Australia, July 2015 My nieces don't know me from adam

(Do people, other than Helen, really want to read about the stuff I'm doing which isn't daft flying?)

Screw you, jetlag. I woke up pretty early and watched some wrestling before falling back to sleep a little while before the girls were up. I'm sleeping on the ground floor but everyone else lives in the basement; when a 6yo and 4yo get up they aren't quiet, so there's no need for an alarm clock.

Breakfast was being eaten when I emerged into the kitchen. I was offered some crumpets which I eagerly accepted, with Vegemite in a when-in-Sydney style. The cupboards have way more Marmite though, 3 varieties!

Me, Harry and Alex played football for a bit with the spiky torture ball; Alex is a decent player but young H can't yet side foot the ball properly. While we played Sal called the whale watching boat folk and arranged for us to be rescheduled onto the afternoon departure from the city, meaning we had to get a ferry to get on a boat. This gave us a few hours to kill so we headed to Four Brothers for coffee.

Not only coffee; Four Brothers sell this weird ham+cheese perugino thng, kinda like a toasted croissant with sesame seeds and hell yeah it's good.

Harry negotiated an extra marshmallow which never materialised, and all 3 girls spent aaaaaaages squeeing over a 9 week old puppy that another family arrived with.

All morning thus far had involved both Alex and Harry debating whether my name is Adam or Darren. I say debating - more like, Harry insisting I am called Adam apart from when I said, fine, OK, it's Adam, at which point it became something else. This had started in the flat and carried on until we returned, at which point I said they'd been great for the 24hrs I'd been in town but were not going to get their presents unless they said my real name.

Darren! Darren! Darren! Darren! Darren!

I'd bought some pretty good presents even if I say so myself (and, with Helen's help). The criteria were: non-gender specific (like their names), educational and, ideally, something worldly. I like to teach them that there's stuff outside Australia including their heritage. Last year I had sent through an ace AFC Wimbledon top but alas the Admiral kit has proved too popular so I've failed to repeat that. This year I brought them:

  • a torch that projects colour dinosaur pictures onto the wall up to 1m wide
  • a blow up globe
  • notes from about 20 world currencies

The first two were real hits, though admittedly the globe is more popular as a volleyball than actual globe - after they first delighted in showing off their Atlas strength for lifting the whole world up.

The dinosaur pictures are awesome and we spent ages screaming our heads off being chased by them in the dark and protecting ourselves with the globe or some bubble wrap. Oh, yeah, Sal got a delivery of loads of cooking gear and suddenly the giant bubble wrap trumped everything until it was all popped. Can't blame them.

Soon it was time to head to Manly and park up, get some food, and get the fast ferry over to Circular Quay. For the first time since Friday I spent some money, on a remarkably average chicken burrito. Fast ferry boarding came around and we zoomed across the harbour in moderately cold wind and generally just much less fun than the slower Sydney Ferries service. But this ticket was part of our deal.

We take a few photos of the horrible weather, and both Kevin and I point out to our facebook friends that maybe we look a little alike. I wonder if the selfie will appear upside down to Windows users again.

what an awful journey

At Circular Quay we passed boats of all sizes from water taxis to the giant P&O cruise liner. Killed 15 minutes walking around the side then back to 6B where we'd been told the whale watching boat would go from. In came a boat and everyone stood up, crowding around the gangways as several staff members including Captain Cook himself screamed that this was not a whale watching service and we had to go to 6A.

5 minutes later in the throng at 6A, more staff screamed at us that there were actually two services and some of us needed to be at 6C. That included us. Total chaos everywhere. Eventually the right boat arrived in the right place and we snagged a table next to the bar with its complimentary biscuits and surprisingly wide range of beer.

featuring a rare photo of Kevin and Sally together

Out through the harbour and into the pacific, we got a bit of commentary filled with warnings that it's hard to find whales. There was a fair old swell and me and Kevin headed out on deck with the girls to look for spouts without any luck until, ooh, there we go...

The next hour or more was spent watching whales. We saw their backs poking out of the water, a bunch of spouting, and a few decent shows of breaching and tail whipping.

Whale watching is easy tourism because they have to come to the surface to breathe so you'll almost always find something.

Their precise locations are moderately hard to predict but we lucked out pretty good and got some cracking views of these multiple ton behemoths.

I used digital zoom rather than normal and crop so my photos are kinda blurred but I'm not sure I care.

Alex insisted on leading me all around the ship - front back, middle deck, top deck, everywhere. Too dangerous and against the rules for kids to go by themselves, but eventually it seemed pretty obvious the show was over and I stood firm with my desire to just sit back inside and have another beer. Kevin had done the same with Harry and so the 5 of us sat in the warm en route back to shore.

My name has become Adam again. And I can't remember the reason but Harry had reason to count to 3, which she did by pulling the horns. Cue 10 minutes of posing while rocking the horns \m/


Back at CQ for a loo break before the fast ferry back. At Manly Kevin negotiated with Sal for the evening and as a result me and him went to Four Pines. This is a brewery opposite the ferry wharf which does decent beers and huge burgers. Our first liquids are accidentally 7% or so and we calm down for the second... and third. They have a battle of the bands competition where the winners receive their own weight in beer and I think maybe I should pick up the bass again.

After 3 we're like, hmm, I think solids might be a good idea. We want to go to the hotdog place called HOTDOGS but we're put off by it being empty when no-one else is. The kebab house near the beach calls out to us but at the last minute is interrupted by the curry house.

I get the hot food hiccups. Kevin thinks I am a wouss. The food is decent and washed down with a Kingfisher. The loos are through a door marked NO ENTRY and beyond an upstairs alley past the kitchens and store rooms. Salubrious this is not.

Our cab back home is not obviously driven by a virulent racist like my last visit, and his hybrid car is so quiet at traffic lights Kevin is totally freaked out. At the house we watch The Voice again. I'm starting to like the show if not the actual singers. Jessie J is a bitch. Come 10pm I am exhausted and end up falling asleep mid-conversation with people back home at 10.35pm.

I wake at 0250. This gives the appearance of jetlag but mostly I just need a piss. Then I can't get back to sleep so spend way too long trying to change my flights home before realising maybe I don't understand the fare conditions properly. I kill some more time with podcasts and radio 4 before finally falling back to sleep about 0530. At 0800 I am back up because Harry and Alex.

They have stuff on today - H is at day care, AJ at "football factory". Sal is back to work. Kevin and I drop the girls off and then go for oeuvos rancheros breakfast which is great. We walk around a nearby viewpoint with signed dangerous edges and great views across a tricolour sky over a beach and bay. Surf is threatening.

Kevin ventures further than me

From another viewpoint north I enquire what the big fuck off church type thing beyond Manly is, so we drive there. It's an old imposing seminary now used as a school for "international management" and we wander around the grounds before driving back to town and visiting the council. I buy some t-shirts - not from the council, from RipCurl - and we sit down for the heaviest sweetest nicest chocolate waffles to a soundtrack of Alanis Morrisette.

All morning I've been a bit off form for no good reason. Headache, lethargy, tiredness. The weather keeps raining and we have no plans apart from to go pick the kids back up at 3pm. So it's about midday and we go back to the flat and I'm yawning so much I say, maybe I need a nap. Hell, I'm on holiday. So after some plane porn video showing Kevin the 787-9 vertical take-off I put my head down and BANG I'm out like a light.

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