Travelling tittle-tattle, tall tales and shameless name-dropping by Jon ‘Don’t Call Me’ Norman

About Me

Tuesday, 30 January 2007

Nine go mad on Fraser!

When I fulfill another of my lifetime ambitions of becoming an award-winning children's book writer I'm going to pen a series of self-help travel books aimed at the under-9's who want to journey the world on their own. For the chapter on Fraser Island I'll title it 'You'd better grow the fuck up quickly you little bastards 'cos if you think jumping around in a sandpit qualifies as a 'fun time' then wait until you get to Fraser Island.  IT FUCKING ROCKSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!

I've had some great times since arriving in Australia. There have been some seriously funny moments. Some superb characters have lit up my path from Sydney through to Brisbane, from Adelaide to Perth and Melbourne then back again. But my Fraser Island of adventure ranks right up there. It was 4 nights and 5 days of the wildest rides, amazing views and beautiful scenery interspersed with countless knees on the ground, floor slapping, hysterically funny incidents.

In preparing for this 'blog, I sat down and tried to write a list of the funniest moments of my life. You know those times when you've laughed so long and loud it goes beyond being funny and you almost experience a quasi-religious moment within yourself. When your laughter is so pure that you are almost watching yourself flail about with an enormous grin stretching your mouth past what is appropriate. It is during these moments that you know it truly is good to be alive. You can find the list at the bottom of this 'blog. You will not be familiar with all the tales but I'm sure at least one will elicit a snort, a chuckle and make you pause to remember a night when you saw something so funny time seemed to slow down. When you became aware that all around were beside you on the ground, tears of laughter streaming down contorted faces, and you hoped the feeling would last forever.

And so it is with a smile on my face that I will always look back on my memories of the wild abandon and sheer recklessness in which my group took on everything Fraser Island could throw at us

9 = Drinking games I've learnt in Australia

Moon in the glass
I took a train
Higher Lower
Ka-Kaaaaaa
One up one down
Roxanne
One Red Hen
The cup tip race

....and to think it had all started so peacefully.

I'd flown into Hervey Bay early doors on the Friday morning. I'd taken a valium for the 80 minute flight and thus spent a very relaxing afternoon wandering up and down the beach and checking out the jetty.


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That night I'd unexpectedly bumped into Danny and his mate, Matt. So, we spent the evening supping a few brews and watching England lose in the cricket.

It was like old times. I wasn't in Danny's party so the next day I awoke and met the group I was to be touring with. There were 33 going on the tour and we were split into 3 groups. I was put into the A-team alongside ten others. We'd be spending the next three days squeezed together either in a 4x4 or at the campsite.

It's at times like these that you cross your fingers and pray you get a good bunch of mates. Little did I know that I was about to meet 8 of the funniest, mischievous and most likeable characters I'd met all tour, plus two South Korean girls.

So let me introduce them.

Name: Bob
Age: He celebrated his 37th birthday on Fraser
From: All over the place



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Bob is an absolute legend and he took up the challenge of the driving responsibilities which pretty much made our holiday as a result. For while the other groups were gingerly creeping their way around the island, petrified they might get a bit of sand in the jeep, Bob approached it like he'd just been bitten by a Redback spider and only had 2 hours to live.

Bob also managed to fall asleep in the sea, on the beach, on a road, on a bowling green and lying up a flight of stairs.  Considering we were only with him for three nights this was quite a feat.



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Name: Hugh
Age: 36
From: Manchester

Bob was traveling around with his old Uni mate Hugh. They'd known each other for 15 years and Hugh had only just found out that Bob's real name was Dave. Hmmmmm. Hugh had brought 150 fags with him for the 3-day trip, so I knew we'd get on. He didn't suffer fools gladly and had no time for the many varied drinking games on offer. Not that this stopped him getting as pissed as us.



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Name: Katie
Age: 18
From: Stratford
Funny as fuck, feisty and always up for a laugh, Katie and Lottie are traveling around together. Katie was the last to bed and almost the first to rise every morning. She also came closest to killing us all.



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Lottie
Age: 18
From: Stratford
Katie's partner in crime Lottie also lit up the group with her infectious appetite to our adventure. In a way these two girls were the leaders of our pack. They were rarely quiet and were the reason everyone got talking so quickly on the first day.Ladies, I salute you!


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Nick
Age: 19
From:Kent(formerly Germany)

Extremely intelligent and funny guy he'd have been untouchable in the piss-take sweeps. Fortunately for us he had a strange English/German hybrid accent and couldn't pwonounce his R's properly so we had three days of fun out of that.


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Tim
Age: 19
From: Germany

Fairly quiet chap with a strong Germanic jaw, Tim didn't say much until the drinking
games started. And then he was transformed! His face would light up and anything that was lost in translation didn't matter as his eyes managed to convey any humour lost, a great guy.

Timo aka T-Bone
Age: 19
From: France

Brought with him to the island a stinking cold.  He took full use of the group box of tissues. Every hour or so we'd hear what sounded like a foghorn going off in the back of the jeep or outside the tent, this would be quickly followed by the group shouting 'T-Booooooooooone!


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Babs
Age: 27
From: Austria

A great laugh and excellent drinking game companion, whilst sober Babs was fairly restrained for most of the trip. Right up until the last day when we were trying to sand-surf and then suddenly it was as though she was on glue.


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The two South Korean girls

They couldn't swim, they didn't drink, by day three their clothes were still impeccably clean (while my Fulham shirt is still battered despite 3 washes) and they only said four words the entire trip. But these 4 words were possibly the funniest of the tour.


The eleven of us comprised to make up the A-Team.

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Within minutes of being put together the officious and rude staff ordered us to buy provisions for the 3-day tour.  If you ever book a Fraser Island tour do not book into Beaches hostel.

Lottie and I had to get the food shopping while Bob picked up the alcohol. We were taken to a nearby supermarket with $15 from each of the party. On the way there another 'rude as fuck' guide told us we had no more than 15 minutes to get everything we needed. Dire warnings of hefty fines and catastrophic consequences rained down on upon us. So when we arrived Lottie and I had manic quarter of an hour when we both fulfilled another lifetime ambition by taking part in a supermarket sweep.

We managed to get everything we needed (minus ham and toilet rolls) in the allotted time, plus a surprise birthday cake for Bob.

We got back to the others and were forced to listen to another hour of people telling us what we couldn't do, telling us off and treating us like kids. It put our backs up and possibly led to our defiant attitude to authority for the next 3 days.By the time we were ready to leave the inside of our jeep resembled a traveling off-licence. There was beer and cases of wine everywhere you looked. We were sitting on them, leaning on bottles of mixer, ciggies stuffed into every available hole. While all the food was crammed into boxes, and transported on top of the 4x4 along with our camping gear and bags. We were on our way!

Fraser is renowned for being the largest sand island in the world. It's about 100 miles long, you can drive 4x4s and land planes on the beach and in the centre are several large lakes. Blah, blah. blah. Go and read a guidebook. Essentially, and more interestingly, it's an off-road paradise. Anyone who fancies himself as a rally driver should go to Fraser. The pathways and beaten tracks that you have to drive down to get to the inland lakes and beauty spots are on the one hand extremely dangerous and on the other as much fun you can have driving without Gillian Taylforth in the passenger seat.


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It was a short ferry ride over to the Island and once we drove off the boat we were on our own until we reached camp that night. Bob put his foot down on the accelerator, overtook the only 4x4s to dare drive in front of us and off we went.

The first stop was about 20 minutes drive away. We were all still trying to get to know each other and it was a little quiet in the back of the jeep. But this wasn't to last.

At the first location we were faced with a 3-kilometre trek through a wooded area.  We approached it in the way we did for the remaining tour, without any forward planning and an attitude which bordered on the ridiculous.  So off we trekked, without cameras, swimming gear, water, food, a map & any real idea of where we were going.

It was a lovely spot, a clearing of trees, led to a round lake, surrounded by white sand and a naked old guy sunbathing on the other side.  Beautiful.  As mentioned I didn't take my camera and was cursing this fact until we got to our second destination.

Lake Margaret or Mckenzie (or something like that) was even more stunning. And we stayed there for an hour or so.


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It was getting late in the afternoon by this point and we were all starting to get a bit more comfortable with each other. And it showed. Bob was starting to drive more and more like a total lunatic. And we were fellow inmates in the back of the jeep screaming him on.

As it was a self-drive tour we had nobody telling us what to do.  Which was a good thing; we'd all had enough of that back in Hervey Bay. We'd been instructed to stick to 40 kph on the small roads inside the island but we gave a quick 'fuck you' to that as Bob approached them between 60 and 80kph.

It was mental. We were bumping all over the place, legs flying high, elbows smashing against elbow, heads against windows and all the while our cheesy arsed grins were being beamed back and forth to each other. As we hurtled down one side of the hill Nick suddenly erupted in laughter.

From the top of the jeep, where all our food was stored, a packet of cereal had bust open and Rice Krispies were flying out the back of the 4x4. This just made us egg Bob on to drive even faster and so he did.

Moments later there was uproar in the back as beer started spraying all over the windows and inside of the 4x4. One particularly memorable jolt had sent Hugh's foot through a six-pack of VB. While Katie's slight frame had somehow managed to break another two cans. A jet of beer covered Katie and Hugh and the screams of hilarity were quickly mixed in with the smell of alcohol.

We were all laughing so much at this point and it was with a groan that we pulled up behind a slower 4x4. We trundled along for a couple of minutes unable to pass. As we went down another steep incline we hit a deep pit at the bottom of the pass before the road curved sharply upwards to the right. We all tutted and agreed how much more fun it would have been if we'd hit that section at top speed.

I'm not sure whose idea it was but suddenly everyone had that look in the eyes. Before we knew it Bob had reversed half way back up the hill and was revving the engine.

It was like a scene from the Dukes of Hazzard. Yeeeee-Haaaaaawwwww!!!!! With Rice Krispies streaming off the top of the jeep, the stink of alcohol everywhere and Katie soaked in beer, we flew down the side of the hill, bumping and jolting all the way before hitting the bottom at such speed that I thought we were going to fly off the other side, hurtling down the hill to our doom. Ha ha ha!!!!!!Fraser Island DOES RULE!!!!!!

From this point onwards it was no holds. Every single time we were put in a position where we weren't sure we should do something we made sure we did. The group mentality was born in that moment and the success of our tour assured. It's a fantastic memory.

We continued on for another 20 minutes or so, every now and again reversing back up the hill and accelerating at any particularly juicy looking divots in the road. But after a while it got too much for one of the South Koreans. By now they were both sitting in the front of the jeep. Earlier, when they'd been in the back, and while Bob was cutting loose, I kept catching glimpses of one of their expressions and couldn't work out whether she was terrified and feared for her life. Or whether, like us, she was having a jolly good time.

Later that afternoon, with Bob once again attempting a do or die reverse and charge manoeuvre at a nasty looking stretch of the road it got too much. Unnoticed by those in the back, the South Korean leant over to Bob, touched him on the leg and implored him 'Please God, no more'.

I guess she wasn't having a jolly good time. We had been told that we had to be back in the campsite by 5pm. The tide meant that some stretches of the beach leading to the camp were impassable and to be late would mean an uncomfortable night on our own in the jeep. Yeah well. Sod that. We sauntered back into camp a good hour or so late and copped another barracking from the camp guard. He was an unusual bloke called Macca. Extremely camp, part boy band, part 50's theatre-hall, part Steve Irwin, part ballerina, part god knows. He'd obviously been bitten by one too many death adders in his time.

So while half the team put up the tent in the dark the rest sorted the food out. It was at this point that we realized that it wasn't just the Rice Krispies that had come a cropper. When we opened up our food we saw that the butter had melted and spread over pretty much everything. And Bob's birthday cake wasn't going to make the party.



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Regardless, that night we cooked up a storm, drunk far too much cheap vino rouge, played even more drinking games, sat on the beach, danced on the tables and got in trouble (again) for making too much noise. Great stuff.

The next morning we awoke bleary eyed. I'd crashed out in the jeep (surprisingly comfortable) and as we got ourselves ready for another day it was left to the birthday boy, Bob to once again take up driving responsibilities.

The day was spent traveling at break neck speed to some more delightful destinations. My personal favourite was Indian Head. It was far too high up for a vertigo suffering fool like me. But I managed to take a few photos before my hangover and nerves got the better of me.

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By luck we made it back to our camp for lunch at around 2pm. So it was with a shock that we were informed that everyone had to be back by as the tide would be coming in. We hadn't seen nearly enough stuff so we made the group decision to completely ignore these orders and we high-tailed it out of the camp just as all the do-gooders were coming in.

We didn't have much time and we weren't sure where to go. So we opted to visit a creek 30 minutes drive away where we'd been the day before. We were racing against the clock (and tide) so we decided we'd race to the creek, get changed in record time (this only involved taking off shorts and t-shirts), running to the top of the creek and having a race down it.

So it was with something akin to military like precision that we arrived at our destination and high-tailed it to the top of the creek. The current was strong enough to let you float to the bottom. It was an idyllic spot, very relaxing and perfect for those wishing to unwind.


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So what people must have thought as they saw the 9 of us fighting, yelling, screaming and half-drowning each other as we raced to the bottom. There were half-nelson's being performed underwater, shorts being yanked down, head dunks and all manner of whooping and wailing. For the record, I didn't win. Back in the jeep, breathless, soaking and laughing our heads off we dashed back to camp.And by some miracle we didn't get another ear bashing.

That night pretty much followed the first except we started on champagne as it was Bob's birthday. I'd promised myself not to drink any more of the dodgy red wine but as soon as the drinking games started this went out the window. We joined forces with a table of Scousers who taught us two new drinking games and the hilarity soon reached fever pitch.

With complaints from those camping in the posh bit that we were being too rowdy we were sent to the beach in shame. One of the lads had brought an ipod and speakers and it gave us the chance to hear music for the first time in a while.

It obviously got the better of me and Nick as we spent a good 20 minutes dancing away to Lily Allen while the rest of the party shone torches on us and sang away.

The 3rd and last day on Fraser once again began with a sore head and much laughter about the previous night's entertainment. We still had various sights to see and after a bit of a delay we were once again off on our travels.

The highlight of the day's trip was a visit to a lake situated next to steep sandy bank. We'd been told you could surf down it. So we brought with us two cooler lids with the intention of doing just this. But despite our best efforts, (honourable mention to Katie who appeared to be dry humping the sand) we gave up and relaxed in the water until we started to worry we'd not make the only ferry back to Hervey Bay.


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You'd have thought that by now we'd have been used to Bob's driving. Not a bit of it. The pain we had to endure on the last day far surpassed the previous two days. This was partly because of a delay in getting to our ferry. Of the other 4x4s had suffered an electrical problem, had burst into flames and completely burnt out. This meant that several of the roads to the ferry were completely blocked. So Bob had to really put his foot down as we'd once again left it far too late to make our rendezvous point. It was also the last chance we were going to get to enjoy the crazy driving conditions so Bob really went for it.

It's a bizarre thing when you're talking to someone and you're on the same eye level. Then seconds later you're still looking them straight in the eye but both your bums are in the air and your heads are centimeters from crashing into the roof. It goes without saying that once again we were the last group to turn up. Bob then tried to sneak our car past the waiting jeeps so we'd be off the ferry at the other side first. But he was rumbled.


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A quick kip on the ferry back was the only preparation for our last night together. After getting changed back at the hostel our team (minus the South Koreans) went out for a bite to eat. Being Monday night it was hardly the busiest of evenings. And we were still a little perturbed when we turned up at the town's nightclub as the only two people in there came dashing up to us exclaiming 'Argh! People! We're so glad, we've been here an hour!'

We were all pretty jaded from our trip but four shots in ten minutes certainly perked us all up.


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After kicking out time, Nick, Bob and I espied a lawn bowls club. So naturally we broke in and mucked about for a while. Bob then passed out. I can't remember what else we got up to but we were there for a while. After waking Bob up and dragging him back to camp we found most of our group had also passed out, chucked up or gone to sleep. But a few hardy souls remained. So we broke into the swimming pool and continued our merry evening.

This was where Bob managed to fall asleep on some stairs and also where we got in trouble for the final time of the holiday. One of the other group started moaning at us to keep the noise down. It was only 4am so I, Nick and Tim told him to shut it, carried Bob to bed, went for a final dip in the pool before crashing out.


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And that was pretty much it. Fortunately I was on the same flight back to Sydney as Bob and Hugh so I had someone to share the hangover with.

But it was a sad morning as we all said our goodbyes, took e-mail addresses and promised to meet up back in England. Once again I'd come to the end of another amazing Aussie chapter.

My (far from definitive) list of 100% funny moments. Post your suggestions!

Neil Durrell's ill-fated pond jump at the Rookery
Percy's mum's skiing machine
The Quarry
"try and breath beer"
Jamo's 21st
Dan Tomason's 'piano entrance' at Chani's trip party
Gilo singing Barry White at Jamie's Karaoke leaving-do
Manky Jon's Ringside striptease
My dad shouting that David Ginola is a 'dirty Belgique' while Fulham were playing Tottenham
Jez on karaoke pointing and singing "You're Homosexual" to a pub full of Hull locals to the tune of EMF's 'Unbelievable'
My first 100% splif with Nicky B, Kirstie and Shona
Nicky B naked, apart from a pair of wellies, jumping up and down on that green mini metro
Jez putting the pizza in my face (twice)
Jules knocking over the cyclist
"Thank you Cincinnati!" 'The Weapon' and the other 7 days of laughter in Turkey
Fraser Island

Monday, 29 January 2007

Last night of the Poms

If there's one thing an Aussie loves more than anything else. It's telling you how damn good his country is. Not a day goes by without someone grabbing you by the shoulder in the street to say 'Excuse me mate, Australia is the greatest country on earth!'

Please note the absence of a question mark at the end of that sentence. Bruce is not asking, he's telling. And he doesn't care if you're a native. He'll feel he has to say it at least five times a day. Aussies feel unpatriotic if they average anything less.

Woe-betide anyone who even stutters in response. You learn pretty quickly that the standard reply is to nod vigourously, mention how beautiful the weather is and then get outta there.

Anything other than this and you'll be loudly put in your place. "Why do ya wanna live there for?" "It's full of immigrants, the weather's lousy and you suck at cricket." Is the usual verbal battering ram that will hit you if you dare deviate from the lesson given in the paragraph above.

You don't get Jehovas Witnesses over here. In their place are these equally annoying bastards. There you are in your house, attempting the first ever frontwards moonwalk, when the doorbell goes. Your spidey sense is going wild as you crazy-legs your way towards the door and sure enough as you backflip up to turn the latch you're faced with two angelic asses holding a tourism brochure for Alice Springs, Uluru or the Barrier Reef.

Me: Oh, shit
Brett: Duuuuuu-uuuuuuuuude. How's it going?
Me: It was going fine thanks
Brett: That's great! We are passing through your neighbourhood spreading the word
Sheila: Are you aware of the ultimate truth?
Me: *sigh*
Brett: It won't come as a surprise to you to know that Australia is the greatest country on earth!
Sheila: That's right, Brett. Australia really is the greatest country on earth!
Brett: Would you care to agree with us?
Me: (nodding vigourously) The weather sure is lovely! (SLAM)

Only once have I bothered to take one of these Aussie propaganda Nazi's to task. Yes, I'd had a few. I pointed out that the day they stop trying to forcefeed us this garbage will probably be the moment that yes, this is the greatest country in the world to live in, as long as you're white, male and comfortable with casual racism.

But it's this seemingly inexhaustible desire to get everyone else to agree that show them up. If they truly do live in the greatest place in the world then why feel the need to go about it? Just get on with it. That's what we do in London. Arf arf.

Put simply (because this is the only way I know how) they do not register on the political stage, neither in the world of music, arts & fashion.

More importantly they haven't taken part in enough wars for them to be in the slightest bit interesting historically.

So, why persist?

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Oh, that's why. Sod the theatre.

The one time I did try and convince an Aussie that they were wrong about their country was late in the evening at a club in the heart of Sydney. The bloke had obviously been chomping on a pill or two and therefore didn't even try and pretend he cared less what I thought. I think he walked off halfway through my 'not enough wars' line. Which was probably a good thing.

The reason we were out was because we were saying goodbye to good friends. It was a night Danny coined 'The last night of the Poms.' And which I thought to myself 'that would make a great heading for my next 'blog.

After six weeks of travel, incorporating 22 days of cricket, five cities, scores of beautiful women, too many planes, thousands of beers, plenty of back slapping, great laughs and memories to last a lifetime it was the final farewell to the Barmy Army boys I'd befriended along the way.

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After a day spent relaxing on Shelly beach, the night started in a manner much like every other. With Mark walking into something, tripping over or doing something that made us all take the piss.

On the ferry over from Manly to the city centre, he thought he'd managed to delete every single of his holiday snaps on his camera. As he sunk back into his chair I took the camera from him and took three pictures of his reaction to record the moment, initially, disbelief, which was quickly followed by the realization of what he'd done and then ecstasy as I found them for him. Here's the final installment.

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After a few quick drinking games at a bar overlooking Sydney Harbour, we ended up in a club in town called 'The Chinese Laundry' where it played the dirtiest hardest electro house I'd had the pleasure to hear in quite a while. And while Martin and I danced away the others stayed upstairs drinking themselves into the necessary state to be able to withstand the 'music'.

They obviously needed a few but eventually they did find the way to the dancefloor and we all mucked around til 4am before staggering home.

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It was a great end to the tour although the feeling was a bittersweet one as we were gutted that for some the holiday had come to an end.

Briefly, here are a couple of photographs of the lads who have made my tour so memorable.

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Name: Mark
Nickname: Queer as Folk
Age: 33
Lives: Stuttgart, Germany (formerly from Salford, Manchester)
Supports: United
Looks like: Either a gay Howard or Jason from Take That
Best memory from tour: Every single time we walked back from the cricket (after watching England get hammered) Mark would dream up a scenario for the following day where we'd not only rescue the situation we'd force a victory. It never happened but it was great to see the optimist in him working its magic.

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Name: Danny
Nickname: Perky
Age: 29
Lives: Romford, Essex
Supports: Millwall
Looks like: The girls he pulls
Best memory from tour: Danny gingerly limping into our Brisbane dorm after spending the night with a particularly rampant 19 year old. This 'blog isn't the place to let you know what she did to him.

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Name: Nathan
Age: 25
Lives: Lincoln
Supports: Chelsea
Looks like: Alistair Cook
Best memory from tour: The youngest member of our entourage but perhaps the most widely traveled. I'll never forget us two trying to reassure each other it was perfectly respectable to pay to go on the Neighbours Tour.

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Name: Joe
Nickname: Queer as Folk
Age: 33
Lives: Manchester
Supports: Blackburn
Looks like: Also looks like either a queer Howard or Jason from Take That
Best memory from tour: Joe is the type of guy that never stops talking, cracking 'jokes' and making fun of Mark (we think he's secretly in love with him). The Melbourne Test was the most depressing cricket of all time. It was so bad it actually struck Joe dumb for hours on end. It was the only positive to come from the match.

Plus a whole host of other characters and top lads who I'll hopefully keep in contact with.

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And some I won't.

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And so our Ashes 06/07 tour had come to an end. As I write this Mark and Joe are back in Europe Danny is traveling alone around the top of Australia and Nathan is buying his plane ticket home.

I've had the time of my life in Australia. Despite the cricket I've been as happy as I can remember. And in no small part it's thanks to these lads that I've enjoyed it so. So, thanks lads, and I'll see you all, as will my old skool mates, at some point in the not too distant future back in London.

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Geoffrey Boycott!

Thursday, 11 January 2007

Melbourne

I've visited three places outside of London that as soon as I stepped off the train, plane or whatever, made me feel like I've come home. I'm sure you've all experienced this feeling. Personally, the three places where I've encountered this not unpleasant experience were in Boston (not the one in Lincolnshire), Aberystwyth and now Melbourne.

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It's always hard to put your finger on just why this is. Writer good enough I'm not to be able to convey what it is about Melbourne that attracts me so much. But unlike Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth it is just about big enough to appease a city kid. It has some beautiful old buildings and unlike a lot of more recent metropolis the newer, bigger and brasher constructions don't swamp them out.

It also has a character about it that is sorely missing in Perth. It is almost European in its outlook. Loads of small bars and cafes, 24 hour opening, relaxed attitude, gorgeous to look at and like the rest of Australia
, street safe, no matter the time you are staggering about.

It has a nice balance of modern infrastructure and high-rise skyline coupled with plenty of green areas to relax and chill in. You don't have to walk too far to forget you are in a city; but then it is still big and ugly enough to lose yourself in if you wanted to get lost for a day.

I stayed in
Melbourne
throughout the Christmas period. Although the series had been lost I was still dreaming of the Boxing Day test, which started, funnily enough, the day after Christmas Day. The stadium holds 98,000 and it's the biggest sporting day in the calendar over here. I couldn't wait. While the 25th was to be spent with lots of fellow Brits down by the Yarra River, drinking beer in the sun and playing cricket. Sounds good, eh?

Before you go on a holiday, or do something you're really looking forward to, you always spend twice as much time daydreaming about it. But then when you get to it it's usually stuff you hadn't thought about that proves to be the highlight of the day or trip. And that's pretty much how my Aussie adventure has gone so far.

Back home, whilst working 27 days a month in the lead up to leaving, I spent several hours in delicious semi-consciousness imagining England's victorious Ashes retention, how the blazing hot sun would beat down on my crispy skin on Xmas Day, listening to the 100,000 people cheering on the first ball of the Boxing Day Test. But when I return to
England
it won't be these memories that spring readily to mind when asked what the highlight of my tour was.

Because as great as this country is. And, believe me, it's one of the most amazing places I've ever visited (it just about pips Gillingham and Boston – the one in Lincolnshire
). It relies very heavily on the weather for its appeal. And when it pisses down here it can be just as grim as anywhere.

So, while Melbourne rules, for all the reasons given above, it also suffers from the kind of weather more associated with Manchester. Basically, from the 23rd through to the 27th it absolutely tipped it down. Even by England
standards it was cold, rainy, bleak and thoroughly depressing. Not at all how I pictured it to be.

So, what to do? Just get on with it. Four of the lads were attending the Barmy Army Christmas Day event and we trekked along for the midday
start. I obviously left my brain back at the hostel as I turned up in flip-flops. I figured the weather would ease as the day progressed. WRONG!!!!!!

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We got to the venue and spent a good hour sheltering under one of the canopies. Again I was reminded of Glastonbury '05. I was told afterwards that it was the coldest and wettest Christmas Day ever recorded in Melbourne. I'm not going to dispute this fact.

After 60 minutes of this misery, and after hearing 'Singing in the rain' for the 13th time we attempted, along with the other 2,000 sodden Brits, to get some food. And after doing this we realized there was nothing else to do. We could have stayed but where was the appeal of standing in rivers of mud, with loads of other depressed looking people, with only warm beer to keep us company?

So, we did what travelers since the dawn of time have done when faced with similar bleak conditions. We opted for high ground. And we found it in the shape of the casino. Gambling on Jesus' birthday. We had found the high ground physically if not morally.

But we were not alone in our desecration of the good lord's birthday. The place was almost bursting at the seams with thousands of Japanese and fellow touristy types.

The complex housed much more than just a blackjack table.
It was huge. So this is where I spent my Christmas Day.

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We quickly decided that the only way to rescue our day would be to get competitive. Nathan and I were paired against Joe and Mark in an all day battle for supremacy.

And so, the most bizarre Christmas Day I'll probably ever spend was spent playing Daytona
USA.

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Ten pin bowling

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as well as simulated football games, air hockey, table football and this donkey riding contraption.

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<tt>In the end it was Nathan and I who were victorious and as punishment Mark and Joe were forced to take each other on in a dance off.

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I didn't need any presents after watching this. The looks on the faces of the Japanese spectators were priceless.

As the evening wore on and we found ourselves at another club that went on into the early hours of Boxing Day I was left to look back on one strange way to celebrate. As I was handed another sambuca I wondered whether Boxing Day would be anything like how I'd imagined.