The longest day

The longest day
Adelaide, Australia

Adelaide, Australia

You may be itching to correct the title, so allow me to clarify that this was the longest day for me. A haha. The early flights are the cheapest, so I was flying from Brisbane to Adelaide at 6.15. 6.15! No public transport at that time, but I’d found an airport transfer service which meant I needed to walk to a nearby hotel for 4am. Heck of an early start; and not the ideal welcome for my new roommate, who had come from Bangalore by way of Sydney for his next new job here. At least he could roll over and go back to sleep, though.

Wide road, low buildings and trees on it, with mountains behind in the distance
Suburbs front, mountain behind.

I stood outside in the dark, waiting for my minibus and plotting alternatives in case it didn’t show up. It was there bang on time, driven by a German and carrying a young Yorkshireman for company. We were at the airport before 5, very early, and through security within 10 minutes. I was then back out of security and into the terminal, because I’d forgotten to get a refund for my Go card. I had to hang around to wait for the station to open, but had plenty of time and then off we went.

Adelaide is about a three hour flight away, with a half hour time difference. I hopped on the bus to town and changed to the bus to Paradise. That sounded promising, but I got off before Paradise; it just wasn’t time for that. My Airbnb accommodation is out in the suburbs, owned by a Malaysian student and starting off with a UK/Aus – a total dude, but I missed his name and it was something complicated like Radavan, so I didn’t dare ask again – and a US flatmate, Dan. It was still only 11am and I had travelled by minibus, plane and two buses. Adelaide is going through changeable weather, but it had settled on warm for today. I explored a little, finding my local area fully suburban, with parched lawns and low houses. Not every house is single storey, but the vast majority are – whenever I got out, it feels as though I could get a great view over everything if only I could jump a couple of metres.

River with high banks, bushes and trees creeping into the water
Mysterious bubbler.

I dozed in the afternoon and finally got up for a run around 5. Rad and our host, Yvonne, were just coming back from a visit to the German village, Hahndorf, and he decided to join me which was great – it saved me from having to find a route. It was a suburban journey of exploration, a few miles down the main road, round a large area of scrub and parkland and then back. Rad had had (ha) enough 6 miles in and ran the last 2 home, but I made it a 12 miler, not bad in the sun.

Torrens river
Adelaide looks over the Torrens river.

Back at the house, dinner was provided, which was a huge bonus, and then, after Yvonne had avidly watched a Narnia film while we boys had given it cursory attention, we played best of 40 on the PS2. Games with 4 – a great way to end a long day, but the marathon version that we were playing took hours. It was only halfway through that Yvonne confessed she’d not played the long one before but never mind, my reward for staying awake was victory, and immediate bedtime. After 3am to post midnight, that’s as long as I can go.

Minnippi parkrun

Minnippi parkrun
Tingalpa, Australia

Tingalpa, Australia

Minnippi parkrun route
Minnippi parkrun route. Start and finish at the bottom, clockwise round the lake.

“Do you have anything like this in the UK?”

This was my chance to run an inaugural – but in Australia. I’d spotted this one was due to start but as I clicked around different runs and checked the transport timetables, had ruled it out as unreachable  -trains and buses may start before 6, but with a 7am start, you have to be on it early. Joining Intraining, though changed that, and Steve had offered me a lift after the first session I had there, nearly two weeks before the run.

Thumbs up from me and Glenn Miller, wet, post-run
Me, with Glenn Miller (band unavailable). 

At Thursday’s run we’d made our arrangement, with them picking me up at 6 near the house. I worried they were making that a little tight on time for my sake, but we were there by 6.15. I realised then that I had miscalculated; I’d been looking at the Bunyaville run when working out transport, and this was quite reachable. Much nicer to get a lift, though, and I felt part of the gang, with South Bank on Tour for the second week in a row.

When Brisbane days, even in spring, are hot, they start warm early; by 7 it looks like a glorious British summer. After a hot Friday, though, rain had set in overnight, eased at 5.30 as I got up but then thrown it down from 6.30 onwards. The gazebo was popular, and it felt strange to be wet and cold after Friday’s heat. I met Michael, who tops Australia’s most events table (with 24, pah), who was a recognisable type, planning way ahead for future runs. I’d wondered if in those 24 he had covered more kilometres than me, but I think he has mostly been in Queensland and has driven to every one, rather than criss crossing the country by plane. Tourism with limits; not quite the Australian Paul Freyne, who surely would have clocked up air miles to Western Australia by now. Level with him is Brent, who I met next; he offered Michael the chance to get ahead in 2015. Different country, same conversations.

Runners and volunteers gathered under a gazebo and umbrellas as the rain falls
Raining and raining. I’m talking to big Aussie tourist, Michael Schultz (Shultzy).

The route itself follows a path for 1km, then has two laps of a lake and back to the start. Popular parlance seems to refer to that style as a lollipop, but the original path is quite twisty, so I think it was more of a balloon and string. After 45 minutes dodging the rain we had to emerge for a briefing; despite taking in ‘a word’ from 4 different people, it was pretty quick, and it helped that the rain had settled for ‘dropping’ as a contrast to the ‘hoying’ it had gone for at 6.30.

We ran. The runs here seem to set off particularly quickly, so this time I let people go. With a broad start but everyone aiming for the path, there’s a squish at the beginning, and I let a lot of people go ahead before working on my position. Up ahead were Tim Oberg, country manager, so I took the chance to show off my 100 shirt by edging past, and Moray, event director from South Bank the week before, and I targeted him. Got to beat a Scot, after all. With those scalps taken, I worked to join the third, biggest, group near the front, tagging on with another runner to head round the lake. Running with others really helps, and my splits were the most even I’ve had in Australia, if still not quite at my best, with 6.01, 6 and 6.02 for an 18.30 overall.

Great run, great inaugural and I had time to talk to some other finishers, be interviewed for the Aussie parkrun show and was back home for a snooze before 9 (11 on Friday night back home – it’s still odd to think that I’ve finished mine before people back home have even gone to bed ahead of theirs). The question at the top came from local dignitary Glenn – not the mayor, but a man who gets things done, and friends think he ought to be in a position of responsibility. He had heard about parkrun in a local meeting they’d put on, and loved the concept already, even though this was his first run. Yes Glenn, we do have something almost exactly like this in the UK. Perfect parkrun, that’s 3 Australian ones completed.

Results from Minnippi parkrun event 1, 30/11/13.

Watching Perth Glory, as spectators sing.
“Daddy? Why are Perth Glory full of shit?” Youngsters watching the hardcore supporters end

Macleay Island

Macleay Island
Macleay Island, Australia

Macleay Island, Australia

If you’re going to Brisbane, pick up a Go card. $10 deposit; refundable if you can find the times to sort that out, but if not it is still likely to be worth it. It lets you travel on the buses, trains and ferries, for a 30% discount. Or more – get this, if you make 9 different journeys in a week (more than an hour in between), any others are free. That’s good if you’re a 5 day commuter – pay for 9, the last is free as is the whole weekend. If you’re travelling, it’s superb; I could have travelled all the way out to Cleveland on the train, bus to Redland bay, then ferry out and back to the islands, all for free.

Tall tree with twisting branches
Macleay Tree.

I say “could have” because I didn’t realise the ferry was part of the deal and bought a ticket for the outgoing trip. Never mind, consider it an investment, and it was still a bargain. As I arrived at Cleveland, I realised I didn’t know where to go, though there was a sign to a free ferry shuttle. I wandered round and decided that Redland Bay sounded familiar and I might as well get on that bus. I was reassured by the girl ahead getting advice and being shown onto the same bus with her backpack – well, she must be headed to the islands, then.

I was right! A longish bus ride and we were at the ferry port. Not the one I’d researched, a private company that runs the car ferry; instead the council runs a passenger ferry, essentially a bus service.

It was a hot day, and though there were signs to the ‘heritage route’, running clockwise round the edge of the island, I wasn’t inspired. I stopped for provisions and figured I could find a beach, but the route took me inland first. I found a bay to eat at eventually, and by then had seen the houses, wetlands and quieter pace of island life and was sated. It is thriving – 2000 inhabitants, and growing, though there were some less-loved houses for sale, with roadworks and construction in places. If I’d taken a bike I could have explored more, but those at the house were locked up and I’d missed Ricky so hadn’t asked him for the code.

Little bay, beached boats.
Little bay, beached boats.

I’d walked a fair way, at least, so headed back to the city, just using the bus this time. Nearer the centre I suddenly realised we were in a tunnel just for buses, and then onto a road that was the same. Several miles of busway, in fact, with a couple of tunnels – very cool. It’s quite new, but must make a real difference to transport, as otherwise the serpentine river makes getting from one spot to another more than a bit fiddly. Brisbane has grown so much in the last 30 or so years that traffic has become a problem in the centre, though the motorway comes right up close so I suspect it’s a case of temporary queues rather than total gridlock.

Brian, from the cricket, had recommended the Breakfast Creek hotel as the oldest pub in the city. It’s a way out of the centre (just in front of Allan Border field. Or behind it if you’re looking from the other side. There was a cricketer of that name, but I reckon the field marks the edge of Allan’s territory from days of yore), but I decided to walk from the wrong side of the river, thereby seeing more of the city, including Chinatown. Strangely, I was more motivated by this walk than I had been on the island.

I put it down to the sense of purpose rather than the promise of beer. Check out the bars on their website. It is a sprawl of bars that I found bewildering. The public bar is harshly lit and felt a bit like a bookmakers, with TV coverage all round, betting odds on screens and betting slips on the tables. That was where I was most at home, though, as outside was a confusing morass of people, some in private functions and the others in groups that I didn’t feel a solo traveller could wander up to. The private bar is the most ‘English’, being wooden and more clubbable, but there was more space in the public bar. The XXXX bitter was okay, but nothing special.

Walking to the riverboat was a pleasure. With the day hot, the evening was beautiful, mid 20s, stats twinkling in the sky. They don’t seem to overdo the street lights, so some streets are quite dark, but that means less light pollution. As I got to the terminal, a boat came past with Last Christmas clearly audible for kilometres around. The first of many culture shock-  it’s Christmas, and it’s warm? – moments.

The day before had been my day off travel, so I’d seen the early showing of About Time at cheapy cinema. Another weepy statement of the bleedin obvious by Richard Curtis (“maybe try to enjoy every day, eh?”), though that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it. There was too much London porn (ooh, that’s such and such street! As if seeing it on screen validates the location), which normally irritates but was pleasantly nostalgic. I felt homesick for the whole period from the film ending to getting out into the sun. I took the boat into town, had a smoothie in the sun and ran a 3x3k session with Intraining in the evening. Pretty good.

Surfers’ Paradise

Surfers’ Paradise
Surfers Paradise, Australia

Surfers Paradise, Australia

As I walk through the esplanade of the shadow of hotels
I take a look at my life and realise there’s four month left
Cause I’ve been blastin and laughin so long that
Even my mama wonders where on earth I’ve gone this time

Park and trees. Skyscrapers next to the ocean are behind
Surfers Paradise.

Apparently the place wasn’t named from a mishearing of Coolio’s hit, but because it is a place of much surfing. It is prosaic in its accuracy, but probably all to the good. I hopped on a train down to the Gold Coast so that I could have a day on the beach and, in honesty, so that I could at least say I’d been there. I wasn’t expecting to be overly impressed by a resort, and it lived up to expectations. Nothing bad, but I was again amongst youth, wandering around listlessly in the morning and early afternoon as if those times of day fail to register with party minds. Many of them were wearing their schoolies photo ids which marks them out as year 12 (whatever that is) pupils (they’re not studying, after all) here for a week’s party. I’m surprised – I’d have been looking to cast off such uniformity and bathe in the holiday of anonymity. You tell me I have to wear this round my neck, I’m immediately going to stick it in a pocket and see if I can gain entry by showing it at the door.

Though in fairness, any that were doing that would by definition be impossible to identify.

Wide beach at Surfers. White sand, blue sea.
Limited swimming area.

Travel was easy, if long. Train to Nerang, just under an hour, then a bus to the beach, taking about half an hour. The bus passed the Metricon stadium, which is very colourful and seemed odd, in the middle of nowhere. I don’t think it really is, it just appeared that way, though at the moment it is a 25 minute walk from Nerang station, with a ferry planned. England have played cricket there – it’s where Gower and Morris went for their ride in Tiger Moth biplanes – and it’ll be used for the 2018 Commonwealth games opening and closing ceremonies. Using a go card, the bus trip counts as a ‘continuation’ of your trip, and cost an extra 34 cents. Finally, a bargain in Australia! Total cost, $8.77 off peak, $10.96 peak. The train passes through Runcorn and Kingston, just for the wry British smiles. I’d had a lovely chat at the bus stop; I’m pretty sure the bloke was driving the limo towards which he’d waved, offering a lift to the beach for $20, but he was happy to admit the bus was cheaper, go card cheaper still, and move on to sport. And he wasn’t even a cricket fan, he only wanted to talk F1.

On the way back I spotted my first baby relay. A young lady got on with baby in buggy and rode the train, occasionally rocking the cute baby and generally playing with him for the hour’s ride. At Cooper’s Plains she got off with the buggy. Next thing I knew, she was back on, alone, hopping through the door at the last minute. I did a double take, then looked through the window, to see another woman pushing the baby away down the platform. I guess she has to take it to the riverbus for her handover.

Metal sign announces "Surfers Paradise"
In case you didn’t know.

This week has been one day on visiting, one day off. Monday I took the train out to Cleveland. I think it enjoyed it. There’s a little beach there, if you follow your nose out into Raby bay. I passed the time reading some Sherlock Holmes, regretted not bringing a towel to sit on, particularly when ants gave me a sharp bite, but realised that the abandoned camping chair off to one side worked perfectly.

Tuesday was my non travel day; I saw Hunger Games in the local cinema in the morning, rode the CityCat to town in the afternoon and joined the Intraining gang for a speed session in the evening. The end was a bit messy, as we all walked past a possum that had been hit by a bike, until the last group realised it was still alive and put operation rescue into effect. I had little to add to the six people involved, and left them to it.

Two days at the Gabba later; South Bank parkrun

Two days at the Gabba later
Brisbane, Australia

Brisbane, Australia

“It’s not the despair, I can deal with the despair. It’s the hope.”

Covers on at The Gabba, as rain falls
Not enough.

There was hope, for a couple of sessions, as England lost just a wicket in each, though helped by the rain in the second. But England have lost, and the end came quickly. The tails look mismatched, strong on the Aussie side, a mild annoyance on England’s. Australia even had room to screw up a basic skill, failing to run out the last wicket thanks to Lyon forgetting the rules of the game. Overall, it hasn’t been quite the masochistic experience I thought it might be. The atmosphere has been fantastic, particularly during the afternoon session on day 2, when I had the word “febrile” in my head the whole time. The way Clarke came out on day 3 was something to see, he immediately looked to be on to something good. As soon as he was in, Broad was brought back on, bounced him and saw the ball pulled to the boundary – superb. Even with half the upper tier empty on the Sunday it was noisy. I could have picked up tickets on the day, which bodes well for future tests where I’ve only one ticket booked so far. I turned a corner on Saturday to find Gladstone Small in front of me, being grabbed by fans as he made his way back to his seat – in amongst the general population, I think. It seemed strange that he’s not so small at all, taller than I am.

Sign: Gabba Collision Repair Centre
An omen?

Some Aussies got particularly loud in the afternoon today, but if they were very drunk they couldn’t quite hold back and got themselves thrown out. We had a thunderstorm, but despite hail and gusting rain that made the crowd squeal and head up the stadium in search of cover, it only lasted half an hour or so and they were playing within an hour or so. Last night was a much bigger storm, but it wouldn’t have saved England. The worst thing was their retreat into their shell in both innings-runs were irrelevant in the second, but at least turning the strike over keeps the opposition busy, and only Pietersen seemed to want to get busy. Carberry, ultimately in the side as a corrective to Compton’s tendency to score slowly, doesn’t yet look like an answer to that problem.

It was also slightly sad in the house. Saturday night we’d had a few beers, to celebrate Fabien and the racist braggart Eddie leaving. We’ll miss Fabien. I have a room to myself, and just the three of us there for the week, unless we have any surprise bookings. We had one this week, turning up just as I was about to leave, recognising that he needed to get into the house before I escaped and being a little surprised to have arrived unexpected.

South Bank parkrun route
South Bank parkrun route. Anti-clockwise.

I made it to South Bank parkrun on Saturday after another early start. Being out at 6am doesn’t feel natural to me, but it is to the locals, the paths and pavements are full of people out running and cycling, it’s wonderful. I was expected at parkrun, as my new friends Steve and Anne from Intraining are normally event directors and had briefed he crew. I met Scottish (well, of course) event director Moray on my 2 mile jog in and was introduced on the start line.

“He has run 176 parkruns”

“That’s more than the score in the cricket, isn’t it?”

It’s a pretty flat course, with two bridge crossings, the second of which takes you up some steps and then a climb to the middle of the bridge. I picked off the first lady before the bridge and a couple of people on it. Coming off the bridge, several people were using the wheelchair ramp, but luckily the triathlete ahead of me went straight down the steps. I followed, more quickly, overtaking soon afterwards. It was hard work, and slower than last week, but a bit better paced than that so I was pleased despite a last minute loss of position to younger legs on the sprint. Mission accomplished, in that I made it into the top ten, and that despite counting at least 15 ahead of me after a mile. Lots of Ashes tourists there – I feel a little guilty to have picked up a personal mention, but that’s what you get for putting in the hard work with a local running club.

Outside the cricket I was intrigued to hear that “American director David Frankel was looking for authenticity with his inspirational new film about Britain’s Got Talent winner Paul Potts…” I have advice; when looking for authenticity, not making a film about a ‘reality’ TV show would be a huge step along on the way.

Results from South Bank parkrun, event 54, 23/11/13.

Possum, on the table, on the verandah, next to a bottle of VB

England implode at the Gabba

England implode at the Gabba
East Brisbane, Australia

East Brisbane, Australia

What a day. I was excited to visit the Gabba, and I enjoyed my day, but what a shocker for England. After starting brightly, their run-rate slowed to a crawl, then they lost a clutch of wickets and ended up all out for 136, conceding a hefty first innings lead and probably the test. To think that at the start of the day my Aussie neighbours had been hoping for rain to save them – if they’ve called any into being, it can only help England now.

Shot from up high, over the oval playing area at The Gabba
Ready and happy to play.

The ground, as everyone says, is fabulous. They really use their stadiums here, with Aussie rules football played here much of the year, gigs and so on. As a result of the former game, it’s a huge ground, circular, with big boundaries-even Warner didn’t hit the boundary as often as he might like, plenty of 3s in his score. It’s easy to get in and out, too, bag checks are quick and the staff smile and chat as they let people in.

The afternoon session had quite an atmosphere, which is some consolation – there is something about being in a stadium when the home team is doing well, and they’re not your team. It can take some time to adjust to, but it is enjoyable, if in a masochistic sense. Or was I just trying to salvage something, emotionally, from the day?

Shot from up high, the playing field at The Gabba
In play, before the chaos.

My neighbours were fabulous. On the right, anyway. To the left, people came and went as time went by. To my right were Brian and Len, both Australian now. Brian was in fact born in England, and lived there till 29, then moved to Australia to work as an engineer on a mining contract. In Ireland he met an Aussie, married her, and took her home to England, only to find he couldn’t stand the place any more. So he has been in England since 1972, before I was born. But what a life – he mentioned playing football, travelling with it and pre-season training before I realised that betokened a serious career. Crystal Palace, albeit in Div 4 South and 3. Four rules on his contract – no smoking, no excessive drinking (with, I suspect, a generous interpretation of ‘excessive’), no riding a motorbike and no sex after Wednesday. Their star player was always late on a home match day, before playing fantastically, but was terrible (“a real fizzer”) away from home. Truth was, he was late because he was breaking that last rule. When management found out, they arranged for his wife to join them on trips, and they’d stop at a motel en route!

To top it off, Brian has been at the last few Olympics, part of his daughter’s entourage. She’s a five-time Olympian, at beach volleyball (personal medal table 1-0-1, better than some countries).

I enjoyed my day. Tomorrow may be purgatory. Returning to the house was, as Eddie the Australian couldn’t hold back. At least I’ve met a proper Aussie braggart, and seen him with something to crow about; I was glad when he finally stopped talking (if not about the cricket, then how much greater Melbourne is than Brisbane. His technique is to say something then tell you again, more firmly, even if you agreed the first time. From the Boycott school of picking fights in empty rooms. It’s a little annoying).

Other things I have enjoyed:

Realising how I’d misheard Taiwanese Jimmy when he offered me ‘a hammer’ (?) to go with a bike, when I passed his room and saw his *helmet* on the table.

Finding that Australian conversation is much like British. Running mates talked first about the weather, and then whether Christmas selling and ads had started early.

A lazy Thursday in front of the TV for the cricket, followed by a tough tempo run along the river.

Running with the Intraining group, who do speed sessions on Tuesday and Thursday. Sadly for my form, I was the quickest, but I picked up a lift home and met some fellow parkrunners. Event directors, in fact, and that’s my lift to the inaugural Minippi parkrun organised.

Queensland Museum and Gravity

Queensland Museum and Gravity
Brisbane Roma Street, Australia

Brisbane Roma Street, Australia

I went to the museum. The Queensland museum; I didn’t make it to the art museum which is next door. It’s a free museum but with paid-for exhibits. At $25, that jars against the free entry for the Queensland bit, so I left the Treasures of Afghanistan exhibits alone.

The rest of the museum is a nice introduction to the state. I learned why the type of house I am in is unusual; Queensland houses have a space underneath, largely fenced in, which is used for storage of objects and cars, and often for kids to play in. Certainly the case here, there is all sorts of stuff down there, and a couple of cars gently rotting by the side. Exhibitions of flora and fauna show just how big a turtle can get, with a collectors’ exhibition giving some local colour.

They also talk about the economics; plenty of sheep and coal, it seems. Meanwhile, I was listening to the BBC’s Science Hour podcast. “The Germans are quite weird actually,” it said in my ear – commenting, in fact, on the prosaic subject of their changed attitude to nuclear energy, removing their own reactors, importing from France and switching to coal and gas instead. Which is nuts, of course. The next thing I saw in the museum was a timeline of Australian settlement; 25% of those shepherding in Queensland by 1856 were Germans. Their weirdness was uncommented upon.

I headed out into the sunshine and rode the riverboat back to Hawthorne, where my local cinema is, to be one of three people catching the 4.30 showing of Gravity. The first film I’ve seen that makes really good use of the 3d, it’s mesmerising and life-affirming.

The Moustache and Cricketers

The Moustache and Cricketers
Brisbane, Australia

Brisbane, Australia

That’s the name of my pub. I’m not sure where it’ll be opened, even to which country it’s most suited, but it will be magnificent, the ice sculptures legendary. I had a feverish night and woke up feeling better, if not fixed. I took some time to do my admin – which in the absence of anything harder to deal with means toenails and washing – and made my way to the South bank park area for mid afternoon.

Beach by the river, with cricketers posing behind a sand moustache
Aussie trio, with sand ‘tache.

Sat minding my own business I was content, interrupted only by a drunk Irishman checking everyone was alright – quietly, mind, no rampage. A flurry of activity on my left made me sit up, and there were (Australian cricketers) Johnson, Warner and Lehmann. I figured it for a charity shoot, realising belatedly that the sand sculpture I’d written off as arty was actually a large moustache – November is grow a moustache for the same charity every year month.


Interest was… muted. I’m far from having a representative sample, but people are not overly optimistic about their team’s chances. Thinking about it, though, no one has said England are good, just that Australia are “**** now, mate”. Warne and McGrath are a recent enough phenomenon that memories take precedence over rating the current team. Although, equally, the problem “isn’t the bowlers, mate”. Back at the beach, it was great to see the respect given to the trio, no one interfering beyond the occasional handshake and ‘good luck’, but with only 1s of people making their way over to take a picture, it would be fair to say the beach wasn’t stirred beyond a factor of 1.

Friend? Jon friend?

Friend? Jon friend?
Brisbane, Australia

Brisbane, Australia

Sunday. Long run day. With the ‘funny’ weather in Brisbane, I could leave it till later than other hot countries, so didn’t get going till midday. It really was cloudy and cool, but I struggled. House captain Ricky had suggested a route alongside the river, finding the ‘track’ by the river if I could. It was bitty; I don’t think I missed much, it’s just that the riverside areas that have been kept public are relatively few. Still, I was passing riverboat stops regularly and had my card, so could keep going. Eventually, after a long and boring section round an army base and industrial area near the port, I found my way to Colmslie beach reserve. That felt like an achievement, and I explored a little, past some large Australians using the facilities to have barbecues (perfect!) and turned back, catching the riverboat back from Apollo Road. That redeemed a tough run-12 miles and then a boat cruise? Nice. It also seemed a gratifyingly long trip to get back, which reminded me I’d run a fair way.

Central station building, Brisbane
Central station.

In the evening I went to the local cinema I’d spotted on a run to nowhere earlier in the week. Watched Captain Phillips, which seemed a bit overlong but builds its suspense brilliantly, almost unwatchably tense by the end. It was raining by now, none too heavily but still perfect cinema weather. Just opposite was a Thai restaurant, which sorted out some of my lethargy, but I slept badly and it turned out I wasn’t quite right. Bit of a sore throat, and I could have stayed in bed the next morning.

Bridge in Brisbane, lit up in colour-changing lights
Nighttime bridge is pretty.

But I had a friend! Ware Jogger Jon was due to arrive in Brisbane in the morning, en route to Cairns and some surfing and diving. His jet lag and my grogginess merged pretty well. We had a slow wander round the centre of town, which showed how small and compact it was, had lunch and dinner by the river and beer near the station, watching some heavy showers pass by. Both of us slept like champions, emerging like proper human beings into Tuesday’s 30 degrees and sunshine.

Back with a parkrun! New Farm, Australia.

Back with a parkrun!
East Brisbane, Australia

East Brisbane, Australia

New Farm parkrun route, by the Brisbane River
New Farm parkrun route. start and finish at the bottom of the map.

To say I had been looking forward to my next parkrun, especially as it was to be in Australia, would be a huge understatement. They start early here, 7am on this side of the country to avoid the heat of summer, which suited my state of sleepless excitement just fine. I was further psyched because having just picked up a ticket to see Brisbane Roar – current A-league leaders, as luck would have it – I checked for tickets to the Adelaide test. I’d been thinking that flying all the way there just to see Muse and then the test on tv might feel a bit decadent, but with the ground under reconstruction there were fewer tickets available. Hospitality packages were many hundreds, but having considered them I felt a bit easier about paying viagogo or a tout over the odds. But I looked, and there were tickets from the official reseller, and I booked for days 1 and 4.

Yesterday I explored Brisbane, with a run at midday along the river heading West, just the other side from the CBD (****** business district, I think that stands for). There is a path along the ‘serpentine’ Brisbane river – in places. For much of it I had to run along roads, but seeing as I am in a new country I was quite happy to look at the houses. East Brisbane seems fairly prosperous, judging by the state of them. In the afternoon I got out my ‘go’ (transport) card and headed for the city cat (river bus) to head into town. Once at Mowbray Park – site of one of the public swimming baths formed by adding walls along the riverside in the interwar years, fact fans – I checked my pockets; no card. Checking my bag, I found my touch n go card there and settled back to wait for the boat.

As it arrived I checked my card. Touch n go is the card for Kuala Lumpur. For fu..! A wander home and back later, I was ready to go. It doesn’t take long to get to riverside stop, even though the stops west of Mowbray are the busy or scenic ones, where the Cat slows right down between stops, gunning it to head East. I needed some guide books, surely cheaper here than in Asia, after sun – chest badly burned under the tree in Bali – and socks – a reviewer had mentioned underwear going missing in laundry, but I thought boy things would be safe. It’s probably me, given that one pair were my running compression socks which I don’t think I even wore there. And I have the newer pants.

Favour done. Quick list of the lost: towel; Helsinki ferry, headphones; Moscow, running shorts; Korea probably, spare headphones; flight to Bali, underwear; Bali.

Crikey, Australia is expensive. Strangely not for apple stuff, again – with the 9% tax they return on the way out of the country, it’s slightly cheaper than Japan, even. But bottle of coke – $3.50! Lonely planet australia – $48! After much deliberation I decided the DK guide had all the important content in a smaller book, with the extra pages of Lonely Planet taken up by endless lists of where to eat and stay, which I can work out myself. It doesn’t feel like a ‘traveller’ book, but I can carry it without irritation, which is a bonus. Cost offset by dept store Myer having a ‘second 60% off’ so I could pick up the New Zealand book cheaply. After a smoothie and a walk through Anzac Square – war memorials for different wars in each corner, apparently Australian cities all have their Anzac Squares – I headed home, back before 8.

Trees and grass
New Farm park.

Saturday morning arrived, to my great excitement. I jogged to the ferry, needed because New Farm is very close but on the other side of the river. Crossings are covered mostly by the 19 Cats and 6 ferries, rather than bridges. I was early, but the dour Scotsman waiting had obviously done this before so I stayed (outwardly) calm as the pilot came along 10 minutes later. He wasn’t sure of the time of the first ferry but took us at 6.20 anyway (6.15 the first, but we could have waited). It was too soon into the boat’s boot up sequence for the go card to work, so he said to do it on the way back. His mistake – I didn’t, I ran the four miles via the whacking bridge across from the CBD.

The run starts in a park but is an out-and-back along the riverside. The run director was a Scot, with backup from her husband, and after the minor embarrassment of ‘where are you from?’ and a brief pause while she processed where the hell Banstead Woods was and then announced “and you’re wearing your 100 tee!” we were off. There’s a short section going the wrong way, u-turn onto a path and then go. Some other pinch points early on mean that some people get far too worried about getting a quick start, including warm-up organiser Chris, though in fairness he was probably at pb pace, just not able to keep it going. One dude came alongside at 1k, I’d heard him announcing ‘2.34’ as a time check behind me, and he gave me a “well done on getting your 100, eh?” in reply to my well done, but as we chatted briefly I figured he’d well overcooked it. I wasn’t sure if I was going quite fast enough to get my ‘happy enough’ target of sub 19 but the first mile was 5.48; his usual time was around 20. He gave a time check for 4.42, and slipped back.

My splits slowed and I was passed by a better-paced Korean, but held off the others I’d passed and eventually reeled in warmup Chris (love to know what his first mile was) for a 5th-placed finish in 18.34. Kind of happy, but I was in better shape in Korea and can’t account for where it has gone. It may just be that it was cooler there – the weather in Brisbane is ‘funny’ at the moment, junked for Saturday morning but otherwise sometimes cool and with some mad thunderstorms. The run was all very parkrun; just lovely. Checking the list of those on for Christmas and new year, so far I am out of luck in Melbourne. Other major cities all have one, it seems, so I’ll just have to cross my fingers. Or fly to Cairns.

Results from New Farm parkrun event 114, 16/11/13.

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