New Zealand / Australia Diary
Friday 20 April 2012

An interesting start to my last day in New Zealand - pool dancing (not to be confused with pole dancing). With Catherine leading and myself & a local dancer making up the line we elegantly twirled through a selection of dances while waist-deep in water, courtesy of Catherine's garden pool. I've performed aquatic folk dance once before but this was the first time outdoors and my first experience of teaching while immersed in water - with the ridiculously appropriate 'Waterfall', one of my own choreographies. Partly an exercise in fluid dynamics, partly just an excuse for a lot of splashing around, but lots of fun.

After a light lunch in the garden it was time to start the next leg of my journey, which began with a 2 1/2 hour drive to the airport. A chance to take in the landscapes & flora of New Zealand for one last time and to have another nice long chat. Hugs, farewells & promises to return and then into Aukland airport for the last time on this trip.

Seems like third time is the charm - everything went smoothly and in no time at all (in airport terms this is around half an hour) I was through into the departures lounge and tucking into a pizza. The space was large, spacious and airy with big windows out onto the nearby gates & runways and lots of comfortable seating areas, lightly populated with people tapping away on laptops or scrutinising smartphones. It had the futuristic look that I'd imagined an International Airport would be like when I was young, before I'd been disillusioned by the factory-farm awfulness of London's termini. I'd had problems passing through Aukland airport on my last two visits but this made up for it, a very nice place to fly from.

There was one small fly in the ointment, alas. In trying to find a memento of my first trip to New Zealand I'd finally decided on an All Blacks shirt, to complement the Brazil football shirt I'd brought back with me from São Paulo. There were shirts aplenty but they were all polyester or a polyester/cotton blend, not something I like to wear next to my delicate skin. Sigh! I realise that the modern sportsman requires high-tech, high-performance sportswear but as someone who hasn't handled an oddly-shaped ball in forty years (and who has no plans to do so, probably to the great relief of my friends, relatives & doctor) it would have been nice to have something symbolic & comfy too.

The flight to Sydney passed uneventfully, probably the highest praise I have for air travel nowadays. Entry to Australia was quick & straightforward, apart from a long wait for the luggage to appear which was more a cause of irritation than trepidation. Strange how quickly we take for granted the logistical nightmare of matching up luggage & planes and disentangling them at the correct destination. Then I was off to the train station where a helpful but slightly grumpy clerk sold me a ticket and gave very detailed connection information. Within ten minutes I was on a train carrying me into central Sydney and ten minutes after arriving there I was sitting on the Newcastle & Central Coast Line train that would take me to meet Annie, my host and organiser in Newcastle NSW.

In all of my planning I hadn't worked out just how long the train journey would be. When I sent Annie a text saying I was on the 9:15 train she replied that it would arrive at Broadmeadow (her local station) at midnight, which is how it turned out. It was pitch black outside so I didn't even have the opportunity to appreciate the New South Wales countryside, I just ploughed through my book and did a little people watching along the way. Things got a little nerve-wracking towards the end of the journey as there were no maps or lists of stations inside the carriage, the announcements were intermittent and often inaudible, and many of the stations didn't have any visible signs from the carriage. Luckily I just about made out the "Nextstopbroadmeadow' squark from the speakers and manhandled my case to the door as the train drew to a close. Annie was there on the platform and within minutes of arriving I was settling into bed and off into sleep.

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