Day 197: Ouch!

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Have you ever seen ET? Everybody cries at ET. It’s the way he points to his heart and says “Ouch!” just before he goes back to the mother ship. He is in pain, emotional pain, the kind that chokes your throat and tightens your chest until it hurts. It’s called heartache because, if you’ve ever had it, it really does feel like your heart is going to burst.

We had a long lie this morning, then breakfast with Scott, slow and deliberate, making every mouthful last, chewing everything the recommended 72 times. Then we just stayed there, talking about everything and nothing, as if postponing the moment we would have to take the cases, open the door and leave the flat. At some point, Scott made us scrambled eggs and they were better than I ever taught him.

At 3.30 I burst out with an exaggerated “Let’s do this!” and we were off. The spell was broken. We caught a cab immediately outside his apartment (Note: not his flat) and drove the five minutes to Southern Cross station where he had met us in the middle of the night when we arrived, dazed and confused. And that’s when we all thought “Ouch!” Mary hugged him and filled, I hugged him tightly fighting to stay in control while he just smiled through the tears and promised to look after himself.

The bus leaving saved it from getting messy and in a flash he was gone while we sped off towards the airport on the Skybus. For the moment, no more Scott. That left us with just each other for the first time in weeks and weeks, but initially I couldn’t look at her and she couldn’t look at me. You’ll know why. Then we accidentally caught each other’s eye and we both smiled. No words were necessary.

Emirates was perfect again. Check-in took 5 minutes, security had no queues and we were kept up to date with flight preparations until called to board. We took off on time, had dinner over Ayers Rock and left Australia around midnight, wondering if either of us would ever copy the boomerangs and come back.

As is sometimes the case with long-haul flights, we flew for 7 hours and when we reached Singapore it was still yesterday! We were about to be treated to a second midnight.

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Day 196: Last full day in Oz

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We knew our last full day in Australia was going to be quite busy so we were up and moving by 9.30, keen to get breakfast out of the way and then out to walk up to the end of Lonsdale Street and over to St. Patrick’s Cathedral for solemn mass at 11 o’clock. Coincidentally, it was also March 17, St. Patrick’s day, although technically the Church had put that back until tomorrow to avoid squeezing out the fifth Sunday in Lent. We can’t have any nonsense like that now, can we? I had invited Joe to join us at Mass but unfortunately he had already plumped for an Italian mass in Thornbury so we would meet up later.

The solemn mass was excellent with lots of pomp and ceremony, just the way I like it and just the way Joe hates it! The Archbishop gave good mass with a host of helpers and altar-boys, while the boys’ choir sang their hearts out and the cantor did a really fine impression of a religious Freddie Mercury! It was a fine start to the day and the clouds which had plagued the city for the previous 24 hours were beginning to disperse to allow the warmth of the sun back through. On our return to the flat, I received a text from my brother saying he and Mo were on their way in to the city and that we could meet up at Fed Square where there was a Thai Festival taking place (on St. Patrick’s Day, or not!).

A doll or not!

Jackson puppet

Jackson puppet

So Scott, Mary and I toddled down to the city centre where we quickly tracked down Joe and Mo in front of a stage where various Thai acts were performing. They had already eaten an oriental lunch and bro had even submitted himself to a 10-minute neck massage. He always had a hard neck anyway! Inevitably we ended up at the beer tent but did not stay long, preferring at Joe’s behest to try out an Irish Bar a bit further into town, And so we spent the early afternoon sampling home-brewed Irish porter and ale while a motley crue of erstwhile leprechauns and creatures in bright green suits and large hats came and went. This is Australia, right?

Separated at birth!

Separated at birth!

"Hail glorious St. Patrick....!"

“Hail glorious St. Patrick….!”

We walked off the beer down by the Yarra in the sunshine but then it was time to say goodbye to each other and allow us to go off on our latest self adventures, we back to Europe and Joe and Mo west to Perth for a walking holiday before returning to Scotland. We hugged each other tightly and both agreed it would be better to see each other in Scotland rather than coming all the way to Oz! Good point really.

Scott then walked us round by the restaurant he had chosen as the venue for our last dinner together and we were quick to give it the thumbs up when the boss man offered us free garlic bread and a free bottle of red to come and dine at his establishment. We booked a table for 7 o’clock and then went back to the flat for a wee rest, or in my case a well-deserved snooze. Whilst I snored, Mary and Scott did the mother and son thing as they could feel their time together here in Australia coming to a close. As arranged, at seven on the dot, we arrived at the restaurant and were shown to a table outside with a jazz band playing just opposite. The meal in this atmosphere was probably the best yet and the three of us had a really nice time together.

Now they DO look happy.

Now they DO look happy.

There was no surprise decision to go clubbing or anything tonight after our dinner. We chatted for an hour or so back at the flat, skyped some family members and even got treated to the sight of George, Fiona and Ben playing in the puddles down at Riverside in Dundee thanks to the absolute wonder of Facetime. Isn’t technology marvellous? Mary then opted for bed while Scott and I got the laptop ready and watched a live stream of the Dundee derby. For once the link was decent and we had a pretty good viewing of the game which ended honours even.

Tomorrow we get back on the Big Bird.

Day 195: Aussie Rain

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Right out of the blue, the skies became dark and heavy this morning. A pity too because we could see from Scott’s flat that Lonsdale Street had been cordoned off from traffic and there was frantic activity preparing the annual Greek festival in the neighbourhood. The rain did not deter Mary and Scott from going down to investigate and then catch some quality time together.

Above the Greeks

Above the Greeks

That left me alone in the flat with the opportunity to catch up on the blog which had slipped a day behind schedule. I therefore immersed myself in the task and resurfaced a couple of hours later with 1700 half decent words behind me. Not too bad for a morning’s work I mused. When they came back in mid-afternoon, Scott and his mum were damp but happy, having enjoyed some of the entertainment on hand and done some shopping, including buying tonight’s tea.

The rain turned even heavier, chasing fans away from in front of the live stage down below us, but the keen ones were soon back in position with throwaway macs and umbrellas. We felt happy that we wouldn’t be going out for 3 hours yet, giving the weather time to hopefully clear up. It didn’t! We had tea, spent a while reading etc. then freshened up and headed for a bar not far from the flat where we were able to sit outside under cover despite the rain. Then it got even heavier and drove all the customers indoors.

Just before 9 p.m. Scott and I walked down to the library on Swanston Street where, as arranged, we met our old Kelso team mate, Alan O’Kane, and his brother-in-law, Steve. We returned to the bar and spent the evening catching up on what Alan and his wife Karen have been up to since they emigrated to Adelaide 3years ago. They are both working as pharmacologists here in Oz and appear to be carving out a decent life for themselves but even with their income they are finding it very difficult to get on the housing ladder, a point of which Scott took particular note.

Kelso on Tour!

Kelso on Tour!

An interesting asides was that Steve used to play football for Burrelton Rovers, today a very successful amateur side in the Perth League and former opponents of Kelso in a Scottish Amateur Cup tie a few years back. Burrelton is also the next village to Woodside where resides my cousin and frequent contributor to this blog, Renée. Small world, eh?

Having sunk a few jars, we said our goodbyes to Alan and Steve and returned to the flat. At this point Scott was invited to stay out with his pals so, while he went off to wet his whistle again, we popped down to a Chinese restaurant where we had a midnight feast! Naughty but really nice after our only night’s bevy in Australia.

The rain never stopped.

Day 194: “We are Fam-ily……!”

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Scott and Mike were both off to work when we rose from our bed this morning, still a bit weary after our long bus journey yesterday, but hugely excited at what was about to happen today, a very, very special day for us. Because today, by a quirk of fate and coincidence, we were going to be able to meet up with my brother Joe, Mo his wife, Rory his eldest son, his wife Lana and their new baby Geneviève. Now meeting with the youngsters wouldn’t have been that surprising as they live and work in Melbourne, but Joe and Mo? Well they had flown over to see their new grand-daughter and had chosen a time when we would be here too.

At 11.30 we were delighted when Scott burst in to say he’d managed to get the rest of the day off so would be able to share our family day. Half an hour later we were in the Chinese restaurant next door to Scott’s block of flats but astoundingly the place Rory and Lana had booked for our Yum-Cha, an endless trolley service of delicious Chinese titbits. Yet one more surreal coincidence on this amazing adventure of ours. Surreal became fabulous when the family walked in complete with baby and the other diners in the restaurant were treated to hearty Scottish hugs being exchanged among us, intermingled with tight Aussie cuddles from Lana and a cute smile from the wee one.

Yum-Cha anyone?

Yum-Cha anyone?

Our lunch was brilliant, profuse and noisy, just what you’d expect when family get together so far from home. We caught up on as much as we could in between mouthfuls of pork and prawn and various other dishes, then we decided to spend the whole day together to give us more time for a real catch-up. So Rory and Lana took the wee bundle back home as she’d been awfully well-behaved in the restaurant and, needless to say, she gave her parents hell for the rest of the afternoon! That’s bairns for you!

The auld yins!

The auld yins!

So Scott, the brothers Grimm and their wives strolled down the quayside of the Yarra as far as the new Docklands developments. The weather was very pleasant indeed, sunny and warm without ever becoming uncomfortable and the walk was at a pace which allowed us to swop places and converse with all the other ones in the group. Ice-cream was taken of course as you might expect and we spent some time admiring the modern architecture of the Docklands which provided us with some fantastic photos.

"Hey, hey, we're the Monkees..."

“Hey, hey, we’re the Monkees…”

Best photo ever of my brother!

Best photo ever of my brother!

At the end of the afternoon we took the free tram to Flinders Street Station and then a train out to Rory and Lana’s house in the district of Thornbury. We stopped at the local Safeway’s (Yes they still have Safeway’s in Oz!) to get some “refreshments” and then Rory came to pick us up outside and drive us to his home. The next couple of hours were spent out on his porch enjoying a beer or a glass of wine before Lana proudly announced that Geneviève had settled down for the night and Rory was about to make us all a tuna pasta bake.

Lana & Rory, telling it like it is.

Lana & Rory, telling it like it is.

We ate and drank to our hearts content while I remained inside a bit flabbergasted at being with my only brother on the other side of the planet. Maybe others find such a thing quite normal in this fast-moving world but I shake my head in disbelief from time to time.

Scott, unsure of headless pet dog!

Scott, unsure of headless pet dog!

All too soon it was time to catch the train back to the CBD. We bid farewell to the youngsters but decided to try and meet up with Joe and Mo again on Sunday, the day before we fly back home. I hope we can get that to work because they are dear to our hearts and we don’t see them often enough. (Oops, welling-up again!) We stopped off at a bar near Scott’s for a final drink before returning to the flat and heading straight to bed.

Another quiet day on our adventure then?!

Day 193: The Great Ocean Road

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Long before dawn had even cracked, we were up having breakfast and reading on the Internet that a new pope had been elected by the conclave, Pope Francis 1 from Argentina. God bless him and keep him, as he will have his work cut out to pick the Church up after recent events. At 6.55 we scooted off round the corner into Little Bourke Street where we had arranged to be picked up by the tour bus. It duly arrived spot on time and the driver, a jolly Aussie girl, was quite profuse in her enthusiastic welcome to us, asking good questions about our provenance and telling us what a brilliant time we were going to have with her company.

She picked up several more passengers around the CBD then dropped us all at the main office where we dispersed into various other buses depending on which tour we had chosen. Some sped off to see penguins, others hooted with joy as their bus started on its climactic journey to Ramsay Street to do all things “Neighbours”, while 20 of us clambered into Bus no.1 which was the Great Ocean Tour bus. The route would be south-west of Melbourne to the Twelve Apostles coastal cliffs, just about the most southerly part of Australia and with nothing below it except the ocean and Antarctica!

The group was very friendly, mainly made up of young folk with us and 3 others the exceptions. It took little time for us all to begin chatting and getting to know something about everybody on the bus. There were folk from all over and there was even a ginger-headed Glaswegian girl coming to the end of her year in Oz and fresh from a stay in Alice Springs.

An hour down the road we had our first stop in Torquay, well-known for its surfing competitions, where we were given tea and biscuits in a picnic area which afforded us the opportunity to intermingle even more. Thankfully the weather was cloudy with sunny spells and the temperature was only in the mid-20’s, so as long as we kept taking on water there was little chance of a problem with the heat today. Mary and I took a minute out just to remember we were on the southern coast of Australia, 12,000 miles from Dundee. I reckoned only the moon would be further away!

Sh-sh-sh-shaaaaaark!

Sh-sh-sh-shaaaaaark!

Here we go!

Here we go!

Soon we were at the beginning of the Great Ocean Road and driving along a long and winding coastal highway which offered splendid views of the unending empty beaches. Our next stop was totally unplanned but what a stroke of luck! We turned this bend to find the traffic stopped in both directions and people milling about excitedly in the road, apparently looking for something. Then the something came out from behind a car and we could all see it was a koala bear walking up the middle of the road not looking particularly concerned about where it was. One guy was doing an excellent job of shooing it to the side with a big blue towel which he finally used to try and pick the marsupial up but it didn’t like that at all and got tetchy! Eventually it strolled off into the bush none the worse for its vacation on the Tarmac.

Koala doing straight-line test!

Koala doing straight-line test!

At the following stop we were pointed up a dirt track to look for parrots and koalas, both of which cooperated with the tourists splendidly. With the help of the young Glaswegian and her friend I was able to pick out two or three koalas having a nap about twenty feet up a eucalyptus tree. Their perches looked slightly precarious but I was reassured that these tree-dwellers never fall out of their branches. A French couple passed by and I engaged them in conversation until the woman stumbled and fell flat on her face in the dirt! What can you say when something like that happens? Her pride was quite badly injured and she wouldn’t let either of us help her up, but when she got back to her feet she looked like she worked in a bakery so covered was she in the fine dust. In this case I felt “Now where was I?” might be inappropriate so I made a toilet excuse and left them to quarrel between themselves.

At that, Mary came wandering up the track looking somewhat bedraggled herself. I enquired as to the source of her sudden antipodean malaise, but I was astounded when she told me a large parrot had just landed on her head and frightened her to death! Ah-ha, at last, revenge for the time a Barbary ape climbed onto my shoulders on the Rock of Gibraltar and I froze on the spot, allowing Mary and half of Japan to take a million photos of me, teeth clenched and petrified!

The Magic Bus

The Magic Bus

Lunch was provided by the bus company at a restaurant beside a Lighthouse which we all inspected after consuming our mandatory 2 sausages and potato salad. Unusually for us, nothing unexpected happened there, no-one fell off the top and no tall ships ran aground as we watched from above! We did however all go back to the bus a wee bit earlier than required to avoid the plague of big black flies which descended upon us like the wolf on the fold. The next part of the journey took us inland through some rain forest before we emerged to a cluster of eucalyptus trees at the roadside all stripped or being stripped clean of bark and poisonous leaves by koalas. This was another great photo opportunity and we took full advantage to get as close as we could to the cuddly darlings.

Close-up Koala

Close-up Koala

After 8 hours travel with frequent stops, we reached our destination and the highlight of the tour – The Twelve Apostles, craggy stacks of sandstone broken away from the mainland by the irresistable pounding of centuries of waves. Except that there were never twelve we were told, but only nine and one of them had collapsed a couple of years ago so now there were only eight! OK, we can roll with that. So why 12 Apostles? Apparently the authorities thought it was an attractive name to get the tourists flocking down their new Ocean Road!! It had nothing to do with religion, just a nice name. Anyhow, it was actually really amazing to see and the tourists had indeed flocked to see the 12, err 9, err 8 apostles.

Some of the Apostles

Some of the Apostles

Us!

Us!

At a couple of the clifftops, we were encouraged to go down the wooden stairs and enjoy some time on the beach below. Mary and I of course did exactly that, finding a kind of pirate-image cove at one and then a beautiful stretch of sandy beach with waves pounding ashore at the other. Inevitably, I insisted on going in for a paddle as did a young Korean girl from the bus. As both of us posed for photos we were hit by a wave much stronger than the previous ones, resulting in soaking shorts for me and a change of clothing for the girl as she was taken out by it.

Some idiot suckered by a wave!

Some idiot suckered by a wave!

And that was that. We returned to Melbourne by the motorway and most of us slept bits if not all of the way. It had been a fantastic trip down the Great Ocean Road and we’d had loads of fun, a sprinkling of drama and all in all an unforgettable day out.

And one hour from Melbourne, up on a hillside, we passed a group of kangaroos! Day complete!

Day 192: Our Pace

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Scott was up and away to work long before we surfaced today so Mike kept us entertained over breakfast. We had no intention of launching into another full day of foot slogging around a busy city but had decided to have a slow walk up to 2 buildings recommended for a visit. When we eventually decided to go out, we were delighted to discover that Melbourne had cooled down a lot and the temperature was now in the mid-20’s and not the mid-30’s. This was to prove perfect for wandering about. Our first stop was for a spot of lunch which we bought as take-away and ate in the sunshine in a small park at the very top of Lonsdale Street where Scott lives.

Melbourne Aboriginal Dignitaries

Melbourne Aboriginal Dignitaries

Right opposite the park we noticed St. Patrick’s Cathedral so added that to our list of possible visits for the day. But firstly we crossed the road to the Victoria State Parliament where Scott had told us there were daily free guided tours. Up the stairs we climbed, only to be told that we had just missed a tour and that we would have to wait an hour for the next one. Plan B was called for!

Plan B did not exist, so we returned to St. Patrick’s Cathedral where we found a hive of activity inside as preparations were made for next Sunday’s Feast of St. Patrick, March 17. Now that’s often quite a bit of fun, especially abroad where no-one dares ask you if you are “Scots or Irish?”! I well remember, as recorded in Chapter 3 of my first book, the difficulties we all had getting to school on St. Patrick’s day and how you had to get that question right or expect a good kicking (from lads who were your mates the rest of the year!)

St. Patrick's Cathedral

St. Patrick’s Cathedral

Anyway, the cathedral kept our attention for half an hour and outside we got in conversation with a teacher from a Girls’ Catholic Private School who explained the basics of secondary education in Australia to us. We took some photos and then strolled around the gardens for a bit before returning to the Parliament building. This time we were welcomed in and sat waiting with people of several nationalities for the tour to begin.

A guy called Martin conducted the tour with knowledge and wit in equal proportion, entertaining and informing us about the Federal Parliament of Victoria State and its 2 Houses based strictly on the British Parliamentary System. We really enjoyed this visit and Scott scored more Brownie points for giving us good advice. Well done, Scott!

"Point of Order, Mr. Speaker!"

“Point of Order, Mr. Speaker!”

Next stop was the shops to buy the tea and a wee present for Rory and Lana’s new baby Geneviève. We’ll be seeing them on Friday when the family meets up in Melbourne. Then it was back to the flat to make a sweet and sour chicken meal for our poor, wee, hard-working son when he would drag his weary feet up to the door and inside. The dish actually turned out pretty brilliant and I clearly still haven’t lost the ability to make a decent meal out of simple ingredients as years of poverty gave me the necessary practice.

Knowing that we had to get up at 6 a.m. tomorrow for our trip along the Great Ocean Road which we had booked earlier before leaving the flat, all parties retired at a reasonable hour to get some decent shut-eye. Bliss!

At 2 a.m. we awakened to a high-pitched whining whistle accompanied by a deep, male, Aussie voice repeating “This is an Emergency! Evacuate the building immediately!” About the fifth time we heard it, the penny dropped and, remembering that we were on the fourteenth floor, we rushed for the door and trotted down the 28 flights of stairs to the bottom floor and then outside. We were amazed to witness crowds of Orientals do likewise, except they chose to use the lift! One man was in his y-fronts but was carrying a huge Dulux dog in his arms!

The Fire Brigade came, stayed 20 seconds and left, allowing us all to troop back to bed, maybe to watch a video like “The Towering Inferno!” I’m really glad that emergency evacuation happened in the middle of the night leaving us on Lonsdale Street in our smalls, because life was getting a bit boring, don’t you think!?

2 a.m. with Fireman Sam!

Day 191: Bye Bye Bayview, Bayview Bye Bye!

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Like all good things, this just had to come to an end. We woke up to find we had one hour to vacate our room and seven hours left before we would have to return to the airport and fly back to Melbourne. Well, we weren’t going to waste a minute, were we? Breakfast over, the suitcase was left in secure storage at the hotel and we walked along the beach to the wee cove at Shelley Beach. I had by pure accident put my trunks on (in case I fell in a deep puddle?) so it took absolutely no persuasion to get me in the water.

Now, with the temperature in the high twenties, the water lured me in with no hesitation and I was soon swimming around in a calm bay where no foamy waves could reach. It was heavenly! Mary and Scott seemed content to sit on the beach and take photos, although they may have simply been unwilling to share a bath with me, regardless of how big or deep that bath may have been. I can’t blame them really.

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water....

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water….

Midday came and went then Scott decided his Mum would not be denied her chance to see Mrs. McQuarrie’s Chair down in the Botanical Gardens next to the Opera House, so, having retrieved the suitcase, we got on the Manly ferry for the last time and bid the wonderful seaside resort G’Bye. If any of you ever come to Sydney I can only advise you to stay in Manly at the far end of the harbour, a 30 minute ferry ride from Circular Wharf. It’s 7 bucks a trip but I guarantee you won’t regret it for a second.

It wasn’t the easiest thing in the world getting through the crowds with 3 back packs and a heavy suitcase so Scott suggested he lie in the shade at the entrance to the Botanical Gardens and look after the luggage while Mary and I go in search of her target site. We walked around a curved bay behind the Opera House and reached a promontory roughly in line with the famous tourist attraction and affording magnificent views of the Bridge, the Harbour and the Opera House itself. And there was Mrs. McQuarrie’s Chair, a stone bench hewn from the sandstone by convicts and from which the wife of the Governor of Sydney in 1810 used to admire the harbour.

Give me a shady nook………

Mrs. McQuarrie?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On our way back we observed up close several ibises, a strange scavenging bird with a curlew’s scimitar beak. They looked like they could peck you round a corner! With Scott back in tow and with the suitcase on his shoulder after one of the wheels broke, we caught the train to the airport where we spent an hour or so after getting through security having a slightly early tea, as we didn’t fancy making our meal at ten at night. The flight as usual was faultless, except for a daftie who got up and tried to walk up the aisle as the plane was just about to touch down. Where do these guys come from?

The Skybus zoomed us back to Southern Cross Station and an 8-buck cab ride took us to Scott’s flat where we will be staying for the rest of the trip. Mary and I then popped into Woolworth’s and bought an inflatable bed to save Scott having to sleep on the floor and a set of sheets for us (well you didn’t expect us to sleep in Scott’s sheets, did you?) As the wee man was working next day we retired to our rooms early with the AC blasting out cold currents to counteract the 30 degrees at ten in the evening!

The heatwave is due to end tomorrow when the temperature should drop below thirty….. just!

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