I had my first Australian meat pie last night. It was the second meat pie of my life.
The first time I ate a meat pie, I was 24 years old, in a pub in the West Midlands with my bearded mate Chris. We'd had a couple of beers, and I'd ordered for lunch an exotic "Italian" meat pie, which, in the UK in the late 1980s, meant it contained black pepper.
While I was eating my pie, Chris suggested we should travel 140 kilometres to London to see a benefit gig headlined by the folk-punk band the Men They Couldn't Hang. In those days, it was widely thought that the best way to overthrow an oppressive political regime was to stage a large outdoor concert, and I think that particular gig might have been in opposition to apartheid. (When the African National Congress won South Africa's first free elections a mere six years later, Chris and I could congratulate ourselves on a job well done.)
Although we were fiercely opposed to apartheid (or whatever it was), our decision to travel probably had more to do with the fact that the pub was about to close for the afternoon but we could still buy beer on the train.
As was traditional, the concert was held in a muddy field. This was during the early days of stage-diving, and before the advent of crowd-surfing. In the late '80s, you climbed onto the stage, got rushed by the bouncers and were thrown into the crowd, who either did or didn't catch you, and that was the end of it.
So I pushed my way to the front and did a bit of a folky pogo dance*, then turned to make my way back to Chris. At this precise moment, a stage-diver landed on my back. The impact of his weight drove my right foot into the mud, while forcing my body around to the left, twisting my ankle and leaving me in agony and barely able to walk.
Chris half-carried me to the Tube station, where we decided that the best thing to do was find a London pub with a comedy night to cheer me up. We hobbled and stumbled to a place called the Chuckle Club, and my spirits were thoroughly lifted when a comedian walked into the crowd, grabbed Chris by the beard and pulled it, making his head wobble.
Unfortunately, as the evening went on, my injury got worse. By the time the pub shut,
I couldn't move. Back at Euston station, Chris had to load me onto a luggage trolley to get me around. In solidarity with the only other bearded men in 1980s England, he wheeled me into a crowd of homeless blokes and left me there until our train arrived. When we returned to Coventry, it was after midnight, and there was no way to get across the railway lines to the exit, apart from taking the stairs. The few staff remaining at that station were quite excited by my predicament, and contrived to lay on a special train for me. They loaded me into a mail wagon attached to a shunter, and took me over the points to platform one.
Later that year, Chris and I left England for Australia, and although many strange things have happened to us, I have never had anyone else fall on me from the sky. But then, I'd never eaten another meat pie, either.
Last night, I was sitting with Chris outside the Woolloomooloo Bay Hotel in Sydney when I found myself suggesting we go across the road to Harry's Café de Wheels. I ate a beef curry pie, followed quickly by a chilli pie, and nothing damaging happened to me.
It hardly ever does any more. The universe has made its peace with me, and I have made my peace with pies.
Even Chris has made his peace with his beard, by shaving it off.
* Yeah, yeah. I know.