It’s been over a month and we are well and truly settled in. We know this because of the high levels of mocking going on – which is of course the only true indication of whether or not you have been accepted. It ranges from not being given a pen if we ask for one in our own accents, to being called illegal immigrants, or worse, Australians, by our lovely bosses. The customers ask us about our foreignness on an average of once per every single person we speak to as we are now working more and more shifts, and still getting asked if we are sisters on occasion. We’ve tried haggis, Yorkshire pudding and even Guinness with varying degrees of enjoyment, and even know a handful of locals by name. It’s Summer, despite the rain and visible breath on the colder nights, we have a wall where we stick our letters and cards from home, and as we plan the rest of our trip the months from October to January are starting to be filled with exciting place names like Germany, Turkey, Greece, Ireland, London and Paris. As the pub is closed for business on Monday lunch, several of the staff partake in an activity dubbed tequila Sundays. We play pool, darts, dominoes (and speed dominoes), mini-golf inside with pint glasses and golf driving outside in the dark until we lose all the balls. Despite the name, tequila hasn’t actually been involved since the first of these Sundays when one nameless staff member spent the night hanging over a toilet and somehow injured her hand so badly she has spent the last few weeks off work.
On our days where we find ourselves with some free time we occasionally hitch a ride into sweet wee Hexham. We can stock up on junk food and books from the market and charity shops to add to our library, from which Ella is reading her way through at an unnatural rate of one a day. We wander round and fail at trying not to spend all that we earn from slaving over piles of dishes and unpeeled potatoes.
On June 23rd (Hayley’s birthday) Ella started the day with a quick shift and Hayley got to sit in bed unwrapping much needed treats from home including pineapple lumps, vegemite and an icebreaker jersey. We had planned a trip into Newcastle to spend the day being tourists and checking out the local shopping. Unfortunately since we rely on others to get into Hexham, and a bus to get from there into Newcastle, we ran out of time to do the touristing part. It was raining anyway. Instead we got off the bus at the Metrocentre, which just so happens to be one of the biggest malls in Europe, full of colour-coded sections that are each as big as any single mall anywhere in NZ. We spent just about everything we had earned so far on heels, dresses, sneakers, food and various other non-essential but seriously needed items. We saw Bridesmaids in the theatre, which is not what you’d expect from the ad but still had us crying with laughter though most of the film. At midnight we caught the last bus home laden with bags and avoiding eye contact with the various pub dwellers heading home. Not long after a couple of young guys got on the bus, one of them thought it would be fun to push the button at every stop, but not get off. Not long after that, one of the older guys next to us had him on about it. Within minutes, the young guy was leaning inches over the older guys seat, screaming at him. Eventually the older guy got sick of it and suggested they depart the bus to do the manly thing and fight it out. The whole bus watched as we pulled over with both men standing at the front yelling at each other, shoving to be the bigger, manlier man. As they got off in the middle of nowhere, the younger guy already had a few hard punches in, and by the time we pulled away a second later, the older guy was on the ground in an alley with a crazy young guy kicking every part of him he could reach. Happy birthday, and welcome to Newcastle.