Melbourne – homeward bound

My 33 hour door to door trip back from Melbourne (Melbourne – Sidney – Bangkok – London – Bath) gave me a few hours of film watching…

Control

There are a few bands that I really regret not seeing live…

The first was the Sex Pistols, who I had a chance to see in 77 but I turned it down for some reason – god knows why! As it turns out, the gig I had the chance to go to (in Uxbridge I think??) was on the tour where a lot of the gigs got banned by local councils, so even had I gone along I might not have seen them play – but I still regret missing it anyway.

The second was the Smiths, who I listened to intently for a while but never had the opportunity of seeing.

The third was Oasis, who played in Bath immediately before their early Glastonbury show – I don’t remember which year. I ran a Web noticeboard at the time and someone offered a single ticket for sale which I could have bought without even putting it up. I didn’t – I don’t know why. I lost interest in Oasis sometime after that but suspect that seeing them live at that stage in their career would have been fantastic.

Finally, I wish I’d seen Joy Division. Not that I was ever a totally massive fan. But it seems to me that Joy Division are iconic in representing a certain period of UK music history and that seeing them live would have been something to tell my grandchildren…

Control is well worth seeing, particularly if you lived thru that period in the UK, even more so if you liked that kind of music. The soundtrack is fantastic (I’ll need to watch it again somewhere with a decent sound-system cos watching it on the plane left a lot to be desired). Gritty stuff… it’s not exactly a fairytale kind of story. One those films (like Apollo 13) where knowing the ending doesn’t detract in any way.

Atonement

I confess that I’ve never succeeded in reading the whole of an Ian McEwan novel, finding them boringly long-winded and not worth the effort. Unfortunately, for me at least, that got carried thru into the move of Atonement. Not that there was much wrong with the three leading performances… for the record, I’d be happy watching Keira Knightly sitting on a chair doing nothing for an hour and a half. I expected her to be not very good in this role, but actually she was.

But somehow the storyline in the film just didn’t do it for me – I expected more substance at the end. Oh well, I must be out of order here, seeing as it has just won a Bafta and all…

In the Valley of Elah

I wouldn’t normally have chosen to watch In the Valley of Elah but the woman next to me recommended it. The two leads are very good (Tommy Lee Jones and Charlize Theron), Jones particularly so. Susan Sarandon in support is also good. The film deals with the dehumanising impact of modern warfare, particularly the impact of the war in Iraq. Powerful stuff – there’s very little glory here and the anti-war message comes thru loud and clear.

It is let down slightly by the confession scene towards the end which, for me at least, didn’t ring totally true. But well worth watching in spite of that.

Melbourne – Friday

Last full day in Melbourne today… I fly out at 2pm on Saturday.

Wednesday and Thursday seemed to race by…

Weds was the night of the conference dinner. Got a little drunk on all the free wine with the meal, then headed out for a nightcap in a fun bar with a black reflective ceiling somewhere on the east side of the city (though not as far as Far Kew) with Ebe, Emily, Liddy and Stu.

Thurs saw the end of the conference, with yet more free drinks, followed by a meal in China Town with Debbie. It was the Chinese the new year of course, which made it extra entertaining – there were some very loud fire crackers, including one set strung up from the top of a building and covering the length of about 3 floors.

Also arranged to meet up with a few folks from New Zealand for a meal on Friday evening.

Booked my hire car for Friday.

Drove out to Healseville. Quick breakfast in a cafe there, then over to the Healesville Sanctuary to look round. Nice place. The talks by the keepers were especially good.

Sandwich lunch then a two hour walk thru the rain forests in the Dandenong Ranges. To be honest, I probably could have chosen a better walk – like one that gave me some views of something other than trees for example! That said, the height of the trees was well impressive! Ditto the animal and bird noises in the forest.

Spent the evening out with John, Maria and Fiona from New Zealand. Thanks to them for allowing me to gatecrash their evening out – I’d only known them about 15 minutes before inviting myself along. The Tiger Prawn pasta and company was just the job.

Melbourne – Tuesday

Today was the big day (for me) – giving my keynote first thing at 9.00am. Things weren’t helped by a totally crap night’s sleep – only about 2 hours or so.  Oh well… think I got away with it. Presentation went OK as far as I can tell and some positive comments received afterwards. I did my best to stir things up a bit – in a positive way.

Felt knackered and drained afterwards. Had quick lunch then back to my room for blogging and sleep.

Woke up in time for the opening reception. Quick drink. Then out for a meal with Debbie Campbell of the National Library of Australia. It’s nice to be able to come away and meet up with people I haven’t seen for a long while.

Got some Savlon for my bites and am plastering it on liberally. Exciting stuff, hey!?

Melbourne – Monday

Woke up very late – 11.00ish I think – which meant I missed breakfast at the hotel. Not a good start.

Then had to work on my slides for the keynote for a couple of hours. Pretty tedious, but I think I ended up with something coherent and interesting. Will find out tomorrow.

Got peckish at about 2 and decided to head up to the Italian area on Lygon Street for a pizza for lunch. Took a while to get there, but ended up sitting outside a very nice little Italian restaurant with a glass of wine and a pizza which was nice.

Then walked over to the Eureka Tower (south of the river), where I experienced The Edge – which basically involves standing in a small glass-sided cube (including the floor) which is then winched out over the edge of the building at about 285m above ground level. This is done initially with the glass frosted so you can’t see what is happening – though they play you some nice creaking noises while the winching happens. Then the glass clears and you are suddenly able to look straight down 285m!

Cool… but not for those without a head for heights.

I was pretty nervous actually. It is a long way down and they do a good job of building up the suspense.

They got us to lie on the floor and look straight down – felt a bit strange doing this with one other person that I’d never met in the cube but I suppose it did make the effect of the height more dramatic.

Digital cameras weren’t allowed unfortunately. They claimed this was for our protection – though I guess it is really so they can charge and additional $15 for the picture that they take. I’m sorry to say that I coughed up – against my better judgement – just to prove that I’d done it.

Back to the hotel for a quick swim, then out for a meal with the VALA programme and organising committees. We dined out on a terrace just south of the river overlooking the city at night. I had kangaroo, which may not have been too sensible, since it was followed by my worst night’s sleep so far – just before my keynote.

Melbourne – Sunday

Liddy Neville invited me over to her place at Barwon Head for Sunday lunch today which was very kind. I had a great day, including a quick swim in the Southern Ocean, though not at the famous Bells Beach where the surf was pretty impressive.

I got the train down to South Geelong where Liddy and Stu (who was staying at Liddy’s for a couple of days) picked me up by car. The train was very nice – though the journey itself was somewhat marred by the family from hell getting on at the second stop. They proceeded to shout loudly at each other for the rest of the journey. It’s a bout an hour from Melbourne to Geelong.

After a walk to the beach, a swim, and a quick tour by car of part of the Great Ocean Road around Torquay and Anglesea Liddy knocked up roast lamb which we sat outside to eat with a glass or two of Australian red. Hard to beat to be honest.

I ended up getting bitten to death by mosquitos – not literally… but I’m now suffering the consequences. Oh well.

I got the last train back at about 10.30. Pretty hard to stay awake I have to admit.

Melbourne – journey and Saturday.

I’m in Australia at the moment, in Melbourne for the VALA 2008 libraries conference.  I’m here primarily to give the opening keynote, which I’ll blog about separately on eFoundations.

This is my first trip to Australia.  I like what I’ve seen so far.

I was dreading the trip over, expecting to be very bored and uncomfortable, especially since I ended up travelling in ecomonmy (on a BA flight operated by Quantas).  Well, I was bored and uncomfortable, but no where near as badly as I expected.  I got lucky, getting an empty seat next to me on the first (longer) leg of the journey to Hong Kong.  I’m pretty good at dropping into travel mode these days… adopting a dulled mindset and expecting the worst in terms of delays.

 My journey was, taxi to Bath Spa station, train to Heathrow (via Paddington and Heathrow Express), flight to Melboune (via Hong Kong), car to hotel.  29 hours in all.  We were forced off the plane at Hong Kong, to give a chance to loop thru security, then back on the same plane… why??

I watched 5 or 6 films on the way over.  Can’t remember the details.  I don’t have decent noise-cencelling headphones, which makes the films much harder to watch, though I did enjoy 2 Days in Paris, which reminded me a lot of the old Woody Allen / Diane Keaton films.

Since arriving (late Friday night) I’ve spent some time looking around Melbourne – it’s an easy place to get around.  The trams and trains are very good vale – particularly compared to the UK.  I went to the viewing platform at the top of the Rialto Tower, to the Melbourne Old Gaol, and relaxed in the park outside the Melbourne Museum.  I also went down to St Kilda Beach by tram – getting a bit out of the city, down to the sea for an evening.  Found a very nice resturant at the end of St Kilda Pier, and had a lovely meal of salmon on cous cous.  The view back towards Melbourne was spot on, particularly the tall Eureka Tower, with its gold top section radiating the light from the setting sun.

Photos are on Facebook right now.  I’ll pop them on Flickr in due course.

Over and out for now…