Thursday, February 09, 2006

Back to School and more Germans!!

At the same time US Vice President Dick Cheney was discovering there is no right way to shoot a friend in the face, we had the dilemma of how to deal with the period of post-Christmas financial survival. Do we conserve or lash out, since we were eagerly awaiting having the well-travelled Jörg and Claudia stay with us for one short but beautiful week and wanted to make it special for them.

At least Sharon was breathing again, as Naomi and Sam were back to School. Most of January has been about waiting for that. Oh, and a nasty experience on Ebay which I am too annoyed about to even mention here. Let's just say I lost some money.

As most tourists do, the two Germans know more of Australia than we do. They have been from Sydney to Perth via Coffs, Brisbane, Townsville, Whitsundays and more. Sadly, after the week with us...they were going home... to ice and snow.

Since we were spoiled rotten in the land of the long flat autobahn I figured the least we could do was pick them up from the airport in a stretch limmo, then take them out for Japanese on Collins street, courtesy of Cam.

Dress up, I said...Jörgy looked resplendant in his trendy dress shirt and...boardshorts.

I do wish I could remember what we were discussing in this photo. It appears to have caused us all some confusion

The next day we made like tourists again and took them to Sovereign Hill. It was one of those strange days when you realise that you arrived with more children than you when you left. The likelihood of us having bred during the 45 minute journey was low, since Sharon and I were in seperate cars. And, as far as we know, Claudia had not adopted any Australian children as part of some plot to stay longer than her visa would allow. So I presumed the extra child was a friend of Naomi's that Sharon told me was coming and I just forgot.

I explained that Sovereign Hill is the Aussie equivalent of Neuschwanstein Schloss in Bavaria- not really a real castle and not really historic but it's made up to look that way. I got sunburnt and I will also admit, that when those redcoats fired those big loud muskets, I jumped. But at least I didn't squeal like so many of the little kids there. Bunch of little crybabies.

No trip to Sovereign Hill would be complete without novelty wanted poster. At least we found one that was reasonably well type-casted

Despite the long hot day I could see Claudia was itching to go pubbing in big old Melbourne town so Sharon volunteered to stay home and allow me to partake in an experiment to see if I could recapture my lost youth and survive the evening with two people 8 years younger than me. Considering everything our little friend has been through (and she wasn't always that little), Claudi is a powerhouse of positive energy. Jögy and I spent most of the evening watching her and feeling tired. We got home at 3am and were forced to eat icecream with tim tams.

if they forced all the tourists to wear period costumes you'd almost believe you were in 1846

Sam discusses the trials of being an out of work actor wearing authentic 1840's Colonial Australian garb

Next day Pat and Bren and clan came down with their little speedboat, a jetski-on-steroids thing powered by a two stroke inboard motor which goes like the clappers. At first we tried Avalon beach. It's advantage, is that it is close to our home. The disadvantage is that it is an ugly, stinky, stagnated area with no sand for the kids to play on and views over the scenic Shell refinery. Fortunately the boat agreed and simply made lots of noise, refusing to go fast until we cleared all the seaweed and bits of toxic waste from the prop.

The boat wouldn't work until we took it somewhere nice

So we went for a cruise down to the much more scenic Portarlington where the kiddies could play on the beach and the water was actually blue. It was a perfect day and you could see Melbourne across the bay. The Germans had a blast with Patrick's maniac driving. Since boating is only for licenced drivers I will state categorically that Claudi and Jögy did NOT at any time drive the boat, but mentioned that they would have really enjoyed it if they did.

When it was my turn to go for a spin the boat died. But not before we had jetted off into the bay as far away from land as possible. So, we just sat there fiddling with a dead engine, watching the pier get smaller and smaller and listening to two children say non-stop "Are we gonna die??". If we had floated for much longer the girls thought they may as well drive to Saint Kilda and meet us there.

We got towed in by a JET SKI, the height of humiliation for a boat.

Fortunately that evening after Pizza and beer Claudia did not have any plans to go nightclubbing. On Monday we walked around Geelong, and just chilled.

That's not to say that the frivolous pubbing ended there. On Thursday night the girls left Jörg and me at home to go out in Melbourne. We rented the movie Sahara. I leanred that even the action packed blokey shoot-em-up movies nowadays have an environmental message. Isn't that nice. Instead of making the bad guys evil despots, bank robbers, or Islamic terrorists (which would just be plain unrealistic) they make them nasty capitalists who dump toxic waste in the middle of a desert. I'm sure they also drove fast expensive cars and given half the chance, would have clubbed some baby seals to death.

The boys had a much better time at home with some Pringles and a forgettable movie

Friday night we took Jörg to the Melbourne Motor Show. Strange, because I thought that Germany itself is like one big motor show. But he seemed curious about all the interesting sensibly-priced Australian cars. Or maybe he was just amused when realising that Australian motoring has only just discovered four valves per cylinder. Yeah mate, learned that off the Germans, we did. It only took 40 years.

Alright, I admit there is futility in paying money to stare at cars I could never afford. Better to tease yourself with a nice car that is only slightly out of your price range. Hence, the VW Golf GTI was my cup of tea. There was a nice red one which you could sit in and pretend to drive and push all the buttons. I had to wait my turn, because there were a couple of men wearing turbans sitting in it, and I didn't want to appear impatient lest I upset them and cause more international outrage than a Danish cartoon.

I did, however, manage to derive some satisfaction that Australia was getting it's first look at the spectacular BMW M6 coupe, when I saw it high speed at the sacred Nurburgring four months ago...

After that it was time to spend the Germans' last Friday night trying to keep up with Claudia. Another late one with music, dancing (of sorts) and my favourite, meaningful conversation at 3am over tim tams. Poor Jögy however, was not up to it and dragged us home at a childish 3.30am for more tim tams.

This rare photo is rare because it was taken in the sports bar in the casino. You know, the place where you are not allowed to take photos. We were allowed to keep this one because the security guards were happy that we did not snap any ashamed, embarrassed-looking problem gamblers who might not come back because we took their photo.

In preparation for their sad departure on Saturday I dug up our favourite photo of the two from our German travels, which seems like oh-so-long ago, to get a big print done. I always liked this one of them afront the colourful Schloss Pillnitz near Dresden, looking spontaneous and natural. Problem was, there was this rather disinterested-looking large bloke standing in the background.

So, with the miracle of modern technology I painstakingly made the unwanted blemish disappear. I don't know the guy and mean no ill-will toward him, but he was spoiling the whole young-couple-in-love-in-front-of-a-romantic-palace ambience. And the result...

Much better. Yes, I am an image genius.

On Saturday 11th Feb we sadly watched them disappear into the very same bowels of Melbourne Intl Airport where Sharon and I disappeared more happily five months earlier. We didn't just give them a parting gift of this photo. We sent them away with as much love, hugs and tears as we could muster and the hope that it was only "Bis Später"...

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