25th March 2007 2007 - The Travelling Tao Part 1 - Melbourne
Due to the length of my ramblings, this post will be in, umm several parts, covering, providing no new issues appear in our life, the next 3 weeks.
The packing manifesto for our trip was always going to be a challenge; A wedding, requiring a full suit, shoes and dress shirt, general clothes and then beach items as well as my tripod and camera gear. Tash's wedding outfit could be folded to fit in my shirt pocket, but the supporting products needed to enhance her already radiant beauty more than competed with my stuff for the oversubscribed suitcase space.
This smorgasbord collection of our personal belongings was initially set out on the floor of the flat 3 days before we left, packed and repacked, items discarded and substitutes found. All this was conducted with an independent adjudicator, you understand. It was a tricky enough issue already without the added subtly required to convince Tash to reduce some of the items carried in her 3, yes 3, beauty and make-up product bags, that is without getting into an argument over it anyhow.
The only bags that we could fit all this into, and that had wheels, were the large expedition sized Samsonite cases that we bought with our wedding money, this seemed fitting as Tash noted, in a quiet moment when we weren't discussing the relative weight based merits of taking her hairdryer vs. my electric toothbrush on holiday with us, that the Thailand leg could be considered to be the honeymoon that we didn't have three years ago. We did have a honeymoon of sorts I should add, but as I suspected Tash already knew how expensive the Thailand leg was going to be, I concluded that this statement was intended as a piece of preemptive buttering up, of me, the husband.
Just to make things more interesting, as if we really need any more "interest" in our lives, I had been displaying increasing OCD tendencies; the pressure and stress of all things, no job, failing career, not inconsiderable financial worries, ill wife, a very stressful previous 5 months, no make that 20 months, hold on maybe 7 years is more accurate (I list these things down as an indication, rather than a need for sympathy I add) . Actually the OCD was the least of my worries, the chest pains had won that prize, however it wasn't making me check everything in obsessive detail, and then I came back to the bags...
These I discovered one morning, weighed in at a not unsubstantional 5kgs each. In the past this would have not been an issue, however BA/Qantas/Star Alliance (further referred to as the 'Axis of luggage evil') , have now ruled that each person's baggage allowance can now only to be 20kg instead of the old 32kg. This put an entirely downward slant on the situation and things got more complex when Tash commented that our budget airline flight in Thailand would only accept bags of 15kg each.
Some changes were made, we didn't in the end take the fridge or kitchen sink, I had to leave my back up wedding shirt, unpack all my wildly colourful t-shirts favouring only the black and blue ones, because as we all know, dark colours weigh less. The most difficult thing I faced was the inclusion of some weight saver shoes, flip-flops, or thongs if you want to be Australian about it.
I don't even wear shoes, preferring boots, I explained this logic to Nathan on one of our 'metrosexual' shopping trips before he, the groom, flew out the week before; A gentleman must always be prepared I told him, you never know when you are going to be in an emergency situation and even though a two piece grey wool suit is not as practical as perhaps a full survival immersion suit, it is far more presentable at a wedding. However you should take no chances with your footwear, the last thing I would need, say in the unlikely event that a large flash flood hit the hills of Adelaide, sweeping down through the botanical gardens at precisely the time I am in there performing my groomsmen duties, is a sprained ankle as I am heroically leading the wedding party to the safety of higher ground.
Cautiously then, I packed them, leaving out a far more practical pair of shoes, in favour of the unrestrained flappy lunacy of a pair of thongs (if I continue to call them flip-flops, all the Australians who read this will correct me, but ingeniously if I refer to them as 'Thongs' this geographical region of the readership will be quiet and the rest of us can snigger gently to ourselves because they are wearing ladies pants on their feet). These things are my podiatry nightmare. Unlike my green and gold friends I have not grown up wearing them, in fact my total flight time in these tortuous pieces of foam consisted in an unsuccessful 20 minute shuffle around the block last summer. I was understandably concerned about my long term holiday relationship with these "thing thongs", but the requirements of the baggage allowance meant sacrifices had to be made.
The bags eventually weighed in at 27 and 26kg respectfully, this was deduced by a bit of home weighing on the bathroom scales, I can further report that scales also informed us that neither bag had a high BMI reading, nor was dehydrated, which in the circumstances was of little comfort to find out. 26kg is a lot to carry on each arm, as I discovered staggering down the stairs at 8am that Sunday morning where I was met at the door by Reg, a Sikh black cabby that Tash had befriended on a very lubricated lunch/evening session with our friend Karen the previous Wednesday. He was small in build, which is unusual for the normally majestic Sikh population, with bow legs I noted, as he visibly wilted trying to get mega-experdition-bag-1 into the back of his cab. The best bit though was his authentic cockney accent and we were regaled with tales of his family all the way to the airport.
Surprisingly we got through check-in unscathed.
Dean's packing 1 - Axis of luggage evil 0
The trip commenced properly when we landed in Melbourne's Tullamarine airport late on Monday evening after a pleasant enough flight, the smell of eucalyptus that hung in the air as we left the terminal building provided the first sign that we were back in the "home country".
There are two schools of thought on arriving in Australia, both concerned with beating jetlag; you either arrive in at 10pm, force yourself to go straight to bed and hope to wake up at a more reasonable time the next day. Or get in at 6am and find ways to keep yourself awake until it is time to go to bed, I realise in typing this that the last one is actually quite an ironic thing to try to do. On this occasion we went the former and as I laid tucked up in bed at twenty to three in the morning wide awake, I considered just how screwed I was going to feel by lunchtime.
The next day, which technically was still the same day, started about three hours later. Tash woke to find me staring out the hotel window at the completely empty Melbourne streets exclaiming 'ohh wee we aren't in Kansas now Dorothy!', in London at 06:30am, there is gridlock, I don't think Melbourne even managed more than 4 cars in a queue on the arterial road I could see. Keenly spotting that I was not behaving within normal parameters again, Tash suggested we go for a bracing early morning walk down to the cafe district called South Yarra (pronounced in the east London accent as 'Yarrah').
This was almost a perfect plan, there I was jetlagged, clearly very foggy headed, but enjoying the 40 minute walk we were currently on. However knowing Tash as I do, something wasn't right, she is not a great walker.... and what were we doing? The conversation also seemed to revolve heavily around great stories of magnificent breakfasts (poached egg on salmon fillet is a weakness of mine and something to date that I have only found properly done in Australia) , but we had barely been off the plane for enough time for either of our digestive systems to recover, something was a foot!
Then as the main street of "the Yarra" came in to view her dastardly plan unfolded. There was a faint air of familiarity about this place, then it twigged, we had been here before, one afternoon 7 years ago (I have a terrible memory for street names, but almost photographic recollection of places) . It seemed that Tash was trying to stage a shopping coup de'gras very early in our trip, Chappel St, now I could remember it, is a boutique shopping area and I had been brought here under false pretences.
We had a little chat about this over breakfast ("little" and "chat" are probably not accurate words to describe the conversation in retrospect) , oddly we were there too early even for most of the cafes and we both agreed to disagree that this trip was a sponsored shopping expedition, for many reasons, not least my sweat and tears the previous week over the luggage weight. Our combined sulking soon dispersed however, in passing a baby shop, lets us not forget that Kate was close to giving birth at this point, Tash spotted something very surprising for sale in the window.
My uncomfortableness with some of the words in common usage in Australia is well known amongst our friends out there, England has been in the grip of PC culture for a lot longer, and with regards to racist ideas has been largely successful in changing a lot of the prevailing attitudes that allowed it to continue. Australia of course, isn't England and different attitudes exist, their short name for the Pakistani Cricket team still presents me with issues when I hear it used in the media, of course it does not carry the same social historical baggage as it does in the UK. So with those comments in mind, there we are, just off a plane, in the midst of our first disagreement and Tash has spotted in the window a toy that in our youth, before it disappeared into the box marked, socially unacceptable, was refereed to as "the Robinson's jam Golliwog" as bold as brass on display.
This probable affront to political correctness was in the shape of a floppy puppet toy; Small puppet, constructed with hollow beads, held together under tension with string that runs through the puppet, out through its legs and onto a cylindrical base. When you press in the bottom of the base the tension in the string goes and the puppet flops over only to be brought abruptly to attention when you release the spring base.
So anyway when the shop opened, we bought it. The conversation we had with the shop owner was interesting enough to repeat here, what we wanted to say to her was "why are your selling these obviously racist items in your very cute pink and blue baby shop", but good manners required an entirely round-about-the-houses approach, so we left after a very odd conversation still undecided if we had managed to purchase right wing propaganda or a progressive child's toy. With time, particularly when we went shopping with Kate in Bendigo our discomfort eased, as it seems that these toys have made a significant comeback. In researching the maker, Kate Finn, I find that the internet is full of only good things in association with these throwbacks. He now sits on top of the TV next to the Buddy Christ, I only recently realised that some visitors to our house must think that we are some religious zealots, having a Jesus statue at the focus of the room, on the TV, now they can be doubly offended.
Our time in Melbourne finished with a double whammy, on returning to the hotel mid afternoon, we were bombarded by messages from the dude I was renting the car from, it seems that I was even more jetlagged than I realised as I had missed a day somewhere, expecting the car to turn up on the second day of the holiday and not the first. With that sorted, and my god it was a brute, but more of that later, we tried to shift off the increasingly encroaching jetlag sleep by walking across town to 'Melbourne's best tapas restaurant" to quote the book Tash was reading.
"Do you have any tortilla" Tash asked of the waiter, "what is that?" he replied. This was evidentally no ordinary tapas bar, in fact, after reviewing the menu we deduced that the owner had probably never stepped foot out of Australia. Fortunately I fell asleep at the table, so we were spared any further need to remain there.