What day is it, and where am I?

Trip Start Sep 30, 2004
Trip End Nov 05, 2004

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Flag of Malaysia  ,
Thursday, November 4, 2004

I'm currently enjoying the facilities of the Plaza Premium Lounge at KL International Airport. Here, it's very early on Thursday morning, about 6 am. My watch says it's 9 o'clock, which is Sydney time. And I've just been watching some live football from Manchester where it must be 8 or 9 o'clock in the evening, on Wednesday.

I've got a six or seven hour stopover here in KL, after my flight from Sydney. That was a good flight, in that I had a whole row of five seats to myself so just lay down across them all and slept for the whole. I missed out on the two meals, but I've got a nana and an apple with me so I won't arrive back in Coxwold a skeleton.

Like I was saying, when I first got off the plane, I sat through the first half of the Man U v. AC Sparta Praha match and saw van Nisselroy get two goals. And I swoped my Oz sim card for my UK one, which seemed a pretty symbolic thing to do. There were quite a few people watching, mainly airport staff suggesting that productivity levels will be down tonight and maybe the airport won't be quite as clean as it should be when morning arrives.

Anyway, once it got to half time I thought I take a wander and see what else was on offer, and what was on offer was the Plaza Premium Lounge. So for US$18, I can have unlimited hot and cold food and beverages, beer, high speed internet access, shower with amenities (now that's an offer to make the most of!), free local phone calls, movies, massage chair, golf putting, international newspapers and magazines. Sounds like a pretty good deal to me. Oxygen therapy is an optional extra, though, as is seated massage therapy.

I'm trying to keep up with the news; as I was leaving Sydney, it looked like George Bush would get back in again, but one particular state - Idaho? Iowa? - was proving a bit of a problem.

But it's far more interesting to tell you about my final day in Sydney. Well, first of all Marise refused to be defeated on the digital camera scene and managed to track down the exact same Olympus one at a Harvey Normans store. I wanted the same one, cos it takes good pictures and I've managed to work out how to use a lot of its features. Having found one, Marise then got them to reduce the price by about $60, ie to the same price that I got the initial one from Target - so I got it for a figure which we were told was below cost price. And I managed to get them to include a 32m memory card for it, rather than the normal 16m size one. So we both felt pretty pleased about our respective achievements.

We picked up the camera at Balgowlah during a trip out with Eve (Marise's mum), which took in the Spit and Palm Beach. We saw our first Christmas garlands and tinselly things decorating the outside of a pub - it doesn't seem right somehow though, Christmas in the heat and sun - but these were totally underwhelming compared to the overwhelming blueness of the water and the white sands at Palm Beach where we lunched on coffee and muffins. There wasn't time for me to try out the Palm Beach Ferry Service, and do a bit of ferry hopping from cove to cove - that's first on the list for when (note, not 'if') I'm back. And then we drove to Bonjoey Head. There wasn't time for us/me to walk right up to the lighthouse, but I got some of the way up a very steep, rocky path and managed to get some views so I could try out the replacement camera. Again, second on the list!

Here are a few facts of interest to those of you who are secret Hello readers. Billy Conolly and Pamela Stevenson once lived, or now live, at Palm Beach; it's also where Fergie's sister got married for the second time. Nicole Kidman went to Lane Cove Public School (which Rachel attends) for her primary education, and later to the North Sydney Girls Public School. No parents paying out huge amounts of money on a private education for our Nicole, I see! (seriously, the issue of private vs. public education is of huge importance here, including those I've stayed with whilst in Australia and also those I've talked to whilst commuting from one capital city to another, etc. it was a particularly significant issue in the recent elections)

All too soon it was time to rush back home. Malcolm and Marise were out at 6 o'clock for dinner and the theatre. I got an invitation too, as one of the party cancelled at the last minute. Malcolm: it was just so unfair of you to ring up and ask whether I'd like to join in the evening out rather than get the flight back to the UK - especially as you knew the answer!

Anyway, this meant that I was left in charge of tea for everyone. So a bacon sandwich for Eve, and spagetti and sausages for Rory and Rachel - it all had to be something easy, you see, that I could manage. And a frying pan and the microwave fitted the bill exactly. The taxi was arriving at 7.45 to take me to the airport, and the last 90 minutes passed in a flash.

What was bestest of all for me was some of the spontaneous comments that Eve, Rachel and Rory made. Eve told me how much she would miss me, and how much Marise and the others would miss me too. She also told me a couple of times to make sure that I remembered to come back. At one point, I heard Eve asking Rory what time it was and then she worked out I'd only have another hour with them before heading off in the taxi. Rachel told me that I was 'so easy to be with' and that 'it was wonderful having you here'. And I got a huge big hug from her. Rory was equally enthusiastic about my stay, and that there must be another; we couldn't manage the big hug, though, because he's to be so careful with his arm and the sling, but we did the best we could. And it was just so heartening, hearing all this, because it was genuine and not just them being nice to me.

And for my part, I carried out my responsibilities right to the end. As well as being tea monitor, I was also second-in-command on the homework front (Rachel was senior homework monitor). So my final words as I was clambering into the taxi were: Make sure you get on with your homework!' - to which they both chorused very politely and obediently that they would. So Marise, I tried my best!

I got my last views of the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House on my way to the airport. Judith: I definitely needed your bag, and yes, you'll get it back next time I'm here in the southern hemisphere.

And now I'm off to get 18 dollar's worth of massage chair, shower, coffee etc. while I wait for boarding for the second leg of the journey to Manchester. And find out whether Man U managed to lose the match in the final stages as they have been known to.

Take it easy.
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