The daughter and I were nearly not allowed into Australia. We’d filled in the immigration form with an unsuitable colour. Purple’s not allowed, apparently. “Was it your pen dear?” the Aussie immigration officer asked Maddy. “It was mine,” I admitted, though I was tempted to let Maddy take the rap. “He has flamboyant tastes in pens,” added the daughter. “Enjoy your stay,” said the officer without enthusiasm.
We kept our yippees down until we were out of earshot. The 13-year-old daughter and I had five days in Melbourne to catch up with Maddy’s big sister and big brother, shop, sightsee and hang out – the best bit. We had a father/daughter adventure in Australia a couple of years ago and agreed it was so much fun we should repeat the experience. So there we were again, motherless in Melbourne, though of course I was with an older and more sophisticated daughter this time around.
She was happy with the accommodation – an apartment in the centre of the city, overlooking the dirty Flinders River. Maddy, to her joy, had her own bathroom. In her vision of the perfect life, everyone has a personal bathroom. When you spend as much time as she does in there, I can see why.
The days went by in a whirl. But we did everything we set out to do and may have spent a little more than we meant to. “Mummy will faint when the credit card bill comes in,” I told Maddy as we staggered out of David Jones. “She’ll call us into the office to explain.”
“She’ll call you,” said the daughter, not showing much solidarity. Still, plenty of solidarity was shown the rest of the time, though I lost Maddy several times and nearly had to report myself as a lost father. But I didn’t do it for fear I wouldn’t be understood, after I went to one of the information booths they have scattered around.
“Can you please tell me which tram to catch for Smith Street?” I asked the bloke. “I’m sorry sir,” he said. “Could you repeat that for me?” I did – several times. The bloke looked despairing. “I’m sorry sir, could you write that down for me?” I was tempted to write “Smeeth”, but didn’t want to provoke a trans-Tasman incident.
Perhaps as a result of these and other embarrassments, Maddy suggested we split up, but I saw enough of her in action to see that she’s not a careless shopper. “I’m not one to buy expensive things,” she assured me, but she made up for that by buying an awful lot of cheap things.
Our last day in Melbourne was my birthday. Maddy insisted we celebrate by visiting the biggest mall in Melbourne. It had 530 shops and went on forever. I got lost and ended up with the other abandoned men in the seats provided. I was lucky to get out alive. But aren’t the best holidays like that?