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waltzing matilda's pizza pie
By Margo Fallis 2007

I’ve always enjoyed the words to ‘Waltzing Matilda’ and never did I think I’d tire of hearing it sang, but after a recent trip to Europe, I knew I never wanted to hear that song again for a long time, or so I thought.

My daughter, Stephanie, and I went on a thirty-day trip to Europe. It was called the ‘European Masterpiece’ and would take us to fifteen countries. Needless to say, we were both excited. I was even more excited after we landed in London, the meeting point for the group, and discovered that we were traveling with forty-eight Australians. I’d lived in Australia as a child and couldn’t wait to spend a month with these wonderful people from ‘Down Under’.

The group I was with was particularly fond of wine. Stephanie and I didn’t drink, but had no problem with the Australians and their love of spirits. We climbed on the bus in London, drove it onto the train, and zipped through the Chunnel towards Paris. There, we met our tour guide, Willie. We changed busses and began our tour of Europe.

Stephanie and I soon made friends with the Aussies and spent time getting to know each and every one of them. They were delightful. At first, I thought Willie had used good taste when he put on a tape of Australian songs. Everyone on the bus sang along to the tunes. What ones we didn’t know, we soon learned, as the tape replayed over and over again the entire bus ride, each and ever day. I soon knew every word to the Australian National Anthem, Botany Bay, Didjeridoo, and Waltzing Matilda.

By day five of the thirty-day trip, I started plotting ways to steal the tape from Willie and burn it, or throw it over the next bridge the bus crossed. I’d lay awake at night with the words rushing through my mind. If I was lucky enough to fall asleep, I’d dream of Waltzing Matilda at the billabong. Then something wonderful happened. We arrived in Italy. Willie changed the tape and instead, we listened to Italian songs by Dean Martin. It was a pleasant change. As we drove through Genoa, heading towards Florence, I sang along to ‘That’s Amore’. I basked in the words of ‘Arrivederci Roma’ and ‘The Isle of Capri’. This was heaven, at least until two weeks later when we neared Venice. If I heard, “When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that’s amore,” one more time, I swore I would never eat pizza again, just to show them! Not only were my dreams full of Waltzing Matildas, but now she was being hit in the face by pizza pies! Needless to say, my heart sighed with relief as we crossed the border in Austria and didn’t have to listen to Dino any longer.

When Willie put on the soundtrack to the ‘Sound of Music’, it was calming. Here I was in the hills that were alive with the sound of music. I sang along, happy for the change. For three days we listened to that same tape. What was with that man? Why did he play the same tape over and over again? I vowed that when I arrived home, I’d send Willie a box of tapes so he could have a variety. I wasn’t to be spared, but at least some poor soul on a future trip wouldn’t have to endure the agony of the same songs over and over again.

After thirty days, we headed back to Calais, France, to catch a ferry back to England. We said goodbye to Willie, and I must admit I cried when it was time to leave him. During the ferry ride over a very calm English Channel, I curled up on a padded bench and with tears in my eyes, I hummed those same songs I had so dreaded hearing the few weeks before. In London we said our goodbyes to the Australians. It was time to go home. Embraces and kisses on the cheek, promises of keeping in touch, all contributed to the sobs that shook my body the entire flight home from England.

Whenever I hear any of the songs I endured during my trip, instead of wanting to scream, I treasure every note, every word, and every memory of that wonderful time I had in Europe, with my friends from ‘Down Under’.

waltzing matilda's pizza pie - world