Travellers checks

A month goes quickly here… I’ve just realised I’ve not posted anything since I went on my little museum visit, and that doesn’t seem that long ago, but apparently it is. This blog’s practically become fossilised in the manner of one of the exhibits we saw at Jurassic Lounge that night.

While the site’s been sitting idle, I’ve been anything but – getting a bit too involved in Rugby World Cup banter, planning the imminent exciting girl’s trip up Australia’s East Coast (from Sydney to Cairns), hitting the races (and losing lots of bets), going to day festivals in the rain (yes, it does in fact rain in Australia), working (of course), gymming, celebrating new years (not so much fun away from family), and starting an exciting 30-day illustration project which is taking over my life, but in a really good way! Just thinking about all this makes me want to curl up under my desk and go to sleep right now, and that list is the abridged version! At least the East Coast trip might provide the odd opportunity to sleep – on night buses, because let’s be honest, it’s going to be six weeks of non-stop activity!

I can’t wait. Even in the planning stages it’s provided endless amusement, with me and my friends  Sydney Jenn and Dayle swapping been-there-done-that advice and tips, while London Jenn, Ali and I fire squealing/ giggling/ horrified/ logistical messages at each other via phone, facebook, twitter and smoke signals. Well, not the last one, but we could have tried it I reckon… if you were allowed to light bonfires in Australia, that is.

For me, the funniest moment so far came while I was trying to get a quote for the key parts of our trip (Fraser Island, Whitsundays and the essential Greyhound tickets). A couple of friends had recommended an independent travel company to me, so I went in to chat to them a few weeks back just to get a few ideas. The guy I was talking to told me that as the manager (Steve) was just on a trip up the coast, I should wait and speak to him when he got back as he’d have the latest tips. So that’s what I did.

Steve was busy with some customers when I called him, but promised to call back later, which he did… when I was at the pub (no I don’t live there) watching the rugby world cup. I’m not quite sure what happened in the 3 minutes of phone banter, but somewhere along the line the two of us decided he should come to the pub and we’d talk travel business there… When I told my friend Sydney Jenn, she almost fell off her bar stool laughing, and then decided this was the BEST thing she’d heard in ages.

Sitting watching the rugby (and the door for a total stranger, who we have never met so have no clue what he looks like), this guy walks in to the totally packed pub looking around for a sign/ familiar face. Jenn sees this, goes ‘that’s him!’, waves wildly and the guy smiles and picks his way through the pub to where we’re sitting. ‘Steve?’ we ask. ‘Yeah!’ he says, smiling.

We all introduce ourselves and then, after a slightly confusing conversation about his having come to meet his mates at the pub to support France even though he’s Scottish, he says he’s going to get a drink and we should catch up at half time. Fine… But then, as he walks away and I say to the girls ‘I swear he sounded Aussie on the phone. That’s weird’, I get a text from Steve saying ‘I’m by the bar’. Odd.

‘Erm, girls, I don’t think that Steve is actually Steve.’ They look at me, confused. I show them the text. They look more confused still. ‘Surely not, Alanna. That would be impossible. Maybe there’s a delay with the phones because it’s so busy in here?’ says Dayle. Now I’m just uncertain, so I just send another text back saying to meet at the bar at half time.

When the whistle blows, I head over to get some drinks for the gang. Steve is nearby but just looks at me strangely when I say hello again. At that moment, I get another text: ‘I’m outside smoking.’ I look up, look at ‘Steve’ who is clearly NOT outside smoking, and start to laugh. I knew something wasn’t right.

After I go outside to meet the REAL Steve (much friendlier, funnier and more Australian than the other Steve), he comes back in to join the gang, stopping to get a drink. I take that time to explain to the girls (who thought I’d been abducted) that Scottish Steve is not in fact Steve, he’s an imposter! Sydney Jenn almost falls off her stool laughing (again) – ‘OH MY GOD. FAKE STEVE! What are the chances?’

About as good as the chances of talking business at the pub, I’d say. We didn’t. But I did book our trip through our new mate in the end, because he deserved the commission for even just providing us with a proper giggle (and a lot of awesome travel advice, of course). Thanks Stevo!

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A Night at the Museum: Jurassic Lounge

Taking inspiration from the movies – think a cross between Jurassic Park and Ben Stiller’s Night at the Museum – the Australian Museum’s after hours, adults-only event, Jurassic Lounge was a massive draw for Sydney’s alternative culture crowd last year. So when it made a return to the city this year, there was (almost) no question about our attending. There’s a bit of geek in all of us, I’m sure, and events like this make it socially acceptable to be a bit of a nerd. Geek is chic – that’s what I like to tell myself anyway.

Even Time Out Sydney wanted a piece of the action, sponsoring the weekly activities. To be honest though, we didn’t care who was promoting it, we were just four big kids (two Brits, one Aussie, one Kiwi) excited about our long-out-of-school-trip. But unlike your typical educational visit, after we rocked up and had our tickets scanned by an iPhone (novelty value) we were directed straight to the bar. Yes, that’s right, the organisers know their audience and, in Australia, museum + drinks = uniquely fun times.

Wallabies love a good brew - A Night at the Museum: Jurassic Lounge - Alannafreestyle

Wallabies love a good brew

While Jenn and I were itching to start running riot/ playing – with live bands, Jurassic karaoke, silent disco with the Pharaohs, burlesque, comedy, and a strangely deserted Twister mat calling – Taylor and Al were both taking the more cultural approach. Both of them were gripped by the permanent exhibits; they wandered around reading all the captions on the walls and peering at the array of taxidermy, as though staring at it harder would bring the beasts back to life.  Luckily not the case.

When we finally managed to drag the boys’ noses away from the glass cases they were pressed up against, we zoomed through the 4 hours; gazing at dinosaur bones; recording a David Attenborough-style voiceover; giggling at the karaoke host’s failed attempts to get people to sing, especially while he was doing such a good job himself; watching light-installations as a robot/puppet band bopped about surreally on stage; cracked glowsticks and threw some stupid dance moves at silent disco; freaked each other out beside the cases of dead and preserved spiders; freaked out other museum-goers by playing with an array of bizarre-but-amazing stick insects (one woman DID actually scream aloud and run to cower in the bookshop); climbed under tortoise shells, just because when else do you get a photo opp like that; and then realised time was up…and we’d barely scratched the surface of everything that was on offer.

Silent Disco - A Night at the Museum: Jurassic Lounge - Alannafreestyle

Disco Disco Disco...shh shh shh

I’m tempted to go back again – there are two more weeks left of this year’s Tuesday-night extravaganza – but there’s so much more to see and do in the city that repeats seem a little wasteful. I just wish some of the other galleries would open up in the same way. It’s a fun night out, whether you’re a closet geek, a stifled suit or someone who refuses to be labelled. Who said Sydney had no culture? It’s an absolute lie!

Have you been to one of the Jurassic Lounge events? What did you think? Or can you recommend any other after-hours events in Australia?

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The champion of the world: a thank you letter

Ask most people who their hero is, and I’m sure they’ll have a name or two on hand to offer you.  For some reason, I always seem to struggle with this question: there are plenty of people I admire, but I’m not sure I’d call them my ‘hero’. How many people can you say you know who can be described as a brave person with noble qualities; an adventurer; a person of distinguished ability? Well, I realised this week I do have a hero of sorts. I have had one for years and years, but never applied the term. And, as this is supposed to have its roots as a travel blog, it must be said that he is the one who inspired me to pack my bags and start seeing a bit more of this wide world. Leading by example, inducing envy and supporting me when I decided enough was enough – it was time to hit the roads/rails/airways/waterways of as many countries as I could. Who is this mysterious person? The answer (cue one of two responses ­­ –  an ‘awwwwww, how lovely’, or a ‘bleuch that’s so cringey’ *fake vomit and pull disgusted face) is: my big brother.

Now the reason I’m saying this right here, right now is that this week he turns 30 and I, in a terrible timing faux-pas, am on the other side of the world, have missed celebrating with him and his friends on his birthday weekend AND can only call him to wish him many happy returns of the day at 6.45am on Wednesday morning, when it’s his birthday in Australia, but not actually the real deal in the UK yet!  So maybe it’s guilt, but mostly it’s about showing respect and appreciation for someone who deserves it.

Me and Graham on holiday somewhere - The champion of the world - Alannafreestyle

The driving force, even from a young age.

When we were little, my poor brother had to put up with sharing the back seat of whatever family car we had at the time with me (my teddy bear, and whatever items of our mum’s insane overpacking couldn’t fit in the boot) on long car journeys around the UK. His best method for dealing with that was falling asleep as soon as we set off or, if that failed, shutting out his irritating little sister with a Walkman (a magical possession that she didn’t have) and a never-ending series of cassette tapes (that she kept trying to steal so they could be played to everyone in the car on the stereo). Basically, he knew that for the next week or two he had to deal with me being there 24-7 and that most likely meant sharing a room, a car, picnics, walks, and the parents’ attention, so he was going to tune me out for as long as he possibly could. Don’t get me wrong, we got on pretty well  most of the time ­- although the incident on a doomed damp holiday in Wales where he told me there was a giant spider hanging above my bed waiting for me to fall asleep so it could crawl into my mouth and make a nest in my stomach, didn’t do much for parent-child or brother-sister relations ie I ended up screaming, ran out of the bedroom and refused to get back into bed until said spider had been caught, removed and banished from the house.

There were also times that I, his adoring little brat sister, would follow his lead in winding up the parents  – but where he led I seemed to fail.  One time, when we pulled up to yet another castle – possibly the fifth in one week (which actually he not-so-secretly loved going to) – he refused to get out of the car, however much our Dad cajoled, and insisted. So he was just left there with the keys and a few hours to himself. A few days later, I tried the same trick. I got told to stop behaving like a little madam, dragged out of the car and marched into whatever heritage site we were visiting that day, in a strop, whining that Graham hadn’t been treated like this two days ago. ‘He’s older than you,’ I was told as I was shunted along, as if that somehow explained it satisfactorily.

Anyway, after years of family holidays, with the two of us competing to see who could bodyboard the biggest and best waves (usually him, because I would mostly cry when the swell crashed unexpectedly over my head and sea water went down my throat – who’d ever think I’d become a wannabe surfer?!), consume the most ice creams and coca-cola in one sitting, make the most friends with the other kids wherever we were staying, get the least sunburnt and freckly (me, I’m fair, but not as fair as him), stay up latest (ALWAYS him because, again, ‘he’s older than you’), the sod started refusing to come away with us in favour of going off on his own adventures instead. Fair enough I guess.

And you know what? He made a good call. Because after approximately five years of watching him go on a succession of action-packed adventures while I tootled around little bits of Europe on beach holidays and made the odd transatlantic trip for a city break, I decided I’d had it with sitting enviously at home while he got to see the sights on offer in all manner of exciting places. If he could go on these awesome trips to far-off lands, then so could I. So I quit my job and buggered off to South America alone, leaving him seething in my wake. Boy only had himself to blame – he was the one who showed me photos of Brazil and told me how amazing it was. It was only a matter of time until I started plotting my own escape to discover that continent’s charms.

I think he thought it might end there – the girl who used to get homesick staying at her own grandma’s place on the other side of town would never dream of stepping too far out of her comfort zone. Wrong. That girl had long gone, and been replaced by one with one who became a little enraptured with travel, one who flew home from Peru a month late, incredibly reluctantly and with some seriously itchy feet – and they weren’t from the shared bathrooms in the hostels. Nope. I had the travel bug, and I had it bad.

When I started toying with the idea of moving abroad for an extended period, I’m not sure if it was totally unexpected, but I don’t think that anyone ever thought I would actually do it. In fact, of all the people I discussed it with, HE was the one I was most scared of telling because from two warring little people who used to do everything they could to drive each other up the wall, we have become close friends as well as siblings. His is the opinion I most respect and am most worried about being at odds with mine. He’s also the voice of reason: he was the one who (after hours of me going round in circles saying, ‘I don’t know what to do. I want to go, but what if it’s a terrible idea? What if I don’t like it there?’) told me to book the sodding ticket to Australia because at least it would mean I’d shut up about it. But to make sure it was a return, as at least that way he could nearly guarantee I’d be back in a year’s time to remind him he wasn’t an only child. See how the tables have turned?

So yes, I have a lot to thank my brother for – more than I can say – as without him and his European wanderings, Brazilian adventures, Stateside escapades, South African navigations, twice-thwarted Japan plans, and now a Patagonian experience that I missed out on myself while I was there, I don’t know who would have had pushed me to do the most brilliant and inspiring thing there is in this life: to see the world. Happy 30th Graham. Keep living the dream. And bloody well come and visit me will you?!

Who’s your travel hero? Who or what inspires you to see and do more? Share your thoughts here…

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As seen on screen: Aussie soaps come to life

Go to the other side of the world from your friends and family, and what do they want from you? Not an update on your life or travel exploits, but a preview of what’s happening on TV – in Home and Away and Neighbours to be more precise! I’ve had a series of messages since I left the UK from people wanting spoilers on the latest events in two of Australia’s best-known but heavily scripted towns: Erinsborough and Summer Bay. One of the sole exceptions to this would probably be my Dad who, when my brother and I were younger and still watching Karl Kennedy making a tit of himself on a daily basis and laughing at Harold Bishop’s mysterious return from the dead, used to groan, roll his eyes and ask us why we were ruining our minds watching such trash. He also (jokingly) threatened to nuke Ramsay Street if we didn’t go and do our homework. With their wobbly cardboard sets, I’d say a nuclear warhead was a little extreme… but I’m drifting from the point.

When I was in Melbourne I didn’t make the Pommie pilgrimage to Lassiters Lake – partly because I haven’t watched Neighbours regularly since I was a student and really couldn’t face it, and partly because we didn’t have time. But the lure of ‘Summer Bay’ couldn’t really be avoided – why deny yourself a day at a beautiful beach? Besides, when one of my friends – a crazy die-hard Home and Away fan – came to visit, it would have been rude not to go. Especially as she’d travelled so far to see me, the sun was shining and there was the promise of a glimpse of Summer Bay surf club(’s tanned regulars).

Summer Bay Surf Club - As Seen On Screen - Alannafreestyle

The shutters are down. Where's Alf?

The actual location, Palm Beach, is as lovely in reality as it looks on screen. The five of us who drove out there (possibly humming the theme tune to the show as went…ahem) got a tiny bit snap happy when we near-fell out of the car to discover the famous beach entrance and Alf Stewart’s surf club behind it. At one point, Tracy and I thought we’d spotted the main man himself, famed hat firmly in place, striding along the beach towards us as we dipped our toes in the icy water. The shock sighting caused us to stop paying attention to the sea, at which point a freak wave skittered all the way up Trace’s legs, causing her to declare that her white trousers were now ‘naked’. After a brief stop-stare-and-point moment, we realised, with a hint of sadness, that rather than the Real Alf Stewart, it was just a very good look-alike. What a tease, ya flaming mongrel! This disappointment was a bit too much to bear – plus the sun disappeared –so we decided to try our luck and drive a bit further round the coast to Whale Beach.

Palm Beach aka Summer Bay - As seen on screen - Alannafreestyle

I've seen this somewhere before... in the UK... on the TV screen

It was a detour that paid off. Here we found an equally beautiful, even more hidden cove where I fell in love with a cliff-top house overlooking the surf. I tried to encourage the others that we should crash the party that was going on on the deck of this modern masterpiece – aka my future dream home – but they seemed to think it might be a bad idea, and insisted it was time to drive back into the city. I can’t think why. I’d have stayed there happily, gazing at the house, maybe with the words ‘You know we belong together, you and I forever and ever…’ playing across my mind. Yeah, on reflection, maybe our leaving was a good idea after all. And no, I still refuse to pass on any spoilers. I’m only here for a year, I don’t have time to sit watching exported soaps! I have bigger beaches to explore…

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You know you need a day off when…

Some weeks should be consigned to the dustbin before they even start. Or, at least, we should recognise that we need to give up on trying to bend certain days to our will and just take some time out – a ‘mental health day’, as it’s known in my current workplace, ought to sort you out. Reserved for those weeks where nothing seems to click into place, and you just need to step away from the Mac and switch off.

You know that day has come when, in the midst of a week that seems to be intent on sliding down the plughole and taking you with it, you have a morning that goes something like this:

You’re deep in a dream. Of what, that’s your call. But suddenly something in that dream draws your attention to the concept of time. Something clicks in your subconscious that the light in your room is stronger than it usually is each morning when your alarm screams at you to wake up, so you roll over and slightly open one eye to squint at the time to find…

Oh crap! The alarm hasn’t gone off and you’re ridiculously late. Without even properly waking up, you fall out of bed, run through the shower barely noticing the scalding water, trip over the rug on the way back to your room where you proceed to put the wrong contact lens in the wrong eyes, wonder why you can see Jack Sh**, (very) slowly realise and rectify the problem (carefully avoiding dropping one, as there’s no need to be scrabbling on the floor right now like one of the three blind mice), briefly consider and dismiss the idea of calling in sick while staring vaguely at the contents of your wardrobe, before grabbing and throwing on the easiest tried-and-tested outfit, chuck some product in your hair in an attempt to tame the bedhead, crack your shins on the bedframe while running around looking for the just-washed gym gear you now wish you’d packed last night, pull your inexplicably uncharged phone (the reason for your lateness) and charger out of the plug socket, unhook your jacket from the back of the door, trip over the rug again before dashing out of the house to run to the bus stop where, thankfully you can take a breath and appreciate the fact that (as three buses round the corner at the exact same moment) if you’d been just a minute later, you would be even more screwed.

From that moment on, it’s all about making up time and trying to prise your eyes and still sleep-riddled brain into something resembling wakeful alertness. And it’s at exactly that moment that you think, “I can’t do this again tomorrow. I’m cashing in a mental health day.” Which is exactly what I did this morning when I finally got into work (somehow on time?!). Even just knowing my weekend will start a day earlier is an energising thought. Plus the winter sun’s out, and set to stay that way. To the beach! This is meant to be a working holiday after all…

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I do like to be beside the seaside: Bondi to Coogee

Every morning for the last couple of weeks, I have woken up to the sight of my brand-new wetsuit hanging on my bedroom wall, beautiful (as much as a wetsuit can be) but totally untouched. I’m starting to find the view quite depressing now. I feel like it’s mocking me because as much as I want to use it, I keep being thwarted – mostly by the fact that the last few weekends (which are, until summer arrives, the only potential beach-going opportunities available to me right now) have followed wild-weather weeks, meaning the surf is often just too big for a scrappy beginner like myself. While I don’t have a problem with being chewed up and spat out by the sea (it’s pretty standard, being that I spend more time on the ocean bed than on the surfboard), I do have a bit of an issue with the prospect of being swallowed whole by a wave the size of a black hole, and disappearing into the depths of an ocean, never to be seen again. Look, I know my limits ok?

Splashing around in the sea - I do like to be beside the seaside: Bondi to Coogee - Alannafreestyle

Splashing around = my forte. Staying on a board = not so much.

As a result, the closest encounters I’ve had with the swirling tides in the last month have come courtesy of the lovely cliff walk between Bondi and Coogee. Ever since our first week in Sydney, when we initially wandered along this path in the sunshine following an impromptu theatrical thunderstorm enacted by Heavens Inc, I’ve loved it down here. Born and bred by the beach in the UK, I’m always happiest by the sea. So it’s hardly surprising that, when I need a taste of sea air, I’m drawn down to the little coves and beaches dotted along the coast, each with their own individual atmosphere and backdrop. (Have to say, though, that for a proper beach day Manly’s my first choice – even if it is a bit of a trek from Paddington.) Forget Bondi – I actually love that you have to turn your back on it to walk this 6km path.

I’m not going to try to describe the journey to you step by step – there are other websites for that – but here are some personal highlights for you in photographic form. Sadly, I don’t have a picture of the moment when, after a swim in the outdoor pool at Bronte, I walked into the changing rooms to be confronted with a rather large, stark naked grandma taking a shower. That was special. Consider yourself spared… although I’m sure the mental image will be enough.

Anyway these snaps are clean, I promise! Please excuse the quality, I’m still short of a camera that isn’t integrated into my phone.

Tamarama beach

Surfers checking out the view above Tamarama beach - I do like to be beside the seaside: Bondi to Coogee - Alannafreestyle

View from the top

I’ll set the scene: winter sun beating down on your back, perched on a cliff-top seat, listening to the roar of the tide and looking out towards the horizon… Sorry, I just disappeared into a meditative trance for a second. This rocky perch in front of the SLSC is, in reality, pretty sweet.

The mosaic steps

Mosaic steps - Bondi to Coogee coastal walk - I do like to be beside the seaside: Bondi to Coogee - Alannafreestyle

Stepping it up a notch with some mosaic detailing

I don’t know whether these steps represent something other than an artistic soul’s creative output, but they provide a bit of extra colour along the concrete path. Crafty.

Bronte beach

Bronte beach pool - Bondi to Coogee coastal walk - I do like to be beside the seaside: Bondi to Coogee - Alannafreestyle

To infinity...and the surf beyond

Apparently you shouldn’t swim in the water round here after a week of heavy rainfall, as it can make you sick – who knew? Yes, I am speaking from experience, but I still love it. It’s like the rough-n-ready version of an infinity pool with ocean views that change with the tide – particularly inspiring when the waves are pounding on the rocks below, and the best local surfers are out showing their skills. One afternoon’s free entertainment, sorted.

Gordon’s Bay

Boats on Gordon's beach - I do like to be beside the seaside: Bondi to Coogee - Alannafreestyle

Row, row, row your boat, gently up the beach...

Another cove, another purpose. Apparently, the waters beyond/ behind these boats, offer a great dive spot… May need to inspect that closer, if I actually ever learn to dive. Reckon the people who live in the clifftop houses are sitting pretty, too.

Waverley cemetery

Waverley cemetery - Bondi to Coogee coastal walk - I do like to be beside the seaside: Bondi to Coogee - Alannafreestyle

A tomb with a view (I'm sorry! I just had to...)

Some people might think this is morbid, but I thought this cemetery was beautiful. The sun high above it, the sea right below it – there are worse eternal resting places.

Seems like a fitting place to leave this post to rest, too. I’m off to check swellnet for the weekend forecast. Please be something I can work with… *wishes

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Trivial Pursuits: the Aussie version

Worried that we might be getting ‘predictable’, I think, our Aussie housemate Robbie delved deep into his beard, thought, scratched his chin philosophically, had a ‘lightbulb’ moment, and then sent us all an email inviting us to combine our now-becoming-regular night down the pub with a bit more Aussie Culture. We’ve done the rugby (on numerous occasions) – now it was time for the famous Trivia Night.

I've been more puzzled – Trivial Pursuits: the Aussie version – Alannafreestyle

Time to test our brains... with more than a child's puzzle, perhaps...

Yes, ok, pub quizzes aren’t exclusive to Australia but, if you don’t count the event we stumbled into on my first night in Sydney (when I was so jetlagged it was all I could do to decipher my brain’s message to ‘stay awake, STAY AWAKE!’, let alone comprehend or answer a random trivia question), it was going to be the first time we’d tried our (collective) knowledge in the local version.

To Darlinghurst, then, to a lovely bar for the worryingly named ‘Texas Chainsaw Trivia’ – forget winning anything, I was just hoping that we weren’t going to get a limb removed every time we got an answer wrong. In reality, I think the chainsaw reference was more likely to describe the two main hosts, who were about as loud and grating as a whirring blade. If you saw one of them coming towards you in any social situation, I’m pretty sure you’d run away as fast as possible! Maybe that’s a tad harsh. They would be better described as a couple of failed radio DJs, which in itself says quite a lot as the standards here are pretty low – I’ve steered clear of listening to the Aussie airwaves since our terrible constant-channel-changing experiences over four days on the Great Ocean Road. Think hospital radio DJs on a terrible day.

When the questions eventually started rolling out, it wasn’t quite what we’d expected/ were used to. Not only were the hosts handing out so many clues that it was almost pointless for them to ask the questions in the first place, but there was a whole round on bizarre 90s trivia, mostly relating to the US. I’m sorry, can you remind me, which country are we in again?

Trying to find something positive to say about the night, I reckon there were two highlights:

1 When a question was asked about Nick Cave, and Tracy innocently asked ‘Who’s Nick Cave?’ to the absolute face-twisting disgust of one of the girls at our table. If looks could kill, I’d be a travel buddy down.

2 When my brain bank of absolutely useless knowledge came in vaguely handy for once – thank you Bill Bryson for teaching me an incredibly random fact. Even though the actual Aussies at the table didn’t have much faith in my answer, it turned out that Australia did indeed get its first TV channel (9) in 1956. I doubt I’ll ever need to use that piece of information again, though, so to the depths of the filing cabinet it goes… 

By the second round, half of the teams that had been there at the start of the night had left. Maybe the influence of third host, ‘Miss Death’? She didn’t seem too inspired by the goings-on around her anyway, sitting on a bar stool, looking bored as she knitted her way through the evening, occasionally breaking off to read a question from the over-prepared, under-humorous script. When the third round finally came along we had also skipped out, as the remains of our team decided that testing their tastebuds with delicious icy gelati from Messina was far preferable to the cold reception the quiz was getting inside the pub.

With that trivial pursuit ticked off the local cultural experience list, I suppose the only question left for this round is: what’s next?

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