I read an article today about the Shepherd’s Bush Walkabout in London being closed down forever very soon, now I only went there about three or four times in the whole year I was living in London and I was always ready to say how incredibly gross it was but I am still very sad to see it go. What saddens me even more is that the Finchley Road Walkabout is also closing and the Australia Shop in Convent Garden has also been closed down. It seems as though London is trying to de-Australianise itself, which I really couldn’t blame it for doing- I’ve witness some horrendous sights such as an Australian using a newspaper as a funnel so he could urinate into an empty beer bottle while on the tube after the third origin game. At the same time it makes me sad that fellow Aussies who head over to London won’t have the experience of going to any of these Walkies for a snakebite (a lovely concoction of Beer, tap Cider and red cordial that costs about three pound depending on where you were buying it).
I made a very conscious decision when moving to London that I wouldn’t just move to Australian areas and hang out with all the Australians, I didn’t see the point in moving 16000 kilometres away from your home country only to only be friends with you own kind and go to familiar surroundings. Granted, the friends I made were mostly Australian and the irony of it all is that my closest friends were from Queensland, mostly from Brisbane and a couple from Mackay, this however, was purely unintentional. There were just some things that it was necessary to band together with your fellow nationals to make life easier. One such example of this is getting a job- I was told when doing my first interview with a recruitment agency that even though I had four years of very solid administration experience, I didn’t have “London experience” and would therefore have to work my way up from the bottom. Getting a job quickly was very important as I had a very limited funds that were getting swallowed up at an alarming rate so I knew signing up with agencies that mostly dealt with Aussies and Kiwis would increase my chances. This is not to say that I didn’t work with people from other countries- there were people from all different backgrounds at the places I worked but you definitely observe a large Australian, New Zealand and South African contingent in each of the companies I worked for.
As I said earlier, I didn’t go to the Walkie that much, a lot of the people who I knew who lived in massive share houses of fifteen to twenty people in Aussie/Kiwi concentrated areas such as Clapham, Shepherd’s Bush or Acton spent a fair bit of time there. Please don’t think I am in any way looking down on these people or their experience because that is not what I am doing at all, I think had I have moved over to London alone and single I would definitely been apart of this crowd and I know all of these people had amazing London experiences, its juts not what I wanted out of my experience. I am also not saying that Kilburn isn’t an Aussie/Kiwi concentrated area because I have met lots of these people in Kilburn and Willesden Green but if you know London and have lived there you cannot argue that the three areas I have mentioned are much more highly concentrated. So now I have explained all of this, I am going to give you a run down on my Walkabout experiences and the fond memories I have of the few times I have been there.
I went to the Finchley Road Walkabout more than the others as it was just one tube stop on the Jubilee line from Kilburn. I stumbled across it when going to the Big Finchley Road O2 centre that had a Sainsburys’ at which I did a large amount of my weekly shopping. The first State of Origin I was in London for, was watched at the Finchley Road Walkabout, my group had to eat standing up because we got there late and all the seats were taken. When I felt like an easy cheap meal close to home, I would often head to Finchley Road and most of the time I would go to Weatherspoons’ but sometimes to shake things up- I would go to the Walkabout. My Kiwi housemate Sheridan’s AFL team was sponsored by the Finchley Road Walkie and so I went their a few times with him as well.
I was in Ireland during the second origin and alas no where near a walkabout so I couldn’t watch it but the third game was spent at the Temple Walkabout. Temple Walkabout is the only one in London that hasn’t been sold and it is down on the Thames and you can feel the rumble of the tube in the station underneath you. The third test was during a very rough time of London living for me- while I was working at the Beatles Shop- which is a huge story in itself- and even through my extreme boredom at work that day I refrained all day from going on Facebook and so I got to watch the game without knowing the outcome. There were all of these Australia guys in suits that were standing in front of my friends and I and the boys I was with naturally had to try to start a fight with them. My Portuguese housemate Ines came to watch the game with us that night and it was fun explaining it all to her and watching her get into the game. This was the fateful night I witnessed the Australian guy pee on the train which I feel has a very strong link back to the Walkabout.
The first time I went to the Shepherd’s Bush Walkabout was on the Friday at the end of my first, extremely traumatic week of working at the Beatles Shop. My boyfriend at the time who I lived in London with went out with guys from work and I met up with one of our other friends, Jimmy and drank bottle of wine with him, telling him the woes of my week. This was the absolute height of craziness and I felt like I was about one incident away from complete mental breakdown. My boyfriend called and told me to meet up with him, he said that all the other boys’ girlfriends were coming to meet them. I headed off taking the overground (missing the first train and having to wait another twenty minutes for the next one), then I couldn’t find the bus stop I needed to be at and then not realising how late it had actually gotten, I wasn’t allowed into the pub because it was shutting. Standing outside, I tried to call him to tell him where I was, call after call went though to his message bank until I finally got through. I told him I was out the front and he came and stood at the door and told me to come in. I explained that I wasn’t allowed and then he was ushered back inside by a bouncer. I waited for a few minutes assuming he would come back out for me but he didn’t. I called and called and called, each time going through to message bank and thirty phone calls (I am not exaggerating in the slightest) and he finally answered again. He eventually seemed to get the message that I couldn’t come in and he came outside and I have seen him in some drunken states but this was another matter. As soon as I saw him, I saw red and I told him I was catching the bus home. He decided he wanted to come and stumbled onto the bus, I was so rude and mean to him and he slurred “If you’re going to be a bitch, I am getting off this bus” I told him “fine get off the fucking bus then, I don’t care” and he mumbled something about it being alright, he would put up with it. Getting home that night was one of my lowest points, I had almost decided that I was getting on the next plane home so I called my Mum and cried to her for hours.
Christmas Day that year was an Orphan’s even and that night after too many drinks, one of the only venues that was open was the Shepherd’s Bush Walkabout which we headed to in matching xmas sweaters. Our sweaters created a lot of interest- there were five of us and we were asked to be in photos and people kept making comments about how cool we looked. There was one girl who was not so nice and she spent most of the night making snide comments about our sweaters and in our drunken silliness, Kerry, Wendy and I decided we were going to fight her.
New years that year was spent in Edinburgh for Hogmanay but somehow we managed to spend quite a bit of it in the Edinburgh Walkabout. The morning of New Years we got the Walkie at 10am, we were treated to a ‘breakfast Bap” which was a bun, bacon and tomato sauce and a snakie. We then counted down each new years starting with New Zealand at midday, New South Wales at 1pm and Queensland’s at 2pm.
The next time was back to the SheBu ( I should have mentioned earlier that SheBu is the name people have given Shepherd’s Bush ironically to make it sound fancier) walkabout after the four nations rugby with my friends Sarah and Richard who were lucky enough to have my boyfriend and I live on their couch for a couple of weeks in Cambridge. It was quite packed that day with all the people that had gotten quite rowdy at the game. The very last time we were there was just before we left in June, saying goodbye to my friends Jared, Erin, Richard and Amy. I am not really sure how it was that we ended up at the Walkie but I guess it was because it was easy for everyone to get to and home from.
It seems that all of the old faithful venues in London eventually get shut down. There was the Red Back in Acton which saw its end and was reopened as The Acton Arms, The Church moved to Elephant and Castle, all of the Walkabouts are being closed and the Australia shop where you could purchase Australian products such as Arnotts’ shapes and Tim Tams at inflated prices, has also closed. Although, as I said, I didn’t go to the Walkabout every weekend and the Good Ship in Kilburn has many more fond memories but you can see from this post that I do have strong memories of the Walkabout and it definitely played a massive part in my London experience. I am genuinely sad that wide eyed Aussie, Kiwis and South Africans alike will not be able to witness the mould mixed with urine smell of the toilets, the taste of a snake bite that is only put up with because it was so cheap and will never feel their feet sticking to the floor or slipping on the dance floor because of the spilt alcohol. I know that there will be others that will take its place but it wont be the same. Goodbye SheBu Walkie, I will never forget you!