SWANCON & NAFF VII
by Edwina Harvey
(First published in Edwina's LiveJournal on 19 September 2008.)
TUESDAY 25 MARCH 2008
Courtesy of Swancon, I’ve picked up a train time-table for the train line that Guildford’s on. I really like these helpful “added extras” that the con provided! They also had a large bowl of complimentary fresh fruit (acquired from orchards in Knuckley, I believe?) available for the duration of the con. I thought that was a brilliant idea too! Very hospitable of them!
Anyway, between reading tourist information and the train timetable, I was able to deduce that Guildford wasn’t that far away at all (I was thinking in Sydney distances, don’t forget!), and that you can buy an all day ticket for all the buses and trains, so I headed for the train station, couldn’t find any “peopled” counters where you can buy tickets, but a friendly member of staff pointed me at an automated ticketing machine, and *another* friendly staffer showed me how to use it, then even pointed me to the right platform.
Train platforms (and bust stops, I was later to discover) have a count-down service telling you how many minutes until the next train (or bus) should arrive. I thought this was all very civilized and wondered why we can’t have something similar in Sydney? And don’t get me started on their “transcards”! Perth seems to have a perfectly working transport ticketing service where users “swipe in” and “swipe out” their tickets when they board and get off public transport. Sydney had recently abandoned trials to install a similar system, costing its taxpayers about $94 million in broken contracts, useless installations, hardware etc etc.
The train trip was an adventure in itself. We went through East Perth, where I’d boarded the Indian Pacific for my 3 day trip home after Swancon in 2002. That first trip to Perth had been my reward to myself for staying at home with Dad in his declining years when my ability to go to cons and even have friends was steadily eroded. Then we passed through Mount Lawley, home of the (fan hub known as the) Mt Lawley Mafia…I’m not really sure what they do, but at least now I can say I’ve travelled through their “turf”.
It took about 20 minutes to get to the historic town of Guildford, which seemed semi-rural to me, and I made a bee-line for the book exchange I could see from the station. Like a TARDIS it was much larger on the inside, and very well organized. I tried to hunt out a fiction book about spaceshuttles for someone I was chatting to at Swancon, and the elusive Australia’s Master Gardener by Ratcliffe for Ted Scribner. No success for either title, I’m afraid.
Next I browsed through the antique/curio shops just up the road from the book exchange, and followed a signposted walk around part of the historic town. A walk through a park, and past a church in the other direction brought me to their post office, and their pottery shop where I bought a small plate for me, and another as a present for my neighbour. They had some really nice pieces in their gallery at quite reasonable prices, I thought. More browsing in their visitors centre, and meandering around the historic buildings that had been moved to that part of town – an old hut, the gaol, a barn - for safe keeping. Down past an impressive pub and a scattering of restaurants I even found a surveyors shop where you can buy prospecting licences, or sell the gold and gems you’ve just panned.
There was a youngish Rhodesian Ridgeback pup sitting in the doorway when I turned to leave. I think he belonged to a couple who’d wandered in for a browse after me, and he was being so good! Waiting so patiently, yet hopefully. I stopped to give him a scratch and was overcome with homesickness for the dogs, hoping they were both doing okay.
On the way back, I went into the liquor shop attached to the pub to buy a bottle of wine. Sally Beasley and Dave Luckett had offered me dinner at their place the following night, and I didn’t want to turn up empty handed.
NOW THIS IS A WARNING! Long ago (in the company of “proper” wine drinkers) I realized (by “proper” wine drinkers’ standards) that I have an appalling pallet. I like the sweet stuff. When it comes to selecting wines to gift to other people, I use a “highly scientific” method: I go through a great deal of angst, then go for the most appealing label and hope for the best.
My appraisal of Guildford is that it’s sort of like Berrima (which I love) in the Southern Highlands of NSW, only you can get to Guildford in 20 minutes by train from the city, and you can’t do any of that with Berrima unfortunately (or I’d be down there more often!).
By this, it was getting on towards lunch time and I was getting hungry. There were lots of dining options – restaurants, cafes, pubs, and a bakery where I bought a sausage roll. Can anyone recommend a bakery/cake shop that makes Olde Fashioned Sausage Rolls like wot I remember from my youff? The sort that had flavour, and a bit of chopped up onion in them? About once or twice a year I get a craving for a really good sausage roll, but I usually end up disappointed.
Lunch dispensed with, and the train station just across the road, and Perth only 20 minutes away, and me with an all day ticket, I pondered where to next? The brochures about swimming with dolphins said they departed (in the early morning) from Rockingham, and Rockingham had a train station, so that’s where I headed! I found my way to the right line back in Perth Station.
Rockingham was “a little more” than 20 minutes up the line. It was an education in how the ‘burbs are popping up like mushrooms south of Perth! Hmmm…housing estates, urban sprawl. Yes, well….I thought it was really neat how the train line ran down the middle of the highway between the lanes of traffic though!
I emerged from Rockingham station with narry a sea in sight! But a friendly busdriver told me where to get the dolphin bus to get to Rockingham proper. The dolphin bus wound its way through newish housing estates and a large shopping centre before we came to the sea and I knew this *must* be it…right about the time we got to the final bus stop (always a clear indication that you’ve reached your destination, I find!)
I sorta sauntered around the shops (in search of a bottle of water, from memory), then crossed the road to the park, and the promenade half-hoping to spot some fins in the water. Tehani had said she’d spotted dolphins on her birthday, but that had been in the evening. This was still mid-day, and I suspected the dolphins would be off resting somewhere more sheltered (just going from what I’ve seen when I’ve been up to Nelson Bay to see them.)
With no dolphins to be seen, I did what any self-respecting dolphin spotter would do: took my shoes off and went paddling in the water! I also bought a “Dolphin Dreaming, Rockingham” T-shirt a bit further down the track, and following a “$2 shop this way” sign led me to my surprise purchase of the trip: a satchel bag with a photo of the Beatles on it! (The last thing on my mind when I walked into the shop!)
I caught the bus back to the train station, and the train back into Perth, trying to walk “upstream” against the throngs of workers heading to the station to get home. Dinner was a tub of fruit salad and yoghurt.
It was “sightseeing on the cheap”, but it gave me a much better idea of Perth & its people.
WEDNESDAY 26 MARCH 2008
Checked out of the hotel and embarked on another day of “sightseeing on the cheap”, only staying within the city confines.
I wanted to buy a dolphin coin at Perth Mint, and somehow got roped in to going on a tour of the Mint as well. I enjoyed doing this back in 2002, but had a feeling we’d gone upstairs and seen more of it in that tour? This time, I watched them pour a bar of gold with a ceramist’s interest in mould-pouring, and a science-fiction writer’s interest in observing a molten sun being ladled into a mould. There’s *got* to be a story in there somewhere!
Having a Devonshire tea in the Mint’s Café had also been on my “to do” list.
Though they had a private function on, the service in the Mint tea rooms was friendly and un-rushed. The waitress explained you could have a mix of plain and fruit scones if you wanted to, and I lingered over my pot of orange pekoe tea quite enjoying watching the goings-on around the place.
I never got to find, let alone eat at the restaurant Tony Plank recommended (The Oily Spaniard?). He also recommended I take a trip to Kings Park, which was “do-able.” One of the free CAT buses that run through 3 inner-city routes seemed to stop in or close to Kings Park on the map, so I headed off to do that.
The stop was “close to” rather than “in” Kings Park, and by the time I realised where it was, I was about another kilometre down the road, but I got off and back-tracked, enjoying the sights, though not enjoying the walk uphill as much. My navigation skills aren’t much (I always tend to go in the opposite direction to where I should be heading…the same also seems to apply to my life!) but I found Kings Park (it’s so bloody big it’d be hard for even *me* to miss it, even though I gave it my best shot!)
I ended up following a walking train in the wrong direction (told you! It’s a talent!), finding lots of native bushland, a car park and lots of famous tennis courts. All very interesting, but it didn’t really *feel* right, so I back-tracked and found the more civilized parts of the parkland... manicured grass that wasn’t tennis courts, a notice board that said Josh Byrne (one of my gardening heroes!) had been giving a public talk about a week before (damn and blast! Wish I’d been in Perth for that!), long and winding roads that eventually led to the restaurant, the kiosk, the gift shop, and that spectacular view back over Perth! (There’ll be a photo up here eventually.)
I sat on the grass to write in my notebook, saw a couple walk by carrying a rug, was disturbed by the sounds of what I took to be some exotic insect, turned and discovered the noise came from this couple kissing on the rug next to me… just a little too close for comfort, as far as I was concerned. That was about the time I decided I really *had* to get up and take that photo of Perth!
Back onto the Cat bus, then back into Perth for some mooching around.
I found the Perth museum (the sign said it was the Perth Library!), and in trying to find their gift shop, I came across a couple of meteorites parked on the path way. Big things! One more pock-marked and crater-filled than the other, probably about 1 metre in diametre? I was fascinated! I was touching something that had travelled millions of miles through space! And they leave these wonderful things casually lying around the place? ( Okay, they were probably too heavy for someone to try to pick up, but still…) I’d been impressed at being able to touch a tiny little meteorite that had come from the surface of mars in Canberra a few years back, but the Perth meteorites were both BIG Kanhunas!
It’s amazing how time drags on when you’re wanting it to hurry up! I was hot, and tired, and a bit over this being a tourist lark, but there were still hours to be filled. I kept mooching, finally giving in and returning to reclaim my bag at the hotel, sit in their lobby and read my book until Sally Beasely arrived to pick me up for dinner.
We talked mostly about World of Warcraft (mine is a non-players perspective) as Sally tooled her car through the peak-hour traffic.
Sally Beasely, Evan and Dave Luckett live in a TARDIS!!! I was sure of this as Sally gave me the grand tour of the place. It *is* much bigger on the inside than it appears on the outside. I wish she’d share this trick with me!
They have a lot of bookshelves, crammed with books. They have large tables with books stacked on them…I instantly felt right at home!
Sally seemed a bit disconcerted by my Bag lady qualities at first. I wasn’t leaving my handbag in the car! It had the bottle of wine and the chocolates in it! In my turn, I was a bit disconcerted by the fine china and glassware set out at the dinner table. When I commented on it, I got a “Oh that? Yes, we eat like that *every* night”, from Evan, while Dave said “Only for our *special* guests!” at the same time.
The only distraction to dinner was that Dave had thought he’d lost his wallet, but it was located in the house a short time later, so that was alright.
Dinner was multi-coursed, and delicious! Sally had cooked a lamb roast, which was divine!
They have a white standard poodle called Morgan, who was friendly and agreeable to pats, and if you’ve read this epic tale from the beginning you’re going to *know* what came up in conversation: “So, Sally, what do you know about cruciate ligament injuries in dogs?”
After dinner, Dave took on the role of minstrel and serenaded us for a bit, then I asked if I could have a play at “World of Warcraft,” just to see why Sally enjoys it so much. I’m afraid I’ve failed her as a WOW convert. I just don’t get it, though truth be told, you probably have to play it longer than 5 minutes to get any satisfaction. I enjoyed the graphics! I enjoyed picking and choosing until I developed an elf persona, though I wondered about the heaving chest…then my elf persona did a lot of running…and a lot *more* running, and I announced that I was bored. Dave had been eavesdropping from the next room, and he roared with laughter at my announcement. (Meanwhile, I was surprised Sally didn’t throttle me for my impudence!) Dave joined us in the computer room, wanting to read me part of a story he’d recently finished, meanwhile, showing great restraint and patience, Sally showed me how to design a “Hotrod Horsie” through WoW. It had red flames and everything, and I was very impressed!
Unlike the day, which had dragged on a bit, my evening with Sally, Dave & Evan sped by. It was the cherry on the icing on the cake of the whole trip for me, but it had to end.
Sally drove me to the airport. Just as well we decided to leave earlier rather than later, because every man and his dog seemed to *also* be heading to the airport. It was bumper to bumper at one stage, and finding a place to park the car to drop me off was no mean feat either! I just about gave Sally concussion with the peak of my cap when I went to kiss her, thanking her for a marvellous evening. (I can claim I only do that to the *best* of people…I did the same with Sean Williams too at a con a few years back. I forget I’m wearing the cap, and that the cap’s peak extends past where I do most of the time!)
The traffic outside the airport was *nothing* compared to the traffic in! I joined a loooong queue all waiting to check in…and when I’d shuffled forward a bit, I glanced around and noticed it had got a lot longer. Obviously, all of us who’d decided to stay in Perth for a couple of days after Easter to “beat the crowds”, were forming a crowd all of our own!
“The Red Eye Special” leaves Perth just after midnight, but because of the 3 hour time shift flying eastward, you end up in Sydney at about 6am. I didn’t get a lot of sleep on the plane, but I could catch up on sleep later, and I was happy to be home.
I’d really like to thank Lucy Zinkiewicz. By offering to share my room when I found out I’d won the NAFF race, she’d saved me a lot of money at what was unexpectedly a financially worrying time.
I’d also really like to thank the Swancon committee for supplying my con membership as NAFF delegate. I had a great time at Swancon.
To all those people who voted for me in the NAFF race, who thought I was off having a drink on them at the con, my apologies. I still haven’t seen a cent of your money. I naively expected I’d be reimbursed for my travel and accommodation at the con, and this was not the case. I was informed at Swancon that there’d been some difficulty getting signatories of the bank account together. Six months after Swancon, this still seems to be the case.
To date, I have raised $60 ($55 from the Easter raffle, $5 from a book in the Swancon auction) for NAFF. If you include my $20 bond to go in the NAFF race, it’s $80. If you include the votes I received, it’s a fair bit more.
THE CON REPORT STOPS HERE. THE REST IS POST SCRIPT
PAWS FOR THOUGHT: The vets open at 8am. It was about 8.20 when I got there to be confronted with a bill much larger than I anticipated. I queried why Keely had been X-rayed the day she’d been admitted for boarding (considering the vet was so adamant that she knew exactly what was wrong with her, and that no mention of the X-rays had been made in her phone call to me the following day.) I was less than happy about the deadpan response that “I’d signed the consent form” (which they presumed gave them carte blanche to do whatever they liked.). As they weren’t going to hand over my dog until I’d paid my account, I put up and shut up, despite being very tired and angry.
Keely, at least, was pleased to see me. So much so that she was all for leaping all over me. (She thinks she’s part kangaroo, but her liveliness wasn’t indicative of a dog with a serious leg injury and in pain.)
When I collected Ash, the other half of the dynamic duo, later in the day I made a point of asking for Keely’s X-rays. (I’d paid a small fortune for them, after all.) The vet was surprisingly reticent to hand them over, which did little to ally my growing suspicions. I’d read the vets report on Keely by this, noting they’d written only an operation could confirm their prognosis.
Ash was also happy to see me. I’d been worried he might have fretted without Keely, (She can take or leave him, but he seems more emotionally attached to her), but he showed no signs of being stressed by the separation.
On one level it was good to be home, but gee, I *really* miss those House Elves that clean the bathroom for you and make your bed every day when you’re away! ; - ).
I’m such an untidy little grot, I wish I had the means to employ a brace of Legolas’s! (Legolasai?)