Cousin Jenny was waiting at the airport to meet us in Sydney. She had not changed much in the twenty eight years since I had last seen her. I was now a slightly shorter version of my Dad. Our timing had been auspicious, as we had managed to land on Australia Day. Jenny whisked us off to the habour, where she had booked us in for a cruise, so that we could enjoy the festivities from the water.
The experience was like being slapped around the face with a big Australia stick, so much so that we forgot about our jet lag. They had tall ships racing, air displays, and (my favourite) ferry racing, with all the passengers cheering their boats on. All the Australians we met were very friendly (just as the English are on Bank Holidays). I should make it clear at this point that Jenny is a Kiwi living in Sydney.
After a walk around the Opera House and the Botanical Gardens, we headed for the Blackbird Cafe in Cockle Bay to meet up with some more of Jenny’s friends. As soon as I saw it on the menu, I knew it would be the perfect way to round off the day, and I did enjoy my kangaroo steak. However, something even more Australian was about to happen – a fireworks display!
When it was all over we walked back over Sydney Harbour bridge to Jenny’s place, where we enjoyed a very good night’s sleep.
Next day Jenny went off to work, leaving us to our own devices. With great joy, we discovered that Australia had also been invaded by German supermarkets. Once stocked, we wondered off to have an Aldi based picnic in the Botanical Gardens, stopping off to see some Aboriginals making some tourist dollar in Circular Quay, and the works in the contemporary art gallery.
A couple of days later, we arranged to meet up with an old work friend of mine, who had been living the immigrant dream in Australia for the last seven years (time flies… etc.). I had discovered on the first day that our Jenny knew Tim quite well. We had become used to coincidences, but even so, this was a pretty big one. Tim was on good form, and showed us round a couple of bars where they sold proper ale. The place where we had forged our working relationship was one of the less glamorous locations in Bradford, West Yorkshire. As we were enjoying our ploughman’s lunches washed down with craft beer in one of the fashionable parts of Sydney, I felt that we had both made some progress.
Earlier in the day, Nikki and I caught the bus to the start Split to Manly walk, which gives you real flavour of Australian fauna, without stepping outside the city. There was a brooding thunderstorm to entertain us along the way. We loved it. Having completed the walk, the ferry returned us to Circular Quay, which was an event in itself. From there we walked back across the bridge to Jenny’s, which had become a familiar route for us.
Then, as soon as we had arrived, it was time to go. Jenny had been a wonderful host, so we took her out to lunch to say thank you. The Greens was located in the North Sydney Bowling Club, and was serving up good food on what had turned out to be a bright sunny afternoon. By the time we got to the airport the sun had given way to clouds, and by the time our flight was due storms were causing delays. The airline gave us a beer token (we were also allowed to spend it on food), so no stress. It was 4am when we arrived at our lodgings in Christchurch. The sun was beginning to break on a warm sunny day, but first sleep.