Go to the other side of the world from your friends and family, and what do they want from you? Not an update on your life or travel exploits, but a preview of what’s happening on TV – in Home and Away and Neighbours to be more precise! I’ve had a series of messages since I left the UK from people wanting spoilers on the latest events in two of Australia’s best-known but heavily scripted towns: Erinsborough and Summer Bay. One of the sole exceptions to this would probably be my Dad who, when my brother and I were younger and still watching Karl Kennedy making a tit of himself on a daily basis and laughing at Harold Bishop’s mysterious return from the dead, used to groan, roll his eyes and ask us why we were ruining our minds watching such trash. He also (jokingly) threatened to nuke Ramsay Street if we didn’t go and do our homework. With their wobbly cardboard sets, I’d say a nuclear warhead was a little extreme… but I’m drifting from the point.
When I was in Melbourne I didn’t make the Pommie pilgrimage to Lassiters Lake – partly because I haven’t watched Neighbours regularly since I was a student and really couldn’t face it, and partly because we didn’t have time. But the lure of ‘Summer Bay’ couldn’t really be avoided – why deny yourself a day at a beautiful beach? Besides, when one of my friends – a crazy die-hard Home and Away fan – came to visit, it would have been rude not to go. Especially as she’d travelled so far to see me, the sun was shining and there was the promise of a glimpse of Summer Bay surf club(’s tanned regulars).
The actual location, Palm Beach, is as lovely in reality as it looks on screen. The five of us who drove out there (possibly humming the theme tune to the show as went…ahem) got a tiny bit snap happy when we near-fell out of the car to discover the famous beach entrance and Alf Stewart’s surf club behind it. At one point, Tracy and I thought we’d spotted the main man himself, famed hat firmly in place, striding along the beach towards us as we dipped our toes in the icy water. The shock sighting caused us to stop paying attention to the sea, at which point a freak wave skittered all the way up Trace’s legs, causing her to declare that her white trousers were now ‘naked’. After a brief stop-stare-and-point moment, we realised, with a hint of sadness, that rather than the Real Alf Stewart, it was just a very good look-alike. What a tease, ya flaming mongrel! This disappointment was a bit too much to bear – plus the sun disappeared –so we decided to try our luck and drive a bit further round the coast to Whale Beach.
It was a detour that paid off. Here we found an equally beautiful, even more hidden cove where I fell in love with a cliff-top house overlooking the surf. I tried to encourage the others that we should crash the party that was going on on the deck of this modern masterpiece – aka my future dream home – but they seemed to think it might be a bad idea, and insisted it was time to drive back into the city. I can’t think why. I’d have stayed there happily, gazing at the house, maybe with the words ‘You know we belong together, you and I forever and ever…’ playing across my mind. Yeah, on reflection, maybe our leaving was a good idea after all. And no, I still refuse to pass on any spoilers. I’m only here for a year, I don’t have time to sit watching exported soaps! I have bigger beaches to explore…