12th December 2014
The Three Lost Girls – or, don’t judge a book by its cover!
A few weeks ago my wife and I took Ray the Chihuahua for a walk late on a Sunday afternoon. We live at Palm Beach in Sydney, a popular destination for weekend visitors and the place where ‘Home & Away’ is filmed. As such, it’s pretty easy to spot the locals from the ‘blow-ins’ (as we uncharitably call them).
We were walking past a group of three young women, of what appeared to be Indian heritage, looking a little concerned. One approached my wife Jo and asked if she knew where a free Wi-Fi spot was as she needed to connect to call someone. The three girls were clearly from overseas and had travelled on the bus to Palm Beach to check out the location of the Home & Away set and were meant to meet some other people for dinner and to travel back to the city.
As it turned out, they had no mobile connection and thought they’d find a Wi-Fi but had no luck – the few shops were closed and unfortunately they couldn’t find anyone to help them. Jo immediately reached for her phone to lend them, but realised we’d both left our phones up at the house. Her Kiwi warmth immediately had the girls in tow, walking the 200m or so back to our place to use our Wi-Fi. That’s what you do if you’re bought up in rural New Zealand – you help a stranger in need.
On the walk up to the house we got chatting to the girls – they loved Home & Away (and that other Aussie soapie, Neighbours) and while they didn’t necessarily look British, they had British accents. Although friendly and polite, they looked a little sheepish as they marched through the cabbage palms on the track to our home, following this odd couple and their tiny dog to who-knows where.
We arrived home, much to the surprise of our 8 and 10 year old who, wondering who these strangers mum and dad had bought home, chose to hide in their respective bedrooms and glance out occasionally. We gave the three girls the Wi-Fi code and sat them down. They were in awe of our place; the views, the trees, and a bit incredulous at Jo’s hospitality. We offered drinks and food, which they declined, which we ignored, and it was soon apparent they were just being polite as they tucked into cheese, crackers and drinks.
As we talked while waiting for their friends to call back, we started to notice some things about the three lost girls. Firstly, their English accents were impeccable and quite distinct. They told us that they were on holiday for two months after graduating recently, and we chatted about their prospects and how tough it was for graduates these days (my oldest son Taylor has just finished university). We also talked about credentials in general, and the relative value of a degree from one University over another, which got us onto the English class system, and then on to Australian egalitarianism (relatively at least). They were smart, enquiring, very polite and thankful.
I finally asked them: “So what were your qualifications in, and where did you go?”
Around the table, with modesty they answered: “I just finished Law and Economics at London School of Economics”. The next girl said: “Oh I did a Law degree at Birmingham University”. The last one said ‘’Oh I just did Economics”. I asked where: “Oxford” she replied.
Hmm I thought, these are not just your ordinary Home & Away English fans coming out to visit the remnants of an empire as I first thought. Three graduates, all from London families, with qualifications from the 2nd, 4th and 12th ranked Universities in the UK. Clearly smart, well intentioned, their looks and their mission belied their obvious accomplishments. You don’t go to Oxford or LSE without being very smart, somewhat affluent or both.
As events unfolded, their friend called back and they got on with their disrupted plans, after we’d spent an interesting and eye-opening hour with them – not the way we planned to spend Sunday evening, but sometimes the unplanned events in life are the fortuitous ones.
This week we got a card in the mail from the girls, thanking us for taking them in and leaving such an impression with them – one of the highlights of their trip so far. Apparently, ANZAC generosity and openness may be a rare thing. They gave us their names, numbers, email addresses and an invitation to let them reciprocate the favour for us or our families should we find ourselves in London soon.
All this came about from a late walk on the beach, the generosity of a country-kiwi heart, and the circumstances of The Three Lost Girls!
Generator Talent Group