Rightly or wrongly the names of some places carry more weight than others. You instantly associate with an image, a lifestyle, a people and a stereotype or two.For the young British traveller, Bondi Beach in Sydney, Australia has to be one of those places. It summons daydreams of a heavenly beach, an army of exquisitely toned, tanned and floppy-haired surfers and never-ending sunshine and blue skies.Because many of my friends and acquaintances landed on Bondi’s shores long before me thanks to gap year jaunts, backpacking adventures and expensive holidays to Australia, Bondi Beach had an almost mythically awesome status in my mind. It was where my Pommie pals learnt to surf, met life long friends in "ah-may-zing" hostels and fell in lust with one of the aforementioned surfing army’s finest corporals.Of course, I looked forward to going and as NewMan reluctantly drove me there with Tia, one of our Aussie friends who used to live in London, I felt a strange giddiness creep in thinking about my 18 year old self hearing from the backpacking friends of mine by postcard and letters (!) who raved about Bondi Beach. I was finally seeing it for myself.And, boy was I disappointed. First there was the traffic getting to and leaving Bondi; it was the only time I experienced a London-like snail’s pace in Sydney. Secondly, once there and after battling for a car parking space, I couldn’t actually see the beach as it was covered in a blanket of nearly naked bodies. And thirdly, rather than marvel at some top class surfing in the sea, it was more like that scene from Jaws before the shark emerges; a busy crowded sea of swimmers with only a few handfuls of learner surfers falling off their boards all dangerously close to one another. Not that it had been on my agenda (G'day NewMan!), but I certainly wasn’t going to be falling in love with any surfers in Bondi.As disappointment crept in, I realised, of course, how significant it was that I was now 12 years older than my blissfully naïve 18 year old self. Over-crowding, noise, hustle and bustle, a lack of stunning scenery were all things that didn’t and wouldn’t have bothered me at 18. Yet at the grand old age of nearly 30 they were day trip deal breakers.So we did what any other mature adults would do; we found a bar overlooking the beach, got the beers in and watched the perky 18 year olds go about their business; girls hair-flicking and flirting with the surfing army, pulling the skimpiest bikinis out of their firm bottoms as close by non-surfing young men sucked in their stomachs and cemented those "life long" friendships with laughter and lager, all crossing nationality and linguistic borders under a never-ending sunshine and blue sky. Yes, I was glad the weather pulled through at least.
After a few sips of my beer my disappointment had calmed into a feeling of self-assurance. It may not have been on Bondi Beach but I have had my moment and I hoped that they were enjoying theirs.And then I took some photos because I still wanted my own Bondi memories... But we didn't leave without having a little fun too because fun is not exclusive to 18 year olds and don't you forget it...
Frances M. Thompson
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