Welcome to Paul's 2011 tour blog, in which Paul will be detailing what daily life is like whilst touring with Monica and The Explosion.
In his blog, you will find descriptions of venues, support bands, and of the various people that Paul meets along the way.
Paul will also share various photos from his travels
The first entry for this month is at the foot of the page, with the latest entry at the top!
KEEP CHECKING THIS PAGE...
January 21st -
Some casual observations on Australian Men and Birds
This is not some homophobic rant, but there’s no getting away from the fact that here in Bondi at least, Australian men like Australian men. The fact that they’re comfortable in each others company probably dates back to the time when we used to lock them up together. Men here hangout together, they workout together, they compare Lycra and tattoos and rub sun block on each other. Some of them have such well developed pectoral muscles they have cleavage. And of course they have a way of making scrawny pot-bellied Englishmen feel hopelessly inadequate.
Bodybuilding is quite big here, there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s a little narcissistic but then I guess we’re all prone to a bit of that. There have been times in the past when I’ve looked in the mirror and been reasonably content, although these days I’m more likely to question where the hell did the old git staring back at me come from. And let me tell you some of the men here have amazing bodies (OK where’s he going with this you ask?), but there’s a point where, taken to the extreme, it all becomes a bit comical. I saw a group of men the other day and each of them looked as if a canister of air had exploded inside them. It was a bit surreal.
OK, I’m a little jealous, but what can you do about a body that’s seen better days? Until medical science advances to the point where complete body transplants are possible I’m fucked…
…but I suspect a lot of you are too?
One of the things that announces the fact you’re on foreign shores is the sound of unusual birdsong. There are approximately 800 species of birds here and I think most of them gather outside our apartment every morning to clear their throats. Unable at first to identify the various calls, we started to give the birds names of our own.
There’s the “rusty swing bird” (since identified as a Rainbow Lorikeet), the “cat about to throw-up bird” (?), the “female cat on heat bird” (?), the “typewriter bird” (?) and the “what the fuck is that horrible noise bird” (a Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo).
There’s also the “Laughing Monkey bird” (Kookaburra):
There are hundreds of the very exotic looking Lorikeets, and when they start up it’s quite a racket, but somehow it’s very pleasing and makes a welcome change from the fricking pheasants back home in East Sussex.
Finally, the award for the least attractive bird goes to the Australian White Ibis, regularly seen rummaging through bins in the morning.
- Below: Latest Blog Pictures - Click images to enlarge
January 20th - More sightseeing in Sydney
We walk everywhere…
With no show planned it gave us another chance to explore Sydney. Our first destination was the Museum of Contemporary Art on the western side of Circular Quay, between the quay and the Rocks.
We set off from our hotel, which was also platform 13 of Central Station I believe, heading North down Regent Street and then into George Street which runs right through the CBD (Central Banking District), all the way to Sydney Cove.
The area known as the Rocks lies immediately beneath the Sydney Harbour Bridge and is the city’s historic heart. It was here in 1788 that Captain Arthur Phillip proclaimed the establishment of Sydney Town, the first permanent European settlement in Australia.
The Museum of Contemporary Art was developed out of a bequest to the Sydney University in the 1940s by the art collector John Power. Since 1991, the collection has been housed in the striking Deco-style 1950s former Maritime Services Building. There were three exhibitions to choose from. On the first floor there were paintings by an aboriginal artist called Bardayal “Lofty” Nadjamerrek. On the second and third floors an exhibition of work by the American photographer Annie Leibovitz and on the fourth floor, they were showing a collection of recent acquisitions which was where we headed.
The highlight from this show was a video made by New Zealand artist Hayden Fowler entitled “Goat Odyssey” - see: http://haydenfowler.net/projects/goat-odyssey.html
I’m not sure of the message, if any, that I was supposed to be absorbing, but it did make for compulsive viewing.
Not wishing to spend too much time indoors on such a beautiful day, we decided to take a ferry trip from Circular Quay to Darling Harbour, a trip that took us past the Opera House and under the Harbour Bridge.
Construction of the bridge was completed in 1932. Today you can do a “bridge climb” which takes 3 ½ hours, only 2 hours of which is spent on the bridge, the rest of the time is spent kitting you out in “bridge climb” gear. The cost of this is ridiculous, at $198 dollars (off-peak) I’d expect to be carried to the top in a sedan, whilst every need being attended to by a team of smiling Sherpas for fuck's sake.
- Below: Latest Blog Pictures - Click images to enlarge
The views from the ferry were spectacular; I really doubt there can be a more handsome modern city than Sydney, and under clear blue skies it was picture perfect.
We got off at the Aquarium and I noticed with some dismay that the water where we moored was full of jellyfish, an apt reminder that perhaps not everything in Australia is ideal…
For a while, after leaving Darling Harbour, we followed the route of the city’s iconic Monorail which loops around the area. It takes 10 minutes to complete the circuit, making 8 stops along the way. We gave it a miss as the sun and heat had begun to take its toll, so much so, that by the time we got back to “Hotel Bedlam”, my head resembled a roasted peanut.
January 19th - Happy to be back in Sydney...
We stepped off the plane after the short flight from Melbourne into the warm late afternoon heat of Sydney, happy to be back. We’d taken off from Avalon Airport 55km southwest of Melbourne; a very small airport, little more than a runway in the middle of a field. The sort of place you might imagine a bush doctor using. It wasn’t quite the “Outback” but there wasn’t much going on around there.
After checking into the world’s noisiest hotel situated right next door to Central Station (no mention of that on the website you bastards), and dumping the bags in the world’s smallest hotel room (no mention of that either you fuckers), we headed off to the Coach and Horses in the district of Randwick - where we were playing that night.
After getting off at the wrong bus-stop, and not for the first time, we had to haul the guitars up a fairly steep hill to the pub. The fact there are hills, and that the roads twist and curve, is where Sydney scores over the two other cities we’ve visited. Both Adelaide and Melbourne are very flat and the roads are based on a grid like system similar to American cities. And the streets here seem to be more tree-lined than elsewhere.
The Coach and Horses is situated on the corner of Avoca and Alison Street and has been in existence since 1856. It’s a lively place spread over two floors. Downstairs there’s a “sports” bar, dedicated to sports and racing with over 30 plasma TVs showing every sports channel imaginable. Upstairs is split into two, one side has poker and pool tables (boy do they like their gambling here) and the other half houses the music bar.
After introducing ourselves and taking advantage of their “Happy Hour”, we went to eat at a Thai restaurant just around the corner where the excellent food was served in bucket-sized portions. There I must have consumed roughly my own body weight in fiery Jungle curry - well I’d obviously built up an appetite staggering up that hill.
The good news when we got back to our hotel was that the passenger trains had just about finished for the night, the bad news was the freight trains were just starting to thunder past the window…
- Above: A short clip about trains!
January 15th to the 18th - Melbourne
Melbourne has a moderate oceanic climate and is well known for its changeable weather conditions. This is mainly due to Melbourne's location, situated on the boundary of the very hot inland areas and the cold southern ocean. This temperature differential is most pronounced in the spring and summer months and can cause very strong cold fronts to form.
No shit Sherlock…
Apart from the first day, the weather has been a disappointment to say the least. Dull and overcast during the day, we’ve been freezing our arses off in the evenings. And in truth Brunswick, the district where we’re staying, has been disappointing too. The shops and cafes around here have a tired rundown feel to them and there’s a lack of vitality about the place.
Melbourne is vast and is made up of seemingly never-ending long straight roads. Despite a pretty efficient tram service it takes ages to get anywhere. I’m sure the weather has given me a jaundiced view of the city, maybe we’ve yet to discover the best of what it has to offer? After all Melbourne is known as the cultural capital of Australia and boasts a strong multicultural society. There’s a well worn statistic that states Melbourne is the third-largest Greek city behind Athens and Thessaloniki. It is also claimed that Melbourne is a foodie Mecca but the restaurants we visited, with a couple of exceptions, have been at best average. Perhaps we’ve been unlucky?
- Below: Latest Blog Pictures - Click images to enlarge
Now I don’t want to seem too negative about Melbourne because we had great time here. The shows we did were well received and we sold quite a few CDs. We met some interesting and friendly people, amongst them, Craig Fraser a local singer-songwriter, Matt Scrutton, a sound engineer from the Arthouse and Marc Brekau who interviewed us for the Time and Matter website. Marc also reviewed the U.K. Subs tour of Australia back in 2007, he’s an extremely likable guy and we enjoyed the time we spent with him.
We played three venues, The Empress Hotel, The Arthouse (where the Subs played on the above mentioned tour) and The Brunswick Hotel - all very much low-key events but enjoyable all the same. I understand the Arthouse is under threat of closure as the lease is up for renewal, let’s hope a solution can be found as it’s a great little music pub.
We plan to return to Melbourne next time round, but I think we’ll stay in or around the district of St Kilda by the coast, which is a much livelier part of town.
January 14th - Adelaide, day 2
Adelaide is a city of contrasts, much of it dull and uninspiring and yet there are areas of exceptional beauty. The Torrens River is about 5 minutes stroll to the north of our hotel. The walk along its banks past the Festival Centre and university towards the Botanic Gardens provided the perfect antidote to the seedier side of the city. The Gardens themselves are perhaps even better that Sydney’s. We had intended to visit the Zoo (Monica has a thing about Koalas), but the entry fee of $29 each put us off.
And what a difference a day makes. The dull, leaden skies and rain have been replaced by a cheery sun and Adelaide seems all together a much nicer place.
Either side of lunch we’d checked out various venues around the city, seeing what might be possible the next time we’re here. I’m not sure about the music scene here, we did meet a bloke called Steve last night who told us that Adelaide was a city of rock guitarists and covers bands, and that Perth, where he’d lived previously, had a much better reputation for having original and creative musicians. There seems to be no shortage of venues here - but tribute bands fill most of them.
Tomorrow we’re flying to Melbourne, which is somewhere I’m really looking forward to seeing…
- Below: Latest Blog Pictures - Click images to enlarge
January 13th - Adelaide
You know I have no idea who, or even how many people read this blog? I realise it reads like a diary/travelogue, but that suits me just fine. When people ask me about the old days, and especially about my time with the Subs, I realise I’ve forgotten so much of what happened or even how I felt about life during that time. I wish now that I’d kept a similar record to this blog back then.
Today it rained all day. They’ve had a lot of rain in Australia recently. The worst effected area being Queensland, far to the North East of where we are at the moment. The news over here is full of stories about the flash floods in the Brisbane area that have taken lives as well as destroying homes. Queensland isn’t the only state to be effected. Melbourne in Victoria - where we’re heading next - has already recorded the wettest January since records began and we’re only halfway through the month.
Adelaide is very different to Sydney, its edges are rougher. Less cosmopolitan and more Australian - it has a much different feel. The area where we’re staying is similar to Soho in London. Here there are sex shops, strip clubs, pubs, cafes and gaming rooms full of slot machines, known over here as “Pokies”. I read somewhere that Australians are obsessive about gambling, a claim supported by the fact that a lot of the gaming rooms here are open 24 hours a day. Whilst we were having breakfast people were staggering, grim-faced and bleary-eyed, out of these places. Not once did we see anyone emerge, elated by the fact they’d never have to do another days work in their lives again.
We had lunch in one of the two huge food halls in the city centre, a huge indoor space offering every type of Asian food. Noisy, bright and colourful - it was a great place to eat.
- Below: Latest Blog Pictures - Click images to enlarge
In the evening we played at Finn McCool’s in the Norwood Hotel. Here we got a great response, better than the previous night, with people urging us to return.
“You guys really rocked Adelaide tonight! Can I buy a CD?”
“Yeah, no worries…”
During the ride back to our hotel and fortified by a couple of drinks, I tried to engage our cabbie in a conversation about cricket. Of course all he could talk about was the past. He was missing the point, Warne and McGrath and the rest have gone!
England is in the ascendancy now, so you better get used to it matey …
January 12th - Sydney to Adelaide: "No Worries mate!"
We were reluctant to leave our Bondi apartment, after all, we’d had a great time there, but Adelaide beckoned.
As usual I turned to “The Rough Guide to Australia” to see what we were letting ourselves in for.
“Adelaide is always thought of as a gracious city (by whom?) and an easy place to live in, and despite a population of around a million and a veneer (very thin) of sophistication, it still has the feel of an overgrown country town (this I would agree with).”
Monica described it as one of the most boring places she’d ever been to. So why were we going? Because the shows she’d played here in the past had been well received, and therefore we hoped to build on something already started.
The day had started with a blur of activity as we finished packing before cleaning the apartment. Then a cab ride to the airport to check in with Jetstar. It’s an hour and forty minute flight from Sydney to Adelaide, though stuck at the back of the plane next to a screaming baby made it seem longer.
First impressions of Adelaide during our cab ride into town were none too favourable. Perhaps it was the dull overhead skies, but the place seemed drab compared to Sydney. Our mood lightened however, when we arrived and checked into the Prince’s Arcade Motel on Hindley Street, the “Motel that Time Forgot”.
I have no idea when the place first opened, maybe sometime in the 50s, but I doubt anything has changed since. For once I’ll let the photos I took tell the story: (Click images to enlarge)
All I’ll say is that this place would probably have been considered “a la mode” when Charlie Harper first started gigging!
I have searched for the motel in the UNESCO World Heritage Site list and have been disappointed by its omission. It can only be a matter of time before they realise what a beautifully preserved gem they have here.
Anyway, we played our gig at the Grace Emily Hotel; another place untouched by modernity. Here the staff/owners were so laidback they were nearly horizontal. Either that or they just didn’t give a shit.
“What time would you like us to play?”
“What time would you like to play?”
“3:30 in the morning?”
“Where’s the P.A.?”
“Over there mate, help yerself”
And so on it went…
…it was a bit disconcerting.
We ended up playing around 10pm and did a pretty good job… despite all of our worries.
Saturday January 8th
More Pain, less gain, or, "Another Kind of Bluey"
Thankfully Monica had recovered sufficiently from the flu for us to spend the day at the Royal National Park, a huge nature reserve right on Sydney’s doorstep, a mere 36km south of the city. The park was established in 1879 and is the second oldest of its type in the world (only Yellowstone in the USA is older).
Our hosts for the day were John, Monica’s brother and his partner Alicia who picked us up from our apartment at around 10:30 am. It was a gloriously sunny day with barely a cloud in the sky. Our destination, deep within the park, was Garie beach, an unspoilt stretch of sand nestling between wooded hills.
After the drive we felt the need to stretch our legs, so Monica and I took a walk along the beach.
“Do you know what that is?” said Monica pointing to a blue blob on the sand.
“It’s a Bluebottle, They’re best avoided.”
Half an hour later, and I swear no longer than a minute into the water, I felt this intense pain on my left ankle.
“Fuck!” I shouted as I raced to shore; “I think I’ve been stung.”
When I got to the sand I discovered a “blue blob” was still attached to my ankle. Not only that but its tentacles had wrapped themselves around my other foot and the pain was intensifying. I managed, by a jerky kicking motion, to dislodge most of the body of the beast, but the tentacles remained. There was nothing else to do but pull them off with my fingers and risk further stings. No-one on the beach batted an eyelid as I hopped around. This being Australia I guess they assumed I was just in the middle of a vigorous workout.
John advised me to seek out the Lifeguards and see if they had anything to treat it with.
“A bluey sting? No worries mate, here’s some cream.” It was the same sort of ointment used to treat insect bites. I was hoping for some serious anti-venom, the type administered from a needle, something a bit more dramatic…
“The pain will subside in about 20 minutes, unless of course you suffer an allergic reaction, then it could get serious. Some people say a hot shower helps, others a cold ice pack.”
I hedged my bets and took a cold shower (my first mistake as apparently you should wash the area with seawater not freshwater).
Forty minutes later and the pain hadn’t subsided. In fact I now had a rash spreading up my legs as far as my thighs. I didn’t want to worry Monica (after all good bassists are hard to find), but as I sat there rubbing my ankles (second mistake), I began to feel decidedly shaky. Not wishing to appear too girlie, I decided to adopt a stiff upper lip and grin and bare it.
Here’s some advice from Australiafauna.com:
“If a tentacle attaches itself to a human, it releases a poison (through the use of nematocysts), and if you continue to rub the skin after the tentacle has been removed more poison or venom will be released. If you are stung, it is best to wash the area without touching. A cold pack should be used to relieve the pain. If stung, please consult a doctor immediately. No fatalities have ever been reported within Australia or New Zealand from the sting of a blue bottle.”
And here’s what Wikipedia has to say…..
“Stings usually cause severe pain to humans, leaving whip-like, red welts on the skin that normally last 2 or 3 days after the initial sting, though the pain should subside after about an hour. However, the venom can travel to the lymph nodes and may cause, depending on the amount of venom, a more intense pain. A sting may lead to an allergic reaction. There can also be serious effects, including fever, shock, and interference with heart and lung action. Stings may also cause death, although this is rare. Medical attention may be necessary, especially where pain persists or is intense, if there is an extreme reaction, the rash worsens, a feeling of overall illness develops, a red streak develops between swollen lymph nodes and the sting, or if either area becomes red, warm and tender.”
Of course I discovered later that what the Aussies call a Bluebottle is really a Portuguese Man O’War. Well whatever you want to call it, it’s a nasty little fucker.
It was fully 10 hours before the pain finally subsided.
After lunch and after assuring everyone I was OK, we decided to take a trek into the hills. The climb was fairly strenuous, especially in the heat of the afternoon, but the miles I’d put in with the running helped. We stopped every now and again to admire the view, which was good because I spent most of the way up with my eyes glued firmly to the path, looking out for snakes, funnel-web spiders or anything else that might be venomous.
Just before we reached the cliff top there was a commotion a few metres in front of us. It turned out to be a kangaroo. I just managed to get a glimpse of it as it bounded past us before disappearing into the bush. Pretty neat.
On our way back we stopped to admire some Bull Ants and their nest. These things were about 3cms long and spiteful looking. We’d only moved about 10 metres from the site when Alicia cried out in pain. It seems one of the fuckers had hitch-hiked a ride on her but now wanted to get off. Although hugely sympathetic, all I could think of was thank fuck it wasn’t me…
And here’s what Wikipedia has to say about Bull Ants.
“These ants are well-known in Australia for their aggressive behaviour and powerful stings. The venom of these ants has the potential to induce anaphylactic shock in allergic sting victims. As with most severe allergic reactions, if left untreated the reaction may be lethal.”
This is obviously a country full of hazards where, it seems, you need to keep your wits about you at all times. God only knows what the “Outback” is like…
- Below: Latest scary Blog Pictures - Click images to enlarge
January 7th - No Gain without Pain!
It seems that the trust I placed in my own body to deal with this running thing may have been misplaced, as this morning I can hardly put one foot in front of the other…
Stairs are a nightmare and it feels like my whole body aches, so much so I’m typing with one finger!
For some reason Monica finds this highly amusing and has to suppress a giggle each time I groan in pain. She finds it especially funny when I have to take one step at a time going up or down stairs. This is a bit harsh seeing as she encouraged me to take this fitness lark seriously.
We’ve played two shows since my last blog. The first was at The Townie in Newtown, a district of Sydney described in the Rough Guide as;
“A trendy, off-beat area where body piercing, shaved heads and weird fashions rule. Newtown is characterised by a large gay and lesbian population.”
It reminded me of Camden.
The second gig was at the Palace Beach Hotel in Coogee, along the coast from Bondi.
Here we were sandwiched between two cover bands. I’ve got no problem with cover bands if that’s what people want. I just feel that if you feed people the familiar all the time they’ll struggle to take on something new. Both groups consisted of talented musicians doing reasonable jobs with the songs they were covering, but I found myself wanting to shout out things like…
“Yeah great song Mumford and Sons” and “God bless you REM!”
I think it’s a bit of a cop-out that’s all. Like I said, there’s a place for this type of band but not on the same bill as artists performing their own material. This business is hard enough without having to follow Crowded House on stage.
After the show Monica became ill with flu like symptoms, causing us to cancel the following night’s gig. Let’s hope it doesn’t last too long. Running a fever in this heat is no fun at all.
- Below: Latest Blog Pictures - Click images to enlarge
January 4th - The Beach Road Hotel, Sydney
Feeling a little bit stiff but otherwise OK, I decided to go on another early morning run. It was fine, no problem. I did the proper warm downs, showered and felt good.
Today was the first gig of the tour and we were playing at the Beach Road Hotel, about a 10 minute walk from where we’re staying. It’s a huge venue on two floors and we were playing upstairs. We’d popped into the place the day before to check out what equipment they had. Before we introduced ourselves I ordered a bottled beer - Estrella if you must know!
“Sorry mate, the fridges are on the blink. My shout, have a drink on me,” said the bar manager pouring me a cold Heineken. Well this was alright, “Good on yer sport.”
Earlier in the day we’d bought a practice amp, for me, from the local “Hock shop”. A small Laney costing $179, they’ll buy it back at fifty five percent of the cost to us, so we’ll end up paying about sixty quid for a four week hire. Working at that rate, the shop would make £720 a year from a poxy little amp. Seems like I’m in the wrong business for sure…
We hadn’t done a show for around a month so it felt great to be performing again. There was a good size crowd, including a party of around 10 Swedes - mostly friends of John’s - and very vocal in their support. The promoter was really pleased and booked us to play again when we return from Melbourne. So, all in all, a successful way to start the gigging year.
- Below: Monica and The Explosion, The Beach Road Hotel Gig
Click images to enlarge
January 3rd - City Centre, Sydney
Today was the last day for a while to act like tourists and do some sight-seeing before the first show the next day.
The day started with a run, or perhaps more accurately, a gentle jog. Australia’s national obsession is fitness. Everywhere you go there are men and women of all ages clad in Lycra doing something physical. So, encouraged by Monica, who herself goes on a 10k run every morning, I decided to give it a go. Fifteen minutes later, and bathed in sweat with a heart pounding like a piston, I staggered back into the apartment. But you know what? After a warm down and a shower I felt surprisingly good. Maybe there’s something in this fitness lark to justify me giving it a proper go?
The weather was still pretty lousy so there was no great rush to get out the door, besides, we still had some hotels to book, plus we needed to run through the set a couple of times. So it wasn’t until after lunch that we took the bus to the City Centre.
The bus took us down Oxford Street into Liverpool Street, before we got off at Hyde Park. Everywhere there were familiar English names, mixed with less familiar aboriginal ones. Haymarket, Paddington and King’s Cross next to Woolloomooloo.
We walked through Hyde Park down to the Royal Botanic Gardens. The gardens were established in 1816 and occupy the area between a strip of The Domain and the Sydney Opera House, around the headland of Farm Cove where the first white settlers struggled to grow vegetables for the hungry colony. Here there are examples of trees from all over the world, a truly impressive sight. But it was the hundreds of roosting fruit bats in the Palm Grove area that caught our eye. To see them hanging from trees in broad daylight in a city centre was a strange sight.
The Gardens took us down to the Opera House. I knew nothing about this famous Sydney landmark other than it being one the most recognisable buildings in the world. The history of its planning and construction is an interesting and complex story, too lengthy to go into here. But here are some basic facts: Construction began in 1959. The original architect was a Dane called Jorn Utzon who won the design competition in 1957. For sixteen years the construction was plagued by quarrels and scandal, so much so that Utzon was forced to resign in 1966. However, despite countless design changes, the building was completed in 1973.
What surprised me the most about the Opera House was the ceramic tiles used for the roof. I somehow imagined them to be made of some space age material, but then I hadn’t thought about how old the building is. Then there’s the colour of the tiles, they’re not really white and a lot of them are a pale ochre. Whenever I’ve seen pictures of the building the roof always looked a bright gleaming white.
From there we walked along the quayside (very similar to London’s Southbank) to Circular Quay, then onto the district called The Rocks, where we got caught in a passing shower - so took refuge in the Fortune of War, Sydney’s oldest pub, serving the community since 1828.
Refreshed by a schooner of their finest ale, we headed down to Darling Harbour, where we cut across town back to Hyde Park and caught the bus back to Bondi.
Tomorrow - the first gig…
- Below: Latest OzSnaps with captions from Paul - click to enlarge
Bondi: Of beer, back wheels & bites!
Today was a recovery day so we divided our time between strolling around Bondi and rehearsing, as well as booking flights, hotels etc., the mundane side of the business we have to deal with on an almost daily basis. Anyway, the weather had changed for the worse so there was no temptation to hit the beach.
We went food shopping and I was amazed to discover how expensive the basics are. I kind of expected beer, at least, to be reasonably cheap, but 23 Aussie dollars (approximately 15 quid) for six 330ml. bottles of Kirin was a painful shock. Surprisingly though, it’s not that expensive to eat out, something that seems at odds with the cost of food and drink in the supermarkets here.
- Below: OzSnaps from PS - click to enlarge
The streets here are wide and there aren’t that many cars on the road. So why was it that virtually every other car we saw had been involved in some kind of road accident? This puzzled me until I watched a guy, in his late twenties; struggle to park his car in a space you could have got a bus into. On his third attempt, he managed to end up at 45 degrees to the kerb, with one of the back wheels at least a metre on the pavement. He then shot forward at an alarming rate and smacked into a large 4x4 in front, shunting it forward a couple of inches. It was, by any standards, a naff bit of parking - leading me to believe that, single-handedly, he was responsible for fucking up all the damaged cars we’d seen!
As I mentioned, the weather wasn’t great and in the evening we got caught in a thunderstorm. I love to watch thunderstorms - but from the safety of indoors of course. I say safety, but all things are relative. I’ve just been reading about the Sydney funnel-web spider, which is a black, stocky creature found in the Sydney area and whose bite can be fatal. So you’ll have to excuse me while I do a quick perimeter check - armed only with a rolled up copy of the local tourist guide. If you don’t hear from me soon - assume the worst…
With Monica and The Explosion in Sydney, Australia
Leaving England for Australia on 30th December meant that we were going to spend New Year’s Eve at 39,000 feet, somewhere between Singapore and Sydney. I liked this idea. 2010 has, in many ways, been a difficult year for me and the prospect arriving in “The New World” on New Year’s Day felt somehow apt. The England we were leaving behind was struggling to cope with one of the coldest starts to any winter I could recall, and we were swapping it for sun-drenched Australia.
This is not a holiday. This is the start of our 6 week tour of Australia, starting in Sydney and ending in Perth, visiting Adelaide and Melbourne in between - I’d been looking forward to it for some considerable time. As our Boeing 777 took off into the night sky I couldn’t help but look back and reflect on a year that had changed my life.
During the summer of 2010, I’d had to make one of the hardest, yet paradoxically, easiest decisions of my life. Now, as I sat beside Monica I realised that for the sake of my own personal (selfish) happiness, I’d had no real choice to make.
I plan to write a book this year. Mainly based on the blog, but also partly a personal history, maybe then will be the time to write about what last year meant to me.
There are approximately ten and a half thousand arse-numbing miles between London and Sydney. The first flight was twelve and a half hours long, followed by a brief hour and a half stopover in Singapore. I tried to watch several movies on the way but quite frankly the selection of in-flight entertainment was dire.
“Dinner for Shmucks” was unfunny (abandoned 20 minutes in), “Eat, Love, Pray” was tedious (abandoned after 12 minutes), “Going the Distance” watched ‘til the end (fuck knows why) and “Salt” I only got to the end of this because I feel asleep (I think) halfway through…
The second flight was a mere seven and a half hours but both flights were smooth, uneventful and on time and we were grateful for that. We landed at Sydney at 6:30 am. By the time we’d got through immigration and collected our bags it was 7:30 and yet the day was already very warm. We jumped into a taxi and headed to Bondi to meet up with Monica’s brother John.
John had found us an apartment close to his place - about 10 minutes walk to the beach. Both he and his partner Alicia were nursing large hangovers, so we left them in peace and walked down towards the beach in search of breakfast…
Next; my first impressions of Australia…
- MONICA AND THE EXPLOSION CD TO PURCHASE:
Click the CD cover photo to purchase the totally fabulous Monica and The Explosion CD, with Paul Slack on bass. You will be taken to the secure Time & Matter Recordings Big Cartel site.
THIS IS THE ONLY U.K. OUTLET FOR THE CD, WITH A SMALL DONATION ALSO GOING TO CHARLIE'S CHARITABLE CAUSE.
Go on - you know it makes sense - give yourself a real new musical treat!