Australia and I

I am a West London girl, born and bred but I'm also a proud Australian. The daughter of an Aussie Dad, some of my earliest and fondest memories are of travelling 24 hours to the other side of the world, to the warmth, the sunshine and the people. From the Aussie words and slang in my vocabulary, to watching NRL (rugby league to those unfamiliar) to feeling my most content at the beach, I love being Australian. Even if my home is on this other side of the world, in London, part of me yearns for down under.




My Dad grew up in Sydney. He is one of six and the only sibling to have left Australia. The family tree is deeply rooted in Australia with many branches in the Sydney network. We are the odd ones out, my brother and I, as we have been raised in London. While there's the huge geographical gap, I feel a deep attachment to and affection for Australia, and my family that live there. 


In April I went to Sydney and to Byron Bay. This trip was special for three reasons: it was my first time in Australia in six years; my first time in Australia without my Dad; and my first time in Australia as an adult. I went with my best friend Lily, and we had three weeks of fun. But for me, it was also a deeper experience. 




I stayed with my Uncle and Aunt in Cabarita in North West Sydney, and the family could not have been more welcoming. Lily and I had dinner with that branch of the family and I was struck by the sharp wit of the Aussie banter. I was also taken by their deep connection with sport, each of them a player in their own right, and with the injuries to prove it. My cousin Emma had just recovered from hip surgery. My soon to be cousin-in-law Nick, a knee injury. My cousin Brook just had her wisdom teeth removed (ok not a sport injury but she plays netball). But none compared with my cousin Chris, the professional rugby league player who was recovering from major facial surgery acquired in a head clash in training. At one point Brook complained how hard it was to eat with her face recovering from the teeth. Chris responded, 'Your face hurts? My face has nine metal plates in it'. Apart from the humour, I was impressed by the resilience they all showed. They take the hits, move forward, and laugh about it. I think this is indicative of the Aussie culture. 



One of the best nights I had, would you believe, was going to dinner with two men in their mid 50s - Uncle Roso and Uncle Apps. These guys were the legends of my childhood, the heroes of my bedtime stories - my Dad's two best friends. I was in awe of their wild nights, their adventurous spirits and their plain stupidity and humour. I spoke of their legendary status to my childhood friends, and they'd pass on the stories too. Pascale, who I first met when I was 6, will still ask me, 'How is Roso?', despite never having met him. Lily and I went out for dinner with them and laughed the entire  night. We  ran into one of Roso's ex-girlfriends in the restaurant who they called 'sausage' (I'm still not sure if that is her real name). She didn't believe his story that we were their tinder dates. But it was a night of great hilarity. My Dad's friendship with them goes back nearly fifty years. It was forged in a tough working-class environment and at times a fairly brutal world but it is unbreakable. The fact that my Dad left thirty years ago and they remain as close as ever reflects the sort of friendship to which we all aspire.  






I took Lily to one of my favourite childhood spots in Sydney -  Coogee beach. From the surf shops to the pavilion, it felt so nice to be back to the part of Australia that felt like home for me. We also watched a rugby league match with my team Souths, although we did lose to Manly and I did sulk afterwards. 



Lily and I took a few days to go to Byron Bay, somewhere I'd never been but had eyed up on Instagram for some time. The town oozed cool, from crystal shops to beach babes with shell chokers and tattoos, it was almost too much. The beaches were the most beautiful I have ever seen. We hiked up to the lighthouse for sunset and the views were unbelievable - lilacs, pinks, blues, all rippling across the waves. 



Another part of my Aussie life is the trucking side of the family that belongs to my Uncle John and his kids. Giant trucks, fast cars, motorbikes, tattoos, body piercings, dogs, kids. Worlds away from where I grew up but they embrace me as part of the clan.  



On last night in Sydney, my friend Millie drove us to Bondi - the fashionable Eastern suburbs of Sydney itself a long way from the truckers out West - for a sunset swim with her friends from touch 'footy'. It was a casual piece of magic, a final dip in the waves before I said goodbye a simple luxury I wish I had everyday access to. 



Australia itself is a land of contrasts, cliched as though it might sound. While its thousands of miles from my home and the London lifestyle is very different, I feel proud to belong. 


-LEXI

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