Okay, admission time. I am no longer South Australian. It’s taken more than twenty years, but I no longer speak The Queen’s English. Instead of granting me a chance to advance, it’s grairnt me a chairnce to advairnce. Which just makes your skin crawl, doesn’t it! I don’t really know when it happened, but one day I woke up unable to say Lego (lay-go) anymore; it had become Leg-oh. Oh no! Or as they say in New Zealand, “ah nu, bru!”
But it’s not just the lingo. While my heart remains with Farmer’s Union Iced Coffee, I have been known to Dare. On a hot day, I still crave a Sunny Boy, or maybe a Nippy’s if I want to flirt with food poisoning. If a stupider version of myself went for a swim and got a visit in our shark-infested waters, I’d be soiling my bathers, not a cozzie. After my reckless marine adventure I’d want a fritz-and-sauce sandwich to calm the heart rate, though I’d probably get served a lot faster if I asked for devon. And while I didn’t discover the joy of yiros until I met my first doner kebab, I’m now a firm fan of the nocturnal ‘rat-in-a-chamois’ because my chances of a Balfour’s pasty at 2am are slim to nil — and don’t even talk to me about pie floaters! Sadly, there is no equivalent to the Port Elliot Bakery anywhere in the world. Back in the day (before my body became a temple) I didn’t mind the occasional YoYo biscuit, an Arrowroot or (king of them all) a buttered Bush biscuit. And even though I can buy all the Haigh’s chocolates I want in Sydney, I’m not allowed to eat them anymore. My sensible diet now means I get to watch other people eating biscuits, and the ‘healthy’ chocolate we buy taste like arse.
But if this makes you think I miss the place, think again. The water is so foul, I remember climbing into a bath aged about 7 and wondering if my mother had already peed in it. People go all teary-eyed at childhood memories of Magic Mountain, but you know its real name was Pedo Wonderland. All those foods I liked? Make you fat. And SA geographically is flat, featureless, and as dry as a nun’s nasty. Summiting the Adelaide Hills, even the awe-uninspiring Mt Lofty, yoll be greeted with 360-degree view of barren wasteland as far as the eye can see. Appalling heatwaves in the summer, frigid Antarctic blasts in the winter. And so f*cking boring. A city so boring the best it could come up with was “The City of Churches” — well done, Marketing SA! Sure you have wineries, so what. So does every other sub-rate city in the country. Mind you, SA wines are very, very tasty …
What you don’t have is anything approaching a “buzz”, not to mention jobs, industry, nightlife, culture, class, shopping, or that little yet important thing called clean drinking water. They finally spent some money on the Adelaide Oval, so there’s that, but I bet all the golf courses still have duck turds all over the greens. Adelaide University has some nice architecture, but the toilets in the Napier Building had so many glory-holes I’d run out of post-its just trying to pee between lectures. They did have that two-dollar banana cake+coffee deal at the Refectory; but you know. Fat. I was a decade too late to meet Shaun Micallef on the lawns outside the Barr Smith, a shame, because it would have been nice to make just one friend. I spotted Natasha Stott-Despoja a few times, but she was always in a hurry. A few years earlier, and I might’ve got a chance to punch Christopher Pyne in the head.
I don’t miss SA because I never fit into the place anyway. I didn’t leave any friends behind, because the only one I made, I married and brought along with me. If I go back, as I’m planning to in June for a week, I will reminisce through the University grounds on my way to the Botanic Gardens, cross the footbridge over the Torrens and maybe visit the lions at the World’s Smallest Zoo. I’ll walk up and down Rundle Mall and think, as I always do, “Is that it?” and remember the excitement I felt as a boy, craning from the back seat to see as my dad drove our ’67 Holden HR through the Devil’s Elbow and down into Adelaide. For me it was all bright lights, big city. But it was only when I finally moved there, working a succession of sh*t jobs in order to pay my way through uni, that I realised what a shallow joint the place really is. Whenever I think of the place now I visualise ‘the Yabba’ from Kenneth Cook’s novel Wake in Fright, except with more people in it. And maybe it was Salman Rushdie who once said it: “Adelaide. It’s like one of those sleepy towns you read about in a Stephen King novel.” In the end, I could’t wait to get out. I can buy Farmer’s Union Iced Coffee in the supermarket down the road. I can live without the other stuff. I am no longer South Australian, I am now a New South Welshman.