My wife and I went to Australia, to Perth in fact, and we had a great holiday. We brought back a football shirt for my son, a necklace for my daughter-in-law and a bookmark for my sister. Sarah brought back Tim Tams for library staff to suck their coffee through, but we brought back no life lessons of any use because the old British bulldog can't learn new tricks anymore.
Let's start from the beginning. I take the cases out to the car. A young girl walks past me with a cigarette in one hand and an iPhone in the other. A child's hand is reaching up and the child is crying, but there is no free hand for it to take. They walk past me through the litter, the girl swearing at the young child for daring to want to be loved. I see this every day in the street in front of my house and any street in Britain that I walk down. That's my country, the country I left for three weeks.
The first thing I noticed about Perth was that it was somewhat warmer than Manchester where we had flown from. The second thing I noticed was that there was no litter and in fact the whole city and its surrounds had an air of cleanliness and tidiness. I asked our host Caron how often they cleared litter and she said very rarely because no one ever drops it. I asked if the person who had come up with the cost saving idea of not dropping it in the first place had been given an award, but was quickly corrected and told it was not about employing extra bin men it was about employing a state of mind based on pride. I wondered what they got their petty criminals to do all day if they were not cleaning the streets to serve out their community service, and the answer to this question came over the next three weeks when I saw no crime, evidence of crime or anti-social behaviour. Australia is a country largely built by criminals but they seem to have none left. I am sure they have crime, it's just not obvious.
Every time we ventured out we drove past beautiful parks, many with families in them enjoying the fine weather and not swearing at each other.
I seldom go to the pub in this country because I find them to be such anti-social places. In Australia I was in the pub most nights and I only saw people enjoying themselves. No fighting, no swearing, just people enjoying themselves.
It all sounds too good to be true but it really is true. Just when I thought I had seen the nearest this planet will get to an address with the post code UT0 PIA I stumbled on the final piece in the jigsaw puzzle. Down an alleyway, into a lobby, up some stairs, many stairs, then a few more stairs, along a corridor, round a corner... ...a record shop. Yes, a real record shop, with real records, vinyl records and two guys behind a counter who wanted to talk to me about records. I bought a Beatles album for my friend David because to give him a Beatles CD would be just lazy. David is a musician and would know that the purchase of vinyl had taken hours, with the cover and both sides of acetate being discussed, and its merits when converted to sound via a stylus would have been agreed upon with an expert in the purveyance of such pure art.
For me this analogue method of getting music to human ears summed up Australia. We have gone too far too quickly in this country and seem hell bent on racing toward chaos, destruction and a level of anti-social behaviour that human beings were never designed for.
It's all upside down. I shouldn't be going to Australia, where they don't have the problems it is too late for us to solve. Australia should be coming here to see the problems they must never create for themselves.
It is not unusual for me to return from a holiday ashamed of myself but this is the first time I have returned from a holiday ashamed of my country.