Friday, March 31, 2006

Aussie victory in Durban

Monday night I caught up with Donna, when she picked the four of us up from our backpackers, and took us out to dinner. I haven't seen Donna since I left after my couple of months in Nashville, back in 1999/2000, when Michelle was aupairing at the same time as her. Was great to catch up with her, after 6 years, remineice about Christmas and that New Years Eve in New Orleans, and catch up on what she is up to now.

We had dinner out on Florida Road, at a place called TriBeCa, before we headed off to check out the SunCoast Casino on Durban for a bit of a look at the massive and very colouful complex.

Tuesday we were set for a very big day at the cricket, with the first ball at 9.30am, it was an earlier start. Ricky off for the day with food poisoning, the day of cricket got quite stressful. Would we lose this, and have an early declaration to blame, would light end it all in a draw, or could the lads take these wickets? It was game on.

The beer started to flow after lunch, and the cricket got tense...but the Aussies came up with the goods, Warne very good.

Winning the series, 2-0, meant that Charles was removed of his now infamous mullet right there on the hill. Some not so tidy work with a few Swiss army knives, and he looks like the old Charlie again. ( More photos )

Celebratory drinks at the ground, some more at the hostel whilst we got ready to head out, before hitting Joe Kool's (again! Even after the other nights! Amazing, but true!) with the Waving the Flag gang.

Turned into a massive night to mark the series win. Still piecing it together today, with stories aplenty! After Joe Kool's many of us headed to The Wonder Bar, which was going mad!! South African players were out, and, well....we had a huge one!!

A hangover to end all hangovers for me yesterday - I swear I am never drinking again!! Well, at least until Tea at the match tomorrow, I guess..... Ohh, so very unwell!!

Today Charles and I have boarded a bus from Durban to Johannesburg, through the mountains and rolling hills, through town, arriving at the unnerving Jo'burg station.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Kingsmead, Durban

On Friday, the second test between South Africa and Australia started here in Durban, at the Kingsmead Cricket Ground. Walking distance from our hostel, we headed down for the opening of play, and joined the Waving the Flag gang on the hill for a solid days' cricket. A century from Punter, all good.

Charles had to retire hurt for the middle session of play, after dislocating his finger during kick to kick on the ground during the lunch break. Taking himself off to hospital for an x-ray and to have the finger put back into place, he was back in time for the final session.

That night Dan, and Jen, came down from Swaziland and met up with us at our hostel. Dan is working up there on the AVI program, and so I haven't seen him since my going away gathering back in Ballarat before I left for the UK. Is so good to see Dan, and hang out.

Saturday saw another glorious day at the cricket, sitting on the hill in the sun, drinking beer, and worrying about little else but that little red ball being thrown around in the middle. Bing taking a 5 for, very good.

Unfortunately, Dan and Jen's car was stolen outside our hostel that day while we were at the match, which has made life alittle complicated for them, having to deal with the police and all that - although on the up side it means they are here till they can sort things out. Shame.

After yesterday's play, we headed out to Joe Kool's on the Durban North Beach for drinks and silly behaviour.

Quite hungover today, I had a nap upon arrival at the ground, and through the first patch of rain for the day. Another ton from Punter, and a bumper over from Gilly, and then play was ended early for the day due to bad light and more rain. Poised for a big day of cricket tomorrow. (More photos)

Friday, March 24, 2006

Wine and the beach

On Tuesday, Charles and I joined the Flagger crew for a tour of the winery region around Stellenbosch.

Set among the rolling hills and stunning mountains, the first winery saw us all flying after tasting each variety. The going sweep for the first spew even went here, and thankfully it wasn't me!!

The guy running the tour was a complete nut, who had apparently won the first SA Big Brother. Total mad man, and very funny, he made sure the group kicked off. Not that the crew needed any help.

Brandy tasting next, and the recall for the day gets a little hazy. A couple more wineries after that, before the final one set in the most scenic of spots...and then more drinks around in Campes Bay again to watch the sunset and take in more fluids at a bar there.

Very fun day....

After a rest day the next day, Charlie and I have caught a flight with the comedian Kulula crew up to Durban. The flight crew make all sorts of jokes while doing the safety demo and announcing most things - which is all fun and games, but they could at least keep the plane steady!! I don't think I have ever felt a plane roll so much! Ewww!

So once in Durban, and checking into the Banana Backpackers, I headed off for a wonder along the glorious beach...all the way down from North to South Beach. Walked around the Water Park area down there, got my toes wet, and just soaking in the calming effects of the rolling ocean. (More photos)

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Robbin Island and V & A

After a much needed rest day yesterday, I headed down to the Victorian & Albert Waterfront here in Cape Town this morning, and met up with Charles for breakfast and to catch the ferry to Robbin Island.

30 minutes across the water in the ferry, we were then loaded onto a bus for a tour of the island by a local resident. History aplenty on this island, including the housing of people with leprocy and then the mentally ill, before being the place where black political prisoners were held...right up until 1996....that's shocking! The stories when lead through the Lime Quarry told us how tough and demoralising the treatment here was for these prisoners.

A tour of the Maximum Security Prison was conducted by Derek, a man who was held there for five years from when he was eighteen, for being part of an anti-apartheid demonstration. His story, and recount of the conditions was compelling. He showed us the group cells, the yard, and then the solitary cells where the stronger political figures were kepts for years and years and years, including Nelson Mandela.

After a rough ferry back to the mainland, we wondered around the waterfront shops and boardwalk for a bit, before having a seafood lunch overlooking the Waterfront with Table Mountain starting to gain it's table cloth of cloud cover. (More photos)

Monday, March 20, 2006

Under the Table

Three days of cricket at the most beauitful ground I have been to to see a game of sport, and it's all over! Of all the places a match could happily drag on, so that we could soak up the scenary, it would have been this one, but alas!

Day One we figured out how to get the Bongo Bongo taxi into town (a hop on hop off local van that runs around the city), and then which train to get to get out to the ground, at Newlands. Once we were there, we set up our place amongst the Waving The Flag crew on the hill, and admired the stunning view of Table Mountain hovering over the ground. Overcast, it was still spectacular, and a good day for cricket.

Day Two was sunny, and the match was in full swing. Halfway through the second session, however, it was a famous Cape Town power outage...and there was not power for the scoreboards, the PA announcer and his music, the power to the food outlets, and the lights in the dingy bathrooms. Noone knew what was going on. I know we lost a wicket during that time, but was not counting the runs to know how many Gilly managed to make out there in the middle!! (More photos)

After the cricket we met up with a mate of Charles', who took us out for dinner in the open air of Camps Bay, which was on the other side of the mountain, with the Lion's Head of Table Mountain at one angle, and the ocean at the other. Having dinner under the stars here was gorgeous.

Day Three, and it was looking like we would be having some spare days in Cape Town afterall. Stuart Clark had a blinder, and the match was wrapped up at the end of the day, with the Aussies gaining an easy 1-0 lead. A huge night was in order!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

London to Cape

Just a quick note to let people at home, and at work, know that I have made it into Cape Town, South Africa, without a hitch!!

After rushing around like mad yesterday in an attempt to get everything I could done at work in preperation for my three weeks away from the office, I also managed the long train(s) haul from East Croydon to Heathrow in time to catch my flight!! Major stress of mine, getting to the airport!! Seems to be getting worse with every flight I take!!

The Virgin Atlantic 10 hour flight to Johannesburg was actually quite OK - the little compartmentalised food was edible, the movies and TV shows were on tap (which meant I got to see the Tarantino CSI epoisodes I missed!!), and even without much sleep was all good.

Arrived in an overcast but WARM Johannesburg, for a 2 hour layover before my Kulula flight down to Cape Town - all worked well, including the Charles arranged airport pick-up for me. He's a good lad!! Seeing my name upon exiting the baggage claim area - very good!

Coming into town, to our Big Blue accomodation, the van was surrounded by beautiful clear blue sky, sun with actual heat, and the amazing Table Mountain. Now we're talking!!

Catching up with Charles over beers, and meeting some of the Waving The Flag gang over some more beers, I am more than ready to sleep off my tiredness now. Bring on the match tomorrow!

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Irish Pubcrawl

Liz and Cathal arrived for a long weekend in London, and I met up with them after work on Friday night. We traveled on the tube to Arsenal, to meet up with Sandra and Rowena for a yummy dinner and a few drinks.

Yesterday, Liz, Cathal and I embarked on another attempt at the Monopoly Pub Crawl. We started a little later than the instructions specified, but at a decent hour, and started to make our way around to all the stops.

Having done this before, I still managed to get lost with a couple of the changes - we seemed to take ages and ages to find Fenchurch Street Station, only to find that the pub was closed.

A half pint at each pub before moving on to the next one, we did quite well, despite the freezing wind at every change. Stopping for the match and a much needed food stop, The Castle is still one of my favourite pubs on the crawl. Sandra and Rowena joined us here, where we saw Ireland win, and caught up on the missed pint from earlier!

Moving along in the bitter wind, we managed to stop off so that Sandra and Rowena could try their luck getting to Hogwart's at King's Cross Station.

Getting dark now, we continued through the instructions. More crusty pubs, and through to little tucked away pubs. By closing time for pubs, we had managed to complete the first half of the route, almost to the same point of my first attempt. Not bad.

Our location at this time was perfect to join Jenny at Strawberry Moons, for her leaving drinks. After lining up for a little too long in the guest list line, we eventually got in and hit the dancefloor.

Bit of a large day!! Just trying to return some of the hospitality I have always received in Ireland when I have gone to visit!

(More photos.)

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

The Festival of George

George Clooney is EVERYWHERE at the moment!! He's been on the red carpet at every awards ceremony this year, he's been interviewed in newspapers and on tv bits every couple of days (it seems), he's face is on ads in the Underground. 'Course, all this coverage is because he is in two new movies, one of which he directors, and has been nominated for both for a bunch of awards.

Last Thursday night a group of us headed across town from work, and settled in for a yummy dinner, red wine, and good hearty gossip. Niny, Hilary, Emy and I dwindled down to three, and then two when one unnamed member of the party fell asleep (tsk tsk!!), for Good Night, and Good Luck. Caitlin joined us at the cinema, the Everyman in Hampstead, as the film started.

In black and white, and highly political, I must admit it wasn't the most excing movie to watch after a few glasses of red. Hat's off to George for putting the story out there, and revealing all the aspects of putting that story out...but hmmm, I think I was after something lighter!!

Nevertheless, the group reconvened last night for our second night of George, following the news of his big Oscar win on the weekend.

Stopping at (London) Victoria Station so that Leilah could introduce me to my first Krispy Kreme experience (how have I not gone original glaze, or any glaze, before!!??). Then Niny, Hilary, Emy, Leilah and I headed to Notting Hill for dinner at the yummy Nyonya, before heading to see George's Oscar winning performance.

Back to the Electric for Syriana, we settled in for brownies, comfy seats, and a good movie. Intense, and one I definately think I am still processing. Very good.

Monday, March 06, 2006

City Hall

Before dashing off to the movie today, Jenny and I went along to one of the few open days at London's City Hall. Hearing about it from one of the blogs I read, I thought we could check out the two main attractions there, just for something different.

Downstairs they have the London Photomat, an aerial photo of London, supposedly big enough to pick out your house! We thought that with our apartment's roof, we may be able to see our couches!! Hee hee!!

It was quite cool, if you knew London above ground well enough!! Not driving over here, and thus not having to know the roads and how to get to anywhere, I must admit locating our suburb was hard enough!! Travelling on the Underground, and only knowing areas based on how to get there by transport, I really am a bit lost!!

We had a bit of an idea, thanks to areas such as Regent's Park to guide us, and I think we located our rough whereabouts. Then, I took 15 giant leaps away from there to find Shit Creek...errrr, I mean, Croydon, where I work!! (More photos.)

After this, we hit the elevators to the top of the building where London's Living Room (!!) is. Hmmm, yep! Empty and devoid of any character!! Hee hee.

But the balcony offers great views, and a good photo angle for Tower Bridge and the city.

Tower Bridge from London's Living Room
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Woolf and The London Aussie Film Festival

On Wednesday night, Jenny, Caitlin and I headed into Piccadilly Circus and along to the Apollo Theatre for Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?

After rave reviews for Kathleen Turner's performance in this play, we were keen to see it. Upon arrival, however, we discovered that Ms Turner was not to perform due to an indisposition.

Her understudy was good, quite good, but throughout I couldn't help thinking how amazing Kathleen would have been. The play was excellent, I don't think I have ever been into a stage show as much before. Not knowing anything about the story, nor the movie, apart from it being a look at the codependency and atrocity of a marriage! It was funny, and disturbing. And I think Mireille Enos was really good, as Honey.

During the week I had looked into going to the London Australian Film Festival, chosing two to go and see. We had originally missed out on tickets for Saturday night's screening, however, faced with the dreaded prospect of being home alone with nothing to do, I checked again, and a text and a few calls later Nat and I had scored tickets - in a box!!

No kidding!! We hot footed over to the Barbican, which is a huge and really cool complex, and after grabbing some Twisties and a Cherry Ripe (Ohhhh!! How exciting!! Hee hee! Two treats I miss from home), we found our seats in one of the private boxes at the back of the Cinema - for Little Fish.

Starring Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving, Noni Hazlehurst, Lisa McCune, Sam Neil, Little Fish is real Aussie affair, and one of of those classic Australia life depictions. The crowd in the cinema was obviously mostly Aussies away from home, with collected laughter at different Australian phases, Australian language and mannerisms portrayed. There was also a big laugh when Noni's character described someone as having gone "overseas", 'you know, like New Zealand, Fiji and Bali'!!

There's so much in this movie, and it leaves you with a haunting rendition by a school choir of Flames Trees. Hugo and Cate, and Noni, are brilliant.

Today, Emy, Nat and I returned to the Barbican Centre for a second film from the Festival, The Illustrated Family Doctor. Starring Samuel Johnson, of Secret Life Of Us fame, this black yet funny look at life, mortality, and the meaningless of life and was good. Another typical Aussie movie, that I am not sure would suit all audiences. Lots of Aussie phrases and joke...all good!
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