Monday, 8 July 2013

Yes

I'm about to leave Melbourne for... not forever, but for the foreseeable future. I'll write a proper post in the near future, but for now I just wanted to post this:
The sun was shining on the sea,
The birds were in the skies,
The wizard packed his suitcase up
And said his last goodbyes-
His friends pretended not to see
The tears in his eyes

'Will I be back?'  The Wizard asked,
His voice small and aquake
He questioned at the kookaburras,
Who refused his thirst to slake,
They couldn't answer, for in the end,
That was the wizard's choice to make

Thursday, 13 June 2013

There and Back Again

Putting the Thrills Back into No-Frills Flying
I write you, dear reader, against all odds, from a hostel in Queenstown, New Zealand, with the Lion King playing in the background.
I say 'against all odds' because did you know that when flying internationally using one airline and another back, you need an 'itinerary', otherwise known as proof that you plan to leave? Cos I didn't. I had actually booked my ticket back, fortunately, but had not confirmed the e-ticket, or whatnot.
And my phone resolutely refused to access my email.
And the flight was leaving in twenty minutes.
A nice lady from jetstar offered to take me to the Qwantas lounge and use their computers to print out my itinerary- the Qwantas lounge being the furthest possible point from anywhere else in the airport. I arrived there with five minutes to go, ran off a copy and sprinted to the gate...where I had to wait for fifteen minutes.
Following this, I experienced possibly the most beautiful plane ride in existence, photos attached. At one point, I think I could have dropped fron the plane straight onto a mountaintop without breaking a bone, so close were they.
Also, there was a farm literally right next to the runway, which I guess is different, if not particularly practical.
On the other side of the plane ride, I went through the toughest security measures I've seen in my life. They X-rayed my bag for fruit. Twice. If I'd had fruit, I'm pretty sure they'd be dead from radiation. The security made it very clear they did NOT approve of my laissez-faire attitude to where I was heading etc. And then they finally let me go.
Queenstown is extremely beautiful. It's built around a giant lake, carved into the mountainside and extremely wet. I'd forgotten how humid the air in Australia is- by comparison, you get half your RDA of water with every lungful, and it's always lightly chilled.
I've explored the city centre a bit, but it was already getting dark, so I'll redouble my efforts tomorrow morning. I did however find a bar called 'tardis', and checked through the windows, but it seemed exactly the same size on the inside.

You know those dreams where you're falling...

When I was nine, I fell off my bed, which was a high bed, and fractured two vertebrae at the base of my spine. The fractures were very minor, but, given their position, they managed to make certain everyday tasks extremely difficult. That was a fall of six foot.
I just jumped off FORTY THREE FOOT bridge. 
Admittedly, this time there was a piece of rope around my ankles, so I didn't actually hit the floor (well, the river, but you get the idea).
I set out at ten in the morning, because I'm a modern man and I like to free fall before my breakfast, and we drove to the Kawarau Bridge, which is actually the original bungy jump site in the world, so, yeah, suck on them apples. 
There was surprisingly little paperwork beforehand; they just weighed me, told me to empty my pockets (duh) had me sign a little waiver, because y'know, this was kind of my idea in the first place, they're just the enablers, and then sent me out on the bridge.
It was snowing- I had taken off my coat for comfort, and now I regretted that; I watched the two other girls from my tour group drop, both delivering paralysing screams as they fell, and then it was my turn. they fitted a harness on me- rather loosely, I felt- and then wrapped a towel around my legs, then tied some cables, then hooked some latches onto the cables and then asked me to shuffle to the edge; I stood there, toes dangling over oblivion, smiled for both the cameras, somewhat unconvincingly, and then it was '3, 2, 1-', I stepped off the platform.

A loud 'Oh my God' was heard throughout the valley.

The water rushed up towards me, and I was convinced I wasn't going to stop, and then the rope jerked, and I was left, dangling upside down, my tshirt around head, and a lifeboat, some way off, coming slowly towards me, with a large pole extended towards me, asking how I was feeling- 'undignified'. 
I grabbed onto the pole, they grabbed onto my wrists, and I was lowered upside down onto the life boat. The guys there asked me a few questions, including 'can you see us?', presumably to check my retina hadn't detached, and then I climbed back up the slope to collect my belongings. 
I would wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone who's considering it- yes, it's terrifying, but I do feel somewhat invincible now and am no longer going to bother looking both ways before I cross the street, so think how much time I'll save as a consequence of this jump. But, in all seriousness, I feel I've accomplished something, even though all I did was step off a plank of wood- it's the rope that deserves the credit. A Japanese businessman asked to have his photo taken with me afterward and called me a 'hero', and I'm worried I've achieved some kind of international notoriety- there were, in fact, a gaggle of Japanese tourists, taking photos and congratulating me on the way back, but none of whom were jumping themselves, which creeped me out. I may turn up online as 'fat jumping man' or somesuch. Oh well, at least I'll be able to prove I did it. 

Tour'd of the Rings

First, a quick confession: I took my Lord of the Rings Tour before my Bungy jump, but I wanted to blog about that right after I'd done it, so you could all get the juicy viscerality and stream of conscience nonsense that that merited.
When I booked my LOTR tour, I was promised a very personal experience, and that I got: there were only five people on the tour; hell, for the first half of it, there were only three.
I was picked up from my accomodation by a cheery middle-aged lady and ushered into a van, where sat two other LOTR fans. Honestly, even robbed of the context of the tour, I could have guessed they were fans. They had the look (as do I, I imagine). Our first stop was the Rydges hotel where the cast and crew stayed when they were filming- thankfully, this stop was brief, cos honestly I didn't care.
Next, we went onto where they filmed this scene:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LWVPp0uhtu0
And something became apparent- I was glad I was taking this tour a mere thirteen years after filming, because the landscape had changed a lot. Kathleen, our tour guide, had a couple of sturdy lanscape features which she pointed out to prove that she was telling the truth, but in between the changes they made for the film (planting some new trees, digital correction etc.) and the vagaries of time, it was sometimes difficult to see the resemblance between the scenes (all played to us on an Ipad before setting off). However, Kathleen then got us to recreate the scenes and took pictures and this appealed to the am-dram ham inside me, so I can't complain.
I lay where Elijah Wood and Sean Astin had thirteen years previous and squeed a little inside me. This is so lame, but I could actually see the oliphaunt in my mind's eye, and I got lost in the story in a way that I haven't for quite a while, if only for a few minutes.
We explored this site, because the entire scene is shot on one location, but out of order, if you understand me- Frodo and Sam switched sides of the river bank several times.
After, we headed to a spot where you could see three different locales from a distance (sadly, access is restricted, them being private land and all), took some photos and then headed off for lunch.
At lunch, we were joined by a young married couple- the young woman hadn't actually seen LOTR, and I felt very sorry for her, because even Kathleen was something of a fangirl. We got to look at some classified documents, which Kathleen had somehow acquired, like call sheets, a handmade shooting calendar (with some really freaky drawings), and the original shooting script, which was given a fake title to keep out locals. This fake film was called 'Jamboree' and was a coming of age epic about scouting. With three separate installments. Honestly, that's dumber than what they pulled with Argo. How did anyone fall for that?!

So, after this, we headed to where they shot Isildur (in both senses of the word 'shoot'); and Kathleen told how someone actually bought a replica one ring (which amount to something like $5000) and then threw it into the river there, but I looked and sadly could not find it. Drat.
We then headed on to where Arwen shows down the Nazghul, and this was probably the place which had changed the least from the film, even though that scene was shot at two different rivers, and I dipped my toe into the waters which carried the Black Riders away and squee'd a little. And then we got back into the SUV and it nearly fell into the river like the horses of the film, to be swept out to sea; yes, the river bank began to give beneath the vehicle, and we hightailed it out of there, backwards, watching the scenery collapse before us like an Emmerich film. Definitely
Next, we headed to the side of a lake where we got to play with replica weapons from the film and take photos, which I will upload as soon as I unpack my camera. Needless to say, I excelled with all forms of damage inducing implement and definitely did not open up my arm with a nazghul blade.

This was the end of the tour, and I was really glad I'd taken it, because it made the Lord of the Rings seem that much more real to me, and I also got to see some absolutely stunning scenery and swing a broad sword, which is always a bonus, whether an innocent bystander is involved or not.

My Tumble Down the Hill

I'm just gonna do away with chronology and tell you about my OGO experience, even though Zealandia and a few others actually preceded it. Essentially, they put me in a giant plastic bubble, filled it with warm water and rolled me down a hill. It was like taking a very dynamic bath, on a rollercoaster; my only complaint was that it only lasted two minutes.

Are You from The Valley?

Zealandia is an attempt to return a valley in Auckland to its natural state, i.e. pre-human arrival. They have species which went nearly extinct (some which were though extinct), wondering around, pecking at your shoelaces, and you can see them all in their natural environment. Awesome.

They also have a walk around the lake, which should not really be attempted alone in the rain, but there it is. I walked for, I believe, in all four hours, thoroughly ruining my shoes and making it look like I'd tried to drown myself in a mud bath. It was still quite enjoyable, though, just because the New Zealand bush is so lush and pretty. Also, I got to hang out with a weird prehistoric chicken thing, so there's always that.

Jet setter

So, I road on a jet boat. It was extremely thrilling. We went at speeds which I have only experienced in the car of one Michael Maclaren, and that at least had a roof, so I didn't end up looking like Syndrome from the Incredibles- I have a lot of hair, OK? We did tricks, like turning around and stopping really quickly, which seem like pretty basic tricks, to be honest, but OK, and I got so wet that several people thought I had fallen into the harbour. I didn't (for once), but it was a fun way to see more of Auckland, and we saw someone else Bungee Jumping, but from only forty foot, the baby.

Friday, 7 June 2013

Charlotte's web...of FUN

So, last night was Charlotte's birthday party and, following in the tradition begun during the TWWOO afterparty, I definitely did NOT finish a whole bottle of vodka all by myself, reprise my monologue from Good Person of Szechuan and then fall asleep on someone's feet.
Honestly. I did none of that stuff.
I was gonna try and pass this off as a pic from last night, but, let's be honest, my hair has not looked this for quite a while
I arrived at chez Chalusinszky fashionably late at eighteen minutes past the designated time of arrival to find that I was the first guest there. Remembering that old rhyming wisdom of the 'guest who's first is always the worst', I quickly disproved it by deigning to drink cole's own orangle-related soft drink from a silver goblet, clearly establishing myself as a man of both distinction and caprice in one fell swoop.
The party escalated quickly, with new guests arriving en masse and enmassing en cuisine; soon the place was stuffed with well-wishers, onlookers and one incredibly timid ginger tabby. Someone suggested we diversify our clustering and we spread out and, as ever, I was a mingler, treading nimbly twixt the multitudinous social groups, making sure all experienced my presence and only moving on when I felt my glory had been basked in for long enough, or the conversation turned to Game of Thrones.
I met the many colorful characters that inhabit Charlotte's world, made polite but scintillating smalltalk and complimented on my overall Britishness.
And then the prospect of 'The Charlotte Chronicles 4: The Quest for the Pooey Lizard' was raised and I was gone. Yes, I laughed for several minutes, and while people inquired if I was OK or needed medical assistance, Charlotte kept her cool, having seen this all before after Declan's unfortunate incident with the pepper, and Simon kept nursing his hand after having hit it into a wall (which was hilarious, by the way).
I remember dancing to 'Greased Lightning', searching for Narnia in Charlotte's wardrobe and finding only the false back where she keeps her collection of children's teeth, and being locked out in the backgarden at two in the morning. I remember a man with hair like a Lion's mane, a discussion of the antisemitism of Bananas in Pyjamas and some suspiciously erotic wrestling between two shoeless hippies.
Charlotte was kind enough to offer me a bed for the evening, and I readily took it, only to discover it was the favourite resting place of aforementioned timid tabby and waking up looking like Garfield fresh out of the tumble dryer. However, we then went for possibly the most delicious breakfast I have had in Oz, and I got a wee bit sad that I'd only discovered the dispenserie of such a month before I leave and that in all honesty I will probably never return there (yet again, I still got to go more than most people ever will etc.).
So, happy birthday, Nose Finger! And, since you specifically requested I write this blog post, I'm counting it as your present. Suck it!

Thursday, 6 June 2013

From one award-winning apostle to another

Back in August, you may remember me blogging about my jealousy (or lack thereof) of Jason visiting the Great Ocean Road with a gaggle of schoolgirls; I assure you I was only jealous of the former part.
I'm my own girlfriend.
Well, jealousy debt repaid, you green eyed monster: I too have seen the seven(ish) apostles, the falling falls and the sandy white beaches of the Great Ocean Road. So there.

We started off around nine, having rented a car from East Coast car rentals. We were: Laura, a German psychology student on exchange for the semester; Anna, her schoolfriend taking a few months off while studying for her masters; Charlotte, an English lass who studies full time in Melbourne; myself. I had never met any of the others, only having joined the party by responding to a post online. I also, sadly, was bereft of any photographic equipment, and so have had to pull images from Google searches (hopefully, I'll be able to acquire a few from my fellow day trippers as well).

The first thing I want to report is that I saw the following sign.
Found here (and in Villawood, presumably)
It made me inordinately happy. I don't know why.

After driving for a bit (I'll be honest, my time keeping skills leave something to be desired), we took our first stop- a beach just outside Torquay (not that Torquay- the Australian one*) we stopped for a few minutes and admired the scenery, which was extremely picturesque: this is the main reason for visiting the Great Ocean Road, incidentally, to see the luscious sights. If you'd told my fifteen year old self that I would one day willingly submit to a twelve hour journey just to stare at mountains et al, I would've laughed in your face and returned to playing Dungeons and Dragons. Good times.

We stopped at another beach, and actually descended (because the road runs along some quite severe cliffs, which drop unexpectedly onto tumultuous beaches) onto the sands this time for a spot of beach-being, and I may have carved 'Moi Smells' into the sand, for sentiment's sake. After delighting in the sound of the swell and the sight of the sand, we returned to our Auto and made for Lorne, where we had lunch in a nice little cafe overlooking the sea. We chatted about this and that- where we'd been, where we were going- we were all of a travelling bent, obviously, so this allowed for some quite worldly banter.

After this, we drove to the Sheoak Falls in a valley which was just so beautiful that I'm not even going to bother to describe it. It was pure Australiana.
Found here.
We spent some time drinking in the beauty of it- I dipped my feet in the pool and almost immediately lost feeling in my toes. I'm sad that, in all likelihood, I will only see it once- but then I tell myself that this more than most people.

I should point out that it was around this time that the sun came out, making the journey seem slightly more energetic.

From the falls, we sped on to a spot by the Kennet river where we were told we could see koalas. While there, we met some fellow dispatriated Europeans who were literally feeding parrots out of their hands. They gave us some seed so we could try it out, and it was immensely enjoyable, even when a parrot started to claw at my scalp (I guess in the end, my mum was right- something did try and nest in my hair). After having had our fill of playing that crazy bird lady from Mary Poppins, we went on to spot some Koalas hanging high in the trees. Whenever I see Koalas in the wild (and that is a 'whenever' now- I love my life!), I'm always struck by the fact that they're not more afraid of heights; they're so tiny and they live in such high places, and they're quite rotund so they bulge out over the branches quite a lot...I just worry for them is all.

After this, we made a beeline for the apostles. Now, I saw a beeline, but that's not really possible on the GOR, as we in the know call it.
Found here
That is an aerial shot of the road upon which we were travelling- as you can tell, it's somewhat bendy. Now, I have suffered from carsickness since I was a young'un, and I was reminded of this fact yesterday. Not wanting to be a hassle (not that there's anything that could be done anyway- it's not like Laura chose to drive bendily), I closed my eyes to try and alleviate the symptoms.
When I opened them, we were there. I estimate I was only asleep for thirty minutes, and for most of that, we were driving through repetitive forest, so I don't think I missed much. Anyway, we drove back in the dark, so I'll never know.

But, yes, the apostles.
Found here
For those not in the know, as I was before visiting Oz, the apostles are limestone stacks, all clustered together like Penguins. You'd think, being a Wenlock boy, I'd be sick to vomiting of limestone, but I have to admit....they're quite beautiful. I don't know why- there's just something so striking about them up close. The severity of the cliffs, plus the roaring oceans, plus these portly little monoliths...it's just dramatic. And very affecting. There was also possibly the most direct warning sign I've seen in my life-
"Don't cross fence. Unstable Cliff. You'll fall and DIE."
Alrighty then. Roger that. After watching the stacks erode in real time for a while, we decided it was time to head back. I could describe the return journey, but I've decided to save it for Volume 2: Mr. Trackwork Goes to Villawood. Just know it contained a lot of talk about murder.
A LOT.

*Honestly surprised I had to point that out.

Monday, 3 June 2013

Let's misbehave

I was just lunching with the absolutely incorrigible Charlotte Salusinszky, and explaining about my anxiety about returning to Great Britain when she came up with absolutely the best solution to the problem: a time machine.
That way I could totally do everything I wanted to in Australia, get bored with it and then still make it in time to catch my flight. Wouldn't that just be swell? So, if anyone has one spare that they could let me use, I'd really appreciate it.
While lunching, Charlotte offhandedly expressed her wonder at one of my descriptions of myself from my Edinburgh time, specifically with regards to desperation for attention et al, and I was proud to see how far I'd come (at least in one person's view) in just a year. 

Speaking of delisting my bucket list, so a mere bucket will be left, I'll be visiting the Great Ocean Road tomorrow. My first thought on this is that Australians like prefixing their tourist attractions with 'Great', which makes me feel like they're compensating for something. My second was that I'll be going with a bunch of strangers, which made me nervous, but then I thought of Phillip Island, and how awesomely that turned out.
Some were known to remark that it was 'neato'.
It's hard to believe that that yank above has now graduated with highest honours. Well done, Hannibal, sir. Now you can get back to solving that Buffalo Bill case.

In other news, we had a mini-Aussie Rules reunion on Sunday, which involved Pancake Parlour, which I kind of think of as my equivalent to Central Perk from Friends, even though I've been to about three different branches of it. I say 'mini-' because it was only me, my stage sister Emily and Alan-a, who insists upon placing a hyphon in her name for some strange reason and has been literally throwing fits because she has not appeared on this blog yet. So hello to Alan.
A.

In other news, I have an essay due in in a week and I'm already nine tenths of the way through it, so expect to rest on my laurels for the rest of the week, and so an influx of more posts like this, which really didn't have any content. Alack.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

King Kong, King Kong, he's very, very big and he's very, very strong

I saw King Kong on Thursday, as an end of semester treat (yes, I've now finished my final semester at Melbourne), and, since some of my friends have expressed an interest in seeing it, I will put down my thoughts that they might be better advised as to whether or not to part with their hard earned money.

I will say it upfront that the music and acting are terrible: of all the songs, I remember only two, and even then only because they were established songs I already knew and I was wondering if they were public domain or not. One, possibly more, of the songs, were electro-dance tracks, and this is terrible because not only is the play set in the 1920s, when such songs did not exist, but also because that's one of the few attractive features of the 20s in my eyes. The title of this blogpost is a direct example of the deft lyrics you will encounter if you go and see this show. You can only imagine the other delights that await you.
Similarly, the characters are poorly drawn and not interesting in the slightest- I don't even remember their names, despite them being shoehorned into the dialogue every five minutes. They're boring and annoying and honestly just being in their company seems like a waste of one's life- I'm not surprised the lass falls for the ape, as he's by far the most intellectually stimulating of the people she meets; what I can't fathom is what Kong sees in her.
And this brings me to the turning point of this review: the ape is AMAZING.
Just amazing.
For one thing, it's huge- I was way in the back (cheap seats, y'know) and I really got the feeling that there was a forty foot gorilla in front of me. I just couldn't comprehend how they could manoeuvre something like that about the stage- it was at least four times the height of anyone on stage. It was mind-blowing.
And for another, the facial expressions this thing pulls are phenomenal- you really see the emotion in every single thing he does, more so than in anyone else on stage, but that's not saying much. At one point, the puppet made eye contact with me, and I started welling up. I actually started to tear up. It was fantastic.
The staging on the whole is very...exciting. Overly so at times. They really capture the feeling of a ship at one point, but at another they completely fail to capture the feeling of a city, opting instead for a coked-up nightclub. At one point, our heroine is being unconvincingly chased by the police or mobsters or rapists or something (it's not made clear), and runs right into a vaudeville show. Why? How? Who knows? Who cares? It's a chance to have a completely gratuitous chorus of girls in panties! YAY! This experience is repeated when the same heroine has a dream sequence where of bunch of actresses or hookers or showgirls or drag queens (it's not made clear) tell her to get dolled up before her screen test, only for the director to tell her she doesn't need to change the way she looks for the public. Thank God they got the ticket-shilling lingerie models on display before he told her that, right? Phew.
All in all, I actually would recommend King Kong. The puppet is just that fucking good. Just arrive forty minutes late and avoid the tedious "human" ""interaction"" at the beginning.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

365

A year from today, I will be finished with my undergraduate degree.
This is quite a terrifying thought: it signifies onrushing adulthood, a looming crossroads and that there have been three years since I finished sixth form, which I cannot fathom.
Unusually, I can actually recall my last day at Shrewsbury; frollicking in the meadows, building human pyrids, my friends sneaking me drinks at weatherspoon's cos I'd forgotten my ID. I simply cannot comprehend that that happened three years ago. It makes no sense.

I am inordinately grateful that I took this year in Melbourne, for a multitude of reasons, but at the moment because it's given me an increased fervour for my subject. Before coming to Melbourne, I was seriously considering dropping out of uni, convinced that I'd made the wrong choice, that I had no future in my elected domain, that I was going to fail. I watched in envy as Becky and James and Sam took everything in their stride and I couldn't even manage a single step forward (or so it felt- I obviously made some advances in academia, else I wouldn't be here). I refuse to take all the blame for this melancholy- I truly feel that Edinburgh put some of their worst feet forward during second year (incidentally, this criticism is moot now because I was the last year to do my course): syntax, phonetics and globish all in one year? It's like they wanted us to stop caring. But, yes; I was dissatisfied and dreading honours. Now? I kinda wanna do post-grad; obviously, some of that comes from there being more choice in honours, but I think it also is due to Melbourne Uni's different approach to the tertiary educational experience and, most importantly, some of the professors I've had here. 

I'm trying very hard not to completely disregard Edinburgh; when skyping Daniel recently, he accused me of exaggerating my dissatisfaction there, and that's not at all what I'm aiming to do. But, I also feel I have to be honest (or else, what is the point of this blog?) and I really credit Melbourne with rejuvenating my appreciation of my course. 
Ask me in a year what I want to do and maybe the answer will be radically different, but currently further education is top of the list. 
...I kinda wish it was something less expensive.

And, to make this post not just words, here's a picture of Victoria and I molesting a giant Manta. And, no, there's no glass.