You must think I’m stupid…

I HAVE just met a bloke who reckons he sells pregnant mares’ urine for a living . . .

Yes, I know . . . I thought the same thing.

But also I thought, why is it Australians treat ex-Poms — even the ones who have been here years, like me — as if we are all new chums who have just stepped off the last ship.I mean, come on!

Just because we wear socks and sandals at the same time, and we roll up our trousers when we go in the sea (not the ocean, mark you, the sea) does not mean we are all stupid.

I remember when I first arrived and some friends took me for a barbecue at the beach. It started with trying to get me to cook the salad. I ask you! Did they think we never had salads in Blighty?

I didn’t fall for it, mind you. I’m a very fast learner.

Then it moved on to the bloke down by the surf. He was dancing on the sand, his feet every now and then being gently washed in seawater as it ran up the beach on spent waves.

Not wild, let-it-all-hang-out dancing. Just a quiet twist. You remember the twist – kind of like a hula-hooping without the hoop.

"He’s enjoying himself," I said, casually. He didn’t have a Walkman, so I don’t know what he was doing for music.

Darryl glanced away from the smoking steaks and looked where I nodded, through narrowed eyes.

"Searching for pippies," he grunted.

"I beg your pardon?"

"Searching for pippies. Small shellfish under the surface. He does that stuff and his feet feel the pippies, then he digs them up."

I laughed like a jetski in overdive. "Brilliant," I said. "You chaps have got the best imaginations I’ve ever come across."

Darryl and Shane looked hurt. "Fair dinkum!" they said. "That’s how you catch pippies."

"Well, why isn’t he catching any then?"

"Not the best place for pippies here," said Shane.

"Yabbies are better here."

I snorted so hard the beer came down my nose.

"Yabbies? Yabbies! Oh do tell me about yabbies!"

"Wriggly little buggers. Like a scorpion without the sting. Great fishing bait. Mind you, you need a yabbie pump for that."

They were marvellous! Like a comic double act. I began to get a stitch. I couldn’t speak. Except to ask, because I knew I was supposed to play my part, what a yabbie pump was.

They explained. I had to sit down. You know when you laugh so much it actually hurts. I was weak with it.

And the way they managed to keep absolutely straight faces.

These guys were professionals! If I hadn’t known better I would have said they getting a bit browned off.

"Mind you, I’d rather use sandworms meself," said Darryl, more to Shane than to me.

"Don’t– don’t tell me,” I gurgled. "With a pair– a pair of pliers." I slid off the bench, eyes streaming, beer spilling.’

He didn’t bat an eyelid. "Works for me," he muttered moodily, "but once you’ve got them to stick their heads up out of the sand it doesn’t matter what you use, so long as you’re quick."

My screams were beginning to draw attention from other barbecues. Darryl and Shane began to pay a lot of attention to the steaks. The rest of the day didn’t go too well. They barely spoke to me. I don’t really know why. Probably they couldn’t handle it when I saw through their bizarre — if creative — stories.

I checked about the pregnant mares’ urine, to be on the safe side. It seems he was telling the truth. Apparently it’s required in pregnancy testing of humans, or so the encyclopaedia said.

But you can’t be too careful. Not unless you want to make a complete idiot of yourself.