Sydney is full of British people. They congregate in beachside suburbs. A lot of them tend to work in advertising, which is like a modern penal colony. I inhabit both, which means I am constantly surrounded by the English and watch them get excited about Sydney over and over again.
My colleague Colin moved here from the UK to be with his girlfriend, who promptly upped and left him like they were in a cliffhanger episode of Neighbours. He got his own back by eating enough chicken to keep Steggles in business, packing on 15 kilograms of pure muscle and essentially becoming the strongest British person in Australia. Colin’s upper body looks like every muscle has had fantastic sex with another muscle and spawned glistening mini-muscles that vie for female attention in his inevitably tight T-shirts. This may sound like I don’t like Colin, but I do. He’s a lovely guy with great ideas and phenomenal attention to detail.
A 31-degree day is on the horizon and a bunch of us make plans to go swimming at Andrew Boy Charlton pool, which is a beach in the middle of the city for people that typically don’t come back to the office after lunch on Fridays. Colin is excited. He also has many questions, which include “Where Will We Get Changed”, “Can We Bring Our Lunch”, “Will They Let You Hire Goggles” and “Do We Have To Do Laps Or Can We Just Faff About, You Know?” Upon receiving satisfactory answers to these queries, we set up our out-of-office notices and take off across the park.
The joke’s on us, because it turns out Colin totally knows how to swim. Not only that, but he’s somehow got the lung capacity of a mid-sized sea creature despite his penchant for Marlboros; easily trouncing both the Aussies and the Brazilians in that classic, stupid summer competition of who can swim the furthest underwater without breathing. This is unfair for a number of reasons, not limited to the fact that there are a number of beautiful women who have suddenly taken interest in said contest only to witness Colin emerge from the water, his muscles quivering with excitement.
Talk soon turns to iceblocks. I am of the opinion that there is no better treat for a stupendously hot day than frozen fruit juice with extra sugar, and the decision is made that we will buy some on our way back to work. Colin, still panting and rubbing his eyes, which are going to burn from chlorine overexposure for the next eight hours, says “Don’t You Mean Ice-cream?”
No, I say, perhaps a bit too snappily. I mean iceblock.
Hold up, one of our water-borne colleagues says. You’ve never had an iceblock before?
We run off a checklist to see if the impossible is true: Frosty Fruits. Calippos. Icy Pole. Zooper Doopers. Cyclones. Sunnyboys. Toucans (RIP).
Colin hasn’t the foggiest what we’re talking about. He reminds us that he’s British, and that when Mr Whippy came to his town, the offering was mashed potato with a sausage stuck in the top, a cone made out of hardened bacon. I feel like this is probably a reversal of what happens when we tell Americans that we ride kangaroos to work, but it isn’t my place to argue.
Instead, I say: Colin, that is fucked up. We are getting you an iceblock. Today.
On the sizzling deck, the atmosphere changes. We debate which local delicacy should win the honour of being Colin’s first. I fight vigorously against the inclusion of the Splice, which, although delicious, violates the Iceblock Code by having ice-cream in it.
The Brazilians, both of whom are called Rodrigo, are bored. They want to play the underwater game again and they disappear down the other end of the pool. We realise that this place probably only sells overpriced artisan snacks usually flogged at farmers markets. There’s a slim chance there’s an iceblock among them. Colin could be saved yet.
I spy a freezer in the cafe. It’s full of iceblocks. Sure, they’ve got some yuppie name and flavours that sound like they’re named after Gwyneth Paltrow’s website categories, but it doesn’t matter. They are cold. There are multiple flavours. And they are definitely not $5 each.
The group emerges into the warm afternoon, slowly redressing as we head toward the office. Colin looks particularly pleased and I am happy that I have helped my friend have a new experience.
Colin, I yell ahead, I got the watermelon. Which flavour is yours?
I went with vanilla, he shouts back.
Wait a second, someone says. Vanilla can’t be an iceblock flavour. It’s milk-based.
Everyone groans. Colin shrugs. We slurp on and continue walking. The juice drips onto our hands, and we suck it off quickly before it sets under the unforgiving sun.