Across Continents

Ken's Blog

Austra-nomics

January 12th, 2012

Austra-nomics (n); Branch of "Down Under" economics that defies logical analysis. Gives rise to the expression austronomical (coloq) to describe something especially expensive. See also Greed and Rip-off (coloq).

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Much reviled

January 7th, 2012

Teasing e-mail from Mike in Australia. I’d stayed with him and his family near Brisbane. The title referred to a much reviled continent. Punctuated with an exclamation mark, suggesting he realised my not infrequent sharp digs Down Under were humour. Mostly. Perhaps a little barbed in places, but that’d be the fault of a brief and wholly unwarranted detention by Border Protection at Sydney airport. My nervousness at opening the note was misplaced. Little annoyed with myself for thinking it might be otherwise. Should have known better. Fellow Englishman.

I’d earlier chatted to a couple of Australians staying with me in the hostel. Finding unexpected camaraderie in tales of blatant profiteering. Sheer greed. And indigenous cultures. Firm agreement that being invaded – the Aborigines often refer to Australia Day as Invasion Day – is part and parcel of history. Get over it. Besides, without it, they’d still be living in the Stone Age. None of us having as much as a modicum of tolerance for blame cultures or blood money. You don’t find me rounding on the French for 1066. Too busy with the Germans.

I’d added that writing, sometimes even discussing, indigenous people can be fraught with difficulty. It’s the ’R’ word, I explained. More a label. One you don’t want. Closely allied with oft-missed irony. For never have I encountered such a bigot-rich environment as race relations. Surprising? Not really. What do you really expect from the likes of positive discrimination? Much better to treat people as individuals. Even garlic munchers.

And those who play the racism card? In tolerant societies usually the hallmark of someone who has to rely on ill-judged emotion to attempt to win an argument, rather than sound intellect or rational thought. Bit like shouting. Vocal manifestation of cowardice.

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The Old Curiosity Shop

November 26th, 2011

I’m not Australian and don’t like to be called as such. Which happens fairly frequently in North America. Finding myself particularly riled by this, forcing myself to ponder why this might be. Of course, I know a good number of great people, destined to be life-long friends, who happen to be Australian. My issue firmly cultural rather than individual.

True, I admire their stoicism in the face of frequent adversity. Their self-reliance. Itself a little ironic for what appears to be the ultimate Nanny State. Runaway regulation. Officious bureaucracy. Federal system unwarranted for a population less than a third of that of the UK. Governed by a mediocrity of politicians. Always grains amongst the chaff. Anna Bligh, Queensland’s Premier. Met her briefly. But not Prime Ministerial material. Not that you need to be.

Some aspects simply amuse rather than annoy. Bowling greens and old fashioned social clubs, serving meals reminiscent of school dinners. Rather quaint. Like an Old Curiosity Shop. Finally embracing EFTPOS like it was a sparkly new children’s toy. Words like free or inclusive have largely been discarded from their lexicon, replaced by the likes of gourmet – pronounced ’gore-met’ – its application bordering on the abusive. It’ll be fondue sets next. Their de facto national dish as unoriginal as it is uninspiring in a continent of unique flora and fauna. Fish and chips. Almost criminal. But that’s history for you. Made worse by the fact that a rather better model for European colonisation lies right under their noses. New Zealand.

I’d been asked by one fellow traveller why I thought all this might be? What about atmospheric nuclear testing? I paused, albeit briefly, then replied, smiling, that my diary was clear next week. In the meantime, I’ll just have to settle for a friend’s suggestion. When asked by a US citizen if you’re Australian, reply by asking which part of Canada they come from…

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Spot of confusion?

June 19th, 2011

Seems I might have being causing a bit of confusion. Especially if you’re followers of Facebook. Or regular viewers of the Gallery. Where exactly is Ken? I sometimes wonder myself. So, a quick clarification.

Having reached Sydney a few weeks ago, made an all too brief foray to New Zealand. Visiting friends. Back to Australia a couple of days ago. Eventually. Bit of a story in itself. Return to the road on Tuesday. Bound for Melbourne. The last leg of my third continent.

I generally run a few weeks ahead of the blog. So, journey into Sydney yet to unfold. Whilst I busy myself writing up my notes from a fantastic time in New Zealand. In the meantime, the photos are already in the Gallery.

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First world visas

July 28th, 2010

It’d seemed prudent to look a little ahead, check the entry requirements for the Antipodean nations, and North America. First World. Didn’t think they’d be any issues. And, ordinarily, there wouldn’t be. And, with a bit of planning, there shouldn’t be. But it does reaffirm the need not to assume. And make sure you understand the often subtle distinction between having a visa, or a waiver in most cases, and actually satisfying the Immigration Officer on arrival that you’re not an economic migrant with aspirations to over-stay.

New Zealand’s fine, no visa required, just need to make sure I arrive with tickets for onward travel, and have evidence to show I am able to support myself whilst there. Similar story for Australia, but my online application for a six month visa faltered a bit when required to list countries I’d visited, and there’s a limit of ten. So – if you’re counting – got stuck at the Azerbaijan border.

I thought Canada a bit like New Zealand, with the addition of needing to show ties with the UK. Better find my driving licence. And have to show I’ll leave at the end of my visit. Hopeful a passport full of used visas will be convincing.

I’ve been to the US quite a few times on their Visa Waiver Programme, but that limits me to three months for all of North America, which isn’t enough, and I’d need to show a ticket for onward travel. Which I won’t have. Not until deepest South America. So proper visa required. And whilst all the rules and regulations, the application forms, are rather more extensive than those for Central Asia, shades of the UK’s own onerous requirements, they are at least very explicit about it. Which I like.

Might be making a few Consular calls in Hong Kong. Making sure I get a decent haircut first.

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