My current escapade has landed me in Sydney. I moved out of the Hilton where I had a pillow menu but the views were rubbish. At Pier One I have marvelled at the harbour and it’s flotilla of boats - and that’s where I discovered the bathrooms. I’m drinking, of course, which is why I’m being a bit boastful. But who wouldn’t be? I’m living the dream and most of my work was done weeks ago.
Don’t get me wrong, if there are any problems I will feel real pressure, but so far everything is going to plan. And that plan means I go for a run first thing in the morning, do a couple of hours work and then have my first beer around 1pm. It’s now 4.15. It’s 32 degrees in the shade.
Last night I felt a tinge of sickness at the fact that a woman in earshot had spent more on one hair appointment than the average weekly wage. She was perfectly tanned and made-up. Perfectly. Her hair was uniform like pages in a book or a Chinese military drill. Don’t get me wrong, she looked a shitload better than the average wage, but I disliked her, based on a rationale only Holden Caulfield would understand. I tugged on my baseball cap and it forced my eyes down. I was the scruffiest person in the whole place. Keeping it real, I thought. Waiter… where’s the fuckin' waiter... Ah, there you are, anther beer please. And where’s that coaster I asked for; the condensation dripping from the glass is insufferable.
I’m a month between Sydney and Brisbane, but my best effort came just before I left New Zealand. Whanganui, if you don’t already know, is amazing. Michael Laws is no longer the mayor. The river gives the place life and main street has great character. The Christchurch rebuild could learn a lot from the arts district at King Park. It is incredibly cool. For all that, however, it doesn’t have an airport. I had to fly into somewhere and then drive.
I booked a rental at New Plymouth, only to find they had no car waiting. Easily solved, they had one there and off I went. I cast my eyes over the horizon for the mighty Mt Taranaki, but I couldn’t see it. I was surprised that the trip didn’t take long. It looked miles on the map. I was also surprised that the rental car company rang me the next day to ask when I was going to pick up the car. I already have it. You lost the booking. Idiots! I discussed this at dinner with my hosts from the book festival trust, only to discover that I hadn’t actually flown into New Plymouth. I had flown into and driven out of Palmerston North - an easy mistake to make for a mid North Island jetsetter like myself.
But back to the Sydney Hilton, that fuckin’ hellhole I suffered through. I was a week into my Australian trip when I needed my clothes laundered. The button on the phone to push was called ‘Magic’. And magic it was. Back came the clothes beautifully folded in little packages. I wondered where one buys a phone like that and if I could put one on the expense account.
Where does all this take me? It is now 4.33pm and I will tell you where it takes me: straight down to earth. My girlfriend dropped me a line earlier. I’m looking forward to getting home to see her and the cat. I’ve just paused to think about that and an incredibly important point has struck me: regardless of where you are, the greatest thing in life is relationships - being cared for and caring for others. That and the rich have it fuckin’ sweet.