Queen Elizabeth II was born on a shiny sunny April day in 1926, the 21st to be exact, as the songbirds sang and canaries croaked in their anticipation of a summer which would see Britain fall under martial law because of coal miners striking in the North. Even under the yoke of martial law, Britain would that year manage to achieve great heights, culminating in the creation of the country's first race track for dogs, in Manchester. The young Elizabeth was oblivious to all this though, this being her first year. In the following years Elizabeth grew and grew, and just 20 years later she had expanded more than tenfold in size. Due to this great achievement, she was crowned Queen of England in 1952. In all the celebration and rapture surrounding this great event, a lot of people everywhere forgot when her birthday was, and decreed to all the Commonwealth that each country and each state had free reign to choose a birthday for the Queen, and like this that sunny day in April, 1926 was forgotten, and in Victoria, we celebrate the Queen's birthday today, June 11. But next year it's different, because the Queen is ALWAYS born on a Monday.
So I have the day off here, and am wishing I had some great stories to tell about descending a snowy pass somewhere in Tibet, and eating roast yak in a heated tent. As you may see from the above paragraph, I'm a bit desperate for material here.
I've been living and working in Melbourne for a month and a half now, digging in to settled life for the next few months. I got a job raising money for charity on the street, brewed a Stout, and bought a basketball. Actually, I didn't buy it, my friend Pete did to trumpet his glorious arrival on the windswept winter courts of the Southern Hemisphere. Pete is one of my dearest friends, with whom I traversed my first continent by bicycle. He left Portland in April for Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam, where he cruised around and saw caves and rented motorcycles and bought a tailored suit. Then, clad in his suit he boarded a plane for Melbourne, and arrived by surprise at 7am on a work day.
And as one friend arrives, two depart. The first two of my forest campmates in Margaret River have left Australian soil, one departing for a land journey to Turkmenistan where he hopes to become an oil executive; the other returning to the sloping plains of Frisia, where no one will know that one southern summer he, Maarten Grunstra, was the fastest grape picker in Western Australia. And no one will be there to tell it, because Maarten doesn't go around saying, "Hey! I pick grapes really fast!"
All that now remains of the camp now is me, Erik, Cris, and Flo. Last I heard Erik was living in a beautiful house in the middle of the forest outside of Margaret River, quite an upgrade from his lonely green tent. Cris fell into the trap of car ownership, and now lives with an infected finger and works as a dishwasher in Carnarvon, where he lives in a caravan park. Flo, as far as I know, is working on a fishing boat, probably scaring people and doing backflip 180s into the warm turquoise Indian Ocean.