HELSINKI – September 8-9

Had my entire backpack searched at the airport security in A’DAM. I was cool with that, but boy oh boy — they were thorough. I got in trouble because I didn’t realise I should have taken my camera and the iPhone charger out of my pack and put into one of the trays (just like the lappy). Look — I travel quite a bit and this was the first time I had encountered these regulations. Anyway I did my best to be polite and apologetic.

On the flight we tried one of Ben Law’s little tips. We deliberately booked a window seat (me) and an aisle seat (Dee) separated by an empty seat (some random who we could negotiate with later). It was genius. Thanks Ben! No one got booked into that middle seat and we had our row to ourselves. Pity it was only a 2 hour flight.

Over Helsinki we swapped seats and Dee got a decent look at all the lakes of her homeland. “It’s the land of a thousand lakes,” she said, quite authoritatively. And it looked true. They were everywhere down there. But as I learnt later — there are about 188 THOUSAND lakes in Finland. So Dee was basically lying. I am used to that.

Anyway I bloody dare you to look up Google maps and witness all that land vs puddle bullshit. It is bloody crazy. Wait. I can do that for you just cause I am a decent guy. Observe:

Screen Shot 2016-10-21 at 3.46.24 pm.png

We should establish at this outset that Dee is 1/4 Fnnish. Her mother’s maiden name is the unpronounceable “Veijalainen”. Phonetically you could get away with saying VAY-A-LINE-ANN.


Finland has a population of about 5.5 million people, so about a quarter that of Australia. It’s relatively flat — didn’t see any mountains or even that many hills. Lots of lakes and ocean coastline — as mentioned previously. Finland has been around as an autonomous state only about 100 years. Was part of Sweden for a bit (in Helsinki all road signs are in Finnish and Swedish), then Russia (further east you get the road signs begin in Finnish, then below is the Swedish, then below that is the Russian). Finland allied with the Nazis at the beginning of WWII and fought the “Winter War” with Russia and punched well above it’s weight. (But in the peace deal, possibly cause it killed a highly disproportionate amount of Ruskies (compared to Finns) — it lost quite a bit to Russia.) Mostly it has been pushing against Russia, rather than Sweden. Monuments and markers of the War(s) are everywhere here.

The language is like nothing I have ever heard before. Apparently it has more in common with central-eastern Europe than Scandinavia or even Russian. It is still a tiny bit high-pitched, but not sing-song like Norwegian. Everyone seemed to speak an incredible amount of English so you can truly get away with “Hei” (Hello) and “Kiitos” (Thank you).

Sauna is a big deal over here. You pronounce it “Sour-nah”. According to wikipedia there are over 3 million saunas in Finland. Than is over one sauna for every two inhabitants. Wiki: “Finns think of saunas not as a luxury, but as a necessity. Before the rise of public health care and nursery facilities, almost all Finnish mothers gave birth in saunas.” We got to experience this all first-hand. But more on that later!


We arrived by train from the airport and found our way to the hotel which was basically in the dead centre of town. We had missed lunch and it was now too late so Dee sent me on a mission to find snacks, a drink, fruit and a tinned coffee. But finding a convenience store was a super-challenge. I got the fruit (berries) just at a market-kart near the station but failed on most of the other criteria. Finland has that thing where you can only buy booze at State-run facilities. And these can be hard to find if you don’t know where to look.

Meanwhile my phone-card from the UK refused to work so on the agenda for that night’s activities was to get a cheap Finnish phone plan. We eventually found R-Kioski. Pretty much exactly like a 7-11 but it also had these massive gambling machines (like Pokies) in a corner. Very weird.

Later we scrambled around to the big sights like the Cathedrals and the big Square and the waterfront. Dinner was at this pub place around the corner.








So in Finnish – “Linna” basically means fortress or castle. We got to see a few other “Linnas” around the place. The vibe in Finland is that it is a tiny country squished between superior nations but it will defend itself to the hilt. To the HILT. And “Suomen” is basically the word for Finland. So Suomenlinna is a bit of a big deal. And it isn’t just one island. It is six islands connected by bridges. There’s a bunch of people that live there permanently. There’s even a school. And just quietly — the Pokemon were going riot over there. I saw a bunch of kids who had obviously skipped school just to go nuts over there.

The place was huge and there were always tiny nooks and details of the fortifications to look at and explore unimpeded. Tunnels and ramparts and actual batteries. Plus cute houses and views over the sea towards Estonia. It made the our pathetic “fort” in Brisbane (Fort Lytton) look pretty ordinary.

Lunch was at a ramen place. Look — it is so much easier ordering food in the language it was invented in when you are in a place that is a billion miles away. So consequently there is cultural neutral-zone.You kinda appear quite knowledgeable, and be a deadshit tourist at the same time. It’s a level playing field. “Tonkotsu Ramen Kiitos.” And then you can proceed to know the condiments and use the chopsticks (and spoon) with super-dexterity. It is a revelation. (ASIDE: In London we would order Pho, but we would get the kudos by pronouncing it “Fir”.)







Here’s the thing – I will not try to pretend this next bit wasn’t tragic. It is what it is. I have been the biggest fan of this song, and it’s film-clip. Like almost equally. It is just the perfect marriage of sound and vision (and dancing). One of the very first children’s shows on TV I watched was called “Words and pictures”. And that was what it was about. Perfect. Art or just lowly “entertainment” wasn’t necessarily confined to just one medium at the same time. You could be the best of both or all worlds at the very same time.

Anyway this film-clip was so amazing and I just had to go there. Luckily the wikipedia page had the very specifics so I could go there and KNOW I was in exactly the same place. Nothing was changed. I even attempted to play the song on my iPhone but accidentally sent the music LIVE to everyone on the train cause I hadn’t quite got my headphone jack connected. Dee was horrified, but I didn’t care.





That night we had dinner in some brewery and prepared for the next day into the heart of Finland via Dee’s great-uncle — Marku. He was picking us up at 8am.






IMG_0895.JPGSome art installation!

Amsterdam – days 11-13.

We arrived in Amsterdam on my very first birthday overseas. And of course it didn’t quite feel like the kinda birthday you get back home where I buy myself a lego set and eat sticky-date pudding for desert and relax on the couch all evening. No — it was just another intense-day where we had to get somewhere and once that done — maybe I could relax and maybe be interested in celebrating. I think I might have got to that point at about 5pm.

But backtracking: we got an uneventful train from Breda and then found a cab rank at the back of Amsterdam station and I swear we got ripped off. I couldn’t see any meter running but I thought that was just cause I didn’t know where to look. And cause we were doing two drops, one for us and one for Jess, I thought that might have something to do with it.

I thought I had learnt this scam (from this time in Atlanta where the driver locked our luggage in the boot until we paid whatever he had previously “quoted”.) The scam is where the taxi driver just “quotes” you a figure at the start of the journey and you accidentally “accept” and so the meter isn’t running the whole time and later you don’t have much choice but accepting. It was a bit more acute cause Jess had to pay the final bill (cause we got dropped off first). So not a great start. And taxi drivers wonder why they have such a bad rep and why everyone seems to embracing Uber.

Our hotel was a little on the edge of town. But close to all the museums and the park and of course there were canals everywhere.




It really was the most bikes I have seen in one place. It was a little funny though because ALL the bikes were using the bike lanes or the side streets — never the road proper. I looked on and thought, “OMG, I could smash so much faster using the car part of the road.” And I saw the occasional “roadie” and they were using the bike lanes too — which were vastly more congested. I guess that was the vibe. For me personally I like to mix it up with cars and smash it. To make sure my Garmin stats are the best they can be.







It was a nice place where we were staying. All this cool furniture and Art in the common areas, plus a market virtually next door which had a food hall, cinema and cool shops.





That night we had dinner at a Japanese place and then had some fun — just quietly.

The next day we realised another TRAVEL FAIL: you could only buy tickets to the Anne Frank museum online and our window was virtually frozen out. I had even read Anne’s Diary as prep, but I figured just standing outside was enough. It had been such a harrowing experience just reading her words and then stumbling around the streets where she lived, walked, and where she rode her bicycle — before it was banned. Then looking at her prison before a proper-prison was sad enough. Her ghost was everywhere — indeed she was almost a ghost when she wrote those words, and walked these streets and cowered at the back of that factory.




Later that day we had lunch in a rooftop restaurant which had one of those  glass elevators. I am all a bit tragic in these situations. I don’t like heights, and I don’t like elevators. But I love views. Work that one out Freud.

And then we went to the Van Gogh Museum and used one of those audio-tour things. They are so good. I am so dumb when it comes to Art. I barely even know what I like — mostly just knowing what I hate. And the stuff in the middle — the stuff I am indifferent to is more a mystery than true indifference. So it is so refreshing having stuff explained to me. I LOVED that nun (Sister Wendy) who explained paintings in the most incredible way imaginable. So much weirder (and less pompous) than Robert Hughes, but conversely so much more natural. I saw it on some obscure timeslot on the ABC when I was a kid. Even as a kid I thought she rocked. CHECK THIS OUT I BLOODY DARE YOU — OMG! Or this which is super-trendy ATM. (Watch vs Hannah Gadsby’s review of the same painting.)

Anyway — I did my best not to get all teary – but it was super-hard. He was a redhead too. Bloody hell.

The next day we did that Ryks Museum and that was OK. Like it was at least an hour of entertainment before you were over it. We stretched it out to 1.5 hours. OMG — art galleries just get so samey. Call me a philistine — but that is the truth.




At the time, and a bit since I really don’t think I got into Amsterdam that much. I think I need to go back one day and maybe that will change. I mean Paris was a bit like that. London possibly too.


IMG_0805.JPGGratuitous red-light district shot — it was pretty tame really.



These signs were everywhere. We had to google them later because I thought it was highly weird. It turns out that it is an anti-theft device where if you steal something you just might get sprayed by a DNA code that will mark you and basically connect you to the crime. Unless you have like a billion showers in the space of a week. Or burn all your skin off. Or confess. Up to you.

IMG_0825.JPGDee with a shop cat



GUEST BLOG – Jess writes about the Redhead Festival


My take on Redhead Days is a little different to Davey’s… While I fully sympathise with the plight of the downtrodden gingers, wept for the guy in the Being Ginger Netflix documentary, and would argue strongly that the lack of ginger emojis is a mild form of racism… I myself never endured any ginger torment as a child.

Sure, there were what Dee would call my “terminally ill years” between the age of ten and 15, before braces and eyebrow tinting, but even through those awkward teenage times, if I had a dollar for every time someone asked, “Is that your natural hair colour?” I’d have enough money to hit up every ginger festival in every country every year.

I know this makes me (even more of) a minority, and I consider myself lucky for never having been made to feel embarrassed about my hair colour. (Except maybe for the time I dated a guy who turned out to be obsessed with Annie, and I only found out when he introduced me to his grandmother, who said, “Oh, she does look like Annie!” That was awkward.) My ginger pride stems from my upbringing, and the strong female gingers I had as role models – my beautiful mum, who I watched being constantly adored by my dad, and my fiery aunty, a total knockout loved by everyone. I don’t even know if you could call it “ginger pride”… Our hair colour, while acknowledged and celebrated, was just a small part of who we are. It was a non-issue, so I never had to overthink it, and I just kinda liked my hair colour. Even appreciated that it made me a little different.

So for me, Redhead Days seemed like a bit of fun. Something that would make a cool story… “Yeah, so I’m traveling through Europe for six months, and my first stop is a little town in the Netherlands for a three-day celebration of gingers.” Why not?!

But then I arrived in Breda, and my little ginger bubble burst. For the first time in my life, I actually felt self-conscious about my hair colour. While there was a strong sense of solidarity amongst the gingers, it was the non-ginger ginger enthusiasts that really made me uneasy. All of a sudden I was on display, and I didn’t like it one bit.

Standing in the town square, men with cameras would swarm and take photos of me like I was an animal in the zoo. One guy got so close I had to give him an “I can see you” eyebrow raise so that he’d back off.

Probably the most unsettling encounter was with a (non-ginger) guy from Vienna who claimed to be a journalist. He approached Dee & me in the park one afternoon looking for a story, with a bottle of coke and pack of cigarettes his only tools of trade. Within five minutes of awkwardly sleazy chitchat, he was convinced he and I were “the perfect pair” and suggested we be Facebook friends. Feeling a little flirty (in hindsight, foolish!) from the wine, I said that if he could find me at the pub crawl later that night, we could make that happen. He did find me. Twice. At two different pubs, among hundreds of gingers. In the dark of night in a foreign town, he seemed even more creepy than during the day, forcing me to make a French exit and go home to bed.

The official group photo was the last straw. Being herded into the photo location space, and then separated by a barrier from the non-gingers while the photographers snapped at us from the top of a cherry picker, just felt a little too much.

So while Redhead Days was an interesting experience, I was relieved when the weekend came to an end, and I could just throw my hair up in a ponytail and move on. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d washed and blow dried my hair three days in a row. Because hey, if I’m going to be photographed unknowingly, I want to be looking my best. 💁 (Blonde emoji used for lack of a ginger one.)

And here’s Jess’s blog: The End of August


DAYS 8-10


It’s been a bit of a life-dream going to The Ginger Festival. There are others apparently — but the one in Breda is the biggest and I think the very first. But despite being desperate to go, I was still quite a bit intimidated by the experience. I treat my gingerness as politics. It’s incredibly important to me. I know I harp on about this all the time, so just skip the next two paragrapha if you’ve heard this all before.

I am what I can only describe as a “Militant-Ginger”. I genuinely believe we have a case for ethnicity. Not just for our physiognomy, but because we are genuinely persecuted. And I know you are thinking, “What’s a few harmless jibes? Get over it Coppertop.” But it’s really tough growing up the only redhead in your class. You feel so different at a time when you just want to be so, so the same. But I never had it as bad as the woman I saw on TV describe how her (male) classmates ripped down her dress to see if her pubic hair was red too. And when that South Park episode came out I wept for my little ginger comrades still at school that had another set of bullshit to deal with. I constantly feel like telling little ginger-kids, “Don’t worry — it gets better.”

There is also another case for our ethnicity — the fact we evolved to be genetically adapted to the highest latitudes — where the sunlight was weak or only available for the shortest periods. Our pale skins could soak up the limited sunlight more effectively so we didn’t have any vitamin D issues. Anyway. I identify as a ginger and it shits me so much when we are dismissed as just a minority hair-colour. We are all so much, much more that that.


When I see a random ginger I cannot help but pausing for that milli-second to process that meeting. I feel we have a tiny recognition moment similar to what the movie “Fight Club” popularised. We don’t say or do anything, (or even nod or maintain any length of eye-contact) — but it’s just an instant affinity. Maybe it is even mutual. So of course SPOLIER ALERT: this will become a bit of sensory overload very soon. More on that later.

So back to BREDA. When I announced we were going to the festival, Jess — a fellow ginger from Brisbane— said she would come too. I spent ages at Antwerp Station lining up to buy our train tickets (cause the machines refused to work). The woman at the counter was a ginger and for the 20-odd minutes I waited in line I worked up the courage to say that I was buying tickets to go to the Ginger festival — imagining all the while she would be pleased or at the very least — interested. It turned out she was mystified at best. Maybe it was my terrible attempt at translating the concept, but she had no idea about the festival, didn’t care about my trip and maybe even didn’t identify as ginger. Not a great start.

We arrived at Breda station around lunch time and when we walked out into the light we stopped because we weren’t entirely orientated. But then suddenly a woman came up to us with a brochure and I thought, “Ugh, somebody selling something.” I did my least enthusiastic “hi” and was even about to decline what she was offering. But then she asked if we were here for the Festival. Instantly I was gobsmacked. Though not a ginger, she was an official spruiker of the Festival. She handed us these booklets and gave us directions — all in English. It was incredible. We felt special. We had arrived. We just might be home.


There was a bit of drama getting this apartment — despite the fact I booked it first and three whole months before we were due to arrive. (The whole reason for the trip was based around getting to Breda). Eventually Laura in the UK had to pay for it because I couldn’t pay by credit card and paypal would only pay in Australian dollars (which the owner refused). And that was a highly convoluted process and took ages and all the while I seriously wondered if we were being scammed.

So when we arrived at the address and it was just a vacant shop I was horrified. “I had a bad feeling about this,” I said. We looked around the back and were met by a security gate with no intercom. Dee was calm. Jess was calm — but I was mortified. I dove into my pack and brought out the confirmation print out. There was a phone number listed. So after a few fails at  getting the area code, I got through to the owner and he was like, “You’re early! I’ll be there in 10 minutes”. Saved! I can’t imagine what we would have done had we not got SIM cards. Anyway. Crisis over.


This is my review of the apartment if I could be bothered: only one bedroom, but there was plenty of space. Noisy at night — made good use of ear plugs. No hair dryer. No air-con (just a very ordinary ceiling fan in bedroom). The three flights of metal stairs were treacherous after rain. Complicated key system. Wifi was a bit flaky. Don’t forget (like we did) to bring 300 euros in cash for safety deposit.

Exploring Breda we saw all the sights despite only officially simply trying to find a supermarket. Then we realised we needed that hairdryer so Dee and Jess went off hunting that while i lugged all our groceries home. Jess and Dee made a frittata for dinner and we ate on our balcony which had a decent view. Then we all got showered, made-up and blow-dryed (me included) and made our way to the nightclub which was the first event on the Festival schedule.


As we got closer I got both nervous and excited. Not being totally confident in google maps I wasn’t even sure we were in the right place, but then we turned a corner and there were some gingers hanging about outside. I instantly said hello to everyone. But I got some push-back. I got the intense feeling they were not used to being greeted so warmly by a stranger — even a fellow ginger. I think that is a European thing. (My friend Cass moved to Norway and said to me that if he greets a random in the street, like just being polite, they cannot comprehend it. They assume you are an acquaintance they have forgotten. It is inconceivable to them that a stranger would want to simply say “hello”.) I worried that this whole event would be a bit wooden. Just a photo-op. A total disappointment.

But of course I was determined to make the best of this. Inside, as the beverages kept flowing, everyone seemed to loosen up a bit and realise there was an affinity. Eventually you could just go up to anyone and say, “Hi”. We met a bunch of gingers including Ireland’s Ginger King. (He had a crown to prove it). And then we were all corralled into a group photo. At that point knew this event was important. The Ginger-Fest hadn’t officially started but there was at least 200 gingers here ready to stand up and be counted (and party.)

IMG_0687.JPGHere’s the Irish King!

I got in there for the photo and then dived upstairs while the MC was still talking to get a shot of the crowd below. I posted that shot to Instagram as something like: “There are 100% gingers in this shot. True Story” It was profound. I know I use that word a lot — but it was so meaningful. I was with my brothers and sisters. I was with people who knew what I had gone through and I knew what they had gone through (and would go through, potentially, for the rest of their lives.)

My ginger friend Nicci commented on that post saying, “I can’t imagine what that would feel like.” And as I woke up the next day and saw that — I realised it was a truly momental occasion.

NICCI: “You’re so used to being an oddball that you don’t even think about it anymore, until someone mentions they were in a room full of people similar to you, and you get an odd sense of belonging for the first time that you didn’t know could exist.”


The next day Jess and I were all trying to look our best. I have never had the need to shampoo my hair twice in one day — but that happened. As I ventured out that morning I felt   quite consciously that I was being “looked at”. I felt like everyone knew why I was here. But combatting that hyper-self-consciousness was the fact I felt like I wasn’t the only one. All us gingers were almost celebrities. Indeed Jess will later tell you stories about how she was shot by all these ginger-paparazzi. (Stay tuned)



That morning we got our country stickers. We seemed to be the only Australians there — but later we found at least two other gingers form Australia. But most of the gingers were from Europe. One from Iraq. For the first time ever I have worn our flag with pride. Not pride in the flag, just pride in the fact we had come a long way and there were many, many gingers in Australia that I had promised to represent. And I thought of EVERY SINGLE ONE OF YOU. (Even though I forgot to tag the awesome Shelley in my Insti post. Still sorry about that Shell. Forgive me!)



On this night Dee chose to stay home. She could have come, but in her mind that would have been awkward. I understood her decision. So it was just Jess and me who got assigned to different “teams” for this event. They had to divide us all up into groups of about 12 so we didn’t overwhelm any single venue. My group had two guides and then we hit about 8 pubs and nightclubs before a big meet-up at some massive nightclub. Of course – I had a great time. That was a given. I was a bit dusty the next day it should be said.




OFFICIAL PHOTOS (we are actually in these – just saying)

So a Sunday emerged and we all met in the Square and again it was too many gingers to process. It was obscene. Ginger-kids too. About ten of them were planted on this stage looking out over all of us. (They were so well behaved it should be said). After a big speech by the mayor we all walked about a kilometre to the train station for a group photo. At that point Dee got excluded. There were bouncers that literally said, “Gingers THIS WAY, you people go over there.”

Dee was a bit nonplussed already. Obviously I felt sorry for her, but then I didn’t. SOZ BEB.

The Sun had now come out and it shone down on us just like the deadshit it is. We all realise it is the reason life exists and the reason we all still exist, but to us, it is still pretty bullshit.

We all stood there in that SHINE for about 30 minutes trying to look our best “GINGER” and always looking straight ahead while these goobs tried to get the perfect shot on-top of these cherry pickers which were constantly going up and down. All the while we were melting, squinting and possibly developing (or nurturing) various skin cancers. UGH! This terrible MC was running around interviewing gingers on the loud speakers and it was cringe-worthy at best. I didn’t really expect anything better — but this was billed as the pinnacle of the whole event. And it was pretty ordinary. They really need to make that bit slightly less contrived. Like we are herded. Or a spectacle. Just saying.
















I’ve said it before and I will say it again — it is so, so civilised travelling by train. The seats are generous, the security and immigration is less intense, you can walk about anytime you want, watch the countryside (except for the tunnel parts) and you generally arrive right in the centre of town. I would even rate the chugging motion, the clickety-clack of the train over the tracks being quite therapeutic and conducive to sleep – if that’s what you need.



In saying all that — our hotel was in the old part of Brussels so we had quite a walk up there on rather hot day, dragging Dee’s suitcase noisily over the cobbles. A good 20 minutes passed.

IMG_0739.JPGDee carried my backpack, while I looked after her suitcase and my smaller pack

Eventually we arrived and the place was pretty fancy. But we conversely — were quite dishevelled. We must have looked so awful they gave us a glass of home-made lemonade while we checked in. It emerged the hotel was an old Dominican monastery. It was the kinda place that had a personalised welcome message on your room’s TV and the kinda place you took a photo of before you messed it all up with your crap. In the public areas a loop of Gregorian chants was omnipresent. I am not sure if that was settling, or kinda weird. As we came and went here I am sure the staff thought of us as probably simple folk that have accidentally come into wealth — “nouveau-riche”. We wore pretty simple attire relative to the other guests and we didn’t have the breakfast and we were always coming and going. I guess it was all confirmed when we famously got the barman (right in this supremely palatial bar) to open — literally the cheapest bottle of wine in Brussels — because we didn’t have a bottle-opener.

IMG_0770.JPGDid some boxing in the hotel gym — was great!


While Dee freshened up I hit the town exploring and found a bunch of places to show Dee later. Here Brussels had those tiny lanes and organic street layout. Brux had a charm. The flags draping over the lanes and the fact it was a tiny, but quite big city all at the same time. We were staying in the hyper-touristy section but you could still get a feel of the place despite the incessant “frites” signs and “chocolate” stuff.

That evening we spent 50 euro on two ramens for dinner. Why it was so expensive I do not know — maybe it is a delicacy here.





Meanwhile my feet were a mess. I had developed a massive blister on the plane 4 days earlier and it was now a goiter-sized bubble on my left foot. The other foot was littered with blisters too. Jess Kearney and I did a comparison — I won. And the only relief I got was to get walking for about 15 minutes. Once you had got accustomed to the pain, once your feet were “warmed up” — then you could perambulate with some degree of dignity. The cobbles did not help.


The next day I hobbled the 400 metres to the Museum of Comics which was super-interesting. The english translations were a bit dodgy, but it was so amazing realising cartoons go back to those monks back in the middle ages and their innovative illustrations to religious texts. And nowadays a lot of comics are done with super-sophisticated software on massive tablets. It’s almost cheating. There was a lot of Tintin/Hergé — he’s pretty-much a national hero in Belgium.


But also this comic about a guy called Boerke. Which I think loosely translates to English as a dude named “Dickie”. (Of course it does. LOL). There was this installation devoted to these comics and it was so subversive — but so incredibly hilarious too. (And beautifully illustrated too!) It’s the sort of thing you could only get away with in Europe. But we both thought it was the best. You be the judge:




The town square looked postcard perfect the day we arrived, but then overnight all these trucks arrived and ugly bunting and pavilions were being set up for some gooby beer festival. All that old-world-chic was now ruined by 21st century logos and plastic and cordons and crowdedness. In all the airports in Europe, just after you get through security, or though immigration, they have this pad with 4 options on it. Colour coded and happy/sad face options. “How was your experience today?” it asks. But “Ugh” or “Sigh” was never an option. I think I would hit either of those buttons on this day if one of those bad-boys were available. But maybe mostly I was complaining cause any photo I wanted of the place was compromised and instantly dated.

That night we had a beer at this pub that Jon recommended which apparently had over a 1000 beers on tap. It was called Delerium and it was one of those places that was a bit of a warren. It had exotic and historic beer memorabilia plastered all over the place and all the tables were barrels. Outside (at the rear non-entrance) it had a gigantic beer bottle hanging off the facade and the words “BEER PLANET”. Ordering one of 10 beers available is intimidating. Ordering 1 of 1000 is just utter bullshit. But being the trooper I am — I somehow managed.




The next day I did an early morning trip to get breakfast at the local “Paul” — a popular boulangerie chain over there. According to the diary I wrote that day I was a bit scared about ordering something in a place not necessarily frequented by foreigners — especially at that hour. Despite practising, I managed a very bullshit “Deux croissants et un cafe au lait, sil vous plait.” But of course they answered in perfect English and I was all worked up about nothing. My “Merci!” was literally perfect it should be said.

We met Jess at the train station and then had a quick lunch in the tourist-trap restaurant section and then we headed up to our train. I checked another “FAIL” into our list when buying our tickets from the only FRENCH speaking vending machine. So I accidentally bought 3 return tickets — we were only going one-way. Oh well.

We arrived at the magnificent Antwerp(en) Centraal Station. Possibly *the* most amazing train stations I have ever been to. From where we arrived, at it’s deepest depth, we looked up towards the light and it seemed like a temple. We took all these successive escalators up and up towards the pinnacle, all the while more and more bathed in natural light and getting closer and closer to the original station building with its massive dome and incredible architecture.



Our hotel was just across the road but it was a bit “basic”. Jess was sharing with us. Despite the fact it was blazingly hot there was no air-con, no fans and the layout of the rooms was weird. (Jess was basically sleeping in a windowless cupboard off the main bedroom). The shower was a bit awkward and there was no WIFI! UGH. Deal-breaker. But it was just for one night — right? Luckily the temperature dived once it got dark. We got composed and headed off towards the old part of town. The route was through a major commercial district. Malls and expensive shops everywhere.



Then were were suddenly upon possibly the tallest church I have ever seen. And it was like 12th Century. Crazy. We stopped for a drink (I had a Duvel) in the courtyard ahead of the church then somehow arrived at a bar that had a “house dog”. A place called Billie’s Bier kafetaria.

I had something that tasted truly awful but apparently was revered and had an incredibly complicated brewing process.


Next we had the WORST dinner at a Chinese restaurant. I accidentally ordered basically a macaroni-cheese in a Chinese style. (The menu was in Dutch). It was more bland than disgusting. Like the kind of food you might appreciate if you were on a long-haul flight and you had slept through a meal-service.


IMG_0636.JPG(more on this later — eek)











IMG_0663.JPGDee was hoping to buy Albo’s new book at the airport — but instead just had to download it to the Kindle.IMG_0672.JPG


This is the story of our 40 day trip to Europe. It was a “busy” trip. It made my head spin when the reality of it all hit the night before we left. I was a mess of nerves and I genuinely believe I was more anxious than I had been on the eve of our first time to Europe almost 10 years ago. This time we were jumping about Europe like iced-up-maniacs on pogo-sticks. By our standards it was an unprecedentedly hectic schedule. We weren’t stopping for very long in any one place — apart from the 6 days in a row at London right at the very end. (Which was essentially a reward for all our previous express-tourism). We had three separate car hires, one of which was that right-hand drive bullshit with a manual — meaning I not only had to get my shit together to drive on the opposite side of the road, but had to change gears with my right hand.

There were a bunch of intra-Europe flights on airline carriers we had never heard of and all the transfers that necessitated. There were a bunch of extremely early flights. And we were yet to book a bunch stuff — particularly in Ireland.


The last time we arrived in London it was at 6am. (This was back in 2011). And thus we made it to our hotel in record time. Probably just before 9. Naturally the hotel room wasn’t ready so we were forced to wander around a bleak, grey city like zombies for hours and hours until we could check in at 3pm. Lesson-learnt, this time we booked an airport day room. It was so tiny and super hi-tech it was like living on the International Space Station. There were buttons everywhere for lights and the TV but crucially a button that would un-furl the bed. (It was like a massive robotic Jason-Recliner). That done the entire room was filled up. Once you were done napping you literally had to collapse the bed so you could move about the place again. We only got about 1.5 hours sleep but it was enough to feel a tiny bit fresh for the trip from Heathrow into the city proper.

We took the express train to Paddington, then got some brand new Oyster cards and planted 20 pounds on each. At Liverpool Station we took a quaint black cab and the (equally-quaint) driver was the most ENGLISH person you could imagine. I actually think he called me “Gov” or “Governor”.

So we were staying in Hackney. About halfway down Hackney Road in a spot I would describe as “authentic” London. On the “dodgy-scale” I would rate it at about 15%. Like there was perhaps a 15% chance anytime you ventured out there that something uncomfortable would occur. Within a stone’s throw there was a Chippy, three off-licenses, a Tesco and some weird proliferation of bag merchants.


We soon learnt our road had three great services (the 26, 48 & 55) that would certainly get us moving in the general direction we needed to be — if not taking us almost exactly where we wanted to go. So we didn’t use much of the Tube. It is only a pound per journey on the bus — no matter how far you travel (as long as you stay on that particular bus). As opposed to the Tube which is almost 4 quid minimum a trip. It was now all about the buses. We would always ride up top to get the views and to be guaranteed a seat and jut for the novelty. Plenty of people also took dogs on the bus — Dee would rate that as another bonus.


Our date with Laura K and Laura Morrissey was in Shoreditch at the Owl and Pussycat. We walked over and, being inherently super-punctual — we got there early and I was faced with my first cultural malaise. I was ordering our drinks and I had been prepared for Dee’s wine but my beer proved a complication. I successfully ordered the wine, but as I looked down at the beer-taps I couldn’t recognise any brand — or any variety. As far as I could tell there was not even a Guinness or Kronenberg option. Whatever I stumbled into ordering was barely OK. I think I even ordered it again just cause I couldn’t bear the roulette of trying something else which might have been worse. It was a bit of a wake up call. I was now on the other side of the planet and I had to get my shit together.

It was so great to see the Lauras and epic good times were had. PizzaEast for dinner.



We were back at the hotel by 10 and we crashed into bed. Asleep almost immediately. But at about 3:30am we both woke up and I decided to use the facilities. The room was unfamiliar and completely dark and I was searching for the bathroom light. “Where the fuck is the bathroom light?, “ I said to Dee. I had completely forgotten that bathrooms in the UK have the light switch on the outside. It is absolute stupidity — but that is how they do things over there. I was stumbling around and Dee was giving me some suggestions. Eventually I found this cord and I think I said, “Hey maybe this cord is it.” Dee literally screamed, “NO DON’T!” But it was too late.

I yanked this cord and suddenly all these alarms went off. I literally thought I had set of the Hotel’s fire alarm. Dee sprung out of bed in a panic and was like, “That’s the panic cord.”


See we were in one of those “ambulent rooms”. Designed for people with disabilities. That panic-cord was super-effective. It not only made unspecified people in the hotel (or else) in panic-mode – but I too was now also quite a bit PANICKED. I dived upon the room’s telephone and was immediately in touch with someone in Reception. In hindsight I realised I had picked up the receiver just at that instant after Reception had dialled our room number to check on us.

“Oh My God, “ I said as calmly as I could muster. “I didn’t mean to do that.” She started telling me how to cancel/reset the alarm but her instructions weren’t quite specific enough. (I guess because all rooms are subtly different she was telling me to find this switch at a place it definitely was not.) Another panicked minute or two ensued before I found that cancel button — on the ceiling of all places. I leapt on a chair and the CRISIS was averted. But all that adrenaline was still swimming about our super-wired bodies and as we slumped back into bed it took us a bunch more time to get back to sleep. After that I started making a list of all the FAILS! we had done so far.


1) I said “G’Day” at least twice within hours of arriving.
2) I said, “Can I chuck that on my card?” — which would have been equally a highly mystifying and creepy thing to say now I realise it.|
3) Dee accidentally locked her suitcase after accidentally spinning the combination locks.
4) (In Brussels) Buying the cheapest/dodgiest wine available but when we realised it required a corkscrew, we realised we were in such a super-expensive hotel and asking the concierge to uncork it. So much AWKWARD.



IMG_0392.JPG(And in 2016)

The next day, a Friday, we went into the city to get UK phone cards and have a wander around. Went to the British Museum and it was “Saturday” chaotic. So much more security since last we visited. Not much else to report about that day except the epic stairs at the Russell Square Tube station.


That night we caught the bus up to one of most favourite places in London — Stoke Newington — initially to meet Laura K. But then a bunch of other Brisbane ex-pats were on our agenda. Sonya and Brad, Mark and Katie. We all piled into this tiny backroom section of an awesome vegetarian Indian restaurant (RASA) and shared stories of living in London and me and Dee got excited. Then LK and Dee and me headed to Camden (EDIT: Actually Dalston — thanks LK) to see Susan’s band. Laura Morrissey was there too and then suddenly Mitch appeared. So many Brisbane friends! But jet-lag was creeping up and I was mostly to blame for us leaving just before midnight. Moments before I made the call I had accidentally gone to the women’s toilet and it was horrifying. “OMG! I am just a tourist! I am a Deadshit! I am so sorry!” That was literally what I said when I emerged from the cubicle and when the realisation punched me in the face. The two women there were luckily very understanding.




The weather had turned a little. It was periodically drizzly but our tiny umbrella seemed to keep us dry as we walked over to the Columbia Road Flower Market. It’s a thing in London to buy flowers. It’s a bland and dreary existence here (nature-wise) and I guess you don’t get to see much natural colour and so people go a bit nuts for flowers to spice up their apartments. It was super-crowded and we slow-mo’d our way through the throng to find a quaint bagel place and dove out to the back for a bit of peace and to scoff some rather excellent bagels down. Then Dee and LK went off while we made own ways independently towards the War Cabinet Rooms over near Westminster. I made it most of the way just walking only having to get a four stop/one change tube ride to meet the deadline. The tube service was advising that patrons should take water to stave off the heat down there. It was good advice. The tube was disgustingly hot. You’d think being so deep underground it would be sufficiently insulated — but the air is so blisteringly stuffy. The atmosphere seems to be enriched by human body heat and having just walked up top for an hour meant my core temperature was already elevated. There was a spot at the end of the carriage where you could stand next to a tiny open window which provided some relief — but only while the train was moving.



The line-up for the War Rooms was epic, but after a quick stop at a Pret-a-Manger for a coffee we got hit by a sudden downpour. It was sufficiently severe to decimate the line-up and we made it down with only the briefest of waits. SCORE!

After learning quite a bit more about than I really needed to know about Churchill (but achingly little about his wife Clementine) we came up into the light again and realised we hadn’t seen a single window for hours. LK came back with us to our hotel room for drinks. Then collectively we did a poke-hunt in Haggerston Park and then at Bethnal Green we caught our first Mr. Mime — a Europe-only Pokemon. We were all so excited we did this big group hug. Embarrassing, but it felt good at the time.


IMG_0436.JPG(August 2016)

IMG_6637.JPG(January 2008)




It was a slow start, but after wandering around the area we made it to a cafe attached to a recording studio called “The Premises”. It was one of those places with signed pictures in frames all over the walls. Jarvis Cocker, Little Boots, Lily Allen etc. A group of four fat Council workers had the table next to us and were so deplorably inappropriate they made Trump seem like an angel. The runt of the group was a guy called “Fat Paul” who copped most of the vile. And he wasn’t that fat. Poor bastard. Even the waitress was insulted — “You’re not as fat as Fat Paul,” one of them said. Literally.

Anyway. It was mostly a quiet day that ended with dinner in a section of Hackney that I can only describe as Little Vietnam. Tomorrow we had to negotiate THE CONTINENT. (More on that later.)

ASIDE: This was my favourite ad on UK TV. So good. (and the way the dog jumps up in the very last second is equal genius and magical.)










IMG_0710.JPG(Drinking in a park with a squirrel)

My Pokémon take


So everyone knows I am utterly obsessed with Pokémon Go atm. I have done quite unnatural things. Nothing sinister or tragic, yet, but I have been caught in public quite a few times trying to snag one. And I hate looking conspicuous in public.*

I have had a few disparaging looks. I have had to stop suddenly while walking through the city. I have varied my route to work (and home) every day.

On Monday I said to a workmate who had joined team “Valor” or “red” as he called them — “Valor is the team Adolf Hitler would have joined.”

“How do you even know what the teams are even called?” he replied. And later he implied that I had committed some form of workplace harassment**.

On an all-day pokémon-expedition on Saturday Dee and I were so low on battery we had to source a free charger in the city and then we just sat around in this tragic food-court beside a BIG W for 30 minutes. (It seemed like 2 hours.) It was both pathetic and awesome at the same time.


Like everyone else from Wednesday two weeks back we saw these random pokémon references in our socials. These pictures on instagram of a pokémon “in the wild”, so to speak. When I knew it was getting ridiculous was when I read an online story on the Friday imploring poké-hunters to get themselves a portable battery lest you retire from the hunt prematurely. That night Dee and I were getting toasty on the couch and had run out of things to watch on Netflix so I suggested we download the app and give it a go.

And I thought, “I like walking! This could be mildly amusing. Even just to see Dee get excited!”

As soon as I said it I realised there was something of an ambit claim in my thinking. To my absolute shock Dee said, “Why not.”

See Dee grew up with pokémon, but for me, it had come a bit too late. Still — I love all things Japan kawaii. And cartoons/anime especially.


Pretty soon we donned sensible footwear and clothing and headed out into the dark. Our street was pretty dark as far as pokémon were concerned, but down the road was something interesting. Soon we found our first gym. It was weird to see this tiny park was now a tiny centre of some virtual universe. Dee knew more about the rules than me. “We should head to the park,” she said. We smashed ahead, or stumbled it should be said. We searched all the parks within 3 kms from our house. We didn’t get one single pokémon. Despite running back and forth across Milton Road (one of the busiest in Brisbane).

Because the app was only installed on my phone we were constantly transferring that phone between us. And of course it got dropped onto the concrete footpath. I picked it up to see that the screen was horribly cracked — even in the gloom all around. I was pretty “zen” about it at the time, but pretty soon I thought — “I don’t want to be *those people* with the cracked screen.” NO!

To me a cracked screen is like an albatross around my neck. It implies stuff. I have prided myself on having four iPhones over seven or so years and not one got a cracked screen. I’ve never even had a case. I take care of my shit. Yet now I was suddenly clumsy, a drunkard, a douchecanoe, a Mr Magoo. I got that screen fixed the very next day.

[And that cracked iPhone screen cost $179) A screen which is seemingly so “cheap” it doesn’t work with polarised sunglasses. Like the screen is completely invisible.

So as you can imagine, this means I have to PARK those glasses. Ugh.]

By Sunday evening I was so hooked we now had separate pokémon accounts.



1) I met this guy on Saturday who runs a venue in the Valley right under a poké-stop. He now reckons his business is booming and now has a LINE ITEM poké-coins to buy lures so his bar is constantly lit up for poké-hunters.

[I know the press have been complaining that poké-stops are at Arlington Cemetery and a Holocaust monument (eek) but I have this feeling that the real story will hit soon. The seemingly arbitrary allocation of poké-stops will lead to some consternation in the business community. All the cafes and restaurants and bars that are just outside the poké-stop — while their competitors are right under it — will feel deprived. If this phenomenon has some longevity — this could really be an issue.]

2) I have been at a poké-stop where a lure has just been set off and seen a car pull up where the occupants were just there obviously trawling the neighbourhood for lures to improve their chances of catching.

3) Personally Dee and I have only ate out over these past two weeks where the restaurant had a poké-stop directly on top so we could eat and either set off a lure, or take advantage of the current lures. Then catch them all!

4) Dee and I were in the Queen Street Mall last Saturday and stopped to catch something and the place was teeming so we were just nabbing them wholesale. There were so many poké-stops within range with lures going crazy. When we eventually ran out of prey we looked up and realised about 10 other people were doing exactly the same as us within spitting distance. We chatted to a bunch of them — one being this brother and sister. The brother had an arm in a sling. He had run into a parked car trying to catch a pokémon and got a wrist fracture — before he realised you could still snare a pokémon without getting right up in their grill. (I made that mistake too). The sister asked what team we were on and I said, “We’re both on Mystique and we both chose that team independently!” I said.

“It must be TRUE LOVE,” she replied — slightly lispy because of her braces.

5) After gushing about how hooked I was I asked my boss if his eldest kid was into it. (She’s 11). “No, I think she’s too old for it.” SNAP!

6) The Server Meltdown of Tuesday, July 12, meant a totally wasted walking-commute to work. I could have listened to music, or devoured a podcast or two. But instead I tried to log on to the server every 50 steps. I was LIVID. For the next few hours I could not get out of my head how many pokémon I had missed catching.

I was so depressed I wrote a song about it. Key of C minor of course.

You can listen to it here.

7) On that very Tuesday, (before I realised the server was fucked) I had bumped into our neighbour who has two kids aged about 8 and 11. I asked if they were into pokémon. She had no idea what I was talking about. “What? It’s all over the news. It’s changed the world,” I said — and I was only half-exaggerating.  The next day I get a call from the youngest asking to go get some pokémon. My neighbour had had her revenge. So I set off an incense and took them for a walk up and down the street until they had captured a few.

8) I have made so many new friends. It’s like how in Fight Club you know someone else is in Fight Club cause their face is super-beat-up. And you do this little nod at them saying, “I know, but I am not gonna say anything about it cause of that RULE #1”. And when iPods came out it was just like that because of the white ear-phones. But this time you can tell obviously someone is out chasing pokémon cause they are walking around with their phone held out in front of them desperately looking down hoping for stuff. And they are wandering around parks in the dark. Or they are sat as inconspicuously as possible at poké-stops or poké-gyms.

I have shared so many smiles, and nods, and hellos and even this. This woman was coming towards me, make 20 metres away, and I just held up my screen (which was a huge green halo in that dark) and she did the same. When we met in the middle we just chatted pokémon. “What have you found?” “What’s nearby?” And when she replied to the “What level are you up to?” I was so disgusted I said, “Oh — you are so dead to me.” I headed off and she laughed.

9) There are poké-masters out there who see it as a business opportunity. They are hoarding stardust and super-upgraded pokémon to sell once the fabled trading system gets released. I met one of these guys at the RE. He and some mates were just hanging around lures and using the pub’s powerpoint to charge their phones so they could go out hunting again. That guy told me so many tips I bought him a drink.

* As a kid I hating being in the city with my mum, cause we both had the same bright ginger hair and I assumed everyone was looking at us knowing definitively that we were mother and son. Ugh. I was so introverted it was appalling that a stranger could instantly know something so personal about me with just a glance. And so I made my mother walk a few steps ahead. TRUE STORY. Don’t worry — I have kinda got over that.🙂

**mostly true.


How someone took advantage of our missing pet

Today someone took advantage of me: and here is how. 

Today is the 9th day our chook “torrence” has been missing. Hopefully she is dead cause I really can’t imagine what suffering she must be going through if she still survives. Sometimes I imagine her out there and think she might be fine finding food – it’s just finding water that worries me. And dying of thirst…. 😢

Despite trying so hard not to, I grew to see her as a genuine pet. A friend even. She has her flaws – just like the puss – but I am quite attached. 

I did my best to find her. I’ve walked around, I’ve made a flyer and letterboxed twice and now all hope seems lost. Then today I got a call from a private number.

“Do you have chooks?” she said. Immediately I thought Torrence was found. Yes! I said, excited. But instead, this call was just to complain about our other two chooks. She was threatening to call the Council. I sunk again into that malaise.

They were digging up her yard every day, she whinged.

Ok, sorry, I said. Trying hard to disguise my disappointment. I told her I’ve built this fencing trying to keep them in. But, yeah – they have always found a way through. 

I will fix it, I said.

“When will that happen?” she bleated. “Because I will call the Council.” Repeating her increasingly nasty threats.

“If you feel you need to call the Council, then go ahead,” I said. 

Now everyone in my work-pod could hear. Sencing this conversation was going downhill I dived into an empty office. 

She demanded to know when I would fix the fence and I said i would do it on Saturday, but if she felt she needed to complain to the Council in the meantime she should do that.

The conversation ended and as I emerged everyone was wondering what that was all about.

“Chook drama”. Everyone calmed down – but I was still wired. 

Super upset. No one appreciates that chooks are meaningful – I get that, but it still shits me. I was also upset that I had upset a neighbour. I value my neighbours. But something else was niggling at me.

I asked my boss for some leave so I could go home and check it out and attempt to fix the problem.

Once home the two surviving chooks were indeed missing and I called and called but they didn’t return. I then went around to this neighbour’s house (she gave me her address on the phone) and said, “Hello, I’m here to bring the chooks home.” 

Even then, this woman was cold and obtuse. I stood well away from the front door and politely asked if I could find the chickens and take them home. She refused, highly implying I was untrustworthy, and went looking for them (she found one) and only then told me I could enter the property. 

The garden she was so precious about was pretty ordinary. A rusted old car without plates or full tyres in an asbestos shrouded shed (dangerously shattered it should be said) dominated the front. Out the back was a garden with no fence on one side. The garden was neat, but not cultured in any sense that a chook could comprimise. Indeed the bush turkeys do far more digging. Our chooks scrape – they do not dig holes.

So I grabbed the chooks and as I was leaving she casually asked me about the missing chook. “She’s gone,” I said as bluntly as possible and I kept walking. Not looking back.

Then I spent the next two hours fixing the fence. And all the while I remembered this woman had just taken advantage of my loss, via my flyer appealing for help looking for our missing chook. 

All she wanted was to complain. about nothing really. And she took my phone number from that plea for help, just to complain about a tiny agenda that really meant very little. 

I just cannot understand why people treat eachother like this.

I miss our chook and I hope this person feels bad about it too. 

Killarney Overnightah — NIGHT 1, DAY 2

A Thing From DAY 1 (see it here) I Forgot To Mention:

At maybe the 4th or 5th Condamine river crossing we see this 4WD waiting for us to finish crossing. It’s completely stopped at the other side. In no time we get out of the river and then the car sets off and just starts gunning it across the river as fast as it could go — so unnecessarily. It was bouncing all over the place and making such a racket. We all just lol’d. That’s not how you do it. Duggie said (like he was talking to the driver), “Dude, the river isn’t that deep. If I dipped my dick in the water I wouldn’t even get my balls wet.” TRUE STORY. 


So it was about 3:30pm when we got to the pub. Killarney Hotel is definitely a country pub. Lining up at the bar was a genuine cowgirl in boots with spurs. Later Scott was like, “I only thought that stuff existed in old movies.” Dan went inside to sort out the rooms but then he was back saying they didn’t have my booking for the motel section. Argh! But they did have a room upstairs and so I took that. We all paid upfront and I was desperate to get outta my kit so I raced upstairs with my bike. Then I hear this, “Excuse me love…” And it was one of the hotel workers telling me to put my bike in the shed out the back. “Is it secure?” I said and she said it would get locked later. Last time we were here we got to put our bikes in our rooms. Oh well.

After I had changed Scott and I went out to the shed to check it out. There were kegs and cartons of beer and hay bails so we figured there’d be no way they’d leave it unlocked overnight.

20160521_193556_zpstmd9tqs0Later in the night Dan took this shot. Someone had hidden or secured or just dumped some hay in front of our rigs. Hmm


Just after we had arrived in town we had convened at the local Foodworks and I had scoffed down 2 of their rather dated-looking sausage rolls (plus an ice-coffee and a coke) and then after my first beer once we got to the pub it all felt super-tight in my stomach and I had to go for a bit of a walk to get things loosened up again. So I was a couple of beers behind when I got back. We were all camped out in the smokers section on the front deck.

I went inside and found a spare form-guide and stuffed my Condamine-soaked-through shoes with the scrunched up paper. Later I found more newspaper and did the same to everyone else’s shoes. They would thank me later for that bit of genius.

Some locals started talking to us — a little patronisingly it should be said. But we didn’t care. We were on our best behaviour and having a good time. There was a lot of hi-fiving and back slapping and talk of how tough the day had been. I asked Duggie if he would have included that first detour loop if he knew how epic the ride would be and he said, “No…I wouldn’t…but I’m glad we did it. You know?” And I totally understood what he meant and agreed. It hurt, but it really gave the ride something special.

IMG_0003Here’s Scott getting acquainted with the pub-dog.


After a tag-team system we were soon all showered and changed and the pub was now getting pretty busy. Lots of guys in cowboy hats. Lots of kids in cowboy hats. Heaps of people wearing sleeveless puffy jackets. To order food you lined up at a section of the bar. We let the line-up get a little shorter and then jumped on it. Most of us ordered this steak sandwich and James Squire combo deal for $15. Bargain. But the barman looked a bit perplexed at this fancy city-beer and had a bit of trouble finding them.

After hoofing down all our meals and sides (I think Scott had two mains) Duggie then spied the jukebox and as we all had unwanted coins weighing down our kit we all pooled our resources. And Duggie set about queuing up the next 50 or so songs. (Only a slight exaggeration). He said there was a LOT of Pantera. Thankfully he didn’t select any of those tracks.



20160521_213222_zpssog75ay6Photos by Dan!

Suddenly we were back in the smoker’s lounge opposite a group of three women. Gradually we all got talking. I think the two pub puppies facilitated things. (They belonged to the pub but the two cats were strays they said). We were all having a good time but it seems there was some politics going on that we weren’t aware of. Suddenly that famed “country hospitality” wasn’t as forthcoming. Some of the staff seemed to be a little upset. Agitated even. Unfortunately (or fortunately) I didn’t get to witness much of this as I crashed into bed at 9:30 well before stuff escalated. So what follows is sometimes what I remember, and sometimes what I was told the next day.

I’m gonna try and be impartial here. So I will just point out the case against us and you can decide.

1) We drank everyone under the table. I certainly thought I might get refused service when I started buying rumbos. Scott said exactly the same thing.

2) We were eating some snackfood (like nuts and chips) from the Foodworks. And I guess that is a bit uncool seeing as they were selling that sort of stuff too.

3) I bet the tracks Duggie picked on the jukebox hadn’t been ever, ever been played in that place.

4) We were just being friendly with some local ladies and how were we to know their facebook status might have been set to “It’s Complicated”.

5) And I guess we were charming and funny and super cool. I can understand our awesomeness was a bit confronting.

6) We were a pack of blow-ins on push bikes for Christ sake. How offensive can you get?

7) And yes, we did stay up a bit late… More on that later.

According to Scott the staff suddenly called last drinks just before 11pm while there was still 20 people about. The 4 crew remaining went upstairs to the back balcony with some takeaways. Some of you may have seen *that* Instagram pic of Duggie. Here it is in case you missed it:

Screen Shot 2016-05-23 at 8.37.55 pm

I think Dan wandered off to bed next. Then Duggie. But Scott and Wookie were still socialising.


At about 1:30am I drifted out of sleep. My room was at the farthest end of the hall — next to the bathroom. All of us had been put in the southern wing of the hotel in rooms 1 to 5. I think I heard the lady that organised our rooms saying that she had put us all together and kinda implied that we were away from other guests.

IMG_0005This was my bed BTW. My feet went way over the end.

And by the sound coming from across the hall I just prayed that was the case. By “sound” I mean a woman giggling and then a voice I kinda recognised as maybe Scott delivering another zinger — then more giggling. The walls of this place were paper thin. Ancient VJs. And Scott seemed to have a lot of zingers up his sleeve. Far more than Bill Shorten.

Eventually I drifted back to sleep praying we wouldn’t get in trouble. Then at approximately 2:15am I woke up busting for a pee. Just as I stood up out of bed I hear this BANG and then a bit of muffled commotion, the toilet being used (rather noisily) and definitely no more zingers. Then silence. But by then I had dived back into bed and folded my legs together and willed myself back into slumber. At dawn I was woken by cows bleating and then bizarrely a voice coming from a loud speaker quite a long distance away. The Country is weird.

I went to the bathroom and then as I came out this random guy was coming in through the still dark hall and I said, “G’Day” but he just kinda gruffed at me.

“Oh man.” I thought. He must hate me (us). I looked up the hall and the only open door was only metres away from what I assumed was the centre of all that partying just 4 hours ago.

By 6:30 I was downstairs and made myself a coffee (I didn’t realise they still sold International Roast) and read the paper — which incredibly was the Sunday edition: pretty civilised for the Country. Then that guy from before was there. I said hello again as warmly as I could manage expecting some more grief, but he must have mellowed after his shower and he said “Hi”. I waited a minute then asked him what he was up to today. He was doing the 10k fun-run up to Queen Mary Falls which started at 7:15. Right! Duggie had warned me about this. One of his mates was doing it too. We caught up with her later.

It took quite a while for anyone else to join me. Eventually Wookie was down and I set about getting the bikes out of the shed. The air was pretty crisp but it wasn’t brutally cold. I was comfortable in my kicks with arm and leg warmers to cover almost every other bit of my appendages. I guessed it was just above 10 degrees. (No where near as cold as last time we were here).

Soon Duggie was down and then Dan looking far more rested than anyone. When I brought up the delicate details of what happened last night it seemed Dan was even more oblivious than me – having slept like a log the whole night through. Jelly.





So then I quizzed Wookie and Duggie about just what had gone down last night. And we all had to be very quiet cause it was so early and we had some controversial subjects to discuss. But I slowly pieced together what that commotion just after 2PM was all about. I can’t really explain it, but all I can say is that Wookie had had enough and banged on Scott’s door demanding the partying ended and that led to some guests leaving and the hotel being dead-quiet again. As far as I know everyone got home safely.


So for the second time in two days I was the designated “get Scott outta bed” guy. My first strategy was creeping up the creaky stairs and quietly knocking on his door. Unfortunately no one knew the exact number of his room. So I ended up knocking on this door and an old guy emerged looking entirely mystified. At least he was dressed I thought.

I apologised as profusely (and as silently) as I could manage and then knocked on the door next. No answer. Not even any stirring.

Back downstairs we collectively decided I should try calling him. Ring. Ring. And then, “…Hello.” Thankfully he sounded quite composed. “Time to get up Scotty,” I said. “Ok.” he replied. And though it took him a lot longer to get ready this time, he was downstairs and eating breakfast and looking quite decent. I gave him the sliver of Panadol I had left after me and Duggie had got stuck into it. He was very excited about that.

The dude who I had just met upstairs (and his mate) were now downstairs in the backyard area with us having a durrie. They didn’t seem to have noticed (or cared) about all that nocturnal partying.

IMG_0292Scott eating his breakfast at the kids table. Deservedly it should be said.


So that part of the adventure over and we were rolling again. About 7ks in and we were starting that climb up to Queen Mary Falls. Immediately we saw the straggling runners on the road from that running thing. I felt I needed to say hi to all of them I was passing but after about 50 I just kept rolling and minded my own business. Most of them looked like they were cooked and didn’t really mind having to make an extra effort of saying “Hi” back at me.




20160522_0821010_zpsalrhfkzrThis was a thing. At least twice up the climb. (photo by Dan)

20160522_081427_zpscvxm9dtfThe runner’s sag-wagon. (Photo by Dan)

We stripped off all our extra layers only about 600m into the climb. Just above where this Dan’s pic was taken. It was getting warm. Duggie got to say HI to his pal and at the top it was madness with runners and buses and cars everywhere. But the climb wasn’t over and we headed up to the Carr’s lookout about 15ks from the bottom.


A quick stop at the lookout and we were into that first crazy downhill. (3km of nuts-berg) I warned everyone as much as I could about how steep it was and how it had this left-hand hairpin which had almost been my undoing last time I was here.

We made it down safely and the cows on the verge at the plateau didn’t mind us (unlike last time). I forgot to tell you that on Saturday we had to deal this massive cow chewing the grass on the verge half on the road and seemingly oblivious to us. I was leading and came to a complete stop about 30 metres away. Despite it being midway through a downhill section I signalled to everyone to stop and while everyone skidded to a halt Scotty did a big “WHOOP!” and the cow freaked out and charged away — we resumed rolling.

The next descent was steeper and longer and there were bunches of motorbikes coming up at the same time. When I saw the first bunch I was so freaked out I did a few skids in my attempt to lock-off some speed. (Last time we had this road to ourselves cause of that fallen tree blocking all traffic right at the bottom.) So I was at least 200 metres behind everyone else. The disc brakes on this rigs were now whining and sounded like they were rubbing the pads. Scott explained that when they get that cooked they can get warped by the heat.


So I had missed this IN-JOKE about spotting windmills that Duggie and Wookie had designed. Anytime you called out a windmill you got a point. So at the end of this ride the stakes were high. Everyone except me and Scott were on almost equal points — at about 4 each. So there was a bit of competition happening. Anytime a ridge was looming it was best to be in front just in case you got the first to spot one. And Scott was now in on it too after getting a single point on the board and thinking with just 20ks to go he was still a chance. It took a bit of getting used to when someone would SCREAM and POINT and I thought the world was coming to an end — but it was just another one calling out a windmill.


Naturally Scott the most enthusiastic. I tried to get on board but the only contribution I made it was a tie with Duggie. Oh well. At a few points right in the death the crew was swaggering all over the road not concentrating at all on the conditions desperately looking at the country on either side like a new-age Don Quixote. At a few points I almost ran up the back of someone who just decided to stall while they scanned the horizon or wondered if a car smashing over a crest would wipe someone out because they were drunkenly taking up all sides of the bitumen.

So the tally was:



ME — (1)

image1Photo by Wookie


I was really suffering in the last bit. It was hot and I wasn’t getting enough food or water in me. My kit had that halo of extreme salt-sweat. I had really underestimated how brutal this section was. Exposed to the sun and a lot of shitty little climbs right at the end. I had no chance of spotting windmills let alone keeping my shit together. Thankfully Wookie got a flat (sorry Brad) and I got a decent rest and a chance to stock up on fluids and food.

But then we were back at Mt Alford and the windmill prize was divided equally. Thankfully the cars were just as we had left them. The pub was open and we packed up our gear and I was first to stumble inside — I was so cooked. I started looking around a little bleary from all that previous effort. The place looked kinda nice. I found my way to a menu sitting on the bar with a sign saying “Order All Food Here”. And then I hear this rather annoyed voice saying, “Kitchen doesn’t open until 12”. It came from a woman sitting at a table all by herself who just might have looked related to that grumpy staffer back at Killarney. “What time is it?” I ask. No answer.

I ask Scott who has just joined me. It was 11:20. We can get lunch at Boonah I say. Scott agrees but then looks like he is on a mission. He disappears deeper into the bar. I walk outside into the hot glare and heat and break the news to the rest. Everyone agrees at my suggestion to go to the cafe at Boonah — the one from the Boonah breakfast. “But do they have beer?” everyone asks. “Yes they do. Totally.” I say. I was only about 50% sure I remembered that. But thankfully I was right.

Then I was in the car cranking the aircon and Scott eventually emerges carrying a 6-pack of VB. Oh right — that’s what he was doing.

On the way to Boonah Dan was pointing out windmills from his car. Unfortunately they didn’t count. Soz.

At Boonah most of us got chicken burgers and then it was another all-over-hi-five and we were separately heading home — adventure done!

There was talk of a new one on July 9. JUST SAYING.






IMG_0311 Another one of those 12% bullshit signs. UGH!