Sunday, 21 May 2017

Melbourne misery, New Zealand knob heads & small town mentality

After becoming far too settled in Sydney I recently resorted back to backpacking and resort life for a couple of days and visited some old friends in Melbourne. "The most liveable city in the world," my brother told me after meeting in the airport.

The only slight problem with this statement? He no longer actually lives there himself and was just back for business coincidently while I was in town. So desirable of a place he ditched it and swapped for the other side of Australia.

"What's so great about it here?" I quizzed. "Um, there's loads of graffiti to look at and the clock tower at the train station is really famous." The glorification of vandalism and something that tells the time. Nah, not for me, so off to New Zealand it was for another few days to now see friends from home who were on their holidays.

Swapping the bright lights and big cities for a tiny town around 30KM from anything and anyone, it was time to try experience a different way of going about ya day to day. And fuck me local life is quite something.

There we were, walking towards the local pub on our first night along the only main road when a car screeched round the corner at an unimaginable speed. Missing us by mere seconds it was right dramatic as the engine echoed through the town.

"WHICH WAY DID HE GO?" a local lady then screamed as she fled from her front door. "This isn't happening again," she raged. "Was that your car? What happened last time? What's going on?" - all our questions met by silence as other people poured out from the neighbouring houses to assess the situation.

"He's coming back!" my friend then screamed after hearing a noise in the distance.

Engine roaring, lights growing closer and screams from us tipsy tourist. We jumped towards some bushes as the local bad boy terrorising the town raced back this way.

"That's it," the first lady on the scene stated while firing up her Renault Clio. "Get in."

Before we knew it we were we bunged up in her back seat as she deemed it too unsafe for us to walk and dropped us at the pub before she descended upon the police station.

As the drama became the talk of the town, our AirB&B hosts had something else more pressing to discuss. Taylor Swift. The exact same conversation we'd had every time they'd paid us a surprise visit to the property. Four years ago Taylor had tweeted a link to their son's cover of Shake It Off and it was without a doubt the most exciting thing that has ever happened to them. Ever.

I must admit, I did admire their skill to bring every conversation back to the tweet.

"The weather isn't looking too great today," we'd say. "Oh well funny you should say that! It was overcast like this when Taylor sent that tweet actually have we mentioned she tweeted about our son?"

Sticking with the quiet life, we set sail to some local islands and this small town mentality continued.

Minor inconveniences become major talking points, everyone knows everything about everyone and if something remotely exciting happens, you have to repeat it every five minutes for the rest of your life.

"They'll be talking about this for months," our tour guide told us after interrupting our trip of local vineyards to stop and stare at a distressed sailor. As he wept for his yacht that had been battered onto the beach during a raging storm the night before – there she was doing a Facebook live for rest of the locals to have their say.

Again... small town mentality.

I suppose part of me expected such rural and isolated lifestyles to be world's apart from what I've known living in London? But at the end of the day, no matter where you are in the world, everyone turns to the same shit to survive.

Banter, bragging, bitching, backstabbing, beer, bum sex. The list is endless. Everyone loves a gossip, piss up and mocking the misfortune of others while getting all up in their business.

These small town folk might not be able to name all the Kardashians, order an Uber or pop to a Westfield on a whim. But when you strip back all that shit their lives still revolve around love, laughter and wanting to belong like the rest of us.

That was quite enough of the apparent 'quiet life' for us though and off to stay in Auckland it was. High speed internet, skyscrapers and a good sense of anonymity amongst the millions. Perfect.

Still keen to experience the local way of life we skipped the usual tourist hotspots and spent most of our time at the University of Auckland. We caught a computer science lecture, enjoyed the cheap canteen and shown them how the British do boozing down the Student Union bar.

Home from home.