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Monday, December 23, 2002

Having gone on at such great length about the joys of Australia, it is only right that I should mention some of the downsides. The other day, at a Barbie, I was complaining mildly about the problem of flies. Whenever I set off into remote, rural areas of Australia, the flies seem to follow me. Having driven hundreds of miles, if ever I were to stop by the side of the road, hundreds of flies would invade the car the minute I opened a door.

All houses seem to be fitted with metal fly-screens. These are additional, hinged screens/doors on all doors. Windows have external mesh screens, too. These screens are certainly necessary: flies are a jolly nuisance although, I have to say, they seem to be less of a problem this year. While I was complaining about the fly problem, I knew that there was another annoying feature but I could not, for the life of me, remember what it was.

Of course, I know that there are poisonous snakes, jellyfish and lots of nasty insects. Why, as recently as last year, I felt an insect on me and I brushed it off, instinctively. It turned out to be a redbacked spider and yes, it’s poisonous. But I knew that there was another irritant, something I had discovered only this year, in Victoria. And this is attributable to human action but it’s avoidable, although currently a nuisance, nevertheless.

The petrol here is absurdly cheap by European (but not US) standards. It’s less than half UK price. However, it seems to be the universal Victorian habit among garages to put their prices up by about 15% at the weekends. I had wondered why there were such long queues at petrol stations on Thursday evenings, but I got the answer when someone came out and changed all the prices one Thursday while I was waiting.

Further, it now being Christmas week, the prices remain inflated. This is the sort of rip-off one could do without. I would suggest that it could be avoided with suitable changes in the appropriate legislation. I hope that this sort of thing does not spread abroad…

But overall, the fly nuisance and the petrol profiteering are trivial when set against the overall Australian lifestyle.

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