11.23pm - Australia Day
Trip Start Feb 09, 2009
19Trip End Mar 25, 2009
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All hail Susan Atherton: the biggest doughnut in the land. It's bedtime here, but can I sleep? Can I jingo. Because like a moron, I let myself fall asleep at 4pm, rather than pushing through for a few more hours, so now I've just had six hours sleep and am totally and utterly awake. I SUCK at jet lag. And now I'm going to be completely useless tomorrow. Good skills all round, Suzy, truly.
So the journey was pleasant enough - cabin crew were friendly and helpful, the film selection was decent, the bed was totally fascinating (ordinarily with flatbeds they just slide down like a La-Z-Boy, but with Virgin you stand up and the whole back of the seat flips forward and you sleep on the back side), if a little narrow for my tastes (I am a wriggly sleeper, and I kept whacking my knee on the sides of the seat when I tried to move around). The refuel stop in Hong Kong was infinitely better than the one in Singapore coming back from NZ - the Virgin lounge is not as nice as the Cathay Pacific one, but is still perfectly acceptable, and a damn sight better than sitting, bored, on a bunch of uncomfortable airport chairs. On the second leg, I managed to get a bit more sleep, though was awoken by a slightly frightening level of turbulence (ordinarily I am the world's best flier, I really don't care about turbulence at all, but this was the worst I've ever experienced). All in all, however, the flight was fine, and I arrived in Sydney safe and sound, where I cleared baggage claim at an impressively fast rate (normally my bag is one of the last out, but this time it was one of the first! Whee!) and whipped through
Sydney is not as I expected it, but I think that's because I'm more in the centre. Tomorrow I'm going to walk out to the harbour (if I have any energy after my utter lack of sleep), I imagine then I will really feel Australian, but today I was in just another city with overcast skies and a little too much humidity in the air. It reminds me quite a lot of Auckland CBD, in fact, and not just because they have the same hilarious crossings (see my NZ blog for my thoughts on the noise the pedestrian crossings make).
I found a little coffeeshop that overlooked Hyde Park (yes, they have one of those here too), and started reading the Aussie Daily Telegraph. The news of the fires and floods they're experiencing here had reached my ears in the UK, of course, but I think only because Australia was in my head anyway. Under normal circumstances, I probably would have ignored it, and reading the paper this morning, I felt like shit. It's truly horrifying what the victims of the Victoria bushfires are going through - obviously there's the usual awfulness of people losing their homes and cars and other possessions, but so many people died trying to save their loved ones, or had to leave friends or strangers behind to avoid dying themselves, or have woken up in hospital to discover that while they themselves will make a full recovery, their whole family has perished. A teenage girl, her brother and her boyfriend got trapped in a house and couldn't escape, but managed to make a final phone call to the boyfriend's family to say goodbye. Apparently they were crying and saying they knew they were about to die. An eighteen year old girl stayed at home in the north while her family went on a camping trip in Victoria. Now she's the only one left. A husband ran back into a fire to rescue his wife and three small children (all under the age of six). None of them came out. It's soul-destroying to hear about, and it seems horrifying to me that it's so easily dismissed by the rest of the world, and I include myself in that. 300 dead is not a small number, but because it's so far away, it's a small tragedy.
But for every horror story, there's a fantastic one too. The man and his wife who saved a family of four strangers from a burning car. The woman who was separated from her husband in the confusion, and feared the worst, only to find him in the same hospital. The idiotic girl who was being winched to safety with her dog, but unhooked herself from the harness to go back for him after he wriggled out of her arms. Amazingly, they both survived. Not to mention the pages of messages of love and support for the firefighters and volunteers who are trying to stop the fires, and the fact that even in the midst of the economic crisis, $30million has been donated to the Red Cross Bushfire Appeal. People can be truly awesome when they want to be.
So I left the coffeeshop feeling very Australia-friendly, but I still had hours to kill before I could check in. Went for a wander round, and ran across a cinema - a time honoured way to spend a few hours. And what were they showing in just under an hour? Why, Australia, of course! It seemed meant to be. Bought a ticket, settled down in my seat, and prepared for epic romance and Hugh Jackman using his real accent.
Now, Noj warned me that he had not enjoyed the film when he saw it. But for everything he and I agree on, there's ten things we will argue about til the cows come home, so I wasn't too worried. The moral of this story? Listen to Noj more. Good people, if you haven't seen it already - DON'T WATCH AUSTRALIA. It's fucking awful. I consider myself to be fairly intelligent, and also with an above average interest in film, but after forty minutes, I was forced to admit I didn't have the faintest idea what was going on. The plot is incomprehensible. Maybe if you're an expert on Australian life in the 40s and you know all about ranching, you'll love it. But there was plenty about ranching in Brokeback Mountain, and that's a sensational film. I can appreciate Hugh Jackman's physical form as much as the next girl, but if I go to see a movie with him in, I don't go to perv, I go to enjoy his acting chops. When the only reason you're staying in the theatre is in case he takes his shirt off again, there's a problem. He was the only thing that made the thing worth watching - even with the dreck he's given, he acts the hell out of it, and you do actually care about him. Nicole Kidman, on the other hand, just got on my tits. I disliked her performance so much I actually like Moulin Rouge less just for seeing it.
I don't want to go on about this too much in case you haven't seen it (and actually still want to, despite my heartiest recommendation against it), but Baz, please. One of the most important rules of storytelling: Show, Don't Tell. When you have to keep inserting big chunks of exposition, AND a voiceover from that stupid kid (who I would have liked a lot more without said voiceover), YOUR PLOT IS TOO COMPLICATED. And considering how long the damn film is, I would have appreciated a bit more buildup of the love story - it seems like they hook up because she's drunk and he's horny, not because they're falling in lerve. And just when you think this insane mire of awfulness is over, oh no no! Story one is resolved and all is well, so they launch directly into the sequel! A whole different movie, about marital strife and WWII! FOR ANOTHER BLOODY HOUR!! I was determined to stick it out to the bitter end (and I'll be honest, I was hoping Jackman would take his shirt off again), but although it ticked the required box of keeping me busy til 2pm, when I think that next door they were screening The Curious Case of Benjamin Button... well, I could lie down right here right now and weep. Speaking of other films, the story begins in 1939 so there's an ongoing reference to The Wizard of Oz (don't get me started on how unlikely it is that people would be so obsessed with that film, considering what a flop it was on release), which I think was a major error, because constantly reminding people of a film that has a better and more consistent plot EVEN THOUGH IT FEATURES FLYING MONKEYS AND A WOMAN WITH GREEN SKIN WHO ENDS UP MELTING, FOR FUCK'S SAKE - to quote Pretty Woman, big mistake. Huge. I just kept wishing I was watching that instead (of course, it is one of my favourite films, so that's to be expected. In all walks of life, I often wish I was watching The Wizard of Oz instead).
So I had a morning of feeling pro-Australia, I had an afternoon of feeling anti-Australia, but in the end, I think I shan't hold Baz Luhrmann's sins against the whole country. Sydney is still lovely. I am still excited to be here. I wish I could get some sleep, but that's hardly Oz's fault. Instead I will plan my day for tomorrow (harbour in the morning, perhaps the aquarium in the afternoon, in keeping with the nautical theme? Or maybe the bridge? I can't decide), order some room service, and think about the Red Curtain trilogy and pretend those are the only films Luhrmann has made. Perhaps the dreams that I dare to dream really will come true.
Where I stayed