Ozzie reunion!

Trip Start Aug 30, 2009
Trip End Mar 01, 2010

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The Tinny

Flag of Australia  , Victoria,
Monday, December 7, 2009

Chapter 1: Casa Schmidlechner

The plane touched down in Melbourne to a sunny afternoon. "Looks like another great day" remarked Nadine to Duncan, “and hopefully a little cooler than Cairns”. “Yes it does” replied Duncan. “I wonder whether Grant arrived back home to Melbourne OK this morning”. “Well we're
still not entirely sure whether we should be waiting for a member of his family to pick us up or not after you refused his offer over email” said Nadine.“We’ll be fine” replied Duncan, “we can always take a taxi”.

They exited the plane into the domestic terminal at Melbourne to see a tall unshaven fellow in Che Guevara cap waiting by the gate and went into a three way embrace with Grant who had arrived in Melbourne earlier in the day.

“Guys!” exclaimed Grant, “AWESOME to see you!” Nadine and Duncan put his exuberance down to the extreme jetlag he was clearly suffering from having only got into Melbourne himself a few hours earlier. “Let’s head back to the car, it’s a ripper” drawled Grant in his Australian
accent, which had become stronger already in the 3 hours he’d been home. The happy trio departed the airport in Grant’s mum’s car, Nadine sitting on a comfortable mattress of chocolate Labrador dog hair on the back seat.

Grant took them on a quick tour of the key Melbourne sights in the car on the way back to chez Grant, the highlight being the half-dismantled ferris wheel. This was an effort similar to the London Eye which unfortunately hadn’t survived the three days of 40 degree weather this
year and had buckled under the heat.

“I hope you guys are prepared for my place” said Grant as they neared his street. “Yes don’t worry” replied Duncan. “You’ve said on numerous occasions that your house is in a great location but needs to be demolished and rebuilt so we’re not expecting anything amazing” Grant pulled to a stop outside a smart white terraced house. “Well that doesn’t look too bad” said Nadine and walked up to the front door. “No my house is next door” said Grant, pointing at a small green and beige painted shed to the right of the smart white house. In actual fact the exterior didn’t do the inside justice, the narrow hallway giving way to two good sized bedrooms and a huge living room and kitchen, all with fresh flowers strategically placed around and about. They headed straight out through into the back yard and cracked open the cool beers that Mr Schmidlechner had cleverly placed in the fridge that afternoon. To top it all off Grant had selected the least bad beer that Duncan had come across in Australia so far, Coopers Sparkling Ale.

“So you guys are in the master bedroom on the queen bed” Grant was saying. I’ve put you a doona* down and if you want a shower there are a couple of freshies** in the bathroom. Nadine and Duncan looked at each other in confusion; Melbourne was clearly going to be a little more confusing than originally thought if even Grant (who had been living in London for 3 years) was unintelligible.

* Duvet
** Fresh towels

Chapter 2: When the house is a rockin’ don’t come a knockin’

The next morning Duncan stumbled out of bed through to the bathroom. Grant was already up and working, still suffering a little from his jetlag. “Are you OK mate?” asked Grant as he watched Duncan stumbling around, clutching various items of furniture. “I have no idea” replied
Duncan as he gently lowered himself into a chair. “It must be a delayed reaction to all the time we spent on rocking boats up in Queensland.” “Sounds emotional” said Grant, and returned to his computer.

When Nadine got up a little later she suffered the same fate and found herself clutching at tables en route to the bathroom. “So are you guys ready for an awesome breakfast” queried Grant. “I’m going to take you to some of my old local breakfast joints if you’re up for it”. “Sounds great mate” said Duncan, and ran off to get dressed.

Breakfast was in a small milk bar a short car ride from Grant’s house. The menu was heavily Greek and Turkish influenced and the trio ordered eggs aplenty with toasted Turkish bread. After brekkie, the intrepid trio headed out around and about in Melbourne for Grant to show
them the locals sights.

“So do you guys like art galleries, there’s an awesome gallery here in the centre of Melbourne” said Grant, bounding up to the front door of the Melbourne art centre. “Only from the outside” said Duncan and so they went to eat instead.

“There’s this AWESOME dumping place just up the street from here” exclaimed Grant as he ran from one side of the street to the other like an excited dog. “Cool I love Chinese food” responded Nadine and they all went in the direction of the Shanghai dumpling house for some nourishment. En route they were trapped up against a wall in the narrow street by a white van unloading food to one of the restaurants. There was only space down the side of the van for one person to pass through; at one end were Duncan and Grant; at the other a very attractive young Melbourne girl. Being the gentlemen they are, Grant and Duncan gestured for the pretty young lady to come
through the gap before them and she squeezed through passed them. As she exited the narrow gap she uttered some feedback for the van driver, “f***ing ridiculous” she cursed, shattering any illusion Grant and Duncan might have had about her kind and gentile nature.

Having made it through the obstacle of unloading van and scary girl, they were almost at the front door of the restaurant when Grant disappeared. Nadine and Duncan turned around, thinking
that he had once more been detained by a white van blocking the street. In fact he had been stopped by a white van but not because it was unloading; the Chinese driver had some questions he wanted to ask about the huge camera Grant was wearing about his neck and had stopped in the street to quench his thirst for photographic knowledge.

Nadine and Duncan left him answering questions about the girth of his lens and went in to place an order for some tasty dumplings.

Chapter 3: Rooftop bar

On that very night, Budget was scheduled to be doing some business down in Melbourne and so he (along with another ex-Accenturite, Cath) popped out to the rooftop bar in central Melbourne for some drinkies. On later inspection of bar receipts from this bar, it won the coveted “Nadine and Duncan award for extreme bar prices” having priced a pint of Asahi at $13 (1 =
$1.78, making one pint 7.30).

Despite the spiralling costs, a good night was had by all up until a large bouncer appeared...

“Excuse me, could you please just move your seats up toward the other end of the rooftop” he asked. The jolly group dutifully relocated themselves over to the other end of the terrace without
question and resumed their chatter.

Ten minutes later the process was repeated and the jolly group found themselves perched on the very edge of the rooftop terrace with everyone else in the bar as deckchairs were set up in the empty space left where they had been moved from. It turned out that each night in the
summer a giant screen is set up on the roof and people come from far and wide to view films outdoor from the comfort of a deckchair.

Hence the group hung on until the very last moment and until their pints were finished and were then forced out onto the street. Here endeth that night I think.

Chapter  4: Birth day

Duncan awoke on his birthday having already received his presents from Nadine the previous evening after midnight (Clive Cussler book – VERY exciting). Over a cracking breakfast of bacon and eggs the threesome discussed the plans for the day. This was largely that Grant was
going to drop Nadine and Duncan in a local park whilst he went off into town for a meeting, and then would rejoin them later on. 

“So what’s this meeting you’re off to?” asked Duncan as they got ready to leave. “Just a catch up with some of the AsiaPac training guys – we’ve got an office here in Melbourne” replied Grant. “Oh right, where’s the BP office then?” continued Duncan. “It’s in the same building as Accenture in the centre of the city” responded Grant. “It’s a bit rubbish you have to go to a meeting on your holidays” observed Nadine. “And aren’t you running late now, you said earlier the meeting was at 10am and it’s 11am now”. “Yep it was rescheduled at the last minute” huffed Grant as he ran around the house picking up laptops and papers. Eventually he burst out of the
front door of the house and into the front seat of his high performance Daewoo sports car (hereinafter referred to as the DaePoo, or Poo for short) and they burned rubber off to the park as discussed.

“So what shall we do now” asked Nadine as they stood by the river. “How about a coffee and a wander” suggested Duncan and so they walked off in the direction of a local cafe Grant had recommended.

“One coffee please” said Duncan to one of the 7 staff behind the outdoor counter of the cafe. “Coming right up” said the lady and took his money, handing him back one of those remote buzzers that beep and vibrate when one’s order is ready.

“Seems like overkill giving us this thing for a coffee”, stated Duncan. “There’s hardly anyone else here and it’s just a coffee”. Ten minutes later, just as Duncan was about to enquire exactly how
complex the process was to create a coffee the buzzer vibrated and he picked up his coffee from the cafe.

It turned out to be awful coffee and so after the exciting wait Duncan tipped it away in the park. The duo then retraced their steps across the park, crossing a golf course on the way.

“I fancy having another go at learning golf” said Duncan for the 7th time this holiday. “I tried years ago but I was too dangerous to be let anywhere near the green.”

“Let’s aim down to the river and see what there is to be seen in the Yarra” suggested Nadine, steering him away from the men in strange jumpers playing golf. After 5 minutes of observing nature on the riverside, Duncan sloped off and lay down on a picnic bench for a bit of a

"Grant’s going to be turning up soon” said Nadine. “I think we’d better head over to where we said we’d meet”. “He’ll be late, don’t worry about it” replied Duncan, turning his head away and trying to get more comfortable on the wooden picnic bench. “I really think we should go back and meet him” said Nadine, “and I need to use the toilet”. “Oh alright” yawned Duncan, falling gracefully off the bench into the grass.

Duncan waited outside the golf course toilets as Nadine disappeared off. 'This seems to be taking longer than usual’ he thought to himself as he dozed quietly on another picnic table. Eventually Nadine reappeared and dragged him over to the golf shop and into a back room.
“Hi I’m Matt”, said a man in sporty wraparound glasses and a funny pullover, “I’m the professional trainer here at the golf course”. Slowly it dawned on Duncan that this must have been the surprise Nadine had been very obviously planning for the past week or so. “We’re going to get you out on the course for a couple of hours tuition this afternoon” Matt continued to Duncan. “Sounds great” replied Duncan, “but were you aware that the last time I took a golf
lesson I wasn’t allowed anywhere near the golf course due to my inability to hit the ball in a straight line.” “Don’t worry mate” said Matt, “this is Australia, not one of your posh English golf clubs. And you’ll be fine playing in those thongs”. *

* Flip flops

They all squeezed into the golf buggy and drove to the first tee after some quick pointers for Duncan on how to swing a golf club in a straight line. Oddly, his first attempt sailed straight down the fairway and landed with a thud just short of the green. Recalling his surfing experience, Duncan wondered whether he should give up at what may well have been his finest golfing moment but decided on this occasion to persevere and so the merry trio hopped back into the golf cart in the direction of the golf ball.

It soon became clear that this first shot was a fluke as Duncan whacked balls all over the place for the remainder of his lesson, pausing as Nadine received a call from Grant on her mobile.

“We’re on the third hole” she shouted down the phone, “just come on over”. A couple of minutes later Grant appeared running over the golf course, arms flailing wildly. He was accompanied by
another chap who Nadine identified as his mate Scottie, who had frequently been around and about these past few days. Duncan turned back to his game and concentrated on getting the latest shot somewhere approaching the green.

“MATE” shouted Grant excitedly as he came across the course (narrowly missing getting hit by a couple of golfers on another hole), “how’s the lesson going?!”

“Great thanks” replied Duncan, still trying to concentrate on his game. Grant’s excited chatter had however cut through the concentration by this time and so Duncan broke off this particular stroke to go and greet his Australian friend. “Hey Grant” he said and turned to the other
chap with Grant, “alright Geoff how’s it going?” and wandered back to his ball. Duncan performed a double take, “Geoff?!! What are you doing in Australia!!” he shouted in Geoff’s face and enjoyed yet more manly embracing on the edge of the course. Nadine at this point had a bit of a shriek too, Geoff and Grant having kept the visit a secret from both of them. “Happy birthday mate” said Geoff, and he and Nadine moved a safe distance away from Duncan who once again was waving his golf club around in the vague direction of the green.

After completing his golf lesson and having had some feedback from the instructor on his technique (who had videoed various bits of the 4 hole game) Duncan went into the cafe where Nadine and Geoff were waiting. “GREAT to see you” he exclaimed at Geoff, having now fully woken up and realised what was happening. “Where’s Grant gone? Back to his meeting?”.
“No mate, there was no meeting” explained Geoff. “It was all part of an intricate ruse so that he could come and pick me up from the airport”. “Ah I see” said Duncan, clearly not as awake as he had thought. “So how long have you been flying for now?” he said, changing the topic. “Well” replied Geoff, “I set off on Wednesday and it’s Friday now so I don’t really have any concept of time anymore”. “Might as well go for a beer then I suppose” suggested Duncan. “Good
plan” replied Geoff and they set off back toward Grant’s house where he was going to meet them after some more extreme socialising for which he is famed.

Chapter 5: Christmas party season

First stop for the intrepid quartet that evening was to be in the St Kilda region of Melbourne, which is where the beach is. Grant had arranged for them to gatecrash one of the many Christmas parties that were going on where a friend of his (from Accenture of course) was taking
part. After a long taxi ride through rush hour where Geoff nearly succumbed to
his extreme jetlag a couple of times they arrived at a bar overlooking the
beach. They forced their way through the many suited individuals at the bar and
got a few beers in.

“Strange being in the middle of summer and surrounded by suits having a Christmas party” remarked Duncan to Geoff. “Yes, and I wonder why they have the log fire on when it’s 30 degrees outside” observed Geoff.

After a number of drinks and with the addition of some more people who either had been picked up in the bar or who Grant had arranged to meet they moved back into the city with a couple of
taxis. The agreed destination was the rooftop bar where they had previously enjoyed some beers but there was unfortunately a No Thong policy and so because of Duncan’s shoes they were turned away and ended up in a club over the road called the Lounge which had a more relaxed dress code (and a less salubrious clientele).

When all the chaps had gathered in the Lounge, Budget and Nic turned up fresh from the aeroplane and ready for some partying. I unfortunately don’t remember a great deal past this point but it was an excellent birthday!!

Chapter 6: The edge of reason

“I’m going to take you for some touristy sightseeing today” said Grant over a champagne breakfast courtesy of Mr Smith to those present in his back yard: Budget, Nic, Geoff, Nadine and Duncan. “We’ll have a quick ride on the tram that goes around a circular route and then go up the tower”. Duncan and Nadine exchanged glances, having had a less than
impressive time up the Sydney tower a few days earlier.

Nadine had some sort of mental fit on the tram and entertained all the locals by swinging from the rails. Duncan was less than amused and suffering slightly from the previous evening and shunned her circus antics when she looked like she was going in his direction. Thankfully,
they reached the tower pretty quickly and entered the ticket office on the ground floor.

Just by the entrance to the lift up to the 88th floor there was a huge table in a darkened room with glowing things on it. On closer inspection it turned out to be a huge computer monitor
which was touch sensitive – when you pressed on the surface bubbles appeared, or an interesting fact about Melbourne. Knowing the tower was only going to provide limited entertainment value, Nadine and Duncan engrossed themselves in the magical table for a good ten minutes, prodding and sweeping to make the pretty shapes appear. Eventually however they were dragged over to the lift by the others and they climbed into a lift up to the 88th floor.

The tower was a pretty new building in Melbourne and everything looked clean and new. Bizarrely, the lift had a speedometer and sound effects and as they ascended upward the noise of an engine revving came from speakers concealed in the lift ceiling.

On reaching the 88th floor the view was actually pretty stunning and everyone was snapping away with their cameras; Budget and Grant were caught jousting with their oversized lenses and
nearly got thrown out.

After quarter of an hour or so Geoff wandered up to the group with a cunning smile on his face. “Where were you?” asked Nadine. “Getting some tickets for the EDGE” replied Geoff. “Oh so you’re going out there are you?” Nadine said. “No I got tickets for all of us – should
be fun” said Geoff.

Duncan was eavesdropping and caught this last part. He didn’t look particularly happy about Geoff’s generosity with the tickets because the EDGE was an additional attraction advertised at the bottom of the tower – some sort of glass floored room where you can look over the edge
of the building.

Ever since the Basilica experience in Ecuador Duncan had been experiencing issues going up to high places and so wasn’t relishing the thought of wandering around in a glass floored room 88 storeys up but he kept quiet until they made their way over to the EDGE.

“Put these on please” said the cute Australian girl at the entrance to the EDGE, handing out blue cloth shoe covers to the intrepid explorers plus three Russians who would be enjoying the EDGE experience with them. Nadine insisted at this point on a photo as they all looked like idiots with the shoe covers on.

By this time Duncan and Grant (who was also not overly keen on heights) were starting to look a little sweaty but were not entirely clear on what exactly the EDGE experience was.

As it turned out it was much, much worse than what Grant or Duncan had imagined...

The 8 tourists stepped into what looked like a lift, all resplendent in blue shoe things so the glass floor didn’t get damaged. Mood music started playing and a voice came over the speakers. “When you’re out over the edge please can you pose for your group photo one group at a time” said the Australian girl.

What looked like a lift was in fact a lift and Grant and Duncan gripped the handrails as it started moving horizontally. The music built up to a climax and the glass walls of the lift which had up
until that point had been opaque started to flicker. Once the lift stopped moving the walls suddenly became entirely transparent and the poor fellows in the lift were sticking 88 storeys up out the side of the building – entirely glass floors and walls all around. Duncan and Grant started to look very ill and clung to the handrails nearest the building. This wasn’t helping very much as
the entire lift was suspended outside the edge of the building and so they were just as far out as the rest of the group. Budget and Nadine were jumping about like fools and Geoff and Nic just looked a bit nonplussed.

“OK could the groups move out to the edge for a photo please” said a voice over the speakers. Grant and Duncan edged very slowly out to the other side of the lift, leaving trails of sweat both on the floor and on the handrails. Duncan was on the verge of knocking on the door to be let out but managed to hold on until the lift slid slowly back inside the building.

“Thanks for a thoroughly unpleasant experience” Duncan said to the Australian girl, who smiled back sweetly. They decided that was enough excitement for one day and so headed back over to the (vertical, steel-walled) lift to take them back down to the bottom, Duncan leaving a sweaty trail of footprints; he’d had to remove his flip flops as his feet were so sweaty.

 “Let’s go to a rooftop bar” suggested Grant and so they jumped into trams and taxis towards the bars to a different rooftop bar on the other side of town.

 Four hours later Duncan went up to Budget and Geoff at the bar to help them with the drinks. “Thanks mate” said Geoff, dropping his pint on the floor, smashing it. And thus Geoff was to be the first person to be cut off that particular night.

Two hours later Budget walked out the front of the next bar they were in as Nadine, Duncan and Nic were dancing. After cooling down outside he walked back to the entrance. “Sorry mate you can’t come back in” said the bouncer. And so Budget was the second casualty to be cut off
that evening.

After Nic had to go outside to shout at the bouncers and tell Budget to pack his camera back away which he was unpacking onto the street for some reason everyone else decided this might be a good time to leave and so they jumped into taxis and headed back to the Grant cave.

Geoff, Nadine and Duncan shared the first taxi which Nadine had procured by sitting in it before telling the taxi driver where they were going (taxi drivers in Melbourne only accept fares to places they feel like going to). Once underway, Nadine started a small speech about what horrible people taxi drivers in Melbourne were but with rather more colourful language.

“Ssssh” whispered Duncan and Geoff simultaneously, “we don’t want to get thrown out of the cab” added Geoff. “DON’T SHUSH ME” shouted Nadine back at them, clearly having enjoyed an equal number of cocktails to those who had been cut off earlier in the evening.

“We just want to make sure we get home OK” said Duncan. “JUST DON’T TELL ME TO SHUSH” said Nadine. “YOU CAN TELL ME TO SHUT UP JUST DON’T TELL ME TO SHUSH”. “Ok then shut up” said Duncan.

“I don’t know what your problem is” ranted Nadine, “I was talking in German anyway so the taxi driver couldn’t understand me”. “Erm, no you weren’t” said Geoff, “that was definitely English that we all heard".

“Time for bed” said Duncan and they climbed out of the taxi somewhere near to Grant’s house and stumbled back through his gate for a sound night’s sleep.

Chapter 7: Ocean Drive

One of the big attractions near Melbourne is the Great Ocean Road which is a coastal road that winds its way along some spectacular scenery and it was this that Nadine, Duncan and Geoff set out to explore the next day after Budget and Nic had departed for Sydney and Grant had gone out to complete yet more socialising. Grant had insured Geoff on the Poo and so they
piled in and set off down the roads of Melbourne toward the coast.

Geoff has an interesting driving style that he has honed over the years which involves an innovative use of lanes (two simultaneously most of the time) and novel braking technique, normally applied mid-junction or roundabout. This, together with the addition of a manual
gearbox and driving on the left made for an exciting trip along the coast, and so the trio arrived in Torquay (not quite the same as Torquay in Cornwall) with adrenalin pumping!

They pulled into the tourist information office to look for somewhere to stay for the night. “Can I help you?” said the lady behind the desk. “Yes”, replied Duncan, “we’re looking for somewhere reasonably cheap for tonight, preferably with a swimming pool”. The lady marked some options on a sheet for Duncan and he thanked her as Geoff and Nadine wandered around the array of leaflets in the office, Nadine looking at water parks and Geoff stuffing his pockets with 5* hotel brochures.

They left the Poo in the car park and wandered around Torquay to look at some places to stay. First on the list was a caravan park which had some cabins for hire. “Looks OK” said Duncan after a quick inspection of the rooms. “Not sure how you feel about sleeping in those children’s bunk beds though Geoff”. “Er no” said Geoff and so they moved on to a motel down the street.

 “This looks pretty good” said Duncan to Nadine as they checked out a room in the motel. “Where’s Geoff gone I think I’ll book this room for the night”. Geoff was over the other side of the car park on his mobile phone.

“Hey Geoff come see this room” shouted Duncan, “OK mate” said Geoff, “I was just checking with the Crowne Plaza down the road and they have availability for tonight which might be worth a look”. He was holding one of the glossy brochures from the tourist information office
in his hand, this one had a huge blue swimming pool on the front of it. Duncan looked over to the pebble-dashed swimming pool that had various unidentified bits floating in it and picked up the brochure off Geoff. “Well it’s worth a look I suppose” he said and so they headed over to the Crowne Plaza.

It turned out to be a brand new complex with stunning outdoor pool and Jacuzzi and so after a brief tour they and some crafty haggling at reception (it was low season and so pretty empty) they moved their stuff in.

They didn’t actually make it that far down Ocean Road in the end, only getting as far as Apollo Beach and then doubling back to get into the swimming pool for a second night in the Crowne Plaza. They were however lucky enough to see a bunch of koalas in the wild – enjoy the photos!!

The intrepid trio managed to return just in time to procure a Christmas tree which was erected, complete with lights and decorations, in Grant’s living room just before he arrived back. This was the second time the Coleshill Christmas Elves had struck and this time they had perfected their technique with the addition of Top Consultant Mr Geoffrey W Smith. This part of the story doesn’t really need explaining as much of the manoeuvre was caught on video...

Chapter 8: The final countdown

During breakfast on Geoff, Nadine and Duncan’s last day in Melbourne, Grant looked at his watch. “May need to make a move soon guys to get Geoff checked in for his flight”. Duncan checked his watch too; 40 minutes to go until Geoff’s plane takes off, they were indeed
cutting it fine.

For the second time in Melbourne Nadine and Duncan were treated to a fine driving performance as Grant steamed down the freeway to the airport. “I’ve never missed a flight before – the Poo will get us there” he screamed with his foot jammed down on the throttle. The three passengers gripped the edges of their seats as he undertook one articulated lorry after the next until after what seemed like an age they screeched (yes, screeched) to a halt outside the Qantas terminal.

“GEOFF RUN!” shouted Grant and they all rushed to get Geoff’s bags out of the boot. Geoff strolled casually over to the terminal after a hasty goodbye. “RUN GEOFF” they all shouted after him.

Happily they all made their flights – Geoff to Sydney and Nadine and Duncan to Singapore. In fact, Duncan and Nadine even managed to get an upgrade for the first time this trip and took off with a glass of champagne and plentiful legroom – thanks Qantas!
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