My Stage is the World

Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practise to deceive

Moving on to Melbourne


Not so smooth sailing

The rest of our time in Sydney passed in a blur – I took the ferry to Manly, sat on the beach and bought a bikini. As Miss H’s time was drawing to a close, we spent Friday night with her friends from her last hostel, lapping up the free drinks and making lots of new friends wherever we went, ending up in O’Malleys.

Saturday was much the same – a late brunch, followed by sunbathing and packing up. We then drank some Kopparberg, ate a $10 steak, drank some Binends and went out with some of the gang from New Year’s Eve – nothing too hardcore. Just lots of dancing in O’Malleys (standard).

Of course, certain circumstances meant that we didn’t have time to sleep before our flight, so exhausted and a little worse for wear we caught a taxi to Sydney Airport. Upon arrival, Miss H realises that she’s left her phone somewhere. I ring it – yup, it’s in the taxi. The driver refuses to come back to the airport, even though she offers to pay the fare, as he wouldn’t make it in time.

Then he rings back to say his friend is on her way to the airport and has the phone. We manage to collect the phone (only a $10 charge), get through security and onto our flight with time to spare.

Once we get to Avalon, it’s an hour on the coach to South Central Station and a good 25 minute walk to our hostel. But, we make it and are able to check in. After showers (where I embarrassed our roommate who walked in to find me wearing just a towel, muttered hello and promptly exited), we set out to explore.

Mooching in Melbourne

Just a short walk from our hostel, we stumbled across a new restaurant called Pepper Lunch, which served traditional Japanese food. By this time we were starving, so we tucked into huge plates of sizzling rice, chicken and cheese.

Following the Lonely Planet guide to Melbourne, we walked around the city, past a lot of theatres (I could live here), beautiful old (for Australia) buildings and colourful graffiti. We also wandered through some alleyways full of shops and caf├ęs and even saw Woodlock (a band Sarah told us to see if we could) perform in the street.

Then, of course, it rained. So, aware of the fact that we had to drive in the morning, we headed back to the hostel and chilled out in the living room, before a ridiculously early night, interrupted by the delightful voices of two Spanish girls who were enjoying their own personal karaoke session.

Even once they were politely told “you have beautiful voices, but shut the hell up” they continued to sing, shout and giggle with their window open so that everyone could hear them.

Hardly the peaceful night we had envisioned, having had just three hours’ sleep in almost three days.

Ah well – c’est le vie.

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New Year’s Eve


View of the Bridge

After another day of being a tourist and walking miles (including all of the Botanical Gardens and climbing thousands of steps to check out the Sydney Harbour Bridge Pylon), it was suddenly New Year’s Eve. Now apparently this is a big deal in Sydney so we wanted to make sure we did it properly. A few people were paying $395 to sit on a boat and get drunk; others were going to a club. So what did Miss H and I do?

Up bright and early, we got the train down to Martin’s Place and walked to the Observatory Gardens. The gates opened at midday so (as it was 10.30) we joined the few other people in the queue. Obviously we made friends with some German guys and an Australian family so were chatting away, taking it in turns to stroll around, get water/ice-cream etc. It was a no alcohol zone, so our bags were cleverly concealing a box of ‘goon’ wrapped in a blanket amongst our picnic.

Bags checked and wine undiscovered, we smugly set off for the best spot – just behind the white line (which nobody was allowed to cross as it was above a very steep slope). From here we had the perfect view of the bridge. We just had 9 hours to wait until the kids’ fireworks and then another 3 until the real ones.

The gardens gradually filled up while we sunbathed, read our books and played Go Fish! About 4pm we decided it was time for some ‘lemonade’ which we mixed with Sprite. It’s pretty nasty stuff, but it grows on you – you just have to be prepared for the goon hangover, that can set in any time after you start drinking.

One of the German guys brought us fresh blueberry muffins and we played a game of Epic Snap with the group behind us. They were drinking ‘Ribena’ and we mixed our picnics together, guarding our sacred space from the many tourists trying to sit in front of the white line, or even next to us. Rude.

Karma Chameleon

Sadly, one bunch of tourists were particularly annoyed that we wouldn’t let them sit with us, so informed the security guards that we were drinking alcohol. This was most displeasing, especially as we were pretty sure that they had guessed, but were turning a blind eye because we weren’t causing trouble. Now, they marched over and demanded we surrender our alcohol. We lied, we cried and we apologised, but we had to hand it over.

Minutes later, the security man came and apologised, promising to return it after the fireworks. Our new friends stopped drinking out of solidarity/fear and the Australian dad gave us his vineyard card, promising us a bottle of wine if we visited. Meanwhile, I made friends with a five-year-old American girl who gave me a glow stick and lent me her brother’s laser gun so we could shoot all the tourists who tried to sit near us. Great fun.

At 6pm we saw some astounding aerial acrobats – the plane flew past us and did a loop. The Red Arrows need have no fear! However, their second show was pretty spectacular, although it did sort of look like the planes were on fire and crash landing!

However, the children’s fireworks at 9pm were pretty epic and the crowd whooped and cheered; my new friend kept whirling her glow sticks around, even though it wasn’t quite dark enough. Then we waited.

However, after the first wave of fireworks, order broke down. People sat in front of the white line, despite our arguments and security’s persuasive powers. The wine stealer fought our corner bravely, explaining that ‘those guys have been here for ten hours, so it’s not really fair that you’re sitting in front of them.’

Most of them grudgingly moved back, but a few persisted, including a balding Swiss man who actually sat on Tom’s lap until he moved up to make room. Then he waved off our protests with ‘no comprende’ even though he clearly did and we also told him in no uncertain French terms to bugger off. In the end we amused ourselves using his head as a tripod and using him as the subject of our ‘three words each’ story, beginning: Once upon a mantelpiece, lived a fat French man who liked to eat sweaty cheese…

The Dutch couple on the other hand were another matter. We explained exactly why they couldn’t sit in front of us and we were told “in my country, we call your sort of people w*****s”. Our retort? “Well we call your sort of people c***s!” Little J and the security man argued with the Romanian family but they just ignored us completely.

After all this excitement and eventual resignation, a lot of us napped, sharing our rugs around as we waited for the ultimate firework spectacular.

The Final Countdown

At 23.45 we woke up Little J and prepared ourselves. We had no idea exactly what time it was, because different people started counting down at different times. But, the fireworks knew and off they went.

They were the most spectacular fireworks we’d ever seen. Lasting more than 15 minutes, there was everything. Purples, oranges, blues and reds, plus white and gold, shimmering and sparkling in the Sydney skyline. There were fireworks from the barges in front of the bridge and two behind, plus the Opera House and the bridge itself.

Breathtaking fireworks that kept on amazing and delighting adults and children alike, ending with a blazing fountain of gold underneath the bridge, making it look as though it was on fire. Photographs couldn’t come close to portraying their true beauty.

Walking back with our new Facebook friends, the streets were wild – Christmas jumpers, steamers, cheering and shouting. Yes, the eight of us were sober, but it had been a fabulous New Year’s Eve.


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To infinity and beyond – flight to Sydney


The calm after the storm

‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a… Random woman? Wearing pyjamas I crept downstairs after hearing voices, only to find a strange lady sitting in the dining room.

Yep – the power had been off for almost 12 hours so my dad had gone down to the town for a wander and come back with some free baps (the local bakery just gave up and offered them out) and an elderly lady.

Now, my dad isn’t one for chatting to strangers, but Barbie (oh yes) had been waiting for a non-existent bus in the cold and my dad had invited her back for a cup of tea. After sharing her life story (one son, no husband), she took some candles and my dad drove her to the community centre and then home.

Meanwhile with no phone signal or wifi I was forced to ‘call on my friend’ by turning up at his house unannounced, where I was met with a candlelit house. Of course the Christmas lights weren’t working which was sad, but the town and houses all looked far more festive without electricity.

But before I could enjoy this old-fashioned Christmas I had to deal with more pressing matters – packing without electricity and hoping that my plane was flying…

Off to a land down under

I made it onto the plane with few hitches (oh apart from a slight problem with my visa… The hyphen in my surname had been missed off, so I didn’t exist) and found myself sitting next to a rather attractive young PhD student (life’s ambition: to take his hand built pizza oven around Australia). There were also a few Christmas jumpers, although none to rival my penguin.

Several films later (What Maisie Knew is a fantastic film – watch it), we arrived in Dubai where we were greeted with cries of ‘Happy Christmas’ which is very bizarre when you have no idea what time it is, let alone aware of the day (GMT 03:15).

A quick freshen up and time for a smoothie. Of course we then heard the final call for our plane so had to run… Only to be told that this was the wrong flight – we were trying to board the cancelled flight from December 23rd, so ended up having to run for ours after all! Back to our seats for ‘Christmas dinner’ aka roast chicken and a coffee brownie, plus a festive chocolate. Woo. Then lots of heavily disturbed sleep, The Great Gatsby (credit to Baz Luhrman for making a full book a pretty good film) and a lot of Big Bang Theory.

And then we landed. It was raining.

Sadly, I got separated from handsome student at the carousel with only a flutter of a smile and a wave. But if I’m ever in Newcastle…

Struggling with suitcase, rucksack, bag and satchel I navigated the trains to Kings Cross and walked to the hostel, only to be told I couldn’t check in for another 4 hours. Luckily she took pity on me and let me into the room (dodgy carpet stains included) where I napped for a couple of hours until Miss H rocked up from New Zealand.

Ride a cock horse

No time for slacking – it was off to the races via a very welcome lemon chicken sandwich. The sun had finally come out to play and Royal Randwick racecourse welcomed us with open arms – free entry for international passport holders. Mingling with the Australian equivalent of Essex girls and the hardcore gamblers, we scrutinised the listings for the worthwhile horses, betting the large sum of $1-4 each time.

Some of my winners included:

  • Street Savvy
  • I’m impulsive
  • Elusive Diva
  • Can’t think why those horses stuck out for me… They made me a profit anyway. Nothing like betting ‘each way’ when your horse wins and you get a nice little return… Why anyone would ever bet ‘to win’ is beyond me!

    Off to the supermarket, dinner and bed… With tan lines already visible. Excellent.

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