Australia Day; a day when the unemployed get upset because everyone has a day off, has taken all of the parking spots in town and has flocked to the beach. You absorb the sun's rays you don't normally see in your 9 to 5 and trade those hours in for time with friends.
Last year Clint-the generous Canadian who was lovely enough to let me stay at his house for three weeks- and I lucked out on a parking spot and spent some time in South Beach's cool waves. Being Canadian, he got hit by a wave and sand blasted his face, but by the end of the day we were sat out the back of his place throwing back some cold beers with the occasional visitor popping by.
This year I traded the sand for snow. John St John and Michael had since left and were naturally missed on such a day, but I was invited to a gathering by a few of the incoming Australian students. We went to Jessie's house, and within the hour some young American girls were already legless via an Australian flag themed paper cup.
There was only one Australian flag cape, and thankfully, no geographically challenged individuals in shirts proclaiming "Fuck Off! We're Full!". Despite all the frivolity of Cronulla Beach, it became apparent that heading to the bars in town was a more appropriate destination. When the clocks struck 10:45 I hightailed it to bus stop, to be joined by Jessie and her roommates as we left the remaining Australian mass on their own.
My friends, who are from everywhere but Australia, were in Stackers, tearing up the Karaoke. The line outside didn't move, and when McMurphy's offered no line, we reciprocated with our presence. The usual baseball-cap-muscled-up breed of American was out, but my four previous gym sessions had been immediately justified as I wrestled my way to service.
My pitcher had barely finished by the time I got the call that Stackers had no line and despite the loveliness of the company at the time, I couldn't resist the offer to join the others. I had missed them singing 'London Calling', but I was greeted to a plastic cup of American beer and equally refreshing hugs.
Poor Ollie was on the receiving end of the freshly filled cup, as I was squashed by a bag of muscles while waiting in line. My cup continued to runneth over, and for the first time in weeks I got to see Bella and Elle in all of their fine Englishness.
Max's Englishness also shone through when he took exception to the actions of another muscled-up American. Like a gentleman, he stood up for the girl he felt was mistreated and backed away when the confrontation was beginning to look ugly. True to form, he even apologized to the guy at the end of the night for confronting him in the first place. If that sort of behaviour was more characteristic of Australia, then I'd probably be more patriotic. Alas it isn't, and with a kerfuffle avoided, so ended my Australia Day celebrations for 2011. I went back to visit my German friends with some Americans and felt equally at home as I would getting sunburnt at the beach.
Since I left for Canada I'd grown unkempt in my appearance, and despite being Australian, the Scottish side I inherited from my mother elucidated itself in the ginger hairs that graced my face. By Friday I'd had enough and at the end of class headed to Northampton to clean myself up. The hairdresser took two hours tending to my hair. She had her work cut out, and during the course of the shearing kept telling me about the time Lee-Roy had visited her the previous semester.
I left the building looking like a new man, and without dieting, had managed to shed a few pounds. The effect was so great that even at 24, I was refused service when I tried to buy some beer for the night's party.
That didn't stop me from procuring any though, and by the time we had reached the house occupied by the Swedes, our beer took up a spot in the snow bar they had constructed earlier. They'd put in a considerable effort making the house look fantastic, and fridge space had become redundant through their typical Scandinavian ingenuity.
The party was quite reserved for a while, when suddenly a horde arrived and the dynamic changed the environment dramatically. The living room resembled a club, complete with grinding Americans. Irresponsibility was the cream that floated to the top, and as if writing names in the snow with urine wasn't enough, shortly after we'd leave our own impression on the yellow house on top of the hill.
I'm still unsure how it began, but when the birthday cake celebrating the special day of a few of the residents came out I found some of it on my face. What transpired next involved replicating that look on the person nearest to me. They in turn took the same course with someone else, and with that, a cake fight began.
The exact details remain sketchy, but I know it ended with my hair now being darker due to a chocolate sponge and my face whiter due to the icing. I was not alone in this, and Max, again showing restraint reportedly stopped Dicky Peach from involving the bowl of sour cream that tempted him on the table.
Sick of people licking my face, I went upstairs to wash the cake from my face, as I had a freshly de-bearded visage to show off. When Max also attempted to clean himself up I threw him in the shower, turned on the hot tap and forgot how the rest of the situation panned out.
Eoin also made an appearance at the party and immediately made his presence felt by jumping into a giant table of snow. It was outstanding form, and evidence why he and Joe are the finest Irish exports since those black pints that sport bishop's collars.
The drinks ran out, we'd covered ourselves in cake and tagged the driveway in our name. It was officially time to leave and prepare for the eventual terrible feeling of the next day.
Still, that feeling was nothing compared to how I would feel in two days time. Despite the advice of my physical therapist, I decided to try snowboarding. Things started poorly when I slept in, yet miraculously made the bus. Exhausted, I still enjoyed the views of the sleepy towns that surrounded Mt Snow in Vermont.
I took the terrible advice of Dave and decided to try a run down the mountain before receiving a lesson. Naturally I fell a few times, having no idea how to control the plank that slid me down the hill. I slowly traversed from side to side, not taking out any fellow skiers, but everytime I fell the snow infiltrated the women's snow clothes I borrowed for the trip. Eventually I was upright, facing straight and travelling at a speed more akin to Michael Schumacher. I was snowboarding, and it felt like I was back on my skateboard travelling blindly down the paths of UMass at night. There was a massive catch though, unlike a skateboard I did not know how to turn or how to stop. My attempt ended in a fall that bounced me from my knees, onto my arse and eventually my head, where the thud was felt through my entire body.
I was seeing stars, little birds and my life as a greatest hits compilation flash by before me. It took me about a minute to realise who I am, where I was and what I was doing before I was willing to try to make it down the rest of the hill. My head broke my fall, and in doing so left my wrist, equipped with a bone that is still chipped, unscathed from the incident. Instead my head was thumping, and the melting ice on my arse was giving way to the pain of the fall.
For the majority of the lesson I spent more time on my knees than any girl who has just received a large diamond. By the end my derrière hurt more than a new boy's at prison and the most comfortable part of the adventure was when the lift temporarily stopped during the trip to top.
I knew quickly that snowboarding isn't for me. When I did begin to fall on my hand I thought it best to call it a day, before I ended up with more bruises.
And as if hurting on the day wasn't bad enough, this morning was even worse. I struggled to find a muscle that didn't ache, and for the first part of the day, until the ibuprofen kicked in, I could barely turn my head thanks to the three visits the back of it had to the surface of the snow. I would rather get dumped by any wave than endure the pummelling the snow offered again in the short term, but that's not what living on the other side of the world is about. Take on nature anywhere you are and it'll win, but make it fun and you'll soften the eventual blows you receive.
Pavement - Spit On A Stranger.
It's a song I'm only new to, but it is remarkably sweet. Enjoy an early valentine's gift.