We are due to take-off just before midnight, but as the time approaches, the captain comes over the intercom to announce that due to mechanical problems, we will have a 45 minute delay whilst they attempt to rectify it.
So we are sweating, nervous, tired, don’t have any money and now anxious because the plane has mechanical problems!! Nevertheless, I’m glad to say that within the group, spirits continue to remain very high. So much so that I have the misfortune to be seated in front of Lloyd Dudley-Jones-talk about someone ‘having a bell on every tooth’. Clearly he takes after Liz rather than Bob.
We eventually take off, although it seemed a struggle to get off the ground. I think all that shopping has increased our luggage weight significantly and once we are in the air, the cabin crew serve us supper which is a nice starter of salad and shrimps. The main course is Cajun chicken or a Thai curry with cheese and cracker to finish.
Supper is finished and cleared away by 1.30am and the lights are dimmed in the cabin. It is important that we try to get some sleep as we land at 9am and can’t check into our rooms until 2pm before going straight out to the Aussie rules match at the MCG. We won’t have chance to rest until tomorrow night.
Most are quiet and try to rest, but at about 2am Luke Andrews who’s on the other side of the plane and similar in volume to Lloyd is shouting across the plane “Dudley, hey Dudley!” I think the only one who can’t hear him is Lloyd. Enough is enough, I make my way around to Luke and ask him to be a little more considerate and he is.
I, like many others, find it really difficult to sleep and that is compounded by the large amount of turbulence we encounter. At 3pm the seat belt lights come on and for 25 minutes we are bounced around until the pilot decides enough is enough, the thrusters go on and we rise from 32,000 to 35,000 feet. Initially, that calms things down but 20 minutes later, more turbulence and the pilot takes us up to 37,000 feet.
I am now seated next to Callum Carson and Kieran Charles. Inseparable centres on the pitch, and it looks like they are, off it too. As we approach Melbourne, we have made up time for our late start, I show Kieran the flight map and point out it is downhill from Singapore to Melbourne allowing us to arrive on time at 9.20am.
We land and are through customs relatively quickly. The terminal is very busy and our students go through customs without having their cases checked-a good thing really, because although most had made a big effort to clean away the mud from their boots in Singapore, conditions had been so poor that many weren’t in the spotless condition that is expected.
There is no-one to meet us and no sign of our coaches. We ring the bus company and they arrive in 20 minutes, but it’s a little frustrating when you are tired. We make our way to the Pullman Mercure hotel in Albert Park. It stands on the circuit of the Melbourne Grand Prix and when we enter we can immediately see that it has excellent facilities including a wide and spacious reception and a gym, sauna and pool.
We can officially check in at 2pm, but wait in reception for rooms to become available. Lucky Nathan Davies and Sam Jones, there’s is available first and they can go up first and shower. The drip, drip effect means that when my room becomes available at 1.20pm most have had access to their rooms and those who haven’t go to a friends to shower or freshen up.
We meet at 1.45pm to travel to the MCG for the Aussie rules game. We had asked our coach transfer what would be the cost to hire two coaches to take us from the hotel to the MCG, it’s about a 20 minute drive-they quoted $1,600 about £1,000-We’ll find another form of transport.
The concierge at the hotel are fantastic and advise mini taxis that hold 10. Miss Rushworth is not well with a heavy cold (she’s much better now, when her family will be reading this) and we decide that it’s best for her to rest back at the hotel. The taxi’s drop us a few minutes away from the MCG and cost between $35-40 each. Much cheaper than the extortionate quote from the coach company.
We make our way to Gate 7 where Peter Russo is waiting with our tickets. We purchase a selection of hats and scarves some support the home team the Hawthorn Hawks and others the visitors the Richmond Tigers. The game is played in 4 20 minute quarters and involves a lot of physical contact. The first quarter is evenly contested and the Tigers go in with a one point lead, but the Hawks are top of the league and run away with the game to win by 70 points. We enjoy the first half, but the cold southerly starts to bite in the second half and at the end of the third quarter, we give them the option of staying to the end or travelling back. 14 decide to stay and Mr Lewis stays with them. The others travel back early.
The return journey is more problematic. We can’t get mini taxis as they have finished at this time on a Sunday. We walk to Federation square in the centre of the city and wait at the taxi rank. A taxi costs $20 back to the hotel and we pout them in taxis in 4 and direct the driver back to the hotel. The taxis are slow in arriving so Mr Thomas and Mr Long arrange for the last 14 of us to go on the tram. It costs just under $80 and is a great experience mainly because Mr Thomas puts Bohemian Rhapsody on his phone and has the group singing it to the locals-most seemed unimpressed.
We are back in the hotel by 7pm. We will meet at 10.30pm to confirm tomorrow’s arrangements. Most order food in from a variety of providers and then make use of the facilities including the pool complex.
At the meeting we give tomorrow’s arrangements. Another big day-our next matches followed by our first nights hosting.
We complete the evening with the Donkey of the Day vote. Only one nomination-Luke Andrews!
He was nominated for three things, firstly, he’d asked Is London a country or a city? Secondly, in the restaurant, there was a spinning table which carried a variety of sauces, he span it around, but too quickly and the sauces all went flying and finally, his ‘bell on every tooth’ shouting across the plane after lights out on the plane. The formal vote saw him confirmed and Luke said, “I shall wear the shirt with pride.”
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