I blog when I go abroad, and occasionally when I do stuff in the UK too. There's a nicer interface over here.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014


It was a pretty inauspicious start. I mean, it was absolutely tipping it down with rain and the taxi was 15 minutes early. No diplomatic plates or flags on the bonnet, but a nice enough car and a driver who was good value with lots and lots of stories about pointy end flying, his 12 years as manager of the restaurant at Sydney's poshest golf club, and a whole host of cricketers he'd met/served/driven. The weather stayed torrential and he dropped me off at SYD terminal 1. I'd been led to believe that there'd be someone kerbside to check me in and escort me through, what with flying first class, but there was no-one. He just handed me my bag and said "right, go inside, head to zone D, have a good day".

Zone D was pretty near the door but the first class check-in bit wasn't as easy to find as it might have been. In fact it was nothing more than a slightly sectioned off couple of desks, with no particular flash about it - certainly nothing like the (merely) business class check-in lounge at Singapore! Had to wait for the couple in front of me to finish, and then went ahead. The lass on the desk was very friendly and explained to me both where the lounge was and the desks for claiming tax back on purchases. She handed me an express path slip and I headed to security just as soon as I'd filled out my departure card.

Express path is, again, nothing special, just a short cut to the front of a couple of queues. I'd been warned that the tax refund can take anything between 5 minutes and an hour, and thankfully it was pretty empty when I got there and I got seen by far the fastest of the clerks. That's another £40 taken off my iPad Air price.

The lounge is up a couple of escalators, past an initial doorman, then up another escalator to the main reception and desk. Qantas's first class lounge in Sydney is, as far as I know, renowned as one of the best airport lounges in the world. I'd been here before during my brief foray as a gold card holder in 2008 and remember it being fantastic. Today, it seemed basically identical. Very full though, and I didn't have a huge amount of time. The food is made to order, if you like, though there is also a buffet. I didn't bother with any, as there was a massage appointment to keep in about half an hour's time. I grabbed a seat and poured myself a beer, watching as the staff went up personally to basically everyone else but I just kinda got ignored. Huh. I mean not that I was after anything - though a glass of champagne wouldn't have gone amiss - but still, I felt kinda invisible, or at least not getting the full first class treatment. Hopefully there would be some champagne on the plane.

Turned up at the spa at the time I was told to, and had to sit in their reception area to wait for my masseur to be free. Two others turned up and walked straight in. Hang on...

The massage itself was a full half hour whole back/neck/shoulders treatment, with oils and stuff. Incredibly effective, especially as I'd opted for firm pressure. I walked out feeling a million dollars, and it was almost time to board - the display said the gate was open, though I popped out and found that not to be true. Time for another beer, which I finished just as boarding was finally announced.

The A380 is still a beast. There were separate airbridges for every class of service, so I took the first class one. There are only 14 first class seats out of way over 400 seats in total on this plane, and I'd picked 3A - the centre of the cabin, just so as to not be to near the loos and galleys. Maximum privacy was my aim, but tbh there are no bad seats in first fucking class for fucks sake and they are all super private. You get a suite - the seat faces forwards to begin with and has more leg room than most planes, and once you're airborne you swivel it to face the giant TV screen, a position in which there is enough space for it to turn into a bed longer than 6 feet.

There's a mega fancy handsets for controlling the entertainment, there's a plug socket and two USB sockets - which also have charging power - three tables, mini cupboards in which to store headphones, tablets, laptops, etc, some decent noise cancelling 'phones, and you get handed a Qantas first branded pair of pyjamas (a "sleeper suit") and pair of terrible slippers. Also there's a posh amenity kit tailored to your gender, from SKII - so for men there's a razor, foam, aftershave, deodorant, flight socks, ear plugs, toothbrush and paste, etc etc. So this is all like business class, except better. I'd never had such space on a plane before, which isn't surprising as I'd flown first class just once - on BA back in January 2009. This was a world apart.

But, still, I kinda felt invisible. Lots of other passengers were being greeted or otherwise attended to by the cabin crew, whereas it felt like an age before I got more than the initial hello from when I'd boarded. I had read on flyertalk about hot and cold crews, and what's more Qantas have just announced 5000 job cuts so I suppose morale is low. But, c'mon, customer facing staff, can I have some love? And maybe some champagne?

Ah. Hello. Here's Nathan, the man who'll be serving me on this sector from Sydney to Dubai. And here's the guy whose name I've forgotten, the cabin manager, welcoming me back again. (What?) And, whoa, here's the captain, here to explain that there's a slight problem with two of the crew intercom phones and so boarding has been paused, they were going to reboot the whole plane, and we might have to get off. I'd best neck these olives and almonds and the champers Nathan had given me (Pol Roger Winston Churchill 2000, don't you know. Is that good? It tasted good to my pikey buds).

Maybe I wasn't invisible after all.

The intercom problem got solved without those on board needing to get off, so it recommenced and I had another glass of champagne. I was also asked what drinks I would like once we had taken off, so I asked for another champagne and a gin & tonic, plus some water. And then, when ordering food, I changed the gin to a bourbon, since I'd spotted my favourite brand on the menu (Woodford Reserve).

Hot towels were handed out and I got utterly drenched. I think mine had been stored in a bath. We took off 45 minutes late and I watched it on tailcam. Like the one on the Malaysia Airlines flight except this time it's an actual channel on the entertainment system. I could watch it whenever I wanted. Oh my. Would I fit in any TV or movies? God, I loved watching it. I swear the quality was better than last time, even though it couldn't have been because an A380 is an A380 and that's Airbus's call, not Qantas's.

Seatbelt sign went off and it was time to start playing with the seat. You can control everything - the direction it faces, the arm rest, the lumbar support, the headrest, the footrest, etc etc. The control system has lots of granular controls but also a set of preset positions each with optional extras, so I went for "lounge/read" with the window blinds down and privacy shade up. Drinks arrived, and the bourbon was a massive double.
Then I scrawled WHAT HAVE I DONE?? in my pad. This was ridiculous. I was in the most amazing, posh, expensive, stupidly exclusive and luxurious public transport I'd ever seen. I loved it, and here I was, only an hour or so onboard, wondering how I'm ever going to cope with flying down the back ever again.

Then, something crappy happened. It's not perfect, y'know. The menu had a whole bunch of choices and I got told they'd run out of the one I picked. How can that happen? There are only 14 people in this cabin and it's first class. Surely you pack one of each just to make sure everyone gets everything they want? Ah look, my heart isn't in this paragraph, it feels like an exercise in seeing just how stupidly churlish and 1% and first world problem I can be. It plainly wasn't a problem, I'd have the salmon. Oh, and could I have another champagne?

Family Guy on the box. I let loose a very loud bubbly fuelled snort at Brian saying "but no-one can ever know that" in an episode I now can't find online. Damn it. I was hoping to link to it so you could all believe me that it was that funny. Anyway, 2 episodes down during which I was taking photos of all the stuff in the suite and Nathan gave me some more champagne.

American Dad was up next, and the laughing out loud continued. I let on the obvious, telling my mate Nathan "as I'm sure you can tell, this is my first time in first class, I treated myself" "Not a bad treat, is it". He set up the giant table, big enough to have plates for two - which is handy, because there's also still enough space at the other side for someone to sit on the ottoman companion seat. There's a sign saying "no more than 2 people per suite", and there's enough space that such a sign is actually necessary. Did I mention I was enjoying myself yet?

It was a 6 course meal washed down with champagne and, oh, go on then, refill the bourbon why don't you? I was offered a chocolate or a salted caramel, and my brief indecision led them to say "or just have both". Why not? And then a plate of cheese and quince and crackers arrived. I've written down that I watched the film Closed Circuit, but I'm not sure I believe that because I just looked it up and the plot is wholly unfamiliar. So I guess I watched something else.

The A380 is a double decker plane. At the front of the top deck, the way Qantas have had the interior done, there's a little "bar" area - without a bar, but a couple of sofas and a TV and a load of magazines and snacks/drinks you can help yourself to throughout the flight. It would have been a real waste for me to not go see this, so I took my iPad and champers up there to chill for a bit. The cabin manager came to have a chat - he was the guy who'd welcomed me back, but I had to correct him. There's someone else who looks like me that travels in Qantas first? Is it Frankie Boyle?

Two people came and refilled my champagne. The second one was apologetically a glass from whatever they were serving in business class, as apparently someone had been at least partly responsible for them running out of the first class stuff. Bastard! Who is it? I'll tear them a new... oh, oh, OH...

It was time for bed. While I'd left, they'd made mine up - it's not just a seat which reclines to flat, they actually put sheets and a duvet and blanket and pillows on it. I got changed in my sleeper suit and grabbed 5 hours of wonderful uninterrupted kip, with all the space in the world. Woke up and watched The Butler, during which I leaked floods of tears at all the heavy emotional/righteous bits. This happens a lot - I've cried more at films on planes than on the ground. It helped this time that it's a great film, and this was much less embarrassing than when I once welled up at a Lindsay Lohan rom-com. Eurgh.

A tea service and bottle of water arrived, as did a period of turbulence. Once that was over it was breakfast time, so some quiche and peach juice and a fruit plate came along. After that I queued for the loo to get changed back into civvies, and packed my bag up. We were coming into Dubai, about an hour late at 0140 local time. Even those who are heading on to London have to get off and take all their stuff. Each member of staff came and shook hands, thanked me for my custom, hoped I had a good time and would be back soon.

I don't remember much about Dubai airport from my previous and only visit, back in 2006. I know my BA flight left at about 0130 and it had been a real hassle getting through to security, the lounge was lacklustre, and the flight mediocre but I'd enjoyed the arrivals lounge at Heathrow. This time was a little different. Qantas have a huge relationship with Emirates, the home airline, so they share a terminal and lounge and stuff. And also it's 8 years on and I'm in first class. So let's see how it is.

Massive queues for security, which everyone has to go through regardless of if you're arriving, transferring, or merely in transit. The queue jumper slip got me through the central, fast line, and then I was in what could have been any airport anywhere: a glorified shopping mall with a load of planes. It's about, I dunno, 0200 by now. I spotted the sign to the lounges and headed up the escalator.

Oh, wow, that's a big set of posh doors to the first class lounge. Well, here goes.

HOLY SHIT. That's not a lounge. That's an entire floor of the terminal. Every gate has a set of lifts taking you directly there, and the lounge has its own high end shops, champagne bar, cigar bar, restaurant, showers, sleeping rooms, business area, vast amounts of seats, another restaurant, wait, is that another restaurant? And another bar? And a Hendrick's Gin bath. This was amazing.

Wandered into a restaurant bit without realising I had to wait to be seated. A girl took me to a table for one and introduced me to my waiter, who offered me a drink. Could I have a champagne? Why, of course sir. Would you like the menu, or to use the buffet? Y'know, the menu will be fine. I think I'll have the alaskan crabmeat to start and paneer achari for main, thanks.

NOM NOM NOM. Would I like some more champagne? Well, why not. Back on the plane I'd stopped writing down each time I had a drink and was just keeping a tally. This "lounge" was the scene of glasses 11, 12 and 13.

Then, boarding was announced. In fact, not boarding, but last call. I'd finished eating and drinking so packed my stuff up and walked in a bit of a hurry towards the gate. "London, Sir?" "Yes" "There's no need to hurry" and my gait slowed a little. Showed my boarding pass at the gate and was told which lift to use because, yes, there's a first class lift depositing you on the correct airbridge, while all those people who are allowed in the lounge due to the card they carry but not where they seat, they had to use the other lifts. HA! Take that! Or something.

Back into seat 3A and a whole new crew came to introduce themselves. They were playing a song called "Homeward Bound" over the tannoy, well played Qantas. Yes, I think I'd like a champagne and some almonds please. This flight was entirely overnight, leaving at 0300 or so and arriving just before 0700 and taking only 8 hours compared to the first sector's 14. I chose not to have a full meal service, opting only for a cheese plate. And some champagne.

I thought about sleeping, but actually y'know what? I'm in first class, bitches, I'm gonna stay up and enjoy the seat and etc. So I watched my second super-politically-correct feature of the journey, having done the race card with The Butler I now went for Battle Of The Sexes, the story of feminism in 1960s and 70s America as told through the tennis match between Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King. I'm such a champagne socialist. Oh, champagne? Thank you. (He spilt it on me; "Don't worry, I've had much worse liquids spilt on me")

Then I made a mistake. I was meant to be staying awake to enjoy the ride, but two things happened. First, I nodded off during the film I put on and this caused them to clear away my glass. Final tally: 17 glasses. Maybe that was enough? And second, the film was Man of Tai Chi, a kung fu movie which is Keanu Reeves's directorial debut and he also stars in it. It is FUCKING SHIT. And I've seen a lot of bad kung fu movies and consider my opinion to have some basis to be trusted. Seriously, it's FUCKING AWFUL. "You owe me a life", oh get fucked Keanu. You fail.

Suddenly I realised something. It was about 1am GMT on March 3rd 2014. I start my new job in just over 48 hours. Eek. Why do I have to work? Why can't I just fly around the world like this the whole time? How can I become properly rich enough to live like this ALL THE BASTARD TIME? That's the problem with "once in a lifetime" experiences: when you don't win them, but have managed to engineer a situation in which you could actually afford it yourself, you instantly don't want once to mean once. How can I do this again?

Anyway. Time for a massage. The seat has loads of massage settings which are mostly ineffective. I watched a documentary on JFK's assasination which referred to it as "the most unsolved crime" in history. You what? And then a terrible documentary on Lance Armstrong's history of cheating. Then Futurama and, oh, a nice cooked breakfast. No, really nice. But without bacon. Then an episode of Veep but before I knew it we were coming in to land. The adventure was pretty much over. Thanks to being late, it was daylight, and I watched us cross London and land perfectly via tailcam (and got a video of it, hurrah!) and, damn it, it's over. Time to get off the plane.

There was some problem with the first class airbridge so we had to traipse upstairs and go out the business class one. That's no great shakes of course, but the woman in the seat behind me had been wheelchaired on and off and on again at Sydney and Dubai so I had no idea what they were going to do for her. The queues at Heathrow for immigration were utterly immense, and though I had a fast track pass this really isn't meant to be used by Brits, because our lines are supposedly fast enough.

As it goes, I was put off by the British ePassport gate lines so wandered up to Fast Track which was even worse, so went back and queued up. Took 20 minutes to get through, and as I emerged I found myself alongside a fellow Qantas first passenger who had taken exactly the same amount of time. All's fair then. Wandered down to the baggage carousels and our flight's bags weren't coming out yet and besides, I needed a shit. Even first class passengers do that y'know. After that my bag was already out and I strolled to the Qantas chauffeur desk landside in Heathrow Terminal 3. My driver was waiting for me and we took a long walk into the car park to his Merc. And there I am, 9am on a Monday, back home in Surbiton.

What a ride.

(Next up: Moscow in April)

Monday, March 03, 2014

Lions and tigers and lemurs, oh my!

Being on holiday, and my last full day in Sydney, I clearly wanted to spend my time doing different stuff to how I would spend a day at home. So, since it was Saturday I got up early to do parkrun, had savoury pastry goods and a diet coke at midday, and went out for Guinness later. Hang on...

I'm not kidding though. First off, up at 0600 for parkrun. In Australia, due to the stupid weather, they do parkrun at 0700 instead of 0900. Thank fuck. We were going to leave at about 0615 to walk the 2km (one vertical) to the Spit reserve where the second inaugural Mosman parkrun was going to take place. It had one run back in October, and then got canned the week after, but now there was council approval and a new route and it just so happened to be taking place when I was there (originally we were going to do Curl Curl, a few km north).

In October there'd been either 99 or 102 runners - parkrun.com.au and Facebook were a bit unclear. But the weather was grotesque (of course, it didn't rain during the run itself, such is parkrun's meteorological power) so we drove and there ended up being just 34 runners. Reps from the council and an MP/minister for health were there for a bit of a speech, I was proudly in my 50 shirt and expecting to come last because all Australians are athletes and because Australia isn't flat. It was 3 laps of the reserve, flat apart from a short and brutal hill at one end. On the last lap I told the steward there that I wasn't being rude, but fuck me I was glad I'd not see him again.

The winner was this guy of Japanese heritage, who ran incredibly fast - like, 15:xx or summat - and Kevin came 5th at 19:16 or so. I'd run the very last bit of his last lap alongside, we split as I said "see you in 10 minutes" and sure enough I finished in 29:16. Considering I'd done no real exercise for 2 weeks, and the heat and humidity and course were all horrid, I was pretty chuffed - sub 30:00 is always my benchmark. And, actually, when I checked, it was my fastest time of any parkrun event that I've only done once. So, pretty cool. But Christ, I was wetter through sweating in the humidity than at any rainy run...

The Japanese guy had done two more laps by the time I left. STOP. I thought maybe he had an earpiece and it was some running version of Speed - "keep running or we blow your kids up" or whatever.

Home, shower and out - Saturday is gymnastics for Alex and swimming for both girls, though Alex's cold meant she couldn't do that part. So me and Kevin took Harry to the pool, where her half hour lesson was an enormous amount of fun for her even as she let loose the floods of tears during the crocodile song. She loved the instruction - jump! jump! jump! - but just not the song. Strange lass.

Home via a midday stop at a bakery somewhat posher than Gregg's, a popular place in Dee Why where I had a Mexican pie, having not had my fill of Mexican food on Friday with the lunch burrito and evening fajitas. Harry ordered sushi, which didn't really work, but there was sushi left for her at home - Alex agreed to share, and by doing so had space and agreement for a slice of lamington. Noms all round.

Lunchtime snooze for the girls went kinda badly. Which is to say it was exactly like all their attempts at sleeping. Harry never switches off! But once they were at least downstairs, me and Kevin went out to the pub. Specifically The Oaks in Neutral Bay, his local when he first moved here which was before I started visiting. It's a regular boozer in a non-touristy suburb. I freaked out when he said "I lost my driving licence after a night out in here", until he thankfully explained that he had literally misplaced it. No one drunk drove, no one got killed. Jesus, watch your words bro...

Guinness! And much better than PJ O'Brien's too. Kevin suggested another bar, by which he meant a different part of the same pub. Turns out the Oaks has about 9 different sections all with separate decor, features, etc. We started in the bit with the TVs and gambling terminals (in which I taught him the difference between -ism and mere description), went to the family bit, then upstairs to play pool. There were about 10 pool rooms, one of which was a single table in a kitchen. Odd. We failed dismally to make sure we had enough coins for an odd number of games and wound up 2-2 (though I thought Kevin won 3-1). A 2 ball play off gave the victory to him anyway. £2.25 a game!

Home, or kebab? Have a fucking guess. We walked to the kebab house, via a considerably worse pub and Guinness in Cremorne. Oh, I get it, so now everywhere sells Guinness. The kebab was decent, and we walked all the way back. That was a fair amount of km in the legs for the day tbh. Back home, we snacked like the post booze post kebab fools we were, lots of ice cream, and I watched Die Hard 4.0 while Kevin snoozed on the sofa. My god, what a shit film that is. I'd weighed myself on Thursday and was super happy to discover I'd not put on a single kg, but that might have changed by now. I am definitely a fat cat if not a fat fuck.

Sunday, my last day. On the way back from swimming on Saturday Qantas had called me, to see if I needed a porter and to book me in for a spa massage treatment. I'd picked my seat and the journey was all set. A chauffeur was coming to get me at 2pm, so I had plenty of time to spend with the girls. Having finally got my sleeping patterns into Sydney time I was up at 7am for the chaos of breakfast, and we did puzzles and chopping until time for the zoo. The fam have a season ticket but yours truly had to fork out. Sal was on a walk so only the Foremans went, at opening time. Jeez, the girls were SO EXCITED. Mind you, Taronga zoo is special. Last time I went I saw the New Year's Eve fireworks over Sydney harbour. Last time Harry went she saw an elephant do a poo from its bum bum, I was repeatedly told.

Lions and gorillas and orang-utangs and tree kangaroos and tigers and elephants and snakes and foxes and turkeys and so many animals. Also an energetic time in the lemur play park. Sal had walked to the zoo in pissing rain that we had mostly missed, and soon we all left via a quick detour for some top notch uncling at the shop where I totally stole Sal's idea for presents for the girls and bought them a pair of lemur tails to wear. They loved them, and gave themselves lemur names of Jasmine and Tiger. I got a cracking photo. But, it was time to go home and get them fed, after which my pocket of coins was my last present to them. Sal's birthday present had arrived on my first full day, a shipment of Marmite XO from the UK. I'm very good at missing birthdays, having previously left the country 2 days before Alex's and this time one day before Sal's. Alex and Harry were so so hard to get to go to bed, but it eventually happened, and then all that was left was to wait for my drive to the airport, the start of a long and nondescript journey back to the UK.

Nondescript apart from the whole first class thing, that is.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

My goodness

So, like, it was Friday. I was in Sydney in holiday, from work (sort of...) and my diet and the UK and UK weather and stuff. Which means what I really wanted was to live my UK pre-diet life. Two aims for the day: a burrito, and a Guinness.

UK weather had come to me, as the rain from Friday persisted and was forecast to last until I left. Foodwise the burrito place by Manly wharf was my aim, but the weather was shitty and I missed my bus, so instead I headed into the city. More than a week ago I'd spent some time in a mall in Kuala Lumpur which reminded me of Westfield, but in Sydney I found a mall which was even more reminiscent - largely because it was the same as the others, but called Westfield. There were loads of food places on the top floors - I'd use numbers, but I entered on a ground floor numbered 2, and left by a different ground floor exit numbered 3. What?

The burrito was pretty average. Unlike everywhere else I've bought burritos, you don't order subway style - I just said "spicy chicken burrito please" and got handed a receipt with a number, as if I was in Argos. 45 seconds later, here's my pretty average burrito. Ah well. I ate it wandering the streets towards Ultimo, a district of Sydney clearly named either after washing powder or a rubbish super hero. I only skirted it, as I was heading to Chippendale, a district of Sydney clearly named after a male stripper. In reality it was a district just south of the backpacker-student-hobo-bad architecture area which borders Chinatown. Even though the weather was rotten and I was inadvisably in a coat and hat, I was walking a good 3.5km in search of Guinness.

The internet - which had previously NEVER EVER LET ME DOWN EVER - told me a good pint of Guinness was to be found at the Duck Inn in Chippendale. It's nowhere near any tourists would ever go. I was double wet when I got there, from both sweat and rain. Walked in, perched at the bar, and asked for a Guinness. Which of course they didn't serve. This reminded me of my last trip to Oz, not because of an Australian experience but because on the same holiday me and Ellie walked a few km through awful parts of a Thai beach resort to the only Guinness vendor on Koh Chang Island only to arrive and be told the a Guinness was off. DAMN IT.

I had a dark ale, and walked back to the CBD. Kevin had told me days previously that PJ O'Brien's in the centre was a guaranteed Guinness hole, and 3km later so it proved.

That was a shit pint of Guinness. And a second shit pint of Guinness. But at least the surroundings had improved, and darts was on TV. There were 3 sets visible from the bar, all showing the same channel, yet one of them was around 2 seconds out of sync with the others. How can that possibly happen?

While in PJ O'Brien's I got a phone call, caller ID withheld. I refuse to answer calls like that normally, but since it was only 5am in the UK I figured it might be something worth answering, about my journey home. "Mr Foreman, I'm calling about your chauffeur service on Sunday...". Clearly I was on the home stretch now.

Sleep is right

One of the things I do when on proper holiday, not manic holiday, is recreationally sleep. So even having fixed my jet lag a bit, and in a house full of activity with two young kids off to daycare and school, I slept in til 1100 on Tuesday. It were bliss. And actually this happened most days. There's really not much in my plans for Sydney to be honest - it's my 7th visit, to my family, I'm staying in a suburban house, and it doesn't feel foreign at all. This is not least because they drive on the left, as they had in Bali and Malaysia. I hadn't realised before this trip just how much familiarity and sovereignty I attach to left driving countries. If you drive on the queen's side of the road, you ain't foreign. You're easy to navigate on foot and that means I am home.

Started off listening to a couple of Steve Austin podcasts, he interviews current WWE stars without staying in character or storyline and it's super interesting. And then I went shopping. I needed to buy some running shoes because there wasn't enough space in my bags for mine, and I was due to do parkrun on Saturday. Naturally this meant I had to wear my RUNNING SUCKS nike t-shirt. Bought a pair, failed to buy a hat, and went down to neutral bay wharf for a boat to the city.

From there I was actually going to do something new and touristy - a trip to Cockatoo Island. You get there by public transport, but it's an old historic island full of convict stories and shipbuilding works and etc. It's great, a self guided non-audio tour around quarries and old shipyards and prison cells and officers' quarters, the lot. One of the convict stories is about an escape in 1863 about a guy who had been sentenced to 7 years in 1856. Are they sure he wasn't just y'know, let free?

Cockatoo island also has Sydney's only pub/bar on an island, which did not publish its opening hours on the pamphlet nor at the venue itself, but only on the website. Which told me it wasn't open on Mondays and Tuesdays. Fail. And the boat had a replacement bus service schedule poster. It's an island. Bus?

A GIANT cruise ship had come in overnight. Took a few photos for Chris.

More shopping. It's all very well buying a new ipad but when it's a different size to your last one, you need a case. The girl behind the till asked me where I'd bought my shirt, and was about the 5th person to comment on it after the old woman who refused to run after her blown-away coke can, the school kids who'd said "running doesn't suck!" and the chugger who was so distraught that I wasn't local and fleeceable.

Back home after an ice cream, for more tea time and bedtime chaos followed by an argument about whether natural talent exists. It does. Kevin is wrong.

Another lazy day on Wednesday, another midday start. Kept racking up the boat rides with a trip to Watsons Bay, essentially an OAP day out just for fish and chips at Doyle's. Oh my god, they were so worth it. Had to wait 45 minutes for the return ferry as they seem to take a lunch break, and on the way back there was a pretty decent Red Arrows style display over the harbour. Popped round to Darling Harbour for the microbrewery which served a very decent stout, and realised I've never had a Guinness in Sydney, or at least not one I could recall.

Got the Manly Ferry back, and the free wifi forced you to fill out a poll before it activated. Did I support their application for a licence to serve booze? Would I be a likely purchaser of booze? Quickly checked that the pope still shits in the woods and bears are catholic, failed to find the OF FUCKING COURSE option.

Thursday, also not overly busy. The UK weather had kicked in now, so that when I left the house to walk to Manly the rain was hotter than the shower I'd just had. The wind was grim too, so my original plan to meet Kevin for external pie at Harry's Cafe de Wheels suddenly turned into a solo jaunt to The Australian for kangaroo pizza and a beer made by a brewery younger than 12 months old, which was called Wayward Charmer and was DELICIOUS. This would, presumably, be my last day on the sauce, since I had a 6am start for a 5km run scheduled for Saturday, and flying on Sunday without wanting to be hungover. That probably explains why I had 2 gins and 2 whiskeys back at the house.