Melbourne penultimatum Closing time

So here's how Melbourne airport works: exactly like Sydney international terminal, except better. In the big corridor there are kiosk machines for those of us with ePassports, and a big queue has formed. My time in the cockpit has removed the benefit of being up front and off the plane first, so there's a whole bunch of A380 passengers in front of me. I lend a guy a pen because he's not bothered, in 12 hours, to fill out his customs form yet.

The machine is a piece of piss to operate, way better than the Dallas ones. You get issued with a ticket, which you can then take up to the Oyster card style gates. There's a guy marshalling all the people who haven't understood at all that either they needed to do the kiosk first, or that they just plain weren't eligible. This means I essentially queue jump 5 people, and zoom through the gate.

Customs has, somehow, no queue at all. I surrender my ticket and customs form and am waved through the exit door, emerging directly into the clutches of a gaggle of suited men all clutching Qantas labelled A4 signs with names on. I stare at them all searching for mine - a guy who seems to be in charge, based on his possessing a clipboard, asks me my name so he can find my guy. I point out that he's my guy, he has the sign with my name on. Oh!

So, he swaps signs with some other guy who's clearly jittery and just wants to go driving. We shake hands, and walk to his car. It's a big lovely quiet comfortable ride and he keeps me abreast of roadworks and stuff. Conversation is a little stilted, I don't know if that's my fault or his. But within half an hour, spent talking on Facebook to a soundtrack of Billy Joel, I'm at my hotel, the Travelodge Docklands. I had failed to get to an ATM at any point and so couldn't tip him, which is horrifically embarrassing.

In the hotel I check in and they're, like, "oh like George Foreman?". Not heard that one before. Credit card and ID taken, I'm given room 621. It's about 9.30pm and I'm pretty tired. It's been a hell of a journey. I buy some wifi, post my blog, read the sign about there being no hot water from midnight to 6am, then I have a shower, get changed, and go to the pub.

Don't act like it's a surprise.

My old boss Ian, from LOVEFiLM/Amazon hell, moved to Melbourne a while ago and I thought it would be remiss not to grab a drink with him, especially as he's largely responsible for kicking off the process by which I joined Zoopla, who I love working for. He's told me he's at Federation Square which I discover is not a walkable distance, at least not for someone who doesn't really know Melbourne.

I step outside the hotel, not sure which way Southern Cross station is nor whether that's somewhere useful to be, but Google Maps shows me that Uber is available. Oh, there's Uber in Melbourne? Yes, there's Uber in Melbourne! The driver is 3 minutes away, which becomes 6, and is eventually 10. Another 10 minutes later and I'm on Flinders Street, opposite a spectacular station and outside a heartwarming sign - considering everything that's been going on back home recently.

Ian's waiting for me on the steps. Hurrah! So, time to get a drink. First up, a 4 Pines nitro stout in Beer Deluxe, a bar which calls last orders literally seconds after we order our drinks. Oh, OK then. Apparently Tuesday night in the middle of winter isn't a big late night drinking thing.

Next, a bar called Transport Public (or Public Transport?) round the corner, and a White Rabbit Dark Ale. They call last orders literally seconds after we order our drinks. Oh, OK then. We move on again, crossing the river and walking for a bit only to cross back over and drink at the Arbory, an outdoor bar between a train station platform and the riverfront. Mountain Goat steam ale, and they call last orders literally seconds after we order our drinks.

Hmm, turns out my photos are way blurrier than I thought. Perhaps my eyesight wasn't working as well as I'd hoped when taking these.

I think we're probably done here. I mean, to be fair, it is by now midnight and I've got 4 alarms set for various times between 6.15 and 6.45. Normally I wouldn't bother, but I have a feeling there's a tiny bit of exhaustion which could conceivably cause me to sleep a little more than 6 hours tonight.

Ian says paying to get home is pointless, because central Melbourne has trams which are free. All I need to do is walk a block away from the river, get a tram a few stops to Southern Cross station and then walk a block to my hotel. And so it proves, though I'm drunk and tired and feeling a bit lost so it's not the fastest journey.

Eventually I'm back at the hotel at, what, 0040 or something. I get online for a bit but, really, I'm so exhausted and really don't want to miss my ride in the morning.

I wake up before all my alarms, with no right to feel as good as I do. I'm tired, but that's it. There's no hangover or other ill effects from the birthday excesses. Hurrah! So now, time to get up, shower - if there's hot water! - check out and wonder how my cab is going to work.

What I mean is, I have no idea whether I'm meant to wait outside or not, whether they're going to call me, what kind or colour of car to expect, or anything. But at 7.25am a man walks into reception, goes up to the only male sitting on his own - me - and says my name at me. Excellent.

It's a beautiful, crisp sunny winter morning. The rush hour drive to the airport is fairly slow and nondescript, apart from the big wheel and some business called "Sexyland".

My phone is wishing me happy birthday, a day late. Thanks, Apple. The news on the radio is about the shooting and bombing at Istanbul Ataturk airport. Sigh. At T1 domestic he drops me off and I remember I managed to check-in last night on my phone, and have a boarding pass on it.

Security has 3 lanes, one labelled for business class. This is seemingly self-policed, as there is no-one checking any eligbility. In fact, no-one is checking ID or boarding passes at all. Seemingly, if you want to go airside all you need to do is get stuff x-rayed and away you go.

Liquids don't need to come out, iPads do. I'm prepared for this, but just as I'm about to release my stuff onto the conveyor the guy says "any aerosols?" and I remember my amenity kit swag contains shaving foam. Worse, I've put one in each bag. God damn it. Faff, faff, faff, and let 3 people overtake me while apologising.

But soon enough I'm through. The lounge is well signposted, but actually is through another lounge, which feels weird. Well, not lounge, but "Qantas Club" which you can buy paid membership for. It looks just like a regular lounge, but with perhaps fewer food and drink options than the dedicated business class lounge at the end.

The food and drink buffet is huge. This is good, because I'm ravenous. I dump my stuff at a reclining seat with footrest and great view of the runways and apron, and go get a big fat plate of fried goods. I think, bollocks, while in Melbourne I forgot to solve the Taman Shud mystery. Oh well, next time eh?

I always like staring at planes. Honestly I'd started the day thinking, jesus, some respite from this might be nice. It's my fourth day in a row of flying and even for me it was feeling a bit much, but sat here in a lounge snarfing free scran and looking at planes? I'm thinking, damn it, why isn't Sydney further away? Maybe I should've come via Perth.

Anyway. More food, sugary this time. Some Coke Zero. Admiration of vintage/retro Qantas livery on a plane which never comes close enough for me to photograph. Some dicking around with cropping and filtering.

It's too early for booze, but only because the booze is from a staffed bar which has a sign saying "bar opens at midday" on it. Probably for the best. Come 9am, my 10am flight is showing that boarding will commence at 10.05am. Smells kinda like a delay, which is confirmed simultaneously via two apps and once announcement on the tannoy.

Another announcement talks about the "flying tank to Cairns". I'm constantly perturbed by how it's pronounced the same as "Cannes". Eventually the monitor says go to gate, and despite them making boarding announcements I decide to go to the gate. Lots of people are milling around, but within a minute boarding is announced and there is well honoured fast track again.

I'm in seat 7A on a Qantas A330. Now, what I know about the Qantas A330 in domestic service is that they all either have, or are getting, the latest generation of business class. I'm pretty gobsmacked: this is a seat which turns into a bed, everyone with direct aisle access, USB charging, plenty of storage, etc etc - like, proper international quality business class - for a 1hr 25m shuttle service. Well played, Qantas! This is shitloads better than the 737 I spent 5 hours in to Perth last year.

The inflight entertainment options are the same as on my previous flight, but on a better, more responsive software system. The monitor seems better, clearer, and definitely the touch screen stuff is great. You can queue up playlists of things so I tell it to play me series 2 of Brooklyn Nine-Nine.

There's no disintegrating hot towel, but there is some guava juice. My seat is in a kind of mini-cabin, with only one window seat on each side and two rows in the middle - everything is in a staggered layout - ahead of us being the loos and first 6 rows of business class. Privacy is decent but not spectacular because my seat is next to the aisle, storage etc on the left by the window. Every other row has this in reverse. This also makes it quite annoyingly fiddly to lean over and take pics out of the window, but I clumsily do so numerous times anyway.

Oh, and the flip up cover which reveals the entertainment handset has a mirror on it.

If you don't want to use the inflight entertainment, there's also a streaming service. Download a Qantas app and you can connect to some kind of inflight Netflix-y thing, as far as I can tell (I didn't try it).

By this time I'm so into the whole idea of flying again that I'm gutted when the first officer tells us flying time will be under 1 hour. No fair! I want to spend much longer in this seat! And then my wish is granted, sort of, because due to a "fuel distribution discrepancy" we're stuck at the gate for a while longer.

We don't actually move until 1055, 55 minutes after our scheduled departure time. I've already finished 2 episodes. We climb steeply, and Australia looks pretty.

Is this Cronulla?

Despite a very short flight time, inflight service takes a while to start, maybe half an hour or so. I wonder if on these super-frequent Melbourne-Sydney hops there's maybe just a soft drink run but no, there's a personal greeting and choice of 3 main courses plus a rhubarb yoghurt and choice from a bread basket. Blimey.

My beer, and some people's food, doesn't arrive until we've already started our descent, but no-one is hurried to finish. Sydney is 15Âșc and sunny and we're at the gate by 1210, almost 40 minutes late. Announcements have already been made that those customers connecting on to LA or San Francisco will be OK, but only if they get a shift on. I have slight pangs of jealousy I'm not joining them.

But, I'm not. What I'm doing is buying a diet coke and then exiting, to find a lone man waiting by the escalators near the baggage carousels, holding a sign with my name on it. He's an extraordinarily friendly Bangladeshi guy who hasn't actually been told the address to take me to, and has never heard of Seaforth.

Nonetheless he at least knows to head towards Sydney city centre. What transpires is a journey involving an unrecognisable route, to me, from the airport to the harbour tunnel, then a recognisable route to the Spit Bridge, followed by a proper round-the-houses tour of backstreet Seaforth courtesy of his GPS being really bloody stupid.

But, eventually, I'm at my brother's house. There's a dog's nose pointing out under the gate, until I lean over, at which point there's a very very jumpy friendly jumpy licky jumpy jumpy dog. My welcoming committee: hello, Pepper!

We've never met before, but get on like a houe on fire. Though I do wish she would get out of my way just a little bit, as I'm trying to find the key.

Then she twigs - if she does get out of my way, and I do get the key, then maybe she'll be indoors in the middle of the day?

Yes! Yes! Yes!

Seconds after taking that last photo, my bro pops up on Facebook asking me if I'm in New South Wales yet. I guess I am. It's terra firma time.

Created By
Darren Foreman

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