Going Down Under

The following is my travel diary:

Australian Travel Diary

14.44 GMT – Sunday | On a coach in Norfolk

Left Norwich for Victoria coach station at 14.10. Managed to push in front of the doddering old couples to get to the back seat. No one sat next to me. Ah, leg room and no fuckwits eating sandwiches all over me. Ha ha ha ha ha, you idiots, I am king of the bus and you are all my servants…

As you can see I’m really relaxed and laid back about travelling.

I’m hungry. I want fried chicken.

17.57 GMT – Sunday | On a coach at Victoria Coach Station

Ha ha, I am the Lord of the Bus said he. Once again I have claimed the seat with most leg room. And I’ve got stowable luggage. Normally having to put your bag in the hold means you loose your place in the queue and some other cunt gets the back the seat. Well, not today. I’m on fire.

It’s all about knowing your enemy. See her – blue rinse, light brown anorak? She’s not a problem. Doddery old thing, she won’t be troubling us, precious. Likes it at the front, she does. But hang on, who’s this? Fila sweatshirt, baseball cap, earring. Look at that face, those cold steely eyes! That’s the face of a man who likes to kick back and relax at the rear of the coach. I bet he doesn’t even wear his seat belt. Well not today sunshine.

Use blue rinse as your foil. Let her go first, make a big thing of it – Vera Lynn, the Blitz, three day week etc. We owe her, even Fila Sweatshirt knows that. Step back, that wrong-foots, him but no one can move because blue rinse is tottering up the stairs. Now you follow her, arms forward I’ll catch ya Missus, Luke’s here. Watch her peel off three rows from the front and then sidle down to the back and claim your reward. Oh yes.

I had a top notch falafel at the Kebab shop next to the coach station. Really hot chili sauce. Who’s the Lord of the bus, huh? Huh? That’s right …

19.00 GMT – Sunday | Heathrow Central Station, Terminals 1, 2, 3

Waiting for my free transfer to terminal 4. Coach was a bit late, but I’ve got plenty of time. I love airports. I know it’s all just glitz and brands, but the internationalism of it excites me. I love that you hear foreign voices all the time. I love the groggy eyed feeling mixing with the excitement. I love the adventure. I love the urge I get to tap my jacket pocket for my passport. I love the fact I am already 150 miles from where I started today and in a few more hours I’ll as far away from home as I can get pretty much. Every once in a while the sheer immensity of global travel hits me and it’s brilliant. I doubt I’ll be so chipper after 21 hours on a plane, but I’m pretty irrepressible.

20.50 GMT Sunday | Vile bar thing, Terminal 4 Departures, Heathrow

Through check-in & customs. No upgrade but an aisle seat from Singapore to Melbourne and the possibility of one all the way. I bought some sleeping tablets and then rang my mate Tim who knows a few things about such matters. The pack said not to mix with alcohol, Tim’s opening gambit was:

“Mix it with some alcohol.”

The pack said not to double the dosage. Tim’s advice was:

“Take two.”

We were both perturbed to learn that the pack also bore large lettering stating: WARNING – MAY CAUSE DROWSINESS. Doesn’t fill me with hope for a knock out. I’ll double the dosage. Hmm … this pint tastes nice.

I also got ear plugs, inflatable travel pillow and an eye mask. I’m fucking knackered already so I reckon I’ll sleep. The problem is not sleeping but the jet lag. If I sleep for 8 hours or so from 11pm GMT then I’ll be still on UK time. It might be best to press on through the night with a good book/movie and then try and sleep once we leave Singapore. At least that way when I wake up it’ll be morning Australian time. I had considered just keeping my clock on UK time, but I think that’ll make me weird and I’ll miss strutting about Adelaide in the sun. I hadn’t realised but Adelaide is on the coast (I think all Australia’s big cities might be), Attila The Stockbroker alerted me to this with the following story, over e-mail this morning:

“did Adelaide Uni in 93. Got off the plane, thought ‘lovely day’ dumped off my stuff, headed for the beach. Funny, I thought, it’s deserted, but hey, more room for me. Trunks on, jump in, having a lovely time, bloke starts screaming at me. ‘Mate!’ ‘Mate’ GET OUT!! SHARKS ABOUT!!!!!
I was out of there quicker than Glenn Murray was in the opposition penalty are yesterday (not)
Given my 46 years of sea fishing it would have been poetic justice though…”

I think what’s most amusing is the thought of Attila taking off his DMs. I reckon he sleeps with them on.

I board in about half an hour.

18.45 (local time) Monday | Changi Airport, Singapore

It’s ten in the morning UK time. I woke up about two hours ago. All in all, not a bad night’s sleep. Boshed a Nightol at about 1am and sleep for an hour or two. Woke up freezing my arse off at half 2. Got up. Changed back into my suit (I had changed into shorts when I got onto the plane), took another pill, put The Mountain Goats on my iPod and went back to sleep. I woke up about five minutes before being served with a questionable Spanish omelette and a small cup of nasty bitter coffee that really hit the spot.

I am pleased with the flying experience thus far. I managed to watch No Country For Old Men, which I enjoyed on the whole. For some reasons the headphone jack in the seat has a two outputs, one for the left ear, one for the right. This meant to get stereo I had to use the shit headphones provided, which made Tommy Lee Jones’ growling monotone inaudible in places. It didn’t feel like I was really watching the film, more observing it. I’d like to watch it again, it did seem really interesting.

I had planned to get stuck into a few more films, push on through the night and then try and sleep on the Singapore to Melbourne flight. I got allocated the middle seat in a three seat aisle, near the emergency exit door. Standard leg room, but not bad by plane standards. I had a big song and dance of getting my stuff ready, Ipod, paper, book, ear plugs, pills, mask. The bloke next to me seemed a bit irritated, I kept reassuring him to sit down as I was yet to change and would be a few more minutes. The seat looked impossibly small, wedged in between this chap, in his thirties, seemingly Australian, and an Asian woman who looked petrified.

I didn’t want to piss anyone off but I’ve sat down before without all the shit I need and then spent an hour debating whether to get up and disturb everyone before getting up and disturbing everyone. When I sat down the chap saw my pills and asked: “you planning on knocking yourself out.” I took this to mean: “Knock yourself out, you’re pissing me off.” But I was, of course, being paranoid. We struck up a conversation. He asked what I was doing in Australia, I told him and we got onto the discussion of agents. He seemed to know what he was talking about so I asked what he did, and wouldn’t you know it – another writer. He lived in London and was heading back home for the launch of his first book. We eventually focused in on our films and food but it was nice to make a connection.

The London-Oz flight was a well trod route for my new friend and he gave me a few tips on getting through the flight. Or rather he let me know that there was no good way of doing it. I relayed my scheme of sleeping after Singapore and he shrugged in that way old sages do and said: “that’s one way of doing it.” It seemed the best way of dealing with the jetlag was just making sure you have no work to do the following day, and seeing as I don’t I took his advice to just sleep when I felt like it.

I’m used to only getting five or six hours a night, and feel fairly chipper. I might have a wander in search of coffee.

19.20 (local time) Monday | Changi Airport, Singapore

My flight has started going through security at the gate, but I’m in no rush. I have an aisle seat for this part of the journey.

I’ve always thought they were just ‘moving walkways’ but here they’re ‘travellators’ – how cool is that?

Sushi. Asahi. Coffee. Nice. I feel human again. The sushi wasn’t great. I thought it might be better than your standard Wasabi (the take-away, not the food) fare but the rice was a bit crunchy, couldn’t work out whether it was over cooked, under-cooked or whether it had just been sitting there a bit too long. Beer was good tho. Coffee’s bitter but there’s enough milk in it to make it bearable.

I’m surrounded by English voices. It reminds me of Eric Idle’s travel agents sketch: and the food is soooo greasy and you can’t get anything but Watney’s Red Barrel.

I saw a man coming out of a toilet cubicle with his luggage on a trolley. lol.

07.45 (local time) Tuesday | Domestic Terminal, Melbourne Airport, Australia

So, they have Burger King here. Only they don’t call it Burger King. Well what the fuck they call? Hungry Jacks! Hungry Jacks, nah you’re shitting me. Nah, Hungry Jacks. Fucking son of a bitch, Hungry Jacks.

The plane breakfast was just that … plain, so I was starving. Perusing the menu I noticed that amongst the usual fare of ever larger Whoppers and things that really should be called “A Bacon Double Cheese Burger” there nestled The Aussie Burger. Well, when in Rome …

The Aussie Burger mings, as well as the patti, cheese and salad it has ham (not bacon – ham) and a sliver of faux-egg. Now you might think it wrong to judge an entire nation and her people on one burger purchased after an international flight at a Burger King franchise, but I can tell you faithful readers I am pretty damn close to doing just that.

Best bit of overheard conversation:

“yeah, those were the good old days. Cheap money and starting companies everywhere.” POWERFUL!

Right, my plane’s boarding. Next stop Adelaide.

08.45 (local time) Tuesday | Arrivals, Adelaide Airport

I love it when we fly above the clouds. It’s literally the most beautiful thing. I spend my life trying to see the beauty in unconventionally places: service stations, pubs, men crying. Above the clouds it’s just awesome, in the traditional use of the word.

Number of Care Bears seen: 0

11.20 (local time) Tuesday | Horizon Apartments, Adelaide.

Holy shit! This is amazing. I am in a glorious modern hotel room with en-suite and a living room and kitchenette. I was met at the airport by Beck from Adelaide Festival and she took me shopping for stinky cheese and beers. I am now sitting in my room in my pants drinking Coopers and laughing. The programme for the Festival is awesome. Real high-end stuff – big classical music events, Leonard Cohen and the best in world theatre. I’m in awe of the whole experience. I feel like I’ve conned my way here. All this, just for writing some poems. No mattter what happens now, at least I’ve done this. Tomorrow I’m being taken to have lunch with The Governor.

What’s also exciting is that there’s also a fringe festival going on and people I know like Josie Long and Mark Watson are here performing. I hope to try and catch up with them later.

Right now though I’m going to eat more cheese, drink more beer and have a bath.

1 Comment

  • yanny March 11, 2008 at 3:13 pm

    I like the Lord of the Bus thing.
    It’s quite manic.
    (Can things be ‘quite’ manic?)
    It shits on Elton’s gotta getta double-seat, cos the observations are more acute.
    I like the idea of Tim Clare being a medical guru too.
    Funny.

    Yanny.xx

    Reply

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