c e n t r i f u g e

22:44 saturday 1 april – port campbell , victoria , australia

two pine bunk beds . grey walls . a hardwearing carpet . a single bulb fixed in the middle of the ceiling . the gunshot soundtrack of cheap tv from the lounge next door . middle-brow jazz from a nearby restaurant . occasional twang of a guitar .

i lie on the lower bunk by the window with my powerbook on the pillow . across the room stef ponders today’s edition of the australian and barbara sleeps . it’s been a long day .

this is my first taste of hostel life since i was last in australia . the familiar check-list springs back into action . mattress = good . linen = clean . inmates = free of psychopathic tendencies . obvious ones at least .

i left ross’ flat in sydney and flew down to melbourne last monday . since then i’ve been staying with stef and barbara in their house in fitzroy , the city’s funky/organic/bohemian quarter .

the dull pulse of a commercial house track joins the gentle mellee of sound . where’s it coming from in this little backwater ? stef reckons it’s somebody’s car . i think it might be the video jukebox in the pub we visited earlier .

i like melbourne . it’s more or less flat so cycling is a breaze . the ubiquitous tram tracks are a new challenge though . the vehemence of melbourne’s rivalry with sydney is incomprehensible to anyone outside those two cities . but the contrasts are obvious . sydney lives in primary colours , melbourne in subtle secondaries . it’s more relaxed , less brash , not so beach-centred . the grass is literally greener . i’ve been carrying on with my work but also getting about and meeting people .

this morning stef , barbara and i hired a car and drove west along the great ocean road . a dramatic effort which follows the coast through a succession of landscapes . steep sandstone cliffs , wide-beached bays , temperate rain forest , scrubby savanna . we stopped at various points to explore and watched the sun setting from a deserted clifftop with sage-coloured brush around us and the pacific surf rolling against the rocks far below .

finally we arrived here in port campbell , a small settlement whose economy is , i presume , largely dependent on the tourists who come to visit the nearby apostles , a series of tall rock pillars standing just off the coast . there are six restaurants and three motels on port campbell’s main drag and little else . we ordered fish and chips in a neon-lit room where visitors’ business cards and photos were arrayed beneath the plastic table covers . the proprietress handed us numbered tickets . when i took my seat i found a ticket with the same number as my own ( 84 ) amongst the cards for concrete pourers and munich hairdressers beneath the plastic in front of me . a small co-incidence .

a greater co-incidence last thursday . i joined stef for lunch with a couple of friends of his who are interested in digital community infrastructure . what rapidly emerged was that one of them , vaughan , who’d trained in medicine before getting involved in the web , has been thinking along uncannily similar lines to me . he too is in the early stages of setting up a venture , one which is potentially complementary to trampoline rather than in competition with it . we experienced a depth of common understanding which was unexpected for us both .

we spoke again last night at the drinks to mark his departure from looksmart.com , australia’s most prominent web firm . it ended up with the two of us huddled over a table gabbling intensely . i’ve extended my stay in melbourne til the end of next week so we can talk more .

i’ve been hobbling a bit , having locked myself in stef and barbara’s garden on wednesday morning and resorted to jumping off the fence , barefoot , to escape into the back lane . it provided a good excuse to spend much of wednesday afternoon static on a beach . but i feel very silly .

it seems much longer than two weeks ago i was walking in the blue mountains with duncan . a lifetime since i arrived in sydney .

: cH

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