Tuesday, November 2, 2010

virgin flight

I'm off to Melbourne in a couple of weeks. I haven't been down there since the 1980's. Not that I have anything against that fair city but there has not really been a good enough reason to go.

But I've recently rediscovered an old friend who lives there, and a new friend is flying in from Cambodia - so it seemed like a perfectly good reason to make the trip. (And who can resist a $49 airfare anyway??)

Consequently, it has reminded me of the very first trip where I flew in an aeroplane!

It was April 1977 and I had finished my first half semester at art school. My flatmate at that time was doing the same visual arts course; we had gone to the same high school together and both worked part-time at the Old Spaghetti Factory in the rocks. (More tales about that notorious establishment later...)

We booked a one way flight to Melbourne, which if I remember correctly, was $45. Considered a good (student) deal even then.

As a dirt poor art student this was the first of a lifetime of budget trips.

Our first destination was to meet up with a school mate who had joined the RAAF and was stationed in Melbourne. My memory tells me he was based near Laverton airport, which I think in the '70's was military only. (But I'm willing to be corrected as my memory is shot at the best of times). I only say this because I recall it was a bit of a train trip from the city centre to get there. the railway station was called, appropriately, "Aircraft".

We managed to catch up with him briefly but his work restrictions meant we couldn't stay. As it was getting late by that time we ended up sleeping under a motorway bridge. (First night!)

accomodation underpass [image:googlemaps]

The next day we wandered into central Melbourne and stowed out luggage in Flinders St. station lockers.

flinder st station [image:web]

This freed us up to roam the city, take in the National Gallery of Victoria and various other sites of interest. Early in the evening we were waylaid by a happy troup of young folk who invited us to dine with them free of charge. We gladly accepted this unbounded hospitality to later find out they were acolytes of the 'Children of God' (aka 'The Family of Love' and later just 'The Family')

do the hippy hippy shake... [image:web]

Beating a hasty heathen retreat (after a good feed of course) we returned to Flinders St station for our bags to find it completely locked up for the night.

So, sans sleeping bags, we headed down to the Sydney Myer Music Bowl (an outdoor music/entertainment venue in the Kings Domain) and curled up on the under cover but outdoors seats to spend the night. It was April and in Melbourne it gets quite cold by that time of year. I remembered reading that homeless people keep themselves warm using newspaper. Only having half the facts, and failing to realise that the bums stuff the newspapers INSIDE their clothes, I spent most of the night chasing after my newspaper 'blankets' whenever the wind whipped them up and off into the darkness. (Second night.)

sydney myer music bowl [image:web]

The following day we continued out explorations of the city, buying bread and cheese in the supermarket for lunch, and then went off to spend the night at the Salvation Army's People's Palace, a refuge for those in need! My travel mate's father was a high ranking Sally official so we had connections! (Third night)

Having had our fill of the city we then headed north to Montsalvat, an artist's colony in Eltham. Begun in 1935, the collections of buildings were erected often with recycled building materials from city developments. Consequently it has become a melange of oddly incongruous architectural styles, vaguely Medieval and/or parochially rustic. Still - very charming and still worth a visit.

montsalvat great hall [image:web]

We spent the entire day there and then as evening fell we once again found ourselves without accommodation. So armed with our trusted sleeping bags, we heading into the fields and woods around Montsalvat and found a quiet spot under a large Eucalypt to spend the night. This was particularly memorable for me as it was the first time I had encountered the truly unholy howling moan of the common brushtail possum. Sort of cat-in-a-blender screech with some hissing and moaning thrown in for good measure.

spawn of satan [image:web]

Lying exposed to the elements in the utter darkness of night it was a fearful sound. I was fortunate that my travel companion knew what it was. So I gave it a bloody loud "SHOO!" As a result, for a good hour afterwards the damned fiend dropped bits of broken twig down upon us. (Fourth night.)

The following day we headed to the railway station to catch the train to Wagga Wagga where we had intended freeloading off an old friend there. Leaving my putrid backpack full of unwashed clothes and half eaten packets of biscuits on the station platform for 5 minutes whilst I bought our tickets, I returned to find some miserable sod had stolen it.

Thoroughly disheartened we exchanged our tickets for some going back to Sydney and spent the next night sleeping sitting up on the train. (Fifth night.)

Once safely back home, I thought I'd had a bloody brilliant holiday!

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