Book review by DNF
Clive James, Germaine Greer, Barry Humphries and Warren (Wazza) Jack - urbane, sophisticated Aussie authors and raconteurs who left our fair shores several decades ago for Old Blighty seeking fame, fortune and culture.
Well, almost. Wazza Jack's take on culture at the time was to avoid its transmission by wearing thongs (flip-flops) into the communal showers of European camp grounds, a fortune was the extra spending money from smuggling booze, while fame still proves elusive. Wazza's claims to urbanity remain somewhat controversial though there can be no doubt that 1980s Europe was an eye-opener for our hitherto guileless hero as he drove bus loads of mostly antipodean adultolescents from London to Istanbul, Scandanavia and most places in between.
Don't Ask Me I'm Only The Driver is a collection of stories from a pre-selfie era when travellers' interactions were not focused on the screen of a smartphone and at a time when an Osama Bin Laden look-a-like could travel relatively freely throughout a less paranoid Europe (the non-communist part was less paranoid). I am sure that if Wazza turned up in Europe today looking as he did in the early 80s he'd get a free prostate check from border officials.
The following are some extracts from his book.
Innocents abroad - Amsterdam
Once in Holland we ... decided we’d best have a look at Amsterdam before heading for England. That was certainly an eye opening experience for me, a simple lad from the western suburbs of Sydney. When we walked down the street in the Red Light district all the girls were sitting in windows on display. All tastes and fetishes were being catered for, there were tall girls, short girls, white, black and Asian dressed in leather, lace, rubber, nurse’s uniforms and lingerie. When we slowed or stopped to look they would pout, stand up and pose seductively before beckoning with a finger to the doorway. When they got a customer they simply closed the curtains and went to work. We saw one customer come back out rather hurriedly as if pushed, and the curtains opened again while the girl was still tucking parts of her ample anatomy back in. It was a real production line.
One girl we stopped to look at gave Phil a big smile and motioned to her door. Phil signalled her to stand up which she did, leaning forward and thrusting out her ample chest. Phil then signalled her to turn around and in doing so she paused to thrust out and wiggle her bum as she smiled seductively over her shoulder and motioned to the door again. Phil shook his head in decline and laughing, gave her a thumbs down. He turned to walk away and she went ballistic. We heard a door slam open and looked over to see a huge bloke, as black as midnight and most likely her pimp, rushing towards us yelling in Dutch, so we took off. Amsterdam is built on a swamp and full of canals. We had the buildings on one side and the canal on the other of the narrow one way street. The street ahead was blocked by an approaching taxi. I went between the taxi and the buildings, Snowy between the taxi and the canal side railings and Phil went bonnet, roof, and boot, over the taxi itself. We then had two angry Dutchmen chasing us. I don’t know how far we ran before we stopped but it seemed like an Olympic marathon before our pursuers finally gave up.
Clothes optional - Dubrovnik
I always used that campsite, as did many other tours, and it really was a very good one and we never told the punters anything, we just waited for the reaction when we arrived. It was always a good giggle, and the questions from the punters were invariably the same:
“Why are we stopping here?”
“Because it’s a great campsite”
“Are you serious? Are we really stopping here?”
“We sure are.’
“Is this really a nudist camp or are you having us on?”
“Look around and see for yourself.”
“Do we have to go nude?”
“If you don’t they’ll probably think you’re some kind of voyeur or other undesirable type.”
“Can we stay in our tents?”
“Of course you can, but you’ll have to put them up first.”
“How come you’ve still got your clothes on?”
“Because I’m going to the bar across the road, which does fantastic calamari, to sit on the veranda, watch the sunset and pig out. Want to come with me?”
The tents always went up in record time, but our site was usually very quiet and seemingly empty. The only sign of life would be the occasional camera lens briefly poking between a pair of closed tent flaps, then quickly disappearing. By this stage of a 10-weeker we had already spent six days on a yacht cruising the Greek Islands where most of the girls would swim and sunbake topless so some would wander down to the beach just in a bikini bottom, others would wait until they got in the
water first. Sometimes one might then walk back to camp nude after the sun had gone down but they didn’t stroll along leisurely.
I got what I suppose were my just deserts there one morning, maybe it was karma getting me back for putting the punters out of their comfort zone. A group of us were sitting in a circle in front of the cook tent eating breakfast, me with my back to the bumpy stony campsite road that ran past. All of a sudden one of the others laughed and unwittingly spat their breakfast all over me, gibbering something unintelligible whilst pointing over my shoulder. I cleared the Weet Bix from my face and turned to see a middle aged man riding past on a pushbike with a massive stiffy
pointing the way and bouncing all over the place.
The other unusual thing about that camp was the unisex amenities block, the doors on the showers were all mounted the wrong way around. The doors were all of the wooden louvre type that let you see a limited amount from one side but nothing from the other and were hung so that you could see in but not out of the shower. I never worked out why.
Warren Jack is a regular contributor to Australasian Dirt Bike Magazine. Don't Ask Me I'm Only The Driver is 346 pages of easy reading value that will raise smiles for the vicarious traveler. It can be purchased via: