Saturday, 31 May 2008

Crazy Slipper Lady

Months ago, when the conversations about what it'd be like when I moved to Melbourne still sounded like a script about someone else's life, I'd joke that I planned on taking the role of an eccentric English writer-type, enigmatic underneath gigantic hats to shield my pale complexion and all my interesting English writer-type thoughts.

(I must sound like such an arsehole sometimes.)

The reality has been slightly less elegant. On my first shopping trip in our new neighbourhood, I braced myself and went into the bakery. A ridiculously friendly girl asked me what I'd like.

"Umm, ahhh, oooh, not sure, errrr, some bread, ummm..." I was trying to read the signs on the many loaves behind her, while she beamed manically at me and then cocked her head to the side like a slightly surprised puppy. "That one. Sliced, please," I said, relieved that the ordeal of choosing was finally over and not entirely sure what I'd pointed at.

"Sandwichortoast?" she said. No, she squealed. She really was quite ridiculously happy, and I began to wonder what exactly was in this bread. 

"Huh?" I replied.


"Um, could you say it just one more time? Sorry."


"I have no idea what that is." I tried to lip-read but all I could see was her alarmingly big smile. 

"Slices. Sandwich slices, or toast slices?"

"Ah. Right." My brain went into overdrive - was I required to tell her what I planned on using the bread for? Had I chosen the wrong kind? What if I wanted to make sandwiches AND toast? Why couldn't she just stop smiling at me so I could concentrate? My old baker in London had smiled just the right amount and only had one size on his slicer. 

"You choose," I said, and the girl managed to look extremely concerned at my ignorance but still bizarrely happy. I shuffled away with my loaf and realised with alarm that though I'd moved to a country where the people spoke my language, they spoke it so fast I needed an interpreter. 

And so it continued, as I fumbled my way around a new city, catching the wrong train home and taking forever at a shop counter to establish which of these damn coins is a dollar; less enigmatic foreigner and more utter goon. To console myself, I bought myself a beautiful pair of chocolate brown Ugg boots - not the fake, highly-flammable Primark variety I'd worn in my Kilburn days, but a real-deal Aussie pair, guaranteed to get me accepted in my new neighbourhood as well as keeping my tootsies toasty. Nothing like a bit of retail therapy to get your spirits back up, right? Rejuvenated, I decided to ditch my boring old English shoes and wear my new Australian ones home.

Ugged-up, I strolled back to my house through the park, and felt warmed of heart as one of the charming local kids I'd met days earlier ran up to me to say hello. As we chatted, she looked down at my feet.

"Why are you wearing your slippers?" she said, with a tone that hinted she would be appalled at any answer I'd care to offer. Typically, I gave into the irrational fear I feel when most people talk to me, and the self-loathing that usually follows, and said:

"Because I'm crazy."

She giggled. "You look silly."

I thought of the eccentric English hat and the interesting writer-type thoughts I was supposed to adopt as part of my new, emigration-special reinvent yourself persona, and slowly shuffled away.

"Seeya, Crazy Slipper Lady," she said.

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Sarah said...

I'm trying to work out the diffence between sandwich and toast slices. I thought maybe sandwiches were triangle and toasts were rectangles. But that wouldn't work. So is it thickness?

I wouldn't worry about wearing your slippers outside. That's entirely normal.

Lucy Diamond said...

Oh no!!! Am laughing but in a sympathetic way, honest!
Sandwich/toast slices - never heard of such a thing. Have you been enlightened yet? I am curious now!

Mum'sTheWord said...

I'm still not really sure, as I've got into the habit of asking for toast slices. I really need to ask for sandwich slices and then compare the two. Or I could ask, I suppose. Like a normal person. But they do talk so very quickly around here!