Tolfrey's Tour - Brisbane
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I’ve been reminded that I haven’t reported back home. Well, at least one person mentioned it. So I’ve fired up the laptop and tried to remember what’s been happening on the first week of my trip this time.
My journey from the Island to the airport was unusual. My son-in-law Craig kindly offered to give me a lift, on condition that I helped him deliver 4 alpacas which we towed in a trailer to a posh village in Hampshire. The creatures were safely released into a field, but only after Craig did his impression of James Herriott by injecting them with some monkey-gland vitamin concoction. The deal was done and we said our farewells to the proud new owners. They seemed to be keen alpaca enthusiasts, but I sensed that they didn’t know as much about the animals as Craig, who patiently explained the basics to them as the cheque was being made out. Once signed and handed over, we were quickly on our way, towing an empty trailer. It was somewhat different from the usual taxi pick-up at Portsmouth Harbour, but you’ve got to try these things. My daughter and son-in-law do have some strange and exotic hobbies, often involving animal husbandry. I do enjoy babysitting the grandchildren but that’s where the line is drawn. I don’t fancy helping with anything that involves wearing wellies. You’ve only to ask Les Morris about these outdoor leisure pursuits.
As most people know, there are two terminals at Gatwick. This gave us, therefore, a 50/50 chance. It was my fault really for guessing between North and South instead of looking at my boarding pass. But at least we got the correct airport and there was plenty of time to visit both terminals.
I arrived in Brisbane in the early morning of Monday 22 November, about 24 hours, but a day and a half, after leaving Gatwick Airport. I survived two long flights and several hours waiting in departure lounges. For once I was pleasantly surprised to spot my luggage on the carousel. I wheeled it straight out of the airport and into the railway station nearby. It was only 3 stops to the station at Fortitude Valley which is about 250 yards from where I was booked to stay for 10 days. So this was some kind of record, arriving at the hotel within an hour of stepping off the plane. My luck was holding out. I expected 8am to be far too early to check into the accommodation and I was resigned to have to kill time for hours walking the streets until I could move in, but not this time. The hotel reception was open and a room was available straight away. So far so good.
For at least three days, I slept through the days and was awake during the nights. This was partly caused by jet lag, the fact that the room didn’t have any windows and my fellow guests who were very active especially, I think, at night slamming doors and shouting loudly. I thought that Monty Python’s Gumbys had moved in, or the annual town criers’ convention was in town. My use of the word “hotel” earlier was a loose description. In fact, the Snooze Inn is described in the brochure as an Inner City Affordable Motel. When I booked it through LateRooms.com, it was called a Budget Hotel. For your future reference, beware of these titles. I know it would not be good business to advertise the place as a “Noisy HMO Doss-house, suitable for Insomniacs”. But in this case, they couldn’t be accused of misdescription! At least my sleeping pattern fitted well with the local regime.
My earlier expression ‘walking the streets’ is another possible clue to the late night activity in this area of Brisbane. The following extract from the tourist guide is most revealing as to its history and reputation:-
Named after the 19th century ship SS Fortitude, there was a time in the not too distant past when Fortitude Valley was synonymous with brothels, gambling dens and unsavoury characters. How times have changed! Gentrification has had its way with this shady suburb and it's now one of Brisbane's most popular destinations. It's not a suburb for those who like peace and quiet - there's far too much going on for that. This is a place for those who want to get away from suburbia and live in a groovy new apartment, close to clubs, restaurants and dance beats. Don't despair if you like your nightlife a bit grungy, there are still hole in the wall establishments where you can get a feel for the old, more alternative Valley. Made famous in Brisbane books like Andrew McGahan's Last Drinks, the Valley has a chequered and fascinating history and is slipping quite easily into its new role as an alternative CBD location. With its thriving Chinatown, fabulous restaurants, popular nightclubs and bars and The Judith Wright Centre, it's easy to see why young people especially are flocking to live in Fortitude Valley.
StatisticsThe Valley is about 1 km from Brisbane’s CBD. The majority of households consist of couples without children (nearly 70%) and over 95% of dwellings in the area are units. There are very few stand-alone houses in this area. The Valley is known for great dining and nightlife and is the place to live if you’re really into partying! The median unit/townhouse price in the Valley in 2006 was $305,000.
I don’t know about the Judith Wright Centre, but I reckon they need a branch of the Betty Ford Clinic, judging from some of the locals walking the streets. I hope you like the final paragraph and the reference to property and house prices. This is just to remind me what I should be doing back home. Sorry folks, but I don’t feel too guilty. For my colleagues who may be interested, that median or average house price equates to about £!80,000. Ok, that’s my RICS CPD hours earned for this year! So back to my tourist guide for those who are still reading this.
Brisbane is, I believe, a great example of how the Aussies sort out problems of traffic and public transport. Buses, trains and ferries are all available, and if you are travelling to and from the Gabba to watch the test match, it’s free! Why doesn’t Southern Vectis offer a similar arrangement on the Island for visitors who want to travel to a top-level cricket match (perhaps an IW over 50s home fixture) at Newclose.
The first Ashes test was enthralling, with the advantage shifting each day. The local press didn’t know which headlines to print. But compared to the disaster of 2006, it turned out to be great for England and a recurring nightmare for Australia’s diminutive captain. Poor old Ricky Ponting now gets booed whenever he appears on the field to bat, field or to be interviewed. He pretends not to mind the chants and barracking, but his experience can’t hide his true feelings. He hates it and we’re likely to see him either turn this into a very big innings or an unseemly bout of “throwing the toys around” leading to an early retirement.
It was a batting feast and a great vote for talented groundsmen (or curators as they are known over here) who prepare cricket pitches. I hope Ryde Cricket Club ‘curator’ Glenn Morley will be encouraged to see what standard he should aim for and perhaps one day, we will again enjoy a half decent batting track at Harding Shute.
Anyway, I managed eventually to blag tickets for all 5 days and fortunately, none of the seats were too close to the Barmy Army. This group of annoying football fans, which has surprisingly continued to find undeserved popularity around the cricketing world, was again encouraged, by a new audience, to make its usual tedious noise. But believe me, by the end of the series, depending on their seat allocation, there will be thousands of cricket lovers, hopefully mostly Australian, who would each like to stick that trumpet in a place where the sun doesn’t shine! I find my intolerant attitude on this subject similar to my prejudice concerning TV soaps and most reality programmes. Don’t forget, millions of people can be wrong! I will admit though that the Barmy Army definitely annoy the Aussies on purpose.
I did share time and a couple of beers with a few friends and acquaintances, some from the Island. Because he had heard that I may soon be changing my car, Paul Hunt of Harwoods assured me that his other-half Leigh would not last the distance watching cricket at the Gabba for all five days. I eventually sat with him for the 3rd and 4th days watching England batsmen (especially Cook) break those records. I haven’t yet ordered a Renault but you never know. I also linked up with some other friends from Dubai who were staying in a proper hotel in Brisbane city centre.
Peter Conway also made a brief appearance but I couldn’t always understand his teenage shorthand text-speak (I wonder if he learnt this at evening classes). Northwood’s Steve Allwood, Phil Reed and Co. are out here. I usually drop in a name if at all possible so here it is. I bumped into Mark Nicholas at the coffee stand on the 5th day morning. I reminded him of his Hampshire benefit dinner we did at the Savoy, Yarmouth all those years ago. He said he didn’t recognise me at first without the beard. What a cheek!
Phil Reed has this uncanny knack of spotting me in Australia before I see him. He’s now done this three times in 8 years, but only by chance and never at the cricket matches. The first and second times were in the same bar at Circular Quay, Sydney in 2002/3 and 2006/7. This time it was in the less salubrious surroundings at Fortitude Valley Railway Station where we were both about to leave Brisbane. He announced that he and his mates had been staying at the Snooze for two days and although I hadn’t seen him I probably heard him! We shared the train journey to the airport. We soon learned that all internal flights were delayed by bad weather. It was raining heavily in Brisbane so a good time to depart for the second test venue, Adelaide.
My sightseeing included several bus and train rides, a lot of walking, really, inspecting several modern tall buildings in the city centre and a very minor shopping spree. On my last day, I took a fast-cat cruise along the Brisbane River, very relaxing and a brilliant way to travel around the city and beyond.
Next report soon, once I’ve sorted out the internet connection.