Am reading Bill Bryson’s ‘Down Under’ and this passage is somewhat familiar (from what I can remember), very funny book, recommended to everyone.
Well, I can’t pretend I remember a great deal of what followed. We drank huge amounts of beer – huge amounts. We ate steaks the size of catcher’s mitts (they may actually have been catcher’s mitts) and washed them down with more beer. We made many friends. We circulated as if at a cocktail party. I talked to ranchers and sheep shearers, to nannies and cooks. I met fellow travellers from around the world, and talked for some time to the proprietor, one Bruce Caterer, who told me the complicated story of how he had come to own a pub in this lonely and far-flung spot, of which confidence I have not the tiniest recollection and certainly nothing approximating a note.
As the evening wore on, the bar grew almost impossibly crowded and lively. Where all the people were coming from I couldn’t guess. What was certain was that there were at least 50 cheerfully committed drinkers tucked away in the bush in the vicinity of Daly Waters and at least as many visitors like us.
I got comprehensively beaten at pool by at least 14 people. I bought rounds for strangers. I called my wife and professed my lasting devotion. I giggled at any story told me and radiated uncritical affection in all directions. I would have gone anywhere with anyone. I awoke the next morning, fully clothed and on top of the bedding, with no clear memory past the catcher’s mitt portion of the evening and a head that felt like a train crash.
I pressed my watch to an eyeball and groaned at the discovery that it was nearly 10 o’clock. We were hours late if we were ever going to get to Alice Springs. I stumbled down to the bathroom and put myself through some cursory ablutions, then found my way blearily into the pub. Allan sat propped against a wall with his eyes closed, a cup of black coffee steaming untouched before him.
There was no-one else around.
“Where coffee where?” I croaked in a tiny voice.
He indicated vaguely with a weak hand. In a side room I found an urn of hot water and containers of instant coffee, tea bags, powdered milk and sugar. I loaded a cup half full with instant coffee powder and drib-bled in some water. Weakly, in the manner of an invalid, I lifted the cup and introduced a little coffee to my lips. After a couple more sips, I began to feel a little better. Allan, on the other hand, looked terminally wretched.
“Why are you sitting with your eyes closed?”
“Because if l open them I’m afraid I’ll bleed to death.”
“Did I disgrace myself?” I peered around the room to see if my boxer shorts were draped from any rafters.
“Not that I recall. You were shit at pool.”
I nodded without surprise. I often use alcohol as an artificial check on my pool-playing skills. It’s a way for me to help strangers gain confidence in their abilities and get in touch with my inner wallet.
“Anything else?” I asked.
“You’re doing a house swap next summer with a family from Korea.”
I pursed my lips thoughtfully. “North or South?” I asked.
“You’re making this up, aren’t you?”
He reached over and plucked from my shirt pocket a business card, which he presented to me. It said: “Park Ho Lee, Meat Wholesaler” or something and gave an address in Pusan. Underneath it, in my own handwriting, it said: “June 10-August 27. No worries.”
I placed the card, folded once, in the ashtray.
“I think I’d like to get out of here now,” I said.
Bill Bryson ‘Down Under’
- Publisher: Black Swan; New Edition edition (6 Aug 2001)
- ISBN-10: 055299703X
- ISBN-13: 978-0552997034