So here we are Folks, landed in the land of ‘milk and honey’, which in truth at this time of the year, and in this neck of the woods, is more like the land of ice and frost—Melbourne, Australia. This is a truly beautiful city, full of nice things, and like all big metropolis anywhere in the world, it is also full of … itself. The self-appointed capital of something or other; you know the kind, with myths that are constructed and perpetuated mostly to justify why one has to come or stay here.

Melbourne prides itself on its Aboriginal heritage, the contribution of its migrant population and its multicultural character, all the while nostalgically clinging onto its imperial and colonial past with its Royal Parades, Queen Victoria Markets and Prince of Wales Hotels. This little tale is about the latter.

Invited to partake in a mid-week drinking and pool-shooting session by a lovely bunch who now call Melbourne home, one of whom, for reasons beyond his control calls me ‘dad’, we strolled to the Prince of Wales Hotel in trendy St Kilda. After a few games and sips of amber fluids, it was my turn to perform the great Aussie ritual of the ‘shout’.

So, off to the bar, and not at all influenced by the appearance of the lass behind it, but following the course set before me by my drinking buddies, I asked for a jug of Pure Blonde. Blondie promptly started filling the container with another brand, to which I politely objected, indicating that it was Pure Blonde that I had asked for. Snapping like a bobtail threatened from behind and with much remonstrated annoyance, Blondie told me to “SPEAK ENGLISH next time”.

I …, I …, I thought I did, and given that I was one of only three people in the all place, I didn’t think the noise level was exaggerated to the point of obfuscating anyone’s speech level. Bewildered, if not mortified, I took the wares back to my company, all the while looking for opportunities to practice my language skills. The only available educationalists at the time were the security personnel, who gave me little joy or hope to enhance my vocabulary with their 17 words repertoire mostly beginning with ‘F’.

So Folks, if you feel so disposed to lift me out of the linguistic conundrum I find myself in, and are aware of a school where I could be referred to don’t hesitate to call me. Notwithstanding that in my polyglot quest, Bahasa is my next pursuit. And surely Blondie won’t really know what I’m talking about then, but than again, who cares, it’s not likely that I will be seen in the Prince of Wales Hotel anyway.

Fotos: The Prince of Wales Hotel, St Kilda; The Yarra; The Queen Victoria Markets