Its bin a coupla weeks since I last updated. Stuff going on, cybernazis, loss of concentration upon seeing something shiny and sheer, fat-arsed laziness have all conspired.
Props to Chaz for the Chaz Day in Sydney at El Gaucho grill in East Sydney. Fucking top night it were. Marcela (Mrs Chaz), Chaz, Squire Bedak, and Bedes' mate Andrew were great dining and drinking companions. Basically we ate big chunks of barbecued meat, drank Argentinian beer and Malbec wine and laughed at lots of funny shit. As I said, a Top Night. As for commenting on other blogs there are still quite a few I can't pollute with my insights and that is probably a Good Thing for all concerned. Now, where the fuck was I? That's right, London.
I walked beside T'Young Yaapie Lassie and behind Gary (Canaussie) and Rocky on our way to have a drink and figure out what we were going to do until the umpire lifted the bails and said "That's time". What better place to do this than the London Walkabout Club? A mute question as there were countless other better drinking places in London, probably trillions of them truth be told but we were hell bent on seeing what became of some of our Oktoberfest companions, so the Wanker it was. There was football on the TV which I watched for a while but seeing Souths being put to the sword by Manly wasn't really all that interesting. Souths were a hapless yet proud team still a decade away from being Ruperted out of the national competition and Manly were, well, fucking Manly innit? A bunch of highly paid egos who everyone hates. So we concentrated on each other. TYYL and I had drawn up a treaty and were talking to each other. Lex, the Autotours courier was interested in the offer I'd had to go for a job with Contiki. He gave me the lowdown on the crap pay and benefits, the latter being eager young ladies who liked to sleep with tour managers and cash kickbacks from regular tourist retailers. Could have been fun but I still didn't really think the concept was a winner for me. It really boiled down to long days and nights having to look after pissed bogans, scared suburbanites and virgin youth. Not really my go to be honest.
We spent the best part of the afternoon at the Wanker then going to The Mitre before heading back to a party at Derry Downs, my crash palace of choice. The party involved most of the residents taking one alcoholic substance along with the proviso being that each item had to be different. The problem arose in that no-one decided who should take what. We ended up with half a dozen bottles of duty free Teachers, a shitload of the tall cans of Heineken, a couple of bottles of Chateau Chunder, one bottle of gin, one of vodka and one of Baileys. My contribution was 24 cans of Tennants. One of the crew had just returned from Amsterdam and brought along a series of large chunks of smoking material. Soon the air was thick with both bullshit and cannabis smoke as well as backdoor emissions which were the result of someone's attempt to feed us Chile Con Carne. I remember some young lady handing me one of these monstrous hash joints which I accepted but held back on when I looked at her. She had cold sores, flu like symptoms and was a shaking, pale mess.
"No thanks babe, I'm pretty toasted already." She just nodded, smiled and took another hit before wandering over to her Boy For The Night.
The last thing I remember was some stupid game of Poker-Backgammon run by a Seth Efrikan lad who was like, really into the concept of combining cards and board games, man. TYYL pulled me aside before retiring for the evening enquiring as to my availability for night time doona sports. The image of Cold Sore Girl flashed fried my brain so I declined her sweet and generous offer and retired for the evening.
The next day I went for a good old fry up for breakfast and trundled into town to once more check out the British Museum. The Egyptology section, well not really section as it seemed to contain half of Egypt, was mightily impressive. as were the Elgin Marbles. Each time I ever walked past them there'd seem to be a bunch of Greek guys from Melbourne called Spiro, Yanni, Theo or Pete grouped around them, figuring out how to fit them into a Kombi van. They were accompanied by an older relative who always said something like,
"My cousin, he fix thing, bloody!." The best I could make out was that they wanted to take them back to the South Melbourne Hellas club rooms as a trophy. Good luck boys. May the spirit of Charlie Yankos be with you forever. (note re Charlie Yankos - he once scored a screamer from a free kick about 30 metres out against Argentina. Fair dinks. SBS probably has the video.)
After the Museum I moseyed around the tourist traps again; Piccadilly, Covent Garden, Traf Square just to reinforce my status as a foreigner. Not that it was too hard defining oneself as non indigenous person due to the fact that the Poms were generally pretty crap at sport. Even in the Eighties when Straya was getting thrashed in cricket by the Windies we could field a winning team in most football codes and probably even jag a jammy win in cricket if we put our mind to it. So to prove yourself a foreigner you just had to cheer on a winner. If you wished to go undercover as a Brit you needed to be a resigned loser "Oh well, it wasn't that bad a loss. At least most of the team were able to walk off the pitch at the end." So where was this leading? Oh yeah, a pub. I was sick of walking around so I went and had an afters in some nice looking pub off Leceister Square, or was it Chance or Marylebone Station? No, Leicester Square I believe. Straight into a bunch of Contiki couriers who were painting the town red on the basis of their end of season bonuses. Now this was sheer coincidence so maybe it was the Chance square I landed on. I recognised old mate Ivan who quickly shepherded me towards a table filled with pints of Guinness, sat next to a table full of pints of lager. Thanks mate.
"Have a go ya mug!" were his instructions so I did. One thing about these couriers was that they were all recruited on the basis of their personalities. They were all good at putting on the chat and telling amusing stories. A fucking platoon of these buggers was a fully amped up bag of trouble, sort of like when Hendrix started squirting lighter fluid onto his Strat. It didn't take long for the pints to disappear as well as the good humour of the licensee so it was lickety split back to The Plaza via a convoy of London Taxis. At The Plaza we ventured down to the bar which had no option but to admit some of its cousin employees. It was here that I asked Ivan about the courier jobs,
"You can have mine mate. I'm heading back to Melbourne before Christmas and I don't reckon I'll be doing it next season. I'm sick of it."
Nice recommendation. One of the others, a Kiwi, (probably called Tim as most Kiwis were back then) butted in,
"Its not a bad lark eh? You can get pissed off with it a wee bit but there are still some canny scives if you're quick on the uptake. If you do decide to do it I'm running a training trip in ten days. Three weeks around the main bits. The hitch is if you do go and don't take up a job then you have to pay full rate for a hotel tour."
I looked around at the now tired bunch of couriers, saw the miles in their bloodshot eyes and the stories in the pint and whisky glasses spread out over the bar tables. I thought to myself, fuck yeah, this could be okay. In amongst these camping tour minions was a Kiwi girl by the name of Carol. She was tallish, strawberry blonde with one of those angular faces which could cut you open like one of those bandsaws we tried to kill in woodwork class in high school. She had a Kiwi down home charm which was accentuated by the booze binoculars through which I was conducting my landscape survey. Didn't look like an enemy so I fronted up and introduced myself. She was one of the site reps and had been based in some chateau in France. Contiki had their own fucking castle? Apparently so. What was her job, moat cleaner? Nope, she ticked off the names, showed the punters around the grounds ("Still nil all down here at Chateau Contiki with the Punters camped down the Contiki end of the ground. Hold on, looks like the Punter lock forward has just been sin binned for crapping in the potted palm in the disco. Around the grounds is brought to you by Vin Very Fucking Ordinaire. Back to you in the studio".) The chateau wasn't really a castle just some oversized country manor once occupied by a bunch of tossers who had their heads neatly trimmed off by some feisty revolutionary types bent on aristocratic blood letting. Still, it was a chateau and Contiki owned it only to let it get ruin down by pissed camping tour punters once a week. One of Carol's jobs was to rig the disco lighting. She managed to arc out the entire chateau one night for two hours while some drunk Yaapie punter managed to not kill himself while fixing it. Electrical engineers eh? Can come in handy at times.
Back to the point, while Chateau Carol was off fixing her make-up I did some background checks with Ivan. His report was,
"She's fine. Hasn't been sleeping around much 'cos she's been waiting for her boyfriend to lob in London. To no good effect. The cunt pissed off to America with some Californian last week. Rip in."
Ah huh. Rebound job may not be the best idea. I didn't think that an hour later after I told her about the digs I was inhabiting and having to walk for miles to get there (bullshit - about fifteen minutes when pissed and five by taxi but don't tell her that) and was subsequently offered a bed for the evening. A bed with benefits. Once again the cartoon version of Therbs jumped up and down like a maniac with his right arm punching the air. We both decided that one night stands were fine and next morning she wished me well over The Plaza's version of a full English breakfast. One thing about hotels like this was their version of a glass of orange juice was about the size of a shot glass. I could never understand the English propensity to dish out minute servings of something like ojay. Fucking Spain's just across the road and its full of oranges. They used to throw a lot of them away because they had so many. Stupid fucking poms, I just hoped they'd all get scurvy.
The next few days I spent tooling around London and hitting various pubs at night only to return home empty handed and resigned to late night hash sessions at Derro Downs or card games in one of the rooms, mostly blackjack or regular poker. Won some, lost some. We went to a couple of soccer games, Spurs v Luton is some cup fixture (Spurs did 'em 3-0) and Arsenal v Liverpool (The Arse 2-1). Crowd violence was something of an issue back in the Eighties and we saw a few blokes get their beans cashed but managed to keep out of trouble ourselves by saying nothing within earshot of the bovver boys and cheering for the home team. That was weird because in one venue we cheered on Spurs and at Highbury we cheered on The Arse. Both of these clubs hate each other. In fact one of their fave chants no matter who Tottenham are up against is;
"We hate Arsenal 'cos we hate Arsenal (repeat twice)
We are the Arsenal
Didn't matter that their opponents were the Luton Hatters. Fuck no, they just grooved on hating the gunners. And the Gunners faithful had the same chant only in reverse.
During my final week in London I found myself running out of cash as well as time so I took to sciving free breakfasts to save cash for night time frolics. The way this worked was you'd walk into some hotel, making sure you're freshly shaved and looking neat and clean. Then sneak past reception looking all serious and carrying a newspaper or folder or something believable then follow your nose to the dining room and plonk yourself down. Room 16 was my room of choice when young couldn't-give-a-fuck-who-you-were-because-you're-sitting-at-a-table-and-must-belong-there trainee waitress came up and asked me what my room was and what did I want. That was because Room 16 was my room number at Derro Downs and I had a key attached to a tag with 16 printed on it and no logo. They really didn't care anyway so I'd get their breakfast and snaffle a roll off one of the other tables on my way out. This worked four times with two "withdrawals due to poor odds of success" which meant I lost my bottle twice because they looked as though they knew what they were doing.
On my second last night we were celebrating two departures. In all honesty all I can remember is walking (or stumbling) along Lancaster Terrace with Gary attempting to get Lex's attention at the Elysee Hotel (above the Wankabout Club) by throwing an empty hip flask bottle at his bedroom window. Luckily only the bottle broke. I have vague recollections of T'Young Yaapie Lass and I snogging in a corner of the Mitre at one stage and some Kiwi guy (probably called Tim) doing creditable Fred Dagg impersonations;
"We three kings of Orient are,
one on a tractor, one in a car,
one on a scooter tooting his hooter,
following on the star oh
star of wonder, star of light
star of beauty she'll be right
star of glory
that's the story,
following on the star."
Out of ten hours I guess that's not too bad a recollection after all.
The next morning we cooked up gigantic fryups in the Derro Downs kitchen. The hangover gorillas had worked overtime but I was used to this sort of thing by now and was able to function quite normally with the help of a few aspirin, a toke of a joint and lots of grease and liquid. Deb and Brian (remember Il de Batz?) arrived back in town at lunchtime so I caught up with them. Deb and I would be flying home together the next day with Brian following a few days later. We had a civilised lunch then Brian whisked Deb back to their hotel for some goodbye sex. I headed back to Derro Downs to grab the crew for my Last Night in London. To be honest, it wasn't all that Big. Sure, we had numerous beers, did a pub crawl around Paddington and Bayswater then ended up back at The Wanker to wave it goodbye. About one in the morning we were back at the Downs sitting around listening to music, splitting spliffs and beers, then whisky before T'Young Yaapie Lass dragged me back to her room to say a fond farewell. Thanks Janie.
We got up around eleven in the morning then it hit me. The "well that's me off home then" feeling. What the fuck had I done for a bit over six months? My memories went back to the first week in London tooling around with Wally, Richard and Deb. Deb had then teamed up with an old girlfriend from school and we'd gone to the Algarve (I left that one out of these accounts).
Richard had gone home early due to love sickness and Jerry, Deb and I had invaded Scandinavia and the USSR, led by Ivan and driven by Ian and populated by a bunch of drunken and silly yet occasionally thinky reprobates. I'd then tooled around Ireland before heading to Basel where I teamed up with Doug'nDave. That had been aces. One of the best times. In amongst the mix were some girls (hi Ann, Leina, Louise, Yvette, Kat, Lucy and Carol) with whom I did and didn't have Clinton Relations, some great folks (hi Namur Crew), and lastly the Oktoberfest/Autotour/Walkabout Club team (shout outs to Gary, Lex, Rocky and TYYL). What I'd seen was a lot of Europe. The most stunning scenery was at Lauterbrunned, no doubt. The shock value was in the USSR, Poland, East Germany. Going through Checkpoint Charlie was a buzz. Everything came back to hit me and I realised what a fucking great experience I'd had. I kissed and hugged TYYL then went and sat down to a farewell lunch before joining up with Deb and Brian for the tube ride to Heathrow. The farewells were heartfelt and included the age-old promises of catching up and visiting each others' countries or cities.
Deb had both a sparkle-arkle look as well as sad eyes, leaving Brian behind. She hadn't banked on the Therbs method of surviving long haul plane travel. Firstly we ensconced ourselves in the airport lounge drinking overpriced lager. Brian said that all the gang would be at the airport to greet us and please don't let Deb get carried away on the return trip.
"She can handle herself, can't you Deb?" was my response. She just vaguely nodded then mumbled "Both of you are not on." One of her favourite sayings. Soon enough we got the call to get on board, Deb and Brian clung to each other so I dragged them apart like a couple of randy kelpies. Once we were tucked into our seats and the trolley dolleys were up and serving Deb was quite amenable to beers followed by Scotch. Our first stop was in Moscow so we hit the bar for vodka as a nod to our Russian Invasion, then we landed in Alaska at stupid o'clock and we just zedded that segment. During the next leg we'd switched completely to Scotch and kept on ordering. The J.A.L. stewardess said,
"You have much Scotch already. You still want more?"
"Yes. please bring it." was my answer.
We had a four hour lay off at Narita but coudn't be arsed heading into the city so we zedded for a while. Lastly it was the Narita - Sydney leg and by this stage the Scotch was slowing down and we were taking frequent dozy naps. It was during one of these that the captain announced our descent into Sydney. Seemed like an age before we eventually deplaned. Another age clearing the customs and immigration checkpoints and then finally, on a warm October day we walked into the Arrivals zone. I spotted Chanel (ex flatmate), Mick, Dave and that whole household gang and off to the side my mum and dad. Chanel was the most animated and raced up and gave me a hug before wrapping her arms around Deb. I went up to my folks and did the same thing. Home. Sydney. By the looks of it a brilliant day outside and as we headed out of Mascot towards the family home mum said,
"I've got some steak. Feel like a barbecue for a welcome home?"
"You little ripper! Top idea!"
The once familiar sights of the Sydney streetscape seemed foreign as we drove home, somehow different as if they'd changed somehow. Something didn't seem right. Where were the signs for Co-op or beer signs for Becks or Tennants or Amstel. Where the fuck was my Fruhstuck Express card and what were the Derro Downs mob doing? I knew. They were wishing they were being driven off to eat barbecued steak and drink cold Aussie beer and lay plans for a golden summer. A summer full of promise, like the European one I'd just experienced. Lucky country this Straya of ours? Maybe, maybe not but I felt very fucking lucky, thanks very much.