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A Traveller's Tale - part 3

10th November 2008

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How quickly things change. Just last month the relationship with the Wrecking Ball was going swell, I was happy to be in Australia and marriage had been very seriously mentioned. And now, this month, I've been relegated to a youth hostel after being kicked out the house by that same lady.

Not permanently I hope, just long enough for her blood to stop boiling after an argument we had about something or other that I'd better not tell you in case she reads this and murders me as a result. Needless to say, I'm in the dog house. Or rather in a dorm with seven strange men who snore. But there has been one good thing come of it…

The other day I was sat in the communal lounge when a member of staff walked past. 'He looks familiar,' I think to myself. Ten minutes later he walked back the other way. 'Yup, I definitely know him.' But where from? I mull it over for a minute. Then it hits me. Brett Stark from Neighbours. Back in the nineties he was brother of Danni, son of Cheryl and owner of a bird called Dahl. Nah, it can't be. Not working here in this hostel, surely not. So I go back to my book and think no more about it.

A few days later, on my way out to meet a friend for a beer, I spot the same man on reception. "This might sound stupid," I begin cautiously, "But has anyone ever said you look like Brett Stark from Neighbours". He stops, looks me square in the eyes and replies, "That's because I was Brett Stark from Neighbours."

No way! A famous face from my childhood, and now, nearly fifteen years later, he's stood fingering some backpacker's dirty sheets no more than a meter away. Even putting it kindly that's one mighty fall from grace. One blossoming career down the drain. Of course I don't say that. Instead, I just enquire what brings him to Sydney and nod encouragingly while all the while wanting very much to ask him where it all went wrong.

Leaving Neighbours in 1996, no doubt he imagined his next step would be cracking Hollywood, or doing naff adverts alongside Holly Valance. Either way, he probably thought he was on the up. A smoking honcho with the world, and a couple of horny groupies, gyrating at his feet. Now look at him. A flop, a dud, a nobody. Someone with ambition and a grand plan that never quite came off.

And that, for anyone on the cusp of graduation, could be a handy thing to know. You see, we all make plans and have ambitions about what we're going to do when university finally spits us out into the real world. It might be travelling, or post-grad, or working solidly until you can retire comfortably at the age of 35.

Whatever it is, we, and especially our parents, would like to think our future is as simple as picking some ambitious point on the horizon and marching merrily along until we get there. But things change; ambitions change, options change, and it sounds kinda corny, but so do people. And that means we don't always end up at the place we were aiming for. Just like Brett Stark. Just like me. Just like Pube Head.

As previously mentioned Pube Head is the girl who flew to Australia with the hope of resurrecting a relationship with a guy she'd been seeing back in England. Well that plan failed when he proved himself to be a total cock for not having the balls to return her calls and say 'no thanks'. So her reason for being in Australia no longer exists. Her original plan has failed. But already she's moved on and found other things, like a job and a new man she likes more than the one who turned her down. A new direction, a new adventure, just like that.

It's the same for me. When I left university I anticipated finding a graduate position with one of those faceless employers who advertise in Prospects. Instead, I panicked, took a management trainee job with a car rental company then quit because all it really meant was that I wore a suit to clean cars in the rain. "Never turn a job offer down," the careers advisor told me. It was the worst advice I ever took. So from there I went to work for the council, then back to uni to do a post-grad and on from there to PR. I hated that with a passion so I jumped the fence to journalism where I found I enjoyed writing about cars and after enough perseverance landed a job doing just that. Now I'm in Australia making sandwiches for Spiros the Greek. How the hell did that all happen?

What I'm trying to say is don't panic if things don't go to plan. You might not get that job, or place on the post grad scheme you always dreamed of. Likewise, you may never own that red Ferrari or impregnate that supermodel you always frothed over. But there will always be other things, other options, other jobs, courses, cars and other women, that spring from nowhere and whisk us off to brighter, sunnier places that we couldn't possibly have imagined as we sit wondering 'where do I go from here' on graduation day. Things don't always work out the way we want them to; Brett Stark in a hostel, me in a cafe and Pube Head in Australia. But things come good in the end. So stop worrying if you are.

This time next year I'd like to think I'll have no more visa issues and be settled down with Wrecking Ball. Whether it'll happen or not I don't really know, but in the meantime I can't complain. I just stand behind my sandwich counter talking rubbish to friendly folk like Vic and Joe, two local builders who everyday try and explain how they get cranes to the top of sky-scrapers and back down again, which I can never quite fathom. Or Alex, who was once someone special in the London opera scene, but who now sells men's suits in the department store over the road. People from all walks of life with stories to tell and advice you learn only to take with a pinch of salt. Like mine.

And at the heart of my working world is Spiros the Greek, my boss and a short man who swears a lot. Think Danny DeVito with Gordon Ramsay's mouth. The customers love him, the staff, not so much. He makes you feel nervous and incompetent of doing even the most basic things, even buttering bread. "You've put too much on and next time scrape from the left first," he'll scream as customers stand there thinking you must be a bit thick. But that's his tact and he'll never change. Unlike Brett Stark, who clearly has.

Neither a flop, a dud or a nobody, he's a musician now, with his own songs and album that me and him sit and listen to the next time I see him in reception. What a genuinely nice chap who should feel no humiliation for no longer living on Ramsay Street. One day I'll ask him about the last twelve years and find out what twists of fate occurred for him to end up here in this hostel. But in the meantime, I'm off to win the Wrecking Ball back. Well, at least that's the plan.

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