Tag Archives: Australia

Guide books, too good to be true?

brysonbookPhil: I’m writing this from my hotel room in Adelaide, Australia. Travelling around for a couple of weeks, a guide book of some sort is invaluable. Pitching up in a town and exploring is perfectly fine but having a guide in a book makes better use of limited exploring time.

I don’t really need much help with this leg of the trip as a programme of visits has already been provided by the people who invited me over. However, in preparation I’ve been re-reading Bill Bryson’s book “Down Under” for a few pointers.

Bryson is a very entertaining, and therefore successful, travel writer. I’ve read all his travel books but now I’m on the ground, they turn out to be more use for the armchair traveller. Once inspired to buy tickets, go and get something more practical.

Adelaide gets hardly a mention in the book even though the writer visited. This is odd as it’s a beautiful city full of attractive Victorian buildings. The streets are clean, it feels relaxed, just the sort of place Bryson loves. Not to worry, as I get to enjoy my exploration.

Adelaide Station

One section of the book covers a train called the “Indian Express” which runs from once side of the country to the other. I’m going to be taking the Adelaide to Sydney section of this run next week. Bryson travelled 1st class but obsesses about the people in “coach” until he accidentally finds his way in there and then describes the occupants as owning “124 pairs of sunken eyes” that follow his progress to the refined end of the train.

I will be travelling “coach”.

You see, when you ARE a successful travel writer, opportunities open up. When Bryson ends up in coach, he’s returning from riding up in the locomotive cab. Not something the average traveller gets the chance to do. He’s riding 1st class because his publisher is paying, they don’t annoy their best-selling writers with uncomfortable trips unless there is a very good reason.

Even at the one stop I’ll be making, Broken Hill, he’s off on a pre-arranged trip into the country. Me, I’m hoping that the town is as delightful as he describes. Google street view suggests the most exciting feature is a giant branch of Woolworths.

There’s nothing wrong with this. Vicarious travel is what books and TV series offer. Maximum interest in minimum time. Just don’t beat yourself up if your trip isn’t quite as action-filled. I’m not.

Adelaide Shops

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Travel broadens the mind, but is mine wide enough?

suitcase pilePhil: If there is one major difference between Candice and I, apart from the obvious one, it’s our attitude to holidays.

When we first met, she had just returned from a break in Australia. Since then there have been regular vacations. Usually by the time one is underway, the next has been booked. Every few months, friends are treated to more pictures from an exotic location via Facebook.

I, on the other hand, like the concept of a holiday as long as I don’t actually have to go on it. Travelling is something I’d like to have done, but not actually do. If you’ve seen the film “Total Recall” or read the original story “We can remember it for you wholesale” where an industry has grown up selling memories, you’ve probably got an idea how I’d like to operate. All the pleasant bits from a trip without all the hassle and inconvenience would make me happy. Looking at the Nolan photos, I envy trips to Cape Canaveral, but not enough to load myself on a plane and go.

Part of this is that I don’t like flying. Sitting in a tube an unfeasibly long way above the ground makes me nervous. I know planes (generally) don’t crash. I even have a pretty good idea why they stay in the air but it still all seems wrong to me.

More of a problem is that it’s so inconvenient. When employed in proper jobs, I have been actively encouraged by some bosses not to take time off. One would delight in suddenly producing something “that must be done” late in the afternoon on my last day. Alternatively I’ve found meeting booked into electronic diaries even when mine clearly states I’m not around. Meetings important enough that if I wasn’t going away, I felt I ought to come in for them.

There are a couple of years in my past when I didn’t take a single day of my annual leave entitlement. (Before you get the violins out, I was on flexi-time in both jobs and so earned odd days off, so I had time off but no longer than a long weekend). Looking back, I received no thanks for this and never expected any. It was just the way things were.

Even since joining the world of freelancers and contractors, my last proper trip away was in 2008 – that shocked me when I looked it up on the blog I set up in a fit of enthusiasm for a lifestyle change involving more getting away from it all. OK, there have been loads of days out and even a few nights away but nothing you can properly call a holiday.

Why do I mention this?

Well, next week I’m away for a few days on Isle of Man. Then later in the year I’ve been invited to speak at a conference in Australia. You can’t spend that much time travelling for a weekend so I’ve booked a proper trip involving Adelaide, Sydney and a couple of visits to Hong Kong. Comitting myself to that was a bit scary if I’m honest. So I couldn’t bottle it, I told lots of people I was going. Needless to say, several, including Candice, have given me excellent advice and a list of places I should visit when I’m there.

I think I’m looking forward to it but already I can see work piling up and a voice in my head is telling me that it would be a lot more convenient not to go…


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Turning points?

Candice: As promised, I said I would blog about the birthday…  I have never really had a problem with my age, it ain’t nothing but a number, as they say.  Around the 30 point I had abit of a moment, everyone was getting married, I didnt really like my job.  So I booked myself a three week holiday to Australia to visit friends and escape.  This time around its abit different, I have a lovely husband, nice house etc… but it’s still time to sit back and have a think about where I expected to be at 40.  I’ll tell you what’s nice, the number of people who have said I don’t look 40, and I’ve not paid them to say it.  And I certainly didn’t feel it when I was throwing shapes on the dance floor on Sunday.  We have friends who have been 40 recently or have it coming up and are shying away from the concept, but I think you should really go for it as, as my parents card says, you are only 40 once!

I’ve got some lovely presents and cards (thanks Neil and Phil) – I like unusual ones ie my inlaws have bought me a framed print plus actual film cells from Grease,  Richard bought me a weekend in Rome (though I did drop some very unsubtle hints for this), and my family and friends have bought me a Mulberry handbag (well it’s still in the shop but vouchers towards). Phil got me some “calorie free” cakes, I don’t know if that’s a comment on my waistline, you can see them in the picture.  One is a money box that says “holiday fund”, but to pay for the next holiday I think I’m going to need a bigger cake than that!

But, with all this talk about it just being a number, I went to the gym on Wednesday and on the treadmill you have to put in your time, weight and age.  Typing ’40’ was hard.  Just had to run a bit harder for a bit longer to make up for it!

So back to the reviewing of where you are moment.  Phil and I had a deep conversation the other week about the book, and the fact it hasn’t really moved for a year. So now is the time to stop with the talking and start with the writing again.  We are currently looking at writing courses and short story competitions to give us a deadline to work to, as it seems neither of us are good at moving it along on our own.

Plan for year 41 – get something published that is not on word press!

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