“THEY KEEP TAKING PHOTOS OF CAMERON!! THEY KEEP TAKING PHOTOS OF CAMERON!!” A bedraggled man with a thick beard, a navy woollen hat, and very few teeth is pushing a shopping trolley towards me and screaming about ‘Cameron’. As he nears I see a bottle of whisky in a brown paper bag perched in the child-seat, and in the main part of the trolley a grinning Blue Heeler peers out from beneath a blanket. I’m appreciative of his old-school homelessness – in an eighties movie he could be an extra: “Man playing hobo”. When he’s almost directly beside me he stops and it’s clear he wants to talk.
I weigh up the risk he poses. It’s 6am, still dark and Albury’s main street is deserted. He’s bigger than me, but wobbly on his feet. I’m pretty sure I could push him over, if it came to fight. Or outrun him, if it came to flight. And either scenario is unlikely. Curious to see what’s going to happen, I stop and turn to face him.
Me (a neutral expression – smiling seems inappropriate): Hi.
Man (earnest, but no longer yelling): They keep taking photos of Cameron! I hate them taking photos of Cameron, but they keep doing it. I’m going to stop them!
My initial thought is of journalists taking photos of David Cameron, but I immediately dismiss that; England may be foremost in my mind but there’s no way this man is thinking about the British Prime Minister. I briefly wonder if there’s something more sinister about his ‘Cameron’ and the photos but I won’t find out. Before I respond I see him looking at something behind me.
Over my shoulder I see another homeless man is rapidly approaching. He’s dragging an injured leg, lumbering forward like a zombie. My stomach lurches when I see his filthy feet covered in sores and his partially black toes. Gnarled yellow toenails poke up from his sandals and a strong smell of urine hits me. It’s my cue to leave. Any curiosity I had to see where this is going has been killed. In any case, I’m running late for the gym.
I walk a block and see a well-dressed woman in her forties. I’ve left my iPhone at home so I smile at her, “Excuse me, could you please tell me the time?”
She looks at me nervously and keeps walking, picking up her pace. Um, what the hell?!!
I glance at my reflection in a shop window and laugh abruptly out loud. I wince as my raucous “Ha!” stabs the morning air in the quiet street but I’m still amused by what I see. Over my lycra gym gear, I’m wearing a thermal long-sleeved top. This is tucked into huge tracksuit pants which are pulled up high because they’re too long and drag on the ground. The bottom of the tracksuit pants are tucked into my now bulging socks to further prevent them dragging through the frost and water. A hoodie is done up tightly over my head so it comes down to my eyebrows and over my chin, making me look like Kenny from South Park. The ensemble is topped off with a hand-knitted poncho complete with pom-poms and a pair of woollen gloves. All items of clothing are different colours.
The respectable woman has just seen a weird homeless person trudging towards her and decided to keep moving. Cackling out loud like Edna Krabappel from The Simpsons probably didn’t help.
In only eight months removed from London and a work routine, I’m swiftly on my way to looking like the Hobo’s Girlfriend or Zombie-Man’s Bride. As much as I don’t want to, it’s obviously time for me to return to civilisation or I’ll soon have my own shopping trolley and a bird living in my hair.
I’m more refreshed, relaxed and rejuvenated than I’ve been in a decade but it’s time to end the homeless look and return to society. I’ve grudgingly pulled out the dress-up kit. My clear country-air skin will be covered in makeup, my comfortable tracksuit will be replaced by restricting dresses and my feet will be painfully heeled. My sabbatical has been superb, but London here I come.
This is my thirtieth blog post and, as I’m departing soon, will be my last for a while. I’ll have a lot to organise when I return so I’m taking a break from writing until everything’s back in order. Thanks for reading my posts and I’ll see you soon.
As much as I love seeing your beautiful face and wonderful boobers, I WISH you’d posted a picture of your pre-gym attire. Now THAT would have made me laugh! x
Well I wear it whenever I go to the gym, so I might see if I can get my mother to take a picture of the monstrosity one morning and put it up 🙂
Oh and Happy Anniversary! I remember your wedding fondly. I made my entrance is my giant, spiked green heels … and in less than an hour removed them to spend the rest of the time frolicking with bare feet. I even got grass stains on my toes 🙂
Iconic for their sense of smell, I’m sure that particular Blue Healer olfactory nerves were now shot. So would have yours been if the conversation had continued. Just count yourself lucky that this chance meeting was on foot rather than in the empty seat next to you on the train.
PS: With your imminent departure, who is going to do the heavy lifting 🙂
As a fellow Londoner (well, London adoptee) you know that I’ve spent many chance meetings next to people on the train (tube) who smell of urine and worse! Ugh, I am not looking forward to city transport.
It’s been a delight to have you with us in Oz. Now you are preparing to follow the yellow brick road (via a big steel bird) back to London. Your writing has shown great insight into the country Australian way of life and I will be interested to read more once you are home and settled again.
Hmm, I’m not sure you can say it’s always been a delight having me here 🙂 But I have fully enjoyed myself and appreciated being your constant guest!
Yep, I’m sure my posts will have a different slant when I’m out of rural Australia and back in the big city. I’ll be writing them just as soon as I’ve established the routine of my daily life. I reckon I’ll need them to keep me sane 🙂
Come back soon!!
I’m really going to miss Australia, so I’m sure I’ll manage another trip (albeit not such a long one!) in time. I feel like I should launch into singing, “I still call Australia home” 🙂
Totally agree – your chest does look amazing 🙂
Well thanks, but I do look a bit like Boobzilla!
Simone you look stunning in red 🙂 And I’m sure myself and all your fans will miss your funny blogs, but thank you for entertaining us for so long 🙂
We will see you when you get home!
Thanks Pete – I like a bit of colour in my life (literally and metaphorically!) from time to time 🙂
I will definitely be writing more, I’m just taking a mini break.
See you back in London!
I’m sooooooo excited to see you again, London has been dull without you!
PS: your chest in that top picture looks magnificent!
You do make me laugh. And thanks for the compliment about my, um, chest (am I male?!). I was quite self-conscious about putting that picture up because of how ridiculously big it made my “bubbles” look 🙂
See you soon, possum.
Don’t go! Are you swinging by Melbourne at all on the way home? At least I got to see you, and you were there for my wedding. I’ll never forget that. Thank you!
Other than flying out from there, I’m afraid not … I always find that a strange expression as obviously I’m not afraid at all 🙂
Your wedding was a wonderful event and I was so pleased, and grateful, that you organised it so I could attend. So thank you.
I also want to thank you for you encouragement about my writing and again congratulate you on the success you’re having with yours. I really am delighted for you.