Oliver is…

He that hath a beard is more than a youth, and he that hath no beard is less than a man

…giving out pointless awards

I’m done with Australia, for now (note: that would’ve been a good title), so I’m going to give out some meaningless awards. Meaningless to the winners and to my readers. If you’ve won an award, please feel free to plaster it all over your website. One day these will be loved the world over.

Best curry: Chutney Bar, Melbourne
Especially their sashi paneer. Most curry places that I’ve found offering lunch for under $10 (£6) give you slop on a prison tray from what are clearly curries that have been sitting out for ages. The Chutney Jar seems to cook things like a proper restaurant, uses proper crockery and even includes rice and a naan in their cheap lunch menu.

Best sandwich: Dorchester Cafe, Sydney
All the best bits of Fleur’s, Dominico’s and Number 1 rolled into one place.

Best beach: Bondi, Sydney
It’s one of those places that people tell you that you simply must visit, and I tend to ignore a lot of places like that, but this beach wasn’t as horrible or as crowded as I expected. It was long, clean and the sea and sand were both very good. Which is probably why it’s so popular and why you simply must visit. A lot of the beaches in Tasmania were beautiful and if I’d seen them on a sunnier day they may well have been the nicest.

Best ‘what a small world‘ moment: Donald and Laura, Fremantle (and Melbourne and Newcastle)
Meeting the second cousin of someone I used to work with was quite exciting, meeting someone who asked me about James Johnson’s band was unexpected, but having someone who I’d play cricket with and against for about five years of my youth, and who I hadn’t seen for around eight years, was pretty special. The fact that we’d been studying at the same university in Aberdeen for the same four years, went to similar pubs and generally ended up in the same club and didn’t see each other once then made it all a bit more eerie.

Then they both walked into my dorm in Melbourne and while in Newcastle I saw Laura wandering along the path to/from Nobby’s Head. Donald had stayed in to watch the cricket.

Best Australian beer: N/A
Breweries over here have got everything wrong. Normally I don’t mind a lager, especially in the sun, but there have been very few times when I’ve actually enjoyed a beer over here. XXXX, especially, is horrid. Worst of all, it’s not even cheap. One Melbourne bar had the audacity to charge $11 (around £6.60) for a pint of Pure Blonde, which is a joke. (The same place was charging $14 [around £8.40] for a pint of Hoegaarden!) The Guinness I drank in an Irish bar over here was funny tasting too – not in a ‘This tastes off’ kind of way, but more in a ‘They’ve got Ireland wrong’ manner.

A microbrewery, Moo Brew, I visited summed up where everything was going wrong in their tasting notes, declaring that they based their ales on American ales. Oh dear. Moo Brew was also selling pints of 5am Saint, which was heavenly after all the cack I’d been drinking. If Brewdog can ship beers to Australia without ruining them, why can’t Guinness?

Best chocolate bar: Cherry Ripe
Chocolate covering cherry and coconut. Everything else over here is pretty much trying to be a Mars bar. Even though they have Mars bars already. Cherry Ripes are made by Cadbury, so I don’t know why I haven’t seen one in the UK.

Best animal: Quokkas, Rottnest Island
I’ve seen and met some amazing wildlife over here. Kangaroos are friendlier and more brilliant than I expected, possums were my first Australian animal which was exciting, Tasmanian devils are awesome (Wallace disagrees) and I saw a wild stick insect which was unexpected.

Quokkas, though, were superb. There aren’t many of these little critters left in the wild, mainly because everything else is bigger and wants to eat them, but on Rottnest they still run wild and have a great time. And they’re oh so cute. To quote Jemma after watching the below video, “OMG This made me go all girly and squee like! So kawaii! ^_^”.

Best advert: Oak milk posters
Displaying the no nonsense, straight to the point attitude that so many Australians favour is a welcome relief in the advertising world. Did I buy some? Yes. Was it good? It was okay, but not as nice as Goulburn’s milk products.

I was going to include a picture, but I can’t find one.

‘Best’ advert: GORD!
I can’t actually remember what this was advertising — clearly a GORD antidote — but it came on in almost every ad break during the cricket I was watching on telly (I was in Perth, the cricket was in Melbourne). Almost every ad break, almost all day, for five days. Quickly became a running joke for all those watching.

I was going to include a video, but I can’t find one.

Best song: The England fans’ version of Waltzing Matilda

Best chant/comment at the cricket: Day three or four, Adelaide
With Australia enduring a long day in the field and looking beaten, Doug Bollinger came to field near the Barmy Army. One of the guys shouted out ‘It must make you feel like ripping your hair out!’ Which is funny, see, because Bollinger wears a wig. But you already knew that.

Best cricket: cricket

Best people: Information centre worker and husband, Warburton
The story’s already been published, but those folks really were amazing. Generally people in Australia seem nicer than back home (and Paris, so I’ve been told), both the everyday person and those working in shops, much to the dismay of my editor. Maybe it’s just their accent that makes shop workers seem genuinely interested in helping you, but of the few Aussies I’ve met, I’m yet to be disappointed by their actions.

Best male: Alan Fletcher, Melbourne
Surely this needs no explanation.

Wallace with Karl Kennedy

Best female: [Last week’s] most amazing girl in the world, Tasmania
Another reason to learn French.

(no photo, sadly)

Best attraction: MONA, Hobart
A collection of art (and ‘art’) by a man with lots of money and not a great deal of art knowledge. His exhibition seemed a lot like he’d just bought a load of things that he thought were cool, which is what made it much better than any other museum or art gallery I’ve been to. Entry was free, too.

MONA (Museum of Old and New Art) only opened in January so I was lucky when someone in my hostel mentioned it because it’s not in any guidebooks or anything yet. It’s all very modern — instead of each exhibit having a small placard for everyone to gather round, when you go into the museum you’re given an iPod Touch which uses sensors in the gallery to work out where you are so that it can tell you what’s nearby. You can then choose what you want to learn about either by reading or listening. Some of the information was brutally frank which I enjoyed. For example, one Damien Hirst piece had the description “This is completely fucking ridiculous” which, to be fair, it was.

The iPod also let you vote if you loved or hated a piece, which is quite a nice idea. You are then also told things like “3% of people visiting MONA agree with you”, “398 also thought it was an outrage” or “497 sexsomniacs wanted to fuck this work too”.

Best exhibit in MONA: Candice Breitz‘s exhibit
An isolated room with 30 TV screens playing recordings of 30 Madonna fans singing the Immaculate Collection a capella. Often impressive, frequently hilarious.

Best accommodation: Seaview Farm, St Mary’s
A little cottage on a farm, but for only a few dollars more than a hostel. The farm was up a little hill which, you’ve probably guessed, offers some pretty strikign views of the sea below as well as of the surrounding countryside. This was on my roadtrip with Jan and Helen and we spent the night in front of a log fire (Tassie has the ability to be cold, even in the summer) playing board games. Splendid.

Best cup of tea: Mount Elephant Pancake House
I didn’t think much to the pancake (although Jan loved his) but this cup of tea was almost perfect. It was the morning after staying as Seaview, so it was still a bit chilly and there’s nothing like a cup of tea to warm yourself up. Gladly, I didn’t need to do this very often in Australia. Many cafes seems to make tea wrong (or just don’t make it, they give you a cup of boiled water and a tea bag before setting you off on your merry way) and I think the second best cup I had was made by my hairdresser.

Best side of my head: My left
Violet and blond > Gold, copper and orange.

Best new drink: Chatime‘s orange and mint juice, Sydney
Described as ‘orange flesh juice with mint’ and ‘it’s green because it’s made from mint!’, I was definitely curious even as I giggled thinking of an Asian trying to say fresh.

Best photo: Wallace getting a ride from a kangaroo, Perth

Going for a quick ride

Runner up: Because of the expression on this little quokka’s face.

"Have you looked at this photo carefully? At her face? It's love, in point of fact. Something a good deal more dangerous."

Best video: I can’t decide between the quokka already mentioned above, Wallace ‘entertaining’ the devils or the kangaroo trying to get a ride from Wallace.

Best awards: Clearly not these ones

Interaction time? You can either vote for your favourite video, tell me where I’m wrong or suggest some more award categories. Or just silently skulk off.

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