A while back I’m sitting, as I often am, on the train from Bristol Temple Meads to London Paddington. As I sit there, I overhear a conversation two Australian girls were having behind me.
“Did you know they call them crisps here?” says one to the other.
We reach the first stop and a couple who’d been sitting on a table to my left get up to leave. The girls move to the table. I strike up a Conversation with them. They are called Philippa and Alesha.
“I’m Philippa one ‘L’ two ‘Ps’ but anyway, I don’t like the name Philipa because when I answer the phone it sounds like I’m saying Sylvia, which is my grandma’s name and I mean I love her but… so anyway I change it to Pip but Alesha’s family are the only ones that don’t call me that.”
“We don’t call her that,” says Alesha.
“But we’ve just been in Italy and they say it fil-eep-a and spell it with an ‘F,’ which I think is much prettier, so I think I’m gonna go back to Phillipa.”
Alesha asks me if everyone in London is depressed then says,
“We missed the doors closing on the train we wanted to catch by ten seconds and they wouldn’t let us on.”
“Yeah…” I don’t really know how to respond to that and say, “ So how come you’re in London then?”
“We’re on holidays,” says Philippa, “Alesha is here till February, I’m just here for a bit. We’re from the Central Coast, and we don’t know why it’s called that because it’s not central.”
“It is central! Central New South Wales,” says Alesha.
“Okay… Philippa says, cutting her off, “I’m on school holidays, I’m a Special Ed. Teacher.”
“So you’re both on holiday?” I ask.
“You picked a complicated story,” says Philippa.
“Yeah, it’s complicated,” Alesha agrees.
“Alesha is one of five siblings, the eldest one and her husband live in West Hampstead,” explains Philippa.
Then Alesha draws a family tree in her notebook to show me how everyone is related. She explains how five of the six of them have spent a few months here. I ask why all at the same time. She says they planned to meet up at Christmas.
“Because my sister lives here we all sort of used her as a point of reference to go in and out of the UK to places in Europe. Like yesterday Philippa and I got back from Italy.”
“You were in that Italy recently?” I ask.
“Yeah – yesterday we were in Venice.”
Then they tell me they’re off to Egypt the next day.
“What do you do, Alesha, are you a student?”
“Yes, I’m a nursing student.”
“If you’re a nursing student that probably means you can come and live in the UK right?” I ask.
“Well yes, when I qualify.”
“That’s how we go to each other’s countries really. Otherwise it’s really complicated,” I say.
“Yeah, I got offered a green card in Italy. All I’d have to do was marry this guy, and I was like ‘hell yes, I’d love a European card.’”
“did you even like him?” I say.
“Oh, he was nice. So anyway, it ended up with about seven of us having Christmas together in London which was really, really nice. I’ve had two months and I really don’t like that dropping into a city for a day thing. So I feel like I’ve done London, done Berlin…”
“And Switzerland?” Says Philippa.
“And Switzerland yes. Lets say the Swiss Alps, let’s not say Switzerland.”
Then they talk more about Australia and draw a little map. Alesha explains, in her own words, the fight between Sydney and Melbourne, which culminated in Canberra being named capital.
“If somewhere is somewhere you don’t like you call it a hole, and Canberra is literally and geographically a hole.”
“That’s harsh, it actually has a good art gallery – but that’s only because it has to because it’s our capital,” Philippa says.
“So where in Australia have you been?” I ask.
“Well I’ve never been to WA…” says Alesha.
“Have you done the Daintree?”
“Yeah, love the Dain,” Philippa says.
“And Fraser Island?”
“Yeah – and I found a cockroach on Fraser Island that was the size of two tic-tac containers,” Alesha says.
“That’s massive,” I say.
“Yeah it is,” says Philippa.
I ask if I can take the girl’s photo.
“Sure,” says Alesha, “I actually got this dress from a shop yesterday, because we were going to Bath.”
“Why did you need a dress for Bath?”
“Because it’s Bath! We were on a Jane Austen Pilgrimage.”