No Crane, No Gain Ill behaviour

Thursday. My last full day in Sydney on this trip, and maybe for the foreseeable future. Kevin had the day off. What to do? Go get a drink at the only pub/bar on an island in Sydney Harbour, that's what. I wanted to reprise my visit to Cockatoo Island from 2014, only this time turning up on a day when the bar is actually open.

The girls were heading off to vacation care later than usual, what with not needing to head out at work-o'clock, though in actuality only Alex went because turns Harry's vague temperature and illness from the previous night had turned into full blown upset stomach and too-much-detail emerging from numerous orifices. Poor lass. So, she stayed home and a tag team arrangement was arrived at: me and Kevin would look after her until just after midday, at which point Sal would come back from work and take over.

As I stood in the kitchen while all this was happening, Pepper decided she wanted to show off a bit. She is an excellently ridiculous hound.

I watched TV with Harry for a bit: Bananas In Pyjamas, Play School, some Sesame Street. Took my time writing up the previous day's Cremorne+distillery trip, and failed to be shown how the BB-8 Droid I "bought" the family for Christmas works, since it wasn't charged up.

Midday came fairly soon, and arrangements had slightly changed. So long as Harry could keep her stomach in check, we'd drive over to the city with her in the back and Sal would return, leaving us free to go head islandwards. This plan succeeded, leaving us wandering around Barangaroo for 20 minutes until the boat, buying caffeine and looking at boring cranes.


Down at the wharf and here's our catamaran, the Parramatta service: first stop Cockatoo Island. It's a short journey and drops us off at a wharf next to which are some loos and a counter selling food, soft drinks, and .. oh, beer. They have booze here. This is not the bar I remembered. Huh.

Anyway we memorised the times for the return services, and set off to do proper tourism before getting on the sauce. Mostly, this involved taking photos of cranes. Lots and lots of photos of lots of cranes. You're gonna want to skip ahead a fair way if you don't want to see pictures of cranes.

Cranes are excellent. I don't know why I'm so fascinated by them, but they just look so great. The more dilapidated the better, obviously. I've no love for working cranes.

But bad boys like this are wonderful!

I did exactly this last time I was here, except fewer photos and no blog suitable for bombarding people with the ones I did take.

I like crane silhouettes too.

In my defence, a large part of Cockatoo Island's attraction is the history of ship design and building from there, plus its time as a jail. These kind of places need cranes.

I mean, there's just so bloody many of them. In my pad, I wrote CRANES CRANES CRANES CRANES CRANES CRANES CRANES CRANES so that when time came to write the day up, I'd remember what I did accurately.

OK that's enough cranes. I have more if anyone is interested, plus I posted a bunch of them to Instagram anyway. Talking of which, my phone's been going mental for the last couple of days as I've posted without doubt my most popular pics ever. I mean, we're talking ~50 likes, not hundreds of even thousands, but for me it's not bad. Makes me feel a bit strange: the "popularity" is nice, but I can't put my finger on why, and it doesn't make me want to go chasing more by doing whatever it is people do to generate followers and likes. Certainly not going to get someone to shoot me with a Desert Eagle while I hold a book in front of my chest.

Er, sorry about that brief diversion into introspection. Where was I? Oh, yes, I'd just posted a fuckton of crane pictures. Right. Yes. So, the rest of the island has other stuff too: there's a campsite, some buildings you can pay a lot more to stay in, the old convict yards, loads of buildings used by the ship designers, etc etc. There's an audio tour but we don't bother, instead just self-guiding and reading very little of the signage.

This is the camp fire, around which campers are invited to sit of an evening. Perhaps they burst into song, or tell ghost stories?

To the west of the island there are loads of seagulls. They are noisy as fuck and keep splitting into pairs to have rucks. Can't tell if it's aggression or friskiness. Either way, I'd have appreciated it if they'd been a bit quieter.

An awful lot of the buildings are closed, and the ones that aren't don't seem particularly interesting on the inside. Kevin makes an attempt to enter a couple that are verboten, likely due to asbestos. In the joinery shed someone's actually doing some joinery, much to our surprise. I wonder if it was a ghost.

No-one's playing basketball on the basketball court nor tennis on the tennis court, but up next to the latter we wind round the cliff-top walk for some decent panoramas of the harbour and Sydney city centre from the west. Also I'm staring at the open space beneath us and thinking, hang on, that's where the bar was. Where's the fucking bar?

It's kind of a 3 storey island, surprisingly varied. Kevin's amazed by how much stuff he's missed out on his previous visits, though it all seems mostly familiar to me. Some is new though, like the bit next to the brick residences and in fact the camp site itself. The convict stuff remains very cool.

Through one of the windows there's an opportunity for a naturally framed crane photo, which I can't pass up despite the result being pretty bad.

Eventually we make our way back to ground level, having on our tour passed about 15 different loos. There's only two things left for us to do, really: the dog leg tunnel, and the turbine room. But first I insist on heading over towards where I swore the bar was. There's an out of date map on one building wall and it proves me right: Island Bar used to be right there on the eastern apron, where it currently isn't. Well god damn it. I suppose the other place still counts as "the only bar on an island in the harbour", but it's not the one I wanted to visit!

Never mind. Anyway, the turbine room is out of bounds because there's a huge racket coming from there: turns out there's a gig being prepared for, including a bar (grr), and soundcheck is about to start. We've no idea when or who it is, only that it means we're out of luck. So, back down to the dog leg tunnel where several people in hi-vis jackets seem to be waiting for other folk to leave before they close the entrance. What? But our impression is wrong: it's still open, but they have rigged up speakers to be play boring dance music a bit too loud, such that the beams may rattle a bit unnervingly.

But, we make it safely out the other side and that's it: let's finally have a beer on the island. It's a bottle, which almost makes it feel like it doesn't count, but it does count damn it. As we're there, supping in the sunshine next to the wharf, a private boat arrives. Striding at the front is a lass with dark hair, behind which can only be described as an entourage. Someone looks like a bodyguard, some people are carrying bags, etc. Kevin looks it up: the gig is tonight, and this is Lorde.

I'm supposed to have heard of her but haven't. Apparently she's won a grammy, or at least been nominated for one, but it all means nothing to me. I assume it's just inoffensive pop. Judging by the soundcheck I fear for the structural safety of the turbine room; when I have a piss in the nearest loo, the sound is booming so much I almost don't need to manually shake.

Our brief brush with celebrity comes to an abrupt end because the catamaran taking us back to the city is due any minute. Kevin has hatched a plan: we should visit Harts Pub in The Rocks, behind the bridge, because we discovered last year that it's a fantastic craft beer pub. Up a couple of hills and we're in, 15 minutes before happy hour starts. I go for a Rocks Brewery butcher porter, he has some imperial stout.

My drink is lovely. It really is. It's the local brew, tastes delicious if a touch too dry, and I should be enjoying it. The only problem is, Kevin's drink is fucking spectacularly nice. The kind of stout you take a bite out of, oatmeal-y like you've spilt Ready Brek in it. The taste lasts for ages and it's just oh my god so nice. Bloody hell.

Well this means we have to have another drink, ostensibly to complete the round but mostly because I insist on having a pint of Imperial Nibs. Sorry, not a pint, a schooner. It's every bit as magnificent as the brief taste I had. Good lord(e).

We should leave, really, especially as neither of us have eaten anything since I had a banana at 7am. Exercise and 3 beers is already making me a bit wobbly, but ... but ... but ... there's an 11.1% imperial stout on the menu we feel compelled to try, so I get us a couple of those. It's fantastic of course.

Bet you weren't expecting that photo.

Our ever-increasing strength booze plan is ever-decreasing in how sensible it is, so we buck the trend and leave. It's my last evening to spend any time with the girls too. So, up to the rush hour bus stops and an express to Seaforth. En route I ask Kevin to confirm the anecdote I've been telling people in the UK for years: that in the 1980s he was meant to be seeing Bon Jovi at Wembley Stadium, but they got booted out and up to the Milton Keynes Bowl by Bros. He has no recollection of the events leading up to the gig in MK, only that it took place. Well fine.

Off the bus, we approach the gate to the house just as a man emerges from a nearby car, looking a bit confused and holding a large carrier bag. Turns out we've perfectly timed our arrival to coincide with an enormous order of takeaway Chinese food about which we (a) knew nothing (b) are very very pleased.

The food is very welcome and we wolf it down. I'm asking for permission about what I'm allowed to have and what I'm not, so Sal helpfully labels things.

The 90s music channel in the background interrupts my ability to concentrate on anything else by suddenly playing Tom Jones "If I Only Knew". All I can do is pause and shout "Yeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhh!" because that song is AWESOME. My rendition is not, nor is my latest attempt at a Tim Tam Slam. On my third go I get it right. It's a bit underwhelming, truth told. I'm only admitting this now as I type it out in Sydney airport, away from the opprobium I expect to have heaped upon me when Sal reads this.

The BB-8 Droid is still not charged, so we make an appointment for a demonstration on Friday morning. Harry's still a bit quiet and circumspect, though better than she was; both girls go to bed with minimal fuss. Gin is poured for all adults, in fancy schmancy glasses, and all 3 of us agree that it tastes different than it did the previous day. What's also different is that for the first time this trip I've managed to stay awake past 9pm, though not much later, and I don't have the wherewithal to avoid being photographed dozing off, mouth drooling and agape, on the sofa.

Fine. Suppose I should go to bed. Big day tomorrow anyway.

Created By
Darren Foreman

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