Boris arrived in Victoria in 1983. Boris Johnson, that is, but like many at his level of notoriety he needs only the first name.
The former mayor of London and now Foreign Secretary of a Britain about to go it alone, without the European Union, was 19. He was fresh out of Eton College and about to go to Oxford University, where he would meet former British prime minister David Cameron.
But first – a gap year as a teaching assistant at Geelong Grammar's Timbertop campus, near Mansfield, where the school's year nine students go. He helped out with English and Latin, but seemed to spend most of his time in the forested school camp driving tractors and Land Rovers.
"We called him a 'Rent-A-Pom,'" says Belinda Jamieson, then a 15-year-old year nine student. Timbertop gets quite a few well-bred visitors from the UK on their gap year so they are used to it. But this guy was a little different.
"The blonde hair was out of control even then," she says. "Very stocky, very solid, a very good bloke. Looks like he hasn't changed at all."
Before a Timbertop 1983 reunion, when Boris was still London mayor, Belinda wrote him an email through his press secretary, inviting him out. He wrote back to her saying he couldn't come, but "…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."
According to those who were there, one of the British Foreign Secretary's favoured Timbertop jobs was driving the tractor and trailer around to collect firewood. He used the jeeps to go and check on kids who were hiking too. Unconfirmed reports suggest he may have crashed one of these Land Rovers on a forested mountain road in the winter of '83, injuring no one but perhaps denting his pride.
The connection with Geelong Grammar came about because of John Lewis, who was Boris's Master of College at Eton, Britain's most prestigious school. Lewis, a New Zealander, then moved to Australia to work at Geelong Grammar before returning to Eton later.
Sally Towell was a year nine student in 1983 too. She remembers Johnson well. "A very, very funny guy," she says. "Very fresh-faced, plum-in-the-mouth Englishman with a great wit." He once liberated Sally's best friend's favourite warm rugby jumper to wear himself, and adapted to the rugged mountain landscape quickly.
"He was out of his depth at first," she says, "a boy from London straight into the Victorian mountains. But he handled it very well."