I grew up when Anzac Day had a quiet, solemn dignity, there was no question of celebration, rather the fine noble need to pay tribute to those who had laid down their lives for us. My uncle, a Gallipoli veteran, told me harrowing stories that still shock me, always finishing his accounts, telling me he absolutely loathed war. My father talked little of his experiences in WW11, barely hiding a muted rage toward anything Japanese, while his brother, less emotionally damaged, told me how much he and his men grudgingly respected Rommel, (as opposed to Hitler). Proud of their war service, both detested war, however Anzac Day was their release from the nightmare memories, as they proudly walked with comrades alive and fallen.
Today, businesses advertise and tweet spurious Anzac associations, social media warriors hijack the occasion for unrelated causes, politicians don uniforms they’ve never earned, posing for cameras, holding wreaths or rifles, football clubs claim they’re honouring the day, while raking in a fortune at the turnstiles, cities send parking inspectors out to dawn services to write $200.00 fines, not to mention the Director of the Australian War Memorial seeking to have service people towing asylum seekers back to Indonesian waters honoured as war heroes at the War memorial.
My dad and my uncles would turn in their graves at the farce Anzac Day is fast becoming. Much is made of the Anzac legend, as we claim it represents the soul of our nation, yet we are destroying it with the collapse of political, corporate and individual respect.
I’ve never warmed to Bill Shorten, that wooden, business suited, monotonous TV interview persona, has inevitably left me underwhelmed. However somebody on Twitter the other week, gently chided me for thinking that way, saying if I ever had the chance to meet and listen to him in person, I would change my mind. I replied “Fair enough.” After all, I’ve been wrong about politicians before, Malcolm Turnbull is a prime example. I really liked Malcolm, pre PM days, but the relentless Prime Ministerial years of ‘Not being Malcolm’ have sadly exposed him as hollow. I don’t dislike him as such, I just feel sorry for him – you wouldn’t want him in the trenches with you, as the old saying goes. Was there a chance I would want Bill in the trenches with me?
In a simple Dylanesque twist of fate, Dr Anne Aly, the Labor MP for Cowan, sent out invites to an old style ‘Town Hall’ meeting with Bill Shorten, to be held on Monday 9th April at the Wanneroo Tavern. Now I love Town Hall debates, I participated in one as an Independent candidate (failed!) during the 2013 WA State Elections, you have to think on your feet and answer truthfully, even though you’re aware somebody in the audience is inevitably going to be offended, possibly even outraged at your response to an unscripted question. And of course, here was my chance to see Bill Shorten away from the TV studios, I replied in the affirmative.
It’s 11.00pm, some two and a half hours after the event concluded, I learnt a lot and I’m still mulling over some things. Firstly, the venue was packed, with people standing on the sides and rear of the venue. I assumed they were mostly rusted-on Labor voters, with the odd sprinkling of Doubting Thomases, such as myself, plus a few LNP plants. However what really stood out, was age, I’m prepared to bet the average was about 65yrs, these were ‘Howard’s Battlers,’ hard working pensioners, some still working, facing the impossible demands of cost versus savings and pension. Yes, there were a few younger people here and there, plus the usual enthusiastic young ‘How To Vote’ card booth volunteers, but the subliminal message was that young people are simply not engaged in politics, whilst older people are.
Alannah MacTiernan was there, which made me smile, as Bill had studiously ignored any talent and experience she has (and she has it in spades) when she was on his federal team. I didn’t see Tim Hammond, although I guess he didn’t want to rain on Dr Aly’s parade. There were some other Labor MPS, State and Federal, but their names didn’t ring a bell with me, plus one or two local councillors.
Bill Shorten made his entrance with his wife Chloe alongside, a good move, the entire hall stood and applauded, the true believers were indeed in the room. Yes, I stood and applauded, it seemed polite, rather like the old days in the movie theatre when ‘God Save the Queen’ was played. You stood as you were worried somebody would cuff you for your indiscretion.
Anne Aly acted as MC, thanking everyone for their attendance and introducing Bill and Chloe, then launching into her good news story re Bill’s announcement to give the Joondalup Hospital major funding if Labor is elected. She presents well and is confident, although somebody should have road tested the mic before the event. She then announced the Q&A session would begin.
Now this wasn’t a true Town Hall debate in the old style, although some unannounced questions were taken from the floor towards the end of the session. Participants, including me, had been asked to submit their question by email and as you signed in, you were given a slip of paper with your question typed out and told to read it if called upon. Anne picked out the questions, one assumes to suit the narrative, telling us Bill would deal with three questions at a time. He’d made notes in answer to the questions, although he didn’t refer to them when speaking. That’s the nature of politics these days, stage managed as much as possible, which just may have something to do with the disconnect, lack of trust and antipathy so many people feel towards politics and politicians.
And so to Bill Shorten, smartly dressed in a suit and tie, I thought back on a golden rule I always taught salespeople in my days as a luxury car dealership marketing manager – “Don’t out dress the customer!” If I was his advisers, yes, have him arrive in the suit, but three minutes in, say “I know I’m overdressed, I’ve just done several TV interviews, do you mind if I relax and whip off the jacket and tie?” Then have him lean against a table facing the audience, walking forward into the audience on key points. Won’t work at a Business Breakfast, but it will work talking with ‘Howard’s Battlers.’
There was no doubt he was across the questions he answered and his grasp of figures is noteworthy. Yes, it was Dorothy Dixer, in that the questions were pre-selected, but his answers were important and detailed, I was impressed with his honesty in how he replied to the extremely important (for all West Aussies), question on the GST carve-up, it was very informative and acceptable as a compromise. But a Hawke like larrikin Man of the People he isn’t. I began to form the impression his forte is large audiences, he’s possibly not particularly comfortable one on one, that’s not a fault as such, a lot of people are like that, it also would explain his wooden TV performances.
Having said that, every now and then, he’d make a joke, for example, answering a question on aged care, he at one stage said, “… it’s the canary in the coal mine,” then laughed and said, “Well, perhaps not a coal mine, some other sort of mine!” It got a deserved great response. Later, he mentioned Michaelia Cash, then said, “Not that I ever want to talk about her!” bringing loud laughter from everyone, including me. I thought, “Strewth, this bloke actually has a sense of humour, he’s quick witted and funny, why the hell doesn’t he let Bill Shorten the person of the leash?”
He doesn’t smile naturally – perhaps he’s on guard and doesn’t want to detach from the serious political image he prefers, he certainly makes mention of his belief that the public are tired of the constant bickering, name calling and open warfare of politics these days. I’m absolutely sure he’s correct on that, but I’m equally sure Australians do love a bit of ‘Larrikin on the Loose,’
He took several questions from the floor in the last 15 minutes, it was a good move and he was obviously across the topics well enough to answer thoughtfully, although a question about WA’s Landgate, had him quite naturally perplexed, which he freely admitted to – it wasn’t a question to be aimed at any Federal politician. However he handled a disgruntled produce farmer very well and respectfully. The chap was in his mid-80s, and bluntly said he was going to vote informal as he no longer believed any politician, stating he had in excess of one hundred people working on his farm, just outside the town of Wanneroo, but couldn’t get any locals, every worker was a foreigner. He also stated he believed Australia is living way beyond its means and we are leaving a huge debt problem for our children to deal with, what did Bill Shorten and Labor intend to do about it all?
This was the test I’d been waiting for. Bill was good, using a short spiel on why the guy should not waste his vote, to give himself time to construct an answer. He then responded that with his policies on taxation, he intended to make the top of town contribute fairly, but not excessively, so that the burden of debt would not be crippling for future generations. He went on to say he felt our way of life had made farm work unattractive to kids, he believed we needed as a nation, to put farm work back on the agenda as an excellent viable and worthy way of earning a living and this should be done at a young age (presumably primary school level). It was a clever response, letting him segue into policy on education, superannuation and taxation.
Anne Aly then took to the microphone again, thanking Bill and everyone for attending, Bill also thanked everyone and dropped a clue about a forthcoming announcement for her electorate, saying he’d been resisting saying anything, as he needed something to say on Wednesday. He then good naturedly posed for photos and handshakes with the audience. In our very brief meeting, he called me “Brother,” in much the same way Gough Whitlam once called me “Comrade,”
I drove away thinking deeply about the man and I’ve reached the following conclusions; he’s a politician through and through, not in the manner of Malcolm Turnbull, who sees himself as a leader – someone above politics! Rather, Bill lives and breathes politics, anything else is a distraction. The Bill behind the Bill Shorten mask is genuine, there is passion there, but he’s simply not a publicly demonstrative person. I suspect these ‘Town Halls’ are doing him the world of good, in that it’s helping him overcome an inbuilt unease with small, or one on one meetings. He is more likeable in person and far more trustworthy than he appears on TV.
Which segues into that when I arrived home, I read a number of Tweets from people complaining about Leigh Sales treatment of him on 7.30 Report earlier in the evening. I’ve only seen the clip where she persists in trying to get him to answer whether he’d told somebody he’d rip up any contract with Andani if elected. Unlike his ‘Town Hall’ event, he slipped into political mode and not only pointedly danced all around her attempts at getting a Yes or No response, he twice smiled a very false stage managed grin. Here was just another politician refusing to answer the question, reprimanding the interviewer for not understanding that he had answered the question and switching a false smile off and on as needed, perhaps signalled by a handler somewhere off camera. WTF? John Hewson sprung instantly to mind. The fact is, as with Richard Nixon, the medium of television is not Bill Shorten’s friend.
If I was called on to help get the Preferred Prime Minister opinion polls over the line, I’d tell him to be himself, tell him to crack those little jokes. Yes, maintain the dignity, but let that quick wit out, show us a bit of Hawke Larrikin, give us a little Keating Mongrel – but not too much of that, just enough to tease, grab the TV interviewers, confront and control them. Unsettling journos is dead easy, just keep asking them questions, they inevitably get annoyed, quickly losing control and voila, the audience is on your side. You keep playing by their rules, why? The Murdoch media machine actively hates you, Labor and the unions with a passion, so forget giving them anything, the bad headlines will be conjured up day after day regardless, besides, you won’t get to young voters with anything Murdoch. Radio and social media, (probably Instagram), are the paths to the youth attention. Use the ABC and SBS more, but make it work for you, give some thought to connecting with young voters through school programmes and visits. You’ve already got the attention of ‘Howard’s Battlers,’ they’re beginning to understand how much the LNP dislikes them, regarding them as welfare recipients, or worse, cheats, dragging the economy down, a burden on decent society! It is a class war, but you didn’t start it, the LNP and the Murdoch media machine created it and revel in it.
I am going to vote for Bill Shorten – well, Labor in my electorate, for two reasons; I loathe where this hideous LNP coalition has taken our country, how they have destroyed our ethos of a Fair Go and after seeing Bill speak in person, my gut feeling is he’s quite possibly as boring as bat shit, but he’s likeable, genuine and capable of providing a much needed steadying pair of hands to a Ship of State currently rudderless.
Bickley. It’s not exactly the sort of name to conjure up mental images of beautiful scenery or great food and wine, it sounds more like one of those solid boring Victorian era mill towns and I’m equally sure Mr Wallace Bickley (late of Heidelberg), was an equally solid pioneer. It is, at best, a dull name for a beautiful valley in the Darling Ranges, east of Perth. It was not always thus; think of Bickley as our colonial response to the British Royal Family and Windsor. WW1 meant that Germans and German names were a touch tricky, so the very German Saxe-Coburg and Gotha became Windsor and so too, did the beautiful Heidelberg district become Bickley.
Almost a century later, the valley is a relaxing day drive mecca just 40 minutes from the Perth CBD, it’s full of little cafés wineries and health retreats, etc, with seemingly more appearing by the month. German and Dutch people might be very interested to know, there is also a White Asparagus farm in the valley. It’s fair to say that more than a few of these businesses would like to see the area renamed to the far more appealing Heidelberg, all of which segues into a bunch of Germans, an Italian, a Frenchman, a Kiwi and an Aussie or two, taking lunch at The Vineyard Kitchen at the Brookside Vineyard.
It is a very sharp turn off Aldersyde Road into Loaring Road – most cars will need two turns to make it, then a short steep downhill drive leads to the property entrance. It’s beautifully laid out, full of ferns, native trees, a babbling brook and various fruit trees with a gravel road leading in. You actually drive through the outdoor dining area and kitchen / wine tasting building to the lawned parking area on the other side. It’s all set on the picturesque lower slope of the steep valley, utterly hidden from the road, only 200 metres away.
The main building was, I suspect, a fruit packing shed in days of old, these days adapted to house the kitchen, wine tasting and purchasing area and an indoor dining room (in case of inclement weather). It’s rustic, authentic and peaceful. Bookings checked, we’re ushered to our table by the brook and menus and wine lists given out. The reasonably extensive wine list comprises all their own wines – Brookside and our waitress makes an excellent suggestion that once we’ve chosen our dishes, we might like to come up to the building (ten metres away) and do some wine tasting, before choosing our wines.
Courses chosen, we repair to the bar. Our host and hostess are utterly relaxed and want us to try everything, a very civilised and much appreciated approach. The wines are very much in the style of the wines to be found down in the Swan Valley – fresh, with that little touch of vibrant sharpness, a very different style to say, Margaret River or Coonawarra, I have a preference for the more gutsy reds from those two districts and I can struggle to find a red wine to my taste, even in Europe; however they have an excellent Cab Sav Merlot blend that did the job perfectly – the Frog, the Wog and the Kiwi (Christian, Carlo and Greg) spent a very contented Sunday afternoon, consuming a bottle … or two. My German wife, a lover of Champagne and Prosecco, was very happy with Brookside’s Champers and the rest of our party gave thorough approval for the white wines on offer. You can buy everything by the glass, averaging around $12.00, or buy bottles, averaging $25.00 per bottle (the blend we three very contentedly consumed was $35.00 per bottle).
Back at our table under the ferns, the entrees were delivered and they were exquisite, in both presentation and taste, we hadn’t expected quite the level of cuisine we were being presented with! Sure the dishes on offer looked great in print, but sometimes things are lost in the translation from menu to plate. I won’t write down an exact list of every dish, you can look up the current menu on their website if you’re considering visiting the establishment, suffice to say, there was food for every taste, in terms of entrees, menus and deserts. I had Vodka and Beetroot cured Kingfish as an entrée, Asparagus Risotto as a main and Crème Brule as a desert, Christian felt his main course duck was a little dry, but that was the only niggle from any of us. I’ve posted photos of several of the dishes with this review. The service was fantastic, nothing obsequious, absolutely no attempt to hurry, none of that infuriating removal of dishes and glasses before you’re had time to put your fork down. The young ladies serving us were quite lovely, elegant and trained, it felt European. There were ten of us and the total bill (food and wine) came to $611.00, some didn’t have entrees and some didn’t have desserts, most had coffee. Now that’s not an expensive day for ten people, when you consider we’d also been graciously given a very full wine tasting experience.
The Vineyard Kitchen was an astounding revelation – this was a Margaret River dining experience just 30 minutes from home. If somebody had said the wonderful Aaron Carr was in the kitchen, I would not have been surprised – he wasn’t, I went to thank and congratulate the chef, a young guy with a big smile – since when do chefs smile? Often in Perth, our restaurants and cafés are sort of nouveau riche in their approach, you sense that it’s business, formulaic, as a customer, you’re almost in the way; down at glorious Margaret River , it can be a touch snooty – fabulous food and scenery, but not quite relaxed, if you’re not part of the in-crowd. The people at The Vineyard Kitchen have come up with a formula, that’s quintessentially Australian, totally relaxed, while utterly professional, serving exquisite food along with very acceptable wines in gorgeous surroundings, all within a short drive of most Perth suburbs! It was a fantastic find, it’s now our priority restaurant café to take visitors, friends and family. It’s a lovely scenic drive, either up Welshpool Road through Lesmurdie, or up Kalamunda Road. All of us, including overseas visitors and locals agreed this was a knockout, we’d recommend this place to anybody, whatever the weather. I have no hesitation giving The Vineyard Kitchen five stars, it simply doesn’t get any better.
The Facebook promo looked very inviting – a lush bucolic Swan Valley setting along with the offer of a Friday night special – $15.00 Fish and Chips and a $5.00 glass of beer. The Swan Valley Gourmet seemed worth a visit. We booked online, requesting an outside table and the affirmative booking response was very prompt. All good, we were looking forward to it – we rather enjoy finding little gems of cafés to visit.
So early Friday evening, we drove out to the café. The entrance is via a gravel road and it was obvious there was on-going construction work, with a relatively new home on the left, the road turns right, going past a typical farm dam, with, as you’d expect, a low water level at this time of the year. I did for a second, wonder if that was the rather lovely dam scene in the promo shot, but decided it wasn’t. 100 metres along the track and we arrived at a large three story shed, the area facing us was shambolic, so we figured the entrance was around the other side. It wasn’t, that turned out to be the parking area, which looked for all the world like any lay-down area at a farm or mine site. It was a tired and dispirited view, even a grey BMW car stood forlorn next to the shed, its grill filled with old cobwebs. But hey, parking is parking, it could only get better.
We walked around to the front, where there was a nice green lawn leading down to the dam. As we walked along the veranda, there were a couple of tables with chairs adjacent to the entrance door, both with Reserved tags on them, it did look as the tables had just been dumped there, with no attempt at decoration or neatness, but hey, we loved the wonderful, chaotic Café Mueller (now sadly closed), so quirkiness is no barrier for us, we rather like it.
We entered through the fly screen door, to be confronted by an interior that looked like the early stages of a theatre café stage set, or a second hand furniture store. At the counter in front of us, the lady asked our name, confirmed our booking and said, “You’re on Table 53.” We had no idea of their numbering system, so we confirmed that we’d booked to sit outside. “No. Can’t do that, neighbours.”
“Oh, we did specify.”
“No, sorry, nobody’s sitting outside, you’re on Table 53. Where’s Table 53?” she called out. Another staff member replied that it had been moved and was on the other side of pillar to our left. She ushered us to the table, gave us the menus and explained there was free iced water on a table.
By now we were both wishing we’d gone somewhere else, but they did seem like nice people, we reasoned they were probably just starting up and that no doubt the food would make up for the chaos and dishevelled shed. We looked at the menu and couldn’t quite work out what to get, so we waited for the waitress to return. She didn’t, but it gave us plenty of time to look around. It really was a shambles, with utterly no attempt at décor or fittings, even a few small flowers in vases on the tables would have given the place a lift. There were other people there, looking as taken aback as we were, a young couple with two little kids arrived and they’d obviously been expecting an outside table.
After five minutes or so, one of the staff members and I must stress, they were all lovely people, although stress is probably the operative word, came over, telling us we had to order at the counter. OK. After a very pleasant discussions with the guy at the till, we decided on a Seafood Basket at $20.00, extra chips for $5.00, a Side Salad for $5.00 and with much encouragement – “Our bread is the best, freshly baked, you have to have some!” We also ordered Bread and Butter at $2.00. The inquiry re Tartare Sauce saw another .50c added to the bill, a glass of Uber Beer was $5.00 and a glass of local white Sav Blanc, $10.00, all up the bill was $47.50. While we were ordering, there was utter confusion amongst all the staff, seemingly around everything, as they all politely questioned each other, alternating between frowns and distracted smiles in our direction. I became convinced it was their first night. Anyhow, we sat down and waited.
Now I’m not suggesting for one minute the meal took a long time to deliver, it didn’t, all good there, however while we were waiting, we popped out to the loos. We figured it wasn’t around the car park side, so went to the other side of the shed, sure enough, in what looked like an abandoned cottage, with stuff piled up on the veranda against the building sides, were the Ladies and Gents. Rustic and clean is the best description. My only other comment would be about the placement of the men’s urinal – there was a boy’s urinal as well, but whoever placed the men’s on the wall, was obviously a seven foot basketballer! It really is true – size doesn’t matter, but bloody hell, height does!
Back to our table and dinner is served.
We looked at it, then looked at each other. It looked for all the world, like pre-packaged seafood from a supermarket. There was only one piece of fish in the Seafood Basket and the chip servings were small, not only that, this was not the first dip in hot oil for the chips, most of them were dry and a number were shrivelling, but this was saved and made edible by the appreciated supply of a homemade relish / sauce (at no charge). The small bowl of salad wasn’t just tired, it was exhausted – limp, sinking in resignation upon itself and the over-supply of balsamic vinegar. The bread? The two slices had actually been buttered! And I’m really sorry to say, whoever is doing the baking has got the basics nailed, but there is a long way to go before a premium sourdough appears. The whole food scenario reminded me of roadhouses at the end of the day in small towns back in the 1970s.
We looked at each other and wondered whether to just leave it and go, but decided we’d paid almost $50.00, so we’d eat. Now the food wasn’t awful, it was quite edible, but the portions were small, there was no presentation, the food was tired and very ordinary. It was strangely depressing, we felt we’d wandered into somebody’s barn, where they were knocking up a quick meal for the workers at the end of a hard day.
We left, with the usual polite salutations and drove off stunned. We often dine at our local, the Rose and Crown, for the same money, we get far fresher food, far bigger portions and a large selection of drinks in a fabulous outdoor setting, or we can amble along to Alfred’s Kitchen, (it’s all about the crowd there, not the surroundings), for a great deal and great fresh food. None of what we’d experienced made any sense, except on the basis that it must have been a first night.
In summary. The staff are lovely people, very stressed, but polite and smiling, however it’s blindingly obvious nobody has extensive experience running a café or restaurant – at least I hope they don’t! It would be absurdly simple to tidy up the parking area – put up a fence to block the shambles, put up half a dozen large pots with trees or flowers and if they want to continue a rustic home style theme, put up some quaint, funny sayings along the path.
The front door / veranda presentation is a joke, you really can’t advertise the place in the way they do and then present guests with what they walk through. The same applies to the interior, c’mon, either you’re having a lend of people, or you really don’t know what to do.
And that most important of ingredients for a café – food – if you’re offering supermarket grade food, you can’t charge the prices you are and you simply can’t call yourself a gourmet establishment! What were you thinking? You’ve opened way too early, I’d hate to see your endeavour fail, but it will if you don’t get some expert help.
We need to be realistic in terms of our tourism goals, distance and the cost of covering those distances, will continue to be an issue for decades. Our capital city is car centric, more often than not, our trains don’t go into main centres – the destinations are car parks requiring cars and buses to actually reach shops or attractions. Buses don’t serve tourists well, simply because their role is to provide transport for commuters and shoppers, tourists don’t want to waste precious hours on commuter buses – anywhere in the world.
The closest major natural attractions to the city, are Kings Park, the Pinnacles, Rottnest Island and Margaret River, the first three being day trips, however Margaret River is at the very least a two day trip, three if you’re sensible. Yes, we have superb or fascinating scenery elsewhere – Albany, Esperance, Kalgoorlie, Fitzgerald River, Kalbarri, the Pilbara and the Kimberly, but distance means days of touring and considerable expense, you need multiple visits to take in all these attractions – if they interest you.
European countries and to a certain extent, Sydney, with the bridge, the Opera House and the Rocks, inevitably have cultural and historic buildings and sites where it’s possible to walk or tourist bus hop all day and be overwhelmed with what you see, we simply don’t have that architectural or historic history.
We do have a stunningly beautiful river, a great Mediterranean climate and a relaxed outdoor lifestyle, with, thankfully, an increasing number of cafes and restaurants appearing along the shores, however, it’s a long way to travel from overseas, or the eastern states (and a lot of money) to come for a coffee and not all potential target markets are interested in travelling to relax, the sort that are, usually board a cruise ship.
Regardless of why, eating, drinking and touring around Perth, is very expensive for visitors from the Eastern States and Kiwis, not so much for Europeans – the Euro and Pound are worth almost twice as much as the Aussie dollar. The increasingly cashed up and middle classes from China and India also find it expensive and they inevitably have short (one to two weeks at most) holiday breaks. If we consider backpackers, yes, they love Perth, but find it too expensive to spend much time in, unless they can find jobs, which has a plus side for the state, as they often use that money to travel on to the Pilbara and Kimberley.
I have virtually no experience with Indian visitors, so I have no idea what generally appeals, however my experience with Asian visitors (from Singapore, Malaysia, Japan and China), is that they don’t wish to be out in the sun, they love shops and shopping for food and they love seeing Australian animals – for example the Caversham Wildlife Park – try getting out there on public transport during a weekend!
I feel the shift in inbound WA tourism since the heydays of the 1980s, has been in visitors coming to visit family and friends, rather than scenery, they stay with who they came to visit and travel in their cars with them, hence the drop in hotel and tourist patronage. It’s very common for Asian and Indian people to have children studying here and the primary purpose of their visit is to see those kids. European visitors usually have children who have emigrated here, in other words, the reason for flying into Perth, is family, not an attraction, history, or a great desire to see Western Australia.
We have enormous competition from Sydney, the Cairns / Great Barrier Reef area and Melbourne – they’re easy to get to, travel is relatively cheap from one to the other and the marketing is long established, then there’s New Zealand. The Kiwis are like us, they don’t really have much in the way of historic buildings, but they have the greatest array of stunning natural scenery in the most compact area of any country in the world, plus Maori culture, a huge factor in their tourism numbers. They even managed to pinch Lord of the Rings territory from England and make it theirs. As galling as it might be, when overseas tourists make the decision to visit Australia, their destination goals are Sydney, the Great Barrier Reef, Melbourne (for sports events) and then New Zealand. If we’re honest, if the travel agent in Paris, or London, or Munich asks if you want to go on to Perth, or New Zealand, Aotearoa will win every time.
There is a school of thought that perhaps we should not seek to increase tourism numbers, as we will never be able to compete with the markets mentioned above. As with most destinations across the world, our tourism is seasonal, however in those other destinations – Europe, Asia and the USA, the resident and neighbour country populations are so vast, tourism related ventures are profitable year round and on the East Coast of Australia, the local feed from Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and New Zealand to each destinations keeps tourism sustainable year round. That tyranny of distance and our small pot of 2.2 million residents, mean we will probably never find ourselves in their enviable position. It’s quite logical to say money would be better spent building up public transport – trams and trains, so that locals can get about more quickly – fear of being caught drink driving, in a city where you have to have a car, has led to a massive social change, where people entertain at home. If, over the next decade or two, we were able to present an easy, fast public transport system to the world, it would be a big plus.
Or, should we take the Melbourne approach? Melbourne always did cafes and small bars far better than us, however we are fast catching up, both in the CBD and some suburbs. We are far behind in terms of public transport (trams are such an obvious winner) and Melbourne did retain far more of her older buildings, but Melbourne beaches are as boring as and the Yarra looks like brown sludge on a slow move. Like us, Melbourne is predominantly miles of boring suburbs, but their weather can’t hold a patch to Perth. There are similarities – they have the lovely Dandenong ranges, we have the beautiful Darling Ranges and both cities have excellent wineries nearby. The parallels are quite striking, yet Melbourne has become a ‘must do’ destination. Certainly what they did with Southbank was brilliant – with the cafes, theatre and gallery all in one area, they’ve made it a southern version of Paris, the Yarra looks impossibly stunning in the setting they’ve created, but it’s not the reason Melbourne has become an essential destination.
The answer is absurdly simple: Sport. The government of the time made a conscious decision to make Melbourne the Sports capital of Australia and they went out and bought the title. They knew that AFL was southern Australian centric, of little or no interest to most overseas people, however they understood the hold sport has on most people around the world – the Melbourne Cup stops Australia. In an audacious move, they literally stole the Formula One Grand Prix from Adelaide, it is now regarded as one of the traditional and best F1 races on the Calendar, seasoned commentators often say Monaco, Melbourne and Silverstone in the same breath. Such has been the success, Sydney’s Olympics couldn’t knock the title from Melbourne. They made staid Melbourne exciting, it’s a must see destination, even if major sports event aren’t on.
Why not Perth? Past governments, both Liberal and Labor, have been remarkably reluctant to spend money on major sporting events, Labor in particular stands out as disliking anything to do with motorsport. Perhaps they should take a leaf out of Virgin Airlines ability to change focus – 20 years ago, Virgin would not consider any sponsorship of motorsport, now they are the naming rights sponsor for Supercars. We had a great golf tournament here for several years – the Johnny Walker Classic, we’ve had Australia Cup yacht racing, even the America’s Cup, not to mention Rally Australia, all gone.
There’s an old but true saying, it takes money to make money. It seems we don’t have the will, or the confidence to spend for a long term future, but if we don’t find the political will, then lets drop any pretensions of becoming a premier Australian destination.
At the peak of our success as a tourism destination in the 1980s, the late Noel Semmens hit upon a naff, but clever slogan for our number plates – The State of Excitement. Yes, it was cheesy, but tourism was pumping, there was a buoyant vibe in the air, but gradually an all pervasive ‘Can’t do’ atmosphere fell and we’ve never really recovered.
There’s never been a better time to approach the Federal government for funding, or put the opposition on the spot to maintain it when they get in. If we want tourism to be a major income and employment source, we need to be bold.
There is an increasingly exciting Formula E class of motor racing for electric cars – the first race was in Beijing in 2014, bring it here! Bring / create a major power boat race here (on the Swan). Buy into a major golf tournament. Build the mooted Aboriginal culture museum at the current white elephant Elizabeth Quay. Bring Supercars into the City.
We’ve had the nonsense figures served to us about Elizabeth Quay attracting nine million visitors a year and hopefully learnt our lesson. It’s time to stop listening to empire builders. If we’re going to buy events, (as we’re doing by forcing events to use Elizabeth Quay), let’s do it properly! We either make Perth and WA exciting, or make the decision that it’s too hard and too expensive.
OK news media, enough of the shock and horror about the cricket cheats. It turns out these fine young men took ball tampering to new heights – sandpaper for fucks sake and now we’re getting reports the same blokes had been under suspicion for the last couple of years! The word serial springs to mind.
However it’s over, I’m not sure what good was supposed to come out of the airport interviews yesterday, although a cynic would say it was a great marketing method of switching anger to sympathy – bloody clever. In effect, their actions are on a par with people doctoring resumes, or plagiarising – the fall from grace is swift and necessary.
It’s also very easy to understand other cricketing nations coming in hard, Australia has always brazenly displayed a ‘holier than thou’ arrogance to other teams, the old saying comes to the fore – ‘can dish it out, but can’t take it’. Be that as it may, it’s now time to leave these blokes alone, to get their lives back together and resurrect what is possible over time and I do think Cricket Australia does have a duty to give them support – they encouraged the culture that claimed them.
The Cameron guy looked like a decent bloke to me, everyone makes mistakes and I can see where peer pressure would be intense to a newcomer, although the reports of established behaviour are disturbing – a question mark remains. The Smith captain cove always came across as a bit of an arrogant sneering prick, I can’t quite feel terribly sad. Warner always struck me as an arrogant thug arsehole. I’d have hated to have had him in any team / sport I followed’ I don’t give a fuck what happens to him. As for Lehmann the coach – we’ve all come across them – boorish thick bogans, Dumbo will survive, too thick not to.
The good thing is, that finally, hopefully, we won’t have cricket and players, rammed down our throats as some sort of heroic endeavour with its appointed heroes saving our souls. Thankfully, the Howard era of pushing cricketers to be Australians of the Year are fading, it was such bullshit! People payed millions then put on a pedestal for doing themselves a favour? It’s time for us all to grow up – cricket, rugby league, cycling etc. are all great sports, but they’re not bastions of decency and fair play, let alone sportsmanship – whatever that may mean these days.
I do think these events point to a greater malaise in our society – all nations. We’ve grown accustomed to lies from all sources we deal with – the non- answers and bare faced lies from politicians – the absolute lie of Weapons of Mass Destruction by that trio of warmongering fuckwit dickheads – Bush, Howard and Blair, the arrogant bovver boy bullshit from the likes of Barnaby Joyce, the brutal lowest common denominator racism and hatred of Hanson as she claws onto power, the “this is all about me” bullshit ‘anyway the wind blows of Xenophon, the brutality of far right religious Christian politicians, demonising anyone not white, especially Muslims. Jesus wept (that’s appropriate for Good Friday) – the far right are now openly canvassing to put white people in danger ahead of black people in danger! The utter disregard for objective reporting and blunt social conditioning enforced by the Murdoch empire, the entitlement of a Dastyari, a Bishop, a union official clawing out a safe Labor seat, the lie of Turnbull, too enveloped by power to be himself, the slimy teflon of the poll driven Shorten, the list is sadly, almost endless. These people are blatantly in it for themselves and whatever team they’re batting for. Nobody accepts responsibility and the umpire’s call is battled out in every court possible – witness the hideous Perth City Council fiasco.
Religion? Bishops, Rabbis, Mullahs and Popes sitting in their cesspits of holiness, protecting paedophile priests in some hideous religious rendition of suffer little children. Catholicism with its entrenched misogyny, worshipping Mary for being a virgin, above other women and worse, rewriting history, presenting Jesus as fair haired and blue eyed. For Christ’s sake, he was a Middle Eastern Jew; he would have looked almost exactly the same as many of the refugees trying to get to reach the sanctuary of Europe and Australia by boat.
Then there’s big business – the blatant lies from telcos, the refusal to deal with people, the hiding behind online forms, the bullshit bait advertising, the lies of Volkswagen in terms of its bullshit diesel emissions – they didn’t give a flying fuck about pollution and consider this, the German Lower Saxony government owns 25% of Volkswagen! The shocking treatment of people needing assistance from staff at Centrelink, the abuse of employees through non-payment of entitlements, the theft of superannuation funds by the stealth of fees and bullshit insurances that will never be paid, again the list is endless.
We have become inured to it all, not only do we not believe anything anymore, we now accept, even laugh about it and take haven in our own tribes. Nazi fascism is on the rise – we’re at a point where the neo Nazis have so confidently crawled out of the sewers, they’re getting seats in governments, they’re confident enough to raise Nazi flags, or versions of that most shocking of emblems. They and their goon supporters call peace loving people who want to look after the Earth and her inhabitants, ‘Fascist Lefties,’ betraying their complete misunderstanding of the word.
We used to have the best, bluntest, most fearless press in the world, but sadly the media barons have retrenched them, turning most of those still in full time employment into contracted hacks working under threat of redundancy if they don’t follow the owner’s editorial guide. And follow they do. The media barons have almost succeeded in their destruction of the ABC and the BBC, with politicians only too willing to shut down fearless criticism. Do we seriously think the likes of Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, or Google, or Amazon will give us all the news, not to mention look after our best interests?
Why should we expect our cricketers to be different? The enormously tragic truth is they reflect our society – selfish, thuggish, prepared to sacrifice principles for a win or even just a point. Us.
I’m in my mid to late 60s and like many Baby Boomers, I suspect I’ll still be in an armchair, zimmer frame beside me, malt whisky in hand, drifting away to the sounds of Cream, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd in twenty years time. The concerts will no doubt have finished, but the legends will dance forever on DVDs, perhaps even laser light shows.
For those of us who lived, loved, laughed, smoked and somehow made it alive through the 60s and 70s, these are poignant times – we’ve lost the towering giants, Leonard Cohen and David Bowie, illness such as arthritis is beginning to make performing difficult for other giants – Eric Clapton and Bob Dylan, Neil Diamond’s had to stop. Individual band members such as John Lodge from the Moody Blues and Rick Wright from Pink Floyd have passed away, voices are starting to go and magnificent artists such as Elton John are calling ‘Closing Time’ on touring. The Stones? None of us know – I think it’s voodoo, but hell, they’re still wonderful.
The message being, if you love this music, buy a concert ticket! Go now my brothers and sisters, it’s later than you think! All of which is a very long introduction to writing about Roger Waters US + THEM concert and of course, Roger Waters himself.
“Which one’s Pink?” None of them and all of them, nor was there a Floyd, but dear God, was there ever a Pink Floyd! 1965 – Syd Barrett, Nick Mason, Roger Waters and Richard Wright, with David Gilmour joining in 1967. When Syd’s dreadful mental health problems forced his departure in early 1968, bass guitarist Roger Waters became the main lyricist and is often referred to as Pink Floyd’s conceptual leader – think THE DARK SIDE OF THE MOON, WISH YOU WERE HERE, ANIMALS, THE WALL.
Unfortunately tensions between band members became such, that Roger Waters left in 1985. Since then, David Gilmour has continued to tour as Pink Floyd and Waters as Roger Waters, both groups playing the same back catalogue. There’s a lot more to the history, including a one off reunion in 2005, however this tale is of Waters.
Waters has long been touted as grumpy, difficult and a pain, he’s also a renowned activist and in the past has been so vehemently anti Israel, one could be forgiven for labelling him as anti Semite, all of which had kept him off my must-see list, as much as I loved his music, all of which amounted to nothing, when I found I would be home in Perth when he was touring his US + THEM concert – would the chance to see him ever come about again? I bought tickets, though my wife was even more hesitant than me re the Jewish animosity (we’re not Jewish, indeed my wife is German) – we don’t not support Palestine, rather we see both sides, but enough of the politics.
Though we were seated at the rear of the floor, the view was excellent and as it turned out, the multi media meant we were in the thick of things. But first, my only complaint and I plan to take it further. I have no idea why you would pay hundreds of dollars for a concert ticket and then constantly get up to buy beer, then go the loo, then buy more beer. It drove us mad, your view was constantly blocked by fuckwits who can’t go an hour without a bloody beer! I have struck this once before, at a Leonard Cohen concert in Dublin – perhaps it’s the Irish ancestry coming to the fore – we’re basically alcoholics. The problem is very easily solved. Everyone is allowed to buy a drink (beer, water, wine etc) before the show and bring it in, plus there is an interval to do the same. Perth Arena, CLOSE THE BLOODY BARS WHILST THE SHOWS ARE ON! Simple! It is disrespectful to the artist. Certainly people will still need to go the loo, that’s fine, but a constant stream of people going to and fro is off the planet. If you can walk out of Roger Waters playing WISH YOU WERE HERE to buy a beer, you’re not a fan, you’re just a fuckwit boozer with no appreciation for musicianship, melody or lyrics, the songs mean nothing to you, other than a drunk memory from the past. Rant over.
There’s no point in trawling through every song, we all know them, stand outs just kept happening one after the other. However ANOTHER BRICK IN THE WALL was something else. It came on early in the first set, I’d wondered what he’d do to freshen it up – we’ve all seen the cartoon imagery a thousand times. My mouth and I suspect those of most other people at the concert, except those out buying beer, is still open in stunned disbelief. As the band got under way, people came out on stage dressed in Guantanamo Bay orange hooded suits, facing the crowd, dancing in front of the band, suddenly their hood were removed, to reveal kids of all ages, singing, “All in all, you’re just another brick in the wall!” As if that wasn’t gob smacking enough, towards the end of the anthem, the kids climbed out of their prison suits to reveal they were all wearing t-shirts reading RESIST!. In light of what’s going on in the US with kids taking the lead against guns and violence, it was one of the most powerful visual images I have ever seen. At the end of the song, Roger Waters explained that although they’d been using kids as they toured around the show around the World, they’d never done it quite like this, he added they’d only met the kids (Variety Youth Choir) at 5.30pm that night and he couldn’t believe how good they were and it was. He laid his arm over his heart and the big screens showed he had tears in his eyes. He had me, my wife and our friends, lock, stock and barrel.
After interval, Waters deeply anti war message asserted itself as the theme of every anthem. It was powerful and I have never witnessed any singer prepared to take a political stand as openly and forcefully he has. Brave, powerful and so decent, you just wanted to shake his hand and yell out, “YES!”
Battersea Power Station and the Pig! (from ANIMALS), are both synonymous with anything Pink Floyd, and they featured in this show, like you wouldn’t believe! The audience became aware a long web of machinery was lowering above them, stretching back from the front of the stage, to the rear of the auditorium. Once lowered, screens began to rise and from three or four boxes, chimneys extended, puffing out smoke. Suddenly projectors threw the image of the power station walls onto the screens, you were literally there, sitting beside the brick walls of the power station, utterly surreal. Somehow, it didn’t interfere with the band, it all just became one, then the PIG did fly! But this time, there were no wires and, as Pig was inside, no danger of flying away to shut down Perth airspace!, the pig was radio controlled, flying effortlessly around the room.
Waters got vicious. Nope, not about Israel, President Trump. Whilst other despots featured now and then, as the band segued into PIGS, Trump’s image was everywhere. Trump Tweets flashed up on the screen, they were on Pig. Waters ended the segment yelling “Trump is a fucking idiot!” The auditorium rose as one, hands thrust into the air, they agreed. RESIST! sprayed across the screens.
Sudden darkness, then lasers formed THE DARK SIDE OF THE MOON triangle, at the same time, they also began to form the prism effect, bringing yet another massive cheer from the crowd – we didn’t need a guitar, we all knew what was coming, but we didn’t know Waters had a radio controlled Moon. Just as Pig had flown over us, the Moon floated over us, at times hovering over the stage, in front of the laser triangle / pyramid. You didn’t need a joint, or even a wine, this was out of the world, sublime is the correct word and the band! The sound WAS Floyd, just brilliant musicianship and vocals, all you could do was stand and cheer as each anthem finished.
Half an hour overtime, Waters finished a beautiful song PART OF ME DIED (not one of his) lamenting lost love, tender, tears, then there was only one song he could possibly do. The sensation was that of bordering on the edge of sexual climax, you knew it was coming.
“Hello? Hello? Hello? Is there anybody in there?”
Two hands on the massive back screen slowly came together, as COMFORTABLY NUMB pealed, soared and soaked across the auditorium into every soul. The beer drinker procession slowed to just three or four people. The hands disintegrated, the human cost of war splashed across the screen, COMFORTABLY NUMB took on a resonance that hopefully will stick with us all. Ticker tape began to fall from the ceiling, as we reached out to take them, we realised they read RESIST! Waters put down his bass guitar and unfurled an Aboriginal flag. Tears in his eyes and his hand once more tapping his heart, he told us the Australian and New Zealand audiences had been the best, “.. just something else!”
I believe him. I have had the fortune to witness one of the greatest events – rock concert just doesn’t do it justice, I’ve ever witnessed. I loved it, I loved the music, I loved the message and I love the bloke. My wife Ann was just shaking her head, “OMG! Wow, incredible!” I looked at my boofy mate, I don’t think he’ll mind my saying I saw his tears – they were rolling down my cheeks as well. His wife, a well respected Opera singer in her own right, said, “I am awe struck – the band, the presentation, him, the sound, just brilliant!”
You bloody bet!
Courtesy of The West Australian, here’s the Set List:
In light of the recent spate of allegations of sexual harassment, it appears our justice system is not offering avenues of support and resolution to either the accusers, or the accused. It’s appalling to read that many women feel they hit a brick wall when complaining about behaviour.
We are also witnessing what may prove to be appalling cases of wrongly accused people loosing reputations and careers without any recourse to the justice system or the right to a presumption of innocence, waking to find themselves named and shamed on the front pages of newspapers across the country. In the case of Geoffrey Rush, a journalist went trawling to try and find any gossip about any actor.
I suggest that governments in Australia move as soon as possible to make any complaint of sexual harassment immediately reportable to a specially established court by an employer and the accused, with substantial fines for non reporting.
Such a court would be bound by absolute privacy, as would all parties. The parties would be required to attend and the magistrate (s) – a panel of three might be the way to go – would then determine whether there was enough evidence to dismiss the complaint, warrant a trial, or perhaps mediate a mutually agreeable settlement.
If a trial was established as necessary, at that point and only at that point, would the names of the parties involved be made public, any prior publication by the media, or on social media would also incur substantial penalties.
As a society, we cannot allow situations to develop where predators can act without consequence as a result of power or position, nor can we allow the destruction of peoples reputations, careers and lives on unproven hearsay.
As we watch our democratic countries retreat into right wing white facism, under leaders – well, they’re not leaders in the true meaning of the word, rather elected facists, offering nothing but fear and hate, people such as Trump, Turnbull, Netanyahu and we haven’t even touched on the Saudis and African Dictators – the one beacon of decency and democracy, has been Germany, under the ultra conservative Anglea Merkel. Yet even her conservatism has not been enough to to stop the election of extreme right parties and their members.
The most virulent of Germany’s ultra – right parties, is AfD, with its power base in the old Eastern Germany. The region has become a boiling point for old time East Germans and their progeny, who to their annoyance, discovered after the fall of the Berlin Wall, there was no free meal ticket, they were expected, by the rest of Germany, to work hard and diligently, with no guarantees of wealth and riches.
East Germany had, before the fall of the Wall, become a two – tier society – the Haves – members of the elite, wanting for nothing, very powerful (and dangerous) within the communist regime and the Have Nots – apartments provided and do-nothing jobs where it was rare for people to put in a hard day’s night. Western culture and work ethic was a shock to them..
When your work ethic is minimal and your expectation is one of the State looking after you from the cradle to the grave, a modern democracy such as Germany is not satisfactory, and naturally, somebody must be held to blame, but who?
Ah, migrants, refugees, Muslims – preferably one and the same. Even better if the interlopers don’t have German as their Mother Tongue. The situation has become truly terrible, in that outrageous claims are being made against migrant people and refugees, in the expectation that white Germans doing it tough, will understand where exactly the problem stems from.
On Tuesday 2nd of January 2018,, things reached a new low. Jens Maier is not only a sitting AfD member of the German parliament, he is also a judge! He reacted,via Twitter, to a TV interview with Boris Becker’s son. I’ve posted his Tweet at the start of this article, but for non German speakers, here is the translation of what he wrote:
“The little half nigger simply seems to have been given too little attention, you can’t explain his behaviour any other way.” May I just print that again!
“The little half nigger simply seems to have been given too little attention, you can’t explain his behaviour any other way.”
This is not Memphis USA in 1955, it is Germany in 2018! It is an elected German member of Parliament, talking about the son of one of Germany’s most famous sportsman, tennis great, Boris Becker.
The Tweet has since been deleted and the Judge is now saying it wasn’t him, it was a staff member. Oh, dear, sorry about that Judge, but mate, Australian’s are notorious for calling bullshit when we hear it, see it, or in this case, read it. Unfortunately inn Australia, we are seeing the on-going demonisation of Muslims and anybody not white, we are very. very close to this sort of hideous behaviour.
In the 1930s, Germans sat mute whilst the Nazi Party demonised Jews, Gypsies and anybody not Ayrian looking, thinking they were at least safe. It wasn’t so, anybody not agreeing with Nazi agenda was an enemy of the state. Post war Germany thought it had destroyed these people. The country now reels in shock that their kind is on the rise, worse, increasingly popular.
At the same time, the hideous President of the United States openly chastises black people and stands virtually mute on the white supremacists who whole heartedly support him, all the time, seeking to appoint white supremacists to the courts and his inner sanctum. In Australia, the current government daily demonises Africans, Muslims, Kiwis and so on. Oh? It won’t happen in Australia? How many times have you seen posts screaming about Kiwis or the Irish taking all the FIFO jobs in Australia? The Australian public no longer understands that being a migrant is not cause for suspicion and being a refugee is not illegal, such has been the success of the LNP’s propaganda machine.
We are just a step away from Australian politicians feeling comfortable enough to say “The little half nigger simply seems to have been given too little attention …”
Ask Germans about their history, if you think you’re safe, you’re not, a government set on a cleansing agenda of white supremacy will come for you and your family before too long. The rot is in, the Jens Maier’s of our world are crawling out of the sewers with their poison and hate. They are in their way, no different to the evil Isis and al qaedas, in fact their racist and intolerant statements provide food for the agendas of radical Muslim groups.
We are all human, our cultures are often different, but we are one, we cannot let this filth and ignorant hatred divide and ruin what can still be a beautiful world.
In post Christmas reflective mode – code for the second glass of red wine by 4.00pm on a lazy kinda Friday, deep in the heart of North Rhine-Westphalia – I feel, after several years of regular visits, I am well positioned to offer advice to the unsuspecting Aussie or Kiwi visitor; as follows.
On arrival, you’ll find German customs and police officers more relaxed than their Aussie equivalents, it’s quite possible to get a smile, sometimes even a joke out of them! Don’t try it in Holland, their customs / border police are very serious – a smile could see you ushered into a side room! All of which segues into the fact that Germans do have a great sense of humour, you just have to wait for them to relax. Once they feel order has been established, a nervous smile appears.
Meeting a German , especially men, for the first time in Germany, can be disconcerting. Yes, it is exactly as they do it in the movies – they sort of come to attention, their heels click together and almost salute, but then catch themselves and offer their hand, as they bow their heads slightly. Do not laugh!
After a while, you too will find yourself clicking your heels together and bowing.
Wine, beer, schnapps and malt whiskey can be bought very cheaply at almost every shop, including service stations.
You don’t need a car, except perhaps in Baden Baden, or a little village (should you be running or hiding from somebody).
Do not buy Duty Free Malt Whiskey at the airport of departure, or your airport of arrival (in Oz or NZ), buy the bottle at a German supermarket, you’ll save AUS $30.00 or $40.00 – in Kiwi terms, a day’s wages!
There are no trucks, (except a few with special permits), on the roads on Sundays. Travelling by car? Firstly why? Secondly, if it’s long distance, go on the Sunday.
The train system is great, although not infallible, don’t forget to stamp (validate) your ticket in the machine! Beware, advised platform numbers can change in an instant! Ask for help! Day or two, or three or week long passes are the go, as they apply to both trains and buses and are good value.
There are four classes of trains – ICE (Inter Capital Express), IC (Inter Capital – not express), Regional – they’re the double storied red and grey trains and Local – often in colours of the region they operate in. All trains have toilets and they’re free … if they work!
Although DB display carriage plans at the stations, nobody apparently tells whoever assembles the trains that there is a prearranged order, therefore at every station, people run up and down the platform desperately trying to find where on earth their carriage is. Be prepared for the mad chaotic scramble.
You can buy your ticket on the local train, which is fine, as long as you read German. There’s a trick to make your fare cheaper – the queue to buy a ticket from the machine is usually long and if you keep putting yourself at the end of the queue, you’ll have gone through so many stations, your fare will be cheaper. You might even reach your destination before you’ve reached the machine! You can pick the students travelling!
Flixbus coaches are a very cheap alternative to moving around, but remember you get what you pay for! Arrival and departure times change constantly without warning, drivers usually speak no English, announcements are all in German and it’s very chaotic. Often the wrong destinations are on the windscreen and so on.
You might think you’re clever standing at the front of the queue at the coach front door, however the bus driver will get out, ignore you, light a cigarette (all Flixbus drivers smoke like chimneys) and go to the luggage compartment at the rear of the bus, where he’ll check the tickets of those with luggage and they get on the bus, finding seats first!
Flixbus drivers spend every possible minute on the phone, often they have two phones. They do not stop talking on the phone even when checking tickets and certainly not if a passenger has a question.
Fliixbus drivers do not help with luggage, you put it on and take it off!
Beware, at stops, people scramble around to get their bags, sometimes putting somebody else’s bag on the pavement to get to theirs, but forgetting to put the other bag back on board. The bus drives off and nobody has any idea where your bag might have been dropped.
A lot of Muslim families use Flixbus and it can be entertaining watching Muslim women and men panic if it looks like a man is going to sit beside one of the ladies. You’ll witness more seat swapping than in the back seat days of drive in movies.
Every bus will be have several aggressive non Muslim young woman taking up two seats with their handbags beside them.
Bakeries and Nordsee cafes are great cheap places to eat and very importantly, only the big hotels and department stores take credit cards, everyone else takes cash. Also nobody pay passes credit cards, it’s all code numbers and signatures.
Take a shopping bag – Germans do not do plastic bags.
If it’s clothes you need (see underpants below), the only place to shop is C & A – the department store complex is in every German city and town – excellent quality, fashionable and very well priced, often cheap – see underpants below!
You’ll be given a receipt for everything, even a €1.00 lolly.
Uber does exist in some cities, but taxis hold sway and they are not cheap!
You will need your credit card to hand to the train guard along with your ticket and quite possibly your passport.
ID is King in Germany – we had to hand over our passports at the Baden Baden Casino and we were then issued with ID cards with all our details on them.
Get used to the sound of gunfire. The Germans are great hunters, everywhere you go, in any forest, close to roads, villages and anything else, there will always be hunters firing away at deer, boar, pigeons etc.
Take lots of underwear – the Germans don’t usually have dryers and things in winter take a long while to dry, consequently, Germans have more underwear than anybody else on the planet. If you’re there for four weeks, take four weeks of underwear along.
Germans don’t have laundromats all around the cities and towns and you won’t usually find laundry facilities at hotels.
The Germans don’t do sheets (top and bottom) as we Aussies and Kiwis do, they have bettlaken – doonas which inevitably are too short to cover your feet all night.
Germans are very relaxed about sex and nudity.
Germans, like the English, have very small shower stalls – a bigger person has to crab in sideways and will often end up in hospital with damaged elbows (wounded on the shower sides.
Don’t use soap in the shower – if you drop it, there is no room to bend over and pick it up, use shower gel.
Germans, unlike the English, do have really good strong, hot showers.
Germans do have fabulous oil – fired central heating – thank God!
Don’t laugh at the thought of Long Johns – in winter they are essential!
Long Johns are worn over underpants, they’re not a substitute!
Going to the loo is expensive and a bloody pain in winter – no, I’m not referring to constipation! – all the layers of clothing that must be removed to get anywhere! If you are a customer at a cafe, the loo is free, but if not, or you’re at a station etc, you’ll pay anywhere up to €1.00 – taking the piss in Germany ain’t cheap!
More bad news re loos – disconcerting really! Most loos have an attendant, who not only keeps the joint clean, but also seems to want to help you with the task and often it’s a woman. All becomes clear when you spot the saucer with small change in it. Leave 10c, or run!
Shops are not open on Sundays.
Germany is divided by religion! Protestant to the north and Catholic to the south.
You’ll hear the appealing sound of church bells pealing quite often – North and South.
Germans are not keen on electric blankets! Their birth rate should be a lot higher than what it is!
Germans love hot water bottles, which may explain why their birth rate is not higher.
German supermarkets sell everything, from food to clothes – you can get anything you want at them and really good food, (whether fresh, pre-packaged or frozen), is cheap and universally high quality.
Every town, village and city will have professional beggars – they’re inevitably Eastern Europeans working in gangs, with well practised cripple movements.
There isn’t a Muslim problem.
There is a problem with Russian and Romanian gangs.
There is a problem with Neo – Nazis, mostly in east German cities.
On escalators, stand to the right. People will want to stride past you and will become very aggressive if you’re blocking them!
Berliners take no prisoners, in queues, on escalators, or on the sidewalk.
Remember the golden rule – There must be order!
Germans will yell at you if you ignore the Don’t Walk sign and jaywalk. Crowds of them on either side of the street will very loudly berate you for not obeying the signs. As long as there isn’t a policeman in sight, it’s worth doing, just to hear and see the reaction.
Germans ignore the order rule when queuing, in the manner (well, no manners really) of Chinese ladies at a shop sale, queuing is not particularly a concept they understand. Survival of the fittest is the rule – watch everyone around you for a sudden move!
Germans react with shock if you are annoyed and say something like “Fuck this for a joke!” – (see survival of the fittest in Queuing above). It is, rest assured, a guaranteed method of getting the full, unnerved attention of whoever annoyed you.
Germans eat huge breakfasts of fruit juice, cold meats, tomatoes, cucumber, fish and rolls with coffee and or tea.
A German cannot go without the aforesaid breakfast.
Germans cannot walk past a bakery, if more than 35 minutes has passed since they had a meal.
Germans generally don’t do large dinners – lunch and or breakfast are their big meals.
Do not refer to dinner as tea, a German will become very concerned and confused.
Germans do recycling in a very big way. Every house has several bins, all of them too small and all of them designated for certain waste product, even the cities, town centres and stations have rubbish bins divided into separate sections. Indeed, so do the trains. Don’t get it wrong! (see jaywalking above).
Germans like to go walking, hiking and push bike riding. It’s important to understand that weather conditions have absolutely no bearing on this! To a German, it’s perfectly normal to go for a three or four hour walk – probably calling into three bakeries and a restaurant, all while a force 7 gale is unfolding.
Dogs are allowed everywhere, including trains. Cafes, hotels and restaurants all have dog water bowls around and often there is a dog food menu!
When Germans first meet you, they will be reserved. Don’t be offended, this is because they suspect you are English. When they discover you’re an Aussie or a Kiwi, suddenly you are best friends.
The above paragraph does not apply during Oktoberfest – the mere hint that you are an Aussie, a Kiwi, a Pom, Scottish, or Irish will rightly bring down a cloud of suspicious resignation.
Most Germans speak English, a lot better than most Aussies or Kiwis speak German.
The above paragraph does not apply when in the old East Germany – anyone born twenty years or more before the Wall went down, speaks only fluent German and Russian.
East Germans can seem aggressive – some are still annoyed that when the Wall went down, they didn’t get free BMWs and Mercedes and were expected to work six days a week – see neo Nazis above.
Germans, like many countries, have several different dialects. In general, Northern Germans are easy to understand, but the further south you travel, the harder it gets. By the time you get to Bavaria, sign language will be your only hope and if you hop across the border to Switzerland, you’re in no man’s land – think a pissed Scotsman, or a sober Irishman.
Drinking in the streets and in trains is fine – however Aussies and Kiwis really shouldn’t do this, if they’re binge drinking yobbos.
The sign on a train windows featuring a bottle with a line through it, doesn’t mean No Drinking, it means Don’t throw the empty bottle out the Window! Which of course does mean there must be some German yobbos! Which segues into Soccer.
In the same way Rugby is the national religion of NZ, Soccer is Germany’s religion, perhaps even above the church!
And one last thing – Germans are not Austrians! This is like accusing an Aussie of being a Kiwi, or vice versa!
It’s a fabulous country, with fabulous people, armed with the above information, you should survive!