When I called my friend Sue in Melbourne for a weather report this morning I’d already packed my bag. I didn’t really think I needed to ask if I should bring a jacket but something deep inside me thought I should. “Yes you do, it’s twelve degrees outside and I’m driving to work with the heater on”, she told me. I was silent for a moment. And then I began laughing nervously. “My how things can change so very quickly”, I thought to myself about the weather in Melbourne. Welcome relief, I’d imagine after what they’ve been through.

I’ve come down for a face to face meeting for work tomorrow. Taking advantage of this, I’ve decided to spend the night before with Sue, which is a lovely bonus. It’s actually my first flight since arriving back from overseas and I’d forgotten how much hassle can be involved in travelling by air. And by that, I don’t just mean the security screening. When I arrived at Sydney Airport, I went straight to the automatic check-in terminal and was issued with my boarding pass in a matter of seconds. After that you would have though it was reasonably straight-forward to walk over to the baggage drop-off and well, drop of my bag. Unfortunately, however, there was only one operator available for the fifty-plus people in the queue. Eventually, they gave us another operator, but that didn’t seem to make much difference. When I finally made my way towards the front of the queue, I quickly realised passengers were probably a major part of the problem. It seemed whenever someone was about to put their bags on the transporter belt, they suddenly needed to be opened and checked several items. And various items needed to be transfered between the two sets or luggage. One woman I noticed zipped and unzipped her bags three times, looking for something and then checking for something else. And then I noticed another syndrome in the queue where the very next person to be called up, suddenly finds themself in a trance-like state and seemingly unable to hear the calls for “next please”. Oh, and don’t get me started about those people who hog the aisle as they pack and unpack everything in the overhead lockers, while a crowd of people awaits taking their seat. Do you think the grumpy old man gene has set in, or is this frustration more common?

On arrival, I discovered my taxi driver had a “chip on his shoulder” about Sydney. “I’ll bet you’ve got more people working up there in Sydney than we do in Melbourne”. “You know, Melbourne is actually the cultural capital of Australia”. Yawn. After a while, I actually said to him, “You know most people in Sydney think Melbourne is a great place and we love visiting friends and family down here”. At first he seemed a little shocked by the revelation. And then I told him, “You know this Melbourne-Sydney thing? Well, we NEVER talk about in Sydney.”. Stunned silence followed. We then had a conversation about the relative merits of Moomba and Mardi Gras (same weekend), and finally he realised I didn’t have two heads after all.

After work, Sue and I wandered down the Docklands Area for a bit of a look. And then after some discussion, settled on a meal at a cheap and cheerful place in St Kilda. Sue will remember the name of it, I’m sure. When my plate of lasagne arrived, I wondered at first if I could possibly eat it all. But you know the way pizza looks impossibly large when it arrives and suddenly you’ve consumed a whole one? Well, this lasagne was the same. “I haven’t had a glass of lambrusco in ages. Gosh it tastes good”, Sue commented further over dinner.

After dinner, we headed over to Chadstone Mall, which Sue told me was heavily promoted as “the largest in the Southern Hemisphere”. “What, larger than the one in Nairobi?”, I laughed to myself. And so while Sue looked at some boots, frocks, handbags and jackets (and bought a children’s toy), I was more interested in checking out glasses frames. Thanks to everyone for the terrific feedback. I feel much more confident about what I need to do now.

And then it was back home, a small amount of television watching, and time for bed.

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