Swaggering down the narrow aisle of flight H1273#, from Leipzig to London, came two large drunken examples of german manhood.
Flinging themselves into two seats opposite, they began a loud conversation with the little blonde fraulein, cowering in her window seat.
Nestled in each giant paw was an oversized can of German beer offering 5 % gratis. They began a loud, guffawing, drinking session extolling to all, in loud German, their travel plans. Dressed in top to toe camouflage gear they were ready for anything, but were we ? their fellow travellers.
For the next forty minutes the cacophony of guttural sounds, brought forth from their beer lubricated vocal cords, was deafening.
With our eardrums ringing, the refreshments trolley appeared, being dragged along by a harried, Celtic beauty.
You cannot bring your own beer sir, she politely admonished. Nein nein, they responded, as both gallantly purchased a token Heineken, from the diminutive lass. Having quickly scoffed that down, the bavarian boozer deftly produced yet another jumbo can from his seemingly endless supply, stashed in his leather coat pocket.
The musical backdrop to our flight became the ripping sound of rings pulling, loud exclamations in german, farts, belches and rapid beer quaffing noises. Spill overs were rubbed into seats, cheeks and apparel, as a thick acrid beer film formed a barrier round our seats, and gave my fellow passenger, residual hiccups .
Astride the aisle seat Rolf, refused to be constrained by a mere seatbelt. His assault on the overhead locker, during landing brought gasps of disbelief from his fellow seated passengers, and feeble admonishment from the cabin crew.
Upon landing, the two belligerent, and by now extremely intoxicated, bavarians staggered down the aisle , careering into anything that crossed their path. They drunkenly charged down the flight steps, tore through airport arrivals, and blundered out into the cold London night, oblivious to the havoc they had wreaked on their fellow Ryanair travellers, and staff.
The thought niggled at the back of my mind like a worrisome toothache .
Gasp ! I had purchased just one ticket to attend the esteemed Women Of Letters November Outing. Would i be brave enough to go solo when the time came ? Sure I had watched two other people do it . One a young man , who’s partner was possibly performing on stage , and the other a young woman , who took copious notes , maybe , a journalism student .
The day arrived . I hastily planted out my vegie patch , washed the car , dog , clothes , engaging in endless domestic minutiae , anything to delay the inevitable moment of departure . The middle daughter imperiously informed me it was time to go . Not one to be argued with , the third of four children , she wages a daily battle with an older brother , and both younger and older sister , a cranky mother and headstrong border collie . To say she is assertive is an understatement .
I meekly got in the car , in my gardening clothes , don’t want to go too glammed up and draw attention to myself , although i hastily applied foundation to cover the glaring freckles , the spring sun has awakened on my fevered brow . No time to prevaricate I begin a frenzied descent down punt rd . Have I also mentioned the middle daughter drives likes a maniac .The youngest daughter attempted to impede my departure , by a belated request for a drop off to the next suburb . ” Get the train ” , I breathlessly uttered as we catapulted out of the driveway .
In headspinningly quick time we mounted the rise of the high st hill and the theatre loomed large , dark and foreboding above us . We were there .” You can do this “, my brain screamed . You’ve birthed 4 children , buried 2 parents , left behind your country roots to become a southside urban dweller , loved , laughed ,cried , and blundered through 56 years of life . ” What are you afraid off ? ” ” Get over yourself “, a line a I frequently chant at my battle scarred kids , sprang to mind .
Ejected rudely in a screech of brakes , and wave of petrol fumes , I was unceremoniously dumped at the side door , by an uncaring daughter . I jauntily leapt out , and tenuously mounted the front steps , furtively looking around , envying the jostling crowd of women together , and in groups . I tentatively handed across my crumpled , sweat laden entry ticket , upside down , to an uncaring , unseeing , Marieke Hardy . Did she suspect I was on my own , and smell my fear ?
I made it to the foyer where the bar provided a welcome distraction . No just a glass I croak out as those all around me order bottles , 2 glasses , 4 cans , and every combination of multiple orders .Its a chance to fill in a few more precious minutes , and blend into the crowd .
Tottering inside , clutching my glass like some sort of talisman , I squint around with some trepidation . Many tables are already filled , the front ones sporting reserved signs , oh , the omnipotent dilemma of where to sit ! I approach a table half full of women facing the stage and nervously ask if this seat is vacant . I receive a very frosty reception as the firmly ensconced , lead iron maiden , informs me , ” yes they are all reserved “. I stumble blindly away in panic , my whole being suffused with embarrassment . I chance upon a round table in the middle of the room , where an elderly lady sits with a young man , and another three couples , who include men partners. Encouraged , I tentatively ask , yes ,this seat is spare , and I sink into it with a sense of relief . Nervously I glance around , the man is reading , the older lady writing , and the couples are carousing with bottles of wine . I too write , to my daughter , on the proffered Chinese aerogramme . I thank her for initiating me into this literary world . It is she who introduced me to this gig , many years ago now . I remember all the occasions we jointly attended , all the inspirational speakers we have heard , both men and women , and the great love of the written word we both share . She has gone from me now . A journalist , she is grown , and living in far flung Edinburgh , with a career as a wordsmith , a partner , and a home of her own .
The soiree progresses , music and wine flows , many inspirational women grace the stage , and talk ,eloquently and passionately on all manner of things . A young man sits next to me , finding as I did , a single seat alone , but he is not truly alone , as his wife is a presenter on stage he proudly informs me .
It is a wonderful afternoon and I manage to write 2 postcards and well as my letter . I ask Marieke where they are performing in Scotland and as she proudly informs me it is Glasgow , in april , a kernel of an idea forms in my mind . Dare I plan to meet Bridget there , couriering her precious , RMIT Bachelor of Communication Journalism Degree Certificate , to entice her to come from Edinburgh , and meet me , travelling from Melbourne . It could be an appropriate reunion at Women of Letters ,and one I wouldn’t have to attend alone !
Manchester jewel of the north , gritty urban cobbled sprawl.
Twisting tidy streets, grandiose old buildings, mixed in with newer, silver steel high rises.
Teenag e mums with bleached hair extensions, large Botox enhanced lips and tattoos, wheeling tots roughshod over the cobbles , bellowing in harsh manchurian accents .
I am in the home of ” Corrie ” , the UK’s , 50 year young , longest running and much loved soapie.
The old city has a grace and dignity not easily reconciled to the smoking chimneys , grey skies and discarded remnants of the industrial tools of a working past .
Soft rain cloaks my steps as my wheelie case bounces across the cobbles .
It is a city of contrast, abandoned olde worlde 18th century , orange brick buildings , sprouting elaborate stained glass windows depicting British bird life. A brash steel and perspex triangular edifice houses the football museum where homage is paid to the twin religions of Man U or Man City.
It is a town divided by where your allegiance lies , to the big powerful all conquering ” U ” fans , or the humbler ” City ” supporters .
Tattoo parlours balanced above vintage clothing shops proffer fresh needles for every new client housed in three storey Dickensian tumbling ruins.
Tea shops abound paying tribute to the national tipple , their windows offering Victoria sandwich sponge cakes or the fractured Eton mess .
Primark , that UK shrine to consumer heaven is encased in Victorian stone surroundings , contrasting the permanent and impermanent.
Jamie’s Italian is here, housed in a turn of the century bank and pubs perch on every corner offering a multitude of amber ales .
Vivienne Westwood opens her doors in a soft grey stone edifice , her iconic signature , tilted crown and sabre proudly displayed above the door in gold .
The royal theatre , a grandiose old dame , offers live theatre in a tubular tardis like contraption .
I view a two man play whose main prop is a huge life like tree , the main character hidden in it’s branches , whilst I sprawl on green velvet couches below , last minute tickets costing a mere twelve quid .
Twisting, curving, gracious and fastidious architecture, mixed in with newer trashy incomplete and impermanent structures, scattered together like pieces of a child’s flung jigsaw puzzle .
The intriguing art gallery , offers temporary exhibition ” do it ” on the top floor, which seems to sum up Manchester’s attitude perfectly.
Sydney unleashed its tawdry charms for a stolen weekend .
Its slightly down at heel scruffiness captivated me . The nonchalant beauty of it’s spectacular harbour . Seediness of Kings Cross , coiled energy of downtown , decaying splendour of the inner city , griminess of Darlinghurst and spectre of abandoned monorail . Dishevelled Surry Hills sheltering beneath the spindly branches of nude plane trees revealed its markets , cafes ,tri level houses , and dogleg lanes , sprinkled with pocket handkerchief parks . Brashness of Kings Cross overlaid with a faded , old worlde charm of ravaged gentility. Gritty Redfern spewing ghetto , burnt out terraces and sheltering the homeless , disadvantaged and desperate . Glittering Mosman , the jewel in the harbours crown , reveals ordered streets , manicured footpaths and sprawling federation mansions . The cacophony of disparate noises tells the tired traveller they are in Chinatown , gateway to the newness of a swashbuckling , Darling Harbour . Far below the subterranean city , the surge and retreat of the restless harbour waters fuses Sydney’ s life force plying the steamy air with compressed energy .
Languid , gorgeous and slatternly she teases her dowdy younger sister , the sedate Melbourne , who cannot compete with her effortless beauty , easy grace and fecund charms .
Rumpled Ruschutters Bay , bawdy Bondi , bucolic Glebe , and bustling Paddington are an affront to classy Camberwell , hectic Hawthorn, timeless Toorak and brash Balaclava. The Coathanger , Sails , and nostalgic Ferry trade , captivate and titillate . A lone Anzac warrior stands , a silent sentry , at the entrance of the flyover to the West , encircled by primeval Gymea Lillies , that most majestic of indigenous botanica .