A Word In Your Ear - November 30, 2017
Watching telly highlights of England losing their first Ashes test at Brisbane brought back memories of touring Queensland.
It was years ago, before the state capital became so high-rise. I vaguely recall wide avenues and timber hotels with shady terraces amid tropical palms. However, the real heart of Queensland is up the coast, past colonial Rockhampton and Townsville.
Cairns was the launching point of trips to the Great Barrier Reef, viewed from a submerged tank by Green Island’s white shores. However, still more memorable was the local hotel breakfast.
The night before I’d drunk beers with the only other guests, a team of itinerant carpet fitters. Typical Aussies, they tried to convince me their country invented meat pies. These are only minced beef and usually eaten by hand. One has to bite, then suck in searingly hot gravy to avoid it running down shirt front. Ice-cold schooners soothe your scalded mouth.
Drinking in these male-orientated hotel bars was also a learning curve. The visitor sits on a bar stool under revolving ceiling fans, beside other silent drinkers. Put your money on the counter and a barmaid will pour you a beer, then keep replacing it and taking the requisite amount until you’re down to pocket cash.
After a few minutes weighing you up, the nearest drinker will open a desultory conversation, along the lines of, “Sure been a hot one today, ain’t it?”
The furthest I ventured north was tiny Cooktown, in the outback. A bus went from Cairns once a week and it took just 10 minutes to look around “town”.
However, those breakfasts made it all worthwhile: cereals, prunes, porridge, full fry-up plus steaks or lamb chops – the locals devoured it all.
This Saturday English sportsmen return to Brisbane, to contest the rugby league world cup. If they’re to have any chance, our team should tackle the same tucker.
• For Roy’s books visit www.royedmonds-blackpool.com.