Pre-departure 3 – one last night out with the boys

Saturday 11th August

So, I wasn’t planning on putting out another blog before we left but one or two interesting things happened today and I think it would be best to record them for posterity’s sake.

The day started innocuously enough with a brief trip to the supermarket for some breakfast provisions. This morning was to be the last opportunity to use Jim’s loaned car since he had a bingle (Australian term for minor car accident) in his ute (another Australian term for utility vehicle). Fortunately, he wasn’t hurt but he lost his front bumper and his headlights no longer work. As such, he needed his car back, which was totally understandable. As a thank-you, Sandy filled the car up with petrol (or rather she filled the petrol tank) and we left him some money to cover the cost of the various toll charges we’d racked up over the past week or so.

Part of the plan for today was that Sandy would look after Jai, Mark & Patrice’s son, for the day so that Mark, myself and several other friends from the estate could go to the footy game. A couple of weeks ago I had let slip that I had never actually been to an AFL game and that it had always been one of my bucket list items. Being a bit of a sports fan himself, this was music to Mark’s ears and he was a red rag to a bull. He took it upon himself to rectify that problem, organising the trip for the boys and me today. Awesome!

I went over to collect Jai at around 10:30am and duly brought the young lad back to Paul’s house. With him safely in Sandy’s care, adding to the pile of kids she already had for the day, I went back to Mark’s to begin the day’s activities. As it turned out, that began right away with a bottle of Lambrusco between us. It was at this point I realised it was going to be a long day.

Shortly thereafter, the rest of the day’s contingent arrived. Before long, our little party of seven was complete with me, Mark, Miles, Dean, Jason, Rod & Ryan. With the first round of alcohol consumed, we meandered the short distance to the nearby Lynbrook train station. Like most major metropolitan areas, Melbourne has a public transport system that uses a cashless ticketing system. The one here is called Myki and some of us had to top up our Myki cards before we could ‘tap on’ to enable us to travel legitimately. Now, the Myki ticket machine is designed so that four-year-old’s can operate it. Alas, there were no toddlers around to help us and so it took a fair while before we had figured it out and were all tapped on. The train pulled in just as the last of our number had finished operating the ticket machine and everyone’s frustration had subsided from the ordeal.

About three quarters of an hour later we were disembarking again at the Richmond train station just outside of the Melbourne CBD (Central Business District – or city centre if you prefer). We made the five-minute walk over to the MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground), or sometimes referred to simply as ‘the G’, one of Australia’s most well-recognised sporting landmarks and also by far its most prestigious sporting stadium. Competing – or even just being – at the MCG is often a life-long ambition for youngsters. Melbourne is absolutely replete with sporting venues, including no less than three major stadiums all within a stone’s throw of each other around the city centre.

I made my way into the stadium full of anticipation. This was the first time I had been to a large stadium like this. The crowd hadn’t yet fully assembled but it was still an impressive site when we finally made it into our section and I looked down on the oval pitch. Mark hadn’t been able to get tickets in the section he wanted, which was to be down low and close to the front. Instead, we were up in the nose-bleed section. I didn’t mind a bit. The view was just spectacular. We also had the benefit of being completely covered and thus sheltered from the on-again/off-again inclement weather.

Today’s AFL fixture was Hawthorn versus Geelong, not that I had the first clue what that meant. Mark did explain it. Both teams needed to win but for different reasons. It promised to be a very good match. Many of the recent AFL games had also been stunners with very close scores.

Before the game got underway, there was one mandatory part of the overall experience I needed to tend to – a hot pie with ketchup. I think it’s actually written into the constitution that thalt shall not go to an AFL match without eating a hot pie with ketchup. To not do so would just be un-Australian. In the event, I ended up getting not only the hot pie but also chips and a hotdog. At half time, I even went the full hog and partook in a sliced roast pork sandwich. Yum!

Despite the first couple of quarters being a little ‘ordinary’ (an Australianism which means boring or uninteresting), I thoroughly enjoyed the intense atmosphere. The boys were telling me all about what was happening down on the field and all the rules of the game. We were just too far away to make out any significant detail. It was a struggle to identify which player was which and even where the ball was at times. Mark planned to shift us to the ‘ferals’ section, where we’d have to stand but we’d be in the thick of all the shouting and chanting. Exactly as Mark predicted, this improved the overall experience. The second and third quarters were very much better. The crowd erupted each time either of the teams scored, which was really quite an experience down with the ferals. The tension built steadily towards the end of the fourth quarter. Eventually, with just a few minutes to the final siren, there was just a single point separating the two teams. When Hawthorn scored what would turn out to be the final goal just moments before the final siren, the crowd went nuts and the screams around the stadium were deafening. It was totally awesome – a truly amazing experience!

After the post-match festivities died down, the 65,000 or so sports fans at today’s game slowly emptied from the stadium. Mark and the rest of us took our leave of the stadium and headed back towards the train station. Or so I thought. We actually took a slight detour to another nearby venue Mark had been joking about all afternoon. A place of some notoriety as it happens. We were heading for The Royal and I was to have my first experience at a titty bar.

As we pulled up to the joint, Mark revealed that we were entering a topless bar. I wasn’t exactly sure why I should have to take off my top, but that misunderstanding was soon clarified once we were inside. The place was packed to the rafters. People (mostly men it does have to be said) were standing around drinking alcohol from the various bars. Behind the bars, all the waitresses wore black. Some of them wore very little. A few wore nothing at all – at least on the top half. In fact, I glimpsed one rather pretty looking lady that wore absolutely nothing at all, but she was just walking out through a side-room door. All of the women were gorgeous.

All up, we stayed at The Royal for a couple of hours. The patrons were all well-behaved and there was no rowdiness or core Neanderthal behaviour. Other than the fact that some of the girls behind the bar were topless, you would have been hard-pressed to tell the difference between this bar and any of a thousand others.

Then one of the ‘performers’ came out and… Well, let’s just say we were treated to what was euphemistically referred to as a cultural Australian dance. In this particular cultural corner, that dance involved an already scantily clad young woman jiggling her bits to the beat of the music pumping throughout the establishment. At the same time, she was rubbing her hand around various parts of her anatomy, no doubt some sort of cultural gesture. All the while, she was removing what little items of clothing she had to begin with. By the end of her routine a few minutes later, she was benefitting from not being at all encumbered by clothing in the hot climate. I kept trying to interpret the cultural significance of some of her moves, like wearing her knees behind her ears, etc. I do have to admit it was quite…distracting.

Despite the attractions of a couple of different ‘cultural dances’ that took place over the course of the couple of hours (and about two bottles of Moscato I had consumed by that point), I was receiving constant reminders of my previously arranged plans for the evening. Those reminders came in the form of text messages from Sandy asking me where the hell I was and what time I was expecting to arrive home. After some persuasion, I eventually managed to drag Mark and the others away from the entertainment. Miles and I struggled through the throng but eventually made it to the outside. We thought the others were following behind but after about ten minutes, I went back in to find them. I got about four paces through the door when I was stopped by a bouncer. He refused me entrance on account of my sandals. Seriously! I told him I had just been inside for the past couple of hours and was just going back in to drag my mates back out. He reluctantly let me through. Honestly, the shtick I have to endure because of these bloody sandals.

We did eventually all manage to drag ourselves, hobbling from the effects of alcohol by this time, to the nearby train station. The cashless Myki system seemed to get the better of some of our number again, but we did all finally manage to stumble into a train when it pulled in. Fortunately, it was the right one.

Our entertainment for the remainder of the journey home was provided by Dean, who decided he’d display his gymnastic prowess by hanging from the hand rails on the train ceiling and performing some extraordinary feats of contortion. Really, it was quite impressive. I’m pretty sure he said something about showing the video footage I took of him to his wife. At least, I think that’s what he said. It might have been ‘not show’ but I was also a bit tipsy, so I mightn’t have heard him correctly. I’ll find out when I show Connie the footage tomorrow.

Back at Lynbrook, there were good-byes and cuddles all around. Mark and I walked (and I use that term quite wrongly) back to Paul’s house, where Eleanora was already waiting to whisk Sandy, a couple of kids and me back to her place to enjoy a lovely home-cooked meal. I do so enjoy Eleanora’s cooking 🙂
While there, I helped get a new printer up and running for her and a couple of other minor bits and pieces. She seemed desperate to squeeze the last ounce of usefulness out of me before I leave, which is fine. She was good enough to lend us one of her cars, which Sandy drove us back to Paul’s in. I felt fine, but I suspect two bottles of Moscato and a half a bottle of Lambrusco might have put me over the legal limit for driving.

Back home, I decided I’d commit the day’s events to memory and duly wrote this blog. As it’s now half past midnight, I think I better get myself off to bed