Matthew's News and Gossip

Matthew's News and Gossip

A man with no talent, but armed with a digital camera, can waste lots of bandwidth

Saturday, February 22, 2003

So after a late dinner after the ride on the beach, David dumped me off at the Launceston airport. I called Bettina in Melbourne and found that I had been traded to the Norbury team for my season in Melbourne. Joanne Norbury, who I hadn't seen for a while, came and got me at the airport. She'd just moved back from Sydney and was missing her true love Joe Gatto (or at least I think that's what she told me). Paul (Norbury) is now living with the lovely (even though she's German) Annabel. I spent the first night in Melbourne drinking with the Norbury twins, discussing who slept with who 10 years before.

I then went off to Castlemaine to meet up with my old friend Phil Larwill. Phil met me when I was one - so he claims - although I don't remember. I saw him again in 1982 (in Aus). He came to England in 1985 managing to get in on the last and most drunken week of my Cambridge University career. He was also responsible for thousands of Aussies living on my couch in London. He was back in 1988 with his then girlfriend Cate Kennedy who was the most argumentative and strong willed person I've ever met! I saw them again in 1992 but lost touch after that. They'd been to Mexico in the late 1990s to do volunteer work but had come back to Aus in 2000. Somewhere around then they broke up. I found Phil via Googling Cate, who's now a well known author!

In 2001 Phil moved in with and then started going out with the lovely Deb (getting the usual order mixed up, of course). My two days up in Castlemaine consisted of catching up on the past with Phil & Deb and hanging out with them (and Deb's kids) and explaining to the two of them why I could oppose an attack on Iraqi civilians while approving of the privatization of British Telecom (both equally heinous crimes in their view). Phil took me on a long drive out to see some land he and a group of like-minded worthies (and I mean that) were starting to restore back into bush. We also stopped off at the most over the top railway station any small town (Marlborough) ever had, ate lunch in Victoria's best pie shop (I had roo, buffalo and alligator pies) and managed to do a bit of wine tasting at near-by vineyards even though rustling up staff to sell us the wine appeared to be difficult. We eventually ended up buying several crates from the accounts payable lady from India who had been press-ganged into service. Overall the countryside was very dry, as thereā€™d been no real rain for two years. These foxes didn't think much of it either!

The next day, a day that will live in infamy, Phil woke me up at 7 am to see England get stuffed by Australia not at cricket or tennis but football! You can be sure that I heard plenty about that over the next few days! There was just time for brekkie and some heavy drinking (and this walk onto the train tracks), and a strange but well attended lecture on building a house that required no energy or no sunlight, before I had to leave back to refreshingly unaware Melbourne. The full set of Castlemaine and country Victoria photos are here.

I went back to Melbourne on the rather whizzy train. A friend of Deb's was on the train going to the anti-war rally. Rita is a yoga instructor with an English man problem (1 is a mistake, 2 careless, 3 an addiction!) Instead of going to face down Bush, Blair & Howard with 500,000 other Melbourners (and Burke and Wills, Australia's Lewis and Clark) and maybe compounding Rita's problem, I went off with Paul to go lawn bowling, which was remarkably good fun. I am an old man!

After surviving an afghan restaurant and losing several games of pool and (I was later reminded) space invaders to Paul, I eventually crawled out of bed the next day to go to dinner with Tony and Bettina's friends Nick and Andrew (and others who's names are lost in the mists of my brain!). I was being exceptionally social in Melbourne as the next day we went up to the Yarra Valley to a big organized Grape Grazing at several wineries. Given that it was a hot day and most Melbournian females dressed respondingly "Tit Gazing" would have been a more apt moniker. The gang was me, Paul, Tony and Bettina again and a random English woman called Lucy(not from Essex, though). My Cambridge friend Hugh who had just moved to Melbourne also showed up with wife Maryse and his 97 children. Really avid readers of my News and Gossip may remember that they were in Singapore on the way to Australia last October. They were living in a trailer park in Melbourne and were most relieved to be moving to decent house now that Hugh has a job. Anyway it was a great day, other than the line for the coffee was the longest and slowest of all time. That night Paul (with a little help from Joanne who had just got back from rescuing her stuff from her ex-man's house in Sydney) cooked an excellent dinner that night. All the Melbourne photos are here.

With one day left in Melbourne I realized that I'd never seen the Great Ocean Road. So I sent the entire next day as a proper tourist on a backpacker minibus seeing all the sights such as Bells Beach (allegedly as seen in "Point Break" although I never saw Kenau or Patrick Swayze), the London Bridge, the 12 Apostles, Loch Ard shipwreck site, a bunch of Koalas and lots of coastline that reminded me of home. A long day on a bus seeing lots of great sights but it would be better to spend a few days down there. (Here's the whole Ocean Road set). Paul very kindly drove me to the airport not before I'd extracted an agreement from Bettina to take my suitcase back to California. I assume she won't tell customs about my trip to Laos or what the white powder in those packets is!

Arriving in Sydney the wine I'd bought arrived unbroken, rendering irrelevant the grumpy fit I'd had with the check-in babe at Virgin Blue when she wouldn't let me carry it on. I staggered into Stephen Burley's office looking like one of his criminal defendants (he's a barrister). After abusing his net connection for a few minutes his wife Annabel came to collect me in her 1974 beetle and we took off over the Sydney Harbor Bridge.

I had dinner that night with Sam Lloyd and her husband Ray's retinue of friends just in from England. Dinner at a restaurant called Brio next to Bronte beach was delicious but at $50Aus (approx $30 US) per head I realized that I'm no longer in Asia! I had bug meat risotto, but that's actually lobster.

I haven't been much of a tourist in Sydney. I nipped by the Opera House and the Bridge, but mostly I've been eating drinking and catching up with Stephen and Annabelle Burley, and having dinner with Nick and Chris Forster, Mick Gibbons and even Chris Cuthbert and Sally. I did however set a new record for worst babysitting performance, I was supposed to be reading Harry Potter to George (3), David (6) and Philippa (8) while their mum ran out for 25 minutes, but after 4 words my incompetence was rumbled, and soon there was a huge pillow fight that I lost about 6 - nil! Stephen came home and read the riot act and it was officially revealed that I wasn't up to the job!

Friday night should have been a goodie. Sam Lloyd set me up with a friend. We arranged to meet at a revolving bar on high-rise. But I got blown out and ended up wondering around a strangely empty Sydney. Kings Cross where I ended up is very strange in that it manages to be both the backpacker/internet cafe zone and the girly bar/hooker area. I ate a donner kebab and fled for the safety of the northern suburbs.

Most of the Sydney set is here, but there's a whole set of Sydney people here which is probably only worth a look if you are one or know them and want to laugh at how much they've aged!

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