East Melbourne, Australia
A first! (For me.) What a fabulous day! I slept a bit on the bus but was awake even before the driver tried to wake us all up for final approach and advice as we arrived in Melbourne. We were just a few minutes late, arriving a smidge before 7. Fine, but my bus left at 7 and I saw it pull away despite my quick exit from the station – I could see its tail disappear round the corner of the next block. Taxi to parkrun, then, please.
I got there. Chatting to people, it seems Westerfolds park is seen as a hidden treasure, and it was certainly nice and quiet, plus it’s a pretty quiet parkrun – 43 on the day wasn’t quite an attendance record, but not too far off it. Adding to the sense of a hidden treasure, neither taxi driver I spoke to had known where it was, but at least the second had let the sat nav work it out – the first wasn’t really interested, though he did point to where I could find more cabs. We caught up with the bus I would have been on and I was at that point finally confident we were in the right place.
The run is a tough one. A sunny low 20s day, even at 8am, in a scenic and undulating park; much of the down is in the first mile, then there’s a long long up before finally a bit more descent around 4k, past the Manor House and down a winding path that was like a mountain road, describing in S shapes. Some people dashed off but after water and fruit I hooked up with a Victoria road runner for a cool down lap of the course and chat about running. Nothing better. He’d let me lock my bags in his car so I picked them up while we listened to the Kookaburras singing on the wing and went to find the bus back to town. The bus picked me up in running kit, with my backpack and suitcase – an odd appearance, but I’m not sure what you’d make of that other than the truth; a traveller who had got stuck straight into some activity. Very Australian.
The bus was empty to start with, and the driver was happy to talk about cricket without bragging. Once people did get on, it became a bus of people from everywhere; Chinese first, some Malaysians and, behind me so I could hear their conversation, one Aussie and a man born in the Soviet Union who had fought in WW2. All public transport was free for the day, with a Sunday timetable, which is pretty good. I was a bit tight on time, having suggested to my Airbnb host we meet at 11.30, but once I’d changed lines a couple of times I found a train to West Footscray (“not the best bit of town”, my running buddy had said, but close to the centre). As I walked down the road Jen called to me from her car – how nice, she’d come to pick me up! Showing me round, she pointed out a hamper of food for Christmas, and milk in the fridge. A house without other guests, brilliant; a supermarket down the road, as is Little India for eating out.
I showered and got back on the train to go to a meetup.com picnic. It’s an international meeting service, overpopulated by IT professionals but usually has a few others too. I was there at 1, and the city was busy. In 29 degrees you can just mooch about, the pubs were open, Queen Victoria gardens filled with all sorts of groups. Perfect. I picked the first person who looked up and smiled from our group and was soon talking to Terry. A software developer, sat next to a programmer. But, far from dull. Terry has just spent three years developing his own software and is about to market it to then perhaps have several more years off, while English Duncan had just moved to Australia with his wife. People wandered round the group offering chocolates and sweets, sometimes stopping for a chat, while American James ahead of me chatted all things HR. After a few hours the group had splintered and we joined a younger lot under a different tree. Which could perhaps be a metaphor (“he really does sit under a different tree”), but isn’t. This lot were mostly travellers, and we soon decamped to a pub for more booze. People had run out of their own stock by now. We’d been joined by a young man who was quite awkward – he’d spent an hour behind a tree, plucking up courage to join us, but as it was his first time out in 9 months, he’d done well to make it in the end.
Results from event 10, Westerfolds parkrun, 25/12/13.