A fond farewell to Hayden in Brisbane as we lugged luggage again, two coffees down before boarding the plane. It was nice to fly in over Sydney (yet again) and if Brisbane was 10 times busier than Adelaide then Sydney repeated the feat over Brisbane especially as I struggled with my bags at two stations that didn’t have lifts. My dodgy elbows are extremely upset with me but what can a poor boy do.
Tonight I would stay with my friend Billie, her husband Jade and their daughter, Nexis, in the upmarket suburb of Killara on the North Shore of Sydney. They live in a house far too big for them, boxes still not unpacked from moving in 9 months ago. It did mean they could offer a spare room for this temporarily homeless wanderer for which I was grateful.
I met Billie about 10 or 11 years ago when I was part of a dragon boat racing team, representing Australia (somehow!), in a dirty bay on Hong Kong Island. Billie’s family head the institute of dragon boat racing in HK and Billie and her sister, Mandy, were the compere’s for the races. Both girls were and are extremely attractive and, Billie especially, bright and outgoing positive personalities.
Needless to say, they attracted the attention of the white boys at the races and at the drunken awards dinner on our last night there. Myself and another racer went out later for supper with Billie and we decided to stay in touch through email just in case our paths crossed again, under the pretence of sharing our photos of the week’s events with one another.
A few years later our paths did cross again as Billie became an air hostess with Cathay Pacific airlines. This, of course, took her all over the world, and eventually to Sydney. She got in touch and we met up one night for dinner. At the end of that night, she quietly invited me up to her room for coffee. I didn’t want to presume anything and I have no idea of her intention at the time but something in me decided not to take her up on the offer.
I’ve not really been one for one-night stands and I definitely didn’t want to do that with someone I felt that if I had then that might just be all our relationship might have been. I liked Billie, a lot, not because she was pretty but because we got on so well and had a lot of fun together. A friendship was more fulfilling than the possibility of brief exciting encounter and that’s the way I wanted to keep it.
We met a couple more times when she flew to Sydney. The final time with another of her crew, Kit, also a beautifully attractive girl. By then I had already met Amy and it was with some pride that we all headed to Amy’s favourite nightclub after dinner, I got to walk up to the dance floor with three amazingly attractive women.
Of course, I didn’t want to embarrass myself by actually dancing so I left them to it. Immediately they were swamped with guys wanting to dance with them, to which Billie and Amy crossed their arms in big X’s indicating for the guys to go away. After 15 minutes of this though they became exasperated and we decided to leave. On our way out a guy near the stairs grabbed Kit’s arm and yanked her towards him at which point I had to intervene and got to tell him that these three girls were all with me. It made me chuckle to bruise the poor guy’s ego (and radically inflate my own, briefly) as we left the club.
A few more years of staying in touch and Billie told she had met someone from Australia, Adelaide, in fact. I knew she met a million guys around the world and that she could pick anyone she wanted but this one she met in a bar in Hong Kong. She said he was not handsome, a bit fat even but had a generous and family-oriented personality. This was what she was looking for in her ideal partner more than a troublesome good looker.
Then a couple of years later they decided to relocate from Hong Kong to Sydney and ended up living a couple of blocks away from Amy and myself in Chatswood. We got to hang out a bit more but also were leading busy lives. A case of when living near the beach you never go for a swim.
Billie and Jade now had a baby on their hands and Billie could become the dragon mum she always dreamed of. I caught up with her sister Mandy during this time too and she soon was married with a couple of kids of her own.
Anyways, Billie rushed to pick up from the station in her new 4WD, on the phone to her friend, as we rushed to pick up Nexis from school, now in Year One. Nexis and I always get on like a house on fire, like I do with most kids, and we were soon making fun of her mum and I was getting her into trouble so we were both getting told off.
Nexis and I played some more, with their water hose – more trouble – and with their French Bulldog Dunstan, short name Dunny. Billie cooked up a nice veggie dinner for us all, Nexis went to bed and Jade overruled Billie to watch a movie instead of Billie’s favourite Aussie trash TV, Married at First Sight, thank heavens!
Next morning, Billie dropped me in Chatswood, with all my bags and we wished each other well, hoping they can come and visit Amy and me in Thailand sometime in the future. I spent the morning running around getting coffees and trying to arrange to meet people but everyone was busy. Never mind – I know you’ll always be there, somewhere.
A train to the city and more coffee as I met up with one of Amy’s best friends Jess as I was staying at her place right in the centre of the city. We went out for a big seafood dinner to celebrate another friend’s, Grace, birthday, joined by Muoy and Hakan. Amy had already prepped me to pay for the meal tonight as her gift to everyone and for Grace’s celebration. Grace kindly reciprocated by offering to take me to the airport a couple of days later.
Next day was a big run around and I’d been hitting my ten thousand steps easily for a few days now. In the morning I met Jess at the cafe where she works and got my first free coffee. We were heading to Chippendale to meet one of my friends who had opened her own cafe recently. Jess is thinking to do the same in Adelaide sometime in the future so Amy thought it would be a good idea to introduce them and for Jess to get some tips.
On the way there I ducked into another small cafe another Chatswood friend was working at and was offered another free coffee, gladly accepted as always.
In Chippendale, we found my friend’s cafe, the Bean Brewers. Jenny runs it with her husband and has managed to build up a good little business. They spent a long time looking for this place and are working hard, seven days a week, to make it a success. I met Jenny when she was just 16, ten years before, when she was working at my favourite cafe in Chatswood. She had moved to Australia from Vietnam to study and wanted to stay. Similar to my own story with Amy, a customer had taken a fancy to her and eventually they got married.
Once again, we all wished each other well and went on our way. Jess went back home whilst I went to my next appointment, this time at UTS, to see Bronwyn, Hayden’s mum, my ex-wife, the partner of all the 1994 diary entries you can find here. Twenty four years is a long time and things change and things stay the same. Bronwyn told me of some photos she had found of our time back in the UK and when I saw them later it was odd to look at the person in the photo that was me. I didn’t recognise them as me, though I knew it was obviously me.
After lunch and during another coffee stop my 3pm appointment cancelled which I was actually a little grateful for as the temperature was soaring and I was starting to get sweaty. I headed back to Jess’ for a quick shower and recovery before heading out again to meet Jochen, at a pub just down the street.
Jochen arrived with his friend, from a meeting that they had just attended. Jochen works for the Goethe Institute and moved to Sydney with his wife, Sabina and kids, both of whom are a similar age to Hayden. They actually moved back and forth a couple of times before finally settling on Australia as the place to stay.
I first met Jochen, about 15 years ago I’m guessing, through a band he was playing in with a mutual friend. Although being from different countries within Europe, which becomes a little competitive, here we were suddenly comrades on foreign turf. I’m over dramatising but in some ways bonds are made through mutual conditions such as these.
The other thing that drew us together though was our musical interests and our roles within our own DIY music scenes. The connection was instant, an unspoken understanding of the way things had been, the way we were doing things now and the way we wanted to continue doing those things. I value Jochen’s friendship above most others – one of those friendships where you may not see each other for a couple of years and you can sit down and continue the conversation as if only a day had passed.
And of course, this was pretty much the situation we were in, having not been in much contact for the previous six months since leaving Sydney. I expected to be out for a couple of hours, perhaps drop by another friend working in a shop that night too.
Kicked off with interesting conversations with Jochen’s friend, a filmmaker, again about mutual musical interests, particularly the Dutch band The Ex (crazy thoughts arising about how to tour them through South East Asia and Australia), moving on to discussions about working with Japanese musicians for live film scores.
After he left we decided on another beer, and another, conversation free flowing, about our lives, our kids, our futures, about continuing to work together in one way or another and just about generally staying connected. Something that is so much easier to do now than it was in 1994.
All these thoughts could lead to longer stories that I will have to leave for now. But that night, my last in Sydney, the beers continued along with the stories and topics and we eventually stumbled out around 1.30am, I think, and on our respective ways.
In a blink, I was asleep and awake again, still drunk and almost voiceless as Grace whisked me to the airport and I jumped on the plane, last time for a while in Australia, hoping for more sleep, which didn’t come. But I was too drunk to care, too drunk to think. The perfect exit.