Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Return Trip: Days 7-14


I met Maria in the evening and we went and got hot chocolate and pizza (not together, that would be disgusting...I think). We talked about our lives since Amadeus and what there was to be gained from studying abroad, especially for how it coloured your time back at home. We made merry and discussed the real world applications of some very exciting science in which Maria is involved; whenever I talk to my friends who do science, I wish that linguistics would change the world more often.


I went to Matilda the Musical. It was amazing: the music was infectious, the choreography joyous and expressive and the actor playing Miss Trunchbull was so perfect, I almost forgot Pam Ferris entirely. Almost. The show had some weak points- Matilda's Sudden Onset Telekinesis only lasts about half an hour in this version, making one wonder what the point was- but all in all I enjoyed myself immensely and I would highly reccommend everyone to see it.

In the evening, I met with Alana for a quick dinner; she's a very busy woman, having made something of herself over the past few years and sadly an hour and a half was all she could really afford. Still, I was grateful for what I could get- and Alana is another Australian friend who took a year abroad and so understands the sense of longing I feel. She told me about her adventures in America and I was very jealous, before remembering I had my own stories to tell from Australia (although she already knew most of these).


Charlotte, who had also recently delighted at Matilda, and I went for breakfast at Hot Poppy's, a favoured haunt of yore, where they serve heavenly hash browns about which I had apparently raved before, but quite forgotten, so the pleasure was fresh once more. What to say of Charlotte? She features quite heavily this week- our conversation is always the same, which is to say it's wildly different every time. We go off on such odd tangents, and into such strange avenues of thought that the following utterance

"You have twangled away our good family name"
flowed quite naturally. I actually got some prime candidates for the Quotes of the Year competition, so keep your eyes on this dark horse.

Next up was Beppe, who I met only briefly at the end of my last tenure in Melbourne but who was still very eager at the thought of getting coffee together. We spoke and I learned more of his life (I really didn't know him all that well when we left), including the fact that he's a bloody polymath: he's studying Physics and Mathematics, with a minor in Italian and, from what I can tell, rocking all three. Well done, sir.

In the evening, I went to some improv shows- one of which physically injured me with how funny it was- and then at the end, got up and had a go myself.
It didn't go well.
I was very rusty, and while I don't think I broke any of the rules per se, I also don't remember garnering any laughs from the (admittedly meagre) audience. Alack.


Josiah and I grabbed a quick coffee at a very upmarket cafe in amongst the hectic hugger-mugger that is his life. Josiah, as I later described him to Charlotte, is rather like if Santa Clause lost a lot of weight and then decided to do student theatre- magnanimous, avuncular with just a hint of jazz hands. He suggested I open a puzzle room and I thought that I'd do it in the style of the Riddler- point a gun at people's heads and not let them leave until they'd figured out complex math. People would pay for that, right?

I met Simon briefly at the university and we chatted for half an hour about art and ethics and also there was a bird above us, tearing up food and then throwing it at us. It was rather odd, but Simon has always been big on animal metaphors so I'm sure he can whip something up about the bird being our mothers or something. 

I'd originally been planning to buy a cheap ticket for Avenue Q that day but sadly someone else snapped it up and so it would have been $110 for me to attend, which would have been almost my entire remaining budget. Instead, I went to see some fireworks and then get drunk with Sam, a man I met at the hostel I stayed at in Cairns. It was nice and, best of all, cheap, which was really what I was looking for.


I played an epic session of D&D with Laura, David and a handful of people I'd never met before. I was Draffh, a half-orc bard who was racist against the other half-orc bard in the party. Sparks flew (metaphorically: no one cast lightning bolt), there was more than one barbed comment traded and then interdimensional pirates arrived and we had to put aside our differences- well, not quite, there was a bit of a skirmish mid-air once the ship vanished. It was incredible fun- just the right mixture of theatre and lore and tactics and luck. I really enjoyed occupying the world Dave had created (for he was dungeon master) and I'm eager to get back into roleplaying as a hobby.


Aspen and I got lunch- not at Pancake Parlour, this time, signalling our character development. Once again, we spoke about politics more than I remembered, but this isn't a bad thing. After all, Aspen had a lot to say about identity politics and geek culture (she works in the gaming industry) and her insights are always interesting. Although, she told me the truth about Zero Dark Thirty and I was outraged because that film was boring as fuck and it turned out they made half of it up! Why couldn't they make up something interesting?

I then got a train to Richmond and went to a poetry open mic event and read my poem The Gaijin Pit. People seemed very receptive and everyone asked me how long I was going to be in Melbourne and were saddened to find out I'd be leaving so soon.

I then got a train to Parliament and went to another improv session and got up on stage again- this time, it went better. I got a few laughs (and actually nabbed the final line of the show before the lights went out), and I felt better about my long-dead theatrical career. I mean, I'm not Sarah Siddons, but I mimed carrying an amputated leg quite well.

I then got a tram to North Melbourne and went to see a different improv show with Charlotte. There were lots of different improv formats on display: some, like a segment where four pages of a show were scripted and the rest was improvised from there, were fascinating; others descended into rather predictable dick jokes. Still, it was lovely to see any theatre, as it's quite hard to find in Japan, and Charlotte's company was as enspiriting as ever.


Srini and I got a coffee and discussed the merits of Nolan and Whedon, much as we ever did. I remember Declan railing at us to 'shut up about Batman' and I'm sure he'd be heartened to know that three years later it's still our go-to jumping off point. Much as with Aiden, Srini and I often have very different views on films and get quite deep in our analysis but we can discuss them without falling out or arguing and thus benefit from the others passion and insight. If only the internet could take note- he certainly had the only cogent argument I've heard in favour of Jesse Eisenberg's Lex Luthor.

Srini accompanied me to the uni, where I met with Julian who seemed to have settled right back into Melbourne like a salamander in a bonfire. Obviously, he and I didn't have so much catching up to do so instead I viewed our conversation as more of a cataphoric kind of reminiscing- a sort of crystal ball, showing me what my future might be like when I finally quit Japan. He's moved back in with his parents, which I hope not to do, and turned vegetarian, which I swear not to do, but overall he seems happy. I hope I can take the move back so well.

Then, Charlotte and I met once more (to date, the final time) and made a flip book at the Academy of Moving Images (we actually made two, slightly different but thematically related, reflecting the way we view the world). Interspersed with this, we sang snippets from our improvised musical Hot and Cold which was variously about a relationship ending, an orphan finding her family or a completely ordinary day where nothing really happened at all. And then we had to say goodbye and it played out much the same as last time- I really hope I see her again and, if not, well at least we had the time we got.

After that, I went to another poetry open mic, read The Gaijin Pit and The Turkeys Voted for Christmas and received the same enthusiastic response for both. I wish I could perform like that every day- it really got my blood pumping and made me feel alive. But such things cannot be.


I had to check out of my hostel this morning, and then went to meet Dave on campus for a final goodbye hang out. We discussed the future developments of the D&D campaign, and I really wish I could be there to see them. Things are going to get interesting.

Then I met with Aiden and Wilson for lunch; these two have actually been hanging out some in my absence and I kind of like that because I'm the one who introduced them. We went to eat at a Japanese restaurant, and it was funny to think that just a year ago that would have been the closest I'd ever been to the land of the rising sun. Aiden and I discussed music and covers and how context (especially music videos) can totally change your experience of a song. And then we said goodbye (I've been saying goodbye a lot recently).
Wilson and I then chatted for some time- he's had some very major developments in his life since I last saw him and is yet another person who did a year abroad. Although, to hear him describe it, I think he didn't have quite the same experience as Alana or I. I really marvelled at all he had done in three years and it made me feel like I have some catching up to do- although, I don't regret most of the choices I've made.

And that brings us up to now- I've still got one social engagement left, dinner with Henry, which I will write about in a longer piece discussing how I felt about the holiday as a whole, but here's a quick preview: it was fantastic.

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Return Trip: Days 3, 4, 5, 6 & 7


I met up with Charlotte- this was a reunion foretold in the stars, one I'd been imagining and anticipating for years and it didn't disappoint. Charlotte's always had an energy which is a joy to behold; she's so creative and conversations with her twist and bend in such odd ways, tangents becoming stories becoming pataphors becoming an extended exploration of how alternate universes might work in minute detail. Absolutely wondrous.

After that, I met up with Andrew. It was actually a lot like our first ever meeting, way back in September 2012: we discussed politics, pyschology, theatre; we ventured opinions on how these fields interacted; we took guesses at each other's psyches. Of course, this time, I felt we were slightly more equal as I'd seen a bit more of the world, but that just made the tête-à-tête all the more satisfying.

After Andrew left, I was just going to go back to my hostel but on a whim, I jumped on a random tram to see where it took me. This allowed me to see a new part of the city, as well as feel that I was getting more value out of my Myki card; sadly, the part of the city it took me too was rather bleak and by this time it was quite dark. Still, an evening stroll can do you wonders. 


I met with Aspen, and later her boyfriend Michael, for lunch. We went to Pancake Parlour and after Max Brenner's, two of our haunts of yore. Aspen and I talked quite a while about politics, which I don't remember us having done before- we also discussed Orange is the New Black, which we definitely never did before because I hadn't seen it. When Michael arrived, we also talked about the difficulties of getting on the property ladder, which seemed so grown-up and grounded that I couldn't quite believe it was a conversation I was having with the girl with whom I used to duet The Bad Touch

After seeing Aspen, I went to an improv show in which Charlotte was starring. It was, get this, an improvised Shakespeare show. It was incredibly funny- I sat front row guffawing all the way through- and Charlotte's aforementioned energy perfectly suits the improvisation format. After, we got drinks on a rooftop bar and I told her repeatedly how great she was. 


Victoria and I got breakfast together, once more at Pancake Parlour. She filled me in on her life since the days of Yarra, and I regaled her with stories of my time in Japan and France. After that, we went and got purikura- you see, Victoria also used to live in Japan and so she knew how to pass the time, Nippon-style. Once we'd made ourselves prettier and drawn all over our photographs, we went and got some incredibly strange juice which was incredibly...thick. The café said this was becase the juice was fresh but I'm not sure that that was the cause. Strange juice aside, Victoria seemed buoyant as ever and it was awesome to catch up.

In the evening, I saw Simon. I don't know if I've ever mentioned this before, but this time I was struck by how similiar Simon is to Esmond- I get the feeling that if they met each other, they'd either get along like a house on fire or drive each other crazy. Still, Simon and I discussed, among other things, being magazine editors (he's just finished, I've just begun), art and the meaning thereof and whether or not people are bastards. Sadly, it was quite a short visit because he had to go eat dinner with his family but I think we might see each other again and if not, I'm hopefully gonna see Esmond next month so that's pretty much the same thing. 


I went to a poetry event and NAILED IT. I was on fire. People I didn't know came up and hugged me to thank me for my words. People bought me drinks and insisted that I come to their thing next week, hailing me as the fresh new thing in Melbourne poetry. When I told them I was only in town for a few days, hearts were broken. I'm not even exaggerating. 


This morning I went back to the NMIT campus- now known as Melbourne Polytechnic- and Yarra House, where I used to live. I guess the buildings hadn't really changed, but with the uni's new name had come a new design aesthetic and honestly, the place felt very different. I only walked around once and then left- I guess there's nothing there for me anymore. 
However, I then went along the trail Jason and I used to walk in the evenings: this was absolutely charming. The park hadn't changed one bit, it was still verdant and lush in a uniquely Antipodean way. I went back to the small waterfall near Yarra, and I'd never really been there after a really rainfall, and to see all the water flowing was actually quite effecting. I stared at those falls for quite a while. The whole walk bought back memories of long-dead conversations and secret confessions, and once more I got the feeling that Melbourne is like a city of stone tape for me- just a record of experiences and emotions, just waiting to boil to the surface. On the way back from the walk, I took off my shoes, as was my occasional wont back in the day and I got horribly lost, having forgotten the second part of the circle, reminding that not all the memories of my time here are so readily accesible. 

I've just come back from a drink and a chat with Morgan, who was one of my co-stars on Aussie Rules. Morgan has really got his shit together and had in fact just come from the Governor's house (ooh la la). He was dressed extremely smart and made me feel rather shabby and wanting, which I think is just my natural state. In a twist, Morgan is actually currently in the opposite of my situation- he's just returned from a year abroad in the UK and is missing the country terribly. I guess all I can say is, you'll feel better eventually but the saudade will never quite go away entirely. 

I'm just about to go and meet Maria now, but the recap of that will have to be put in the next update, so stay tuned!

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Return Trip: Days 1 and 2

I have not used this blog for three years; but then, I haven't been in Melbourne for three years. This was my blog for when I was in Melbourne and now I'm back, I thought 'why not?' and reopened it.

What I want from this holiday changes based on my mood: part of me is saying I should do all the things I never quite managed when I lived here- going to the zoo, doing the climbing wall, etc.; another part thinks I should be doing all the cultural things Melbourne has to offer- the many galleries, museums, libraries and such; and one bit of me just wants to pretend that it's still 2013 and resume my life as though nothing has changed- go to the university campus, scrounge off wi-fi wherever possible, eat at all the places I used to eat. Yesterday, the latter voice won.

Since it was my first day and I was pretty exhausted from getting up at 3.00 am to catch my plane, I hadn't really expected to do much yesterday. I thought I'd check into my hostel, maybe take a nap and then go and find some food. Instead, having secured my bed for the night, on a last minute spur, I decided to return to my alma mater.

The problem was, I didn't remember how to get there.

I was too proud to ask or even to google, so I just set off in a direction with the vague recollection that that was the way I used to walk. I ended up taking an extremely circuitous route, past Victoria Market and a plethora of gyms, up and around and finally down onto the campus I knew.

It hadn't changed. It was strange to walk around and see all these sites and shops I was so familiar with. I spent a lot of time in Union House when I was a student and going back, almost nothing had changed- there was only one new shop which I could see and even all the posters seemed the same. It made me feel like someone had been keeping the university preserved just for me, my own personal museum.

Going back to the Rowden White Library, my favourite place on campus, was a blast from the past. Returning to that bohemian atmosphere, that dream-like, pastural seating area where one is instructed not to learn, the napping room where students sleep litter-style, was just heavenly. And then I saw that they were still displaying the poem that I'd written for them years ago at the front desk. I never signed it, but I like to think that lots of people, queueing up to check out a book, have looked at my ode and wondered what kind of nerd had nothing better to do than write a poem about a library.

There was actually a graduation ceremony happening while I was on the campus- lots of people walking around in gowns and caps, taking almost as many photos as I did, lining up to stand next to anything that bore the university crest. I think these people, assuming they did a standard three year course, would have started at Melbourne just as I left. I might have seen them briefly, during the two weeks I stuck around after my classes were over, but really they were the next generation. The people bought in to replace me. And they were already done with it.

I wondered, as I walked around, if I should've fought harder to stay at Melbourne. It clearly still holds a place in my heart and is important to me. Watching the graduands (they hadn't finished yet), I felt a surge of jealousy- these were the people who'd stayed, the ones who'd made Melbourne their permanent home. I was the silly sod who'd left. Could I have stayed? I don't know. Certainly, I didn't try very hard- I didn't kick up a fuss, or make grand, empassioned arguments or even offer to pay. I made a few enquiries, was gently rebuffed and let it go. I'm kind of angry at myself now. Oh well.

When I was walking around Melbourne Central, I got my first sighting of someone I used to know. Sadly, I didn't recall his name and I'm not sure he ever knew who I was anyway. He was a man from the university queerspace who, like the eleventh doctor, always bow ties. This fashion choice stuck with me and when I saw him I almost ran up to hug him. Sadly, I don't know how a conversation between us would pan out so I decided to demur to the better part of valor and slink off, but it was still nice to see a familiar face.

An even more familiar face surfaced when, later in the evening, I went to see Aiden. We met outside his work, went to get dinner, and talked for six hours. Some of the time we were catching up, sometimes we were discussing movies (a favourite pastime of yore) and sometimes we just exchanged memories of when I used to live here. It was wonderful. It was exactly what I wanted. When I first decided to come back to Melbourne, I was cautious, worried that my friends and I would have changed too much, we'd be unable to connect. With Aiden, this was not the case; we picked up as if I'd just been away for a weekend. This bodes well for other meetings.

Speaking of other meetings, I've just come back from seeing David- I was less worried about meeting David because I saw him last year in Paris. Still, that was eighteen months ago and it's always nice to see him; we talked about life and science and Pokemon Go- all the important things. I'm joining his D and D game next week as a special guest and we discussed the character I'll be role-playing and I realised this would be the first bit of acting I've done in almost two years. I'm really looking forward to getting back into it and I think a role-playing game will be just the place for it.

I'm currently sitting in Victoria State Library, where I used to go once upon a time to complete essays in a more picturesque setting when I was sick of the campus. It really is a gorgeous building, with some interesting displays inside (including Ned Kelly's armour) and, very helpfully in my post-phone state, free wi fi.

At the moment, I'm just spending my time in Melbourne retreading old walks and indulging in nostalgia but it's very enjoyable. Honestly, if the rest of my holiday pans out like this, I'll consider it a massive success.

Monday, 8 July 2013


I'm about to leave Melbourne for... not forever, but for the foreseeable future. I'll write a proper post in the near future, but for now I just wanted to post this:
The sun was shining on the sea,
The birds were in the skies,
The wizard packed his suitcase up
And said his last goodbyes-
His friends pretended not to see
The tears in his eyes

'Will I be back?'  The Wizard asked,
His voice small and aquake
He questioned at the kookaburras,
Who refused his thirst to slake,
They couldn't answer, for in the end,
That was the wizard's choice to make

Thursday, 13 June 2013

There and Back Again

Putting the Thrills Back into No-Frills Flying
I write you, dear reader, against all odds, from a hostel in Queenstown, New Zealand, with the Lion King playing in the background.
I say 'against all odds' because did you know that when flying internationally using one airline and another back, you need an 'itinerary', otherwise known as proof that you plan to leave? Cos I didn't. I had actually booked my ticket back, fortunately, but had not confirmed the e-ticket, or whatnot.
And my phone resolutely refused to access my email.
And the flight was leaving in twenty minutes.
A nice lady from jetstar offered to take me to the Qwantas lounge and use their computers to print out my itinerary- the Qwantas lounge being the furthest possible point from anywhere else in the airport. I arrived there with five minutes to go, ran off a copy and sprinted to the gate...where I had to wait for fifteen minutes.
Following this, I experienced possibly the most beautiful plane ride in existence, photos attached. At one point, I think I could have dropped fron the plane straight onto a mountaintop without breaking a bone, so close were they.
Also, there was a farm literally right next to the runway, which I guess is different, if not particularly practical.
On the other side of the plane ride, I went through the toughest security measures I've seen in my life. They X-rayed my bag for fruit. Twice. If I'd had fruit, I'm pretty sure they'd be dead from radiation. The security made it very clear they did NOT approve of my laissez-faire attitude to where I was heading etc. And then they finally let me go.
Queenstown is extremely beautiful. It's built around a giant lake, carved into the mountainside and extremely wet. I'd forgotten how humid the air in Australia is- by comparison, you get half your RDA of water with every lungful, and it's always lightly chilled.
I've explored the city centre a bit, but it was already getting dark, so I'll redouble my efforts tomorrow morning. I did however find a bar called 'tardis', and checked through the windows, but it seemed exactly the same size on the inside.

You know those dreams where you're falling...

When I was nine, I fell off my bed, which was a high bed, and fractured two vertebrae at the base of my spine. The fractures were very minor, but, given their position, they managed to make certain everyday tasks extremely difficult. That was a fall of six foot.
I just jumped off FORTY THREE FOOT bridge. 
Admittedly, this time there was a piece of rope around my ankles, so I didn't actually hit the floor (well, the river, but you get the idea).
I set out at ten in the morning, because I'm a modern man and I like to free fall before my breakfast, and we drove to the Kawarau Bridge, which is actually the original bungy jump site in the world, so, yeah, suck on them apples. 
There was surprisingly little paperwork beforehand; they just weighed me, told me to empty my pockets (duh) had me sign a little waiver, because y'know, this was kind of my idea in the first place, they're just the enablers, and then sent me out on the bridge.
It was snowing- I had taken off my coat for comfort, and now I regretted that; I watched the two other girls from my tour group drop, both delivering paralysing screams as they fell, and then it was my turn. they fitted a harness on me- rather loosely, I felt- and then wrapped a towel around my legs, then tied some cables, then hooked some latches onto the cables and then asked me to shuffle to the edge; I stood there, toes dangling over oblivion, smiled for both the cameras, somewhat unconvincingly, and then it was '3, 2, 1-', I stepped off the platform.

A loud 'Oh my God' was heard throughout the valley.

The water rushed up towards me, and I was convinced I wasn't going to stop, and then the rope jerked, and I was left, dangling upside down, my tshirt around head, and a lifeboat, some way off, coming slowly towards me, with a large pole extended towards me, asking how I was feeling- 'undignified'. 
I grabbed onto the pole, they grabbed onto my wrists, and I was lowered upside down onto the life boat. The guys there asked me a few questions, including 'can you see us?', presumably to check my retina hadn't detached, and then I climbed back up the slope to collect my belongings. 
I would wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone who's considering it- yes, it's terrifying, but I do feel somewhat invincible now and am no longer going to bother looking both ways before I cross the street, so think how much time I'll save as a consequence of this jump. But, in all seriousness, I feel I've accomplished something, even though all I did was step off a plank of wood- it's the rope that deserves the credit. A Japanese businessman asked to have his photo taken with me afterward and called me a 'hero', and I'm worried I've achieved some kind of international notoriety- there were, in fact, a gaggle of Japanese tourists, taking photos and congratulating me on the way back, but none of whom were jumping themselves, which creeped me out. I may turn up online as 'fat jumping man' or somesuch. Oh well, at least I'll be able to prove I did it. 

Tour'd of the Rings

First, a quick confession: I took my Lord of the Rings Tour before my Bungy jump, but I wanted to blog about that right after I'd done it, so you could all get the juicy viscerality and stream of conscience nonsense that that merited.
When I booked my LOTR tour, I was promised a very personal experience, and that I got: there were only five people on the tour; hell, for the first half of it, there were only three.
I was picked up from my accomodation by a cheery middle-aged lady and ushered into a van, where sat two other LOTR fans. Honestly, even robbed of the context of the tour, I could have guessed they were fans. They had the look (as do I, I imagine). Our first stop was the Rydges hotel where the cast and crew stayed when they were filming- thankfully, this stop was brief, cos honestly I didn't care.
Next, we went onto where they filmed this scene:
And something became apparent- I was glad I was taking this tour a mere thirteen years after filming, because the landscape had changed a lot. Kathleen, our tour guide, had a couple of sturdy lanscape features which she pointed out to prove that she was telling the truth, but in between the changes they made for the film (planting some new trees, digital correction etc.) and the vagaries of time, it was sometimes difficult to see the resemblance between the scenes (all played to us on an Ipad before setting off). However, Kathleen then got us to recreate the scenes and took pictures and this appealed to the am-dram ham inside me, so I can't complain.
I lay where Elijah Wood and Sean Astin had thirteen years previous and squeed a little inside me. This is so lame, but I could actually see the oliphaunt in my mind's eye, and I got lost in the story in a way that I haven't for quite a while, if only for a few minutes.
We explored this site, because the entire scene is shot on one location, but out of order, if you understand me- Frodo and Sam switched sides of the river bank several times.
After, we headed to a spot where you could see three different locales from a distance (sadly, access is restricted, them being private land and all), took some photos and then headed off for lunch.
At lunch, we were joined by a young married couple- the young woman hadn't actually seen LOTR, and I felt very sorry for her, because even Kathleen was something of a fangirl. We got to look at some classified documents, which Kathleen had somehow acquired, like call sheets, a handmade shooting calendar (with some really freaky drawings), and the original shooting script, which was given a fake title to keep out locals. This fake film was called 'Jamboree' and was a coming of age epic about scouting. With three separate installments. Honestly, that's dumber than what they pulled with Argo. How did anyone fall for that?!

So, after this, we headed to where they shot Isildur (in both senses of the word 'shoot'); and Kathleen told how someone actually bought a replica one ring (which amount to something like $5000) and then threw it into the river there, but I looked and sadly could not find it. Drat.
We then headed on to where Arwen shows down the Nazghul, and this was probably the place which had changed the least from the film, even though that scene was shot at two different rivers, and I dipped my toe into the waters which carried the Black Riders away and squee'd a little. And then we got back into the SUV and it nearly fell into the river like the horses of the film, to be swept out to sea; yes, the river bank began to give beneath the vehicle, and we hightailed it out of there, backwards, watching the scenery collapse before us like an Emmerich film. Definitely
Next, we headed to the side of a lake where we got to play with replica weapons from the film and take photos, which I will upload as soon as I unpack my camera. Needless to say, I excelled with all forms of damage inducing implement and definitely did not open up my arm with a nazghul blade.

This was the end of the tour, and I was really glad I'd taken it, because it made the Lord of the Rings seem that much more real to me, and I also got to see some absolutely stunning scenery and swing a broad sword, which is always a bonus, whether an innocent bystander is involved or not.

My Tumble Down the Hill

I'm just gonna do away with chronology and tell you about my OGO experience, even though Zealandia and a few others actually preceded it. Essentially, they put me in a giant plastic bubble, filled it with warm water and rolled me down a hill. It was like taking a very dynamic bath, on a rollercoaster; my only complaint was that it only lasted two minutes.

Are You from The Valley?

Zealandia is an attempt to return a valley in Auckland to its natural state, i.e. pre-human arrival. They have species which went nearly extinct (some which were though extinct), wondering around, pecking at your shoelaces, and you can see them all in their natural environment. Awesome.

They also have a walk around the lake, which should not really be attempted alone in the rain, but there it is. I walked for, I believe, in all four hours, thoroughly ruining my shoes and making it look like I'd tried to drown myself in a mud bath. It was still quite enjoyable, though, just because the New Zealand bush is so lush and pretty. Also, I got to hang out with a weird prehistoric chicken thing, so there's always that.

Jet setter

So, I road on a jet boat. It was extremely thrilling. We went at speeds which I have only experienced in the car of one Michael Maclaren, and that at least had a roof, so I didn't end up looking like Syndrome from the Incredibles- I have a lot of hair, OK? We did tricks, like turning around and stopping really quickly, which seem like pretty basic tricks, to be honest, but OK, and I got so wet that several people thought I had fallen into the harbour. I didn't (for once), but it was a fun way to see more of Auckland, and we saw someone else Bungee Jumping, but from only forty foot, the baby.

Friday, 7 June 2013

Charlotte's web...of FUN

So, last night was Charlotte's birthday party and, following in the tradition begun during the TWWOO afterparty, I definitely did NOT finish a whole bottle of vodka all by myself, reprise my monologue from Good Person of Szechuan and then fall asleep on someone's feet.
Honestly. I did none of that stuff.
I was gonna try and pass this off as a pic from last night, but, let's be honest, my hair has not looked this for quite a while
I arrived at chez Chalusinszky fashionably late at eighteen minutes past the designated time of arrival to find that I was the first guest there. Remembering that old rhyming wisdom of the 'guest who's first is always the worst', I quickly disproved it by deigning to drink cole's own orangle-related soft drink from a silver goblet, clearly establishing myself as a man of both distinction and caprice in one fell swoop.
The party escalated quickly, with new guests arriving en masse and enmassing en cuisine; soon the place was stuffed with well-wishers, onlookers and one incredibly timid ginger tabby. Someone suggested we diversify our clustering and we spread out and, as ever, I was a mingler, treading nimbly twixt the multitudinous social groups, making sure all experienced my presence and only moving on when I felt my glory had been basked in for long enough, or the conversation turned to Game of Thrones.
I met the many colorful characters that inhabit Charlotte's world, made polite but scintillating smalltalk and complimented on my overall Britishness.
And then the prospect of 'The Charlotte Chronicles 4: The Quest for the Pooey Lizard' was raised and I was gone. Yes, I laughed for several minutes, and while people inquired if I was OK or needed medical assistance, Charlotte kept her cool, having seen this all before after Declan's unfortunate incident with the pepper, and Simon kept nursing his hand after having hit it into a wall (which was hilarious, by the way).
I remember dancing to 'Greased Lightning', searching for Narnia in Charlotte's wardrobe and finding only the false back where she keeps her collection of children's teeth, and being locked out in the backgarden at two in the morning. I remember a man with hair like a Lion's mane, a discussion of the antisemitism of Bananas in Pyjamas and some suspiciously erotic wrestling between two shoeless hippies.
Charlotte was kind enough to offer me a bed for the evening, and I readily took it, only to discover it was the favourite resting place of aforementioned timid tabby and waking up looking like Garfield fresh out of the tumble dryer. However, we then went for possibly the most delicious breakfast I have had in Oz, and I got a wee bit sad that I'd only discovered the dispenserie of such a month before I leave and that in all honesty I will probably never return there (yet again, I still got to go more than most people ever will etc.).
So, happy birthday, Nose Finger! And, since you specifically requested I write this blog post, I'm counting it as your present. Suck it!

Thursday, 6 June 2013

From one award-winning apostle to another

Back in August, you may remember me blogging about my jealousy (or lack thereof) of Jason visiting the Great Ocean Road with a gaggle of schoolgirls; I assure you I was only jealous of the former part.
I'm my own girlfriend.
Well, jealousy debt repaid, you green eyed monster: I too have seen the seven(ish) apostles, the falling falls and the sandy white beaches of the Great Ocean Road. So there.

We started off around nine, having rented a car from East Coast car rentals. We were: Laura, a German psychology student on exchange for the semester; Anna, her schoolfriend taking a few months off while studying for her masters; Charlotte, an English lass who studies full time in Melbourne; myself. I had never met any of the others, only having joined the party by responding to a post online. I also, sadly, was bereft of any photographic equipment, and so have had to pull images from Google searches (hopefully, I'll be able to acquire a few from my fellow day trippers as well).

The first thing I want to report is that I saw the following sign.
Found here (and in Villawood, presumably)
It made me inordinately happy. I don't know why.

After driving for a bit (I'll be honest, my time keeping skills leave something to be desired), we took our first stop- a beach just outside Torquay (not that Torquay- the Australian one*) we stopped for a few minutes and admired the scenery, which was extremely picturesque: this is the main reason for visiting the Great Ocean Road, incidentally, to see the luscious sights. If you'd told my fifteen year old self that I would one day willingly submit to a twelve hour journey just to stare at mountains et al, I would've laughed in your face and returned to playing Dungeons and Dragons. Good times.

We stopped at another beach, and actually descended (because the road runs along some quite severe cliffs, which drop unexpectedly onto tumultuous beaches) onto the sands this time for a spot of beach-being, and I may have carved 'Moi Smells' into the sand, for sentiment's sake. After delighting in the sound of the swell and the sight of the sand, we returned to our Auto and made for Lorne, where we had lunch in a nice little cafe overlooking the sea. We chatted about this and that- where we'd been, where we were going- we were all of a travelling bent, obviously, so this allowed for some quite worldly banter.

After this, we drove to the Sheoak Falls in a valley which was just so beautiful that I'm not even going to bother to describe it. It was pure Australiana.
Found here.
We spent some time drinking in the beauty of it- I dipped my feet in the pool and almost immediately lost feeling in my toes. I'm sad that, in all likelihood, I will only see it once- but then I tell myself that this more than most people.

I should point out that it was around this time that the sun came out, making the journey seem slightly more energetic.

From the falls, we sped on to a spot by the Kennet river where we were told we could see koalas. While there, we met some fellow dispatriated Europeans who were literally feeding parrots out of their hands. They gave us some seed so we could try it out, and it was immensely enjoyable, even when a parrot started to claw at my scalp (I guess in the end, my mum was right- something did try and nest in my hair). After having had our fill of playing that crazy bird lady from Mary Poppins, we went on to spot some Koalas hanging high in the trees. Whenever I see Koalas in the wild (and that is a 'whenever' now- I love my life!), I'm always struck by the fact that they're not more afraid of heights; they're so tiny and they live in such high places, and they're quite rotund so they bulge out over the branches quite a lot...I just worry for them is all.

After this, we made a beeline for the apostles. Now, I saw a beeline, but that's not really possible on the GOR, as we in the know call it.
Found here
That is an aerial shot of the road upon which we were travelling- as you can tell, it's somewhat bendy. Now, I have suffered from carsickness since I was a young'un, and I was reminded of this fact yesterday. Not wanting to be a hassle (not that there's anything that could be done anyway- it's not like Laura chose to drive bendily), I closed my eyes to try and alleviate the symptoms.
When I opened them, we were there. I estimate I was only asleep for thirty minutes, and for most of that, we were driving through repetitive forest, so I don't think I missed much. Anyway, we drove back in the dark, so I'll never know.

But, yes, the apostles.
Found here
For those not in the know, as I was before visiting Oz, the apostles are limestone stacks, all clustered together like Penguins. You'd think, being a Wenlock boy, I'd be sick to vomiting of limestone, but I have to admit....they're quite beautiful. I don't know why- there's just something so striking about them up close. The severity of the cliffs, plus the roaring oceans, plus these portly little monoliths...it's just dramatic. And very affecting. There was also possibly the most direct warning sign I've seen in my life-
"Don't cross fence. Unstable Cliff. You'll fall and DIE."
Alrighty then. Roger that. After watching the stacks erode in real time for a while, we decided it was time to head back. I could describe the return journey, but I've decided to save it for Volume 2: Mr. Trackwork Goes to Villawood. Just know it contained a lot of talk about murder.

*Honestly surprised I had to point that out.