Sunday, 9 June 2013

Handling the Truth with Wine

Let me dispel several misconceptions about the big move to See The Wizard. Ireland is currently a land with a young and educated  albeit jobless populace. This is due to the infamous Recession. The Recession is not merely a period of economic decline in Ireland - it is an all-consuming, depressive cloud of misery that has infected the inhabitants of my beloved emerald isle, rendering most of them penniless and lacking in alternative conversation topics. To me, it was the perfect excuse to explain my lack of job. It's not that I didn't apply for jobs - I did. I just failed to apply for the jobs that pertained to my recently acquired degree, or jobs that were considered remotely reputable.
In short, I did nothing note-worthy after college and had to bail because bumping into the people who thought I'd be a success and repeatedly explaining that I couldn't be arsed becoming a success was getting increasingly tedious. Well, that and the fact that I wanted to see more of the world, or whatever nonsense us twenty-somethings spout these days.
Australia was the new land of opportunity. Everyone knew someone from down the road who'd hopped on a plane and become a millionaire overnight; someone who's homecoming was a spectacle of prosperity and triumph; someone with disposable income and a glorious tan. Naturally, I assumed I would return like all these other friends-of-a-friend - a fanfare announcing my arrival, my person newly bronzed and beautiful, astride a gleaming white unicorn, leaden down with chests of gold coins, backside visibly shrunken. Just the usual emigration-related dreams, I guess.
How life actually unfolded down under was rather different. I mentioned my pathetic phone interview in the cubicle at the Aquarium? Well, it seems this "consultation" was quiet the appropriate prerequisite to my career at Urban Deli. My boss was a bald Rastafarian wannabe, with a penchant for squeezing his female employees in inappropriate places and an unhealthy obsession with Bob Marley. He was running the cafe with his friend/manager/mistress Sappy, whose frequent emotional breakdowns were apparently par for the course according to the other workers. Boss and Sappy had a very peculiar relationship - though Boss had a long-term partner and two children, Sappy evidently had something else he needed and their habitual retreats to the coat room during the work day were long and strictly uninterrupted. One minute they were pawing at each other like hormonal teenagers, the next Sappy was screaming and sobbing, and Boss was turning up the volume on "No Woman, No Cry".
Every day, I waited tables and avoided Boss and Sappy's rip roaring rows. I tried my best to be the best waitress ever but I was incredibly bad at it, what with my natural clumsiness and utter hatred for the job. There one year in total, I witnessed an entire staff turnover before I left. Though the money was amazing by Irish standards, the Australian cost of living was exorbitant and I saved exactly nothing in all my full time employment there.
I applied for better jobs, but was rejected on the grounds of my visa. My non-residency seriously depleted my options - it was either cafe work or nothing. It seemed to me that the only people who could make a real killing were the tradesmen. Unfortunately, my laughable degree in English and philosophy didn't exactly qualify me in that category. And so hospitality it was, and still remains.
Though we wanted to travel, we also wanted to save some money. The Boyfriend was particularly intent on avoiding a return to Ireland in rags, and so we worked constantly and took no time off. As a working holiday visa holder, I was unable to work for more than six months in one job. To avoid this, one must go off the books and consequently lose all ones rights.
To get another years visa to stay in Australia we were required to complete 88 days of regional work. I tried to put a brave face on it, declaring the thoughts of picking fruits among snakes a delightful new experience, but inside I was dreading it.We spent our weekends and our money in pubs with Cali Gurrrl and Beanie Face. We lived in a mediocre house for extortionate rent and the dream that was supposedly Australia was growing more nightmarish by the day.
Oh, and I forgot to mention the constant rain. Melbourne is pretty beautiful and interesting and all that, but we arrived to eight months of constant and heavy rain, coming straight from an Irish winter into an annoyingly similar winter here.
The mythic splendour of life down under is just that - a myth. To make it here, you have to be willing to work hard and to do pretty much anything to get there. It's cut-throat for those who don't have a specific profession. And even at that, a lot of people have to go through refresher courses because their qualification is not recognised in that particular Australian state. Of course, these courses come attached to thousands of dollars worth of fees to us non-nationals. It's an arduous journey, and our venture to See The Wizard was slowly disillusioning our young minds. Thankfully, I've always been cynical and horrible, but The Boyfriend deserved more.
Then, The Boyfriend's company then gave us some unexpected good news. They were so impressed with his prowess and work ethic that they were willing to look into sponsoring him, thereby allowing us to stay in the country for a further four years, with potential for permanent residency if we got lucky. It meant we could avoid the regional work, and get a nice house by the beach some day just for the both of us. We agreed and the process began.
It was probably the hardest thing we ever had to do, and it only got worse.
But never fear - this all happened after the $2 bottles of wine discovery. So we don't even remember how bad it really was.

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Introducing Beanie Face and Cali Gurrrl

The new housemates were strange and alien to The Boyfriend and I - they tried to engage us in conversation, for one. They were eager for employment, for another. It had been so long since The Boyfriend and Yours Truly had been around normal human beings that we were suspicious and shy around them at first. They were a couple in their mid-twenties; an Australian boy fond of head-wear who will be hereby known as Beanie Face, and his gorgeous American girlfriend, who will be hereby referred to as Cali Gurrrl. In Australia six months after a year-long 'round-the-world trip, they had decided to move to Melbourne for a change of scenery. They baffled me with their unplanned adventures, and their readiness to spend money on excursions. Years spent squeezing my few pennies throughout college and in the lead up to the big transition to See The Wizard had left me almost pained at the idea of voluntary expenditure on anything not absolutely necessary - that is, anything that wasn't alcohol or cigarettes. So, naturally, The Boyfriend and I befriended them the only way we knew how - through the irresponsible consumption of the Demon Drink.

We all piled into Dallas and chugged our way to Woolworths, where I made the greatest discovery of my
short and dull life - two dollar bottles of 11% white wine. We each grabbed a box of six bottles, and after some tricky maneuvering on The Boyfriend's part, managed to haul Dallas out of the ramp-ridden parking lot, and headed back the house. 

To say we got inebriated is probably akin to a statement which implies I was moderately pleased Fat Shite had finally upped and left us.

Anyway, the next day, sore and hiding from daylight, we agreed we were a group who were talented at getting drunk together. And so it happened that the following weekend, Cali Gurrrl, Beanie Face, The Boyfriend and Yours Truly found ourselves heading on a wine tour. 

Now, this may be an unfathomable concept to my Irish comrades - I certainly was pretty disbelieving when Cali Gurrrl first brought up the notion of a wine tour. "A tour, where you are driven to different wineries, and can sample as many wines as you liked?" Cali Gurrl continued. "Where they have about twenty different blends stacked in bottles behind the bar and you just point and they pour?" Cali Gurrrl nodded, and went on. "AND IT'S FREE?!?!" I literally almost fainted.

But it turned out Cali Gurrrl was telling the truth, and after I'd gotten over the initial shell-shock, we were on our way. We went to the Yarra Valley, a picturesque place with rolling hills and sprawling vineyards, home to the about 80 winemakers and their wares, including the famous Domaine Chandon, the only Australian winery founded by Mo√ęt and Chandon. In short, it was all very prestigious and fanciful, and with The Boyfriend's sudden declaration that he regretted being the designated driver, I should have known then and there that the day wouldn't be quite the elegant and sophisticated gustatory experience I'd envisioned.

Two hours later, Cali Gurrrl and I were probably drunker than is humanly possible. Beanie Face and The Boyfriend stood, arms folded, clucking disapprovingly like two old hens. To be fair, they had reason. We were outside our third winery and I'd walked into the glass door that was the exit - an exit I'd been ushered toward kindly by some old, gentlemanly wine connoisseur who I'd strong-armed into a photo with me. I was trying to keep it together - I really was. Unfortunately, I was failing miserably. My smile was lopsided, my voice several octaves higher than usual, my head was fuzzy and I kept desperately slurring at the winery employees that I could work there for a while to snare my second year visa, if they would like. Cali Gurrrl was whining in the background about Beanie Face's refusal to partake in the tastings - he'd been struck down by hay-fever or some nonsense. My alcohol-addled mind fervently agreed with her postulations, so I joined in the tirade of abuse, openly insulting my new housemate whom I knew nothing about.

We moved on to Chandon - I don't know what The Boyfriend was thinking. Really, he should have had more sense. That visit lasted about ten minutes. Cali Gurrrl and I couldn't even make it out the door, and decided to roll around in the bushes at the entrance door - as you do. Beanie Face and The Boyfriend finally must have decided it was time to drag us home, where Cali Gurrrl and I locked ourselves in the bathroom for two hours, discussing our respective other halves' many failures and annoying habits. After that, I thankfully remember nothing.

I woke up the next morning, wrenching my twenty pound head off the pillow, ropes of spittle clinging to the sheets, a wave of nausea overwhelming my fully-clothed body. The hangover was immense, unbearable. I met Cali Gurrrl in the kitchen, bent over the sink. I sighed inwardly, resigning myself to the fact that I'd ruined it with another pair of housemates - and these ones hadn't even done anything remotely irritating. They had talked to us, they had agreed to venturing outside the house with us`- they seemed like genuinely nice, normal people. They had even bought toilet paper. My eyes actually filled with tears - damn emotional hangovers. Damn housemates. Damn drunken version of me. I waited for the inevitable cold silence.

Then something wonderful happened - Cali Gurrrl turned around. She saw me standing there, pathetic and undoubtedly disgusting. And she laughed. She bent over with laughter. She cried she was laughing so hard. And so we sat there, at eight in the morning, on the floor of the crustiest post-session kitchen in the world, giggling until our stomachs hurt, reminiscing about our horrific drunken behaviour the day before.

Somehow, The Boyfriend and I had made friends.