As I fished in my pocket for the admission money to see the smallest house in Britain, the bloke at the door said: “No money required. Aussies don’t pay here. Aussies go in free.”
He must have heard the accents as I was talking with my wife and daughter and sure enough he wouldn’t take any money from us.
We got chatting with him, and it turned out he had spent his childhood in Australia.
He liked the place and the people. They had always been good to him, so he was always good to them.
This proved to be a familiar theme as we travelled around Britain, I’m happy to say.
The impossibly tiny house he runs as a tourist attraction, by the way, is at Temby in north Wales. You have to duck to get in the front door.
There’s a sitting room-turned-kitchen downstairs and a bedroom upstairs. Curiously, it was once lived in by a 1.9-metre-tall fisherman.
A few days later, my daughter was playing with some kids from Liverpool and I got chatting with their father.
We shared a few common interests – football being one of them – and I mentioned that I had always wanted to see a match at Anfield.
He said he was able to get tickets and could help make that dream come true for me.
It wasn’t an empty promise, either, because he emailed me later in my trip to ask me if I could get to Liverpool for the first home match of the new English Premier League season.
I couldn’t make it, sadly, but his kind offer remains open. One day.
The point is this bloke was a friendly guy anyway, but he was going out of his way to be extra-nice, again, because I was an Aussie.
He told me what a fabulous time he had as a young backpacker Down Under and how kind the people had been to him.
“If I’m able to do one small favour for you,” he said, “it will repay only a fraction of the huge debt of kindness I owe Australia.”
I have rarely felt so proud of my country.
Now let me tell you of another incident that happened in Scotland, the land of my birth before I became an Aussie.
We were staying in a charming hotel in Dumfries called the Selkirk Arms, where I ordered haggis.
You’ve probably heard of Scotland’s national dish, which tastes fabulous – and it’s even better if you don’t know what goes into it.
I told my daughter it was a “kind of Scottish hamburger” and she loved it.
The owner of the hotel, a braw, bustling chap called Douglas McDavid, not only served the haggis himself but right there at the table he recited a few verses of Robert Burns’s famous Ode To A Haggis, which also involved him plunging a knife theatrically into the steaming dish.
It was a special treat for a Scottish-born Aussie far from home, and it blew me away.
My experiences have confirmed that being an Australian is one of the best things in life you can be.
It’s a currency you can take anywhere. The reason people were so nice to me is that Aussies I have never met were once nice to them.
And I hope my kindnesses to people I meet on my journeys might one day lead to favours being done for Aussies I will never meet.
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