Manly men don’t surf

Opera House hunting started bright and early at five in the morning when the alarm on my phone went off. Stupid phone. It had forgotten we were now on Australian time, not New Zealand time. So it was two hours earlier than it thought. Oh, how embarrassed the phone was when I pointed out it’s mistake, in short, angry, sweary words...

Opera House hunting started again four hours later, after more bleary swearing, a shower, an overpriced breakfast full of noisy tourist people*, and a lot of fumbling with the hotel’s courtesy map. In the end I found it hiding about three minutes' walk from the concierge’s desk. Ah yes, it thought it could best me, but I showed it! I SHOWED THEM ALL!!! BWAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAaaa...


Anyway, so, yes: it’s big and white and looks a bit like Sydney Opera House, as featured on TV and things. Only smaller. And slightly less shiny. And with a hell of a lot more tourists** milling about. But I didn’t have time to dawdle. No: because I had to catch a ferry to the other side of the bay and up a bit, for lunch with the inestimable Michael Robotham and his family.

Circular quay isn’t a monkey’s gargle from the opera house, so I slouched over there, doing my best to look nonchalant. Yeah, I’m cool, I fit in. Tourist? No, dude, can’t you tell I’m a traveller? Yeah, I’m taking photos, but that’s, like totally research... No, I don’t want to buy a knock-off Rolex.
So then I goes up to the gal behind the ferry terminal counter, put on my best smile. “I’d like to take the ferry to Manly.”
She looks at me, the way a starving tramp looks at a half-eaten Big Mac. “You don’t need to take no ferry to Manly,” she says, licking her lips. “Baby, you’re already there.”
Mind you, given the huge hairy moustache she has, I get the feeling she got there before me ... and then ate all the pies.

If you’re ever sodding about in Sydney for a while, may I recommend taking the ferry out to Manly? It’s a surprisingly restful trip, given the damn drunken hoons that seem to be dotted all over the place. The worst bunch on the way out were French, so technically: les fichus hoons ivres. Hanging over the side of the boat and drinking beer in that irritating cock-weasely way that seems so chic when you’re fourteen and have more spots than a swimming pool full of dalmatians.

Anyway, I’d met Michael at those ITV3 crime award things last year and he’d foolishly said, ‘If you’re ever in Sydney...’ as you do, never expecting that the ghastly person you’re talking to will actually turn up on your doorstop. But like a bad penny, or smell*** there I was. Hahahahahaha! But being the consumate gentleman that he is, he took me on a wee tour of his home town.

There's something really weird about Manly: it’s full of blokes dressed in wetsuits****, usually stripping off at the side of the road, showing off their shampoo-commercial hair and unfeasible abs. Clearly surfing isn’t a manly pursuit. Even if they’re actually surfing in Manly... I mean, if you’re really a manly man then surely you don’t have time to spend all that time sitting up and washing your hair. You're too busy putting up shelves, mowing the lawn, and working the barbecue. Stuff like that.

Looking at these golden-tonsured poo-heads, Michael told me why he never surfs any more (it involves stitches), and then took me back to his house for a lovely lunch of slow-roasted lamb with assorted vegetable delight. And very nice it was too. For a bloke that's sold 1,300,000 copies of his first crime novel***** he’s remarkably down to earth. If it was me I’d eat nothing but caviar and wipe my bum on pink parakeets.

But maybe that’s just me. Certainly when I conducted a covert search of the Robotham family bathrooms there was no sign of a parakeet dispenser.

After a very tasty lunch Michael took me to a wee beach of his acquaintance so I could go paddling in the Tasman Sea. I’d tried to do this from the New Zealand side, but it was going to be pretty suicidal, so Russell talked me out of it. Sensible chap that he is (if you ignore his millinery choices). It was lovely to stand in the surf on an Australian beach while the sun went down. And not get eaten by sharks, stung by deadly jellyfish, or bitten by venomous spiders out for a day at the beach (and probably sporting eight little inflatable water-wings*****).

After that it was back to the ferry for me, leaving Manly behind, but forever carrying it in my heart. You know, in a manly kind of way. Not a hair-washy, ab-crunching kind of way. My abs don’t need crunched. Well, they probably do, but I’m relying on self-delusion to see me through to the end of this paragraph...

* Because I’m over here on business, I’m a traveller. Not a tourist. And if you see me standing in the street gawping at things, then taking their photograph, it’s research. Yes. You heard: research. Not tourism. No, because obviously I’m way too cool for that.
Shut up.
** But not me, because I’m a ‘traveller’, as we have already established.
*** Like for example, the kind produced by a New Zealand Fantasy writer.
**** Like a big rubber-fetish pervert convention.
***** You heard right: one point three MILLION copies. I'm thinking of erecting a statue in his honour. ****** Spiders not being the best swimmers in the world. That’s why they always envy their relatives the crabs, and never invite them to Christmas dinner. Mind you, no one ever jokes about Paris Hilton having spiders, so I suppose they can't complain too much.

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