Day 54: Sydney International Airport
Barbaric Striplit Holding Pen
It turns out that Sydney International Airport does not open its doors to travellers until 3 a.m. It also transpires that the airport provides nearly, but not quite enough seating for those passengers who are scheduled to check in during the early hours but who do not possess sufficient funds to hire a taxi to take them to the airport at that time. The result being that it is now one a.m. on Monday morning and I am sitting on a pile of dirty laundry on the floor beneath the departures board, as opposed to reclining on Denise’s sofa with a big glass of wine and the prospect of a couple of hours’ sleep.
At least the situation gives me a brief opportunity to blog. I’ve spent the week since my last entry in Sydney with Denise, a friend made in New Zealand. I travelled from Melbourne by train; a journey through uninteresting scrubland lasting 11.5 hours of which a goodly number were spent entertaining someone else’s under-tens. Zach and JJ were travelling with their grandfather, who explained to me between regular thwacks of his rolled-up newspaper that, while smacking children has recently been made illegal in Australia, it’s acceptable ‘as long as you don’t make any marks’. The boys were entirely unmoved by any of their grandpa’s remonstrations, and spent the first hours of the journey rolling around the carriage floor locked in combat and swearing fluently until they discovered that the British girl by the window objected to her feet being stood on.
There followed five hours during which the boys became considerably quieter and actually rather sweet. The six-year-old solemnly went through a woman’s magazine with me, picking out dresses that he would buy for me when big enough (we will meet in Canberra in ten years’ time to make the exchange). His brother, looking over my shoulder, informed me that he had met ‘that woman’ (Lady Gaga) and had in fact seen her in concert (for $10) where she sang Yellow Submarine for him. They fought viciously for the privilege of sitting next to me, and we played a succession of games, the surprise favourite of which being Let’s See Who Can Stay The Quietest And Most Still For The Longest Time (laughter rules apply). Not the brightest children you’ll ever meet. By the time the train disgorged the boys and their ineffectual grandparent at Canberra, I was exhausted but could feel waves of gratitude emanating from the other occupants of the carriage, who clearly felt that I had taken one for the team.
I could easily and for a similar price have made the trip to Sydney by plane, but decided against it: while travelling to the other side of the planet means that my personal carbon footprint is gigantic (and scarcely dented by a so-called eco-friendly insurance policy), I would still rather fly only when really necessary, given time restraints. Besides which, I think its important to experience the landscape you’re passing through in order to reach a destination, and flying diminishes our conception of distance. Widespread commercial flights have reduced the experience of travelling to entering a metal tube in one place and emerging hours later in another. This seems perfectly normal nowadays because being on an aeroplane, plugged into a personal entertainment system with the porthole cover down (I can’t understand people who do this) is such a sanitized, homogenizing experience that we even complain when a journey to another country, continent or hemisphere takes over 12 hours to complete. Well, frankly, it should. It’s a long way.
I think I might try to drape myself over my valuables and attempt a short snooze before they open the airport. But first, impressions of Sydney.
a) The city is very large with many skyscrapers, tourists, pregnant women, joggers, and people with broken limbs (too much jogging?)
b) The Opera House was pretty cool.
c) Bondi Beach was a let-down. Bronte and Clovelly beaches were better. Manly wins because the lifeguards all have ‘Manly Lifeguard’ written on their T-shirts.
That’s all you need to know for now. Next stop: Dubai.