James Cridland

Notes from Brisbane, vol 7

The Australian government wrote to me asking why I hadn’t enrolled to vote. Thoughtful of them. Australian citizens are required to vote here by law, just like Belgium and Luxembourg apparently. Voter turnout is 93%. Non-voters get fined A$20 (£11), though they can be taken to court, fined up to A$120 (£65) and get a criminal conviction. I suspect it’s the latter that hurts. Anyway, I replied, ticking the box of “I am not an Australian citizen”, and presumably they will now go away.

More interestingly different words…

  • Rort: fraudulent or dishonest practice. “The petrol stations are rorting bastards.”
  • Bashed: hit violently, punched. This word would be considered rather childish in the UK, but here is reported in primetime news. There’s also a thing called a “coward punch”, previously a “king punch”, which is where a (normally drunk) man punches another (normally drunk) man out cold, sometimes with serious or even fatal consequences. Curiously, even though the name has changed to be deliberately less glamorous, the media still run CCTV video of a coward punch happening: normally repeated two or three times during the story, thus making the bloke who did the coward punch rather more of a celebrity. Makes for great telly, after all.
  • removalist: a furniture removal company for moving house
  • crook: “I’ve got a crook knee” — it isn’t very well. I don’t have a crook knee, if you’re concerned.
  • multifocal: what I would have called a varifocal lens on some glasses. I asked the optician “are multifocal and varifocal the same thing”, and she was too polite to say “it’s what we call it in this country”, instead simply saying “well, I just call it multifocal”. See, that’s customer service. And in a Specsavers, too.

Possum shit is quite difficult to clear from outside the front door. They don’t appear to eat a lot of fibre. And they don’t digest the seeds they eat. Luckily, it rained for much of the weekend, so the remaining smears have now disappeared.

The domestic airport lounges have dress codes. I’m told it’s because of “FIFO” workers — fly in, fly out — who will happily get on an aeroplane wearing not much other than tracksuit bottoms and sandals, and an imposing tattoo on their bare chest. Because they’re very regular flyers, they get to be lounge members pretty quickly. (Me? I’m now gold with Virgin Australia, after only four months of proper flying for business. I might even make platinum this year, if some of the invitations I have come off.)

We now own an “Esky”, a thing that is called after its trademark, like Kleenex or Hoover. In this case, the Esky is a blue and white coolbox, useful for picnics or taking groceries back from the supermarket in summer. There are other brands available, but judging by our friends, it seems a relatively pointless exercise, given the Esky brand’s popularity. In the Sydney Olympics, the gifts to participants were given to them in an — you guessed it — Esky. Their size is measured in how many beer cans they hold — ours holds up to 40, proclaims the sticker. They’re made in Melbourne, but owned by an American company.

As you might have guessed, the pace of discovering things I don’t understand is rapidly slowing. Getting onto an aeroplane in Los Angeles recently, hearing an Australian accent made me instantly feel I was ‘home’, and that took me by surprise rather. I feel as if I’m bedding in, and life is less about learning and more about doing.

However, since I’m opening an Australian company in a few months, I’m doubtless going to discover a whole lot more about how Australia works; and I suspect there’s lots to learn there. And at some point, I’m going to have to understand how tax works, too…