We were transported to the airport in good time and there was no check-in queue. Now I must pose a question. Would you turn down 800 dollars, a night in a 5-star hotel and a free flight? I cannot believe it but we just did!! Our flight had been overbooked. We were offered the deal if we stepped down from the flight. We were do torn. We only had a few days in Sydney and we had never been there before. Should we? Could we? No, we couldn't. So, a little miffed that the only time this had happened to us, we had to walk (and fly) away from it.
Our nearest flight attendant looked just like our friend Bernard. All the attendants belonged to the senior age category. Was Qantas in league with B & Q? We settled into our seats, played around with our mini TV sets. I was convinced that Hubby's set was not working. I could not see a picture. I had not realised you had to be looking directly at the screen to see the picture. Hubby teased me dreadfully and said I HAD to put it in my blog with a smirk on his face. I have but I still don't think it's funny.
Time for take off. How smooth was that?! Hubby was so engrossed in his film, he hadn't even noticed we were in the air. We settled down to watch our movies and eat our meals. The after dinner hot chocolate was delicious. Combining that with the boring movie I had selected, I nodded off. Most unusual for me to do that on a plane. I woke and looked through the window to the sight of twinkling diamond stars placed on a deep velvet sky. I just wanted to stretch out my arm and catch one.
To help me nod off again, I thought I would listen to some relaxing music. Headphones in place, I selected a CD. Nothing. I was just about to summon the flight attendant when the penny dropped. The headphone had parted company from the arm socket. It was very dark so I had to slide my fingers down the thin wire to find the insert. Using my other hand, I traced the socket. 'Will you sit still?' came the voice from Mr Grumpy aka Hubby. 'I'm trying,' I whimpered. 'Very!' he mumbled.
Music activated, I covered my head and shoulders with the scratchy airplane blanket. With a rendition of 'Sally', ( I just had to mention my little love) I could have passed for Gracie Fields. Several yoga and tantric positions later, sleep was restored, only to be broken by the deafening announcement 'Ladies and gentlemen, we will be arriving at our destination in two hours time. Breakfast will be served shortly.' Now Mr Qantas owner, I'm telling you, it did not take your elderly staff more than fifteen minutes to deliver the trays. A muffin, juice and coffee were down my gullet in five. Allow a little leeway for landing, on my reckoning I'm allowed at least 1 hour 15 minutes more shut-eye. That my dears was Mrs Grumpy talking. My normal self recovered whilst watching the Tequila Sunrise outside. Another natural wonder.
As light dawned, I could see land below. Not a lot of houses and rather dusty brown but I could see AUSTRALIA!!i watched our flight path on the screen. Had our pilot been on Happy Hour? We were weaving like a snake past places with names like Wogga Wogga. A brief announcement revealed the truth. This was Sydney's answer to Manchester's stacking system. Far more enjoyable and less stomach churning. As for the landing, give that man a medal. It was the best touchdown of my life. Worthy of a hundred points at least.
Having completed my immigration card earlier, I was somewhat wary of one of my 'Yes' answers. This referred to the importation of wooden goods and the unknown Chinese ointment. Hubby thought I needn't declare them. I followed my 'better safe than sorry' rule.
Passport control first. My passport is newer than Hubby's, yet it does not have the little buttons that allow me to sail through the fast track service like He does. He waved, said, 'See you at Luggage Collection 12' and disappeared.
I was resigned to wait in the slowly moving queue, where a man was filming with an enormous camera and a fluffy microphone. 'What an unusual way to check people on,' I thought. I noticed the board by his feet. 'Border Control' if you do not wish to be filmed, please inform staff. Not be filmed for 'Border Control'!! Sister Rose loves that programme. Running my fingers through my nightly ruffled hair and running my tongue along the breakfast debris, I stepped forward with my best cinematic smile. I will probably appear for at least ten seconds as the man quickly stamped my book and waved me on. Grrrrr.
As he'd said, Hubby was at number 12 waiting patiently for our luggage. My case had just come down the chute, landing awkwardly. He wrestled with it. It did not want to come quietly. He tugged and pulled but the moving conveyor belt did not want to relinquish my bag. It was dragged from his fingers. 'I've got it mate,' said a 6-pack Australian as he lifted it with ease. Not to be outdone, Hubby came to the rescue of a lady having a similar experience. Like a knight in shining armour, he proved the 'We Brits' can play this game too. Like a man possessed, he tackled her Titan case levering it to the floor. Success.
On to Customs. Would I get another opportunity to appear on TV? I joined the queue. 'Go to Number 2, madam,' said the officer. So I did. 'Go to Number 13, madam,' said the lady officer. Was this an in-house Bingo game?? The man at Number 13 looked at my card. He asked me with the kindly air of 'oh no I've got one here', exactly what I was declaring. So, I told him and showed him. 'These are my bracelets. They're made of wood. At least I think they're made of wood. I might have been conned. They could be painted plastic. They are supposed to keep mosquitoes at bay but I still get bitten. That's why I think they may not be wood. I have more in my case for my ankles. Oh and I have a strange ointment in my case too. A lovely Chinese lady gave it to me to ease the bites. It did that and took the swelling down but oh it stained the sheets. I have a wooden animal for a gift too. Would you like to see it?'
Verbal explosion of diarrhoea over, I waited for him to summon the tv cameras over and prepared myself for a body search. I hoped they would be gentle. 'Is your animal painted, madam?' He asked in a resigned tone. (I'm glad I hadn't mentioned it was a pussy). 'Oh yes. It's very pretty. Would you like to see it?' I enthused, hoping my Russian keepsake might attract the cameras. 'No thank you, madam. You are free to go. Welcome to Australia.' Ah well, you might still spot me on camera with my head drooping as I left Customs.
Now we just had to find someone waving a Kangaroo card. No-one there but we did link up with some fellow Brits searching for the same thing. After 30 minutes Kangaroo Ken arrived with his card. We assumed the lemming walk and followed him to his vehicle and drove into Sydney. We were all chatting like long-list friends when conversation ground to a halt. There was a man at a pedestrian crossing. Nothing unusual in that, except he had a very large Gloucester Old Spot pig on a lead. We watched as he collected a doggy (or should that be piggy) bag from a bin. He released said pig from its lead at the edge of the park. It was off like a shot out of a gun. The last we saw of it, it was pursuing two miniature dogs and their terrified male owner. Who would have believed that, in the middle of Sydney!!!
Our hotel was in the heart of Sydney, close to World Square. It was pretty basic but clean. The lifts took some figuring out. We stood for ages, going nowhere until a kind soul took pity on us and told us it would not move until we inserted our room card.
After a little tidy we went for a stroll and got caught up in the international Fleet Review. Navies from across the world paraded down George Street. We joined hundreds of others to cheer them on. Our boys looked so smart and together as the marched with their military band. We sang along to 'Hearts of Oak' as they passed by. The guys from Indonesia were cheered loudly as they shimmied past in their colourful costumes. But the crowd saved the loudest cheers for the veterans marching as smartly as their age and disabilities would allow. They loved it and so did we.
Parade over, we followed our instincts towards the harbour. Eagle-eyed Hubby spotted the Governor's car complete with a police chauffeur in all his regalia. Never one to miss an opportunity, we requested, and were granted, a photoshoot. That's one for Tania and Frank. We will tease them that Lord David had a special invite to the ceremony!
In the harbour tall ships and warships were moored side by side. I watched aghast as young people shinned up the high masts. HMS Endeavour was recruiting people of all ages and abilities to join their trip next year. I passed on that as I didn't fancy being sent to the crow's nest. Anyone our there up for it? They have a website.
There was such a happy, relaxed atmosphere around Sydney. People were willing to pose for photos. The Navy lads and lasses were starting to enjoy Happy Hour. Clutching a wealth of maps and leaflets we wandered back to our hotel. We saw some unfamiliar birds with long beaks. What were they??
Back in our room, we watched the news. Guess what? Having avoided the typhoons in China, floods in Vietnam and Cambodia it seems that Sydney is due extreme winds and heat tomorrow. Ah well, it was bound to catch up with us some time!!