Thursday, May 20, 2004

Home is where you hang your heart
Me: “The British couldn’t organise their way out of a damp paper bag. Actually, they’d just sit there and complain about the damp. How did these people run an Empire?”

The Swiss Historian: “They had guns, the natives didn’t.”

I’ve had a great time in UK, an amazing time in Cambridge - love the place, lucky to be here – but there should be at immigration, Heathrow terminal 4, a neat little sign “abandon all hope of administrative efficiency all ye who enter here.”

You think Australian banks are bad?

Well, they are.

But they’re burning beacons of dynamic efficiency and customer service than their ole blighty brethren. But if it were only banks, it'd be fine.

Early on, during induction at the Law Faculty, it was declared that the Cambridge system was “You appoint the best people, and the rest sorts itself out.” This accounts, in a nutshell, for the best of the institution (the academic faculty) and its worst (how they run it).

I sometimes wonder if the left hand has even been introduced to the right. Y’know, in passing, at a cocktail function.

I know people who've started referring to this general malaise either as "the new world expectation of efficiency" or just by the simpler "Welcome to England".

All a long winded way of saying you don’t realise what you love about a place until you leave. The reason that Australians are seen in the UK as breezy, cheerful, can-do types who work hard is because – well, we are and we do. (Despite seeing ourselves as laid back, un-entrepreneurial slackers.)

On leaving Australia I have realised I took the following things for granted:
A bright, sunny winter is not a contradiction in terms, or necessarily a bad thing.

Our grass is different: clumpier, tougher, knottier and needs watering.

We really do have trouble with authority (most Aussies I know have had a run-in with college bursars, porters, manciples or senior tutors over something, even I – who never even got a detention in high-school – have been fined for a smoke-detector violation).

Australian beer has a smoother, more kinda summer-drinking consistency. English ales have a lot of flavour, but sit pretty heavy. (The recent taste-test comparison: a party with a rare six pack of Coopers Green Label. Manna, I tell you, manna.)


Of course having racked up four cities in as many years, I’ve left a number of other places. So here’s a quick best and worst on each.
Canberra’s best: the guys. The Thursday night gang of red wine and pizza who indulged my weird imaginings. The Sunday brunch crew who were my local community. The Tuesday night dinner party in Yarralumla while it lasted. Ultimate Frisbee. You know who you are, don't believe I don't miss you all.

Proximity to the New South Wales south coast.

Canberra’s worst: Summer and Winter I could both do without. But the nightlife has improved leaps and bounds while I’ve been away, it seems.

Sydney’s worst: my first job. No, I am not a corporate lawyer, nor was meant to be. My first flat and the Worst. Flatmate. Ever.

Sydney’s best: The colleagues who’s cynicism made life bearable. The irreplaceable Mad Rob. (Dude, you’re a legend. Shibby!)

And Balmain, Sunday night jazz, the harbour at night, the ferry trip to work.

Melbourne’s best: my job (working for a judge rocks), my colleagues (other associates, who basically rocked), my bosses PA (who was like an adoptive new age auntie), my lifestyle (reasonable hours, pay, travel time to work and cocktail prices), and the blogger community, which was astonishingly welcoming (thanks Beth!)

Melbourne’s worst: Those summer nights in a house without air conditioning. Winter nights in a house without insulation

Cambridge’s best: my deranged, dysfunctional, soon-to-disband, international household of madness – my very own family away from family (I came home at lunchtime to discover a water-fight in progress in the kitchen); formal hall in college (it’s wearing the bat-gown with a suit to dinner, I tells ya); having the doors of my legal mind blown wide open by Phillip Allott.

Oh, and central heating. Damn but they can keep winter out in this country.

Cambridge’s worst: Michaelmas Term (rapid descent into winter, freshers from all over the globe bearing exotic flu strains); Lent Term (more winter); the East Anglia wind; and that efficiency thing.

Still, I’ve found a community here, and I may yet be around for longer.

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