It was all going so well. We watched the football yesterday afternoon (Spurs v Man Utd, good game), up in good time this morning, first onto the airport shuttle bus, 20mins into terminal three at Heathrow and there were no queues at the check in.
“Do you have a copy of your visa madam? Only it’s not showing up on the system.” We exchange nervous glances. Kip being the belt and braces type had indeed got printed copies neatly placed in the travel folder that contained every detail of our ongoing trip.
The very pleasant young man (Josh) then began checking said document. He cheerily pointed out that he and Kip share the same birthday. “You’re clearly not that old” I said, realising immediately that I should have kept my mouth shut. He laughed and then pointed out that Kip’s passport number had been entered onto the visa incorrectly and that her visa stated her passport was German, when it is in fact British (Kip is German born but a UK National).
Our hearts sank to our knees. (My first thought was that I could do the tour solo, but if I did I needn’t bother coming home again. I kept quiet about that.) Josh said not to worry, he’d phone OZ immigration and see if he could get it amended. As he was talking on the phone we scrutinised his every facial expression. “Hello Bruce, I’ve got a couple of ageing dipsticks in front of me who’ve screwed up their visa details. She doesn’t know what country she was born in and he just stands there grinning like my dad on acid.” No he didn’t, but I bet that’s what he was thinking.
After twenty minutes Josh had got it sorted, we told him we loved him and he threw up in the bin.
Then came security. It’s clear that they don’t get many piano accordions through airport security. It was subjected to more X-rays than my right knee and had three beefy security men looking very puzzled. “Please take it out of the bag madam” at which point they all took a couple of steps back before slowly edging forward. One chap picked it up (brave man) it was turned over, swabbed, prodded and inspected at every angle before being handed back with a smile that said buy a chuffing mouth organ.
Drama over, we’ve had breakfast and I’m writing this waiting for our flight to Perth to be called.
I watched three films, listened to two albums and finished off the book I was reading…. before we’d got halfway through the first flight.
Heathrow to Perth in one hop, sixteen hours. Which sounds like a drag and can be at times, but in the grand scheme of things (political turmoil, the open wound that is Brexit etc etc) it’s not worth getting wound up about.
The staff were great and up for a laugh and they kept us well fed and watered. (I could’ve done with a bit more leg room, are you reading this Qantas.) Oh, and if you haven’t seen it already, get onto Netflix or whatever and watch Selma. An awesome film that is a timely reminder of how change for the better can be obtained by good people.
I will now put away the flat-pack soapbox that Kip had stashed in hand luggage.
We landed in Perth around midday local time (2am in Blighty) and had an hour and a half to get through customs, grab the bags and check them in again for the flight to Sydney. No dramas; no hassles; all good. Three hours forty mins, one game of scrabble and a couple of cat naps later, and we arrived in Sydney (9pm local time, no idea for Blighty).
One of the Stewardess was quite a character – the staff call buttons were on the arm rests which we both caught by accident a couple of times. The last time she came over to switch it off she explained that she could have us arrested and subjected to a cavity search. Kip promised not to do it again and I asked for an application form.
With no immigration to go through this time and the bags and guitar arriving in reclaim in a matter of minutes, we were soon out and into a breezy 27’c.
The hotel was a ten minute walk away #tootightfortaxis. We’d checked into the room, dumped the bags and were down in the bar for a very refreshing ice cold before 10pm.
A pat on the back to our logistics director (Kip), it couldn’t have gone better. (Apart from the the scary, error-ridden visa bit – that could have gone a lot better! My undying devotion to Josh from Qantas for sorting it out – K)
Last time we came to Oz we arrived at 6.30am and then had to stay awake all day. The jet lag left us not knowing which way was up. The jet lag hasn’t hit us anything like as hard this time. We fell into bed around 11pm and slept soundly until about 5am which put us on a good track.
The car hire depot was a few minutes walk away and a very pleasant young lady signed us up and went through the various penalties should the vehicle be damaged in any way shape or form regardless of whose fault it is. All of which guarantee to leave you bankrupt, but thankfully which just stop short of the death penalty. When she noted that the vehicle was to be dropped off in Brisbane (we’re in Sydney) she immediately gave us an “upgrade to a larger vehicle at no extra cost”. As in “at last we can get this pile of shite out of our depot”. To be fair it’s worked well for both of us. Yes it does have some clips missing that cause the wheel arches to wave around in the breeze, but it’s also a lot bigger than what we’d initially booked, meaning we can get the cases and instruments safely tucked away out of sight in the boot.
We were off. We managed to get out of Sydney and on the road to Woollongong without the aid of satnav or map. We pulled over to get some breakfast and bought an Australian sim for the phone at the first opportunity and then carried on down the M1 (big Road) toward Woollongong,, taking a detour through the national park onto the coast road to take in the scenery.
We were booked to play Illawarra Folk Festival from Thursday 17th to Sunday 20th January and the festival had billeted us with Russ, Jennifer and their daughters Maeve and Ellen. We thought we’d push our luck and asked Jenny if we could arrive a day early on the Wednesday – no problem. We’ve played Illawarra before and knew there were was some lovely beaches here so we went for a rumble in the surf on the way to Russ and Jennifer’s . You can’t really call it swimming; there’s a big surf here that’s understandably very popular with surfers (there was a competition going on when we went on the Friday) so you just have to hurl yourself in, flail your arms around and it shoves you back up the beach. Well that’s how it works for us anyway.
The biggest joy in what we do is the people you meet and once again we fell on our feet. Russ, Jennifer and the girls are lovely. We were made very welcome, shown our room and given the run of the house. They have a gorgeous dog called Luna, two cats, Dennis and Cocoa and two chickens who I think are nameless.
What a delight it was getting slightly pissed with these two. Russ and Jennifer are a lovely couple and we were very lucky to get to stay with them. What’s more they have a pianola, built in the 1920’s and it is a cross between piano and a cross trainer.
Russ gave us a demonstration
He got it from an old aunt who’d had it in her house for years. The interesting bit was that she’d had alterations made to her house which made it impossible to get the pianola out in one piece. As such Russ had to take it apart, move it and then reassemble it. He obviously did a good job as it works a treat.
It’s a great bit of kit; you feed in the pianola roll and then pump the bellows with your feet and it plays a tune. There’s obviously more to it than that, but that’s the bit I understood. You can also play it the same as a normal piano (if you’re capable of course – I’ll just pump the bellows).
The delightful Russ and Jennifer (with tea and banana bread).
We played here a couple of years ago and it was great to be asked back. The festival has been running for over thirty years and is held on the Showground in Bulli, New South Wales. The title says “Folk” festival, but there’s a bit of everything in there from Aboriginal song to jazz, from Scots fiddle to African Rythyms.
As with all folk festivals it’s very friendly and little quirky. We arrived there at the same time as an old London bus (must have been a hell of a drive).
We felt for the poor souls who were camping there as the first couple of days were boiling. It can’t have been easy under canvas in those conditions. It did cool down a bit on the Saturday which must have made it easier to get some sleep.
It is a bit special here compared to what we’re used to. It’s the only festival we’ve played where you can have a swim in the sea in the morning, go and play your set at the festival, go and have another swim and then go back to the festival (we did get changed).
It also feels slightly odd to have travelled to the other side of the world and see so many Morris Dancers strutting their stuff.
All in all it was a great weekend of live music, meeting some familiar faces and plenty of new ones.
Some of the photos below are ours and some are from the Illawarra Folk Festival Facebook site. There’s loads more on their page – follow the link to take a look.
We said our goodbyes to Russ, Jenny, Maeve and Ellie. Despite all of the grief and heartache it caused us we decided against stealing Luna. We get enough shit trying to get through customs with an accordion, a stolen dog would only add to our woes. (Actually she wouldn’t fit in the car! K)
Russ had told us that Jervis bay was a lovely area with great beaches and Ellen recommended stopping off at Berry for lunch on the way. Finding Berry was no problem, but the beaches at Jervis Bay were a little more challenging. We don’t have a satnav and the map is not very detailed, but we had an “interesting” ride around and whilst doing so saw an Echidna (spiny anteater), which is not something you do every day. The prickly fella was by the side of the road considering his/her options for crossing. We drove back along that stretch ten minutes later (lost) and there was no sign of skid marks (Echidna or otherwise), so he/she must have made it okay.
We found a cheap motel (decent bed and a shower) in Huskisson for the night, managed a quick dip in the bay and then the next night we stayed in our first Airb&b at Oak Flats (Shoalhaven – no, it means nothing to us either!). I’m guessing that folks who run established B&B’s must be up in arms at Airb&b (which should be Air b as there’s no breakfast) as they are in general much cheaper (it’s literally a bed in someone’s house in most cases). But for what we do where you just want to turn up, go to bed, get a shower and away in the morning they are ideal and reasonably priced.
You know how sometimes you meet someone and you get along okay and then you say “you must come and stay if you’re in the area”. Don’t say it to us, because we will. When we were at Illawarra festival we met Russ’s lovely sister Bronwyn. Bron happened to mention that she lives up in the Blue Mountains (north west of Sydney) and said to call in if we were passing. That was all we needed, another road trip had been hatched – poor, unsuspecting Bron.
There are so many beautiful beaches all over Australia that you can get quite blasé about it, which may have been why the views up in the Blue Mountains really did take our breath away. We arrived early evening at Echo Point, where there had been a welcome rain storm earlier in the day (we’d seen cloud and lightning but no rain on the drive). The storm had left the air refreshingly cool while we were there and the views were a little hazy but still incredible.
Rat on a stick?
From Echo point we went to Bron’s house in Hazelbrook where we were greeted by Murphy. A lovely evening was spent chatting about, life, travels and listening to music (Bron has an amazing collection of vinyl).
You’ve got to love a lady who in her early sixties owns a vintage (1985 I think) 750cc motorbike (forgot the make) and recently did a road trip with back pack across country to Adelaide.
The next morning Bron was up and away to work and left us to get our breakfast and shower. We’d had a few beasties grazing on us during the night. We’d both got bumps from mosquito bites, but something else had clearly got to me as my eye was swollen and I looked like I’d had a heavy night on the town. It was not a pretty sight (never is). Anyhow we packed our things and as we were about to leave I asked Kip if she’d like to see the spider (she hates them) .I pointed out that this little chap had been quietly ignoring us while we were using the bathroom. I’m not sure what the little lights are about; he was probably going to a rave.
We gave Murphy a good fuss and we’re away via the pharmacy for industrial-strength antihistamines to sort out my eye.