Huge thanks to Lucinda MacPherson for looking after the newsletter for the past seven weeks while I’ve been swanning around New Zealand and Australia. If you would like to re-read any of her absorbing features on everything from the hunt for a 1960’s Chiswick serial killer to two west London women fighting to stop the practice of FGM in this country, you can see them here.
I realised renting a car in Australia that there are cultural differences to driving in the UK. Perhaps a little complacent because they drive on the left, I thought Sydney would be a cinch after London but no, my first day there I got beeped and flashed more times than Jeremy Vine in Chiswick High Rd on his penny farthing.
Each time I pulled forward confidently into the middle of a junction, waiting for the oncoming traffic to pass before turning right, I got hostile stares. Apparently you’re supposed to sit meekly at the line until the last battered ute (utility vehicle) has dawdled past you. Thinking I’d got the hang of it, waiting for the green filter arrow to turn left I infuriated the woman behind me who intimated that I was a couple of sandwiches short of a picnic for not turning left on the regular green light (What’s the point of having a filter arrow?!) In a road with two way traffic and no parking on the left I reversed smartly into a parking space on the opposite side of the road, facing the oncoming traffic. You’d think at very least I’d murdered a child,
The laws are as stringent for cyclists as they are for drivers. The fine for riding a bike without a helmet in New South Wales is $337 (£183). Not only is Aussie rules driving as different as Aussie rules football, but I was surprised to find that Australians appear to be on the whole law abiding.
As I began to learn the error of my ways I discovered that you’re not allowed to drive with your elbow out the car window and while I was there it was on the local television news that a teenager had been fined $100 (£54) for not putting up the window and locking his vehicle when he nipped into a garage to buy a pie. Who’d have thought that Australia would be such a nanny state? Not very Crocodile Dundee is it?!
I think I got away with it but am keeping an anxious eye on the post for a brown envelope from the NSW Government.
Image at the top of the page: Painting of the outlaw Ned Kelly by Australian artist Sidney Nolan