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November 28, 2005

Perth

I liked it, the Exclusive backpackers on Adelaide Street that is. Not for the normal things, but for it’s sense of irony. It was one of the least most exclusive places I had ever stayed in. The Greek owner had her own way of running the place, trying to act like your mother whilst fighting with her husband. She was one of these people that meant well.

There was a Danish librarian staying in the room, he had at least twelve books scattered around the floor. The German guy, without meaning to stereotype, was very, German. An awkward array of facial hair, a ‘City of Perth’ baseball cap, jeans that seemed to originate from the eighties and sensible footwear. They had stayed in the room for a long time, it was almost home to them. But despite the books and the hats, they were agreeable people.

Helena was from Denmark. She didn’t need to say, there was something very Danish about her. We talked for an hour, then after thinking we had got on well, I became a little startled. Where ever I went, her eyes went. It was like a watching painting. I didn’t even have to look after a while. If I was reading a book, she was reading my book. If I was folding some clothes, she watched me folding my clothes. When I woke in the morning, just by chance, of course, she would be looking over. It was all rather strange. I always made sure I returned a smile with her more often than not glances, little did she know that behind that smile was a “you are actually starting to scare me now” thought. Those Danish people must just be friendly.

“Ah, where are you from mate?”. The voice had a bit of English, Australian and South African all mixed into one. “You wont know it, Bournemouth” I replied. “Ah, yea, just come from there”. I smiled. Sense of humour. “Yeah, I have been staying in Westbourne, my name is Pat”. Okay. Maybe he wasn’t joking. So we talked. It then became apparent, rather quickly, that he was a character. So he was over forty but looked thirty, he had just come from a place that I didn’t think anyone would travel to. “So, I’ve got a car, I’ll take you out for a ride if you fancy!”. It had only been ten minutes but I had been offered a ride, a game of golf, a place to stay at Christmas. I thought he was going to set up a meeting with his parents next. He didn’t. They were dead.

As much as this person was interesting, there was something slightly strange, rather odd. He was staying in a backpackers. He said he offered a girl in Bournemouth five thousand pounds to marry him so he could get a British passport. He lived on people’s floors. He paid over a thousand pounds to stay in a hotel before he left, to treat himself after staying in hostels. He was a used car salesman by trade. A paramedic at other times. He had travelled around Australia nine times, been all over Europe (including Bournemouth). He had nearly broken the drinking record at the Okoberfest.
He was the sort of person that had a story for everything, the sort that would be your best mate in half hour.

So we all sat in his tiny car, heading towards the Joe Cocker concert in Kings Park. I was squeezed in the back. I didn’t even have to look. Helena was still looking at me. I think she quite like the small rear space, nearly as much as my legs didn’t. You had to pay ten dollars for entry. We sat outside. Security was tight. A white robe. A four foot security guard from Jakarta (so we found out after try to talk our way in). So we sat there, drinking VB. The music played, Pat told us about the deadly creatures in the bush as we discussed sneaking in. Helena, well she just stared again. The German guy quietly nodded his head to the music. All in all it was quite bizarre, sitting on a piece of grass, listening to music that I had never heard of and thinking I had some of the strangest, yet interesting people around me.



I always based cities on my first impressions. You can a lot that way. More specifically, you can tell a lot by the first person that you meet. In the case of Perth, it was a fly, it wouldn’t say goodbye. I guess it was nice to be greeted at the airport by someone.

I had arrived on a Saturday. It could have been four o’clock on a Sunday. It was if there was some secret hiding place that everyone had gone, the streets were deserted. The shops were closed. The last time I heard, this was a city. Then again this was Western Australia, apparently they do things differently around here. Like stay indoors. I even felt embarrassed for the green flashing man, it seemed there was nobody to cross the street.

I thought this place was gong to be quite friendly. The few people I did see were waving at each other in the street. Then I realised. They weren’t saying hello. They were trying to get the flies from around their head. Then I realised I was doing it to.

The city prides itself on the ‘CAT’ transport, a free bus service that shuttled people around the centre of the city. Despite the free transportation on offer, I decided to walk as normal, after all, there might be some hiding out there somewhere. But after a short walk, I had found where I was staying, people searching had to wait.

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