A merry time

Make it so! Trying out the Captain’s chair on the HMAS Vampire.

Danielle on the HMAS Vampire,  pondering doing a Cher impression

The ship engine speed indicator thingy. (Herg̩ РThe Red Sea Sharks)

(Weekend in Sydney continued)

Danielle and I set off for central Sydney, stopping on the way to borrow a street directory from her mum. Oh, and we stopped a few times for traffic lights. And to pay a toll. And for some traffic congestion on Parramatta Road.

Eventually we got to the Australian National Maritime Museum, a humungous building on Sydney’s Darling Harbour. Danielle, being a volunteer guide, was able to park in the staff car park (otherwise we wouldn’t have driven in, since like in central Melbourne, parking in Sydney’s centre is not a particularly convenient, cheap or desirable thing). We moseyed on through the museum, saying hello to people she knew, and checking out the old boats. The submarine HMAS Onslow was particularly interesting – I couldn’t imagine having to live in the cramped conditions of a sub for months at a time – I don’t think I could stand it.

Pyrmont Bridge was nearby, and every few minutes a monorail train would go past. At one stage the bridge opened… and nothing went through. Apparently they just open it once an hour for the hell of it. That could be very annoying if you were coming across it in a hurry.

We strolled over to the big food court at Darling Harbour (proper) for some lunch, and ate it in the glorious sunshine, watching the boats go by, and watching a busker trying to impress people doing tricks on a BMX bike, swallowing balloon swords, tossing a chainsaw around, and cracking such jokes as "Where would we be without laughter?……. Melbourne!"

Then we strolled back to the museum, and walked up and down and around the HMAS Vampire, sister ship to the doomed Voyager. I got to try out the captain’s chair, and shout some orders through the old pipe intercom thingy. Naturally since I’ve read The Red Sea Sharks, I already knew how the engine speed indicator thingy worked… (Danielle says it’s a telegraph.)

After we’d had a merry time in the maritime museum (that’s a kind of a play on words that doesn’t look as good as it sounds), we got back in the van and studied the map for a bit to try and figure out a good way of getting onto the Harbour Bridge, and thence to my sister’s place. A quick phone call to my sister aided in the navigation, and we were there in no time (well, okay, a little time – about 10 minutes), to find my sister Susannah and her husband Adrian in the middle of moving all their furniture. I hadn’t planned to come up the weekend they were moving, it just kind of happened that way.

I said my goodbyes to Danielle, who was heading back to her house (I’ve really got to stop pushing my shoulder into people’s throats when I hug them), then proceeded to help lug stuff to the new place. Their new flat is bigger, on a quieter street, and has some hilarious 70s decor in the foyer. Then Susannah drove me to the airport, where the fun and games began.

19:55 – Arrive at airport for 20:30 flight. Notice that the boarding time is 20:35. Oh great, the whole thing’s doomed. Again. What is it with Sunday night flights out of Sydney? Second delayed in a row for me.

20:00 – Check-in at the E-Check-in thing and go through security. This time I thought I’d hang onto my bag, just take it as carry on luggage. Having lived through an airport baggage delay screw-up last time, I didn’t want to be delayed any longer than necessary when I eventually got to Melbourne.

20:05 – Find some Sydney postcards in the newsagent to mail to Isaac and Jeremy. Find somewhere comfortable to sit down and fill them in. Then get up and wander towards the gate, looking for a post box. There aren’t any.

20:10 – Get almost all the way to the gate, and realise the boarding pass slipped out of my pocket back where I filled in the postcards. Dammit. Run back.

20:15 – Find the boarding pass, and go back to the gate. Boarding time is now 20:45.

20:20 – Ring my sister for a whinge. Then play Snake on my phone.

20:30 – Boarding time now 21:00. Go for a walk back to the newsagent and buy a magazine.

20:35 – Back at the gate, almost wishing I had checked-in my bag so I wouldn’t have to carry it around everywhere. Read magazine.

20:50 – All us poor passengers board.

21:00 – Push back from terminal and fly home, with captain apologising profusely on behalf of Ansett.

21:15 – Pilot mentions that Melbourne traffic control have asked us to take a detour which will make us even later. Bastards!

22:30ish – Land in Melbourne. Disembark and walk straight out to taxis, glad after all that I didn’t check my bag. Get into taxi
more-or-less straight away. Open the window a little when I realise that faint smell is probably the driver. Proceed to be amazed as this driver is the only one I’ve ever met, ever, who sticks to the speed limit.

23:15ish – Get home. Note that the cost for the taxi was almost $60 – the fare to Sydney was $66 one way…

Still, despite the problems on the way home, it was a great weekend.

I have to say, I think Danielle is an inspirational person. She’s from a different part of Australia to me, not just physically, but socially. If we lived in the type of country that had class barriers, I’d probably have never met her. I’m a white-collar computer geek. She’s a single mother living on welfare. What’s inspirational about her is not only that she doesn’t want to be in that situation, but she’s actively taking the steps to get out of that situation, and to make her life more bearable along the way.

We’re both single parents, but I’ve got it easy compared to her. Meeting her has inspired me in a number of ways. On the superficial side, I think I want to finally take the effort to edit together my holiday videos, and to hook up my computer to a hi-fi so I can play MP3s really loudly. But more seriously, I want to think carefully about my goals, and what I can do to achieve them, and start doing that. And to help others around me work out what their goals are, and to achieve them too.

Thanks Danielle. (Jeez, she’s probably got a big head now.)

PS. I’ve started getting asked this, so I may as well clarify it all now for you nosey people! Danielle is a friend. This is not a Brady Bunch-type scenario. Even if there had been that kind of spark, I reckon two single parents living in different cities is all too damn complicated.

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.