Avoiding making a fool of myself in front of other people is often on my mind and often it's in vain. In the case of that cricket oval in rural Victoria back in 2015, it was definitely running through my brain, but as to whether it was justified or not, I'm yet to figure out.
As in, yes, I probably looked like a dork to anyone watching when I ran back into my car as a kangaroo came bounding right for me. I'm fairly certain my arms flailed in a manner reminiscent of George Costanza escaping a minor kitchen fire at a child's birthday, but what was I meant to do? Hold my ground against a giant rat crossed with a human?
For such a beloved national icon, kangaroos have always made me a little uneasy. Maybe I've watched too many YouTube videos of jacked-up male roos with abs and pecs whiling away the afternoon with a pleasant round of kick-boxing. It's hard to say.
What I do know is that at Halls Gap — a small settlement that acts as the tourist heart of Victoria's stunning Grampians National Park — I was trying very hard to show no fear. It wasn't just the couple of dozen kangaroos on the cricket field for whom I was putting on the act, but the sprinkling of other tourists. I'd just seen a couple — possibly Chinese — casually walk across the oval, the kangaroos equally nonchalant in response.
Then a pair of tourists of a continental European persuasion upped the ante by taking their toddler for a stroll amid the marsupials. It was at that point I turned off the ignition, got out of the car and thought, "Yep, I'll go for a little meander with the kangaroos, too".
Barely on to the field and one sized me up, knew I was a fraud and decided to rapidly — very rapidly — come and say "gidday".
Aussie friends variously laugh at my cowardice or tell me I did totally the right thing. Either way, there's not much chance I looked good doing it.
England — "Why would you ever want to leave?"
"Beautiful isn't it..."
"You can see why we've never left England."
And then just as I feared, it came: "Why would you ever want to leave?"
I've heard variations of this conversation in different parts of the globe and, it must be conceded, several times in New Zealand too.
The locals who bust out the classic, "Why would you ever want to leave?" are generally lovely, just as they're always seemingly sincere. Sure, their spectacular lack of an adventuresome spirit is a bit of a mental brick wall for me, but I can deal with the fact that not everybody wants adventure in their lives.
That said, a trenchant lack of curiosity can irk me, especially when it's coming from a reasonably affluent middle-aged English couple while overlooking their lifestyle block.
As a Kiwi whose ocean-surrounded country is about as far away from the rest of the world as you can get, I was incapable of letting this instance of, "why would you ever want to leave?" go through to the keeper. I had to play this!
"Well, yes, the English countryside is mightily charming, but just because this is beautiful doesn't mean other places aren't and in different ways. Surely you must have some interest in seeing Europe, especially given it's so close?"
I shared this yarn with an English friend who migrated years ago to New Zealand.
He reckoned I could've just as easily been talking to his parents that day: two perfectly comfortable, middle-aged, thoroughly decent folks. The kind of thoroughly decent folks who for no apparent reason wear with pride the badge of having never even left their county. Their county!
"Why would you ever want to leave?" they apparently said to their son as his wonderings and wanderings took him not just out of the county, but the country and for good.
Tim Roxborogh hosts Newstalk ZB's The Two, Coast Soul on Coast and writes the RoxboroghReport.com.