Perth is difficult. It is both zealous and languorous. She didn’t understand – until last week’s heat wave struck. And as ennui set in, immured in the bedroom, enveloped in 19C air-conditioning, suggestions on where to watch the fireworks fell on deaf ears.
Drinking however remained a priority. Hannah boasted from Charleston, jewel of the south-east coast of the USA, and recently listed as one of the most liveable cities in the world. And the south-east like the rest of the country’s craft beer revolution wasn’t shy when it came to brewing suds. They made beer out pumpkins, triple hopped IPA’s to nine percent, and turned porters into crème brûlée.
It was somewhat inevitable that after almost a month in Australia Hannah’s tastebuds were emaciated by our modest penchant for bitter lager. Her allegiances relocated to cider (lots of cider), SBSs, SSBs and vodka – thereby exhibiting the epitome of the true pioneering Australian spirit by showcasing adaptability in the face of adversity.
So on the eve of Australia day after sinking a pint down at my local, we went to the nearest bottle-o in true Australian tradition to stock up on booze as if it was Armageddon. In a recent trend, given the usurious costs of Perth and the nation, I’d already noticed the general public’s acuity for bargains and photographic memory when it came to alcohol prices – travelling out of their way to save two dollars off a slab or bottle top.
Hannah was perfectly attuned to this practice given her student status and purchased half a slab of cider with a nominal saving of four dollars from nearby competing outlets. But there were no discounted prices on vodka or rum for my dark ‘n’ stormys, and Hannah concluded the cost of mixers was inflated.
So not to be out done, and in true Australian style we moved on to the next neighbourhood boozer. There Hannah picked up a cheeky bottle of French vodka, but rum prices were still high and they had run out of tonic and soda.
The stark realisation of shop closures for tomorrow’s national day of celebration loomed, and desperation set in as closing time for public trading edged into its final hour. Our journey thus far had carried us on a circuitous loop of the city. Yet it was only when I turned the car homeward that the answer came to me. It was all so simple it made all our other efforts seem like pure folly – the one-stop answer was Dan Murphy’s, the Australian Walmart of worldly libations on Fitzgerald St.
Realising my stupidity, and now en route to our exigent goal, I started to suspect Dan Murphy’s an hour before close on the eve of Australia Day might prove the most illuminating vision of Australia for a foreigner.
It didn’t disappoint.
The car park was like a music festival – cars vying for positions like cattle at a feeding pen and discalced folks streaming in from all directions in every state of undress. Inside lines were thick and long with semi-naked men grappling slabs and beer and cider, and young women hugging fruit bowls of alcopops.
‘Jesus,’ said Hannah.
Before she arrived in Australia I warned Hannah about the exorbitant cost of living in Perth. After she arrived I asked her, ‘were you still shocked by the prices?’
She replied, ‘I expected it, and was shocked by it at the same time.’
Again Hannah experienced the same sensation witnessing the reality behind Australian’s fabled devotion to beer.
As we walked through the pleasant chill of Dan Murphy’s I could hear conversations carrying the new tradition of price matching. People complaining, ‘that used to be two bucks cheaper,’ or concluding, ‘it’s five dollars less at BWS,’ then looking at the clocks on their mobile phones to see if the mission was feasible.
‘Does everyone in Australia not wear clothes?’ Hannah jested.
‘Nope,’ I replied feeling somewhat awkward overdressed in boardies and a Bonds undershirt.
Although everyone was dressed in the same code of extreme informality, I did pick up an array of foreign accents – Irish predominantly, but there was British and boisterous Spaniards as well. I found a cheap bottle of rum, but Dan Murphy’s had also been cleaned out of tonic and soda.
I started to consider an esoteric annual economic indicator for Australia could be the sales of tonic and soda water on the 25/01.
Back outside in the enervating heat I asked Hannah her impression of Dan Murphy’s.
‘I love that place! I’m never shopping anywhere else.’
We fortuitously passed Coles heading home and pulled in to see if they too had sold out of mixers. Given it was the final fifteen minutes of trading, there was a visible lull at the Fitzgerald St shopping centre to what was a fervent evening of public consumerism. Coles was also out of named brands of tonic and soda, but we found success with a depleted shelf of home brand mixers.
Driving home, we felt exhausted yet satisfied. Even though the heat would keep Hannah inside, cocooned in air conditioning on Australia Day, the Skyshow seemed somewhat redundant, because in retrospect our booze run the night before seemed to capture a real authentic Australian spirit.