always casting a suspicious eye over each and every backpacker as if it was inevitable that they were only going to bring trouble and mayhem to his life.

It was the perfect arrangement for an imperfect marriage. Anita went to work before Peter woke up, and she went to bed before he came home. The only time for conversations was the 3pm handover when they could briefly tell each other about unruly backpackers who’d left without handing in their key, or about a terrible smell lingering in one of the communal fridges. Peter had no idea that Anita spent her afternoons on the beach before heading home to watch several hours of TV, Anita only knew that Peter had taken up golf because of all the golf related items that now cluttered up her hallway.

They hadn’t been away together since their disastrous honeymoon in Tasmania. The hostel provided an excellent excuse for separate holidays because someone always needed to be there to run it. Anita had girly holidays in Bali and Fiji with her sisters and best friends. Peter went off by himself on walking and skiing holidays.

Once in an attempt to not exactly spice up the marriage but just acknowledge that they had one, Anita suggested that perhaps Peter didn’t need to work so late every night. On the evenings that they were already fully booked or not waiting for a latecomer, he could come home earlier. They could eat tea together. They tried it once. Anita cooked spaghetti bolognese because she had no idea that Peter had stopped eating garlic, onions and tomatoes more than six years ago after they started to repeat on him.

There was nothing to talk about over dinner, so they filled the huge gap in the conversation by planning an unecessary refurbishment of several bedrooms and bathrooms and drawing up a list of unecessarily strict rules to inflict upon future backpackers.

Peter decided he couldn’t face another night of tomatoes and garlic and awkward conversation, so he took drastic measures. He bought a fish tank. In fact he bought five and installed them all around the hostel. He spent the next few weeks and months becoming an expert fish keeper. Anita had no intention of suggesting another excruciating meal with her husband ever again, but if she did he would be able to decline on the grounds that he had to stay late to eradicate an algae problem or corect the pH level of the water. Over the years if ever Peter ran out of things to do, he simply bought another fish tank. He now had seventeen.

The backpackers liked the fish tanks and were intrigued by the grumpy man who seemed to like and care for the fish a lot more than he liked or cared for the backpackers. They quickly learnt to save their questions and queries for the lovely lady who worked during the day, and to avoid the grumpy fish tank man at all costs.

Peter’s rules became more unreasonable and more bizarre. He put all the books with the heavy titles on a bookshelf along with a sign saying that backpackers would have to pay $5 to borrow a book and another $5 if they returned it in less than perfect condition. Consequently nobody ever borrowed a book. He created wordy patronizing signs explaining why it wasn’t okay to put beer in the fish tanks and how the backpackers should go home and let their mothers look after them if they weren’t capable of washing and drying their own dishes. Anita who had a much higher opinion of the backpackers than her husband did would rip the posters down each morning and Peter, who thought it was the backpackers ripping his signs down would create even wordier and more patronizing signs to put up in the evening, including signs about how it was an offence to rip down the signs. He even started to laminate them.

Then Peter went on a roadtrip. He went to see his adult niece and her boyfriend, his siblings and their spouses, his parents and the only friend he still kept in touch with from high school. It was a bit out of character, Peter wasn’t all that fond of people, but he’d heard from his mother that a boy he used to go to junior school with had died and suddenly he felt he should make the effort to see the other people in his life before it was too late.

Peter’s trip lastest fifteen days and at every house it was the same. By day they took Peter out on walks and excursions, then in the evenings everyone sat around ignoring each other as they concentrated on the screens of their phones and iPads.

At first Peter assumed it was because his niece and her boyfriend had grown up with technology that they spent their nights glued to it instead of each other, just like all the backpackers who sat around the hostel staring at their screens every night. Then at his oldest brother’s house Peter thought his brother and sister-in-law were only on their phones all night because they’d had an argument over dinner – picking the wrong woman did seem to be an unfortunate family trait. But when Peter got to his parents house and watched his elderly mother spend the whole night online playing Words with Friends with Beryl who only lived next door whilst his Dad played some sort of online version of a fruit machine, Peter was really suspicious.

“Is this what everybody does?” Peter eventually asked his younger sister when he found himself in his fourth living room of the trip, everybody ignoring each other and even the television in favour of staring at their screens.

“What?” she asked.

“Sit around staring at screens ignoring each other.”

“I wouldn’t say we’re ignoring each other,” she protested, then swore profusely because taking her attention away from her screen to talk to Peter had caused her to lose at her game.

Peter was furious. All these years he’d spent at the hostel, carefully painting walls just for the backpackers to immediately scratch and make dirty again, spending night after night telling backpackers to be quiet, chucking them out of the kitchen at ten o’clock and despairing of the mess they left it in, all the time he could have been sitting at home in his own living room having a perfectly normal time ignoring his wife just like the rest of the nation was doing. How long had smart phones been around? Ten, twelve years? Peter had been missing out.

Peter went home and immediately installed a keypad system at the hostel so that guests arriving after 6pm could check themselves in. He bought himself a brand new phone and spent his evenings sitting on the sofa, drinking wine, playing with his phone and ignoring his wife. It was bliss.

Anita thought it was far from blissful. Because Peter was not sitting on the sofa ignoring her like any other husband might do, he was repeatedly tutting with disapproval at all of the television shows that Anita liked to watch. And coupled with the intermittent and annoying beeps that kept coming from Peter’s phone, it took so much concentration to drown him out that she had no concentration left to focus on her favourite shows. Plus now that Peter finished work by 6pm, he had started coming into work earlier, faffing about with his fish tanks, upsetting the guests by refusing to give back damage deposits to anyone who was more than three minutes late checking out, and generally getting in Anita’s way.

Anita decided she couldn’t go on like this so she vandalized the keypad and put herself on a split shift rota. When Peter got home at 6, she went back to work and sat in the hostel TV room watching all her favourite shows with the backpackers. It was great. Much better than sitting at home by herself or with her husband. The backpackers were more than happy to talk about what was happening on The Voice or Silent Witness or My Kitchen Rules. They seemed to think the shows were as important and as dramatic as Anita did. They even introduced her to Love Island. Anita should have thought about split shifts years ago.

Then one day when they were doing the handover Peter cleared his throat and looked even more serious than usual.

“Um, it’s our wedding anniversary in November. Do you think we should,” he paused awkwardly “do something?”

Anita gave an involuntary shudder. “I don’t know,” she said doubtfully. “Do people usually do anything for their thirty-fifth? It’s not a special one is it?”

Peter studied his shoes. “Some people might have a party. Or a holiday. Or a meal.”

His words hung in the air and they looked at each other in sheer panic at the prospect of putting themselves through the ordeal of any of the things he’d just mentioned.

“Alternatively though, I was looking on the internet last night and apparently thirty-five years is coral. So I thought we could celebrate with a new fish tank for the hostel. A really big one. With a coral theme. I thought we could put it in reception.” Peter’s eyes were only ever animated when he was consumed with thoughts of a new fish tank. Right now they were positively shining.

Anita breathed a sigh of relief. “A fish tank,” she said. “What a great idea. Let’s do that.”
Peter nodded, Anita smiled. The fish tank was set up and looking beautiful within a fortnight and the impending anniversary was never mentioned again.

Time for a rhyme (from Caroline)

I am a gorgeous cockatoo
I make a lovely sound
I’d never steal all your things
And throw them on the ground

I’d never swipe your breakfast
Or eat your Sunday roast
I’d never get my mates around
To fly off with your toast

I’d never take your swimming shorts,
Your towel, or your bikini
And drop them in a nearby tree
I’m really not a meanie

I just sit on the balcony
A quiet cockatoo
Now why not click the link below
To see if this is true?

NEW: Riotous gang target peaceful holiday island

Riotous gang target peaceful holiday island

A group of marauding cockatoos have been wreaking havoc on an otherwise peaceful Whitsunday Island.

The cockatoos said “Living on an island where everybody else is on holiday is great. Especially this island which is so expensive that nobody can afford to stay for more than a couple of nights. We can keep performing the same old routine to a constantly changing audience. The guests never stay long enough to get wise to our antics.”

The cockatoos have been targeting the balconies of the holiday apartments overlooking Catseye Beach on Hamilton Island.

“We find we get the maximum effect if we work as a team,” explained the cockatoos. “To begin with when someone new arrives at an apartment, just one of us will pop down to sit on their balcony and welcome them to the resort. If the guests aren’t Australian, they’ll usually get very excited to see us and will rush to take a photo of us. Of course we’ll sit very still in the perfect pose until a couple of seconds before they press the button. At that point we’ll fly away.”

Throughout the day the cockatoos monitor all of the balconies. “People often like to eat their meals on the balcony,” explained the cockatoos. “So what we’re doing is constantly looking out for the guests who take more than one journey to set the table. The one who brings out a delicious salad then goes back inside to get a knife and fork, we’ve swooped in and removed everything from her plate before she’s even opened the cutlery drawer. Guests learn fast and you know she won’t make the same mistake again, but you also know there’ll be someone else on her balcony in two days time who will do exactly the same thing. Different guests have different tastebuds, so we get to sample all sorts of different cuisines. It’s great.”

The cockatoos have a large selection of balconies to monitor

The cockatoos all agreed that their favourite part of the day is the late afternoon. “We all congregate on the balconies and screech as loudly as we can. We’re very noisy birds and there’s over a hundred of us, so we can really create quite a powerful sound.”

The cockatoos have noticed that this is also the time of day that guests start returning to their apartments to get ready for the evening, leaving their wet towels and swimwear on the balconies to dry overnight. “This is a huge part of our day,” explained the cockatoos. “We basically need to swoop in and remove absolutely everything that has been placed on the balconies. We do try to fly a few metres with each garment before we release it onto the ground so that it’s definitely hidden from the people it belongs to. The main aim is to try and make it land somewhere that’s not necessarily easy to get to, such as the branches of a tall tree or the middle of the swimming pool. We quite like the vicious circle of a person needing their swimsuit in order to go into the pool to retrieve their swimsuit. If they even ever realise that’s where their swimsuit has been hidden of course.”

Guest Caroline Gough watched the action unfold whilst relaxing in the resort jacuzzi. “They really are unscrupulous birds,” she said. “It’s literally been raining shorts, towels and bikinis ever since I got into the jacuzzi. There’s a newly arrived couple on a balcony on the seventh floor who have just been showered with a large pack of BBQ shapes (a popular Australian savoury snack) and some blue swimming shorts. At the moment, they’re looking up in disgust and shouting ‘control your bloody kids’ at the innocent family above them.”

“We like to add a bit of spice to everyone’s holidays,” said the cockatoos.

Anyone expecting a baby?

I was super excited to be going back to Hamilton Island – my first (and last) visit had been with my Mum and Dad back in 2001. It’s an expensive place to be, so I booked myself onto the earliest flight to maximise the amount of time I had there there. The plane was half empty, so I got not just my beloved window seat – but the entire row to myself – and three more seats across the aisle too, if I really wanted. Flying over all the other islands was as wonderful as I remembered, and then on arrival I got the keys to my room and headed up to discover the door was already open and the cleaner was just leaving.

“Room is ready, but I just need to go and find new cover for highchair,” she said, waving something plastic at me that was presumably the old cover for the highchair. “I be back very soon.”

“Okay,” I said automatically. Then “Hang on, I don’t actually need one, so don’t worry about it.”

The woman peered at me, then at my stripy suitcase and then back at me again. “You not bring baby?”

“No,” I said surprised. “Were you expecting a baby?”

Her eyes lit up as if she finally understood “Ah! Congratulations!”

“Thanks,” I said – again automatically – it had been a very early start – then I realised what she was congratulating me on. “No,” I said. “I’m not expecting a baby, I was asking if you were expecting a baby…. I mean, if you were expecting me to bring a baby?”

“Ah!” she said. “Me? No. I am not expecting a baby. I have baby. I am breastfeeding.” She then patted one of her breasts and acted out rocking a baby in case I hadn’t understood. “But you, you have not brought baby.”

“No,” I said. “I haven’t got a baby.”

“Oh,” she looked confused. “Then why you need highchair?”

Now I was confused. “I don’t need a highchair.”

She smiled as though we were finally getting somewhere. “So I can go, and you don’t need me to come back with new cover?”

“No. Thank you though.”

“This is my pleasure,” she said with a beaming smile and gave a little bow before leaving the room as if to signal the end of the play.

Man in lift wants everyone to know he wouldn’t usually use a lift

The lift at the centre of the story

A man in a lift is keen for everyone to know that he would not usually use a lift and that his current lift usage is completely at odds with the way he lives the rest of his life.

The incident occurred at the popular holiday resort of Hamilton Island in the Whitsundays in Queensland, Australia.

Caroline Gough was the only other person in the lift and had not met the man prior to the incident.

“The doors were just closing as this man approached the lift, but he frantically bundled himself into the gap, forcing the doors to open and let him in,” said Caroline.

The man then launched into an extraordinarily detailed monologue. “Basically he’s here on holiday with his children and grandchildren and today they marched him up to the top of the highest point of the island on what was supposed to be a scenic walk and now he’s exhausted and couldn’t face using the stairs,” said Caroline. “I think that was the general gist of it, but he got out on the second floor and so didn’t have time to finish his story.”

The man had allegedly been on a scenic walk to the highest point of the island

Caroline continued up to the sixth floor where she is currently staying in a one bedroom holiday apartment. “Sometimes I take the lift and sometimes I take the stairs,” she said. “But it has never occurred to me that I should try to justify the decision I make by talking about it with the strangers who share the lift with me.”

Caroline thought no more about the incident until the following morning when the lift going down to reception stopped on the second floor and the same man got in. “He looked a bit sheepish when he saw it was me,” said Caroline. “You could see he was trying to make himself invisible, but that’s quite a difficult thing to do in a lift.”

The man studied the lift floor with interest for the duration of the descent and then bolted out of the lift so quickly that he hit the door with his arm as he raced through. “I expect he was on his way to do something really energetic like a triathlon,” said Caroline. “And taking the lift will help him conserve just that little bit of extra energy he needs to win it.”

Australian family are the stars of brand new beach based drama

An Australian family have been providing a constant stream of entertainment at a popular Queensland beach today.

Whilst all five members of the family gave a convincing performance at Four Mile Beach in Port Douglas, the show was undoubtedly stolen by the Mum and the Dad whose comic double act was very much at the centre of the piece.

Theatre-goer Caroline Gough told us “The performance had already begun by the time I arrived at the beach, but I was still able to get a good spot fairly close to the action.”

Whilst the two daughters had a fight over whose turn it was to use the pink mermaid bucket, the parents had a similar argument over whose turn it was to change the toddler’s nappy. “It was a clever idea to show two simultaneous arguments,” said Caroline. “It really portrayed how different things are important to different generations.”

Both arguments ended when the eldest daughter noticed that the toddler had removed his nappy and was doing some sensory play with the contents. “That was a real crescendo of the piece,” said Caroline. “Everyone started shouting. It was really quite dramatic.”

The mother immediately grabbed the toddler and began to clean and change him, placing all the dirty wipes in the pink mermaid bucket. “This united the two children who had been fighting about the bucket,” said Caroline. “They forgot they’d been fighting with each other and immediately both started to scream at their mother for ruining the bucket.”

It then transpired that the family had forgotten to bring several essential items to the beach including enough wet wipes and clothes for a toilet training toddler. “There was a very well scripted argument between the parents about whose fault that was,” said Caroline. “And the Dad ended up going home to get all the things they’d forgotten. Everyone in the audience could clearly see that he was the wrong person to send and we were right – he returned twenty minutes later with none of the things he was supposed to get, instead he had brought a whole new family with him.”

These extra characters brought new energy to the piece and really highlighted the divide between the Mum and Dad. “The Dad was clearly thrilled to have bumped into a mate and his two sons,” said Caroline “whilst the Mum was absolutely furious to have three unexpected people join their family beach trip.”

The two boys immediately started doing a lot of digging with their giant spades, sending sand flying in all directions. Several of the audience members closest to the stage also got covered in sand which really made them feel involved in the performance.

The Mum and the Dad then performed another realistic show-down about the lack of clothes and wet wipes. “The Dad started playing up because his mate was there,” said Caroline. “He kind of adopted a teenage swagger and said that a toddler on the beach on a hot day doesn’t need clothes or wetwipes because he can run around naked and be washed in the sea. This made the Mum really angry and she let rip with a whole string of rude words. The producers should probably look at classifying future performances as being suitable for mature audiences only.”

Even when it was time for the interval, the families remained in character as they ate their interval ice creams. “The toddler’s ice lolly ended up in the sand almost immediately,” said Caroline. “So he was screaming, and the Mum was shouting at the Dad for not helping the toddler hold the ice lolly.”

The younger sister instantly regretted choosing a rainbow paddle pop and delivered a loud and emotional monologue about how she wanted a chocolate one like her sister. Meanwhile the eldest brother made a crude innuendo about his brother’s choice of a Golden Gaytime (a popular Australian ice cream) so the youngest brother swiped the eldest brother’s ice cream onto the sand and stormed off in a rage.

The second act saw the two Dads working together to build a giant sandcastle but refusing to let any of the children help because they might ruin it. The four eldest children had a lot of fun playing together in a giant inflatable tyre in the sea but none of them thought it was their responsibility to bring the tyre back up the beach after they had finished with it so the Mum ended up going for an angry and lengthy run to retrieve it as a gust of wind blew it along the shoreline.

There was further drama when everyone was forced to eat a packet of Arnott’s Tiny Teddies biscuits. “The eldest daughter didn’t want any,” said Caroline. “But the Mum explained that if one person is having some Tiny Teddies then everyone’s got to have some Tiny Teddies otherwise she loses track of who’s had what.”

The performance ended with the Mum performing a monologue about how everyone and everything was covered in sand and nobody would be allowed in the car until they were clean. “She was fighting a losing battle,” said Caroline “because nobody else wanted to leave the beach so they didn’t exactly rush to get clean.”

It is believed that similar performances are being staged at popular beaches all over the world.

Caroline said “It was a very action packed piece of drama and very well cast. Even the toddler remained in character throughout the performance.”

Caroline who has over thirty years experience of attending professional shows in London’s West End said “This was one of the most realistic pieces of theatre I’ve seen in a long time.”

Feuding couple follow backpacker to Port Douglas

A British backpacker has spoken of her surprise at being reunited with the feuding couple who shared a hostel room with her in Cairns last week.

Caroline left the Cairns hostel early yesterday morning and travelled by bus to Port Douglas. “The couple were still asleep when I left,” she said. “So I tiptoed out quietly and assumed I’d never see them again.”

However Caroline returned from another snorkelling trip on the Great Barrier Reef to discover that the couple had travelled to Port Douglas earlier today and had moved into the same hostel as Caroline.

“I had told them where I was going to be staying,” said Caroline “Because that’s the sort of thing you talk about when you’re a backpacker. I hadn’t expected them to follow me to the same hostel, but I suppose it’s a logical thing to do, seeing as they’re speaking to me but not to each other. They’ve presumably had to speak to one another enough to arrange to come to Port Douglas, so that’s progress at least.”

The couple’s feud was well and truly established when Caroline first met them on Wednesday evening, and and neither party appears to have made any attempt to resolve the conflict.

Caroline said “It was particularly awkward on Saturday morning. The guy was having a sleep-in, so the girl decided to talk to me in an extra loud voice just to annoy him. I like the guy and didn’t want to annoy him, so I replied to everything she said with one word answers in a quiet whisper, but that just seemed to encourage her to use an even louder voice.”

Caroline is unsure of what sparked the actual argument, but is aware of several factors that are having a strain on the couple’s relationship. “Somehow they’ve survived a year apart, with her at university whilst he helps out on the family farm in Shropshire. She seems to have spent all her money in the student bar, whilst he’s steadily been saving up to come to Australia. Consequently he can afford to go bungee jumping and scuba diving, whilst she most definitely can’t. In the longer term he wants to take over the farm and she wants to move to London and be a copywriter. It doesn’t sound like the most promising relationship, I’m surprised they even got as far as Australia before it all fell apart.”

Caroline is sharing a six bed female dorm room with the girl, whilst the boy is in a male dorm on the second floor. “Maybe it will help them to have some time apart,” she said.

Caroline added “I finally learnt their names too. Apparently they’re called Olivia and Ethan. Which has completely confused me because in my head I’d christened them Beth and Freddie.”

Zips are annoying, no matter how slowly you pull them, backpackers told.

Hoards of backpackers are today stunned to discover that the sound of a zip being zipped up or unzipped in the darkness whilst other people are trying to sleep, is in fact, incredibly annoying.

Backpackers all over the world are travelling around, sleeping in multi-share rooms and carrying all their possessions in a large backpack or suitcase.

Caroline Gough who has been backpacking in Australia and New Zealand for the past seven months said “Most backpackers favour bags that have lots of different compartments so you can organise where you put different things. Each compartment is sealed with a zip. It seems that as soon as one backpacker turns off the light and tries to go to sleep, another backpacker will immediately decide it’s time to start rummaging in the darkness, zipping and unzipping every compartment of their bag several times until they have found whatever it is they are looking for.”

Most luggage comes with multiple zips and multiple compartments

Caroline added “There are two different types of zippers. There is the Inconsiderate Zipper who will zip and unzip their bags a million times without any regard for their sleeping room mates. And then there is the Painfully Slow Zipper who is so aware of everyone else that they will undo their zip very slowly, trying to be as quiet as possible.”

Research has shown that both types of zippers are equally annoying.

It has also emerged that rustling plastic bags whilst people are sleeping is a similar source of annoyance.

Caroline said “Last night, someone arrived after midnight and began unpacking. I was initially quite pleased about this because I’m currently sharing with a couple who aren’t speaking to each other and I thought an extra room mate might dilute the atmosphere a bit.”

Caroline’s initial optimism turned to frustration however as the new room mate proceeded to unpack every item from their case. “It really isn’t necessary to unpack everything at quarter to one in the morning,” said Caroline. “Also it sounded as though every single item he or she unpacked had been placed in a separate plastic bag, so there was a lot of rustling as well as zipping and unzipping.”

The new room mate eventually went to bed and Caroline fell asleep soon after.

However in an unexpected turn of events, Caroline was awoken once more at seven minutes past seven this morning to the sound of the new room mate carefully packing everything back into his or her case and then leaving the room. “There was at least half an hour of rustling and zipping as this person put everything back into plastic bags and repacked their case,” said Caroline. “Honestly, what’s the point? If you’re only going to be spending six hours in a room and be asleep for most of it, surely you don’t need to unpack anything?”

Further research has shown that earplugs are completely ineffective when a room mate is conducting a nocturnal orchestra involving plastic bags and zips.

Caroline remained diplomatic on the matter. “Zips are a fundamental part of backpacker life, there’s no getting away from them,” she said. “I guess the same could be said of annoying room mates.”

Concerns grow as backpacking couple enter feud for another day

A British backpacking couple travelling around Australia are still not speaking to one another, it has been confirmed.

It is not yet known at what point the couple stopped speaking to each other, but the feud had been well and truly established when they arrived at the Waterfront Backpackers in Cairns yesterday, following their 29 hour coach journey from Brisbane.

Caroline Gough who is currently sharing a room with the couple told us “I was there this morning when they both woke up. He said to her “You all right?” she snapped “Yeah. You?” and then stormed into the en suite bathroom. By the time she came out of the bathroom, he had gathered all his things together and left.”

The male was later overheard booking just one place on tomorrow’s scuba diving trip to the Great Barrier Reef, whilst the female was seen sitting by the lagoon reading “Me Before You” by Jojo Moyes.

Caroline said “Usually if I found myself sharing a room with a couple, I would make myself scarce to give them a bit of space, but these circumstances are completely different because I’m the only person in the room that either of them is speaking to. They both fall over themselves to be the first to start a conversation with me when I enter the room, and when I attempt to leave the room, you can see the panic flashing in their eyes. I’ve never felt so popular.”

This evening in a joint quest to avoid speaking to one another, the couple opted to follow Caroline to a local bar and gatecrash her evening. “It could have been a bit awkward,” admitted Caroline, who still doesn’t know the names of the couple and feels she has now known them a bit too long to ask. “But somehow we managed to keep the conversation going all night without either of them actually having to speak to the other. I asked them different questions about their lives and their travels and they took it turns to answer.

I did ask them how long they were staying in Cairns and she said they hadn’t discussed it yet. Seeing as they’re not currently discussing anything, I guess that might mean they’re staying in Cairns forever.”

Backpacker shares dormitory with feuding couple

A British backpacker has found herself bedding down between a feuding couple at a backpacking hostel in Cairns.

Previously Caroline Gough from Georgeham in Devon had been pleasantly surprised to have a ten bed dormitory all to herself.

“It was wonderful,” explained Caroline. “I got the bed next to the only power point in the room, had lots of space to hang my wet bikini and towel and I didn’t have to fumble around in the dark to find my pajamas – in fact I didn’t even bother to wear pajamas. My FitBit tells me I had nine hours and sixteen minutes of uninterrupted sleep. That never happens in a youth hostel.”

Caroline had hoped this sole occupancy of the room would continue indefinitely, however on the second day she returned to the room after her snorkelling trip on the Great Barrier Reef to find that two more beds were occupied.

“At first it wasn’t even clear that these people knew each other,” said Caroline. “Because they had chosen beds as far apart as possible. There did seem to be a bit of an odd atmosphere which I was trying not to take personally. When I said hello, she ignored me and he grunted. Then he said ‘You don’t have to come if you don’t want to’, she snapped ‘I wasn’t planning to’, he stormed out of the room and she sank back on her bed, put in her earphones and closed her eyes.”

Witnesses later saw the male drinking beer by himself at a nearby pub whilst the female dined on a microwave meal for one in the hostel kitchen.

The Cazmanian Times later discovered that the couple had just completed a 29 hour coach journey from Brisbane to Cairns which is enough to test even the strongest of relationships.

Death adder fails to make postcard debut

A poisonous snake on Magnetic Island has spoken of his disappointment as he once again fails to get a mention on any wildlife themed postcards of the island.

Even the most informative postcards fail to mention the Death Adder

Speaking from his rainforest home on the island, the Death Adder said: “Year after year, it’s the same story. Cute little koalas, wallabies and colourful birds get their photographs splashed all over the front of the latest postcard, whilst I don’t even get a mention. Well I have to tell you, these animals may look cute and cuddly, but you try living with them. They’re messy eaters, they’re not toilet trained and they smell. The koalas are so lazy they only get up for about two hours a day. Apparently all of these animals are also very noisy but I don’t have ears so I can’t comment on that.”

Koalas regularly feature on postcards of Magnetic Island

The snake added “These postcards get sent all over the world, giving people who have never been to Australia a glimpse of  what life on Magnetic Island is like. There are people in England drinking tea and reading these postcards with no idea that I live here too. Just because some people might think my name sounds a little off-putting doesn’t mean I should be ostracized from every postcard about the island.”

The Death Adder was further aggrieved to learn that he is featured in a series of warning posters dotted around the island which describe him as being poisonous to humans. “It’s very hurtful,” he said. “Okay so I know I am one of the most venomous snakes in the world, but why do we have to focus on the negatives? What about the fact that I’m really great at camouflage or the time that I was crowned the winner of ‘who’s got the longest fangs in Australia?’ These posters make me feel like some kind of escaped convict, you know the ones that say highly dangerous, do not approach.”

Although death adders are usually seen only when it has been raining, there was nevertheless a sighting of a death adder at the Bungalow Bay backpackers on Wednesday night. The hostel pub quiz was immediately brought to a prolonged halt whilst the staff guarded the snake and arranged for someone in a van to come and take it away.

“I’m not really sure where they were taking it,” said Caroline Gough, a British backpacker who was participating in the quiz at the time. “But I am fairly sure that the team who ended up winning the quiz used the ‘dealing with unexpected snake’ time to Google all the answers to the quiz. How else would anyone ever know that Frank Sinatra gave Marilyn Monroe a white poodle called Mafia or that Sandra Bullock’s middle name is Annette?”

Coining a new word: Frostel

The English language has lots of words and yet sometimes we still find it lacks the exact word we need to describe what we want to say. My current area of expertise is backpacking, and just as the aboriginal language has several words to describe the different types of kangaroos and the Inuit language has more than 50 words for snow, I need more words to distinguish between the different types of hostels I stay at.

And so I am coining the word “Frostel” to describe the frosty hostel I left this morning, one day earlier than planned, but they can keep the £14.36 I paid for tonight’s bed and maybe put the money towards some staff training.

I’ve stayed at a few frostels in the past seven months. Frostels usually look pretty nice. Comfy sofas, well-equipped spacious kitchens, cosy bedrooms with colourful linen – I even had a Wiggles blanket on my bed last night. Frostels are full of happy people, cooking dinner, laughing and having fun and you’ll probably spend at least seven minutes thinking how nice it is and anticipating that soon you too will be caught up in the merry throng of laughing people happily grating cheese and chopping carrots, until you suddenly realise that you won’t.

Because frostels are only fun for the people who live there.

I have no idea how this is financially viable, but some hostels allow hoards of wild party loving 19 year olds from the UK to live there for free, and in return for their free bed they reluctantly do various cleaning and bed making jobs, and get paid a bit of money as well. Consequently the manager never has to do an early, late or weekend shift, the floor never ever gets a decent clean and all the real guests, the ones who are paying real money to stay for a few nights feel that they’ve arrived a few weeks too late to understand the jokes or be part of the crowd.

It would make sense if there were just a couple of people getting a free bed in return for work but at many frostels, the number of people living and working there far outweighs the few guests that trickle in and out for a few days at a time.

My most recent experience began when I got off the Greyhound bus at Mission Beach on Thursday and was met by the courtesy frostel mibus that would take me to my destination.

“Met by” is a bit of an exaggeration. Yes it was there, but nobody was doing any “meeting”. The two girls sitting in the front of the minibus were playing loud music and eating doughnuts.

“Hi,” I said brightly. “I’m…”
“Yeah just put your bag in the back,” one of the girls said dismissively and that was the extent of the conversation. We zoomed off at top speed, the girls in the front turned up the music even louder, dancing in their seats and singing along, gleefully emphasising every swear word that appeared in the song. They briefly turned down the music to slag off someone called James and then another expletive-filled song came on and the volume went up and the singing and dancing recommenced. The other newly arrived backpacker in the seat beside me raised an eyebrow and I gave a helpless smile.

The manager was on shift and he was lovely. The communal area looked comfy and cosy and the wild 19 year olds were busy complaining about their hangovers as they made a late breakfast. My room was full of glum people sitting on their beds, looking at their screens or reading books. Nobody returned my cheerful “hello”. I unpacked a little bit, left the glum people to it, fleetingly wondered why they all looked so sad, and headed for the beach.

The “handy little supermarket round the corner” that the manager had told me about had a little sign which thanked everyone for their custom and explained that they were closing forever on the 26th April, so I was almost two months too late to do any grocery shopping. “No worries,” said the frostel manager “because there’s a minibus trip to Woolworths at six o’clock tonight, you can sign up for that.”

So I did, and was treated to a return trip full of erratic dancing and high speed driving as the driver bopped about to sweary music and ignored all the passengers.

I thought I would cook as soon as I got back. But I was wrong. The frostel residents had taken over the kitchen. At first I thought I’d try to find a little space to prepare my food. I put a chopping board down in my little space, turned around to get a knife only to turn back and find one of the frostel residents had tossed my chopping board in the sink and was now sitting on the counter, her large bottom firmly plonked where my little space had been, drinking a beer and chatting to her mates. When I clocked that I had been ousted from my little space she grinned at me and gave a loud and satisfied burp in my general direction.

I decided I wasn’t hungry enough to cook in the midst of all the frostel residents so I left the kitchen, but not before noticing that someone had taken my bag of chilled things out of the fridge and dumped it on the floor to make way for their slab of beer.

I retreated to the comfy couches where all the non-frostel residents were sitting glumly. Nobody could make conversation because the obscene sweary music that had been playing in the car was being played even louder in the communal area and all the frostel residents who weren’t cooking were dancing to it. Now I understood why all my room mates had looked so glum earlier. They’d all been living in this atmosphere for at least 24 hours already and it had worn them down.

The frostel residents all sat down to eat their meal, bringing the loud music over to the table as they laughed and swore their way through a giant communal pasta meal which they had made using every pot and utensil available to them. Apparently James was on kitchen cleaning duty in the morning and seeing as nobody liked him, the Frostel residents had decided they would leave everything stacked up in the sink as dirty as possible for him to sort in the morning. Realising that I would have to sift through a sink of dirty things to find the pots I’d need to cook my dinner, I gave up and went to a local restaurant where I dined on steak and chips.

When I got back, the smell of weed had got much stronger, the music was still playing but not quite as loudly as before. Two of the non-frostellers were watching an episode of Friends – the one where Joey speaks French, so I sat down to join them and just as I was getting better at tuning out the music to hear the TV, one of the frostellers sauntered over, picked up the remote and changed the channel, then sauntered back over to her table of friends, taking the remote with her, leaving the three of us on the couch literally Friend-less.

The television stayed on all night and at one point another frosteller changed the channel and a different Friends episode – the one with a chick and a duck – came on, but the music was cranked up as loud as possible and the frostellers were dancing again, so there was no point even trying to watch it. Instead one of my room mates and I had one of those conversations you have at loud parties where you shout, smile and nod a lot, and come away with no idea what the other person has just said. Although I did catch the bit about how she was leaving tomorrow, and I wished that I was too.

The next day it rained. And when it rains in Australia, it really rains. Mission Beach is literally just that – a beach, so after 30 minutes of looking at all the sarong and postcard shops I found myself back at the frostel, sitting on the comfy couch, writing postcards, catching up with emails and sorting out my photos whilst listening to the frostellers slagging off  the poor infamous James again. They really don’t like him.

I used the benefit of yesterday’s experience to jump into the kitchen insanely early to cook my tea, before the frostellers took over the space and used all the pots and pans. The frostellers emerged soon after and began their routine of dancing, cooking and saying horrible things about James.

The rain hammered down outside. My glum room mates continued to sit morosely in our room, looking at their books or their screens. I thought I was having a nice chat with the two new arrivals, but then it emerged that they thought I was Swedish and got absurdly annoyed when I told them I wasn’t, so I left the glum atmosphere of the bedroom and returned to the comfy couch where I played another round of shouting to be heard above the music – with another new arrival who probably couldn’t even hear me well enough to notice what my accent was, let alone get in a strop about it.

The frostellers disappeared to sit outside on the deck. The non-frostellers started taking themselves off to bed. And I stayed on the comfy couch, using my laptop to plan some more of my trip and write some more stories.

And then….

“What the F*** are you doing?”

I looked up in surprise. One of the frostellers stood in front of me, holding a beer and glaring accusingly.

I decided that what I was doing wasn’t any of his business, especially if he was going to talk to me like that, so I ignored him.

“Why aren’t you outside drinking? You’re a F***ing psycho sitting in here.”

I continued to ignore him. He stood there for a while, looking for a reaction, then gave up and stomped back outside.

They all came back a bit later and continued their loud dancing and drinking. Then abruptly they all decided to go to bed. The one who’d picked me up in the minibus the previous day was clearly in charge of shutting down for the night because she suddenly started telling everyone to be quiet and went around turning off all the lights, including the one that was helping me to see.

“Could you turn that back on please?” I asked tentatively, as she stropped off to bed in the darkness pretending not to hear what I’d said.

And so I decided that was enough. No more sitting around waiting for the rain to stop, listening to people slag off James, call me a psycho and control the lights and television when I’m using them. I brought up the Greyhound bus website and booked myself on the first bus out of Mission Beach the next day. And then I went to bed.

Three times in my life I’ve walked out of a theatre in the interval  because I haven’t been enjoying the show. Every time it has felt incredibly liberating, the freedom of snatching back the rest of the evening totally outweighs the money wasted on paying for the ticket. And that’s exactly how it felt the next day when I walked out of the frostel. The bus took me to Cairns, where it was also raining, but I went on a shopping spree and bought all sorts of things that I’m really going to struggle to fit in my case when I have to try and bring everything back to England later on this year.

My new hostel was tired and old. The couches were probably older than most of the backpackers sitting on them. The walls were dirty, the carpets were covered in dubious stains and there was absolutely no way I was going to be setting foot in the kitchen, beyond apologising to my bag of chilled goods as I abandoned them in the incredibly smelly fridge and promising them I’d rescue them in a couple of days when it was time to leave. BUT – none of that mattered, because everyone I walked past smiled back at me, people said hello, people chatted and nobody plunged me into darkness or got the hump with me for not being Swedish.

My trip to Mission Beach was supposed to be all about the beach, but instead it turned out to be a mission that I wasn’t been expecting. But mission accomplished, and game over – I won’t be going back there again, this grotty non-frostel hostel in Cairns (Grostel? Grotsel?) has so much more life and character.

British backpacker “almost” fluent in English, according to German roommates

Mission Beach, close to the where the incident took place

A British backpacker has been complimented on her English speaking skills and told that she “almost” sounds like she is fluent in the language. 

The incident occurred in room three at the Mission Beach Retreat backpacking hostel in Queensland, Australia when 37 year old Caroline Gough from North Devon entered into a conversation with her two newest roommates.

Caroline explained “When you meet new roommates, the conversation is pretty predictable, everyone talks about where they’ve been and where they’re going, and these girls were going to Magnetic Island next, which is where I’ve just come from. They hadn’t booked a hostel yet, and they wanted to know what the koala park was like, so I was telling them all about my experiences, although I did leave out the bit about doing an science experiment to test if the island really was magnetic because that’s not really the sort of thing you share in the first conversation with a new person.”

But instead of thanking Caroline for her advice or asking any further questions, the girls who come from Ludwigsburg near Stuttgart in Germany instead honed in on the way she had delivered the information.

“One of the girls said that she was really impressed with my English skills and that I sounded as if I was almost fluent,” said Caroline. “She asked how long I’d been learning English and when I said I’d been learning it all my life she said it was really great that I’d had the opportunity to start at such a young age.”

It then emerged that the girls believed Caroline was from Sweden.

“When I explained that I was actually from England, both girls insisted quite vehemently that they had both assumed I was Swedish, as if a simple two-against-one scenario meant that I was outvoted and they knew more about my ancestry and upbringing than I did.”

Caroline who spent five days in Gothenburg in 2011 said “As far as I know, this is the first time that I have been mistaken for a Scandinavian.”

Caroline admits that during her travels her hair has become much longer and blonder than usual which might fit the stereotypical Swedish look. “However, I would have thought that as soon as I started speaking, it would be obvious that I’m not from Sweden,” she said.

Caroline’s hair has become much blonder since she started travelling.

Caroline who scored a grade A for her English Language A level and went on to gain an honours degree in English Language and Linguistics at university said “Obviously I’m going to need to work a bit harder on my speaking skills if I want other backpackers to believe that I am truly fluent in my native tongue.”

She added “Luckily I can also speak very rusty German, so I think I’ll just use that if the girls from Ludwigsburg speak to me again. I don’t think they will though. It seems that me not being Swedish has really annoyed them.”

Magnetic Island not actually magnetic

Magnetic Island in Queensland, Australia

An island has been living under a false name for 248 years and 14 days it has been announced.

The island which lies 8km east of Townsville in Queensland, Australia was christened Magnetic Island on 6th June 1770 by Captain Cook who recorded a magnetic effect upon the ship’s compass when sailing near the island.

But British backpacker Caroline Gough who is currently staying on the island has today carried out a series of conclusive tests which confirmed that the island is in fact not magnetic.

Caroline who got a C in GCSE Science told our reporter: “I remember several lessons involving magnets at Georgeham Primary School back in the eighties, and I have also supported students to explore magnets during my career as a special needs teacher. So I thought I was suitably qualified to conduct my own magnetic experiments on the island.”

Caroline carefully selected a range of utensils from the youth hostel kitchen and borrowed some stationery items from reception before setting off to conduct her experiments.

“I took all of the objects to various places around the island” she said “but at no time was there any scientific evidence that the island was having any sort of magnetic effect upon any of the objects.”

Caroline believes her results were conclusive and that no further tests are required.

“During the experiment I learnt that Australian coins are not magnetic and that restaurants use magnetic cutlery so that they can retrieve accidentally discarded cutlery from the bin,” she told us. “So it’s been a particularly educational day.”

Caroline said “I suppose I will now submit my findings to the Queensland Board of all things Scientific. And they can start the process of changing the name to

something more accurate. Like Not Magnetic Island maybe.”

Have you got a great idea for Magnetic Island’s new name? Tell us today and if Queensland votes for your name suggestion, you could be in with the chance of winning an extra special prize (or possibly a fridge magnet).

Technology helps backpacker give precise answer to question that probably wasn’t a question in the first place

A colourful chart to show the different sleep stages of Caroline’s night

A British backpacker is blaming technology for interfering with her ability to respond appropriately to that age old question “how did you sleep?”

Caroline Gough who is currently travelling around Australia explained “I recently discovered that if I wear my Fitbit at night it records everything I didn’t know I needed to know about my sleep patterns. It tells me not just how long I slept for but also how long I spent in each sleep stage. And there are colourful charts too, to help those sleepers who are visual learners.”

However whilst Caroline is enjoying the novelty of exploring the statistics of her slumber, it has created a dilemma when responding to people who ask her how she has slept.

“I am now in the position of being able to give them a much more accurate answer,” Caroline told us. “Like ‘seven hours forty- seven minutes’, or ‘quite well apart from being inexplicably awake for 23 minutes at 5:17am’. But I’m not sure that people are looking for that sort of detail.”

Caroline who studied sociolinguistics as part of her degree said “To be honest even before this advance in technology, when someone asks how you slept, you’re generally expected to say ‘fine’ regardless of what the truth actually is. It’s likely that the person asking will have contributed to your night in some way. They might be the host who provided the bedroom you slept in, or they may have shared a backpacker dormitory with you. So you have to say that you slept well even if you didn’t, because people get ever so upset if you admit that their snoring kept you awake or that you spent the night wide awake in their expensive king size guest bed and even your fail-proof method of boring yourself to sleep by reciting an alphabetical list of the London Underground stations didn’t work.”

Caroline continued “it’s the same when people ask if you’d like to see a thousand photos from their recent holiday or if you want to hear about the dream they had last night. They’re not actually asking you a question, they are using a question to tell you what’s going to happen next.

“Similarly when people ask you how you are,” said Caroline. “You’re supposed to say that you’re fine thanks, even if you’re grieving the loss of your grandfather and have just been diagnosed with colitis. I tried deviating from the script once and it really doesn’t work.”

Caroline is currently on Magnetic Island in Queensland where she is sharing an eight bed dormitory with seven females from Sweden, the Netherlands and Germany. “One of them mutters in her sleep. I don’t know what she is saying because I can’t speak Swedish, but it sounds very dark and profound. Another has shown me two hundred and seventy-nine photographs of the Vivid light display in Sydney, which really wasn’t necessary because I saw it myself last week and have a similar set of photos on my own camera. Another has been doing some very angry German shouting at her boyfriend on Facetime each night and always wakes up in the morning with sad puffy eyes after some loud early morning sobbing into her pillow. Nevertheless we all tell each other that we slept well and that we’re fine thanks, before smiling and nodding with fake enthusiasm as we’re forced to look at photos we really don’t need to see.”

Queensland waitress knows every song by heart (but can’t memorise the menu)

A Queensland waitress has spent her evening shift demonstrating that she knows all the words to each and every song played in the pub restaurant, but cannot name a single vegetable that comes with the Sunday roast dinner.

The waitress loudly sang her way through Ed Sheeran’s “Perfect”, Take That’s “Greatest Day” and Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” putting far more enthusiasm into her singing than her table wiping or customer service skills.

Caroline Gough who was dining at the restaurant in Horseshoe Bay on Magnetic Island had initially considered ordering the Sunday roast but first wanted to clarify exactly which vegetables would accompany it.

“The waitress seemed a bit stunned by my question and spent several seconds blinking and stumbling for what to say before giving her answer.”

The waitress explained to Caroline that all the vegetables were seasonal ones. Caroline asked what sort of seasonal vegetables and the waitress said “ones that have grown this season.”

“Obviously at this point I played the tourist card,” said Caroline “And explained that as I come from England, I don’t know what’s seasonal in Queensland in June. Clearly the waitress doesn’t know what’s seasonal in Queensland in June either, because she just looked blank and said ‘potatoes’ in an unconvincing voice.”

The waitress did not appear to think  it was her responsibility to take any further steps to confirm what the seasonal vegetables might be, and Caroline who suffers from colitis and can’t tolerate certain vegetables decided she did not want to risk a blind date with a plate of seasonal vegetables that might make her unwell, so she ordered a chicken parmigiana and chips instead. “You know where you are with that,” she told us.

Once Caroline had made her decision, the waitress decided there was no need for any further conversation and instead threw herself lustily into a heartfelt rendition of “You don’t have to say you love me” by Dusty Springfield.

Australian pedestrians play it safe

Hoards of pedestrians attending the Vivid light display in Sydney have been demonstrating their road safety skills by waiting for the green man, despite all the roads being closed to vehicles for the duration of the evening.

This is the tenth year that Vivid has lit up the skies of Sydney, and with so many people flocking to Circular Quay to see the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House light up, all surrounding roads are closed to vehicles each evening at 5pm and do not reopen until midnight.

Nevertheless hundreds of Australians and international tourists demonstrated that none of them were prepared to go and see the spectacular lights of Vivid until they had first seen that everyday green light lead them safely across the road at a series of zebra crossings close to Circular Quay.

Sydney Opera House does its best butterfly impression at the 10th Vivid display in the city.

Caroline Gough who was attending Vivid for the first time said “At first, you automatically follow the crowd, and when they all stop at the zebra crossing, so do you. But then it dawned on me that the roads were clear all of the time, so I’m not sure exactly what we were waiting for. If there were lots of parents and children around I’d understand them wanting to practise waiting for the green man, but these were hoards of adults, and there were so many of us streaming towards Circular Quay that we barely all fitted onto the pavement.”

As a visitor to the country Caroline felt unsure about being the one to break the rules and cross the road without waiting for the green man. “I did it once,” she said “and looked over my shoulder to see if anyone was going to follow me, but nobody did.”

Caroline spent several hours enjoying the Vivid light display both at Circular Quay and the following evening at Taronga Zoo. “The animals at the zoo were very bright and very large,” she said. “I suspect they may have had some extra E numbers added to their daily feed.”

 

 

 

Backpacker may bring lifesize wombat home to England in moment of weakness

A British backpacker has spoken of the possibility that she may bring a lifesize wombat home to England despite admitting that it would be a financial and logistical nightmare.

Caroline Gough first saw the lifesize wombats for sale several months ago at a souvenir shop near the Opera House at Sydney’s Circular Quay.

“Lots of people take home koala or kangaroo memorabilia,” she said. “But wombats don’t seem to be as popular. And these ones are particularly cute. I can definitely picture one of them sitting beside my fireplace at home.”

The wombats come in the sizes of large and even larger and retail at the prices of AU$99 (£56.32) and AU$175 (£99.56) respectively.

“Obviously I don’t want one now,” said Caroline. “He would be far too cumbersome to lug around Australia and I’d rather be spending my money on seeing real animals than buying fake ones. But I can just imagine that when it’s my last night in Australia and I’m walking around Sydney wishing the adventure wasn’t about to be over, I may well convince myself that buying a lifesize wombat is exactly what I need to help myself feel better about leaving.”

Caroline has contacted her airline to find out how feasible it would be to bring a lifesize wombat onto the plane. “I wouldn’t say they were exactly thrilled about it,” she said. “But I don’t think he’s any bigger than those giant wheelable suitcases that qualify for hand luggage. I’m sure I could fit him in an overhead locker.”

Water bottle dumped after whirlwind few months with British backpacker

A water bottle has spoken of how he feels used and broken after being sensationally dumped by British backpacker Caroline Gough this morning.

The water bottle explained “Caroline picked me up on a night out in Queenstown soon after she arrived in New Zealand and from that moment on we were pretty much inseparable. Even on that very first night, Caroline took me to bed with her. We never needed to talk about our relationship because it was just so natural. Wherever she went, so did I. We never spent a night or day apart.”

Caroline and the water bottle spent two months travelling around New Zealand together before flying on to Sydney, Australia in April.

“Caroline was so excited about returning to Australia,” said the water bottle. “We didn’t even discuss whether or not I’d be coming travelling with her, we both instinctively knew that I would.”

At first Caroline and the water bottle continued to follow a similar routine to the one they’d had in New Zealand, spending every day and night together.

“Then this morning Caroline needed to condense her luggage ahead of the next train journey and started to gather up the things she didn’t need anymore. We walked over to the recycle bin to throw away an empty strawberry punnet and some tatty maps and leaflets from places we’d recently visited. I couldn’t believe it when she threw me in there as well.

Yesterday she did sniff my neck and told me it was a bit smelly, but that’s the only negative thing she said about me in the whole time we were together. This has been a huge shock. I can see now that she has used me, and that I am just one insignificant bottle in a whole string of water bottles that she picks up and dumps at her convenience. She’s probably already moved on to the next one. Meanwhile I have to lie here with a crumpled map of Dunedin, a boarding pass from our flight to Kerikeri and a leaflet for the aquarium. I am literally surrounded by memories of when we were together.”

Miss Gough was unavailable for comment but was seen leaving a convenience store in Moorabool Street Geelong looking happy and relaxed with a 500ml Mount Franklin water bottle.

British backpacker becomes unwitting star of obsessed tourist’s photographs

A British backpacker has found herself starring in a collection of scenic photographs taken by previously unknown German photographer Natascha Zimmermann.

The photographs were taken in a variety of locations during an organised two day tour of the Great Ocean Road in Victoria, Australia.

Caroline Gough from North Devon explained “Natascha was travelling alone and so was I. When we got to the first beach, she offered to take my photo and I did the same for her. As a solo traveller you don’t often get to appear in your own photographs, so this seemed like a mutually beneficial arrangement.”

The situation quickly escalated however, as it emerged that Natascha had quite a controlling personality and was also very much a perfectionist.

Caroline poses in one of Natascha’s favourite positions

Caroline explained “At every location I had to take five photographs of Natascha with this huge heavy camera of hers that I was terrified of breaking. One photo of Natascha with sunglasses on, one with sunglasses off, one of her with her facing away from me looking at the view, one of her with her back to me and her arms outstretched in what she called her ‘flying’ pose and another of her facing the camera with her arms in a letter Y position, which she called the ‘sunworshipper’. Then because her super-duper camera doesn’t have wifi, I had to take at least one, but often three, more photo of her with my phone, so that I could What’sApp them to her and she could instantly put them on Facebook. Then we’d walk about six steps, see the same view from a slightly different angle and the whole process would start all over again.”

After Caroline had taken the photographs, Natascha would scrutinize them, and often order for them to be retaken if Caroline hadn’t taken the perfect photo.

Natascha was equally controlling when it was her turn to take photographs of Caroline. Caroline explained “Really I would have been happy with just a couple of photos here and there, but Natascha took things to a completely different level, ordering me to turn and look at the view, look at the camera, stand on one leg, it was a nightmare.”

Caroline wears the cardigan that thinks it’s a rug and adopts the “flying pose” at the Twelve Apostles.

Caroline had also made the unwitting mistake of wearing clothes that sparked Natascha’s artistic imagination. “Because I was swimming at each location we visited I ended up just throwing on my sarong when I got out of the sea, and wearing it over my bikini for a lot of the day. Then in the evening I was wearing my cardigan that thinks it’s a rug. Both of these items are long and flowing which really excited Natascha and she was keen to photograph me in a variety of weird poses which apparently brought my clothes to life. It didn’t help that there was a guy from America who kept nodding in agreement and saying unhelpful things like ‘ethereal baby.’ ”

Natascha completely missed the whole “photo frame” point of The Grotto.

Possibly the most ironic part of the story, is that Natascha herself is in fact not a very good photographer. “There’s this rock formation called the Grotto” Caroline explained. “And it’s quite a famous location along the Great Ocean Road because if you stand right in the centre of it and the photographer aligns it correctly, it looks like you are in a huge rocky photo frame. I’ve seen other people’s photos in the past and they always look really cool. This  was one photo of myself I really did want to get and I was totally going to be uploading my photo onto Facebook as my new profile picture as soon as I got some wifi.”

However when Caroline looked at her photo of herself at The Grotto, she realised that Natascha had missed the point completely and not placed Caroline in the photo frame at all. “I was very disappointed,” admitted Caroline.

Things came to a head on the final day of the tour when the group stopped for lunch in the seaside town of Apollo Bay. Caroline said “I could foresee that it was going to be a painful hour of wandering from café to café waiting for Natascha to find an appropriate vegan dish. Then she’d want to have a photoshoot of whatever she was eating, another photoshoot of me and her in different poses on the beach and then it would be time to get back on the bus. None of that really appealed to me so I announced that I wasn’t very hungry and was going to spend the whole hour in the sea.”

Witnesses confirmed that Natascha was seen sadly roaming the town, before picking at a cold bean and rice salad.

Baffled backpackers dumped at quarantine station

A group of backpackers have been left baffled after their tour guide left them at a disused quarantine station for two hours, the Cazmanian Times can reveal.

The 14 backpackers who hail from a range of countries including China, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom joined the two day tour in Melbourne yesterday morning.

British backpacker Caroline Gough explained “the itinerary was packed full of beaches and the opportunity to see Australian wildlife all over the Bellarine and Mornington Peninsulas, before heading to Phillip Island on the final evening to see the penguins come out of the water at bedtime. I love beaches and I love wildlife, so it seemed like the perfect tour for me.”

The backpackers had a fleeting look at this beach during their two day tour

However with so many places to visit, the time spent at each location was fairly fleeting. “It was the height of the Australian summer,” said Caroline “and I was wearing my bikini under my clothes in the hope that I would get the chance to swim at some of the beaches. But every time we stopped, our tour guide barely gave us chance to take a photo before herding everyone back on the bus to go to the next destination.

Therefore you can imagine our surprise the next morning when he ordered us all off the bus and said he’d see us in two hours.”

The quarantine station, located at Point Napean near Sorrento, Victoria began operations in 1852 when many passengers travelling from Liverpool to Australia on the ship Ticonderoga got Typhus during the voyage. Many died and were buried on site at the quarantine hospital whilst others had a period of quarantine at the station. It has since closed but lives on as a tourist attraction, with parts of the station set up as it would have originally looked.

A sterilising machine at the quarantine station

” I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy it,” said Caroline. “It was interesting to have a bit of a history lesson and to see some of the objects and documents from back then. I just think it’s incredibly bizarre that the one place that wasn’t even on the itinerary, is the place we spent the longest amount of time.”

Initially the backpackers had split off to explore independently or in natural groups. “After about half an hour when we were fairly sure there was nothing left to see, we all congregated together on a grassy hill and compared notes incase anyone in the group had stumbled upon anything that might warrant spending two whole hours there,” said Caroline.

“We can only assume he dumped us there because his secret lover lives nearby. Especially as he was 20 minutes late picking us up.”

British backpacker furious with bunkmate

A British backpacker has been left furious after her bunk mate unplugged her phone and battery pack in favour of charging his own.

The incident happened at the King Street backpackers in Melbourne late last night.

Caroline Gough explained: “both my phone and my portable charger were running low on juice so I plugged them into the electrical socket just before I went to bed. About 15 minutes later, the guy who had the bunk beneath me came in and went to bed. At the time I thought nothing of it.”

However it has now emerged that soon after the bunk mate entered the room, he unplugged Miss Gough’s electrical equipment, causing her phone battery to dwindle to 9%

Miss Gough said “I’m lucky the phone lived long enough for the alarm to go off. If I’d known he was going to do this, I definitely wouldn’t have wasted so much phone battery playing Boggle last night.”

Miss Gough who would usually show consideration for her sleeping room mates when checking out of a shared room early in the morning instead stropped about noisily, muttering words like “selfish” and “inconsiderate” in combination with several of her most favourite Great British expletives in the general direction of her sleeping bunk mate.

British backpacker acquires personal tour guide (but his sense of direction is even worse than hers)

the long winded route that Caroline took to get to her backpacking hostel

A British backpacker has been led all around the houses by a guy who shouldn’t have offered to give her directions.

The incident occurred in Melbourne last night, when backpacker Caroline Gough emerged from the Skybus stop at Southern Cross station.

Caroline explained “One of the things I have learnt about myself since I started travelling is that even after looking at the map and thinking I understand where to go, I will always, without fail, walk in exactly the opposite direction. It’s tricky, because now I don’t know whether to go against my instincts and walk in what I think is the wrong way, as past experience shows that’s more likely to be right.”

Caroline was looking at the map and had just realised she was definitely going the wrong way when a passing stranger offered to help her.

“He got out his phone and looked up the address of my hostel, then confidently strode off in the same direction that I had been heading, pulling my stripy suitcase behind him,” Caroline told us. “I was certain that we were heading the wrong way, but nevertheless walked beside him, listening as he told me everything he knew about England, even though he’s never been there. Strangers like to do that.”

Caroline said “Usually people give you directions and then carry on with their lives, but this guy decided it was his personal responsibility to physically deliver me to the hostel himself, even though he had no idea how to get there.”

The centre of Melbourne is laid out in a block formation, so the man was able to lead Caroline around the city in a huge rectangle, hoping she wouldn’t notice that they were going back on themselves and it would have been twenty minutes quicker if he hadn’t stepped in to offer some help.

“We had stopped at the corner of Francis Street and Spencer Street whilst he checked his phone to confirm we were still going in what he thought was the right direction. Then ten minutes later when our giant detour showed us the other end of Francis Street, he tried to distract me from noticing by asking me complex questions about Brexit.”

Caroline said she didn’t mind going on a detour of Melbourne. “I go charging off in the wrong direction all the time,” she said. “It was refreshing to see that other people make the same mistakes as I do.”

When the pair finally arrived at Melbourne City Backpackers, the man chivalrously carried Caroline’s bags into the hostel and down the stairs to reception, then gave her his business card and suggested they go for a drink one day.

Caroline said “I might call him. But if we did go for a drink, we’d probably both get completely lost looking for the meeting point and never actually find each other.”

British backpacker plays I Spy with complete stranger on aeroplane

A British backpacker was treated to some unexpected in flight entertainment when she boarded the flight from Perth to Melbourne this evening.

Caroline Gough who had intended to spend the three hour flight catching up on her diary and looking out of the window instead found herself sitting next to Jason, a 34 year old night security guard who was travelling out of Western Australia for the first time.

Caroline explained “It began before I even sat down. When I arrived at seat 29A it looked as though someone was already sitting there. But it transpired that it was just Jason’s sleeping bag and huge anorak, arranged on the seat to look like a person. Jason initially asked if I could find a different seat as he had so much luggage but I explained that I had to sit in the one allocated to me.”

Once seated, Caroline tried very hard not to mind as Jason’s elbow, sleeping bag and anorak continuously protruded into her personal space. “I was really hoping the air hostess would come along and insist he put his things in the overhead locker, but he managed to squash them all down flat when she walked by, and she didn’t notice.”

Jason who was on his way to Melbourne for a stag party had already had several alcoholic beverages before boarding the plane. After the cabin crew had sat down for takeoff, Jason turned around and asked very loudly if they could please bring him a vodka and some pear cider,  but he was told that as the plane was currently taking off he would have to wait. “I don’t think Jason has travelled on many planes,” Caroline told us.

Jason was disappointed that the drinks trolley started at the other end of the plane and pressed his call button several times to try and hurry the proceedings, however this was unsuccessful.

When the trolley arrived at row 29, Jason wasted no time putting in his order for two pear ciders and a mini bottle of vodka. Caroline then attempted to order a hot chocolate at which point the cabin crew realised that Caroline and Jason weren’t a couple and that all the alcohol he had bought was for his own consumption. “We’re not supposed to serve more than two alcoholic drinks per person per hour,” said the air hostess worriedly.

Jason had several friends dotted around the plane, including one who was sitting behind him. “He turned on his phone to take a picture of his mate who had fallen asleep,” Caroline said “and then casually commented that he didn’t think you were supposed to use phones on aeroplanes, but it must be okay because he’d seen me using mine. I asked him if he had it in flight mode and he said no. I quickly helped him to find flight mode, but he didn’t seem to understand the importance of it. He was too busy lamenting the fact that we couldn’t use wifi on the plane and this was when he suggested a game of I Spy instead.”

Jason’s first offering was “I Spy with my little eye something that sounds like Can Fun”. After a while Caroline successfully realised that the answer was “Man Bun” and hoped the man with the bun sitting directly in front of her hadn’t heard their conversation.

Jason’s sleeping mate woke up to join in the next round which Caroline had announced was something beginning with D. Jason’s mate randomly guessed detention, dementia, and defencer, none of which were visible on the plane.  Jason asked if it was a verb or a noun. “I told him it was an abstract noun, but that confused him so I simplified it by telling him it was outside. Jason triumphantly shouted ‘air’ but I reminded him it began with a D. His mate chimed in with “devil” before Jason successfully guessed “darkness”.

Next Jason had D for dreadlocks, but as nobody on the plane had dreadlocks, Caroline had to rely on Jason’s clues  (“a bit like a man bun but not” and “rastafarian”) before she could guess correctly.

The conversation then turned to England and Caroline attempted to dispel Jason’s belief that everyone has to go to the pub in England because there’s nothing else to do.

Then the drinks trolley came past again and Jason attempted to buy two more pear ciders and another mini bottle of vodka. Caroline told us: “the cabin crew refused to serve him because he’d already had his three drinks. He said that they were for his mate who had gone back to sleep behind us. The cabin crew told Jason to press the call button when his mate woke up and then he could buy the drinks. Jason stood up, whacked his mate in the belly and told the cabin crew that his mate was now awake.”

As a passenger is only allowed two drinks per hour Jason could only purchase a cider and a vodka for his companion. His companion promptly went back to sleep and Jason drank both drinks himself, complaining about the alcohol purchasing restrictions.

“It’s so stupid that we can’t drink as much as we want. We’re not children,” he said to Caroline, then proceeded to draw male genitalia all over the sick bag before placing it back into the pocket in front of him.

“He told me it will cheer up the next person who feels sick” said Caroline.

Backpacker’s dismay as knickers are overlooked

A British backpacker has spoken of her dismay after discovering she forgot to put any of her underwear into the washing machine this evening.

Caroline Gough who is currently staying at the Ocean Beach Backpackers in Cottesloe explained: “When you’re a backpacker you have to put a lot of thought and preparation into doing your laundry.

Firstly you’ll need to have at least eight dollars worth of coins to feed into the machines, because even though Australia is a hot country, most backpacking hostels lack clothes lines or drying space, so you’ll need to use the dryer as well.

 
Then you need to have a whole chunk of free time available to attend to your laundry. You don’t actually have to sit next to the washing machine watching it spin, but you do need to go back promptly when each cycle finishes, otherwise another backpacker wanting to use the machine will helpfully take all your wet clean clothes out of the machine and throw them onto the dirty dusty floor for you.”
   
Caroline has been wanting to do her washing for several days but had not had the opportunity until tonight. “Basically I needed to wash everything,” she said. “So I put on a mismatched outfit of skirt and T-shirt because they were the only things that didn’t need washing. I was a bit embarrassed to show my face at the hostel burger night wearing my bizarre combination of clothes,  however a Norwegian chef called Renate tried to hit on me, so she must have thought I looked okay.”
   
Caroline explained “By ten o’clock all my washing was clean and dry, and I was feeling pretty pleased with myself. When you’re backpacking, you can get ridiculously excited about little things, like having all your clothes available to wear again and washing your towel so that it no longer smells like the last hostel you stayed in. I took my clean laundry back to my room and that’s when I discovered all the knickers, sitting in a plastic bag waiting to be washed. I couldn’t believe it.”
 
 Caroline said “I don’t have any clean knickers left for tomorrow, but I can’t summon up the time, the energy or the number of coins needed to go through the drama of putting on another load. I will just have to wear my bikinis as underwear until I can face the laundry room again.”
   
The knickers said: “We’ve been travelling with Caroline for six months now. Obviously back in Shillingstone there was quite a group of us, all taking turns to be worn, so we had quite a bit of free time in between. But when she announced she was coming travelling, only a few of us were invited to come along. We thought it would be exciting, but what we didn’t realise is that with so few of us here, and with us constantly moving on to a new place every few days, there’s little time for lounging about in a top drawer. We constantly get worn and washed and moved on to another place. We have seen the insides of washing machines and dryers all over Australia and New Zealand.”
   
The oldest pair of knickers said “I for one am glad we got a reprieve tonight. I’m sick of going for a spin every week. Shoving us in and out of these machines like she thinks we’re some kind of adrenaline junkies. Just because she likes adventure doesn’t mean the rest of us do.”

British backpacker finds wilted leaf in cocktail

A British backpacker has found an unexpected piece of limp foliage in her cocktail this evening.

Caroline Gough, who was dining out at a trendy bar in Scarborough, Western Australia ordered the cocktail containing Malibu, Bacardi, mango, passionfruit and lime juice.

“It definitely didn’t mention anything about a limp green leaf.” Caroline said “All the other diners were drinking wine or beer and none of them had wilted leaves draped over the edge of their glasses. I can only presume the waitress bumped against a neglected dying plant as she hurried across the restaurant and the leaf fell into my drink.”

Caroline who suffers from an inflammatory bowel disease called colitis said that she will not be attempting to eat the leaf which she believes would play havoc with her digestive system if digested.

“However I did sniff the leaf,” Caroline said  “and it smelt a bit like Colgate which reminded me that I need to buy some toothpaste on the way home. So some good has come out of this at least.”

British backpacker baffled by book selection at latest hostel

A British backpacker has been left baffled after browsing the selection of books at her latest hostel.

Caroline Gough, who has been travelling around Australia and New Zealand for the past six months explained “Most hostels have a book swap shelf. It’s great for leaving behind the book you’ve just finished and choosing a new one. I’ve read some brilliant books by authors I would never have heard of if I hadn’t come backpacking.”

However when Caroline began the search for a new book at the Ocean Beach Backpackers in Cottesloe, she was somewhat surprised by the selection available.

“Most people can probably get by in life without ever needing one copy of ‘The World of Carpets’, yet this hostel has two copies available. And I’d love to meet the backpacker who has the strength to add ‘Adam’s Empire’ to his or her backpack and trek round Australia with it.”

The bookshelf also appears to have  specialist section about women, featuring titles such as ‘Bra Gift’ and ‘The Wild Genie – the Healing Power of Menstruation’ as well as books about beach houses, English country houses and things that bogans like.

Caroline said “There were some books by authors I like, including Jojo Moyes and Harlen Coben, but unfortunately they were written in other languages. I am currently on a 184 day streak of learning Dutch with the Duo Lingo App on my phone, but as I’m still learning fairly basic phrases such as ‘the cat has a tail’ and ‘the man is eating a sandwich’ I’m probably not yet fluent enough to tackle a gritty thriller written in anything other than English.”

Caroline will depart to the Billabong Hostel in Perth later this evening where she hopes to find a more mainstream selection of books to choose from.

British backpacker goes to desperate lengths to block out snoring roommate

A desperate backpacker reportedly went to extraordinary lengths to try and block out a snoring roommate at a hostel in Perth yesterday evening.

Caroline Gough who was the last to go to bed in the six bed dormitory explained: “The room was dark when I went in, and smelt like a thousand farts. Plus somebody was snoring really loudly. It was a real sensory experience.”

Caroline who usually ensures that essential items such as her sleeping mask, toothbrush and earplugs are placed under her pillow so that she can find them in the dark admits she made a rookie mistake. “The mask and toothbrush were there, but there was no sign of the earplugs. I couldn’t believe it.”

Whilst Caroline’s quiet rustling in her bag was enough to briefly stop the roommate from snoring, ultimately she was unsuccessful in locating the earplugs, and this is when she resorted to desperate measures.

“When I’m in Australia, I only buy confectionary that isn’t available in England,” she said. “And although I couldn’t find my  earplugs, I did find a packet of sweets, or lollies as they call them here in Australia.”

The sweets, made by the Australian confectionary company Allen’s are designed to look like drumstick ice creams, similar to a British Cornetto.  “They are very foamy in texture.” explained Caroline “In fact they are quite similar to an earplug in terms of size and squishiness.”

Caroline said “There was no way I was going to be able to sleep with the unrelentless noise of Dora the Snorer, so I decided to experiment with the foamy sweets.”

The sweets come in a variety of three flavours. “The chocolate ones and boysenberry ones are delicious,” said Caroline. “But the vanilla ones don’t have a lot of flavour, so I decided they could be sacrificed so that I could get a good night’s sleep.”

Caroline first attempted to put the cone end into her ear canal. “It’s sort of the right shape,” she explained. “But it didn’t bounce into place the way that an earplug does.” Caroline then attempted to put the ice cream end into her ear, and when that didn’t work, she bit it in half and tried to nibble it into a suitable shape to work as an earplug. “Sadly I couldn’t make it work,” she told us. “Foam sweets are clearly not designed to be substitute earplugs. All that really happened was I got a bit of an earache.”

The drumstick sweets come in the flavours of chocolate, boysenberry and vanilla.

The next morning after a dreadful night’s sleep, Caroline discovered a full packet of earplugs in her pajama pocket. “I had obviously put them there so that they would be easy to find” she told us.

The Cazmanian Times does not recommend that readers should attempt to insert any type of confectionary into their ear canals.

Plenty more fish in the sea, says backpacker

A British backpacker has found herself spending part of the day with an unwelcome admirer at the popular tourist resort of Coral Bay on the Ningaloo Reef.

The snorkelling hotspot of Coral Bay on the Ningaloo Reef

Caroline Gough had previously met Shane Hennessey on an 8 hour boat trip where they had snorkelled the outer reef and swum with a whale shark. Caroline said “I only noticed Shane because when we got back onto the boat following the first snorkel he was standing astride my bag and dripping water all over it. I raced over to angrily extract it from between his legs and after that he seemed to think he’d found a friend. It’s hard to get away from someone who is intent on following you when you’re on a tiny boat, but luckily I was able to escape at the end of the day without giving him my number.”

However the next day as Caroline left her backpacking hostel to set off for a day at the beach, she found Shane loitering outside. “It was a bit Freddy Eynsford-Hill from My Fair Lady,” she told us. “He seemed to think it was a huge coincidence that he was hanging around outside the place where I was staying and even more of a coincidence when I said I was going to the beach.”

Mr. Hennessey claimed that he was also going to the beach, however this claim was considered unreliable as Mr. Hennessey was walking in the wrong direction for the beach. On arrival at the beach this claim was further disputed when it transpired that Mr. Hennessey had no suitable attire or equipment for being at the beach and had to return to his campsite to collect a few basic items.

Miss Gough who had at no point confirmed that she would like Mr. Hennessey to join her at the beach told us “The Ningaloo Reef has been on my bucket list for a while. I spent a lot of money to come here, and I wasn’t going to compromise even one of my precious Coral Bay days just because a random guy who dripped water all over my bag needed someone to talk to. I decided to carry on with the day I had planned and he could either go with it or go away.”

By the time Mr. Hennessey returned to the beach, Caroline was already in the water. “When I come to a beach with a reef I spend hours snorkelling up and down the bay visiting the fish,” she said. “Different fish hang out in different places and I like going all over the reef and then back to the same spots to revisit the fish I’ve already seen.”

Mr. Hennessey who is not keen on exercise got quite a work out as he followed Caroline all over the reef. “She was far more interested in the fish than she was in me,” he said.

Plenty of fish in the sea

After a while, Mr. Hennessey decided he needed a rest. “He seemed to think that because he’d had enough, I should get out of the water too,” said Caroline. “But I came all this way to the Ningaloo Reef to see the fish, not the random men who loiter outside youth hostels, so I told him I was going to carry on snorkelling.”

When Caroline emerged from the water over an hour later, Mr. Hennessey raced down to the shoreline with her towel, which he proceeded to wrap around her. “I think he was trying to be chivalrous,” said Caroline. “But I just thought it was a bit weird.”

Mr. Hennessey had high hopes that Caroline might now be ready to leave the beach, and invited her back to the campsite to have a look at his tent, but Caroline politely declined and explained she was going to stay at the beach until at least sunset.

Even at sunset, Caroline is still in the water.
Mr. Hennessey who lives in Perth is currently on a three week road trip of Western Australia. “I understand that he is clearly looking for love or friendship or both,” said Caroline.
“He didn’t strike lucky with me, but there are plenty more fish in the sea. Literally. In fact I think I’ll go and have another snorkel right now.”

“We are far more clever than people think” claim fish

They are well known for swimming around in circles and having a 7 second memory but a group of spangled emperors up at the Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia claim that they are far more intelligent than people give them credit for.

The spangled emperors who live on the Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia.

“We encounter a range of different people swimming in our sea,” said the fish. “And none of them do it as well as we can. They have to wear additional equipment to help them breathe under the water, and if they want to have a meal or a nap they actually have to leave the water, whereas we can live our whole lives under the sea without needing to quickly pop onto dry land to wolf down a sandwich.

If we’re feeling peckish we know where to go to find a tasty mollusk or crustacean and we don’t need to go to the great expense of buying sunscreen because we create our own UV protecting chemical called Gadusol.”

The fish claim that they are also very accurate when it comes to telling the time. “Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoon at 3:30 a large group of legs congregate in the water at Coral Bay with the sole intention of feeding us.”

The legs turn up to feed the fish every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 3:30pm

British backpacker Caroline Gough who turned up to participate in the most recent feeding of the fish said “The fish are amazing. They turned up on the dot of three thirty. You could set your watch by them.”

The fish said “that’s another area where we are superior to humans. They need all those smart phones, smart watches and sat navs to tell them where to go, how far they’ve travelled and what the time is. We don’t need any of that stuff. We already know all that we need to know.”

British backpacker stops eating fish (but friends say they’ve heard it all before)

 

One of the fish living at Coral Bay on the Ningaloo Reef

A British backpacker who loves snorkelling has announced that she will no longer be eating fish, following her most recent adventures under the sea.

Caroline Gough made the announcement soon after her arrival at the Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia.

Caroline who spends more time in the water than she does on land told us: “There’s an amazing underwater community down there. Just like us, the fish have their own homes and their own favourite places to hang out, and I love revisiting certain parts of the reef to check-in on some of my favourite fish. We were very happy swimming about together and the thought of those fish no longer being there because they’ve been hauled out of the sea to make my dinner is horrific.”

It is understood that Caroline has been making friends with fish in various Western Australia snorkelling hotspots, including Coral Bay on the Ningaloo Reef, Little Salmon Bay on Rottnest Island, and Trigg, near Scarborough in Perth. 

A school of fish living in Trigg, near Perth. 

But a source close to Miss Gough claims that this is nothing new. “Every year Caroline goes on holiday to Lanzarote or some Greek Island and she comes back telling us how she’s made friends with all these fish and therefore won’t be eating them anymore. It always lasts a couple of months, but as soon as she goes back to North Devon, it’s game over. Everyone knows she can’t drive through Braunton without popping into Squires fish and chip shop for a piece of cod or a fishcake.”

Posh lady confuses backpacking hostel with prison

A well spoken lady from Australia is of the mistaken belief that she is sharing her holiday accomodation with a bunch of criminals.

The female, who is booked into a private room at the Ningaloo Club in Coral Bay, has been openly horrified to discover that she is sharing bathroom and kitchen facilities with a number of backpackers.

Fellow guest Caroline Gough explained: “I first met her in the bathroom. It’s actually one of the nicer, cleaner bathrooms I’ve seen on my travels, but she was having some sort of meltdown about dust and remnants of other people’s toothpaste. It kind of reminded me of that Shakespeare scene where Lady Macbeth goes a bit crazy over a spot of blood.”

Caroline later encountered the lady in the kitchen. “She was just standing there, looking a bit shell shocked, opening and closing her mouth a bit like a goldfish. I said hello, but she was in too much of a state to hear me, so I just started putting my leftover food back into the fridge. This snapped the lady out of her trance and she said to me in her poshest voice: ‘Surely you’re not going to leave your things in there? Not with these sort of people around?’ ”

At this point Caroline, who enjoys speaking in a range of accents, decided to have a bit of fun. “I put on my best broad Yorkshire accent and asked the lady what sort of people she was talking about. The lady lowered her voice and said ‘you know…. backpackers’ as if it was the most vulgar word in existence in the English language.”

Caroline said “I went on to explain in Broad Yorkshire that I’ve been travelling for six months and I’ve never had nowt stolen. I used the old idiom about everyone being int same boat and so we all respect each other’s things. Then for good measure I added an ‘innit?’ on the end. The woman seemed slightly reassured by this but still looked at me like I had two heads.”

Caroline added “Later on I noticed that someone had helped themselves to some of my Coke which had been in one of the communal fridges. Obviously I didn’t tell the posh lady because that would fuel her argument that you can’t trust backpackers. Although it did occur to me that she could have been the one who had taken it.”

Woman accidentally boards plane a week early

 


A woman has accidentally boarded a plane exactly a week before she was supposed to depart.

The incident occurred on the 5:30 flight from Perth to Exmouth in Western Australia this morning.

Fellow passenger Caroline Gough who witnessed the event told us: “I’ve got not idea how she managed to do this. I had enough of a struggle to get the self-check in to work and I was travelling on the right day at the right time. Goodness knows how she managed to get the machine to churn out a boarding pass when she’s not supposed to fly for another week.”

Passengers noticed that something was amiss when the cabin crew conducted five separate head counts and delayed take-off for forty-three minutes. The pilot then announced that the delay was due to paperwork. Caroline, who studied English Language and Linguistics at university told us: “Paperwork is a convenient term that can cover a range of situations, including the act of hurriedly processing a passenger who isn’t supposed to be on the plane.”

Despite arriving a week early, the woman chose to stay on the plane and fly to Exmouth
with the other 99 passengers. “Fair play,” said Caroline. “I got up at 2am to get this flight, and she probably did the same. It would be quite frustrating to get up that early just to go home and do it all again the next week.”

Caroline added “The only thing that annoys me is that she got a window seat and I didn’t. I set my alarm for 5:20am yesterday so that I was online as soon as check-in opened to get a window seat and I still didn’t manage it.”

British backpacker finds herself acting out scenes from well known fairy tale

A British backpacker has found herself inadvertently acting out scenes from the well known children’s fairy tale ‘Goldilocks’ at a dodgy hostel in Perth tonight.

It all began when Caroline Gough was given the wrong key and had to trek back to the reception a further two times before she was given the correct key. Caroline explained: “the first key didn’t fit the lock at all. It was too big. The second key fitted the lock but didn’t turn. It was too stiff. But the third key went in straight away. It was just right.”

It was dark when Caroline entered the room and she had to use her phone torch to see which bed was available. The first set of bunks had people in them. “Someone was sleeping in those beds,” said Caroline. The second set of bunks housed a couple, both on the bottom bunk, eating something from a bowl and watching a laptop screen together. “Someone was eating in those beds” said Caroline. But the third bed was just right.

Next Caroline went to find a bathroom. “The first bathroom was locked” explained Caroline “and from the sound of it, there were people behind the door doing the sort of thing that doesn’t usually get spoken of in children’s fairy tales. The second bathroom contained only a urinal. So I moved on to the third bathroom expecting it to be just right.”

Unfortunately Caroline found that fairy tales seldom come true as the next bathroom contained no toilet paper, a toilet full of vomit that couldn’t be flushed and large black hairs on the floor of the shower.

Caroline said “It won’t be necessary for the three bears to chase me out of bed in the morning. I will be more than happy to leave of my own accord.”

British backpacker disappointed to return to non-fluffy towel after 3 week reprieve.

A British backpacker has spoken of her disappointment of returning to her microfibre towel after three weeks without it.

Caroline Gough, who is currently on an eight month backpacking tour of Australia and New Zealand, explained “The microfibre towel is great in many respects because it doesn’t take up much room in my case and also dries really quickly which is important when you are staying in a dorm room that lacks drying space.

However the one fundamental thing that it doesn’t do is dry you properly. When you pat yourself with it, it does initially transfer water from your body to the towel, but that then makes the towel too wet to dry the rest of you, which just leaves you feeling damp.”

For the past three weeks Caroline has been able to leave the towel at the bottom of her suitcase and ignore it completely.

“The Australians now believe it’s winter,” Caroline explained “Whilst in fact we are still experiencing temperatures that in England would qualify for a heatwave. Therefore I have been able to find some excellent cheap deals staying at beachside hotels and apartments, all of which come with incredibly luxurious and fluffy towels. It has been wonderful.”

Tomorrow however Caroline will fly to Perth to embark on a Western Australia adventure that will see her staying in a string of backpacking hostels up and down the coast.

Caroline said “here in my current hotel room, I can get out of the shower and have one towel to wrap around me and another to dry my hair. And if I get sick of them I can leave them in the bath and the housekeeper brings me new ones. It’s a world away from traipsing around with the same old towel that’s been failing to dry me properly ever since I  landed in Sydney in November.”

The towel told us “I can’t do everything. I have stripes, I’m compact, I squash into any space without any complaints, what more does she want?”

Cabbage Girl, Middle Aged Madge and Andrew the Australian

It’s 8:30am and the girl who has been frying cabbage for the past hour has decided to come and sit opposite me. Since I left my job and therefore no longer have to eat as soon as I get up, I have started waiting until I’m hungry before I eat anything, this suits my colitis a lot better which is the main thing, but in turn it also happens to help the bank balance and means I don’t have the ongoing dilemma of deciding whether to leave half used boxes of cereal, cartons of milk and loaves of bread behind for other travellers to use, or whether to cart them with me to use at my next destination.

Now that I get a close up view, I can see it wasn’t just cabbage that Cabbage Girl was frying, but also onions and celery, and more recently she’s added two fried eggs and a brown bread roll. The table we’re sitting at is a long table with fifteen chairs down either side, it’s fairly empty, and yet she’s chosen to come and sit opposite me. I am repulsed by the smell of fried vegetables this early in the morning, but I’m aware that Cabbage Girl might be sitting opposite me because she wants a friend, so I stop my internet search for accommodation in Manly Beach using the painfully slow youth hostel wifi, lower the lid of my laptop, smile at Cabbage Girl and say hello. Cabbage Girl ignores me completely, she is too busy looking at her phone. She cuts one of the eggs in half, puts it on the bread and then holds it artistically above her plate so that she can take a photo of it. Then she spends another five minutes fussing about rearranging her food and photographing it. So she clearly hasn’t chosen to sit opposite me because she wants a new friend. Why would she want to talk to a brand new person in front of her when she can instead be taking photographs of her food and posting them on social media for all her friends in faraway countries to see? The only thing in question is why when there are so many empty seats, she has chosen to sit opposite me, when she had no intention of talking to me. Perhaps I look like I really love the smell of vegetables.

I had chosen to sit by myself partly because I really need to spend a bit of time on the internet making plans for the next part of the trip, but mainly because Andrew the Australian is holding court at the other end of the table. Andrew the Australian holds the mistaken belief that he is some sort of major celebrity here at the hostel because he is a bonafide real live Australian. The main part of his royal duties seems to be sitting at the head of this gigantic table imparting lots of random facts about his life as an Australian very loudly for everyone else to hear. To his credit, he does seem to have quite a following this morning. Today he is philosophizing that “Australia is basically just one big beach and nobody would come here if there wasn’t any sea” which in my case is certainly true, but I’m not planning to join the discussion. Like a keen professor he knows his students and hones in on a guy from Switzerland: “Dude, you live in a landlocked country, you must spend your whole life literally walking around thinking oh my God, I’m surrounded by other countries.” The Swiss guy neither confirms nor denies this supposition and Andrew the Australian goes on to address his students as a whole. “Doesn’t it freak you all out, walking around Australia thinking about how much space there is here?” Everyone nods keenly, or possibly dumbly, and Andrew the Australian goes on to tell them how lucky they are that he just happens to be staying in the same youth hostel as them and can give them a first hand account of just what’s it’s been like to grow up in such a big country and how he is so used to all this space that he doesn’t ever feel overwhelmed by it. Speaking as a traveller from little old England I can’t say that I’ve ever thought to feel overwhelmed by the size of Australia, but maybe that’s just me.

Opposite me, Cabbage Girl is glued to her phone, either lots of people are loving the posts of her latest meal, or nobody has taken any notice and she is staring at her phone willing people to like her photos. Either way, she shovels the cabbage into her mouth, not looking at her plate, or me or anything other than the screen of her phone. I managed to burn my centre parting a couple of days ago and now it is peeling, looking like flakes of dandruff in my hair. Before Cabbage Girl sat down I had been obsessively and surreptitiously trying to remove the bits of nasty dead skin, I stopped when I thought I was getting company and might have to pretend to be polite, but Cabbage Girl is so engrossed with her phone, I decide I’m safe to carry on doing it.

“You’re a busy bee, what are you typing?” says a voice, and I realise a lady is hovering behind me. I can hardly tell her I’m writing a critique of the people around me and that unless she’s boringly normal, she’s most likely about to be incorporated into it, so I quickly hit enter several times to send my words out of sight and swivel around to talk to her, forming ideas in my head of what I can pretend I’ve been typing for the past ten minutes. Then I clock who it is and realise that I’m not going to need to say anything because it’s Middle Aged Madge.

Middle Aged Madge talks to everyone at the hostel, but nobody talks to her because she doesn’t let anyone get a word in. My Mum and I have this ongoing joke that if the day ever came where she needed to move out of her own home, instead of residential care or moving in with me, I’m going to send her on a series of perpetual cruises, because it’s about the same price as a care home and looks like a lot more fun. I reckon that Middle Aged Madge’s children couldn’t afford the cost of a cruise ship, so they’ve sent their mother backpacking around Australia forevermore. The first time I saw Middle Aged Madge she was in the kitchen with a young guy chatting away to him as he washed up, and I didn’t think anymore of it, beyond the obvious recognition that she was probably beyond retirement age and therefore a lot older than most backpackers. The next morning Middle Aged Madge accosted me in the bathroom.

“Hello Darl, you look pretty today. Where are you going? I’m going to a farm! It’s my friend’s farm, I haven’t seen her for thirty years. Do you think I look all right? I suppose it doesn’t matter, she’ll have been milking the yaks all morning, she’s not going to be all glammed up is she? Do you think? Or maybe? Should I put on some lipstick? Whaddya think? Lipstick? Do I look all right? Sometimes it’s cold on those buses, maybe a sweater? You look pretty today, do I look all right? Do I need a sweater?”

Throughout the monologue I had attempted to answer and give reassuring responses, but Middle Aged Madge didn’t seem to need any. The other girls in the bathroom seemed delighted that Middle Aged Madge had honed in on me instead of them and they all stared at her in their mirrors as they did their ablutions. Eventually I managed to jump into the conversation long enough to tell Middle Aged Madge that she looked great and to have a nice day and left the bathroom realising that the guy washing up in the kitchen last night had not been Middle Aged Madge’s son or friend, he had simply been in the kitchen when she needed someone to direct conversation at. And now it was my turn again.

“Oh darl, I’ve had such a day, have you been to the market? I went to the market, oh it was beautiful. They were selling all this fish. I love the smell of fish. Don’t you just love the smell of fresh fish? Oh darl, I love it. Have you seen Sarah-Jane? Is that her name? Sarah-Jane? Mary-Jane? Something-Jane? Or is it Julie? Have you seen her? We are going, where are we going? On the sea. In one of those wooden things? What are they called?”

“Canoe?” I suggested.
“Wooden thing,” she said, as if I hadn’t even spoken. “What are they called? Not a boat. A gnu. That’s right. I’m going on a gnu. With Mary. Have you seen her?”

“Not recently.”
“Ah that’s a shame, she’s real nice. You’d like her. Oh she’s probably getting ready? Do you know what room she’s in?”
“No, sorry, I don’t.”
“She’s not in your room?”
“I don’t think so.”
“What room are you in?”
“Um, eight.”
“Oh, well she’s probably in room six then,” said Middle Aged Madge and off she went to search for her gnu-ing chum who may or may not have actually existed, leaving me to frantically type up the conversation whilst Cabbage Girl continued to stare forlornly at her phone, the technological version of paint drying, and Andrew the Australian was now telling all his avid fans that koalas are not actually real bears and that they basically spend their lives being stoned from eating eucalyptus leaves.

That evening I cooked my meal and sat down to eat it, far away from Cabbage Girl who had cooked up a storm of peppers and beansprouts and was now shovelling them into her mouth whilst staring avidly at her phone, presumably I’d missed the photo shoot. I chatted to some Dutch guys who were feasting on Coco Pops and to my knowledge hadn’t even considered taking a photo of them before devouring them which was a welcome change after Cabbage Girl. And then Andrew the Australian made his entrance, this time carrying a guitar. He looked slightly crestfallen when nobody noticed him. Everyone was too busy either cooking, eating, chatting, playing table tennis or staring at their phones. The guys who had attended Andrew the Australian’s morning lecture on landlocked countries and the overwhelming size of Australia were all sitting on the couches, crowded around a laptop and laughing, having far too much fun to notice that Andrew the Australian was looking at them longingly, perhaps they hadn’t been as excited to attend his morning lecture as they had seemed. Andrew the Australian took a seat, cleared his throat and looked around expectantly. Nobody noticed, so he began to strum mournfully on his guitar, sad chords that nobody could really hear above the throng of a lively Saturday night at the youth hostel. All the while Andrew the Australian cast his eyes around the room pleading with someone to notice that our own celebrity was not only a bonafido Australian, he could also play the guitar. Nobody did. So Andrew the Australian began to sing. A sad miserable song, presumably one that was in keeping with his sadness that nobody was noticing him. When he came to the end of the song and didn’t receive even a casual glance let alone the standing ovation he’d probably been anticipating, he stomped outside onto the balcony, slammed the door, sat down and started playing his guitar which prompted the two girls who had previously been sitting outside to quickly come inside. Andrew the Australian played the guitar, staring mournfully through the window at everyone. And then he came inside, threw the guitar on a sofa and stormed into the kitchen. Moments later he reappeared, sat down at the table and mumbled a hopeful “G’day” at the guy sitting opposite him. The guy was plugged into earphones and staring at his phone, so Andrew the Australian was lucky to get a “hello” from him. Andrew the Australian sighed, and cast his gaze around the room, for someone, anyone to notice him. When it didn’t happen, Andrew the Australian finally admitted defeat and took out his phone. From the glum way that he was staring at it, it seemed that nobody wanted to talk to him online either.

The next morning, I decided I could stomach a slice of toast and jam at 9am and after establishing that none of the toasters worked apart from the very last one I tried, I took my breakfast out to the long table. Cabbage Girl was eating a huge piece of steak with her cabbage, celery and onions, so I made my way to the far end of the table where the Dutch guys were having another Coco Pops fest. I haven’t seen them eat anything else. After breakfast I made my way to reception to put on some suncream – Australian backpackers usually have some at reception which you can use for free – and there was Andrew the Australian with his guitar and a sad looking worn out bag, getting ready to check out.

“Hi,” he said gloomily.
“Hi,” I replied warily. I hadn’t actually spoken to Andrew the Australian in person before, just overheard all the lectures he’d been giving the other backpackers.
There was a silence, so I busied myself with rubbing cream into the backs of my legs.
“Where are you going?” Andrew the Australian asked monotonously.
“To the zoo,” I replied with forced brightness, wondering if he was going to regurgitate his facts about koalas not being bears, or tell me something unexciting about red cheeked gibbons, but he just nodded glumly.
“Where are you going?” I asked because I can’t help myself from being polite and continuing conversations, even when I don’t want to be having them.
“Home,” he said, nodding sadly.
“Oh,” I said. “Where do you live?”
“Young Street,” he said, as if I should know it.
“Where’s that?”
“It’s about eight minutes away,” he replied.
“That’s not very far to come for a holiday.”
“It’s not a holiday,” he replied. “I just couldn’t be at home this week because my Mum’s got my aunt and cousin staying with her.”
“Is there not enough space for everyone?” I asked, thinking it was a bit rough for Andrew the Australian to be kicked out and sent to a youth hostel every time his Mum had an overnight guest, even if he was incredibly annoying. Surely there was a sofa?
“No,” he said and sighed. “My cousin’s got this intervention order thing against me. I’m not allowed to be within two hundred metres of her. This thing happened at another cousin’s wedding.” He sighed again. “It’s complicated.”
“Oh,” I said. “I’m sorry to hear that.”
He shrugged. “It’s okay. Worse things happen at sea.”
“Do they?” I always like to question people who throw random old saying into conversations.
“Yeah, you know, sharks and shipwrecks and stuff. Anyway, you never told me, what’s your name?”
“Melissa,” I replied without hesitation because I have had a lot of practise of not giving the right name to random men, as I find it often leads to trouble.
“Melissa,” he said. “Rhymes with kiss her.”

I wondered if was similar observations that had helped his cousin take out an intervention order against him.

“Maybe I’ll write a song about that,” he said, looking slightly more cheerful.
The arrival of his taxi meant the end of our odd conversation, and Andrew the Australian dolefully loaded his guitar and bag into the boot, before sitting next to the driver, no doubt regaling him with jolly anecdotes before going home to sit in his room and compose a song about a girl called Melissa, a song he would no doubt sing to a common room full of uninterested strangers the next time he got bundled off to a youth hostel because his aunt and cousin had come to stay.

British tourist reluctant to unpack perfectly packed pacamac

A British tourist is reluctant to put on her new waterproof jacket for fear that she may never be able to pack it back into the special pocket it came in.

Caroline Gough explained “I’ve basically spent the last 3 months touring Australia in a pair of flip flops, a bikini and a kind of beach sarong thing that almost passes for a dress, but now I’m in New Zealand it looks like I’m going to have to start wearing proper clothes again.”

Caroline bought the waterproof jacket in Queenstown where the shop assistant helpfully repacked the jacket back into the special bag-that’s-also-a-pocket after Caroline tried it on.

Caroline said “To be honest, I just bought the jacket as a precaution, I never thought I’d actually have to use it. But now Cyclone Gita is about to hit Christchurch and it’s raining more than it does in England. My main concern is storage. I’m less than halfway through my travels and if I can’t work out how to compactly pack the jacket away again I might just have to keep  wearing it until next July when I get back to England.”

Flying lettuce hits six year old boy at popular dining spot

A 6 year old boy has been hit in the face by some flying lettuce leaves at a popular open air Mooloolaba restaurant.

The incident occurred just before 7 o’clock this evening when a gust of wind blew through the restaurant, sending menus, beer mats and the bowl of lettuce flying through the air.

The lettuce, consisting mainly of cos, lollo rosso and spinach leaves, had been served in a little salad bowl along with Caroline Gough’s chicken parmigiana and chips.

Caroline explained “Now that I’ve got colitis, I can’t eat that sort of lettuce anymore because my body doesn’t digest it properly. I had picked through the bowl and found the miniscule amount of tomato and thimbleful of grated carrot, but there wasn’t much there besides the lettuce. I was thinking what a waste of food, little did I know it was gearing itself up to be used for entertainment purposes.”

The boy who was watching an animated cartoon on his iPad whilst dining with his parents seemed unscathed by the drama.

Caroline added “As I was leaving, I noticed there was a lettuce leaf stuck to his Father’s leg, but I decided not to mention it. I’m sure he’ll find it later.”

Worst hostel ever

It was a good thing I was so excited to be back in Australia. Because I had booked myself into the worst hostel in the whole history of my travels so far. My only aim for Tuesday 10th April was simply to arrive in Sydney and have a magical evening of wandering around Circular Quay, soaking up the atmosphere and possibly having some chips. The next day I would be flying up to Queensland for a week of sun. So all I needed on the accommodation front was a bed for the night – as cheap and as central as possible.

The hostel receptionist was having a private phone call when I presented myself at the desk to check in and was clearly annoyed by my arrival. She put her head on one side to hold the phone between her ear and her shoulder, talking in another language to whoever was on the other end as she took my money and threw linen and a key at me. Usually a receptionist would share important information with you, such as what floor your room is on, what time you have to check out and where the kitchen is, but this one didn’t, so I made sure to ask lots of questions that I didn’t really need the answer to, just because she clearly didn’t want to be talking to me.

My room for the night was a 12 bed dorm. The door was open and the light was off. People were lying in bed, glued to their phones. One guy had hung a white sheet around his bottom bunk, but it was so imperviously see-through that it was clear to see that he was watching the Peep Show. I smiled at people in the darkness, hoping someone might give me permission to turn the light on, seeing as it was 4:15 in the afternoon, but everyone ignored me and stared studiously at their phones instead. It took a while to check out all the beds in the darkness, but I finally found the only spare one – a top bunk in the middle of the room. The bunk was surrounded. To the left, piles and piles of clothing, spilling out of two suit cases and dumped haphazardly on the floor. To the right enough produce to fill several kitchen cupboards. As my eyes adjusted to the light I could make out boxes of cereals, tins of beans and soup stacked in a pyramid, jars of jam and sauces, packets of rice, packets of pasta, an aubergine, a set of saucepans, a wok and a packet of doughnuts. My bunk neighbour clearly did not travel light.

Most bunk beds put at least some sort of cursory rung between the bottom and top bunk, but this bunk bed didn’t even have that. It was going to be one giant leap for Caroline to get up there tonight and even more of a palaver to come down again in the morning. I shoved my linen up on the top bunk, locked my stripy suitcase in a giant locker and strode out into the darkness to explore.

It was wonderful. I love to walk around  London late at night, soaking up the atmosphere and getting lost in my own thoughts, and I was sure I would like Sydney just as much. I did! I walked and I watched as a perfect sunny day turned into a balmy evening, and then night time. People scurried about, boats raced across the water, and the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge stood gloriously amongst it all, begging to be photographed as the daylight faded and the night time lighting took over. I opted for ice cream instead of chips and as I sat on a bench near the Opera House to eat it, I shared a bench with a lady in a magnificent dress who was  on her way to the ballet and needed to switch her trainers for heels for the last 10 metres of the journey.

I wasn’t in a hurry to get back to the hostel, so I was delighted to get lost and happen upon Darling Harbour as well, where I enjoyed plenty more wanderings and wonderings as I soaked up a new atmosphere. And then I returned to my accommodation. The receptionist was still on a private call and I idly wondered if she had been talking to the same person ever since I checked in seven hours earlier.

The light was now on in my room, even though at least two people were apparently sleeping. The guy with the makeshift curtain was still watching the Peep Show and now that the light was on I could see that it wasn’t just my bed that had a pop-up pantry, most of the beds were surrounded by a sea of utensils and ingredients. One guy’s eyes left his screen long enough to smile at me. I smiled back, grabbed a few things from my locker and went to hang out in the living room where a sign informed me that if you wanted to stay at the hostel long-term then you could get 14 nights for the price of 13 if you stayed in the 12 bed dorm. Well that explained the kitchen pantries. Most of my room-mates presumably lived there. I wondered if any of them ever actually spoke to one another or if they hid behind their screens all the time.

The living room was empty so I decided to call my Mum for a chat. Kicking off my shoes I sat down on the sofa, only to leap up again quickly as the sofa springs made contact with my bottom. With nowhere to sit, I chatted to my Mum whilst pacing the corridor, our 34 minute chat resulted in me caking my now bare feet in several inches of thick black grime from the dirty hostel floor. I rinsed my feet under the tap, but opted not to have a shower when I saw the collection of long black hairs adorning the shower walls, and the dubious carrot-like mush sitting in one of the plug holes.

It was now 1am and I decided to go to bed. The room mates were still glued to their screens, the Peep Show was still going strong behind the makeshift curtain. How many episodes of the Peep Show are there? I decided to Google it later, but promptly forgot. My bunkmate was absent so with no ladder, I used his mattress as a step for launching myself up to the top bunk. The door was still open and the dormitory lights still shone brightly which had been great for navigating my up to bed, but I hoped someone was going to turn them off soon.

As I set about making the bed, I realised that the mattress had a noisy plastic waterproof cover on it. But even worse, the pillow was made of PVC. And it didn’t work like a real pillow. Instead of making a comfortable indentation in the pillow with your head as you go off to sleep, the pillow fights against you, crackles noisily and goes hard, providing no comfort at all. When I checked in I had been given a blanket along with my sheet and pillowcase, a blanket that I had no intention of using, given how stifling hot it was, but now I was grateful that the blanket could double up as a pillow.

Bright lights, PVC pillows and the contents of a kitchen pantry beside each bed are not the most sought after features when looking for a hostel.

Shoving the useless pillow to the bottom of the bed, arranging the blanket in a pillow-type shape behind my head and pulling the sheet over me, I was about to attempt to go to sleep, and that’s when I realised my top bunk had no safety rails. Nothing to keep me safely within the perimeters of the bed. If, despite the bright light and the blanket-pillow, I actually managed to fall asleep, then there was nothing to stop me from rolling. Rolling left onto a relatively soft landing of someone’s dirty clothes, or right onto a collection of tins and saucepans and jam jars.

“Great,” I thought. It’s the first night of my precious last three months in Australia and by tomorrow morning I could be in plaster from falling onto a pyramid of Baked Bean cans. I thought back to the Dangerous Sports clause of my insurance policy and wondered if I would be covered for sleeping in a top bunk without safety rails. I wondered how long I’d have to lie there, on a bed of broken eggs and washing powder before one of my room mates tore himself  away from his screen long enough to notice what had happened.

I have rolled out of bed before. It was at Grannie and Grandad’s house a few years ago and it was a double bed so I must have been sleeping restlessly. My Grandad cried with laughter the next day when I explained how, just like something out of Tom and Jerry, I had woken up and realised in slow motion that there was nothing underneath me, before thudding and hitting the ground. I had only hurt my elbow then, landing on the soft carpet of the spare bedroom, but falling from a top bunk onto a hard floor strewn with pots, pans and cooking utensils was bound to do a lot more damage.

I used my arms to measure the mattress to check that I was in the very centre, wondered if I could stay in this position until morning and tried to block out “there were ten in the bed and the little one said, roll over” which was now playing on a loop in the back of my head. I contemplated going to sleep on the sofa with all the springs poking out. I contemplated getting up and getting dressed and spending a nocturnal night exploring the streets of Sydney and Skyping all my friends back home. I contemplated all the ways I could usefully spend the next few hours, because what I absolutely wasn’t going to do was lie here and fall asleep for risk of rolling over and falling out.

And then it was 6:17am. Five hours had passed and I was still in tact on the top bunk. Despite my fears of falling out, despite the fact that nobody had shut the door or turned out the light all night, I had somehow managed to stay still and sleep soundly. The PVC pillow had taken a tumble and joined the condiments on the floor at some point in the night, but I had survived. Not that it was a brilliant amount of sleep to have had, but the fact I had slept at all and not ended up impaled on a tin opener and rushed to Casualty was a huge achievement.

It was far too early to get up and leave for the airport, but that’s exactly what I did. The hostel had one tiny kitchen to serve three floors of dormitories with only one cooker and one sink. During my short stay I visited the kitchen three times to fill up my water bottle and every time I had to wait for the same guy to finish doing an excessive amount of washing up before I could access the tap. I couldn’t believe it when he was there again at half past six in the morning, washing up after having made some sort of early morning stir-fry. I retched at the smell of fried onion that early in the morning and decided I would treat myself to a hot chocolate at the airport rather than wait for Stir-Fry Boy to finish his washing up.

The receptionist – a different one to yesterday – didn’t ask if I’d had a nice stay, and I didn’t tell her that I hadn’t. Instead I escaped into the fresh Sydney air, enjoyed walking down the bustling street with all the early morning commuters, the dirty feet, the PVC pillow cases and the fear of landing on a pyramid of tins quickly dissipating as I looked forward to the next adventure.

Loose elastic creates false weight loss joy

A British tourist spent at least five seconds believing she had lost some weight, before realising that the extra space in her bikini bottoms had in fact been created by some loose elastic.

The misunderstanding happened at the Mooloolaba Beach Club Resort this evening, when British tourist Caroline Gough dived into the swimming pool and felt her bikini bottoms trying to make a bid for freedom.

Caroline explained “Maths and Science were never my best subjects, but I do remember learning about forces and resistance and angles. I’m sure a group of GCSE students could draw a nice diagram to show how the force of me hitting the water at a specific angle in bikini bottoms that are no longer snug would cause them to attempt to leave my body.”

Fortunately it was dark, and although the pool is lit up in Caroline’s favourite colour of turquoise, it is believed that nobody was around to witness the incident.

Since her arrival in Australia last November, Caroline has enjoyed sampling all of the jelly flavours and different types of chocolate that aren’t available in the UK, and also enjoys regular milkshakes.

“It’s unlikely that I’ve lost any weight recently” Caroline said. “But I am an optimist, so I was more than happy to believe that maybe somehow I had shifted a few pounds. Then reality kicked in and I realised it was just a case of loose elastic.”

Caroline commiserated her false weight loss hopes with a limited edition Kit Kat that is not available in the UK.

Hammersmith

Hammersmith moves in
Getting into the nuts

 

Road trip
Building sandcastles
I’ll be safe on this rock when the tide comes in

 

Hammersmith was so pleased the day that Caroline learnt the metal thing in the living room was a climbing frame for hamsters and not a place to store DVDs
Birthday Boy
We bumped into Katie and Martin at Tesco.

Who’s this handsome chap in the reflection of this shiny bin? Oh, it’s me!
Not everyone gets a bag with their name on it

Hammersmith on the Underground

 

Christmas
Rock climbing

     

The rejects

The blog names that nearly made it – all of these were seriously considered – some for at least five hours, some for only a millisecond.

unplannedbutsuntanned.com  – What does that conjure up? An unmapped sun-kissed journey, or a suntanned belly revealing an unplanned pregnancy?

foreverinflipflops.com – Certainly relevant whilst I travel around the southern hemisphere, and the fact that flip flops are called “thongs” in Australia and “jandals” in New Zealand certainly tickles my linguistic tastebuds, however as soon as I start blogging about my skiing holidays, it’s no longer sensible to be forever in flip flops.

wetsuitsandskiboots.com makes me sound like a shop

flipflopsand lollipops.com makes me sound like a nine year old

flipflopsandchipshops.com makes me sound like I’m fat

jacuzzifloozy.com rhymes nicely and certainly suggests that I like jacuzzis enough to have a go in anyone’s but might have some other connotations too….

The Flying Wombat

My first trip to Australia was as a very excited fresh-faced 19 year old, arriving in Geelong to spend six months studying at Deakin University as part of my degree. I’d been obsessed with surfing, beaches and Neighbours for most of my life, so it made sense for me to experience Australia first-hand as soon as I possibly could.

19 year old Cazza is surprised to discover that wombats don’t have wings

Deakin University were fantastic at looking after the international and exchange students and settling us all in and within the first few days of our arrival to Australia, they packed us all onto a minibus and sent us all on a weekend camping trip to see the wonders and wildlife along the Great Ocean Road. It was so much fun, we saw koalas and kangaroos, and then on the last day, the driver stopped the bus and told us if we got off and walked for about five minutes, we would probably see some wombats. And so I walked along, staring avidly up at the sky to see if I could see any wombats. Because back then, I didn’t actually know what a wombat was, but being partway through a degree that scrutinizes language and word structure, it made complete sense to me that a wombat should be a winged creature soaring high above me and not a short legged marsupial on the ground. It came as a huge shock to discover that the heavy looking ball of fluff  shuffling through the bush away from us as fast as his short legs could carry him was a wombat.

I was kind enough to tell this story to my new Australian flatmates and they didn’t let me forget it, when it was time for me to go back to England six months later, one of them even created a CD with all my favourite songs on it entitled “music for wombats to fly to”.

During my summer of searching for the perfect blog name, I remembered this story decided that my blog should definitely be called theflyingwombat.com It was quirky, it related to Australia but could still be relevant when I came back to England, and it had a personal story to go with it. That night I went home and Googled “the flying wombat” desperately hoping that my search results would come up as empty so that I could claim it as my own.

No such luck. Firstly, a flying wombat is the nickname given to a car from 1938, but more recently and more worrying, the flying wombat is also a sexual position (go on, Google it!) And whilst I haven’t yet met anyone who has heard of, or admitted to doing the flying wombat, I thought it would be a bit dodgy to give my blog the same name as a sexual position.

I was briefly excited to discover that the collective noun for a group of wombats is a “wisdom” – pleasingly alliterative and also thought-provoking, because who knows how wise a wombat really is? But then I discovered there’s a German theatre group called wisdomofwombats and so it was back to the drawing board.

If I couldn’t be a flying wombat and I couldn’t be a wise wombat, what other sort of wombat could I be? A Cartwheeling Wombat? After all most 36 year olds probably don’t do a cartwheel every time they go to the beach, so that is a quirk that is fairly unique to me. In the end I eradicated the wombats in favour of finding something alliterative and so along came Cartwheels in Cazmania. Whilst on Twitter it’s CazzaCartwheels because you can’t have a name longer than 15 characters.

After all it’s probably much healthier and wholesome to be doing a cartwheel every time I go to the beach rather than a flying wombat!

Making an entrance

There’s always a small amount of fear and excitement that builds up inside you as you open the door to a new dorm, because you never know who – or what – you’re going to meet on the other side. But as I’m learning, there’s no need for this rush of adrenaline. Firstly the key to a new room never works, so you always have to go back to reception at least twice to get a new one, and secondly, when you do finally work out how to open the door, nobody wants to talk to you. I had thought that arriving at a new dorm might be a bit like Freshers Week, everyone greeting each other with sparkly eyes and smiles, trying to work out in the first five minutes if this new person is going to be a friend for life or the annoying one who slams around late at night and never does the washing up. But this is not the case. I’ve been staying at hostels for four months now and every time I enter a new dorm, there is always just one person, lying on a bed, plugged into technology. They may (or may not) grudgingly return the greeting when you say hello to them, but they definitely don’t want to talk to you. They are far too busy on social media seeing what their existing friends and fake friends are doing, they don’t even consider that this real life person standing in front of them could become a new friend. It turns out that the time for chatting and making new friends is later at night. This is when the smiley, sparkly eyed people appear. They have been out exploring all day and they want to chat to you, tell you their stories and exchange travel plans, but it all has to be done in excited hushed whispers, because the annoying person who has spent the day on social media always goes to bed early, meaning all conversations have to take place quietly, and often in the dark. Some of the best conversations I’ve had are with people who checked out early the next day, therefore I never got to see what they actually looked like.

Choosing a bed

Nobody wants to be on top

I can be incredibly entertaining in the dark. Not that anyone ever gets to see it, but stick me in a top bunk with a full bladder and an infrared camera and you’re in for some merriment. The first bit isn’t so exciting, the bit where I lie there pretending that I might be able to ignore the fullness of my bladder and fall asleep without having to perform the difficult task of clambering down to ground level in the dark. But once I’ve realised that a toilet trip is inevitable, then you’re in for some fun.

Even though I’ve been backpacking for long enough to know that it’s impossible for anyone to climb down from a top bunk without waking up everyone else in the room, I still try. Bunk bed manufacturers add to the fun by adding huge gaps between the ladder rungs as if they haven’t actually designed the beds for people to climb up and down. And so in the middle of the night, I’ll start my descent, throwing my legs over the side of the bed like something out of the Ministry of Silly Walks. Sometimes I’ll find myself stuck halfway down the ladder because I’ve tried to go down it facing outwards instead of inwards and I’ve run out of flexibility. Then I try a sort of pivot in midair,  grabbing onto the frame of the bed, as I perform a 180° turn, hoping to land nimbly back on the rung. Sometimes the person beneath me will have used all the rungs as a handy drying place to hang their wet towels and clothes, which makes the descent down the ladder even more precarious than usual. Or they might have left their phone charger on the floor with all three prongs facing upwards ready to pierce my foot just as I  thought I  had finally made it to the safety of the floor.

Basically we’ve all left our enthusiasm for the top bunk behind in our childhood, along with our ability to eat an entire candy floss without feeling sick. Ideally we don’t want bunk beds at all, but many backpacker hostels favour them because they can cram more of us into one room. With lots of people in one room, all wanting to charge their phones, dry their towels and sometimes throw the entire contents of their bag into a big messy heap on the floor beside their bed, the smartest thing to do is to choose a bottom bunk near an electrical socket, preferably with enough space around you that you can create some storage and drying space if you need it. But before you hang your brand new bikini on the bunk bed frame to dry, you should definitely check that nobody has stuck any used chewing gum to the frame first – as I found out a little bit too late at a hostel in Melbourne recently.

If scientists were going to create an equation for finding the best bed it would look something like this:

 night(bottom bunk+empty bladder)+electrical socket+storage(-chewing gum) = zzzz²

Don’t get locked out

At many hostels, every time you leave the dormitory, the door will lock behind you. This means that when you wake up for the 3am wee, you need to take the key with you, otherwise you will find that the only way back into your room is by knocking loudly and hoping that your room mates not only hear you, but will actually come and open the door for you, which they might not if you’ve already annoyed them by waking them up as you tried to climb quietly down the impossible bunk bed ladder and make your way out of the room. I always sleep with a variety of useful things under my pillow, including my key, which isn’t always comfortable but at least I know where it is when I need to find it in the dark.

Everything you need will be at the bottom of your bag

Often the first few things we need to use in the morning – toothpaste, hairbrush, medication – are the last few things that we used the night before. So logically they should be right at the top of your bag. Instead, every single night whilst you are sleeping, these items will mysteriously work their way down to the very bottom of your bag. Regularly I find myself in a brand new city, desperate to get out and explore, only to be delayed for at least twenty minutes because once again I CAN’T FIND MY TOOTHBRUSH!!

Nothing is jiggle proof

I have been using a sleeping mask ever since my Balham flatshare days where the landlord thought that instead of putting in curtains, he’d simply hang a piece of bright pink flimsy material in the window, which rather than block out the sun fully encouraged it to come flooding in early each morning with its unwelcome glorious pink hue. Then in my Dorset flat I started using earplugs when I inherited neighbours who slept underneath me and liked to wake up for a chat every two hours and snore loudly between each conversation. So earplugs and a sleeping mask have long been a part of my bedtime routine and they are also essential for communal backpacker living. But whilst the sleeping mask blocks out the light and the earplugs block out some (but not all) of the noise, there is absolutely nothing that will block out the movement of a restless sleeper jiggling about in the bunk either above or below you.

And nothing is smell proof

Just as there’s no magic remedy for blocking out the jiggling, there is also nothing you can do to block out the smell. Hostels are sometimes so keen to cram in as many people as possible, they don’t consider that all these people will have at least one wet towel to hang out every morning, consequently many hostel rooms smell damp and sweaty.

I have stayed in hostels that smell so strongly of cannabis that I’m sure I will wake up stoned just by sleeping there, and I have also stayed at hostels where people stay in bed all day, either sleeping, or glued to their phones with the lights off and the curtains shut, just like there always has to be a meerkat standing guard on sentry duty, these backpackers seem to think that there always has to be at least one person in a bed, meaning the room never has an opportunity to rid itself of the stench of several sweaty sleepy humans.

Sometimes when a fire alarm summons us all out of bed at 3 o’clock in the morning and we all have to stand on the street for half an hour, I wonder if it really was an illicit cigarette or a piece of burnt toast that set it off, or if it is just the hostel’s way of getting everyone out of the room so that they can give the room a bit of space to breath away from all the smelly people.

Unexpected gifts

The princess only had to sleep with a pea beneath her, when you’re a backpacker you can end up with a whole buffet under your pillow.

Even when you’re asleep, there are things you need within easy reach, your keys, your phone, spare ear plugs and a bottle of water. There isn’t always a great deal of storage space around you, especially if you’re on the top bunk, so sometimes you end up sleeping with the phone, key and earplugs under your pillow whilst hugging the bottle of water to your chest like some kind of beloved teddy bear.

What’s weird though, is when you wake up in the morning, stretch out to find your phone or water and lay your hands on something else entirely. This happens when you make friends with a room mate who is leaving early in the morning. They will wake up and realise that they can’t carry all of their belongings with them and so they will donate their unwanted items either to the person they like best, or possibly the person they think needs it most. Consequently I have woken up to find a variety of different objects nestling very close to my face at different times, including half a packet of sultana scones, a satsuma, an invitation to go out for a drink, three sanitary towels, a head torch and the Australian version of a Pepperami.

Having a shower

For me, this was one of the skills that required a lot of practise before I was anywhere near perfection.

The shower will be down a corridor somewhere, and you have to remember to take everything you need with you. In the early days I was forever getting to the shower only to discover that I’d forgotten something vital and then I’d have to scurry back to my room with all my things bundled in my arms as I searched through my case to find the thing I’d forgotten – which of course would be at the bottom of the case.

The floor of the shower will be soaking wet from all the people who have showered before you. There will be one (if you’re lucky there might be two) tiny hooks on which you must carefully hang all of your possessions, preferably in the order that you are going to need them once the shower is over.

Transferring your possessions from where they are bundled in your arms to the tiny hook requires great skill and precision and as you prefect this skill, there will be many occasions where you will send your clean dry knickers, towel or pyjamas cascading onto the dirty wet floor below.

 

Some of the more homely hostels are laid out more like houses and don’t have corridors, so you may have to walk through a communal area to get to the shower and it’s a good idea to try not to drop your knickers as you hurry through a group of backpackers with all your possessions bundled up in your arms.