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Punning free Park. Run.

Wow. I’m late with this, eh? As I type it’s 3.30pm on Sunday 21st July, so nearly 7 days since I actually got home. The intervening time has been a festival of jet lag, household electrical emergencies, work, and catching up on wrestling. But as with the last time I was tardy, I’ve had a few “are you actually home yet?” messages, reminding me that people other than me read all this nonsense. So with a heavy, undiligent sigh, I have put my blogging trousers on, taken my iPad and keyboard into the garden along with a can of beer, and can finally recount the predictable story of my way home from 2019’s Australian trip.

Saturday 13th July, then. I woke up after my second night in the astonishingly comfortable double/master bed in our hosts’ caravan, with my brother and his two daughters in the triple bunk across the way. Actually I don’t think I got out of bed until everyone else already had. It were still mostly dark, and I dressed myself in stinky running kit. 7am is Parkrun o’clock!

The girls weren’t up for it so they were allowed to stay behind on the promise that they’d make some headway into packing. Kevin and I got in the hire car, a little pushed for time, and headed down to Kirra beach.

It were quite nice, first thing.

Kirra parkrun takes place at Kirra beach. Not on the sand, but on the paved walkway just this side of it. Round these parts, Parkrun is super-integrated with the council and stuff - there are permanent official signs for where the starting line is and stuff. Good on you, Australia.

At the start line they did the standard Parkrun briefing, and asked if there were any tourists. Some slight appreciation for folk visiting from other parts of Australia, then I pipe up and say I’m from London. There are audible gasps and then a round of applause!

Unlike the previous week at Varsity Lakes, Kevin decided that today he really would run with me. In fact, he was also to act as my personal race photographer. This also meant he got to hear how loudly I breathe and wheeze and mutter obscenities at myself when I’m not going fast enough.

Me throwing the \m/ horns just after half way. Surfers Paradise in the distance.

Remarkably, we set off at a pace that would bring us in under 30:00. Even more remarkably, I kept this pace going until 4km or so. In order to force myself not to slow down, I openly proclaimed that if I did not come in under 30 minutes, I would deny myself the afternoon’s scheduled brewery visit – or at least any beer while there.

Since I’m largely better motivated by stick than carrot, I smashed 30 minutes into the ground, coming in at 29:23. My personal best is 23:54 so this isn’t some incredible achievement, but I think it’s only my second time under 30 minutes this year so it felt like success. The previous week had been 31:13 or so, so it was almost two minutes quicker than that. Hurrah! Batch, a brewery in Sydney, beckoned.

Wait, what, Sydney? Yeah. I’ll get to that. First we walked back to the car and drove back to Nige and Jo’s (note to t’other Nige and Jo: not you, though you knew that anyway). Amazingly, homemade bacon and egg (mc)muffins were being made, which would be ready in just about long enough for me to grab a shower. Even more amazingly, the kids really had done quite a lot of packing.

I ate while describing the Parkrun thing - from individual run at their local beach all the way up to the global phenomenon - to those present, then packed all my own stuff away. We had a fair bit of time to kill; the car didn’t have to be back until 11am, with Kevin and the girls’ flying at 1235, me at 1320. This gave Harry the opportunity to go out skateboarding for a bit and me to complain about how much my foot hurt.

I’d done something to my left foot during the walk around Byron Bay. Didn’t notice at the time, but was slightly limping when we went to the brewery there, and in the morning before the run it was much worse. But during the run – which, as detailed above, was a roaring success – I barely felt it, so I figured it was a temporary thing. Come 10am I was not so sure, because it was really bloody painful. Oh well.

Packing up and getting in the car, we set off and returned it to the hire car place. They had a people carrier ready for us with KEVIN written on a piece of A4, a private ride back to the airport itself. And on this ride, I looked at how things were doing and ... oh. Oh dear. Their flight, the 1235 Jetstar departure to Sydney, was showing up as almost 3 hours late. Shit. My 1320 Qantas was on time still. Hmm. Well, advice is always to go to the airport and see what happens - spare planes can be found, time can be made up, etc. So away we went.

Oh, crap.

There were loads of delays and cancellations showing. Bugger. The 0800 was over 3 hours late, the 0855 had left 90 minutes late, etc etc. You can all read. Well, what the bloody hell is going on here? And what should we do?

Since it was only 1030 or so when we got there, I still had almost 3 hours before my own scheduled departure. So, to the left luggage lockers in the car park we went, deposite all our shit, and walked back to Kirra beach.

Oh, yeah, I forgot to mention earlier. Kirra parkrun, next to Kirra beach, is also just a 5-10 minute walk from Gold Coast Coollangatta airport. Fantastic, if y’ask me.

We took a bit longer than 5-10 minutes through injudicious wrong turns before we even left the car park, plus a stop to buy a baseball cap and argue about Subway. By now, my flight was also showing a bit of a delay, half hour or so.

We piled into Kirra surf life saving club and the girls chose lunch, with the kitchen opening at 11am. Then they went out to play at the nearby play park, while me and Kevin had a pint with a view. (“Pint” is shorthand for “not quite a pint”).

The girls and the food all arrived at the table, and was kinda wolfed down. And then, since I’d made the mistake of putting all our bags in one locker despite my flight now leaving 2.5 hours earlier than theirs, we all had to traipse back to the airport.

Checking my bag in was a massive pain in the arse. In front of me were a family of 4, checking in 7 absolutely enormous pieces of luggage. At the other priority desk was a woman on her own checking in just one small piece, but taking 20 minutes or so to do just that. Bloody hell. But eventually I was sorted, and saying my goodbyes to the Southern Hemisphere Foremans.

The Qantas Club is immediately through security. According to what I’d read on the internet, I had no access to this with a shiny card, and I definitely didn’t have access with my economy ticket. So I’d paid, 40 AUD, a couple of days before when getting the offer in my email. I was muchly aggravated, then, to present myself and notice all the “oneworld elites welcome here” signage. Yes, my shiny card allowed me in after all. Bloody hell.

COLOUR ME UNIMPRESSED

Still, at least I’m in the lounge, a haven of peace while the terminal is full of people loitering around for their delayed flights to everywhere... oh. No. What I meant is, at least I’m in the lounge which has an 80%/20% ratio of kids to adults.

Bleurgh. It’s a fucking crèche. But there was a seat near the bar, and the bar was open, so what the hell. I’ll have a beer and ... a plate full of salad, please. Not only do I genuinely enjoy eating this stuff, I delighted in sending a pic to my bro so that he could show my nieces how I was eschewing the free cookies and ice cream in lieu of delicious beetroot.

Also fizzy white wine and plate of nuts.

As well as the lack of peace due to all the kids, the lounge tannoy was almost constantly on the go. The announcements were split between actual boarding or delay information for Qantas flights, and “look, if you come up to my desk I can’t actually make any planes go faster, and I have no access to Jetstar’s systems, so please just leave me alone” pleas.

With my flight now further delayed, and news reaching me that the other Foremans had also come through security and found seating at a bar in the main departure area, I skedaddled and went to join them. Hello again, Southern Hemisphere Foremans!

Had a beer. Their flight time got no better, mine got no worse, eventually departing an hour late at 1420.

A walk across the tarmac from gate 1 to my plane, QF863 to Sydney. I was in row 4, which is the first row behind business class. Not just on this flight, but always - business class is its own thing on Qantas short haul planes, unlike the convertible nonsense BA have.

This turned out to be a massive rookie mistake. Because row 3 only has two seats on either side of the aisle, there’s nothing in their seat backs. No screens, no USB power, for the three seats in row 4. For the same reason there’s no table, meaning mine is in the armrests which make this row’s seats noticeably narrower than those behind. Literally the only benefit of being here is a bit more legroom – which was nice – and the ability to get off sooner, which I absolutely didn’t need at all.

Oh well, never mind. So long, Gold Coast!

Things are moving. All the delays had been due to bad weather in Sydney and Melbourne. In fact, word was that one of Sydney’s runways had closed, so bad was it. If true, it sounded like I was in for a bumpy landing.

But up here, in New South Wales’s northern rivers, things were still bloody lovely.

In the air, pie arrives. This is the free food on a short haul Qantas flight: a pie. I totally approve.

I asked for a beer to go with it, but was told it would cost 6AUD. I didn’t fancy paying for it, and anyway was a few drinks in from the airport and stuff, so it wouldn’t harm me to stay off. And besides, it was still lovely outside.

As we banked over Sydney, the city looked fantastic. It almost always does. Where’s this bad weather? All gone after a morning of chaos?

Once we were out over the ocean ready for final approach into Sydney, it did in fact get very bloody bumpy. Not Cessna-12-seater-through-a-storm bumpy, granted, but bumpy nonetheless. We landed at almost 4pm, over an hour later than scheduled. Kevin and the girls, however, had still not even left Gold Coast – their 1235 original, 1515 delay eventually got punted all the way to 1630. Christ.

The most annoying thing about all those delays is that I could have fucking run slower in the morning. The plan, originally, was this: Kevin takes the girls to Sydney, picks up the luggage, hands pretty much everything off to the girls’ mum and then waits for me. I arrive at 3pm, and we go to Batch, a brewery about 20-odd minutes away from the airport.

The new plan, given everything that had happened, was: I arrive at about 4pm, get my bag, take more than half an hour to reach the international terminal, find the Qatar Airways desks which are the furthest ones away from anything useful, then find somewhere to sit down for the 2 bloody hours until they open. Bah! Also, by now my left foot has upgraded from “painful” to “bloody murder”. Walking is slow, hurts a great deal, and I have a very pronounced limp. Fucking woe is me.

Further compounding all the fail, this here is a picture of a very disappointing Rueben sandwich, and a lager called “lager”. I bought it at one of the landside food court concessions. There are a couple where one of the cards in my wallet would entitle me to 36 AUD off my bill, but only if I could also present a same day boarding pass – and the reason I need to wait for the Qatar Airways desks to open is because their fucking app refused to issue me with such a thing.

The time at least afforded me the opportunity to write up some of the stuff I’d done during the week, but it was a mistake to believe the airport WiFi was up to the job of uploading it.

The food court place closed before I even left it, and still before the T-3hrs. Wandering painfully back to the desks I see people with Qatar Airways luggage tags heading towards me – they are open, early. Hurrah! So I walk up to the first class counter, hand over my suitcase, get paper boarding passes back to Copenhagen, and am ready to go. Good.

Because there is construction work taking place at Sydney Airport right now, in order to make things better for departing passengers they have closed the “express path” fast track facility. Furthermore, I am caught behind an old couple walking even slower than me, who manage to almost reach immigration before a member of staff explains to them that they haven’t actually checked in yet, and must go all the way back out.

The automated immigration machines let me through, so then it’s security. I only have one small bag and I take out the iPad and keyboard and camera in order to minimise the chances of it being sent for secondary security. It works! However, I personally am randomly chosen - so says the bloke handing me a card on which my rights are written - for a secondary inspection of my person. Bloody hell. Don’t you know my foot hurts?

Because I’m not carrying or tainted with any contraband, I’m let through. I hobble to the foot of the escalator up to the Qantas First Class lounge. But no! I’m not going in there! In my wallet is an Amex Platinum card, and Sydney is one of the few airports in the world which has a dedicated American Express lounge. Having never been in one, I’ve decided to go take a look and see how fancy it is.

It’s not that fancy, really. I quite like the decor, and that it’s dark, and that I can walk up to a bar and ask for beer and get one for free. So I do that. Also the WiFi is plenty fast enough that I can pare down some of the diary backlog.

Qantas First Class lounge this ain’t, though. So after just the one beer I pop upstairs and go sit in the foody bit. A menu is presented, more extensive certainly than any plane, and more than most restaurants.

Yeah, “Humpty Doo barramundi” sounds like it’ll hit the spot. And y’know what, that “winter remedy” cocktail sounds bloody amazing. I’ll give that a go.

That one there.

The food is delicious. I knew it would be. I also knew it wouldn’t be a huge portion, but since I’d been eating regularly that was OK with me. The guy who arrived at the table next to me was after something substantial, and so ordered 4 different things from the menu. Four!

The cocktail was FUCKING FANTASTIC. I dunno if “Qantas honey” is different to normal honey but whatever.

THIS.

Because it hurts to walk I opt not to vacate the seat in this part of the lounge. At 7pm there aren’t many more flights that can carry eligible customers anyway so it’s not busy. I move from cocktail to champagne and keep wondering if by some miracle I’ll get upgraded to first class on the plane, but without a digital boarding pass in the app I won’t know until the gate. I can see my plane through the window, and boarding is announced at least an hour in advance of departure. It’s an A380 after all, a big fella that can take a while to fill up.

Since I’m of limited mobility I set out almost straight away. Boarding has commenced and priority is well administered. My pass does not elicit a magical beep and I’ll have to make do with the glorious seat I’d picked weeks ago, 19A in the comparative dormitory that is the Qatar Airways A380 business class cabin. And on that note, because I always underestimate just how much shit I can write about a mundane “parkrun, then delayed domestic flight”, I’ll stop this episode here. There’s still three flights and 30 hours to write about.

Created By
Darren Foreman
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