To get a balanced view of comparative monetary values and lifestyles between my own country and another, I enjoy going to supermarkets to compare prices and choices. (Prices of the day per kg were: Rump steak $13-00, Premium mince $9-00, whole chicken $6-00, Pork chops $9-50, potatoes $2-00, Onions $1-60.)
It gives a much more accurate idea of living costs than do exchange rates which are influenced by manipulation and politics. Simple things like courtesy and security are also great markers as to the heart of a country’s people.
On Sunday, 26th September 2004, Richard and I set off to Lake’s Entrance to visit our mum, but on the way, in Orbost, Richard attended his Catholic mass while I walked off to the local supermarket.
While in London, in ’69, I had got the impression that the Aussies that I met travelling abroad were predominantly loud and insecure, always referring to how much bigger and better things were in Oz. Meeting the populace in their own back yard soon dispelled that idea as friendliness was the overwhelming impression. Folk were not afraid to chat in queues to complete strangers in friendly helpful ways. Courtesy was the norm.
On our way again, Richard took me to see the Stony Creek trestle bridge near Nowa Nowa, just 3 km off the main road. No longer used by trains, it is a feature on a popular cycling trail. It is an impressive bit of historical engineering; the local resources put to good use to cross deep gorges.
Gippsland is, like a lot of eastern Australia, heavily wooded with enormous gum trees. The views, from the twists and turns as one approaches the watery world of Lakes Entrance on the coast, are beautiful. We picked our mum up from her room in the old-age Care Centre on Lakeview Drive to take her out for a very reasonably priced lunch at the local Bowls Club.
Although a bit tottery, using a wheelie-walker to get around, at 89, then, she was in pretty good nick. I was to see her several times in the next couple of months, but, in retrospect, I wish I had asked her more of her memories and thoughts and opinions. She had always been introverted and difficult to get close to. Rather than try harder, I’d backed away. I hadn’t been a good son, and I wish I’d said I was sorry.
We went to see the extraordinary tree carvings that line the main road of Lakes Entrance. Unbelievably intricate forms of early Australian colonial life. A lot of it was carved with a chain-saw!