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Backpacker Boris Johnson: The new British PM’s raucous gap year in Australia

July 30th, 2019 | | industry

Long before Boris Johnson’s rise to power, the future British prime minister enjoyed a raucous gap year in Australia that he later said “made me the man I am today”.

As an 18-year-old in 1983, Johnson moved to regional Victoria to become a teaching assistant at Geelong Grammar School’s Timbertop campus, 140km northeast of Melbourne.W

Johnson was asked to help the students with English and Latin.

But the future leader quickly built a reputation for his unruly blond hair and his delight in using tractors and Land Rovers to gather firewood and check up on school hiking groups.

There have been unconfirmed reports of Johnson crashing one of the Land Rovers on a mountain road that winter, but nobody was injured.

Johnson also enjoyed road tripping around Australia, recounting to The Canberra Times in 2015 how he “once spent a night sleeping on a roundabout in Canberra”.

Boris Johnson gets behind the wheel of a forklift truck in Braintree, England, in July 2019.
Boris Johnson gets behind the wheel of a forklift truck in Braintree, England, in July 2019.Image:Neil Hall/AP

“I was driving there and I was about 18 and I got totally lost and I dossed down (in my tent) for the night in a roundabout. Well, I woke up and discovered it was a roundabout,” Johnson told the newspaper.

“It was terrible. I thought it would be OK, then I got woken up by the traffic and then I looked at my hands, my hands had swollen up like blown-up washing up gloves because I had been so badly bitten.”

One of Johnson’s former students at Timbertop told 7NEWS.com.au recalled the “pretty posh” Englishman threw himself into the rugged country lifestyle.

Boris Johnson knocks down 10-year-old Toki Sekiguchi, who was unharmed, during a 2015 street rugby tournament in Japan
Boris Johnson knocks down 10-year-old Toki Sekiguchi, who was unharmed, during a 2015 street rugby tournament in JapanImage: Stefan Rousseau/AP

“He was pretty aggressive at a game we used to play called murderball,” she said.

“He was an ex-rugby player and he was pretty ballsy. He didn’t care if you were male or female, he was pretty aggressive on the murderball court.”

“He really got into it. He didn’t just sit on the sidelines.”

While London Mayor, Johnson was invited to a school reunion at Timbertop but wrote back: “I can tell you categorically that it was my experience at Timbertop that made me the man I am today.

“I have a deep and abiding love for Australia.”

In recent years, Johnson has backed closer ties with Australia, advocating a New Zealand-style plan to allow UK and Australian citizens to freely live and work in each others’ countries.

Source: 7 News.com.au

Sourced by Mike Barrow