Friday, 21 January 2011

Mini-break to Brisbane

So the floods have subsided and the clean-up is well underway. And it's time for me to visit my friends in Brisbane.

The people I am going to visit are actual friends. Not people I feel obliged to see because they helped me out or hungout with me. For any of those who doubted that Couch Surfing was a legit way to travel, I think I now have enough [overwhelmingly] positive experiences to request that you eat your words one letter at a time.

So where was I..... Ah yes, Thursday morning, rush hour time, Paul drops me off at Nerrang train station. A friendly ticket office guy (and when one uses 'friendly' to describe an aussie, you mean the English equivalent of your best friend, on a good day, when you have just bought them icecream) who informed me that all travel across the entire city is free due to the floods.

Brisbane Flood Graffiti

Just pause now.... and think ...................................... FREE.
So on trains and buses that cross a total area larger than London and surrey combined, free travel. And it has been free since the floods. Queensland actually thought ''Well our poor Aussie tax payers are probably gunna have a bit of a disrupted service what with the place being under water, so we won't charge them for a few weeks". Can you even imagine if that happened in London? I can't. But when I try, I'm fairly sure that TFL would add an extra flood levvy to cover the cost of fuck-knows-what. I've said it once, I'm gunna say it again: I Love This Country.

Anyway - to put back to the system, Me and Erik are going to do some volunteering today for the Big Clean Up. I'll keep you posted when I catch the inevitable water-borne life-threatening infectious disease. That's the thing though isn't it... I wondered what it was that made aussies turn up in their droves to help-out, without agenda, without any recognition. It's the fact that if a country looks after it's inhabitants, it's inhabitants will look after their country. (Ok, I could go onto a very long and ignorant/naive spiel that starts: '...with the exception of the native aboriginals who seem to be treated more as invaders than inhabitants....'   But I'll save it for another day when perhaps I am better informed and armed with a few pointless facts to throw at you.

The painstaking clear-up

So I arrive in Brisbane and Erik meets me at the station, as beautiful clothed as he was half naked. We get Starbucks, and then we shop. we shop and shop and shop. There is one shop in particular where I nearly blow my entire travel fund. It's like some clothes-designer has been secretly stalking me and has dedicated an entire shop to me. And Erik was awesome... I'd forgotten how great it is to shop with your GBF. Honest: "No darling, somethings just not working with that outfit", enthusiastic: "I love them, those shoes are doing so much for your legs, just look at your ankles!!", level headed: "If you are never going to wear that, don't spend $200 on it''. Best shopping partner ever. I settle for an anchor studded hand-made hair bow, and leave gutted that I didn't get the half-price shoes I could never wear for fear of snapping both tibia's, and grieving for the $220, 50's all in one denim flares that fit me so well (infact, they are a tad too long) they must have been made for me.
After shopping, Erik fancies McDonalds, and en route says something that nearly makes me wee myself. He tends to have this effect on me. In fact, now is a good time to give you some classic examples. If you will, dear reader, in your head, put on your best camp dutch accent whilst you read: (and may I point out, that none of what Erik says is intended to be funny, ironic, ditzy, whatever, its 100% his actual thoughts).

Erik's Classic Quotes - Top 4
  1. I loooove McDonalds. Just this morning I had my first McFlurry since the floods, cus you know, there were shortages.
  2. On the subject of the predatory gay elders of Queensland: It's great, they give me $50 to take my shirt off, and they don't even touch me!
  3. Reflecting of his sailing trip from Cairns to Brisbane: Everyone was sea-sick, but I could avoid it, you just lay really still and listen to Lady GaGa.
  4. On passing a group of just-pubescent girls at Wet'n'Wild, with "FREE HUGS" emblazoned across their flat bellies in Zinc: Free jail sentence more like.
Ok, well the last one was actually me, but Its pretty rare for me to be quick witted, so its going in.

Le Suits
So Erik and I come back to Jamie's and watch Hedwig. Then Jamie, who has come down with a chest infection so cannot join us, takes us to the venue where Elliot's band are playing (there last show before Big Day Out on Sunday!). El does an awesome set, ending with the best rendition of I put a Spell on You I have ever heard. I think to myself  'Cor, whoever's up next has got a hard act to follow', then BAM! Strutting on stage to New Order's Blue Monday are Le Suits, a 7 or 8 member band with 3-piece brass section, Jack Black on keyboards, and Phil Jupitus main vox. Everyone is dancing and jumping about, Erik and I keep glancing at each other with 'I can't believe how good these guys are' stares. Next up are Tin Can Radio.... I say to Erik "Let's go, aint nuffink gunna beat that", but before we have time to leave, this band start playing. If these guys do not make it BIG in the next 18months, I will eat both my arms. There is the kind of crowd energy/atmosphere that you only get with a great band, playing a tiny venue, on the cusp of something great. I can honestly say I cannot remember the last time I enjoyed a live performance so much. I was trying to explain to Erik what the word Analogy means, because I was thinking, the only way I can describe the front man's performance, or at least, how it felt to be on the receiving end, is that it was like, when an ambulance arrives at the scene of a car accident, and you're close to death on the road, you expect that paramedic to do everything to keep you alive. It's his job. You don't care if he's had a bad day, or its his last hour on call, or you are the 1000th person he's treated in a car accident. Well this front man, he was performing like it was a life-and-death situation. It was his job to make me, who has never even heard of his band, practically fall to my knees. They were so tight. the bass was so heavy. They managed to incorporate sax and trumpet without it sounding like dated ska. I implore you, check em out. The drummer. My god the drummer. I was well and truly Alive and Kicking after that performance, Tin Can Radio revived me at the roadside.

Tin Can Radio

We leave the venue, Erik stops for his 3rd McFlurry of the day (making up for lost time), and his 2nd McChicken Sandwich, and we get the train home. His house mates rule. I love them all. I wont go into why they rule, just take my word for it.

Time to help Clean UP

I am, after a very long, but rewarding day, back from my day volunteering. Me and Erik got tothe office where is works and split into two cars. We drove to a woman's house in Fairfield, which had been all but destroyed by the flood. Her name is Rosalind. We get stuck straight in, with me and the boys (Michael, Erik's boss, and Elliot, a collegue, both of whom I  am fairly sure he is sleeping with) put on outside duty, which involves wading through knee deep sludge - a mixture of mud and sewage.

The house backs onto the river, where the flood managed to dislodge a jetty... a full sized jetty that houses boats, and deposit it onto the roof. It all looks very surreal. Rosalind's house has been emptied, the walls are black up to waist-height. Those on inside duty are set to destroying the sodden walls with sledgehammers, and pulling up the floor. Poor Rosalind kind of wonders about, like you'd imagine you would if a bunch of strangers came into your home and started systematically tearing it down. I found it quite emotional - in the front porch lies all her salvaged letters, kids drawings and photos, drying.

The work outside is grueling. The stuff is heavy, cumbersome and full of sharp edges. The mud is sticky and slippery and threatens to take your boots with it at every step. The Firemen who are also working on Ros's house all day today, give us their Queensland Fire Dept. Issued leather gloves. these help a bit. I was only permitted to do the grotty work because I had my tetanus jab back in November. Good job too, lots of bumps and scrapes in toxic water. nice.

A neighbor brings us home made cookies, still warm. And one of the inside workers feeds them to us so we don't have to de-glove and wash. At 3-ish, free Nando's arrives. (some of the people helping today are volunteering from Nando's head office, including the General Manager of the state). Finally, at about 4pm, we hose ourselves down using the fire-truck.

My arms are wobbly and my hands shake when I lift my water-bottle. my back is aching. I have mosquito bites on my  face, the only place I didn't apply repellant. My feet are blistered from sodden wellies. I am exhausted. But kind of elated. The difference it made to this woman's house was immense. The sense of comradeship brilliant. And at the risk of sounding self righteous, (which, believe me, I am not. I am well aware my 8 hours cleaning is nothing compared to those that have suffered the effects of the floods - let alone some of the people for whom this is one day in a long list of days they have committed to helping free of charge, such as Erik, for whom this was his 5th day volunteering), I am very proud of myself. And glad I was able to contribute, even if in a small part, in just one of the thousands of homes affected.

Tonight, I am meeting up with Ben who took me to the Hinterlands. Tomorrow he will drop me home, Sunday is BDO, cannot wait. Monday recovery day. Tuesday, lingering anticipation. Wednesday, Australia Day. And that means...... the long awaited arrival of my dealry beloved. Booked transfers from the airport so he should be rocking up at Viv and Pauls sometime wednesday night. We will all no doubt be shitfaced already. Which he will love. AND, I've booked the flights to Airlie Beach for Friday where Wendy and Phil will collect us from the airport. So very excited!!!!!!!

1 comment:

  1. Great thoughts you got there, believe I may possibly try just some of it throughout my daily life.

    Visa to Australia