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Shabadoo and wifelette down under

Andy and Shal

AUSTRALIA | Monday, 7 July 2008 | Views [827]

Okay, so it’s been a rather inconsistent journal, as all good travel journals should. Sometimes you’re having too much fun to write, other times you’re in too remote a location to use the internet. In our case, it’s probably the latter, mixed in with a smattering of arthritis. However, thanks to painkillers and the kindness of an Irishman (and how many times have those two things gone together throughout history), we are now able to bring you potted highlights of the last two months. You lucky things.


So, Melbourne. We arrived on Easter Friday, and after a couple of phonecalls and an epic journey around the outskirts of the city centre (to avoid the toll roads), we arrived in Essendon, home to our hosts, Andy and Shal. Though Andy fled from Britain to Australia two years ago, to avoid adultery and embezzlement charges, we had last seen him some 18 months ago at the wedding of a close mutual friend and fellow survivor of the battle of the University of Essex. Andy was actually the man responsible for this whole travel idea in the first place, having suggested we should apply for visas for Oz before we got too damned old. So it was only right that we came to steal his food and trample his privacy for a couple of weeks.


Gotta say it was damn good to see the old man again, his eyes still securely embedded in his wrinkled head, his head still partly attached to his ravaged body. Andy is the sort of guy it’s impossible not to like, so he tends to fit in well everywhere. And he also has excellent taste in wives – Shal (his sixth wife) is a really lovely lass. We only met her once whilst she was in the UK, so this was a proper chance to get to know her.


The main thing you notice about them is their love of food. They’re good at cooking, and they love eating out. Most importantly they like cooking anything and everything to do with chocolate. When the trays of brownies ran out, the muffins would be dutifully prepared. No muffins? Time for the chocolate fondue. Chocolate ice cream was a compulsory side order for all sweets – Andy beat me once for walking into the lounge with a plain brownie on a plate. If home sources were depleted, it was only right that we drove the 2 minutes to Max’s, a fabulous café which may well serve the greatest cakes in the universe, slabs so big your arteries would scream for mercy, drowning out the independently-organised protests of your intestines and colon.


And when we weren’t pudding(ing), we were heading to pubs for birthdays (Shal’s and Cat’s within a week of each other), and to Grilled, which is Andy and Shal’s favourite burger bar, which has a small army of delicious burgers, as well as some of the best chips found anywhere.


To add to this joyful foodery, Andy and Shal had the one thing that might have brought the whole trip to a grinding halt – Wii. For those of you unfamiliar with the Nintendo Wii, its sole purpose is to suck you into the most preposterous games ever seen, and to give yourself crippling hand and shoulder injuries for no good reason. If you’ve never had the chance to play with one, picture a person with a huge grin on their face making motions with their hands that would not be out of place in a Thai massage parlour, while a roomful of spectators giggle. It could be the thing to bring about world peace. Cat and Shal playing the boxing game was so amusing, we could have charged admission.

All in, we spent nearly a month with Andy and Shal. We’d only really thought we’d spend a week. Our hand was forced by some hospital tests I had to have done, which delayed us in Melbourne (and if you’re at all concerned, the tests did conclude that, yes, I am male). We did disappear for 5 days to the Grampians to give Andy and Shal a rest from us. And yes, even at the time we felt bad for hanging around so long, but our stay was extended by (a) us not wanting to leave, and (b) having such darned fine hosts who refused to kick us out. I’ve met people I’d cross the universe to avoid in the future; Andy and Shal are the sort of folks you’d emigrate to stay in regular contact with.

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