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Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Bendigo is in Victoria, about two hours from Melbourne. Being an old mining town, it has a disused pit hoist that one can walk up to get a good view over the town and its surroundings. More importantly, it has a very pleasant art gallery. This is often a feature of Victorian towns - Ballarat and Benalla also spring to mind. When I come across these provincial galleries, I once more wonder how Australia actually works. Yet work it does and we should always be grateful for that.

Bendigo provided me with the only sour note of the trip. On previous occasions, I have listed the downsides about my visit and, to give you a sense of proportion and explain what a lovely place Australia is, I do so again. I judge this the worst experience so far.

I have arranged to meet a friend in Bendigo town centre. She is nowhere to be seen so I pull into what appears to be a diagonal 'No Parking' bay. I get out of the car to call her on her mobile and I am standing there with the door open when a traffic warden descends and tells me that I can't park there. She tells me that I have left the car (with the door open remember) so that I am technically parked, and orders me back into the vehicle with instructions to move on.

The bay is difficult to get out of - there is a constant stream of passing traffic - and as a final and gratuitous piece of arseholeness, she does not hold up the traffic to help me and it is some time before I can reverse out. She has, meanwhile, moved on to make someone else’s life difficult.

‘So what?’ you may think. Well, if you bear in mind that this is the worst - indeed the only bad - thing to have happened to me in three months, it gives some idea of what a nice time I have had in a very nice place indeed.

Contrast this with an experience in Adelaide a few days earlier. I had parked the car in a one-hour, free zone and my business took me far longer than expected: about three and a half hours. I asked my last contact if it was possible that I would be clamped. ‘This is Australia, Josh,’ he said, incredulously. In the event, I had no ticket and no comeback. Perhaps he should have said ‘This is South Australia.’ S.A. seems even more laid back and delightful than the rest of the place. It certainly overshadows Bendigo. Why, every (Monday) morning, on S.A. Breakfast TV, they publish a list of sites where speed cameras will be operating for the forthcoming week. Brilliant, eh?

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