Dernham Wellington came Down
Under in the summer of 199-, looking for a true Australian.
Like most Americans at that time, his appetite for the land
down-under had been whetted when Paul Hogan had appeared on
American television in the 1980s, advertising Australian beer and
telling Americans he would throw another shrimp on the barbie to
make 'youse Yanks' feel at home.
In those dark days before
Hoges' first appearance, Dernham hadn't even been quite sure
where Australia was; let alone what life was like Down Under.
Now after honing up on all the Australiana he could get his
hands on, he not only knew where the country was, he even knew
that no one in Australia would ever eat shrimps. Down Under they eat
prawns, or at the very least yabbies.
He supposed Paul Hogan had been
living in America for so long by that time, that Hoges had
simply forgotten what life was like in Australia. Dernham, on the other hand, had no desire
to be some kind of cheap, knockdown copy of an ocker, but rather
wanted to discover the essence of true Australia.
Which is why he had spent part
of his life-savings on airfares for a month-long vacation to the
Land Down Under.
Dernham's first look at
Australia had been Melbourne Airport, out in the boondocks of
Tullamarine. Looking around the starred-and-striped T-shirts
and reams of cameras worn throughout the terminal, Dernham had
known there were no Aussies here, so he had headed straight for
the airways bus.
It seemed to take hours for the
bus to transport them from Tullamarine to the heart of
Melbourne. Dernham had to catch a tram down St. Kilda
Road to his hotel, but first he stopped in front of Melbourne's
famous Flinders Street Station with its redbrick facade of
arches, cornices and cupolas, covering a large arcade outside the
station, from where a strange voice emanated.
Dernham listened to the voice
from across the street for a moment, before going across to
investigate. He located a grey-haired old man selling
newspapers inside the arcade, calling out at the top of his
voice, "Errol Dunn taped hairy newts! Errol Dunn taped hairy
Dernham listened to the strange
sounding syllables for a few moments, trying to decide whether
the paper seller was a Vietnamese boat person, a refuge from
Siberia, or perhaps an immigrant from Tibet, or even Swaziland.
But wherever he came from originally, it was obvious that the old
man spoke not a word of English, so could not possibly help
Dernham in his quest.
So, after a moment Dernham
walked across to the intersection at the corner of Flinders and
Swanston Streets, boarded a tram, and started toward his hotel.
He had almost reached Spencer Street, before realising the tram was going in the
Before setting out from the air
terminal, Dernham had been careful to find out that
St. Kilda Road
is just an extension
what he had not discovered, until too late, was that for some
bizarre reason the main entrance of Flinders Street Station actually looks out into
Street, he had gone
Street and caught a
tram, which he thought would take him to his hotel. After a few
moments of panic, Dernham managed to change trams to get back
eventually walked into the foyer of the lavish
Grecian-cum-colonial style Hotel Victoriana in
Not wanting to spend his
Australian holiday amongst other Americans, Dernham had carefully
enquired about the number of U.S. tourists staying at the hotel, before
confirming his booking. He had been assured there were
definitely no other Americans staying there at the
When Dernham walked into the
red-carpeted foyer, he found that he had been told the truth.
There were about a million Japanese tourists staying at the
hotel, half a million English tourists, and a few hundred
thousand French and German tourists, but not another American
When he complained to the West
Indian born manager of the hotel, Dernham was told, "All you
asked was whether there are any other Americans staying here --"
He waved his hands around the foyer -- "And as you can see,
there aren't...Unless you regard the five thousand Brazilians on
the top storey as Americans...?"
Sighing deeply, Dernham was
forced to concede defeat. After checking into his room, he
hurriedly unpacked, then went down to the bar to drown his
sorrows. He was almost insensible by the time the bar closed
that night, and woke up the next morning with a throbbing
headache and a firm conviction that today he WOULD find the true
He took a tram to
Station, then alighted and
started to walk up along Swanston Street. He had only walked a block or so, when
from across the street he heard a loud voice say, "G'Day cobber.
"Real bonza sport. I've ada
real beaut day. Ow's yasalve?" came the reply.
"Middlin' fair, cobber. Beena
bit crook ladely, but reckon id'll clear up soon 'nuff,' said the
first voice. Dernham started looking eagerly around the
After a few moments he spotted
a couple of young men dressed in corduroy trousers, open-neck
shirts, and wearing swaggies' hats, complete with dangling wine
corks to ward away the Aussie flies; standing together on the
opposite side of the street.
Dernham could barely contain
his excitement as he waited for the streetlights to change, then
rushed across the road to get to the two dinky-di
"'Scuse me, sport," said
Dernham, trying to emulate their Aussie speech. "Do'en wanna
"Then don't," said one of the
two "ockers." "Can't you see we're making a film?" He pointed
to where a movie camera was standing a hundred metres or so away,
beside which the director was waving furiously for Dernham to get
out of the picture.
"Sorry," apologised Dernham,
"but I've just gotta talk to ya. Ya see I'm a Yank tourist ova
ear ta try ta find a true dinky-di Australian."
"Well don't look at us, pal,"
said one actor. "We're both Yanks also. I'm Bertrand
Birdchip..." He paused a moment, expecting the usual
near-obscene comment, then added emphatically, "That's
Bird...chip. And this --" indicating the second actor --, "is
Leonard Gilbert, from the NBC daytime soap opera 'Beautiful
"Hi pal," said Gilbert, "I bet
you want my autograph?" Pen ever at the ready, he had started
to sign while still talking.
"Er?...No, thanks," said
"Gee whiz," said Gilbert,
putting away the pen, "no one ever wants my autograph any
"But if you're both Yanks, how
come you were just talking like Aussies?" asked Dernham, his brow
wrinkling in puzzlement.
"Because we're making a film
about the early life of Aussie actor Peter Finch," explained
"I play Finch," said Gilbert,
"But how can a Yank play the
lead in a film about Peter Finch?" asked Dernham, amazed.
"Besides, I don't think Finch spent much of his early life
"None at all," agreed Bertrand
Birdchip, "he was born in London and grew up in New South Wales. But since when have American film makers
ever let little things like reality or credibility stand in their
Dernham had to think about this
for a moment. But then, as a patriotic Yank, he decided there
was nothing much wrong with an American starring as Peter Finch,
in a film set in the wrong state.
"Besides," continued Birdchip,
"this is the state where the plane from
set down, so this is where we
set the film. After all, you surely don't expect us to go to
the trouble of flying all of our equipment interstate, when we've
already come from overseas?"
"Then you can't help me to find
a true Australian?" asked Dernham, bringing the conversation back
"Sorry pal," apologised Leonard
Gilbert, "but we've been in Melbourne for nearly a month now and we haven't met a
single Aussie yet."
"What?" asked Dernham, amazed.
"But what about all them?" He waved his arms around furiously,
indicating the crowds of people swarming up and down the
"Yank and Jap tourists for the
most part," assured Birdchip. "A few Limmies, a handful of
Frenchies and Huns, plus a few hundred thousand unemployed kiwis
touring the continent courtesy of the AustralianCommonwealth Employment Service."
"But there must be some true
Australians here, surely?" protested Dernham. "After all,
that's why it's called Australia, isn't it?"
Birdchip and Gilbert simply
shrugged their shoulders. So with a sigh Dernham said his
goodbyes, then (to the relief of the director who had been eyeing
his wristwatch throughout the exchange) set off along
He paused for a moment at the
next corner, then turned left down Bourke Street, heading toward
Elizabeth Street where he almost turned again, until realising
that the dirty, grey-brown, colonial-style relic on the corner
was the Melbourne G.P.O.
"Surely they can help me in
here?" he thought.
Dernham was halfway up the
steps when he noticed a fantastically beautiful blonde walking
down toward him (or, as he fancied they might say in
Australia, "a beaut blonde bit"). He was ogling the
top half of her T-shirt as she came down the steps, heading
toward where he had stopped. It was only as they almost
collided he realised the red-white-and-blue design on her T-shirt
was the Australian flag, distorted almost beyond recognition by
her very prominent chest.
Looking more closely, he
noticed the four thick, plastic shopping bags she carried. The
white bags all bore the green-and-gold triangular
made-in-Australia symbol and were overflowing with a mixture of
groceries and fluffy toys. Including an enormous grey-and-white
"Eureka! Success!" thought Dernham, emulating the
words of Archimedes after his valiant stand beside Peter Lalor
and Gordon Jackson at the Eureka Stockade.
"G'Day cobberette," he said to
her. He had decided that cobberette must be the female
equivalent of cobber. Although he then wondered whether female
equivalents were still appropriate any more in these emasculated
After a moment's hesitation, he
managed to drag his vision up from her T-shirt to look her in the
face. He explained about his quest to find the true Australian
and his assumption that she must be a genuine Aussie
"No, my name isn't Sheila," she
protested. "It's Bonnie. Bonnie Bloomington, and I'm English,
"English? But you're wearing
an Aussie flag on your --" He paused for a second, lost for
words --, "On your front."
"Oh that, it's a souvenir
T-shirt I bought," explained Bonnie. Shaking her head ruefully,
she added, "You obviously don't know much at all about the true
Australian, or else you'd know no Aussie would be caught dead
wearing an Australian flag on their T-shirt. In this country
outward displays of patriotism are regarded with suspicion.
Australians are more likely to wear Coca Cola or Pepsi
"Then what about those?" asked
Dernham, pointing to her prominent chest.
For a moment Bonnie hesitated,
too shocked to speak. The she realised he was referring to the
two badges pinned to her T-shirt: one shaped like
Australia; the other like a koala.
She shook her head again and
explained, "No true Aussie wears Australia badges, or buys stuffed koalas, for that
matter. They're more likely to wear Snoopy the dog badges and
buy stuffed Garfield the cat dolls."
She paused for a second, and
then added, "Garfield is very big in Australia. They're talking of making him the King of
Moomba in Victoria next year."
Dernham sighed his frustration,
ogled her chest for a moment, and then sighed again, though not
necessarily from frustration this time. They chatted for a
while longer and swapped addresses, with Dernham promising to
look her up if he was ever in Essex. Then the Yank tourist went on his way,
more determined than ever to find a true-blue, dinky-di
Dernham searched around the
streets of Melbourne until sundown, by which time he was
frustrated and leg-weary. However, he was up again bright and
early the next morning.
Armed with a tip-off from the
West Indian manager at the Hotel Victoriana, Dernham set out for
the Melbourne Cricket Ground, confident that at last he
would achieve his goal. It was the first day of the cricket
test match between the Aussies and the Kiwis, and the manager had
assured him there was bound to be plenty of dinky-di Australians
in the crowd.
When Dernham stepped inside the
MCG, he was astounded by the size of the cricket oval, which he
had been told was the largest cricket ground in the world. And
he could well believe it: one of their American baseball diamonds
would have almost fitted into the space occupied by the drinks
stand, and dozens of baseball diamonds would have filled the oval
area itself. And the rows of seats seemed to extend for as far
as the eye could see. He had been assured they could fit nearly
one hundred and twenty thousand people into the ground, if they
crammed them in like sardines. If they were more humane, they
could fit in a good ninety thousand people.
As it was, however, there were
only thirty thousand or so spectators there at the moment. Just
enough to be able to spread out comfortably around half the
Unfortunately it was the other
half, since foolishly Dernham had entered from the wrong end of
the stadium. So he had a fifteen-minute walk through the empty
seats to reach the other people.
Finally, puffing from
exhaustion, Dernham reached the audience area. He looked slowly
around the crowd for a moment, before selecting a small
grey-haired old man, who sat by himself on the lawn in front of
the rows of plastic seats.
The old man sat on a large
beach towel which he had spread out on the grass, and was dressed
in shorts and thongs, and had a white, floppy hat to ward off the
sun. His face was painted white by zinc-cream, his bulging
beer-belly was bare, and beside him sat a gigantic Styrofoam
Esky, full of ice-cold cans of Foster's Lager beer.
"Surely this must be a true
Australian?" thought Dernham as he made his approach.
"G'Day cobber," said Dernham,
tapping the old man gently on the shoulder. "I'm a Yank tourist
and I wondered if you could tell me how this game is
"With a bat and ball," said the
old man, before taking a long swig from a can of Foster's Lager.
Most of which missed his mouth and poured down his chin to run
across his prominent belly.
'My God, he even drinks
like a true Aussie,' thought Dernham in admiration. He took a
quick step backwards for fear of being drenched.
"No, no," protested Dernham,
unsure whether the old man was trying to be funny. "I meant
what are the rules to this game cricket?"
"Please not to ask me," said
the old man. "I just flew in from Kyoto late last night."
"Kyoto?" asked Dernham. "Is that up in
"No, no, in
"Japan," repeated Dernham, amazed. "Then you're
"Of course," insisted the old
man. "What do I look like?"
Wisely Dernham chose not to
answer the loaded question. Instead he decided to unburden
himself. "Look I wonder if you can help me?" he almost pleaded.
"I'm desperate to locate a true-blue, dinky-di
"Then you're wasting your time
here," said the old man. "Australians don't watch Australian
Rules Football or cricket any more."
"They don't? Then what sports
do they watch?"
"Mainly baseball and
"Baseball and basketball?"
asked Dernham in disbelief. "But they're both American
"Maybe," agreed the little,
grey-haired old man, "but they're both very big Down Under now."
Seeing Dernham's look of distress, the old man couldn't help
feeling sorry for him. "Why not sit down and watch the cricket
for a while," he said. He moved over on the towel and offered
the American an ice-cold can of Foster's Lager.
With a sigh of frustration
Dernham accepted the old man's gracious offer. For the next
seven hours they sat side-by-side on the towel, watching the test
match, eating cold prawns and drinking their fill of Australian
By the end of the day Dernham
had given up his quest, accepting that the true-blue, dinky-di
Australian is just a myth, but satisfied that at least he had
experienced a slice of Aussie life along with the old Japanese
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